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New Orleans! (Recipe for Adventure, #4) Review

 

New Orleans! (Recipe for Adventure #4) by Giada De Laurentiis
Illustrated by:  Francesca Gambatesa
Published: 2015 by Grosset & Dunlap (imprint of Penguin Random House)
Pages: 144
Price: $6.99 (paperback)
Source:  Borrowed from library
Rating:  4/5 stars

This is the fourth book in Giada De Laurentiis’ Recipe for Adventure series.  Most of us know De Laurentiis as a chef and judge on the Food Network and from her cookbooks.  With the Recipe for Adventure chapter book series she shows us new talents.  These books are not award-winning works of writing.  However, De Laurentiis presents engaging stories that introduce children to the world of food and travel.  The series is targeted for readers ages 7-10.   In the series, siblings Emilia and Alfie are transported to different cities around the world.  They get to taste all kinds of new foods and visit famous sights as they help a new friend solve a problem.

In New Orleans!, Alfie and Emilia are transported to the city via a bowl of their Zia Donatella’s gumbo.  There, they meet up with the La Salle kids, who play in a jazz band and run their family restaurant.  Alfie and Emilia help their new friends try to save their family’s restaurant.

While in New Orleans Alfie and Emilia get to try all kinds of food including blackened catfish, red beans and rice, collard greens, grits, beignets, Po’boys and more! Cooking terminology like the holy trinity (onion, celery and bell pepper) and roux is introduced as well.

Children also learn about the city of New Orleans as they read.  The Louisiana Purchase and the history of the city is mentioned, as well as Hurricane Katrina and the importance of jazz. While there, Emilia and Alfie visit many popular sights including the French Quarter, the Mississippi River, the Garden District and the bayou.

This book, like the others in the series, has an element of fantasy.  Emilia and Alfie magically appear in New Orleans and later are then transported back home.  Other parts of this book, like the La Salle children living on their own while their parents travel with their riverboat gigs seemed unbelievable.  Also, none of the children really questioning the absence of Alfie and Emilia’s “aunt” whom they mention they are staying with but is never seen, is a bit suspect.

Two recipe cards are included at the back of each book.  In New Orleans! recipe cards include Zia Donatella’s Gumbo and Bananas Foster.  My kids and I made both of these recipes.  Knowing that these are Giada De Laurentiis recipes, I knew they were going to be good!

Zia’s Gumbo:  Both kids helped me make this gumbo.  Adult assistance is a must with this recipe, as there is quite a lot of vegetable chopping involved.

The kids helped remove the andouille sausage from the casing.  My daughter cut the celery and pepper (as pictured above) and my son was in charge of stirring the ingredients in the pot. Andouille sausage is a bit spicy and I was surprised at how much heat this dish had.  It was very tasty and the kids ate it, but they did comment on the spice.  I want to point out that this gumbo takes close to an hour to make!  I did not realize this when we decided to make this on a weeknight.  I highly recommend saving these recipes for a weekend activity.

Also important to note, this dish does NOT reheat well, as seen in the first picture.  When reheated, this gumbo remains thick and chunky.  When we first made it, as seen in the picture above, it was nice and liquidy.

Zia’s Bananas Foster: A traditional Bananas Foster has dark rum and banana liqueur that gets ignited.  I think part of the enjoyment of this dessert is the table side flambe.  Obviously, Zia’s Bananas Foster is kid-friendly and alcohol-free!  Due to time constraints, I ended up making this dessert on my own for the kids.  This recipe was much easier to make in terms of ingredients and time.  As seen in the picture, I mistakenly bought mini kisses, thinking they were tiny.  They were indeed smaller than a typical Hershey’s Kiss, but a little larger than I had wanted for this dessert.  The family loved this Bananas Foster.  The kids often have ice cream for dessert, but this was an extra special treat!

Overall, New Orleans! is a fun book that introduces readers to both the food and sights of the city.  The recipe cards add a nice touch and are a great way to get kids cooking in the kitchen.  It’s also a great way to motivate them to try new foods.  I recommend this book as well as the others in the Recipe for Adventure series!

Sultan’s Turkish Cuisine {Review}

While traveling from Westchester County, New York to my parent’s house in Rhode Island, we pass Sultan’s Turkish Cuisine as we travel through Waterbury, Connecticut.  Located at 586 Plank Road, the restaurant is visible and located, right off I-84. We’ve driven by this restaurant countless times and finally, on a recent trip back from Rhode Island decided to stop for a late lunch.

The restaurant was empty when we arrived around 1:45 PM on a Monday afternoon. However, as our lunch progressed, the restaurant started to fill up.

The dining area is large with both tables and booths.  The interior walls are hung with decorative artwork, while elaborate drapery hang from the windows.

Turkey is a transcontinental country with parts in both Western Asia and Southeast Europe. The cuisine is influenced by its location, with key ingredients include lamb, beef, rice, fish, eggplant and nuts.  Spices often used include parsley, mint, sumac, cumin, Za’atar and paprika.

My husband and I were slightly familiar with Turkish food, as we recently had a Turkish-themed supper club dinner. However, this was our family’s first time dining at a Turkish restaurant.  To get the most variety and be able to try different dishes, we opted to share a small mixed cold appetizer platter and a small mixed hot appetizer platter.

The small mixed cold appetizer platter ($13.99) included (from top left (11 o’clock) on the plate) Humus, Bababganush, Haydari, Havuc Tarator, Antep Ezpe and Soslu Patlican. I was expecting lavash bread (a puffy bread often served with appetizers) or some other type of pita to put these spreads and dips on but we weren’t given any.  Instead, we used the crusty bread that was placed on our table when we arrived.

Humus – pureed chickpeas with olive oil, tahini, garlic and lemon juice.  We are not new to humus.  Although I usually buy it, rather than make it, it’s usually a staple in our fridge.

Babaganush – pureed roasted eggplant blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic.  I love babaganush!

Haydari (Labne) – pressed yogurt mixed with garlic, olive oil, dill and crushed walnuts.

Havuc Tarator (Carrot Dip) – Carrots, mayo, sour cream, olive oil and lemon juice.

Antep Ezpe (Muammara) – A blend of tomatoes, red bell peppers, hot long green peppers, parsley, garlic, walnuts and pepper paste.  This spread was a bit spicy.

Soslu Patlican (Sauced Eggplant) – A mixture of fried eggplant cubes, red and green peppers and garlic topped with the chef’s special tomato sauce. This was one of my favorites of the cold appetizers!

The small mixed hot appetizer platter ($12.99) included (from top 12 o’clock) Calamari, Mucver, Sigara Borek,  Arnavut Cigeri and Falafel.

Calamari – Deep fried calamari served with the chef’s special sauce.

Mucver (Zucchini Pancake) – Combination of zucchini and fresh herbs and spices, served with yogurt sauce.

Sigara Borek – Cigar-shaped, fried crispy pastry filled with feta cheese and fresh parsley.

Arnavut Cigeri – Floured and deep-fried calf’s liver cubes pan seared with garlic and herbs.

Falafel – Deep-fried mixture of chickpeas, parsley, onions, garlic and Middle Eastern spices.

The only other hot appetizers not included on this platter include Izgara Kalamar (grilled calamari), Kizartma Fuve (potato pancakes) and Imam Bayildi (stuffed eggplant).  While I found the variety of the platter to be good, the portions were not conducive to sharing.  Splitting several of the above items between the four of us meant we each literally only got a bite.  A large platter though would have been way too much food for us.

Finally, for the main entree we shared the Mixed Grill Kebab Plate ($23.99).  This included Chicken Shish (cubed chicken), Lamb Shish (cubed lamb), Kofte (Turkish meatballs made of ground lamb), Adana (ground lamb seasoned with red bell peppers) and Doner (Thin slices of seasoned lamb and beef slow-cooked on a large, vertical spit). All kebab entrees are served with a side salad, and both white and bulgur rice.

Although stuffed, we couldn’t leave without trying a dessert!  The dessert menu included Baklava, Kunefe, Revani, Sekerpare, Sutlac and Kazandibi.  We ordered the Kazandibi ($5.95), pictured above, to share among the four of us.  It’s a vanilla-based milky pudding with a caramelized top.  This had a similar texture and taste to creme brulee.

Baklava – A sweet pastry made of layers of filo, filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup.

Kunefe – Shredded filo dought stuffed with cheese then soaked in a sweet sugar-based syrup.

Revani – Baked semolina soaked with the chef’s special syrup.

Sekerpare – Baked soft balls of pastry dipped in a thick, lemony, sugar syrup.

Sutlac (Rice Pudding)  – Sweet vanilla based mixture of milk and rice baked in the oven.

A variety of tea and coffee, including Turkish Coffee and Turkish Tea,  are available and can be ordered by the cup or kettle.

We had a great experience at Sultan’s Turkish Cuisine.  Although I don’t have prior dining experience to compare it to, the food we had was delicious and tasted authentic. The restaurant is family-friendly and offers a variety of dishes including vegetarian.  I liked how there was no issues with the four of us sharing the two appetizers and one entree. Our waiter even complimented on our “eating family-style.”  Since we obviously don’t eat Turkish often, this was a great way for us all to taste a variety of items from the menu.  Saturday evenings the restaurant has belly dancers from 7:30 – 8:00 PM which would be a fun experience for the kids to see!  The restaurant also offers takeout and delivery.

Attached to the restaurant is a small grocery shop selling all kinds of Turkish food products.  We of course couldn’t leave without picking up a few different types of candy to try!

The Details:
Sultan’s Turkish Cuisine
586 Plank Road
Waterbury, CT 06705
www.sultansrestaurantct.com

Hours:
Sunday – Thursday:  10:30 AM – 10:00 PM
Friday & Saturday:  10:30 AM – 11:00 PM

Price:  $$
Appetizers: $4.99 (lentil soup) – $20.99 (large mixed cold appetizer plate)
Kebabs:  $13.99 –  $26.99
Entrees:  $12.99 – $25.99)
Desserts:  $4.95 – $7.95

Recommend for families:  Yes

Overall Recommendation:  Yes

 

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Korilla BBQ inspired Korean Barbeque Potato Chips

I was super excited when I found these Wise Korean Barbeque flavored chips on a recent shopping trip at Shoprite. These potato chips were inspired by NYC’s Korilla BBQ food truck.  The Korilla BBQ food truck was started in 2010 serving items like burritos, rice bowls and salads topped with bulgogi, Korean BBQ pork, chicken or organic tofu.  The Korilla BBQ truck was even a contestant on Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race.  Owner Edward Song created such a popular following that he is about to open his second brick-and-mortar restaurant in downtown Brooklyn later this spring.   The new Brooklyn eatery will differ from his East Village restaurant in that it will also serve breakfast dishes like breakfast burritos and congee.  Unfortunately, I’ve never had the opportunity to try Korilla BBQ.  However, “a burrito with bulgogi and bacon kimchi fried rice” has my mouth watering just thinking about it.

Wise Korean Barbeque flavored potato chips combine two of my favorite foods, Korean BBQ and potato chips.  So, I had high hopes for these chips! These chips are tangy and sweet with a hint of smokiness and a bit of spice. However, if you tried one of these chips without looking at the bag, “Korean Barbeque” is not what would come to mind.We all enjoyed these chips but the spiciness may be a bit too much for some children.

These Korean Barbeque chips are part of Wise’s Food Truck Favorites line. The Food Truck Favorite line of chips was introduced in April 2016, creating chip flavors inspired by actual food trucks.  Other chips in this line include Beef Barbacoa Tacos inspired by Boston’s North East of the Border truck and Loaded Chili Cheese Dog which is inspired by NYC’s Papaya King Truck.

Verdict:  Give these chips a try!

Dinner Thyme Meal Delivery Service {Review}

I received product samples to facilitate this review.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I was very excited when Dinner Thyme reached out to me and asked if I’d like to try their meal delivery service.  As a reader of the blog, you know that cooking dinner for my family every night is important to me.  When searching for recipes to make, quick and easy are my top priorities.  If you’ve tried other meal delivery services before, you know that although all the ingredients are delivered to you, you still end up cooking the recipe, which often takes at least 30-45 minutes to do.  Dinner Thyme is different from most other meal delivery services in that each meal can be cooked in approximately 10-15 minutes!

Most entrees cost $11.95 – $12.95 per serving.  One of the benefits of Dinner Thyme is that you can choose exactly which menu items you’d like and select the number of portions of each item that you want.  This is great for example if you want a home cooked meal but you know your spouse is going to be away.  You can peruse the menu and pick one portion of a meal that you’d like that maybe he or she probably wouldn’t enjoy.  Then you can pick two portions of another dish that you both like that you can cook another evening. Or, if you are inexperienced in the kitchen but want to impress your significant other with a home-cooked meal, Dinner Thyme is perfect!  Easy to follow directions are provided with quick cooking times!

If you’re looking for something sweet to end your meal with, Dinner Thyme also has dessert add-on options each week.  From cookies for $1.65 to a cheesecake for $3.95 a slice, there are four dessert offerings.

So how exactly does the Dinner Thyme meal delivery work?

Each Monday, the upcoming week’s menu is e-mailed to you.  There are nine menu choices each week, including at least one chicken dish, a fish and/or seafood choice, a pork selection, a pasta, and a vegetarian dish.  Each choice lists the price and the estimated cooking time.  You can decide if you’d like to order any of the meals and in what quantities.

If you don’t want to order anything that week you can choose the “skip this week” option.   Depending on where you live, you may also have the option to choose a delivery day.   Approximately five days before your order is shipped you will receive an e-mail receipt confirming the meals ordered.  The e-mail also notes any ingredients that you may have to have on hand (olive oil, for example).

Dinner Thyme Delivery Box

The order is shipped via FedEx and you receive an e-mail with the tracking number.  You do not need to be home when the package is delivered.  Insulation and ice packs are used to keep the ingredients cold.

A letter is attached to your recipe cards noting the meals you ordered.  It also notes within how many days each recipe should be prepared as well as general recipe tips.  For example, shaking the sauces before using and non-stick pans are usually recommended for cooking.

The ingredients in the box are labeled with letters to indicate which items go with the corresponding recipe.  Everything is pre-portioned so you have the exact amounts to cook the recipe.  Recipe cards include nutritional information as well as easy to follow, step-by-step instructions.

Dinner Thyme is currently available in the eastern region of the United States.  The delivery area includes Maine down to parts of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and as far west as parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri!

For you lucky readers, Dinner Thyme is offering $20 off your first order with coupon code: READYSETCOOK!

Now, on to my review!

Review:

I tested out two Dinner Thyme meals.  I chose four portions of Pineapple Salmon Tacos with a Sour Cream Sauce priced at $11.95 for each portion.  I also chose four portions of Chicken and Waffles with Braised Kale and Butter Syrup priced at $12.95 per portion.

For my zip code delivery is available only on Tuesdays.  Last week, this happened to be Valentine’s Day.  My recipe card noted that the salmon tacos were best prepared within 3 days of delivery and the chicken and waffles  best within 4 days, so I decided to make the salmon tacos first.

Pineapple Salmon Tacos

Pineapple Salmon Tacos with a Sour Cream Sauce:
My kids wanted to help cook me dinner so I had them make the Pineapple Salmon Tacos.

With supervision, the kids were able to put this meal together on their own.  My daughter cut the salmon into strips and cooked them in the pan while my son coated the salmon in the pineapple glaze and prepped the tortillas.  They both helped drain the pineapple pico and put the arugula and sour cream in bowls.  While the “time to table” for this recipe was estimated at 9 minutes, with the kids cooking, it took almost 25 minutes.  This was with several pauses to reread instructions, find proper dishes, etc.  The directions and execution of the dish was super easy, even for an almost 11 and 8 1/2-year-old.  If I made this dish on my own, I think I could have had it made in the estimated 9 minutes.

A serving size for this meal was three tacos a person.  I was a bit skeptical that just the tacos would be enough food to make a meal.  When I make tacos I usually serve a salad or rice as a side dish.  I was surprised to find that three tacos was perfect for my husband and I.  Taste-wise, this meal was a winner!  Both kids loved the tacos.  I set out all the ingredients separately so they could add what they wanted, but they both put everything on their tacos. The kids each had two tacos each, which left some ingredients left over.  There was actually a lot of arugula left over, but my husband made a salad for lunch the next day.  He topped the arugula with the leftover salmon and pineapple pico.  I used the leftover tortillas the next morning to make myself scrambled egg breakfast tacos.  So, nothing was wasted.

Chicken and Waffles with Braised Kale

Chicken and Waffles with Braised Kale and Buttered Syrup:
We love chicken and waffles!  It’s a perfect comfort food, especially with this cold weather.  It’s definitely not a dish that I think of as a quick, weeknight meal though.  I decided to test this recipe out on my own, without the assistance from the kids to get a more accurate idea of timing.  This dish required a bit more in the prep department, since the chicken had to be floured, dipped in the buttermilk mixture and then covered in the corn flake mixture. It then had to be cooked in a pan for 1-2 minutes per side.  Unfortunately, I could not fit all four chicken breasts in my skillet, so this prolonged the overall “time to table.”  I also found that the 8-10 minutes that I had while the chicken was cooking in the oven was not enough time to get the bacon crispy.  So, I cooked it for a bit longer and still did not get the bacon crispy in that extra time.

Although the “Time To Table” for this recipe says 15 minutes, for the reasons I mentioned above, it actually took me closer to 25 minutes.  For a weeknight meal, I don’t think that’s bad at all.

The chicken breasts were decently sized.  The kids ended up splitting one and then my daughter came back for a second half.  This was plenty of food for both my husband and I.  Taste-wise, this meal was another winner.  Everyone enjoyed it…..especially the kids!  Braised kale and all!

I recommend making sure you have a pair of sharp kitchen scissors handy.  As seen in the above pictures, almost all the ingredients are sent in vacuum-sealed packages.

Overall, I enjoyed and would recommend this meal delivery service.  The stand-out benefits were definitely the speed in cooking and having the exact amount of ingredients needed to make the dishes.  Not having to measure out ingredients and not having all the prep work cut down on clean up as well, with fewer dirty dishes!  As an experienced home cook, I found most of the weekly recipe selections to be dishes that I have made or can easily make on my own.  Having a family of four, paying $11.95-$12.95 per serving can quickly add up.  My kids loved the recipes (and cooking the meal!) and have already asked when we are getting it again! While I wouldn’t rule out using Dinner Thyme meal service again, at this point, it’s more of a use if/when needed type of service for us.  However, for couples, especially those who would like to cook more at home, this is a great service!

Remember to use coupon code READYSETCOOK for $20 off your first order!  I’d love to hear your experience with Dinner Thyme meal delivery service!

Amazonia: A Journey into the Amazon

Untitled

Amazonia
DVD release date:  October 4, 2016, Lionsgate
Rating:  G
Genre:  Family
Run time:  83 minutes
Source:  borrowed from the library

Synopsis from Lionsgate:
Amazonia seamlessly blends thrilling storytelling with breathtaking wildlife photography. As Saï, a tiny capuchin monkey, departs the big city for a new life, his plane is forced to land in the Brazilian rain forest. Abandoned and alone, he forages for food while observing the jungle’s endless varieties of wildlife. As predators approach, Saï’s incredible instincts rescue him from danger at the last minute. One fateful day, he learns he’s not the only capuchin in the Amazon…

Review:  This film follows Sai, a capuchin (a monkey that lives in Central and South America) who is a domesticated monkey, working in a circus.  He’s being transported on a plane when it crashes in the Brazilian rain forest.  The viewer follows Sai as he acclimates to his new environment and learns to survive in the wild.

The film is narrated by Martin Sheen.  Although the film is fictional, lots of factual information about the flora and fauna of the rain forest is presented.  Although this is a fictional movie, it provides lot of useful information about the rain forest.  The scenery is breathtaking with lots of close ups of the various insects and animals that Sai encounters, as well as the Amazon River.

As much as I’d love to visit the Amazon rain forest, it is unlikely that a trip there will happen anytime soon!  So, I was happy that my kids got to see beautiful video images of the rain forest in this movie.  While watching this, my son ask what the difference between a jungle and a rain forest is, or if they are the same thing.  After a little research we discovered that the Amazon rain forest is also referred to as Amazonia  or the Amazon Jungle.  Merriam-Webster defines a jungle as, “an impenetrable thicket or tangled mass of tropical vegetation.”  So, it appears parts of the rain forest can be considered jungle-like.

The DVD has special features including “The Making of Amazonia” and “Minuscule Bonus Episodes.”  They are filmed in French with English subtitles.

I watched this DVD with my 8 and almost 11-year-old children.  The kids thought it was “cute” and they both were engrossed watching it.  As a huge lover of monkeys, I too enjoyed watching this movie. To be honest, I’m not sure that this movie will hold the interest of all children.  I recommend this movie for older elementary kids, age 7+.  This is not a fast-moving, action-packed movie, but dependent on the child’s interest level, younger children may enjoy watching this movie.

Rating:  Recommend for children 7+

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Nowhere Girl {Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review}

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team is on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle,Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawDelores Connors, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation,Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use their official hashtag#ReadYourWorld.

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Nowhere Girl by A.J. Paquette
Published by:  Walker & Company (imprint of Bloomsbury), September 13, 2011
Genre:  Children’s Middle Grade Fiction, Asian culture
Pages: 256
Price:  $16.99
Source: Provided by the author/publisher for a review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day

From Bloomsbury:

Luchi Ann only knows a few things about herself: she was born in a prison in Thailand. Her American mother was an inmate there. And now that her mother has died, Luchi must leave the only place she’s ever known and set out into the world. Neither at home as a Thai, because of her fair skin and blond hair, nor as a foreigner, because of her knowledge of Thai life and traditions, Luchi feels as though she belongs nowhere. But as she embarks on an amazing adventure-a journey spanning continents and customs, harrowing danger and exhilarating experiences-she will find the family, and the home, she’s always dreamed of. Weaving intricate elements of traditional Thailand into a modern-day fairy tale unique unto itself, Nowhere Girl is a beautifully rendered story of courage, resilience, and finding the one place where you truly belong.

My Review:  13 year-old Luchi was born in a prison in northern Thailand, where her American mother was imprisoned.  This prison is the only life Luchi has known.  When her mother passes away, Luchi decides that she needs to leave the prison.  With her mother’s ashes sitting in a small canister  tied to her back and an old list of names of people in Bangkok, Luchi is escorted to the city by the Chief warden’s nephew.   Luchi with her blond hair and gray eyes looks American but has only known Thailand as her home.  She’s always, “felt like a monkey in the middle” but feels it even more so, as she discovers the world around her for the first time.  When she sees Thailand for the first time she is amazed by all the sights and sounds.  We as the reader, get to experience Thai culture along with Luchi as she tries new foods and sees the sights of Bangkok.

As Luchi’s journey unfolds, we learn secrets about her mother’s past and her family back in America.  Luchi realizes that she can reinvent herself and be anyone she wants.  We accompany her as she heads to America to find her grandmother, the only family that she has.  Will Luchi be successful in finding her mother’s family?

Having never been to Thailand before, (but hoping one day to visit!), I thought that Paquette captured the Thai culture well.  I also liked how Thai words are interspersed throughout the text but are understandable in context.

Luchi is such a likable character who shows such resilience and perseverance on her journey.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I found it to be a little rushed at the end to tie up all the loose ends.  (**Possible spoiler alert ahead!)  And I’m still left wondering what happened to Helena when she went missing for four days.

This book is such a  great read and I highly recommend it.  It is unfortunate that this book has been published for over five years now and this is the first time that I have heard of it.  I really appreciate the efforts of Multicultural Children’s Book Day to bring awareness to diversity in children’s literature.  I am happy to be passing this book along to my ten-year-old daughter to read.

Overall Rating: Recommended Read.

Dig Inn Rye Brook Opens Today!

Dig Inn

*I was invited to a preview lunch experience at Dig Inn.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

This past Tuesday I was invited to a preview lunch at Dig Inn in Rye Brook.   Adam Eskin, Founder & CEO of Dig Inn, opened his first restaurant in 2011.  This is Dig Inn’s fourteenth restaurant and first Westchester County location.  Located at 112 S. Ridge Street, Dig Inn offers a new dining option to the Rye Ridge Shopping Center.  And it officially opens today!

Order Area

When you enter the restaurant there is a large, casual dining area with communal tables.  They have a deli counter in the front where you can order containers of their sides, proteins, or even family meals to go.  As you make your way towards the back of the restaurant there is the ordering area, where you can customize your Marketbowl or Melting Broth, the restaurant’s main lunch and dinner dining options.

Dig Inn Kitchen

At the end of the counter is the Chef’s table.  Here you can sit and dine while watching the chefs prepare a variety of toasts and vegetable charcuterie.

Dining area

And finally at the back of the restaurant is dining area.  There are several seating areas with marble table tops adorned with tiny succulents.  When designing this Rye Brook restaurant, creative director Melanie Masarin and founder Adam Eskin were all about cutting open the ceiling to place a giant, elevated sky light.  They also added a giant window in the back of the restaurant, to allow for lots of natural light into the space.  The result, is a bright and beautiful dining room.

Roasted Pumpkin Toast

I was able to sample the three different toasts that they offer, including this one topped with roasted pumpkin with pepitas and pickled chiles.  I also tried the lemon ricotta with truffle, black pepper and honey and the smoked whitefish with red grapes and soft herbs.  I can honestly say they were all delicious.

Yukon Gold Potato Terrine

Vegetable charcuterie offerings from the chef’s table include this Yukon Gold potato terrine topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and Mutsu apple.

Parsnip Marrow Bone

I also tried Celery Root Pastrami as well as this Parsnip Marrow Bone with celery leaf and black truffle.  It was interesting to see a vegetarian take on what would normally be a meat dish.

Chef Matt Weingarten

I got to meet Chef Matt Weingarten, Dig Inn’s culinary director.  He spoke with us about Dig Inn’s mission, which is to build community through food.  He noted that their menu is mostly vegetables and all dishes are cooked fresh.  He enjoys the open kitchen design (pictured above) which allows the chefs to engage with diners.

Dig Inn Menu

The Dig Inn menu is seasonal and they are currently featuring their Winter menu, which as I mentioned features the Marketbowls and Melting Broth.

Marketbowls

My friend and I shared Marketbowls that had a base of toasted farro, sides of Brussels sprouts and kale, apple and blue cheese salad and were topped with Herb Roasted Chicken and Grilled Organic Tofu.   These bowls were hearty and delicious and I love that they are customized.  The combinations are endless!

Mac and Cheese

I also got to sample a side of the Seasonal Upstate Mac and Cheese.  It was creamy and cheesy.  Honestly though, I would choose one of the amazing veggie sides over mac and cheese!

Kitchen Sink Cookie

And to end the meal, I sampled the Kitchen Sink Cookie and Organic Dark Hot Chocolate!

Dig Inn serves a variety of drinks including wine, beer and hard cider.  I tried unsweetened raspberry iced tea and an Iced Matcha Latte.  While the matcha latte was good, it needed sugar to sweeten it up.

Dig Inn Rye Brook is open seven days a week and serves breakfast as well as lunch and dinner.  Check the website for specific times.  The breakfast menu includes a variety of bowls as well as an egg sandwich, frittata, avocado toast, a quinoa waffle and more!

Kids Menu

And for those families with young children, have no fear.  Dig Inn offers a Little Digs menu with a variety of dining options sure to please.  While there’s no age specifications on the children’s menu, my eight and ten year-old would love the Old Macdonald.  Otherwise, they could easily share a regular Marketbowl.

Everything I ate at Dig Inn was delicious.  For those of us who live in Northern Westchester, getting to Rye Brook is a bit of a drive.  However, if you are in the White Plains area (and really, who doesn’t travel down to there frequently?!) Rye Brook is close by.  Be sure to stop by and give the newest Dig Inn a try!

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Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast

Warwick Valley Bed And Breakfast

Located in Warwick, New York, only about an hour’s drive from New York City is the Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast.  Conveniently located in the historic district at 24 Maple Avenue, this bed and breakfast is housed in a restored Colonial that was built in the early 1900’s.

I recently visited this bed and breakfast with my husband, as a surprise weekend getaway to celebrate his 40th birthday.

Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast

The bed and breakfast has seven different rooms to choose from.  Each room has a name and unique decor, with varying bed sizes and arrangements.  All rooms have a small seating area, a desk and a private bathroom.  Rates range from $144 to $229 a night, depending on the day and season.  Children are welcome at this bed and breakfast at an additional cost.

Reservations can be requested online and a confirmation e-mail will be sent to confirm your selected dates and price.  In our confirmation e-mail, Loretta, the Innkeeper also noted that she could help arrange appointments for massages or facials and make dinner reservations as well.

Back Entrance

When you pull into the driveway of the bed and breakfast there is ample parking around back.  You then enter through the back entrance.  The bed and breakfast has a no shoes policy.  Upon entering, there are shelves to store your shoes.  Slippers are available to wear.

Paisley Room

I booked the Paisley Room, which as you can see is named for the Paisley bedding.  This room has a Queen-sized bed and overlooks the back driveway.  It’s on the second floor, that is shared with two other rooms.

Sitting Area

I took Loretta up on her offer and had her arrange for an in-room massage for my husband as part of his birthday present. While he had his massage, I went down to the sitting area and read a book.

A benefit of staying at a bed and breakfast is that a homemade breakfast is included in the cost of your stay. There are two dining areas in the bed and breakfast.  We ate in the main dining room, pictured below.

Dining Area

We only stayed one night, so I’m unsure if the breakfast menu changes daily.

Breakfast

Loretta cooks everything herself in the kitchen adjacent to the dining room.  During our stay, breakfast began with a bowl of cinnamon-spiced fruit and nut mix.  We then had a choice of french toast, an omelet, or eggs cooked in any style of our choosing.  Sides included roasted butternut squash and bacon.  You could have any combination (or all!) of these breakfast options. I ordered the french toast with a side of bacon and butternut squash.  It was delicious!

I love that the Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast is conveniently located in the historic district.  It is within reasonable walking distance to the nearby shops and restaurants.  The day of our arrival, the weather was beautiful and on our walk into town we discovered the Craft Beer Cellar and Taco Hombre.  The next morning we woke up to snow but still trekked back into town to check out the last weekend of the outdoor, local farmer’s market.

Iron Forge Inn

Saturday evening we had dinner at the nearby Iron Forge Inn.  This is a farm-to-table restaurant located in a revolutionary era home built in 1760.  Chef/owner Erik Johansen is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and provides a menu of Modern American cuisine that changes seasonally.  We had an amazing dinner and I highly recommend dining here!

On our way home we stopped at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets to enjoy some child-free shopping!  Other nearby attractions include Mountain Creek and the Warwick Drive-in Theater.  Several wineries including the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery and Applewood Winery are nearby as well.

My husband and I enjoyed our stay at the Warwick Valley Bed and Breakfast.  It was great to get away to celebrate his birthday and we loved the town of Warwick.  This was a perfect parents only get-away, as we decided our children wouldn’t appreciate the history and architecture of the village, that we found so charming.  There is enough that we didn’t get to see and do that we’d like to make a return trip soon!

 

Hudson House River Inn {HVRW Review}

hudson-house-river-inn

I am a Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Grazer.  In exchange for posts about my HVRW experience, part of this meal may have been compensated.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

This past Saturday my husband and I dined at Hudson House River Inn, with two other couples, for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (HVRW).  This historic inn is located at 2 Main Street on the waterfront in the picturesque town of Cold Spring.

Hudson House River Inn

The inn was built in 1832  and in 1982 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It has 11 guest rooms and 2 suites for overnight stays.  There are two dining areas, the Tavern, for more casual dining, and the main dining room, the River Room, which is where we dined.  The River Room has a veranda that offers outdoor seating with amazing views of the Hudson River.  While a bit chilly for November, this would make for a great dining experience in warmer weather!

Executive chef John Guererro leads the culinary team at the Hudson House River Inn.  The restaurant normally specializes in steak and seafood, with poultry, pork and vegetarian options as well.

Dinner Menu

For HVRW Hudson House River Inn serves both lunch and dinner, with different menus for each.

Cocktails

The restaurant had an extensive cocktail menu, which our group sampled.  My husband had a Maker’s Old Fashioned while I had a Watermelon Margarita.  Before we even ordered, bread baskets were placed on the table with dishes of tomato and bean bruschetta.

Appetizers

For starters I had the Homemade Maryland Crab Cakes and my husband had the Lobster Bisque.  Three crab cake balls were served with a dijon mustard sauce for dipping.  The crab cakes were crispy on the outside and sweet and flavorful on the inside.  The bisque was smooth and creamy.  These starters turned out to be our favorite parts of the meal.

Chianti Braised Short Rib

For our main dishes I ordered the Chianti Braised Short Ribs and my husband had the Coriander Seared Sashimi Tuna.   The short rib was tender and flavorful, topped with caramelized onions and Maytag bleu cheese.  I enjoyed the mushroom risotto that accompanied the short ribs as well.  However, I found the carrots and string beans to be unexciting.

Seared Tuna

My husband ordered his tuna rare and was surprised to get a piece of fish that was well done around the edges and pink in the middle. It’s possible that his dish had a stop at the heat lamp as the kitchen looked quite busy. His tuna was topped with crab meat accompanied by wasabi mashed potatoes.  His dish also came with the same uninspired vegetables.

Hudson House River Inn - Dessert

There are only two dessert options, Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie and New York Style Pumpkin Cheesecake.  We of course had to try them both!  The cheesecake, topped with fresh whipped cream, was good but not memorable.  I preferred my husband’s chocolate pecan pie that was served with Maple Walnut Ice Cream. It was much more unique and flavorful.

The dining room was full throughout our entire dinner.  My husband and I were part of a group of six diners.  Unfortunately, the extra-long rectangular table set up, paired with the poor acoustics of the room, made for difficult conversation.  Our server Tara was friendly and attentive.  Dessert service was slow, which Tara apologized for, but fortunately, our group wasn’t in a rush.

Overall, we had a nice dining experience at the Hudson House River Inn for HVRW.  I’d love to come back in the spring or summer when it’s hopefully not as busy and I can eat out on the veranda.

 

 

 

 

Boy & The World: A Review

Length: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Rating: PG
Animated Family Movie

Boy & The World is a Brazilian movie that had a limited USA release in December 2015. It came out on DVD this past July. The movie is told through bursts of colors and sounds, with no dialogue.  It opens with Cuca, a stick figured drawn boy, watching his father go off on a train to the city to find work.  Cuca embarks on an adventure to look for his father and reunite his family.  As his journey progresses, the film gets darker.   Through music and animation the movie shows the detrimental effects of industrialization and urbanization.

I borrowed this movie from the library, not knowing much about it.  When the movie opened with a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds and simple, child-like figures, I wasn’t sure how well it would go over with my eight and ten-year-old children.  Would it be too childish for them?  No, in fact, it wasn’t. It was actually a very abstract film in which I voiced a running commentary to explain what was going on. Despite my reservations, both children were enthralled with the movie.  Even if they don’t understand everything that’s going on, younger children will enjoy the bright colors and beautiful music!

The bonus material on the DVD was enlightening as we got to see how the movie was created.  My son loves to draw and he was impressed to see how the original artwork was created and then made into the movie.  Music and sounds played a pivotal role in the movie and it was fun to see how different materials were used to get the targeted sound effects.

This movie has won over 40 film festival awards and after viewing, it is understandable why.  My children and I highly recommend this movie.

We borrowed this movie from our local library.  The movie is out on DVD and available for purchase. It is also available (at a cost) to stream from Amazon Video.