Friday, March 29, 2013

Easy Tasty Asparagus

Do you like asparagus, but aren't exactly sure how to make it at home?  Here's a quick easy way that I make it.  The prep time is about five minutes.

1 Bunch Asparagus
1-2 Tbl Garlic Powder
1-2 Tbl Olive Oil
Olive Oil Spray
1/2-1 Cup Cheese (I used shredded white sharp cheddar.)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste
*Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 
To start, rinse the asparagus in water, and then, cut about two inches off of the bottom ends.

 Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil spray.  You can use another cooking spray, but I think the olive oil has a nice flavor.  Spread the asparagus on the cookie sheet. I was using an older cookie sheet, so, I covered it in foil.  You don't have to do this.
Drizzle olive oil over the top of the asparagus. Shake on some garlic powder and ground pepper.  I use a lot of these two seasonings, because I love the flavors!  Use as much as you like.
Put in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.  425 is a really high temperature. If your oven cooks on the high side, watch them carefully so they don't burn. 
While the asparagus was cooking, I shredded some white sharp cheddar.  You can use whatever cheese you like. I happened to have this kind, and decided it would taste really good with asparagus!
When you can put a fork in the base of the asparagus pretty easily, it's done!  Take the asparagus off of the sheet and put on a microwave save serving plate.
Put the shredded cheese on top.  Microwave for about 45 seconds to melt the cheese.

This dish was ready in about 40 minutes after prep time and cook time.  We were baking our fish in the oven at the same time.  
This turned out to be a great and really tasty side dish to go with our fish we had for dinner.  I think it would go with a lot of different meals well!  If you're afraid of asparagus, I recommend trying it this way.  Besides, cheese makes everything taste good!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

PF Chang's: A Chain Restaurant

Most of the Chinese restaurants I go to are locally owned.  PF Chang's is not.  We go to PF Chang's about twice a year.  Usually, it's with other people that have requested to go there.  This time, I actually decided to go there on my own, with out the push from friends. When we go, we normally go to the Keystone at the Crossing location.  This time, we were downtown and starving, so, we went to the downtown location.  I'll do a little comparing of the locations as I go. 
The Menu
The P.F. Chang's menu is pretty standard at any location.  This time, we were told that there were a few new dishes on the menu. They mark the dishes in the menu with little logos that describe if the dish is spicy or vegetarian. 
Blueberry Jazmin Green Tea
The weird thing about this tea was, it tasted like bubble gum with a kick! It was good tea.  I felt like the glass could have been cleaner.  I don't think this is an issue that I've ever had at the Keystone at the Crossing location.
Hot and Sour Soup
If you've read any of my blogs about Chinese restaurants, you know I love a good hot and sour soup! P.F. Chang's does not disappoint!  We used to go and get the bowl, which could feed four, and take a bunch of it home for the next day. This soup is really good!
*Ian and I both got the hot and sour soup. When the server brought our soups out, she gave Ian one that had spilled all over the little plate.  She apologized, but it was a little weird and quite messy! 
Spring Rolls
With the meal for two, you can choose an appetizer to share. We chose the spring rolls! They are good and have a crispy texture.  The flavor is the norm for what would be expected from a Chinese restaurant.
Peppered Beef
Ian ordered the Peppered Beef for his main course.  He said it was pretty good. It comes with some good vegetables. You can see in this picture how the edges of the plate have sauce from the dish on it.  I've never noticed this before at the Keystone at the Crossing location.
Brown Rice
Brown rice came to our table in a bowl for us both to share.  The rice is a sticky rice, which is a good thing with Chinese food.  I'm not a huge rice eater, so, I can't comment on the taste, aside from the fact that it tasted like rice!

Sweet and Sour Chicken
I ordered the Sweet and Sour Chicken. You can see how my plates edges had sauce from the main dish smeared on the edges.  I don't know if that's the perfectionist in me, but I don't ever remember seeing this on the dishes at the Keystone at the Crossing location.  It kind of made me feel like my plates weren't completely clean. 
Sweet Sour Chicken with Rice
They always bring out an extra plate for each person to put his or her food on.  I always just add a little rice to my main dish.  This dish had the consistent flavor that I expect from P.F. Chang's. It was a normal Sweet and Sour.  I like the veggies, pineapple, ginger, peppers, and onions that are served with it.  They give a good crunchy texture to the dish.
Because every Chinese restaurant should have Tiramisu on their dessert menu! This dessert was really good!  I recommend this to anyone who likes Tiramisu.  A good sweet flavor and the cake was well done.
My Fortunes from my Fortune Cookies
With the new meal for two option, which is: 1 appetizer to share, 1 soup or salad per person, one main course per person including rice, one regular sized dessert to share (When we got the two person meal at the Keystone at the Crossing location in February, it was two mini desserts, one per person. I would actually prefer this, because I hate sharing desserts with people. I mean, with Ian it's fine, but think if someone was on a first date and had to share their dessert.  That would gross me out!), all for $39.99.  This isn't a bad price for all that's included in it.   This pricing option will probably draw us back in more often. 
We went to P.F. Chang's at around 10pm.  Maybe that's why the kitchen seemed a bit in disarray.  The floors were dirty. Our server, Jessica, seemed over it.  She had what I call the "Fake Server" attitude.  Running up every time we took a bite, or before we even had a chance to, asking, "Is the food ok? OK, Great!" and leaving before we could barely nod our heads. The music even seemed at a pretty extreme volume for me.  I don't know if we were seated right under a speaker, or if something else was going on.  The music just seemed distracting. If this was my first experience with the restaurant chain, I might not have come back.  Good think it wasn't!
I normally really enjoy P.F. Chang's.  Every time we go to the Keystone at the Crossing location, it's a really good experience.  I give P.F. Chang's 3 pizza pies out of 4.  If I had just stuck with the Castleton location, I would have given it a higher score.  The Circle Center location didn't impress me as much!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Portillo's: A Chicago Tradition!

When we went on vacation, we had too make a stop at Portillo's! Portillo's is known for their hot dogs!  They also have other awesome foods on the menu, like their famous Italian Beef Sandwich, which can be shipped to you, to their Polish Sausage!  They are also opening more locations across the country, like Scottsdale, AZ.
Pick Up Counter
If you've never been to Portillo's before, ordering can be a little overwhelming!  You walk up to a counter, and there's this long menu on the wall.  The problem is, it all looks so good! We walked up to a guy at the counter and ordered.  My niece an her boyfriend go here all the time, so, the were done ordering in minutes. I on the other hand, took a long time studying the menu, making sure I was ordering the right thing. 
After ordering, you wait at the pick up counter and wait for your number to be called.  
The Food Comes Wrapped
When we picked up our food, it was on a tray and wrapped, and in a bag.  It seemed like a lot of paper products for two sandwiches, two orders or fries, two drinks, and two cheese sauces. 
Emily's Italian Beef
Emily says, every time she eats at Portillo's, she gets the Italian beef.  The Italian beef is one of their top menu items.  You can also get kits to make these shipped UPS to your home!
Ian's Chili Dog
Ian ordered a chili dog.  He said it was really good.  It looks really messy because of the wrapping. 
My Polish Sausage
I ordered the Polish Sausage. It comes with grilled onions, mustard, and ketchup.  I really like it!  It brought back memories of when I was little.  When I was a kid, there was a Village Pantry down the street. My parents would take me there, and let me get a polish sausage.  
The Portillo's polish sausage had a great flavor to it! The grilled onions were cooked to perfection! 
Crinkle Cut Fries
The fries are crinkle cut! That always makes for a good fry! You can also get cheese sauce with them. I really love a good cheese sauce! These were really good fries!
I give Portillo's 3 and a half pizza pies out of four. Going to Portillo's brings back memories, whether or not your are from the Chicago Area.  The location we went to was in Bollingbrook, IL. It had a great atmosphere. The atmosphere is very family friendly.  The only negative was the counter and the menu are bit on the intimidating side for me.  For most other people, they would have no issues with them.  I'm going to have to make Portillo's more of a priority on my places to visit in the future! 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Healthy Smoothy: Dairy Free

I saw a pin on Pinterest today that said: Smoothy, 0 Weight Watchers Points!  When I clicked on the link, it just took me to a picture, and not the original recipe. It says, "Click on the picture for original recipe." When I did that, it took me to ANOTHER Pinterest Pin! Seriously? So, I decided to just make it up myself!
I tried to make this as simple as possible!

4 or 5 Large Strawberries Cut
1 Small Banana
1 Large Handful of Blueberries
1-2 Cups Diet Lemon Lime Soda
Some Ice

Chopped Fruits
First I washed and chopped my fruit. 
Then, I threw my fruit, about a cup and a half of ice, and the diet lemon lime soda into the blender. I put about enough soda up to about the half way point of the ingredients. Then, I pulsed the blender a few times to get the ice broken up.  After that, I put the blender on blend for about 30 seconds. 
This serves 2, or you can drink it all yourself!  This has no extra sugar in it.  It didn't need it!  It was naturally really sweet.  If you have the stuff laying around to make a smoothy, I say try it!  This was like having dessert for breakfast!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Chicago Style Hot Dog

On our trip to Chicago, I decided to try a real "Chicago Style" hot dog, made by a person in Chicago. I accomplished this in the Shed Aquarium's cafeteria.

The Chicago Style Hot Dog
They start of this whole thing is the Vienna Beef Hot Dog.  These are advertised every where in the Chicago area.  This must be super important. Even on the front page of the Vienna Beef site, it says, "Chicago's Hot Dog."
After the hot dog and bun, comes tomatoes, onions, relish (which is a bright neon greenish color), yellow mustard, and chili peppers.
Honestly, I had to deconstruct this hot dog a bit before I could start eating it.  I took off the chili peppers completely, and I ate the pickle on its own.  The Chicago Style hot dog will be messy!  There's really no way around that, aside from eating it with a fork.  And who eats a hot dog with a fork?
I actually really like hot dogs and eat them often at home.  It's not something I would normally get out to eat, unless I'm at a ball park.  I might start trying to make the Chicago Style hot dog at home.  Most of these ingredients I already have at home.
But I would suggest "When in Rome" or Chicago, go ahead and try a Chicago Style hot dog!