Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Want Fries With That?

Just read this article on french fries. I love french fries and, sad to say, I have eaten two of the worst, Arby's Curly Fries and Five Guys regular fries. The good news is that the best fast food fries to enjoy are McDonald's small french fries. Arby's has wonderful Deli Sandwiches that we like when on the road, guess we'd better stop taking the fries, although in our defense we usually share an order. We have a Five Guys near us and they serve those fries in a paper sack; that sack gets grease-soaked pretty quickly. To be fair to Five Guys, one order of fries will feed at least four people, so you can divide the calorie and fat count by 4 (or 6, or 8....take all your friends to share it). Everybody should have the experience of Five Guys at least once! Take a look at this article at Yahoo! Health<>

Finally, a Decent Frozen Dinner

Recently I was trolling the frozen food aisle while tired and hungry. Hubby was not home for dinner and those photographs on the frozen entrees looked really enticing. Now, I rarely buy these because I KNOW they generally contain six cubes of processed chicken cubes that are mushy, 5 carrot cubes and maybe six green peas, lots of overcooked rice and noodles and a lake of sauce. I am not sure how manufacturers can call them frozen "dinners". But, like I said, I was tired and hungry and did not want to cook myself a dinner.....

Anyway, I bought three dinners, three different brands. The first one I heated up was an asian dish in an adorable chinese takeout shaped container. When I dumped it onto my plate, it looked like a faded version of the photo. The sauce WAS good, so I quickly stir-fried some extra vegetables and had a fairly decent meal while realizing I could have stir-fried an original meal cheaper and tastier. The only real complaint I had was that the rice was mushy and there could have been more vegetables, but I prefer vegetables to meat and I also prefer steamed basmati rice. Are you beginning to see why frozen dinners just don't work for me?

The next meal I tried was Kashi brand, the most expensive of the lot. It looked as good as the photo and tasted wonderful. Of course it was vegetarian and the processed chicken cubes were avoided. Also, instead of rice they used chewy grains, so I avoided the mushiness. When I am perusing the frozen food aisle, the price of this brand makes me wince, but the very affordable brands, usually on sale, don't measure up for me. You get what you pay for in frozen foods, as well as everything else.

It looks just about the same as the photo, congratulations, Kashi!

And, what did I do with the final frozen dinner, you ask? Well, I was out for dinner one night and so hubby got that one! He said it was decent.........

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

Celebrated Valentine's Day last night with dinner and a show. We ate at Liberty's, a new upscale pub. I had eaten there a couple of weeks ago, and got the same entree. Roasted Springer Mountain Farms chicken with gnocchi made with ricotta, served with a pan sauce with vegetables...."upscale chicken and dumplings". The gnocchi, enriched with ricotta cheese, are creamy and flavorful, a great improvement over regular gnocchi. The serving is a half chicken, but the chicken is quite small, making it extremely tasty. And I have leftovers!

I said dinner and a show. Every winter a local radio celebrity, Mike Collins, and his theatrical cohorts write and perform a musical, called Charlotte Squawks. Nothing is sacred; they address all the local and national scandals and write appropriate lyrics to well-known tunes. You laugh until your sides hurt. The old stand-by "its gonna snow, close the schools and rush to the store for eggs, bread and milk" was extremely appropriate. Of course most of the the 3" of snow we got on Friday night has melted under Carolina blue skies and warm temperatures all day Saturday..

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Veggie Heaven

Last week I had the opportunity to chat with a young chef at Soup on Sunday, a fundraiser for hospice. He told me the very best fresh vegetables, except for the Farmer's Market, are at Compare Foods. I have driven past this store for a couple of years and so I decided I needed to veer from my Harris Teeter/Trader Joe's habit and take a look.

I was like a kid in a candy store, just gaped and grinned the whole time I was in the produce section. And the prices....I filled a grocery bag to the top with plantains, kale, diced nopales, green beans, red onions, snow peas, red potatoes, just to skim the surface....and the bill was $20. I thought I had heard wrong! And the store is only about 5 minute drive away.

So now it is Trader Joe's for my frozen food and Compare Foods for my produce.

Sauteed Trout & Cauliflower Rice

I love trout, especially the whole blue trout we used to get at restaurants in Germany, but that is another post.

Harris Teeter put trout fillets on special this week; usually they sell whole dressed trout complete with head. Now, I have no problem with a whole sauteed trout on my plate if someone else cooked it, just not ready to do that myself (am working on that, since the bones give the fish more flavor), so I decided to buy the fillets.

I seasoned the fish with olive oil and Greek seasoning and let them come to pretty much room temperature. Sauteed them in butter skin side up until they began to brown, then flipped them skin side down and added diced baby portabello mushrooms and let it all simmer together. At the last minute I stirred in fresh parsley.

For the side dish I make Cauliflower Rice and stirred in some shredded swiss chard. A restaurant-worthy meal.

Upside Down Weather

Yes, it snowed as far north as Charlotte, NC. Now that is a funny sentence....usually it snows north of 1-85, this time it snowed south of I-85. The satellite weather map on tv last night looked like they had turned it upside down. Dothan, AL even made the snow news. Wonder if we got snow on our deck in Panama City, FL?

It started snowing at 5:30 pm and snowed softly all night. Today is blue sky, sun and 40 degrees...could that be more perfect...pretty snow that melts on the roads.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Precious China for Everyday?

I made an 'executive decision' just the other day. I inherited my Mom's Haviland china and it has resided in the china cabinet for many years. I used to bring it out on Thanksgiving, but was derided because of its small size...under 10" diameter. This past week I decided to start using it for lot of my everyday meals and it is featherweight and a delight to use. It is especially valuable because the factory where it was made was destroyed during WWII and the molds destroyed.

And guess what? The newest diet advice is to use smaller plates to encourage smaller portions. I measured plates in the dinnerware section of several stores and they are currently 11" in diameter.

It looks like my china from the 1930's is looking pretty modern.

Bon Appetit!

Why cook?

People want to know why I bother to cook. I tell them because I like to eat and don't like chain restaurants or prepared foods from the freezer section. Well, I forgot my own preferences and capitulated in the frozen foods aisle of Harris Teeter yesterday afternoon. I was hungry and Larry is out of town so I didn't have anybody to cook for.

I looked at the gorgeous photos on the frozen entrees and forgot that they most assuredly do NOT look like that on my dinner plate. I bought a nice asian bourbon chicken entree in a cute chinese takeout box. I did my usual add-ons, since there is never enough vegetables in these dinners. I put in more brocolli and some shredded carrot. Even steamed some fresh rice. Even with the add-ons it was pretty bad. Not sure what they do to the chicken in these frozen entrees, but it is pretty sad.

I should have thawed a Schwann's chicken breast (individually shrinkwrapped), chopped it up and stir fried it with some of my brocolli and carrots and onions and squeezed in some hoisin and soy sauce and it would have been wonderful with my steamed jasmine rice!

So NOW I remember why I never buy the name brand frozen entrees in the grocery store. My exception is anything Trader Joe's sells.

Waking Up

OK, so I've not posted since 2006 and it is now 2010. Am waking up, now that blogging is supposedly out of fashion! So stay tuned, I might even figure out how to post photos again.......