Friday, July 9, 2010

Shea's Express!

Oh Shea...
You complete me.

Shea's Express (Click Here for Map)
415 Church Street
Huntsville, Alabama 35801

I absolutely adore Shea's Express! A wonderfully peaceful place on this side of heaven! Everything I have ever tried here, I have absolutely loved. They serve breakfast and lunch only, so you have to get there early or plan a nice lunch here!

My friend and I ventured over to Shea's as her final hurrah before she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! Yep, we overdid it...yep, it was well worth it! :-) At our "final supper" we were treated to the Maple Glazed Chicken Sandwich, sweet and smokey collard greens, a mesculn green salad with Maple Balsamic dressing and dessert...cookies and cobbler! As an added treat, they serve the most wonderful Mint Julep Sweet Tea. Ahhh...and as you know from a previous post...I am a certified sweet tea addict. I love Shea's...did I say that earlier? LOL! Pictures below! :-)

Now, I have to dedicate a moment to the most delicious salad dressing that I have ever had in my entire life. Maple Balsamic. Oh, how I adore you! It is the perfect mix of sweetness with the twang of acidity from the balsamic vinegar. I have really tried to figure out how I can re-create that at home. I asked for the recipe, but they laughed. THEY LAUGHED. *sob* Ok...seriously...I am still wondering what I need to do to get the recipe for that maple balsamic dressing. I need it in my life PRONTO. :-)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Earth Fare: the healthy supermarket - Huntsville, Alabama!

Sooo...change is good.
If your life is improved by those changes,
then change is REALLY good!

Earth Fare: The Healthy Supermarket (Click Here for Map!)
5900C University Drive NW
Huntsville, AL 35806

I may just break down like Chris Brown did when he attempted to sing Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror" on the BET Awards in 2010. :)

I have been doing a little research about the things I eat. I really want to know what it is that I am putting into my body and why it does what it does when it gets there. I would like to pride myself by saying that I am a "veggie girl" and that I love vegetables of all kinds and I can do without meat alot of times. Does that make me a health nut? Not even close. I have never been a skinny girl (nor do I want to be)! Healthy is the destination for me! I have learned that the things we eat are laden with many preservatives, chemicals and ingredients that should never be put into our bodies in the first place, yet, in this day and age, it is almost impossible to find foods that are without these things. Enter Earth Fare!!! I learned about this place from a good friend of mine who has one near her in Raleigh, North Carolina. She put me on notice that they were building one here in Huntsville, Alabama! Oh joy! I was overly excited about them coming to town as I began to research and learn about what was good and not good for me to eat. I even entered a contest on their blog and won a gift card to begin my journey into healthy eating!!! WOOOT WOOT!!!

I had just recently watched a couple of great documentaries (Food Inc., King Corn...etc.) and I realized that some of the things I eat really upset my stomach, cause me to overindulge and was just plain awful for me. I eat salads...but the dressing was horrible! I eat vegetables, but my method of prepration was eliminating all of the vitamins and nutrients that make those veggies good for me. SO...crash course...unlearn what you know and relearn it all over again so that you get the most out of what you consume!

FOR ME, and I say this because many people may argue my point...but FOR ME...I have problems with Splenda and artificial sweeteners. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) reak havoc on my system and cause me to overeat. Hydrogenated soybean oils make my stomach ache and I am sure that many other additives really do a number on me.

At Earth Fare, they do the research for you and items that have these ingredients are not even in their stores! They have healthy choices for whatever you crave and you can rest assured that these things are free from many harmful ingredients that are not good for you!

I am just beginning my "cleaner food" journey and it has been difficult, but my tummy is much happier for the change! Some foods have no substitute and I am trying my best to live without them, but I have fell victim to going back to the same standbys and I end up paying horribly for it. Will I ever learn? Let's hope so! However, on a good note...I had the first peanut butter and jelly sandwich that did not make me want to cry 20 minutes after consuming! YAY for small victories!!!

As a girl on a budget, I go there for many items, but I also check out what is on their shelves to see what the "good foods" are, and I may purchase them at a lower price somewhere else. Perhaps one day I will make that my one stop shop...but when you are pinching pennies...this tip may help you as it helped me! Some of their items are higher in price BUT they have great coupons and great sales! Choose wisely and plan accordingly and join me on my cleaner food journey!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ode to Sweet Tea...

Hi. My name is Nichole. And I am addicted to Sweet Tea...

All: Hi Nichole!

Ok, as I have mentioned before, I was raised in Ohio. Mom did not really give us lots of sugary beverages, and if we had soda, she kept it clear or Sprite or Hawaiian Punch (unless we were with Dad and we got a "suicide" where you mix every flavor from the fountain and kill yourself drinking 12 flavors all at once!) Well, my point is, growing up, tea was hot, in a cup and served with a little bit of sugar, honey and maybe lemon. Now, when I came to Alabama for college almost 19 years ago...

I. Was. Not. Ready.

Well, in every sense of the word...the adjustment was not easy, but as for my beverage selection, I was introduced to such flavors as: Grapico, Sun Drop, Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale and alas....Sweet Tea. Be still my aching heart...

*cue whimsical romantical music*

It was love at first sip AND served with every meal in the Cafeteria. I've heard it called "The Table Wine of the South" and God bless whomever decided to lose half their sugar supply in a gallon of iced tea! AND there are many places that dare you to try their version of it...ranging from Mint Julep, Green Tea, White Tea and even Half-Lemonade/Half-Sweet Tea, better known as an Arnold Palmer or an Uptown. There is even a Sweet Tea Vodka!!! It's not half bad, actually...I have a friend who loved it and drank it up pretty swiftly! (I had to remind him that it was still Vodka! LOL! There were no incidents or injuries! HA!) As a precaution...yes, it's bad for you if you have any care for your sugar intake, no, you should not partake in such a sugary treat daily, however, having your daily dose of sweet tea is a haaaard habit to break! I cannot even go into details about the evils that McDonalds has bestowed upon us...LARGE SWEET TEA for a DOLLAR?

*moment of silence*

Well, I am trying to recover from being a Sweet Tea addict and it will be increasingly difficult as the summer heat and temperatures here in Alabama are barreling towards us. As a rule, I try not to keep excess sugar around as it always seems to mate with a pitcher of water and tea bags. I try my hardest to drive as fast as I can past McDonalds...and I hold my breath between 2-4pm when Sonic has half price drinks on sale. Yes, I have it pretty bad *sigh*

Pray for me...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Madison's newest gem!!!

It's interesting how you journey here and there
and the one thing you are looking for is right
under your nose!

The Budding Chef Bistro (click here for map)
4155 Sullivan Street
Madison, AL 35758
256 - 325 - 2766

After a nice afternoon walk, a friend and I were ready to grab lunch. We both live in the Madison, Alabama area and we thought of a couple of places close to our respective homes. I remember seeing that the cooking school in Madison now served lunch during the week and that was all she wrote! New adventure! YAY!

I knew that the Budding Chef was in fact a cooking school that hosted classes for people of all ages, even for parties and team building...but what I didn't know is that this would be one of THE BEST culinary experiences I have ever had! As Chef Merle and Chef Diane IS all about your dining experience as a whole! Well, they truly delivered! I only ask that you save me a seat once the word gets out...luckily for me, I literally live around the corner, so I can walk to the restaurant! :)

On this exciting adventure to The Budding Chef Bistro, we ordered The Herb Crusted Salmon Salad (which is definitely a meal in comes in a huge colander *gasp*)with a delicious Balsamic Vinaigrette and bread de jour, The Southwest Chicken Panini with tuscan chips and dip. The chipotle mayo on the panini was to die for! Strawberry lemonade and a shared slice of homemade Strawberry Cake! (Pictures Below!)

The food was delicious, the service was top notch and the atmosphere was relaxing and warm! I would highly suggest this wonderful place to everyone who will listen! I cannot wait to head back...the soup list is incredible and I hear the Cream Cheese Pound Cake is good enough to fight over...we'll just have to see about that! :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ode to Home ~ General Tso's Chicken

General Tso, ancient Chinese General from the Qing Dynasty...your chicken is delicious, I wish you were alive to try it when they came up with the recipe only 40 years ago. Mmmmmm...

My House (no map...nope)
My Street
My City, Alabama

So the urge struck me again. I felt like cooking and actually take on a challenging dish and you can't get more local than in your own kitchen! Well, come to find out, it really was not that challenging but there were a few steps. I had the taste for Chinese, General Tso's Chicken, to be I made it at home!

General Tso's Chicken is a sweet yet spicy chicken dish which consists of fried boneless chicken in that sweet and spicy sauce. It is a Chinese Buffet favorite and it goes WELL with rice and broccoli, which I also made! I got the recipe from another blog called "Appetite for China" (Click HERE for recipe) and with a few slight modifications, I created a very similar dish to what you would get in your local chinese takeout. My changes were chicken breasts for the chicken thighs, vegetable oil instead of the flavored oils, no seseme seeds or scallions, red pepper flakes instead of whole peppers, candied ginger instead of ginger (it's what I had on hand) and apple cider vinegar instead of rice wine vinegar. I took pictures of my ingredients so that you can see that you may actually have these ingredients in your pantry already! The finished product was DEFINITELY worth the steps and you may just surprise yourself as this is kinda "date night" food. Well, if you use half the amount of garlic...perhaps! :-)

GO FOR IT! Cook something! If you can read, you can cook!

Vic Cassano...I love you!

Cassano's Pizza were the first pizza my Mom ate and the last I ever want to eat!

Cassano's Pizza (Click for Locations)
Dayton, Ohio Metro Area

I think I need to first say that yes, I am indeed a Yankee. Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. A Buckeye girl in a Bama world. Secondly, I need to issue a warning here to simply save you from what you may encounter if you mention pizza to someone from Dayton, Ohio. Now, there are a couple of local pizzarias in the area, but when you mention Cassano's Pizza...a change occours. Some may provide hand gestures as if they are grabbing those tiny squares of goodness out of thin air. Some may take a deep breath and go on and on about their favorite pizza pie. Then there are those of us who have moved out of the Dayton area. A far away look of longing comes across our face...memories of the "Big Cheese" begin to form a slight smile on our lips and then you hear the 'sigh' because we know that a Cassano's Pizza is nowhere close to us and all we have are the memories. Just the memories...until we venture home, that is...


Apart from the drama (ha!) Cassano's Pizza is GREAT pizza! Classic thin crust, salty sausage and fresh toppings all topped with gooey cheese and cut into squares! Delish! There are other offerings on the menu, but I must my 36 years, I have never ventured off of the pizza menu! I have heard stories about the awesome sandwiches and the delicious pasta and appetizers, but I cannot speak on that personally. Perhaps one of my hometown friends can chime in and comment on the goodness of the non-pizza items! :-)

I am fortunate enough to go home several times a year and the one place that remains on my culinary list of "things to do while in Dayton" is to pick up a Deluxe Pizza with extra cheese for me and my family to nosh on! Now THAT makes me smile!

I will say this and leave you be...if you ever find yourself in the Dayton, Ohio would GREATLY benefit your tastebuds to try this hometown classic which is Cassano's Pizza.

(pssssst...word on the street is that we can order frozen pizzas online...but i'm not one to gossip, so you didn't hear it from me!)

Lyn's Gracious Goodness

Oh Lyn...we are graciously happy for your goodness!!!

Lyn's Gracious Goodness (Click for Map!)
2306 Whitesburg Drive South
Huntsville, AL 35801-3818

You know it deep down inside when you've found a good place to eat. A friend and I arrived a bit after the lunch rush and the lunch special...gone. The famous deviled eggs...Gone. The salad you were dying to try...all that remained was the sign in the cooler...GONE! *sigh* It was enough to almost run me back to the car, but since I didn't drive, I gathered my senses and made alternative choices. BOY, if what I had was considered "second choice"...I need to camp out overnight for my first choices!

I honestly think that Lyn's entire menu is exactly what the sign says "Gracious Goodness"! I am SO glad that she followed her heart's desire and opened up a cute, modern and bright eatery here in the Huntsville Medical district! Her bio reads:

After studying cooking through Maxim’s Restaurant in Paris and with French chef, Alain Senderens at the Great Chefs of France school at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa, Lyn Newcomb Wiginton decided it was time to fulfill her dream of opening a small restaurant.
With the opening of Lyn’s Gracious Goodness, she is where she has always wanted to be - cooking delicious, homemade, Southern food with a touch of something special.

And yes, it is very special! On this trip we ordered REAL pimiento cheese spread, the shrimp salad, The Beef Tenderloin sandwich and the Chicken Pita and I cannot forget to mention the MINT SWEET TEA *gasp AND swoon*!!! Everything was delightful even down to the homemade sweet pickles that came with the Chicken Pita. I can't wait to head back to visit Lyn. You should too...and if you me and I will leave my carry out order with you! :-)

Ode To Chocolate Cake

This is totally a rambling :-)

Ode to Chocolate Cake

My House! (no map...sorry!)
My Street
My Town, Alabama

You cannot get more local than your own kitchen! When the mood strikes, I find an overwhelming urge to find a recipe and make some noise in the kitchen! This round of culinary combat found me baking a cake especially for a friend of mine! Not just any cake, CHOCOLATE cake! The recipe...well, I yoinked it from my cousin up in Savannah, Tennessee (THE Catfish Capital of THEE World, or so the sign says) and modified it slightly (that way I can grind her gears when I tell her that I didn't really take her recipe! Ain't I a stinker? Ha!) I am unsure if this recipe is in print and I will not divulge the recipe here. We may need it for our family cookbook someday! :-)

I will just give a quick ode to chocolate cake in a haiku

Chocolate Cake Haiku

This great chocolate cake
Tastes so wonderful to me
I may need more milk.

Thank you ::takes a bow::

I encourage you to go boldly into your kitchen and create something GREAT! If you can read, you can cook! :-)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Papa Gyro's!

There's nothing like a dollop of hummus in the afternoon...

Papa Gyro's (Click for map)
4925 University Drive NW
Huntsville, AL 35816

So once again...another fine jewel that is located in a shopping plaza! I absolutely adore this place. The people are friendly, the food is wonderful, the lunch crowd is steady and the tables stay full!

Papa Gyro's has a variety of Greek entrees that varies from falafels to a veggie plate with dolmades (vegetable mixture wrapped in grape leaves) to hummus

A friend and I ventured off for this wonderful Greek adventure one cloudy afternoon and as always, we were very pleased. If you have never had a gyro...I would strongly urge you to find your nearest full blooded Greek friend and ask them, no, BEG them to point you to the best gyro you can have in your city or town. If you have to drive a little, eh, gas up the stationwagon Martha...ROAD TRIP! :)

On this visit we ordered a chicken gyro (for me!), an original (lamb & beef) gyro, fries, potato and lentil soup, hummus with warm pita bread and baklava!!! (I guess we were kinda hungry!)

This will always be one of my most favorite restaurants in the area! Nothing like a good gyro in the afternoon to put everything into perspective! :)