Quick and Easy Meals

 

There are a lot of variations  on recipes out there in the world, but sometimes we need a reminder to think outside the box. These recipes are all suggestions for a quick lunch or dinner when you have a lack of time to work with. They are based on ideas offered by a grocery snail mail supplement I received a couple of weeks ago.

Well, they aren’t so much recipes as guidelines that may be personalized as much as you like.

Chicken Salad
Prep your salad a day in advance. Pick up a whole roasted chicken and strip it. Mix the chicken with Greek yogurt, chopped celery, dried cranberries, chopped pecans or walnuts, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. For a little zing you might add some paprika. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to mingle and marry. Serve on sliced sourdough bread or over a bed of mixed greens for a simple lunch or dinner. Preparing this salad ahead of time also allows you to take some for lunch!

Lemon Chicken
This sheet pan dish is easy to prepare and delicious to serve. In a large bowl mix a small amount of melted butter and lemon pepper seasoning, to taste. Dip chicken and halved baby gold potatoes in butter mixture. Lay the chicken and potatoes out on a sheet pan. Brush the chicken with a bit of honey and roast with lemon slices on top at 425F for 15-20 minutes. In the last ten minutes of baking, add honey-brushed asparagus spears. Serve over saffron rice or a bed of baby leaf spinach with fresh lemon wedges on the side. The results are a sweet/tart treat for the palate. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Elegant Mushroom Pasta
Saute sliced mushrooms in a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add in minced garlic, chopped baby leaf spinach and chopped basil. Stir until the greens are softened. Remove from heat and toss with your favorite pre-cooked pasta. This is a tasty treatment for leftover pasta, as fresh cooked. Add a sprinkle of Parmesan or Asiago for a delicious finishing touch.

Pistachio Crusted Tilapia
Thaw your fish, if frozen, then dip them in whipped egg whites. dredge each filet in a misture of chopped pistachios, bread crumbs, and parsley. Bake at 450F for 8-10 minutes or until the fish reaches a safe internal temperature of 145F. Serve atop a bed of your favorite greens. Slices of fresh peach or pear on the side are a subtly sweet accompaniment on the side. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Babin’s Seafood House – The Woodlands, TX

Babin’s Seafood House is an extraordinary experience for those who love seafood. They advertise “New Orleans Style Seafood” and they mean it. We were fresh from a trip to NOLA when we were invited to tag along to a local Babin’s location. Are we ever happy we went! DSC_0039From the exterior architecture to the interior decor, Babin’s made us feel like we were back in NOLA. The food held up it’s end of bargain as well, being compared to dishes at fine dining establishments in the French Quarter such as Royal House. DSC_0998Rather than trying to tell you about our experience, we’ll just show you. Enjoy!

Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell

Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crawfish Appetizer

Crawfish Appetizer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boudin Balls

Boudin Balls

 

 

 

 

 

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

 

 

 

 

 

Crawfish Half & Half

Crawfish Half & Half

 

 

Pasta di Mare

Pasta di Mare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beignets

Beignets

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cafe au Lait

Cafe au Lait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the 1-5 scale, Babin’s Seafood House gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 4.5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.7

Babin’s Seafood House
19529 IH 45
Shenandoah, TX 77385

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

 

— Ann Cathey

Joe’s Italian Cuisine – Conroe, Texas

IMG_0359You probably wouldn’t give this place a second glance if you drove past it, but it’s an amazing discovery. Joe’s Pizza and Pasta in Conroe, Texas, is one of those places that was built out in an existing building, giving it a second-hand feel. IMG_0368

 

There’s an old gondola out front to help you find it, too. Inside it still has a bit of the economy feel, but there’s a comfort zone that draws you in. The smells that fill the place encourage you to take a seat, review the menu, and start to salivate in anticipation.

Our first visit to Joe’s was several years ago. they still had plastic table cloths and folding chairs in the main dining area. We had followed a friend there, and knowing nothing about Conroe at the time, though for sure we were getting lost. It’s actually pretty easy to find.

We decided Joe’s was a good candidate for this blog based solely on that first experience. It’s a good things we went back for lunch last week. the place has really changed inside. Dark, cozy and intimate are all good descriptions of the current Joe’s dining area. Rat Pack era music wafted down from hidden speakers as a nice undercurrent of sound for the conversations that abounded.

IMG_0366We were seated in the back area, that now includes a secluded little corner with a romantic fireplace. The waitress was friendly, even with the busy lunch crowd. She made sure we had our drinks and a basket of garlic rolls as quickly as possible. She wasn’t pushy about taking our order, either. That’s always a plus for us as we like to peruse the menu and take our time.

Let’s start with the menu. It may look a little spare at first glance (the wine list takes up as much space as the Homemade Pasta Dish portion) of the menu, but that’s because Joe’s is an Italian place through and through. There are chicken, veal and shrimp dishes served with a variety of pasta styles including spaghetti, angel hair, ravioli, cannelloni and penne.

The brick oven New York style pizzas take up a large portion of the menu. They are available in 14″, 16″ and a whopping 18″ pie. You might feel the topping options are limited, but in truth they are about as traditional as pizza gets. The portions are large, even on the lunch menu. We didn’t order a pizza this trip, but we will try to squeeze on in soon and report back on it, with pictures.

Everything on the menu seems to be right out of one section or another of old Italy, with a very Sicilian feel and flavor. Tomatoes and spices are prevalent, but not exclusively used. The red sauces are very red, the cream sauce very creamy, and everything is a shade more intense without being overpowering.

IMG_0362The first item to hit the table was a basket of the house rolls. While they seem to be nothing more than fancied up pizza dough, let me assure you that the pizza dough here is more than adequate to the job. The rolls are allowed to rise to heights, then droned in a mixture of butter, garlic, and cheese. The look good and taste much better. The spicing allows them to accompany most of the menu items without clashing.

 

IMG_0361Both myself and my dining partner found it difficult to leave the rolls alone long enough to actually save some to eat with lunch!

The lunch menu is indeed small. It’s a header announcing Lunch Specials for $6.95 (at the time of that visit), and two lines of standard items including chicken or eggplant Parmesan, cannelloni, manicotti, and spaghetti with or without meatballs. We chose the chicken parmesan and manicotti.

The green salad served with lunch is a typical iceburg/carrot sliver/purple cabbage mix. tI as fresh with no cooler burn and included a topper of grated mozzarella on top.

IMG_0363I chose the chicken Parmesan and was not disappointed. The chicken breast was breaded, and took up half of my plate. It and the pasta were then doused in red sauce and topped with plenty of mozzarella. The chicken was tender and the pasta al dente. Neither arrived at the table with the overcooked-because-it-sat-under-a-heat-lamp feel.

 

IMG_0364My lunch partner chose the manicotti. He is a bit of a connoisseur of manicotti, it being his favorite Italian dish. He approved of the dish and wished there had been more of it. He proclaimed it delicious. The red sauce on his dish, while appearing to be exactly the same as on the chicken, had a sweeter flavor. The al dente shells were stuffed with a marvelous mix of cheeses, creamy and spiced just right. Overall an excellent balance spicing and cheese to sauce flavor ratio.

Joe’s menu is not a way to get skinny, but when you make the best Italian comfort food in Conroe, who cares?

Joe’s Pizza and Pasta is located at 1604 N. Frasier in Conroe, Texas, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am until 10pm. They offer dine in- take away and catering for all occasions.

IMG_0367On the 1-5 scale, Joe’s gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 4
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.5

— Ann Cathey
Photos by Christopher (or taken with his phone)

Food Porn – The First Installment

Writing about food can work up a great appetite, but looking at food can make your stomach complain that you are not paying it any attention.

Being a photographer as well as I writer, I am often confronted with photos that I have taken that don’t quite make the grade as stock photography, but are too good to be wasted. They get lonely when they are simply  archived.

Rather than let them sit, I thought I would share some of these tasty items with everyone. Enjoy!

Reuben Sandwich form Wich Wich

Reuben Sandwich form Wich Wich

In case you are curious, check out Which Wich.

Mixed Pastas with "Everything" Red Sauce

Mixed Pastas with “Everything” Red Sauce

 Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Raw Veggies

Raw Veggies

Baby Asparagus and Carrots Roasted in Butter

Baby Asparagus and Carrots Roasted in Butter

Homemade Chicken Fried Bacon

Homemade Chicken Fried Bacon

— Ann Cathey