Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First Things First...A Few of My Favorite Things

A Few of My Favorite Things


I'm spending my free time reading a multitude of others' blogs about personal financial tactics, food, local events, and music reviews- that I haven't really spent the time caring for blogs of my own accord.

But, I still lunch. Just about every day. Lately I'm on the "Dave Ramsey says..." plan so I've tracked my spending. Most of what I used to spend on concert going and shopping- is now spent on food. That other people make for me. So I'll make this short and sweet- especially for friends that always want to know about what I had for lunch but don't have the gall to follow me here on

A few of my favorite things......

Without taking proper notice, I tend to become a creature of habit always ordering the same things at the same places. Sometimes I set out to be adventurous and try something new but my mouth waters for a particular dish and I'm ordering before I've glanced at the menu much. Sometimes a person will ask if I've tried this or that and so immediately I'm back on track, searching for something new.

After deliberating during a few previous visits, I finally tried the veggie burger at Ingredient. I'm wary of the term 'veggie burger' because usually it refers to something popped out of the freezer- or else it would carry a name such as 'black bean- whole grain- homemade- veggie sandwich. Maybe it's the 'burger' part of the name that doesn't do it any justice. But at Ingredient, it's a bonafide food processor concoction that is different- New- compared to any others I've had before. Fresh bright veggies and some grains- no beans, and very little seasoning add up to pretty good non-frozen burger. I just went with some provolone, out of the 500-ish number of toppings available there, and some tomato and lettuce- side of pickle and hot sweet potato fries. I shy away from ketchup, mustard, mostly salt and pepper too- but I have to say maybe next time I'll ask for some wasabi honey sauce on the side. You should try it too.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Off the Chain

Off the Chain!

It's "off the hook" - no really, it's "off the chain!"

Taking a quick cue from ComoWhineAndDine, I was just about inspired to take my own journey to a chain restaurant. We sort of avoid them like the plague. Like an over-peppered, mushy broccoli-d, and throw everything-with-overseasoned-fries plague.

For the hell of it.

Actually after the fourth Saturday in a row, of spending precious time at the always amusing Bass Pro Shops, it was just hunger that inspired me. Out there, just above the I-70/63 junction, any of the nearest food options require fighting weekend lunch hour traffic by Clark Lane. If you've attempted making a quick getaway from the Wendy's drive-thru there, you totally understand that traffic there sucks. Actually, it sucks all the time, not only lunch.

Closest options were Longhorn Steakhouse and Ruby Tuesday's. There also is the New Deli, but my appetite was calling for more than a toasted hoagie and chips. Better try there next time we take a jaunt to Bass Pro though. Longhorn is a steakhouse that makes lots of people happy. But for our group of three, it was automatically vetoed since only one of us consumes beef.

Would Ruby Tuesday's suffice? It was a new location (i.e. cleaner, but less experienced), but also a new menu. I am a mostly honest vegetarian, and having only a salad for lunch is a paltry if not L-A-M-E meal. Salad is a good side. And my germophobe ideals keep me away from salad bars anyhow. I did not know that you can add the salad bar to even the kid's menu- possible bonus points there. So anything apart from what the old menu was, might be welcome. Note: The salad bar has edamame too.

The new menu is fresher- upbeat. And when I say that, I mean they even have Sriracha (aka spicy heaven) as a dip option. I admit having a side of Sriracha kicks the wasabe mayonnaise dip from T.G.I.Friday's out of the park. There's plenty more sides to pick from and you can mix/match lunch specials. We've avoided Ruby's for about two years. The new sliders fad is taking over chain restaurants and local places alike it seems. I've yet to find vegetarian burgers in mini-form.

Black bean and rice sliders? Side of sriracha (or bbq sauce or dijon mustard)?


The vegg sliders had just the right amount of "break" so it was tasty and messy enough. Extra lettuce, tomato, and pickles too, with some non-cheesy smashers.

With $5 fruity cocktails for you others not interested in beers. The other two in my group enjoyed turkey burger sliders, and a chicken blt. Both say excellent, and it was all about the Applewood smoked bacon. Evidently everything is better with good bacon.

This is officially the first time I would recommend a chain restaurant that I myself, have boycotted the last few years. You have to hit up the north location- I still avoid the west location. There's windows that let natural light in around the entire dining area so you don't feel like you're in a dungeon. They offer a Sunday brunch, and I've tried imagining was a crab-cado omelet tastes like since reading about it- don't worry, they do have a bacon omelet too. We went again for lunch- just to be sure it wasn't a one-time fluke and I had the same thing. And again... It was off the chain!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Brewery Fun Fare

After scoping out the wait time for a local eatery with the best veggie handmade burgers ever (and cream soda to boot), and that wait being over an hour long, we traveled eastward instead.

No "fries with that?"

No chicken nuggets?

THANK YOU baby Jesus!

I completely realize that the best aspect of a brewery are the brews. The bold, succulent, and tasty beer recipes artfully concocted. But I wasn't there for the beer, I was there for the food. After the disappointment of missing out on that other veggie burger, I threw myself at the Veggie Burger at Broadway Brewery. My stomach was already growling, so first up I ordered the Apple Salad to tide me over until my "in house burger" was ready. Evidently, just about everything is made in-house. (bonus points!). The Apple Salad is simple and completely amazing, if you're a fan of endives- they pop some fresh goat cheese, walnuts, chopped apples, and a sprinkling of crushed black pepper with pomegranate vinaigrette, and you're in heaven. I was, at least. Maybe I'm just a big fan of goat cheese and never knew it.

There we were, 3 of us, and one being much smaller in age and size, he got to order a grilled (not cheddar!) cheese on panini, with a Vruit juice box (Uh-mazing juice by the way), and maple-tangerine carrot slices. Lucky me, each of us ordered a different side item, so I taste-tested all of them. Yes, it's not on the website, but they DO have a kid's menu.

After my salad, my veggie burger arrived. Hand-made veggie burger without black beans (often a big 'filler' ingredient when soy is absent), they use hummus instead, on a homemade bun, with a side of black-eyed peas and collard greens (no bacon inserted there). The other entree ordered was the Turkey Club with a side of roasted root veggies. As a family, we definitely love our potatoes, so sweet potatoes instead of fries as the side is just fantastic. I have a self-imposed rule of not eating more than one fried item at a meal. This is absolutely NO problem at Broadway Brewery.

Speaking of brews at the brewery, the list was so long I had not a clue what to order. I pointed over to an unsuspecting patron and said I'd have what she's having: the Sampler. I premise this saying I am wuss when it comes to IPAs- I haven't found a single one my taste-buds have drooled over yet. But I did it; I handled some Summer Ale, APA, IPA, Double-IPA (sorry, gag), Rye IPA, some Nut Brown (pretty good), and the Porter (2 thumbs up there). 2 samplers, not enough time. Next time, I really hope they still have the Grand Teton's "Bitch Creek" on guest tap. And why the hell didn't I have the pizza? I've heard that's the other best part- and I wonder if they can nix the bacon on the smoked trout one, because obviously, I dig the goat cheese.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Free Range...cookie

"There's a rumbly in my tummy!" said Pooh Bear.


Not to redirect to the thoughtful age of being 4 years old, but Winnie the Pooh definitely had it verbatim when describing his hunger pangs. I've been on a mission to bring my lunch every single work day, and to make each lunch meal super interesting. Well, FAIL big time on that one. So, since memory didn't serve me right, I got to hit up the "nooner" at Houlihan's restaurant. Yes, I said the Nooner- if you don't have your food in 15 mins. or less- it's free. They even give you a timer to prove it. And yes, it's a chain restaurant. But I am a devoted fan of the salads at Houlihan's. They have tons of different fresh veggies, with sushi additions, caramelized bananas, and non-fire breath inducing red onions. (Score!).

I also happened to learn on this lucky day, that if you order an entree for lunch instead of a regular ol' special- they bring you a cookie! By true standards, the server will ask you if you are ready to order dessert, but then, they bring you a "100% free-range cookie" of chocolate chip delight and a mighty impressive size (it's sharable if you're one of those). Free-range as in wheat and gluten and dairy free! Instantly, my FAIL was turned into Awesomeness, so I can't knock all chain restaurants.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Easy Breezy Empanadas

Totally inspired by my need for both easy, and low-cost tasty fare, I turned to a college student inspired book.

I know- who reads a book for college students when they are not a college student anymore? The lame outrage. But no, really, I have found a ton of great vegetarian ideas - all simple, and easily altered to better suit my specific vegetable tastes. To start with, empanadas have never been that exciting to me- until I made my own. It's a bunch of foods stuffed in warm, clever, half-circle pocket.

Pick your veggies, simmer than via stovetop- usually add some diced tomatoes so your veggies don't end up too dry. Then stuff into a doughy pocket and bake until light golden brown, a little crispy, and presto!, your dinner is served.

Now, the College version includes chopping some zucchini, potatoes, and onion. Throw them in a pan and saute with a teaspoon of oil for about 10 mins. Add a drained can of diced tomatoes, whatever seasonings you love (plus salt and pepper to taste), simmer another 5 mins. Bust out the rolled-up pie crusts (refrigerated, then sat at room temps for about 15 mins), cut them in half. Or totally attempt making your own easy pie-crusts! Stuff the pie-crusts with your cooked mixture, press the edges closed (a fork helps), cut a slit in the top for aeration, and back in the oven at 350ish for about 20-30 minutes.

*If pie-crusts are too sweet of a flavoring for your hearty veggies, I've experimented with buying those big Pillsbury Grands (buttery version!) biscuits and rolling them out to desired size.

I also experimented with adding chopped sweet potato in the veggie mix, and a good dose of turmeric and cilantro. Onions and turmeric marry together well. If you don't have time for potatoes, or don't usually keep many in the house, substituting a 3/4 cup of frozen potatoes o'brien has worked for my recipes a few times and give it some added pizazz with small bits of red and green bell peppers.

When they're all baked and golden brown, your dinner is done. Plus, these pockets reheat well for tomorrow's lunch. If you have some leftover filling, it makes a great topper over rice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tabbouleh This, Tabbouleh That

Tabbouleh This, Tabbouleh That

On my never-ending quest for quick, easy, and tastefully scrumptious lunches (i.e. Not microwavable plastic-wrapped particles), I realized Tabbouleh was the treasure I had yet to discover. Sure, most people make this as an appetizer, or a side item to a dinner. It can fulfill many other niches in your lunching life.

But the time is now, to reclaim your vegetarian taste-buds (yes, that includes sans fake-bacon). Quite a few people have been appalled at the sad fact that most dehydrated bacon toppings are in fact made of soy (ahem, Betty Crocker's Bac-os). Which technically makes them vegan, right? I, myself, am appalled because the mere flavor of bacon conjures to mind an image of "Zuckerman's Famous Pig" Wilbur.

Wilbur aside, tabbouleh is a great dish that you can rework in hundreds of ways. Tabbouleh is pretty much a salad, usually encompassing a variety of *Fresh* herbs and/or lettuces, veggies, and pretty commonly tossed with quinoa (a protein rich rice slash pasta). Cookbook photographs I've seen usually include the all-American salad ingredients: tomato and cucumber, and usually without the freshly chopped herbs. But I've learned some fresh chopped mint leaves, cilantro, and basil, can make crunchier veggies all the more appetizing.

Cook your couscous, squeeze in some fresh lemon juice and toss with some colorful chopped veggies. Viola! It's awesome. It can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days and provides a hearty side, or work-day meal without reheating per the microwave. Oh, and don't forget the chick peas (aka garbanzo beans) either, they marry well with the quinoa and lemon juice.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pennies for Lunch

Pennies for Lunch
One tried and true budgeting tool is to completely let go of eating out. Forget having your meal prepared, served, and cleaned up after. You have to get down to the nitty-gritty of things to save those dollars when it comes to food.

If you think about the money you're paying for a meal out, you have to factor in the produce and meats that were prepared (cleaned/chopped/seasoned) before they were cooked (hopefully to order), then presented to you for consumption. You avoid cleaning the preparation dishes, meal dishes/glasses/silverware, the table, the stove top. While I am definitely one to relish in the happiness of having an empty sink, sometimes the cost doesn't justify the means.

Most people are heavy hitters in the saving on lunch dept., when it comes to lunches too- because you have a short time to cook/microwave your food, consume it, and get a piece of mind back before getting back to work. Every article on saving money will tell you to bring your lunch to work- the trick is staying creative so you don't lose motivation.

I am that person, losing motivation. Having chips/pretzels/sliced veggies with sandwiches every single day got boring. Re-heated leftovers lose their flavor. I know several college students who saved mucho dollars, by living on ramen noodles for two meals a day. Every day. For months. I tried it for a week and am done with it. (And I'm the biggest fan of noodles on the planet).

For $1.80, I bought a 6-pack of those 'cup-o-noodles' and for about $3 a bag of apples. That's only $4.80 for a week of lunches at work (Yes, I ate two one day, they're actually not so filling)- quick, easy, but SO NOT satisfying. Looking at the numbers gives me a little excitement, I mean, that's a cheap work week of lunches. CHEAP. I kind of get now- why lower classes have more health problems, because they have to buy cheaper food and coat it with salt. I totally get it. I had a two hour conversation with an academic about why organic food will never make it to the lower class because of salt. But I digress.

I googled ideas for better and cost-effective lunches. I can pair everything with bread and top it with mustard (my favorite) and it still gets boring. VegFamily says to try everything with hummus. Luckily it's super-easy to make your own hummus, but hard to not reach for the salt. Black pepper and mustard are my lunch buddies now. I compared my lunch ideas to school (cafeteria) lunches and didn't come up with many more ideas. This is a rut. WebMD has a few more ideas. I am so proud of my cheap non-lunch-spending habits, that I finally treat myself to one good restaurant lunch every other week to re-motivate myself on this quest. A $5 budget for a week of lunches is leaving me hungry.