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Broomstick Sweetie’s:The Dawn of the Suburban Underground Supper Club

(Thank you Nicole for hosting NY Foodie Family.  As always, all opinions are our own.)

The e-mail arrives in your inbox 24 hours before the event and gives you an address and an arrival time.  Wine recommendations are included, since this is a BYOB meal. You have no idea what the menu will be or who else will be attending.  This, my friends, is the dawn of the underground supper club experience and it’s taking place right here in Westchester County.  While the concept of an underground food event is not new, it has finally arrived in the suburbs of New York City.

Nicole Brake is the mastermind behind Broomstick Sweetie’s.  She is a mom of two children (ages 9 and 15), works part-time as a nurse, and is a former ballerina who still enjoys taking dance classes.  What started as a side gig, selling baked goods and fudge at local farmer’s markets, has evolved into an underground supper club.  The goal of Nicole’s supper club is to get people from all over to come together to share a unique dining experience.

Each dining event has a theme where, “seasonally inspired comfort food and dessert with a global influence” is served.  Nicole creates a 4-5 course menu reflecting that evening’s theme.  You don’t know what dishes you will be served until you arrive.  Therefore, the only requisite of the supper club is to be an adventurous eater. It is important to note that these menus are not vegetarian or gluten-free.

Ideally, you attend the supper club either alone, or with one other person.  The goal is to meet and mingle with others where you: “enter as strangers, leave as friends.”  As a super-introvert, I was hesitant about attending.  However, the whole concept intrigued me too much to pass up.  So, this past weekend I attended an October Harvest Moon themed dinner.

When I arrived at the designated location, a platter of bread and homemade chimichurri sauce was set out on the porch, along with homemade sangria. Nicole’s husband Robert was also at the event, greeting guests and making sure everyone was comfortable.   This was a very relaxed setting to get to know the other dinner guests as they arrived.

Eventually, we were moved inside to a dining room. There’s no awkwardness of where to sit, as name cards are set out.  Plus, the maximum guest count is ten, to keep the gathering intimate and manageable.

The printed menu was reflective of Nicole’s goal of seasonal comfort food. As a self-taught cook, many of the dishes she serves are tried and true examples that she’s made for her family.

The first course of the evening was a pumpkin soup.  This was delicious.  It had all the flavors of fall, including pumpkin and apple, and was garnished with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds.  Nicole served generous servings of soup in giant bowls. I chose not finish, although I would have gladly licked the bowl clean, because I knew there were many more courses to go.

Next up was a spinach salad.  The spinach leaves were covered in a peppery vinaigrette and the salad was garnished with slices of pear and Parmesan.

The main course was a garlic infused chipotle pork tenderloin with scalloped potato gratin and butternut squash.  The pork was moist and flavorful, while the potatoes were soft and creamy.  The butternut squash was so tender and sweet that it could have been served for dessert.  Once again, I didn’t finish every last bite on the plate in order to leave room for dessert.  Some diners were smart and asked for their leftovers to be wrapped.  Definitely something to keep in mind for the future, and an added bonus is being treated to Robert’s aluminum foil art.

Since Broomstick Sweetie’s originated as a baking and dessert brand, I knew dessert would be delicious.  I was not disappointed and was glad I had left room for the Apple Bavarian Torte.  An iced broomstick sugar cookie was a bonus treat!

The kitchen of this house was adjacent to the dining room, so we could see Nicole plating dishes.  As I mentioned, these dinners are BYOB.  Several guests brought bottles of wine and invited the other diners to share.  Throughout the evening Robert was making sure glasses were full (of water, wine, or both!) and serving and clearing dishes.

Okay, so the food is delicious but what is the dining experience like?

 

If this introvert had a great evening, then there’s no doubt you will as well!  The ages of the other guests ranged from early twenties to late 50’s.  At the Harvest Dinner there were ten guests including a film maker, an administrative assistant, a kitchen designer, a litigation lawyer, and a financial adviser. Conversation flowed smoothly as we all had at least one thing in common: we like food.  While Nicole does not sit and dine with guests, she does encourage them to come talk to her while she’s cooking.  She even had a pianist playing live music during the evening.

Discussions ranged from favorite restaurants to most adventurous foods eaten.  One guest had eaten Rocky Mountain Oysters (go ahead, Google it), another frog’s legs and alligator.  One couple attended a dinner party where they dined in a swimming pool.  I learned that, in India, there’s no such thing as what we Americans call “curry.”  Curry is really just a blend of different spices.  I also learned that there’s a restaurant in NYC that sells only one dish: steak frites, and obviously does that one dish very well at a super-reasonable price.

I highly recommend attending one of Broomstick Sweetie’s underground supper club events.  Future event through the end of the year include a costume-wearing “Dishes to Die For,” Tastes of Southwest, Friendsgiving Feast, Italian Comfort, a Charles Dickens Dinner and an End of Year Soiree.  The website gives further details on the specific dates.  These dinners are very reasonably priced at $65 a person.

This supper club is great because you can attend alone without any stigma. The whole point is to meet new people and enjoy a great meal.  This is especially attractive to a busy working mom like myself.  Scheduling a date night or a girls night out can be difficult at times.  But if I want to enjoy a night off from cooking, this dinner is a great escape that I can do alone. At the end of the evening, Nicole gave us a parting gift of homemade pumpkin fudge.

It was an enjoyable evening.  I arrived home and told my husband that he needs to attend a future supper club.  While we may end up going again together, I feel like it’s a different experience going solo.  Broomstick Sweetie’s underground supper club is truly a unique dining experience.  Please check out the Broomstick Sweetie’s website to learn more about the supper club as well as to reserve a space at a future dinner.

Dinner and a Beer Flight at Mill House Brewing Company

(Thank you to Dutchess Tourism and Mill House Brewing Company for hosting NY Foodie Family.  As always, all opinions are our own.)

Mill House Brewing Company is located on Mill Street in Poughkeepsie, right off of Rt. 55.  Surprisingly, the restaurant was never actually a mill and was most recently a Chinese restaurant! My husband and I didn’t realize until visiting that we’ve driven by this place multiple times on our way across the river!  Now that we know that it’s there though, we will be back.  Mill House Brewing Company is a brewery and a pub.  When we talked to people at other stops on our Dutchess Craft Beverage Trail tour and mentioned that we were visiting Mill House Brewing Company, they always commented on how good the food was here.  And they weren’t wrong!

The restaurant has an extensive menu, filled with so many delicious options.  My husband and I debated making a meal out of Appetizers and Bar Bites, because there were so many dishes that we wanted to try!  In the end we took our server’s recommendation and shared the Fried Calamari Salad.  The portion was humongous and could have been a meal in itself!  I had never heard of a fried calamari salad before, but it was so good.  The calamari was so tender and the chili-lime vinaigrette and Srirarcha Ranch aioli complemented the arugula so well.

For our entrees we shared the Fig and “Pig” pizza and a Deep Fried Scallop and Oyster Po’Boy.  The sandwich was messy good!  Unfortunately, it was a daily special and not something that they serve every day.

The pizza Fig and “Pig” is one of five pizzas that the restaurant serves.  This has smoked mozzarella, housemade duck bacon, black mission figs, arugula and aged balsamic.  We were getting full and took most of the pizza home with us!

Mill House Brewing also has several burgers on their menu, including the 50/50 burger being the winner of the Hudson Valley Burger Bash, three years in a row.  They also make several different sausages and offer a variety of pasta, seafood and steak dishes.  There is something for everyone at this Mill House and I can almost guarantee you that it will be delicious.

We were seriously too stuffed for dessert, as much as we wanted to try some of them (I’m talking about you, Peanut Butter Sundae and Cannoli Profiteroles!).  Just another reason for us to go back!

“….our A-Team here, who make “holy s#*t” moments happen at Mill House day in and day out.”

But of course, besides serving amazing food, we can’t forget that Mill House is also a brewery!  They have 16 taps and are always changing the beers that they serve.  My husband enjoyed a flight, where you can choose 5 beers for $15.  His flight included Kold One, which is their most popular beer, Cross Reference Blackberry, Cucumber Blessings, Velvet Panda and Northwest Territory. Although he enjoyed them all, his favorite was Cucumber Blessings. This award-winning cream ale is crisp and dry with notes of cucumber.  Basically, a perfect summer beer!

Assistant General Manger, Chris, told to us that the brewmasters Jamie Bishop and Larry Stock have become more experimental with their beers since they acquired the additional space down the street that houses 20 additional barrels.  According to Chris, asking him to name his favorite beer is like asking a parent to name their favorite child.  However, at the time of our visit, his current favorite brew was Zoe.

Brewmaster Jamie works with a local artist to create unique badges for each new beer.

If you really enjoy your beer, hopefully it is one of five that are sold in cans.  Kold One, Cucumber Blessings, Hubar I DIPA, Grocery Getter and Northwest Territory Imperial are their five beers that you can find in stores like Whole Foods, some local beer distributors and even Grand Central Station.  Otherwise, you can purchase some on your way out of the restaurant to take home with you (along with some of their home homemade sauces made with their beer).

Stop by The Mill House Brewing Company for a delicious meal and a cold brew (or flight)!

The Details:

Mill House Brewing Company
289 Mill Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
(845) 485-2739

Website: www.millhousebrewing.com

Hours: Monday – Thursday 11:30 AM – 9 PM, Friday 11:30 AM – 10:30 PM, Saturday 11 AM – 10:30 PM, Sunday Brunch 11 AM – 3 PM, Sunday Dinner 3 PM – 9 PM

Fondue Fun at The Melting Pot

I can’t believe that I haven’t written a review of The Melting Pot until now.  This restaurant has become a family favorite and is frequented annually for one, or sometimes even both, of our kids’ birthdays.  The restaurant is a chain, with locations throughout the United States.  While my husband and I aren’t huge fans of chain restaurants, we both enjoy the The Melting Pot as much as the kids do.

For those unfamiliar with The Melting Pot, it is a fondue restaurant.  Dining here is a fun, interactive experience for the entire family.  One of the best parts of The Melting Pot is that you can customize your menu.  If you only want to do appetizers and dessert, you can.  For our family of four, we usually order two 4-course experiences and share between the four of us.  They do have a children’s menu, but we have found that there is enough food for all of us, sharing the two adult entrees.  The kids do love the special kid cocktails they offer.  Be warned, they are very sweet!  We usually water them down.

The 4-course experience begins with your choice of cheese fondue.  Our go-to choice (and a signature item) is the Wisconsin Cheddar.  This fondue includes Aged Cheddar, Emmenthaler, Sam Adams Boston Lager, garlic and spices.  You get a board loaded with veggies, different types of bread (including our favorite, pretzel bread) and apples.

The second course is a choice of three different salads.  The kids usually share a Caesar salad and my husband and I share this California salad.  It’s super tasty with mixed greens topped with candied pecans, Gorgonzola and house-made raspberry vinaigrette.

The third course includes a choice of three different entrees.  I believe that different locations of the restaurant may offer different entree options.  We always opt for “The Classic” which includes Certified Angus Beef Sirloin, shrimp and Herb-Crusted chicken breast.

For our second entree our go-to is “The Pacific Rim” which includes dumplings,  duck, shrimp and Teriyaki marinated sirloin.

With the entrees you also get a bowl of veggies that includes potatoes, broccoli and mushroom caps. The fun of this restaurant is getting to cook the food yourself!  Every person gets two colored cooking forks.  The colors are different so it’s easy to keep track of whose fork is whose.  Your server will tell you cooking times, but it’s approximately one to two minutes for seafood and additional cooking time for other other proteins.

And we can’t forget about the sauces!  There are six different sauces that you can dip your cooked foodinto including a Green Goddess sauce (my fave), cocktail sauce, Gorgonzola sauce and a curry sauce.

The restaurant thinks of everything.  The plates have special compartments for you to scoop your sauce into.  As you can see, you will be eating your main entree in stages.  Since you only have two cooking utensils, you will be continuously cooking and eating the main entree.  You will also get a “Search and Rescue” slotted spoon, because inevitably, some food will fall off your cooking fork!

Of course, the kids’ favorite part of the meal is dessert! Since we most recently celebrated my son’s birthday, we let him choose the chocolate fondue, since there’s only one per table.  This time, he chose the Flaming Turtle which includes milk chocolate, caramel and and candied pecans.  There’s a splash of rum which is added and set on fire, thus the “flaming” part of the turtle.

When you arrive at the restaurant, they ask if you are celebrating a special occasion.  We mentioned to the hostess and our waiter that it was our son’s 10th birthday.  When our waiter brought us our dessert, he also brought this fun, colorful plate.

The Melting Pot is a fun restaurant that is great for celebrating special occasions, a date night or just a dinner out with friends.  When you dine here, you will have a memorable, interactive experience.

The Details:
(Please note that The Melting Pot has locations throughout the United States.  Check the website to see if there’s a location near you.)

The Melting Pot White Plains
30 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10601
(914) 993-6358

Hours: Monday – Thursday 5 PM -10 PM Friday 5 PM -11 PM, Saturday 12 PM – 11 PM, Sunday 12 PM – 9 PM

Parking:  Street Parking

Price:  $$$ (Four-Course dinner for two plus cocktails approximately $100+)

 

Newest Additions to Savor Westchester: The Little Beet And Melt Shop

 

(Thank you to The Little Beet for hosting NY Foodie Family.  As always, all opinions are our own.)

Two new eateries, Melt Shop and The Little Beet recently opened at Savor Westchester, the food hall type dining experience at The Westchester in White Plains.

Melt Shop is one of the newest eateries at Savor Westchester.

Melt Shop is all about comfort food.  We’re talking grilled sandwiches (with, of course, lots of melty cheese!), tater tots, and milkshakes.  Sandwiches are reasonably priced, ranging from $5.05 to $8.96.

The Signature Fried Chicken sandwich from the Melt Shop.

One of our favorite Melt Shop sandwiches is the Signature Fried Chicken.  A generously-sized piece of fried chicken is topped with pepper jack, red cabbage slaw, and Melt sauce.  A warning: This sandwich is messy, but so good!  Have plenty of napkins on hand.

We also tried the French Onion Beef.  Roast beef, frenched onions, Muenster cheese, arugula, and sherry vinaigrette are piled on Country White Bread.   This was a tasty sandwich as well, though the fried chicken was definitely preferred.

The loaded tots from Melt Shop at the Westchester in White Plains.

Melt Shop doesn’t serve fries, they have tater tots.  You could choose tots topped with just cheese sauce.  However, we opted for the loaded tots which are covered in cheese sauce, bacon, jalapeno and herbed parmesan.

Another new addition to Savor Westchester is The Little Beet.  This eatery has a strong plant-based focus, featuring lots of veggies. They have dining choices for special dietary preferences including gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy-free and more.

This is a quick-service create-your-own bowl restaurant.  You choose a base of either field greens, brown rice and spirulina (FYI -spirulina is a superfood algae), or a gluten-free ancient grain blend.  Then choose two veggies for your bowl.  They offer cool choices, like the cukes and tomatoes (which happens to be a fave of the staff at the Savor Westchester location), seaweed slaw and pea and radishes.  Warm veggies include chipotle kale, charred sweet potato and more. If you don’t want one of the bases, you can opt for a third veggie instead.  Step two is picking a protein.  Salmon is one of the best-selling options, since no other eatery at Savor Westchester offers a salmon dish.  Other options include chicken, tofu, beet falafel, sesame avocado, and braised pork.  Step three is to choose a sauce; Chimichurri, beet hummus dip and sweet chili garlic sauce are a few of the choices.  Finally, you can pick a garnish of either super seeds, turmeric almonds, pickled ginger or hibiscus pickled onion.  The combinations and options are nearly limitless!  Prices are based on the type of protein chosen but range in price from $11.40 for sesame avocado to $14.00 for salmon.  You can also just have the veggies and base only for $8.95.

One bowl we opted for was brown rice and spirulina topped with charred broccoli, cukes and tomatoes and braised pork.  We chose to top it with avocado bean dip and sweet chili garlic sauce.  This combo was definitely one of our favorites!

A beet falafel bowl from The Little Beet at Savor Westchester in White Plains.

On this bowl we opted for a third veggie instead of a base.  We chose charred sweet potatoes, golden cauliflower and shaved brussels sprouts topped with turmeric tahini, roasted red pepper and walnut dip and pickled onions.

We also tried the Chef Made Yuzu Poke Bowl.  We opted for a rice base which is then topped with salmon poke, grilled avocado, cucumber, sea vegetables, pickled ginger and sesame seeds.

I am not kidding when I tell you everything was delicious.  The kids loved it all as well and my husband noted that you don’t even need the meat.  The veggies and sauces are so flavorful.  If we could eat this every day, we could totally become vegetarians!

So the next time you are at Savor Westchester, make sure to stop by either Melt Shop or The Little Beet for some tasty eats!  Click the link to read more about some of the other dining options at Savor Westchester.

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Cooking Lately

If you’re a regular blog reader you may have noticed that I haven’t posted a weekly meal plan for the past two weeks.  Believe me, I’ve still been cooking up a storm during the week.  I just haven’t had time to post our meal plan here.  So today, I’m sharing some of the meals that I’ve cooked over the past two weeks.  Again, I hope this post helps you find something new to make for dinner.  Mix up your weekly dinners and try a new recipe!  You and your family might like it!  So on to what’s been cooking lately:

Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole from Broma Bakery – This was a family favorite and my daughter already asked me to make this again.  My only criticism of this recipe is that it should be called Taco Tater Tot Casserole.  After looking at some other “cheeseburger” tater tot casserole recipes, I noticed that the others had mustard, ketchup and pickles.  This recipe had none of that but does have taco seasoning.  I forgot to serve this with sour cream and it was still tasty.  This is a hearty, comfort dish that I’ll save to make again in the fall once the weather gets cool again.

Cowboy Spaghetti from Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals – I’ve made this recipe before many years ago.  Although it sounds like a weird combination of ingredients, somehow it works.  I did not use beer in my recipe.  The family enjoyed this meal and this is another recipe that I’ll likely make again, come fall or winter.

Instant Pot Sticky Korean Chicken from Half Baked Harvest –  This was a quick and easy chicken dish.  Instead of the gochugang sauce the recipe called for, I used a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce.  Even that was probably a bit much, since the chicken turned out pretty spicy.  My chicken ended up pretty saucy, which I didn’t mind because I spooned it over the rice.  However, I used a pound of chicken and there was no leftovers and not even enough for seconds.  Next time, I’ll reduce the amount of chili garlic sauce and double the amount of chicken.  I served this with rice and veggies.  This will be made again!

Cajun Chicken Alfredo Shells from Closet Cooking – This was probably one of the more time consuming meals to make over the past two weeks.  The night before I was going to make these my husband pre-cooked the chicken for me in the Instant Pot.  While the shells cooked, I made the sauce and got the chicken and broccoli mixture together.  These were pretty tasty, but I think more work than it was worth.  Luckily, there were leftovers which my daughter and I took for lunch the next day.  I served these shells with a Caesar salad.

Wafflewiches from Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals – If you are looking for a super quick and easy meal, these Wafflewiches are it!  It’s a different take on the Monte Cristo, using waffles instead of French Toast.  My kids rarely eat a cold cut sandwich, but both enjoyed these wafflewiches.

Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Garlic Cilantro Lime Slaw from Pinch of Yum –  Shrimp are quick and easy to cook.  The sauce and slaw was easy to throw together and it packed a lot of flavor!  There was a bunch of slaw and sauce leftover, which we are using in fish tacos!

What have you been cooking lately?

 

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Brunch and a Broadway Show! {Charlie Palmer at the Knick and SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical}

(Thank you to the Charlie Palmer Group and SpongeBob the Broadway Musical for hosting us.  As always, all opinions are our own.)

Dinner and a movie makes for a great date with your significant other.  If you are looking for a fun day out on the town with your child, how about brunch and a Broadway show?!  My children love breakfast foods. I know if we go out for breakfast they will always find something on the menu that they will enjoy. And, really, who doesn’t love bacon and eggs? For a super special parent-child outing, seeing a Broadway show is a real treat! Enjoying brunch before a weekend matinee ensures that you don’t get home too late.  This is especially important when seeing a Sunday show, when your kids probably have school the next day!

My 9 year old son and I recently took a trip into New York City for a mother-son brunch and a Broadway show date.  We started with brunch at Charlie Palmer at the Knick.  This family-friendly restaurant is located on the fourth floor of the Knickerbocker hotel, in the heart of Times Square.

The decor of the restaurant is modern but inviting.  As my son noted: “This is the fanciest-looking restaurant I’ve been to!”  Chef Charlie Palmer creates American cuisine that is sourced locally from the Hudson Valley. For those on the hungrier side, the breakfast menu includes both a Continental and American Breakfast.  The a la carte menu includes a couple of different omelettes, pancakes, waffles, french toast and more. The restaurant also has a different children’s menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Although my son sometimes orders from the adult menu, he opted for the buttermilk pancakes with fresh strawberries from the kid’s menu and added a side of bacon. After seeing the portion sizes, he could have likely finished a meal off the adult menu. As it was, he devoured his pancakes in record time. Breakfast is his favorite meal!

I ordered the Midtown Eggs Benedict.  Two poached organic eggs were served on a potato rosti with Bearnaise sauce, surrounded by chunks of lobster.  This was a decadent and delicious dish!

After we had ordered, a basket of pastries was brought to the table.  We enjoyed these after our brunch to end our meal on a sweet note.  My son especially enjoyed the chocolate-filled croissant. The flaky layers of pastry filled with a sweet chocolate filling was delicious!

I’m not going to lie.  Prices at Charlie Palmer, even for breakfast, are on the higher end of the price spectrum.  My eggs Benedict was definitely a splurge, priced at $26. However, if you are going to have a parent-child date, it’s nice to be a little fancy and treat yourself!

We had 11 AM reservations, which gave us plenty of time to eat before our 1 PM show.  Our food arrived quickly after we ordered.  However, we were not made to feel rushed at all.  After finishing our meal, we sat a bit while I enjoyed my coffee. Service was excellent, with our server being attentive but not annoyingly so.

Charlie Palmer at the Knick is super close to many of the Broadway theatres.  After our delicious brunch, we only had to walk a couple of blocks to the Palace Theatre to see the show. “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?  SpongeBob SquarePants…..”  If you have tweens you are probably very familiar with that song!  Did you know that the Nickelodeon television show made its Broadway debut this past December?  I have to be honest, my son really wanted to see this musical.  Me?  Not so much.  I’m not the biggest fan of the animated talking sponge.  But guess what?  I am here to tell you that you don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy the musical.

As soon as you enter the Palace Theatre you are transported into an underwater wonderland.  From beginning to end, guests are treated to a feast for the senses.  Giant fluorescent set pieces glow under black lights. The cast are dressed in bright, colorful costumes. The continuously changing sets are filled with lights, smoke and more.  There are lots of sound effects and the songs are catchy. Most songs were written by artists like Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Plain White T’s, T.I. and more, specifically for this production.  The show ends with bubbles, confetti and bouncing beach balls.

One of the first things you will notice once the show starts is that SpongeBob is not actually shaped like a sponge.  Ethan Slater, does a phenomenal job in taking on the role of SpongeBob.  He has the voice, gestures and even the laugh spot-on!  Although you don’t have to be familiar with the characters from the show, it helps, so you can fully appreciate how well the show was cast.  There is even a story line to the musical.  Bikini Bottom is in danger of being destroyed by a volcanic eruption.  While most of the residents want to leave, SpongeBob with the help of his friends Patrick and Sandy attempt to save their beloved home.

Although the audience was mostly comprised of families with children (right around my son’s age or younger), I think this show will appeal to the masses.  For anyone who loves a good Broadway production, you will not be disappointed. SpongeBob SquarePants the Broadway Musical is a fun and entertaining show.  This is a perfect musical for a parent-child/family day out and both my son and I give it two thumbs up!

The Details:

Charlie Palmer at the Knick
The Knickerbocker Hotel
6 Times Square
New York, NY 10036
(212) 204-4983

Hours: Breakfast 7 AM – 11 AM, Lunch 11:30 AM – 2 PM, Dinner 5 PM – 10 PM

Price:  $$$ (breakfast – most entrees between $16-$30)

SpongeBob SquarePants the Broadway Musical
The Palace Theatre
1564 Broadway (47th and Broadway)
New York, NY 10036

Show Dates and Times:  7 PM Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 PM  Wednesdays, 8 PM Fridays, 2 PM & 8 PM Saturdays,  1 PM & 6:30 PM Sundays

Prices:  (Depend on day/time, seat choice and availability)  Tickets start at $49 balcony seating.

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A Peek Inside our Meal Planning Process

 

Check out how I make our family's weekly meal plan.

Meal planning is crucial in making our family dinner time run smoothly.  It also helps keep our grocery bill within a reasonable range each week.  There are many ways to meal plan and there is no one tried and true method.  You honestly have to figure out and do what works best for your family.  I am showing you how I create our weekly meal plan which will hopefully give you some tips and inspiration. IMG_1090[1] 1.  The Calendar:  You can find fancy, online printables if that will help motivate you.  In our house we don’t go the fancy route.  As seen above, I use the back of a piece of scrap paper and set up a monthly calendar.  I plan our menus weekly and write the meals in pencil, so I can erase and move things around if needed.

2.  The Day:  The grocery circular for Shoprite, where we do most of our shopping, comes on Saturday with our newspaper.  Over the weekend I write out the menu and make the grocery list.  Then I do the actual shopping Monday.

3.  Time:  I’m not going to lie.  Meal planning takes time.  Especially in the beginning if you have never done it before.  Even now, it sometimes takes me about an hour, but that’s because I enjoy it.  I rarely, if ever make the same recipe twice.  So, it can take me awhile to go through all of my recipe resources (see below) and pick out the new recipes I want to make for the week.  Once you’ve been meal planning for a little bit and have found some recipes that your family enjoys, you can repeat them throughout the month.

4.  Resources:  So, where do you find recipes?  Well, you can start here on my blog, at the recipe index!  Really though, there are so many food blogs out there, ranging from family focused, quick and easy meals, to more involved recipe blogs.  It can actually be quite overwhelming!  I subscribe to several food blogs and get new posts e-mailed to me.  Here are a few blogs that I use often and recommend:

Closet Cooking – Some of the recipes can be a little more involved but Kevin posts recipes for dishes with a variety of flavors and different cuisines.

Damn Delicious  – For quick and easy, family-friendly dishes.

Melanie Makes – For more quick and easy, family-friendly dishes.

Half Baked Harvest and How Sweet Eats are both great blogs with consistently good recipes.  I’ve rarely made a recipe from these blogs that wasn’t delicious.  However, some of these recipes can be a bit involved or require a bunch of ingredients.

Try cooking recipes from several different blogs.  You will eventually find you like certain bloggers’ recipe choices, presentation, photographs, etc. over others.  You don’t need to subscribe to all of them! I have two folders in my web browser favorites.  One is titled “Recipes” and anytime I see a recipe I want to make I bookmark it there.  If I decide to make the recipe, I bookmark it in the “Cooking This Week” folder, so it’s easier to find when needed.

I also subscribe to Cooking Light and Every Day with Rachael Ray and highly recommend both magazines.  Instead of keeping piles of magazines lying around, I rip out the recipes that interest me and stick them in a folder.

For beginner cooks I highly recommend the website Allrecipes.com.  You can search for recipes by a number of different factors, including ingredients or name.  I’ve found most recipes that I’ve used from the site easy to make.  It’s especially helpful since there are tons of ratings and reviews.  If a recipe has lots of five star ratings, it’s probably going to be good.

Several bloggers post a “Meal Plan Monday” where they share their upcoming weekly menu, often with links to the recipes that they are making.  While you probably won’t follow a blogger’s exact weekly meal plan, it can be helpful for inspiration.  I recently stopped posting my weekly meal plan, but you can find over 85 of my past weekly meal plans for some ideas!

Here are some blogs that I’ve found that share a weekly “Meal Plan” post:

I’m an Organizing Junkie – Not only does Laura provide her weekly menu plan, she also hosts a link-up where other bloggers can link up their weekly menu plan.  Check this blog out for loads of inspiration!

Skinnytaste – for some lighter, healthier meals.

And let’s not forget about Pinterest.  There are millions of recipes posted on that site.  Start creating boards of recipes that you see that interest you and you can refer to your board for inspiration when meal planning!

I’ve found that as much as I enjoy reading cookbooks, I don’t use them very often, since most recipes can easily be found online.  I do have several older editions of the Cooking Light Annual Recipe collection cookbooks.  They have the whole year of recipes from the magazine bound nicely into one book.

Again, the recipes you choose will really depend on your family’s food and dietary preferences.

5.  The Planning:  If you are new to meal planning, it might be easier to start with some recipes that you know your family eats and enjoys and maybe aim for one new recipe a week.  I recommend you use your grocery store circular to start your planning.  If chicken is on sale this week, I recommend making at least one chicken dish and buying some extra chicken that you can freeze for the future.  Some people prefer to have a themed dinner for each day, like Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday.  This helps in keeping a consistency to meal planning.  My meal plan varies from week to week.  I try to have a meatless meal, a chicken dish a pasta dish, a burger/sandwich, etc.  Other weeks I sometimes plan by cuisine.  I will plan to have a Mexican-themed dish, an Asian-themed, breakfast for dinner, pizza, etc.  Sometimes, if I find a bunch of interesting chicken dishes at one time, I will pre-plan and space them out throughout my monthly calendar.  Once I find a recipe that I decide I’m going to make, I write it in pencil on the calendar, along with the name of the source (blog name, magazine, website).  Although I will have my five recipes for the week written in, I won’t necessarily make them in that order.  When we eat each meal depends on factors like which dishes have produce that may spoil or how busy our schedules are.  I will then write in each box, what day I actually plan on making that dish.

6.  Grocery List:  I then take my grocery list and go through the recipes I plan on making for the week.   I write down the ingredients that I need for each recipe on the grocery list.  I circle the recipe on the calendar to know that I made sure I had everything I needed for that recipe.  Like I mentioned previously, I will stock up on proteins, chicken, ground beef, pork chops, etc. when they are on sale so I have them for the future.  I recommend stocking up on other staples when they are on sale as well.  There’s nothing like having to buy something at full price for a recipe, when it was on sale last week!  Pasta, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, rice, etc. are all items that you will probably use a lot of.

I hope this helps give you a better idea on how to meal plan, if this is new to you!  Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or e-mail me.  I’d love to hear how others meal plan and am always looking for tips on how to make the process easier!

 

Holiday Gift Idea: MunchPak Subscription Box

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The holidays are quickly approaching.  Are you like me and frantically trying to figure out what to get everyone on your list?  Do you have some hard to shop for people?  The ones who don’t seem to need anything?  Or, you don’t want to get people “stuff” that they don’t really need.  How about giving a MunchPak subscription box? My whole family loves when this box arrives. We enjoy sampling the snacks over a couple of weekends throughout the month and discussing which ones are our favorites.

Inside each MunchPak box is a selection of international snacks from around the world.  The snack selection includes candy, cookies, chips and depending on what box size you choose, even drinks.  What’s even better is you can decide how frequently you or your gift recipient receives each snack box.  You can choose from 5+, 10+ or 20+ snacks per box.  Then you decide how long of a subscription you want to send.  Do you want to give a one time box or send a box for 3, 6, or 12 months? If you prefer that your recipient chooses which box they’d like, you can send a gift card instead. Bookmark this post, because on Cyber Monday (November 27), you can save 50% off a MunchPak subscription! Otherwise, you can save 25% off subscriptions the rest of the week.  Regular price subscriptions start at just $9.95 depending on which box you order!

Are you wondering what comes in this box?  Like I mentioned, there’s a variety of different types of snacks.  You will receive chips, cookies and candy.  The snacks will come from all different countries from around the world.  Although there is not a card included to tell you where the different snacks come from, they do have an app that allows you to scan the UPC code and find out more.  Many of the products have the country of origin right on the label.  Otherwise, I visit the MunchPak site and search the shop to find out more info.  Curious to see what a box looks like?  Here is a review of our most recent MunchPak box!  Inside our November box was:

Chewits (Blackcurrant) – (Candy from United Kingdom) Our box had the blackcurrant flavor of Chewits.  This is a candy from the United Kingdom.  The squares are individually wrapped.  They start out hard but as you suck on them, they get soft and chewy.  The blackcurrant flavor reminded me of a berry/grape flavor.

Cow Tales Crispy Moo Bar – (Candy from United States)  I had previously heard of the Cow Tales brand of candy before receiving this box.  My daughter had even gotten a Cow Tales candy trick-or-treating on Halloween.  This is a crispy rice bar with marshmallows.  It’s very similar to a Rice Krispy treat with little caramel bits on top.

Chiky Choko Banana Cookies – (Cookie from Costa Rica)  These are banana cookies with a bottom layer of chocolate.  The banana flavor was very faint.  Six cookies came in the package.

Lotte Pikachu Ramune – (Candy from Japan)  The packaging of this candy appealed to my Pickachu-loving son.  Inside are pink balls of candy.  They have a strawberry flavor on the outside and as you suck on it, the texture and flavor changes.  We found the flavor to get sour and then grainy with a banana flavor.

Tayto Ripples (Sour Cream and Onion Flavor) – (Chips from Ireland) These are Ireland’s take on sour cream and onion potato chips.  They were nice and crisp with a light sour cream and onion flavor.

Takis Zombie Habanero and Cucumber Tortilla Chips – (Chips from Mexico) These are a seasonal chip produced by Takis.  I personally wasn’t a fan of the habanero and cucumber flavor combo.  I found them to be hot and sour.  However, my husband really enjoyed these.  He thought the green coloring was unnecessary though.

Vidal Gummi Circus Clowns – (Candy from Spain) Our family loves gummy candy.  These clowns come in different colors but are all cotton candy-flavored with a cherry-flavored nose.  I found these gummies to be a bit hard and on the chewier side.  I couldn’t really discern the cotton candy flavor.

Lotte Stone Age Chocolate – (Candy from South Korea)  These are different colored candy covered chocolate eggs.

Kidsmania Wacky Monkey – (Candy from Mexico) This was also a super fun candy.  The package has a monkey that claps its cymbals together with the push of a button.  Yes, my son kept the monkey after we finished the candy! The candies are multi-colored, crunchy, sweet bites similar to a SweeTart flavor.

Eiffel Bonbons (Strawberry) – (Candy from France) This candy comes in several different flavors, but we received strawberry.  These have a powdery coating on the outside and are chewy strawberry-flavored balls.

Pei Tien Energy 99 Sticks (Pumpkin Roll) – (Snack from Taiwan) I wasn’t sure how to classify this snack.  It’s not really a chip, cookie or candy.  The outer shell looks and tastes like a puffy cheese doodle without the orange powder or cheese taste.  Inside is a sweet filling, that you couldn’t tell was pumpkin flavored unless you saw the package.

Lotte Milkis Apple Soda – (drink from South Korea) This is a new flavor of Milkis sodas.  Its a creamy bubbly apple juice that tastes extra sweet.

Every box is a surprise of snacks.  This subscription box is a lot of fun and a perfect gift for any foodie or snack lover on your holiday shopping list!

Winston Restaurant Debuts New Fall Menu

Winston Restaurant debuts new fall menu.

(I was invited to a tasting of the new fall menu at Winston Restaurant. As always, all opinions are my own.)

 

Winston Restaurant has been a welcome addition to Mount Kisco since 2014.  Named after the dog owned by Executive Chef Michael Williams, the restaurant serves New American cuisine using fresh, high-quality ingredients. I dined at Winston back in December of 2014, during the restaurant’s inaugural year.  Even then, my husband and I were impressed with the quality and flavors of the food.  It appears that Winston has maintained that high standard of food and service to bring you a memorable dining experience.

Executive Chef Michael Williams recently debuted a new fall menu that I was fortunate enough to get a preview tasting of.  Believe me readers, you will not be disappointed!  The dishes featured below will be replacing some of the summer-type dishes off the restaurant’s a la carte menu.

Six of the delicious signature cocktails on the Winston Restaurant fall menu.

 

Your first decision will be which tasty cocktail to order.  And let me tell you, it won’t be an easy one!  While Winston has a full service bar and extensive wine list, you will want to try one of their signature cocktails.  The fall menu includes (pictured clockwise from top left) a Spiced Apple Margarita, Blueberry Dash, Ginger Redemption, Passion Fruit Bellini, The Herbed Pear and a Pumpkin Mojito.  The only other drink, not pictured, is the Gentleman Fig.   I love sweet drinks and the Passion Fruit Bellini was right up my alley.  Since I had to drive home (and I might be a lightweight) I didn’t try any of the other cocktails. They all have such interesting combinations of flavors and ingredients, and appeared to be well-liked by my fellow diners.

The starters on the new fall menu at Winston Restaurant in Mount Kisco.

The fall menu includes four new starters (pictured above clockwise) Vegetable Spring Rolls, Beef Negimaki, Beef Carpaccio and Gruyere Potato Dumplings.  They were all delicious but I highly recommend the potato dumplings and the carpaccio.  The beef carpaccio is topped with an arugula salad and is a nice light dish to start your meal.  The potato dumplings are small, fluffy pillows of deliciousness.  Accompanied by butternut squash, corn and asparagus, this dish embodies the goodness of fall. The portions are large enough for sharing so why not get both?!

The four new entrees on the fall menu at Winston Restaurant in Mount Kisco.

Chef Williams knocked it out of the ballpark with the new entrees on the fall menu!  The four entrees (pictured above clockwise) include Pan-Seared Diver Scallops with Cannelini Beans, Chipotle Encrusted Cod atop a Butternut Squash, Corn and Brussels Sprout Leaves medley, Hudson Valley Magret Duck Breast with a Moroccan Honey Glaze served with a potato gratin and roasted cauliflower and Asian Braised Pork Shank atop a combo of Fingerling Potatoes and Savoy Cabbage.  Honestly, they are all delicious and I can’t pick a favorite.  I think it really depends on what you’re in the mood for.  The cod has a bit of a kick from the chipotle crust, but isn’t overly spicy.  The braised pork is so tender it falls off the bone.  I love duck and the Moroccan Glaze is on point.  And look at the perfect sear on those scallops!  Again, I recommend ordering different entrees than your dining companions and sharing.

The desserts from the new fall menu at Winston Restaurant in Mt. Kisco.

Finally, we can’t forget about dessert.  No matter how stuffed I am, I always take a peek at the dessert menu…..just in case there’s something that I have to try. Apple Tart served with vanilla ice cream is the new addition to the fall dessert menu.  The nine piece assorted Cookie Plate and The Dirty Winston, a chocolate hazelnut layer cake served with raspberry sorbet are mainstays on Winston’s dessert menu.  My advice: skip the cookie plate.  If you’re going to splurge on dessert, really splurge!  Depending on your sweet preferences both the apple tart and Dirty Winston are really good.  However, if you love creme brulee, like I do, you must order the creme brulee trio. While I didn’t sample this dessert during my most recent visit, speaking from my prior dining experience, they are really good! The flavors change seasonally.

Are you salivating yet?! Winston will still be serving their new fall menu from now until the spring.  Sunday through Thursday they also have a Prix Fixe Menu.  I had never thought of Winston as a “family” restaurant.  However, they have a kids menu featuring favorites like a cheeseburger, chicken fingers and pasta.  The whole family can enjoy a great dinner out!

The Details:

Winston Restaurant
130 East Main Street
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
(914) 244-9780

Hours: 
Closed Mondays
Tuesday – Thursday:  5 PM – 9 PM
Friday & Saturday:  5 PM – 10 PM
Sunday:  5 PM – 9 PM

Parking:  Street parking available in front of the restaurant.  Village Center Parking Lot is located behind the restaurant.  Meters enforced 8 AM – 6 PM Monday through Saturday.  Free parking Sundays and holidays.

Price:  $$ (small plate/starters average $15, most entrees priced between $25 – $35, most desserts are $10 and under)

Reservations can be made via phone or through OpenTable.

5 Essential Cookware Pieces for the Beginner Home Cook

 

I'm a mom trying to get dinner on the table every night. Here are 5 essential cookware pieces that I think are useful for any beginner home cook.

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As much as I love to eat out, I also like to cook.  I’m not a fancy or creative cook, but I can follow a recipe.  I’m a busy mom and when I’m in the kitchen my main goal is to cook quick and easy meals for my family. While there are all kinds of kitchen gadgets and cookware out there, I hate having lots of “stuff”cluttering my kitchen. Here are 5 essential cookware pieces that I think will be useful for any beginner home cook.  These are pieces that I use on a regular basis to create basic, everyday weeknight meals.

This Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker is one of the kitchen tools that I can't live without. There's nothing like prepping your slow cooker in the morning and having dinner ready when you get home from work!

Slow Cooker – There is nothing nicer than throwing ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning and coming home to a ready-to-eat meal.  As you can tell from this picture, my slow cooker is well used!  I have a 6 quart Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Programmable slow cooker.   I find that this slow cooker cooks things very quickly.  I’ve had it for several years now and know to reduce recommended cooking times in recipes. I use my slow cooker mainly for soups and stews.  However, I’ve also made stuffed peppers, lasagna, Slow Cooker Lentil and Brown Rice Tacos and more in it.

Pizza Stone – I received this Emile Henry pizza stone as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and it’s become a kitchen favorite.  The ceramic stone is made in France and comes in small, medium and large sizes.  I have a 14.5″ large ceramic stone in burgundy.  When I make pizza, I set the oven to 450 degrees F. and this stone gives the pizza a crispy bottom and crust. Although I’ve never tried it, the stone can be used on the barbecue grill.  Almost every Friday night I use the stone to make homemade pizza for dinner. Lately, I’ve been making plain, cheese pizza.  However, we enjoyed this Onion, Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza with Balsamic Glaze.

Immersion Blender – Have you seen soup or sauce recipes where they direct you to pour the liquid (sometimes hot) into a blender to puree?  An immersion blender saves you this awful step.  While I don’t use it very often, my immersion blender comes in handy often in the fall and winter when I tend to make a lot of soups.   I’ve been happy with our Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Blender.  It has two speed settings which is more than enough for my basic home cooking needs.  It’s useful when making Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup.

Our Cast Iron Skillet is a kitchen tool that I can't live wihout. It's able to go from stove top to oven and evenly cooks food.

Cast Iron Skillet – A cast iron skillet is such a versatile piece of cookware.  They come in many sizes from individual pans to large Dutch oven styles.  I have a 10-inch Lodge skillet that gets well used. Cast iron cookware is able to withstand high temperatures and retains heat.  It can easily go from the stove top into the oven (with the assistance of good oven mitts!).  It does need to be seasoned to avoid rusting, which is an easy process.  I often sear meat in this skillet before putting it in the slow cooker for extra flavor. I also cook burgers and cornbread in it. My husband makes fried chicken in our cast iron skillet.

Dutch Oven –  A dutch oven is another useful, multi-purpose cooking vessel.  It is a thick-walled pot, often made out of cast iron.  However, dutch ovens can also be made of cast aluminum or ceramic.  I have a 5.5-quart Food Network Ceramic Dutch Oven. I use it to braise meat as well as to cook soups and stews.  It’s also large enough for cooking one pot meals in.  This dutch oven is perfect for making Simple Clam Chowder.

Do you use any of these cookware pieces?  What’s an essential piece of cookware that you use that I didn’t mention?