So, I’m late to the game — Meso Maya has been around for a while now. I’ve driven past and even called to ask a few questions about the menu. And, honestly, based on its early reviews and the lackluster love received over the years, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to try it. That was until it inched its way across the loop and into my neck of the woods. Meso Maya had planted its huarache where I could no longer ignore the smells of handmade corn tortillas and mesquite grilled meats. Continue reading “Meso Maya”
Let me start by saying that what I’m about to share with you is the easiest, most delicious bite of fabulous I have thrown together in a long time. And, I throw together bits of fabulous frequently. This one was practically perfect in every way. Eat your heart out, Mary Poppins. The. Bomb. Diggity. Continue reading “Garam Masala Grilled Chicken Skewers”
They say it takes 21 days to break a habit.
Today is my Day 21 of making better choices, and so far, this is what I have to report:
- Less hangry moments (they do occur if I don’t time out my meals properly)
- Less body pain in the morning (if you don’t count my butt hurting from doing Turbo Jam)
- Less cravings for all things formally known as “my diet” (aka Cheetos, Whatchamacallit Candy, MochaChocaLattes, and any form of beef)
- Less pounds to carry everywhere I go (down 14 pounds since Day 1 – not even trying to lose weight, people)
- More energy (sudden bursts of dance moves, butt squeezes, and/or squats while waiting at the microwave = more energy)
- More sleep (actually getting 6 hours on average which is a record for me)
And, the most important thing I have to report on Day 21 is I’m eating everything I love and don’t feel like I’ve done much but somehow program myself to feel better through better choices. It’s not rocket surgery. Lo and behold, all it takes is moving my booty at least four times a week for 20 minutes and not shoveling copious amounts of M&Ms into my pie hole every time I pass a bowl full of them.
I have to admit that I’ve always felt nothing good came from eating sad little salads, and I was right. They totally suck!
But, cleaner eating or healthier, better choices doesn’t have to mean eating sad little salads. Kids, I’m eating bacon on a daily! I grew up eating breakfast tacos and bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast. That ain’t gonna change. What did change was that instead of eating two pieces of toast, a tablespoon of butter for my two eggs, plus my three strips of bacon, and butter and jelly on my toast (don’t judge), I now have one egg cooked in the renderings from my one slice of bacon, and I enjoy one piece of toast lightly buttered. Eat what you love! Love what you eat! And, most importantly, love yourself and make simple, better choices so you can continue reading my blog!
Throw a protein and some colorful things (preferably vegetables and herbs) together, and enjoy! That’s honest to goodness all I have been doing – nothing fancy. Every meal I make is filling, delicious, flavorful, and happy – just like these Chicken Lettuce Wraps! They are flavor bombs in a nice little lettuce wrapper and super easy to throw together. Check it out, follow my blog, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and keep making better choices! I know I will!
I’m a sucker for a beautiful plate. When the vibrant colors dance visually, you can practically guarantee they will dance on your palate, right? So, when I was first introduced to Moussaka, a traditional Greek dish featuring eggplant and ground beef or lamb, covered in a creamy bechamel cheese sauce, I did not visualize Zorba the Greek fervently strutting about my taste buds.
Moussaka ain’t the prettiest at the party. It’s a heap of brown and white assembled in a lasagna-like pattern – not particularly “Opa!” inspiring.
Then, I tasted it.
What I adore, even more than a beautiful plate and certainly more important than aesthetics, is an amazingly memorable plate that transports me to another world or embraces me with comfort and happiness through taste and texture. Moussaka does just that. I’m not Greek, but it’s comfort food to me. And, why wouldn’t it be!? I mean, it’s meaty, hearty, and loaded with creamy, cheesy goodness!
The minor obstacle I had to overcome was the fact that most of the time “meat, hearty, and loaded with creamy, cheesy goodness” does not jive with my whole “better choices” mantra for this year.
I could ignore that, but I did write about it on the ol’ interwebs for everyone to see. Not to mention, I’ve actually lost 10 pounds in the first 14 days of 2017 just by making better choices. So, who says I can’t eat what I love and still make better choices?? We can balance it all out. I’m all about harmony (mostly harmony between my taste buds and my tummy, but harmony nonetheless).
Enter My Moussaka! (I really like saying that.)
As I walked through the list of ingredients, I thought about how I could make a faux bechamel topping and how I could keep that comforting aspect even if I took out most of the stuff that makes it comforting.
The idea hit me while we were driving to the store and I was under serious hangry duress. I had not timed my day out properly and was about an hour into a Snickers commercial. Thus, I was craving something hearty and comforting.
Well, with a few minor tweaks, I got this bad boy under 400 calories per heaping serving. Plus, I got through the nearly hourlong cooking process without my hangry hurting anyone! High five!
I drank tons of water while cooking this dish that feeds six, and I was so proud that I stuck to the “better choices” plan because this version was so good! Bear is a big eater, and he absolutely loved it and said it was very filling. While I’m not an authority on Moussaka by any means, for us, this Moussaka recipe is, dare I say, “Opa!” worthy.
2 TBS Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Eggplant, peeled
1 TBS Coconut Oil
3 Garlic Clove, minced
1/3 Onion, chopped
2 Portabello Mushroom Cap, chopped
16 oz Ground Turkey
2 TBS C&J Farms Greek Seasoning
4 TBS Tomato Paste
1 Large Cauliflower
1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
8oz Daiya Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds
Note: You can add an egg to the creamy mixture right before using it to layer. It will help stabilize and create a fluffier layer, but it’s not necessary.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Peel the eggplant and slice lengthwise to make 1/4 inch oblong-like slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet, trying not to overlap. Drizzle olive oil over both sides of the eggplant and season with 1 TBS of Greek seasoning. The C&J Farms brand of Greek seasoning includes salt. If you use a brand of Greek seasoning that doesn’t contain salt, season the eggplant on both sides with salt. Place in the oven and bake until the eggplant is roasted, approximately 15 minutes. It’s okay if the thinner slices get a little charred, but watch them carefully so charred doesn’t turn into burned. Once the eggplant is roasted, remove from oven and set aside for assembly.
While the eggplant is baking in the oven, in a medium saucepan, break up the head of cauliflower and add almond milk.
Add chicken stock to the cauliflower, season with a dash of salt, and then cover with a lid and allow to simmer on medium heat while everything else is cooking.
Finely chop the mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Add coconut oil to a large skillet or dutch oven and saute the onion, garlic, and mushrooms on medium high until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have cooked down.
Create a small well in the center of the mushroom mixture, and add the tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste in the center until it has a darker color. Then, incorporate the tomato paste fully with the onion and mushroom mixture. Add the ground turkey and the remaining Greek seasoning, and cook thoroughly. Set aside.
Once the cauliflower has cooked through and is softened, use a hand blender or transfer to a blender to blend into a smooth consistency. Add the mozzarella shreds and blend until well combined. (I’ve never been a huge fan of vegan cheese, but Bear got me hooked on this particular brand. So, it’s the only one I really use when I’m trying to cut down on dairy.)
In a casserole dish, add a layer of the ground turkey mixture. Top with eggplant as if you’re layering lasagna noodles.
Cover the eggplant with a portion of the creamy cauliflower mixture and continue to build, alternating turkey, eggplant, and cauliflower until the last layer is the creamy mixture.
Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Broil for another 5 minutes to char the top of the Moussaka. Then, grab a bowl, get comfy on the couch, and indulge without that pesky indulgence guilt.
Now, not my norm, but I’m going to throw a quick and easy Greek Lamb Chop recipe in here at the end because… well… it’s quick and easy! And, it’s delicious and uses the same Greek seasoning I use for the Moussaka.
Season four lamb chops with Greek seasoning that has salt. Same as above; if your Greek seasoning doesn’t have salt, season the chops with salt. Cube one sweet potato, french one medium onion, and slice one lemon. Heat up a cast iron skillet on medium high, add the lamb chops to sear until browned on all sides but not cooked through. Remove the chops from the skillet. Add the potato and onion to the skillet and saute briefly. Add the seared lamb chops back to the top of the onions and potatoes. Place the slices of lemon on top of the chops. Add a splash of chicken stock or beef stock to the skillet to deglaze. Transfer the entire skillet to the oven and bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 20 minutes.
LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored when I post. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.
I’m alive! It’s been too long; I know. So, here’s what gives: I have zero excuses, and I simply ate/cooked a great deal, took pictures, took videos, posted to social media and totally ignored you. I’m an honest engine – what can I say? It’s the truth. I’m also good at dusting off, moving forward and trusting you can do the same; so, let’s virtually shake hands, make up and get Mash’d!
Four words: Fried Chicken and Ribs.
I’ve known about this place for a while and thought it was about time I went in to see what all the hub-bub was about.
Mash’d features American fare with a twist, infusing a library of house-made moonshines into a variety of unique offerings across the menu. Their bar and beverage menu is killer. Every drink we ordered stealthily delivered a mighty wallop with every smooth and graceful tasty sip. They incorporate infused moonshine into just about everything, and it works. Watermelon-infused moonshine, blueberry-infused moonshine, vanilla bean house-infused moonshine – good Lord, these people have caramel moonshine for those special occasions where you need a little more sugar with your alcohol! It’s brilliant!
Their moonshine magic also works its way into their mussels and bbq sauce. Mmmmm, bbq sauce. Their Bootleg Ribs are no less than spectacular. I’ve eaten a lot of ribs. These moonshining masters know what they’re doing with these babies. They’re fall-off, lip-smacking, finger-kissing, hum-while-you’re-chewing spectacular. And, it’s not like bbq-place ribs. Totally different animal. (well, not different animal but you know what I mean) These are more like “slow-roasted, basted in moonshine bbq and finished on the grill individually” sort of amazing. The flavors are sweet and spicy, tangy and salty, smoky and rich but not smokehouse sort of ribs. And, they’re served with a fresh and crisp coleslaw and “MASH’D tators” that need a little MASH’D makeover.
Those potatoes were the ONLY thing on the menu we tasted that were sub-par in comparison to the bar the other dishes had set. The appeal was that they were named as if they were some sort of special treat, and when they reached the table, they were just plain ol’ slightly garlic and cheese enhanced potatoes plopped on by a scoop that someone at Luby’s may have lost. They were just out of place, man. Totally out of place with everything else they had going on. So, if you get any dishes with the spuds, sans the Shepherd’s Pie, sub them out with coleslaw. Believe me, you’ll be happier for it and not feel like you just saw your childhood hero pick up a $20 bill someone else dropped and put it in his own pocket. Those tators were just wrong for the brand this place has clearly worked hard to build. All it would take is a little lemon zest – just sayin’.
But, let’s move on because that little side dish incident shouldn’t deter you from enjoying every other damn thing on the menu. And, let me say that the use of the potatoes on the Shepherd’s Pie is fabulous. They slather spiced meat and veggies on a pastry crust and top it all off with Parmesan-loaded mashed potatoes, a huge punch of flavor in a creamy bite.
Another killer dish was The Chicken. They serve up hot, crispy, juicy marinated fried chicken atop a soft bun with fresh, cold coleslaw and pickles. Chick-Fa-Who? Chick-Fa-What? This sandwich is just what the doctor ordered – she may not be AMA certified, but trust me – she wants you to eat this.
Overall, a killer vibe, outstanding service and badass food that will require some serious naptime after consumption.
My friends and family rock – mostly because they tolerate me and encourage (sometimes enable) my addiction to bacon. But, they also rock because they all love food and are pretty much geniuses in the kitchen. And, those who opt not to cook or bake, happily serve as taste testers and provide honest and thoughtful opinions. So, all around, these folks are pretty much the best group to provide some killer (as in good, not lethal) cooking and baking tips.
I sent a shout out to my peeps and asked them to offer up their best cooking or baking advice, and boy, did they deliver! And, they covered the gamut. From basics like knives and equipment, to things I didn’t even have on my radar (see #3), this top six list is a culinary quick-stop resource for anyone who ventures into the kitchen.
Along with my own advice, I’ve combined some of the feedback into topics since some of us hit on the same subject – great minds think alike and all. So, here is my inner culinary circle’s gift to you…