Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Mustang Lounge on Mackinac Island

As I mentioned on my Life From Ann Arbor blog, my boyfriend Greg and I took a vacation up north earlier this month. We spent our first night in St. Ignace in the U.P., then took a ferry over to Mackinac (pronounced mack-ih-naw - ignore the "c" or suffer withering glares) Island first thing in the morning where we spent the next night. 

We had dinner on the Island at a place called the Mustang Lounge. I ate here a few years back when I was visiting from California and craving Coney Island hot dogs. I remembered the food being pretty good and the prices were reasonable. This time, we had somewhat more interesting fare than coneys (which I can now eat whenever I feel like it). 

For an appetizer, we ordered the Beer and Pretzel Bites, which were, as far as I could tell, mozzarella nuggets beer-battered in pretzel coating with a cheese dipping sauce. They were tasty! The right amount of salt and a lot of cheese. Great for munching. 

Greg chose the Grilled Bacon Mac 'N Cheese sandwich and a Lighthouse Amber that we think was brewed in Cheboygan. When he saw the picture of the sandwich on the camera once we returned home, his comment was "Dear God, that does not look good for me." He said it tasted good at the time, though it was a bit greasy. 

I opted for fish and chips, which were wonderful, though also greasy, and I ended up peeling a lot of the batter off the fish at the end of the meal when it started to bother my stomach. It came with an order of coleslaw that was not so doused in sauce as to hide the flavors of the vegetables, so I liked it, and the tartar sauce had just the right amount of tang. To drink, I had an iced tea, which was lovely, but nothing special. 

The Mustang Lounge is a good hangout place with good food and beers and sports on the TV. It claims to be often patroned by the locals, and I am inclined to believe it because the 'Stang has a very neighborhood bar kind of feel. There is also enough variety in the menu to please just about anybody. 

So if you are on the Island and in the mood for some basic, down-home dude food, or a spot to catch the game with a good beer, this is a great place. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Baked Oregano and Garlic Chicken

Somewhat inspired by the tasty (and easy) baked breaded basil chicken that I made over a month ago, I decided on another baked chicken and herb dish, this time using dried oregano, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

The trick I learned from the basil chicken was to coat the chicken breasts (thawed if they were frozen) in a little bit of olive oil before shaking on the seasonings. Everything stick so much better! So I put the breasts in my baking dish, drizzled on some oil and smeared it around to coat the meat, then shook on my dried oregano leaves followed by some garlic powder, then a little bit of salt and pepper.

I pre-heated the oven to 350F and baked the chicken for about half an hour. One breast was thicker than the other took a little longer to cook. I suggest started baked chicken at half an hour, then cutting into the meat to make sure it is cooked through before removing it from the oven. If it's still pink, I put it back in for another ten minutes. It may help to stab holes into the meat before baking to help the heat get through. Some people tell me this makes the chicken cook faster, but I couldn't say for certain.

The flavor of this dish was excellent - very Italian, which gave me the idea to next time add some grated Parmesan cheese to the oregano and garlic coating, maybe finishing with some tomato sauce a couple of minutes before it is done cooking.

I still haven't done a baked parsley dish (that I can remember). That may have to happen in the near future.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Good Morning Egg Scrambles and Herbs

I was inspired by my breakfast egg scrambles comprised of leftovers to make an egg scramble that involved fresh ingredients: quartered fresh mushrooms, grape tomatoes cut in half, and hand-torn spinach leaves. It was fantastic! But I didn't stop at just these three items. I also added dried parsley, dried chives (which I think I will always need in my kitchen from now on), and the totally awesome garlic salt grinder from Trader Joe's that includes not only roasted garlic and sea salt inside, but dried onion and parsley, as well. 

Aside: I love that grinder, and I use it on almost everything. The only problem I have had with it is that the innards sometimes get moist and stick together, refusing to fall down to the grinder part without a lot of banging on it. This happens often in the warm and humid months because Michigan is terribly humid under normal summer circumstances and we don't use much AC. 

I was talking to an herbalist recently, and he said that humans have been eating herbs for millenia - they've always been a part of our diets - but nowadays it seems that herbs aren't really a part of our diets. I agree! I love herbs. My family grew some herbs and mints in our garden while I was growing up, but I don't recall us using many in cooking (mostly basil and parsley because my mother, being half Sicilian, cooked a lot of Italian food - and it was delicious).

But herbs are fantastic little punches of flavor! They need to be incorporated into more everyday dishes, like egg scrambles. To make a delicious plate of scrambled eggs, one does not need a bunch of vegetables or fungi, though these are very tasty additions. Just adding some parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, or dill adds a new and tasty element that makes the mostly bland flavor of plain eggs more interesting. Consider it a culinary adventure. I also highly suggest adding garlic. Garlic is awesome.

There are medicinal benefits to herbs, just ask an herbalist. Different herbs can be used as antioxidants, antibacterials, and more. A quick internet search turned up this article, Everyday Medicinal Purposes of Herbs, which just touches the surface. Click here for the health benefits of my favorite herb parsley.

Anyway. My breakfasts have gotten a bit healthier, more colorful, and more satisfying lately as a result of these experiments. If you are tired of the same old breakfasts, maybe some herby and veggie egg scrambles will help to perk up your mornings. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Red Bean Tempeh Saute and Scramble

In the latest issue of the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal, I reviewed the Brinery, a local company selling their delicious pickled products through farmers markets and health food stores (as well as some items online through their website). While I was visiting their booth at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market one day, I picked up some red bean tempeh. I have had tempeh many times, but never cooked it myself. Red bean (also known as azuki) is one of my favorite things in the whole universe, so I couldn't pass up an opportunity to try red bean tempeh! 

I actually didn't have the time to cook this dish myself, since I work evenings and get home late, so my terrific boyfriend Greg did it for me so it was ready and waiting to be eaten when I got home from work at 10:30pm. I poked around Pinterest for some recipe ideas, then Greg and I went to Meijer to pick up the other ingredients: 1 small onion, 1 red bell pepper, and some mixed leafy greens.

The steps for cooking are simple:
  1. Slice up the onion and red bell pepper.
  2. Break up the tempeh.
  3. Saute all of the above in your oil of choice until vegetables are softened.
  4. Toss in some fresh greens. When they are wilted, your dish is done. 
I think Greg tossed in some garlic and salt for extra flavoring. Many herbs would good with this combination. Of course, I recommend parsley because it's the king of herbs (in my kitchen), but thyme or basil would also be great additions. Also, I think tomatoes would be good because I like tomatoes. Maybe some cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in half.

Anyway, that was dinner. I loved it! The red beans had an interesting, almost crunchy texture that sort of popped when I chewed them. Red beans are sweet, so they matched the red bell pepper and onion quite well. 

Since we had some leftovers, I tossed them back in the frying pan the next morning, cracked in two eggs (rendering the dish no longer vegan, but still vegetarian for some), and made an awesome breakfast scramble. I don't know why I don't make more egg scrambles with red bell peppers and onions. It's a wonderful combination! Throw in some fresh mushrooms and I'm really happy. (Alas, I had none on this morning.) 

I don't know if red bean tempeh is unique to the Brinery or not. If so, find them and buy some! If not, find someone else and buy it from them! I found it to be a tasty new vegetarian/vegan item that I am glad I tried and would absolutely buy again.