It’s really hard for me to eat out. I think I’ve mentioned before how I can’t eat anything at many of the chain restaurants because their menu items all contain soy. I have found a few gems, though. They’re nothing fancy, but they have fresh ingredients and have binders full of recipes, nutritional info, and ingredients that I can peruse through to help me easily pick foods that are safe for me.
My top three favorites (so far) are:
Mellow Mushroom, of course (because there is a definite need for the occasional pizza in life). (www.mellowmushroom.com)
Sticks Kebob Shop. They are an awesome “kebob” style restaurant (hence the name) that caters to me each time I go. Basically you pick your meat (shrimp, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, kibbeh, or falafel), the way you want it (salad, sandwich (pita) or a platter with rice), your sauce (cucumber yogurt, fire-roasted red pepper, sesame lemon vinaigrette, or creamy cilantro-lime ) and your side (most are little salads like green beans or tabouleh). I usually get the shrimp pita with the sesame lemon vinaigrette and it never fails to be delicious. I have also tried the falafel on a pita with the fire-roasted red pepper sauce and that was yummy, too! My husband likes the lamb and beef. (www.stickkebobshop.com)
Qdoba Mexican Grill. While only some of you have been to the other two, I believe most of you have visited a Qdoba (or some form of it like Moe’s or Chipotle) at some point in your life. Qdoba has been an awesome choice for Mexican style food for me. (I have the hardest time with Mexican (all that cheese!) and Asian (heavy on the soy!) restaurants). Today for lunch, and probably for the next couple of days, I will have a version of my favorite dish at Qdoba. I love to get this in one of their salad shells, but for me to bring to work the burrito it much easier since I don’t have my own deep fryer. (www.qdoba.com)
Here’s how I make mine:
Flour tortillas (Burrito size!)
1 can black beans, drained (I got mine pre-seasoned)
2 cups white rice
1 Tbs. Olive oil
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Chili powder
Pico de Gallo
***All of this food will last me about 3 meals. I like to cook ahead of time so in the morning on my way out the door I can just grab what I need. This is delicious if you eat it fresh, or if you heat it up.
Step 1: Cook your rice. I have a rice cooker. It is the BEST small kitchen appliance I have ever used. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we use it about 5 times a week. Rice is awesome! Rice cookers will also steam veggies, fish, and I’m sure gobs of other things. To be honest, I haven’t made rice in a pot the old fashioned way in so long that I don’t know how to tell you to do it. If you don’t have a steamer, just follow the instructions on the packet.
Step 2: Season your rice. Instead of butter, I always drizzle a bit of olive oil in my rice so that it will heat up nicely the next day. I also put a little bit of salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder in mine to give it a Spanish rice kind of flavor.
Bottom line: Don’t forget to taste your food! I know I sound like a robot, but I really do feel that there should be NO need for salt or pepper on the table if you have tasted what you are about to serve and have seasoned it properly! I normally eyeball my ingredients (except for when I’m baking). So if you taste it with my measurements and it’s not quite right for you, just add a little more of whatever it needs. My taste buds and your taste buds might be different, so feel free to alter as you see fit!
Step 3: Start packing. When I’m prepping for my lunches, I dole out the rice into 3 bowels, and then top each with some of the black beans. If you are using the pre-seasoned black beans like I used, definitely drain them so your rice doesn’t turn black, but don’t rinse them or you will wash all those seasonings down the drain! I store the covered bowls with just the rice and beans in the fridge until I’m ready to use them. They will probably last for about a week, but the longer you wait to use them, the harder it is to keep the rice moist when you heat it up.
Step 4: Make your salsa. I normally use a fresh mango, but this time I had frozen mango chunks on hand. I just chopped a few of them up a little bit smaller than how they came, mixed in a tablespoon of pre-made pico de gallo and threw it in the fridge in a tiny bowl. By lunchtime, the mango had thawed and it tasted great!
I’m sure some of you are wondering why I am eating pico de gallo after I tested allergic to tomato and onion. I have been slowly incorporating some of my less severe allergies back into my diet to check for reactions. So far, I have had tomatoes and onions in small portions and have not had any problems. I have no intention of sitting down and eating an entire tomato or onion, but I know that I can handle a little at a time.
Step 5: Prep your greens and cilantro. If you want a little crunch and extra layer of flavor, you can chop up some fresh romaine and fresh cilantro to throw on your burrito! Cilantro is my favorite herb (another thing I’m fortunate to not be allergic to!) Both the romaine and the cilantro will travel well to work with you in a little baggy.
Step 6: Eat. When you are ready to eat your burrito just heat up your rice and beans, dump onto your tortilla, top with your mango, romaine, and cilantro, and ENJOY! You’re gonna make a mess (unless you are a trained burrito wrapper), but trust me, it’s worth it!
*(Sorry this pic doesn’t have the romaine or cilantro. OF COURSE I left mine at home today as I rushed to get out the door…but you get the idea!)
By the way, if any of you have suggestions for restaurants that might cater to my (strange) dietary needs, please let me know! Bonefish Grill (another of my favorites) has been great for me since they are very fresh, but they are a little expensive and an option that the budget just doesn’t allow me to enjoy on a weekly basis. I love to try new foods and restaurants and have really been missing the dining out experiences.