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Family Dinners

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So far, so good. Our house is now spic and span, and (almost) totally organized. We’ll officially list it this Friday, so the past two weeks have been spent cleaning and uncluttering our little crash pad. The down side of all of this, aside from the minor irritations (see previous post re: the plumber’s sunburn) that you would expect, is that we haven’t had a decent home-cooked meal in weeks. That is, we haven’t had a decent home-cooked meal at home, anyway.

We have discovered the ups and down of grabbing dinner on the go every night. I realize that many people live their daily lives this way, and I suppose it takes some getting used to, but we’ve had about 50/50 luck so far. The bad stops were no surprise; we hit Chipotle one night and Taco Bell another. I do love junk food when it goes down, but about two hours later the regret kicks in, and lasts for the rest of the night.

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On the bright side, we’ve hit three different, decent family restaurants in the past week. (Can’t do Sushi Den every night on a budget, you know.) Last Tuesday, I met a group of gal pals for a friend’s birthday at Paraiso Azteca, a Latin and Mexican eatery in downtown Erie. This cozy, colorful restaurant is known by the locals simply as Mina’s, after the proprietor. We munched on half a dozen tasty homemade salsas from the salsa bar, which range from sweet and mild to eye-watering scorchers. I had the chicken mole with rich, mild red mole sauce — it also comes in a spicier version as green mole — with black beans and rice and plenty of corn tortillas to mop up the delicious chocolatey-spicy goodness.

Last Thursday night, we took my in-laws over to My Big Fat Greek Cafe, one of our favorite neighborhood joints. This little spot does breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, but doesn’t have a liquor license, so don’t expect any ouzo to go with your saganaki (flaming Greek cheese — totally delish). But do order the Greek salad, a massive pile of crisp greens drizzled in homemade dressing and topped with a huge chunk of feta cheese, buried under dolmades, tomatoes, green peppers, pepperoncinis, cucumber, onions, Greek olives, and — the way I order it — piled high with gyro meat and served with a side of tzatziki sauce and a grilled pita. The servings are massive and always work for dinner-and-lunch-tomorrow for me. If you’re really starving, go for the Big Fat Greek burger, stacked a good five inches high with beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato, plus pastrami and feta. Yes, it sounds weird, and yes, it’s incredibly good.

Tonight, we headed south to visit some family members in from out of town. We went to Romano’s Italian Restaurant in Littleton, which has been in business in the same location since 1967. Don’t go for the decor; hubby’s cousin used to work there in high school, and she swears that nothing has changed in nearly 20 years. It’s a family-friendly Italian eatery where the pasta is made on site and is served with either white (alfredo) or red (marinara) sauce and your choice of meatballs, sausage, or mushrooms. Being my first visit, I opted for the Triple Treat, with thick noodles in marinara, cheese ravioli, and eggplant parmigiana. The noodles rocked; thick, chewy and substantial, this was my kind of spaghetti. And though the ravioli was bland to me, others at our table loved them, and my eggplant was the first thing I devoured off my plate.

So what’s next on our little family restaurant tour? We’ll see about that. For now, I’m thinking it’s all about leftovers.

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