My Own Food Network Challenge

This should be interesting…

Carrabba’s Famous Chicken Bryan April 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiebelle9 @ 3:50 am

I worked at Carrabba’s Italian Grill for almost two years, and while I cannot say working for tips in a corporate restaurant was  the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had, I can say I learned a lot about Italian cuisine. The menu ranged from spaghetti and eggplant parmasean, to veal marsala, mussels and multiple chicken dishes. The food was phenomenal and the smell of the restaurant was absolutely amazing! If you can ignore the elevator music and the cheezy French lesson blaring from the speakers in the bathroom, the dining experience is incredibly enjoyable. I can still hear that ridiculous recording now. ” You’re riding the bus from Florence to Italy, admiring the hills of Tuscany…” It concluded with, “You still look like a teenager.” Honestly, how often does the phrase, “You still look like a teenager” leave your mouth? Is it really necessary to know how to say it in French? That still makes me laugh.

Oh well. It didn’t change how great the food was. The fresh herbs they served with warm Italian bread and olive oil at the start of every meal was one of the main reasons customers returned time and time again. People loved explaining this to me as I greeted their table. I loved wasting my time pretending I cared. Being required to tell every table about the nine fresh herbs, chopped daily by cooks who hated every minute of it, became incredibly redundant. I did however, pick up quite a few recipes during my time there.

Chicken Bryan was my favorite by a long shot. I managed to create my own version at home this week. The chicken is topped with Caprino (goat) cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and a lemon butter sauce. It literally melts in your mouth! While I didn’t chop up nine different fresh herbs for dipping sauce, I did make a roasted garlic and boursin cheese appetizer. My first step was to roast the garlic. The preparation is easy, but the cooking time is over an hour. I drizzled olive oil over two whole garlic heads, sprinkled S&P on top, wrapped them in tin foil, and threw them in the oven for about 70 minutes at 400 degrees. The smell of garlic filled my apartment and lingered there for the next two days. I can’t even imagine all that garlic that will be seeping out of my pours this week. Vampires beware.

I used store bought focaccia bread, which is a great alternative to garlic bread. It’s packed with lots of herbs and lots of flavor. The Boursin cheese is similar to cream cheese, but it’s mixed with herbs, garlic and butter.  After spreading the cheese over the bread, I repeated the process with the garlic. Once garlic has been roasted, it softens so it is easy to add to sauces or use as a spread.

For the main course, I grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts on the Foreman. During the last minute or so of cooking, I placed 1-inch thick slices of Caprino cheese on top of each one to melt. Caprino is a creamy, soft Italian cheese that is sold in cylinder-shaped packages, so just one stroke of your knife cuts perfectly shaped circles for topping chicken, crackers or pasta. In a skillet, I combined sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, minced garlic, onion powder, lemon juice, S&P and butter. The recipe said to use dry white wine as well, however I only drink red wine, and my rule of thumb has always been: If I don’t drink it, I don’t cook with it. What would be the fun in buying wine I wasn’t going to drink? Besides, Oberon is back on the shelves, so that was what was coming home with me that night. Once the the sauce was sauteed and began thickening slightly, I removed it from the heat, drizzled it over the chicken and served it immediately. Although not identical to the Carrabba’s recipe, it was mighty tasty.

I have definitely improved my culinary skills over the last couple months, but I still have a long way to go. I have stopped watching the Food Network as often because their nightly program line up has lost my interest for the most part. I enjoy learning new ways to cook and am still fascinated by the skills and creativity of the chefs who host the daytime shows. However, I can only take so many hours of food network challenges and cake decorating before I am bored out of my mind. So when I do have a free moment during the day, I still channel surf looking for Bobby or Giada, but when I can’t find them, it’s back to CNN for me.

My new approach is going to be trial and error. If it doesn’t come out exactly as I planned, so what? I will learn what not to do next time, and maybe, just maybe, create something amazing in the process. After all, this was how I discovered the secret to great spaghetti sauce is sugar, pumpkin pie is not the same without ginger, and adding cereal to a fruit and yogurt parfait is fantastic!

This is not the end of my great culinary challenge. This is only the beginning.

 

Mission Accomplished March 31, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiebelle9 @ 12:09 am

I did it! I finally made it to the grocery store. Whoop whoop! I didn’t make an extensive trip like I normally would, but I did manage to fill the fridge. I steered clear of Meijer due to its massive size, and opted for Kroger instead. I did this because I am the type of shopper who goes down every single isle in the store instead of making life easier by creating a list beforehand. That would be the smart way to go about it. As it turns out, I like to make things difficult. I literally have wasted countless minutes over the years comparing the difference between “low fat”, “lite” and “fat free” among different kinds of yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream and chip dip. I know, OCD central.

This time, I managed to be in and out of Kroger in 30 minutes. That’s record timing for me. I also spent only $52! Usually I drop at least $100. I looked for good sales, shopped with a full belly and bought generic brands when I could. What a difference the off-brand makes in price. A carton of Superman ice cream cost $5.99, while the generic “Scooperman” ice cream was only half the price. I compared the ingredients and realized they were exactly the same. Aside from the great price there was also a superhero holding an ice cream scoop on the carton. How could I pass that up?

With a full fridge and a night off, I decided Sunday was going to be the evening I made something wonderful. I racked my brain to come up with something tasty. I looked in my cookbooks and searched through foodnetwork.com, but ultimately decided to go with something I’ve made before. It wasn’t going to be inventive, but it would be great. The menu: Asian lettuce wraps with spicy peanut pasta. Just for fun, I also bought a package of fortune cookies!

I fell in love with lettuce wraps during my first visit to P.F. Changs. I looked up the recipe Online and discovered it called for 17 ingredients, many of which I didn’t have. It took me eight weeks to go to the grocery store before this last time; I was not about to go back. So I decided to try to make them my own way. I made the marinade with olive oil, garlic, brown sugar, minced ginger, peanut satay sauce, S&P, soy sauce and onion powder. I marinated three diced up boneless skinless chicken breasts in the marinade for about an hour. I cooked the chicken on medium heat in a large skillet for roughly five minutes. To make the spicy peanut pasta, I opened the box, added water and tossed it into the microwave. I know, tough stuff. I decorated the table with fortune cookies, and immediately felt lame for doing so. I grabbed my new daisy platter (that I bought last week from the second hand store down the street for $1!), and layered it with Iceberg lettuce cups. You can use any kind of lettuce as long as it’s big enough to hold your filling, but I have found that a crisp head variety works best. Lettuce wraps are also a great way to cut back on cars. Instead of using bread for sandwiches, fill lettuce with cheese, deli meat, veggies or tuna fish.

After the lettuce platter was complete, I got out another platter and placed the chicken, pasta, and shredded carrots on it. After I brought it to the table, I grabbed the peanut satay soy sauce for dipping, and sat down to try to amazing smelling creation.

So good! I mean it. I was impressed. The peanut sauce made it spicy, the brown sugar made it sweet, and the vegetables tamed it all for the perfect combination of flavors. Adam took his first bite and said, “Holy s**t Katie, this is great!”, then didn’t speak another word until he was done inhaling five more. I too ate until I couldn’t move.

Finally, this amateur chef is back in the game. My final blog assignment is next week. I am going to make chicken breasts with caprino cheese, basil, sundried tomatoes and lemon cream sauce with Parmesan asparagus. So what if I stole the recipe from Carrabbas? I cannot wait. In the meantime, I’m just happy to be sitting down with a bowl of vanilla yogurt and strawberries, instead of my usual greasy take out food.

 

Lonely Refridgerator March 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiebelle9 @ 1:51 am

This was definitely not a big week for cooking. And by not big, I mean non-existent. I ate out six out of the last seven nights. Not one home-cooked meal entered my body until yesterday, and that was only because a friend of mine whipped up a magnificent breakfast in the morning, and later that night my parents made burgers and pasta salad for a fun little indoor picnic. Thank God. I don’t know how many more Jimmy Johns subs, slices of pizza, or deep fried anything I could handle.

The biggest reason I haven’t been cooking is because I still have not been to the grocery store. Between the pain in my knee and the dread of spending two hours in a noisy, crowded Meijer, I have managed to successfully put it off for eight weeks. I actually went to L&L a few days ago, and still came home without groceries. The trip was so I could return cans and bottles. There were so many in my apartment that they took up two full cabinets under the kitchen sink, three shelves in the front hall closet, and a small table in the dining room. Quite frankly, the place was starting to smell like stale beer. After loading eight bags of sticky, smelly bottles in my cart, I made my way to the bottle return area, and began placing one after another in the machine. Half way though, an older woman walked up behind me, patiently waiting for me to finish so she could return her bottles.  After sending the 113th beer bottle through the machine, I could feel my face turning red. She laughed as I turned around and assured her that I was in fact not an alcoholic, but that it had been four months of bottle build up.

Back to the groceries. Of course I could send Adam to the store, but I’ve seen how he shops and trust me, you would not want to eat the items he purchases. I like to buy fresh produce, deli meat, and different types of cheese and crackers. When he shops, his list consists of white bread (which I hate), sour cream, canned refried beans, bacon, sausage, eggs, and whole milk. No thank you. I don’t know if he even knows where to find fruits and veggies in a grocery store.

Needless to say, my fridge is looking grim. I kid you not, aside from condiments, it consists of tortillas, an old to-go box that I’m scared to open, bacon grease (I have no clue why Adam saves it), two kinds of cheese that I’m sure has expired, spaghetti sauce I made a week and a half ago, eggs, milk, and six 2-liters of 7-Up. That’s right, six! I’ll admit it. I have a weakness for 7 and 7s.

Although I didn’t cook this week, I did get an awesome two layer rotating spice rack for my birthday, along with egg-shaped salt and pepper shakers, a cook book, a strawberry shaped spoon rest, and a hand crafted and painted tea pot from my mother. This week will be different. I promise. I will suck up my lazy tendencies and make the trip to the grocery store so I can put my new tools to use.

 

Pinwheel Cookies March 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiebelle9 @ 6:20 am

I have yet to purchase the items needed for my Go Veg pledge. That’s right world, this young lady is still a meat eater.

I did however, receive PETA’s vegetarian starter pamphlet in the mail yesterday. The first couple of pages were filled with information warning people about the dangers of consuming milk and eggs, linking each of them to various diseases and disorders. The remaining pages included numerous photographs, stories, and illustrations depicting the shocking mistreatment of farm animals in our country. From the tens of thousands of pigs whose teeth had been pulled out without the aide of painkillers, to the  even greater number of chickens with broken wings  and sawed off beaks, a direct result of the abuse and horrific living conditions they’re forced to endure, I was left appalled, to say the least. I slammed the pamphlet shut, and added this to my extensive list of reasons why I believe PETA’s outlandish marketing tactics prove to be more and more extreme with each passing moment.

This week, I didn’t give up meat, I didn’t shop for vegetarian products, and I barely cooked a thing. The bulk of my time and energy was focused solely on schoolwork. Two 6 page papers, 2 stories, 1 blog,  1 journal, and a project worth 20% of my JRN 302 grade, consumed the majority of my week. Long story short, my kitchen was extremely lonely. Aside from my routine trip to the fridge to refill my glass  of sweet green tea, I entered the kitchen only four times this week. On the plus side, every trip involved making a different “meatless” food.

Slowly but surely I am getting there.

First up on the agenda was blueberry cheesecake muffins. I opened the package, added milk, and threw the pan in the oven. Tough stuff. Oddly enough, the blueberries sank to the the bottom of the muffin pan, causing only a minute portion of each one to be pleasing to the pallette. Next in line, chicken and herb flavored fettuccine. Same process. My final tasks included guacamole, and pumpkin pinwheel cookies, neither of which were from a box. I promise.

Guacomole is delicious and incredibly easy to make. You cut, peal, and remove the pits from two ripe aveither ocados. Operative word: ripe. Hard avocados do not do not make for easy mashing. Once you mash the avocados with a fork or in a  food processor, dice up half of a Roma tomato, add a dash of onion powder (or the real deal), garlic (powder, minced, or whole cloves), S&P, and fresh lemon and lime juice.

I absolutely cannot stand cutting an entire piece of fruit in half to use only a splash of juice, and months down the road finding the other half dried up, at the bottom of my rerigerator. The best solution to this dilemma is to buy fresh juice from the store. The juice comes in containers that resemble the fruit it’s from, and costs just over a buck.

On to the cookies. A few weeks back I was watching Emeril Live, and the program featured the winners of his holiday cookie contest. This past fall I made homemade oatmeal cookies for the first time. Generally, I purchase Betty Crocker mix, add eggs and milk (in your face PETA!), and bake. However, after Adam went on and on about his grandmother’s homemade cookies, I knew I needed to give baking a good old college try. As a first time baker, I was impressed. Sadly, the pumpkin pinwheel cookies were not so impressive.

After Emeril’s broadcast, I darted to my computer, navigated my way to the Food Network’s webiste, and searched for this wonderful recipe. To my surprise, I there were 14 different ingredients! Great. I knew it was time to make a trip to the grocery store. After a 10 minute search for parchment paper, an incredibly lame conversation about dehydrated milk with the 16-year-old bag boy, and the purchasing a rolling pin ( Before I realized I already had one in the cupboard), I retreated back to my apartment. I was equipped with everything needed to create these unbelievable cookies.

Sugar cookies with a pumpkin pie filling, that is. What makes them unique is that after the dough is rolled up and cut, each one resembles a pinwheel. Cute idea, right? 

After incorectly measuring the ingredients for the filling, I realized I had a much larger portion than I needed.  So I put the rest in the fridge, with every intention of making a pumpkin pie this week (also something I made for the first time this last time). That was five days ago. Clearly, the creation of this pie was not meant to be.

Quick tip, when making pumpkin pie, always add chopped ginger. It makes a huge difference.

Aside from my measurement error, I followed the cookie instructions to a tee. At least I thought I had.

The prep time was over 45 minutes! I couldn’t believe it. Now it was time to freeze the dough. The directions said this would take approximately 15 minutes. However, fifteen minutes went by, and my dough still wasn’t firm. Maybe another 15 minutes would do the trick. 

After taking it out of the freezer, I applied a thin spread of the pumpkin filling to the dough, and began rolling it up. What a nightmare! The filling oozed out of the crevasses, while the dough cracked in multiple spots, creating a huge mess. Despite my irritation, I unrolled the dough and attempted to re-roll it at least five more times. Without a doubt, I felt defeated. Defeated, yet somehow motivated and determined not to give up. I was eventually able to roll the dough and patch up the holes.

Upon completion, I was supposed to place the dough back in parchment paper and freeze  for an  additional hour. Later, I realized I had overlooked this step. OOPS.  The 1/4 inch wide, unbaked cookies sitting on my counter top, differed dramatically with the beautiful pinwheels I had seen on TV. I baked them anyway. Ten minutes later, I pulled out the cookies out of the oven. Each one varied in shape and size.

Tasty? No. Done? Indeed.

Within an hour they became crunchy and hard. I have yet to figure out how to prevent cookies from doing this. When Adam came home from work, he grabbed one, took a bite, and said t they were really good. Bless his heart.

Five days later, my pitiful pumpkin pinwheel cookies have remained untouched on the counter.

Untouched and locked, inside of a large blue Tupperware container, awaiting their upcoming transition to my trashcan. Just my luck.

 

Sushi February 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiebelle9 @ 7:33 pm

Sushi is by far one of my favorite things to eat. I absolutely love it. It’s fresh, good for you, delicious, and the presentation is gorgeous. But up until a couple years ago, I wanted nothing to do with it. Raw fish? Come on, not in my mouth. As luck would have it, a good friend of mine had her birthday party at a local sushi restaurant called SanSu. I felt it would be rude to turn down the invitation, so I reluctantly went. She suggested we split a bottle of Sake. She said it would make trying this strange food a little easier to handle. Warm, pear flavored wine that you take shots of. Sounds weird, but it couldn’t hurt. She was right. A bottle of Sake and one beer later,  and the moment of truth was staring me dead in the face. Our food had arrived, and I was scared. There seemed to be a million different kinds of raw and cooked fish just waiting to be devoured. I had no clue what any of it was, so I started with the easy stuff. My first choice was the California roll. It consists of crab, cucumber, avocado, and cream cheese, all wrapped in rice. I couldn’t believe how good it was! I tried everything on the platter from raw salmon to spicy tuna. By the end of the dinner, I had narrowed down my favorite. Grilled eel. Who would have guessed it?

My mom gave me a book with information about different kinds of sushi, how to make it, etc., along with a sushi kit for Christmas. I have yet to attempt to make it at home, but I have learned quite a bit. Here are some of the basics:

  1. There are four main kinds of sushi: norimaki (rice rolled in seaweed with ingredients in the center), bo-zushi  (rice pressed in a mold with cured or salted fish), nigiri (fingers of rice with a slice of fish, seafood, or omelet on top), and chirashi (bowls of rice with other ingredients mixed through or arranged on top).
  2. Ginger is used for flavor, and also as a palette cleanser.
  3. Instead of rice or seaweed, you can use lettuce wraps when making sushi.
  4. Uramaki is an “inside out” roll, with nori (seaweed) inside and rice outside.
  5. Japanese stores offer children’s sushi. They use sugar and food coloring to create heart, flower, and other various shaped pieces.
  6. The best selling item at all Japanese airports is masu-zushi, or smoked fish sushi. They can be made the day before and will keep for up to 36 hours.
  7. If you are having trouble rolling sushi, use an egg cup. Line it with plastic wrap, a piece of smoked salmon, and rice in the middle. Turn it upside down and remove the plastic for uniform looking pieces.
  8. Sushi can be placed inside tofu bags, or in an omelet parcel, known as fukusa-zushi.
  9. Sushi is vinegared rice, sashimi is the actual raw fish. Many people confuse the two.
  10. Mix wasabi paste and soy sauce together to dull down the spiciness.

On that note, I just heard my buzzer. No, it’s not sushi. Although I did have sushi delivered once. Not something I would ever do again. Time for some Los Gringos.

 

Thank God I didn’t Burn the Place Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiebelle9 @ 4:47 pm

I had every intention of commencing my Go Veg Pledge this week. I really did. However, my crooked leg and accompanying limp prevented me from making the trip to the grocery store to purchase veggies and phony meat. I have to say, I was not terribly disappointed. Hopefully this week will be different. As for this week, I experimented with three new recipes. Two were dynamite, one was immediately thrown in the trash.

I had lunch at my mom’s house recently and completely fell in love with the chicken stew and biscuits she made. I have had a weakness for good old home cooked comfort food since I was a little girl. I asked her how she made it and after further inquiry, I discovered it was a recipe she learned from my father’s mother over 20 years ago. Thank you Grandma! All in all, it was easy as pie (why do I keep saying that?!) However, from prep time to the time it landed on my plate was about 2 hours. Not so great. At this stage in the game that’s fine. I wasn’t busy that night. However, down the road, I anticipate that being able to spend two hours in the kitchen after a long day at work, with a hungry family, nearly impossible. The process consisted of cooking water (or chicken broth if you have it on hand), three boneless, skinless chicken breasts, celery, and 2 bay leaves on low heat for an hour. Then, remove the chicken from the water and shred it, add diced carrots, potatoes, onions (or onion powder), garlic, basil, oregano, and a can of cream of chicken soup, and cook for an additional 45 minutes. Lastly, add 3-4 Tbs. of cornstarch to cold water, stir vigorously, and add the mixture to your stew to thicken it. If you can keep busy in between, by all means, go ahead. However, if you’re pressed for time, before you cook the chicken into little pieces before , and your cooking time will be reduced by half. Make sure to pick up a package of Pillsbury Butter Tastin’ biscuits to serve on the side. Flaky, buttery, goodness.

Next up, cinnamon streusel muffins with a cinnamon, sugar, and margarine crumb topping. Store bought of course, but I added the oil, eggs, and milk, so give me a break. After putting the batter in the cupcake pans, I set the timer for 16 minutes and returned to my room to finish up some homework while they rose. Nine minutes later, the blaring smoke alarm almost made my heart jump out of my chest. What the hell was going on?

I diffused the alarm with a dirty T-shirt that was lying on the floor, entered the kitchen, opened the oven, and quickly slammed it shut after a wave of smoke came rushing out, sending a gray gas throughout my entire apartment. No struesels for me this evening. They looked like they had been pulled out of a bonfire. I was particularly confused because not only was the smoke coming from the oven, but also from the back right burner. The stove was not turned on, so why was the burner hot? Strange. Once Adam returned, I informed him of the catastrophe and told him to call maintenance first thing in the morning. Apparently that was not the answer. He could fix it. Fine, just don’t break the oven while doing so was my only request.

The next day Adam’s cousin came over and together, they dissected and solved the situation. As it turns outs, it was my fault. You can imagine my embarrassment. Earlier in the week I needed a 3-hole-punch so I borrowed one from my mom, brought it home, and pulled it out of a bag which happened to be on top of the stove. Hundreds of small paper circles burst out like flames from the bottom and fell into the burners. I thought I had gotten most of them out. I was wrong. The oven was not broken. The paper left inside set on fire when the oven was turned on. Just my luck.

Let’s fast forward to today. I made salmon for the first time. I was amazed at how easy it was. Honestly. I bought two salmon fillets (on sale at Kroger for just $6!), and decided to prepare them the best way I knew how. Cook them Red Cedar style. For those of you that don’t know, Red Cedar Grill is the restaurant where I work. Adding S&P, lemon juice, and olive oil to the fillets and cooking them at 450 degrees for 15 minutes was the easy part. I made one with a sweet honey bourbon glaze and one with a grainy mustard sauce. Here’s how I made the sauce. I grabbed two ramikens at work that day, asked the wonderful chefs to fill them with the sauces, threw lids on them, and tossed them in the same bag that contained the sweet potatoes I was going to serve as a side dish. Yes, the sweet potatoes were made there as well. This meal was going to mirror Sandra Lee’s “Semi-Homemade” style of cooking. I asked Adam if he wanted four cheese rice or garlic cheddar mashed potatoes, both from a box. Poor guy. He chose the rice.

Bring water to a boil, then add the rice, right? Wrong. I was supposed to saute the rice in butter until it browns, then add water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for twenty minutes. Word to the wise, always read directions. I boiled water and butter and was less than pleased when I realized I had to start over. I pulled the salmon out of the oven for a few minutes so it wouldn’t overcook while I fixed my mistake. I mixed cinnamon and brown sugar in with the sweet potatoes, opened a can of green beans (my favorite), and added butter, salt, and pepper, and tossed those bad boys in the microwave. After my not-so-instance rice was prepared, I added the questionable “cheese” powder, and hoped for the best.

It was like a little taste of heaven in my mouth. I was impressed, as was Adam. All I can say is after a meal like that, I was glad that I had not started my vegan diet.

 

My Go Veg Pledge February 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiebelle9 @ 1:57 am

“I’d rather go naked than fur”.

This is the slogan of PETA’s campaign featuring supermodels, who pose nude in order to express their opposition to consumers buying clothing made from fur. Over the last 29 years, PETA has become notorious for its extreme marketing tactics, controversial campaigns, undercover investigations, and racy ads. They lobby aggressively against farmers, designers, fast food chains, clothing stores, and other various organizations.  From the “Holocaust on your Plate” exhibit to the West Minister Dog Show protest, where members dressed in Ku Klux Klan uniforms and handed out  brochures that read “The KKK and AFC: BFF?”,  this group has raised eyebrows everywhere. Mine in particular.

A couple weeks back my political science professor handed out our semester projects. Which interest group was I assigned? PETA. Figures. So over the last couple weeks I have researched everything from the goals of the organization and the people involved, to most importantly, the countless approaches they’ve taken to express their extreme positions. In my opinion, throwing dead raccoons on a stage during a fashion show and sending packages filled with maggots to the editors  of Vogue, hardly seems effective. In fact, it seems downright crazy. Out of fairness, I will agree that some of their methods are beneficial. During the month of January, PETA created the 30 day Go Veg pledge. For every person that pledged to give up meat for 30 days, PETA made a donation to The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, an organization that plants trees in impoverished villages where people go hungry every day.

I have always been under the impression that vegetarians get their protein through chickpeas, lentils, and Lima beans. One word, YUCK. After looking at different vegetarian and vegan websites, I was surprised to discover that there is a large variety of meat-free food that  actually sounds quite tasty. With options like “meat-free” chicken nuggets, turkey, or salmon, I do not anticipate much of a challenge. They even have eggless eggs! I don’t have the faintest idea what these eggs are actually made of, but it can’t hurt to give them a try! Whether these products taste as good as they sound is another story. So this begins my veggie blog, with one exception. I would not give up cheese even if my life depended on it.

Of course I wanted to make one last “meaty” dinner before I took the pledge. (Okay I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually started yet, but as soon as I talk myself into making a lengthy trip to the grocery store, I will begin my mission). Valentine’s day was the perfect opportunity to create my magnificent feast. That morning my boyfriend announced that he wanted to make me a special dinner as part of my Valentine’s gift. Riiiiiiight. Don’t get me wrong, he cooks breakfast better than anyone I know, but aside from our impromptu Bobby Flay style “Throwdown”, where we competed to see which one of us could make better homemade mac and cheese, I haven’t seen him cook a thing. The throwdown created a competitive culinary dilemma: who would choose which one was better when the only two people present in our apartment were the biased chefs themselves? Guess we hadn’t thought that far ahead.

Back to Adam suggesting that he would prepare dinner. Being the loving girlfriend that I am, I smiled and said, “that sounds wonderful honey.”  I knew it was time to check the food network, and fast. On the air was Robin Miller’s “Quick Fix Meals”, a show that explains how you can take one item, such as fish or poultry, and create three very different meals throughout your busy week to save you time. On this particular episode she made grilled chicken with brie cheese along with a baby spinach salad. My stomach immediately started to rumble. I ran the idea by Adam, and after assuring him there would be no onions involved in the cooking process, the same conversation we have every time I make anything, he agreed that it sounded delicious. Little does he know I have a secret stash of onion powder in the pantry. Ha!

So after a quick trip to the grocery store, I went to work. I seasoned the chicken, pulled out the Foreman, and grilled each side for about 4 minutes. Then I placed 1/2 inch slices of brie on each chicken breast for a minute or two to melt the cheese. The spinach salad was similar to a wilted lettuce salad that I’ve made numerous times in the past. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and four slices of bacon to a skillet on medium heat. Once the bacon is cooked, dice it up, and put it back into the pan. Next add sugar and vinegar. A variation would be to use honey instead of sugar. I do not measure when I cook, so the amount of sugar and vinegar to add simply depends on how much sauce wish to create. Toss half of the sauce in with the baby spinach and place it on a platter as a base for your chicken. I know what you must be thinking. Warm bacon grease dressing? Sounds weird and is incredibly unhealthy, however this would be the last time I cooked with meat for a while so the calories were the least of my concerns. To finish the dish, place the chicken on top of the spinach, and drizzle the remainder of the sauce over the entire plate and you’re done! Simple and amazing.  

Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let Adam make me a PB&J another time.