Thursday, April 28, 2011

CSA #3

This week's CSA was a little more exciting than usual because we received some 'never before received' CSA items. This is our 3rd year as a member of Penns Corner CSA and for the first time we received popcorn, whole wheat flour, and maple syrup. We also received banana fingerling potatoes, ramps, crimini mushrooms, and goat milk feta cheese.I have an intense craving for brunch on Sunday - French toast with that syrup. An afternoon snack of popcorn. And dinner, maybe a lamb burger with mushrooms and feta. We'll see if any of that happens in the kitchen this coming weekend!

Just a quick note: this year we are splitting a share with one of SP's co-workers. Their workplace is a pick up location, so the share is split at work this year. The past two years, we've split everything at home after taking photos. So the quantity may look smaller this year in the photos and that's just because this year's photos are only half of the box!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Ham, A Day Late

SP & I are not non-religious, but we do not attend religious services. I've always wanted to go to an Easter Sunday sunrise service and there was a 6:30 am service at the church at which we got married (Old St. Luke's Church in Carnegie) but, alas, this was not the year that I made it to a sunrise service. Some Easter I will (just like some Christmas Eve I will make it to a Christmas Eve service).

Mostly, we didn't make it because we are both still sick and, to be honest, for us, being somewhere at 6:30 am is... well, we're not at all morning people. We also are still trying to get the house back to normal now that our 'home improvement project' has (mostly) ended. There are still a few small things that the contractor needs to fix/finish. So we spent most of the weekend cleaning, putting things back into place, organizing, and doing some small tasks like paint touch ups.We were not in any shape to host Easter dinner. In a sign of how how blah we've been feeling and how busy we've been, I will tell you that we ate leg of lamb for 6 of 7 days last week. We didn't even feel like going out for & bringing home DiBella's subs (a quickie meal) last Saturday (our usual 'dine out' night). The 7th day, we pulled a frozen pizza out of the freezer.

We were invited to SP's dad's house for Easter dinner, so we headed over around 3:30 pm, after SP took his second shower of the day! SP's mother moved back to Pittsburgh last January. She moved into his dad's house. I have heard that she likes to eat early, and I guess Easter was no exception. Dinner was ready within 15-20 minutes of our arrival! Dinner that early is difficult for us since during the week, we do not eat until 7 pm. Even on weekends, we do not eat until 6:30-7 pm. I did my best to eat a good amount of food, but since I had just finished lunch around 1 pm, it was tough!To our surprise, the Easter meat was turkey. I usually think ham, maybe lamb, for Easter. Not turkey. But it wasn't Thanksgiving in April. There weren't any potatoes or stuffings. Lots of vegetables (roasted asparagus, string beans, sauteed mushrooms & onions), cole slaw, roasted squash soup, kielbasa from Giant Eagle Market District (kielbasa is an Easter meal tradition for SP's family; last year he made himself a small bit of it while mom & I ate ham), and some whole wheat bread with a dipping oil.

It was tasty, but I couldn't help but feel a bit sad and nostalgic for my family Easter tradition: gathering around grandma & grandpa's table for ham (with which we made sandwiches), cucumbers & tomato in vinegar, a jello salad, and grandma's potato salad. Sadly, grandma and grandpa have passed away, their house has been sold, and my small family is scattered far apart. The probability of my family ever gathering together again for Easter is extremely low.So yesterday, which SP took off so that we could continue 'Operation Return House To Normal,' we made Easter ham to satisfy my ham craving. It was a busy day of errands and chores, the windows were opened to let in the warm spring breeze, the scent of our freshly mowed grass drifted in, Otis came to nibble on our cut grass, and we cooked a ham in our newly cleaned oven (which, wow, really heated up the kitchen on Saturday when we ran the clean cycle for 4 hours, but nice & clean now - no more burnt gunk setting off the smoke detectors when we use the oven!).

Along with our ham, we made a pasta dish. It's a dish I've been making for several years, but not in quite some time. Officially, it's called Farfalle with Forest Mushrooms, Peas, and Parsley and it's from the April 2002 issue of Bon Appetit.We love mushrooms, and we love white wine-cream sauces. I also really like shallots, much more than onions (and garlic). This is very easy to make. Our ham wasn't too large, so it took us under an hour to cook the ham and make this pasta dish.The mushrooms and peas and pasta in creamy white wine sauce tastes so good with the ham. We didn't glaze or flavor our ham at all. No need to with this tasty side dish. To me, this is an upscale, foodie versions of one of the very first casseroles I ever made on my own. That recipe was from my mom and it was for a casserole of pasta shells, cream of mushroom soup, peas, and chopped ham. I think the soup was heated with some milk and American cheese before being poured over the other ingredients and baked until bubbly.This is tastier, and doesn't use canned soup, though we did cheat with bottled cooking wine, not real wine. I have to say I sometimes miss those cream of mushroom soup casseroles I used to make! Like this recipe, they made lots of food, so easy dinners for during the week.

And my Easter ham craving is satisfied. But I still kind of want some jello salad!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Bunny

Happy Easter! What's Easter without some candy from the Easter Bunny? Here's what the bunny brought me (a few days early):

Sarris Cappuccino Egg! And a bag of Sarris Goofs!I like to keep the goofs in a small container and use a knife to cut each piece in half. That way, I know what's inside before I take a bite and discover it's a gross flavor like coconut. I hate coconut - and one bag of the goofs had 5 or 6 coconut candies! Yuck!!!

But the cappuccino egg... so good.

What a great bunny.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

CSA #2

CSA week #2: Rome apples, microgreens, baby spinach, rolled oats from Clarion River Organics, honey from Goose Creek Gardens, eggs, and apple cider (not pictured because I do not drink it so SP gave it to his co-worker who is splitting the CSA with us).

I have a terrible cold and am feeling pretty miserable, so none of the above is exciting me, except for maybe some honey in hot tea!! And maybe a baked apple with cinnamon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Signs of Spring

That's Otis. He's one of our groundhogs. On Sunday afternoon he came out of hibernation and visited us, munching on our grass. His appearance must mean it's spring, right? Stupid Punxsutawney Phil.

I sat at the kitchen table and watched Otis for a while. He's cute, and he has good hearing - every time we spoke, he would look up at the window. Meanwhile, the smell of these Mustard-Oregano-Lemon Roasted Potatoes filled the air. Yum!I wonder if Otis could smell them? It was our anniversary and even though we didn't go out to celebrate since we were sick, I wanted a nice meal, something more exciting than our usual roast chicken or pasta. But it had to be easy and not too time consuming. So we cooked a leg of lamb marinated in our usual blend of red wine, mustard, rosemary, and lemon.We wanted to grill it, but it was way too windy, so we cooked it in the oven. Look at that beautiful pink lamb.Juicy and tender. Lamb is spring-like, right? As traditional as ham at Easter, which is this coming weekend, right? Also spring-like: asparagus. Asparagus is my favorite vegetable with lamb:Seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil then sprinkled with grated parmesan.

All these spring like things and I was sneezing into tissues. At least my cold didn't dampen my appetite or my taste buds! It was a delicious dinner followed by some mangled wedding cake & lots of hot tea.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." I think that sums up life here recently. We never thought the home improvement project(s) would last 5 weeks. We never thought we'd be spending as much as we are. We meant for it to start in April, but it started in March. Mom meant to come at the end of March, instead she came in mid March. We never meant to end up with new baseboards or new chair rail. We never meant to paint the sunroom trim. There are a lot of 'we never meants' recently!

So my mom heads home to Las Vegas this week. SP & I wanted to take her out for a nice dinner to say thank you for spending nearly 5 weeks here helping us with the home improvement project. She has wiped up the floors countless times, dusted furniture countless times, done errands, painted, washed clothes, moved furniture, washed and hung curtains... and so much more. The plan was to have dinner at Kiku at Station Square. But we got sick.

We never meant to get sick. Of course, no one means to get sick. First SP started saying he felt like he was coming down with a cold, and by Friday evening he felt awful. It started to really affect me Saturday evening (after dinner) and by Sunday I was carrying a box of tissues around the house. Saturday was rainy, windy, cold, damp and we were both feeling sick, so we had to cancel our dinner out with mom. Instead, we ordered take out from Bravo and she went to get it.

I guess being sick makes me hungry because I ate a lot of food - and drank a few glasses of wine! I wasn't yet taking medicine so mom and I shared a bottle of Greg Norman Shiraz - very good. There was a bag filled with 9 pieces of Bravo's herb bread and there were 2 containers of dipping oil:Yum! I really like the herb bread. I ate 4 pieces.

Then I ate some Insalata Della Casa (chopped greens, cucumber, tomato, bacon, crispy pasta, and creamy parmesan dressing):Mom and I shared it, so here's mine on a plate. I love how small all the components are. Plus the bacon and creamy parmesan dressing!SP ordered Penne Mediterranean (spinach, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, olive oil, and feta cheese, tossed with multi grain pasta) :He says it was a little more garlicky than he expected, but that he shouldn't be too surprised since since it is a Mediterranean pasta. He had a choice of 5 or 10 shrimp when he placed the order, and he chose 5, but then ended up wishing he'd chosen 10. He ate half and saved half for lunch on Sunday.

My mom chose Chicken Scallopini (sauteed chicken with roasted portobello mushrooms and provolone with lemon caper butter sauce, feta, and diced tomatoes, served with herb linguine):She enjoyed her meal and saved half of it for lunch on Sunday. I chose Lobster Ravioli Alla Vodka (with sauteed shrimp, grape tomatoes in a tomato cream sauce topped with pesto bread crumbs):The sauce was really yummy, the shrimp and tomatoes really tasty, and the ravioli good, just they didn't have a big lobster taste to me, which was kind of disappointing.I saved 3 ravioli for lunch on Sunday. I think there were 7 or 8 in the serving, and 4-5 were plenty for me for dinner with the bread and salad. I useds some of the herb bread to scoop up all the yummy sauce.

I also got tiramisu for dessert, but I didn't take any photos of it since I ate it a couple hours after dinner. It was tasty, as always, I really like the sauce with the tiramisu.

All in all a good dinner, I just felt bad that we were too sick and the weather too nasty to take mom out, plus I'd really been looking forward to my first trip to Kiku in 3-4 years.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Year Ago...

One year ago today, pretty much as I type this post and I see that it is 4 pm, my dad walked me down the aisle at Old St. Luke's Church in Carnegie and SP & I got married. I can't believe we've been married an entire year - it has flown by. Friday after work, SP arrived home with a surprise for me: 2 dozen red roses.So sweet! And unexpected. At the wedding, we had peach & cream roses for my bouquet and the centerpieces: Yesterday morning, we got out the frozen top layer from the wedding cake. This is what the entire cake looked like one year ago, minus the first slice we cut:And these are several shots of what the top tier looks like today:A mangled mess. And no, this didn't just happen.We made the mistake of returning home from the wedding and placing the cake's top tier on the kitchen counter. We didn't bother freezing it right away. Sometime the next day, April 18, we noticed large grease spots on the side of the cake box. We opened it up and discovered that everything had slid. It got too warm in the kitchen. Oops.

So we went ahead and ate nearly half the top cake tier last year - sacrilege! We were afraid the cake wouldn't freeze well and we didn't want to ruin/waste that yummy Bethel Bakery cake!!! We froze the rest. It doesn't taste too bad. The icing is still yummy. The cake is OK. But I am glad we indulged last year and ate some of the top tier.

I don't really understand the tradition behind freezing the top tier - having cake to pull out and remind you of your wedding day a year later seems kind of... dumb. Why cake? Why not preserve your bouquet, frame a photo, frame the invitation, make an album, get your wedding dress out of the closet. Those could be reminders, too, right? I guess for me, I'd rather enjoy the fresh cake than deal with freezing it properly and thawing it properly and risking an expensive cake tier tasting stale or freezer-burnt. Not to mention it takes up valuable freezer space! And when we got the new refrigerator last summer, it had to sit in a cooler and then in a not yet cold freezer for a few hours.

Unfortunately, we both have pretty bad colds, so that puts a huge damper on any anniversary celebrations. Since we are sneezing, coughing, aching, and using up tissue after tissue after tissue and drinking pot after pot of hot tea with honey to soothe sore throats, we are postponing any anniversary celebrations! Hopefully we will not be sick for our second anniversary!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lunch At the Mall

Last week during a lull in the home improvement activity, mom & I took a trip to Robinson Mall. Around 1 pm, we realized we were really hungry, but we weren't ready to leave the mall, so we debated between a food court place and Houlihan's. Houlihan's won. I've blogged about them before since SP and I sometimes grab a quick dinner there. But this was lunch, and we discovered that they have a 15 minute guarantee at lunch. After you place your order, your food is guaranteed to be served in 15 minutes (or less) or else it's free. The hostess even puts a timer on the table for your server to set after you order!

We each chose a lunch entree combo - an entree with soup or salad. I chose the soup, specifically the soup du jour, Creamy Tomato Soup:This is what made me want to blog about Houlihan's again. Of course I didn't have my 'real' camera, so these photos are cell phone photos. See those 2 huge blobs floating in the soup? I assumed they were gigantic croutons. But they weren't. They were fried cheese balls. Sooo tasty in the soup! I chopped each fried cheese ball into pieces and ate a tiny bit of ooey gooey cheese with each spoonful of soup. Since I love fried cheese and this was an unexpected delight, it kind of made my day and got me energized and ready for more shopping!

My mom chose the salad with blue cheese dressing:Mom's entree was Chicken Cordon Blue with mashed potatoes and broccolini:She said it was good and just the right size. She's not a fan of broccolini so she just ate the top floret part. I ordered the macaroni and cheese with bacon and sour cream:I think I've had this before. It's pretty good. It was definitely filling and my tummy had been filling quite empty.

Anyways, the main point of this post was to share the fried cheese balls in soup dish. What a great idea! And that I find it much more refreshing to have a sit down meal in a mall restaurant as opposed to a quickie meal from a food court with lots of people wandering around. It's a chance to rest and get away from the mall hustle and bustle.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

CSA #1

I nearly forgot that today is my blog's two year anniversary! Two years since I started photographing nearly everything we eat! What better way to celebrate than with this year's first CSA box?! Our new pick up day is Wednesday, not Tuesday. Here are the goodies SP brought home last night:Granny Smith apples, purple top turnips, cremini mushrooms, Gouda Gold cheese, russet potatoes, hydroponic lettuce, and arugula.

Can't wait to try some it - -especially the cheese from Hidden Hills Dairy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Waffalonia

I can't remember how I first learned of a new place in Squirrel Hill called Waffalonia. In Pittsburgh Magazine? From a blog? In the newspaper? From the City Paper? It doesn't matter. The fact of the matter is, ever since I heard of Waffalonia, I have been wanting a waffle from them. We aren't in/near Squirrel Hill that often, so I was especially bothered a few weeks ago when we were nearby but decided to be responsible and head home to do the grocery shopping instead of spending time eating waffles when we weren't really hungry. I could hear the waffles calling to me, and yet I turned away. Well, SP drove away, telling me I didn't need a waffle after all the birthday cake and chips & dip I had just consumed at our youngest nephew's birthday party. I guess SP is the diet police.

But this past weekend, not only were we in Squirrel Hill, but we were dining at Rose Tea Cafe which is right up the street from Waffalonia. We passed the waffles on our walk to dinner. Waffle smell filled the air. I may have started drooling. I ate as little dinner as possible so as to have enough room for a waffle. I had been talking about waffles all day and SP had been promising me waffles all day.Waffalonia is a tiny place. I think I read that it was formerly a Dozen Cupcakes location. Once you enter into the narrow entrance way, the ordering counter is on the right. Directly in front of my face was a tower of Nutella.I had heard stories of the magic of nutella, but I had never tried it. It was pretty easy for me to decide to order a waffle with nutella.It was good. Very good. But not mind blowingly must come here every single time we are within 2 miles good. And nutella is good, but I just didn't quite have that... foodgasm over it the way other people seem to. SP got a waffle with strawberries and whipped cream:He enjoyed it. The waffles were a tasty dessert. Sweet and sugary. I've never eaten liege waffles or even any kind of waffle in Belgium, just Americanized Belgian waffles, so I really can't judge if these are authentic or not. It was a little difficult to eat our waffle choices since the space is so small and there aren't any tables, just bar stools and a few shallow shelf counters along the walls, and our waffles required forks and knives and napkins. Lots of napkins. I think I dripped nutella on my shirt. Oops. Can't take me anywhere.

But it was worth it. We'll be back. After all, there's lot of other toppings to try, and the speculoos flavor intrigues me.

Waffallonia on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rose Tea Cafe

This past weekend, SP's family celebrated his mother's birthday. Her actual birthday is today. For her birthday dinner, she chose Rose Tea Cafe in Squirrel Hill. My first thought was that it's Chinese food, but some sites I looked at say it's Taiwanese food. Some say it's authentic Taiwanese, some say it's not at all close to real Taiwanese food. Let's say it's Taiwanese-Chinese food! Of course my recent Chinese dining experiences have left my stomach feeling blah, so I wasn't especially excited about Rose Tea Cafe.

Inside I felt a bit like I was in a coffee shop. There's a counter for people to walk in and order one of their many drinks to go. The tables are wooden, the chairs metal. I like the tea cup design on the backs of the chairs:It's a small place, maybe able to seat 35-40 people. I don't think they were too thrilled with our group of 12, especially since we didn't make a reservation. We didn't think we needed one. We learned that they do take reservations for groups of 6 or more and my impression is that they would like large groups to make a reservation. Six of us arrived around 4:45 pm, 15 minutes earlier than the agreed upon meeting time. There was a bit of difficulty in securing seating for our group since MIL wanted everyone at the same table, not at 2 tables of 6 right next to each other. In the end, we were seated at 2 tables for 6 each. It was quite easy for the people in the middle two rows to turn around and converse with people at the other table, so I thought it worked out nicely. Of course, the last 6 people arrived about 5-15 minutes late, which seemed to annoy the staff a bit since they were expecting a large group at 6 pm and that group had made reservations. The staff kept asking us when the rest of our group would be arriving.The menu has 2 pages just for drinks - green & black teas, milk teas, bubble teas, exotic drinks, specialty drinks, smoothies, milk shakes. It was kind of overwhelming! I'm not a big fan of bubble tea, but SP said he has been going to Rose Tea Cafe for years, before they served food, when they were most well known for the bubble tea. My mom decided to try the 'Grasshopper' exotic drink which is a mix of orange juice, passion fruit juice, honey, and blue curacao. To me, grasshopper indicates something minty, but not here. I didn't take a photo of her tall, skinny glass filled with a green colored beverage, but I did taste it, and it was quite tasty although I am not sure I would really want a whole drink like this for myself with this type of food. Then again, I'm not a big fan of sweet, syrupy, juice like drinks with food. Even my beloved orange martinis that SP makes me must be consumed in the afternoon before dinner time.

SP started off with soup, just like I expected. Also expected was his choice of Hot & Sour Soup:He said it was the usual hot & sour soup. MIL ordered Egg Drop Soup:I suppose it was tasty - she ate it all. MIL doesn't like me, so I tend to speak only when spoken to, and I tried to quickly and stealthily take my food photos. Be seen and not heard. Preferably invisible and silent. I also busied myself gobbling up some fried dumplings, which I love:One order had 8 dumplings. Thank goodness for SP, who reminded me to take photos. I had eaten one before realizing I hadn't taken a photo!These are the usual pork filled dumplings. For his entree, SP ordered Stir Fried Napa Cabbage with Dried Shrimp:I can't see how this could possibly fill him up. It was like food for a rabbit, all that cabbage. And those tiny, dried, shriveled up shrimp looked so unappealing to me. But he loved it and ate every last drop, assuring me that the tiny shrimp were quite flavorful. SP"s dad ordered Deep Fried Squid with Salt & Pepper:He really enjoyed them. Basically, they were calamari, without the marinara sauce. Googer opted for Eggplant with Basil:I had a tiny taste and it was quite good. I'm not sure exactly what kind of sauce was on the eggplant, but it was kind of sweet. MIL and my mom both ordered the Salt & Pepper Shrimp:Apparently, this dish is eaten with the shells on the shrimp. Hmmm. Kind of grosses me out. I just can't imagine chewing up the shells and swallowing them. My mom did, and she said they were OK, but when we reheated the leftovers on Sunday, she peeled the shrimp!! SP's dad ordered Pork Fried Rice for the table:Everyone tells me it was tasty. I didn't try any because I ordered Lo Mein with Chicken:I was surprised to see fat noodles, not skinny noodles. They were tasty, and thankfully not too greasy, so I didn't get my usual post-Chinese dining queasiness. I'm not sure what the other table of 6 people ordered.

Service is quick, cordial, some servers are friendlier than others. We were done with dinner by 6-6:15 pm, so that's pretty quick for a party of 12 that met up around 5-5:15 pm. We were a little rushed, but not like at Hokkaido!! I wish the menu had descriptions of the dishes. There's no description at all, leaving you to wonder if it's a white sauce or brown sauce or whatever. It'd be nice to see more than 'String Bean with Beef' and I'd like to know what exactly is 'Stir Fried Loofah.' I kept thinking of the scrubby sponge in my shower! (I just googled it and loofah is a gourd, also known as Chinese okra.)

In our future debates about where to dine, I probably wouldn't suggest Rose Tea Cafe to SP based solely on my personal flavor preferences, but I'd be happy to dine there again if we were meeting up with a group. Only I'd make sure someone made a reservation!

Rose Tea Cafe on Urbanspoon