Yes, he picked Indian food. No, he doesn’t have a fever.

Mr. McB is known for being a picky eater who doesn’t generally like to try things outside his comfort zone. This reputation is not entirely fair. He is pretty conservative in his choices but he has also become increasingly adventurous in recent years. That’s why I am so pleased that an office outing took him to Saffron Indian Cuisine; I know he would have never selected it on his own, but he gave into peer pressure and came to learn that he really did enjoy it.

After his visit, McB decided that he had to treat me to the lunch buffet. I enjoy Indian food and am always eager to try new things so I was pretty excited for our visit a few weeks ago. The restaurant, located at 1178 Woodruff Road in Greenville, is part of a small strip mall. While the exterior of the building might seem a bit bland, the inside is bright and welcoming. Inside you’ll find a relatively spacious dining area with Indian art and ample seating.

The buffet ($7.95 during the week, $9.95 on weekends) isn’t particularly massive but it still manages to feature a nice variety of choices in both vegetarian and chicken entrees as well as some salads and other specialties. Patrons pick up their own plates from the warming station and no one seemed to be bashful about making multiple trips to visit the buffet.

my plate from saffronMcB limited himself to chicken korma, naan, and basmati rice. I tried a small helping of almost every dish that was on the buffet including a lentil curry, lemon tofu, panir makhni and tandori chicken. I can’t complain about any of the dishes that I tried. They were flavorful and well cooked. I didn’t make a pig of myself but I did feel satisfied for the rest of the day.

My only disappointment was that the samosa tray was empty when we arrived and was not refilled until just before we left. I could have helped myself but I was far too full by then. Thankfully, they were very diligent about replenishing the naan. I suspect Saffron goes through at least 100 pounds of naan daily. It was very popular with everyone who visited the buffet.

Whether you love Indian food or want to try it for the first time, I highly recommend Saffron. The very affordable buffet provides a nice mix of spicy and mild dishes that can please any palate. The staff is nice and helpful and the restaurant is clean and bright.

If you don’t take my word for it, you might be interested to learn that Saffron is also Greenville’s highest rated restaurant on Trip Advisor. It just goes to show that no matter the cuisine, good food is bound to be noticed and respected.

 

 

Operation Biscuit – Week One

My husband loves breakfast but he just doesn’t like biscuits. My theory is that during his childhood in Brooklyn or late teen years in Ohio, he encountered some truly awful, dry bread object masquerading as a biscuit that ruined his appetite for them. This is the only explanation that could make sense to someone who has tasted the warm, fluffy heaven that is a good biscuit.

It was easy to overlook his disdain for biscuits when we lived in Ohio. I’m not a fan of biscuits from either Bob Evans or Cracker Barrel and those were considered the cream of the crop there. At the time, I didn’t have the desire to try to perfect my own biscuit making skills.

Now that we’re in the South, I feel it’s time to hone my own biscuit making skills. I come from good cooking stock and my Granny made wonderful cathead biscuits, even if they did end up burnt now and again. There are hundreds of biscuit recipes out there, I’m bound to find something that I can make and that he will like, right? In that hope, we began OPERATION BISCUIT this morning.

Operation Biscuit week 1Our first recipe was the very basic one found on the box of Heart-Smart Bisquick.

Ingredients
1.5 cups Bisquick Heart Smart Mix
.5 cup skim milk

Instructions
1. Heat oven to 450
2. Mix ingredients until soft dough forms
3.  Knead 10 times, transfer to a surface coated with dry Bisquick
4.  Roll dough to about .5” thick, cut with a round cutter (makes five biscuits using a 2.5” round cutter)
5.         Bake on a cookie sheet for 7-9 minutes

We ended up with five nice sized biscuits.

Mr. McB’s verdict? He thought his buttered biscuit was heavy (later revised to dense) and dry.

 

I found the biscuits to be pretty light and not at all what I would consider dense. They weren’t buttered in any way on the outside but I found my biscuit (pictured here with red currant jelly) to be pretty moist and flavorful. They weren’t the best biscuits I’d ever had but they were sturdy and tasty.

I can tell it is going to be an uphill battle if he’s already throwing out so many bad adjectives to describe these perfectly passable biscuits.

My plan was to continue with Plain Chicken’s 7Up Biscuits next but I think we need to add in a “control” for this experiment by way of a can of biscuits from the refrigerator section of the supermarket. You can roll your eyes, but my husband actually prefers Pillsbury’s canned cinnamon rolls to any rolls I’ve ever made from scratch. Heck, he prefers them to Cinnabon. Given this information, I feel we need to make an effort to rule out a fondness for refrigerated biscuits before moving forward.

If you have a biscuit recipe that you’d like to see added to Operation Biscuit please share it. My goal is to try one new biscuit recipe each week until I’m successful or McB wears down my will to continue.

 

Cheerwine – “Born in the South, Raised in a Glass”

CheerwineCreated in 1917, Cheerwine is a popular regional soft drink. It’s the kind of thing that people who move away from this area miss madly. Folks get a bit misty-eyed when discussing Cheerwine; according to legend, one North Carolinian credits the beverage with his longevity. Cheerwine is produced by a family-owned company and has been steadily gaining popularity. More than, it’s been described as “adult crack,” so Mr. McB and I decided we had to try this stuff.

For our testing purposes, the Cheerwine was served in glasses – cold, no ice. McB thought it was very sweet and fruity. He says he would certainly drink it again. He’s not ready to swap his Dr. Pepper addiction for the cult of Cheerwine though.

I thought it was mellow and a bit sweet. I couldn’t really pick up the fruity flavor he was experiencing – in fact, I didn’t get a strong flavor at all. It danced on my taste buds lightly and didn’t burn on the way down like some carbonated beverages do which is surprising since Cheerwine is purported to be more carbonated that other sodas. I liked it a lot and look forward to trying the diet version.

Cowpens or Co-pens if you ask Tom-Tom

Canon practice at CowpensLast Saturday we drove up 85 to Cowpens National Battlefield. It is the site of a Revolutionary War victory over the British lead by the reviled Banastre Tarleton. We went this particular Saturday to see the annual encampment and anniversary festivities.

As Mr. McB states in his post, we learned a lot during the outing and enjoyed seeing (and shooting) everything. He mentions the effort these reenactors put into keeping history alive. They were camping out in the cold (OK, South Carolina cold)  at their own expense, wearing uncomfortable costumes in the hopes of honoring those who served, and igniting a bit of patriotism and love of history in all of us. It’s a tall order and I thank them for it.

rangerI also appreciate the ranger who lead our battlefield tour for encouraging us to question the experts and conventional wisdom. He questions many of the facts that are found in historical texts about this and other battles. He’s spent 12 years at the battlefield and studying what happened there. I’m not saying I believe everything he said, I honestly haven’t studied the battle enough. I have to think he knows what he’s talking about in many instances.

The whole experience made we want to learn more about the history of this area. I encourage all of you to visit battlefields, monuments, and historical sites in your area. It shows an appreciation for those who came before and those who work so hard to keep history alive now. You can get some pretty cool pictures, see mine below.

Soldier tentsSoldiers would have used tents like these.

biscuit breakfastWhile these reenactors were currently cutting potatoes, they had just finished baking biscuits. You can see one in the gentleman’s hand. He looks pretty pleased with their finished product.

Bacon and coffeeIn days of old, the coffee would have been in muslin bags. In 2012, filter packs will do.

Redcoat in the woodsRedcoat in the woods

SmittyThe smitty and his wares

chicken timeThis is a little more difficult than grabbing a deli chicken from Wal-Mart.

Laundry must go on – even in battle.

no hills hereThe history books talk about the hills at Cowpens. Ummm, yeah…

This piper is chatting with another visitor.

Cauliflower pizza crust

I try to prepare healthy meals. McB and I both exercise and eating a good diet is part of the equation for good health. The healthy meals also make us feel a tiny bit less guilty when we indulge at The Chocolate Moose.

I ran across this recipe for pizza with a cauliflower crust and decided to give it a go. McB is picky and doesn’t like cauliflower so I knew it was a gamble. It’s not his favorite pizza, I knew it wouldn’t be. As a Brooklynite he is pretty particular about which pies can even be called a pizza, so I knew this would not be a love story. It’s a “like” story with lots of veggies so I call it a victory.

You can view the original recipe at Eat. Drink. Smile. My version with little tweaks and notes is below.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the crust. You are on your own for the toppings.
– one head of cauliflower (You’ll need 1 cup of cooked, riced cauliflower for the final product. You should be able to get at least two crusts from a single head.)
– various dried Italian herbs (My mix consisted of 3 tbs basil, 1 tbs oregano, 1 tbs McCormick Italian blend from the grinder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp reduced fat Parmesan cheese, and a dash of black pepper. You might not need as much seasoning. I was trying to erase all traces of a cauliflower flavor.)
– one egg (beaten) or 1/4 cup of egg substitute/egg whites
– one cup reduced-fat, shredded, Italian cheese blend

Begin by removing the leaves from your cauliflower. Wash it and allow it to dry before breaking it apart.

Remove the stem pieces and keep the florets. It is best to go ahead and break up the cauliflower into small pieces at this stage. For me, ricing is easier if you are already working with smaller bits.

I used my Bullet (OK, the faux Black & Decker version) to rice the cauliflower. You want to mince it down to the consistency of rice (thus ricing) and you want to avoid pureeing. Since I am using a small device, I riced in four small batches. I ended up with 1.5 cups of uncooked, riced cauliflower. It loses some volume as it cooks so you’ll want to have more than one cup raw. I added half my seasoning to the cauliflower at this point. I wanted it to meld with the flavoring as soon as possible.

Riced cauliflowerThis is my very lovely riced cauliflower and seasoning.

At this point, you need to cook the cauliflower. The original recipe calls for microwaving the cauliflower for eight minutes. I took advice from one of the commenters and nuked the cauliflower for 90 seconds at a time, stirring in between each time.

When the cauliflower was done, I let it cool a bit before adding in the rest of the dry seasoning, the egg, and cup of shredded cheese.

cauliflower crust uncookedAfter everything was combined, I poured the mixture onto a sheet of parchment and made a circle. I decided a thin crust would crisp better.

The crust baked at 450 for 12 minutes. I then added my toppings – chicken breast with BBQ sauce and spinach. This was already cooked and warmed in the microwave. I then topped with cheese.

I baked the pizza for another five minutes at 450 and then when the cheese wasn’t browning, I decided to use the broiler. There was a broiler mishap (first use for the new oven’s broiler) so I had to scrape off all the cheese and put the pizza back in for five minutes. This time I used a cheddar/moz mix and had much better results.

Here’s our finished pizza.pizza done You can clearly see that the broiler mishap left a mark on the parchment. The edge of the dough looks black but it really isn’t burnt.

I put too much saucy topping on the pizza. I was able to pick it up (at least in parts) but it was just too heavy flavorwise.

I performed a correction-of-errors and removed the toppings from McB’s second piece. He saw it later the same night recycled as his snack. There is no sauce on this piece other than a bit of residual BBQ.

We’ll see this on the menu again. I have ideas for tweaks. I might try fresh basil and some crushed red pepper to season the cauliflower mixture.

For McB’s benefit, I promise this will never replace our every-other-Friday pizza.

Spartanburg Regional History Museum

The main purpose for my trip to Spartanburg was a visit to the Spartanburg Regional History Museum. Thanks to a donor, admission to the museum is free* the first Thursday-Saturday of each month.

Spartanburg Regional History MuseumThe museum’s designers took advantage of modern technology and inventive ideas to fill a small space with loads of information. Located in the Chapman Cultural Center – 200 E. St. John Street, the museum takes up just a portion of the Moseley Building’s second floor but despite its small size, it still manages to offer visitors a lot to see and do.

The museum’s exhibits start with the Native American inhabitants and continue through modern day. That’s a lot of time to cover in a small space, so the museum’s central area is set up almost like a chemistry lab with tall counters and stools. Visitors can get basic information by viewing the information laid out on the counters, but additional treasures including books, maps, arrowheads, pottery, and other artifacts can easily be accessed by pulling out the many drawers or peering in the built-in shelves below the main counter area. For me, this added an element of fun and exploration. The main exhibit space also featured a touch screen timeline that provided more details and helped put important local happenings in the context of national occurrences.

Here are two of the main exhibit items.

Juan Pardo StoneThe first is the Juan Pardo stone found near Inman, SC. This is said to mark the Spanish explorer’s route when he passed through the area in 1567 on his way to the Piedmont.

The second is a “piece of eight,” the Spanish coin (reale) that was divided into eighths and used as currency in colonial America. The stock market still operates in eights of dollars.

Other interesting exhibits at the museum include a nod to the area’s military past from the Revolutionary War (particularly Cowpens and Daniel Morgan) to Camp Croft in WWII.

There were also exhibits on local life ranging from social to economic including an emphasis on the textile mills that dominated the area’s economy for decades.

I particularly liked the cluster of small doors that were used to tell the area’s story through important dates and “Spartanburg by the Numbers.” The act of opening the doors and seeing an artifact with a date/number helped me to retain what I had learned.

It’s a very nice museum. You won’t need more than 60-90 minutes to explore it but you won’t be disappointed by the time you’ve spent.

*This information is accurate as of Jan. 2012.


 

Spartanburg Photo Walk – Vacant Lot Edition

I took a load of photos during my walk around downtown Spartanburg. This post focuses on those I took at a vacant lot downtown. It a large space located between two stores. I like the fact that the city didn’t board it up. Instead it’s grassy (mostly) and easily accessible. I’d love to bring Mr. McB here for photos. I think this would make a really cool background.

Lately, I see beauty in surprising places. I think these photos prove that something can be abandoned without becoming an eyesore. I love that things that might seem broken to some, can be lovely with the right eye.

AbandonedThe sunny side of the lot