Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1.  Last Sunday was the Super Bowl. We celebrated by eating a bunch of Buffalo Chicken Dip and a lot of chips and then feeling disgusting. We shredded our chicken by pulsing it in the food processor like we do for chicken salad. I think I liked the texture in the dip, but I'm not entirely sure.

2. We also made Pimiento Cheese Spread and fried bacon for Pimiento BLTs for one of our dinner meals this week. In reality, I've been eating the cheese spread and bacon for lunch with turkey on an English muffin while for dinner we're eating salad, breaded chicken tenders, and the brown bread that was meant for the Pimiento BLTs.

3. Dessert has been Rice Krispies Treats. Or Pringles. They were still on sale and we had a coupon so someone bought 4 more cans. I finally told someone to put them where I cannot reach them. That's 8 cans of Pringles total. I feel disgusting just typing that.

4. Shonda TV returns tonight! I'm excited to exile SP to the basement while I enjoy Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and HTGAWM. Normally he'd be pretty excited to be told to disappear into the man cave for 3 hours but since it has suddenly gotten very cold, the basement is really cold, so I think he's actually not too excited for man cave time.

5. By cold I mean that Saturday's high is supposed to be between 10-15 degrees, depending on which weather service you follow. Right now it's 18 degrees with a wind chill of 3 degrees. Brrr! It's not supposed to get above freezing until next week.

6. It's also been snow shoveling time this week. Three days in a row SP has had to clear the driveway and walkway. Not even enough for the snow blower. Shovel/broom snow.

7. Exciting news: I finally, after the initial call before Christmas, have the new axles and casters for the wheelchair. This is exciting because 1: I don't rock side to side and feel like it might fall apart anymore and 2: these casters are smaller so I'm not getting wedged between things and bouncing off everything when I try to swivel/turn.

8. We do not have Valentine's plans because we think the holiday is stupid. I actually forgot about it until yesterday when someone asked me if we had any special plans for the weekend. It took me a few seconds to figure out why they would think we'd have special plans for the weekend and then I remembered, ah, yes, stupid holiday.

9. I wish you a Happy Presidents' Day weekend! We have a 3 day weekend - yay!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chicken Wings - Original & Citrus Ginger

I meant to post this before the Super Bowl, but, well, obviously, I didn't. We made these Chicken Wings for the Steelers-Broncos playoff game, so quite some time ago.
But you don't need a football game to enjoy wings. SP loves them. My brother & niece compete to see who can eat the hottest wings at a wing place near their home. My parents like the ones at Bigham Tavern. I am not a fan of wings, but I suggested them because I knew SP wanted some.
Chicken Wings can be roasted in the oven or deep fried or grilled. We opted for the oven. That was kind of a mistake because of all the fat/grease. The wings ended up spewing grease all over the oven and then they got smoky, REALLY smoky, which set off the smoke detector. It looked like there was fog in the house. So then we had to open the windows. In January. To be fair it hasn't been a super cold winter, but even when it's 40 degrees it isn't much fun having windows open. For 2-3 weeks. the house reeked of chicken wing smoke & grease and every time we used the oven, we could smell chicken wings.
SP wanted traditional wings, just butter and hot sauce. I find that disgusting. I wanted Citrus-Ginger, which I saw in Food Network Magazine. There were also recipes for Mango-Curry, Beer BBQ, Sriracha-Buffalo, and Roasted Garlic-Balsamic Sauces.
Instead of pineapple preserves, I used apricot preserves with the fresh ginger, orange & lime juices, and cayenne. Juts heat everything together until syrupy.

SP's sauce:
My Citrus-Ginger Sauce:
SP enjoyed his hot sauce wings a lot. He also enjoyed my wings. I liked mine, too. I love citrus flavor and the fresh ginger and pinch of cayenne added a bit of a kick, but not too much.
My problem with wings is that they are work to eat and they are messy for what amounts to very little meat on each wing. Also, I pull off the fat, so I lose a lot of the flavor. I cannot believe SP eats the fat. I know you're supposed to, but... Yuck.
I'd rather use these sauces (well, my sauce) on bigger pieces of bone-in chicken parts. I know a lot of people really like wings so if you're looking for a non-spicy sauce, the Citrus-Ginger Sauce is a good choice. But I would suggest frying or grilling the wings, not roasting.

Recipe here (along with a few other sauces, like Mango-Curry and Beer BBQ and Sriracha-Buffalo)

Monday, February 8, 2016


This past Saturday we went to see Cabaret and it was an excellent, if a bit depressing, show. As usual after seeing a show, we went to dinner at a within walking distance restaurant. This time we decided to try Poros, a recently opened (October 2015) restaurant in PPG 2 Market Square from The Big Y Group.
It seemed pretty big inside and was spacious (generous space between tables), with large comfy looking booths plus tables and lots of blue tones and an ocean feel. From our table we had a view of the tree and out the windows, the ice rink.
I had to ask our server for help choosing a wine because I didn't recognize any of the Greek, Turkish, Israeli, or Moroccan wines. All I knew was I wanted a white wine. Poros offers a sample before committing to a wine so I tried a taste of two Greek white wines. First, Ambelos Phos 2013 which was like a fruity sauvignon blanc. Second, Santo Assyrtiko 2014, which was more like a chardonnay. Both were quite good but the Assyrtiko was more interesting to me, so that's what I ordered. SP chose the Ouzito Cocktail (ouzo, gin, sage, lemon, fizz).
SP started with Grilled Octopus (grilled fennel and radicchio, preserved lemon, parsley sauce, shallot & caper citronette).
A closer view of the octopus. The octopus was nicely cooked and tasty but I thought the buttery sauce in the bottom of the tray tasted a little garlicky, or maybe just shallot-y, so I didn't eat much of it. SP enjoyed it a lot.
I ordered 4 small plates for my meal. The first to arrive was Elysian Fields Lamb Pastitsio (braised shoulder, pasta, tomato, allspice bechamel). It was delicious. The lamb was so tender and flavorful. When we made pastitsio at home we used ground lamb - never again. So much better with braised shoulder. The one odd thing: we were dining early (reservations at 5 pm) and our server had to check if there was any pastitsio left! It's a very popular dish but still, to have only 2 servings left a bit after opening for dinner at 5 pm seems odd (although lunch does run until 4 pm, but still...).
It seemed like the rest of our food arrived a little quickly. For his meal, SP chose Whole Lavraki (branzino) (1.38 lbs, prepared a la plancha, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, seared to a crisp on cast iron plancha, served with roasted garlic skordalia). The fish market serves whole fish and fish fillets prepared one of 3 ways: chargrilled, a la plancha, or tandoor roasted. The tandoor was not an option the evening we dined. Shellfish (shrimp, scallops, lobster tail) can be added to your fish for an additional cost.
He ate his whole fish! He said it was very good but he would have preferred a composed plate of fish, vegetable, and starch to just the fish with a sauce.
Meanwhile, I was enjoying Shrimp Saganaki (roasted tomato coulis, feta, grilled Mt Athos bread). Four shrimp in tomato sauce with feta and grilled bread to mop up all the sauce. It reminded me a bit of the lamb neck at Butcher & the Rye, a protein in a red sauce with grilled bread to mop up the delicious sauce.
I also ordered House Made Spanakopita (spinach, filo, feta, manouri cheese). This was a mistake - just look at those 2 huge garlic cloves. I couldn't eat it / didn't want to risk it so SP ate it and said it was tasty. The spinach seemed almost pureed smooth.
I also ordered Kamut & Freekeh Risotto (wild mushrooms, kefalotiri cheese). I'm not sure why. I like other grains like kamut & freekah and I like risotto plus cheese so I figured I'd enjoy this, but, not so much. It didn't look like risotto. It looked more like cereal in a bowl of milk and I didn't like the milk flavor. I was getting full, as was SP, so we brought it home and ate it for lunch the next day. He said it was OK but he probably wouldn't order it again. Just not our thing.
I ordered decaf coffee while we looked over the dessert menu. It was good coffee, though I am far from knowledgeable about coffee.
We ended up sharing two desserts. One was Loukoumades Doughnuts (honey syrup, pistachios).
Closer view of the fried dough. These were good, just the right size for sharing. I'm not sure I could have eaten 5 on my own.
The other dessert: Yiaoutopita Lemon Pound Cake (mint berry salad, lemon syrup, candied lemon). Two piles of berries, two criss-cross candied lemon strips, a triangle of lemon pound cake and a thin, blue sugar glass.
We both thought the pound cake was a little dry and dense but the berries & candied peel were delicious. We definitely scooped up all the berry mixture.
Overall, we liked Poros. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable, helped me pick out a wine and helped SP choose a cocktail. After our appetizers, the rest of meal arrived a bit too quickly as we were not yet finished with the octopus and pastitsio. I like the atmosphere a lot, the muted blues and other ocean colors, the space to move around, it wasn't too loud, you weren't seated on top of the people next to you. I think in the warmer months the outdoor patio will be fabulous, overlooking Market Square or the ice rink areas. It is one of the pricier meals we've had in Pittsburgh and given the large number of dishes with garlic, to which I am if not actually allergic then definitely very sensitive, it probably would not be our first choice for a meal in that price range. However, we would go back. I just hope they make more pastitsio so they don't run out!

Poros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1. I have no idea where the days, the weeks, the months are going because here it is, another Thursday, and I feel like nothing has happened in the past week besides "the usual."

2. We baked Cappuccino Biscotti last weekend. My mom stopped by on Monday and I gave her some. It was the first time she & dad had tried these biscotti and they said they really enjoyed them.

3. Mom stopped by because we were supposed to have dinner with them on Sunday. She had thawed a turkey and wanted our help eating it. But then dad got sick. He had the stomach flu, a fever, cold symptoms. So they cancelled dinner. That has happened twice in the new year - they keep getting sick! Anyway, she stopped by to bring us turkey & gravy, sausage stuffing, and bacon Brussels. Yum!

4. It was extra nice because we only had to prepare one meal for the week: braised pork, scalloped potatoes, and cauliflower.

5. She also brought us a guide book to help us with planning our next vacation. Of course, we both are still having health issues so we haven't made reservations/bought plane tickets, we're just planning, but hopefully in the next 2 weeks after a slew of doctor appointments we'll be deemed "healthy" and we can really plan vacation.

6. Tuesday M, our cleaning lady, was here. As usual, she took several breaks and we "gossiped." She is such a nice lady and it's always fun to hear about the latest craziness with her family!

7. We watched Fantastic Four and Sicario. FF  got terrible, awful reviews, and while it wasn't a great movie, we didn't think it was as awful as the reviews said. Sicario was very good, but in some ways slow. And definitely dark and gritty.

8. In the past 1-2 weeks I have broken 2 soap dispensers. First I broke the nozzle part of my bathroom soap (the soap dispenser I bought at Target that matches my toothbrush holder & cup) and every time I stick it back in place, as soon as I use it, I break it off again. I don't know what I do, but when I push on the top to dispense soap, I also push on the nozzle. So I swapped it with the plastic kitchen Softsoap dispenser. Two days later, I knocked off that one off sink and onto the tile floor with such force that the top part broke off, rendering it useless. So SP bought me a new plastic Softsoap dispenser and he's waiting to see how long it takes for me to break this one.

The grand total: 6. That's how many bathroom soap dispensers I've broken in the 7 years we've been here.

I should also mention that on its fall to the floor, the dispenser bounced off the lid of the Clorox Wipes and cracked the lid so now the freshly opened Clorox wipes are in danger of drying out.

I should also mention that in the past month, I've sent 2 shaving gels crashing into the tub, breaking the plastic nozzles.

I am a disaster in the bathroom.

9. This weekend is the Super Bowl. We're not too excited but we'll watch anyway for the commercials. Maybe even make some unhealthy game day dip.

10. SP went "off list" and bought Pringles when he did the grocery shopping. They were on sale! It was a good deal! Well we all know what happened. Yup. I ate the can of cheese Pringles all by myself. I am now trying to forget that a can of Sour Cream & Onion Pringles exists in the pantry.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Back to Cafe Io

Last October we dined at Cafe Io in Mt. Lebanon and really enjoyed our meal. This past Saturday we were in the South Hills doing some errands and decided to return to Cafe Io for dinner. It was a bit early when we got there, but we both had small lunches and we were quite hungry. After ordering iced teas and a beer for SP, we ordered 2 appetizers. One was Iovino (tempura mozzarella, Italian sweet sausage, marinated tomatoes, basil, organic mixed greens), see photos above & below:
Oh my gosh this was delicious. The sausage had terrific cross hatch marks. The tempura breading was light. The cheese fresh and soft. Crisp greens, Fresh basil. Balsamic drizzle. I think we found a new favorite, always order appetizer at Cafe Io.

The other appetizer was Crispy Parmesan Polenta (San Marzano tomato sauce, shaved parmesan cheese), which we ordered last time, too:
Just as delicious as last time. For his meal, SP chose a daily special, Bronzino with more crispy polenta plus greens and tomatoes:
He said his fish was nicely cooked. Since he needs to watch his carbs, he didn't eat all the crispy polenta. Plus, he ate some of my meal.

Meanwhile I got the same meal as last time, Monster Grilled Cheese (gouda and cheddar cheeses, bacon, egg, pulled pork, tomato, caramelized onions, spinach). And the same side, Tomato Soup.
I chose white bread. This sandwich is so tasty. It has many of my favorite sandwich ingredients: bacon, fried egg, cheese, caramelized onion, tomato plus it has pulled pork. As usual, I ate half and took half home for lunch the next day. And as usual, SP helped me with the soup.
There were 3 desserts from which to choose. We opted for the Mixed Berry Pie? Tart? I forget what it was called but it was really good:
Graham cracker crust, mixed berries, smooth cream filling. I'm glad we both had room to share dessert.

Cafe Io doesn't take reservations and it does get busy. Our service was again great. Friendly, not rushed, attentive, brought extra plates for appetizer sharing. And delicious food. Still on the "return to" list.

Cafe io Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Crab Melts

Whenever the grocery store has one of its "Seafood Stock Up" sales, we try to buy a can or two of crab meat. Usually we make crab cakes but this time I wanted something different and I remembered this recipe for a Crab Melt. It's easy to make plus the crab salad can be made ahead of time and the melt sandwiches assembled and broiled when you are ready to eat.
I liked that there wasn't any mayonnaise. The "sauce" is a dressing of roasted red pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, and hot sauce. It very red. And red peppery. If you don't like red pepper flavor, this is not the dressing to mix with crab. We used our Magic Bullet to make the dressing. This is what was leftover after we made the crab salad:
Mix in Old Bay seasoning, finely chopped celery, dried tarragon & dried parsley to finish the crab salad:
To make the melts, we used Swiss cheese from the deli instead of gruyere, so our cheese was sliced not grated. We didn't butter the muffins after toasting. We also used arugula instead of watercress and didn't put our arugula on before broiling. Actually, we ate the arugula and some sliced tomato on the side, in between bites of crab melt. One day for lunch we used toasted white bread and cheddar cheese. It was all good.
Definitely something we'd make again, especially in the warm summer months or during those weeks when we don't have a lot of free time to devote to preparing meals.

Crab Melt recipe here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Family Recipes, Spaghetti & Meatballs

Everyone I know thinks the red sauce they ate growing up is the best red sauce ever. It's a comforting food, and part of comfort is familiarity and warm memories. Usually, we make more of an SP-style red sauce, but when I suggested spaghetti and meatballs and SP agreed, I insisted on my mom's sauce. Because it's the best, of course!
My mom's sauce is tomato puree and tomato paste + onion, green pepper, and celery + brown sugar, Worcestershire, pepper, parsley, oregano. It makes a thicker and smoother sauce than SP's family sauce, which is crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water + onion powder & garlic powder + sugar, black pepper, oregano, parsley, parmesan. SP likes the thinner, chunkier sauce. I prefer smooth and thick.
We did modify my mom's sauce a bit. Gasp! We added some parmesan rind that was in the refrigerator. I was OK with that because I love cheese. My mom browns ground meat for her sauce but we made meatballs and put them in the sauce.
For the meatballs, we used SP's family recipe. After browning them in the oven, we added them to the sauce and simmered it all in the Dutch oven for about 6 hours. The meatballs flattened a bit when they baked in the oven.
 The sauce, simmering in the Dutch oven:
We made the meatballs and sauce on a snowy Saturday. Instead of spaghetti, we used angel hair pasta, which I prefer.
My dad always preferred angel hair pasta and that's what we used for spaghetti dinner when I was a kid. It was years before I realized I wasn't really eating spaghetti. The first time I ordered spaghetti at a restaurant and fat noodles arrived, I was so sad & confused and my mom had to explain it to me. I'm OK with spaghetti, I just prefer angel hair.
Even SP admitted that my mom's sauce was pretty darn tasty. I thought it was excellent and I was quite happy. The meatballs were very good, too. I ate 2 for each dinner, SP ate 3.

My Mom's Spaghetti Sauce

2 large cans tomato puree
1 medium + 1 small can tomato paste
1 green pepper, finely chopped
½ large onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1~2 lbs ground meat (we made the meatballs, below)
about 2 tbsp brown sugar
 2~3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
black pepper

If using ground meat instead of meatballs, brown the meat in a large pot. Remove meat to drain and clean grease from pot. Add olive oil and saute vegetables in olive oil until softened. Add the puree, paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire, parsley, oregano, and pepper. Add browned meat. Stir well. Add a bit of water if sauce is too thick. Simmer for at least 5 hours, stirring occasionally. Use for lasagna stuffed shells, or serve over your favorite pasta.

SP's Family Meatballs

4 slices white bread
1/2 c water
2 eggs
1 lb extra lean ground beef
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp parsley
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1 dash pepper

Break up slices of bread and soak in water for 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and mix well. Mix in remaining ingredients. With wet hands, form meat mixture into small balls. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and bake at 350 until browned on bottom. Turn the meatballs over and bake until done (or transfer to red sauce and simmer in sauce until done).