Sunday, October 27, 2013

Southwest Chicken

I'm not sure if Greenleaf's Grill is a chain in a lot of food courts or only a few, but I found myself there for lunch with my mom recently and decided to try one of their "specialty sandwiches."

The Southwest Chicken sandwich had pieces of chicken, cheddar cheese, and fresh salsa (tomato-onion pico de gallo) grilled fresh inside ciabatta bread. It reminded me of a thicker version of a panini (sorry, pressata) that I used to get at Europa way too often during work.

The sandwich was pretty good. I liked that it was grilled fresh after we ordered it. The lady behind the counter tried to warn me that it was really spicy, but I didn't think it was that spicy. After all, there weren't really any hot peppers in the salsa, just a little bit of spice. The chicken seemed like maybe it had some mesquite flavoring on it (since it's supposed to be "southwestern"), but that wasn't super spicy either.

If I had to choose three words to describe the sandwich, I would probably pick zesty, filling and balanced. I liked that there was lots of salsa to balance out the bread and the chicken, and the sandwich was definitely enough for me for lunch. I would get this again.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Vegetarian Taco Tuesday

One of my favorite foods in the entire world is tacos. I love all types of tacos - traditional Mexico City style tacos, Asian lettuce wrap tacos, fusion BBQ tacos, even Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos. They're just so much fun to eat and they bring so much joy. It occurred to me a few weeks ago that, despite my well-known love for tacos, I had never actually made a dinner spread to celebrate Taco Tuesday. That had to be remedied.

The final Taco Tuesday spread

I decided to make two different types of tacos, both vegetarian, centered around tofu and potatoes, since we had plenty of those ingredients at home. The total cost of the entire spread was $10.34 ($2.87 for the tofu tacos, $3.19 for the potato tacos, and $4.28 for the shared garnishes and tortillas). Not that expensive, but not as cheap as I thought it would be since there was no meat. I also expected the cost of each taco filling to be more than the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and tortillas, but that wasn't the case. Luckily there were enough leftovers for me to stretch the fillings to have breakfast tacos the next day.

Ingredients for the entire taco spread

As usual, prepping took forever, but I also peeled my finger like a potato which set me back...

Taco #1 - Tofu and Black Bean Tacos
(adapted from this Whole Foods recipe)


- 1 container of firm tofu ($1.19)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin (additional to taste) ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano (additional to taste) ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander (additional to taste) ($0.05)
- 1-1/2 tsp chili powder (additional to taste) ($0.10)
- salt ($0.05)
- olive oil for cooking ($0.10)
- 1 can of black beans ($0.89)
- 3 green onions ($0.32)
- 4 garlic cloves ($0.07)


1. Mash up the tofu and mix well with the cumin, oregano, coriander, chili powder and salt. I let it sit for some time as I prepped the garlic, green onions, and all the other ingredients.

2.  Heat oil in skillet and add garlic and most of the green onions. Once fragrant, add the tofu. Once the moisture has evaporated, add the black beans and the rest of the green onions. Season with additional spices to taste.

Fairly simple to make once all the prep is done. I loved tasting the tofu during the whole process. All the spices came through and I love spices!


This tofu scramble was a really tasty taco filling. There was a heartiness and earthiness from the black beans, and the tofu texture was reminiscent of eggs but the taste was all the flavors of the spices. Simple, inexpensive and easy. This doesn't even need to go in tacos; it would be fine as a side dish all on its own in my opinion.

Taco #2 - Potato, Onion and Chile Tacos
(adapted from this Rick Bayless recipe)


- 9 small red potatoes ($1.60)
- 1 yellow onion ($0.60)
- 1 can of Hatch green chiles ($0.79)
- 1 tsp ground cumin ($0.05)
- salt and pepper to taste ($0.05)
- oil for pan frying ($0.10)


1. Peel and chop the potatoes. (The instructions said to chop them in half and to chop them into smaller pieces later.) Simmer in hot water until fork tender.

2.  Cook onions and potatoes in oil in a skillet. Once they are tender, add in the green chiles and the spices. Cook until all ingredients are mixed together and soft. I also tried to mash the potatoes a little when stirring to make them softer.

Really simple recipe!


The final product here reminded me of breakfast potatoes. The potatoes were soft, the onions soaked up all the flavor, and the hatch chiles added a sour and peppery taste to the mix. I love poblano peppers and would have loved to use fresh roasted ones like in the recipe, but poblanos around here are much more expensive than they should be and it was much more affordable to substitute a can of green chiles. I also skipped the crumbled cheese from the recipe so the taco add-ons could be shared between the two types of tacos. I was a bit puzzled that the recipe had no seasonings other than salt. I felt that it was a little bland that way, even with the peppers, so I added in some pepper and cumin to add more flavor. In the end, this worked well as both a taco filling and a potato side dish, and I would definitely make something like this again. Next time, maybe I'll use more and different spices.

Hopefully Taco Tuesday will become a tradition for us! It's a lot of work, so maybe it won't be a weekly thing (or maybe I'll just do one taco filling), but I would love to do this again.

Nish Nush

I found myself downtown last week around (late) lunchtime, which was exciting because it meant I got to try someplace new for lunch! I considered visiting the dosa place inside the Tribeca Whole Foods but my desire for falafel won out and I walked over to Nish Nush.

Nish Nush has a bunch of sandwiches, all ranging from $5-8, and I decided to go with the red hot chili sandwich.

Sandwich assembled in the basket

The red hot chili sandwich has roasted pepper falafel (which the menu says is supposed to be spicy), hummus, lettuce, Israeli salad and pickles inside a whole wheat pita. It also comes with a small plastic container of pickles on the side (hiding behind the sandwich in the photo).

Close-up inside the roasted pepper falafel

I didn't find the sandwich too spicy, but there was a nice zesty flavor to the falafel that differentiated it from your regular run-of-the-mill falafel. It was like it was infused with red pepper flakes. The sandwich itself felt very light since it was just topped with hummus and salads. There are some sauces on the tables that you can add, but I didn't end up using much since the falafel had a pretty good flavor on its own.

I thought the falafel sandwich was good, but not as filling as some others (I'm thinking about our favorite Taim). I think next time I would be interested in trying the deluxe sandwich. It includes all three types of the falafel they offer - the regular green, the red roasted pepper that I got this time, and a spinach/mushroom falafel. That sounds like a good way to sample the best of what they have!

Nish Nush is located in Tribeca at 88 Reade Street (corner of Reade & Church).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tamale Pie

I enjoy cooking from scratch. But sometimes you need recipes that are a little bit easier and don't have as much prep so you can get other stuff done. Recently we tried out a new recipe for a tamale pie that I found on the Trader Joe's site, and it was super easy and tasty.


1/2 jar of TJ's corn and chile salsa ($1.25)
1 can of chicken chili (~$0.99)
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper ($0.10)
1 package of TJ's fully cooked polenta ($1.99)
2/3 bag of shredded cheese ($2.50)
Sour cream, for garnish ($0.40)

The recipe called for two packages of polenta, but that seemed kind of heavy, so I adapted the recipe and only used one. It probably makes a better "pie" if you use two rolls of polenta, but we liked this "lighter" version as well.

The total cost of the recipe was about $7.23 using one package of polenta, and would have approached $10 if we had used both. Not a bad price for dinner for two if you're comparing to restaurant prices, but more than some of our purely from scratch meals. But when you need convenience, you pay for your time!


1. Mix together 1/2 jar of salsa, the can of chicken chili and cayenne pepper. Stir well.

2. Cut half the polenta into rounds and layer the bottom of a greased (with cooking spray) 8x8 pan. (If you use two packages of polenta in the recipe, use an entire package here.)

3. Pour chili/salsa mixture on top of the polenta rounds, and sprinkle half the cheese on top.

4. Top the mixture with the rest of the polenta rounds and the rest of the cheese.

5. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is golden and the pie looks done. It took us about 40-45 minutes.

6.  Cut into slices and serve!


We liked this "tamale pie." It didn't really come out as slices of a fully formed pie for us since we didn't have thick layers of polenta on the top and bottom, but we didn't really care since it was still tasty. We just ate it out of a bowl as if it were a chili, polenta and cheese casserole. It was super simple to prep (didn't even need the cutting board!) and assemble, and after that, just let it bake. It's a perfect recipe for a busy night when you can't spend that much time prepping fresh ingredients or actively cooking, but still want something nutritious and tasty. We would definitely make this again.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


This weekend Burger King is offering free orders of their new Satisfries. Rolled out recently, it's their "healthier" version of fries with less fat and calories than the regular fries. I guess the product hasn't taken off as quickly as they anticipated, leading to the free promotion.

I had heard that Satisfries cost more than regular fries, which some people cited as a reason to not order them, but at our local Burger King, the price difference was only ten cents. I thought it would be more.

We liked the Satisfries. The regular fries (which are skinny, straight and more crispy) don't have that much potato flavor (mostly salt and seasonings), and these Satisfries (softer and crinkle cut) really tasted like potatoes. They also weren't as heavily salted as fast food fries usually are, which is a plus. We definitely thought that these were worth the extra ten cents.

However, as much as we liked our free order of Satisfries, the existence of a "healthier" type of fry isn't enough to drive us to visit Burger King more. They're definitely better than the regular BK fries, but they're not such great fries that it would make us go to BK just for them. To be honest, if I'm ever at Burger King, I'm probably more likely to get the onion rings anyway, but A would probably substitute the regular fries with Satisfries in the future (if he remembered they existed). We do like that Burger King is trying a healthier alternative to regular fries, and hopefully it takes off so fast food outlets aim to make their menus a little better. Good job Burger King.

The fries are free all weekend, so go try them!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

October Custard Calendar

This might be the latest we have ever done a custard calendar preview post. I started this way back on October 2, but somehow never got around to finishing it! So without further delay, here is the October custard calendar, with a bunch of new flavors for us to try:

The October flavors are (average ratings in parentheses):

Monday: cinnamon pear cobbler (new for us!)
Tuesday: waffles and bacon (repeat from March but we missed it then)
Thursday: Shackenstein (8/10)
Friday: candied apple (new for us!)
Saturday: pretzel caramel (guessing this is the same as "Pretz-idential caramel" - 7.5/10)
Sunday: pumpkin pie (8.75/10, with the usual "one of our first custards so numerically higher than it probably should be" caveat)

Based on the ones we've tried, it's a pretty solid custard calendar for the month.

We're really excited about cinnamon pear cobbler and are hoping it lives up to our expectations. And even though we've had Shackenstein before, we'd like to try it again since it's been awhile and it's very festive (and we're still not 100% sure what's in it). Happy (mid-)October!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Top Chef's new season starts tonight and they're going to be in New Orleans! We don't have much experience with New Orleans itself - I've always wanted to go to NOLA but haven't made it yet, while A's been for Mardi Gras but didn't do much food exploring on his visits. So when we heard a few weeks ago that Bravo and Grub Street were bringing a food truck to the city with New Orleans treats to promote the new season of Top Chef, we marked it down in our calendar immediately.

The locations went up at the last minute, so we were lucky that there was only a short line when we arrived for breakfast. The breakfast included beignets and coffee from New Orleans's famous Cafe Du Monde, and we couldn't wait to try them.

The coffee (according to A) was a dark roast with a rich flavor, but it wasn't very different from many other dark roasts he's had before (and no pictures since they were plain white cups). He imagined that the brew down at Cafe Du Monde must taste better since it isn't standard coffee that was machine brewed on a truck. We liked the beignets although they were much smaller than the pictures we've seen of the actual Cafe Du Monde ones. They were dense but still light, and had a little more crunch and fried shell than we expected. The beignets were topped with powdered sugar, which gave them a nice sweet flavor, but the sugar also got clumped up a little bit by the dripping oil from the donuts. We would love to try the real ones.

Added bonus - we got to meet Gail Simmons as she was hanging out with fans at the breakfast stop!

Unfortunately A couldn't make it out to the lunch stops, but I showed up early for the first lunch stop, early enough to qualify for the Foursquare special which won us a free oven mitt! It was that or a hat, and the silicone oven mitt is really nice. Totally worth it going early.

The menu for all the stops other than breakfast listed three types of po-boys from Domilise's, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. There was some confusion on line about whether we were getting samplers with everything or could only pick one item. I'm not sure if they were doing different food at each lunch/dinner spot, but everyone at our stop that I could see walked away with their choice of po-boy.

I would say that 90% of the po-boys that I saw leave the truck while I was there were the fried shrimp po-boy. They looked delicious, so I went with the most popular option!

The po-boys we got were half-sandwiches that consisted of a soft white roll, mayo, ketchup, hot sauce, pickles, shredded lettuce, and freshly fried shrimp. I liked that that the bread wasn't crumbly, that the mayo wasn't overwhelming, and that the shrimp was lightly fried and not so battered that you couldn't see the actual shrimp inside. The combination of flavors was good and I do like po-boys, but in the end, it really was just a sandwich. I think if I had the right fried shrimp, I could probably re-create this at home, which makes it feel a little less "special." If we go to New Orleans, I definitely want to search out the best fried shrimp/oyster po-boy to see how it compares to this. This was good for lunch, but I wasn't as blown away as I thought I would be.

A little sad that we didn't have the opportunity to try all the po-boys, the jambalaya, or the red beans and rice, but really happy with (and thankful for) all the free food we got from Top Chef (not to mention the oven mitt)! We're definitely planning to watch this season and can't wait to see their adventures in New Orleans. Someday we'll go there...