Restaurant Review: The Cottage Cafe

I was lucky enough to grab lunch recently with my friends LSS of Frugal Nashville and CBR in their Bellevue neighborhood. I say lucky because I NEVER have enough time to take an actual lunch break–can I get an Amen for eating like a grown-up with conversation and courses instead of shoving a GF sandwich in my face while typing with the other hand?!

photo by the wonderful and talented Kate Murphy: http://www.katemurphyphotography.com

We chose the Cottage Cafe, which I’d been wanting to try for a long time. It’s run by Crumb de la Crumb, the same company that made my amazing gluten-free key lime infused wedding cake. YUM. The cafe is in an adorable antique shop and has a definite “Southern Ladies Who Lunch” vibe to it with floral table clothes, fruit tea, and homemade lemonade. We were so busy catching up that I didn’t take any pictures–bad blogger, I know!–but the food was pretty darn tasty. There were tons of gluten-free options and I actually struggled with what to order because there were so many choices! Imagine me squealing in delight about that!

The appetizer was crackers with cheddar jelly–basically GF crackers with a dip of sweet jelly, bacon, green onions, and fresh cheddar cheese. It was the perfect salty/sweet combo and we cleaned both plates. Then we each opted for the Grilled Cheese. In true Southern style, it was made with Pimento Cheese, Benton’s Bacon, and fried to golden brown perfection in butter. LSS had her’s with salad and CBR opted for GF tomato basil soup. I added avocado to my grilled cheese and had some chips, but I was really saving room for dessert. And I’m so glad I did…

I got a slice of their GF pumpkin cheesecake, which was light, fluffy, and heavenly. And then I got a GF chocolate Nutella cupcake and a GF lemon meringue cupcake to go to share with the rest of the GF Gluttons back at the office. The chocolate was good, but the lemon was the clear winner. The texture was perfect and it was light, fluffy, and tart and sweet at the same time.

Here’s their menu if you want to check it out for yourself. I will definitely be going back!

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Worst Blogger Evar. With a Side of Asparagus Salad.

Hello, strangers! A combination of crazy-hectic work schedule, deadlines, personal overcommitment, losing my darn cat (and then finding him!), tiredness, and lack of inspiration has added up to me not cooking much or blogging here the last couple weeks (or even staying up to date on what my fellow GFGs have posted). Sorry! No more sleepless nights of wondering where I’ve been.

I did manage to pull together a meal for Easter Sunday. I googled “Easter menu items” and cobbled together a last-minute mishmash of make-ahead dishes and what sounded easiest and tastiest at the moment and would allow for the longest Easter afternoon nap possible. The meal wasn’t a slam dunk. Oh well. At least I made an effort. And EVERYTHING would have been gluten-free if I hadn’t screwed up the pie (I don’t have time to tell that story). The menu consisted of:

  • ham: Meh. I put a glaze on it. It was still kinda gross. I’m not a huge ham fan anyway.
  • potato salad: based on this recipe but with some significant tweaks. YUM. Anything with potatoes makes me very happy. Note to self: raw onions have given you heartburn for all of the 30+ years you can remember. Why did you put them in this lovely potato salad–and then suffer for the next 48 hours?
  • shrimp shooters: marinated in olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, cilantro, and some other stuff. Dang good.
  • banana custard pie: which I managed to ruin by trying to make trying to make gluten-free . . . and then subsequently made not gluten-free because I ran out of ingredients.

  • asparagus, walnut, and feta salad: based on this recipe. I kindly overcooked the asparagus. If I hadn’t? This would have been my favorite component of the meal.

So I’m going to share a recipe with you that I ruined but that I still loved and that I hope you’ll make and not ruin. Makes perfect sense.

Asparagus, Walnut, and Feta Salad

based on this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2-2 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1/4 small purple onion, thinly sliced wedges
  • 4-6 ounces crumbled feta (goat cheese feta if you can find it) or goat cheese

Instructions

  1. Bake walnuts in a shallow pan at 350°, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted; set aside.
  2. Combine oil and next 5 ingredients; cover and chill.
  3. Bend asparagus until it snaps. Cut the remainder up to the same height to remove woody stems (if you’re being frugal, save those stems for soup). Submerge asparagus in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until crisp-tender and still bright green. {No longer! I’m serious! You turn away to watch three minutes of a car chase on Fast Five and you will have ruined your dang asparagus.} Immediately plunge asparagus into ice bath to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.
  4. Re-whisk vinaigrette if needed and pour over cooled asparagus. Sprinkle walnuts, onion, and cheese over the top. Allow to sit at room temp for 30 minutes before serving.

So the asparagus portion of the salad was kinda crappy because of the overcooking, but this dish will definitely be on repeat for me. I loved the vinaigrette and the combo of flavors. I wisely sliced the onion in thin slices rather than dicing so I could easily remove the heartburn-causing monsters from my dish (I wasn’t so smart with the potato salad). Asparagus is looking lovely in the market right now. I hope you’ll give this recipe a whirl!

What did you make for Easter dinner? Any flops? Standouts? Please tell me I’m not the only one who made something that didn’t turn out AT ALL.

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

These are inspired by Chocolate-Covered Katie’s Healthy Deep-Dish Cookie Pie. I’ve made some tweaks to her recipe and halved it (it’s just not smart for me to have more than this amount in my house at a given time!). These are incredibly gooey and delicious and a total sneak for people who are leery of “weird, healthy food” (I get this line a lot at my own house). I’ve taken them to work and to a party. Everyone who tried tried them said they never would have guessed that the primary ingredients are garbanzo beans and oatmeal.

{Note: this is no Pioneer Woman or Smitten Kitchen, so don’t get all fired up about the possibility of beautiful step-by-step photos. Or high-quality photos of any kind for that matter. I will just tell you right now that most photos on my recipes are likely to be taken with my iPhone in my dimly lit and windowless kitchen. I’m sorry. I hope that will change down the road. I promise you that I won’t post a recipe unless I truly believe it’s fantastic. Hopefully that will be enough to make you consider giving it a try, lousy photo or not.}

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

  • 1 can unseasoned white beans or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed {I used garbanzos}
  • 1/2 cup quick oats or certified-gf quick oats
  • 3 medjool dates {don’t forget to take out the pits!}
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c Sucanat and 1/3 c agave
  • 1 1/2 T canola oil {I plan to use coconut oil for the next batch, as it’s much healthier}
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips {if you’re feeling frisky, why not try a blend of the two?}
  1. Blend everything except the chips very well in the food processor. {Be aware that your mixture won’t smell very good at this point. It will smell like beans with vanilla, which is, well, weird. Never fear! I swear that once you bake the bars, you’ll never remember that the base is beans.}
  2. Stir in chips, and pour into a small oiled pan (I used a small pie plate; a double batch fits nicely in a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish).
  3. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Cut yourself a mammoth slice and enjoy! Once they have cooled, I store them in the fridge. When hot, these would be fabulous with your ice cream of choice (dairy or non-dairy) and chocolate sauce. This morning, the cooled cookie bars had a melt-in-my-mouth fudgy consistency. Divine. And I didn’t even feel guilty about eating one for breakfast.

I plan to play with this recipe as a base for breakfast bars with add-ins of dried fruit, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes. I think a big batch would freeze well individually wrapped and would make a great breakfast go-to on rushed mornings. I’ll keep you posted.