Thursday, August 18, 2016

Week 32 - Inspired by Video Games

Shortly after they announced the "inspired by video games" theme for Week 32 of the cooking challenge, Pokemon Go was released. We were quickly addicted to the game and all the positive ways it was affecting society, and it was a no-brainer which video game we should be inspired by for this challenge. We didn't want to consider actually eating any of the Pokemon we had worked so hard to catch, so after some brief looking around on the internet, it became clear we should make a Poke Ball Pizza, which we paired with a salad so it wouldn't be absurdly unhealthy.


Usually when I roll out the pizza dough, it becomes vaguely like a rectangle, but we needed a perfectly round pizza this time, so I leaned towards getting a pizza kit. I guess I could have just gotten a round flatbread from Trader Joe's, but we went to Costco first, and I remembered they had pizza kits, so we went with that. The ingredients for our Poke Ball Pizza were:

- 1 pizza flatbread with 1 packet of tomato sauce from pizza kit ($1.95)
- 6 oz of quattro formaggio shredded blend (parmesan, asiago, fontina, provolone) ($2.50)
- 1.5 oz of pepperoni slices ($1.65)
- 1/2 can of sliced black olives ($0.60)

The amount to make the pizza (since the pizza kits went on sale at Costco for their organic summer coupon special) was about $6.70. Adding on the Caesar salad kit (also from Costco, more on that later), the total for dinner was approximately $10.49. For a quick and easy dinner where the only work I had to do was place ingredients on the pizza and stick it in the oven, and mix together a salad kit, it was absolutely worth it. Sometimes you just need an easy, convenient dinner.


In order to make the pizza look like a Poke Ball (and it wasn't perfect around the edges), I first laid down the pizza sauce and then a thin layer of cheese. The top half of the pizza got pepperoni on top of the cheese, the bottom half got another layer of cheese, and the middle got a string of black olives. It looked enough like a Poke Ball, even if after baking it, the cheese messed up the edge.


The pizza was pretty good. It was a little salty from the pepperoni and the cheese, but that was to be expected. Also, the salt helped counteract the pizza sauce a little, because that was a bit too sweet. The cheese was good as always (my favorite pizza cheese from TJ's). The pizza wasn't as crispy as we would have liked, but that was on me, since I didn't bake it long enough. (I did it for about 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees on a pizza pan, even though the instructions did that right on the oven rack. 15 minutes would have been better, as we tested later.) It was a fun experiment though, and it made us pretty happy seeing the Poke Ball come out of our oven as we sat in our apartment catching Pokemon.

Week 31 - Drink Pairings

The Week 31 challenge was drink pairings. I wanted to do beer since we had brought home quite a bit of beer from our visit to Dogfish Head, but since I didn't know much about beer pairings, I went to A for help. We decided that the best plan was to pair some spicy food with an IPA, so to go along with the kimchi potato salad from the fermentation challenge, I made a kimchi grilled cheese sandwich.


This wasn't the first time I made a kimchi grilled cheese sandwich. The last time I made it, I used one of the pouches of kimchi that Trader Joe's used to sell before everyone realized that they were prone to blowing up and potentially exploding. I don't think I've written about this sandwich before, other than mentioning it in passing, but it was such a good combination. I didn't really follow a recipe for it, but just used the same method as making the Kappacasein-style toasties and other grilled cheeses I've made in the past.


The ingredients for the grilled cheese sandwiches were:

- 4 slices sourdough bread ($1)
- 2 tbsp butter, melted ($0.40)
- about 1.75 cups grated monterey jack cheese (about 2/3 of that block) ($1.93)
- 1 cup kimchi, chopped ($1)

The total for the sandwiches was about $4.33, less than the potato salad that was the other half of dinner. Adding the cost of the beer and the potato salad, the total for the whole dinner was about $12.59. Not too bad considering how full we were by the end of it.


I assembled the sandwiches the same way I did for the toasties challenge. I buttered the bread and then put the cheese and kimchi on the non-buttered sides, and then made the grilled cheese in a nonstick pan.


Happily, at this point I seem to have internalized the lessons from last fall's Kappacasein toastie since I didn't even have to look at the post to refresh my memory. I just did what seemed right by instinct, and then when writing this post, I looked it up and found that they were all the same technique tweaks I had already incorporated (using sourdough bread with holes, grated instead of sliced cheese, and putting a pan on top to flatten the sandwich). Nice.


We paired our kimchi meal with Dogfish Head's summer IPA called flesh and blood. We were at the brewery in Delaware on the day that they officially released the beer so this was a trip souvenir for us. While the beer was good out of the bottle, the citrus notes didn't come out as well as they did from the freshly tapped keg at the brewery. That said, combined with the kimchi grilled cheese and the kimchi potato salad, the flavors were greatly enhanced and it was so much better. You could really taste the bright orange and lemon flavors that weren't quite there when we first drank the beer before eating the spicy food. Seems like it was a successful drink pairing!


We've always liked kimchi grilled cheese. It's a fairly easy and very tasty dinner, so I'm sure we will just keep making it, especially if we always have kimchi on hand (which I'm hoping we will, in the form of many more large tubs of kimchi).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Week 30 - Fermentation

Looking ahead at the next 2 cooking challenges - fermentation and drink pairings - my ideas for them seemed to work well together, so we ended up doing them on the same night with very similar and/or complementary ingredients. Either dish really could have worked for either challenge, since they both involved kimchi, but first up, for fermentation, I made a kimchi potato salad based on a recipe from the New York Times cooking site for spicy kimchi potato salad.


The ingredients for our version of the potato salad were:

- about 2 lbs of small yellow potatoes ($2.79)
- 1 cup of kimchi, chopped ($1)
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise ($1.23)
- about 4 large scallions, whites and greens separated ($0.60)
- about 1.5 tbsp ketchup ($0.08)
- a couple tsp lime juice ($0.15)
- a couple tsp sriracha ($0.15)
- salt ($0.05)

The potato salad came out to about $6.05, not too bad for a very filling salad, but a little high for a side dish. I prefer to think of it as just half of dinner as opposed to a side dish, which makes it seem not quite so bad.


To put together the dressing for the salad, you combine the kimchi, mayo, scallion whites, ketchup, lime juice, sriracha, and salt and mix well. I didn't really measure anything but the mayo and kimchi, and adjusted the other ingredients to taste. I used more kimchi than the original recipe said to because what they had just seemed like too little kimchi for a kimchi potato salad. I really wanted the flavor of the kimchi to come through to differentiate this from any other "regular" potato salad. That said, even with this much more kimchi, it still wasn't really that spicy. You could do this step while potatoes are boiling, but I was taking a shower after going for a run and doing other stuff, so I ended up making it later after finishing with the potatoes. Not ideal, but that's how it went.


As for the potatoes, you just have to scrub them, boil them until fork tender, and then chop into smaller pieces. Since the salad was supposed to be served room temperature or cool, and the potatoes were still very hot, I stuck the chopped potatoes in the fridge until I finished making the dressing.


Once the dressing was done, I followed the instructions and added about 2/3 of the dressing and then put the bowl of dressed potatoes back in the fridge. I ended up leaving them in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes while prepping the other part of dinner (the next challenge). When we were ready to eat, I added the rest of the dressing (at least whatever I didn't eat when passing by the bowl in the meantime) and the scallion greens and mixed well. At that point, we planned to adjust the flavor some more, but we liked as it was.


This was a really good potato salad, very creamy and full of flavor. The recipe said it was a take on pink potato salad made with Russian dressing, and the mixed together dressing really was a bit reminiscent of Russian dressing. We wouldn't say the recipe was actually spicy but it was quite tasty. We're always on the lookout for good, easy sides and this fit the bill. We would definitely make this again.

Winter Wassail

This holiday drink likely isn't on the shelves at Trader Joe's anymore since it's now summer, but we only opened it recently, well after the holidays.

Product: Winter Wassail

Price: $3.99 for 64 oz


Quick review: This drink definitely makes you think of the holidays, as it's filled with traditional holiday spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, and orange peel. It combines black currant, apple, and lemon juices, so it's a little different from other holiday drinks that are based solely on apple cider. The black currant in particular added a bit of a unique flavor that we really liked. It is pretty sweet though.

Buy again? Maybe, if we're looking for a holiday treat next holiday season. It had a nice, sweet flavor (although a little too sweet to be a constant purchase), and maybe next time, we'll actually drink it in the winter and can try it warmed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Chicken Caesar

As we've been wandering the city on all of our Pokemon walks, we've been seeing posters for limited time chicken caesar specials in the windows at McDonald's. I guess the posters worked because after unexpectedly chasing a rare Porygon today when I went for lunch, I found myself hungry and near McDonald's, and decided to stop in to try it.


I went to look for the sandwich on the McDonald's site, but apparently it's only a special in the NY area. Not only is there a chicken caesar sandwich, but they also have salads and McWraps as part of the promotion. I'm not sure if all the special caesar ingredients are the same across the different items, but I imagine they're fairly similar.


The chicken caesar sandwich pairs crispy (or grilled) chicken with toppings of lettuce, tomato, caesar dressing, and some parmesan shavings. Unlike some other fast food items, the sandwich ingredients didn't look that different from the poster; they just weren't styled as nicely.


Overall, I thought the sandwich was fine, but it didn't seem all that different from your regular chicken sandwich. The cheese and caesar flavors were there but not incredibly strong, and the other stuff is all fairly standard. I don't know that I need to go get this again before the promotion ends, but I wasn't disappointed that I tried it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Week 29 - Fat

Most cooking involves some sort of fat, whether it's oil, cheese, or some other type of animal fat, so when the theme for Week 29 turned up as "fat," it seemed like you could just cook anything you wanted. Of course, the goal was to put the fat front and center, so I went with bacon fat. After looking through some recipes involving bacon, the one that stood out to me was spaghetti carbonara. I had always wanted to make it, and not only would it use oil and bacon, but there would also be cheese. Perfect.


I started with a spaghetti carbonara recipe from Allrecipes, and mostly stuck with it, with minimal adjustments. The ingredients we used were:

- 1 lb spaghetti ($0.99) *
- olive oil ($0.30)
- 10 slices of bacon, chopped ($4.49)
- 1 onion, chopped ($0.50)
- about 3 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.10)
- 4 eggs, beaten ($0.40)
- about 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided ($1.30)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 1/2 bunch of parsley, finely chopped ($0.50)

* The recipe called for 1 lb of spaghetti, so that's what we made. We didn't end up using all of it for this recipe and certainly didn't need to make it all. More on that later, but I'm counting the full cost of the spaghetti here since we did make it all and I ate the rest (plain) for lunch.

The total for the meal was about $8.63, most of which was (as expected) the cost of the bacon. Not too bad for dinner.


The first step was to cook the pasta al dente, and then drain it and toss with a little bit of olive oil. I didn't measure it, but it was probably about a tbsp. It didn't "toss" very well since I didn't add the olive oil immediately after draining because I was busy doing other things and I forgot.


The next step was to cook the bacon, which A helped me with while I prepped other stuff. The goal is for the bacon to be slightly crisp, but ours didn't get that crispy. We decided it was done when it was well-cooked and had released a lot of bacon grease in the pan. After that, we removed the bacon from the pan and drained it on towels.


To the bacon fat that was left in the pan, first I added a splash of olive oil. Then we added the onion and cooked it until it was translucent, and then added the garlic for another couple of minutes, stirring frequently.


Once the onions and garlic were done, it was time to add the bacon back into the pan, followed by the spaghetti. On the TV cooking shows, they're always cooking pasta in large skillets with tongs, so I thought I would try doing the same. Maybe their skillet is larger, or maybe their pasta was easier to work with, but I found it really tough doing this and getting everything to mix together. Most of the bacon and onions refused to mix with the pasta when I was doing it, so A took over and really worked hard to get it all to combine.


We added the pasta in small batches into the skillet and after a while, I just stopped. This is how much pasta was still left when I quit adding it to the skillet. We definitely didn't need to make it all for this recipe, as it was just an overwhelming amount of pasta compared to the amount of other stuff in the recipe (and I was already using a pretty large onion and more bacon than the original recipe called for). I guess if you prefer carbonara with tons of pasta, maybe it's the right amount, but it just seemed a little too much for us.


Once the pasta, bacon, and onions were well mixed together, there were only a couple more steps to finish making the carbonara. I added about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese to the bowl of beaten eggs since some of the comments to the recipe suggested doing that, and then it was time to add it.


This is where it was really helpful that we both were working on dinner at the same time. The next step was to add the beaten eggs, and to toss constantly until the eggs were barely set, followed by the parmesan cheese (another 1/4 cup), and continuing to toss. Since A was tossing the pasta, he just kept doing that while I added the eggs and the cheese. Otherwise, I'm not sure how that would have happened "quickly." The last step was to add a little bit of salt and pepper to taste. I added more pepper than salt.


Once it was all mixed, we spooned out the pasta, and then added the remainder of the parmesan cheese and the parsley as garnish.


We were pretty happy with this spaghetti carbonara. Although we've known what it was and seen it made before, we had never really eaten it before. It was a rich, decadent dish, but so full of flavor. We were quite pleased with the result and would definitely make this again (although maybe with less pasta).

Week 28 - Local Ingredients

I wasn't really sure what to do for the local ingredients challenge, other than just go to the farmer's market and pick up something that looked good. Other than locally grown produce, what would really be considered a "local ingredient" for NYC? Since I was kind of stumped on that one, and since getting something local from the farmer's market was perfectly acceptable for the challenge, I just took the simpler route.


We were out shopping near my parents and stopped by the farmer's market to see what they had. I thought maybe there would be some good squash since it was the middle of summer, and that maybe I could make a good squash salad, something like one we saw during one of those Williams-Sonoma demo classes. The squash didn't look great, so that wasn't a good option, but what did look pretty good was the cilantro. I wondered if I could just make a cilantro salad, and then the tiger vegetable salad from Xi'an Famous Foods popped into my head. That definitely had cilantro in it. I quickly found a recipe for that type of salad on my phone, and we picked up the cucumber for the salad at the farmer's market too.


The recipe that I used as the base for this challenge was from the NY Times cooking section (original here), but I made some adjustments as usual. The ingredients for the challenge were:

- 1 large bunch of cilantro ($2)
- 1 cucumber ($0.75)
- 3 large scallions ($0.60)
- 1 serrano pepper ($0.06)
- canola oil ($0.10)
- sesame oil ($0.25)
- white vinegar ($0.10)
- salt ($0.05)

All the amounts for the sauce are approximations since we adjusted the flavor to taste and I'm not sure how much we used in the end. The estimated total for the salad was about $3.91, which isn't bad at all. We paired this with some ma po tofu (prepared like the heritage week challenge except that I now cook the onions first and used scallions instead of leeks since TJ's is out of frozen leeks at the moment), and although I didn't calculate the exact cost of that portion of the meal, I'm pretty confident that the grand total likely came under $10.


The work involved in the tiger vegetable salad was almost entirely prep. Although I love cilantro, I find washing and preparing cilantro to be a really tedious task. That's how I feel about the cilantro we get from the store, which is probably on average about 5 times less dirty than the straight out of the ground cilantro we picked up from the farmer's market. And we picked up a lot of cilantro at the farmer's market. It was a great deal getting that giant armful of cilantro for $2, but it took forever to get it clean. Removing the thick stems took some more time after that. Thank goodness I didn't have to chop it too.


Once the cilantro was finally prepped, I sliced the cucumber as thinly as I could, slivered the scallions (with A's help as my eyes were painfully burning partway through), and finely chopped the serrano pepper. After that, we mixed in the canola oil, sesame oil, and vinegar to taste and added some salt. It was a little difficult getting it all to mix together at first as there was just so much cilantro, but once it started to soak up some of the liquids, that giant bushel of cilantro dramatically shrunk in size.


While the salad was good - light and refreshing - it wasn't nearly as good as the one at Xi'an Famous Foods that was my initial inspiration. Looking at their menu now, it seems like their salad includes cilantro, scallions, celery, and long horn peppers in a sesame vinaigrette. The ingredients are definitely a little different from what we made, which probably accounts for the difference in flavor, besides the fact that they are pros at making it and this was our first time. On its own merits, the salad was fresh and clean, a good side dish, but the flavor of the cilantro wasn't as powerful as we had anticipated it would be, coming straight from the farmer's market. I'm glad we tried to make this ourselves, but not sure we'll make it again. That cilantro was a lot of work.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Taco Toppings

A few more Trader Joe's random quick reviews, this time for the toppings from our Week 27 taco challenge:


Product: Fancy shredded Mexican blend cheese
Price: $3.49 for 12 oz
Quick review: This is probably my favorite shredded cheese (of any blend, any brand, any store). It combines sharp cheddar, Monterey jack, asadero, and queso blanco, and just adds so much flavor to whatever we add it to. The quality is also pretty good. Often, like with cheddar, it's cheaper buying your own cheese and grating it, but here, it's cheaper and easier getting this blend so I can get all those different cheeses in one with zero effort.
Buy Again? Absolutely. We've been getting it for years. There's also a light version but it's more expensive, and I don't know that there's a dramatic difference in the nutritional panel.


Product: Light sour cream
Price: $1.79 for a pint
Quick review: I didn't eat much sour cream growing up, mostly because my family wasn't into it for health and lactose intolerance reasons, but I do like some sour cream every so often with tacos or chili or the like. I don't think we've ever gotten the regular sour cream at TJ's, only the light (which is supposed to have less fat and calories), so I can't really compare the two as far as taste but I think this one is pretty good. We also prefer the dairy products at TJ's in general compared to other stores because they are hormone-free, so that's another plus for this sour cream.
Buy Again? Yes, and we have every so often for years.


Product: Mild pico de gallo salsa
Price: $2.99 for 12 oz
Quick review: We really like pico de gallo, but it can sometimes be tough to make when tomatoes aren't in season. I've made it before and prefer it fresh, but it's so much more convenient to get it in a tub, already pre-cut and mixed. As expected, this version contained tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro, along with some seasonings, but it was much more watery than I thought it would be. Perhaps it needed to be more watery in order to make it last, but I didn't like it as much because of that. Back in Chicago, I used to go to Cub Foods (which I guess is now no longer there), and often bought their tubs of pico de gallo. I still remember them because they were that good, just like you were getting it at a restaurant, and far less watery. I kind of wish this one had been like that.


Buy Again? Maybe, especially if it's winter or there aren't good-looking, affordable tomatoes. It wasn't as good as I thought it would be, but it's good in a pinch. I just wish it weren't so watery.

Week 27 - Tacos

We have plenty of taco nights at our house, so when the Week 27 theme came up with tacos, I was all smiles. I had already picked out a new taco recipe I wanted to try - these chicken fajitas from the Food Network Kitchens - so this was probably one of the easiest recent challenges to figure out.


I used the Food Network's recipe as a starting point and basic guide for cooking the chicken, but adapted it, like we do for most recipes. The ingredients we used were:

- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided ($0.40)
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts ($3)
- taco seasoning, about 1-1.5 tbsp ($0.15)
- 2 bell peppers, sliced ($1.22)
- 1 onion, sliced ($0.50)
- salt ($0.03)
- garlic powder ($0.05)
- 4 tortillas ($0.30)
- pico de gallo ($2)
- sour cream ($0.80)
- Mexican shredded cheese ($1.75)

The total for taco night was about $10.20, including all the toppings (which will be covered more in-depth in another post). We each had 2 (very full) tacos, plus another plate of chicken and toppings without tortillas. Although I had hoped that it would be under $10, this wasn't a bad total for dinner.


The steps for making the tacos were:

1. Prep - slice peppers and onions, rub chicken with taco seasoning, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in skillet. Add chicken and cook, turning every couple of minutes, for about 5-7 minutes. (Our pieces of chicken were really thick on one end, so I left them in a little longer. It should look golden and not raw in any part.)

3. Line baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and bake for about 10 minutes at 425 degrees.

4. While chicken is baking, in the same skillet, add the rest of the olive oil. Once heated, add onions and bell peppers, and toss with salt and garlic powder. Saute peppers and onions until softened, about 12-15 minutes over medium heat. (Basically cook until they have the consistency of the fajita vegetables you'd get at a restaurant. That was how I measured it.)

5. While chicken is baking and vegetables are cooking, heat tortillas individually in a small skillet (no oil).

6. Once chicken is done, allow it to rest for a few minutes, and then slice chicken.

7. Assemble tacos - tortilla, sliced chicken, peppers and onions, sour cream, pico de gallo, and cheese.


These were some fully loaded tacos, unlike a lot of the tacos we often have, which have no sour cream or cheese or pico de gallo. I really liked this combination, and considering it didn't cook on one of those fajita hot plates, I thought it was a pretty good approximation of the flavors. What I was happiest about was the fact that the chicken wasn't dry at all. I haven't really made chicken like this - cooking in a skillet and then finishing it off in the oven - but I probably should do it more, as the texture was great and it was really juicy. The only thing missing from the "fajita" portion was guacamole, but that would have also increased the cost by quite a bit. This whole meal was a great taco night combination, and I would definitely do this again.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Team Mystic

Some days you just want some sushi. That was how we found ourselves at Ajisai, our neighborhood sushi joint (previously posted here), yesterday after a late visit to the gym. Although there were a lot of appetizers and hot food on the menu that sounded tempting, we decided to stick with rolls.


We ordered a sushi combo (which came with a salad or soup) along with 3 individual special rolls. The salad was your typical sushi joint salad - mostly lettuce with some cucumber and carrots and an orange-colored ginger dressing. We really love that dressing, so even if the salad ingredients themselves are never that exciting, we like eating the salad because of the dressing.


The combo we got was combo C ($16), which had a yellowtail jalapeño roll, spicy tuna roll, and spicy crunchy salmon roll. Whenever we get a combo, it's pretty much always this one. The quality is pretty good and everything tastes really fresh. This time around, my favorite from the combo was probably the spicy crunchy salmon, and A's was the spicy tuna roll.


We also got the namesake Ajisai roll ($16), described on the menu as "spicy crunchy salmon, mango, topped with black pepper tuna, sweet shrimp, eel, avocado, and tobiko with mango sauce." We've probably gotten this one before, but since we never posted about any of our visits before, it's hard to say for sure. This roll definitely had some sweetness from all the mango, but it wasn't an overwhelming amount. Our favorite parts of this roll were the ones with the black pepper tuna, but it was all pretty good.


The second special roll we got was the viking roll ($14), which was "eel, avocado, crunchy inside, tuna, salmon, yellowtail on the top with spicy sauce." It was also topped with some microgreens. This roll was good too, but texturally, it kind of mashed together a bit since all the ingredients were soft and covered in sauce. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing though, as the taste was good. A particularly liked this one because of the eel which is usually his favorite type of sushi fish.


The last special roll we got, I hadn't even seen on the menu when browsing it, but once A pointed it out, I knew we had to get it. It was called the mystic roll ($16), and considering we're Team Mystic in Pokemon Go (and proud of it), it was like it was meant to be. The mystic roll had "spicy tuna, avocado, crunchy, top with seared tuna and red wine pear with black rice and carrot ginger sauce." While we were pretty sure we had gotten the Ajisai roll before, and we knew we had gotten the viking roll before, we were relatively confident that this one would be new for us. We would have remembered eating a sushi roll with crunchy wine-soaked pear on top of it. This roll was really interesting and we liked it. The black rice added a little bit of a different flavor (you could get the other rolls with black rice too, but it costs extra), and it was nicely balanced out with the mild sweetness of the pear and that carrot ginger dressing I've already mentioned we love. It was a good choice, but we would expect nothing less from something called a mystic roll.

We were pretty happy with our Ajisai sushi dinner, and it was exactly what we both wanted for dinner. It's nice having a reliable sushi joint in the neighborhood.

Schlotzsky's Deli

(Previously on our Great Lakes Road Trip: Timbits!)

Our last stop before we left Maumee, Ohio was lunch at Schlotzsky's Deli. Schlotzsky's is a sandwich chain that A had gone to quite a bit while he was in high school in the Midwest, but M had never been there before. It wasn't incredibly close to A's home, but it was on the way to the tennis courts he and his friends used to go to for lessons. As is his wont, he recommended that they stop by another haunt of his younger days.


Since this was M's first time at Schlotzsky's, she opted for the pick two option, which allowed you to mix and match between sandwiches, salads, soups, pizzas, and flatbreads. Lots of options. After some cool nights on our drive, soup seemed like a good choice, along with half a sandwich.


For the sandwich, M picked the fiesta chicken, which consisted of shaved chicken, cheddar cheese, black olives, roasted red peppers, chipotle mayo, lettuce, red and green onions, and tomato on a jalapeño cheese bun. The half sandwich was a good size, the ingredients tasted fresh, and everything worked well together. M especially liked the bread, which seemed a little crunchy on the outside but was really soft otherwise.


M's soup choice was gumbo, which if we remember correctly was a special. She thought this was good as far as flavor and quality, and it was a pretty large bowl for a partial order which was impressive. The pick two was a lot of food and very satisfying.


A got the Angus beef and provolone. It wasn't around when he was going to Schlotzsky's back in the day so he was interested to see how it was. On a whole, the sandwich was not as greasy as he remembered almost all of their sandwiches were before. That's not a bad thing, but it made the bread a little drier and harder to bite through. Overall this sandwich was just okay. A remembered these sandwiches being better when he was younger, but it's possible that he had just built them up in his mind as a fond memory of his youth.


After our Schlotzsky's lunch, it was time to hit the road for Chicago. It was a mostly uneventful drive except for a part of Indiana where it rained a lot and a cricket-like bug flew into our windshield and got stuck in the wiper, so we had to watch it disintegrate in the rain (gross). Once we got to Chicago, we checked in to our hotel and then headed over to visit family and have some good home-cooked food. It was a pretty good food day, and we were glad that we had a chance to have a nice relaxed lunch at Schlotzsky's instead of some unhealthy fried food at a rest stop!