This past weekend, I somehow graduated from law school and as anyone who has graduated from any level of schooling knows, this means family time and lots of it. I’m not opposed to this though, as families are fun to laugh with/at and I tend to eat better at home. For instance, Saturday night we drove home to Houston after my early afternoon graduation ceremony and had a celebratory dinner at Rainbow Lodge. It’s a restaurant which specializes in preparing wild game in an upscale setting. I enjoyed dining on wild boar, venison and quail, while reveling in my being (finally) done with school.
Sunday evening everyone was still full from the previous night’s dinner so we decided to cook something more low key. As my family is want to do, sausage was the quick and easy meal which was prepared. Instead of just grilling the sausage and eating it on a standard hot-dog bun we usually dress the sausage with pizza sauce and various veggies.
I don’t know the origins of this meal, but I am going to assume it goes back to when my family lived in Wisconsin and ate sausages with greater frequency. The steps to making the sauce are short and sweet- perfect for quick preparation after a busy day. Simply put, take your favorite variety of pizza sauce from the grocery store, mix in cut up onion, peppers, or whichever vegetables you like (if any). Heat up your creation in a corning-ware or other type up vessel and scoop it on your sausage when you’re ready to eat. I suggest you do not use the aforementioned standard hot dog bun because those buns are too flimsy to withstand the wet sauce. Bakers’ rolls or the like are much better suited for this particular meal.
On the side, we cooked red potatoes with pepper, salt, olive oil and parsley, as well as fresh green beans. I won’t say this is the most delicious meal ever, but it is quite tasty and is a nice, quick meal to eat on a Sunday evening in the summer. I’m sure most families have a staple meal, and this is certainly one of my family’s.
Filed under: Posts by Evan, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
So there’s this place called Swirll, and well, I’m a little obsessed. It’s a self-serve frozen yogurt parlor with a variety of non-fat and lowfat tart yogurts and a huge selection of toppings. You go through the line and fill up your cup with yogurt, fruit, and candy bar bites and the cashier weighs it and shocks you with the price. Oops…next time you will get fewer toppings.
My friend, Justine, and I make “Swirll dates” and go often, but lately we have only gone half as often. Why? Another yogurt parlor opened up and we had to start alternating. At first we ignored Red Mango, but then we heard that they give unlimited toppings for $1. How can this be? We had to find out.
Red Mango is not self-serve. You choose a size and flavor of yogurt, then the cashier puts the toppings on for you. There is no sticker shocker at the register, which is nice.
Justine and I have now made several trips to Red Mango, always with a critical eye. How does it compare to Swirll and should we pledge allegiance to one yogurt shop over the other? I made a list of pros and cons to help our educated decision.
We both ate the plain yogurt at each shop to compare. Both are delicious and I cannot decide between them. Swirll’s is slightly more tart.
- Self-serve–complete control over amount of yogurt and toppings
- More flavors
- Way more toppings
- Junkier toppings like candy bars and cookie dough
- A stamp card. If you buy 10 yogurts, you get $4 off your next purchase
- Giant cups make it easy to eat the toppings without them spilling out
- Easy to rack up a big bill
- Easy to ignore fruit toppings and cover yogurt with Reese’s
- Poor lighting for picture taking:
Above is a picture of my last Swirll purchase. I got the Original (plain) yogurt and a dab of peanut butter yogurt. As you can (kind of) see, I topped it with candy bar and chocolate related items. The fruit toppings are heavier and drive up the price, or at least that’s how I like to justify my poor nutritional decisions. Also, Justine and I walked there and back that day, so that’s at least an extra serving of cheesecake bite toppings, of course. This was my cheapest Swirll yogurt to date–a victory at $3.80.
- You know the cost before you have to pay
- Unlimited toppings for $1
- Many organic items
- Toppings are healthier and make me eat more fruit
- The cashiers will swirl the flavors together for you in a pretty design
- Better photo lighting
- Less crowded
- Surprising amount of yogurt in the size Small
- They put the toppings on for you, which meant I had to tell the cashier that she was being stingy with the Newman-Os (organic Oreos)
- Fewer toppings
- No cookie dough or Reese’s and very few junkfood toppings in general (note that this is listed as both a pro and con…)
- Fewer yogurt flavors
- No stamp card! I could go there 10 times and never be rewarded!
- Not self-serve, so I don’t get to choose the exact amount of yogurt and each topping that I want
- Tiny cups make the toppings spill out
I was an idiot and forgot my camera on Red Mango Day, but Justine saved me with her phone. The above yogurt is a size Small with unlimited toppings, which costs about $4. I got the Original and POM flavors. My toppings were graham cracker crumbs, Newman-Os, Ghirardelli mini chips, mochi, raspberries, and blueberries. It was probably about the same amount of yogurt as the Swirll photo, but a much smaller cup.
So which is better? Swirll has more toppings and is self-serve, but can be expensive. Red Mango is probably healthier.
In the end, frozen yogurt is dessert, so I’m going with Swirll. Self-serve is just too much fun, and when I eat dessert, I want chocolate and cookie dough and Reese’s. Also, just 4 more visits until my stamp card is complete!
It really comes down to the toppings:
Keeping the price down on Swirll’s yogurt has become a game for me and it’s good for portion control. As long as I stay cheap and careful, Swirll’s prices and junky toppings aren’t much of an issue.
Filed under: Posts by Jess, Product Review, Restaurant | 2 Comments
Tags: Frozen yogurt, Red Mango, Swirll
This will be a day long remembered, my friends. I purchased, wait for it . . . the Double Down.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Double Down, it’s a cholesterol-filled monstrosity of a sandwich.
The sandwich contains Monterey Jack cheese, pepperjack cheese, Colonel’s sauce, and two pieces of bacon. Yep, that’s a pretty rich sandwich!
Oh wait. Forgot to mention. There’s no bread. The “buns” are two breaded chicken breasts. You read that correctly.
That’s a man’s sandwich right there.
Verdict: I’ll be honest. I bought this sandwich solely to sate my curiosity. Imagine my surprise when I found that it wasn’t half bad. Very flavorful (well, duh) and the chicken was, as always, excellent. Say what you want but KFC knows how to cook a good chicken.
They claim it only contains 540 calories. I don’t wish to be libelous because I didn’t chemically analyze the caloric potentiality of this sandwich, so let’s just say that I “think” that’s ludicrous. :-)
It was tasty but I can’t imagine I’ll ever buy it again. I have pretty bad cholesterol and this sandwich can’t be good for me, regardless of how many miles I run the following morning.
Filed under: Posts by Jameson, Product Review | 3 Comments
Once upon a time, I taught myself to “cook.” I made rice, then heated up some frozen pre-cooked chicken and frozen vegetables in a skillet with soy sauce. When I felt fancy, I added black beans. It was reasonably healthy, easy, and I could eat it several times a week. I called it a “stir-fry,” although that usually involves actually cooking things instead of just heating up frozen food. It became my staple.
After I left my roommates and had a kitchen to myself, I learned how to cook from recipes, then started playing with flavors, then found joy in actually creating my own meals. Stir-fries, though, have remained a staple. Once the ingredients are chopped and ready, the actual cooking takes only a few minutes. Sometimes (ok, often) I revert back to my frozen vegetable days and it’s even faster.
The best thing about stir-fries is not their speed, but the infinite variation. You can mix and match the grains, proteins, vegetables, and seasonings of every skillet meal and never get bored. Here’s how:
Choose your grain. This might take awhile if you choose brown rice, but you can use quinoa, couscous, or noodles. Start cooking your grain before you start the rest of your meal if it takes awhile. Or, if you’re in a hurry, use Dan’s suggestion of microwaveable rice. You can even wrap your stir-fry in a tortilla if you want.
Choose your protein. Slice meats thinly so they cook well in the high heat. Cut tofu into bite-size pieces. In Asian-style dishes I like to beat in an egg at the end of cooking for a fried-rice style.
Choose your vegetables. Chopping vegetables can be the longest part of the stir-fry process. Fresh vegetables taste better, but I always keep frozen veggies on hand just in case. Guess which pictures on here contain frozen vegetables? I bet you can’t tell.
Choose your seasonings. Yes, you can mix and match the protein, grains, and vegetables all you want, but here’s where the real variety comes in. Here are a few flavors I like:
- Asian, one or a combination of the following: soy sauce, sesame oil, Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, chile garlic sauce, peanut sauce.
- Southwestern, one or a combination of the following: chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, any jarred salsa or picante sauce
- Indian, one or a combination of the following: curry powder, garam masala, turmeric
- Mediterranean, one or a combination of the following: Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, olive oil
Garnish. You can add ingredients after you are done cooking. Top your stir-fry with sesame seeds, avocado, cheese, olives, or salsa, depending on what flavors you chose.
My advice is to prepare all your ingredients before you start throwing things in a skillet. Once the cooking starts, you need to be able to stir often.
Plus, the cooking only takes a few minutes if you sliced your meat thinly enough. Just a few steps.
1. Heat a skillet over high heat and add oil. Use a neutral oil, like vegetable or corn, unless you want to use sesame oil for Asian dishes or olive oil for Mediterranean. You can also use cooking spray.
2. Add your vegetables. Stir immediately, then every 30 seconds until they begin to soften and char. This will take 3-5 minutes. Remove to a plate.
3. Add a touch more oil. Add the protein to the skillet. If you are using garlic or fresh ginger as a seasoning, add this too. Stir often, until protein begins to brown.
4. Add vegetable back to skillet with protein. Throw 1/4 cup water or broth, plus any other seasonings. Cook, stirring often, until liquid is almost gone.
5. Remove from heat and serve over cooked grain. Top with garnishes.
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In case you haven’t checked out my profile, I am a third year law student who is literally days from graduating. That’s not really important but what IS important is the fact that I have gone to private universities for going on seven years. For a kid who grew up with a “public school” mind-set and upbringing, my meals usually consist of my on campus meal plan, Chipotle, and going to different law school functions just to grab a bite. Couple this with the fact that I’ve never had a kitchen in my “adult” years, and it’s safe to say that I’m behind the rest of my friends in the cooking department. No matter! What I lack in “knowledge” or “ability” I make up for in willingness to spend money I don’t have.
Recently, I found myself at one of San Antonio’s more well known Mexican Restaurants (yes, I realize the needle in a hackstack element of that last statement), La Fonda on Main. One of the city’s oldest and most well known restaurants has created a highly enjoyable atmosphere that newer establishments cannot compete with. April evenings in Texas are especially pleasant, and their outdoor patio lends itself to a an aesthetic experience that enhances the food. I don’t have a camera, or else I would post a picture or two. It’s well worth the effort of moving your index finger to look at the restaurant webpage and go on a virtual tour.
Oh, yea! The food. This is a food blog after all, so I guess I should mention that I had the Tacos de Pescados (Fish Tacos). Served with Spanish rice and not refried but green beans, this entree stood out in my mind from the usual Mexican fare I’ve become accustomed to. For starters, the fish was prepared really well, and by that I mean really simply. The corn tortillas were homemade which is always a good start. For me it’s important that the centerpiece of this particular meal, the fish, aren’t masked as is easy to do with food as flavorful as Mexican. La Fonda doesn’t fry their fish, but seasons them lightly with chili powder, garlic and cilantro. Those were the main seasons I tasted, at least. Chopped onions, cabbage and a pineapple-chipotle salsa topped each taco. They were unique, light, and well proportioned in their taste. Exactly what I was looking for.
I give La Fonda credit for stepping outside of the box by serving a green bean side rather than the traditional refried/black/baracho. I couldn’t tell you how they were seasoned, but these are beans even the most anti-veggie person could enjoy. Spanish rice is Spanish rice, so I have nothing really to add about the the second side item.
For those of us living in Texas, and even for those unfortunate enough not to live in the Lone Star State, San Antonio is an easy, affordable vacation spot. Obviously the Riverwalk, The Alamo and Shamu are the big attractions and rightfully so. This is a big city yet there are reminders that it is also a tourist destination. That being said, La Fonda is a local spot and a place I don’t really see many visitors finding out about. Like many people who live in town, that’s just fine with me.
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The other day I was tricked into going to “girl’s night” at the Iron Cactus (they lied and said their husbands/boyfriends were coming) with some co-workers and their friends. As obnoxious (and surprisingly filthy) as the conversation was, the food was excellent!
I ordered this.
Okay just kidding. I ordered Yucatan fish tacos. Close though!
I’m not 100% on this, but I think the fish was called white fish. Is that a high quality fish? Is it an actual fish or is it just a genre like “white meat?” Beats me. What am I, an ichthyologist? I do know that it was delicious. The fish was just a smidge dry and it was topped with mangos which gave it a little kick of flavor.
If my memory serves me correctly the Iron Cactus also has happy hour until 7 PM on weekdays. Their frozen margaritas get a thumbs up from me.
Sorry for the lack of pictures. I don’t carry a camera with me and the restaurant doesn’t have a picture of that particular dish. Use your imagination though — they’re tacos with fish in them instead of beef or chicken. :-P
Filed under: Posts by Jameson, Restaurant | 2 Comments
Tags: review, tex-mex
I love to make my own pizza. It’s much easier than expected, and once the dough is ready it’s fast too. I like my pizza more than the cheap chain pizzas and I know everything in it, except for the mystery pepperoni ingredients, of course.
Optional tools: Baking stone, pizza peel, and pizza cutter. If you don’t have a stone and peel you can just use a pizza pan, but the crust is much better on a stone.
Note: Above picture taken by Geno. He finally contributes. Please excuse the I-worked-in-a-gym-all-day hair. And yes, that is my entire kitchen.
Step 1: Make the Dough
I’ve tried a few crust recipes, and my favorite is a modification of the one in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It’s only got a few ingredients and the dough always has a great texture. I just use white whole wheat flour instead to make it healthier.
Adapted from Mark Bittman
3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup warm water, plus 1-2 tablespoons as needed
Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add olive oil and 1 cup warm water. Mix together until dough is uniformly moist, adding 1-2 more tablespoons of water if it is dry.
Knead the dough a few times and form it into a ball. Place back in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1-2 hours or until double in size. If you live in a hot, humid apartment in Houston, your rising time won’t be long at all. Hooray!
Punch down the dough. At this point you can halve the dough if you want to make a smaller pizza or you can wrap it up and refrigerate or freeze for later use. Otherwise, proceed with recipe.
Step 2: Prepare the Oven
Place baking stone inside oven. Preheat to 450*. If you are using a pizza pan instead of a stone, do not place inside yet.
Step 3: Roll Out Dough
Flour your pizza peel. If you are using a pizza pan, just spray it with cooking spray. Place the ball of dough on the pizza peel and spread out into a circle. I also pick it up and stretch it to make the thinnest pie possible. If the dough resists or starts to tear. Set it down on the peel and let it rest for a bit, then spread it out a little at a time.
Step 4: Add Toppings
This is my second favorite part after eating! Feel free to be creative with toppings. This pizza was a combination of favorites from both Geno and me. He bought a package of Hormel pepperoni and it lasted us four pizzas. Other ingredients:
The order of toppings is important. Since the oven will be very hot, put the items that you want to stay moist on the bottom, like sauce and roasted red bell peppers.
Next, I like to add a thin layer of cheese and then the pepperoni and fresh vegetables.
Next of course is more cheese. I put the shallots on the very top because I want them to get crispy. The cheese is a combination of reduced fat bagged mozzarella and fresh mozzarella.
Step 5: Getting it in the Oven without Disaster
In a perfect world, Step 5 would involve opening the oven door and effortlessly sliding the pie off the peel and onto the stone with a graceful tug of the arm. Ha.
In my world, I have to remove the baking stone from the oven. Be careful, because it’s heavy and burning hot.
Next I carefully slide the pizza off the peel and onto the stone, usually squishing it in the process. I then squish it back into place using a fork.
Carefully place the stone back into the oven. Bake until crust is browned and cheese is melted and awesome. This takes about 15 minutes.
Step 6: Enjoy
I usually cut the pizza into 6 huge slices. Geno and I can eat 2/3 of it, so there are plenty of leftovers for later. They last a long time in the fridge and are always a treat later.
Filed under: Posts by Jess, Recipe | 3 Comments
Tags: pizza, Recipe
School has been exorbitantly busy lately. It’s just that time of the semester. Needless to say I haven’t done a very good job of cooking actual meals and taking pictures of them. Jessica suggested I make this poll instead. Feel free to mercilessly taunt my Philistine palate in the comments section.
Yes, I eat pizza more than once a week. And no, I’m not Jewish. I just think their hot dogs are vastly superior to anything you can get outside of a ballpark.
Filed under: Posts by Jameson | 2 Comments
I must confess that I am a terrible pancake flipper. I can’t flip omelettes either, and in fact just call them “scrambles” instead because that is what they become after I get frustrated. Eggs are easy to fix, but you cannot scramble a pancake (Or can you? Have you tried?).
Because of this disability, I do not make pancakes often. In fact, I love cereal for breakfast so much that I don’t even get a desire to make pancakes. However, I found a coupon for the Quaker Oatmeal Pancake Mix and was torn–I love cereal, but I also hate wasting good coupons. What to do!?
I bought the pancake mix and haven’t used it for breakfast yet, but I’ve made pancakes for both lunch and dinner. I can have the best of both worlds, after all. Also, I needed a quick 9 PM dinner one night and this pancake mix saved me.
The instructions are simple: you just add egg whites and milk to the mix. The mix itself is made from oat flour and whole wheat flour and is lowfat without too much sugar, so it’s definitely a healthy pancake. I ate baby carrots while I was making it to add veggies to the meal (and also so that I would not faint from hunger while waiting for my pancake), so it was even healthier.
Is it weird that I didn’t use maple syrup? I covered mine in almond butter and a chopped apple sprinkled with cinnamon and a drizzle of honey.
I scaled down the recipe to make one big pancake, and that was easy too. This was so good, even though I underbaked it a little. Definitely better than the one I burned before it. At least it wasn’t scrambled.
Filed under: Posts by Jess, Product Review | Leave a Comment
Tags: Pancake, Product Review, Quaker Oatmeal