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August 2017 Reads

It’s the second Tuesday of the month and I’m sharing my August 2017 reads in Steph and Jana’s monthly Show Us Your Books linkup. I was traveling with the kids a lot in August and did not get in a lot of reading time.  I’m hoping next month turns out better in terms of both quantity and quality of books read.  There was only one book this month that I loved and the rest were all so-so reads.

3 Stars

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Bull by David Elliott – This is a YA book told in poetic form.  It’s a retelling of the Greek myth Theseus and the Minotaur.  I was unfamiliar with the original version and had to do a quick Wikapedia search to catch me up.  I found the language in this book to be a bit much for a YA book but enjoyed the writing style.  The author even used a different poetic form for each character.  So, if you’re into Greek mythology or books in poetic form are your thing than give it a go. I read and reviewed this book for Kiss the Book where you can find my full review.

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The Crush by Sandra Brown – As jury forewoman, after delivering a not guilty verdict during contract killer Ricky Lozada’s trial, Dr. Rennie Newton becomes the object of his affection.  Soon after Dr. Newton’s co-worker is brutally murdered and Lozada is a suspect……along with Dr. Newton.  As Detective Oren Wesley works the case, he calls in his friend and ex-partner Wick Threadgill, who has personal reasons for Lozada’s capture. I’ve owned this book forever and it was on my summer reading list. It’s been awhile since I’ve read Sandra Brown.  Her books have been either hit or miss with me.  This one was a so-so romantic suspense read.

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Emma In the Night by Wendy Walker – (c/o Netgalley) – Three years ago, fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma disappear.  But Cass has returned without her sister and tells a crazy kidnapping tale.  Normally I like a good suspense book.  However, I found this to be a pretty unrealistic story with manipulative, psychotic characters. I read Walker’s previous book All is Not Forgotten and enjoyed that one a lot more.

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One Summer by David Baldacci – Jack is terminally ill and does not have much time left to live.  One night when his wife, Lizzie goes out to get him his medicine she ends up dying in car accident.  Their three kids are separated and sent to live with family members in different parts of the country.  Living out his last days alone in a hospice facility, a miracle happens and Jack somehow makes a full recovery.  He reunites his family at Lizzie’s childhood home in South Carolina, hoping to rebuild his family.  This book was off my own bookshelf and also part of my summer reading list.  Baldacci is an author known for his mystery thrillers, none of which I have read.  While the book reminded me of Nicholas Sparks and the romance/love stories by James Patterson, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

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Something Like Family by Heather Burch – (c/o Netgalley)  Tuck hires a private investigator to find his grandson, Rave. When he’s found in a small town working as a waiter, Rave agrees to meet Tuck, the grandfather he didn’t know he had.  Abandoned by his drug addict mother, Rave has never really known what it’s like to have family.  He ends up creating a life with Tuck and learns a lot from his grandfather.  This is the first Netgalley book that I’ve read for review. While I enjoy a good family drama, it felt at times like I was reading a Christian fiction book.  This was another so-so read for me.

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The View From Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman – Sisters Margot and Gwen are living in Penthouse B at the Batavia. Gwen is a widow of two years and Margot’s husband is in prison.  After Margot lost all her money in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, the two sisters decide to have gay, 20-something-year-old Anthony move in to help with the rent.  The three roommates become good friends as they try to help each other improve their lives.  This was my first Lipman novel and will probably be my last.  While Lipman is considered to be an author of “humorous novels” I didn’t think this book was that funny.

5 Stars

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling – During our summer travel around New York state we finally finished listening to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on CD.  I had previously only ever read up to the Order of the Phoenix, so this was new to me.  Wow, did so much happen in this book!  Once we got home, we had to immediately get the last book on CD and start it.

What are you currently reading?

 

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Back-to-School Snacks From Hain Celestial

{Sponsored post – all opinions are my own}

September is fast approaching and for those of us in New York state, that means the new school year will soon begin. This also means it’s back to packing school lunches. My kids hate when I give them the same thing to eat every day, so I’m always on the lookout for new snack options.  Hain Celestial kindly sent me a sample of some of their products which will make great back-to-school snacks for the kids!

Hain Celestial is headquartered in Lake Success, New York.  Celestial Seasonings, alba Botanica, Earth’s Best Organic, Garden of Eatin, Ella’s Kitchen, Soy Dream and Terra are only a sample of the companies that Hain Celestial markets, manufactures and sells. The company, founded in 1993, aims to, “make it easier for people around the world to adopt healthier lifestyles through foods they eat and the personal care products they use.” They use responsibly sourced ingredients and are mindful of their environmental footprint.  Basically, you can feel good about using their products.

Here is a review of some of the snacks that we sampled:

Garden of Eatin’ Organic Tortilla Chips – These tortilla chips are made from organic corn.  I find them to be thicker and denser than other tortilla chips on the market.  We tried both the nacho and ranch flavors of these chips. The nacho chips have a light cheese flavor.  We found the ranch chips to be more flavorful, but beware, they had a strong garlic flavor.  Be sure to have some mints ready after eating these!

Sensible Portions Stacked Veggie Chips – While our family is familiar with veggie straws (see below), we had never seen veggie chips before! These are stackable chips made with a combination of potatoes and vegetables.  We tried the sour cream & onion variety and liked them.  The chips are crispy with a light, sour cream flavor.  Other flavors available include BBQ, Sea Salt, Cheddar Cheese and Sea Salt & Vinegar.

Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws – My children are no stranger to veggie straws.  However, we had never seen flavored ones before.  They were excited to try these cheddar cheese flavored straws as well as ranch and sea salt.  We have found new flavors to incorporate into our veggie straw snack rotation!

Terra Plantain Chips –  I was already familiar with Terra and love the brand’s vegetable chips.   My kids are familiar with plantains and have had tostones and sweet plantains.  Although I’ve had plantain chips in the past, I had never tried the Terra brand.  After trying these, my daughter’s exact words were, “I’m addicted to these!”  These chips are small and bite-sized.  They are thinner than other plantain chips that I’ve tried but still tasty.

Thank you Hain Celestial for introducing our family to so many new items to add to our back-to-school snack rotation!

What are some of your favorite school snacks?

Conveyor Belt Sushi at east Japanese Restaurant {Updated}

Conveyor belt sushi used to be a rare dining experience that I only saw on television.  Luckily, it’s becoming more popular and now, even us suburbanites can partake in the conveyor belt sushi experience.  If you are shopping at the Palisades Mall in West Nyack, New York and are looking for a family-friendly, non-chain, unique dining experience, east Japanese Restaurant is the place to go.

Guests are seated in booths around the sushi chefs, who have their prep stations located in the center of the dining space. As they prepare different rolls and sushi, they cover and place them on the conveyor belt.  The labeled plates travel around the restaurant, and diners take the items they want.

The different patterned and colored plates are priced differently.  White plates cost $1.75 each while the gold plates cost $8.00 each.  Most plates include two pieces of sushi or three pieces of roll.  There are many types of sushi available from the California roll to the specialty Big Thunder Mountain roll. Non-sushi dishes like seaweed salad and fried chicken are also offered.  If you do not see what you want or prefer not to go the sushi route, the restaurant offers a full Japanese menu including teriyaki and tempura dishes.  At the end of your meal, your plates are collected and you are charged accordingly.

What we love about this restaurant is that we are able to try new dishes without a huge commitment.  For a couple of dollars a plate, if we like it, we’ll take another plate of it.  If we didn’t like it we at least tried something new!  This is a great way to introduce your kids to different types of sushi.  Plus, like our kids, they will most likely enjoy grabbing the dishes off the conveyor belt.  It definitely makes for a unique and fun dining experience, which we highly recommend! Unfortunately, the only conveyor belt sushi restaurants that we are aware of that are not located in the city are this one and YO! Sushi at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets.

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May 2017 Reads

It’s one of my favorite times of the month, Steph and Jana’s Show Us Your Books link up!  This is perfect timing for me as I’m starting to compile a summer reading list.  No better day to get great reading recommendations!  As I wrote this post I realized that I didn’t have the best of reading months.  I read seven books in May, but only one of them rated 4 stars.  Hopefully June will turn out to be a better month of reading! Here are my May 2017 reads:

3 Stars:

 

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The Circle by Dave Eggers –  With the help of her friend Annie, Mae Holland goes to work at the Circle, a powerful internet company.  As she works there, Mae sees the Circle is very Big Brotherish and only getting bigger and more powerful.  As she becomes more involved with the Circle, she has less contact with the outside world.  Should there be worldwide transparency?  At what cost will one go to have privacy?  These are some of the questions that arise in this book.  The book had me totally engaged, but I was super disappointed with the ending.  This book was a book of the month pick for one of the Goodreads groups I’m in.  Otherwise, I probably would have never even known about this book.  It was also made into a movie, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson that I want to see, once it comes out on DVD.

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – This book opens in 1922 Russia, when Count Alexander Rostov is placed under house arrest at the hotel Metropol.  The book follows him over the next thirty years as he lives in the hotel, meeting in a interesting cast of characters.  This was another book of the month pick for a Goodreads group that I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up on my own.  It was slow in spots but engrossing in others.  Overall, I think it was an okay historical fiction read.

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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins –  Unfortunately, when you write a bestseller like The Girl on the Train, there’s no doubt that your next book will be compared to it.  While I loved The Girl on the Train, I really didn’t like this book. The beginning is very confusing with all of the different characters.  And the storyline just didn’t interest me.   I honestly couldn’t care why the river has been the source of the deaths of several women.

3 Stars

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Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens – Lindsey Nash takes her six-year-old daughter Sophie and escapes from her abusive husband.  Fast forward ten years later where Lindsey has created a new life with her now teenage daughter. But she learns that Andrew, the ex, has been released from jail, and she keeps sensing someone watching her.  Her home is invaded and her daughter is followed.  Is it Andrew, coming back for revenge?  I’ve read a couple of Stevens other books and have had mixed reviews, liking some better than others.  In this book I feel like the author purposefully set it up to throw the reader off track, which annoyed me.  This was an okay thriller/suspense read.

 

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The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda – I have not read Miranda’s recent book All the Missing Girls, so I was unfamiliar with her writing. This was a pretty good suspense read that had me guessing until the end.  No one is who they seem, which adds to the suspense of the book.  However, I felt like there was almost too much going on.

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The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares – Sasha and Ray share a room in the family’s Long Island beach house.  They have just have never met each other.  Ray’s mom and Sasha’s dad used to be married and had three daughters before a bitter divorce.  They both remarried, and had children with their new spouses (Ray and Sasha) but neither were willing to give up the house. (Not sure I explained the complicated family tree well there!)  This summer, the families lives intersect as drama occurs and secrets are revealed.  While I enjoyed Brashares YA Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, this book was a bit disappointing.

4 Stars

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I Found You by Lisa Jewell –  Alice finds a man sitting on the beach in the pouring rain.  He has no memory of who he is or how he got there.  In a London suburb, Lily’s husband doesn’t return home from work one night.  Back in 1993, siblings Gray and Kirsty are vacationing with their family when Kirsty meets a guy who just doesn’t sit right with Gray.  Told between the past and present, with multiple points of view, the three different storylines intertwine. This was a suspenseful read that had me guessing until the end.

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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

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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.