Graffiti Junktion ~ a restaurant review

 

Graffiti Burger Bar

Graffiti Burger Bar, Sports Bar, burger joint

I had business in Jacksonville Beach today, so I drove from my home in Jacksonville to the beach (two different municipalities). After my business was concluded, I drove around a bit…all the way to Atlantic Beach on Third Street and then back to Jacksonville Beach. The day was gorgeous.

I was starving. I hadn’t eaten anything except a couple of pieces of toast with margarine and marmalade for breakfast. So, I pulled into the parking lot of Graffiti Junktion for a burger and fries. The fries were phenomenal. Can’t beat them.

I’d ordered a double cheeseburger which comes with cheddar and I love cheddar. I wanted it grilled medium, and it came exactly medium. I also ordered grilled onion on the burger. It was delish. Needless to say, when I was finished, I was stuffed to the max.

It’s a sports bar and they have a full bar. I sat in the dining room, but some other patrons ate at the bar. There are screens with different games on all over the place but no sound. They’ve got really great classic country-rock and rock playing softly that brought me back to a different time.

I ordered Diet Coke with lemon. My waitress brought me a fresh one when mine was about two-thirds finished. Later she asked me if I wanted one to go. This is the south and that’s hospitality.

Address: 265 5th Ave. N., Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Phone: (904) 372-9985
Hours: EVERYDAY: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.

No Florida Fare During a Polar Vortex ~ beet soup (Winter Borscht)

Winter Borscht

With temps in Jacksonville dipping to 32 degrees at night (not good for the orange groves), I wanted something warm and comforting to eat. Shrimp ceviche, chicken salad with white grapes,  or Caesar salad with roasted chicken pieces  wasn’t as appealing as it was a week ago.

So, I fell back on the Slavic food of my heritage and a couple of days ago whipped up a pot of vegetarian winter borscht. I didn’t eat it vegetarian. I sprinkled a healthy dose of uncured real bacon bits on top and added the dollop of light sour cream you see in the photo. I never use fat-free sour cream. It’s got imitation everything. But I often has as a staple in my fridg uncured bacon or light (reduced fat) sour cream.

I don’t give recipes any more because I don’t use them. I chopped up two stalks of organic celery and threw it in because I had it on hand, wanted to use it, and celery is healthy eating. My mother and grandmother didn’t use celery in their borscht, but I’ve found it in some recipes. Of course, to me, these are simply guidelines. I like cooking without a net.

Speaking of cooking without a net…as it hadn’t gotten any warmer, yesterday I made a pot of brats with cabbage, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, carrots, onion, celery…totally without a net. I use little to no oil and the Johnsonville beef brats were lean. So, I threw in some organic apple cider vinegar to add flavor. It was only partially successful. During the next Polar Vortex, when I make it again, I’ll also add cubed Granny Smith apples. I think that would make it absolutely yummy.

I cook without a net, however, I don’t recommend living without one. If my recipe is only semi-successful, I can improve on it the next time. In life, sometimes there is no next time. When we make a mistake, we might have to live with the consequences for years. Jesus is my net. I believe in intentional living based on biblical principals without being legalistic, and it works for me.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29: 11 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

There are many excellent winter borscht recipes. Here’s a simple one from Eating Well Recipes that looked really good to me and doesn’t have exotic ingredients my Ukrainian grandmother never heard of and doesn’t require a culinary degree to prepare it.

Eating Well Borscht

 

 

Chicken Cutlet Alfredo with Spinach ~ summer cooking

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The temps in northeast Florida are hitting 95 and the ‘real feel’ is over 100 degrees…so natch, I don’t feel like cooking. Even with the a/c blasting, it seems people don’t want to turn the stove on.

So, here’s how to make a luscious Chicken Cutlet Alfredo with Spinach without turning the stove on. I’m a good home cook, not a gourmet chef…and I’m heavy on veggies. With my penchant for eating, I try to keep my weight down to a dull roar. Veggies help. I say, ‘home cook’ because in extreme heat, I’m totally okay with using quality prepared foods and this recipes uses them.

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I started with Perdue prepared cutlets because the chickens are cage-free, are fed an all vegetarian diet and they use no antibiotics. You can use whatever cutlets you like. There are other good ones out there.

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Then I assemble my other ingredients. I use as many organic ingredients as possible. When I was younger, my body quickly repaired itself, now I’d like to give it all the help I can to fully function healthily. So: Prepared Alfredo Sauce, frozen peas, frozen chopped spinach, jarred mushrooms.

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Then I heat a chicken cutlet in my microwave oven. I heat one cutlet just under 1 minute. You have to know your microwave. Just heat it, don’t cook it. Then set it aside. [This recipe easily doubles, triples. You can nuke two, three, or all four cutlets in the package. Don’t worry too much about proportions. If you have extra spinach mixture, eat it for lunch the next day.]

IMG_2748Next, for one cutlet, I cook frozen spinach and frozen peas together. I like lots of veggies so I cook a half a bag of frozen spinach for myself many people would use one quarter of a bag for one, then I add 1/4+ C frozen peas, salt and pepper to taste. Cook them in your microwave until done according to your microwave. In mine 2-3 minutes. Take them out and mix well.  Don’t over cook. Then add 1/3C Alfredo sauce and 1/4 C jarred mushrooms without any of the water. Mix well and cook in the microwave a minute or so. I eyeball stuff. It really doesn’t matter if your spinach to peas ratio isn’t like mine. I hardly ever use salt, but most people do, so I added it in the recipe. You can use an herbal salt substitute. This is not rocket science. It’s summer cooking in a microwave. It’s supposed to be relaxed.

Then remember the chicken cutlet you set aside? Place it on top of the Alfredo spinach/peas/mushroom mixture. Drizzle 1/4 C of Alfredo sauce on top and heat in microwave. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and doesn’t heat up the kitchen at all.

Dust with grated Italian cheese. I use a mixture of Parmesan, Romano, Provolone, and Mozzarella. Pour a glass of iced tea, or a glass of chilled white wine. Get your fork and eat. You might have to let it cool a bit. Things that come directly out of a microwave can be hot.

This can be served over cooked pasta mixed with Alfredo sauce, but the peas are enough carbs for me and I don’t want to boil water for pasta in summer heat.

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Warm Greek Pasta Salad ~ yum

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The Finish!

I saw this recipe on a food website and the photo looked sooo good, but then the photos usually do. So, I said to myself, “Self, let’s try it”…and of course, I made some changes.

Note: I live alone and cook for one. However, I usually prepare food for two or three and freeze what I don’t eat for another meal. This recipe can be easily doubled.

So, let’s start with the warm part.

Boil water and cook 2 C of whole wheat pasta according to directions.

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Then, in a large skillet (I have a ceramic one I love that’s a semi-wok), liberally spray olive oil pan-spray,  saute 1/2 C roughly chopped red onion, 1 tsp minced garlic (I used the jarred variety), 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Cook until the onion begins to become translucent.

Add 1/2 a package of frozen chopped spinach (I used organic). When it appears to need more pan spray, I add 1/4 C water and let it steam. Also add 1/2 tsp jarred vegetable bouillon. I use very little salt and the bouillon has enough for me. Taste to see if you need to add salt. When thoroughly cooked, as seen above, add 4 tsp red wine vinegar and stir through. Turn off the burner and let it cool…but it will still be warm. Note: Don’t be afraid to taste as you cook. Professional cooks keep forks and spoons handy for tasting.

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Add the cooked whole wheat pasta to the spinach mixture. If you want to get rid of starch, first rinse the pasta with warm water, then add to skillet. (Note: I placed two portions into plastic containers. One I saved for later in the week, one I froze. Then later, when thawed and warmed, I would add the fresh ingredients.) But, this recipe if for the entire amount.

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Place entire amount of warm, cooked ingredients in serving dish large enough to add 1 C of sliced Kalamata olives, 2 chopped fresh plum tomatoes, [Note: You can use 1 1/2 C sliced cherry tomatoes. I think grape tomatoes are too small.] 2 Tbsp virgin olive oil (I used organic), 9 oz of crumbled feta cheese. Gently mix. That might seem like a lot of Feta, but it’s the protein for this dish.

This serves three for dinner, four for lunch. It can be easily doubled. You can serve it with a loaf of rustic bread. I don’t because I eat lowish/lower carb. Of course, if I have guests, I’d serve it with a loaf of bread and olive oil on the side to dunk the bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

European Street @Park Street in Riverside ~ a restaurant review

 

 

I’m late writing this review since I went to the European Street Cafe on Park Street/Riverside  in the winter. I was cold that day and immediately asked for coffee. The very nice waitress brought it right away with half and half. I don’t know if I wasn’t thinking due to the cold, but I wanted plain milk. So, I asked and she brought that. The coffee was very good, warmed me. [I must note, having once been a New Yorker, cold in Jacksonville, Fl is anything below 50 degrees.]

For lunch, I ordered the Smoked Pastrami Reuben sandwich on black bread with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing, which was excellent. There certainly is plenty of meat between the bread slices. The chips were crispy. I finished the meal with carrot cake, which for some reason I didn’t photograph. I probably simply devoured it as it was yummy. My friend ordered a huge cookie with whipped cream. I also didn’t photograph her lunch selection. As I said I was cold and probably grumpy that day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the fun of European Street is browsing the cake display and bottled beer offerings after eating. I’m not a beer aficionado and didn’t purchase any but looking added to the experience

This is an American cafe with a definite German twist.  Casual dining. A good place for robust sandwiches and/or German beer. Frankly, I’m all eyes for their cakes. The prices are very reasonable.

Gator’s Dockside, Baymeadows, Jacksonville ~ restaurant review

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This big boy is their mascot, a chalkboard with specials is behind it.

My author friend and I had business in Baymeadows. We were hungry so we stopped in for lunch. She’s a great fan of the Monte Cristo sandwich which she first had near Buffalo, NY. She said it’s hard to find one in Jacksonville. I’d never had one, so we both ordered it and it came with fries. It’s American and Swiss cheese stacked between wheat bread, and then batter-fried golden brown. It’s covered in powdered sugar and served with raspberry preserves for $11.99. It was very good, filling, and not on my diet.

We were seated in a booth in which the cushions were placed in a wooden frame that was uncomfortable to get in and out of. Once seated, it was very comfortable, but I wanted to limit getting in and out. Next time I’ll sit at a table. Our server was attentive and warm. All of the staff was courteous as far as we could see. When we arrived the place was pretty empty. Two guys were at the bar, a large family was about to leave. About half way through our meal, a few more families came in and sat at tables.

The ladies room was very clean. We weren’t there to watch a game, but it seems it would be a good place to do so.

This review first appeared in Yelp.

8650 Baymeadows Rd, Jacksonville, Fl 32256

904-449-0500

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High-top tables