Out on the Street: Praise for Chili’s!

Back in January I had a dialogue with my mother about the flu. I had just recovered fully from the influenza virus (which I had never had before. Now I know for absolutely certain that it is the closest I have ever felt to dying). It went something like this:

Me: Do I need to get the flu shot now?
Mom: No, once you have the flu, you can’t get it again.
Me: Are you sure? Because I do not want to go through this again.
Mom: I’m sure! That’s the whole point of getting the flu shot. It tricks your body into believing you’ve already had the flu once, so you can’t get it again. Trust me.
Me: All right. I trust you.

March 8th, 2013…I can’t breathe out of my own lungs, I can’t swallow, I can’t sit up, I’m running fever, body aches…and all the while I’m thinking…”Can’t get the flu again, she said. Trust her, she said.”

So I am playing host to the influenza virus for the SECOND time in three months now and yes, if you were wondering, I am miserable. My lungs feel like I have rocks in them. It’s only been 24 hours and I am already sick to death of tasting that gross “illness” flavor in the back of my mouth every time I cough. You really don’t know how good you have it until you can’t breathe normally on your own. Then you’re lying on your back like you’re going through an exorcism, sweaty and pleading with some deity to spare you and that you’ll “never ever again take for granted one healthy breath of life”. I’m pretty sure that last night as my fever climbed to 101 degrees F that I hallucinated pretty pink elephants on parade dancing across my ceiling. So as you can imagine I haven’t really been feeling up to cooking or working out lately. Not only have I not felt like cooking lately, but I have also been eating a lot of crap. Whenever I am out of commission there are no meals coming in the house. Therefore I look to my boyfriend to provide food. Let me just say now that my boyfriend is the typical 21st century man. Back in ancient times men went out hunting and brought home spoils that they killed with their own bare hands to feed their families. In this day and age “hunting and gathering” means going to the local Wendy’s and coming back with many little dollar menu hamburgers. Or at least that’s what “getting dinner” means to Denan. (Edit: To be fair, and because Denan put up massive amounts of protest when he read this part, Denan DOES offer to cook a lot of times. But I know that this comes at great risk to my kitchen and to his wellbeing and it is simply just easier and safer to find food elsewhere.) And I did indeed eat a hamburger last night, in my bed, fever-ridden and feeling sorry for myself. And you bet your bottom dollar that tonight I didn’t feel like doing crap either so we ordered pizza. These last few days have not been my best days, I will admit. But tomorrow is a new dawn. Tomorrow, come hell or high water, I will jack myself up on Mucinex and Advil and I will somehow, slowly but surely, make my way to Walmart for new groceries. This week, since money is tight, we are having many vegetarian dishes that I do hope to share with you. I’ve had so many recipe requests now that it is looking like I am going to have to start doing more recipe posts. Tomorrow I am making crock pot beef tips over cauliflower mash instead of rice. This is the first time that I am tasting the “faux potatoes” that every fitness guru, healthy eater, and dietician keeps raving about. I am skeptical. I will be completely honest with you. I have no idea what I am doing but I am quite eager to give my brand new food processor that my mom got for me a spin. As I am typing this I am trying to forgive myself for eating out so many times this week and meditating on that cauliflower mash.

Speaking of eating out, I’ve recently received something very nice in the mail. I’m actually a crazy person that is obsessed with “getting deals” where I can, if you did not know already. Being poor has driven me to chasing free stuff. It all started about two years ago when I fell in love with Quaker’s Banana Bread Oatmeal. They used to sell that stuff by the box you know? And then for some reason, some GENIUS in their packaging department decided to take the full boxes off the market and only sell the Banana Bread flavor in the “bakery variety pack”. LAME. This means that you pay the same amount of money for only 4 packages of your favorite oatmeal instead of 16 or something. This made me kinda mad. So I wrote to those bitches. I told them exactly how I felt about them taking away my favorite flavor and forcing me to purchase their disgusting raisin flavor. (Note: I have since made amends with the raisin flavored oatmeal and now I buy it all the time and enjoy it.) Well I wasn’t expecting anything to happen, but a few days later I got an email back from their public relations department asking for my address. My first reaction was “um are you kidding?” because I thought that they were going to come rough me up or something. However I was using a PO Box at the time so it wasn’t like they could really find me. So I complied. A week later I got a large fully stuffed manilla envelope addressed to me from the Quaker company. I thought for sure that this was some kind of anthrax and that Quaker was trying to eliminate me for being so sassy to them. Upon opening the package I realized that it was FULL of vouchers. For FREE oatmeal. And there was a recipe book AND some bumper stickers and a kind letter saying that they appreciated my business. That is when I realized that writing to companies…gets you free stuff. Which is delightful.

Recently I had a very good experience at Chili’s. I know. I know. CHILI’S. The epitome of over-priced mediocre food that can be made better at home. I know. I was surprised myself. But I actually had a pretty good meal there. Somewhere in the world Anthony Bourdain’s ears are burning and then he will randomly self-destruct. Believe me. Their “lighter” menu has been totally revamped for New Years Resolutions and Lenten enthusiasts. I spotted something a little different this time that I became instantly curious about. I’m ALL about sweet and spicy flavors paired with meat. I went out on a limb and ordered their new dish Sweet and Spicy Chicken which comes with onions and peppers, some steamed broccoli and some sort of brown rice side. I was totally skeptical but I was in that beginning phase of my diet where I didn’t want to screw anything up so I was willing to put aside my needs for French fries and hamburgers for something a little better for you. Honestly and truthfully, it was delicious. Of course the “onions and peppers” that it came with were meager and over cooked, and the portion of rice that I got was probably a little less than a 1/4 of a cup which was kind of disappointing, but hey…like I said…it’s Chili’s. This is not Ruth’s Chris. I was so blown away at the sauce and how all the flavors of the chicken, and the sauce and the broccoli and rice paired together so nicely. It wasn’t an overly large portion but I was still very satisfied and I felt….GOOD after eating it. It was a little more calories than I would have liked to eat for an entire meal, coming in at about 590, which is pretty high in my book, but I hadn’t eaten very much that day. The 590 calories includes a big piece of chicken and both sides so that isn’t bad if you think about it.

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Of course after I walked out feeling so good I had to write to Chili’s and tell them about how happy I was. Partially because I kind of thought maybe I would get some kind of voucher for a free appetizer or something. But honestly it was because I wanted to make sure Chili’s knew that their new menu item was delicious and that it needed to STAY on the menu instead of fading into obscurity so I can never eat it again. At first I received nothing. No e-mails, no letters. I was kind of disappointed because on their website Chili’s GUARANTEES that they’ll get back to you. So while I was brooding about how Chili’s is a bunch of liars, something was on its way to me in the post. A few days ago I got a letter in the mail enclosed with $15 in gift certificates to Chili’s. Which is just perfect. I was so over the moon I just could not contain myself. I really do recommend this dish to anyone who is trying to eat healthy but is forced to eat out. Eating out is one of the hardest things to do when you are on a diet. For some reason if you don’t make a meal with your own hands, it adds about 300 calories to the total no matter what you get or where you go. And to be truthful, if I made this dish at home I could probably shave off a good 200 calories. But sometimes we like to be SOCIAL and have dinner with our friends. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that probably every city in America has at least ONE Chili’s. And if your city doesn’t have a Chili’s…y’all gotta be some ol’ country people! This is a good “go-to” meal when you are forced to take your sustenance outside of your home. If one of you guys orders this or has ordered it before, let me know how you liked it in the comments!

Eat, Pray, Love,

Katie

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