Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Restaurant Favorites

Like anyone, JJ and I love eating out, however it’s quite pricey, and you cannot control the amount of fat/calories in your food. I like to recreate meals that we’ve had at our favorite restaurants for the challenge, and also so I can tweak it a bit so it’s exactly what I want to eat. The blue cheese chopped salad is something I’ve had at outback. From what I can remember, it is just lettuce, pecans, blue cheese, and scallions with some sort of little crunchy tortilla strips. I love pairing blue cheese and pear, so I thought that would be a good addition, as well as cucumber and peppers, salad staples. I had some leftover Chinese rice noodles from PF Changs night, and I decided to sub those for the tortilla strips. I think what I love the most about this salad is the blue cheese dressing is a vinegar based dressing, which I much prefer over a mayo base. I think it tastes pretty similar! I also added grilled chicken for protein and balance.
The sweet potatoes were a Texas Roadhouse inspiration. JJ loves their cinnamon-honey butter, and I think it’s pretty good too. Sweet potatoes are much healthier than russets, and match wonderfully with the butter. They’re not complex, but the combination of flavors is delicious. I don’t think TR adds vanilla to their butter, but I like a little vanilla with my whipped sweet potatoes.
Blue Cheese Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken
Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon-Honey Butter

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped finely
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 pear, peeled and finely diced
1/4 cup cinnamon pecans (recipe follows)
1/3 cup blue cheese vinaigrette (recipe follows)
¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
½ cup crushed Chinese rice noodles
2 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
1 tbsp. grill seasoning
2 sweet potatoes
2 tbsp. cinnamon-honey butter (recipe follows)

Blue Cheese Dressing:
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. vinegar (white, champagne, apple cider)
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. sour cream (or fat free buttermilk)
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. sugar
¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
Combine all ingredients until smooth and incorporated. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days.
Cinnamon Pecans:
1/4 cup pecans (or walnuts work well too)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp. brown sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
Melt butter and brown sugar in a small nonstick skillet. When combined, turn heat off and toss nuts and cinnamon in mixture.
Cinnamon-Honey Butter:
4 tbsp. light butter at room temp.
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Tiny splash of vanilla extract
1 tbsp. brown sugar
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, leftovers can be stored in the fridge for weeks.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke the potatoes a few times with a fork all over. Bake directly on the oven rack for 50-60 minutes, until tender.
Season chicken breasts on each side and cook on a grill pan for 6-7 minutes on each side. Take of the grill and let it rest and cool.
Mix lettuce, pepper, cucumber, scallions, pear, noodles and half of the dressing in a big salad bowl. Top with pecans, then with grilled chicken. Add blue cheese crumbles and the remainder of the dressing on top. Serve immediately.

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