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Westchester County Freak Shakes

Freak shakes have been around for a couple of years now.  These epic shakes are topped with everything from cookies, candy and even whole slices of cake!!  NY Foodie Family recently took a foodie tour of Westchester to try four of these monstrous dessert mash-ups.

The cotton candy milkshake from Lazy Boy Saloon in White Plains.

Our first stop was Lazy Boy Saloon in White Plains.  They serve four different milkshakes including Cotton Candy, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Oreo and Fruity Pebbles.  We decided to go with the Cotton Candy, since it seemed the most interesting of the four.  This strawberry shake is topped with cotton candy and  a lollipop. The rim of the glass is covered in vanilla frosting and sprinkles. Each shake is $12.

Verdict:  Of the four shakes we tried, this one was the smallest.  We found the milkshake to be very liquidy and the sprinkles are pretty much for show only, as they were pretty well glued on with hard frosting.  The cotton candy was a tasty and fun touch.  I think this shake lacked the amount of “stuff” to really be considered a freak shake, but was priced like one.  According to the menu description, it seems a lollipop should have come with our shake, but did not.  This was our least favorite of the shakes we tried. We will visit Lazy Boy Saloon to try their wings and other tasty-sounding apps and take advantage of their extensive beer selection.  We’ll just go elsewhere for our shakes.

The Boozle freak shake from Sugar-Hi.

Our second stop was Sugar-Hi in Armonk.  Sugar-Hi identifies itself as a “destination boutique sweet shop.”  The shop offers hand crafted chocolates, custom cakes, baked goods with a twist and more.  Of course, we had to stop by to try one of their freak shakes.

The freak shake menu at Sugar-Hi in Armonk.

They offer four different shakes, priced at $14 each.  We went with “The Boozle” – a chocolate shake with a vanilla frosted rim covered in m&ms, topped with a Hershey’s chocolate bar, chocolate covered pretzel rod, an entire Chipwich ice cream sandwich, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.  We got to choose between chocolate soft serve or their “Death by Chocolate” scooped ice cream.  No contest. We, of course, went with the “Death by Chocolate.”  Go big or go home, right?!  When we visited Sugar-Hi on a Sunday afternoon, it was crowded with families stopping by for an ice cream treat after soccer games.  The small dining area for guests to enjoy their treats inside was packed so we opted to enjoy our shake outside.  It was a blazing hot day so we had to enjoy our treat quickly before it melted.

Verdict:  This shake was voted unanimously by our family as (spoiler alert!) the favorite of the day, which included our trip to Lazy Boy Saloon and the next entry below.  Crafted at a boutique sweet shop, it seems fitting that they’d have the best sweet treat. We will be making a return visit soon to check out their other shakes and baked goods!

The Oreo S’mores Mega Milkshake from the Mt. Kisco Diner.

Our last stop of the day was the Mt. Kisco Diner.  I was surprised to discover that a diner was serving Insta-famous shakes.  The Mt. Kisco Diner dubs themselves, “the Diner not a Diner.”  Don’t expect your typical menu here.  For someone who isn’t a fan of diners, I will be returning here with an appetite and my camera.  The Mt. Kisco Diner prides themselves on creating Instagrammable dishes (their Instagram account has a mere 34.8 thousand followers) in a, “stylish setting.”  However, despite the creative selection of dishes, you will still pay diner prices.  They have five Mega Milkshakes on their menu including the Oreo S’mores, Rainbow Cookie, Love Shake, Chocolate Chip Cookie and Cake Poppin.  We went with the Oreo S’Mores shake which is an Oreo shake, a chocolate frosted rim covered in crushed Oreos, topped with whipped cream, Toasted Marshmallows and an Oreo cookie.  The Mt. Kisco Diner’s mega shakes are competitively priced at $10.99 each.

Verdict: Too bad that the Mt. Kisco Diner was the last stop of our foodie tour.  By the third shake, even with four of us sharing, we were just about in a sugar coma.  We ordered some salty, cheesy appetizers to even things out. As an Oreo fan, this was a tasty shake.  The whipped cream layer was a bit too much, so we took the layer off and enjoyed the shake and the “stuff.”

The Peanut Butter & Chocolate Out of this World Shake from the Hudson Creamery.

Before I could publish this post, we had to make one more stop.  I only recently discovered that The Hudson Creamery in Peekskill started making freak shakes, known as “Out of This World Shakes” there.  They offer five different milkshakes including the Peanut Butter & Chocolate,  Cookie Monster, S’mores, Candy Candy and Salted Caramel Pretzel.  We opted to try the Peanut Butter Chocolate milkshake.  This is a chocolate and peanut butter shake with chocolate & peanut butter fudge ice cream, Reeses PB Cups, Reeses Pieces, PB Sauce, Chocolate Syrup, Funny Bones and Nutter Butters.  These shakes are priced at $13.50 each.

Verdict:  Delicious!  I am so happy that we made a stop here.  Out of all the shakes we tried, this was our favorite.  In terms of quality and value for the money, this shake also wins.  This had a generous and delicious shake filling the glass, topped with a waffle cone overloaded with indulgent chocolate ice cream.  Then it was completed with all of the fun extras.  While we were told this could feed two people, it was plenty for the four of us to share.  We will be back to try some of their other “Out of This World Shakes” as well as their seasonal sundaes!

Westchester Weekend {April 21 & 22}

Every weekend there’s always a ton of events going on in Westchester County and the surrounding area.  Unfortunately, there are too many events to write about and I’m lucky if our family can attend even one event.  However, I’m hoping to showcase some highlight events that you may want to try to attend.  Here’s a quick look at some of the family fun and food events taking place in Westchester County and the surrounding area this weekend.

April 21:

The Barley House’s 1st Annual Crawfish Boil
The Barley House
665 Commerce Street
Hawthorne, NY 10594
(914) 495-3333

2-5 PM rain or shine
$35/pp all you can eat

April 22:

A Cup of the Valley Coffee and Tea Festival
Culinary Institute of America – Marriott Pavilion
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY 12538

11 AM – 5 PM
$17/pp in advance, $20/pp day of event

Sample a variety of coffees and teas from

Earth Day Celebration
Greenburgh Nature Center
99 Dromore Rd.
Scarsdale, NY 10583
(914) 723-3470

12 PM – 4 PM
Free

Celebrate Earth Day at the Greenburgh Nature Center with volunteer projects and workshops that will help make a difference and teach you about caring for the Earth.  A grounding yoga class will take place at 10:30 AM.

NY Metro Reptile Show
Westchester County Center
198 Central Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606

9 AM – 4 PM
Adults – $10
Kids (7 – 12) – $5
Kids (under 7) – free

This is the Northeast’s largest reptile expo.  There will be thousands of live reptiles, amphibians and arachnids on display and for sale.

April 21 & 22:

Historic Hudson Valley’s Sheep-to-Shawl Festival
Philipsburg Manor
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591

10 AM – 5 PM
Online tickets – Free for members, $16/adults, $12/seniors, $8/children 3-17  Onsite tickets – Free for members, $18/adults, $14/seniors, $10/children 3-17.

Celebrate spring and learn about the process of turning wool into cloth, 18th-century style!  Read our review of this fun family event!

Hudson Valley Comic Con
Gold’s Gym and Exhibition Center
258 Titusville Rd.
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603

Saturday:  10 AM – 7 PM
Sunday: 10 AM – 6 PM
Free Parking

2-Day Adult Pass: $35
2-Day Child Pass (ages 5-12): $20
Saturday Adult Pass: $25
Saturday Child Pass: $15
Sunday Adult Pass: $20
Sunday Child Pass: $10

The 3rd annual Hudson Valley Comic Con is taking place at Gold’s Gym and Exhibition Center in Poughkeepsie.  Meet comic book artists, play video games in the Gamer’s Lounge, enjoy stories and crafts in the Kids Zone, enjoy live shows and panels.  There’s also a costume contest.

 

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Albanian Family Dinner {Monthly Family Dinner}

Are you looking for a fun way to spend time as a family?  Try having a monthly family dinner!  I’m not talking about a dinner that you cook and you all sit down and eat together.  I mean a dinner that the entire family cooks and eats together.   I know that sit-down family dinners are important.  However, during the week I am the one cooking dinner and most nights it’s just the kids and I eating together.  One of my goals for 2018 was to have monthly family dinners where we cook an entire meal together.

Our Albanian family dinner was a tasty and delicious meal.

Last month we had our first monthly dinner.  We decided to start with an alphabetical country-themed dinner.  For our “A” dinner we chose Albanian.  For our Albanian family dinner we made Tave Kosi, Byrek with Spinach and Baklava for dessert.  As seen from our menu, Albanian cuisine has Mediterranean influences.

Tave Kosi is the national dish of Albania.

Tave Kosi is the national dish of Albania, which seemed appropriate to make.  It consists of lamb and rice baked with a yogurt and egg mixture.  My husband and son adapted this Tave Kosi recipe.  They halved the recipe and instead of lamb shoulder used ground lamb.  They also used plain Greek yogurt instead of regular plain yogurt.  This was a tasty comfort dish.  The yogurt mixture made a sort of souffle on top of the ground lamb. The yogurt gave the dish a slight tang.

Byrek with spinach is an Albanian spinach pie.

My daughter and I made the Byrek with Spinach (Byrek me Spinaq).  This is a simple dish with few ingredients and is fairly easy to make.  Phyllo dough can be a bit tricky to work with but we managed the best we could.  This was a tasty dish and we all loved the crispy, flaky top.

A sweet and tasty dessert we made for our Albanian family dinner.

For dessert, we enjoyed baklava.  I forgot how much I love baklava.  It’s a fairly easy dessert to make, minus that phyllo dough again.  It’s very sweet, but addicting!  We cut it into small squares and the whole plan was gone within a couple of days.

Tips for planning your family dinner:

The meal doesn’t have to be fancy….. – We all enjoyed this Albanian family dinner and are excited for next month’s dinner.  You do not need to do an international-themed dinner.  Pick your family’s favorite meal and maybe add a special dessert to the menu.  The point of a family dinner isn’t to see how fancy of a meal you can make.  It’s getting everyone into the kitchen and working together to cook a meal that you will all sit-down and enjoy.

…..But make the dining part of the meal special – Eat in the dining room, if you have one.  We normally never eat in our dining room unless it’s a holiday or we have company over.  Use the special plates and glassware!  We ate on our wedding china and drank sparkling cider from our  fancy wine glasses.

Choose dishes everyone will like – There’s nothing that will ruin a dinner more than making something you know your kids will not eat.  If you have picky eaters, choose recipes that they are familiar with and enjoy.  If you have more adventurous eaters, maybe pick new recipes with ingredients that they are familiar with and like.

Plan the date of the meal in advance – A weekend obviously works best for a family dinner and planning in advance ensures that there’s no other conflicting activities.

Start cooking early – I recommend starting earlier than later.  Remember, you are cooking with kids.  What may take you a half hour to cook on your own will likely take double the amount of time when children are involved.  Plus, you don’t want to feel rushed or stressed.  We started cooking at 4 PM and were eating by 5:30 PM.

 

Smorgasburg Upstate

For those of you without NYC foodie friends, Smorgasburg is, “the largest weekly open-air food market in America.” Thousands of people visit each weekend and my Instagram feed has me drooling at all the deliciousness that one can find to eat there. However, living in the suburbs of New York City, trekking down to Brooklyn, even for some amazing eats, does not appeal to me.  Fortunately, for us suburban folks there is Smorgasburg Upstate.

Located at the Hutton Brickyards in Kingston, NY, this is the second season of Smorgasburg Upstate.  While last year, it took place once a week, this year it is scheduled for only one weekend a month.  My family and I visited this past Sunday for opening weekend.  From northern Westchester County, it is approximately a 90 minute drive. Both parking and admission are free.  The location is very photogenic with Hudson River views and vestiges of the old brickyard including a Lidgerwood crane and frames of the steel kiln sheds.

Smorgasburg is located under a giant pavilion.  Savory food vendors include Itsa Pizza Truck, Pakt, Hookline Fish Co, Santa Fe Tacos, Ramen Burger, Kovo Rotisserie, Gomen-Kudasai Noodle Escape, Nacho Nirvana and The Grille Wagon. Bakery and sweet food vendors include Bread Alone, Cafe Warshafsky, Seraphine Bakery, Jane’s Ice Cream and Fruition Chocolate.

While we were there we sampled the mac and cheese donut with bacon jam and “The Big Daddy” (pulled pork, cheddar cheese, bacon, sauteed onions, jalapenos, and BBQ sauce on a roll, pressed on the flattop) from The Grille Wagon.  Both of these were delicious!  The Grille Wagon was smart with their advertising  and had samples of some of their more popular menu items on display.  They were even roasting a whole pig and serving it later in the afternoon!

We also shared BBQ Duck Nachos with Fontina & Mango-Avocado Salsa from Nacho Nirvana.  They were a good dish to share.  However, I found them to be just okay.  There was a lot of cheese and it became cold and congealed very quickly.  The mango-avocado salsa (pretty much guacamole) was delicious though!

We finished up with some ice cream from Jane’s Ice Cream.  I loved the Apricot Orange Blossom and Kahlua Calypso Crunch flavors!

The Ramen Burger from Ramen Burger and the Fried Avocado Sandwich from PAKT looked tasty as well and if I wasn’t stuffed, I’d give them a try!

You won’t go thirsty at Smorgasburg Upstate.  Besides water and soda that vendors sell, Maya’s Lemonade (from Maya’s Jams) and STAND coffee provide non-alcoholic beverages.  There’s a bar serving local craft beer and hard cider on tap along with wine and cocktails.

For those wishing to shop, some of the flea market vendors include Mezzanine Vintage, Hazel and Hudson, So Mid-Century, Bohemian Farmgirl and NorthCountryClassics.  There are also food vendors selling honey, hot sauce, olive oil, brittle and more.

Once you’ve gotten some food, you can choose from several seating options.  The Adirondack chairs with Hudson River views are very popular and are the first seats to be taken.

There are also several picnic tables both under the pavilion and out on the grass where you can sit and eat.  For the younger visitors, there are a couple toddler-sized dining tables and chairs as well.

Sit, relax, and bask in the sunshine while you enjoy your good eats.  You can be entertained by the live music, or, like my children did, engage in some fun dog watching.  Smorgasburg Upstate is very dog-friendly!  We couldn’t believe the number and different types of dogs we saw while we were there.

If you’re up to it, you can even play a game of cornhole out on the lawn.

Although I’ve never been to Smorgasburg in the city, the number of vendors and the uniqueness of foods sold at the Upstate location is a bit lacking (and disappointing) in comparison.  Compared to the 100 vendors at the Brooklyn location, Smorgasburg Upstate had a lot less food vendors.  The Ramen Burger (Ramen Burger), Smoky Tails (Hookline) and Mac and Cheese Donut (The Grille Wagon) were probably the most unique food items available.  If you go to Brooklyn, you can expect to find Ube Ice Cream served in a dragon fruit bowl, Spaghetti Donuts, Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches, Raclette Sandwiches and more!

For reference, most main dishes (sandwiches, pizzas, etc.) are priced between $10-$15 and and are cash only.  There is an ATM onsite if needed as well as restrooms with flushable toilets and sinks.

The Details:

Smorgasburg Upstate
200 North Street
Kingston, NY

11 AM- 6 PM

Dates:
June 17 & 18
July 15 & 16
August 19 & 20
September 16 & 17
October 21 & 22

June 23 & 24 there is a Bob Dylan concert at the Hutton Brickyards.  Visit Ticketmaster.com to purchase tickets.

Fun Summer Family Food Experiences

Summer will be here before you know it!  As you start preparing your vacation plans and seasonal family bucket list here are some fun summer family food experiences to think about planning!

Go On a Picnic

Pack a lunch from home or pick one up from your favorite deli or take-out place.  Head to a local park, set out your blanket and enjoy a family meal al fresco!  Many towns have free summer concert and movie nights.  Enjoy a low-key, outdoor dinner with free entertainment.  Just don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray!

Do an Ice Cream Tour of your Town

How many local ice cream and frozen yogurt shops are in your area?  Make it a goal to visit all of them this summer! Rate them from least to most favorite.  Try seasonal flavors and signature items on the menu. The possibilities are endless! 

Visit a Farmer’s Market

Come summer time, you can find a local farmer’s market in almost every town.  Not only are you supporting local agriculture by purchasing your produce from a farmer’s market, but you’re also getting seasonal veggies at their peak!  There’s nothing like a just-picked tomato topped with fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil!

Eat Ballpark Food

Gone are the days of going to a baseball game and eating a hot dog and a box of cracker jacks.  Baseball stadiums have really upped the food selections that they offer to fans.  I ate the Cracker Jack Burger, blurrily pictured above, at a local baseball game.  Ribs, bacon on a stick and tacos are just some of the offerings that you can find at Major League Baseball stadiums!  Spend a day with the family cheering on your favorite baseball team and having some good eats!

Take a Trip to the Fair

There’s something special about fair food.  It’s not gourmet or fancy.  But how often do you get the chance to enjoy treats like deep-fried Oreos, cotton candy, and funnel cake?!  Plus, these foods taste so much better in the summer, surrounded by crowds and bright lights!

Attend a Food Festival

From blackberries and watermelon to ribs and potatoes – you name it, there’s probably a food festival somewhere celebrating it!  Check out food festivals across the country and find one to your liking.

Eat by the Water

Ocean, rivers, lakes….if there’s a restaurant by a body of water, it will likely be packed come summer time.  When was the last time your family ate out on the waterfront?  This summer is the time to do it!  Make a reservation, bring some toys and activities to occupy the kids (because most likely, even with a reservation, you will be waiting!) and enjoy a family meal with a view of the water.

Grow an Herb Garden

While many of us don’t have time to plant a garden, growing herbs is easy.  Kids can help pick out and plant the seeds and will enjoy watering the herbs and watching them grow.  It’s always nice to have fresh basil, cilantro and other herbs on hand for summer cooking!

Eat Freshly Caught Fish or Seafood

This is especially a must when vacationing near the ocean.  Bonus points if you go fishing and catch your own dinner! Lobsters, crabs, oysters, clams, mussels……all of these can be enjoyed in the summer.

Try Something New

And finally, be adventurous this summer!  Try a food or cuisine that is new to you and your family.  Check out a new restaurant.  The options are endless!

What are some other fun summer family food experiences that you recommend?

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Berry Picking at Fishkill Farms

Fishkill Farms

Our family recently visited Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction, New York for some berry picking.  Last year we visited the farm in mid-June and went strawberry picking.  Unfortunately, strawberry season at the farm is only in June.  However, we got a chance to pick blueberries and raspberries for the first time.  From the pictures, you may notice that we went on an overcast afternoon.  The temps were cooler which made for comfortable berry picking and the fields weren’t crowded. 

Admission Fee

When you arrive at the farm there is a field to the right where you can park (for free).  There is a booth in which you pay an admission fee for adults and children over 12.  According to their website, picking fees vary per day, time of year and what crops are in season.  The admission fees help cover the cost of maintaining the farm for public use, fruit sampling and more.  When we visited the farm this past Saturday, our admission fee was $5 per adult. At the booth you are also given containers to store your picked berries.

Blueberry Bushes

We first started picking blueberries.  The blueberry bushes we were told to pick from were enclosed in netting.  There were plenty of bushes in varying sizes available to pick from.  Each bush had berries in varying stages of ripeness.

Blueberry bushes

We were on the lookout for large, ripe berries, and there were plenty of them!

Berries Sign

From the blueberry bushes we headed towards the raspberry bushes.  As we descended the hill, there were labeled signs.

Raspberry Bushes

There were several rows of raspberry bushes, again filled with berries in various stages of ripeness.

Pay Stand

After picking the berries we went to the pay stand.  Prices are NOT advertised before picking, so you may want to call before deciding to pick. 

Berries
The blueberries ended up costing $10 a pound and the raspberries were $14 a pound.  They do accept credit cards!

Chickens

After berry picking, we visited one of the chicken coops situated in the fields.

Beautiful Views

The farm is large with beautiful views.  You can even host parties and events out in the fields.

Grill

On weekends, there is a grill stand that serves burgers and hot dogs.  We were planning to eat dinner out so opted not to eat here.

Fishkill Farms Store

There is also a farm store, where you can purchase homemade jams, fruit and vegetables from the farm, doughnuts, pies and other locally produced packaged goods.

Fishkill Farms is a great farm to go berry picking.  It is especially popular in the fall for apple picking. The farm is open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM.  You can check out their Facebook page for updated information.  We had a great time and will be back in the fall to pick some apples and have some homemade doughnuts!

 

 

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Eating In Philadelphia – Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

We recently visited Philadelphia over Spring Break.  Of course we saw the sights but as food lovers, we also ate our way through Philadelphia.  As self-declared foodies, there is no way that we’d take a vacation without scoping out the food scene.  We knew we had to have at least one cheese steak, because, c’mon, it’s Philly!  We also made sure we made a visit to Reading Terminal Market.

Reading Terminal Market, located between 12th & Arch Streets, is one of the oldest and largest public markets in the country.  The market is several blocks away from the historic district, but definitely walkable, which we did.  Unfortunately, we visited on a Sunday when the Pennsylvania Dutch merchants are not open.  So, no donut from Beiler’s, hot pretzels or Dutch pancakes for us.  However, we ate our fill from other stands.  Every stand that we ate at accepted credit cards, most with no minimums.  We visited the market around 12:30 PM on a Sunday and it was super packed.  My husband ended up taking our son and finding a table for us while I waited on line at our first stop, Dinic’s with my daughter.  There is a decent sized seating area down the middle and back area of the market, but empty seats are hard to come by.  I recommend grabbing a map of the market at the desk when you first enter, which we failed to do until our way out!  Please note, the four of us shared all of the food below.

Dinic's

Dinic's Roast Pork Sandwich

Dinic’s: Roast Pork Sandwich with Provolone and Broccoli Rabe– The line for Dinic’s was crazy long but moves really quick.  For those lucky enough to find an empty seat, there is counter seating.  While you can choose from roast beef, roast pork or Italian sausage sandwiches, we ordered a roast pork sandwich with provolone cheese and broccoli rabe.  From what I’ve read, this is THE sandwich to have as noted by television food celebrity Adam Richman, who named it best sandwich in the country in 2012, and was also recommended by our hotel shuttle driver (but we had already eaten it prior to his recommendation!).  The sandwich and a large soda cost us $13.00.

Fresh Mozzarella

Valley Shepherd Creamery: Fresh Mozzarella – The kids and I stayed at the table while my husband took a turn to find something good to eat.  He came back a few minutes later with this tub of fresh mozzarella from the Valley Shepherd Creamery.  According to my husband, you can watch them making the homemade mozzarella that they sell.  The cheese sells for $9.99 a pound and he bought a little less than a half pound.  This was a perfectly salted and creamy piece of mozzarella.  It would have been even better with some bread or fresh slices of tomato and basil……next time!

Beck's Cajun Cafe Fried Mac & Cheese

Beck’s Cajun Cafe:  Fried Mac and Cheese – This food stand serves all your New Orleans food cravings including jambalaya, po’boys, red beans and rice and muffalettas.  I opted for just a side of their fried mac & cheese, which I had read was good.  It included two fried balls of yumminess with a hot pepper like dipping sauce for $4.50.

Wursthaus Schmitz

The Lyoner

Wursthaus Schmitz – The Lyoner:  This stand was located at the end of the seating area where we were sitting and eating.  We stopped on our way out and decided we had to share a sandwich.  We went with The Lyoner, which is a fried bologna sandwich with muenster cheese, pickle, onion and horseradish sauce.  As you can tell from the pic above, these were thick slices of bologna.  This was a tasty sandwich for $8.

The Famous 4th Street Coookie

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie

Black and White Cookie

Famous 4th St. Cookie Company:  Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookie and Black and White Cookie – We were getting pretty full from all the food that we ate but we had to have a little something sweet.  On the way out we picked up a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookie and a Black and White Cookie.  The line here was also pretty long, but moved quickly.  The cookies were both really good.  However, we were disappointed that the peanut butter chocolate chip cookie was a regular chocolate chip cookie with peanut butter chips.  They sell the cookies for $12.99 a pound and the two cookies cost us $5.85.

What is your favorite food at Reading Terminal Market?

CSA Time!

CSA Time

Last year I wrote a post about our family debating joining a CSA or relying on weekly visits to the farmers market.  In the end we decided to make weekly farmers market visits, thinking the kids would enjoy helping pick out the produce.  Well, that decision ended up being an ultimate fail.  We didn’t make it weekly to the farmers market.  Most of our local markets run on Saturday mornings.  Even in the summers, our Saturday mornings were busy.  When we did find time to go, I felt like I spent a lot of money and didn’t have much to show for it.

So, this year, we joined a CSA.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  When you join a CSA, you are purchasing a share (usually weekly) from a local farmer.  You pay for the membership upfront (typically $450-$750), to help with the farming costs and then from approximately June through October or early November  you pick up your share of produce.

We joined a local CSA farm which offers a Farm-Style Stand choice program.  We get to choose what we want from that week’s available produce.   The share is supposed to feed a family of four, which we are.  The CSA runs 20 weeks from June through October and cost us $700. While the initial monetary output was daunting, it works out to be $30/week for locally grown, organic produce.   I am looking forward to cooking with local, fresh ingredients and trying new recipes.

If you are interested in joining a CSA, check out Local Harvest to find one near you.  Many membership registrations will be closing soon!  And be sure to follow along as we report on and cook with our CSA produce!

New York State Maple Weekends 2016

IMG_9899

Around this time last year, our family visited Crown Maple at Madava Farms for New York State Maple Weekends.   This year, New York State has approximately 160 farms and museums that are participating in this event taking place on the weekends of March 19-20 and April 2-3.   This is a great time for your family to visit a maple farm, tour a sugar house to see how maple syrup is made and sample syrup and other treats for free (at most places).

Growing up, my family used syrup from those plastic bottles (hanging my head in shame!).  When I met my husband, he introduced me to pure maple syrup and I haven’t looked back since.  At first, I balked at the price of the syrup.  $18 for a small container?!!  After visiting Modava Farms and seeing how the syrup is made has given me more appreciation of pure maple syrup.  It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup!

To plan your visit you can check out the NYS Maple Weekend site and search for a participating maple farm near you.  Many of the farms also serve pancake breakfasts (for a fee).

 

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Family Foodie Fun: Medieval Times

Medieval Times

Are you looking for something fun and different to do with your family?  If so, you might want to think about visiting Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament.  To celebrate my birthday, I like to find a fun experience that the family can enjoy together.  Last year, we surprised the kids with a trip to Medieval Times at the Lyndhurst, New Jersey location.  There are eight locations throughout the United States and one location in Canada.   We chose a 5 PM dining time, though on Saturdays they host a 2 PM and an 8 PM show as well.  They had no idea where we were going and were surprised when we arrived at the castle (yes, the building looks like a castle!).  The parking lot was large and parking is free.  

The castle opens 75 minutes prior to your show time.  We arrived about an hour before the show, as seats are assigned on a first come, first serve basis.  We waited on a short line upon entering the building.  They do try to have you upgrade your ticket, if you have a general admission ticket, like we did.  After checking your tickets, you are assigned to a knight and a horse and given a crown in the corresponding color.  There are six different colored knights that you can cheer on and we were assigned to the blue knight.  We then had our picture taken with the King and Princess before entering the Hall of Arms.  You can later purchase the photo for a hefty price.  

Hall of Arms

Depending on how early you arrive, you may be waiting in the Hall of Arms for awhile.  In this beautifully decorated hall there is a bar where you can purchase drinks (served in souvenir cups)and many different vendors where you can purchase all kinds of (expensive) Medieval-themed souvenirs.  We purchase a Christmas ornament on all of our family outings, but unfortunately they didn’t sell any.  So, we ended up buying a key chain that my husband turned into an ornament for our tree.

Intro before we enter the arenawas

After waiting a bit, we were then ushered into the Grand Ceremonial Arena.  Each colored section has several rows of seating.  Each row of tables faces the arena, with the first couple of rows reserved for the Royalty and other upgraded ticket packages.   After being seated, our server, dressed in Medieval attire, started serving the 4-course dinner.

Menu

The meal begins with tomato bisque, garlic bread, roasted chicken, a BBQ spare rib and an herbed-basted potato.  They served an apple turnover for dessert. Since this is Medieval Times, and silverware didn’t exist back then, you are required to drink your soup and eat the rest of your meal with your hands!

Tomato Bisque

Let me note that there is a ton of food.  The food is decent and better than expected.  There is no distinction between a child’s meal and an adult meal.  They do give take home containers, which we needed, to bring home any uneaten food.  And a wet napkin is provided after eating to clean your hands.  At the time of our visit, our waiter was friendly and polite, but definitely busy.

While you are eating the two hour show begins.  The six knights perform in different feats of showmanship and competition. As noted earlier, we were cheering on the blue knight.

Blue Knight

If your colored knight is successful during the showmanship games, he wins flowers to throw out to his colored section.  After the games a net goes up around the arena and the knights engage in jousting and weaponry battles.   There is a story line with an evil villain and one knight is declared the winner, which on our evening was sadly not the blue knight!  During the show you will also see falconry and a horsemanship, including a choreographed dance and performance.  I will note that the whole show is choreographed, including the jousting and weaponry battles.  Our son, six at the time, noted that the fighting looked fake, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

General admission tickets for Medieval Times at Lyndhurst Castle in New Jersey (where we went) currently cost $62.95 for adults and $36.95 for children under 12.  Royalty packages and above cost additional.  However, there are often specials through the site.  While the tickets are a bit pricey, dinner is included in the cost as well as the live show.  The family seated in front of us had purchased an upgraded package and received a Commemorative Program (featured below) and a small ribbon flag that you can wave during the show.  They kindly gave two of the programs and flags to our children, noting that their family did not need them all.

Medieval Times Program and Crown

The family had a great time visiting Medieval Times.  This was definitely something new and different for us to experience together as a family and something I recommend families try at least once, if given the opportunity!