Monday, January 31, 2011

Max's Allegheny Tavern

Saturday evening, we ventured to a part of town that is pretty unfamiliar to us, the North Side. Inspired by Forked!'s recent dining experience and by an Entertainment Book coupon, we decided to try Max's Allegheny Tavern, known for its German food. We zipped down the parkway and into town, threaded our way north and onto Suisman Street, parked in a metered parking lot about a block away, and walked down the street to MAT.There's is one small step to get inside and while SP is good at getting the wheelchair up one or two steps, we did find out that the restaurant does have a ramp that they will put out for wheelchair users. My first thought upon entering was: sauerkraut. MAT is known for its German fare and things were off to a good start with the smell of kraut. There was a party of five people who had arrived just minutes before us and I'm not sure what the issue was, but it took about 5-10 minutes to finally be seated. We went through the bar area, through one dining room, and into another dining room and were seated at a large table for four in a corner and next to the cuckoo clock:It really did cuckoo on every hour and half past hour. I didn't get to see much of the interior decor because I ended up seated facing the corner - it felt like I'd been a bad girl and my punishment was to face the corner!!! I have the impression that it is an oldish, antique-ish interior. Victorian comes to mind. I didn't want to turn around and gawk or try to take photos. Most of the other diners were older people, I had the impression they were somewhat regulars, and we 'young ones' sort of got the once over. Also, my first thought once we were seated: Wow! All these diners and no one is talking it's sooooo quiet how are we ever going to talk and not be overheard???

The menu is inside a 'newspaper' dated March 1898 (I think).One 'news article' is the history of MAT. It's a very interesting read, especially if you love history, and I do. The very short version: this area of Pittsburgh, north of the Allegheny River and now called the 'North Side,' was once called Allegheny City and lots of Germans settled in the eastern part of Allegheny City in what was known as Dutchtown. MAT was once a hotel and during Prohibition it operated as a speakeasy. (It was around 1907 that Allegheny City was annexed by Pittsburgh.)

I ordered iced tea. MAT's iced tea passes the test: unsweetened and freshly brewed. A cute touch: it's served in a mason jar (as is water and, presumably, other non-alcoholic beverages).SP chose the German Beer Sampler, four German draft beers.From left to right: Spaten Lager, Kostritzer Black Lager, Waresteiner Premium Ale, and Hacker Pschorr Weisse. I didn't try any of them. SP enjoyed them all.

Soon enough, a bread basket arrived. It contained several types of rolls: a crescent shaped roll covered in sesame seeds, pumpernickel rolls, butter rolls, plus pats of butter, a container of apple butter, and a container of red cabbage relish.To start, we decided to share the Fried Provolone Wheel. I know, not very German, but I love cheese!:Look at the size of that cheese wheel! And the knife sticking out of it! And the marinara! I cut into it and cheese oozed out:So good. Look at my mini wedge:Cheese! This was quite tasty. And large. Not too much breading compared to the cheese, lots of marinara, ooey gooey goodness. Yum!

We also started with Fresh Spinach Salad with Max's Hot Bacon Dressing:Yum. Hard boiled egg, sliced mushrooms, warm vinegary bacon dressing. Very tasty. The spinach salad made me remember one of the very first dishes my mom let me cook on my own. It might not sound like much now, but when I was 12 years old (or around there), she let me make a spinach salad with hard boiled egg, mushrooms, and a warm bacon dressing. I was allowed to fry the bacon and make the dressing all by myself. I remember everyone really liked the salad and for a while, I made it once every month as part of a Sunday dinner.

SP decided to dine on Hasenpfeffer:Hasenpfeffer is a rabbit dish - I did not know that (SP did). Specifically, rabbit braised in spiced wine sauce. He ordered the recommended sides: spatzle and red cabbage. SP's comments: it's rare to find rabbit on a menu and he enjoys rabbit and this was very tasty. It was bony, but he says rabbit always is.

I opted for the Sampler Platter, mostly because I couldn't decided which veal schnitzel I wanted!There's a list of 'popular entrees' and you get to choose three. I chose Jager Schnitzel:Schnitzel Royale (topped with tomato and gouda):And Schnitzel Liechtenstein (topped with Westphalian ham, Emmenthaler cheese, and green olives: Each entree comes with your choice of two sides. I chose Potato Pancakes with sour cream instead of apple butter:And German Potato Salad:Where to start? This was a huge platter of food! The Jager Schnitzel was tasty. Lots of chopped onions and mushrooms in the gravy, which tasted similar to a roast beef gravy. The Schnitzel Royale was quite tasty - then again, I love tomatoes and cheese. The Schnitzel Liechtenstein was interesting. The ham and cheese made it seem sort of like 'schnitzel cordon bleu.' I wasn't sure if I really liked the addition of green olives. I mean, the olives themselves were quite tasty, I like green olives, but I am not sure how I really like them on top of the schnitzel with ham & cheese. Even after eating the leftovers on Sunday for lunch, I am still unsure.

At first I was kind of disappointed in the look of the potato pancakes because they were like regular pancakes, not like the potato pancakes I am used to where the potato is grated. I know both ways are 'real' potato pancakes, it's just that normally I prefer the grated potato version. But these were so good! Oh my gosh! I couldn't stop eating them!

The German Potato Salad was just OK. It was a little too saucy for my personal taste, though the sauce was tasty, and there wasn't as much bacon taste as I expect in German Potato Salad.

I brought home about half my meal. SP wanted to try dessert, so I said I would split it with him. He chose Apple Fritter.When our server plopped 2 dishes filled with enormous servings of fritter, I thought she had misunderstood and gotten us 2 servings of dessert. She saw my reaction and said, oh, no, she split it for us and that was one order split in two. Yikes!!! A close up of my fritter plate:There was just enough ice cream with the fritter, which was quite tasty. I would've liked a bit more apple in it, but the fried dough was quite tasty. I tried to take a close up, but it's tough to make out the apple slices in the sea of fried dough:I managed to eat most of the dessert, probably because even though I was feeling quite full, there's something about fried dough.

As for service, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Our server was friendly enough, but not too chatty. She seemed a bit... hurried? Overwhelmed? Forgetful? Anxious to get us out the door? Indifferent? I thought she asked us for our orders awfully quick, and I had barely begun to digest the menu. It was our first time at MAT and the menu isn't super huge but there are enough choices, plus the fact that it's German food (with which I am not overly familiar), to make you want to really peruse the menu. SP's iced tea went without refilling. He kept meaning to mention it, but she sort of came over, took care of her business, and zipped off before we could bring up the iced tea. He did also have a glass of water, but one glass of water and one glass of iced tea is far less than he normally drinks (beer doesn't count; even when he drinks beer, he goes through the usual amount of iced tea). I wouldn't say she was rude, just a little... abrupt and harried, maybe is the best way to describe it. That seems a little odd because while the tables seemed to all be occupied, there weren't a lot of people waiting to be seated when we left.

Overall, we really enjoyed MAT and would go back.
Max's Allegheny Tavern on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dozen Cupcakes - Valentine's Special

Recently, several organizations have invited me to participate in promoting their food products. And I was unsure of what my response should be. So I consulted my best friend, husband, and blog conspirator. SP rolled his eyes at me and basically said, duh, it's my blog I can do whatever I want and promote whatever I want. Unfortunately, due to scheduling issues and time constraints, I have not been able to accept some of the offers. But I did decide to write a blog post about a local bakery and their Valentine's Special because, well, I can easily write a blog post about it, and also, they are a local bakery, and also, I hadn't heard of this Valentine special prior to being contacted by them. And it sounds kind of yummy.

Dozen Bakery. Dozen Cupcakes. If you live in Pittsburgh, I am sure you've heard of them. Dozen started in 2006 and is now a full service bakery and cafe with 3 locations (Lawrenceville, Oakland, and Liberty Avenue). (I believe the Murray Avenue location closed.)

The Valentine's Special: The Sweetheart Box. Inside the box are four cupcakes (photo provided by Dozen): Two of their 'regular' cupcakes, Red Velvet and Vanilla Vanilla, plus two limited edition cupcakes, Spicy Chocolate and Passion Fruit. Here's a photo, provided by Dozen, of the Spicy Chocolate Cupcake:
They come in a box filled with red tissue paper and tied up with a red bow.

Did you know that Dozen makes Vegan cupcakes? And that you can get a vegan Sweetheart Box? Well, you can. The vegan Sweetheart Box will have four vegan cupcakes – two chocolate and two vanilla cakes, each with unique decorations.

Now I know I've blogged before about how I don't like Valentine's Day. I don't. But that doesn't mean that we won't use it as an excuse to go out to a nice dinner. Or as a reason to have special treats. Like cupcakes. Hopefully, my sweetheart is reading this and realizing that I REALLY like Spicy (Mexican) Chocolate flavored treats. And that I really liked the Red Velvet cupcake from Dozen. And that even though I don't like Valentine's Day and I have instructed him to not buy me a card, flowers, dopey heart shaped boxes of candy, heart shaped jewelry or other Valentine crud and that I will NOT be wearing red or - even more ugh - pink on Valentine's Day (my color of choice for Feb. 14 is always black) -- I REALLY LIKE CUPCAKES.

Dozen's Sweetheart Box will be available on Friday, February 11, Saturday, February 12 and Monday, February 14 for $12. Customers should order online at http://www.dozenbakeshop.com/ as the in-store supply will be limited. Click here for Dozen's post about the cupcakes on their blog. You can select your pick up day, although Saturday pick up is available only for the Lawrenceville and Oakland locations.

**Though I was contacted by Dozen about their Sweetheart Box, I was not paid for this post, I did not receive free cupcakes or other free Dozen goodies. I was simply informed via email of the Sweetheart Box and asked if I would like to learn more or write about it on my blog to help promote it. They are a small local business and I decided to help promote the Sweetheart Box without compensation.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicken & Mushroom Marsala

Monday night I made Chicken & Mushroom Marsala. I stuck with our usual Chicken & Mushroom Marsala recipe (the recipe is listed on the 'Recipes' page). For sides, I made plain noodles, which of course end up in the marsala sauce on the plate so they aren't really plain, and some steamed broccoli.

I don't really follow the recipe anymore -- I just put in as much onion & mushroom as looks good. The only part I do follow is the ratio of 1/2 cup marsala to 1 cup chicken broth. Since we like extra sauce and since extra sauce helps keep the leftovers moist, I used 3/4 cup marsala and 1.5 cups chicken broth. Also, I season the chicken with pepper, brush some olive oil on a foil lined cookie sheet, and bake the chicken in the oven, then slice it and add it to the sauce. I don't season the chicken with salt because sometimes the frozen chicken breasts we buy seem to arrive kind of salty. I figure we can always add it later if we really need it. After a week of pizza and macaroni & cheese then hoagies, it was really nice to have a meat, starch, and veggie. No cream sauce. No cheese. And no butter on the plain noodles or on the steamed broccoli.

I promise we'll start making 'new' dishes soon! So far in 2011, we haven't tried anything new and I feel like a boring food blogger! But if the weather cooperates and we feel up to it (SP is having trouble with his wrist and arm; I am possibly coming down with a cold), we'll be trying a new-to-us restaurant this weekend and making a new-to-us Sunday dinner!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Steelers & Hoagies

Last night was the BIG GAME. The one between the Steelers & Jets to see which team would advance to the Super Bowl. So we wanted a very quick & easy dinner: hoagies.

Our hoagies had Boars Head rosemary ham (sooo good), capacola, provolone, a bit of Jarlsberg, lettuce, tomatoes, Italian dressing (homemade; olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, and pepper), and sauteed mushrooms. SP sauteed the mushrooms and then added in a splash of the red wine were drinking plus some sour cream.The mushrooms are pinkish in color because of the red wine mixed with sour cream. I had a white hoagie roll. SP had a hoagie roll with poppy seeds on it. Tasty hoagies. Definitely good football food.

Then we settled in for the game. During the game we munched on some cheeses: aged hard Gouda, Jarlsberg, and Champagne Cheddar. Yum!

After much stress, moaning, cheering, and throwing of the smasher football, the Steelers won!!! Let the non-stop Steelers news coverage begin!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week Alone

Now that SP is on an airplane, I can write about my week home alone! I try to find a balance between how much I reveal and how much I keep 'secret' on the blog, mostly because in the back of my mind are those news stories about crazy people getting enough information about you from your blog to steal your identity or break into your house or... whatever. Yes, I can be a little paranoid. But as a small girl in a wheelchair, I thought it would be better to not write last Monday about how I'm home alone all week and all the cookies we baked were SP's way of making sure my sweet tooth was satisfied and the 2 large pizzas were so I had pizza during the week and the huge casserole of macaroni and cheese was my dinner all week!!!I spent a lot of time this week at the kitchen table, gazing out the window, enjoying the woods and wildlife and snow. Our 'backyard' is really a steep woods-like slope down. In summer, it's like we're in the country because the trees have leaves and hide the housing development down the hill and we can't even see our neighbors' homes. In winter, the trees are bare and we have a lovely view of the brand spanking new McMansions . We saw some truly 'spectacular' holiday light displays!

Last Sunday I sat at the table to chop vegetables for the macaroni and cheese. I was sipping some wine and I took a break from chopping & sipping to survey the nature scene out the window - the crazy squirrels leaping from tree to tree, and the birds on the tree in the above photo. So many of them! They zipped in large groups from tree to tree - it's so interesting to watch one bird start the migration and then suddenly, a flock of birds swarms over to another tree. In the photo, you can see the moon in the background on the right. For some reason, I love when I can see the moon during the day!!! I love sitting at the kitchen table in front of the huge window, sipping tea, and gazing out at the sky and trees and just zoning out. Sometimes I give the cardinal the evil eye, hoping he'll get the message and stop smacking into our basement window. I saw him today in the 'pea pod' tree. I guess these frigid temperatures don't bother him!

Anyway, I haven't had any company at the table this week. SP has been in CA for his new job. At first, it just seemed like a normal work day even though I knew he was gone. I took over the table - laptop, papers, magazines. No need to clear off the table/tidy up for dinner. I read blogs while I ate. But as soon as it was dark outside, I imagined monsters lurking around every corner and every house creak made me jump. I slept with my stuffed frog on SP's pillow. How old am I??? By Wednesday evening, I was bored and missing my sweetie and feeling so very alone. It's not like I had a shortage of mini projects/hobbies - I organized all the recipe clippings I've gathered since September, I scanned some old family photos, I read, watched some movies. But even though I had plenty to occupy my time, the house was so empty and I felt so alone.

But I survived my first ever time alone in the house - no problems, no mishaps. Before SP, I had lived on my own since I was 17, but in dorms and apartment complexes. A house seems more... vulnerable? Isolated? There's no neighbors right across the hall, no emergency maintenance number to call. Ever since SP and I moved into this house 2.5 years ago, we've never spent a night apart. It's not the most horrible thing to sleep alone - it was nice to not need ear plugs to block out the snoring - but I am ready for him to be home! I'm again at the kitchen table as I write this, gazing out at the lovely 6 inches of snow that has not been shoveled because, well, I can't shovel snow and I'm wondering if sunshine can melt snow even if it's only 1 degree outside (and that doesn't factor in the windchill!). I'm hoping SP has enough layers since he's coming from sunny 60+ degree weather to frigid, cover up all body parts or else they'll freeze and fall off weather!!! I'm wondering where all the birds are - just bare branches today. Most of all, I am anxious for my sweetie to be home. Home alone is only OK for a few days.

Friday, January 21, 2011

'Mighty Samurai' Completed, At Last

I say that my blog is a 'mostly food' blog, but really, when was the last time I posted about anything except food? There really is more to my life than food. For instance, cross-stitch.

When I was a young girl, my grandmother taught me needlepoint, cross-stitch, latch hook - she and my aunt were very crafty with needles. They also did crochet. And knitting. But I never learned those. My last needle-thread interaction was in an eight grade sewing class in which I made a prairie style floral skirt.

Years went by and one day I broke my femur. I was stuck with a cast covering my entire left leg. I was stuck at home all day. In the recliner. Hopping around with that heavy cast was just too difficult (I wasn't supposed to put any weight on my left leg). At first, I slept a lot because my body was healing and the surgeries to repair the femur had worn me out. I was in a lot of pain and the pain pills made me sleepy. Gradually, I perked up a bit and caught up on lots of TV, especially food TV. And then I perked up even more and I got bored. Really bored. I wanted to read, but I couldn't drive myself to the library and my mom didn't like going to the library for me (she's not a reader). I was on short term disability from work -- and much as my job had been getting to me a bit and I sort of dreamed of never having to work, I really, really missed work. I suddenly had all this free time and nothing to do. No sense of purpose.

So I started thinking about hobbies. What do people do for fun? I know, it sounds crazy, but I didn't have any hobbies. Heck, between a 45 minute work commute each way and working 10 am - 7 pm and trying to do errands, laundry, feed myself, see friends -- I hardly had any time to catch my breath and when I did, I usually just sat on the couch and zoned out. Hobbies? What the heck were those? Who had time?

So I thought and thought. Sports were out. Reading was out unless I could get someone to go to the library. TV gets old fast -- I actually got sick of the TV and every time my mom would turn it on, I'd start to freak out because I hated the incessant blather from the box. I started researching my family tree again. But I needed something to do.

And then it hit me: cross-stitch. My aunt still cross-stitches and when she visited me in the hospital, I had seen some of her in-progress projects. So I got mom to take me to Michaels and I got a starter kit and a 'real' kit. I practiced all the simple patterns in the starter kit (with the fat needle and large size aida fabric) and then I started on the 'real' one - with a much smaller needle and a much smaller size fabric (I believe the fabrics are sized by count, 14 count, 18 count, etc., based on the number of stitches (boxes) per inch; so the more stitches per inch, the smaller the stitches and thus more difficult).

I love cross-stitch. It's creating something arty, but I don't need to be creative. It's simply following a pattern. The cross-stitch I choose to do are usually pretty involved. Fairly large. Each one takes me months to complete. But that's OK - there's no hurry. Usually, the large ones take me about 4 months. But then I encountered 'Mighty Samurai' after I moved in with SP (and the amount of time I spent cross-stitching decreased dramatically).

I started 'Mighty Samurai' way back in September 2009 - YES! 2009! - with the intention of giving it to my mom. Previously, I had completed a cross-stitch for my mom, one of 2 geisha:The samurai is meant to go alongside the geisha. I cross-stitched the geisha in spring 2007 when I spent 4 months in Las Vegas. My parents got it framed after I left. I like the blue mat and black frame they chose (I took the above photo when SP & I were in Las Vegas this past Thanksgiving).

Back to 'Mighty Samurai.' Here's my project in September 2009:And here it is 15 months later, on Christmas Day 2010, being held up by mom after she opened it (it was a Christmas gift to her):Not the best photo since there's a lamp on right behind it and her arm shadow can be seen behind it.

This one was by far the most difficult cross-stitch I have done. There were all kinds of stitches - cross-stitch, half stitch, back stitch, lazy daisies, French knots, couching.

AND I had to use metallic gold thread, which I find very difficult to use because it's a different thickness and material than the regular floss.

AND there were a lot of mixed color stitches (one thread of a color plus one thread from another color).

AND there were 40-50 different floss (thread) colors.

AND I had to attach tiny gold beads. The beads are on the ends of the ropes around the swords and along the hem of the kimono, but you cannot see them in the photo. I really should have taken some up close photos before mom took it back to Las Vegas. I didn't get it framed for her because I knew she didn't want to carry a framed cross-stitch on a plane.

I was Googling 'Mighty Samurai cross-stitch' to find a picture from Dimensions (cross-stitch kit manufacturer) of the cross-stitch (since mine is so dark) to put in this post and I discovered that someone did this same cross-stitch and is selling it, unframed, on Etsy for $2,800!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously???

I hope my mom likes 'Mighty Samurai.' I can't wait to see how it looks when it is framed! Soon I will be starting another largish cross-stitch. I hope to hang it in our dining room. It'll probably take me a year to complete. For now, since I just finished 'Mighty Samurai,' I think I need a little cross-stitch vacation!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon & Mushrooms

It's still winter. Cold. Dreary. Not very sunny. Snowy. Still time for warm comfort foods, like macaroni and cheese. That's what we made for dinner last Sunday. But this wasn't ordinary macaroni and cheese. This was Macaroni & Cheese with Mushrooms & Bacon from the December 2003 Bon Appetit.
As usual, I was in charge of chopping & measuring out seasonings. I don't mind, I enjoy sitting at the table in front of the window, sipping wine, gazing out at the sky & trees, chopping vegetables and measuring ingredients. SP fried the bacon and grated the cheese. Grating cheese is definitely not a task I enjoy, not even if I use the food processor because then I have to wash all the parts of the food processor and for some reason I get annoyed when I have to clean the food processor after one small task! He used the last of the white cheddar from Costco and then grated the newly purchased, orange colored sharp cheddar.

The first actual cooking step was to saute the onions and mushrooms in butter:Sauteed onions always make a house smell yummy. The next step is to add the milk and the seasonings/thickener (flour, dried mustard, pepper). We omitted the salt. Then the cheese.Finally, mix in the cooked elbows and pour into a 13x9 baking pan.Top with the remaining bacon crumbles and breadcrumbs -- yes, we cheated, using the last of the Panko crumbs in the pantry and not homemade bread crumbs made from crustless French bread. Bake until browned on top:And enjoy!To be honest, we both were a little underwhelmed by this macaroni and cheese. The addition of mushrooms & bacon and cheddar instead of American cheese made us expect a huge 'wow' factor when we ate it. It was good, but not great, and we're not sure we'd make it again. Of course, we were tired after cooking (we baked cookies earlier in the day) and we both think that sometimes after a lot of cooking, our appetite isn't so great. And it could be that this is a dish that needs time for the flavors to really mesh together.

But it wasn't very cheesy-creamy-saucy. It was kind of dry. And even though bacon is pretty salty and flavorful, I wonder if we made a mistake in not adding the 1/2 tsp salt. Next time, I'd add more pepper and maybe even add more dried mustard -- I didn't detect any mustard flavor. I'd also make another half batch of sauce but keep the pasta amount the same (or halve the pasta amount and keep the sauce amount the same). Maybe add some grated parmesan on top with the breadcrumbs. And maybe saute the breadcrumbs in butter (we didn't, we just sprinkled them on top).

Macaroni and Cheese with Mushrooms & Bacon

1 pound small elbow macaroni (about 4 cups)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
3/4 pound mushrooms, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 cups (packed) grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
8 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion; sauté until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, mustard, salt, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheese and parsley; stir until cheese melts. Mix in pasta.

Sauté bacon in medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Mix half of bacon into pasta and transfer to prepared dish. Sprinkle with remaining bacon.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over pasta. Bake until pasta is heated through and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

December 2003 Bon Appetit

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Orange-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

These cookies look like chocolate chip, but they're not. They're Orange Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate Chips from the February 2003 Bon Appetit. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the combination of orange & chocolate? I think I started drooling when I saw Chocolate Dipped Clementines at How Sweet It Is. Too bad we ate all our clementines. Chocolate-Orange Milanos? Yum! I love chocolate in combination with orange, or mint, or coffee. Chocolate just seems to taste that much yummier when paired with another flavor.These are one of my 'more favorite' cookies, but sadly, for being such a favorite, I'm pretty sure these have not been made since Christmas 2008. Two years!! Time to fix that. SP whipped up a batch Friday afternoon while I was at Hyeholde afternoon tea. Shortbread. With chocolate. And orange peel plus orange extract. Plus a little whipping cream. Yum. The recipe calls for double chocolate chips but I don't think I've ever used double chocolate chips. I use either regular semi-sweet chocolate chips or Hershey's dark chocolate chips or milk chocolate chips.

We enjoyed some cookies Friday evening. Saturday after the Steelers victory. Sunday afternoon. Sunday evening after the Jets victory. We were enjoying a lot of these cookies!The downside to these super yummy cookies is that the recipe yields just 20-24 cookies. That's not a lot when you're a mini cookie monster. These cookies were not going to last too long! So Sunday afternoon, we made more cookies. This time, good old Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies.Mmmm. I know some people don't think these are even remotely close to being a yummy chocolate chip cookie, but I think they're pretty tasty. I wouldn't say best. But certainly worth the time & effort. And so easy to make.Of course, I'm hard pressed to think of a chocolate chip cookie I haven't liked -- other than ones that involve some kind of nut. SP always asks if I want the nuts added, hoping I'll someday say yes since he enjoys the nuts in chocolate chip cookies. But I always say no. I always will say no.

Two kinds of cookies for desserts this week. And afternoon snacks. And maybe even for breakfast treats...!

Orange Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate Chips

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons (packed) grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons whipping cream
8 ounces double chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli double chocolate chips)

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour large baking sheet. Whisk first 3 ingredients in medium bowl. Beat butter, sugar, orange peel, and orange extract in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in yolk, then cream. Add flour mixture; beat until dough comes together in moist clumps. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by generous tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet, spacing 3/4 inch apart. Using moistened fingertips, flatten each to 1/2-inch-thick round. Bake cookies until golden, about 18 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

*This recipe calls for double chocolate chips, which have a deep, rich chocolate flavor because they are made with bittersweet chocolate. Regular semisweet chocolate chips can be substituted.

Yield: Makes about 20
Bon Appetit February 2003

Monday, January 17, 2011

Steelers & Picasso Pizza

Last Saturday afternoon, we settled on the couch to watch the Steelers play the Ravens. This was a playoff game, so none of our usual cooking or doing other chores while watching the game. No reading a book or doing crossword puzzles or working on a cross-stitch. Just the game.

How serious were we? Very. Serious enough to get out our jerseys: #43 Polamalu for me; #83 Miller for SP. I think I had only worn my jersey once this past regular season. We had both our Terrible Towels ready to be waved, my talking Steelers football smasher ready to smash and talk. I had my foam Bad Call Brick. I had on my thick and warm Steelers socks. My water in the Steelers glass (the wine was in a regular wine glass!). The playoffs are serious business - especially when the Steelers are playing the much despised division rival Ravens.

Unfortunately, the first half was not such a great half for Steelers fans. There was not much towel waving. Not many whoops and shrieks. Sigh. We were kind of sad and subdued and we got up from the couch a bit before halftime to fold laundry and get pizza for dinner.

We had an Entertainment Book coupon for Picasso Pizza in Kennedy Twp. Buy one large gourmet pizza, get one free, pick up only. Sounded like a good deal to us!

We ate at Picasso Pizza sometime last fall and enjoyed the Garden Veggie pizza and Sicilian pizza. This time, we chose the Pizza Prosciutto:And the Margarita:The Pizza Prosciutto had fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and caramelized onions topped with greens and olive oil:Of the two, this was our favorite. The caramelized onions provided a nice, sweet contrast to the salty prosciutto. Yum!

The Margarita had fresh whole milk mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and light tomato sauce drizzled with olive oil:It was very tasty. I was a little surprised that the basil had been cooked on the pizza and not sprinkled on after, but thankfully, it wasn't crispy burnt like the time we made pizza and put our basil on top and then cooked the pizza, resulting in horrible hard basil!

We still like our local Pizza Milano a lot, but Picasso Pizza is also very, very good.

We started wolfing down our pizza part way through the third quarter. Nerds that we are, we were recording the game, so I paused it at the start of the second half since SP wasn't yet home from his pizza run. When he got home, we grabbed some pizza and started watching the third quarter, fast-forwarding between plays and through the commercials. In no time we were caught up to the 'live' game and we were feeling much better. Not only were our bellies full of very tasty pizza, but our Steelers were making a comeback!

It was tense, but in the end we got to whoop and holler and twirl our towels and throw the football around to celebrate a Steelers victory. Next up: the NY Jets.