China Delight – Conroe TX

China Delight is delightfully not a buffet! Everything is cooked to order, not sitting around in vats awaiting your attention. In this world of fast-food-this and on-hand-that, sitting down to some freshly made Americanized Chinese food is both charming and relaxing.

The portions are large enough for one really hungry person, or for two to share. You might also order three or four things and table them family style. All of the usual favorites are on the menu, such as fried rice, sweet and sour dishes, chow mien and lo mien. Recognizable names like Kung Pau, General Tso’s, Happy Family, and Po Po are all present, as well as some combinations one might not expect.

For our first real visit (some of us have had their take-away before), we settled for some old standby’s to give us an idea of what the kitchen would produce for us. We were not disappointed.

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Shrimp Fried Rice

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Almond Chicken

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General Tso’s Chicken

On the 1-5 scale, China Delight has earned:
Cleanliness – 3
Service – 3
Quality of food – 4
Flavor – 4.5
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 3.5

China Delight
1108 A North Loop 336 W
Conroe TX 77301
936-756-8686

–Ann Cathey

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Slow Cooker Sausage Lasagna

I prefer to use slow cooker liners. Whenever I buy a box of them, there is invariably a little handout inside that includes a few recipes. They are great for folks starting out with slow cookers!

Reynolds produces liner bags for slow cookers. They, like Crock-Pot, offer recipes from their test kitchens. I rounded up a few more and will share them here, in a couple of fall posts. Why fall? Slow cookers are wonderful for making warm, filling meals that are especially welcome on cooler or cold nights.

SAUSAGE LASAGNA
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4-6 hours on Low
Servings: 6

Ingredients:
1 lb uncooked ground Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 can (28 oz) crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
6 uncooked lasagna noodles, broken in half
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
Set up your slow cooker by placing the liner bag inside, fitting it snugly to the bottom and sides.

Cook sausage and onions 8-10 monutes in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up meat as it cooks. Drain well.

Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and oregano; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.

Spoon 1/3 of the sausage mixture into the slow cooker, spreading evenly over the bottom.

Arrange half the noodles on top.

Combine 1 cup of the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses in a medium bowl. Spoon half of the cheese mixture evenly over the noodles.

Repeat to add another layer.

Top with remaining 1/3 sausage mixture. cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low.

Carefully remove lid to allow steam to escape.

Mix the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses; sprinkle over top of the lasagne.

Cover and let stand for 30 minutes until the cheese melts and lasagna sets up slightly.

Serve directly from the slow-cooker.

Note: Do not lift or transport liner with food inside.

Note: Allow crock to cool before removing the liner and tossing it.

 

–Ann Cathey

Tortilla Chip Casserole

Many, many years ago (I believe I was in junior high at the time), my family stumbled upon a casserole recipe that we’ve used ever since. We call it Mexican chicken, even though we often make it with beef and it’s about as Mexican as Taco Bell. My brother, at some point, dubbed the beef version Tijuana Meatloaf.

We are not very P.C. in my family.

Anyway, whatever you call it, the casserole made for a cheap, easy, tasty, filling meal. It’s perfect for those nights when you don’t want to cook; if your meat is precooked, it’s just throw and go! But the best thing about this recipe? It has endless variations.

The original recipe calls for:

  • 1# diced, cooked chicken
  • ¾ of a bag of nacho cheese Doritos
  • 1 small can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 small can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • Shredded cheddar

mexchick

 

Originally, I think you were supposed to mix the chicken, tomatoes, and soup and layer it with the chips. We just crush the chips, mix up everything but the shredded cheese, and top with the cheese. Then you heat it up. You can throw it in the over, or you can microwave it (all you’re trying to do is heat everything through and melt the cheese). Easy peasy. Obviously, you can use a pound of cooked ground beef in place of the chicken.  You can trade out kinds of soup, of course, or types of cheese. You could even use diced tomatoes without the chilies, or those with Italian or other seasonings. Or substitute homemade or jarred salsa.

But here’s the thing. Almost anything is possible with this recipe.

  • My sister made it with leftover Thanksgiving turkey, plain tortilla chips, and homemade salsa along with the mushroom soup.
  • Last night, I made it with chicken, 1 can of nacho cheese soup, one small can of cheap, off-brand enchilada sauce, and plain tortilla chips, topped with shredded cheddar. Cheddar cheese soup would have also been good. Or, if I’d used more chicken and chips, I could have added some sour cream to the mix. Yum!
  • I also decided that nacho cheese Doritos with leftover brisket, pulled pork, or chicken (shredded), BBQ sauce would be good. Maybe with a can or cheddar cheese soup and some sour cream.
  • If you’re worried about the carbs in the chips (but not the other horrendously bad-for-you ingredients), you could probably make this with pork skins or veggie chips.
  • Since we discovered this recipe, Campbell’s soup has released a great many kinds of “cream of” soups. The current line-up includes: chicken, mushroom, beefy mushroom, asparagus, broccoli, broccoli-cheddar, celery, chicken with herbs, mushroom with roasted garlic, onion, potato, shrimp, cheddar cheese, and nacho cheese. That’s a lot of possibilities! When you add in all the varieties of tortilla (and other) chips available, all the many kinds of cheeses, and various meats, the variations really are endless.
  • You can add other things. Garnish with lettuce and tomato. Throw in some olives, roasted red peppers, or sauteed veggies. Add herbs and spices.

Experiment, and enjoy!

Memorial Day – USA Holiday

It has taken me a bit to collect my thoughts concerning this holiday, what it means, and what it should mean.

In the United States of America, Memorial Day has largely become an extra Federal holiday that allows a large number of Americans a day off to rest, grill outdoors, drink lots of beer, and in general celebrate. However, most of them don’t even know what they are actually celebrating.

There is so much more to this Day of Remembrance than just chilling in the back yard. A friend of mine made the following post on Facebook, and helped to solidify my own thoughts and feelings.

“Decoration Day was what the Grand Army of the Republic called it to begin with. A day to go to the cemetery and decorate the graves of the fallen. The date was chosen since there was no great battle of the Civil War fought then. It has changed a bit, we call it Memorial Day now, and we remember all who died in the line of duty in all of the wars which Americans have fought. It does not glorify battle or war, it remembers those who did not return to their families and homes. Fortunately of the many members of my family who served only one died during the conflict.  Uncle Sandy Fred Roy Duncan, Jr. died on the beach at Saipan during the Second World War. He is buried in the Punch Bowl American Military Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii. My father got to visit his grave on his way home from the Navy during the war.

My grandmother was given the opportunity to have Sandy moved home to Oklahoma after the war, but she said it had been too painful to lose him the first time and she did not think she could take burying him a second time. It is a beautiful place. But it is far from his home in Oklahoma. I had the good fortune to visit there one year at a conference in. Honolulu. I cried at his grave for my father. Sandy had been his best friend and younger brother. They had been inseparable until the draft took dad for the Navy and Sandy for the Marines.

God watch over all the families, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, children and grand children who will never see their loved ones again. And may we learn the wisdom to settle our differences with diplomacy rather than with warfare.”

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– Rt. Rev. Dr. Stephen F. Duncan

The following links provide both historical information on the holiday and strong opinion on the same. Please take a few moments to educate yourself, and to return the day to it’s original intent.

This link leads to the Wikipedia page for the United States holiday, Memorial Day.

Forgetting Why We Remember is an op-ed written by David W. Blight, published in the New York Times on May 29, 2011.
— Ann Cathey
Family and extended to family to numerous active duty personnel, veterans, and fallen.

How you want them eggs?

When we are out and about in the world, I notice a number of people dining in restaurants who are unsure of how to order their eggs. They ask a lot of questions, then simply default to scrambled if they still don’t get it.

To alleviate some of this, I’ve gathered together terms and descriptions of some of the most common cooking styles for eggs.

The first thing I notice is that a lot of folks don’t know the proper names for the parts inside the egg. What most people call “egg whites” is the clear protective jelly albumen. The “egg yellah” is the yolk. For the sake of clarity in the descriptions below, I’ve stuck to albumen and yolk.

SCRAMBLED –  Scrambled means that the albumen and yolks are broken and mixed together, cooked quickly in a hot skillet. Most restaurants serve them “hard” which is often a little dryer than one might prefer. Ask for “wet” and you should get scrambled eggs that still look a little shiny.

SUNNY SIDE UP – An egg that is fried only on one side. The albumen should be slightly browned at the edges, while the yolk is warm and runny. Also known as “runny eggs” or “dipping eggs” as the yolk will go everywhere and is tasty when sopped with toast or biscuit.

OVER EASY – This is most often a Sunny Side Up flipped over int he skillet just long enough for the raw egg to seal itself up with a thin film of cooked albumen. The yolk, and sometimes part of the albumen, are still warm and runny.

OVER MEDIUM –  The next step after Easy, this egg is flipped and allowed to cook until the albumen is mostly hardened up, leaving the yolk mostly runny.

OVER HARD or OVER WELL –  As it’s name hints, this egg has been fried, flipped, fried some more, until both the albumen and yolk are “hard”.

POACHED – This is an egg that has been boiled without the shell. It may have been added directly to the boiling water, or with the use of a ramekin. The albumen is cooked while the yolk remains runny. Poached eggs are usually offered as part of Eggs Benedict.

SOFT BOILED – The albumen is partially cooked, with the yolk warm and runny. This is also known as a “six-minute” egg.

HARD BOILED –  The albumen and yolk are both solidified.

SHIRRED or BAKED – This refers to an egg that has been cracked and baked in a flat-bottomed pan, or added on top of a dish.

 

Hopefully this will help anyone who is unfamiliar with the wide range of how eggs are prepared, whether ordering breakfast or reading descriptions on a menu.

— Ann Cathey

 

Mighty Fine Burgers – Austin, TX

We’re doing a repeat this week. It’s been three years since we first visited a Mighty Fine Burgers location, and we figured it might be time to go back and check up on them.

With five Austin locations, now, it’s not hard to “Keep Austin Mighty” by visiting this place when in town. We’ve only been to the University Oaks location, but it has been consistent every time, over a period of several years. that counts for a lot in our dining considerations.

There are three dining areas at this location – indoors, indoor patio, or outdoor patio (dog friendly). The indoor areas are filled with long trestle tables, benches and chairs, family style. The outdoor patio has picnic tables with umbrellas, presided over by a monstrous spreading oak. There’s also a play area for the kids beneath that ancient tree.

A refresher on the simplicity of the menu:

Not counting the kids’ menu, the burgers only come in two patty sizes – 1/2 pound and 1/4 pound. You may, of course, double up, but that’s up to you and your stomach. There’s also a crispy chicken breast available to grace your bun if you prefer.

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Half Pound Cheeseburger

Burgers are alternately available on a gluten free bun for a dollar more, or in a bowl without a bun at all at no extra charge. The place can get a bit noisy around the lunch and dinner rush times, so be sure they hear you if you ask for these options.

Burgers or chicken come with your choice of shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced onion, crinkle cut dill pickles, and grilled onions. Condiments are known simply as Red (ketchup), Yeller (mustard), or White (mayo) so don’t get confused when the person taking your order uses those terms. For a little extra you can have cheese, jalapenos, bacon, chili, or avocado added.

They offer crinkle cut fries and light and crispy onion rings deep fried in 100% trans-fat free peanut oil. Either may be ordered with cheese or chili.

 

DSC_0476Hand-dipped shakes come in the standard vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. The lemonade is fresh squeezed on site either original or strawberry. Specialty bottled sodas and beer are available. Fountain drinks and tea have unlimited refills, and depending on what you order you may need them.

 

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Half Pound Chili Cheeseburger with extra pickles.

Don’t forget the napkins. Lots of napkins.

If you are wanting some nutritional information, I suggest checking it out after you’ve tasted their food. A PDF containing the relevant statistics is available online.

About those pickles? My money is on them being the fat cut kosher dills from the Mt. Olive line.

On the 1-5 scale, Mighty Fine gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5
Mighty Fine Burgers
201 University Oaks Blvd
Suite 1380
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 381-3310

–Ann Cathey

Springtime Adult Beverages

Everyone should know that “adult beverage” translates to “alcoholic drinks”. The following recipes have been gleaned from several sources, including a local grocery circular. They all have some appeal to us, and so we share them with our readers.
POMEGRANITE VODKA COCKTAIL
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
4 oz. orange juice
6 oz. 100% pomegranate juice
2 oz. lime juice
8 oz. Absolut Vodka
3 Tbsp. superfine caster sugar
½ Tbsp. ginger juice
1 orange, sliced and quartered

Directions 
Whisk together all ingredients to combine.

Divide among 4 glasses and serve over ice, or pour into a pitcher and pour over ice as needed.

Add a wedge of orange to the rim of the glass for a festive addition.

 

FIZZ BOMB
Hands-on Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
4 tablespoons powdered lemonaid
½ cup water
4-6 ounces tequila ro vodka
4 cups lemon sparkling water or ginger ale
8 scoops lemon sorbet

Directions 
Place lemonade mix into a pitcher and add plain water, stirring until dissolved.

Add sparkling water and alcohol. Pour into glasses.

Top each glass with 2 scoops lemon sorbet. Enjoy immediately!

Leave out the tequila for a great virgin drink.
SWEET BOURBON MOJITO
Hands-on Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 1

Ingredients per drink 
8 fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp turbinado (raw) sugar
½ ounces club soda, chilled
Ice cubes
3½ ounces bourbon
¼ tsp almond extract
1½ ounces pineapple juice
2 tsp pure maple syrup
Pineapple wedge for garnish

Directions
Muddle mint leaves with sugar and club soda, then pour mixture into a cocktail shaker.

Add the bourbon, extract, juice and syrup. Shake well, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.

Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
BLOODHOUND WITH JERKY
Hands-on Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
3 cups tomato juice
2 tsp. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp. ground celery seeds
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large dash Tabasco sauce
Celery salt or kosher salt
Lime wedges
Ice cubes
6-8 oz. vodka
4 sticks beef jerky (I like Jack Links)

Directions 
In a large pitcher, combine tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire, lemon juice, celery seeds, pepper and Tabasco. Stir well.

Place celery salt or kosher salt on a small plate. Rim 4 glasses with the lime wedges and dip the rims, coating well.

Fill the glasses with ice and divide the vodka among them. Pour in the tomato juice mixture.

Garnish each drink with a beef jerky stick.

For an added treat, garnish with a skewer of grape tomato, beef jerky, and a mild or hot pepper. This garnish adds more color as well as a dash of panache.

 

Remember, always drink responsibly!

— Ann Cathey