Monday, December 31, 2012

What are you doing New Year's?

We're staying in.

First course: Cauliflower soup with truffle oil

Second course: Beet salad with goat cheese, pecans, olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Main course: Filet mignon with baked potato, sauteed mushrooms, and braised carrots

There's still champagne and a chocolate raspberry cake from Whole Foods to come, but I don't think I'll be sufficiently coherent to post them.

So, Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Just Saying

I believe there is a special place in Hell for restaurateurs who write "hash browns" on their menu when what they serve is home fries.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lentil Soup

So what do you have for dinner when you were too lazy to go to the grocery store during the day, but by dinnertime it's 40 degrees and raining so you don't want to go out, and you have to eat something but there isn't even bread left for sandwiches, so you have to make something out of whatever you can scrounge from the fridge and the pantry?

Lentil soup.

1/2 cup each chopped carrots, celery and onions
6 cups water
2 chicken boullion cubes
1/2 pound dried lentils

6 servings, 150 calories per serving

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

I'm still in comfort food mode here, hoping that my cold goes away before I have to get on a plane on Sunday. Tonight's meal was chicken pot pie.

I poached the other half of the chicken breast that I'd used on Monday. Made a cream sauce with a butter and flour roux, chicken broth, and cream. Added the poached chicken, plus some sauteed onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, and frozen peas. Covered with a (thawed) frozen Trader Joe's pie crust and baked for 30 minutes at 400.

Not low-fat, so I ate a small portion. But it was creamy and rich and comforting. The cold doesn't stand a chance.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chicken soup, Asian style

We all have a cold that we picked up this weekend - the only thing for it was some spicy chicken noodle soup.

I simmered store-bought chicken broth with star anise, cinnamon, onions, ginger, and red pepper flakes for about 45 minutes, then strained it. I cooked udon noodles separately. I sliced half a chicken breast thinly and simmered it in the strained broth for a few minutes until it was cooked through. Then I put some cooked noodles into a bowl and added broth with chicken on top.

Added to the bowl from this plate of garnishes:

I can't say it cured the cold, but it made it much easier to live with.

1/2 cup udon noodles, 2 oz. chicken breast, broth and herbs: 175 calories

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Out to Dinner: AZN

Saturday night we tried a new restaurant for dinner - AZN, recently opened in Piedmont Town Center. AZN describes itself as "upscale pan-Asian", and the prices reflect that - appetizers in the $10 range, cocktails $9 to $11, and entrees from $12 to $30. We got there at 7:15 and the restaurant was about half full. It filled in some as we ate and was nearly full by the time we left. Service was uneven at the beginning of the meal, with people who appeared to be managers circling the dining room every couple of minutes but inexplicably not noticing that we needed drink refills. For some reason, once the room started to fill up, the managers and servers became more attentive and we had no further issues.

I started with a vegetarian sushi roll.

This was excellent. It had cucumber, avocado, carrot, pickled turnip, and pickled burdock root (along with one or two things I don't remember - I should have taken notes). The pickled vegetables gave it brightness, and the flavors blended very well. I enjoyed this much more than my vegetarian roll at Cowfish last week. The roll was more compact and easier to eat, with a better ratio of rice to filling. Also, this roll had a seaweed wrap, unlike the Cowfish roll which was wrapped in flavorless soy paper. I didn't realize it until I ate this roll, but I really need that seaweed flavor in a sushi roll - it just doesn't seem quite right without it.

My main course was Cantonese roasted duck.

I enjoyed this, and brought about half of it home - duck is rich and heavy! The meat was moist and flavorful. It was served with flour tortillas, cucumbers and scallions, and a sweet dipping sauce. My only quibble would be that I like duck better when the fat is completely rendered out of the skin - this had about a 1/4 inch layer of fat under the skin, which is a texture I'm not fond of. However, I think I'm an outlier in this respect - most people who like duck like it the way they served it. On the whole, we enjoyed our experience at AZN and would definitely go back.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Out to Dinner: Big View Diner

Tonight's dinner was at Big View Diner, one of my favorites for a casual meal.

Yes, the dreaded diner diet plate - chicken salad, cottage cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and fruit. But here it's not dreaded, because Big View does such a great job. The chicken salad is light, made with sour cream instead of mayonnaise so it doesn't get that stodgy texture. And I'm not sure how the folks at Big View do it, but they have flavorful tomatoes all year long. Big View serves a lot of big food - giant sandwiches, big platters of appetizers and entrees, and monster-sized desserts - it's all good. But it's nice to know it's possible to keep it healthy there as well.

A pocketful of breakfast

This morning's breakfast:

Mini whole-wheat pita pocket filled with:
1 egg
2 mushrooms, sliced
1 2% Kraft Single
all scrambled together

200 calories

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stir-fry and more

Tonight's meal is mostly from the frozen section of Trader Joe's.

1/2 cup vegetarian fried rice (frozen): 80 calories
1 cup tofu/mixed vegetable stir fry (made with extra firm tofu, frozen vegetable mix, and Trader Joe's General Tso sauce): 180 calories
1 chicken egg roll (frozen): 160 calories

Lynx to Food: Tyvola Road

Today's Lynx to Food is a visit to the venerable Charlotte institution Bill Spoon's Barbecue, which has been serving up delicious 'cue for nearly half a century. Their slogan: "We Cook The Whole Pig - It Makes The Difference". Unfortunately, dim lighting meant that my photos did not come out, so no pictures with this entry. I had a pork barbecue sandwich and unsweet iced tea. The sandwich at Bill Spoon's is definitely one of the best in town. The pork is very finely chopped, mildly smoky, and only lightly seasoned with Spoon's vinegar-pepper sauce, which allows the rich flavor of the pork to dominate. (There's more sauce available on the table for people who prefer to spice it up.) The pork is topped with mild white cole slaw. Presentation at Bill Spoon's is decidedly no-frills -  the pork sandwich came on a small paper plate, the tea in a red Solo cup - but when it comes to great barbecue, who needs anything fancy?

I can't pretend that a barbecue sandwich is health food, but I didn't order any side dishes, so at least the 'cue wasn't augmented by mac'n'cheese or french fries or - sigh - sweet potato pie.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turkey Mole

I unearthed some of the Thanksgiving turkey that I had stashed in the freezer for tonight's dinner.

Turkey in mole sauce (Dona Maria brand),  refried beans, rice, pineapple, and avocado. I haven't done the math on this meal, and I know the mole sauce is pretty high-fat, so I just took small portions and hoped for the best.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Out to Lunch: The Cowfish

Today's post-shopping lunch was at The Cowfish, a popular South Park establishment which offers sushi, burgers, and "burgushi" - sushi rolls with burger fillings. I had a Soy Vegan Roll:

The outer wrapping was soy paper, and the fillings were lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, beets, and mango. This is a great place, as much for the fun vibe as the food, and since we were there at 3:00 pm we didn't even have to wait.

A little bit of everything

I love meals that are made up of lots of little bites of different things. Tapas, meze, antipasti... I love them all. I also occasionaly enjoy meals that are more about shopping than about cooking.

Here we have: Mixed greens, tomatoes, watermelon and honeydew, salami and ham, tzatziki, hummus, couscous salad, pita bread, crackers, four cheeses, and a chocolate bar. All purchased from the good folks at Whole Foods.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dessert for Grownups

The kid's asleep, the fire is lit, Joni Mitchell's on the stereo, and it's time for me to relax.

1/2 oz. each Belletoile and Cambozola cheese
2 Carr's whole wheat crackers
1/2 oz. Trader Joe's Pistachio Toffee
3 oz. port

450 calories

Surviving the Chain Restaurant

In an ideal world, my restaurant meals would all be taken at quirky local places with delicious local products. Of course, that world is not the one I live in, particularly with a kid in the mix. We went tonight to one of his favorites - Red Robin.

How does a dieter survive a restaurant where the burgers routinely top 1000 calories, and even things that sound like they could be healthy - like a Caesar Chicken Wrap or a Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad - are laden with calories and fat?

One redeeming quality that a lot of big chains have is a website with nutrition information. When I plan to go to places like this, I look at the menu online and decide what to order while I have the information in front of me.

With that in mind, I ended up with a Simply Grilled chicken sandwich, with a lettuce wrap instead of a bun. (The grilled chicken breast is hiding under the tomatoes and onions.) Switching lettuce for the bun took that one down to 175 calories from an already not-too-bad 400. Also, I got cole slaw for a side instead of fries. I love fries, but if I'm going to splurge on them it's going to be someplace that has really good fries, which Red Robin's aren't. (My fries of choice in Charlotte are actually fried Tater Tots at Bad Daddy's Burger Bar.) I did sneak a fry from my son's plate - it is a widely-known fact that anything stolen off a child's plate has no calories in it.

This meal was reasonably tasty, and with the calories I saved on junky fries and squishy bread, I can have dessert tonight. (I'll be back with an update later.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pizza Gets Personal

I love homemade pizza in all its forms. If I'm not going hog wild and making a deep dish, I like to make individual-sized pizzas so each person can have exactly what he or she wants.

Tonight's pizza:

4 oz. pizza dough (Trader Joe's)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 oz. fresh mozzarella
1/2 oz. prosciutto
5 kalamata olives, halved
3 mushrooms, sliced
2 artichoke hearts, quartered

4 slices, 150 calories per slice
I'll eat half tonight and half for lunch tomorrow.

Stir-fry Lunch

Today's lunch was a vegetarian stir-fry:

4 oz. extra firm tofu
5 oz. mixed vegetables
(Pro-tip: if you're cooking for one, buy cut-up vegetables from the salad bar at the grocery store. It's more expensive than buying the whole vegetables, but less expensive than throwing away all the broccoli and celery that went bad because it never got used up)
1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. sriracha

230 calories

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lynx to Food: Archdale

Lynx to Food visits the Archdale stop.

First, shopping at Payal Indian Grocery and Spices:

Then, lunch at Doan's Vietnamese restaurant:

Pho tai (beef broth with rice noodles, thinly sliced beef, and fresh herbs):

Accompanied by delicious freshly-squeezed limeade:

This was my first visit to this restaurant. The staff were very nice and friendly, and the pho was excellent. I'd definitely go back and try some of the other dishes as well - everything on everybody's table looked good.

Breakfast Burrito

Another one for the tastes-better-than-it-looks file:

8-inch flour tortilla
2 oz. shaved beef (i.e., leftover pot roast)
2 tbsp. salsa verde
1 tbsp. light sour cream
265 calories

Monday, December 3, 2012

Indian Style

Dal Makhani (black lentils and kidney beans in a spicy cream sauce) and Mutter Paneer (fresh cheese and green peas in a spicy sauce) with brown rice.

How did I learn to make these exotic delicacies? Easy! I bought these spice mixes at an international grocery store, and followed the instructions on the back.

Sunday night comfort food

Pot roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, and braised carrots with dill.

4 oz. beef: 250 calories
1/2 cup mashed potatoes: 100 calories
1 cup carrots: 50 calories
1/4 cup gravy: 25 calories