Tag Archives: review

An (almost) Photoless Chain Restaurant Review

One of the things I envisioned on this blog was reviewing restaurant dishes for their flavor and healthfulness, and I had an excellent opportunity to do that last night. Unfortunately, I completely forgot I wanted to do that here while eating my meal last night and only thought of it after the fact this morning. So because of that, I have no photos. A secret goal of this blog is to include some sort of media in each post- photo, video, audio, whatever. I still plan on making that happen here, somehow. So I’m using internet photos- none of the photos in this entry are mine, and if they belong to you and you’re super pissed I used your photos of the food at Cheddar’s, sorry. I’ll take them down upon request.

Backstory:

While listening to The Happiness Project, I got an idea (stole an idea from Gretchen Rubin) to take my parents out to dinner for their 30th wedding anniversary. She had organized a big fancy party for her mother in law, and considering my time restraints (their anniversary, Sunday, is the day they leave for a week long vacation), I couldn’t quite do that. So I told them to pick a restaurant in town and I’d buy them dinner. They landed on Cheddar’s.

I had eaten at Cheddar’s before, and I usually like it quite a bit. I’ve never tried to eat healthy there, though, which can dramatically altar one’s experience with a restaurant. I had oscillated between ordering the Monte Cristo sandwich:

A deep fried sandwich seved with a side of jam. Delicious and deadly- much like me.

and the buffalo chicken tenders:

Deep fried buttery spiciness. Also just like me.

I knew I couldn’t have those two items- I’m trying to be good.

So, what are Cheddar’s options for those of us who would like to survive the meal? Well, some, but not a lot. They offer several fish and chicken options, but you have to make sure you order them not fried or doused in buttery sauce. The sides offered are also dangerous- I made the mistake of ordering the corn picture in the above photo. It came absolutely drowning in butter! So, of course, I ate each and every one of them. They were freaking delicious. I figured I was being good otherwise.

Here’s the complete menu available online!

I ended up getting the grilled salmon with broccoli and the aforementioned delicious corn. It was fairly inexpensive as far as salmon goes, and that’s a real advantage to Cheddar’s. They are really reasonably priced with large portions! As a fat dude, I still really like eating, I’m just trying to eat better things! The broccoli was steamed, I believe, and it was great. I happen to love broccoli, so I don’t take much convincing, but it was bright green and still crunchy without being undercooked. Perfect.

The salmon itself had some butter on it, I could tell, but nothing excessive. And it was grilled nicely, but… I don’t know… it was a little flat. I don’t know what could have been done to it that wouldn’t have added calories, and maybe this is the life I will lead now as someone who eats well, but, I was a tad disappointed.

And my parents got this incredible delicious fried food. And I didn’t eat any because I’m doing so damn good. If you’re interested in seeing what the salmon looked like, it’s pictured on their “our nutrition information is coming soon” page.

So, overall, I’d pretty highly recommend Cheddar’s. Order smart and pay attention to what kind of protein you’re ordering and how it’s prepared. The best thing is its price- excellent for a “chain” restaurant. And, actually, the best part was hanging out with my parents for their anniversary. They’re the best. 🙂

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I Love Alliteration and Recipes That Use Them

I tried to figure out a clever way to make my title an alliteration, but I couldn’t pull it off. Sorry, lovers of figurative language.

I am a fan of summer vegetables, and squash and zucchini are certainly among my favorites. When I think of squash, though, I have to stop myself from thinking of those horrifying autumn gourds that look like they’re diseased and will give you and disease if you touch them or think about them too long. I had some leftover farmer’s market swag from last week and had enough to make Poor Girl Eats Well’s Simple Summer Squash Pasta.

A few things before we get started:

1) As an English teacher I am required to appreciate any recipe that uses alliteration.

2) Poor Girl Eat Well is definitely my favorite recipe blog of the moment. I am one year out of a bankruptcy, and while I’m financially comfortable for the first time in… ever, really, thanks to the bankruptcy, I’m still cautious about money. And, as a teacher, I don’t have much of it anyway. So I really appreciate that there is a recipe blog that doesn’t use really expensive ingredients all the time.

3) I love carbohydrates.

Damn! These vegetables are so... fresh! Snap!

So I’m off to a good start with this recipe. The ingredient list is very short, thankfully, and that’s most of the reason it’s so inexpensive to make. The original recipe calls for grape or cherry tomatoes, but I had these huge beautiful tomatoes to use instead, so I just chopped the tomatoes up into smaller pieces.

I also use pre-chopped garlic. Listen, I know this blog is not scoring points for being gourmet, and I don’t intend for it to be. I’m an amateur cook who is also a bachelor living in a studio apartment with a thimble sized kitchen. I cut corners sometimes. And I still get the flavor of garlic but, admittedly, not as much as fresh garlic would have provided. I recommend, if possible, you use actual garlic.

The recipe also doesn’t specifically call for wheat pasta (actually it calls for cavatappi if possible), but I couldn’t find it in wheat. I’m a big proponent of using wheat substitutes if possible, but a lot of that is due to my own health. Several years ago I had a super gross health problem I won’t go into that had my doctor recommending more fiber in my diet. And wheat provides “good” carbs I guess, so using wheat when possible is something I like to do. Feel free to use good ol’ regular pasta. As far as this recipe goes, I actually think some angel hair would be really delicious as well!

I started by boiling the water and getting things ready to go.

My pasta pot setup.

As the water boiled I chopped my vegetables. I decided to just chop the tomatoes up into big chunks, leaving in a lot of the seeds and whatever that slimy thick stuff that’s in tomatoes is. I did that knowing this pasta dish didn’t have a traditional sauce on it, and I hoped the liquid would help. Here’s my veggie action:

Choppin' broccoli... wait, no...

The pasta was cooking while I did this. As previously mentioned, I used wheat pasta. When one thinks of wheat products, perhaps they are turned off by gross wheat things that were in the past. Cardboard textured breads or overwhelmingly blah tasting pasta, or whatever. Anyway, my first official product review on New (f)Attitude is Ronzoni’s Healthy Harvest pasta:

A healthy harvest without a Shirley Jackson inspired murder lottery!

I suppose, looking at this photo now, it’s “whole grain” rather than wheat, but whatever. You know what I mean.

The Healthy Harvest pasta is relatively inexpensive, although more expensive than the old-fashioned stuff. The health benefits are worth it though. The taste of the pasta was slightly nutty and the texture was hearty and not grainy like wheat products sometimes are. I really liked it in this recipe and would use it again. Reccommended!

While the pasta cooked I sauteed the veggies, starting with the squash and zucchini. My skillet is too small, so I actually didn’t add the tomatoes until the very end in the pasta pot where I combined all of the ingredients. I drizzled in maybe 2 teaspoons of olive oil and the pasta came together beautifully. The tomato guts I left in there really helped bind the whole meal together. The original recipe calls for basil, which I didn’t have, but would have certainly been a delicious addition. The biggest note I can highlight from the original recipe is to really season this well with salt and pepper. The salt brings out the liquid in the veggies and continues to help bind the meal together. Here it is!

Looks good, tastes good!

So, the official review:

Taste: As mentioned, I just love squash and zucchini, so I liked those things in here very much. I would actually cook them for a smidge longer than the recipe calls for (and I did) because I love when they get nice and brown! The richness of the pasta was not overpowering in the least. The salt and pepper was necessary- otherwise it would have been a pretty blah dish. Grade: A-.

Ease of cooking: Incredibly simple. Just chopping and sauteeing the veggies and cooking the pasta. Nothing complicated or crazy. Grade: A.

Amount of clean-up: Not too much, but a little more than such a simple dish should supply. The knife, cutting board, skillet, and pasta pot were really it, but the tomato is sloppy. Listen, this sounds super lazy, I know. This is still a really easy recipe to deal with. Grade: A-.

Value: The PGEW page says this recipe is $1.15/serving, and it makes 4-6 servings. If you were using this as a side dish, that would be true, but because I used it as my meal, I’ll probably get three servings out of it, making that cost go up a little. It’s still ridiculously cheap. And healthy! Grade: A.

Overall grade: A. This recipe is easy, healthy, and delicious. It’s also super versatile and could have any number of vegetables added into, or even some protein to make it more of a full meal. This is definitely one I’ll make again!

 

Are there any recipes you’ve been thinking of trying but would like this fat dude in the midwest to try first? Leave me a link in the comments! Thanks for reading!


Crashing Into Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Last week I literally had a fourplex cabinet fall on me. Would one call that a fourplex? Well, whatever, four cabinets fell on me while I was cooking in my kitchen. I was making what I thought was going to be a delicious meal- garbanzo and mushroom burgers– and, instead, I was nearly crushed to death by my own dishes and food. I was standing at my sink, heard a creak, and looked up to see cabinets falling at me. This was the result

The mess of all messes.

All of my dishes broken, I’m still waiting for my apartment building to reimburse my damages for something that was completely their fault and not mine. I know it’s only been a few days, but I don’t understand the delay. It took my mother, sister, and me an hour to clean it all up, and I imagine it would have taken me triple that to do on my own.

I mention this because I was making something of a burger, but a healthy one. For dinner tonight, I thought I wanted something burger-y again, and I did still have the wheat buns. I landed on making turkey burgers because they were still healthy but fulfilled my need for something meaty. Insert joke here.

I looked online for turkey burger recipes, and the reviews for all of them I found said the same thing: they’re dry. So I tried to find a recipe where the burger wouldn’t be dry, and I landed on Ellie Krieger’s Stuffed Turkey Burgers.

When it comes to cooking for me, I have a few things I look for and will review the recipe upon:

1. Taste. Obviously, that matters, right?

2. Ease of cooking. I’m an amateur (on a good day) cook, so it needs to be simple.

3. Amount of clean-up. I don’t like a lot of it.

4. Value. I’m poor and don’t like spending money.

So I’ll go through my experience with it, and give you my rating, recommendation, whatever.

The recipe is really simple in terms of ingredients. Just ground turkey, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, and salt and pepper. I’ve photographed them for you here. For your viewing pleasure!

Om nom nom!

I had to purchase all of the ingredients except the buns which, as mentioned, survived the Stock (of all of my dishes and food) Crash of 2011. It destroyed my spices too, so I even had to buy the salt and pepper. I could have easily roasted my own red peppers, but it’s approximately 12 billion degrees in the midwest today, so I wanted to avoid doing anything other than cooking the burgers.

The recipe itself calls for skim milk mozzarella which, for whatever reason, I couldn’t find. I also probably didn’t look for it very hard. I did see fat free mozzarella which, in retrospect, I’m super glad I didn’t buy. I have what many would call an unhealthy relationship with cheese, mostly in that I eat more of it than any man should. While preparing the burgers I had to stop myself from doing that fat kid thing (or, really, that every person thing) where you grab as much cheese as you can between your thumb and pointer finger and eat it. And then you do that like seven more times. Because I’m trying not to be so gigantic, I physically restrained myself from doing it this time. SUCCESS.

When I started to actually put the burgers together it was really very simple. I got out a cutting board to chop the peppers, and I guestimated the measurements for them and the cheese. It worked out. Turns out I’m awesome at using math to estimate measurements. Okay, fine, it had nothing to do with math.

So you make four patties, make two out of each of those for a total of eight, then add in the peppers and cheese and re-smush them. I got all into that, forgot to take a picture of it, and just decided to take one apart and show you that:

Sorta looks like blood and guts.

And considering the aforementioned 24 trillion degrees it was in Missouri today, I was not about to travel to the roof of my building and use their grill. Also, I’ve never operated a grill of any sort. I’m 27 and I’ve never actually grilled out. My friends usually handle it. I’ll have to add that to the plan for this blog. Anyway, I used my friend George, the friend of every bachelor:

By George!

The Foreman cooked the burgers quickly and it did indeed make some nice grill marks on them. I’m stupid and forgot to salt and pepper the first two, but I saved the last two. I added some red leaf lettuce I had in the fridge as well as some tomato slices. For a side dish, my grandmother brought me some fresh corn and I used the GFG on that one too. I put melted butter with lime and cilantro on the corn (not too much- maybe three teaspoons?) thanks to inspiration from this recipe.

Burger and corn!

Pretty, right? It’s sort of this all-American meal thing, much the way our founding fathers intended it. But healthier.

The first thing I noticed is that the buns were quite a bit larger than the burger itself. I don’t think I could have made the burgers any larger, so that was a negative, but something easily solvable. Actually, to the end of the buns, I wouldn’t use the wheat buns on this again. The wheat flavor really overpowered the other flavors. Turkey doesn’t have much taste really to begin with, so I was looking for the flavors of the mozzarella and roasted peppers. I think with a more strongly flavored burger they would work really well. They were tender, which sometimes wheat items can be super tough.

The burger itself was good but not great. Forgetting the seasoning really didn’t help, but even when I had a second burger (obviously they were good enough for seconds) that was seasoned it was a bit underwhelming. The meat could have used some additional seasoning or herbs- maybe some oregano or parsley. Maybe even something spicy like cayenne. As I ate the burger and found the stuffing, I could taste the peppers through all the accoutrements, but the cheese may as well have not been there. Maybe putting a slice of mozzarella on top of the burger and melting it would have been more noticeable.

The corn was delicious, though. The original recipe calls for handling everything differently, but drizzling the melted butter over the cob itself was, I’m sure, just as delicious. I also just completely skipped the cheese that recipe calls for- didn’t miss it at all, really.

To top the whole dinner off, I bought a six pack of Hornsby’s Hard Apple Cider. I have tried other hard ciders before and usually like them, but this one was particularly delicious because it wasn’t cloyingly sweet or sour. It struck a great balance between sweet and bitter- I’ll definitely be trying it again. It cost $9.27, which is not bad for a six pack of adult boozage.

So as for my little rating system for the meal, I’ll use grades because I’m a teacher and I’m hilarious and clever:

Taste: Taking just the burger into consideration rather than the overwhelming bun, I think it was a nice attempt at flavoring what could be a bland burger. The peppers were great and kept the meat moist in the middle (innuendo unintended). The cheese, as mentioned, was not really noticeable inside the burger. I’ll give this burger a B-.

Ease of cooking: Really easy. I’ve never made a “stuffed” burger before, and I would definitely do it again. It gets an A here.

Amount of clean-up: Not a whole bunch- I wish I would have saved myself a plate to clean by just mixing the burgers in the package it came in rather than in another bowl then transferring those burgers to another plate. My fault. I’ll give it an A-.

Value: I won’t count the cost of the salt and pepper because most people already have them. The jar of peppers was about $3.50- but buying your own red pepper to roast would be much cheaper. The turkey was about $5.50 and the mozzarella was about $2.50 for a total of $12.00, and I’ll get two meals out of it.A $6.00 isn’t all that bad, but it could have been a lot cheaper if I’d done some of the work myself. I’ll give it a B. Edit- I’ll get three meals! I had a burger for lunch the next day with some home made cole slaw on the side. Pretty good as leftovers, but I would not make the cole slaw again. Perhaps a recipe review of that one coming later.

Overall, I’ll make this again using a “regular” bun. I’ll also melt the cheese on top and mix the peppers into the patty rather than stuff them. Final grade: B+. Solid effort, Ellie Krieger.