Cafe Ollie, Ypsilanti, MI

Cafe Ollie, Ypsilanti, MI

I was sad to see Cafe Luwak in Depot Town leave, but I was thrilled to see another eatery take its place quickly. Like Cafe Luwak, Cafe Ollie serves a number of sandwiches, comfort foods, baked goods and coffee drinks. Cafe Ollie has split their menu into thrids to appeal to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans.

I’ve ordered take-out twice in the last couple of weeks. The first time I stopped in I found the counter staff helpful and ready to chat. I also found it to be a bit darker in the revamped deli area. On that visit I tried something from the carnivore’s menu – the T-Hill – a turkey sandwich with thick smoked meat, cucumber slices, Monterrey Jack, and ranch dressing on sourdough bread. The turkey tasted like it was carved right off a Thanksgiving bird and the cucumbers gave the sandwich a nice crunch. Overall, I thought it was tasty, but lacking something I can’t quite put my finger on, maybe some tomato or lettuce for color?

My husband was kind enough to pick up The Crazy Caprese vegetarian sandwich for me the other night. He made the same comment to me that the lighting seemed a bit dim when he stopped in. My version had fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and a balsamic drizzle on a fresh ciabatta roll. On the menu, the bread is said to be flavored with sun-dried tomatoes, I was a little disappointed that on that day it was just simple white ciabatta for me, but the roll was fresh and still flavorful. I thought the rest of the ingredients were good quality and delicious too.

All sandwiches are served with potato chips and the ones at Cafe Ollie are addictive. I’m not a big potato chip fan, but these aren’t greasy or too salty and they were cut to a perfect thickness. I’ll have to ask if they’re made in-house next time I go.

Given that Ypsilanti has a limited selection of independently owned restaurants that offer a refreshing menu, Cafe Ollie seems to be a nice addition to Depot Town.

Kruse and Muer on Wilshire, Troy, MI

Kruse and Muer on Wilshire, Troy, MI

From the moment we stepped into the Kruse and Muer on Wilshire restaurant in Troy the staff made us feel at home. They had a couple of parties celebrating special events when we came in for lunch. The thoughtful manager at the host stand offered us an option between a booth, which would be next to one of the parties, or a table a little bit further away that would at least be a little quieter. My husband and I appreciated the choice and opted for the less noisy table over the comfort of a booth.

On this afternoon, they must have been a touch short handed on waitstaff as another manager greeted us at the table to let us know he’d be taking care of us that day. He asked us to bear with him as it had been a while since he’d been a server. You never would have known the difference as he was friendly and on top of everything throughout our whole meal. It says a lot about a place when you see the management helping out to the extent that they did when we visited. You could really tell that the staff in general really enjoyed their jobs at Kruse and Muer and they shined.

I was surprised to find out how good the prices were here. I had expected a Chuck Muer restaurant in Troy to be on the expensive side, but most lunch items were very reasonable, with a number of them under $10. I also loved the selection of pastas, sandwiches and lunch entrees. It was a tough decision, but I chose the combination option of the half Baltimore Crabmelt and a bowl of Fire Roasted Tomato Bisque (I think it was only $8.95). Our meals also came with a loaf of freshly baked bread covered in poppy seeds.

Baltimore Crabmelt at Kruse and Muer\

I initially felt guilty about my choice to go with the crabmelt having assumed that the combination of crab and shrimp would be deep fried like a crab cake. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was mistaken, the seafood cake was baked, not fried, and was very light and delicious. It was tasty with a tomato slice and melted cheddar on top and a piece of the poppy seed bread for its base. A nice mix of refreshing fruit covered in honey yogurt sauce was a nice light side. The tomato bisque was a full bowl which had rich tomato and herb flavors and a smooth texture. The little puff pastry crouton was a fun little touch.

I was happy my meal was filling, but lighter than expected so I could still make enough room for dessert. After such a good meal and great service, I couldn’t leave without seeing what sweet endings they had to offer!

Chocolate Mousse at Kruse and Muer

We had originally asked what the “flavor of the day” creme brulee was, since that’s one of my favorite desserts. We were very grateful for the honesty of our server that day. He said the the flavors are usually fantastic, but that day it was Oreo, which sounds great, but he said that when they do the brulee-ing it burns the Oreos and makes for a somewhat unpleasant charcoal taste. So, we opted for our second choice, the chocolate mousse.

Being an oddball and not crazy about plain chocolate, I usually need a second flavor paired with it like raspberry or caramel, but chocolate mousse is an exception. Kruse and Muer’s version had more of a pudding texture, thicker and not as airy as some mousse I’ve had, but delicious none-the-less.

The only thing that makes me sad about Kruse and Muer is that they have six variations of restaurants in southeast Michigan, but they’re all at least an hour away from where I live. I may have to head out to Somerset Collection more than once every 5 years just for the excuse to come to this restaurant!

Peanut Butter Chili

Peanut Butter Chili

I came across this recipe for Peanut Butter Chili on the Jonesing For blog. I was intrigued because I’ve made a lot of different chili recipes over the years, but none of them had contained peanut butter before.

Even though this is a vegetarian version (you could easily add meat if you choose), I thought I might sway my peanut-butter-loving, meat-eating husband with one of his favorite ingredients. He said he’d be up for giving it a try.

This vegetarian chili calls for dried beans (soaked overnight), onion, tomatoes, vegetable stock and spices. It was very simple to put together in the morning the day I served it for dinner. If you’re a vegetable lover with a big crock pot you might consider adding whatever additional veggies you have on hand.

The original recipe does stress the need for at least a 7-qt. crock pot, I only have a 4-qt. crock pot because it’s just the two of us. I thought that if I added the last of the vegetable broth midway through the cooking process after the rest had been partially absorbed by the other ingredients that it would work out alright. My version came out less hearty than the original with more of a soup-like consistency because of the smaller crock-pot and late addition of the last of the stock.

We still thought the recipe was plenty tasty though. I topped mine with reduced-fat sour cream and a little sharp cheddar for a creamy taste. We served it with a side of honey cornbread. My husband had anticipated a sweeter chili because of the peanut butter, but it actually added more of a nutty undertone when stirred in at the end jut before serving. Adding a bit of sugar to the chili might also compliment the flavors for PB traditionalists looking for that sweeter taste.

I will definitely make this one again, but I think I’ll have the recipe to work better with my smaller size slow cooker.

View the original recipe here.

Oreo Cupcakes

Oreo Cupcakes

For those of you hanging on by a thread to your New Year’s weight loss resolution I apologize in advance for this post. When I found this recipe on Annie’s Eats for Cookies and Cream Cupcakes (adapted from the Beantown Baker) I should have known they’d be dangerous. But I felt compelled to make them anyway. Who can resist cupcakes or Oreos, let alone a combination of the two? Well, to my credit, I did cut the recipe in half to make one dozen instead of two. That counts for something in the diet world right?

These were everything I’d dreamed they would be… soft, dense, great Oreo flavor. Even the frosting tasted like the creamy cookie center. I held back a bit on the frosting too and used skim milk instead of cream. It makes a lot, but you can use as much as you like. You only need a sprinkling of crumbs to make them look pretty.

Okay, if you’re ready, here’s the recipe below. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Oreo Cupcakes

Adapted from Annie’s Eats who adapted the recipe from the Beantown Baker

For the cupcakes

  • 12 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
  • 1-1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5/6 cup sugar (just measure 1/2 c. plus 1/3 c.)
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 10 whole Oreo cookies, quartered

For the frosting

  • 4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp. milk or cream

For the garnish

  • Oreo cookie crumbs
  • 12 Oreo cookie halves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place 12 paper cupcake liners in a standard muffin pan. Put an Oreo half in the bottom of each liner, cream side up.  In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Fold in chopped Oreos until well incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the tops spring back lightly when touched. Cool in the pans 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
Mix the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer medium speed until smooth. Add vanilla. Add the confectioners sugar and beat until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the milk and beat on low until incorporated, increase the speed to medium until the batter is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Frost the cupcakes when completely cooled.  Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Smokehouse Blues, Ypsilanti, MI

Smokehouse Blues, Ypsilanti, MI

Admittedly, I sometimes forget that there’s a pretty tasty barbecue restaurant in my own neck of the woods here in Ypsilanti. Smokehouse Blues has been able to avoid the curse of previous restaurants that have occupied its current space on Washtenaw just east of Carpenter and US-23. I’ve found consistently good service and good barbecue dishes here. They also have beautiful and fun murals of blues musicians on the wall.

We stopped in for dinner on a whim on a recent Friday night. Although they’re typically busier on Friday and Saturday nights there’s usually not a wait for a table, which is nice. We were seated right away on this visit and greeted by a very personable waiter who took our order.

As long as I can remember, they’ve always served a basket of hot buttered rolls with meals at Smokehouse Blues. On this last visit the bread had changed to more of an herb pull-apart loaf, but it was still hot and fresh. I think I prefer the old version though which was more like a yeast roll.

I ordered the barbecue chicken for my main dish which came with a choice of two sides. Even with the rolls, I love my starches so I ordered the jalapeno corn bread and mac and cheese. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender with a nice smokey-sweet flavor. The cornbread wasn’t too special, a little on the dry side, but had a nice bit of heat to balance out the sweetness. I was surprised at how much I liked the mac and cheese. It didn’t look all that exciting when it arrived on the pale side. I also usually prefer shredded cheese as opposed to a liquid cheese sauce, but it turned out to be really flavorful and delicous. Looks can be deceiving!