Mr. and Mrs. Valentine

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day – and I don’t know why, but I love celebrating holidays. Even the ones that people say are fake or too commercialized; what is so wrong about sharing love and appreciating who we having in our lives? Especially after hearing about the tragedy in Florida – take a moment to appreciate who you have.

I started the day early with an at home yoga session [as part of my 30 day yoga journey].  I even treated myself to a new yoga mat this week as a form of some self love. I read a quote on social media that has been resonating with me,  “you can’t fill from an empty cup”. Take care of yourself, put on your own oxygen mask first.

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After yoga I put in a donut order via the Dunkin Donuts app. They were actually running a special on Valentine’s Day for bonus points if you ordered a dozen donuts. I’m not sure if all locations are as efficient, but the one closest to my house was impressive. I walked in, grabbed the waiting box of donuts, and walked out.  They even apologized that one of the donuts I had requested wasn’t available – so they threw in two donuts of their choice to replace it.

Look at all those happy hearts and sprinkles.  How can you be upset when you start your work day with a heart shaped donut?

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They aren’t healthy, they aren’t home made, they aren’t gourmet. But they’re happy and fun and sometimes you have to eat the heart shaped donuts with pink frosting because its Valentine’s Day.

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Then came the main event. Dinner.

This was our first Valentine’s Day as husband and wife. I wanted to make a big deal about it. I set the table, used candles from our wedding ceremony and glasses from my Grandparents.

The night before I picked up filet mignon, cocktail shrimp, asparagus, and potatoes from the Fresh Market. Everything was an expensive splurge and it made me feel even happier that we’re in a situation where we can afford to indulge ourselves.

Mister wore a tie, I wore heels. We sipped wine, exchanged presents. It was exactly what we wanted it to be.

The meat was under cooked after our first attempt, but we figured it out together after some combined online searches. It was so incredibly tender and definitely worth the splurge.

I had even planned for a dessert of cheesecake and strawberries, but after everything we snuggled up on the couch with wine and a box of chocolates.

Here’s to Valentine’s Day. To love. To newlyweds, to families, to laughter, to happily ever after. Eat your donuts, share a meal, take some time. And always fill your own up first.

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Tuna Noodle Casserole

tuna noodle casserole.

This is a phrase that is used almost as a parody of itself; the iconic food that no one wants to eat. The epitome of an era of convenience casseroles where processed comfort food reigned supreme before kale and cauliflower were popular.

But I actually like it. Fortunately, so does mister.

I debated whether or not to post this; is it weird that I’m embarrassed to make and eat a certain food?

  • canned tuna (this is the only item that wasn’t store brand, definitely the most expensive ingredient)
  • canned cream of mushroom (the cheaper the better)
  • ritz crackers
  • egg noodles
  • frozen peas

I did the math on Peapod.com: $17.13 for this casserole and that will leave you with four extra sleeves of Ritz crackers. With approximately 8 servings you’re looking at $2.14 a serving. There are carbs, proteins, something green. Sure there’s enough sodium for a few days, and maybe you don’t need the extra preservatives, but for a comforting bowl of noodly goodness its well worth it.

Cook the noodles, mix with the rest of the ingredients, top with crackers and cheddar cheese.

013.JPGBake for 30ish minutes at about 350.

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Serve with a salad so you feel slightly better about the creamy, carb laden goodness you’re about to ingest.

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What food don’t you want people to know you eat?

 

Should Lentils Be More Popular?

Lentils are for lentil soup.  Curried lentils maybe.  Does anyone do anything else with lentils? They’re inexpensive, incredibly filling, can be flavored by what you’re cooking with.

Last night I made a “cleaning out the fridge” dinner – in part because we’re going away for the holidays, and as an attempt to use up any forgotten produce before our weekly groceries were delivered. [* shout out to the folks at Peapod who allow food to appear at my door every Wednesday night around 7pm]

Part of this plan of attack was to use up a bag of lentils I had bought a week or so ago for a sausage/kale/lentil soup.  After Mister’s comment that I’d been cooking an interestingly high number of soups in the past few weeks, I didn’t think it would go over well and it never happened.  That meant I still had this bag of lentils, and I wasn’t about to let them just hang out in the pantry with the 4 boxes of pasta I’ll politely ignore for a few more months as well.

There was no recipe, only the prayer that an edible meal would result at some point that night.

  1. 1 cup lentils, 2 cups water.  Simmered in a pot with whole smashed garlic cloves, salt, pepper, cumin, allspice014.JPG
  2. sweet Italian sausage in a large saute pan with olive oil
  3. once the sausage was blackened  crisped up bit, added veggies and garlic

013.JPGveggies:

  • red pepper
  • yellow pepper
  • onion
  • mushrooms
  • peas

At this point, Mister was out of the house to grab some supplies for his kitchen renovation project.  Which meant that dinner was ready and he wasn’t home to eat it.  I turned the burners off and let everything sit for 20ish minutes until he was home.  At this point, I warmed them back up -plated and ate.

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On the side, some Olde York Farm Cacao & Maple Vodka mixed with some apple cider.  Just a splash of their vodka gives the cider a complex, mulled flavor that I’m completely hooked on.

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Here’s the thing about those lentils; they were already pretty mushy when it came to pack up the leftovers. And I wasn’t left feeling like, “man, we should eat way more lentils.” But, about two hours and one dog walk later, I was still uncomfortably full from about a quarter of a cup of lentils.  That’s impressive stuff.

Weekend WrapUp

Happy Monday!

This past weekend I meal prepped again, Mister and I both agreed we liked the convenience of fully prepared and packaged meals versus just a big ol’ container of say chicken and another tupperware of veggies, so we’re going to stick with this format.

I ordered the containers via Amazon, they’re the Fitpacker brand and so far so good.  I’m actually considering investing in some of the sectioned off containers for snacks or easier packing of different meals.  But let me make sure I can keep this good habit up before I go down that path.

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This week I kept it simple, Mister and I each got five containers of the same meal (1 per weekday for lunch or dinner per our schedule)  Mashed sweet potatoes, mini meatloaf, zucchini and summer squash.  Easy. It helps if you lay out the logistics of what you’re trying to do ahead of time.

  • preheat the oven for the meatloaf
  • get the potatoes in water, bring to a boil on a back burner
  • mix up meatloaf, form, put in oven
  • chop up onions/garlic/veggies
  • saute veggies (or you can throw them in the oven)
  • puree/mash potatoes
  • put everything in containers and refrigerate

From start to finish, this was about two hours.  And at least thirty minutes of that was me on the couch watching TV.

For breakfast this weekend, I’m still on my big avocado toast binge.

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Mash the avocado right onto some toast, drizzle with lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper.  There’s something so satisfyingly decadent about this simple recipe.

In the glass is greek yogurt mixed with berries.  With the parfait and the toast for breakfast, I’ve got healthy fats, protein, a little sugar, complex carb, sweet, and savory.  And the hardest part was making the toast.

On Sunday it was the anniversary of Mister asking me to be his wife, so we took a break from food prepping and wedding planning to enjoy some sunshine.  We debated where to go, and just by chance ended up taking our dogs to the same dog park where we met three years ago.

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(Bulldogs aren’t built for endurance)

I wanted to cook up something special for dinner, without incorporating our go to steak and potatoes.  Since it was nice out, Mister wanted to grill, but I had my belly set on pasta.

We picked up some italian sausage for the grill, and then the ingredients for a healthier version of a creamy pasta.

If you’ve never mixed ricotta cheese with pesto; do it now.  Ricotta can be the easiest way to make a creamy pasta dish, without tons of cream/butter/parmesan type foods (especially since both Mister and I have dairy sensitive bellies).

  • boil pasta water
  • slice and saute garlic and baby bella mushrooms, set aside in a bowl
  • trim and saute green beans, add to the bowl
  • add the pasta to the water whenever its boiling, set a timer so you don’t have to pay attention
  • thinly slice and saute yellow or red pepper, add to the bowl
  • when there’s only a few minutes left on the pasta, add chopped up broccoli florets to the pot.
  • drain pasta/broccoli
  • toss the veggies, pasta, ricotta, cheese, pesto all together.

At this point, it looked great but was missing a little pizzaz.  I thought for a minute and realized that ricotta usually needs a little acid to jazz it up; so I grabbed a whole lemon and squeezed it into the dish, along with a hearty dose of salt and pepper.

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I plated up the pasta and veggies in wide pasta bowls, and sliced the sausage on the side.  Mister did a perfect job grilling the sausage to crispy, charred goodness.

 

Birthday Dinner, Bears Steakhouse

  
This glorious platter of chateaubriand was just one of the courses we were served Saturday evening at Bears Steakhouse in Duanesburg, NY. 

After hearing and reading a ton of great things about this place, I thought it would be a great way to splurge and celebrate Mister’s birthday. Reservations are a must, and a little tricky. 

I called about two weeks prior and, as mentioned in some reviews, either the mother or son will answer with a simple “hello.”  With no indication that you are in fact calling a restaurant, it can feel a bit like a speakeasy, or a trick. 

With my reservation I placed an order for the chateaubriand for two, and was asked to call back the Wednesday prior to confirm. After all this buildup, we were definitely looking forward to this culinary adventure. 

Despite what some reviewers have said, the place is incredibly easy to find if coming from Albany. It isn’t hidden, and there is a large sign. Located near major roads it was a quicker drive than we anticipated.  

 
It is in fact a home, and feels very much like one once you walk in.  

 
With seating for about 50 or so diners, the place was full and noisy; but in a warm and friendly way. 

We were served by the very friendly son of the mother and son duo, while Ma brought us the occasional drink or side. All of the servers seemed to run like a well oiled machine, delivering constants drinks and an endless stream of food. 

We started with very full glasses of Chardonnay and a basket of warm rolls (accompanied by packets of Cabot butter). There are no menus, instead the options are verbally listed off one course at a time once you’ve finished the prior course. 

For appetizers, Mister had their infamous shrimp cocktail.  

 This seemed to be the crowd favorite, and we both loved the strong dose of horseradish in the cocktail sauce. 

  I had these perfectly sour-spicy peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone, with roasted red peppers and pickled garlic. Neither were knock your socks off inventive, but they were good in a way that you could feel the tradition, family, and nostalgia invested in this place. 
We had the choice of salad or Ma’s Italian chicken vegetable soup up next, and we both went with the soup. 

  
It was really good. The glistening drops of fat decorating the broth stood as testament to the home made nature of the soup, and there was such an intense flavor that it could be stood alone without any meat or veggies. But there was pelt you of shredded chicken, greens, corn, and carrots. In all honesty, we could’ve stopped here. But then came the main course.  

 Served as a hefty platter of sliced tenderloin, carrots, and two baked potatoes we were hesitant to dive in. Almost full from the two previous courses, we each sipped a little more wine and took a few deep breaths. 

  Cooked perfectly and fork tender, this was the definition of something being like butter. It was if cutting was wholly unnecessary; the meat melted with each bite. It wasn’t until after our first slice that I had a hankering for some horseradish to balance out the buttery unctuous meat. 

We hardly made a dent in the gorgeous display, and it was graciously packed up (with the requested horseradish). 

Since it was Mister’s birthday celebration, we had to further indulge in some dessert.  

 
The coconut cream pie was the icing on this cake. The flaky crust, the pile of whipped cream; it felt like you were leaving Grandmas house after a holiday meal. We were stuffed and laden with leftovers. 

Pro tip: The next morning for breakfast I toasted some bread, slathered it with mayo and horseradish, topped with thinly sliced beef. I could eat that every morning forever. Easily. 

Swifty’s, Delmar

Its fairly fitting that today on FussyLittleBlog, the post is about a healthier burger; my own post is about an incredibly unhealthy burger brought to my attention by the same blogger.

Mister and I arrived at Swifty’s in Delmar at about 6:15pm on Friday, and could tell there was something to get excited about.  This small restaurant was filled with families and couples, lined up near the door waiting for their seats with almost aggressive anticipation. We were given a wait time of about 30 minutes, so we headed to the bar for a drink.

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We were able to wiggle our way into two seats at the bar, despite the crowd, where we had drinks (Saranac Legacy IPA) and an order of BBQ wings to get started.

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I was enthusiastic about the beers on tap, but less than excited about the soggy wings.  Though the BBQ sauce was great, there was not one crispy bite.

Once seated, we went straight for a shared order Loaded Waffle Fries, and a shared Swifty’s Buffalo Burger (salad on the side, we are trying to focus on healthier foods some of the time I promise).006

Any disappointment from the wings served at the bar dissipated, once we were presented with the Swifty’s Buffalo Burger.

The menu description reads:

Do not be intimidated by this one-of-a-kind burger! Hand breaded, deep fried crisp and golden finished in buffalo sauce

The hype was spot on.

For starters, I think Mister and I were both surprised when we were asked how we would like it cooked (medium) and it was actually delivered with a juicy red center.  How can they possibly cook a burger so well AND deep fry it?  That is a true talent.

Its crispy. Juicy. Spicy….the bun is a little sweet.  We abandoned the fries and both inhaled our halves of the burger with minimal discussion.

Next time, we’re definitely getting two.

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week: Harvest on the Hudson

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Having never been to this restaurant in Hastings on Hudson before, I was excited to see if the consistently rave reviews would carry over to their restaurant week offerings.  Upon entering, we were enveloped in the warmth of candles and low lighting.  Though the space itself is massive, with high ceilings and large windows overlooking the Hudson River, it felt warm and cozy with the combination of seating at various levels, warm colors, and low noise level.

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Our table was positioned at the corner of one of the higher floor levels.  We noticed that the seating all seems to be positioned to optimize river views.  This sounds great in theory, but once it got too dark to see out the enormous windows, the arrangement was awkward.  Regardless of that minor issue, the dining room felt like a warm embrace just as the sun was setting, comfortable and inviting.

For appetizers, I went with the Spring Asparagus Vinaigrette, while Mom chose the soup, which was a butternut squash bisque with pumpkin seeds.

The low lighting made taking pictures tricky, so bear with what dishes look like!  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the description, but my starter consisted of thick stalks of tender, chilled asparagus and a creamy dressing. According to the menu, this was soft egg tarragon dressing.  What I loved about this, was that not only was the asparagus cooked to a perfect state of crisp and tender, but that the entire plate was so perfectly seasoned.  The soup, was also balanced in a way that it was decadent while not being too heavy.

My salmon entree was just as excellent in terms of flavor, although execution could have been tweaked just a bit.  The skin, could have been just a bit more crisp, while the fish itself was more than a little over cooked.  I prefer salmon to have the almost silky fatiness when cooked just enough, while this was piece resembled the texture of dry, canned tuna.  This oversight aside, the brown butter combined with capers and golden raisins was perfection in a way that thoroughly compensated for the salmon.

025The service was so efficient, most likely based on the streamlined restaurant week menus, that we were offered the dessert menu just about the same time I finished my first glass of wine (the sauvignon blanc available by the glass, really fresh and crisp).

I had the tiramisu, while Mom went with the semifredo (in all honesty we had to google what the conceptual differences were between panna cotta and semifredo)  They were both the perfect sweetness to finish a really great menu.

We realized, once back in the car, that we had finished our dinner in just about an hour, though we didn’t feel rushed in the slightest.  We were satiated without being stuffed, which is one of my favorite benefits of restaurant week.  Though you are enjoying three courses, they are sized appropriately for the price and experience. I genuinely can say I look forward to trying this restaurant as a special date night in the future, and can’t wait to indulge in the full menu.