Saturday, March 31, 2007

SUBmerging My Fears

Lately, fast-food coupons have been my friends, mostly due to vast amounts of junk mail stuck in my box. A flier for Firehouse Subs was one of many that came, and I dutifully clipped away. I was on a mission to try every major sub place in South Georgia. Of course, going to four places isn’t the Olymics. Firehouse was the last on my list. I’ve been once before and it was mighty tasty. So with coupon in hand, I headed out for lunch.

Of the four sub chains out here, the current ranking is as follows:

Larry’s Giant Subs
Firehouse Subs

The top three are good, though Larry’s always outperforms the others. I still enjoy my old stand-by at Subway too. It’s just that every time I’ve eaten at Quizno’s, the subs have had no taste. I’ve been disappointed every time.

This isn’t really the point of the post though.

Like nearly every other child on earth, I was a picky eater. But like many childhood fears, not all of my apprehensions regarding food have disappeared. I’m working through many of them in adulthood. I now eat tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and olives with gusto. Yet, onions have long been my enemy. Don’t get me wrong, I use a liberal hand with the onion powder and have even graduated to using onions in cooking. I just have to put them through a blender is all. Hey, onion soup works just as well! But a very handsome picture of an onion tart about five months ago got me considering what these potent vegetables could really do if given the chance. My decision was made after I watched Alton Brown make a French onion soup. Not only is this on the menu for Sunday, it was on my mind yesterday. This is where Firehouse Subs comes in.

The Firehouse Steak and Cheese is “sautéed sirloin steak with provolone, topped with sautéed onions and bell peppers, mayo and mustard.” Yes, onions. And bell peppers! Something I also have had problems getting over eating. Needless to say, the sandwich was delicious and I killed two birds with one stone- onions and bell peppers. It will still take some experimenting and getting used to, but I’m on my way to recovery.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Everyday is like Sunday

I sat here, prepared and ready to write up a review on two Amy’s brand frozen meals. I can’t. It’s a lie! I’ve meant to write up a dinner I prepared two weekends ago, but the evil pink monster (because it has to be pink) named procrastination keeps talking me out of it. She’s so convincing too. And she’s right about all the movies I could watch and how much I’d really like to move my furniture again, but no more. This time I’m really going to tell the world of my new plans.

I’m finally (sort of) settled into my new apartment. This is good. I’m motivated because of it. This is also good. Part of this motivation has led me to make a habit of something that should have been part of my life years ago. Weekend home cooking. As scary as it sounds, I am relatively sure that I can cook at least once a week. Not just one recipe whipped up on a whim or wave of inspiration. A full meal. So Sunday has chosen to bear this burden.

Nearly two weeks ago, I delved into the MOUND of clipped recipes I’ve saved over the years. This is the mission: free at least two of these recipes from the Hell pile and make a final judgment on their papery souls. The kickoff dinner was a simple salad, Bruschetta, sautéed asparagus, Four Cheese Chicken, and simple strawberry/raspberry shortcakes.

In a nutshell: good effort all around. Both my boyfriend (who has graciously volunteered to be my guinea pig) and I enjoyed it. Also, meat cleavers are your friend and you really don’t need a recipe for bruschetta.

Obviously, I had no meat cleaver. But I am in possession of a well-used hammer. Have hammer, will cook. Now this is one of those recipes where I flub everything, but it turns out just fine. Really, any dish with chicken and cheese is like that. The recipe called for chicken cutlets, but none were being sold at the grocery store. Chicken breasts it was. And hammer. Can’t forget that one. Neither, I’m sure, can my new neighbor. It also called for shredded mozzarella- you know, the kind in the bag? Well fresh chopped mozzarella did just fine, thank you. Mostly because I couldn’t be assed to go back. This also meant PIZZA was coming next. The grated parm got replaced with romano because I can’t read. These were a bitch to roll, so most ended up… folded really. And the leaky cheese nearly killed my “non-stick” skillet for the pan searing portion. I would recommend the addition of sharp cheddar next time, since it was almost bland at times. But all in all, cheesey goodness.

Judgment: Keeper

From a healthy meals in minutes pre-printed card that apparently came with a recipe box or something.

Four-Cheese Chicken

Serves 4

½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese (I used regular)
¼ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 T grated parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped, cooked spinach (I skipped the cooking part)
4 chicken cutlets (4 ounces each), pounded ¼ inch thick
1 tsp butter

For Sauce:
¼ cup skim milk (I used whole)
½ cup reduced- sodium chicken broth (guess what I used)
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp butter
¾ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

1 Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan and mix well. Drain spinach and spread ¼ cup over each cutlet. Spread cheese mixture over spinach and roll jelly style starting with short end.

2 In a medium nonstick skillet, melt butter over med-high heat. Add cutlets; cook, turning frequently, until browned- roughly 2 minutes. Place in a baking dish.

3 For sauce, stir milk, broth, and cornstarch together in a bowl. Melt butter in skillet over medium. Add milk mixture until it boil, stirring constantly. Remove from burner and stir in cheddar.

4 Bake until browned and bubbling- about 15 minutes.

The Bruschetta, while tasty, was not a keeper. For one, do I really need someone to tell me what to put on toast? The cook time didn’t seem right to be either, and everything ended up mushy. I like to see tomato chunks on my bread rather than tomato spread. I’ll refrain from adding the recipe since there are other, better versions to be had.

Along with a glass of sweet wine- which I must review later- the night went off splendidly. Now if only my motivation will allow me to write the review for last weekend and for my results tomorrow. Here’s hoping.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mojito Martini's?

I finally found my Van Gogh Espresso Vodka. I also as in the company of a very helpful store employee who traded out that bottle for the plain vodka in a sampler set with all of the Van Gogh line’s new flavors. It included: plain, espresso, double espresso, mango, pineapple, mojito mint, melon, and coconut. Yes, I was ecstatic.

Tonight, I decided that lounging on my patio with a bit of that mint would do me just fine. It tasted like a good peppermint shnapps. It was crisp and not cloyingly sweet. More like a Rumple Minze and less of a De Kuyper. One of the descriptions I found online indicated that it was supposed to have a hint of citrus. There was also small halved lemons on the bottle, but I could not for the life of me taste it. Regardless, it would make a fine addition to a mojito in very small quantities. The strength would need to be offset with the bite of lemon and sweetness of syrup. I have a bartender friend at Ruby Tuesday who told me they use Bacardi Limon and seltzer along with the other ingredients. They really gives it that fresh kick that I think a drink like that should have. If I had some those and a simple syrup, I might make myself a little too happy. Funny enough, the Van Gogh website was lacking in mojito recipes for their signaturely named vodka- only martinis. This, I think, will have to be remedied.