The Hungry Man Eats

Monthly Archives: December 2013

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Nothing Says Potluck Like Pasta Salad

Antipasto Pasta Salad

It’s nearing Christmas and if you are employed and have coworkers, you have probably attended or will attend your employers Christmas/Holiday/Festivus/whatever party. Sometimes your employer will spring for a fancy shindig at some hotel with a ballroom with free drinks at the bar, hors d’oeuvres and a fancy buffet spread, or perhaps they even have table service where you checked a box for your meal selection. Other times with smaller companies you may end up getting the group together and reserve a large table or even a room at some chain restaurant. The ambiance will be a big step down, but you won’t have to dress up or worry about making a fool of yourself on the dance floor as you had a few too many whiskey sours at the bar because Lars the bartender makes them so well. No, at the chain restaurant, Kip the bartender who has just completed his second week behind the bar makes his whiskey sours with watery ice, too much sugar and you could swear he grabbed the lime juice instead of the lemon juice. Rest assured that Kip will still charge you full price. Then there is the third option, the in-office party. You may end up planning to have it catered, but you are more likely to go with the potluck option.

What is a potluck? For the reader who doesn’t know, it is a meal where each of the guests brings in a dish that they prepared (or purchased already made) and the meal consists of sampling some of what everybody brought. A potluck can be a risky affair, without careful planning or a signup sheet, you may get duplicate foods or multiple less culinary people bringing cups (500 cups and no ice…)

My office had the potluck option this year, and I chose to make pasta salad, not just any pasta salad but a fancy one called Antipasto Pasta Salad. I found it online at the Taste of Home website:

I made a few small changes to the recipe provided on their site, and the recipe has been an unqualified success:

Antipasto Pasta Salad
Serves 12
Write a review
Prep Time
1 hr
Prep Time
1 hr
  1. 1 package (16oz.) spiral pasta
  2. 1 jar (16oz.) giardiniera, drained and chopped
  3. 2 cans (2 1/4oz.) sliced ripe (black) olives, drained
  4. 1 jar (5 3/4oz.) pimento stuffed olives (green) drained and sliced
  5. 1 jar (7oz.) roasted sweet red peppers, drained and chopped
  6. 2/3 of a package of Oscar Mayer hard salami
  7. 1 bar (8oz.) of Colby-Jack cheese
  8. 1 cup Italian salad dressing
  1. Cook the whole box of pasta per directions on box, drain and rinse with cold water
  2. Slice the cheese into cubes
  3. Cut the salami slices into smaller pieces
  4. In a large bowl, combine the giardiniera, olives, red peppers, salami, cheese and pasta.
  5. Add the dressing and toss to coat.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving
  1. A low fat Italian dressing will work will in this recipe
Adapted from Taste of Home Antipasto Pasta Salad
The Hungry Man Eats

I Hop, You Hop, We All Hop For IHOP! Sandwiches That Is…

Ham and Cheese Griddle Melt

When you think of IHOP the first thing that usually comes to mind is pancakes, French toast or maybe a Belgian waffle or even crepes. But not breakfast sandwiches, most other places known for their breakfasts have had some sort of variety of breakfast sandwiches on their menu for many years. Earlier this year though, IHOP made a major addition to their menu with their Griddle Melt series of sandwiches. They were initially available as a special add on to the menu and then at some point this fall they were added permanently to the menu. I have seen 4 of the sandwiches since they started offering them, unfortunately only three of them are available on the menu at present. I will tell you why I think that is unfortunate in a bit…

The four sandwiches are, with IHOP’s own description below:

  • The Bacon and White Cheddar Melt (shown below): “This hand-crafted breakfast Griddle Melt is layered with bacon, fresh spinach & green onions in a classic omelette, then topped with melted White Cheddar and fire-roasted tomato spread on grilled artisan sourdough bread.”
  • The Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper and Cheese Griddle Melt: “That’s this new, hand-crafted breakfast Griddle Melt with sautéed spinach and onion in a fluffy omelette, layered with roasted red peppers and melted Provolone, Parmesan and Pepper Jack cheeses on grilled sourdough artisan bread.”
  • The Ham and Egg Griddle Melt: (shown at the top of the page) “This Griddle Melt takes traditional ham and cheese to a whole new level! Grilled artisan sourdough bread is stuffed with a fluffy omelette, sliced ham and melted Swiss and American cheeses.”
  • The Western Griddle Melt: “This new hand-crafted breakfast Griddle Melt is layered with smoked ham, sautéed peppers and onions in a classic omelette, then topped with sliced ham and melted cheese on grilled artisan sourdough bread.”

Bacon and Swiss Griddle Melt

Although still listed online, the Western Griddle Melt is no longer being offered on their menu, perhaps it is still being offered somewhere out there in some fortunate IHOP, but alas it is not on the menu at the IHOP I frequent. That’s a shame because it was my favorite, I have tried all but the Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper and Cheese Griddle Melt, and the Bacon and White Cheddar Griddle Melt (which replaced the Western Griddle Melt) sounds like a tastier option that it actually is.

My thoughts on each:

  • The Bacon and White Cheddar Melt: The first few bites were good, but the flavor profile got old quickly. Like most red blooded people, I like bacon, but I got really tired of the taste of bacon by the time I polished off this sandwich, the cheddar cheese was not as good of a compliment to the other ingredients as American cheese might have been. The veggies didn’t really work either, I could not detect the green onions, the spinach was ok, but the “fire roasted tomato sauce” tasted more like a blah topping from an off brand TV dinner veal parmesana. The main taste sensation I got was one of salty bitterness (salty bacon and the bitter sharpness of the cheese and tomato sauce). Can’t really recommend this one, even for the bacon lovers out there. The picture was amusing though as the sandwich halves were held together with pink plastic swords making me feel strangely like more and less of a man at the same time…
  • The Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper and Cheese Griddle Melt: I didn’t try this one but my dad has. He liked it as it was not as massive as the others and had a good blend of cheese and veggies. I promise to try it the next time I get a sandwich from IHOP.
  • The Ham and Egg Griddle Melt: A fine combination (though I swear the egg used to have diced ham in it) The grilled and buttered sourdough bread really shines with these fillings, I often make a variation on this at home on the weekends with a ham egg and cheese sandwich on whatever bread is around. Worth getting from IHOP if you are in a breakfast sandwich kind of mood.
  • The Western Griddle Melt: The best of the bunch, get it if you can still find it. The sautéed peppers, onion and ham in the egg give this sandwich its excellent flavor and it also comes with the extra ham layer that the ham and egg version above has. This was also the most massive of the Griddle Melts offered (perhaps a reason why they no longer offer it?) and the seasonal fruit is the recommended side instead of the hash browns just so you can eat it all.

One very small word of caution, regardless of the time of day, there is a chance that one of these Griddle Melts may also come out with an unexpected addition not mentioned above, a dill pickle spear, welcome with most sandwiches, but not so much at 8:00 in the morning. Consider yourself forewarned.

 So if IHOP is the destination of choice and the pancakes, waffles, etc… just aren’t striking your fancy, grab a Griddle Melt instead.

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