Food Writing & Food Photography from a self-proclaimed Foodie

The Glory of WRAPS!

So….hey!  It’s been a while since I’ve been around here!  Alot has happened since I was here.  We had a baby girl – October 2011 (so yeah, she is 15 months now).  Since I was the one staying home with her, it didn’t leave me a lot of time for much of anything, particularly food writing/blogging or restaurant reviewing.  But since our little bundle of joy came into our lives, we have been trying to change a lot of things in our lives, especially the way that we eat and relate to food and exercise.  So far we’re doing pretty well!  My wife has gone to a plant-based diet (aka vegan), and I have gone to a part-time plant-based diet.  I still like my eggs, and some meats, but am discovering that the longer we do this, the less that I want red meat.  And this is a good thing!  We are also working out together about three days per week at the gym, and then I try to squeeze in a couple of other days on my own while she will do yoga with another friend of ours.  It’s all good and we love our lives – and we love modeling to our kids about eating healthy and new foods, as well as exercising regularly.  We don’t ever want our baby girl to remember her mommies as being overweight – she’s going to have enough to deal with by having two mommies!  LOL

But I digress.  I am discovering the glory of WRAPS!  Over the past year, in my mind, when I wanted to eat a “healthier” fast food lunch (ie:  not a burger), I would go to Subway and get a sandwich.  Unfortunately, since I have spent almost a year logging my food and counting calories, I have learned that this is not always the “healthier” standard!  I used to get a six inch flatbread sandwich, with chicken and bacon, shredded american mixed cheeses, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Southwest Chipotle sauce.  Want to know how many calories that is?  570.  I only allow myself 1200 per day, sometimes more when I work out; so when I look at 570, that doesn’t leave much for my other meals and snacks.  Interestingly enough, the Quarter Pounder w/Cheese that I used to get without cheese is 520 calories (probably around 500 without the cheese).  So see?  My old Subway sandwich was NOT better, except maybe only in that there were some veggies on it.

Well, then one day I was at the store and saw some flatbread and thought I would get some and try a wrap one day for lunch.  I think that the first one I made had ham, cheese, spinach leaves, tomatoes, pickles and mayo.  Not sure what the calories were, but I know it was less than 570.  But then the other day, my wife subscribed to a website that is now providing weekly vegan meal plans/recipes.  One of the recipes was a veggie wrap with hummus and kalamata olives, so we put it on our weekly meal plan rotation, and planned it on a night that we work out so we could have it when we got home from the gym.  Let me just tell ya….last night’s wraps were absolutely amazing, as well as low calorie!  I put a couple of slices of mesquite chicken lunchmeat on mine, along with everything else, so mine was only slightly higher in calories – but WOW.  Here is what I put on them:

  • Whole wheat Flatbread
  • Roasted Garlic Hummus (instead of mayo or mustard)
  • Sliced chicken (on mine)
  • Kalamata olives
  • Lettuce or Baby Spinach Leaves
  • Tomato slices
  • Cucumber slices
  • Purple onion slices

Mine, with the chicken was 294 calories; my wife’s wrap, without the chicken, was approximately 234 calories.

Very filling, tasted fantastic, and was WAY less than a “healthy” sandwich at Subway.  I loved it so much, I had the exact same wrap for lunch today….it may be my new go-to instead of sandwiches or turkey hot dogs!

I have been making peach cobblers for a long time, and have recently figured out a way to make it both low-carb AND milk-free (for those who need it).  I DID, however, discover that when I make it low-carb, the cobbler part doesn’t rise as much.  So when I found a super good deal on fresh blackberries, I jumped on them with full intentions of making a cobbler.  But I decided that I wouldn’t use the low-carb baking mix this time in order to have a full and fluffy cobbler; I did make it milk-free, but the choice of milk is always up to the person doing the cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups of fresh blackberries
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk (almond or soy milk for cow milk-free; regular milk otherwise)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • In an 8 x 8 glass baking dish, melt butter
  • Sprinkle blackberries over melted butter; sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar
  • In a separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and milk – whisk thoroughly
  • Pour batter over top of blackberries
  • Bake for 30 minutes and check; cook until cobbler is light brown
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream (soy or dairy-free ice cream for those with dairy issues)

My wife had heard of Zoës Kitchen before I had, and mentioned that the menu looked good and that we should try it sometime.  She said that it had some of our favorite culinary selections – hummus, cucumber raita, kabobs – and immediately I was sold.  I love all of those things!  So while we were out and about last Friday night, we decided to stop in and try it out.

Our first attempt for dinner at Zoës proved fruitless, as we discovered upon arrival that they had closed their dining room at 7 PM for a private event – we arrived at around 7:15ish.  They were still providing take out service, but we were hungry and did not want to wait and then have to take it home to eat.  I was, however, amazed that they would close their entire dining room on a Friday night, in a very busy part of Plano, for a private event; a plus if you are looking for a different, healthier fare to hold your own private party – a minus if you are the patron, like us, who wants to come in and eat while said event is going on.  We sadly went next door for dinner, hoping that we could make it by sometime over the weekend for another attempt.

Our second go-around on Saturday was much more successful, when we stopped in for lunch while out shopping and running errands.  We were definitely hungry when we went in, and I was looking forward to trying some kabobs.  We had briefly looked over the menu the night before, and were excited to try some of the fare that they offer.  I didn’t end up getting the kabobs after all, because I had been wanting steak, but they only have them in chicken, shrimp, and veggie (on another day I will sample the chicken and shrimp – but I just wasn’t up for either of those on this particular day).

Erikka chose the Hummus & Salad Plate, which was a reasonably priced $6.95, and consists of Greek salad, cucumber raita, olives, hummus, and warm pita bread wedges.  The Greek salad is made greens, tomato, cucumber, peppers, olives, onions, feta, and Zoës house dressing.  My wife said that the salad is very good, but could have used a bit more dressing.  She did, however, point out that for those who are watching their intake of oils (which the dressing is based of), then the amount presented on the salad was probably just the right amount.  Perhaps this is why each table has its own bottle, so that it can be added if desired.  We both tasted her cucumber raita, and was VERY impressed with the flavor of it.  Having tried raita at several Indian restaurants, we have gotten a wide range of how this dish is considered in various locations:  in some it is considered an appetizer or salad dish, while in others it is considered a dessert.  It is a very basic dish that I delegate more to the salad/appetizer region of the menu, made up of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes (in some), Greek yogurt, and seasonings.  The flavors blend well together, so that the unsweet taste of the yogurt is complimented by the vegetables that are within it.  The only complaint about the raita on this plate would be that there isn’t very much of it – the serving should be larger.  The hummus was very good as well, complimented by the warm wedges of pita bread for dipping, it was a smoothe blend of garbanzo beans and sesame tahini.  I typically use slightly more fresh garlic in my own hummus than what we found at Zoës, but it was still very tasty and a nice treat to find.

I opted, as my lunch, for the chicken salad sandwich with a side of hummus & pita bread.  The sandwich was served on 7-grain bread, and the chicken salad was a very basic chicken breast, mayo, celery, and seasonings; served on the bread with lettuce and tomato.  I’m always pretty picky about any multi-grained bread, as it tends to dry out and at times be like eating cardboard.  But I was quickly sold over and very happy to taste a soft, moist, wonderfully flavored 7-grain bread as I started to eat my sandwich!  I even made my wife taste it, and she’s not a sandwich person (she loved it, too).  I remember noting that it could have used more salt, and almost added some, but decided against it, in a continual attempt to re-train my brain that I don’t need to add salt to everything.  This way, I was able to taste the flavors of the chicken itself, and thoroughly enjoyed my lunch.  The sandwich plates typically come with a side from their “fresh side” choices:  braised white beans, potato salad, pasta salad, rice pilaf, roasted fresh veggies, fresh fruit, or marinated slaw.  I asked if I could have hummus as my side instead, and they said sure, but it cost .75 cents extra I believe.  Well worth the change!  You could also have a side Greek salad as the side, but it is an additional $1.49 as well.

Some of the other highlights include homemade soups that they make from scratch daily -chicken & orzo or tomato bisque.  Both sound good, and I love a good bisque!  There are several salads to choose from, some with meat/fish, and some without.  The choices of sandwiches are really varied, which I liked:  chicken salad, tuna salad, turkey, pimento cheese, egg salad.  There are also specialty sandwiches and pita sandwiches, roll-ups, kabobs, pizzas, and even a “protein power plate.”  There IS a kid’s menu, and the place was full of families with young children, who seemed to be eating their lunches and enjoying them just as much as the adults.  The kids have choices of:  quesadillas, grilled chicken fingers, grilled turkey & cheese sandwich, chicken salad sandwich, a kid’s roll-up, and the kid’s fresh fruit cup.

Zoës also offered several options for beverages, which I thought was nice.  They had several types of water, and my wife was pleased to be able to have Pelegrino with her lunch.  I had a soft drink, but they also have fresh squeezed limeade, juices, milk, tea, beer, and wine.  They only have two types of dessert that I could tell – YaYa’s Handmade Chocolate Cake and house-baked cookies.  I got a piece of the chocolate cake, which was amazingly moist and VERY chocolatey!

Another plus that I noted about Zoës was the selection of Meals to Go – five dinners (to serve four) that you can call ahead and order, and pick up on the way home!  You can also get most of the sides and some of the salads in take home tubs of half-pint, pint, or quart.  We asked about the cucumber raita in the take home tub, and it is reasonably priced at $3ish for the half-pint, and $6ish for the pint sized.  You can get the hummus like this, as well as chicken, potato, pasta, tuna, and egg salads; and the pimento cheese.  Many reviews have had folks raving about the pimento cheese, especially those like myself who didn’t like the stuff before trying it at Zoës – so now it is next on my list to sample.  There are locations all over, which surprised me, because I had never heard of Zoës Kitchen before I was driving up to it – it is currently in twelve states, and ten locations in Texas alone (4 in the Dallas area, 2 in the Ft. Worth area).  Definitely worth trying, if you enjoy fresh Greek/Mediterranean-type foods.  It is also a vegetarian friendly restaurant, where the menu is clearly marked with vegetarian selections by a “V” next to the items.

Zoës Kitchen    

1901 Preston Rd., Suite 1000 / Plano, Tx. 75093

Phone:  972.248.1010

Fax:  972.248.1005

http://www.zoeskitchen.com

“Simple.  Tasty.  Fresh!”

Chocolate Parsnip Chili

I saw a recipe in a magazine for this intriguing chili and knew that I wanted to try it.  I didn’t put a bell pepper in mine, but you can put one in yours; and it called for both kidney beans as well as black beans – I, however, do not put beans in my chilis….EVER.  But this was not your typical chili, and it wasn’t spicy like a lot of chilis can be; plus, the parsnips are a great source of natural fiber and folate.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes, 29 oz.
  • 1 can tomato paste, 6 oz.
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa

Directions:

  • Heat vegetable oil in a large pot
  • Add onion and beef and cook until meat is browned throughout
  • Add parsnips and garlic and cook 2 minutes.  Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt & pepper; cook 2 minutes more
  • Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and cocoa powder.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  • Ladle into serving bowls; sprinkle cheese on top, if desired

After making dinner the other night, I was craving something for dessert, but didn’t want something that was super-sweet.  Rice pudding sounded good, but it typically has so much milk in it that I worried about my dairy allergy.  So I did what I do regularly – I just changed it up a bit!  I created a dairy-free rice pudding, not overly sweet, with hints of cinnamon and Agave nectar (instead of honey).  SO GOOD!  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup leftover Jasmine rice (already cooked)
  • 3/4 cup Almond Milk
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 packets Truvia sweetener
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp. Agave nectar

Directions:

  • In a saucepan, mix cooked rice with almond milk, cinnamon, and sweetener
  • Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil
  • Once boiling, lower heat to low and let cook a few more minutes, until a little thicker
  • Turn heat off, cover, and let stand for a few minutes to thicken up some more
  • Spoon into serving bowls, drizzle Agave nectar over pudding and sprinkle sliced almonds on top

I’ve had my own simple recipe for peach cobbler for years, but now that I pay more attention to the things that I’m eating, I’ve had to change things up once again.  I was craving peach cobbler this weekend, and decided to give it a try with my low-carb baking mix (instead of flour), and almond milk rather than cow’s milk.  The cobbler turned out a bit less “fluffy” than its flour/milk counterpart, but the flavor was really good and it didn’t bother my allergies.  THIS was a huge success in and of itself!                                                                                         

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low-carb baking mix (substituted for white flour)
  • 1 cup sugar (or Truvia – look up conversion)
  • 1 cup almond milk (substituted for cow’s milk)
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 can peaches, in lite syrup

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • In mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients:  low-carb baking mix, sugar, baking powder
  • Add in wet ingredients:  milk and vanilla
  • Pour this batter into a square baking dish, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray
  • Add peaches – just pour, or spoon, from the can all throughout the batter; pour syrup in as well, if extra peachy flavor is desired
  • Bake for 45 minutes, then check – crust should be golden brown and bubbly
  • If not ready, bake for 15 additional minutes and check again

When I went out in today’s dreary weather, the grey and drizzle of the day didn’t bother me at all, knowing that I was off to visit what I hoped to be a warm and cozy coffee house for the first time.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, knowing that the place is situated in an upscale little corner of Frisco, right on the NW corner of Highway 121 and Legacy; but when I arrived, just seeing the outside of the place reminded me of some cool, eclectic shop that you might find in Austin or parts of D.C.  

I walked in right at noon, and there were only a couple of tables that had patrons at the time – but within fifteen minutes or so, there were more and more customers coming in and staying to enjoy their coffee and/or lunch.  The building looks smaller from the outside than what you walk into – there is not only the main dining area with tables and chairs (as well as a couch and small lounge chair), but also a stairwell that leads to a loft area with more seating above.  I was greeted by Myshel and Jared, who were working together behind the counter.  They readily answered my questions and made recommendations and suggestions for good lunchtime fare, as well a nod to a pastry of choice.

So I knew going in that I would want a coffee drink.  My drink of choice at the competition’s coffee house is a caramel/mocha frappucino made with soy milk, and I wanted to see if they had something comparable here at Global Peace Factory.  They indeed do have a similar beverage – the frappe’.  I asked what kind of dairy alternatives they have, since I have a pretty bad dairy allergy.  I normally use almond milk at home, to cook with and for smoothies and such; those other guys that make coffee only have soy milk as their dairy alternative.  I was pleased to hear that not only does GPF have the soy milk as an alternative, but also rice milk – at least there are choices!  I ordered my first caramel mocha Frappe’ with rice milk, which I have also never had.  They said it was good and I would like it, so I thought I would give it a  go.  It doesn’t seem to be as creamy as soy or almond milk, but the flavor was good and the change in type of milk was barely noticeable at all.  The caramel and mocha came through separately as well as mutually, making for a nice frozen coffee drink.

I then asked for suggestions for lunch, given that it was noon and I was getting hungry.  Immediately the word “Panini” came out of their mouths, so I figured I should trust them again and go for it.  I ordered a roast beef panini on sourdough bread (usually comes with cheddar cheese, red bell peppers, onion, roast beef, and a creamy horseradish sauce) – mine was made minus the cheese and bell peppers, with extra horseradish sauce.  They brought it out to me on a real plate, with real flatware, and it was fresh and steaming hot.  The roast beef didn’t appear to be just the typical deli-sliced lunchmeat that you or I would get from our local grocer; it was thick and very flavorful, like a Sunday roast that had been cut into sandwich slices.  The sourdough bread was infused with herbs on the outside, which added richness to the flavors of the sandwich.  I was able to eat half of my panini, and then had to have the other half packaged up to take with me – very filling and satisfying. There were several other choices for paninis:  Italian Turkey, Pomodoro Formaggio, and Turkey Club, to name a few.  I had a choice of breads as well for my sandwich:  Artisan Wheat, Sourdough, Jewish Rye, Health Bread (with nuts and sunflower seeds cooked into it).  There were four choices of cheese and several add-ons (double meat, chips, etc.), making the decisions unique to each patron who orders.  The last option that I saw on the menu was their salad, which could be ordered as a side salad, a full meal house salad, with or without meat.  This was so nice – to walk into a coffee house, but have the option to have more than JUST pastries or muffins to go with my beverage (and the “real” food isn’t just popped into a microwave, but cooked fresh to order).

One of the things that Jared suggested trying, if I were going to try one of their pastry treats, was the Almond Croissant.  It looked amazing, but I was too full from my panini and frappe’ to get one today – but am planning on it the next time I visit.  It was a HUGE croissant, with a flaky looking top, almond slices, and powdered sugar.  There were other baked goods in the case, and I believe that I saw an ice cream case (but am not 100% sure of this one).  But there were so many other things on the menu that I want to try, so I’m guaranteed to go back many more times.

Some of the other offerings that you will find at Global Peace Factory that you WON’T find at other large-chain coffee houses are “spirited” coffees, like Irish Cream and coffee, for instance.  They also have wines (sold by the glass OR the bottle) and specialty beers.  They have the standard coffee house selections, of course:  drip coffee, latte’s, cappuccinos, espressos, teas, hot chocolate, juices (fresh-squeezed), and smoothies.  They have a drink of the month – for March it is an Irish Cream Latte’….of course!  There are several different flavors for coffee drinks, sauces, and fruits to choose from.  And icing on the cake is that Jared is a master, professional barista, well capable of creating fantastic blends of coffee drinks with foam artwork on top, while carefully mixing and balancing flavors!

I really enjoyed my visit to Global Peace Factory – and am looking forward to returning to try more and different selections.  The prices may have been a little – and I mean only slightly – higher than the other guys, but the quality of food and service was on another level so as to afford the extra cost.  The Wi-Fi was free (but you have to ask for the security network key), and another plus:  they deliver!  Yes, if you can’t make it to them, they will bring it to YOU!  One thing I do know, I have NEVER seen a coffee house that offer this service – definitely adding another unique notch to what sets them apart.

 

Global Peace Factory   

1377 Legacy Drive, Suite 100 / Frisco, Tx. 75034

Phone:  214.705.2664

http://www.GlobalPeaceFactory.com

“…a world in peace, not in pieces.”

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