Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving - The Day the Oven Died

I've been on a blogging hiatus for the past week. All of last week's posts I set up ahead of time. SP and I went to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving! My parents live there, and since we hadn't been out to Las Vegas in over two years, and since last February USAirways offered a great deal of redeeming an economy number of miles on first class seats, we decided that we'd visit my parents in Las Vegas. Plus, SP would get to finally meet my 88 year old grandma and her husband.

Unfortunately, Thursday morning, as SP and I started making the pumpkin pie, our visions of this:
were threatened by the oven. We turned it on to preheat, but after 5 minutes it still said 100 degrees. Thinking we hadn't turned it on properly, we cancelled the setting and, under my mom's supervision, set it again to heat to 425. But it wouldn't heat. It was stuck at 100. Uh-oh. We were mid-pie preparation, there was an 18 pound turkey in the refrigerator, I was already drooling over sausage stuffing. This was not good. The oven had died.

My dad was not happy. He was looking forward to a day of football, wine, and turkey. Now it suddenly looked like we might have to join the super long lines at a Las Vegas casino Thanksgiving buffet. The idea of a long line and a buffet was not appealing. So dad and SP got out the oven manuals, tried to figure out the problem, and finally started calling around looking for a repairman working on Thanksgiving.

The turkey gods smiled upon us. At 11:30 am, the 'Man Who Saved Thanksgiving' showed up:Even more amazing: he had the necessary new part in stock on his truck! The culprit: the igniter. Unfortunately, the 'Man Who Saved Thanksgiving' told my parents that on their kind of oven, this part wears out every 4-5 years (they've had this oven for 4 years). Fortunately, 15-20 minutes later, we were up & running!

My dad was in charge of cleaning and prepping the turkey:He'll be thrilled to see the photo of his hand up inside the turkey, pulling out the inside junk. Mom seasoned it simply - I think she only uses salt, pepper, and butter. It turned out a beautiful golden brown:We did put some stuffing inside the turkey:SP was in charge of carving and he made a beautiful plate of white & dark meat:This turkey was perfectly done - no pink, cooked through, but very juicy & moist and just soooo tasty!Mom made her sausage stuffing, complete with the special secret ingredient (nutmeg).On the left is the stuffing from inside the turkey. On the right is the stuffing cooked in a casserole in the oven. That stuffing was much crisper - which was a good thing. Crispy sausage stuffing - yum!SP and I were in charge of the green bean salad. We used a recipe that my mom & I used one Christmas Eve a few years ago: Green Beans & Portobello Mushroom Saute from Rachael Ray.It was very tasty. Onions, portobellos, and green beans sauteed in butter & olive oil, finished with a splash of sherry.My family is not a sweet potato family, but since she knows SP likes them, my mom got him one:The photo above is the 'before' photo; below is the 'after' photo:We also are not a big cranberry family, certainly not homemade cranberry sauce. My grandma never made the 'real' stuff -- it wasn't until I was in my late 20's that I discovered cranberry relish/sauce was not something that came only from a can but something that could be made from scratch at home!! Following tradition, we had jellied cranberry sauce from a can!After drinking a bottle of Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc during the afternoon, dad opened a bottle of Chandon Rose Sparkling Wine for dinner:Here's the table -- mom got out a tablecloth of the occasion! My parents are informal these days, so to make it more 'special' mom got out her one tablecloth (I think she left the others in Pittsburgh for me!) and she thought she had some candles, but couldn't find them! Doesn't matter - it was still a pretty table of food.Last, but not least, the pie. We used the recipe on the side of the Libby's can of pumpkin!I measured out the sugar & spices:SP beat the eggs:Then he added the pumpkin & evaporated milk. And then we had a brief hiatus during the oven debacle! We covered the wet ingredients & placed them in the refrigerator and covered the dry ingredients until we figured out if the oven was going to be fixed! Once it was fixed and heated to 425, we stirred the dry ingredients into the wet ones:Yes, we cheated and used a deep dish frozen pie shell. We were on vacation!! And here's the finished pie:I am not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but everyone else really enjoys it, especially with liberal amounts of whipped cream sprayed on top:It must have been tasty -- it didn't last past Friday evening!Hope everyone had as tasty a Thanksgiving as we did!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dippy Eggs

I recently discovered that my husband did not know what dippy eggs are - ?!! I was horrified. In his defense, he lived in NJ until he was 16, but he's been in Pittsburgh a long time, and he went to college here, and he didn't know about dippy eggs!!!

The dippy eggs conversation took place one evening when we weren't very hungry for dinner, didn't have much food in the house, and decided to have scrambled eggs - or so I thought. SP is the egg cooker in this house. I cannot cook eggs. At all. My eggs are always awful. Plus, I like eggs, but only when they are just out of the skillet and hot. They cannot cool at all. And somehow, whenever I try to make eggs and ensure that they are hot and well cooked and ready at the same time as my toast, which is also gross when it's cold, I manage to burn the eggs. Ick.Anyway, SP decided to make an omelet instead, using some of our CSA eggs and the last of the week's lunch sandwich stuff (ham & Swiss) with toasted English muffins. As I was shoveling in my eggs (they must, of course, be wolfed down before they become lukewarm and disgusting), I started babbling at him about dippy eggs.

Eggs were on my mind, and I was thinking about this post over at That's Church. Ginny wrote that she once asked her husband to make her dippy eggs and he had no idea what she meant. I assumed SP knew about dippy eggs. So my comments about dippy eggs and my laughing about the post - it was met with a look of confusion and one of those 'gosh my wife really is crazy' expressions.Finally, as I finished inhaling the omelet and moved on to the English muffin with butter and cherry preserves portion of dinner, I managed to stop saying 'dippy eggs - eggs that you dip your toast into' and explained that dippy eggs are over easy eggs. SP gets it now, but I think he still thinks I'm nuts.

Dippy eggs. It's a Pittsburgh thing, like dropping the 'to be' and saying it's 'slippy' out.

Anyway, just for fun, as I wrote this post, I googled 'dippy eggs.'

I'm starting to see why eggs have always confused me. I have never understood the differences between dippy eggs, over easy, sunny side up, fried egg, over medium, over hard - it's always been too confusing. That's why when I eat out and order eggs, I only ever order scrambled. Or omelets. But now, finally, I am starting to understand the differences. Thank goodness for Google & Wikipedia.

Wikipedia tells me that:

North Americans use many different terms to describe fried eggs, including:
  • A style known simply as 'fried' — eggs are fried on both sides with the yolks broken until set or hard.
  • 'Over well', also called 'over hard' or 'hard' — cooked on both sides until the yolk has solidified.
  • 'Over medium' — cooked on both sides; the yolk is of medium consistency and the egg white is thoroughly cooked.
  • 'Over easy', also called 'over light or runny' — cooked on both sides; the yolk is a thin liquid, while the egg white is fully cooked. "Over easy" fried eggs are also commonly referred to as dippy eggs or dip eggs by Marylanders and by Pennsylvania Dutch persons living in southern Pennsylvania, mainly due to the practice of dipping toast into the yolk while eating.
  • 'Sunny side up' — cooked only on one side; yolk is liquid; the egg white is often still a bit runny as well. This is often known simply as 'eggs up'. Gently splashing the hot cooking oil or fat on the sunny side uncooked white, i.e., basting, may be done to thoroughly cook the white. Covering the frying pan with a lid during cooking (optionally adding a cover and half-teaspoon of water just before finishing) allows for a less "runny" egg, and is an alternate method to flipping for cooking an egg over easy (this is occasionally called 'sunny side down').

I think I'll stick with scrambled. And omelets.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The weekend before Thanksgiving, most people probably had turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie on their minds. But since we are not in charge of the Thanksgiving meal this year, we had something else on our minds: lasagna! A comforting food and one that makes lots of leftovers for putting in the freezer and pulling out on those nights when you don't feel like cooking or you don't have any food!

A couple of weeks ago, we had lots of celery and carrots and onions in the veggie bin, so we decided to make a marinara sauce and put it in the freezer. We started by sauteing chopped shallots, sliced celery, and diced carrots in olive oil:After the vegetables were softened, we added these ingredients:And simmered the sauce for a few hours:Then we let it cool and put it in the freezer. When it was time to make the lasagna, we got the sauce out to thaw. We also decided to add some extra vegetables, so we sauteed chopped green pepper, chopped onion, and sliced mushrooms:After they were cooked, we drained the veggies so that they wouldn't be too wet and make the lasagna soggy. We also cooked and drained some lasagna noodles. Then it was time to assemble the lasagna. First, we coated the bottom of the casserole with sauce. Then we layered in noodles and topped those noodles with more sauce:Next we spooned in the sauteed vegetables:And then layered in ricotta cheese mixed with chopped fresh spinach and some shredded parmesan cheese. There's also an egg mixed into the ricotta mixture.Next, a layer of grated fresh mozzarella (we grated it in the food processor):And then we started the layering process over, starting with noodles:Noodles-sauce-veggies-ricotta mixture-mozzarella-repeat... It was around this time that I got bored taking photos and watching SP layer lasagna ingredients. Plus, it was right around the time that some Oakland Raiders dude punched Big Ben after a Steelers touchdown, so I found myself paying more attention to the game than to the lasagna. When I turned my attention back to the kitchen, the lasagna was ready to go. There was grated fresh mozzarella & parmesan on top and it was on a foil lined cookie sheet to catch any drips/stuff that might bubble over:We baked it for an hour, until it was bubbly and the cheese melted:Mmmm it smelled yummy. And looked yummy. The corners curled up and got crispy edges: We made the lasagna early so that it could completely cool because we wanted to put some in the freezer. Here's the first piece of lasagna:Here's a close up:We ended up filling 3 of the 4 glass containers with lasagna for future meals. And we ate some for dinner Sunday evening. We reheated two pieces around 7 pm. It was very tasty. Lots of cheese and veggies and marinara with lasagna noodles - yum! Lasagna is possibly my favorite food (lamb is also a possible favorite, and sometimes I think pizza is my favorite).This was delicious lasagna. As usual, not as tasty as my mom's homemade lasagna, but since she makes a ground beef sauce and SP doesn't eat beef, we are unlikely to ever try making mom's lasagna! She also makes what in my mind is a richer sauce - it's a deeper red and has Worcestershire sauce and uses tomato paste and puree, not crushed tomatoes. But this was very good and had more veggies than mom's lasagna.

Monday, November 22, 2010

La Bella Bean

Last Saturday, we were in McMurray around noon. We were hungry! So of course we had one of those "Where do you want to get food?" - "I don't know, where do you want to get food?" conversations. Then I remembered La Bella Bean in Bridgeville. The last time we tried to go there, we couldn't actually get to it because the road was blocked off for a community day. So we decided to try again.

I've been to La Bella Bean before -- but it was about 7 years ago and just for coffee. I've been wanting to try their food. It's a coffee house & eatery, so like Panera, there's a fireplace and some comfy couches along with wooden tables & chairs. You order at the counter and when your food is ready, they call your name. There's free wi-fi. There's coffee house channel music from Sirius playing in the background. There's baked goodies, sandwiches, panini, salads, soups, coffees, teas, bagels... I was a little overwhelmed with all the options!I wanted a warm drink, so I ordered a small latte. SP got his usual iced tea. In addition to the grilled panini and house sandwiches, you can also create your own sandwich. You get to choose:

  • the bread (Mancini Twist roll, Sliced Italian, Basil Focaccia, Plain or Whole Grain Ciabatta, Rye Bread, Plain, Wheat or Spinach Wrap, Multi-grain Bread or a Bagel)

  • the meat (Smoked Ham, Roast Beef, Salami, Pepperoni, Capicola,Chicken Salad, Tuna Salad, Roasted Chicken, Turkey)

  • the cheese (American, Swiss, Provolone, Fresh Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Shredded Cheddar)

  • the toppings (Lettuce, Tomatoes, Red onion, Cucumber, Roasted Red Peppers, Banana Peppers, Zucchini)

  • and the spreads (Mayo, Horseradish mayo, Chipotle mayo, Pesto mayo, Olive Spread, Artichoke Spread, Yellow or Brown Mustard, Mustard Butter, Nunny’s Vinaigrette)

Wow! Lots of yummy options! You can also create your own salad, choosing:
  • the type of lettuce (Baby Field Greens, Romaine Lettuce, Baby Spinach)

  • 2 kinds of cheese (American, Swiss, Provolone, Fresh Mozzarella, Feta, Gorgonzola Crumbles, Shredded Parmesan, Shredded Cheddar)

  • 4 toppings (Croutons, Black Olives, Kalamata Olives, Tomatoes, Red Onion, Cucumber, Artichoke Hearts, Roasted Red Peppers, Banana Peppers, Almonds, Walnuts, Craisins, Sunflower Seeds, Garbanzo Beans, Mandarin Oranges, Zucchini, Asian Noodles, Tortilla Strips)

  • a dressing (Nunny’s Vinaigrette, Tuscan Caesar, Ranch, Sesame Ginger, Poppy Seed, Oil & Vinegar)

SP opted for a House Sandwich, The Turk:

He got it on a spinach wrap. The Turk had smoked turkey, swiss cheese, jalapeno guacamole, tomato, and lettuce. Here's a close up of the wrapped goodies:He really enjoyed this sandwich. The jalapeno guacamole was very tasty but it didn't over power the sandwich.

I decided to try the La Martino Grilled Panini:It's grilled chicken breast, provolone, roasted red pepper, field greens, and mustard butter:I really enjoyed this! The chicken was sliced thin - it wasn't just a gigantic breast, which I really liked. The greens were fresh & yummy. The panini was nicely grilled - crispy but not too crispy or burnt. Yum!

Our sandwiches came with potato chips and a pickle spear.

After we ate our sandwiches, SP started dropping hints about a dessert treat. I was trying to be good and resist, but he wore me down. Turns out he really, really wanted to try one of the pumpkin desserts. They had pumpkin roll, pumpkin pie, pumpkin biscotti, and pumpkin cake. He got the pumpkin cake:He said it was dense and filling, pumpkiny and delicious, with a cream cheese icing. It reminded hm of a really good carrot cake, but with pumpkin instead of carrots. Since carrot cake is his favorite dessert, that is some pretty high praise heaped on the pumpkin cake.

I chose a Lemon Raspberry biscotti:It was nice, light, non-dense biscotti, with a terrific lemon flavor. The raspberry flavor came from the icing/glaze. The icing/glaze wasn't too sweet/sugary and was a nice accompaniment to the lemon flavor and the biscotti texture. Very tasty dipped in my latte.The staff at La Bella Bean were very friendly and helpful. We found it relaxing. SP was happily playing with his Droid. Plus, the sandwiches & baked treats were quite tasty. We both enjoyed our lunch at La Bella Bean and would definitely go there again.

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