Sunday, February 23, 2014

Monte Cristo Waffle Sandwich

Sometimes Dinner should just be something easy. . . 

I got the original recipe for these Monte Crisco sandwiches from Foodie Crush through my wanderings at Pinterest. I had some Eggo Nutrigrain Waffles already in the house, as Target recently had them on major sale. We actually have quite a variety right now but since that particular flavor is my favorite I had a box stored in the chest freezer downstairs and when I saw this recipe I figured I had most of the ingredients already in the house with the exception of shredded Swiss cheese.

Quite honestly, while the concept  waffle sandwich is not exactly new in our house but this was a little more elaborate. My kids have been having waffles with butter and syrup but then adding a slice of Muenster cheese on top and melting it in the microwave for a few seconds for years. Sweet and savory all in one. Sometimes if there's bacon in the house they add that as well. We did this years before McDonald's McGriddles.

Back to the sandwich. . . We used honey ham in one of those packages and I already had some Trader Joe's raspberry jam in the house from a previous recipe. I like when we can make more than one thing from packages so we have Chicken Cordon Bleu schedule on the menu for this week to use the rest of the ham.

I made our sandwiches in our cast iron skillet that I was given by a friend when her mother was downsizing to an apartment. It's been in use for years and really seasoned and I think it's my best new gadget in the kitchen. I just put a lid from a pot on top as they cooked. 

Feedback from the family was mixed (it typically is in most instances). 2 out of 4 Hendrens liked it just the way it was, 1 may have said that she would have even liked a little more jam on that sandwich (she will remain nameless). The balance of Hendrens wanted more meat and less jam as they thought it made it a little too sweet. We will customize them next time. No sugar was sprinkled in this house during the dinner.

So general recipe - based on the original - to make 4 sandwiches:

8 Eggo Nutri Grain Waffles
Honey Ham, thinly sliced
Shredded Swiss Cheese
Raspberry Jam
4 Eggs
1/2 cup 2% Milk
Butter pats for skillet (4)

Beat eggs and milk together in a bowl. Set aside.

Spread a thin layer (adjust to taste) of jam on one waffle, top with ham and cheese. Add another waffle on top. Repeat with remaining waffles so you have 4 sandwiches.

Heat up skillet with one pat of butter on medium heat.

Dip first sandwich in egg mixture and place in heated skillet. Cover with lid and monitor closely. Flip when browned. Put on plate to cool when both sides are browned and repeat with remaining sandwiches.

Eat while warm!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Restaurant Review: Green Dot Stables

How Did I Miss This One?!!!

I missed this on two levels. 1. Somehow despite my repeated documented experiences on this blog, I have not yet mentioned this wonderful place. 2. I have lived in a suburb of Detroit for years and did not find this wonderful place until 6 months ago.

Good food and drink in a historic Detroit setting. Think old school 1960's that hasn't had an overhaul in a while. Old wood tables and chairs. A bar that is definitely vintage. Old saloon doors to enter the establishment. . . Decorations include old jockey and Detroit memorabilia including black and white photos at the horse races with some photoshop action adding green.

We have all had a burger. They are a staple of American cuisine and come in all sorts of varieties ranging from the classic versions (beef patty with cheese) to the more exotic versions with many offerings in terms of meats and toppings. Green Dot Stables has the whole gamut covered with their version of sliders. These little gems range in price from 2 to 3 dollars and I know I personally can not stop with just one. Choices, choices, choices. You can have a cheeseburger with onion and pickles, or other classic fare such as a BBQ Bacon with sweet potato and BBQ sauce. Vegetarian? You can have a grilled cheese, a Quinoa Burger with Kale and Chimchurri, or a Tempeh with wasabi mayo and Wakame Salad. You can even have a PB&J with peanut butter and raspberry chipolte jelly.

I can't stress the variety of choices. The menu currently boasts 21 (yes 21) different sliders to choose from including the "Mystery Meat". Mystery Meat you ask? Well that's a choice that changes weekly but I have personally experienced Goat with Habanaro Mango chutney and a Meatloaf made with a variety of meats topped with grilled onions and lime mayo recently. Sometimes it's duck, or braised short ribs, or even things way out like buffalo tongue and bull testicles.

I have to say that there was a time that I would look at a certain ingredient and say "no way" internally in my head. I might ask the waitstaff to hold an item or topping but I have learned that Green Dot knows what they are doing and I order them as is with reckless abandon. I will say that other family members that I frequent this place with do NOT do that. Cheeseburgers are always minus pickles or onions, etc. etc. But I have found that Green Dot balances flavors and that often it's a little symphony with a perfect mixture of savory and sweet, salty with heat. I recommend letting them do their thing.

So with so many choices, I have my own favorite list. Let's call it the Top 5 List. I will rank them in descending order like a countdown, so that there will be a little supsense as you get to my #1. Don't look ahead!!!! Wait for it.

Debra's Top 5 List  of Green Dot Sliders. . . . 

insert drumroll here

5. Coney Dog

Hot dog with venison chili and mustard. This was a recent discovery and it's a great interpretation of the Detroit classic taste with a twist. If you like Coneys it's worth a try.

4. Fried Bologna

Dearborn Brand Bologna with fried onions. It's a nice little piece of bologna (it may be a ring bologna) and they cook it to a really good texture with the thickness. They add some grilled onions and it's pure comfort food.

3. Fried Chicken
Fried Chicken with Sage Maple Syrup

Boneless chicken breast fried with Panko crumbs without being too dry. It's drizzled with sage infused maple syrup. It's a complex balanced treat and that maple syrup is a wonderful addition of sweetness with the herbs and the chicken. I know a lot of people that would rank this as their favorite Green Dot slider. I should put in a disclaimer that chicken is not my favorite choice in protein but I really think this is a great take on the slider.

2. Corned Beef

Wigley's corned beef with sauerkraut, pickles and a mustard ailoi. That mustard has a bit of heat and it balances with the sour flavors. The corned beef itself is some of the best I have had, with a buttery texture that just falls apart because it's so tender. Add a white bread slider bun and it's a perfect little meal.

1. Korean

Beef patty with peanut butter and kimchi. It's number one for a reason and while you may think initially that this makes no sense as a combination I think it's the best burger there. Of course if you don't know what kimchi is this may be a bit offputting, or maybe less. Kimchi is a Korean side dish made up of fermented vegetables and is typically spicy and pickled in flavor. Mostly I have had Kimchi with cabbage and I think this is what Green Dot uses. So again, this beef burger is topped with Kimchi and peanut butter and it's the bomb! Peanut butter, a new staple for burger toppings in my house even when we aren't at Green Dot!

Clockwise starting from top left: Corned Beef, Korean, Fried Bologna and "Mystery Meat": Meatloaf made from a variety of proteins with Grilled Onions and Lime Mayo

Burgers are the main reason to visit Green Dot but I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the other aspects of this place. Besides burgers there are also hearty soups to choose from including recently a spicy hot clam chowder that had bacon and sirachi sauce in it along with some diced potatoes. Hearty wonderful soup. What's a burger without fries? Well they have a few choices of different varieties of flavors added to thin crispy fries such as Cajun or truffle herb. There are also salads and while if you are having a burger you probably aren't completely health conscious, the kale salad is very good with quinoa and lemon vinaigrette.

Cocktails. This is definitely a place to also have a drink. Sure they have a good variety of beer but you should have a cocktail. To me, with the history of this place (The Purple Gang uses to hang out here and if they were the ones to keep Detroit supplied with alcohol during the Prohibition perhaps we should salute them), it's almost mandatory. Cocktails are in the $3 range so I've tried quite a few. Mint Julep is a classic with the jockey theme. I recently had a rum spritzer with rum, ginger ale, grapefruit soda and mint. Quite refreshing. There is also a Mystery Cocktail offered each week.

There are often little surprises as Green Dot. Of course with mystery meats and cocktail offerings each week, there are going to be surprises. I have visited quite a few times (we won't try to add the visits up) for lunch, dinner, just the middle of the day. . . Recently while at lunch, the waitstaff mentioned a "special appetizer". Special appetizers?!!! Since when. It was this little whimsical artichoke heart, stuffed with an artichoke kale dip and topped with a fried tortilla chip thing. So cute and so delicious. By the way it was a dollar!

If you haven't been to Green Dot, I suggest you go but it's going to take some planning on your part. With food and prices like this, this place is hot. You can never anticipate if it's going to be crowded at off hours but it's a given that in the evening or lunch that this place may involve a two hour wait. On a Friday or Saturday night there is a little annex to drink at picnic tables while you wait and often it's entertaining to hear the improvised names for parties as they are called to come eat (one day the theme was cereals. . . Captain Crunch, Smurfberry, etc.). They do not take reservations and your whole party must be present. Strategies? 1. Wait for a horrible snowstorm of which we have had plenty this year. They might be empty at 2PM due to bad weather. 2. Go at 11:30 sharp on a weekday. You may be the first one there for lunch. 3. Call and see what the line looks like and then rush over if it's a slow day, 4. Put your name in and drive around for a bit.

It's worth it. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Worth Reading vs. Not Worth Reading?

I'm "on the fence" about this one

I go back and forth about including this one on the recommended list. I should say that after getting two thirds of the way through with this book, I gave up and moved on. Why? Because while this book was interesting in the way that it provided a lot of intriguing facts about Cleopatra but that is my summation of this book. . . There are a lot of facts but not necessarily a good story to read. This exercise left me more knowledgable not only about the woman but about the time period and the culture. The delivery however was not entertaining but dry.

If you are a huge fan of Cleopatra and want to know more about the real history you may be interested in this book. If you are looking for an entertaining story (which of course would involve some fictionalization) this may not be your first choice.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chess Pie - Just a Pie?

Another Treat from Eastern Market!

Just a Pie? I think not! 

Love Pies is one of those vendors that is routinely at Eastern Market on a Saturday. I finally had the opportunity to try it (there are so many vendors and treats to choose from that I have to ration myself). Love Pies has a lot of other treats - in pie form - to choose from. There is egg custard pies, sweet potato pie, and on this Saturday there were also some banana custard tarts which I have to admit I also purchased. To be fair in my self proclaimed rationing, I then adjusted to purchase a smaller size Chess Pie.

Chess Pie is a custard pie but there is a story to the name that the gentleman was kind enough to share. I think, based on my reading today, I was speaking to Allen Love, Donnie (the baker) Love's husband. Mr. Love explained that Chess Pie is the name the Northerners gave the pie when they brought it from down South. In the South, people often went up to the cook and asked what was going to be for dessert. The cook would respond "Just a Pie" which the Northerners heard as "Chess Pie". He told the store in a much more eloquent way than I can!

Regardless, this pie is the bomb! Dense custard and a crispy sugary top layer this pie is wonderful.

The banana tarts were also delicious. They were a lot like Banana Cream Pie but with a richer filling.

Book Review: Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

As you can see from the cover, this is now a movie.

I actually came to know about this book from the 16 Books to Read Before They Hit Theaters This Year list. What a great little book!

Henry has a difficult life. His father has remarried and lives with his wife and his newly formed family which includes a new baby girl as well as a half brother. Henry still lives with his mother who has some issues with mental illness based on her behaviors, rarely leaving the house which isolates Henry from the larger world.

It's a couple of days before Labor Day and Henry manages to get his mother to go on a rare excursion to the local store as he needs new pants for the upcoming first day of school. Everything changes when a man, who is clearly bleeding, comes up to Henry in the magazine aisle asking for help in the form of a ride. When Henry introduces Frank to his mother Adele, who gives him a ride to their home.

So begins the five days that contain so many life lessons for Henry that will change who he is. This includes learning to make a perfect pie crust, throwing a baseball, and seeing true love up close. While it's a short time, this makes an impact on Henry that will change his life forever, as he begins to identify with a father figure and sees that a lot of what his mother needs is a love he cannot provide.

This is a wonderful book about love and redemption. Frank has a past and is an escaped convict but it becomes clear that while he is mysterious and labeled as "dangerous" he is more than just the headlines of the local paper.

The book is easy to read and I have to say the ending was more than I expected. Recommend.

Book Review: The Fault in our Stars by John Green

It all started with a list on Facebook, much like so many things do.


Leave it to Facebook to give me something else to do. Between Facebook and Pinterest, I can find things to fill up my day related to reading, cooking, arts and crafts, cleaning. . . 

The post that was shared and was probably viral for a few days was "16 Books to Read Before They Hit Theaters this Year" and of course (Of Course!!!) I clicked. I was relieved - because all of a sudden, due to the title, I felt pressured to accomplish this task - that I had read at least a few including:

This is the first of the books that looked interesting to me from the list but there are more, I warn you. . . The Fault in our Stars is a current day love story with elements classics like Romeo and Juliet but with a lot more realism. There are the teenage lovers and the tragedy but with a lot more to offer. As a parent, reading about very sick children (okay, teenagers) was often hard as this could be anyone's son or daughter and it just doesn't seem fair. However, the story was so well written and moving that I just had to continue. The book has many levels and is really an intelligent thought provoking book.

Hazel Grace Lancaster, who narrates this story, is a survivor of Stage IV Cancer. She should have been dead a long time ago - her claim, not mine - but has been around an extra three years due to a miracle drug trial. She is alive but her quality of life is compromised. She is 16 and has to carry around oxygen as her lungs have survived a battle to survive. She is also clinically depressed and lives in a world that her peers can't really understand to relate to her.

At a support group for kids with cancer, she meets Augustus Waters, a fellow survivor that has a sunnier outlook on life. At first Hazel thinks his more positive perspective is because he has a good chance to survive, unlike her temporary holding pattern that she knows will eventually end, but eventually she comes to understand that he has chosen to live his life in a different way than she has.

Of course they fall in love and Hazel begins to see the good in the present day and how life can be cherished. Sounds sappy? It's really not and this book has a whole lot going on. Hazel shares with Augustus a book that she loves (An Imperial Affliction) that is a first person account of a little girl with cancer that ends abruptly and she's dying to know what happens to the girl and her family. Hazel identifies with the story and often imagines what her parents will do when she is gone. Augustus reaches out and arranges a journey for them to try and discover what happens and that is what makes this love story truly special.

I think that this book is supposed to be young adult fiction but I think it was a wonderful book and worth reading.

Book Review: Love in a Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A Love Story that Spans a Lifetime

Florentino Ariza's entire life is dedicated to the woman he fell in love with when he was a young man. While Fermina Daza marries a well bred doctor instead of him, he continues to set forth on a path that he believes will reunite them in the end. Fifty years later he finally has a chance to make it right when her husband passes away.

I really enjoyed this story not only for the main storyline but for all the little extras. There was a underlying sarcastic tone that was interwoven in this book as the story developed with humor, even if parts of the sequences were sad. The author really captured the thoughts, dreams and musings of each individual character that they seemed "real" rather than fiction. It seemed brutal and honest. The descriptions and settings were easy to envision due to the descriptive nature of this book that was set in South America.

This book also resonated the theme of "change" in many different ways. Changes to perspectives, changes in environment as the new world emerged with technology and new ideas, and changes as the characters aged and transitioned in their roles throughout their lives. I found that part very interesting as it involved coping by the characters.

I really enjoyed this one and felt that I got to know both Florentino and Fermina in an direct manner, as well as her late husband and a host of other characters. Recommend!

Book Review: The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Another Great Yarn by this Author

Time Travel and Love

I have read other books by this author and there are some consistent themes in her books. They typically take place in both the present and the past, blending history and romance with current settings. In previous books, Kearsley has incorporated ghosts and strong bonds to ancestors, but this particular story focuses more on time travel without being a science fiction book.

Eva Ward is mourning the loss of her vibrant sister and is charged with the unenviable task of finding a final resting place for her ashes. Her brother in law asks her to take on the task of scattering them when he can not think of a place on his own, asking her to locate the place "where she was the happiest".

So begins Eva's journey back to the Cornish coast, to a place filled with the happiest memories of her childhood when her intact family summered there on vacations, before they moved to America. She is welcomed back and finds comfort with the family that runs the inn. However, before Eva can get too comfortable, strange things start to happen. A path appears in the gardens that is not there and she begins to see what she thinks are visions. She also hears voices from the past and begins a journey to the past where previous owners of the inn live.

Eva must decide which world she will live in as she must choose to stay in the present or travel for good to the past. This book is romantic and has a little bit of comedy and history thrown into the mix. It reminds me of other books I have enjoyed from the Outlander series, as well as the book A Knight in Shining Armor that was rereleased after being a hit in the late 1980's, but there are some different twists to this story that seemed to make it more magical.