the great chicken sandwich debate

okay, folks!  coming to you directly is another social media-driven taste test of the popeye’s chicken sandwich versus the chick-fil-a chicken sandwich.  unless you have been living under a rock the past week, you have seen a reference somewhere in your day-to-day about popeye’s new chicken sandwich and all the talk it’s causing around town.  well, i decided i could not simply sit aside and let the rest of america tell me which they liked better:  i needed to try them for myself!

this past friday after work and a great workout, my big brother kyle so kindly first waited at popeye’s (for 30 minutes) to pick up a couple of their sandwiches and then swung by chick-fil-a to grab their sandwiches and some sides.

to make this taste test as fair as possible, we ordered both sandwiches plain, just chicken and bread, and split them down the middle so that we all (phillip, kyle, kari, and i) would have half of each.

popeye’s on the left, chick-fil-a on the right.

i started with a bite of the all familiar chick-fil-a sandwich, as i hadn’t had one in a while and wanted to re-familiarize myself with that distinct taste.  after doing so, i bit right into the popeye’s sandwich and immediately noted how much crunchier their breading is than cfa’s.  phillip agreed in that regard and also commented that the popeye’s sandwich is, in its own way, somehow lighter yet more buttery than cfa.  i mean, if you look in the photo above, the popeye’s bun is glistening from the ceiling light.  must be all that melted butter goodness!

with all this being said, the cfa sandwich still had plenty going for it, including its signature, somewhat sweet taste – maybe it’s all that peanut oil?  and as i continued to munch through bite by bite, i personally concluded that i could easily see myself craving a popeye’s sandwich in one moment and then a cfa sandwich or nuggets in another.  someone at the dinner table commented that they are “both in the same tier of good” just different, and i don’t think i could agree more.  the popeye’s sandwich is an excellent fried chicken sandwich, while cfa does what it does well with a simple, classic chicken sandwich.

one excellent comment kari made was that the popeye’s sandwich makes her want to go try the popeye’s five bonafide big box to see how the fried chicken itself is.  you know the one, don’t you?  where the popeye’s spokeswoman annie is standing in the street and an oversized popeye’s box drops from the sky?  well, in case you don’t know it, here it is for your viewing pleasure.  🙂

and if you don’t believe us after all this, then read this post that phillip found.  it puts into additional words all you need to know about this 21st century fast food drama.

now, i mentioned that we also grabbed some sides from cfa, which included their classic waffle fries and also their new macaroni and cheese.  yes!  you read that correctly, mac’n’cheese at chick-fil-a!  kyle was the first to try a spoonful and without any hesitation said it was “gangster” and that he wants it “pumped right into his veins.”  that paints quite a picture, doesn’t it?  phillip gave the mac’n’cheese a taste, too, and gave it an “a+” (and a thumbs up).  i agree the mac’n’cheese is creamy and delicious and a fully unhealthy but completely satisfying accompaniment to a meal that, overall, was fun to share with my loved ones.

towards the end of dinner, i asked everyone which of all the dishes would they want for their last bite?  phillip and kari both said the cfa french fries because there’s something irresistible about those thick waffle fries.  kyle said the cfa sandwich.  i myself said the popeye’s sandwich, but what do you know?  my last bites were the mac’n’cheese!  as for my nearly ten-month old nephew bode, he was at the table, too, and enjoyed some vanilla puffs for his last bites.  can’t wait to take him for his first popeye’s before too long!

presidential chicken

as you all know, i’m almost always up for trying a new recipe, and a few weeks ago was one of those nights.  my inspiration was from my dear friend jamie and his fiance caleb.  they have been dabbling in the podcast world and have multiple times mentioned the famous presidential chicken recipe from michigan state university, which is where jamie attended college.  after hearing them describe it as chicken with puff pastry, sour cream, and cream cheese, i demanded a copy of the recipe so that i could try it myself.

so, being the obliging podcast hosts they are, they sent me a link and off i went to kroger to get everything we would need.  as i took over the kitchen with pots and pans and knives and cutting boards, phillip walked in and asked, “what are you making?”

“presidential chicken!” i replied, as if he should have known all along.

he politely said “okay” and left me to my work.

making the stuffing was no big deal, but trying to get the puff pastry looking all nice and on purpose was not as successful.  i may have even ended up with some precious little mini pouches, over there, on the right…oh well!

while these bad boys baked away in the oven, i got to start on the sauce.  now, as i started on the sauce, i found myself confused.  my sauce was not thickening up at all and, with a taste here and there, was quite bland to me.  i double-checked the directions and was doing everything right, but perhaps there’s an msu trick to getting it to thicken properly.  i’ll just have to let one of you show me how it’s done!

eventually the puffs were baked to near-golden perfection.  ah, who doesn’t love a nicely browned, flaky pastry crust?

i plated the chicken up with some broccoli and a little bit of the sauce, but honestly, my sauce wasn’t even necessary (and promptly wound up going down the drain).  those heavenly pouches can stand on their own with piping hot chicken and a creamy, rich sour cream and cream cheese mixture.  this dish is easily one i can see us enjoying time and time again.  🙂

so, if you enjoyed this post, there are two things you need to do:

  1. go get the recipe and enjoy this dish yourself
  2. go listen to jamie and caleb’s podcast

for both, you’ll thank me later.

hattie b’s hot chicken – birmingham, al

this past weekend, phillip and i made a swift drive west to visit my parents in birmingham for a couple of days.  it was a belated birthday celebration for my father as well as an early valentine’s day gathering for all four of us.

my mom was occupied at the school for a show choir event all day saturday, so phillip and i helped my dad run errands around town and then take kramer for a lovely afternoon walk over at heardmont park.  this place brings back countless memories of my brothers during the baseball days, and my father and i reminisced as we strolled from field to field.

the day crept into the evening, and i’d say all four of us had worked up quite an appetite for dinner.  so, we all hopped in phillip’s mazda and my dad navigated us to downtown birmingham where we joined the crowd in line at hattie b’s for some hot chicken.

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future son-in-law with his future father-in-law. 🙂

we waited in line for about ten minutes, but it wasn’t so bad since that gave us time to look over the menu.  now, mom and dad have been here before, and both testified that the medium sauce made their heads sweat.  per their recommendation, i then knew that the mild would be the way to go.  in addition to choosing your heat level, you also have several chicken choices.  from breasts to wings to tenders, surely there’s something on this menu that can satisfy.

at seven o’clock on a saturday night, you can probably imagine how busy this place already was.  so, when a table opened up, i sprinted to claim it for us.  as i settled in and took a look around, it was clear by the simple atmosphere and the line out the door that tasty eating was awaiting us.

mom, dad, and phillip arrived with our number and our drinks and we chatted as we waited on our food.  i’m going to guess that they try to make everything fresh to order, because we had plenty of time to discuss wedding plans.  oh, did i mention phillip and i are engaged?  well, if you didn’t know before, you’re in the know now!  🙂  more on all that fun to come later.

in the end, the food was certainly worth the wait.  between the sides and the chicken, there was hardly anything left on our plates!  the pimento cheese mac’n’cheese was creamy with a little kick, the collard greens were well-cooked (and i’d recommend throwing some hot sauce on them to spice things up), and i heard the potato salad, fries, and coleslaw were also delicious.

my mild tenders were, first of all, humongous.  i actually needed help finishing them!  although delicious when dipped in either the honey mustard or bleu cheese, a bite on its own was quite flavorful.  i’m glad i went with the mild because although the heat may not be in-your-face at first, you definitely start feeling it after two or three tenders.  phillip also had the mild tenders and didn’t leave a single bite uneaten.  mom said her southern chicken tenders were wonderful and dad could not get enough of the mild wings he ordered.

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i’d say if i find myself back at hattie b’s (which i’m sure i will) i think i’ll go for the wings.  the tenders are awesome if that’s what you’re in the mood for, but the wings really looked like they might be this restaurant’s specialty.  i also don’t doubt i’d try the potato salad (it looked awesome on my mom’s plate) and i would certainly get an order of the banana pudding.  my mom says it is heavenly, and i don’t think i’ll forgive myself if i forget to get it next time.

get ‘dis cashew chicken

earlier this week i decided to whip up some dinner for phillip and me.  i wasn’t terribly interested in any of the tried-and-true recipes from my cookbook (although they all have a special place in my heart), so i took to the world wide web in search of something good.  i didn’t have to look too far or too wide to find this delectable cashew chicken recipe from the pioneer woman.  this dish was so tasty that phillip barely said a word to me in between bites; compliments to the chef!  feel free to put the chicken on a bed of rice or noodles, whatever tickles your fancy.  the brown rice we had was a great base for the rich flavors of this sauce.  my only comment?  do be careful to not add too much salt; the ingredients you are using will be sure to take care of that for you.  🙂

february 15th – nyc

monday in new york arrived a little quicker than we probably would have liked because monday meant we were halfway through our trip – oh no!  well, even though we’d spent the last couple of days lounging in bed until the early afternoon, we couldn’t allow ourselves to just sit around on our hands three days in a row.  no, sir!  not while in new york!  so phillip and i bid au revoir to natalie for the morning and, you guessed it, hit up hot & crusty for more bagels!  i think at this point our bagel count was nearing ten.  um, should we be embarrassed?  wait, on second thought, let’s all keep our comments to ourselves regarding our bagel consumption on this trip.  yes, i think it’s safer that way and at the end of the day we’ll all still be friends.  🙂

we ordered more fresh baked bagels and hot coffee and, because we couldn’t resist, a boulder-sized chocolate, chocolate chip muffin.  well, if we’re gonna be bad, we may as well do it right!  phillip and i leisurely munched on our treats at a table inside as we people watched all the locals in their monday morning routine.  a gentleman to my left with lox and the newspaper, a couple beside him sharing a croissant, the local delivery man stopping by to get to-go bags (i’d bet good money one of them was for natalie!).  through the window we saw gentle snow flurries beginning to fall, so we figured if we were going to do some walking we’d better get to it.

it turned out that phillip and i pretty much had the whole day free to ourselves.  as much as i would love to have gone to the public library to curl up with a book, we decided to stay in the area.  since we’d already gone to the met on saturday, we decided to venture to the west side of town to see what we could see.  now, despite the fact that the snow was beginning to pick up, phillip convinced me to take a stroll with him along the sidewalks of iconic central park.  i must admit it was quite a lovely idea.  we saw several bundled pups dragging along their owners, couples arm in arm, and joggers aplenty.  the grounds were mostly quiet and although it was getting colder with each step, the scene was nothing short of picturesque.

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creamy chicken & mushroom potpie

years ago my mom introduced me to a magazine called real simple, and my love for all things domestic turned into an obsession as i read about cleaning tips, gardening advice (not that i’ve put it to use just yet), crafting ideas, and, of course, cooking.  i was trying to decide what to do for sunday dinner tonight, and as i flipped through the many pages of my cookbook, this crock-pot recipe popped right out at me:  creamy chicken and mushroom potpie.  um, yes, please!  we might not be in the dead of winter, and in the hottest heat of summer this classic dish may not sound the most appealing, but i never turn down comfort food.  i don’t remember the last time i had chicken potpie, and when i opened the kitchen door after church, the smells of childhood and home flooded my nose.  it turns out that the dish was just as delicious as it smelled, and i hope you think the same!

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p.s.  the only thing i changed in the recipe was that i used biscuits instead of puff pastry because, you know, i’m in the south, and that’s just what we do.

p.p.s.  i also whipped up a mountain of malted milk chocolate chip cookies.  this is what i do with my sundays.  🙂

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the pinewood tippling room – decatur, ga

after finishing the publix half marathon and full marathon a couple sundays ago, you can bet we runners were ravenous.  we met up with everyone in the neighborhood of decatur at the pinewood tippling room, unexpectedly coming across the perfect restaurant review opportunity.

known by the locals as the pinewood, this spot is a cozy neighborhood bar serving up “extraordinary cocktails and reinterpreted regional fare.”  their space is clean without much fuss, and although they equally support what they call the high-class and “home-spun,” i felt a touch out of place in my running tights and sneakers.  the other customers were dressed to the nines, it seemed, after maybe just having left church service with their family and friends.  perhaps if i were coming on a different day i would have felt a little more comfortable.  maybe that’s why they seated us way in the back…?  nah, i don’t think so.  i think it had more to do with the fact that we were a party of 12 and that was where they had room.  i should have positioned myself on the other side of the table so that i could really take in the ambiance, for i was stuck facing a white-washed brick wall.  oh well!  good thing atmosphere is only one element of a restaurant, right?  sure!

although i probably needed a couple gallons of water to rehydrate my body, i didn’t wait a moment to order a mimosa.  something refreshing and crisp sounded like the perfect ticket, and these glasses were a great balance of orange juice and champagne.  cheers!

mimosas for everyone!

mimosas for everyone!

the pinewood closes at 2:30 p.m. on sundays, so we all had to somewhat hastily make our selections.  with a decently sized brunch menu, though, i don’t think it was hard for many of us.

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honey teriyaki appetizer

last week i got caught up in the flurry of an online recipe exchange – how exciting!  i had received a honey teriyaki appetizer dish from our good family friend mary b., and with so much free time over the holiday weekend, i roped my mom into giving it a try with me.

maybe you should give it a try, too?  go on!  flex those cooking muscles, ya beast!

okay, i’ll stop.  you know how i cannot help getting carried away at times.

wait, carried away?

i get carried away, by the look, by the light in your eyes, before i even realize the ride i’m on, baby, i’m long gone”  “i get carried away, nothing matters but being with you, like a feather flyin’ high up in the sky on a windy day, i get carried away

ha!  gotcha!  i couldn’t help myself.  who doesn’t love indulging in some classic george strait?  that’s right.  EVERYONE loves indulging in classic george strait.

okay, i really will get down to business with this recipe so that you can enjoy it.

did you say “get down to business?”

let’s get down to business to defeat the huns”  “did they send me daughters when i asked for sons?”  “you’re the saddest bunch i’ve ever met, but you can bet before we’re through, mister, i’ll make a man out of you

okay, OKAY!  i really, really do promise that’s the last of it.  at least for you.  this show in my mind is 24/7.  ah, to be so lucky…

ingredients

8 ounces of cream cheese, very softened

1 – 1 1/2 cups of shredded chicken (you can also chop it if you need to save a little time; don’t worry, the chicken doesn’t know if it’s shredded or chopped, so i promise it will taste the same)

*also!  this chicken can either be a rotisserie you picked up from the grocery OR you can poach/boil the chicken yourself.  it will really depend on what’s available and how much time you have.

garlic powder

shredded carrots (the recipe calls for shredded, but we only had matchstick carrots on-hand and found those were a great choice because their crunch held up; just personal preference)

coarsely chopped dry roasted peanuts

chopped green onions

honey teriyaki marinade (just look for a bottle of this stuff in the international aisle of your grocery store)

directions

for a few hours, marinate the chicken in some of the honey teriyaki marinade (not marinate, for marinate is the verb and marinade is the noun; the more you know!).

mm, marinated chicken.

mm, marinated chicken.

grab a greased glass baking dish (a 9 x 13 will do, or something a tad smaller; you don’t want an 8 x 8, though, for that won’t be enough space) and spread the cream cheese out on it.  sprinkle with the garlic powder.

all i want to do is put raspberry jam on it and eat it with a bagel.

all i want to do is put raspberry jam on it and eat it with a bagel.

add ze chicken.

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now, at this point you can take this dish in one of two directions.  direction one is to serve it warm.  direction two is to serve it chilled.  i will detail both directions so that you can wisely make a choice.

direction one (warm)

on top of the chicken, add the carrots and peanuts.

drizzle on some more honey teriyaki marinade.

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pop the baking dish into a warm oven for 15 minutes to get everything warmed through and slightly bubbly.  be careful, though; you don’t want to burn that cream cheese.

top with the green onions and serve with crackers.

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direction two (cold)

on top of the chicken, add the carrots, peanuts, and green onions.

drizzle on some more honey teriyaki marinade and serve with crackers.

whether you prefer direction one or direction two, the dish is going to be a hit.  now, as a cream cheese lover, i am always in favor of more than less, but the 8 ounces the recipe calls for here is just perfect.

mom recommended throwing in some water chestnuts, which are another one of my favorites.  i totally understand that they have zero flavor whatsoever, but that crunch is just so delightful!

finally, if you don’t want them on a cracker, we decided it would be just as delectable in a lettuce wrap, either for an appetizer or an entree.

boston – day 1

mm, who doesn’t love an 8:45 flight on a saturday morning after a night of fireball jell-o shots at the boss’ holiday party?  ah, i knew i wasn’t the only one!  this morning my coworker vinh and i hopped aboard delta flight 104 and shut our eyes on the two and half hour trip up to boston.  we arrived a little early, were picked up by his brother-in-law, and whisked away to his childhood home.

vinh was born and raised in boston, attended tufts university, and often comes back to visit his hometown.  the neighborhood of dorchester is his stomping grounds, and it was a treat to get to see the town where he grew up and spent his younger days making memories. i’ve never been to boston, and a few months ago i heard the band the 1975 was touring in the states.  i was going to miss their atlanta show because i was out of town, but i saw they were going to be performing in boston.  well, that about sealed the deal for me.  i called up vinh and asked him if he’d like to go to the concert with me and show me around his city.  his agreement was nearly instant, and so my boston adventures began!

so much to do and so little time in which to do it!

so much to do and so little time in which to do it!

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mm, noodle soup

i hadn’t really cooked for myself in a solid couple of weeks, so tonight i decided to take on homemade chicken noodle soup.  ah, yes, because soup is so difficult!  especially when i don’t make my own noodles and buy frozen ones…but, hey, who’s judging?  if you are, well, then, i got nothing…except this excellent recipe!  the inspiration came from the pioneer woman, but since i couldn’t find those ever so convenient egg noodles, i went with dumplings instead and married that recipe with ree’s.  the results?  my very “own” noodle soup recipe!  ah, just like that!  sometimes life is easy to us.

if you’re in the need of some ridiculously simple humor this evening, i urge you to take a read of all the photo captions.  i had a lot of time to think them up, considering this meal is a labor of love and took about two hours…and it helps that i think i am hilarious!

below are the steps i took after combining directions from the other two recipes.  enjoy!

ingredients

a whole chicken, cut-up (mine had the bones in and skin on and came in a cool griller pack from kroger)

2 whole carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

2 teaspoons parsley flakes

24 ounces mary b’s dumplings (use half the package or a little more or all of it if you love carbs like everyone in my household!)

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

directions

cover chicken in 4-5 quarts of water.  bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low.  simmer 30-40 minutes.

p.s.  the smell of boiled chicken is just lovely!  (please sense the sarcastic tone)

remove the chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon.  using two forks, remove and shred as much of the meat as you can.

bring the broth back to a boil and add the frozen dumpling strips (cut to your desired size) and drop into broth one at a time, stirring frequently.

return the bones to the broth, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 45 more minutes.

remove the bones with the slotted spoon.

add the carrots, celery, and chicken to the pot, along with all the spices, and simmer for 10 minutes more.

*a quick note here:  i found my soup was underseasoned, which is either due to the excessive amounts of water or not enough spices or both.  fyi.

mix the flour with a little water, stirring until smooth.  pour it into the soup, simmering for another 5 minutes or until the broth thickens a bit.