How many of you have seen, read, or heard that steel-cut oats are healthier for you than regular oatmeal? I know I have. I assumed that there must be some sort of nutritional difference between the two: more fiber perhaps, or just less processing. Recently, as part of my weight-loss efforts, I tried a fridge oats recipe. Since I didn’t have any regular (rolled) oatmeal on hand, I figured I’d be extra-healthy and substitute the steel-cut oats that I did have on hand! Yay me! Bonus healthy points!
After a week, I learned that I don’t love fridge oats. I prefer my oatmeal warm. The super-chewy texture of the steel-cut oats was also not so much awesome. I wondered just how much of a difference there was. Observe:
Now, I understand that it’s very difficult to read those nutrition labels from the photos. Allow me to transcribe:
Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
The only measurable difference is serving size. The steel-cut oats have the same nutrition, just more densely packed. My roommate commented “but steel-cut oats keep me fuller longer!” Yep–you’re eating twice as much food in the same volume! Of course you’re fuller longer!
But, you argue, Look at the fat! There’s a half-gram difference in total fat! Why yes, that does appear to be true. However, when you look at the distribution of those fats, they’re identical, and 2.5 rounds up to 3. Thus, that difference is probably either a trace difference or rounding difference, therefore, nutritionally NULL.
Oh–one other important (to me) thing: regular rolled oats cook in about 1 minute in the microwave in the morning. I do not have to soak them overnight to make them chewable.
This month’s book was holiday-appropriate: a baking cookbook! This one is Homemade Decadence: Irresistably Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats by Joy Wilson.
I don’t know exactly how one reviews a cookbook. My writing classes did not cover this as a skill. However, here is what I can tell you:
I got the Kindle version. Yes, of a cookbook, which will necessitate having an electronic device with me in the kitchen while I bake. It won’t be the first time almost all my devices have served me in this capacity at some point.
I didn’t find the cover to be breathtaking, but that’s ok. It’s fun and imparts a feeling of low-key, low-stress, fun desserts. Interestingly, this is a fair indicator of the style of writing regarding the recipes themselves. The blurbs included with each recipe are fun to read and lighthearted.
As I turn to a random page in this book, I find a recipe for Breakfast Cobbler with Oatmeal Drop Biscuits. I’m trying very hard to convince myself that oatmeal is a breakfast food, right? And cobblers are made with fruit, right?! So this would be a brilliant idea! The author’s written description says:
“In my family, cobbler is a big deal. It’s a big deal when my dad starts to root through the kitchen cabinets looking for the large cobbler pan. This dessert is usually reserved for the big Easter arty, the all-family cookout, or Christmas. You know there’s going to be a lot of happy gathering when that special pan emerges.
Leave it to me to find a way to turn cobbler into breakfast.
Breakfast is totally a special occasion, right? In this cobbler incarnation, we’re combining juicy berries and drop biscuit batter. It’s sweet and juicy, hearty and special.”
This is what I love about cookbooks. The power of food and descriptions of the origins of those foods, their stories.
Since I randomly chose this recipe (location 542 of the Kindle ed.), this will be the recipe I test this month for the book club review! The only things I don’t keep on hand: 4 cups of fruit (frozen, thawed and drained is ok) and buttermilk. I need to hit the grocery store.
I woke up grumpy and not really wanting to cook breakfast. That is normal. I do not like breakfast. The recipe looked more daunting than I remembered: “16 ingredients? How many bowls and dishes am I dirtying?! Really?! This early in the morning…” Despite my internal grumbling, the recipe was really easy to follow and assemble. I used a frozen fruit blend with cherries, blackberries, and blueberries. I also (mistakenly) grabbed the fat-free buttermilk at the grocery store. It did not take very long to prepare (the longest part was probably finding the cardamom in my spice cabinet). Interestingly, this recipe had you pre-bake the fruit, then add the drop-biscuit topping, and bake again. The drop-biscuit dough alone was yummy. After the second baking, it needed to cool for 20 minutes. This is a form of torture, but is a really good time to go do some yoga or something. If you’re a morning person, clean up after your cooking.
I’m not as good at staging food photos as I’d like to be. Maybe I’ll take a class.
This was very tasty, but I couldn’t get over the feeling that I wanted a scoop of vanilla ice cream with it and that it was dessert. It was also a little too sweet. If I were to make this again, I would reduce the amount of sugar and probably eliminate the salt.
My one complaint about this cookbook is that it does not have nutritional information, even a basic calorie count. Granted, if you’re eating cobbler for breakfast, calories probably aren’t something you’re worried about, but I prefer to know. So here is the nutrition facts label for this recipe (courtesy of MyFitnessPal): And holy geez! I knew with a stick of butter that this was not a healthy dish. The most shocking thing in this dish was the sodium level–half a day’s worth! That’s why I would reduce or eliminate the salt next time around. It’s also half a day’s worth of fat, so that’s pretty high too, but I expected that with a stick of butter and buttermilk in the ingredients list. This was calculated with low-fat buttermilk, and your choice of fresh/frozen fruit may also cause the calorie content to vary. For the love of your blood pressure, make sure you use unsalted butter.
Would I make this again? For dessert, sure, with less sugar and sodium. And half a serving.
How does this reflect on the book? Good question. A randomly-chosen recipe turned out tasty and was easy to make and follow. The dish looked just as good as the picture promised, but required no creativity on my part. The calories etc. put this dish firmly in the “rare treat” category for me. I couldn’t help but think of the story while I made and ate this dish, so that too was a success. I like the book, but I think it will be used rarely since these are self-described Decadent Treats.
Since we finished our primary search, we’ve been back to 3 places:
D’Cracked Egg (Chesapeake, VA): still great! We ate there a couple of weeks ago. Their normal pancakes are also really good. The staff remembered us from our ONE prior visit.
Charlie’s Café (Norfolk, VA): very disappointed. My omelet had asparagus and feta, and the asparagus was undercooked, full-length spears. It was so oily I had about 3 Tbsp of oil in my plate. Largely inedible. Ric’s wasn’t as good either.
Shelton’s Big Grill (Virginia Beach, VA): still great! We had lunch there last weekend (July 19) and the food was great. The owner and the waitress both remembered us from our ONE prior visit as well.
It’s been several months since I posted about our breakfast quest. A lot has happened in that time!
We have tried several more restaurants. I’ll try to take these in order:
#7: Next, we tried Café M in Norfolk. Ric’s breakfast (his standard for this hunt) was perfectly cooked, but mine was overdone and dry. I ordered a special that day–a baked French toast thing. However, I have to say that EVERYTHING at Café M was homemade–including the bread. I did not apparently save the receipt (this long?) but it was also one of the less expensive restaurants on our adventure; I think it was around $18. This one is definitely on our try-again list!
#8 was 905 Café & Grill in Norfolk, VA. This was absolutely THE WORST dining experience we’ve had. It took forever to get our coffee, and it was undrinkable. If you know me, you know I can drink sludge pretty happily, so this was not a good start. It also took forever to get our food. Our waitress was new, and they were busy (only 2 wait staff, and ours appeared to be the only one actually working). But the food was horrible, too. The best part of my breakfast was the fried green tomato, which tasted like it was cooked in the same oil that is used to fry the fish. The potatoes were horribly undercooked in places and burnt in others. Nothing was good, and neither Ric nor I finished our small serving sizes. Furthermore, it was the most expensive breakfast we’ve had at about $24 (again, receipt missing). I was actually appalled that we had to pay for that. I do not ever want to eat there again. This place was so bad it actually set a new low-bar.
#9: Shelton’s Big Grill. This restaurant wasn’t on our original list of places we wanted to try–it was an impulse. It turned out to be one of the best breakfasts we’ve had! It’s located in Virginia Beach. Ric’s food was cooked perfectly and very tasty. The French toast was so good I didn’t even add syrup! The place had a friendly, beachy vibe and was fun and comfortable. It’s your classic diner. The total wasn’t bad here, either–I think it was just under $20, and there is a 5% discount if you pay cash (which we did). We were really impressed!
[photo not available; unplanned] #10: Newtowne Inn in Virginia Beach. This was actually not our normal pattern; we went out on a Sunday instead of Saturday. We originally planned to go to Denny’s, but they were packed (no parking), and we had spotted this little hole in the wall on our way, so we backtracked and tried it. “Hole in the Wall” should be taken literally–it was a dive bar! Undaunted, we ordered breakfast anyway. Ric had his standard, and I got an omelet with ham, peppers, and onions (and cheese). We were really surprised that the food was actually pretty good! We didn’t think to take pictures–sorry. It also was reasonably priced at about $20.
We wanted to try at least 10 places that we hadn’t been to before that were local. We’ve accomplished that. We may still experiment and visit some more places, and we have a few on the revisit/re-assess list.
Are we really up to 6 weeks’ worth of restaurants? It’s starting to feel like a lot of work. Today we went out to Chesapeake to try D’ Cracked Egg. Ric had heard good things about it from his coworkers and it was his turn to pick the restaurant! We do have a limit to how far we’re willing to go for breakfast–we have to be able to drive there in about 20 minutes. I am not a patient morning person. Just ask anyone.
There were a few tables filled, but there was plenty of space and it wasn’t crowded or noisy. The restaurant itself was small, but clean and bright. The coffee was good. That’s usually a reasonable start to things.
He ordered the breakfast combo, with scrambled eggs, toast, link sausage, and hash browns. They were quite willing to substitute the hash browns for grits–and that’s good; I’ve never seen Ric eat grits!
I opted for their sweet potato pancake combo, which came with two eggs, bacon, grits, and three large sweet potato pancakes…
It was a LOT of food, but the portion sizes were actually more reasonable than most of the places we’ve been. The sweet potato pancakes smelled absolutely amazing and tasted as good as they smelled–but there were three of them! I think I only ate about half. My eggs were cooked perfectly (I like over-medium). Ric said his were too, and so were his hash browns; the sausage was very good, and the toast was done on the grill, not in a toaster. My grits were absolutely drowning in butter (which you can see, and it even sloshed on my leg), but that was pretty minor.
Overall, everything was great–the service and the food–and we’re definitely putting this way up on our list! It’s kind of tied for 2nd with last week’s breakfast.
Price-wise, this came out lower than expected, too, at $21.71. My meal was $9.99 and was one of the most expensive options on the menu. But, sweet potato pancakes!
Today is the 4th week we’ve managed to go out hunting for a good breakfast spot in Hampton Roads. We tried Charlie’s Café on Granby Street. The weather was lovely, so we actually sat outside (which is pretty much just the sidewalk on a fairly busy street). It was really pleasant.
The coffee was Folgers, nothing special, but drinkable.
Ric ordered the usual: scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage (patties), pancakes.
I ordered the Café Cristo omelet (I think that was the name), with turkey, onions, tomatoes, and swiss. I opted for a biscuit as one of my sides and the homemade applesauce as my other side. While the applesauce was quite good, the biscuit had a chewy texture that made me think it had been frozen. The omelet was extremely fluffy and I couldn’t eat the whole thing! The pancakes were okay–they were very pretty and smelled good but were more bland than I expected from the smell.
Overall, breakfast ran $22.57. It was definitely the most pleasant breakfast experience that we’ve had so far, and we want to come back (already).
I know I’ll have to retro-post part 3. I’ll do that next, I promise.
This weekend, we tried the BelAire Pancake House on E Little Creek. It’s been there… forever, though management/ownership has changed a few times. I haven’t eaten there since the 90s, I think… and the interior hadn’t changed much at all from what I remembered–same soft spots in the floor and the interior layout and décor matched my vague memories. The menu was fairly extensive and featured some interesting omelet options… though I’m permanently steering clear of feta-and-French-fry options. I was not in the mood for a protein-heavy breakfast today.
So, I ordered the Paradise Waffle, which came with strawberries, bananas, and whipped cream. The strawberries were clearly frozen and then thawed. I actually appreciated that–most places just glop pie filling on. The bananas had a weird greyish color that usually happens after refrigeration, so I suspect they were pre-sliced and refrigerated, but they had good texture and tasted fine.
The coffee was not good. I added a French vanilla creamer to it.
Ric’s breakfast was two scrambled eggs with cheese, polish sausage, toast, and home fries. He said most of it (except the polish sausage) was slightly undercooked.
Overall, though the food was okay, it was just that: okay. Underwhelming. Bland.
The check was $22.69 before tip.
General impression: meh. Not going to rush back, but the menu variety is intriguing enough that we’ll probably give it a second try.
Okay, this week was my choice of restaurants. I opted for the Sandfiddler Café on Ocean View. The online reviews were pretty good. The décor was beachy, and most of the art on the walls was for sale (though not my taste). It was crowded and noisy, but we didn’t have to wait for a table.
I ordered a breakfast burrito with ham, which is definitely unusual for me. I’m not usually a burrito person, but this sounded weirdly good this morning. I also ordered a side of pancakes, because, well, pancakes.
The food was good. The salsa in my burrito tasted like Pace Picante sauce and the pancakes tasted like they were just normal mix–nothing really special. The syrup was just standard fake maple syrup. I did enjoy the breakfast burrito, though! And the oranges–I ate my garnish. They were a great complement.
Ric got scrambled eggs with cheese, hash browns, toast, bacon, and link sausage. He was happy with his food too, overall.
At $24.45, this was on the high side for breakfast.
This weekend, we tried the Little Creek Diner. It has been reviewed online before, so I don’t know that this adds much to what is already out there. The outside always put me off, but the inside was considerably nicer. It felt like a little family restaurant. I liked the mural on the wall and the people were friendly. Most were regulars.
That said, Ric ordered eggs scrambled with cheese, toast, and sausage patties. The dish came with home fries.
I opted for Voula’s Omelet, which was listed as containing “feta and FF.” I wasn’t sure what FF was. Yes, I know I could have asked, but I like trying new things! It came with toast and I opted for grits instead of home fries.
I was very surprised when “FF” turned out not to be fresh fruit but FRENCH FRIES. There were French fries in the omelet. With eggs and feta. Let me be clear: I am not a huge fan of French fries. I don’t usually eat a medium order of McDonald’s fries. IN my eggs? I was not thrilled. However, I do love Spanish tortillas. So it’s not like the idea of potatoes in my eggs scares me, but French fries? I tried it anyway. I did not love the combination. The bites of egg with feta were very enjoyable. Bites with egg, feta, and fry were pretty okay. Bites with just egg and fry–that I did not like. I can’t tell you if it’s good or bad–it just wasn’t a food that I would order again based on my preferences. My toast was okay, but a bit soggy (butter does that pretty quickly. The unbuttered side was not soggy). The grits were cooked great!
Overall impression: this wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. Part of that was my food choice. Was I upset? NO! That’s part of being willing to try stuff: there’s always a risk I won’t like it, even if it’s cooked marvelously. Shhh-we won’t talk about Brussels sprouts. That is not the fault of the cook or the server and it is not the responsibility of the restaurant: I chose it, and I ate it! I am totally willing to come back and try again with something different. I’d also love to try their gyros for lunch some time!
I don’t know how this began, but Ric and I have developed a habit of going out for breakfast on Saturday mornings. I can explain how and why this started to some extent. Neither of us are morning people. I am rarely hungry when I wake up. I want COFFEE and then I want the world to leave me alone for an hour while I caffeinate.
We were eating at a Denny’s until it closed a few months ago. We started eating at a local restaurant, Cagney’s, instead. The food there was plain, and simple. Basic. Nothing fancy. Seasonings were minimal. But they did pretty good breakfasts for pretty good prices, and we got to know the servers. Where else can you watch a model train run around the restaurant?
And then, last weekend, it closed.
So now we must find a new place for breakfast.
This weekend we tried our first new contender and established our ground rules for what we’re looking for.
The place must serve breakfast on Saturday mornings.
We’re not driving too awfully far. If it takes 20 minutes or more to get there, it’s not happening.
Ric will do a basic eggs-sausage-toast (or similar) at each restaurant. Eating the same (or nearly the same) dish allows us to compare food quality across restaurants.
I will order the restaurant’s special if they have one. I’m adventurous about food. This will allow us to compare variety across restaurants.
No chain restaurants will be assessed (sorry, no IHOP/Denny’s). We want to support & promote local restaurants.
We will take photos and review our meals, including prices.
I’ll link to his posts as he puts up his thoughts about the meals.
We are not being paid or compensated for doing this–we just want to try a few places and find a good place to get a good breakfast!