Friday, July 29, 2011

CSA #16

Week #16:
~ 4 ounces goat milk feta cheese, River View Dairy
~ 1/2# fresh shallots, Crighton’s Farm, CF
~ 1# green beans, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ 6 ears of sweet corn, Matthews’ Farm
~ 1.5# white and yellow peaches, Dawson’s Orchards
~ 1/2# tomatillos, Beccari’s Farm
~ cilantro, Goose Creek Gardens, CNG
~ 2 jalapeno peppers, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ 1 zucchini, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
OG- Certified Organic CNG- Certified Natural Grown CF- Chemical FreeWe gave the zucchini to G and instead took the extra peach, so no zucchini in the photos. Also, I was too lazy to take the feta & cilantro out of their bags.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lemon Pound Cake

Last Sunday we made one of my favorite summer desserts: Lemon Pound Cake with Berries and Whipped Cream. The recipe is from the September 2004 issue of Bon Appetit. Even though it is one of my favorite summer desserts, it's been quite a while since we last made it.It's moist and lemony and just delicious! The recipe makes 2 loaves. We wrapped one and put it in the freezer. Sometimes I eat it for breakfast, usually plain, but for dessert in the evenings we add whipped cream and fruit. This time, we have cherries and strawberries, but blueberries and raspberries and blackberries are good with this cake, too.Last night I washed and pitted & sliced some cherries & strawberries. SP put together the dessert plates. He likes to make 'artful' designs with food sometimes. I cracked up when I saw the symmetrical design, the four corners of whipped cream, the 5 cherry halves on each side, and the strawberries. Not a very good photo of his food art, but the plate was on a pillow in my lap and I took the photo with my cell phone in a living room lit by 2 lamps (it was 9 pm so no natural light).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dinner on the Deck

We spent a lot of time in the kitchen last Sunday. It was kind of a 'clear out the vegetable bin' day. Thanks to the CSA boxes and a trip to Simmons, we had lots of vegetables. We also wanted to grill for dinner. July is almost over - that means grilling season is nearly half over! OK, maybe not half over since we grill into October, but we don't eat out on the deck much in October because it's usually cool and the sun sets earlier. Here's our Sunday menu (and menu for the week as we have at least 3 more meals from all this food!):

Burgers and Sausages
Grilled Potatoes
Cole Slaw
Tomatoes & Cucumbers in Vinegar
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Grilled Zucchini

THE MEATS:As usual, beef burgers for me and turkey burgers for SP. There's also some sausage because we had a '$3 off your next meat meat purchase of $10+ at Giant Eagle Market District' coupon, so after buying the beef, we bought some GEMD sausages. I like some finely chopped onion, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in my burgers, and I think that's what SP mixed into his turkey burgers, too. I also like mine slathered in BBQ sauce! SP melted Swiss over his burgers, I added my Swiss after the burgers came off the grill. We ate them bunless.

GRILLED POTATOESMy parents often make these grilled potatoes, and they're easy to make, just a bit time consuming. We've made them before, but not since last summer. You need foil, butter, salt & pepper, some onion (if you want), potatoes (we used red), and whatever herb seasoning you want (we used our fresh thyme & parsley). Sometimes my mom adds cheese, but we didn't this time.SP peeled the potatoes and sliced them in the food processor while I ripped off a long sheet of foil and buttered it. Then I started layering: potatoes, some onion, season with salt/pepper/herbs, dot with butter, repeat until all potatoes are used. This is one of those recipes that I never pay attention to quantities. How many potatoes? We used what was left from a few weeks ago when we made potato salad. Maybe 2 lbs? How much butter? How much seasoning? I just guess. I don't want them swimming in butter, but you need some to keep them from sticking to the foil and to help cook/soften/flavor/brown the potatoes. I like a little bit of onion, others might like a lot. Whatever you want! How big a potato mound? Well if it gets too high it'll slide, and if it's too high/thick, it'll take longer to cook.Be sure to wrap the potatoes in several layers of foil - you'll be flipping the packet on the grill so it needs to be tightly sealed and 'thick enough' to hold them stable and not rip open on the grill. My initial foil layer never completely covers the potato mound, so I probably add another 3-4 foil layers.Then grill them. How long? I think we grilled ours for about an hour. Maybe more. They were really hot when we took them off the grill and opened the packet. I was anxious to take my photo and dig in and my first photo isn't very good. It isn't blurry, it's just all the steam being released.Whew! After the steam cleared away, I took another photo:
The head of CSA cabbage was still in our veggie bin, so SP decided to make cole slaw. He used the food processor to grate the cabbage, carrots, and some celery then mixed in a yogurt-mayo dressing and some pepper & dill. I liked this cole slaw, but I prefer a wetter cole slaw and also a more vinegary cole slaw.

TOMATOES & CUCUMBERS IN VINEGARThis is one of those dishes that makes me think of my grandma because she made it for family summer picnics and sometimes for Easter with our Easter ham if we were having ham sandwiches (instead of ham with potatoes and green bean salad). I sliced 2 tomatoes from Simmons and the rest of our CSA cucumber plus half a huge Simmons cucumber, thinly sliced about half the CSA candy onion, and added poured the dressing over.

The vinegar dressing is:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
around 5 tsp sugar (as much/as little as you like depending on on sweet you like the dressing)
salt & pepper

SP soaked the corn in water for several hours before cooking it on the grill. I don't like corn so I didn't eat any. He peeled off the husk and ate it plain (no butter or salt).
More veggie. More emptying out the veggie bin. I love grilled zucchini.

There's a lot of food for the week! But that's good because it'll make dinners quick & easy and they won't be hot dinners on these hot days.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pure & Simple Bistro

Last week, Forked! blogged about Pure & Simple Bistro. She very much enjoyed her meal there, and honestly, I felt ashamed that we had not yet tried this new (I think it opened last October), non-chain restaurant just 2-3 minutes from our house. All my belly-aching about Robinson being the land of chains (except for Bocktown and Ya Fei) and here was this place I walked by every time we go see a movie at Cinemark Robinson and yet somehow, when we have the 'where should we go to eat' conversation, this place never seemed to get remembered, even though we stopped in and grabbed a menu last fall, even though we drive right by it every week when we go grocery shopping. All our talks about supporting local places and we had not yet tried this place! I mentioned Forked!'s positive review to SP, we checked out some reviews on Urbanspoon, and we decided that our Saturday date night dinner would be at Pure & Simple Bistro. So after a late afternoon showing of Captain America (it was a fun movie, and if you go, stay until the end of the credits!) we walked out of the theater, gasped in the inferno of summer, and quickly crossed the 20 feet to the restaurant. Inside it was cool and calm and relaxing. It was around 6:15 pm and we seated right away.We were seated next to the windows and had a nice view of the opposing wall, painted a soothing gray-blue sea color with a large butterfly and sailboat. There was no music and the restaurant was about half filled. Our server brought us a bottle of water and said she'd be right back with some ice since the water hadn't had much time to chill. We ordered iced teas, and soon enough, our iced teas and the glass of ice for the water arrived. The iced tea was freshly brewed and very tasty, not watered down like at some places (not necessarily intentionally watery, but watery because there's so much ice and the ice melts so quickly).After we ordered, a bowl of two dinner rolls and a plate of butter arrived. I'm not sure if it was on purpose or because the plate was just washed or because of this hot weather, but the butter plate was quite warm and the butter melting. That was OK with me - I like melted butter on my bread much more than smeared butter.

We both opted for the dinner side salad instead of daily vegetable (green beans) with our entrees.A mix of greens, baby carrots, and cucumber. The dressing was served on the side. We had balsamic dressing, which I think is the house dressing, but other dressings are available. Our appetizer quickly arrived as well:
Fried Green Tomatoes. No way could I pass up the chance for fried green tomatoes after falling in love with them on our honeymoon. These were yummy. Firm tomatoes, but not too firm. Tasty breading, not too much of it, not too greasy. There was goat cheese underneath the 4 tomato rounds and tomato marmalade on top of the fried rounds. Delicious.

SP of course wanted soup, which I still think is a little crazy in this weather! They were out of the soup of the day, but there was Chicken Noodle Soup, so he got a cup of that:He said it was very good, with lots of chicken and carrots and celery chunks. I liked that the noodle was penne. I like penne, it might be my favorite pasta shape.

For his entree, SP chose the Eggplant & Mushroom Napoleon: It's "crispy eggplant, roasted portabella, creamed goat cheese, and spicy tomato coulis." It tasted as good as it looked. I like that the eggplant is breaded, but it's not a heavy, all encompassing breading. The eggplant is still visible beneath the breading. The rounds were generously thick. The mushroom was in the center:He really enjoyed his meal, and I enjoyed the bites I tried!

Aside from my love of fried green tomatoes, our southern honeymoon left me with a love of shrimp & grits, so that's what I ordered:As described on the menu, it's "Tiger shrimp, Creole tomato sauce, & butter grits." Delicious. I asked ahead of time if the sauce was spicy, and after checking, our server said no, and she was correct. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, at least as I understand shrimp should be cooked. Just until opaque, I think, is the ideal, which means they are still juicy and soft-ish instead of over cooked shrimp which can be tough/rubbery & stringy. The grits were creamy and peppery - yum! And the sauce was tomato-y but also I swear I could taste some pepper even though I couldn't see it. SP enjoyed my meal, too. I gave him all my shrimp tails to get out the last bit of shrimp. I'm not good at getting that last bit out of the tail. In the privacy of my home, I pick it up with my hands and dig in, but when I am out in public I try to be lady-like and mindful of my manners so I always give SP my tails with that wee bit of shell since he can manage to get that last bit without making a mess on his hands and face (and sometimes shirt and tablecloth...).

I was feeling stuffed. Plus, steamy hot weather always decreases my appetite. But we just had to look at the dessert menu. SP peeked at it first and he said something like, 'Oh no I know what we're having.' One look and I started laughing. He was right. Me pass up beignets for dessert? Never.We shared these. Three fluffy fried pillows of dough with blueberries and a swirl of sauce.
Very tasty. We both could have used more beignets - not that we weren't full, we were, but because they were that tasty!

There's also a list of flavors of homemade ice cream which we would like to try, but I just can't pass up beignets. Forked! tried some of the ice creams: white cheddar, three chili, and lemon & ginger. Such interesting flavors! There's also flavors like good old chocolate and vanilla and I remember a wasabi ice cream flavor, too.

We would definitely go back to Pure & Simple Bistro. We enjoyed our meals. The service was friendly. The interior was relaxing and cool, a very nice contrast to the rest of Settlers Ridge, which somehow always seems so loud and bustling to me. Our meal of 2 iced teas, appetizer, 2 entrees, and dessert came to just under $60 after tax/before tip. I've seen some comments about the high price ($15-$22/entree) but it seems in line with what we paid at Gypsy Cafe and some other non-chain places. Pure & Simple is BYOB and we saw several patrons with wine/beer. I'm not sure you can enjoy a BYOB beverage at one of the outside tables because those tables aren't behind a fence but we are aren't sure about the rules in PA. Hopefully we'll remember to BYOB next time.

If you're in the Robinson area and looking for a relaxing, tasty meal, definitely give Pure & Simple Bistro a try.
Pure & Simple Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 22, 2011

Week in Review

Due to the busy weekend last weekend and the lack of time to make anything ahead of time or even do much prep work ahead of time, this week's meals have not been super exciting. Plus, it has been very hot & humid, and when the weather is like this, I don't have much appetite for large, hot meals, or much desire to cook. I just want a small portion of something cool.

Monday evening as the storms moved through, I made the Grilled Zucchini & Bell Pepper Fattoush that we first made last summer & really enjoyed. There's an 'official' recipe at Bon Appetit, and I pretty much follow it, but I don't bother measuring the vegetables, just the dressing ingredients:I used:
2 roasted red peppers, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 grilled zucchini
generous mound of kalamatas, pitted and halved
one English cucumber, peeled & chopped
around 30 cherry tomatoes, halved
a bunch of mint from the pot on the deck, chopped
the cilantro from the CSA
the rest of our block of feta, maybe 5-6 ounces
the dressing of lemon, olive oil, and cumin
grilled pita (grilled inside on our grill pan)Tasty. Cool. But a bit time consuming with all the washing and peeling and pitting and chopping.

When the fattoush was gone, we made salads from the CSA lettuce and added in carrots, celery, and cherry tomatoes from Costco plus some hard boiled egg.We steamed the CSA broccoli.Sauteed the CSA snap peas. Steamed the CSA green beans. Fried the squash blossoms.And in a spur of the moment experiment, tried some battered and fried steamed broccoli, which tasted good but would have been better if we hadn't steamed the broccoli first (it should just be blanched).We were frying the squash blossoms when the broccoli finished steaming, and SP decided to see what a couple pieces of broccoli in the tempura-like batter would taste like. We also enjoyed CSA blueberries. And grilled more pita bread to dip in salad dressing.

And that's our week in review! Meatless, lots of veggies, no oven use, and no outside grilling! Also lots of iced tea and we polished off the Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream.

Tonight is frozen pizza night. SP is at his work place's summer picnic at Kennywood. I decided to not go because it's so darn hot and humid. I can't ride a lot of the rides and just sitting outside in this weather didn't seem like much fun. So he invited Googer to go ride roller coasters and instead of funnel cake and potato patch fries, I'll be enjoying a frozen pizza.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CSA #15

Week #15:

~ tarragon, Pucker Brush Farm, CNG
~ 2 garlic bulbs, Crighton’s Farm, CF
~ 2 zucchini, Weeping Willow Farm, CF/ Clarion River Organics, OG~ 1 pint blueberries, Dawson’s Orchards
~ candy onions, Blue Goose Farm, CNG
~ 1/2# green beans, Weeping Willow Farm, CF~ 8 squash blossoms, Clarion River Organics, OG~ 2 cucumbers, Clarion River Organics, OG/ Pucker Brush Farm, CNG~ red oakleaf lettuce, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ 6 ears of sweet corn, Matthews’ Farm
OG- Certified Organic
CNG- Certified Natural Grown
CF- Chemical Free

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Weekend Recap

I know. It's Tuesday and I'm writing about last weekend when it's nearly time to start thinking about next weekend. But yesterday I felt lazy. Uninspired. Tired. Maybe it was the heat & humidity, who knows, I just didn't want to be on the computer. Of course I read blogs on my phone and stayed 'in touch' that way, but... I had a nice day reading some new magazines and reading Smokin' Seventeen, the new Janet Evanovich novel. Her Stephanie Plum novels are always quick reads for me, but they also almost always make me laugh aloud a few times and re-read some parts for giggles. It was nice to read something light & silly after spending time last week reading The Moment by Douglas Kennedy, which is really, really good and thought provoking and sweet and bittersweet and just a wonderful read.

It was a busy weekend, but then again, what weekend isn't?! I'm going to recap our whole weekend, not just food, because my original intention with this blog was that it not be just about food, and, well, obviously that's not really been the case! I really do have a lot more interests than food! Like movies. We spent Friday evening curled up on the couch watching Red Riding Hood. It was better than we expected and I won't say much else for fear of spoiling it for anyone who wants to see it but hasn't.

Saturday we drove south to Peters so I could get my hair colored & cut. CUT. Not trimmed. It was time for a change! Often I feel a little silly for driving a half hour just to get my hair done, but I've been going to SZ for so long that it's like getting together with friends. Usually M, E, and L are all there on Saturdays and we catch up on what has been going on in our lives and talk about all sorts of things like TV shows and movies and such. SP usually reads, or he joins in, the girls all like him and think he's super sweet to take me to my hair appointments and endure the gossipy girls! This time, I got a lot of my length chopped off, so I am getting used to having my hair just short of the hair line in back of my neck. I think that means I probably got around 5 inches cut off. I keep squirting out way too much shampoo & conditioner in the shower because there's half as much hair and I'm not used to it! But it feels so cool and nice and takes much, much less time time to deal with it in the shower and then after showering.

Anyway, the other perk to trekking down to Peters for my hair appointments is that my friend L lives there and it's a great chance for us to visit her and her family there as opposed to her visiting me during the day in Robinson (remember, I no longer drive). We met L and her family at Grande Italian Restaurant, which is near the Ace Hardware store.While SP & I looked over the menu and waited for L, we enjoyed some fresh brewed iced tea and breadsticks: We knew before we arrived what we wanted to order: a sausage & mushroom pizza. Our last and only meal at GIR was last July and we really liked the pizza. We liked the rounds of sweet sausage instead of sausage crumbles and we liked the canned/jarred mushrooms with their GIR's seasoning mixed into them.So that's what we ordered. And it was again tasty. The medium pizza has 8 cuts. We each ate 2 and we took the other 4 home. L and her youngest son shared a plain cheese pizza. Her husband had a BLT. And the oldest son ordered the Child Spaghetti & Meatballs:It seemed like a huge portion for a 7 year old, but he ate it all except for a few strands of spaghetti. It was really nice to have lunch with all of them and catch up on everything from summer vacation plans to home improvement projects to the kids school & sports.

After lunch, we decided we were too full for ice cream at Sarris. We both were sad because we were so close, but even a scoop is huge and we were sure we'd never be able to agree on just one flavor, plus, SP usually gets their shakes while I prefer ice cream. So we headed back to Robinson to drop off the pizza and then go see a movie at the Settlers Ridge Cinemark.

As usual, that was a frustrating experience, more so than usual this time. Aside from the usual lack of available parking because it's so crowded, it turned out that the 4:15 and 8:15 Harry Potter showings were sold out by 3pm. We didn't want to see it in 3D, we didn't want to see it at 6:15pm or after 9pm. SP likes to use the ticket kiosk outside, which always annoys me because it never works, but he's enamored of machines and gadgets and computers so there we were, in that darn heat & humidity, annoyed at the parking and sold out shows and sweating and bickering about what to do now. See it at 6:15 and eat dinner at 4:30-5? No, too early to eat since we just finished lunch. See it at 6:15 and eat dinner at 8:30-9? That's pretty late even for us. Skip the movie and do the grocery shopping? The list was at home and I didn't feel like it. There is nothing worse than bickering and being unable to make a decision. So we walked over to the newly opened Ross store. I figured I could have my first ever trip to a Ross and while inside the a/c, I could look up other theater information.

Sadly, there was no cell service inside the store. I was even more annoyed because, honestly, I thought the store was kind of junky. It didn't seem very well stocked, but maybe there had been a crush of shoppers that morning who had cleaned out most of the merchandise? I just didn't like it, it seemed random and jumbled, and I won't be back any time soon. Next we went next door to Michaels, and I think the new Michaels stinks, too, because my primary interest is cross-stitch and they do not have a very good cross-stitch section. Yes, they sell floss and hoops and needles, but there are no large cross-stitch patterns and of the small ones, none are the nicer Gold Collection patterns. It's way, way, way smaller than the cross-stitch section at the old Michaels over by the old Barnes & Noble. There was no cell service inside Michaels either, so I huffed out, annoyed even more.

We got in the car, started blasting the a/c, and decided to try for a Harry Potter showing between 4 and 6 at Destinta in Bridgeville. Surprise: we got there at 4 pm and got tickets to the 4:20 showing where there were maybe 30 other people - ?!!

We've read all the Harry Potter books and seen all the movies, so we enjoyed this final film. If you're not a HP fan, you won't care for it, and why bother jumping into it on the last movie, part 2 of the final book? I confess I got a little teary, and I saw SP swipe at his eyes as well.

After the movie, we headed to Aladdin's in Mt. Lebanon for dinner. We both really like Aladdin's and wish they would open up one in Robinson. SP started with the V9 Soup: On the one hand, I'm surprised SP ordered soup because it was so hot. On the other hand, he loves soup, so I'm not surprised. I dipped some of the pita basket in his soup and it was tasty, especially with the feta. SP ordered Taza Chicken Salad for dinner:It's "A flavorful mix of freshly chopped spinach and romaine, squash, zucchini, grapes, dried cranberries, tomatoes and chopped marinated grilled chicken, tossed with our Honey Dijon dressing and topped with pine nuts and feta cheese." He enjoyed it a lot.

I ordered my usual: the Ali Baba Pitza:"Pureed eggplant sliced tomatoes, feta cheese, char-grilled slices of eggplant, slivered calamata olives and sprinkled with oregano." I never get anything else, always this, because I like it that much.

Our original plan was to share dessert, but we ended up ordering 2 desserts. One was a white later cake with strawberry between the layers and a creamy white icing:The other was a chocolate layer cake with Kahlua flavored icing and that's all I remember of the description!Both were tasty, and we both took bites of both desserts. We ate maybe 1/3 of each and took the rest home for dessert on Sunday & Monday.

Sunday morning/afternoon was mowing, shopping, and laundry plus trying to watch the Women's World Cup soccer game and before we knew it, we had to head out to a family birthday dinner. SSO chose Silk Pagoda for her birthday dinner.It's in Greenfield, so we had to leave around 3:45pm to get there in time for a 4:30pm dinner. I felt like a senior citizen, meeting that early for dinner, and since it was about 3 hours earlier than we usually eat, neither of us was hungry. SP ordered a Seafood Hot & Sour Soup for Two:He said it was OK. Not as hot/spicy as a regular hot & sour soup, bits of shrimp and scallops and what was probably that imitation crab.

I ordered fried dumplings:I don't know why I bother. Maybe I just don't like dumplings anymore, but it's been a long time since I've enjoyed a good fried dumpling. I always end up disappointed. These were... meh. I swear some of the ground pork looked pinkish to me, and my stomach cannot handle any pinkish meat, so all I risked was 2 dumplings, especially when I felt a few twinges in my tummy.I took the other 4 dumplings home and later that night we re-heated them in the oven and shared them, along with the leftover pizza from GIR, for dinner.

So I can't really say much about Silk Pagoda. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals. To me, it's just another Chinese restaurant, and since Chinese/Asian seems to bother me these days (whether it's the salt or grease or MSG or whatever), I'll probably only be back if someone chooses it for a birthday meal.

It was an unusual weekend for us. We try to stay within the budget we set for ourselves, and that usually means eating out only 4-6 times a month, depending on where we eat and how much it costs. This weekend, we ate out 3 times, and by Sunday night, we felt sort of 'blah.' We didn't get to do any cooking on Sunday for the week, and that's something we really enjoy and that makes dinners during the week less time consuming and stressful.

The early Sunday dinner plus random leftover food later that night at home had SP's glucose levels all over the place Sunday night. Even before bed, he was having trouble, with the glucose monitor beeping as we watched True Blood & Torchwood. Sunday night is the first time in a very long time that I can remember him having to get up during the night to eat something. Monday morning, there was a noticeable decrease in the blueberry muffin mound along with muffin crumbs on the kitchen counter! It was even more surprising because of all the carb he ate from the dumplings, pizza, and leftover cake. I had been worried about him going too high, not too low. But that's diabetes sometimes - no matter that he's been living with it since he was 3 and no matter how well he knows himself and can count carbs, sometimes, you just don't get it right or you change your schedule just a bit and you have a crazy night of your glucose monitor beeping a lot.

Monday both of us were exhausted. Neither of us slept well, a combination of the heat and of SP needing to get up a lot and eat. He has to stay up until his blood sugar level goes up (or down) so it's tough to be well rested when your sleep is interrupted a few times for 20-30 minutes at a time. And since I worry, I was awake, too, but pretending to be asleep so he wouldn't feel bad about waking me and trying to not be an obvious worry wart!

Hopefully, next weekend will be a wee bit cooler and less humid, and maybe we will eat out only once so we'll spend less and feel not as blah, and maybe we'll get to cook a yummy meal on Sunday so that we can have meals ready for dinner next week.