Weekend Meal Prep

Yes for real, every Sunday I cook lunches for the week.  If you didn’t believe me the past few times I’ve done this post, hopefully  by now you’ll see that its a thing.

This past weekend, Mister came down to Westchester to celebrate (observe?) Passover with my family.  I brought Almond Cloud Cookies both nights (though my first batch with chocolate chips were better than the second batch without), but also made a really great fruit salad for the second night.

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I know that fruit salad is pretty basic, and non recipe worthy; but seriously this was good stuff that was surprisingly eaten up fairly quickly for dessert, even with a counter filled with chocolate.

  • Muddle together mint, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and honey
  • rinse and drain: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries
  • slice the strawberries; put all berries in bowl
  • peel and slice kiwis (I used 5)
  • throw in a handful of stray grapes from your other fruitbowl
  • toss with the muddled mixture
  • refrigerate and until you’re ready to go to your aunt’s house, then let it sit on the counter for a few hours until dessert

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Mister and I went to Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers to get groceries for our Sunday meal prep.  It wasn’t nearly as crowded as we were expecting, and we got through fairly quickly.  While I love the experience of Stew Leonards, it can be hard to stock up on canned or packaged goods.  We took that into account when figuring out what we wanted to cook for the week.

While there, of course we were both hungry and decided to grab burgers there before heading back to Bedford.

I ogled the baby ducks while we ate our burgers (no bun for me in honor of Passover).  Sweet potato fries on the side that I surprisingly loved considering that I usually hate sweet potato fries.  They were dense, crunchy wedges of sweet potato that felt like a real food, instead of a weirdly soggy sweet potato french fry that I don’t always love.  Mister didn’t love them so much since they weren’t really fry like in taste or appearance I think.  While he went for the car, I went for the ice cream.

They were advertising a new soft serve, dairy free Gelato.  Made with coconut milk, this “ice cream” had a seriously icy almost sorbet like texture, with a heavy coconut kick.  It was okay, but definitely not worth getting again.

Once back at my Dad’s house,  I got to work on lunches while Mister got to work helping on an outside construction project.

I did time myself on this meal prep, since I keep hearing from people that they don’t have the time.  I did the following in about an hour, with the last portion just waiting for chicken to come out of the oven really.

  1. Get chicken in marinade
  2. Preheat the oven
  3. prep salmon and asparagus (foil lined cookie sheets, olive oil, salt, pepper)
  4. put those in the oven once it hits 350 degrees
  5. brown beef in a pan, drain.
  6. mix ground beef and marinara sauce (I used Stew Leonards refrigerated/prepared sauce) in a bowl and set aside
  7. lightly sautee veggie noodles in same pan from the beef
  8. Plate beef and veggies in containers
  9. Pull salmon and asparagus, plate in containers
  10. Push oven up to 400
  11. Bake chicken for 15 minutes at 400, then reduce to 350 for 20 minutes per pound.  Set a timer on your phone and go outside to enjoy the weather.

 

 

For Me:

  • 2 salmon and aspargus (to be topped with mango salsa after reheated)
  • 3 meat sauce with veggie noodles

For Mister:

  • 1 chicken with asparagus
  • enough baked chicken to either eat as is, or turn into chicken salad for the week.
  • leftovers from Passover

Breakfast will be fruit and greek yogurt (the chobani cups were .99 cents at Stew Leonards).  Dinner will be figured out as we go along, or we can eat the lunches if they get skipped during the day for say takeout with a coworker or a lunch meeting.  Sometimes just figuring out what to make can be the hard part, but Mister and I both agree its so nice to just grab a full meal in its own container from the fridge each day.  We feel better about not resorting to frozen meals, takeout, or just sandwiches every day.

 

The Iron Tomato, White Plains

Yesterday morning Mister had an appointment in White Plains, so I made plans to meet him for lunch.  Looking online, there were a ton of options, so I consulted Yelp and found great reviews for The Iron Tomato.

It fit all of the criteria: (1) walking distance from Mister’s appointment (2) quick/not too fancy (3) good reviews

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Walking in can be a little over whelming, with the shop set up more like a market or cafeteria than a standard restaurant or deli.  The shop has a great flow to it, just make sure you go to the right when you first enter to prevent fighting the procedure.

To the right of the entrance is a bakery, continuing straight there is a salad station, cold prepared foods, and some refrigerated desserts. Once you make your next right (the layout is a rectangle, more or less), there is a smoothie counter.  The next section has the deli counter, lastly a pizza counter and you’ll then return to the register area across from the front doors.

We ordered a sandwich to share, neither of us being too hungry.  You grab a number from the dispenser, and wait to order.  It was organized and efficient, even with the crowds waiting for food.  Menus are clearly displayed in several spots, so there wasn’t that moment of dread waiting to be able to see the menu and hoping that happened before it was your turn to order.

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Splitting the Iron Tomato Special was the perfect amount of food.  Crusty bread with a fluffy, oil drenched interior.  Cold chicken cutlet, savory roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella.  You can see the line of balsamic soaking into the bread on the lower half.  It wasn’t the best sandwich in the world, but it hit all the good flavor and texture points for sure.  I would definitely try an italian mix next time.

There is a seating area in the front corner, and we were given a plate at the register to help us share more neatly.  Its clearly a place that’s popular for lunch, with quick turnover.

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After the sandwich, we couldn’t resist the glowing bakery case.

We walked for a bit and ate our dessert outside, an eclair for Mister and a nutella tart for me.  It was like a melty hershey bar atop a crumbly crust, but in a way that’s way better than that awkward description.

 

Lunch Break: Wegmans

So I didn’t grow up with Wegmans, and seem to be missing out in the fanatical enthusiasm for the store that most people participate in.  I went once to a location in Syracuse, while in the area for a work conference, and was less than impressed.  It was slightly confusing, seemed expensive, and the aisles were narrow.

While reporting my feedback to Mister after this visit (which was about two years ago), I was told that the particular location wasn’t the best representation of the supermarkets as a whole, and that I wasn’t really shopping for groceries so my opinion shouldn’t be fully formed.

This morning, between work appointments in New Jersey, I happened to notice a Wegmans just across the road and felt it was time to give the store another chance.

Okay, I’ll admit I kind of understand it now.060.JPG

After living in Albany for about ten years, I was totally on the supermarket fanatic bandwagon.  People up there love their supermarkets.  Trader Joes for prepared foods and snacks, Hannaford for meat, ShopRite or Price Chopper for sales.  Everyone has their favorites, their reasons, their experiences.  But we didn’t have a Wegmans, so it became the magical unicorn of folktales (just like Trader Joes was before opening in the area).  Having since relocated to Westchester, I realized that not everyone is into supermarkets in the same way.  Its fascinating that getting excited about where you buy your food is regional in such a way, but maybe that’s because the supermarkets of northern and western NY are just that much better.

Anyway, back on to my visit to Wegmans today.

For $30 I got: 2 bottles of storebrand seltzer, 1 bottle of storebrand pineapple flavored water, 1 prepared lunch from the cafe area, 1 container of mixed berries, 1 family sized bag of Snyders pretzels, 2 lemon squares from the bakery, 2 protein bars, 1 chia/fruit snack pack thing.  I’m pretty happy with the price and quality of what I got, but the true test was lunch.

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I packed everything up in the cooler bag I keep in my trunk (doesn’t everyone do this?), drove an hour back to the office, and then microwaved the prepared lunch about 2 hours later (it was refrigerated in the meantime).

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$7.00  / 580 calories.

The grilled chicken wasn’t dry (even after the microwave), the kale was super light and not soggy or over cooked, and the grilled veggies had some crunch.  There was so much flavor, and the sauce that was packaged separately was genius; I love that it wasn’t left to get all lumpy or soggy, but instead stored in its own little container.

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okay, so maybe I finally get why people like Wegmans.  It was a pretty pleasant experience and their prepared foods are definitely on point.

 

 

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.

Coals, Bronxville

Having seen a few posts for the new pizza restaurant Coals, I was excited to give it a try. Specializing in grilled pizza with fresh toppings, I was expecting a lot of flavor to follow up on the hype.

Mom (my local dinner date of choice) and I stopped in around 6pm on Friday night.  Both the bar area and the restaurant were crowded, with a promised wait of about 10- 15 minutes.  The beer offerings were atypical, and I was excited to try something while we waited.  I asked the waitress for a lighter beer both in flavor and APV, but I can tell I confused her in that she thought I meant low- calorie.  For future reference, is there a better way to phrase this?

I ended up with a pilsner; unfortunately the combination of a loud bar and confused waitress, I’m not sure what the beer actually was to give more information.  It was pretty unremarkable, so you’re not missing too much.

The 10-15 minute wait was definitely an underestimation, though I didn’t keep track of time, we didn’t start eating until after 7. 008.JPG We shared the arugula salad: it was really good, and I was so hungry that I didn’t get a good picture of the full dish! Arugula, grilled pears, walnuts, grana padano, and sherry vinaigrette, $9.00.  My only complaint with the salad, is that I wish it had more of the stuff; you had to sort of hunt for anything other than the dressed arugula (as evident by the plates above!)

Although they are marketed as individual pizzas, we weren’t really sure how big they were; we decided to share the “Pure Bliss” instead of over ordering.  Covered with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, tomato, basil pesto, and pecorino ($16.00), we were sold.  The menu is a little confusing for pizza though, with about 9 options, only one or two seem to have radically different topping than the other.  The rest seem to have the same handful of toppings in a different order, or omitting one or two in comparison to the other options.  Nothing really jumped out as a “must-have” or unique offering.

010.JPGBy the time our pizza hit the table, I was two beers down and very hungry.  It looked great, although a lot thinner than either of us was really anticipating. We didn’t let that quell our excitement as we dug in.  While caught up in conversation, we munched away.  A few pieces in, we both commented on how soggy and limp the pizza was, surprised at the result of grilling.

Since neither of us had this style of pizza before, or had visited this restaurant previously, we didn’t really know if this was their specialty or the failure of a busy kitchen.  I decided to consult one of the waitresses that had been helping us (sidenote: there were a ton of staff, but no consistency in who was helping which table.  personally, I think this contributed to slow table turnovers).

The waitress took a look at our floppy bites of pizza and confirmed our suspicions, the pizza wasn’t cooked enough and had gotten even more soggy with the topping soaking in to the crust. She was great about getting a new pizza to our table within minutes, profusely apologizing and letting us snack on the edges of the first one while we waited.

The second one was much crispier, and the flavor was on point.  I’m just not sold on this style of pizza as a meal.  I would think that a family would near half a dozen of these just to feel somewhat satiated; more like a snack or appetizer than main course.

The crust was so thin, without any beloved chewiness or bubbles, that it seemed nearly identical to the free pizzas given out with every drink purchase at the City Beer Hall in Albany.  Those are great for what they are; free pizzas.  I’m not super sold on Coal’s pizza as a meal, but rather a great option to have with a beer while catching up with a friend.

 

Dumpling + Noodle, Bronxville

Oddly enough, my last meal before my flight to Puerto Rico, and my first meal back from the airport were both at Dumpling + Noodle in Bronxville.

Located at 26 Palmer Avenue, parking can be a little tricky during the day but there are plenty of metered spots.

On my first visit, my sister had a ramen bowl, while Mom and I shared two appetizers and an entree.

030.JPGMost importantly, can we discuss these chopsticks? I was so excited to use them, maybe I just don’t get out enough.

For appetizers, we shared the House Special Bun [filled with roast duck, scallion, cucumber, and hoisin sauce] and an order of Shrimp Summer Rolls [shrimp, lettuce, cucumer, carrot, sweet basil and rice noodles wrapped in rice paper, and served with special sauce]

The buns were so good; think perfectly flavorful meaty goodness inside the light fluffiness of wonder bread that isn’t gummy.  It was really light but in a fat/carby good way.

The summer rolls were good, but I don’t think I would order them again.  They were very fresh, light and perfectly “summer”; unfortunately they were incredibly cold, not as flavorful, and difficult to eat.  With the first bight, each portion would shred in your hand without warning.

033.JPGOn a whim, I ordered the House Special Sir-Fried Hand Made Sliced Noodle with roast pork.  The name of the dish is a mouth full, and the plate was a belly-full. I’m glad Mom and I shared this, because neither of us could have comfortably finished off this plus the appetizers.

Again, the pork was very tender and flavorful; the vegetables crisp, but the shining star on this plate was the noodles.  They’re dense and chewy in a way that leaves no doubt that they are truly hand made and sliced.035.JPG

They were so good, that I ordered them on my second visit as well.  No shame.

Mister and I visited the restaurant in our blurry, sleep deprived haze that seemed to hit us full force when we returned from vacation.  Unable to figure out how to feed ourselves, we went for full flavor and easy.

Since we were there mid-day, we went for the lunch special.  There are two options, which you can see on their website; but we both went for the $8.95 option which is a drink, salad, small dish, and entree.  Ordering was as easy as possible, with the options clearly listed on the short, special menu.

Drink: Thai Iced Tea

Small Dish: 2 Fried Dumplings, served with salad

Entree: Stir-Fried Handmade Sliced Noodle with tofu

Knowing how delicious their noodles were from last time, I was aching to try some dumplings; the other half of their namesake.  These gigantic beauties did not disappoint.  They were chewing, flavorful and fried without being greasy.

Mister started with the 2 spring rolls, and ordered the General Tao chicken.  The spring rolls were significantly smaller than the dumplings, and nothing to rave about from what I recall.  The chicken was crispy, without the mystery gristle of most takeout. Both of our portions were more than adequate for the inexpensive lunch portions.

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I think I could easily go for just the dumplings and noodles a few more times, and its nice to see a restaurant doing what they’re named after so well.

Sinus Smog

I feel like I’m trapped in some sinus induced smog.  Its yucky and all of my food tastes like cardboard.  There’s nothing worse than trying to eat food when everything tastes like mushy gruel.  Enough gross out language for today…. I’m going to quit my whining and leave you with this beauty:

011.JPGThis is the only thing that’s tasted good to me in a few days, and boy does it taste good.  This was my first time trying the Cashew Milk “Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert” aka ice cream, and it was lightyears better than the coconut or almond milk based equivalents.  It was so much creamier that it didn’t have the mouth feel of being dairy free at all.

Highly recommend.

What’s your go to when you’re sick? I know soup is the biggie, but when you can’t taste anything my brain is pretty convinced I’m trying to ingest dirty dish water.  Blerg.  Escarole and Bean soup from Pelham Pizzeria is the exeption; this has been one of the few things that has tasted incredible to me the past few days.  Mister had the foresight to order me extra when we were there this past Sunday, and I’m milking the quart for all its worth.  Its definitely made in house and I think even assembled per order because even if you ask for it to go, there’s a bit of a wait and it comes out crazy hot.  There’s tons of oil, garlic, pancetta, and goodness.  Plus there’s greens, so its healthy.  I promise.  Only a few days after my botched juice cleanse and I’ve devolved to ice cream and pancetta.

I tried pasta, but the mush in my mouth without flavor was hard to stomach.  Same goes for steamed veggies.  I’ve snuck some veggies into my system via Garden Lites chocolate chip banana muffins, which come frozen and are made with zucchini and some other good stuff.  Man those are really good.