Thursday, August 30, 2012

The OG, or as the rest of the World knows it, The Olive Garden

Last weekend, Ian and I went on a date to the Olive Garden. The OG and I have a long history.  Even though I never worked there, almost every roommate I had in college did.  In college, we ended up eating there a lot.  Whether it was a Birthday Celebration or college graduation, it seemed the place to go in Terre Haute that was relatively nice.  After a while, I got sick of going there, and realized that, I make better pasta sauce at home.  It also didn't helped that they discontinued my personal favorite, Chocolate Lasagna.  It was an amazing layered chocolate cake with almond butter cream icing between each layer.  After I found out that dessert was no longer available, there was no reason for me to go there anymore.  But I digress.
We have been seeing the commercials for the two meals and two appetizers for $25.  So, we decided to try it out.
Skinny White Peach Cooler
I started with a Skinny White Peach Cooler. This drink was a mix of Peach, Mint, Tea, and Lemonade. It was really different. The shocking flavor for me in the mix was the mint.  Mixing that was the rest of the flavors was very interesting.  It took me a little getting used to, but I enjoyed it. Ian ordered water.
Ian, My Drink and His Water
At the OG, most of the meals start with bread sticks with soup or salad.  We chose the salad. The good thing or the bad thing is, the salad and bread sticks are endless.  Therefore, you can have as much as you want!  
Endless Salad
The salad that comes with your meal at the OG is pretty good.  It has iceberg lettuce, red onions, Roma tomatoes, peppercinis, black olives, croutons, and a nice Italian dressing, which is the OG's house dressing. The good thing with endless salad is, if you forget to take a picture of it for your blog, you can just order another one!  It will look exactly like the first one!  We did end up eating both salads that were brought to us.  
Olive Garden Bread Stick
The Olive Garden includes an endless amount of bread sticks with your meal.  The OG bread stick is a firmer textures bread stick.  It does have garlic brushed on the out side of it for flavor.  The bad thing about the endless bread sticks is, one bread stick with the garlic butter spread is 140 calories!  The average person eats at least two in a sitting at the OG.  So, they've eaten 380 calories with two bread sticks! I admit, I ate at least two! 
Bruschetta and Fried Ravioli Appetizers
With the $25 dollar meal, you can either order two appetizers or one dessert to share. We decided to get the two appetizers. The appetizers we chose, were the Bruschetta (on the left side of the plate) and the fried ravioli.  The Bruschetta is actually the chunky tomato sauce you put on the bread. I love this stuff!  In fact, I buy Trader Joe's Bruschetta Sauce in a jar all the time!  The fried Ravioli came with a Marinara sauce.  The Bruschetta sauce has really nice, fresh tomatoes with basil to give them an amazing flavor.  The Fried Ravioli was pretty good with the side of Marinara sauce.
Left Over Bruschetta
When it comes to Italian food, I'm really a sauce kind of girl!  That is especially when it comes to a really nicely flavored tomato sauce, whether or not it has meat in it. (This comes into play later!)
Ian with his Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno
Ian ordered the Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno.  He's a ziti kind of guy and orders it whenever we are out at Italian Restaurants. Zit is not one of my favorites, so, I don't often eat it. This dish looks fantastic in this picture. When I asked him what he thought of it, his answer was, "It was good!" 
Ravioli di Portobello
My normal dish to order at the OG is the Capellini Pomodoro.  I also usually order this with extra sauce and a chicken breast added.  I don't think pasta dishes without meat have enough protein in them. I always feel like I need more afterwards, so, I add the chicken.  This time, I ordered the Ravioli di Portabello.  I thought I would try something different, and my favorite dish wasn't listed with the dishes I could get with the $25 special.  So, I got the Ravioli di Portobello. The OG web site describes this dish as, "A Portobello-mushroom filled ravioli in a creamy smoked cheese and sun-dried tomato sauce."  I saw the word "Tomato" in the description and thought I would like the dish.  Well, I started out ok, eating away at my plate of Ravioli. 
*Side note: They must serve lunch portions with this deal, because the portions seemed a little smaller than usual.  That's ok.  Whenever I go to the OG, I order a lunch portion anyway!  If you didn't know, you can order them in the evening too!  The weird thing is, Ian and I both finished every single bite of our meals!  There weren't any leftovers for us to take home.
Added Bruschetta Sauce
Before I finished the plate of Ravioli, I ended up adding the leftover Bruschetta to my dish.  I needed the extra sauce!  I doesn't matter what Italian restaurant I'm at, I always tend to need more sauce.  The only dish that I do seem to love without the extra sauce is the Four Cheese Ravioli at Maggiano's.  That restaurant tends to put more sauce on their pastas.  It's also more expensive. 
I did find some stragglers in my pasta of other pasta.  I was not going to eat them. That sounds weird, but I'm a texture person, and this other pasta amidst my Ravioli was not the same texture.
The Ravioli did taste pretty good.  It had a good texture.  The smoked cheese sauce had a good flavor, but I realize, I really prefer a tomato based sauce.  I do wish that the Olive Garden Pastas came with more sauce on them.  I think the fact that I was eating a filled pasta helped give it  more flavor.  At this point, I average eating at the OG once a year, if that often.  I have eaten there twice this year, but that was a fluke.  I really do prefer to make my own pasta sauce at home!  That way, I control what goes into my sauce. 
The over all dining experience was pretty good.  We were told there would be a 25-30 minutes wait, and it was really only about twenty.  We had two servers that were pretty attentive to us the entire time we were there.  Our actual server was Michelle. She did have a hard time keeping our drinks filled, which really shouldn't happen.  Also, we were ready to go by five til the hour, as in, Ian had his card on the table so the server could see it.  She didn't bring us our bill until almost five after.  Then, she didn't get us checked out until a quarter after.  Why would it take that long to get us done and out the door?  I would think you would want to get people out of your tables, so you can get more people and make more money!  We were heading to play at 7:30pm.  We had gotten to the OG by 5:30.  An hour and a half should be plenty of time to get seated, eat, and be done!  That's when I started wondering if our server was new.  She was just a little slow on some things.  Luckily, the play was not more than a ten minute drive away from the Olive Garden, or we would have been late.  We didn't ever say, "Hey, we are trying to be somewhere!"  But we thought the credit card out on the table, ready to pay the bill was enough of a hint.  She kept talking to the tables around us and not to us, for over twenty minutes. By the time she did get our payment, there was a line at the server kiosk, and she had to wait. This was a bit annoying!
Andes Mint
At the Olive Garden, they always give you an Andes Mint to help with alleviating the garlic breath. This is a nice touch.  My roommies used to bring them home to me by the handfuls.  This is where my Pechin's Famous Andes Mint Brownies came from!  Thank you Olive Garden for the inspiration! 
PS- Bring back the Chocolate Lasagna!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Seasons 52: A Restaurant on the Healthier Side

Have you ever heard of a restaurant that's focus is serving items that are all around 460 calories?  No?  Well, this is the focus of Seasons 52, a restaurant that recently opened at Keystone at the Crossing.
Seasons 52 has a seasonal menu that changes four times a year.  The web site says, "A fresh dining experience that celebrates living well!" The establishment was pretty busy for the fact that we were going early on on a Saturday evening. I had gone in with my coworkers after our choral clinic.
I know I'm a bit cheap, but the main dishes seemed a bit on the expensive side for me.  They run from fifteen dollars to almost thirty.  The thirty dollar item being the steak.  A lot of the menu is sea food, which I am not  a fan off, unless it's batter dipped and fried.  As you can tell from their matter, this place did not carry anything batter dipped and fried!
Instead of a main course, I opted for a cup of chili, a Flatbread pizza, and a side of tomatoes with artichoke tapenade on them.  At the end, I also got a small dessert.  All of the desserts are small at Seasons 52!
I started my dinner out with a cup of chili.  This chili came with a tiny, and I mean tiny dot of sour cream with Cilantro in it.  The chili was pretty good.  The only thing for me is, it reminded me of Campbel's Chunky Soup.  The pieces of beef in the chili were tiny chunks of steak.  Usually, I think of chili having ground beef in it.  This one was different in that sense.  It didn't really have a lot of chunky vegetables in it, but it did have small black beans.  The next time I go to Seasons 52, I'll will probably skip the chili, not because I thought it was bad, but because it was completely different than what I expect in a chili. (I didn't get a picture of the chili.  Sorry! Price $5.50)
Artichoke and Goat Cheese with Leaf Spinach, Balsamic Onions, and Roasted Peppers
I don't know why this picture turned out so tiny!
For my main course, I ordered a Artichoke and Goat Cheese Flatbread with Leaf Spinach, Balsamic Onions, and Roasted Peppers.   It was really good!  How they get that crust so flat, crisp, and light, I couldn't tell you.  The vegetables on it were very fresh and had an awesome taste!  I would recommend getting a flat bread to anyone whole is going to eat at Seasons 52!  (Price under $10)
Tomatoes with the Artichoke Tapinade and Balsamic Glaze
For my side, I got the Tomatoes with Artichoke Tapinade and a Balsamic Glaze.  These were awesome!  The Artichoke Tapinade had a little bit of cheese in it, maybe Parmesan, that was melted on top of the tomato.  The balsamic glaze give it an amazing taste but wasn't over powering. This side dish was on their seasonal menu. (Price under $5.)
Pecan Pie with Vanilla Mouse Dessert Shot
The dessert menu you at Seasons 52 is almost an event!  The server brought over a carrier with about ten different dessert shots in it.  She held a flashlight over every shot and described it! (You can tell how dark the restaurant is by the pictures.)  It had flavors like; red velvet cake, blueberry cheesecake, fruit with whipped cream, and chocolate moose.  I chose the Pecan Pie with Vanilla Mouse in the bottom.  This was really tasty!  For those of you that only want a couple bites of a dessert after your meal, this is perfect!  I know a few other restaurants carry these, like Applebees, but I don't usually get them when I go there. I have a fondness of Pecan Pie and of things like Creme Brulee. In fact, if I see a menu with Creme Brulee on it, I already know I'm going to order dessert before I even decide what my main dish will be!  This little dessert packed a good sweet punch!  (These were not on the menu, so, I have no clue how much they cost. I'm guessing between $5-$6.)
If you are interested in a sophisticated atmosphere with a good menu and an extravagant *wine list, Seasons 52 is the place to go!  I would give the place 3 and a quarter pizza pies out of 4!  The only thing that was a little off for me is the price range.  My total meal was close to $30, and I didn't even order a main dish.  That's a little much in my mind.  Most people wouldn't even bat an eye at the prices on this menu.  My co-worker said, she refused to order a glass of wine,  because the
*Drinking is not my thing, but if it's yours, they have a full bar and a huge wine list!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Delux Pizza with Whole Grain Crust

I made a pizza one Sunday that was a Deluxe with whole grain crust.  The crust was Pillsbury's new Artisan Pizza Crust.
A funny thing happened.  When I started this pizza, I got the sausage browned and the dough started and out of the oven.  I even got the ingredients on the pizza.  Then, some unexpected guests knocked on my door! I let them in, not realizing, we were in a time crunch and heading somewhere shortly. By the time I got them out the door, I stuck the pizza in the oven to finish baking, and then, basically, turned around and stuck it in the fridge.  It did not get eaten until days later!  So, I'll have to try this pizza again at a time that I know I'm going to be able to eat it!

1 lb Ground Sausage Browned, Drained
1 Package Pepperoni
1 Artisan Pillsbury Pizza Crust
2 lb bag of Mozzarella/Pizza Cheese
1 Jar Pasta Sauce (I didn't use the whole jar.)
1 Can Mushrooms
1 Sliced Onion
2 Tbs Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic
1/2 Red Bell Pepper Chopped
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pillsbury Artisan Pizza Crust
I started by using the olive oil and garlic cloves and doing the Crust Trick.  I rolled the Pillsbury crust on to the stone.  Then, I stick the crust in the oven for about seven minutes.

Browned Sausage
While the crust was starting, I browned and drained the grease off of the sausage.
After the crust had cooked a bit, I took it out and started adding on the layers of toppings.  First, I put on the pasta sauce.  Then, I started adding the pepperoni, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, and sausage. 
Toppings before Cheese
Then, I put the cheese on.  We like a lot of cheese, so, I used almost the whole bag!
A Lot of Cheese
 Done Pizza
I cooked the pizza for about 8-10 more minutes.  Then, I took it out and went to a party!  When we did eat the pizza, I took it out of the fridge and cooked it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.  
This combination of ingredients turned out really good!  I just wish it wasn't almost a week old by the time we got to eating it. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lean Cuisine: Roasted Garlic Chicken Pizza-Woodfire Style

I know. You are all probably saying, "Another Lean Cuisine?!?!"   Well, I have to take something for lunch. Lean Cuisine Meals are easy to take and relatively healthy.  Today for lunch, I ate the Roasted Garlic Chicken Pizza -Woodfire Style.  View the product information here.
Front of the Box
The front of the box actually made me a little nervous this time.  I know, that's really weird, but I don't like to eat frozen dinners with chicken.  So, this is definitely a personal issue!  Luckily, I bought this anyway!
The Back of the Box
This little pizza cooks in under three minutes.  I always add ten to 15-30 seconds more, because the microwave at work doesn't cook as hot as others.  
Shrink Wrapped Pizza
Opening this pizza, before I even got it out of the plastic wrap, I got excited. This pizza looks really good.  I could tell the potential when I opened the box.  
Out of the Plastic Wrap
The hardest thing about this pizza and other Lean Cuisine pizzas, is getting it out of the plastic wrap!  I usually have to get something to poke into the wrap to get it open. This annoys me a little, because I don't always have something clean and sanitary available to open it at lunch.
The Cooked Pizza
I was pretty impressed with this little pizza!  The chicken was really good.  I am not a big fan of frozen meals that contain chicken.  The texture is weird for me.  The chicken's texture on this pizza turned out really well.  The sauce is a white sauce, which is not always my favorite, but the sauce had a good Italian flavor to it. The crust was nice and chewy.  The cheese was pretty normal for a microwave pizza.  The thing I think I was most impressed with was the chunks of garlic!  They were POWERFUL!  They had a great flavor to them.  They also stunk up the whole office when I cooked this little pizza.  My coworker informed me of this when I was done eating my lunch.  I needed a mint after I ate it.  If you're going to take this pizza for a work lunch, I would definitely make sure the Altoids are handy!  Your coworkers and customers might be very upset with you, if you are not prepared!  I give this little pizza 2 pizza pies out of four.  It definitely makes a pretty good lunch!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

French Onion Soup

For some reason, every time I've been out at a restaurant lately, and they have French Onion Soup on the menu, I've ordered it. Finally, I decided I would try and make it at home.  It turned out really well!

2 Medium Onions Sliced
3 Cloves Garlic Sliced
2 Cans Beef Broth
1 tsp. Sweetener (I used Spenda.)
3 Tbl. Olive Oil
1 Bag Shredded Cheese (I used Mozzarella. I also didn't use the whole bag, though it was tempting!)
1 Loaf French Bread Sliced and Toasted (I used a loaf of Pillsbury French Bread.)
Non-Stick Spray
Seasonings: Garlic, Lemon Basil (Pampered Chef), Pepper
Onions Cooking
To start, I put about two to three table spoons of olive oil in my pan warmed on medium heat. Then, I through in my sliced onions and garlic.  I let these cook on a medium heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring them occasionally.
Pillsbury French Bread
While the onions were cooking, I baked a loaf of Pillsbury French Bread.  This stuff comes in a can, and it tastes AMAZING!   I bake it every time I'm going to make pasta!  You can buy an already made French Bread, if you prefer.
After the bread is baked. I sliced it and stuck it back on the cookie sheet.  I stuck it back in the oven to toast a little bit.  
Caramelized Onions
The onions are done when the start looking translucent and are flimsy.  About five to ten minutes before I'm going to take them off of the heat, I put in the table spoon of sweetener.  I let them finish cooking with the sweetener. 
Onions with Beef Broth
After the onions were finished, I added in the cans of beef broth and the seasonings and let them simmer for about ten minutes. 
I poured the soup into an oven safe dish.

I put the sliced bread into the soup.
I put cheese on top of it all. I didn't use the whole bag of cheese, but we really like cheese.  So, it was available if we needed it!  I stuck this under the broiler for about ten minutes to melt the cheese.
When the cheese is melted on top, this is ready to eat!  I read a few recipes that recommend putting the individual servings in their own separate baking dishes, but  I don't have small oven safe dishes to do that.  So, I cooked the whole thing together.
French Onion Soup Served
This turned out really well.  I read a few recipes online, and then, improvised with what I had in my kitchen.  This was a little on the time consuming side, because it took around forty-five minutes to make, but the turn out was worth it!  Also, you probably don't want to have left overs, because the bread gets soggy as it sits.  We ended up finishing the whole pan!  It was so good, I think we'll be having this for dinner again in the near future!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Totino's Combination Pizza: Family Size

Do you like Totino's frozen pizza? It was always a late night snack in my family. Then, in college, it became a meal! That little pizza packed a powerful punch with it's zesty sauce and it's ground pepperoni and sausage!

Totino's Family Size Pizza Box

Totino's Plastic Wrapped

When you take the Totino's out of the box, you still have to take off the layer of plastic wrap.  I usually use a knife to do this, so, I don't knock off all of the toppings.

Here's the Totino's on the pizza stone.  Using the pizza stone was actually a bad idea for this pizza.  It turns out with a nice crispy crust when baked straight on the oven rack.  The instructions say to do this, but I ignored them and used the stone.
Tontino's Pizza Cooked
The Totino's Pizza has always been one of my go to pizzas!  I'm a little sad that it didn't turn out as well on the pizza stone.  It still tasted pretty good.  It's pepperoni, sausage, and ham/Canadian bacon is more ground or in little pieces.  They pack good flavors into those little bits of meat.  The sauce has a nice spice to it that gives it a kick.  The cheese is ok.  I give this pizza 2 and half pizza pies out of four.  More than anything, the Totino's Pizza has a bit of sentimental value to me, since I've eaten from a very young age.