Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1. Tomorrow is the Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event. Here on Yum Yum I'll have a scrumptious post from From Cats to Cooking. I wrote a post you'll be able to read over at Breelicious Bites.

2. Meanwhile, you can see the last two guest blogger event posts on Yum Yum here:


3. My last two guest blogger events posts are:

4. We spent the past several evenings watching Daredevil Season 2. We have now watched the entire second season and enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately, that means we are way behind on our usual evening TV because we ignored it to watch Daredevil. Worth it, but gosh there is a lot on the DVR now.

5. Apparently I am math challenged and instead of losing the basketball tournament, I am winning. I supposedly cheated myself out of 10 points. As long as NC loses their next game, I win! But if NC wins, SP wins by 2 points. This means I have to cheer for Syracuse. It kills me to cheer for them.

6. This past week I read To Brew or Not to Brew. It's set in Pittsburgh and written by a Pittsburgher. I enjoyed it a lot. 

7. I'm trying to get back to reading. I flipped through the book magazines SP brought me from the library and made several requests. Of course 5 of the 6 requests are now available. So much for keeping the reading pile manageable.

8. To help tackle the reading pile, I just got new glasses! But I'm not happy with them. I hadn't had an eye exam in 6-7 years, so my glasses were 6-7 years old, and since I was having more trouble focusing from near to far, I decided to finally get an exam. He gave me 2 prescriptions, one for reading glasses and one for distance. I decided to not fill the distance one because I don't have trouble seeing distance, just adjusting to distance after reading with my glasses on. I got the reading prescription one filled and I dislike the glasses. A lot. I can only look at stuff reading distance. If SP walks into the room and talks to me and I look at him, he has a blurry, misshapen head. If I glance up from reading to see the clock or look out the window, it hurts my eyes because everything is wavy and blurry and so out of focus I have to close my eyes because it pains them. If I am reading and then the tea water boils, I can't clearly see the tea water to pour it. Constant on & off. 

I'm not sure what to do since I already got the frames and lenses and my insurance only covers one of each per 12 months, but given the cost, I am very unhappy. This horrible distance blur stuff didn't happen with my old glasses. I just got them yesterday, so I think my plan is to read this afternoon and see how I feel, but... I hate how I can't see anything while wearing these glasses except what I am reading. I will not be happy constantly taking them on & off. Grrrrr.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Nine on Nine for Six

Last Saturday we went to see The Sound of Music at the Benedum. It was wonderful! We went with two other couples and after seeing the afternoon show, the six of us enjoyed dinner at Nine on Nine. With the exception of our friends in town from NJ, we all had dined there several times before (SP & I just dined there last September). Happily, A&E enjoyed their first visit as much as we all have enjoyed our previous visits.
I ordered a glass of chenin blanc. SP opted for Ruby Manhattan (Wild Turkey Rye 101, ruby port, orange bitters). He loves Manhattans. He also enjoyed fresh brewed iced tea.
Nine on Nine's menu changes so every time we're there we have something different. This time SP started with Chesapeake Blue Crab Cream (chipotle corn bread, basil air, truffle oil). It was like a soup. He said it was delicious. I didn't try any because we both smelled garlic.
I started with Roasted Tri-Cauliflower (grilled Asian pear, kalette, local goat cheese, green cerignola, chips). The cauliflower was still crunchy but not raw. The Asian pear was softened but still firm and there was a cinnamony drizzle that was excellent. Goat cheese always makes me happy. This is definitely a dish worth ordering again and again - one of those dishes I wish could stay year round. Kalette was new to me. It's a fusion of Brussels and kale. Quite tasty.
Not surprisingly SP chose fish for his entree, Bacon Wrapped Striped Bass (roasted beet risotto, saffron pancetta cream, Brussels sprouts). It was served with a pretty (and edible) purple flower.
Here's the fish without the purple flower. He really enjoyed the bass. The beet risotto was less beet-flavored than we expected, which to me is good since I'm not a huge fan of beets. Two other people got the bass and they, too, enjoyed it and said it was cooked nicely.
I debated between scallops and Cornish hen. The Diver Scallops (Benton bacon, tuber puree, pickled beet, fried gougere, pea tendrils, saffron) won. E ordered scallops, too. We both thought they were perfectly cooked. The tuber puree was yummy and the gougere was a nice fried treat.

The 6th person chose the Cornish Game Hen (aged balsamic marble potatoes, pancetta crisp, forest mushrooms, basil oil), I was glad I hadn't ordered it because sometimes I'm like a child who cannot cut meat easily, nicely, without making a mess. I don't mind massacring a Cornish hen in the privacy of my own home but I didn't want to look barbaric and uncouth around SP's friends. D didn't say much that I heard about his meal but it looked like he cleaned his plate so it must've been a tasty hen.
After J ordered a fancy schmancy coffee (some macchiato type thing) the rest of us followed suit and ordered coffees/tea. SP & I both chose decaf cappuccino. It was just the right size for me. I like ending a meal like this with hot tea or coffee, but not a huge mug or pot of it.
Each couple shared dessert. We chose the Paris-Pittsburgh (hazelnut mousse, hazelnut meringue puff, toasted almonds) dessert. Nine on Nine gets their desserts from Gaby et Jules. It was good, just the right size for us to share. We each had a few bites of a sweet treat and didn't end up feeling over-stuffed and uncomfortable. One other couple also shared the Paris-Pittsburgh dessert and the other couple shared Caribbean (mango, pineapple, passion fruit, coconut).

Our server was fantastic. There were six of us and sometimes we changed our minds/pondered aloud and she was great about it and accommodating. We knew Nine on Nine offered a 15% discount to Broadway season ticket holders and apparently it also is for single show ticket holders since after she took the three checks and saw our show ticket with our credit card, she returned and asked if the other 2 couples had show tickets as well. That was nice and much appreciated.

Definitely a nice place for a lovely dinner before or after a show (or just because you want to dine there).

Nine On Nine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter

Somehow the day is again, as usual, getting away from me, so this will be a rather short post. Yesterday was Easter. SP spent the early afternoon visiting with his family. In late afternoon, he picked me up and we went to my parents' and had dinner there. We had a really busy weekend planned, so my mom said she would handle everything, even dessert, and that was a huge relief. Much as we enjoy cooking/baking, sometimes we just don't want to be in the kitchen and sometimes, like this past weekend, we just don't have the time to do much of anything beyond sandwiches.
Mom made rack of lamb. Yum! She put SP in charge of slicing it because she doesn't like how my dad does it! Poor dad.
Delicious, juicy, rosemary lamb.
Mom knows SP is big on veggies, so she always makes sure there are a lot of veggies. She made a salad and her homemade Poppyseed Dressing, one of my favorite dressings.   
Pan fried Brussels sprouts with lemon zest and bacon. 
Dinner rolls & raisin paska from Bethel Bakery. 
Easter cupcakes from Bethel Bakery. I ate the bunny bum one because it was the only chocolate cake with chocolate icing cupcake. I didn't eat the bunny feet, though. Talk about a sugar bomb! The bunny feet and faces were those slightly hard, pure sugar decorations.
Before and during dinner there was chardonnay (our contribution) and old fashioneds (also our contribution) but after dinner, hot tea in mom's good china turned everyday china. As she put it, we've been married 47 years and we don't host formal dinner parties, why not just use that "good" china we received when we married? So they eat off "fancy" plates every day!

A delicious Easter dinner courtesy of mom and dad. 

Then we came home and watched Daredevil on Netflix!

Hope your Easter / Sunday was as delicious and lovely as ours was.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

Look what the Easter Bunny brought me! Thank you for the Sarris goodies, Easter Bunny.

Happy Easter / Happy Sunday!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1. Every year we talk about going to a Ukrainian church in Carnegie for their annual pysanky sale at Easter time. Finally this year, SP went. He bought me a pysanky egg and a loaf of paska. I think it's the church my mom's dad's family went to, but I'm not sure and neither is my mom since after age 5 she didn't have much contact with them. I've always liked Faberge eggs and the Ukrainian pysanky, so intricate and beautiful. I wouldn't mind a whole basketful of pysanky. I've been sitting in my recliner gazing at my pysanky a lot lately. Pretty.

2. I spent several hours the past 2 days doing calligraphy. I agreed to do table name tags/place cards for a friend's event but it's been 6 years since I did any calligraphy, so I had to practice. And then do it. Once I got all the spacing sorted out it didn't take too long but I did manage to smear my hands & shirt with black ink. That stuff is hard to wash off! I spent a lot of time practicing. My letter shapes and spacing were way off. I guess I should practice more instead of only doing it when the need arises?

3. This past week we watched several movies: The Big Short, which was excellent; Black Mass, just OK; Our Brand Is Crisis, which I found boring and stupid.

4. We started watching Daredevil Season 2. I think we're 4 episodes in, maybe 5, and so far it's pretty darn good. I especially liked the stairwell fight scene.

5. I got back to reading. I read Our Souls At Night. It was a quick read for me. It was beautiful in a bittersweet, sad and happy kind of way, and definitely thought provoking.

6. SP is going to the hockey game tonight (Penguins-Devils) so I'm on my own for dinner: leftover pasta. Tomorrow is Good Friday, the one day a year when I try to not eat meat. It's what we did when I was a kid, every Good Friday we met my grandparents at Tonidale Restaurant (is it even still there?!) for fish dinner, and I guess I still feel the need to not have meat on Good Friday. Even then I disliked fish, so by fish dinner I mean everyone ate fish but I ate fried shrimp.

7. It's supposed to be 76-77 today. And then tomorrow be 50-51. Not a big fan of the see-saw weather. But I am looking forward to grilling and deck time soon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cauliflower Mash

Our favorite vegetable this time of year is definitely cauliflower. We're huge fans of roasted cauliflower, but recently we wanted to change it up, so we made a cauliflower mash. We've made several versions of cauliflower mash. Every time we make it, we do something a little different, searching for the best cauliflower mash ever.
We've boiled it in milk and boiled it in water but this time, we steamed it until it was tender.  
Then we pureed it in the food processor with butter, half & half, and lemon zest. After pureeing, we seasoned it with salt and pepper. After serving, we topped it with dried chives.
This is our second favorite cauliflower mash. Our favorite is still the cauliflower cooked in milk, but that seems like such a waste of milk, so we'll probably stick with steaming the cauliflower because the mash doesn't end up as wet/runny as it does from boiling the cauliflower florets. In the future, we wouldn't bother using the food processor. It left a few too many chunks and we almost overflowed the processor bowl. Instead, we'd just use the immersion blender or the hand held potato masher.

The lemon zest adds a nice brightness. I wish we'd had fresh chives because dried chives really don't add much to a dish.

To Make:

Cut a large head of cauliflower into florets, Steam the florets in a steamer pot over simmering water, covered, until soft, about 20 minutes. Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl, add butter (2-3 tbsp), half & half (or milk, or cream, about 2 tbsp), and lemon zest from 1 lemon (we like a lot of lemon, you can use less), season with salt and pepper, and puree with immersion blender, or potato masher, or use a blender or food processor. Top with dried or fresh chopped chives.

Monday, March 21, 2016

DeBlasio's

DeBlasio's in Mt. Lebanon (Virginia Manor). Because, as SP put it, sometimes you just want old school red sauce & white tablecloth Italian. DeBlasio's has been in Virignia Manor for as long as I can remember. Definitely since 1995, so 20+ years. We hadn't been to DeBlasio's in several years so we decided to go there for dinner this past Saturday, just for something different.
You have to love a place with a holiday tree dressed up in St. Patrick's Day regalia. Or maybe not. Is it cute? Cheesy? Silly? Charming? It made me laugh. I remember the tree and wreaths from our last visit. I suspect they stay up year round and just change the decor, shamrocks for St. Patrick's, eggs & bunnies for Easter, flags/red & white & blue for July 4, etc. It's dark inside, no windows to the outside world, dark paneling, Italian decor, just an old school vibe. Does the interior need updating as some reviews I read suggested? Maybe. Depends on your point of view. On the plus side, there's no cigarette smoke smell drifting over from the bar area like long ago.
We arrived sometime between 5 & 5:30 pm on Saturday, whenever we finished our errands. It was still early enough for the Early Bird Specials menu (4 pm ~ 6 pm). We started with drinks: fresh brewed iced tea & Early Bird $4 house merlot, which was better than I expected. Note: the $4 wine is only if you order an Early Bird Dinner Special, which I did.
I never can resist Fried Provolone Sticks with marinara sauce. These were huge. We each ate 2. I was stuffed after 2!
 Loys of ooey gooey cheese, good breading, red sauce - good starter.
Meals come with bread and fried dough strips. We both really like the fried dough. The bread is good, too.
Meals come with a side salad: iceberg, carrot, 1 tomato wedge, chickpeas. I chose Italian dressing. I'm not a huge fan of iceberg, so for me this was just OK.
SP ordered a cup of Manhattan Clam Chowder, which he said was good.
For his meal, SP chose Linguine with Red Clam Sauce and he added shrimp. There were a lot of clams and a good amount of shrimp.
A huge plate of pasta. He got dinner and 2 lunch meals from it. The shrimp weren't huge, but they were not overcooked/rubbery, they were cooked just right. SP said it was very tasty.
I chose Penne Mona Lisa with prosciutto, peas and damiano sauce. I had never heard of damiano sauce, so I asked our server. It's a creamy tomato sauce. Another huge pasta dish - like SP, I got dinner plus 2 lunch meals from this. It was yummy. I really liked creamy tomato sauce, I liked that I could easily spear the penne and not make a pasta mess on my face and shirt, and there were enough peas and bits of prosciutto throughout the dish.
We were too stuffed for dessert, but my Early Bird Special came with ice cream or sherbet, so we shared Raspberry Sherbet. We couldn't finish it.

DeBlasio's is much as I remember it. We were the youngest people there, but then again sometimes I forget just how old we really are. It's a lot of food, pretty darn good food, and we took home a lot of leftovers. Our server was nice enough and efficient, but not too friendly/happy/talkative. We'll go back, but it probably won't be in the frequent rotation simply because while it's not far away, it's far enough away.


DeBlasio's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

2. This week our 2 dinner meals are:

3. Earlier this week I watched the movie Room. It was OK. I read the book a while ago and I didn't especially enjoy the book, not the subject matter/plot but more the writing style. I know it was nominated/won several book awards but... I just had a hard time getting through it. I wasn't at all interested in the movie but then I decided I wanted to watch it because Brie Larson won the Oscar for Best Actress and because Jacob Tremblay is so darn cute. 

4. I finally had an eye exam yesterday. It had been 4+ years. He said my eyes are still quite good, better than most people he sees who are around my age (!) but I got a new prescription for reading glasses just to make it easier when I read, cross-stitch, etc. He also wrote me a prescription to help ease strain for distance, like when watching TV, but the only time that is a problem is when I'm trying to read/sew and watch TV at the same time. My eyes just cannot focus on the TV.

5. I made my March Madness basketball picks, men & women, and we'll see who wins this year (me, mom, dad, or SP). I haven't paid much attention to basketball this year and I didn't read any "expert analysis" or look at any "expert picks" before filling out my brackets. We'll see if I do better than usual with this approach.

6. SP started our herbs and veggies. They are lined up on the dining room table. I went in there the other day and was surprised to discover the light was on in the middle of the day but then I remembered that he replaced the light bulbs in our light fixture with grow light bulbs. It also smells quite dirt-like in there! I'm glad the dining room is set apart from the main living area/kitchen.

7. I can see the chives growing even more out on the deck. I also see weeds already in the front mulch areas. Ugh. Mowing season will start soon.

8. Bosch Season 2 was released last Friday and by Sunday afternoon we had watched all 10 episodes!

9. Since we finished Bosch, we are free to start binge watching Daredevil on Netflix this weekend. Season 2 starts tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mercurio's

I think our favorite pizza is the pizza from Mercurio's in Shadyside. It's a bit of a drive for us, but it's always worth it. The weekend before SP had surgery, I asked him where he wanted to go for Saturday dinner. He chose Mercurio's because he wanted delicious comfort food. So that's where we went, meeting up with our friends D&J.
We always start with the Insalata Della Casa (spring mix, house made mozzarella, grape tomatoes, parmigiano, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crostini). It's a good size to share. Crisp greens, delicious cheese and tomatoes, my favorite kind of salad.
After the salad, we share 2 pizzas. This time we chose Contadina (tomato sauce, basil, eggplant, roasted red peppers, parmigiano, house made mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil), see above photo.
And we chose Pizza Roberto (bed of basil, grape tomatoes, house made burrata, extra virgin olive oil). I'm not sure which I liked better. I always like the eggplant one because we don't eat a lot of eggplant at home but this time, the Roberto was a new-to-us choice and we really liked the basil and burrata. Lots of cheese!
Another reason we really like Mercurio's: gelato. Not only did SP want pizza before surgery, he wanted gelato. They have many flavors. I forgot to take photos of our gelato but SP took lots of photos of the flavor options so I could see what they had without leaving the table. As usual, I chose the Black Cherry Bordeaux, pictured above. SP chose Tiramisu.

As always, our food was delicious and service was friendly and efficient, and the company was wonderful. We're both a little jealous that D&J live within walking distance of Mercurio's. But it's probably good we don't, otherwise we'd be eating a lot more pizza and gelato.


Mercurio's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

It has taken many years for me to embrace Brussels sprouts. Probably because my idea of them was based on my childhood: a box of frozen Brussels sprouts cooked in boiling water and served with a little butter. Bland. Watery. Yucky. The worst of the vegetables I had to eat as a child.
My parents have since admitted that they intensely disliked Brussels sprouts night, too. I guess my mom kept buying those boxes of frozen ones and serving them because she wanted a little vegetable variety? Nowadays, we all like fresh Brussels, roasted or pan-fried, sometimes with a little balsamic, sometimes a little lemon. Usually we pan-fry them because we couldn't seem to master roasted Brussels. They were never as good as when we dined out.
Fortunately, I recently went through all my cookbooks again and in The Science of Good Cooking, I found a recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts. The method was different from what we usually do, so we decided to try it.
The Brussels are halved, mixed with olive oil, salt, pepper and some water, covered tightly with foil, and roasted in the upper part of the oven at 500 for 10 minutes, then uncovered and roasted another 10-12 minutes.
The steaming helped thoroughly cook the Brussels, but didn't make them too soft and mushy, and the high temperature in the upper oven gave them a nice roasted color on the tops and bottoms. These were the best roasted Brussels we've made.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Buttermilk Waffles

Remember the buttermilk? Well it reached the "sell by" date. We didn't want to hold onto it for too much longer so yesterday we made waffles (not pancakes like we originally planned). By we, I mean SP.
Making waffles on Sunday morning was spur of the moment, especially since we slept in until 10 am so it was a little late for a larger than normal breakfast. I decided to shower right away but towards the end of my shower, I could smell food. I thought maybe SP was cooking my lunch turkey, but it smelled more like a baked good. When I opened the door, it smelled really yummy and SP surprised me with Buttermilk Waffles.
Waffles are easy to make, they just take a bit more time than toasting a slice of bread or eating a piece of fruit. Flour, butter, eggs, vanilla, sugar, buttermilk, baking soda & powder, and salt. My waffle maker is old. Very old. Like around 20 years old! But it still works and it still makes yummy waffles.
This made many more waffles than we can eat in one morning. Fortunately, waffles can be wrapped and frozen.
These were delicious. I really like the vanilla and buttermilk flavors. For syrup, we used our bottle of Bourbon Maple Syrup that we got as a holiday gift. I would definitely makes these again. Our previous favorite waffle was a waffle made with yeast, but that takes planning & time. This waffle can be more spur of the moment and instant waffle gratification.
Recipe here.

*Note: we used all purpose flour; we did not use pecan meal or almond flour; we used unsalted butter and 1 tbsp sugar.