Keeping up the trend…

Just posting this for the record.  No Earth-shattering developments in the weekly dinner front, but it’s a way to keep myself “honest” in my meal-planning and my posting.  Here’s what’s been on our plates.  What’s the best thing that’s been on yours? I could use a little inspiration! :)

  • Monday: Labor Day–burgers on the grill and green beans.  I had grander plans, but Little Miss was having a tired, fussy night so we waited to cook our dinner until she went to bed. And then the grill took forever. And then it was 9:00 and we were just sitting down to eat…that’s never a good sign.  The burgers were great, though!
  • Tuesday: Raid-the-fridge leftover night (told you it wasn’t an exciting menu!)
  • Wednesday: Fish with zucchini, black bean, and rice skillet (we made a few adjustments this time that really made this recipe shine–some herbs, vegetable broth instead of water, and a can of fire-roasted tomatoes instead of plain)
  • Thursday: Basil, chicken, and vegetable curry (more on this one later)
  • Friday: Mushroom and fontina ravioli with a vegetable (probably green beans…we had so many of them.)

 

  • Monday: Pizza
  • Tuesday: Peach-balsamic pork with sweet potatoes and asparagus
  • Wednesday: Raid-the-fridge leftover night, since I had Open House at the middle school and wasn’t home for dinner
  • Thursday: Mushroom, asparagus, and white cheddar quiche
  • Friday: Meatloaf (thanks, mom!), frozen vegetable medley with potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and baby corn

 

 

The (Next) Best Thing I’ve Ever Made

(I can’t believe this never got posted! I think I was waiting on a picture, which sadly never happened.  I’ll post it now for your enjoyment.  Consider it a flashback to warmer, more relaxing times this summer…an apt description on a chilly, grey September morning.)

If the cherry chocolate chip ice cream I made earlier this summer was the best thing I ever made, this might be second best: peanut butter swirl ice cream. It’s rich, smooth, with just a little bit of stickiness from the peanut butter added at the last minute and little crunches of semisweet chocolate.

As with the cherry ice cream, it’s not for the faint of heart. It involves a fair amount of heating, tempering, heating, cooling, custard-making, peanut-butter-adding, and mixture-straining before you set it in the fridge to freeze. But it’s deliciously worth it.

I made a couple of adjustments to the recipe, and I would do the same next time. First, I omitted the chopped peanuts altogether.  Second, I like my peanut butter better with chocolate. So I tried the same trick that I learned with the cherry chocolate ice cream: I melted 3 ounces of semisweet chocolate over a double broiler, then slowly drizzled it in about 5 minutes before the ice cream was done churning.  Third, instead of mixing the peanut butter in after the machine stopped, I took the lazy route and dumped it in right before turning the machine off.  I let it swirl a bit and used a spatula to break up any giant clumps, then scooped the mixture into containers to freeze.  It might not have achieved quite as much of a “swirl”–it’s a little too blended in to be called a swirl–but it is fabulously peanut buttery.

Here’s the original recipe: Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream

Two Busy Weeks

We’ve been getting back into the swing of things here, which have made for a few busier weeks.  Since I measure years by the school calendar rather than by January through December, I’ve got a few food resolutions for my year.  One is to be better about finding good meals that can be made quickly. I need to focus on prepping things the night before and finding shortcuts in the kitchen so I can spend time in the afternoons with Little Miss. The second, which seems to run contrary to the first, is that I want to be better about trying new recipes during the school year. I’m setting my goal for one new recipe a month. We’ll see how that goes.  For now, here’s what we’ve been eating:

Last week:

  • Monday: Mexican chopped salad with chicken, cornbread
  • Tuesday: Farmers’ market pasta (ravioli with roasted red pepper pasta filled with smoked mozzarella), salad
  • Wednesday: Asian sesame tuna, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob
  • Thursday: Pecan-crusted pork (this is the recipe, but without the whole sauce and crostini thing), peach-mango chutney, sauteed squash, mashed potatoes
  • Friday: Chicken tikka masala, rice, broccoli

This week:

 

  • Monday: Roasted red pepper pasta with sauteed squash, red pepper, mushrooms, and corn, in an herb butter
  • Tuesday: Trying a new recipe! Kheema matar (an Indian dish of spiced ground beef and peas) with rice and roasted carrots
  • Wednesday: Little Miss’s summer party at daycare!
  • Thursday: Sesame-pecan chicken strips with sweet potatoes and green beans
  • Friday: Pork barbeque with skillet potatoes and broccoli slaw

 

Summer Lunching Out on the Porch

In honor of the first day of in-service work at my school, here’s a pic from last week of my favorite summer lunch: sweet, crispy corn fritters and fresh tomatoes. (The only thing that would make them better would be if they were home-grown. But I guess locally grown is the next best thing.) Added bonus: a cool enough day to enjoy my lunch on the porch with a book and the Fuzz.

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Last week of summer (and of foodie freedom)

It’s been a busy week, and that’s not going to change once school starts. It’s going to be an adjustment, for sure, and I’ll have to change the way I think about dinner.  My goal this year, though, is to get better about prepping what I can for a meal the night before. The little one isn’t always so patient by the time Chris comes home, so it’ll be an experiment to see how we can work it out this upcoming year.

But those are thoughts for next week. This week, I had one last week having time to prep in the afternoons. Here’s what we ate:

Coming Full Circle

I had a little help in the kitchen while making last night’s dinner.

Okay, I had “help,” and then I had help. My fuzzy “helper” was trying to eat all the green beans that she could as soon as she thought I wasn’t looking.

My other little helper, while only slightly more coordinated, was very interested in green beans. As long as I kept a pile in front of her (with the ends already snapped off–she didn’t have the dexterity or understanding to snap ends, throw the ends out, and keep the good parts), she was happy to snap them into small pieces and put them in the pot for me.  When she ran out of beans in her pile, she got up, walked around to the other side of me where I had the colander of unsnapped beans, and got herself another handful.

All to end up with a pot of very unevenly snapped, but very lovingly prepared, green beans for dinner.

Suzy snapping beans photo

A new bakery in town

After my morning work session at my local coffee shop the other day, I decided to check out the newest bakery in town, the Pink Box Bakery. I saw their storefront preparing to open, decorated with bright pink signs with English and Chinese characters, and when I was walking to the library earlier in the week, I saw that almost all of the Asian restaurants had colorful signs advertising for the grand opening of the bakery. Needless to say, I was intrigued.  I was also curious as to what was going to set this bakery apart. There were already a number of bakeries in Squirrel Hill, and a fantastic one right next door; what would make this one different?

Okay, that was incredibly naive of me. Next time, perhaps I should do my research. :)

The inside of the bakery was bright, fresh, and very neatly arranged.  Right inside the door, there were baskets and tongs, and the space in the shop was filled with a table and long shelf unit lined with wicker baskets, each full of individually-wrapped buns and pastries, clearly labeled in English and Chinese. There were all different kinds of buns and pastries: savory ones filled with red bean paste or meat, ones topped with cheese or onions, sweet buns filled with cream or topped with strawberry or blueberry. There was also a case with beautifully decorated cakes.  As I was there on a whim and on a budget, I picked up two of the buns. Most of the buns were between $2 and $3, but for a treat, and for the generous size of the buns, it seemed reasonable.

For lunch, I picked up a BBQ pork bun, not really knowing what to expect but intrigued by all the different offerings.  I did a little hunting around online to see how to eat it: hot? cold? reheated?  Most of the recipes I saw featured steamed buns, but this bun looked too GBD (golden brown and delicious) to have been steamed, in my humble estimation. I did find one recipe that baked the buns, and it recommended reheating the buns in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, so I wrapped my bun in foil and stuck it in the toaster over for 10, a choice which seemed to produce a pretty good product! The bun itself was light and soft and fluffy, and you could taste a bit of sweetness on the golden exterior.  (I’m betting there was an egg wash of some sort involved.)  The pork filling inside was flavorful and diced, and I thought they achieved a really nice balance between the amount of meat and the amount of bun. Granted, I had never had one before, but to my untrained palate, it was a great lunch!

After dinner, Chris and I sampled the second treat I bought: a pineapple cream bun. It was not quite what I was expecting; I think it might be an acquired taste, as I read people raving and reminiscing about them online.  It was a soft bun that had been topped with a slightly sweet, slightly crumbly mixture, so that when it baked, the topping cracked on top, sort of like a shell.  While the bun itself was puffy, there was a large air bubble inside, and on the bottom of the empty space, there was a sweet “cream” filling. It reminded me somewhat of the cheese filling you’d get in a cheese danish, but more sugary. Well-executed, I’m sure, but not my favorite.

That being said, I’m looking forward to going back and trying some other, different baked goods.  There was an sweet almond pastry that caught my eye (but I didn’t think Chris would share it with me), and the savory cheese-topped buns looked delicious. I might try to talk Chris into checking it out with me this weekend, or maybe I’ll just pick a few up for dinner next week!

Starting fresh

Sorry for the lack of menu from last week. We were away for a trip to see the families, so no meal-planning for us!

One of the best and worst things about a week away is cleaning out the fridge. On the one hand, it’s a nice fresh start. No worrying about leftovers, nothing hanging around that you feel obligated to eat but don’t really want to have again, nothing you dig out and wonder if it’s still okay to eat. On the other hand, we came home on Sunday and had nothing for lunches on Monday, no options to throw together, just some staples but no veggies or main dishes to work with.

Here’s how we’re building up our stock again this week:

  • Monday: Pork with peachy-mustard sauce, green beans, and biscuits
  • Tuesday: Oven-roasted chicken, corn fritters, and roasted broccoli (I could have just eaten a plate full of the corn fritters. I have eaten the entire recipe of corn fritters, on my own, in the past. No shame about that. But the chicken and broccoli was for the other, slightly less crazy, people in the house.)
  • Wednesday: Slow-cooker pineapple pork tacos, with either a salad or zucchini
  • Thursday: Resa’s blackened tilapia (we had so much fish curry before we left, we didn’t get around to making this, so I froze the fish), corn on the cob, zucchini, and biscuits
  • Friday: Fresh roasted red pepper pasta and spinach pasta, tossed with red pepper cream sauce (have I mentioned I love everything about the farmers’ market, beyond just the vegetables?), zucchini, and chicken

The yearly tomato surplus

photo 2What do you do when you have far too many tomatoes? I always seem to end up with more tomatoes than I know what to do with. Partly because one day, I blink, and suddenly my garden has decided to do something and I get a wave of cherry tomatoes, more than I can devise dinner plans for. Partly because my husband won’t eat raw tomatoes, so I’m on my own. And partly because I love tomatoes, so I end up buying far too many at the farmers’ market, because they look so beautiful and I forget that I’m going to get armloads of cherry tomatoes any day now and I’m the only one who enjoys them anyway.

So, tomato surplus. It’s a yearly occurrence around here.

photo 1_2Last year, I tried Oven Roasted Tomatoes, and they were pretty fabulous.  We used it as a sauce over pasta, and it was so fresh and full of tomato flavor, it was a real treat.  However, what my sad little garden does best (or, the only thing that my sad little garden does at all) is make lots and lots of cherry tomatoes.  And halving and roasting all of my sweet little tomatoes, and taking them out of their little red and golden skins, one by one by steaming hot little one, was…trying.  And time-consuming. Delicious, but time-consuming.

Then I tried Cherry Tomato Jam.  It sounded delicious, though perhaps something more to my tastes than Chris’s, and I envisioned it with some cheese on a nice crusty piece of bread.  It was very good (though, as predicted, Chris was not interested.) Only problem being, I couldn’t figure out what else to do with it.  So I think I still have a few containers of it in the freezer that I never got around to using.

This year, I decided to try something different, hopefully something a little easier and something we’re more likely to actually eat: salsa. I found this great recipe for Three-Ingredient Summer Salsa while searching for dinner inspiration on Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs. And I think we have a winner! It took longer than the 10 minutes of broiling that she suggests, though, in fairness, I did double the recipe. But it was pretty easy to throw everything together; it was just a matter of sticking around the kitchen when the broiler was going so I got a nice char without burning anything.  After a few tries, I turned off the timer and just watched it, so I don’t actually know how long it took.  I used about 4 medium tomatoes and a handful of cherry tomatoes, both red and orange, 2 jalapenos, 5 cloves of garlic, and 3/4 of a sweet onion.  (It was what I had left from last night’s dinner.)  I also added a few things after pulsing everything in the blender: two generous pinches of salt, about a teaspoon dried cilantro (I didn’t actually measure any of this…), about a tablespoon ancho chili powder, and the juice of 1/2 a lime. It was delicious! I can’t wait to eat some with our tacos tonight, and I can’t wait to show off and serve some up for our friends coming over for dinner on Saturday!photo(1)

Does this mean I get to buy more tomatoes at the farmers’ market next week?

 

Istanbul Sofra

A little while ago, I had the pleasure of meeting my friend from work, Julie, out for lunch.  Being an incredible considerate person, she let the “foodie who doesn’t get out much because of the small person who cannot be taken everywhere Mommy and Daddy would like to eat” pick the restaurant. Again, being the considerate person that she is, she was also willing to travel out to my neck of the woods to check out a new restaurant with me, Istanbul Sofra. (When you’re done here, go check out their website. How amazing does all that food look?)

The restaurant is where Alma used to be (I wrote about that…oh, years ago by now, I guess, but we enjoyed our meal there).  It’s on the corner of Braddock and Forbes, across Braddock from Frick Park, which makes for a pleasant space if you sit outside, which we did.  Inside was lovely and felt a little fancier, but we opted for the slightly more relaxed patio seating, and there were plenty of umbrellas to give us some shade while we dined.

The cuisine here is Middle Eastern, and everything we had was delicious! I got the Adana Kebab, which was seasoned ground lamb, reshaped onto a skewer and grilled. I must admit, it was a lot more flavorful than I expected it to be, earthy and with a little bit of heat.  There was a nice yogurt sauce that I thought worked really well to cool down the spices in the lamb, along with rice, a couple of grilled vegetables, and a small salad on the side. I really enjoyed how everything on the plate worked so well together and was impressed with how nicely everything was done.  My friend had the chicken kebab, which I might have to get next time. I enjoyed my dish, but I was a little jealous of how amazing the spices looked on the chicken and how nicely grilled it was. It looked really delicious, and she thoroughly enjoyed it.

Our dishes came with fresh pita, as well. In retrospect, I wish I had eaten some of that with my lamb, because I think it would have paired really nicely together. And because the pita was so thin and soft and delicious, I just wish I had eaten more of it! (I did take the leftovers home, but I gave Anna my leftovers that night for dinner. She liked it…but then there was no more pita for me. :) )

Finally, when we were done with our meals, we ordered Turkish coffee. I knew it was a different experience from other coffees, but I had never had it before. Delicious! But not for the weak coffee drinker.  Apparently (I found this out when I looked it up when I got home), Turkish coffee refers not to the coffee itself but to its preparation. The beans are ground very, very finely–even more so than for espresso, from what I read–and then boiled in small amounts in a special kind of pot with some sugar and sometimes other spices.  The entire mixture, grounds and all, is poured into a very small cup and served. It makes for a very rich, very bold cup of coffee. However, I found it to also be very smooth; there was no bitterness at all.  Served in small porcelain cups set into ornate silverwork that gave it a handle and had a separate lid, the presentation was beautiful and made this something special.  It was a drink to be gently sipped, and it was a wonderful end to the meal. (Here’s a picture to give you an idea of how it was served. Obviously it wasn’t exactly the same, but it helps you picture it if, like me, you’ve never seen this before.)

Over all, we had a delicious lunch (and, of course, wonderful company). Maybe best of all, I think Anna would enjoy this if we were able to get a seat outside, so we can go back again! I definitely want to try more of their food. Next time, I’ve got my eye on a few appetizers and definitely on dessert. ;)