Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday Salad

As you may have noticed, we've been enjoying lots of cakes and candies lately. So last night we had salad night!

This was an amazing salad. Here's what we put in it:
  • mixed greens
  • tomato
  • cucumber
  • Kalamata olives
  • green olives
  • roasted red pepper
  • artichokes
  • avocado
  • feta
  • ham
  • hard boiled eggs
  • slivered almonds
Sadly, I didn't even think to take a photo until we had finished the entire salad. Oops. But trust me, this was delicious, and hopefully helps make up for the recent treats overload!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dozen Bake Shop & Coffee Treats

It's fall, which means I am again enjoying my Nespresso coffee machine. My parents gave it to me for Christmas about 7 years ago. I don't drink coffee in the morning, but in the afternoon I like to whip up and enjoy a 'coffee treat.' This machine lets me make my own version of a latte/cappuccino. It's also super easy since you use capsules. My favorites are the ones at the high end if the intensity scale, probably because I 'dilute' the espresso with milk and foam.

Sometimes I'll make an iced coffee treat in the warmer months, but usually I only use my Nespresso for hot coffee treats in the colder months. After much experimentation, I decided my glass mug was the best size. I fill it with coffee to just under the bottom of the top part of the handle. I fill my small, white cream pitcher halfway with milk. Then I use the steam nozzle to heat and froth the milk. I keep the steam nozzle in the milk until the foamy bubbles begin to peak over the top of the small pitcher. Then I add the hot milk to the coffee, just up to under the top and then I use a small spoon to spoon the foam into a mound on top. Sometimes I'll sprinkle it with cinnamon or chocolate. I'm not sure if my proportions of coffee/milk/froth make it a latte or cappuccino or maybe neither, but it is a very nice afternoon coffee treat.
Last night, SP arrived home bearing not just CSA goodies but a box filled with cupcakes from Dozen Bake Shop. We finished our Bethel Bakery cupcakes Monday evening, so SP decided to surprise us with more cupcakes!

He got half a dozen: 2 Chocolate Chocolate, 2 Vanilla Vanilla, and 2 Maple Spice.After dinner last night, we started the newly arrived 'Ice Age' movie DVD and settled in with our cupcakes and hot tea. My cupcake (Chocolate Chocolate) was tasty, but the cake part was a wee bit dry. My mom said the same about hers (she had Vanilla Vanilla). The icing is a yummy buttercream, but sweeter and 'stiffer' than Bethel's (Bethel has a very smooth, creamy buttercream). SP really enjoyed his Maple Spice. I sampled it and it may have been my favorite of the three: Yum!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bethel Bakery & Sarris Candies

I've mentioned before that I grew up in the South Hills area of Pittsburgh. For many who live in that area, Bethel Bakery is the place to get special occasion cakes (graduation, wedding, birthday) and Sarris Candy is where you get yummy chocolate candies, what you sell to raise money for school stuff, and where you can get delicious homemade ice cream. In the last few days, I have visited both.

Last Saturday, my mom accompanied SP & I to Bethel Bakery for wedding cake tasting. There is a Wedding Cake Parlor off to the right of the bakery. We met with a lovely woman who started the wedding cake process by offering us five tastes:
  • yellow cake with French buttercream filling
  • yellow cake with strawberry filling
  • white cake with mango filling
  • almond cake with raspberry filling
  • marble cake with chocolate mousse filling
Yum. They also have raspberry cake. And they also have chocolate buttercream, white chocolate mousse, cherry, lemon, and apricot flavors for inside.

I'm not going to reveal what we chose for our wedding cake - it'll be a wedding day surprise for our guests! But it's very 'us' - we easily agreed on the flavors.

Of course we could not leave without purchasing some treats. SP was going to the hockey game that night, so I got my mom and I each a treat. A Chocolate Yum Yum for meand a lady lox for her.We also got a half dozen cupcakes.Today mom and I took a trip to Sarris Candies. The purpose: to scope out wedding favors. We did that and then we purchased some treats.

I chose an Espresso Ganache for my afternoon treat. Oh my gosh. Divine. I might like this even more than the cappuccino meltaways.I got a small belated birthday treat for a friend of mine - a chocolate Steelers football:I got SP what he requested: dark chocolate almond bark. Mom got a candy bar. She also picked up a Pitt Panthers bar and a Stillers bar to take back to Las Vegas. I got a dark chocolate bar. I think mom ate her candy bar before I took the photos! There's also goodies in the Halloween pumpkin! We bought Mini Milky Way bars and Mini Regular & Dark Snickers to hand out to trick-or-treaters this weekend.I think we have enough chocolate treats in the house!!!

Why Change the Blog Title?

Bye-bye BlueEley...

I've been wanting to change the title of my blog from 'BlueEley's Cafe' to something else for a while. I started this blog on a whim one day. I had been reading lots of foodie blogs. SP reads lots of food blogs. We enjoy cooking a lot. We eagerly await the arrival in our mailbox of the new issues of Bon Appetit and Cooks Illustrated and we both print out lots of recipes from various food sites. We also like to try new restaurants in Pittsburgh (although lately we seem to be sticking to our favorites and not trying as many new places). I started thinking I should start my own blog.

So one day, I did. On the day I started the blog, I needed a name. I wanted to be anonymous - I like that google can't find me when I type in my name. I was looking around my office for inspiration and I saw my old, worn, puffy, blue stuffed elephant - the stuffed elephant that has been with me since I purchased it in Japan and that has helped me through many difficult times. So I decided to be Blue Eley.

But I was never satisfied with it. It seemed dumb. Occasionally, I'd try out new blog names on SP and he'd say "meh." He liked Blue Eley because I like elephants and because he knows how my stuffed blue elephant helped me through the tough times when I felt sad and alone and lost (that's why it doesn't really look blue in the photo but more a dirty pale gray!).

I thought maybe Blueberry Spider -- I love blueberries and the blueberry spider is my favorite critter figurine in the kitchen. "Nah," said SP.

You may recall that last week SP bought Chocolate Gobs at Costco. I really like chocolate gobs. But I can never remember their name! I call them chocolate blobs, blobbies. I think in some places they're called whoopie pies. Once I remembered that, I slipped and called them whoopie cushions one day - SP gave me a look when I did that!!

Then we were at Bethel Bakery, surveying the baked goodies, trying to decide on our treats and I looked over and saw them! Without even thinking I said rather loudly and in the middle of the bakery as I nudged SP,"Look! Whoopie Cushions!" He shook his head, embarrassed, and then we noticed that Bethel Bakery calls them Yum Yums!

I instantly remembered that several years ago I saw The Mikado (a comedic opera set in Japan; I lived in Japan, majored in Japanese, I really enjoy The Mikado). Afterward, my friend I went out for a drink and we decided to play that trivia game some bars have. I needed a name and on the spur of the moment, having just seen The Mikado, I decided on Yum Yum.

So I was Yum Yum for a while. One day, I broke my femur, life changed, I got older, and trips to bars for drinks and trivia ended. I forgot about my 'nickname.'

Yum also happens to be a word we use a lot to describe our food - it's yummy, delicious, tasty. But never 'yum-o' - SP hates 'yum-o' (Rachael Ray's favorite word).

On the car ride home from Bethel Bakery, it hit me. 'My blog should be Yum Yum!' I said to SP. I explained why (for the three reasons listed at the top of the blog). He agreed. It seems fitting, although I think he secretly prefers BlueEley. He was sad last night when I removed puffy blue elephant's photo.

Maybe I'll change back, who knows, but for now, I am happier with Yum Yum. Not sure I like the new color scheme, but we'll see! It's a work in progress, and change can be good, even refreshing.

CSA Week #29

This week's box has eggs, celeriac, carrot medley, French breakfast radishes, apple cider, fingerling and red potatoes, bosc pears, kale, red onion, and leeks.

I wasn't sure what exactly celeriac is.A quick google search tells me it is a kind of celery grown as a root vegetable and it can be eaten raw or cooked. It has a celery flavour and is often used as a flavouring in soups and stews. It can also be used on its own, usually mashed, or used in casseroles, gratins, and baked dishes. The hollow stalk of the upper plant is sometimes cut into drinking straw lengths, rinsed, and used in the serving of tomato-based drinks such as the Bloody Mary cocktail. The tomato juice is lightly flavoured with celery as it passes through the stalk. Celeriac normally keeps well and should last three to four months if stored between 32-41 degrees Fahrenheit and not allowed to dry out. (Thanks Wikipedia!).

Next week is our last CSA of the year!

Lamb & Ribs

Sunday SP made dinner (lamb) and yesterday my mom made dinner (ribs).

First up, leg of lamb. We made this on Sunday after the Steelers game (it was so nice to be able to watch the entire game for the second week in a row!). We marinated it in the usual: red wine, Dijon mustard, olive oil, rosemary, pepper, & salt. As usual, this was a lamb from Costco and after removing the netting there was a smaller part (that would cook well-done for me) and a larger part (that would cook rarer for mom & SP). We took advantage of a beautiful fall day and grilled the lamb - it took about an hour.

Marinating:On the grill:Resting:Sliced and ready to eat:For side dishes, we roasted the fingerling & white potatoes from recent CSAs. We added slices of onion and coated the potatoes & onion in olive oil, thyme, rosemary, & parsley.We also roasted the CSA squash:

And we had a tomato-mozzarella-kalamata-fresh basil salad, drizzled with balsamic syrup:A delicious Sunday meal.

Yesterday my mom cooked for us. She made baby back ribs with a maple-teriyaki basting glaze and roasted asparagus. SP also ate a sweet potato. Mom & I just had ribs and asparagus because we've been eating so much! The ribs were delicious - meaty and juicy and the maple-teriyaki was a nice change from our usual BBQ sauce on ribs.Two tasty meals.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Wedding Adventure

SP and I are getting married. This isn't new news, just new to the blog news. He gave me a beautiful engagement ring around our 2 year anniversary. I say around because we don't really have an anniversary date, don't really have a 'first date' date, don't really have a date that we met. I've known SP since I was 15.

It was late October/early November during junior year of high school when this new kid (SP) showed up in several of my classes. His family moved here from NJ. Even though he was (and still is) a super smart nerd -- he actually understood and enjoyed calculus and physics, which made me feel stupid -- SP and I became friends.

After high school graduation, SP went to Carnegie Mellon and I went to Bucknell. We stayed in touch writing letters and seeing each other over breaks and the summer. Unfortunately, sometime near the end of our sophomore year of college, we lost touch. I suppose we just became too busy with our college lives. I was preparing to spend my junior year abroad in Japan and I had a boyfriend. I remember not spending much time home in Pittsburgh that summer.

Over the next few years, we would graduate and move away from Pittsburgh. SP moved to Seattle. I spent another year in Japan and then moved to the San Francisco area. Eventually we both returned to Pittsburgh, but not to the area we lived in during high school.

Fast forward several years. One day during the time when I was recovering from breaking my femur, I read an article in the newspaper in which SP & his web site were mentioned. My mom was staying with me and I mentioned the article to her. She said I should email SP and say hi. I was hesitant. I have stayed in touch with only one person from my high school and that person has been my friend since we met in kindergarten. I'm not one who desires to reconnect with people from the past (I have not attended any reunions). But for some reason, maybe because it was an extremely difficult time of my life and I felt really alone and lost and maybe because I remembered SP as a really nice person, I emailed him. And he emailed back. And then we emailed some more. That led to instant messaging, phone calls, and eventually we got together in person. We became friends again.

After about 3 years of being friends again, things started to gradually change. We started talking every night. We started seeing each other every weekend. Then we started seeing each other every weekend and once during the week. We both were worried about ruining our friendship, but eventually we talked about things and we realized that we really enjoyed spending time together and we decided we were officially dating.

After about a year of official dating, we bought a house and moved in together. After about a year of living together, we got engaged. And now we are planning an April 2010 wedding. SP is my best friend, my prince charming, my sweetie pie. He makes me very happy and I hope I make him as happy as he makes me.

It will be a small wedding. Neither of us wants a huge wedding. It won't be very traditional - I was never a girl who liked dresses so I refuse to wear a poofy, lacey, princessy white wedding dress. SP won't be wearing a tuxedo. There won't be any bridesmaids/ushers. No traditional reception - neither of us has ever enjoyed dancing. There is no theme. There are no wedding colors.

To help me figure things out, my mom came into town earlier this week. We have spent some time this week looking for my wedding outfit, browsing sample invitations and invitation wording (I do not exaggerate when I say the place we visited had close to fifty 5-6 inch thick binders filled with invitation samples), thinking about flowers, talking about restaurants (we just want a nice dinner at a restaurant, not a hotel banquet/reception with a DJ/dancing). There's also the guest list, favors, ceremony details like the music - sometimes all this wedding stuff is mind-numbing and overwhelming!! The only thing we have decided and reserved for sure is the small chapel for the ceremony. And we have our wedding rings.

Tomorrow we will be going 'wedding cake tasting.' Growing up in the South Hills, we are fans of Bethel Bakery. We each had a Bethel cake for high school graduation. One day we were talking and discovered that we each always wanted a Bethel Bakery wedding cake when we got married. So we're going to have one - we just have to figure out the design, flavors, etc. I'm sure that after tomorrow's cake tasting, we'll purchase some tasty bakery goodies for the weekend. Maybe some Halloween goodies.

And so the Wedding Adventure begins... is it too late to fly to Vegas and the Elvis Chapel?!!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CSA Week #28

This week's goodies: honeycrisp apples, pie pumpkin, frying peppers, white onions, stir fry greens mix, brussel sprout floret greens, spaghetti squash, small white potatoes, and green cabbage.

Here's a photo of the pulled pork BBQ sandwich & cole slaw:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Slow Cooker Sunday

It's been so cold and damp. We spent a lot of time tossing around dinner ideas for this coming week. We decided on some comfort dishes - dishes that could made in a slow cooker and that would give us lots of leftovers for the week. We have several slow cookers so we were able to make 2 big meals today.

What's behind the lids?

Sunday morning SP got the first slow cooker meal going: chicken noodle soup. I'm not sure what exactly he did since I was still snuggling and snoozing in the toasty warm bed when he got up to feed the cats and decided to get the soup started. Onion, carrots, celery, noodles, shredded chicken. All slow cooked together for a tasty chicken noodle soup with lots of leftovers.
I was excited to get out my soup mugs. My grandparents gave these to me and I rarely use them. Tonight was the perfect chance:We made cheese biscuits to go with the soup. A simple biscuit recipe from The Joy of Cooking. Here are photos of the biscuits going into the oven and then out of the oven and ready to eat:So tonight we ate the soup & biscuits.And we have lots of leftovers for this week:
In the afternoon, SP got the second slow cooker meal going. What's behind that lid? Pulled Pork BBQ. Last year, SP found this recipe online. We aren't sure of the source because there's no identifying data on the print out, but this recipe is so good! It simmered away all during the Steelers game, filling the house with tangy, tasty BBQ smell.After dinner, SP shredded the pork. We divided it into casseroles, added BBQ sauce, and put the leftover BBQ sauce in a container since we always end up wanting more BBQ sauce on the sandwiches. Of course we each sampled a forkful - yum!Lots of delicious pulled pork BBQ for sandwiches during the week. To eat along with the pork BBQ, we cheated and bought some cole slaw instead of making it.

What a great day - the Steelers beat the Browns and we got to relax on the couch all afternoon because the meals were so easy to prepare. Delicious aromas wafted through the house and now we have all of this week's dinners ready to go!

Dreary Weekend

It's been so gloomy and rainy and cold here. Not very nice autumn weather. We stayed in Friday night and made pancakes for me and buckwheat crepes topped with sauteed braising greens from last week's CSA box for SP. He liked his dinner; mine was just OK - my pancakes were a bit too thick and heavy and kept absorbing butter and syrup. We had some grapes on the side. No photos - they came out blurry.

Saturday SP spent the day in the attic wrestling with insulation. The previous home owners left it rolled up in a ball after they remodeled the kitchen, including putting in new lighting and therefore being in the attic for the new wiring and moving the insulation out of the way but not putting it back in place. Hopefully this winter will be toastier and less expensive (we didn't get a chance to put the insulation in place last year)!

Access to the attic is through the pantry, so we had to empty out the pantry. Kind of a big pain, but good for cleaning out old cans of food!!! We took advantage of the emptied out pantry to paint over the gross light lime green walls in the pantry.

All day we debated whether or not to eat out and if so, where. Around 6 pm we committed to going out, deciding to go to the South Side. But then we remembered the Pens were playing at home and decided we didn't want to end up sitting in traffic. As we were getting in the car, tossing around dinner ideas again, my phone rang. It was my friend L. She and her husband had a baby-sitter for the evening and were heading our way and wanting to know if we would like to meet for dinner. We said sure and decided on Bocktown Beer & Grill.

I've blogged about Bocktown before. Since the last time we were there, the menu has changed. Some new sandwiches, some new meals, some new options. I opted for the new Growler sandwich (a cheesesteak sandwich) and I really enjoyed it. SP doesn't eat beef, so it's a treat for me to have a cheesesteak when I'm out! SP got a burger, but substituted a portabella for the burger. He chose the one topped with hot banana peppers and provolone. Here's half my sandwich, eaten for lunch today:L chose the pulled pork sandwich and quickly devoured the entire sandwich, saying how tasty it was. Her husband chose the B.E.L.T.CH -- bacon, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and cheese and he really enjoyed it.

We also ordered fries - bacon, cheddar, and BBQ sauce for me & SP; bacon, cheddar, and jalapenos for L and her husband. So tasty, so not healthy!

Of course L and I had to get dessert. We shared a slice of the Steelers chocolate cake: starting from the bottom the layers were: chocolate cake, chocolate cream, vanilla cake, vanilla cream, chocolate cake, yellow icing, fudge icing. It was yummy - not too sweet or dense or rich. Just right after a sandwich and fries.

Afterward, we all went to the bookstore and browsed. SP & I ended up in the cookbook area. I had fun browsing cookie cookbooks, looking for a biscotti recipes. A very nice evening with good friends!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Dilemma

Two of my favorite authors have new books out and I just picked up both of them from the library yesterday. I managed to control myself last night and instead of greedily picking up one of the new books, I finished Dead Until Dark, which was very good and I was surprised how closely HBO's True Blood followed the first book.

But today I must choose: Vince Flynn's Pursuit of Honor with Mitch Rapp going after terrorists after they attack the National Counterterrorism Center or Michael Connelly's 9 Dragons with LA homicide detective Harry Bosch working on a murder that may involve a Triad hit man and then rushing off to Hong Kong when his daughter is kidnapped. I thought the choice would be easy since the last couple Mitch books weren't so great, but I checked out some reviews and it sounds like this one is back in top form.

I guess I better get off the computer and start reading...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CSA Week #27

Only 3 more CSA boxes for this year! This week: eggs, apple cider, sweet potatoes, pepper, lemongrass, braising mix, carrots, red onions, and pears.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

I never ate eggplant when I was growing up. My mom never served it. I don't think my dad likes eggplant (mom does). The first time I had eggplant was when I lived in Japan. While there, I had eggplant tenpura and grilled eggplant and discovered that I really liked eggplant! SP also likes eggplant. As you may have noticed, we frequently grill it as our veggie for dinner. This past weekend, we decided to make eggplant parmesan. We made the tomato sauce and breaded eggplant rounds on Sunday.

SP bought 2 pretty large eggplants at Giant Eagle and sliced them:First step, dredge each round in flour:Next, dip into beaten egg mixture:Then coat in bread crumbs. We used some of the bread crumbs we made from the Wonder bread a couple of weeks ago. We added some herbs to the bread crumbs to make them more exciting and Italian-like!Then we browned the breaded rounds in vegetable oil:After browning, we drained them on paper towels:After they drained and cooled a bit, we made the casserole, starting with a layer of tomato sauce. We filled in empty space in each layer by slicing a round into pieces and tucking the smaller pieces into the nooks and crannies!We layered the sauce and eggplant until just one eggplant round remained. It wouldn't fit, so we ate it! We topped the casserole off with some grated romano & parmesan.This went into the refrigerator until Monday evening. I baked it at 350 for about 45 minutes.We ate spaghetti with the eggplant. It was delicious! A tasty, warm, filling, comforting meal on a gray and chilly autumn evening.