Grocery Checkout - Summer Meal Series: Zoes Kitchen

As is most of my writing projects, I tend to do things either as the mood hits me or I have a deadline looming over me. Today, it's the former.

I've wanted to do a food blog called "Grocery Checkout" for a long time, but there has always been something else demanding my attention. I'm on a three-day weekend and today clearly exemplifies why I felt the need to do this.

If you live in the South, or in Louisiana, I don't need to go into an explanation of how hot it is, or that today is a "heat wave" as all the excited meteorologists love to drone on about. It's hot everywhere you go and the humidity takes on a life form all its own. It is the energy-zapping dripping nemesis that acts like a playground bully or a member of the IRS: you will succumb to its clutches unable to escape.

This heat has been unbearable to the point I turned off my gas stove and oven and they shall remain off until fall. Since Memorial Day, we've existed on salads, items we can microwave, or get from different restaurants. You can fall into a rut of eating the same things which we have almost reached the point of microwave fatigue.

Of course, there are those who propose grilling outdoors for a meal option, boasting their smokers and propane-tanked grills to serve everything from veggies to a side of beef. I'll address those freakish thoughts here. That won't work for me for a few reasons. Grilling outdoors means (and I'm saying this sarcastically slow) Don't tell me it's cooler in the evenings. Sweat would say otherwise. Plus, I don't have a significant other to "persuade" to go outside to do all the pleasant tasks of prepping the grill, stoking the fire, grilling the food, and doing all the assorted clean Anything I do is up to me -- the curse of being an independent woman.

So I decided to let the world do my cooking, or at least some of the local eateries I've never checked out. I'll post them when I find some interesting entrees to have at home that don't require turning on an oven, going through a fast-food drive thru, or microwaving a frozen dinner.

I came across Zoes Kitchen by accident. The restaurant is next door to a coffee place nestled in a strip mall off Old Metairie Road. You can't tell what kind of food they serve from their striped awing sign. I went online and reviewed their menu. The idea of grilled food without doing the grilling part sold me on trying it. I did a "dry run" this past week for dinner and thought this 4th of July weekend would be ideal to stock up on meals so I could spend a couple of days at home.

My only warning to those who eat here or pick up food: it takes time for a reason. I got a bit impatient when I didn't get my dinner quick enough, but this is not "fast food". Even picking up the "dinner for four" took time, but it is worth it.

Marinated Cole Slaw

One of my pet peeves, and on my permanent "food deal breaker" list is mayonnaise. I've never liked the stuff on anything or in anything. It's both a texture and a taste issue for me. So you can imagine how happy I was that Zoes' cole slaw uses oil instead of mayo. It's crispy, cool and is loaded with feta and other spices.

Greek salad for four

Some Greeks may argue it's not an authentic Greek salad, but it seems like that to me. It's not your usual Romaine lettuce mix you see in fast food places passing off "healthy" with fried accompaniments. There's a lot of dark, crispy greens with feta cheese, kalamata olives (a new fave food of mine) along with cucumber, red onion, and grape tomatoes. Not a fan of hot peppers, so I'll eat the green pepper rings instead. The dressing is a vinaigrette consisting of red wine vinegar, oil, and spices. Very refreshing and I'll be grazing for a few days on that. And considering I'm back to eating healthy to lose a few pounds, it's all big points to me.

Chicken kabobs

The main draw for Zoes is the offering of grilled items like kabobs. They offer chicken, shrimp, steak, and veggie kabobs. I decided to get strictly chicken for my household and it was a hit. We received eight kabobs and three took care of two meals. Wooden skewers hold bite sized chicken, green pepper, red onion, and grape tomatoes. They were grilled perfectly and the rice pilaf is a perfect accompaniment to the meal. I'm always leery of rice from restaurants because it's either mush or hard like rice-shaped gravel. And tasteless. This rice was cooked with some spice because it had a moist mouth-feel and a taste like it was cooked with broth. In any case, you won't feel obligated to eat it because it came with the meal. You'll enjoy it.

I'll probably try the hummus on my next visit. It has a slew of Mediterranean items and a kid's menu which boasts (get this) grilled chicken tenders! It's worth a try wherever you are and, since it's a chain, you may find one in your area.

So one restaurant down and one meal down. Again, looking forward to sharing my next summer meal food experience with you.

Zoes Kitchen

Old Metairie Village Shopping Center
701 Metairie Rd, Suite 1A103
Metairie, LA 70005