12 April 2007

Last Friday, when Hilary was visiting, we had some friends over for dinner and drinks. My friends said they wanted Mexican, so I spent some time deciding what to make. Usually when we have Mexican at home, it consists simply of taco fixings. But this time I wanted to do something a little more creative.

One of my favorite things about living in Texas was the Mexican restaurants that abounded. There were two authentic Mexican places in our little town. One of them made sour cream chicken enchiladas that Jim and I just loved. (There was also a really good place in the Fort Worth Stockyards that had them too.) I thought it would be fun to create a version at home.

I did a little online searching to see how people usually make them. I was surprised at how many recipes contained condensed soup of some kind, either cream of chicken or cream of mushroom. That didn't sound anything like what I was thinking of.

Hilary and I went grocery shopping without a recipe for guidance. I knew that I wanted the filling to be creamy and cheesy, with chicken. We decided that since the inside would have a rich white sauce, we would use a traditional enchilada sauce on the outside. We chose Monterey Jack cheese for the filling. We used a bit of cream cheese along with the sour cream to thicken the filling so it didn't all run out of the open-ended enchiladas while they were baking.

The result was pretty good. Our friends enjoyed it. (Yay!) This is a pic of them before they went into the oven. (I forgot to take one post-bake.)

It was so fun creating a recipe with my sister. They wouldn't have turned out so good without her. She decided that we should name our new creation. She came up with the great name, Enchiladas Hermanas, "The Sisters' Enchiladas."

Enchiladas Hermanas

2 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup light sour cream
1 8 oz bag shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and cut into chunks
12 8 inch tortillas
1 10 oz can mild enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 375˚. Combine cream cheese, sour cream, and 2 cups of cheese in a saucepan. Heat on low heat until cheese is melted. Add chicken to cheese sauce.

Spread a small amount of enchilada sauce on bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Fill each tortilla with chicken filling and fold over. Place enchiladas folded side down in baking dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over tortillas.

Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, top with remaining cheese, and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

We didn't cover the dish with foil, and they turned out a little crispy on the edges that weren't covered with the enchilada sauce. Also, we were planning on grilling the chicken, but it was too cold, so I browned them in the skillet (with some chicken fajita seasoning) and baked them through in the oven.

Thanks so much, Hil! I can't wait to create things in the kitchen with you again!

Nutrition Info

Serving size: 2 enchiladas
Calories: 580
Fat: 23 grams
Sodium: 1060 mg
Protein: 33 grams

Will try using part skim cheese and light cream cheese next time to reduce the fat and calories.

09 April 2007

Momos Ouzaria Taverna
Location: University City, Missouri
Time: Saturday, 07 April 2007 6:00 pm
Company: Jim and Hilary
Atmosphere: %%%%
Menu: %%%%
Food: %%%%%
Price: %% (but worth every penny)
Service: %%%%%
Logistics: %%% (street parking)
Overall: %%%% Highly Recommended

I absolutely love Momos. It is Greek cuisine at its best. Momos serves its food tapas style, which I love because you can try so many different things. We each ordered two tapas dishes and were totally stuffed when we left. Here is what we ordered:

Crispy Eggplant Fries: with tomato-sherry skordalia. Yummy! A refreshing twist on onion petals. The breading was very tasty and didn’t overpower the eggplant. The skordalia was a mild dip that complemented the eggplant well.

Spinach Artichoke Dip: served with crispy pita chips. This dip is very good. You get way more dip than chips, so load them up! I’m not that crazy about the chips; they are thick triangles that can be somewhat chewy. It would be better with different pita chips, but still one of my favorite dishes.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin: with spinach, feta, and a sun-dried tomato butter. I ended up eating more of this than anything. I ordered it because I love to order beef in restaurants because I rarely make it at home. The beef was pretty good. It was done medium, the way I like it. It was pretty small, but that was ok because my favorite part of the dish was the spinach. It was cooked, but not limp and stringy like a lot of cooked spinach is. It was infused with slices of soft mild garlic and the tomato butter. It was so good that long after the beef was gone, I ate the spinach with every bite of something else I ate. I would order this dish just for the spinach.

Crispy Chickpea and Feta Cakes: with tzatziki sauce. I didn’t like these too much. They were somewhat crispy on the outside, but pretty mushy on the inside. I think they are made with red pepper because they were slightly orange in color and I thought I could taste it. The tzatziki sauce was good; I ate it with some potatoes.

Falafil: served on pita bread with humus, cucumber, onions, mixed greens and tomatoes, topped with tzatziki sauce. I didn’t eat a lot of this, but it was good. The humus appeared to be fried, because it sat in a big lump on top of the pita. It wasn’t like a paste like humus usually is. But it was definitely made of chickpeas. Hilary cut it into wedges, pizza-style, and served it to Jim and me. Also came with Kalamata olives. Yum.

Grilled Lamb Kabob: spiced with moroccan herbs, served with lemon oregano roasted potatoes. This was an actual entrée, not a meze. The lamb was slightly sweet, I think because it had a red wine sauce. Very tender. The potatoes were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. This was also served with roasted red pepper, all of which Hilary was happy to eat.

The staff was very friendly and attentive. Our only annoyance was a very loud man two tables down from us who spoke with an annoying (fake?) accent. The owners of Momos have really fixed it up. Jim and I were there two years ago and it looks very different. The other great thing about Momos is that it’s very close to us. About five minutes driving time.
Lucky for us, we may get to go again tomorrow when our friend Tom comes into town:)
Here is an explanation of my restaurant ratings. Keep in mind that these ratings are for the visit reviewed only. They do not indicate my opinion of that restaurant in general.

%%%%% Great atmosphere; not too loud
%%%% Nice atmosphere
%%% Atmosphere was ok
%% Atmosphere could have been better
% Bad atmosphere

%%%%% Great; different cuisines; lots of items to choose from
%%%% Good variety of items
%%% Menu selections were ok
%% Not very good menu variety
% Very few items to choose from

%%%%% Best food I’ve ever eaten
%%%% Pretty good food
%%% Food was ok
%% Food wasn’t great
% Food was bad

%%%%% Friendly, attentive, fast service
%%%% Pretty fast or friendly service
%%% Service was ok
%% Staff wasn’t too friendly or efficient
% Service was horrible

Price (includes tax and tip):
%%%%% Under $5 a person
%%%% $6-$10 a person
%%% $11-$15 a person
%% $16-$20 a person
% Over $20 a person

%%%%% Easy to find, easy to park
%%%% Somewhat easy to find and park
%%% Location and parking ok
%% Location and parking somewhat difficult
% Inaccessible location and difficult parking

St. Louis Bread Company (Panera)
Location: Des Peres, Missouri
Time: Easter Sunday, 08 April 2007 1:00 pm
Company: Jim and Hilary

My Rating
Ambience: %%%%
Menu: %%%
Food: %%
Service: %%
Price: %%%%
Logistics: %%%
Overall: %%%

Jim got the Bacon Turkey Bravo and enjoyed it very much. I ordered the “Pick Two” combo with a cup of Broccoli Cheese Soup and half of a Turkey Artichoke Panini. I love their broccoli cheese soup. It’s not too thick, and has nice, definable chunks of broccoli and slivers of carrot. The broccoli and carrot have a great bite to them, not mushy.

I wasn’t able to eat the panini, however. I took one bite and tasted red peppers. Oh the horror! I was confused because I read on the menu board what the sandwich consisted of and it said nothing about peppers. It reads, “Smoked turkey, spinach artichoke spread, Asiago-Parmesan cheese, tomatoes & caramelized onions, grilled hot on our Basil Pesto Focaccia.” When I investigated (by peering under the top layer of bread on my sandwich) it appeared that the peppers were part of the spinach artichoke spread. According to the Panera website, it contains jalapeño peppers and sweet bell peppers. I did some looking online and found very few recipes for spinach artichoke dip or spread that contained peppers of any kind. Very disappointing.

My dislike of peppers is so strong that I had to abandon my half a sandwich and ordered a simple Ham and Swiss to share with my sister. The reason she was willing to eat the other half is because she ordered soup that she didn’t like. She got the Chicken Noodle Soup, which she had had before, but for some reason wasn’t as good yesterday. She said the noodles were really soggy and they looked that way to me also. So between my half sandwich and her soup, we had probably $6 in uneaten food.

Oh well. It was still an enjoyable experience. I now know not to order spinach artichoke spread at the Bread Company. I rated the service as I did because the guy who was handing off the food just plopped it down on the counter without saying a word to me or even looking at me. He was deep in conversation with someone behind the counter at the time.

Location: Brentwood, Missouri
Time: Easter Sunday, 08 April 2007 7:15 pm
Company: Jim and Hilary

Ambience: %%%%
Food: %%%%
Service: %%%%
Price: %%
Menu: %%%%
Parking: %%%
Overall: %%%½

We chose Houlihan’s because we wanted a menu with lots of variety. We didn’t want to limit ourselves to one cuisine (because we couldn’t decide what we wanted.) The Houlihan’s we visited had opened only recently; it moved from the Galleria to a new location on Hanley Road. They were playing a baseball game on several tvs (Red Sox at Rangers.) I also noticed that they have these little devices at the booths where you can choose songs to play or something. Hilary said she read something about it in the menu, but I don’t know the details. We weren’t sitting at a booth.

We were seated right away. All three of us started off with the Loaded Baked Potato Soup. It is delicious. Hilary and Jim got theirs without the green onion, but I didn’t mind it. It has nice big chunks of red potato, real bacon bits, and cheddar cheese in a wonderfully creamy sauce. It is served with packets of jumbo oyster crackers. One of my favorite restaurant soups.

Jim ordered the Stuffed Chicken Breast. It was stuffed with a garlic-herb cream cheese, breaded, and served with mashed potatoes and broccoli. He loved it.

Hilary got an appetizer as her entrée, the Blackened Chicken and Caramelized Onion Quesadilla. She said it was spicy, and she loved it. I tried a small bite; it had too much pepperjack cheese for my tastes. It was served with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. I also tried a bit of the guacamole; it was just ok. Not enough big chunks of avocado for me.

When looking at the menu, I was pretty sure I wanted steak. I thought the Prime Top Sirloin sounded good, but couldn’t decide if I should get the 5 oz. or the 9 oz. The 9 was $3 more. I went with the 5. When I got it, I wished I had gotten the 9. It just looked really small. It came with a mountain of red mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. The sirloin was really good. I order my steak medium; I have trouble chewing steak done more than that. It was really tender and very flavorful. The mashed potatoes were good, but I would have preferred to have eaten less of them and gotten the bigger sirloin.

I wasn’t so crazy about the asparagus. I have limited experience with fresh asparagus (my mom only ever got the canned kind, which I liked.) The first bite I took seemed incredibly salty. I don’t know if it was marinated in soy, or what, but it seemed a bit overpowering. After a couple of more bites, I decided I just didn’t like it. I don’t know if it was just this asparagus, or not, but I just didn’t like the flavor of the asparagus itself. I would like to get some fresh asparagus and make it myself sometime.

Overall, a great experience at Houlihan’s.