Friday, January 30, 2015

Feast

Last week, my husband and I had a much needed date night.  As new parents, we definitely appreciate our time together and try to maximize it, but we also try not to splurge too much (diapers add up!).  Well, this date night was one of the best.  We got a good deal on tickets to see Wicked at the Pantages theater in Hollywood.  Wicked was the first musical my husband ever saw and the first musical we saw together; it's definitely one of our favorites.  We thought about eating dinner at Cleo, but we knew we'd easily spend over $100 just on dinner, and that was more of a splurge than we were willing to make.  So, I did a little research (thank you, Yelp) and saw Feast.  Apparently, it used to be called Chicken Dijon.  I remember seeing Chicken Dijon before when seeing a play at the Pantages, but it never occurred to me to eat there.  It looked like fast food, like El Polo Loco or something, and I wanted to eat somewhere nicer (like Wood and Vine, which is right next door).  However, after I looked at the menu and the reviews on Yelp, Feast had zero strikes against it.  What I gathered was that it was a Greek restaurant, the style was what I think is called "fast casual" (where you order at the counter, get a number, choose a table, and they bring the food to your table for you), and the prices were around $10 per meal.  My husband in particular loves Greek food, so I definitely thought Feast was worth trying.

We parked, picked up our tickets at will call, and walked across the street to Feast.  It was a beautiful night, perfect California winter weather (meaning, you might need a sweater).  Most of the tables at Feast were occupied, but there were a few empty ones.  There wasn't a line to order, so we looked over the menu and let the people who came in behind us order first.  We wanted to try a variety of things, and we always like to share, so in the end, we ordered the Gyro Fries, which are described on the menu as a "large order of fries tossed in olive oil, parsley, garlic and topped with feta cheese, pepperoncini, red onions, with chopped gyro meat on top. Substitute chicken upon request."  We also ordered the 1/4 Chicken and Gyro Combo, which is described on the menu as "White or Dark meat Rotisserie bone-in chicken & slices of gyro meat. Includes 2 sides."  We went with white meat, and for the sides, my husband chose Stuffed Grape Leaves and Falafel.  The grand total inlcuding tax and tip was less than $30.  Score!


We chose to sit at a bar height table right in the window, which probably meant that everyone walking by was watching us, but it also meant that we got to watch everyone who was walking by, and we could see the Pantages from our table.

I held the table while my husband got us water from the self-serve soda area.  Napkins and silverware were already on the table.


It didn't take very long for our food to arrive.  Maybe 10 minutes or so.  I wasn't really paying attention, but I think we arrived around 6:45pm, and I think we already had our food at 7pm.  The two huge plates of food barely fit on our table.  The waitress listed off the sauces they have available, and we said we wanted to try them all, so she brought a bottle of each over to our table.  Well, except for the BBQ sauce which wasn't available at the time, so we tried that later.

So, what did we think?

Yum!

The fries were amazing, but, I mean, it's hard to mess up fries, right?  They were evil.  (Guess that goes well when you're about to see Wicket, haha.)  But, seriously, the fries were amazing.  The combination of everything on them was just incredible.  If I'm going to splurge on the fat and calories I'm sure are in all fries, these are definitely worth the splurge!


The combo plate was perfect for trying everything.  I really don't know which meat I liked better.  The chicken was tender, juicy, flavorful, and just perfect.  No complaints.  We picked the bones clean.  The gyro meat was very flavorful, the perfect texture, and addictive.  If I had to choose only one meat, I'd choose the gyro just because you can't get that everywhere and chicken is pretty common at restaurants, but since the combo plate is available, who needs to choose?

I wasn't a huge fan of the sides, but they were my husband's choice.  He used to be in the Air Force, and when he was stationed in Turkey, he ate stuffed grape leaves that tasted just like these.  It was kind of like a mouth full of lemony rice, and I'm not a huge rice person.  I let my husband eat them because he loved them.  The falafel was good for falafel.  I'm not a huge fan of falafel in general, but if you are, you'll love it at Feast.  It wasn't greasy, which was nice.

As far as sauces, our favorites were the Dijon Mustard and the BBQ.  We ate them with the chicken and the fries.

The meal also comes with your choice of pita bread or another kind of bread, but I can't remember what the other bread was called.  We asked to have half and half so we could try both.  I liked the pita bread better, and next time I'd just get that.

We were stuffed, but it was impossible not to finish all of the food.  It was just so good!  Next time we should order less food.  Actually next time (probably when we see Newsies at the Pantages this Spring), I'll probably get the combo plate and my husband might get the gyro and rice plate because after seeing that order at another table, he really wants to try the rice.

That's another thing that's great about Feast; it's good for a group.  They have meals that are meant to be shared, like the Family Combo which is described on the menu as "1 whole chicken and 1 plate of sliced gyro meat. Includes a choice of 4 sides. Perfect for 4-6 people."  You could totally order that, but the normal meals are plenty big for 2 people to share if you're not super hungry or if you want to save room for dessert after the show.

Thanks, Feast, for a great pre-show meal!  It certainly was a delicious Feast!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Skinny Pregnant (or Breastfeeding) Girl Pina Colada

I love pina coladas.  Those are my all-time favorite tropical cocktails.  I started out drinking virgin ones as a kid and learned how to make the real deal as an adult.  Well, as I'm sure you know, pina coladas are loaded with calories (and rum!), so if you're worried about your waistline (hello!  I just had a baby 5 months ago and I still have that stubborn last 5 pounds to lose!) and if you want to skip the alcohol (Hello again!  Breastfeeding here!), then I have the answer for you (and me!).

The secret is R.W. Knudsen Pineapple Coconut juice, but the trick to a bubbly alcoholesque taste is Fre Brut...it's alcohol removed sparkling wine, people!  Alcohol removed wine!  I've tried other alcohol removed wines, but this is my all-time favorite, and the sparkling aspect makes for bubbly fun.  Enjoy!

Skinny Pregnant (or Breastfeeding) Girl Pina Colada
Makes 1 8oz serving

Ingredients:
4 oz Fre Brut
4 oz R.W. Knudsen Pineapple Coconut juice

Method:
Pour the juice in your favorite cocktail glass and top with the sparkling brut. Cheers!

Calorie count?  115 in 8 oz.  Oh, yeah!

Happy drinking!



Sunday, December 21, 2014

Healthy and Delicious Overnight Oatmeal


As a busy new mom, I’m always looking for easy and healthy breakfast ideas. Thanks to pinterest, I’ve been experimenting with overnight oatmeal. I love oatmeal, and it’s supposed to help with breast milk production. The problem is that I never have time to make it in the morning.  Overnight oatmeal solves that problem because I can make it before I go to bed (or anytime during the day when the baby is napping), and it's ready for breakfast (or a healthy snack) the next morning.  But, the absolute best part is how delicious it is.  Seriously, it's like eating pudding with granola in it.

So far I have 6 overnight oatmeal recipes that I make and eat almost every day.  They are my Dark Chocolate Overnight Oatmeal, Milk Chocolate Overnight Oatmeal, Peanut Butter Cup Overnight Oatmeal, Elvis Overnight Oatmeal (because it features peanut butter and bananas), Chocolate Covered Strawberry Overnight Oatmeal, and (because it's almost Christmas) Eggnog Overnight Oatmeal.  All of these recipes except for one (my Eggnog Overnight Oatmeal) feature chocolate because I just can't get enough chocolate right now.  I think this oatmeal is as good as dessert, but there's no guilt.  It's so easy to make and tasty enough that your whole family will probably enjoy it.

Dark Chocolate Overnight Oatmeal
Serves four
Serving size: one cup

Ingredients:
2 cups Quaker oatmeal (minute or old fashioned)
4 tablespoons Hershey unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons milk chocolate malt Ovaltine
Three-quarter cup Splenda
Quarter teaspoon salt
2 cups Silk light vanilla soymilk
1 cup plain fage Greek yogurt

Method:
Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir together.  Add the soymilk and mix well.  Add the Greek yogurt and mix with a fork.  Separate into four airtight containers. Refrigerate overnight.


Milk Chocolate Overnight Oatmeal
Serves four
Serving size: one cup

Ingredients:
2 cups Quaker oatmeal (minute or old fashioned)
6 tablespoons milk chocolate malt Ovaltine
Three-quarter cup Splenda
Quarter teaspoon salt
2 cups Silk light chocolate soymilk
1 cup plain fage Greek yogurt

Method:
Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir together.  Add the soymilk and mix well.  Add the Greek yogurt and mix with a fork.  Separate into four airtight containers. Refrigerate overnight.


Peanut Butter Cup Overnight Oatmeal
Serves four
serving size: one cup

Ingredients:
2 cups Quaker oatmeal (minute or old fashioned)
4 tablespoons PB2
4 tablespoons milk chocolate malt Ovaltine
Three-quarter cup Splenda
Quarter teaspoon salt
2 cups Silk light chocolate soymilk
1 cup plain fage Greek yogurt

Method:
Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir together.  Add the soymilk and mix well.  Add the Greek yogurt and mix with a fork.  Separate into four airtight containers. Refrigerate overnight.


Elvis Overnight Oatmeal
Serves four
serving size: one cup

Ingredients:
2 cups Quaker oatmeal (minute or old fashioned)
4 tablespoons PB2
4 tablespoons milk chocolate malt Ovaltine
Three-quarter cup Splenda
Quarter teaspoon salt
2 cups Silk light chocolate soymilk
2 ripe bananas

Method:
In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.  Add the first five ingredients, and stir to combine.  Add the soymilk and mix well.  Add the Greek yogurt and mix with a fork.  Separate into four airtight containers. Refrigerate overnight.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Overnight Oatmeal
Serves four
serving size: one cup

Ingredients:
2 cups Quaker oatmeal (minute or old fashioned)
4 tablespoons milk chocolate malt Ovaltine
Half cup Splenda
Quarter teaspoon salt
2 cups Silk light vanilla soymilk
2 5.3oz containers Dannon Light & Fit strawberry Greek yogurt

Method:
Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir together.  Add the soymilk and mix well.  Add the Greek yogurt and mix with a fork.  Separate into four airtight containers. Refrigerate overnight.

Eggnog Overnight Oatmeal
Serves four
Serving size: one cup

Ingredients:
2 cups Quaker oatmeal (minute or old fashioned)
Three-quarter cup Splenda
Quarter teaspoon salt
2 cups Eggnog (I used So Delicious Coconut Milk Nog)
1 cup plain fage Greek yogurt


Method:
Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir together.  Add the eggnog and mix well.  Add the Greek yogurt and mix with a fork.  Separate into four airtight containers. Refrigerate overnight.

Happy eating!

Little Caesar’s Pretzel Crust Pizza


My husband and I used to get Little Caesar’s Pizza all the time.  We have some friends who don’t think their pizza’s very good, but we always thought the Hot & Ready pepperoni pizza was so simple with classic cheese, sauce and crust that it was often our go-to dinner when we didn’t have time to cook.  This past Spring, we strayed to Pizza Hut when they had their 5 Cheese Please pizza, and more recently, Dominos' hand tossed pizza with white sauce became our favorite pizza.  In case you haven’t noticed a trend, I’ll point it out for you.  We prefer pizza that has a white sauce instead of a tomato sauce.  That’s where this blog post comes in.

A couple days ago, my husband told me that Little Caesar’s has a Hot & Ready pizza with a pretzel crust.  I was instantly interested.  I looked it up at http://littlecaesars.com, and I was even more interested.  Here’s the description from the website: Little Caesars new Soft Pretzel Crust Pepperoni Pizza is a large specialty pizza that starts with a flavorful, buttery, soft pretzel crust made fresh daily in store. It is topped with creamy cheddar cheese sauce, a blend of 100% real cheese, and pepperoni, and then finished with an irresistible four-cheese gourmet blend of Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan, and White Cheddar cheeses.

They had me at “buttery, soft pretzel crust,” “cheddar cheese sauce” and “White Cheddar.”  We decided to pick one up for dinner tonight.

According to the website, this pizza is Hot & Ready from 4-8pm.   Well, we went over to pick one up at 4pm, and there weren’t any ready.  We had to wait 10 minutes for them to make one.  That’s not a huge deal, but it’s false advertising.  Perhaps that’s just an issue with the particular location we visited.  At least our pizza was freshly made.   

The guy who waited on us said that this pizza will probably be discontinued within the week, which is why I’m writing this blog post now.  Save the pretzel crust pizza!

We brought the pizza home and dug in.  I was impressed that it looked exactly like the picture on the website.  I was impressed that the crust did indeed taste exactly like a big, soft pretzel.  The part of the crust that didn't have any cheese on it was even quite delicious.  It had salt on it just like a big, soft pretzel.  I was also impressed by the cheesiness.  The cheddar cheese sauce and all the cheese piled on top of the pizza made for quite a tasty pizza experience.   

A big, soft pretzel and cheese is such a classic combination that it's really surprising that no one thought to turn a pretel into a pizza until now.  It should've been obvious.  It tastes obvious.  Basically, for $6, I’d totally get this pizza again! 

I asked my husband how he heard about this pizza since I only knew about it after he told me.  He thought he saw a commercial when we were visiting my mom.  If Little Caesar’s is having trouble getting people to buy this pizza, perhaps they’re advertising in the wrong places.  We don’t have cable, so I see most ads online.  Buy some ad space on Google, Little Caesar’s, and don’t take the pretzel crust pizza off your menu, or I’m going to have to figure out how to make one myself.  For $6, I’d rather just buy it than wait for a homemade crust to rise.  Save the pretzel crust pizza!

We just may have to have another pretzel crust pizza for dinner tomorrow night!

Happy eating!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and Outdoor Grill


As you know by now, my husband and I have a New Year’s Resolution to try at least one new restaurant in the L.A. area each month.  (“New” being defined by “new to us” not “just opened.”)  Back in August, we actually tried two BBQ places two days in a row.  Now, my husband’s from Texas, and every time we go there, we have amazing BBQ, so these restaurants are being held up to pretty high standards.  That said, we have yet to find anywhere in L.A. where we think the BBQ is as good as it is in Texas, and we REALLY wanted one of these places to be our new go-to place.


First up is Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.  I’ve read that this is a chain out of Dallas, so we hoped it would be some amazing Texas BBQ.  My husband bought a LivingSocial deal where he paid $10 for $24 worth of food.  We’ve driven by Dickey’s many times on our way to my mom’s place, but we never thought to stop in.  This was the perfect excuse.

The place was almost empty when we arrived around 3pm, but there seemed to be a steady stream of customers, most people probably taking the food to go like we were.


The guy who waited on us was really friendly and helpful.  He told us about the smoked meat and answered all of our questions.  We decided to each order a Meat Plate.  All of the meat plates come with 2 sides, a roll, pickles, onions and barbecue sauce.  My husband ordered a Rib Plate.  He chose mac & cheese and fried onion tanglers for his sides.  I ordered a 2 Meat Plate and chose beef brisket and the spicy cheddar sausage for the meats.  For the sides, I chose barbecue beans and waffle iron fries.

The employee seemed happy that we had a LivingSocial voucher to use, probably glad to know that the vouchers are bringing in new business.

I had looked up reviews on Yelp and saw that there’s free soft serve ice-cream, so we asked if we could help ourselves to that before we left.  We were pointed towards the soft-serve ice-cream machine.  It’s not the best soft serve ever (I personally LOVE the vanilla soft-serve at McDonalds.  It’s about the only thing I get there.), but it’s free, so I’m not going to complain.  It was just a little too soft and not as creamy as it could be. 


We ate our ice-cream cones in the restaurant so they wouldn’t melt on our way to the car.  I looked around a little while we were there.  The restaurant seems very clean, and I like the décor; it definitely fits the type of food.



We took our big bag full of food home and spread everything out on the table to share.   


The spicy cheddar sausage was my favorite meat.  It was actually amazing.  I would totally order that again.   I really wanted to like the brisket, but it was too fatty for me.  


The ribs were pretty good, but I’m not a huge fan of ribs.   


Of the sides, I liked the mac & cheese the best.   


The waffle fries at Chick-fil-a are better.   


The onion tanglers are good but pure grease.  It’s what you’d expect; I’m just not a huge fan of pure grease.  


The barbecue beans were good, but I’ve had better.   


The dinner roll isn’t anything special, but it’s soft and good for sopping up BBQ sauce, which, by the way, was good as well.   





I don’t like super sweet BBQ sauce (my favorite is just Hunts Original), but this was enjoyable.  In short, if I went to Dickey’s again, I’d probably get the spicy cheddar sausage and the mac & cheese.  Yum!



Now, onto Outdoor Grill.  One of our friends gifted us an LA Bite voucher, and we used it to order dinner from Outdoor Grill last night.  I’ve never eaten there, and I’m not even sure where it’s located.  Just a minute; let me Google that.  I guess there are two locations, but I’m sure the one we ordered from was the Northridge location. 

We ordered a bunch of food: a tri-tip plate with baked beans and spicy BBQ sauce, a full rack of baby back ribs with mac & cheese and spicy BBQ sauce, and an a la carte order of beef ribs and regular BBQ sauce.  


LA Bite said it would be delivered within an hour, and it was actually delivered in about a half-hour.  We were definitely pleased with the quick turnaround.  My husband answered the door, and he said the delivery guy was friendly and dressed professionally.  So, kudos LA Bite.  I’ve had food delivered from LA Bite at different places where I worked, but this was my first experience actually having food delivered at home.  It’s super convenient, I must say.

Now, back to Outdoor Grill.  The tri-tip was hands down my favorite meat.  It was really good.  Mmm, tri-tip!  It was juicy, not fatty at all, and just had a great flavor.  I could definitely eat that again.   

The ribs were very fatty, especially the beef ribs.  I know some people love that, but it’s not my thing.  My husband ate most of the ribs.  He said “ribs are ribs” so he thought they were adequate.  He agreed about the tri-tip being amazing though.   



As far as the sides.  Uh, there was like no cheese on the mac & cheese.  It was basically just noodles.  So not impressed.   


The beans weren’t very good either.  I hated both of the barbecue sauces (the spicy and regular), so that’s probably why I didn’t like the beans (since I assume that same sauce is mixed into the beans).  


So, if I had to eat at Outdoor Grill again I’d definitely order the tri-tip.  I’d have to try a different side, because I wouldn’t get the beans or mac & cheese again.

Between Dickey’s and Outdoor Grill, I’d definitely prefer Dickey’s.  The BBQ sauce was tasty, the soft-serve was free, and all of the meat and sides were adequate.

So, did we find a new authentic Texas BBQ joint in L.A.?  No.  So far the most authentic is still making it at home.  And, I’m sure Dickey’s is based out of Dallas, but my favorite BBQ place in Texas is Pappas, ad Dickey’s doesn’t come close to being as good as Pappas.  Just sayin’.

Happy eating!