Adventures in Restaurants: The Consequences of the Fast Food Franchise.

RestaurantLogoIt feels like fast food has been around FOREVER. As a matter of fact, the first fast food franchises were White Castle and A&W. Both started in the US after WWI, so it’s an anniversary of sorts. Now you can’t drive downtown without seeing at least one burger joint.

There are some places in the US where there are no grocery stores, only fast food restaurants. They have a name for it too – “food deserts”. These are poorer neighbourhoods where access to healthy foods is all but impossible. It’s frightening when you think about it.

https://newsone.com/1540235/americas-worst-9-urban-food-deserts/

There is something insidious going on. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear it’s a conspiracy.

http://mashable.com/2015/12/08/supermarkets-food-deserts/#_JPLPIvLGSqh

http://www.businessinsider.com/where-have-all-the-inner-city-grocery-stores-gone-2012-4

Yet are franchised restaurants just as bad? You know the ones I’m talking about. Sure the food takes longer to prepare and it looks fresher than fast food, but they have their secrets too. Sithboy’s first job was at one of these franchised restaurants (no, I’m not naming it), and he told me that the side dishes of mashed potatoes were actually instant, even though they used real potatoes for an appetizer. All the pulp of the cooked potatoes were thrown out instead of used because (get this) – consistency. Instant potatoes tasted the same and were easy to keep to the same texture than real mashed potatoes. It was the same when I worked at a franchised pizza place. We had lasagna (and it was good), but it was frozen. People couldn’t tell the difference. It’s still processed food, just made up to look less processed.

If fast food is one of the main reasons for obesity, then who is to blame for their popularity? Is it the consumer? Are we as a society so busy that we can’t take thirty minutes out of our schedule to prepare our food? Have we become so dependent on big chain grocery stores that we are incapable of growing our own? We can’t blame the franchise; they are only responding to a growing need. People have to eat, and in some cases a burger and fries at McDonald’s is the only alternative.

Do you think the owners of A&W or White Castle knew what they were starting?

From the Recipe Box: The Monty Cristo Sandwich

Sithboy fell in love with this sandwich and I had to learn how to make it. First, some history: it’s believed that this sandwich derived from the French dish Croque Monsieur (which is an awesome dish in itself) and could be considered the origin of the grilled cheese sandwich we know now.  The version I made is quick and easy and based on how the restaurant we visit prepares the meal. It’s quite filling and I’ve added a few personal touches just to make it interesting.

 

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Ingredients:

Shaved ham

Shaved turkey

Sliced Swiss cheese (two slices per sandwich)

Bread

One egg

1/4 cup milk

2 tbsp. maple syrup (NOT table syrup)

Mustard

Mayonnaise

Instructions:

Warm frypan on med/low heat.

Mix egg, milk and maple syrup. Wash one side of bread with egg wash and place on frypan.

Apply mustard.

Place one slice of cheese on the bread followed by some ham, turkey a second slice of cheese and another egg washed slice of bread with mayo on the opposite side.

Fry for 2-3 minutes and carefully flip and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Most places use a panini press which is a good idea. Saves from having to flip. The maple syrup is optional. While you can’t taste it in the sandwich, you get a hint of it flavour as you bite into it.

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Adventures in Restaurants: The dinner that wasn’t.

RestaurantLogoI enjoy going out to dinner with my husband. Even after twenty-four years we still find things to talk about. His day, my day, our son, what the hell we’re going to do with the house; light conversations and antidotes. Relaxing in a nice restaurant with a good meal is something we’ve just started doing, so my birthday outing (which started all this in the first place) was going to be an anniversary of sorts for us.

Too bad it didn’t work out that way.

Now, like I said, I enjoy a good conversation with dinner and when we go out it’s expected that other patrons feel the same way, but the restaurant we had reservations at this time out was so loud with talking, neither of us could hear what the server was saying, even though she was RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Literally! Bent over, no less than a foot from my face and I still could barely understand what she was saying. Disappointed was not the emotion that reared up either. It was a small, intimate dining room, but the McDonald’s play room would have been quieter.

So we left. I apologized to the server, explained that it was too loud and we high-tailed it out of there. Husband didn’t even get a sip of water from his glass. We went to a few other places close by, but as we suspected (because it was the weekend) they were full. It was also a really nice night too. That always brings out the customers.

I think our first mistake was going on the weekend. Looking back, our other restaurant adventures were during the week. Weekends are always busy, but Husband had a reservation, and as it was someplace we’d never been to, and we had no idea what to expect. Atmosphere is everything to a restaurant and as I’ve worked in a few, I know that it only takes one or two tables to ruin it. Trust me, I could tell you stories . . .

I’m debating whether or not to try this place again, but not on the weekend. All the reviews said the food was excellent and it is one of the places on our list. I’m just afraid of it being the same again. We ended up at our old stand-by; Red Lobster. At that point, after walking around downtown for half an hour I was so hungry if that place had been busy I would have settled for McDonald’s.

Second time a charm or not?

From the Recipe Box: Gluten-Free Cream of Turkey Soup.

 

1I don’t use buzzwords without a good reason. Yes, this soup is gluten-free because I didn’t use flour to thicken. It’s a new trend I’m on and so far it’s been a success. Wait until I give you the recipe for home-made scalloped potatoes. First off, here is the link to the original recipe.

https://www.dairygoodness.ca/recipes/cream-of-turkey-soup

It’s really good, but what surprised me at first was the addition of cream, and a heavy cream at that. Yes, it will have more calories or and fat, but do you understand the process manufactures’ put whole food through to make it ‘healthy’? When they take out fat, they add sodium; fat is what gives some food it’s taste. Next time you see something that should have fat but doesn’t, think about what they’ve put in to make it palatable. Especially dairy, but I’m going off topic here . . .

Here is my take on the same recipe. Everything is the same with the exception of one ingredient (okay two; I added potatoes) – instead of corn starch, use potato starch. *maniacal laugh*

2 tbsp (30 mL) butter

8 oz (250 mL) cooked chopped turkey

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup (250 mL) diced carrot

1 cup (250 mL) diced celery

1 cup (250 mL) frozen peas

1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme

1 tsp (5 mL) dried marjoram

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper

2 cups diced potatoes

2 1/4 cups (560 mL) chicken stock

2 tbsp (30 mL) potato starch

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) 35 % cream

Heat butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add turkey, onions, carrots and celery; cook for 3 to 5 min or until onion is softened. Add peas, seasonings and chicken stock; bring to boil, cover and simmer for 15 min.

Mix potato starch in 1/4 cup (60 mL) of cream until mixture is smooth. Start with one tbsp at a time and be careful as it will thicken up quickly. Add the mixture to soup with remaining cream. Bring to boil, stirring continuously until mixture has thickened.

**I added the diced potato with the rest of the veggies but they were still kind of hard when the soup was complete even after cooking for the specific amount of time. I will cook them a bit next time and then add them to the recipe.**

 

 

From the Recipe Box: Cottage Pie Stuffed Potatoes

First, let me explain something. When I say Cottage Pie some people know it as Shepard’s Pie, but it isn’t. Shepard’s Pie is made with lamb not hamburger, so if you’ve been making this dish and calling it wrong, that’s okay, so was I until Husband went searching for the difference. You can use this recipe for either dish too as the only difference is the meat.

The recipe I went by is HERE.

You can find the original recipe HERE.

cottagepie6

Cottage Pie Stuffed Baked Potato

Ingredients:

Baked Potato Topping

– 4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed clean

– ¼ to ½ cup whole milk

– 2-½ tablespoons butter

– ½ teaspoon salt

Filling

– 1 tablespoon olive oil

– ½ medium onion, diced

– 8 ounces ground beef

– 2 tablespoons flour

– 1 cup beef broth

– 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

– 1-½ teaspoons salt

– ¾ teaspoon black pepper

– 1-½ cups frozen vegetables

 

Instructions:

See either link.

My Notes:

The link is to the ORIGINAL recipe is a better recipe. The one I went by is an adaptation and while it does turn out well, it calls for herbs which give more taste to the filling. Also, if you’re gluten sensitive try using potato starch instead of flour for the sauce. I didn’t and the potatoes were somewhat sloppy, as you can tell from the photo. I also cheated and used a Shepard’s Pie mix from Club House because I find many home-made sauce recipes for the filling don’t have the same flavour.

If you use large potatoes, adjust your cooking time for them. Both recipes call to microwave, but I dislike using the machine for that. I use the microwave for re-heating and melting butter. Period. I used large Russett potatoes which took a good ninety minutes to cook all the way through and I let them sit for thirty minutes to cool. You have to pop everything back into the oven at the end, so don’t burn your hands scooping out the pulp. Even a little warm, the butter will melt, or melt it a bit before you add it. That’s what I did.

The Recipe Box: Pizza Stuffed Chicken

I KNOW! I thought the same thing when I saw the recipe. Turns out, it’s pretty damn awesome! It’s pretty simple too, and it makes for a great way to spice up chicken breasts.

Ingredients:

4 skinless chicken breasts

Mozzarella cheese

Pizza sauce.

Sliced pepperoni

 

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat over to 375F.
  2. When chicken is thawed, take a knife and slice a pocket into the side of the breast.
  3. Pour some pizza sauce into the pocket first, followed by small slices of mozzarella cheese, and then the pepperoni. It’s best to use the pre-sliced pepperoni as it’s just the right thickness. Add desired seasoning.
  4. Place the chicken in a baking dish and brush with olive oil and seasoning of pepper oregano and salt (optional).
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. It shouldn’t take longer than the required time as the breasts are open and exposed to the heat.

img_20170115_153308

Original recipe can be found here, along with a video.

Pizza Stuffed Chicken

Result:

This was as easy to put together as the video shows, but for me it was sloppy as hell. The pockets weren’t that deep because of the size of the breast so I put some cheese and pepperoni on top. My advice, do it. Adds more flavour to the dinner as you don’t get enough of the pizza without it. I had to cook it longer than the 30 minutes. Come on, I don’t even cook normal chicken breasts for 30 minutes. 45 minutes is the magic number. Also if you’re not a fan of, or don’t have any fresh basil, sprinkle Italian seasoning on top. Again, adds flavour.

This is how mine turned out. I served it with rice and veggies.

Adventures in Restaurants: It’s all about the seafood!

The holidays were murder on me, especially Black Friday weekend so Husband took me to dinner at Red Lobster! We haven’t been there in a while so it was a nice treat at the end of a long, hard day. Surprisingly, the restaurant wasn’t that busy either so we got in and settled in no time.

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I haven’t had escargot in a while, so I had to start with that. They brought garlic toast (more toast than garlic) to dip, and I let him have the extra biscuit that came ahead of time. I have to admit, it wasn’t as nice as the dish I had at Le Chein Noir. The cheese was kind of glopy, but it was still good.

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Husband had Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp. They were huge. I didn’t try one because I’m not a fan of coconut (never have been; never will be).

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For our main course I had the Grand Seafood Feast. Wow, now I was impressed. The hollandaise sauce on the crab cake was so good. A little spicy (but I’m a wuss) and the shrimp and lobster were so good!

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Husband had the Bar Harbour Lobster Bake. Quite a bit of food with that; lobster tails with shrimp, sea scallops and mussels, piled over a bed of linguini in a garlic and white wine broth.

Again, no desert. After a meal like that, I just wanted to go home. For a chain restaurant, Red Lobster always has good food.

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