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Mikey’s Monday this and that

Some random food thoughts for your Monday morning and to start June…..

I think I’ve had just about enough of the spring vegetables. I love asparagus, peas and various spring greens and herbs. But I think almost every stand at the Dane County Farmer’s Market on Saturday had asparagus. My pee is going to smell funny for a month. But anyway, I’m very ready for the summer onslaught–tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, melon, berries….let’s do this thing.

I made meat loaf last night, but not just any meat loaf….Bobby Flay’s Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf. I made it with 2/3 beef and 1/3 ground turkey and I suddenly remembered why I love this recipe so much. The balsamic vinegar/ketchup glaze on top is so good that it’s making my mouth water right now. Next time you are in the mood for meat loaf, you HAVE to try this recipe.

Two summer food shows have started their new seasons–Fox’s Masterchef and Food Network’s Food Network Star. Now, I have nothing against these shows, but sometimes they can be predictable. Masterchef is in Season 4 now, and the best part is that they didn’t drag out the audition part–basically there was maybe one or 1.5 episodes of auditions. And we have our cat fight–between Krissi and Natasha. Natasha is so full of herself but appears to be able to back it up with skills. Meanwhile, Krissi is also talented and she has that east coast “don’t mess with me” vibe. Meanwhile, Food Network Star began its eighth season last night. It’s kind of getting old and stale the way American Idol did. And they seem to pick the same contestants every year–I don’t mean literally, but there are demographics they follow–the tough guy, the Hispanic, the chatty blogger, the dude who can cook his ass off but has no on-camera talent. Oh and this year we have the Ellie Krieger look alike. Of course, I watch these shows like it’s my job, and I don’t see that changing this season.

Have you ever taken a bunch of ingredients and tried to make a meal out of them, sometimes using way more of what you have on hand than you should? I did that last week when I made this chicken dish with bacon and cheese, and somehow tried to incorporate spinach and mushrooms. But I wound up doing the spinach and mushrooms on the side. However, in what should have been a sauce for the chicken, I instead added white wine to the spinach/mushroom stir fry and didn’t cook it out…blech. But I also had an avocado sitting there that I almost used. Sometimes I wonder about myself. I can put cool things together much of the time, but sometimes have cooking slumps. Does this happen to you?

At some point recently, I saw a cooking show about pizza and it may have been one of those competitions between two purveyors of pizza in New York City. And I was struck by the fact that this one pizza chef used canned San Marzano tomatoes as the sauce on his pizza. Those are usually seasoned with a bit of salt and maybe basil and that’s about it. The tomato shines by itself. So I tried this the other night and it was delicious. I’m just one of those people who doesn’t like those garlicky sauces or commercial pizza sauces, but I think this was the best and most natural way to go.

Oh, speaking of pizza…..I have to give a shout out to Scott and Jen at La Fortuna Pizza. I have found great pizza in Madison, and it’s as good as any I’ve ever had. They have a food truck and one of their regular stops in the summer is at the Verona Farmer’s Market, five minutes away. Every Tuesday. And hey, tomorrow is Tuesday! Low carb what?

Good news and good food

Sometimes life allows for overindulgence.

I love to eat, and I love to especially eat carbs–in particular foods like pizza, fresh bread, pretzels, and jelly beans. But it’s hard not to overeat when you are eating things you really love. And so I, like many Americans, have a bit of a weight problem.

I saw my doctor yesterday for a physical, and while my cholesterol and blood pressure numbers are pretty good, I’m about 40 pounds above what’s considered a good weight for my height. I’m only 10 pounds above what is considered borderline overweight, and so I really don’t have TOO far to go.

But the best part? My doctor said he does not believe in diets. He says I should not deprive myself of any food item because then I will resent him and resent myself and be miserable in general. Everything in moderation, fair amount of exercise, and all should be well–as long as I drop a pound a month or so. Totally doable, right?

So the numbers were mostly good news, but the food news was even better. Because it’s coming into summertime, and there are so many summer foods I love–ice cream, burgers, corn, tomatoes, melon. Ah yes. But there is a small catch–I can’t let myself get out of control, because freedom to eat is not an absolute. In other words–moderation.

Which also means that, fear not, Mikey’s Kitchen readers, I’m going to write about all of the great summer foods that lie ahead. Let’s get to it!

Product review: Pizza Free Fat Free Pizza

So once again, I have found myself in need of losing a few pounds. Only this time, it’s doctor’s orders because of high blood pressure and being about 20-25 pounds overweight. I like South Beach because of how easy it is…i.e. you don’t really have to count calories or weigh food. But after the brutal two-week period in which you eat no carbs, you have to gradually add carbs back in. That’s hard if you like eating fruit, cereal, bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, even if it’s the healthy versions of those things. And your breath stinks during those two weeks as well. So this time, my wife talked me into doing Weight Watchers. She told me I did not have to go to meetings, but that even though it’s a pain to count points and log everything, you can eat anything you want. And I figured, why not? If Charles Barkley can do it, why not me?

Luckily, someone told me about Pizza Free, a fat free pizza company in Ohio. I love pizza as much as anyone, but when I first heard this, I thought, “Fat Free is so 10 years ago!” But alas, since the single serving pies are just 6 points on Weight Watchers (a number listed proudly on the website), I had to try them. So we ordered the smallest quantity available, which was six pizzas, and they were $39.99 including shipping.
But regardless, I was still extremely skeptical. Fat free cheese to me is like rubber, and since we live in Wisconsin now I was even more skeptical about that. But hey, the pizza is delicious, and the cheese isn’t flavorless rubber! You can’t overcook it or the crust and cheese will burn, but if you do it until the cheese just melts, it’s perfect. The tomato sauce has a nice flavor as well, not the processed flavor that dominates frozen pizza or Italian meals.

Of course, Pizza Free does not taste like traditional pizza, but as healthy pizzas go, and especially THIS healthy, you absolutely can’t beat it. And not only is the cheese and crust fat free, but the whole 6 inch pie comes in at just 248 calories.

Intrigued? I figured you might be. Check out www.pizzafree.com for more information.

More pizza and eggs

Chef JimI recently whipped up a kickass omelet using cut up pizza as the filling. It’s a combination that I’m not sure why it’s not done more. So when I was in upstate New York last week visiting family, and had the most awesome pizza from Bud’s Place, I commented that this pizza was so good, I might have to have it for breakfast with my eggs in the morning. And I wasn’t joking.

So the next day, I heated up a slice of pizza (my sister showed me that the best way to re-heat pizza is in a frying pan, and she was right). Then I fried an egg, sunny side up, and slipped that right onto the pie. Pure heaven. Seriously, I wasn’t hung over but if you can think of a better hangover food combination, tell me what it is.

Man, I’m hungry now. I wish I had some pizza on hand!

Foods I miss from…..Nashville

So trying to remember the foods I like from the places I’ve lived has become fun and has also jogged my memory, and made me hungry. So here is the latest one, foods I miss from Nashville, where we lived from 2003 to 2010. Nashville is known for its music, but it’s also smack dab in the middle of the South, and has its own regional food but also some unexpected treasures. Here we go…..

Fried chicken at Loveless Cafe–Good luck getting a table at this institution on the western fringe of Nashville. But it’s well worth the wait, especially the fried chicken and biscuits. My goodness, my mouth is watering thinking about the crispy on the outside, moist on the inside deliciousness that is Loveless fried chicken. Their biscuits are served with homemade jams and are also insanely good.

Hot chicken–Considering my love for spicy food, I didn’t get this nearly enough, but it’s quite a regional blast of heat and flavor. I think the chicken is broiled or baked (maybe fried but at this point it doesn’t matter). What matters is that it’s dusted and doused in cayenne pepper, giving it a high level of spice but also a blast of flavor that is just awesome.

Green Curry–yeah, I know, it seems odd, but Royal Thai made some of the best green curry I’ve ever tasted. And we lived right around the corner from this spot.

Pizza--There is great pizza in most places, and Nashville is no exception–the best there are Sal’s (authentic NYC style) and Mafiaozo’s, an awesome Italian restaurant in the 12 South neighborhood. The latter had a two-for one happy hour special so that you could have kickass wood-fired pizza and two frosty beers at once served at the same time.

Rippy’s Ribs–This downtown spot served dry-rubbed Memphis style ribs–smoked and dusted with Cajun spices. Damn, I’m hungry!

Popsicles–Las Paletas is another 12 South institution, down the street from Mafiaozo’s, and the perfect dessert spot in summer. They made homemade popsicles in crazy flavors like avocado or hot pepper/chocolate or cantaloupe along with traditional flavors like strawberry. There is really nothing like this place.

Meat and three–The best place for this that I found was Arnold’s downtown. Remarkable stuff like meat loaf, fried chicken, pot roast or chicken and dumplings, that were served with three sides such as mac & cheese, collard greens, creamed corn, or a gazillion other choices. The key is the meat, and three sides….reminding you of comfort food your mom made (at least if you grew up like I did). But also, the food is outstanding at Arnold’s (which was recently featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives).

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