Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Week 20 - Diner/Drive-In Lunch

Week 20 of the 52 week challenge brought a diner/drive-in food theme, and for once, I had plenty of ideas without doing any research. Growing up in the NYC area, I've been to my fair share of diners over the years (drive-ins, not so much). I had so many options but decided to only make two diner-style meals: one with breakfast food and one with lunch food. (If I had done 3, dinner food would probably have been meatloaf with vegetable sides.)

For lunch, it was an easy choice. I love a good diner grilled cheese. For the side dish, I tried to go with a relatively healthy vegetable instead of onion rings or waffle fries, using Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Tots. I know the goal of the challenge is to make meals from scratch instead of prepared items, but tater tots aren't really something you can make on your own if you don't fry, and I don't really fry (other than stir-frying or pan-frying) at home.

For our grilled cheese and tots dinner, we used:

- 4 slices of wheat bread ($0.35)
- 2 tbsp (or so) of unsalted butter ($0.50)
- 4 slices of pepper jack cheese ($1.35)
- 1 bag of TJ's sweet potato tots ($2.49)

The total was $4.69. Cheap dinner for 2!

The tots took about 30 minutes to bake and the grilled cheese, once the bread was buttered, took less than 10 minutes for both sandwiches. One of our quicker dinners, but since there were no fresh vegetables, there wasn't really very much prep to do. Just melt the butter and butter the bread, assemble the sandwich, and let it brown in the skillet. I was on such a grilled cheese kick last fall, making them all the time, since they were so easy and quick. Next time I might put more than 2 slices of cheese per sandwich, as we thought they needed a bit more cheese.

The sweet potato tots were just okay. They tasted less like tater tots and more like baked pieces of mashed sweet potatoes. They were missing that crisp fried potato taste that you get from real tater tots (even when baked). Even though sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes, I think we'd prefer to just go with regular tater tots next time. (So for the usual TJ's "buy again?" review question, the answer would be probably not.)

Our diner-themed "lunch" was fine, but not really that amazing since we can make grilled cheese and bake tater tots anytime we want. (The kimchi grilled cheese that I made but still haven't blogged about was so much better, but we had no kimchi this time and I've never had kimchi grilled cheese at a diner.) Looking for some new exciting combinations for grilled cheese sandwiches, so stay tuned and see what we come up with!

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