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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sorry, but It's Another Meatloaf Recipe

I know I did meatloaf pretty recently, but I was inspired to do it again.  There is a story behind this one.  Sometimes you do it out of love.

This weekend Kevin and I were having dinner at our new favorite local spot 360.  He was really looking forward to the Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf.  It's good stuff.  It's nice and spicy and saucy and doesn't contain any blue cheese.  Imagine our surprise when we looked at our menus and saw it was no longer there.  They still had their beef meat loaf, but the chicken one was gone.

Later on in the meal the chef came by our table to ask how things were.  We told him we enjoyed our meal as always, but we wanted to know what had happened to the Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf.

He apologized for it going missing, but there just wasn't enough consistent demand for it.  He uses ground beef in multiple dishes, but ground chicken only gets used in meatloaf.  Then he said if we really wanted the chicken meat loaf that if we called ahead of time and let him know that's what we wanted, he would grind the chicken thighs and have it ready for us.  Now that's what I call service!

Knowing my poor husband really missed his chicken meatloaf, I decided to do my own version for dinner this week.  I lightened it up by mixing in lots of vegetables.  I used the traditional celery, but I also added shredded carrots.  I used almond meal instead of breadcrumbs to keep it gluten free.  I also used just ground chicken breasts.

When I went to start cooking I realized that I had no Frank's.  How could I be out of hot sauce?  I had sriracha, but I didn't want to use it since it would only tempt me to make the meatloaf more Asian than Buffalo.

I came up with a perfect solution.  I made my own hot sauce.  I had some dried guajillo and arbol chiles, so I soaked them in boiling water, whirled them in a blender, and added some salt and vinegar.  Problem solved.

Mine was not as good as 360's.  It wasn't as saucy or as spicy (in other words mine needed more sauce).  It was also kind of dry.  Well, I did use breast meat instead of thigh meat, which is what they use at 360 plus it has lots of vegetables in it.


I had plenty of time to set up the light box, but I didn't.  I wish I ate dinner early enough so that I would just have natural light to photograph my dishes with.  This is great with green beans and sweet potatoes.

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 ribs of celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 packages ground chicken breast
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce, plus more for spreading on top
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a loaf pan.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add onions.  Cook until soft. Add carrots and celery and cook until they are mostly soft.  Adjust for seasoning. Allow to cool a few minutes.

Mix vegetables with chicken, eggs, almond meal, and hot sauce.  Pack into pan.  Cover the top with additional hot sauce.

Bake for about 60-75 minutes.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

So What Have I Been Eating?

I mentioned in my last blog that since I've been on the Lean Eating program I am more concerned with cooking according to my nutrition guidelines than I am about creative recipes.  The silly part of that line of thinking is that creative and healthful cooking are somehow mutually exclusive.  My Lean Eating habits include eating lean protein at every meal, eating five servings of vegetables a day, and eating "smart" carbohydrates?  Why am I being so silly in thinking that I can't make creative recipes along those guidelines and share them on TERP?

Today's post is about lots of food, but only one recipe. I'll share a little bit about what I'm cooking and eating these days with a few photos.  Some of the things I have been cooking are simply slimmed down versions of foods I have cooked before. 

"Supershakes" - That's why the coaches call the smoothies we make for snacks or breakfast.  Mine always consist of two or three fruits, a vegetable, coconut milk, and plain whey protein powder.  I might also add some flaxseed meal, vanilla, or a spoonful of nut butter.

This shake had mixed cantaloupe and honeydew chunks along with a half a cucumber.  I blended that with coconut milk, a handful of fresh mint, and a scoop of protein powder.

I also do shakes where I mix frozen berries and occasionally peaches with spinach or kale and mix that with protein powder and either cashew butter or flax seed meal.

Lentil Soup - I made a great lentil soup this week.  I started by caramelizing two onions and then mixed them with cumin, garlic, and ground coriander.  Then I browned some chunks of spicy chicken sausage in the mix.  Finally I added a bag of lentils and four cups of water along with a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes.  At the very end of the simmering I threw in a block of chopped frozen mustard greens (I wanted more veggies in the soup and I just happened to have the greens in the freezer).  It was the best lentil soup I ever made.

Turkey Chili - I used my Almost Perfect Chili recipe, but I modified it a bit.  I used just one pound of turkey meat and no sausage.  Then I threw in an extra can of pinto beans instead.  It's still a little farther from perfect than the original since I like a meaty chili, but I keep the same tasty flavor profile in there, so it's not so bad.

Cauliflower and Leek Puree - I roasted a chicken on top of a bunch of leeks.  I cooked cauliflower florets in boiling water until they were tender.  I whirled them in the food processor with the cooking liquid and the leeks until smooth.  It was a great substitute for mashed potatoes to have with the chicken.

Garlic Roasted Carrots - I prefer my carrots raw, but I decided to experiment with giving them a long, slow roast.  I like to roast heads of garlic now whenever I have the chance so I always have some garlic puree to smear on various roasted dishes.  I smeared it on carrot sticks and roasted them at 400 degrees until they were nice and caramelized.  It's a nice variation on raw carrots and hummus.

Frittata - I bake them in muffin tins so I have a nice portion size at the ready that I can just warm up and eat for breakfast on the go. These have bell peppers, ramps, and a little goat cheese.  My teammates call them "egg muffins".


Pasta - I made my homemade turkey bolognese and served it over zucchini "noodles".  I simply shave the zucchini with a vegetable peeler.

New Recipe 

This is another slimmed down version of something I made in the past.  Years ago I roasted a chicken with orange and sage and it involved lots of butter.  Now I use chicken cutlets and cook them with a pan sauce of orange, sage, and a little wine.  I served them with those garlic roasted carrots and spinach sauteed in a bit of coconut oil and tossed with some sesame seeds.

Orange Sage Chicken Cutlets

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds thin chicken cutlets
  • 2 shallots, minces
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 orange sliced
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
Heat olive oil in a large pan.  Add shallots and cook until fragrant.  Brown chicken cutlets well on each side, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove from pan.

Add juice, sage, and wine to the pan, scraping up any bits from the bottom.  Return the chicken to the pan with the orange slices and cook another 5-10 minutes. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Kid in Town - Club Car

I'm sorry I haven't posted much.  I even missed my 6th Blogiversary (Blogaversary?  How do you spell it?), which was the day after my last post!  I have been simplifying my cooking lately due to my new fitness program.  I suppose it should inspire me to be creative and still eat within my plan's parameters, but I don't always make the effort. 

Anyway, I will present today's blog - a restaurant review.

Over the past decade the Metro North train line has been closing all of its train stations and replacing them with automated ticket machines.  While this may be seen as a great cost-cutting and efficiency measure, it does present a problem.  The old train stations are large, lovely buildings and many are historical landmarks.

The solution has been to convert them for other uses.  Their convenience to the train (and thus to NYC) makes them an ideal location for restaurants, stores, food concessions, and offices.

Here in town the station house sat empty for a while until Chef/Owner Brian McMenamin restored the building and converted it into a restaurant.  Last year we welcomed the new restaurant Club Car into town. 

McMenamin has owned other restaurants in the area.  He once owned a popular restaurant, catering facility, and cooking school years ago called McMenamin's Grill.  Once upon a time McMenamin's was one of my favorite restaurants.  Then it went downhill.  The menu didn't change, but the food seemed sloppily prepared.  The service, once friendly and efficient, became indifferent and slow.  In the old days McMenamin himself would stroll through the dining room chatting with customers.  I never saw him in those days when the restaurant was gasping its last breaths. From what I understand, there were mismanagement issues and legal troubles.  I don't know the whole story.  I suppose it doesn't matter anymore anyway since the place is long gone.

I wasn't sure what to think of Club Car when it first opened.  Did I want to try it or didn't I?  Would it recall McMenamin's glory days, or would it be more of the same? Would the owner give it the same attention now that he has other places to worry about? 

I finally had my chance to try it this weekend.  It's a bit pricey, so it's more of an occasion restaurant than a place for a casual weekend dinner.  We did have a special occasion this weekend since my brother-in-law was visting from Chicago.

Outside the architectural integrity of the building has been well-preserved.  It's a great old building.

 Inside, the old wood wood floors and ceiling beams have also been preserved, but everything has been fancied up with chandeliers and artwork.  They really managed to preserve the lovely historic quality of the interior and still make the place look like a restaurant instead of like a train station.

Online review sites have been criticizing the reservation and seating policies, so I worried if we would be seated quickly, but there were no problems at all.  We were seated quickly at a nice table.  We  had someone at our table to take drink orders in good time.  Service was very friendly and helpful.

The wine list wasn't huge, but it had a nice selection.  I hate really big, multi-page wine lists anyway.  They're too intimidating.  We really enjoyed the pinot noir we drank.  They ran out of that wine before we could have a second bottle.  Our server recommended a nice Barolo to replace it.


My meal started simply with a mixed green salad.  Greens were fresh and varied and nicely dressed.  It's kind of hard to really screw something like this up.

The women's side of the table ordered lamb shank with vegetables and polenta.  The men's side of the table had sole meuniere.  My lamb shank was huge.  I ordered it because it was one of my favorite dishes at McMenamin's.  In the new restaurant it's still good.

Kevin and I split a chocolate cake for dessert.  Somehow we ended up with a banana pudding brulee` on the table even though no one ordered it.  I found I liked that dessert the best. 

We started the meal late, and as it drew to a close, we experienced Club Car's main drawback.  Club Car isn't just a restaurant.  It is following the rather unfortunate neighborhood trend of also trying to be a nightclub.  After a certain hour the bouncers come out and the music grows louder.  If you have a late reservation and you want a quiet dinner, you're out of luck.  They had a band the night we were there and while they were on the other side of the dining room, they definitely made our dinner a little shouty.

I suppose this is where I take out my soapbox and rant about how more restaurants are trying to do the nightclub thing in this town.  The awful Molly Spillane's has set an unfortunate precedent.  Now more new restaurants are trying to get in on the action.  I don't think our little suburban bedroom community has any need for nightclubs.  Local residents want to sleep at night and they can't because of these places.  These restaurants are fighting to extend their cabaret licenses to allow music pretty much 24 hours a day.  The neighbors of Club Car are complaining about the noise now just as those of us next to Molly Spillane's have been complaining for the past five years. 

My brother-in-law had no such complaints that night.  He wanted to stay and hear the band.  Our server was kind enough to get a table for us on the bar side.  Kevin and I begged off as we needed to wake up early to be with the horses the next day.  We headed home while the rest of the family enjoyed their evening.

I will definitely keep Club Car on my roster of occasion restaurants.  I will just make sure I make early reservations if I go on a weekend.