Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spaghetti & Meatballs

A day or two before our 'Weekend Getaway,' the new issue of Bon Appetit arrived in our mailbox. I read it in the car while SP drove and told him about every yummy recipe I found! There are several recipes I think we'll be trying, but one that really stuck with me was the Spaghetti & Meatballs recipe included with the 'In Search of the Perfect Meatball' article written by Molly Wizenberg.

It's been a long time since I had spaghetti & meatballs. We make a lot of pasta dishes, but I could not remember ever making spaghetti & meatballs. Maybe because it seems so mundane? Too easy? Too much like a quick meal? Also, I was afraid of making meatballs - they often seemed kind of blah tasting or like hard, dry, over cooked hunks of meat and I never really enjoyed them. But this article and recipe inspired me to revisit meatball making.

In reality, a truly tasty spaghetti & meatballs dish requires a bit of work & effort. It's not a quick & easy meal. On Monday, after we returned home, we decided to make spaghetti & meatballs. I chopped some vegetables for the sauce: chopped onion & celery plus grated carrot.That's not part of the article's recipe. We decided to make our own sauce, using the article's recipe and a Giada marinara recipe that EPAS gave us as guidelines. I think what made us deviate from the article's sauce was the half stick of butter -- it seemed like a lot of butter and we were apprehensive. We grated 2 carrots, chopped 2 stalks of celery, and chopped one onion. We added those to 3 (28 ounce) cans of chopped tomatoes and added in a bit of tomato paste. Then we let it simmer for about 2 hours:Mmmmm. While the sauce simmered, we opened a bottle of wine. We opened the wine that EPAS and her husband gave us as a wedding gift, presented in a beautiful box with our names and date of marriage. This is a red wine from Australia.Very tasty! SP made the meatballs while I blogged about the weekend, so there aren't any photos of the meatball making. He followed the recipe in the article, using beef & pork for mine and pork & turkey for his. He cheated and used Progresso bread crumbs. He also used dried parsley, not fresh, because it was raining and he didn't want to go out on the rainy deck for parsley. And of course, he omitted the garlic.

The meatball mixtures chilled and then SP used my cookie dough scoop to make uniform meatballs. They cooked in the sauce and then we served them over angel hair:Delicious. Moist meatballs. Very good. Clearly, meatballs I have eaten/made in the past were not properly made/cooked. We will definitely make these again! It's easy, just a bit time consuming. But definitely the tastiest meatballs I've ever eaten. The sauce was very good, too, though next time I might add some chopped green pepper (my mom always added chopped green pepper to her red sauces) and maybe add some fresh herbs (which we need to rescue from the deck soon; I think outdoor herb growing season is over here in Pittsburgh).

I think spaghetti & meatballs now qualifies as one of my comfort foods, much like macaroni & cheese is a comfort food for me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CSA Week #25

This week: D'Anjou pears, garlic bulb, red Carmen sweet pepper, acorn squash, Ivory Lace cheese, baby white turnips, Russian banana fingerling potatoes, lettuce mix, and parsley.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend Getaway

This past weekend we had a 'Weekend Getaway.' We 'gotaway' to eastern PA, specifically to visit EPAS and her family. They live between Lancaster & Philadelphia, in PA, but very near MD (which is where our hotel was) and near DE. We had a wonderful time and hope we can visit again soon. Here's what we came home with from our trip:Booze!! Lots of it. Did you know that the Costco stores in DE sell liquor and that there's no tax on liquor in DE? You bet we took advantage of it since PA's liquor prices & practices are ridiculously out-dated and consumer unfriendly. That Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc? $30/bottle in PA plus tax. In DE at Costco, $18/bottle and no tax. I have always wanted to buy Frog's Leap wine, I tried some when I was in Napa, but it's just way too pricey here in PA. La Crema Chardonnay? $15 in DE; $20 in PA.

SP came home with this:Costco brand beer. He's very excited. I really don't get it. Something about some small craft brewery in Utica, NY makes the Kirkland brand beer for Costco. He tried a beer today and was very happy.

But let's go back to the beginning of the Weekend Getaway.Friday morning we got up bright and early for my doctor appointment. On our way into town, we passed by and stopped at Big Daddy's Donuts for donuts. SP devoured a sourdough donut while idling in morning rush hour:I took a photo of the remaining donuts in the bag:Then I ate the chocolate glazed chocolate cake donut with the lone green sprinkle. Very tasty. Later that morning, after we had returned home and while SP was spraying stink bug killer everywhere, I ate the other sourdough donut - yum! Later in the day I ate the powdered one, which had a very tasty and delightful chocolate cream interior. And lots of chocolate, not chintzy with the cream, but also not so much that it's overpowering. SP liked the German chocolate donut (boo coconut) and the other chocolate donut. It was a donut filled day.

It took 5 hours to get to EPAS' house but it didn't seem that long - this was the first long trip in the new car and I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover just how darn comfy the seats are!! Here's my recollection of the drive: horse smell, cow smell, horse smell, skunk smell, back to cow smell, WAIT YUM BREAD SMELL! MMMMMMM, oh crap more skunk smell... cow smell... horse smell... You get the idea. Central PA farms.

We arrived around 6 pm and EPAS made dinner for us. I was tired from getting up early and not sleeping well (dreams of attacking stink bugs) and perhaps the Pinot Grigio didn't help my brain much -- I forgot to take photos. Oops. The only photo I have from dinner is the leftover steamed green beans: We had some very tasty bread from their grocery store bakery (I think it was Giant grocery store) dipped in olive oil and some panko breaded salmon with those green beans. The younger nephew (N2) helped his mom pick some fresh herbs, including thyme, and pulled the thyme off the stem and mixed it into the olive oil. Very good herbed olive oil - maybe it was the extra nephew love? I enjoyed my salmon - bread crumbs make anything, even fish, taste yummy!!!

I did remember to take photos of dessert. The nephews had vanilla ice cream with sprinkles - and ate it with very cute & appropriate spoons:The adults had a very, very tasty napoleon dessert: layers of puff pastry, vanilla pudding/whipped cream, and strawberries. EPAS made lovely triple puff pastry stacks for me to photograph, even cleaning off the plates for the blog photos, because you can't have a messy plate!!! These were delicious. Very impressive looking. The next day, Saturday, we managed to wake up, shower, and arrive at EPAS' house just in time for lunch!! The nephews were at karate so once they got home, EPAS put out an amazing lunch spread:Two kinds of bread - the tasty dipping bread from the night before and whole wheat deli flats, 3 kinds of cheese (Provolone, Swiss, American), 3 kinds of meat (turkey, ham, salami), freshly sliced tomato, lovely green, leafy lettuce from the Farmers Market, plus mayo & mustard PLUS fruit. With all that lovely food on the counter, here's what the nephews ate: Two slices of bologna on plain white bread! No mayo. No mustard. No cheese. Just bologna & bread. Here's what I ate:A little bit of everything, with fresh iced tea (EPAS sure knows how to make SP & I happy - lots of freshly brewed iced tea!).

We spent the afternoon playing games and talking. SP played air hockey and catch - I was so proud of him because playing catch out in the heat/humidity is definitely out his comfort zone! He's more the Wii/XBox kind of uncle! But N1 loves playing catch. We played games like Uno, Ticket to Ride, Sorry, and the Left-Center-Right dice game (CLR or LCR). Then it was time for dinner. EPAS' husband, W, wanted to make ribs for us. They have a recipe from W's parents. It's very easy and very tasty but takes a bit of time. The ribs are scored with a knife and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a grill rub. They are placed in foil 'boats' and apple juice is poured over. The 'foil boats' are sealed and the ribs cook in the oven on cookie sheets for a few hours at low heat - low & slow. Then, they are finished on the grill and brushed with BBQ sauce. Oh. My. These were delicious. Literally, fall off the bone tender. No need for a knife - I could pull the meat off with my fork. Excellent ribs. We also ate some potatoes and onions roasted in the oven:And some sauteed zucchini, tomatoes, and onion:I cannot believe the nephews didn't want to eat the ribs! They ate these instead:Grilled hot dogs on buns. No ketchup. No mustard. No mayo. No relish. No cheese. Just plain.

Sunday we made our Costco liquor run and then returned to their house for more games. Uncle SP bonked N2 with his air hockey paddle, so there was a bit of a traumatic hour or so while N2 held an ice pack on the bump and cut on his forehead. Way to go, Uncle SP!!! We also watched some football, but no Steelers since they weren't on in that area, and some Phillies baseball since N1 loves, loves, loves baseball. EPAS made an early dinner for us: Chicken Marsala.Mmmm look at all those mushrooms and that marsala sauce. This was so good! We had some Pinot Grigio and more of the yummy dipping bread (of course you need to mop up that yummy marsala sauce!):We need to get a bread basket... We had some green beans and almonds:The nephews ate butter noodles with parmesan cheese:The adults slathered their penne with chicken, mushrooms, marsala sauce, and cheese plus green beans:Delicious. We were way too stuffed for dessert. I should mention that EPAS bought some tasty Amish soft pretzels, which we ate the night before. Speaking of the Amish, that area of PA has a large Amish population and we counted 16 Amish buggies on our drive home!!!!

We got home a bit after midnight. Happily, there were no visible stink bugs creeping around. We think the spray, for now anyway, is working, but we'll need to spray often. We unpacked everything, put the booze away, and went to bed!

Many, many thanks to EPAS and her family for a wonderful weekend - great company and great food. We hope the nephews enjoyed playing games with us and that N2 will forgive Uncle SP for trying to knock him out!!! And hopefully, we'll be able to visit again soon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Boring Food & Bugs

I've been a bad food blogger this past week. What can I say - it was a boring food week! We cooked, but we didn't try anything new. We had desserts, but nothing special or new. Boring Food Blog this week - sorry!

Of course, in non-food news it was an 'exciting' week, but not in a good way -- the stink bug invasion finally hit our house full force. I cannot open the windows. Somehow, they sneak in and hang out between the screen & window. What's worse, many of them worm their way around/through the closed window and into the house. Sigh. They freak me out. They're bugs. They're kind of big bugs. They can fly. They make a scary buzzing noise when they fly. They creep. And they stink, if you scare/excite them or squish them. They stink kind of like really, really, really, really super bad, super sweaty, super stinky BO.

Yes, I just wrote about stink bugs on my food blog. A rant about the stink bugs that gather on the rear house windows around 11 am and by 3-6 pm have sneaked into the kitchen to terrorize me. I try to catch them -- there's always lots of juice glasses with stink bugs trapped underneath, sometimes I get them into a ziploc bag, BUT... One day there were 15 inside and many, many more on the windows.

Help. I'm not good with bugs. I send SP frantic text messages to come home ASAP and save me. I cry in frustration and fear and annoyance. My house is so darn clean. The cleaning lady was just here on Monday, how dare these bugs invade and make me feel all filthy!! One night, I knew there were 5 loose in the house because right before SP got home, I counted the ones I saw crawling around, out of my reach. I knew they were lurking, hiding, waiting to scare me. I kept looking and prowling around all night, trying to spot them, but they were crafty. Then, the next morning, one of them got me - I went to get a bowl and there it was, hanging out inside the cabinet on my white bowl. AARRRGGGHHHHHHHH. ON THE DISHES.

I loaded that bowl and about 5 other nearby bowls into the dishwasher. Yup. I'm that paranoid and freaked out by them.

I never thought I'd say this, and I love fall, it's my favorite time of year, but please, please bring on the cold weather to make these bugs go away!

Back to the boring food week:

This week continued the trend of SP working late. On his way out one night, he was the last person to leave, and he saw the last donut from a box that a co-worker brought in. A poor, lonely Dunkin' Donut. So he grabbed it, thinking he'd snack on it in the car. But then he remembered the 'rules of the new car' - no food that will make a mess. That means no sprinkles! They just jump off and zip around the car and then the pretty new interior will have donut sprinkle mess! So he brought it home and we shared it for dessert.

Not the most exciting donut. I prefer Dunkin' Donut blueberry donuts and crullers, but...

Dinner:The foods in the above photos fed us for 3 days! Steamed green beans from Original Farmers Market, roasted beets with shallot, roasted fingerling potatoes with shallot & rosemary, pork roast, roasted carnival squash from the CSA, and salad (CSA arugula, carrots, celery, CSA goat cheese, CSA heirloom tomatoes, cucumber from Original Farmers Market and homemade balsamic dressing).

The recipe we used for the pork roast is actually for pork tenderloin. It works OK with the bigger roast, but is definitely better with tenderloin.

When the pork was gone, we ate Chef Salad and made grilled cheese for dinner.

I wanted to use up some milk, so we made instant chocolate pudding:Yes, I know, it looks funny. We tried to top the pudding with whipped cream from a can, but the can was almost empty so the cream came out very runny. No nice swirl on top. Just a runny blob. Ick. I tried to quickly scrape off all the runny whipped cream but is was so runny it just oozed into the pudding. Oh well. It tasted OK.

And that's our not-so-exciting food week!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CSA Week #24

This week: sweet corn, butternut squash, Gala apples, arugula, broccoli raab, tomatoes, fresh eggs, and salad mix.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Random Food & Non-Food Thoughts

Ahhh the weekend. SP is especially happy it's here because not only did he go to work this past week, he also worked from home almost every evening this past week. Yeesh!

We did sneak in an evening of cuddling on the couch Thursday evening when we watched Prince of Persia. It was kind of a fun movie! Silly plot, cool fight scenes, and I got to drool over Jake Gyllenhaal!

Friday morning on his way to work, SP stopped at a donut place I had never heard of until Burghertime blogged about it here: Better Maid Donuts. I couldn't believe I had never heard of this donut place -- it's 5 minutes from where we live! It's on SP's way to work! As soon as I read Burghertime's post, I was texting SP:"Hey! How come you've never brought me donuts from this place? What kind of husband are you? Donuts! Yummy donuts! On your way to work! What gives?" He was all:"Hey if I'd known about this place, I'd have gotten you donuts. But I thought we were trying to not eat so many treats?" Ha. He sure is funny sometimes. Eat fewer treats.

So Friday he came home with a white bag. Inside were 2 donuts. Turns out he treated himself to an apple fritter on his drive to work and he told me it sure was a tasty apple fritter. Huh. I didn't get one, so I wouldn't know...

I do know that my cruller with chocolate glaze was very yummy:

SP enjoyed his jelly donut:I have no photos of the interior of the jelly donut, nor did I taste it. That's because we smuggled our donuts into the movie theater Friday night. I didn't think it would be a good idea to take photos of half eaten donuts in a dark theater.

We went to see 'The Town' and it was excellent! On the one hand, it's a pretty typical and fairly predictable cops/robbers story, but done very well. Jeremy Renner is great -- if you haven't seen him in The Hurt Locker, well, you should. And it was nice to see Jon Hamm not in Don Draper mode (I love Mad Men!).

Today was lots of errands. We both got really hungry around 1 pm and stopped at Panera for bagels and drinks. We sat outside and I was enjoying a lovely, sunny afternoon and an asiago cheese bagel when a screaming, wailing child ruined my enjoyment. I don't remember ever behaving like hat when I was a child - if I had carried on like that in public, if I'd talked to my parents the way that 3 or 4 year old did, my dad would have spanked my butt so hard it would have been red for an entire week.

When we tired of the child's shrieks and screams, we walked over to Pier One. Here's a tip: don't touch the glittery spider Halloween decoration. I did. I picked it up to get a closer view. And it rained glitter all over me. All over my hands, my jeans, my shoes - I was afraid to touch anything and it took 3 hand wipes (we keep them in the car) to get the glitter off. Grrr.

Off to the mall. Parking was difficult - we were wondering what was going on, figuring it was another cheerleader/dance team show. But when we got to the center of the mall, we discovered it was TWILIGHT FAN FEST. Oh yes. Twilight is not our thing. I know only slightly more about Twilight than SP, who was much more horrified at the TWILIGHT FAN FUN than I was. We quickly finished our mall business and decided we couldn't pass up a chance to take of a photo of the Twilight fun:I know there's Edward, Jacob, and Bella. Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and Kristen Stewart. Vampires & werewolves. Sounds like Buffy or True Blood - ? I did not recognize the guy on the stage. For some reason, I really wanted to know, so when the young girl offering Starbucks samples walked by, I cornered her and asked WHAT IS ALL THIS & WHO IS THAT??? She laughed and explained it all to me - such a nice, friendly, non-snotty young lady who was willing to explain the hoopla to me, the out of touch old lady.

It was Peter Facinelli. He plays Dr. Cullen. Edward's father. Is he an important character? Who knows. The point is, some people paid $25 for an autograph and $40 for a photo with this guy.As for me, I was more interested in my Starbucks sample. I can't remember exactly what it was, something like coffee/mocha/raspberry icee drink thingy. It was tasty, but I don't really like drinks like this, so I think all I'd ever want is this sample taste size.
Also, it probably has more calories than you're supposed to have in a single day...!!!

Speaking of calories and eating... Tonight SP is at 'Geek Game Night.' That's what I call it when he gets together with his CMU friends and they play games like RockBand and board games I've never heard of (plus it's R's birthday). When we started dating, he sent me a link to a site called geekboardgames or boardgamegeek or something like that.

Anyway, I am home alone, listening to the band playing at Robinson's Fall Festival (we live near the park where the festival is being held and the music is wafting in through the open windows).

I was on my own for dinner, so I got some Giant Eagle prepared food when we were at the grocery store. I got a small container of ham salad:It was pretty tasty, but not as tasty as the ham salad at Portman's and the GEMD ham salad is a little watery/too mayo-y for me.

I also got a Lasagna Rollatini with Spinach:It was pretty tasty. Good for a quick dinner at home by yourself, not something I'd want us to have together for dinner. Our homemade lasagnas are much tastier.I decided that I deserved a special dessert treat since SP was treating himself to Thai food and birthday cupcakes & ice cream with friends. I chose this pumpkin cupcake:I'm a sucker for these cute 'character cupcakes.' The pumpkin lost his top stem - it got smeared on the top of the plastic lid and pulled off when I opened the plastic container. It was pretty tasty. GEMD cupcakes aren't likely to inspire adoration like Dozen or Vanilla Pastry Studio or Bethel Bakery cupcakes, but I have to say the cake part was not too dry (I think Dozen's cupcakes are too dry) and the icing was not too grainy/sweet. A perfectly acceptable cupcake.

I also decided to get a Bavarian Cream Puff:It sounded yummy and for some reason cream puff just sounded really good! Plus, the cupcake looked kind of small, just 3 or 4 bites. I haven't tried the cream puff yet.

This morning SP made a Lemon Buttermilk Ice Cream. He took it to game night. He left me a small scoop to try.I tried it and didn't like it for the same reason I didn't like the Blueberry Sour Cream ice cream - there's something about that tangy sour cream/buttermilk taste that I just don't like. Plain lemon sorbet would be yummy. With buttermilk - yuck. Oh well.

I can't believe the weekend is already half over!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Quick & Easy Chicken with Sauce

The other evening, I made one of our favorite dinners: chicken in a sauce of dill, chicken broth, white wine, Dijon mustard, and shallots. It's very simple. I've blogged about it before, and the recipe is in that blog post.

We ate our chicken with rice and grilled zucchini. A quick and yummy dinner! Too bad our fresh dill is shriveled and ready for the trash - fresh dill would have made this even tastier.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CSA Week #23

This week: Jamaican hot peppers, carnival squash, arugula, edamame, lemongrass, Bartlett pears, tomatoes, sweet onions, and sweet potatoes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Soda Bread with Chocolate & Candied Orange Peel

This past weekend, I (we) finally tried a recipe that I cut out of the April 2005 issue of Bon Appetit: Soda Bread with Dark Chocolate & Candied Orange Peel. Have I mentioned before how much I love the combination of chocolate & orange? I do. One of my favorite cookies is an Orange Chocolate Shortbread (that recipe is also from Bon Appetit!). Orange-Chocolate Biscotti. Orange Milanos. Chocolate & orange is just a terrific combination.

Bread with chocolate and fruits/candied fruits seems, to me, to be more of a dessert thing than a 'bread with meal' thing. So as we were pondering the week's menu, ok, more like what dessert I'd be enjoying because we all know I must have dessert, this bread popped into my mind. It also seemed, for some reason, like it would be a good bread to snack on during the Steelers game (it was). And, it was on my 'To Make' list.

What I liked about this recipe when I cut it out: a bread recipe without yeast and without a lot of fuss. What I didn't like: this candied orange peel business. "Unusual ingredient" -- that's what candied orange peel meant. But the HUGE Giant Eagle Market District (GEMD) is right down the hill, and surely if they sell rattlesnake they sell candied orange peel, right?

Nope. Candied pineapple, yes; candied papaya, yes; candied ginger, yes; candied orange peel, NO. Sigh. Fortunately, SP is always up for a bit of a culinary challenge so we set about googling 'candied orange peel.' It seemed simple enough. Friday evening he brought home 4 navel oranges for our 'culinary challenge.'

Turns out that making candied orange peel is very simple, just time consuming, and it requires planning because the orange peel needs to dry. Good thing we got our oranges Friday evening and started making the candied orange peel that night!

SP peeled the 4 oranges and put the peels in a pot of boiling water. We snacked on the oranges and he squeezed a couple of them (for orange martinis!).The particular 'method' we followed required boiling the peels for about 5 minutes, draining them, then boiling them again in a fresh pot of water. The peels are boiled a total of 3-5 times. We think the boiling is not just to soften the peel but also to 'boil away' any bitterness. How do you know if the peel is soft enough and if the bitterness is boiled away? It's simply a guess. I suppose you could taste the peel, but, we figured that after 3 boilings, 5 minutes each, for a total of 15 minutes, they were OK since we had seen a few recipes that said to boil the peel for one 15 minute session.

We drained the peels, reserving 1 cup of the water.Next, you make a simple syrup: 1 cup sugar dissolved in the 1 cup reserved water. While the sugar dissolved, SP scraped the white pith from the boiled, softened peels:Once the sugar is dissolved, the peel is placed in the simple syrup and simmered until nearly all the syrup is gone: Then the peels are coated in sugar:And placed on a cooling rack:We saved the remaining orange-y simple syrup (it was a nice addition to my orange martini on Sunday):We started the candied orange peel process at 9 pm on Friday. We weren't completely done until around 10:15 pm. Since the candied orange peels need to dry, and since we have our fair share of creepy crawlies (spiders, centipedes) and flitting moths/flies/gnats that find their way inside, we placed the candied orange peels in the oven overnight to dry. We did NOT turn the oven on - it was just to keep bugs off. However, I did read some comments online from people who 'sped up' the drying process by placing their candied orange peel in the oven on low (170) until it was dry. We debated trying that, but were a little fearful and opted to just let them dry in an unheated oven.

Our 4 oranges made more than enough peel for this recipe (it calls for 6 oz). Two oranges might not be enough, so next time we'd probably do 3 oranges. Also, before making the bread, we chopped our candied peels into smaller pieces.

The peels dried in the unheated oven until Saturday evening. After enjoying dinner at Bocktown (BBQ chicken sandwich for me; habanero-mango chicken salad for SP) and enduring a trip to Walmart, we started the bread - only to quickly discover than somehow, we missed the word 'buttermilk' on the shopping list. Oops. Good thing GEMD is 2 minutes down the hill. Emergency run for buttermilk.

Finally we got started. The dough was very sticky and when it was dumped on very well floured parchment paper, it looked to me like a blob of cookie dough - a giant cookie:SP worked the flour in, shaped it into a round, and scored the top in the suggested sunburst pattern. See how I let him get the messy, sticky hands?! I just 'supervised' and took photos. You can faintly see our sunburst scores:Then it went into the oven. Of course I had to peek in on it:A little over an hour later, we had bread:It cooled for about an hour and then we sampled a bit - just a bite each. It was tasty. A terrific crust. A great chocolate & orange taste. On Sunday, we sliced it and ate it during the Steelers game. Yum!