GiftAMeal

Here’s something fun about me: I have a pathological need to know people are well-fed. I order way too much food for company functions and still stress it won’t be enough. While my husband was away this summer on his internship, I annoyed the crap out of him, bugging him about eating quality dinners. I am neither Jewish or Italian, but I channel the stereotypical Jewish and/or Italian grandmother when it comes to (almost literally) shoving food down people’s throats.

Now let me take a quick moment to tell you about the most amazing app I discovered this summer. GiftAMeal is a *free* app you download to your smartphone. With it, you take a picture of your food at participating restaurants (currently in St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit) — come on, most of us already whip out our phones to Instagram that gorgeous plating anyway — and upload it to the app.

Boom. Done.

Someone in need receives a meal.

Just. Like. That.

Literally no sweat off my back. I snap a pic of a meal I then enjoy, and a hungry person in my city gets a meal in their belly, too.

(Just to clarify that last sentence — it isn’t like osmosis or super sci-fi shizz…yet. But a meal is donated because of my picture and that in itself is cool enough for me.)

IF you find yourself in the St. Louis or Chicago area, download this app. There are so many restaurants participating, I’m more surprised when one doesn’t pop up on the app. And, honestly, I’ve started choosing new places to check out based on whether or not they’ve partnered with GiftAMeal.

PS: This works for anything the restaurant offers. Happy hour? A pic of that snazzy cocktail donates a meal. Late night fries? A close up of those golden potatoes donates a meal. Meeting up with twenty of your closest friends? You can each use the app to donate a meal! Go ahead, feel like Oprah handing out prizes.

Are there similar apps or programs in your area? I’d love to hear about them!

 

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The Best St. Louis Burger – Guest Post

My husband is something of a burger fanatic. He has given me so many unsolicited burger reviews since moving to St. Louis, I convinced him to sit down, order his thoughts, and let me share them with the world (or at least, this blog). So sorry there are no photos of the winning burger (devoured too quickly) or the Chase Club burger…you will just have to Yelp them I suppose!

I’m calling it: gotta give Mac his props, but my favorite St. Louis burger is Brasserie’s. It’s so good, I’m happy just to eat the meat. But the accoutrements are great, too.
~Mr. Burger-Lover

Which burgers are in consideration?
Mac’s Local Eats (Double Pimento Burger)
Brasserie
Dressel’s
Chase Club (Chase Club Burger)
Hi-Pointe (Single with White Cheddar Cheese)

Dressel’s burger

Tell me about Dressel’s; I thought that was the best burger you’d had in at least five years?
Dressel’s burger is very unique. It has an oniony-spice and almost meatloaf consistency — but in a good way. It’s a burger I could have three days a week, because I forget how good it is. It’s light and not greasy, but on the smaller side. The patty itself is pretty thick, so it’s typically very juicy.

(My) Mac’s burger

What about Mac’s; you’ve been going on and on about that one?
That’s my number one quick bite burger. It’s amazing times two. Because it’s a smash burger, it has crisp burnt edges, and you can taste the quality of the meat. You taste the extra time and care that you don’t get at Hi-Pointe (Careful, buddy; I will fight you!). There’s constant turnover there, so they’re already cooking the burgers!. At Mac’s that burger was designed for you from start to finish.

(My) Hi-Pointe’s burger

BUT Hi-Pointe is still the bomb dot com. Go on…
Hi-Pointe has a mean veggie burger. You can see the veggies in it and it comes on that delicious, buttery bun. The regular burger is an extra juicy smash burger, which most people would enjoy but it weirds me out. But most people like that so you don’t need to include that.

TOO LATE! What happened to the Chase Club Burger?
The bacon jam and boursin accoutrement are so good, but I’m over it at this point. I loved the Chase, but now that they’ve raised the price, Brasserie all day erryday

So, Brasserie is the winner?
Brasserie’s key to success is the burger is so thin. It’s almost a French take on Diner food. It’s a super buttery burger, juicy, flavorful, with amazing, melty American cheese. The meat is such good quality, I could enjoy it without everything that comes with it — I don’t even need ketchup.

~

So there you have it: according to my loving husband (his name choice), Brasserie has the best burger in St. Louis. Personally, I freaking love Hi-Pointe (but Mac’s is a really close second place for me).

Do you have a favorite burger? What makes (or breaks) it for you?

Roadtrip: Kansas City and Lawrence

I mentioned in an earlier post that we’d planned to fly out to California recently, but that trip was canceled. To make the most of my time off from work, my husband and I decided to cross off one of the “long weekend” trips we’ve been wanting to take. We hit the road and traveled across the state to beautiful Kansas City.


On the way, we stopped for coffee in Columbia, MO (home of Mizzou). We only took a quick walk around the block, but we loved the “college town” vibe — great looking restaurants and bars — and the architecture is par for the course in Missouri. Beautiful old brick buildings and interesting monuments everywhere you look.

Our first stop upon arriving to KC was the River Market. Despite the name, we could not find a way to access the river on foot — much to my husband’s dismay. However, we did have amazing lunch at Bite (I had the Sloppy which was a soy chorizo sandwich and probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever eaten). The market itself is really cute, with lots of local shops and a huge pavilion for their famers’ market. They also have a river boat museum with a giant river boat wheel churning through water — we power-walked past in our search of the restrooms.

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A trip to Kansas City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Power and Lights District. I’m pretty sure that should include the words “at night,” but even during the day we grabbed a drink and enjoyed outdoor day-drinking (one of my favorite activities) in the courtyard of Kansas City Live. I’m sure that area is bumpin’ at night, and we definitely want to check it out with a group of friends sometime in the future. For this trip, we were satisfied with the epically large cups of beer and a little sun on our faces.

Got a little sun on my ankles, too!

We spent the night in Westport, which is my favorite of the areas we saw. It reminded me a lot of the Columbia Pike area we used to live in back near DC. Every block had several bar and restaurant options, and almost all of them seemed to have some form of outdoor seating (the biggest thing I’m missing living in St. Louis: rooftop bars!). Our dinner was — of course — barbecue. Char Bar had some of the best pulled pork butt, and our waiter was hilarious. After dinner, we went out to their beergarden to enjoy the firepit. Then we wandered down the street to Julep, a cocktail bar with delicious, imaginative drinks and one of those shelves with a sliding ladder (like the one Belle uses toward the beginning of Beauty and the Beast. A fact I pointed out to my husband at least twice while we were there).

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Westport also boasts a lot of coffee options, but what wowed us was the tea. Tea Drops is a cute little tea shop (soon to be restaurant as well!) with walls lined with tea canisters for customers to smell and pick their preferred brew. The owner is extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. He answered my husband’s questions about Mate and got him to try a cup — which he loved! He also gave us a lot of advice about places to visit and things to do in the area.

One of his suggestions was the Plaza district, which we’d already planned to visit but it’s always nice hearing a local confirm. This is where the major shopping is done. It felt like King Street in Charleston, SC — but so much more. The buildings are all the southwestern, mission-style, and they seem to have every upscale shop imaginable.

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Because we were so close, we decided to cross the border into Kansas and check out Lawrence (home of KU). Similar to Columbia, it is a really cute college town with some awesome-looking food and drink options. We hit the Burger Stand for lunch, and even though it’s Yelp-famous for its burgers, we each tried a vegetarian option. My husband got the black bean burger, while I tried the Garbo (chickpea patty with citrus-garlic aoli, sweet relish, and cheese). Oh em gee was it mouthwateringly good. I also had the Free State Marchtoberfest beer, which was pretty tasty.

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Maybe I put too much emphasis on food when I travel, but I always judge a trip a success if I ate well. Safe to say, this trip was hugely successful.

 

SUPER BOWL LII

To avoid major controversy, I won’t be discussing who I’m rooting for this Super Bowl. Also, as a Raiders fan living in Missouri, neither of my teams got very close, so the investment as far as fandom goes is minimal (yes, I know I’m supposed to hate the Chiefs, but I’m all about teams that are fun to watch, ~quasi~ home team spirit, and being rebellious in my football enjoyment, so Raider Nation can deal). All I’ll say about this game is if Carson Wentz hadn’t gone down just before playoffs, it would be 100% more interesting.

What I had wanted to talk about was all the delicious snacking I plan to do. However, I’ve been hit with a horror of a cold this week, and while I’m on the mend at the time of writing this (Saturday), I still won’t be 100% — and neither will my home — by kick-off, so we’ve vetoed inviting people over for the game.

To combat some of the sadness this brings me, I’m sharing with you some of the easy recipes I’d planned on providing for my hungry guys.

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The first would have to be pizza quesadillas. This is one snack that hits the spot when you’re feeling pizza without the wait for delivery OR Digiorno. The recipe I found comes from Snixy Kitchen. This recipe is for pepperoni pizza quesadillas, but I’ve tried it with plenty of other “toppings” like spinach, mushrooms, (pre-cooked) sausage crumbles…whatever you like on your pizza, you can put in your quesadilla. We’ve done it with avocado slices, too. It’s so quick, so easy, and SO delicious.

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I also planned to throw together some garlic ranch pretzels from Big Rigs ‘n Lil’ Cookies. I made these for Christmas Eve one year, and they got devoured. They’re just heartier than pretzels alone to be more filling while waiting on the main course, but not so filling that you lose your appetite.

Buttery Garlic Ranch Crack Pretzels

What Super Bowl party would be complete without a dip or two? I haven’t gotten around to trying out this recipe yet, but a football game calls for a great beer cheese dip. This one from Cook the Story looks so easy to toss together. I also like that they suggest including veggies like broccoli and cauliflower as dipping options, along with the usual baguette slices or chips.

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Of course, I’d have to use this opportunity to show off a delicious dessert, too. These peanut butter balls from Two Twenty One are a sure-fire hit. They are one of my husband’s favorite treats I make, again, usually for Christmas Eve. Just because peanut butter balls are generally a holiday snack, that doesn’t mean they can’t be rolled together to top off a day of unhealthy snacking. Plus, you could probably flatten the peanut butter mix into little football shapes, then once the chocolate hardens, draw some lacing on them with a touch of icing — if you’re feeling like the over-the-top host/hostess a game like this deserves.

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I’m also currently cooking up a crockpot of chili, which I would love to share, but can’t ever get a recipe written down (the ones I do jot down never turn out as well as the ones I just throw together willy-nilly). Chili is a great football meal by itself, or, as I’d planned it, ladled over nachos and topped with cheese, green onions, and sour cream.

Oh well, I’ll probably make a couple pizza quesadillas and hunker down in my blankets with a bowl of chili to enjoy the game — and commercials — just my hubby and me.

Better luck next year (to my health, to the Raiders, and to all the teams that haven’t won five+ Super Bowls).
*all food photos taken from the recipe source pages*

Uh-Oh, Spaghettios

I forgot that used to be a thing, until someone showed me a joke:

her: “I’m breaking up with you.”

him: “Is it because I keep saying ‘uh oh, spaghettios’?”

her: “Actually, yes.”

him: “Uh oh, spaghettios…”

Now it keeps popping into my head. Which leads me to think about — what else? — spaghettios. I love spaghettios almost as much as Kraft mac n cheese or hot dogs. It’s so easy to pop open a can and have that cheesy-tomato goodness in my belly in a matter of minutes. But I am an adult now, and therefore I must limit my lazy junk food splurges to desperate times (like when I’m really needing quick comfort food, or at the beach with my garbage friends). The good news is there are plenty of “adult” (read: homemade) versions of the comfort food I so enjoy. I’m still searching for the *perfect* macaroni and cheese recipe, but I’ve found enough good ones that I can whip up a decent pot when the craving strikes. I save the hot dogs for the ballpark (or a particularly fantastic grilling day). That leaves spaghettios as my only semi-justifiable lazy-splurge.


Until recently.

I stumbled across the original recipe on Pinterest (I am obsessed with Pinterest recipes), but you can find it here. I can never thank Nikki Gladd enough for the post that gave me permission to eat spaghettios like an adult. I’ve made my own tweaks and adjustments, which to me give the dish even more of an authentic taste, still while maintaining an air of healthiness.

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The recipe says use a saucepan, but as you can see, any pan will do in a pinch!

The most important item: spaghetti rings. I found them at Wegmans (which is hands down the best grocery store.)

I skip the garlic. I’m a big fan of garlic, but I’ve found eliminating it from this particular dish actually makes it better (which is rarely the case). The other major trick I found is cooking the noodles directly in the sauce, rather than separately and combining with the sauce at the end. The starch from the pasta thickens the sauce and the tomatoey-taste fattens the pasta.

Check out the full recipe if you’re feeling like reconnecting with the kid inside you (or if, like me, you feel a little guilty for all the canned junk you eat).

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Homemade Spaghettios:

  • Olive Oil for pan (~1 tbs)
  • 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 scoop Tomato Paste (~1 tbs. The time I made this the best, I used a regular spoon and eyeballed it)
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 oz spaghetti rings (or other round pasta)
  • Generous pinch of granulated sugar
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 2-4 tbs butter (you can cut down to make it even ‘healthier’)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • ~1 cup shredded cheese (I used pre-shredded Mexican cheese. I also just dropped two handfuls in rather than measuring an actual cup)
  1. In medium saucepan, saute the red pepper flakes in olive oil over Medium heat for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomato sauce, paste, water, pasta, sugar, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to low boil, stirring frequently to keep pasta from sticking to bottom of pan.
  4. Add butter. Stir until melted.
  5. Stir in milk.
  6. Simmer over Medium-Low for about 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked.
  7. (If sauce seems too runny, add a second scoop of tomato paste to thicken. Stir until fully distributed, then turn off heat) Add cheese one handful at a time, stirring between to melt fully.
  8. Enjoy!

This recipe makes about 4 servings.

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Whiskey Mushroom Risotto *Updated with Photos*

Guys, last night, I made something pretty fantastic. I did not take any pictures because I wasn’t sure it would turn out well (and then once we knew it turned out well, we were too busy scarfing it down to pause for artistry). I promise to update this with pics the next time I make the dish — which will probably be pretty soon since my husband loves Mushroom Risotto.

Usually when we make risotto, I saute the mushrooms in red wine and butter the way my mama taught me (with a nice large glass for myself, of course). Last night, we were out of Red. I had an opened bottle of White I usually use in soups and such, but it struck me that we have a full liquor cabinet that gets almost no cooking love from us at all. I made the off-handed suggestion of trying whiskey in place of wine, to which my husband enthusiastically agreed. He set about stirring that risotto like a champion, and I tasted my options and settled on Eagle Rare for this dish.

There’s only the barest hint of grains on the tail end of the dish, enough to notice but not enough to overwhelm. The whiskey mixes deliciously with a pinch of thyme and the melted butter, and gets absorbed at the last minute by the fat risotto grains. Even if you don’t like drinking whiskey (I personally am not a fan), give this dish a try!

Whiskey Mushroom Risotto – serves 4

1 tbs Olive Oil
1 cup Arborio Rice (Risotto)
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 tbs butter
2 shots of whiskey (I used Eagle Rare, but a cheaper brand would probably work just as well)
1 package Sliced White Mushrooms
1 tsp Dried Thyme
Pinch of Kosher Salt and Fresh-Cracked Pepper

  1. Heat olive oil in sauce pan over Medium. Add the risotto and saute ~2 minutes, until they start to turn golden.
  2. Add 1 cup of broth, stirring constantly until all absorbed. Add another cup of broth. Continue until all broth has been absorbed.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in saute pan over slightly more than Medium (but not quite Medium-High).
  4. Add whiskey and mushrooms. Toss to coat.
  5. Saute 3-4 minutes, until mushrooms start to soften.
  6. Add thyme, salt and pepper. Continue sauteing until mushrooms are soft and brown, ~3-4 more minutes.
  7. Pour mushrooms and remaining sauce over the risotto. Stir until liquid mostly absorbed. Can garnish with a sprinkle of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and sprig of fresh thyme.

*NOTE: If you can get yourself a risotto-stirrer, it makes everything so much easier. In the past, my husband and I have traded off turns stirring, but this time he did it the entire time like some sort of Herculean hero, and it was amazing. For me. He complained of a sore arm, but I was too busy enjoying our culinary masterpiece to pay attention.

My risotto stirrer hard at work

I should probably learn how to plate better

And Now the Apartment Smells Like French Fries

So there’s a cold going around, because it’s that time of year. Also because some people like to show up at work and cough and sneeze and touch everything and moan about how they hope no one else gets this cold because it’s just awful.

I’m not bitter.

I just have a sore throat and my nose is runny. But I’ve been assured if I picked up the office cold, it would have happened before now. Because I mean, it’s been three whole days since they were really feeling badly.

Regardless of the culprit, despite the day randomly feeling like spring instead of January, I needed soup. Loaded up with carrots and turmeric and ginger, just in case it *is* possible to catch a cold from someone three days after the fact.

We’ve recently changed our diet at home, because one of us needs to try out the FODMAP elimination diet and the other is spectacularly supportive. So coming up with a healthy, anti-cold soup without using my usual go-to ingredients like garlic and onion presented a challenge.

Because of the low-FODMAP diet (basically, we’re temporarily cutting out simple carbs/sugars, but we’ve also had to cut out a lot of spices, dairy, wheat…like pretty much everything) we’ve started eating more potatoes (and eggs, if you’re wondering what else is left). Therefore, my husband recently learned how to peel and chop potatoes. He loves when I let him help in the kitchen, so, as I was feeling scratchy and stuffy and not-happy, I figured our soup would be potato-based and set him to carefully cubing potatoes. We threw in carrots and celery, along with a bunch of turmeric, ginger, and a few other spices I know are easy on the tummy (at least in small little sprinkle-quantities). I “cheated” and sauteed a crushed clove of garlic in olive oil for about a minute before removing the garlic and adding the rest of the veggies. Obviously, this would be great with minced garlic and chopped onions, so feel free to add along with the other veggies.

Low-FODMAP Cold-Fighting Potato Soup:

Ingredients:
3 large brown potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots (or about a dozen baby carrots), peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed with the flat side of the knife
olive oil, for sauteeing
Salt and Pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
Turmeric
Ginger
Oregano
Basil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

  1. In large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over M heat. Add garlic and saute about 1 minute, until fragrant. Remove garlic and discard.
  2. Add vegetables. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Saute until slightly golden, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Add the broth and water. Bring to a boil. Stir in generous sprinkles of turmeric and ginger, and pinches of oregano and basil. Cover and reduce heat to M-L.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until all veggies are soft.
  5. Stir in lemon juice.
  6. Remove from heat and puree smooth, in a blender or with an immersion blender. Return to pan and heat through.

This could be good with a generous pinch of cheese on top. We stirred in avocado chunks into our individual bowls, which was delicious, too. And, it reheats well for lunch the following day — always a plus in my book!

Bonus: all those browning potatoes will leave your apartment smelling like French fries, in the best possible way.