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Archive for the ‘Inner Monologue’ Category

On June 26th the world welcomed a very special little guy: my nephew!  This is B’s and my first time being an uncle and aunt and, besides being super excited to shower him with love and affection, we wanted to make sure we help out B’s brother and our sister-in-law as much as possible.  As part of our efforts to do so, we decided to make them some food to have to share with guests and for them to eat as they get adjusted to life as new parents.  We ended up making a lot of food (fitting our trend of over-cooking for 2 people).  Here is the menu (I will link the posts I’ve adapted as I post them):

Freezer Meals:

Chicken Stir Fry

  • Recipe forthcoming

Zucchini Bread

  • This was my first time making zucchini bread so I followed the recipe fairly closely (also not 100% sure on the outcome).  I used walnuts but did not use cranberries/raisins.  Also, I probably used over 3 C of grated fresh zucchini.  I grated a zucchini in my food processor and just used whatever was produced.

Banana Nutella Swirl Muffins

  • Two changes: I used 5 bananas and I did not use chopped pecans.  My mother- and father-in-law referred to these as life changing.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

  • B made these and I’m not 100% clear on the recipe.  I think he just winged the recipe using a Asian inspired rub.

Twice Baked Bacon and Cheddar Potatoes

  • This recipe is more of a guideline.  We have made twice baked potatoes before we so kind of eyeballed it as we normally do.  This was the first time we froze these.  We made the mistake of making them all as if we were going to eat them that day/night.  So we did two things wrong: first, we cooked them completely; second, we cooked them with the green onions.  Some of the freezer prep recipes I’ve found since then (when I was trying to find reheat instructions for my brother- and sister-in-law) have recommended not adding the green onions until ready to eat.  I was informed that they were very good as we did them but in the future I will probably try freezing the proper way.

Blanched asparagus

  • Add asparagus to a pot of boiling water.  Cook for approximately 1 minute.  Remove from boiling water and submerge immediately in ice water to stop cooking process.  Remove from ice water and put on cookie sheet or roasting pan to cool completely.  Place in freezer bag and freeze.  To reheat, thaw the asparagus and reheat in pan with oil/butter and desired spices.

To have on hand:

Italian Roast Pork with Broccoli Rabe

  • For the broccoli rabe, submerge in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes (or until soft with a little bit of crunch).  Remove from boiling water and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process. In a medium size pan, saute 2-3 cloves of garlic with a generous amount of olive oil.  Add blanched broccoli rabe and cook for approximately 5 minutes more over medium heat.  Serve roast pork and broccoli rabe with sharp provolone cheese and/or roasted red peppers on a hoagie sandwich roll.
  • My brother- and sister-in-law also repurposed the pork (since I ended up using an 8 lb shoulder and made 3 Chinese food take out containers worth.  Each container was 8 sandwiches).  They added some BBQ sauce and adobe sauce to use in roasted pork tacos.  We also discussed how the pork could be repurposed into BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.

Chocolate cupcakes with Salted Cannoli Cream Frosting

  • Recipe forthcoming

 

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So. I’m a terrible food blogger.  Terrible. And here are some reasons why:

1) I lost all motivation for food creativity
2) Went.  eehhh f**k it, its too much work

Most of this is the result of the changes that have occurred in the past year since I last posted a recipe.  I stopped posting because, at first, I was teaching a summer course and simultaneously preparing for a big move to…well at the time we had no idea.  We officially moved out of Pittsburgh July 15 of last year.  It wasn’t until about a week later that we realized that we would be heading off to Philadelphia for B to start his post doc position at the University of Pennsylvania.  Since our move we’ve been very blessed and lucky to have a wonderful new place, be surrounded by our wonderful friends and family, and receive wonderful news from them (babies..they be a comin’).  But in the process I have focused on my work, my life, and things outside of being creative with food and food items.  But, the time is returning where I need my hobby back.  Sure, I’ve made some awesome things in the past year (I’m looking at you boeuf bourguignon) and some terrible things (ask B about the pizza I made a few weeks ago of the hoagie rolls I attempted to make last week from scratch…they were more like matzoh than roll) but just failed to document both my successes and failures.  In all aspects of life we see successes and failures and its important to see how these failures are important to make me/you a better cook, person, etc.  So, on that note, I’m focusing this post on transformations.  Not just my own in the past year since I last posted but also how its important to transform things in our everyday lives.  To make the bad good, make lemonade out of lemons, etc.

So that is how this recipe started.  I sought to transform the bad and make something good.

I traveled to San Francisco to go to an annual conference to present some of my current work.  Before I left, I prepared a number of “in a bag” meals for B to just throw into our slow cooker since he would be swamped with all that he had to do.  One of those meals was this recipe for pot roast.  So first, another transformation note: I started eating meat again Memorial Day weekend 2012.  This is important because I messed up something I’ve made before: meat.  Although I’ve made pot roast before, I used the Pioneer Woman’s recipe (found here).  That came out really, really good.  This recipe, however, was terrible. B only had a little of it while I was away and found it too tomato paste heavy.  Given that we had this big batch of pot roast, complete with meat and potatoes, what’s a girl to do so that I don’t waste food.  I decided to make meat and potato burritos.

So, I started with something that looked like this:

Pot Roast (Before)

What I first strained the liquid out of the pot roast and veggies.  I next took the meat out and shredded it up to kind of get that carnitas aspect for my burritos.  I did this using two forks and just pulling the meat apart.

Shredded meatNext, I chopped up some peppers and onions and added those, along with the pot roast vegetables, to a large saute pan.  I just let them cook up together.  I then moved on to taking the pot roast towards the tex-mex flavor side.  This was accomplished by flavoring the vegetable mixture with about 2 tbsp cumin, 1  tsp cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and about 1 tsp of salt and pepper.  This was adjusted according to my taste after adding in the initial amount (I honestly am not sure how much it ended up being since it was mostly to taste.

IMAG0366Using many of the same seasonings (shown here are cayenne, garlic powder, minced onion, salt, cumin, and chili powder) I made my own taco seasoning mix (many recipes for this can be found by using google or another search engine).  Using the liquid I removed from the pot roast at the start, I added the seasoning to the liquid.  I then added the shredded beef.

IMAG0368

I let that simmer for approximately 10 minutes, or until the meat was flavorful and well coated.  While that was simmering, I preheated my oven to 350 F.  Once the meat was done, I took tortillas, filled them with cheese, meat, and the vegetable mixture, then wrapped them into burritos and put them in a baking dish.  I repeated until I ran out of tortillas.  I then topped the burritos with jarred salsa and cheddar cheese.

Viola, transformed pot roast.  B went into it with a “I’m skeptical about this” attitude but left being pleasantly surprised.

So this begs the question of, what else that starts out bad can be transformed into something good?

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**So I’ve been very busy the past few months and realized I haven’t updated in a loooong time.  This is evidence of that.  I found a draft I never finished.  Instead of posting the recipes (since they’re not at all healthy) I’m just going to post it as a brag about how awesome B is.  If you’re interested in any of the specific recipes let me know and I’ll post them.**

B has always been very lucky in terms of Valentine’s Day obligations: he only has to say “Happy Valentine’s Day.”  This is because my birthday is only two days prior so we usually have a nice dinner out, etc. that day.  This is also because the first year we were dating, we decided to celebrate this holiday with a dinner out at a nice Italian restaurant in Chambersburg (a neighborhood in Trenton, NJ).  Reservations for 2 at 7:30pm, check.  We arrived and the place was wall to wall people.  It was like being in a hot bar at midnight (I am not an anchovy in a can!).  We also didn’t get seated until 8:30pm.  This was the beginning of the end of our Valentine’s Day celebrations.  Six years later, B decides that he wants to make me a feast for Valentine’s Day.  Let me tell you, he puts me to shame.  What follows are  the meals and pictures associated with said feast.   This is definitely not a diet friendly meal but worked for me since I’m in maintenance now.  Adjustments could be made for the sake of making the dish healthier (reduce butter, replace with something else) but I would be you would really lose something in terms of taste.  As the main reviewer of this meal, I can say that it made me think B needs a new career as a stay at home husband/personal chef.

Course 1: Arugula Salad with Broiled Goat Cheese and Crostini

Course 2: Seared Sea Scallops and Brown Butter Lobster Risotto

Course 3: Chocolate Souffle with Strawberry Sauce and Whipped Mascarpone Cream

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I recently got started on Pintrest.  Honestly, I really enjoy it because it saves me from having an overcrowded bookmark folder since I have always done “..aaaand bookmark” when I found something I liked/was interested in.  During my Pintrest endeavors I have learned a few things (all somewhat related to food, so it counts for this blog!):

(1) I am the only person on the planet that does not know how to take professional looking pictures

I mean seriously.  Do people not take bad pictures of food/DIY items/household items/their hair/their clothes?  It seems like almost every picture people find has the perfect shutter speed (that’s a thing, right?), lighting, and overall “wow” factor.  I’m lucky if the flash works properly so you get an actual picture and not a big white blob.  For once, I’d like someone to take one of those oh-so-unappealing pictures and say “this looks delicious.”  I bet it wouldn’t even get 1 re-pin.  I guess there’s something about having the perfect picture; people are only able to think “this looks delicious” when they see the image of it.   This also leads me to a new plan.  Any disgusting recipe I accidentally make I’m going to take a pro-level picture of it and make it look great.  That’ll show people who know how to take pictures!  I’ll start a new trend to make my style of photography (which focuses on making sure a picture is actually taken) starts to be the norm.  Because seriously people! I can’t afford one of those fancy-shmancy cameras.

(2) I’m not nearly creative enough

Sometimes I think I’m being so creative.  Look at me!  I can combine different recipes and things to make something edible!   I thought one of the most inventive things I ever came up with were these won-ton tacos.  Lo and behold, a recently pinned item are these tac0 cups.  So much for being inventive. Some of the stuff that people come up with just blows my mind.  I found red wine lollipops that I pinned.  I was AMAZED someone was smart enough to come up with it (and I patted myself on the back for finding it).   Apparently, a lot of people agreed with me since a lot of people re-pinned it. And don’t even get me started on the sewing crafts.  Man, just makes me feel more and more inferior. Last week I tried to sew on a button onto my wool jacket.  My mother took one look at it, laughed at me with her eyes, and went on to do it herself.  Thank you Pintrest, for increasing my own feelings of inadequacy.

(3) People sure know how to make it look easy.

Oh you want to do a fishtail braid?! Here you go, here’s a tutorial that only an idiot wouldn’t able to replicate.  Well I’m that idiot.  Seriously, how do you people get hair to do that?!  I think this goes for all these recipes you see on Pintrest too.  Oh look! Here’s a recipe for a baked Alaska and Beef Wellington!  Perfect Valentine’s recipe combination!  What these pins fail to tell you is that you will fail if you don’t know what you’re doing.  And you will fail spectacularly.  From my experiences, learning how to cook was a multi-stage process.  First, you find a recipe you want to make.  You fail spectacularly your first time.  You try same recipe again.  You fail less.  Cooking is about learning how to fail less often and less spectacularly.  As a side note, I believe my “fail” recipe was spaghetti.  I had no idea I was making it wrong until B, who grew up with real Italian food, pointed it out to me.  Apparently, it’s a sin to eat sauce out of a jar (who knew?) and pasta isn’t supposed to be slightly crunchy. *cue music*  The more you know.

*End Pintrest rant*

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As part of New Year’s Eve and day, B and I have a tradition to eat extremely decadent food to end and start the year on a good note.  For New Year’s Eve day, we made: Parmesan crusted goat cheese ball with basil oil (I didn’t strain the oil like she did in this recipe though); an arugula salad with cherries, gouda, and pralines with a dijon mustard dressing; and lobster ravioli (we used the fake lobster instead of steaming and cleaning them).  It started out as being a dinner I was going to make for B, but given my terrible time management, it ended up mostly a dinner made by B for me.  The goat cheese was great, nice and light and a good way to start the meal.

The arugula salad was also great.  The sweetness of the pralines and cherries with the sharpness of the gouda and dressing was great.  We actually used two types of gouda since I had gone to our local supermarket and B had gone to Whole Foods to get some herbs they didn’t have at the other supermarket.  We used smoked gouda (I got that) and a very aged gouda (B got that).  The aged gouda was different from anything I had ever seen; it was a hard cheese and was very similar to Parmesan. It was, however, absolutely delicious (but I’m a cheese girl).

The ravioli was the biggest endeavor.  We made the dough from scratch and rolled it out.  We tried to use our ravioli attachment but, alas, that was not meant to be.  For some reason we just cannot make ravioli.  They either don’t come out filled enough, get stuck in the machine, or are just off.  One of these days we’ll learn the trick.

For New Years day we planned to eat french onion soup and beer steamed mussels.  I spent most of the day curled in the fetal position on the couch due to the champagne and beer imbibed the night before so B enjoyed the soup day of (I had made it ahead of time) and made the mussels for us (I helped a bit since I had become more human by that point).  I calculated the Weight Watchers Points Plus for the soup; it made seven servings and were 3 PP per serving without the bread and gruyère cheese.

B said that this mussels recipe was the best we had made to this point.  We have previously made a fennel recipe and the standard one with white wine.  This was the first time we did it with beer.  The mussel’s recipe was built off of something online that we had found that I cannot find now (go figure).  It was very simple.  We basically did garlic, onion, chopped tomato, and beer to taste.  We also added some thyme since we had it leftover from the lobster ravioli.  We figured, its mussels, you can’t really go wrong.

All in all, a good end to 2011 and beginning to 2012, which will be very, very eventful for both B and I.

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Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what I did for these recipes.  I have been very bad and keeping this updated (damn you dissertation!) so I had started a draft with the websites I built from and left it at that.  Unfortunately, this was a month ago. Since I can’t remember the changes I made I figured I would produce the source websites.  Here are the changes I think I made based on the source websites:

Red Beans and Rice (I built off of this website): I don’t believe I made any changes from this recipe

Collard Greens (I built off of this website): Key difference between what I made and this recipe were: (1) using Morningstar Farms vegetarian bacon strips; (2)  I used a combination of vegetable broth and water to cook the collard greens to add some flavor; (3) I reduced the amount of butter

Oven-Fried Cajun Baked Catfish (I built off of this website): I believe the change that I made was to do 1/4 C panko and 1/4 cornmeal for the breading.

My September resolution is to do better as a mediocre blogger with no following.  But I have a feeling this won’t really occur until October (damn you dissertation and job applications!)

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I have been a terrible example of a cooking blog lately.  I can blame it on a number of things: its hot out so I go for cool and easy recipes, I’m busy with work, we’ve been traveling and have had visitors, etc.  These lame excuses only demonstrate why my loyal (hah!) followers are associated by blood or marriage (it may also be my amazing lack of wit!).

Since I started this blog to discuss those things that I made myself and those foods that were made for me that I found delicious I wanted to add a review for a local establishment we recently tried out.

Nola on the Square, Market Square, Pittsburgh, PA

We had come across this restaurant on urbanspoon.com a few weeks ago.  We were looking for a new place in the city to try and this place seemed to fit the bill.  For one reason or another we decided to bypass this establishment that particular night in favor of another restaurant we had been looking to try in the area (Pino’s in Point Breeze, which is an Italian restaurant).  With a large contingent of family visiting the city last weekend, we ended up in Market Square for lunch.  There were numerous inquiries into this Nola on the Square restaurant, which put it back on our radar (even though we opted not to dine there for lunch that particular day).

Looking again for something new, B and I decided to try this place out last night.  We called around 3pm for reservations and were told that the first available was at 9:15pm.  Hoping for a miracle, we decided not to make reservations and try our luck putting in our name.  We ended up having to wait a little over an hour for a table.  The host told us that Saturdays from 9-12pm there is live jazz (as well as Friday nights and I believe Wednesday nights) so if you go to make sure to make reservations.  Once we got seated it was clear our waitress was very frazzled and busy but it did not impact our service what-so-ever.  We got a lot of food.  I had decided “go-go Weight Watcher’s extra points” for that night.

In terms of cocktails, we tried the Sazerac, the Nola Cocktail, and the Toulouse Martini.  The Sazerac was VERY good (it is made with rye whiskey, bitters, and absinthe).  I thought it would be a very powerfully tasting cocktail but you got the right balance of every different liquor without having it being overwhelming or clashing with the food you were eating.  In terms of the Toulouse Martini (vodka, prickly pear, and other elements), I thought it was very crisp and clean with a nice fruity taste without being overly sweet.  It was not B’s style but I was a fan.  The Nola Cocktail (bourbon, simple syrup, absinthe, and lemon) was my least favorite.  I found it to have a very strong absinthe flavor and very little of the bourbon came through for me.

For food, we tried one of the specials, which was fried soft shell crab with a potato salad (more potato than salad which made me happy) with a cilantro and jalapeno salad.  This was B’s first experience with soft shell crab.  I thought the elements that went with the crab were fantastic – the salad had the perfect amount of a kick and flavor and the potato salad was a nice complement.  I thought that the crab left something to be desired in terms of flavor; I would have liked to see bolder Cajun or creole flavors given the flavor of the crab.  While this sounds somewhat critical, I thought that it was a very good dish.  It was clear from the way that they cooked the crab the kitchen knew what it was doing.  I am sometimes concerned with fried soft shell crab but it was the perfect amount of crisp and was neither greasy nor heavy.  For dinner, I had grilled catfish and B had pork chop.  Both we were very big fans of.  Again, I thought the fish could have used a little more spice, but it was cooked almost perfectly. I think that the lack of spice that I was looking for might be due to the restaurant’s desire to cater to the patrons of Pittsburgh.  I would imagine the preferable spice level for someone in Pittsburgh is much lower than the preferable spice level for someone in the New Orleans area.  The highlight of the meal was the dessert; B and I shared a banana’s foster bread pudding with caramel ice cream.  I told him it was a shame our one-year anniversary is a week away since I would be leaving him for said dessert.  The bread pudding was perfectly moist and tasted very much like banana’s foster.

Overall, I would very much recommend this restaurant.  While it got loud with the jazz, it was very nice to have in the background for our meal.  In terms of cost, I found it to be less costly than some of our other standard nice restaurants.  For 4 cocktails, 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, and 1 dessert we had meals for about $50 per person.  Granted, the entrees and drinks we got were not the most expensive on the menu, so that has the potential to change.  If you’re looking for something different (and especially something downtown since the pickings are slim) try out Nola on the Square.

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