Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday addendums

Quickly, today is National Cheesecake Day!  If you head to Cheesecake Factory, all slices are half off!  If you prefer to make your own, I've got you covered here.

And, tomorrow, July 31st, is National Cotton Candy Day!  It's only appropriate that I'm heading to Kennywood, then :)

Get out there and indulge your sweet tooth!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Corn & zucchini cakes with goat cheese

Back to the culinary adventures!  On the plane ride home on Friday night, I kept thinking about three things: 1) how much fun I had in LA, 2) how much I missed Pittsburgh and my favorite people, and 3) how excited I was to get back into the kitchen.  Honest.

I realize that thoughts of unpacking, catching up on sleep, or even buying a ticket to return to LA once feeling the Pittsburgh weather are much more normal than those of dreaming up new recipes.  But being on vacation and trying new foods gets my inferno-like brain really working overtime with things to try once I am back in my own space.  I actually scribbled a few down on a plane napkin for fear of forgetting them later... look for those in the weeks to come :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Guest post: Haluski with bacon

(My apologies if there is a delay in answering questions or comments this week, since I will be in California sans a computer.  But, don't fret - I haven't forgotten about you!  I've planned some posts ahead to keep you entertained until I return... freckled and at least five pounds heavier.  Enjoy!)

Today's post was written by Matt.


I have to start by applauding Katy for her skills and organization in the kitchen.  My attempt to prepare a meal, take pictures, and make mental notes about what I was doing can best be described as a maelstrom of chaos (this description brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department).  Bear with me, as this is my foray into the food blogging world.

Those who know me are very aware of two things I am passionate about: hot dogs and my Polish heritage.  My original plan was to visit and do a review of the Franktuary, a church in downtown Pittsburgh that sells hot dogs in its basement to benefit the congregation.  My Polishness won over, though, and I decided to stay in the comforts of air conditioning and make my favorite Polish dish -- haluski.

Haluski is a Polish and Slovakian dish comprised mostly of cabbage and noodles.  There are other variations that replace the noodles with dumplings and most recipes don't include bacon, but my family has always made it this way, and so shall I.  It really adds a lot of flavor (and color, for those who are more conscious of presentation).  Plus, it's bacon!  Everything is better with bacon.  But, if you don't eat bacon for whatever reason, I suppose you can omit it.

As noted earlier, I am not the most savvy in the kitchen.  I like this recipe because you can pretty much wing it.  In fact, I don't even have this recipe written down.  I wing it every time and it always turns out delicious.

(adapted loosely from a Market District recipe and my memory of batches from home)
-makes roughly 8-10 servings

1 head of cabbage (I used Savoy), shredded
1 small sweet onion, sliced about 1/2-inch thick
1 (16 ounce) package of bacon
1 (16 ounce) package of extra wide egg noodles
1/2 stick (1/4 cup = 4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon-ish of dried thyme (or 2 Tablespoons of fresh thyme), to taste
Pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, cook the bacon to desired doneness.  Drain on paper towels briefly.  Eat a piece because it's irresistible.  Chop the rest of the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add egg noodles to water and cook according to instructions on package. Drain and set aside.

In a large pan over medium heat, melt half of the butter (1/4 stick).  Add the onion, stirring to coat with butter.  Cook until onions are soft and slightly translucent.  Now it's time to add the cabbage and remaining butter.  (You'll see why you need a large pan.  Uncooked, the cabbage takes up a lot of space.)  Stir to coat cabbage with butter and mix with onions.  Cover and cook over medium heat until cabbage is wilted and soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove cover and add noodles to cabbage mixture, stirring together.  Gradually add thyme and pepper, tasting after each addition.

Add the bacon, stir it all up, and enjoy.  Serve hot.  Haluski is usually eaten alone, but I decided to try it in a wrap since it was my main course.

Finally, I want to thank Katy for trusting me with her blog for a day.  I tried not to break it.  Also, I don't know what's going on with the line spacing and formatting on this thing.  I'll have to have Katy fix it when she gets back.


Update 7/24: I'm back!  And the formatting on this goofy thing is back to normal... for now.  Didn't Matt do such a fantastic job? :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer vegetable & goat cheese frittata

(My apologies if there is a delay in answering questions or comments this week, since I will be in California sans a computer.  But, don't fret -- I haven't forgotten about you!  I've planned some posts ahead to keep you entertained until I return... freckled and at least five pounds heavier. Enjoy!)


Did the words iron and maiden really just appear in the same sentence/title?  Yep, yep they did, but this post is certainly not about an English heavy metal band from the 1970s.  Nope, it's about the very first use for my early birthday gift (thank you, again!) -- the cast iron skillet!

In fact, it's so heavy that the next bigger size (12") no longer qualified for free shipping on Amazon.  Whew, just under the wire.  (Also, I wouldn't advise kicking the box into your apartment... not a great idea.)  Anyway, back to the skillet's advantages.  I guess I've been singing its praises for a while now because, when I told Matt I was using a gift card to finally purchase one, his response was, "Finally.  I was about to just go out and buy one."  Apparently I mentioned it on a weekly basis.  Obsessed much?

My first order of business was to read the little care card attached to the skillet.  (Somewhere, my engineer of a dad is cringing at the thought of reading any type of instruction manual.)  Never ever ever ever EVER under any circumstances use soap or detergent on one of these.  Hot water and scrubbing salt is recommended for cleaning visible grime off of the skillet.  Immediately dry and lightly coat with nonstick spray or a little vegetable oil and store, covered, until its next use.  Yes, sir.

What to make, what to make.  A frittata has been at the top of my list for a while.  Think quiche without a crust, but started on the stovetop and moved to the oven for finishing.  Feel free to personalize this to accommodate your tastes and supplies.  Broccoli would be a great addition, and cheddar or parmesan cheese are items I'm going to try next.  The tangy goat cheese, slightly crunchy squash and spinach, and the sweet potato make for an amazing combination.  We enjoyed the dish for dinner but I'd wager it'd be just as successful for a breakfast or lunch.  Oh, and dare I even mention the h-word (healthy)... but it's so super packed with protein, vitamins, and you know, overflowing in the flavor department, too.

Summer Vegetable Frittata
(adapted from Iowa Girl Eats)

3 whole eggs + 3 egg whites
Ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small sweet potato, cubed and steamed
1 cup chopped yellow summer squash
2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup water
3 ounces of goat cheese

(Note: I just chopped up my sweet potato and microwaved it for two minutes in a small bowl with a little water.)

Preheat oven to 450F (or, if you have a broiler big enough to fit a pan, heat that).  In a small bowl, whisk eggs and whites together with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet (or oven-safe pan... that means no plastic handles!) over medium high heat.  Add the sweet potato and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and cook until just beginning to brown around the edges.

Add the squash, broccoli, and water into the skillet and cover, allowing to steam for roughly 2 minutes, until the squash has softened a bit (but not completely, you want a little crunch still) and the spinach has wilted to about a quarter of its initial volume.  Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and spread it out evenly.  Run a heat-safe spatula around the edges of the pan every minute or so to ensure the eggs don't stick.

When the bottom has set but the top is still slightly runny, add the goat cheese by dotting it all over the top, and place in oven (or under your broiler) for 3 to 4 minutes or until top is cooked and cheese has melted.  Remove from oven to cool on wire rack.  Cut radially like a pizza and serve.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hear ye, hear ye!

(My apologies if there is a delay in answering questions or comments this week, since I will be in California sans a computer.  But, don't fret -- I haven't forgotten about you!  I've planned some posts ahead to keep you entertained until I return... freckled and at least five pounds heavier. Enjoy!)


I may be 2,400 miles away, temporarily living the life of luxury in LA, but I wasn't going to miss informing you that a new Dunkin' Donuts location on Forbes Avenue in Oakland officially opens today!

If you head there, leave a comment as to what it was like!  Any special events going on?  I can't believe I'm missing this... and, I find it no coincidence that it's a day after my birthday.  Le sigh.  It'll be there when I return :) 

And, if you're feeling especially inspired, make your own doughnuts at home!  Try one of my recipes from the February doughnut month adventure:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate wafer icebox cake

(My apologies if there is a delay in answering questions or comments this week, since I will be in California sans a computer.  But, don't fret -- I haven't forgotten about you!  I've planned some posts ahead to keep you entertained until I return... freckled and at least five pounds heavier.  Enjoy!)


This morning around 8:45, in mid-air somewhere over the continental United States, I crested the hump between twenty and thirty by turning the big 2-6!  Happy birthday to me!  :)  I know, you're probably thinking that thanking my lucky stars for being blessed with short legs (only after noticing how cramped my fellow passengers are) isn't exactly the way most people would choose to celebrate their personal holidays and the beginning of a week-long vacation.   Don't worry, dear friends, because I made sure to celebrate early not once, but twice.  First, with my family on Saturday with a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. 

And then again on Sunday, by making a cake whose recipe has been begging and pleading for me to pay it some attention because that recipe binder of mine might as well be known as the black hole of my apartment.  There were many contenders, but all were tossed to the wind because of one common element -- heat.  Yes yes, even the crepe cake... especially the crepe cake because, much to my annoyance, it required a smidgen of a very odd and expensive flavored liquor.  No way was I going to spend upwards of $30 for something I'd never use again.  After all, this was MY birthday cake and, for once, I could pick something other than yellow or chocolate cake and not worry about what anyone else wanted.  Sure, I took a risk that no one else would like it, but that would only promise more cake for myself.  Sounds like a good birthday to me.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the eighth wonder of the world summer dessert menu: the icebox cake.  Some of you may be unfamiliar with the concept of an icebox cake.  If you look at the picture of the chocolate wafer package above, that's the original form of an icebox cake log, same ingredients.  I was told by my grandma that it's been around for decades, only to have a resurgence in popularity by a certain uber trendy NYC cupcake shop.  Rather than copy and paste, here is a great piece on the history of the icebox cake.  The idea is that, by layering the thin crispy cookies with fresh whipped cream and allowing them to sit overnight, the cookies will absorb some of the moisture and soften, yielding an eye-popping, jaw-droppingly simple creamy layered cake.

This cake took record time to throw together -- about 30 minutes flat.  I did it Saturday morning after my run and before we headed to my parents' house for the day... all before 9 o'clock.  Another selling point of this recipe was the ingredient count: FOUR!  Heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and chocolate wafers.  That's it.  Elegance in simplicity.  I'm sensing a theme here.  The cake was utterly devoured (and, I think, enjoyed by all who were present), save for a very tiny smidgen of a piece that my gardener will have no problem enjoying later this week.  The cookies soften so much that you think you're eating a version of cookies and cream pudding... mmmmm.

Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake
(adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

A few notes: Chilling the bowl in which you're going to whip the cream isn't necessary, but it does speed up the process just a bit, especially in warmer weather.  Also, if you'd like to stack the cookies differently and achieve more of a log shape or something else of your choosing, be bold and go for it, it'll taste just as delicious.  Regarding the star ingredient, you may have to go on a bit of a quest to find the chocolate wafers.  (Attention Pittsburghers -- I found them in the Market District Giant Eagle in Shadyside on a top shelf in the cookie aisle.)  I did a quick search online and it seems some people had luck with Oreo cookies sans the filling.  Let me know if you try this.

3 cups heavy whipping cream
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 (9-ounce packages) chocolate wafer cookies
Cocoa powder or chocolate shavings, for topping (optional)

In a large chilled bowl of an electric mixer, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla on high speed until soft peaks (when you turn off and lift one of the beaters, the peaks are just beginning to develop but will melt back into themselves in a second or two) form.

On a flat serving plate (make sure you'll have room for this in the refrigerator), arrange seven cookies in a circle, touching, with one in the center.  Spread 1/2 cup of whipped cream out evenly over the layer of cookies.  Repeat with a layer of cookies (try alternating their positions for a brick effect) and cream, until you achieve 11 layers, ending with cream.  You will probably have a few cookies remaining, unless you were cursed with some broken bits in the packages.

Cover carefully with plastic wrap (or a cake container) and refrigerate overnight.  In fact, this "cake" only gets better as it sits, so I suggest making it and leaving your current zip code for a while in order to make abstaining easier.

Just before serving, dust with cocoa or chocolate shavings.  For cutting and serving, use a sharp knife warmed by hot water and dried (think of how you'd cut a cheesecake).  And, even if it's not your birthday, sing a little song to yourself, just substituting "Happy (whatever day it is) to me" because, my goodness, a happy day it will be :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thank you, thank you!

I must send the biggest "thank you!" out to the incredibly thoughtful and generous person that ordered me the Etsy print I fell in love with and had it anonymously delivered to my door yesterday.  Talk about jumping up and down excitement, followed by sadly realizing I had no idea who the sender was, and finally plotting how to figure out this mystery.  I already have a frame picked out!  I feel so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life... thank you, thank you, thank you! :)

P.S. Please identify yourself to me so I may thank you properly rather than over the interwebs.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Spicy Old Bay turkey thighs

Ahhh Monday Thursday.  I'm not very accustomed to taking a day off smack in the middle of the week, so a mini vacation is nice.  It was a jam-packed day: dentist appointment, laundry, errands, and a very sweet princess's 5th birthday party.  Am I the only person in the world who loves going to the dentist?  I mean, sure, the staff at my dentist's office is as charming as can be, but I really love reclining in the oh-so-comfy chair and relaxing while my teeth are cleaned to a sparkling finish while I do nothing.  And I get a parting gift of a free toothbrush.  Win win :)  Though when I made a joke about the amount of sugar I eat and it's a wonder I have no cavities, my dentist was a little less charming... woops.

Another favorite of mine is Thanksgiving, mostly because of the no gifts time with family, but also because of the turkey.  I love turkey!  Love love love love.  But sadly, how many of us eat roast turkey any other time throughout the year?  I eat lunch meat turkey and ground turkey, but no roast turkey here.  So, you can imagine my excitement when I spotted a recipe for roasted turkey in a recent issue of Everyday Food.  Just mention Old Bay and you'll get me to jump through hoops galore, but pair it with turkey?  Get outta here.  Prep is a cinch, and the flavor is dynamite.  And, don't worry spicy heat wimps, I count myself among your ranks.  This isn't a hot recipe by any means.  The Old Bay may be intense before heading into the oven, but it mellows out during cooking.  I paired it with the cool and crunchy raw corn and zucchini salad from earlier this week for a sweet side.

Dollars and sense -- I'm not usually one to figure out the cost of a recipe and boast about it, but well, that's precisely what I'm going to do here.  Turkey (2.4 pounds) = $3, four ears of corn = $0.80, two medium zucchinis = $3.  The rest of the ingredients were hanging out in the pantry or refrigerator.  That brings the grand total to $6.80 for four servings.  For you math majors, that's $1.70 per person.  Awesome, just awesome.

Spicy Turkey Thighs
(adapted from Everyday Food, again)
-serves 4

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
5 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 bone-in, skin-on turkey thighs (around 2 pounds total)
Ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450F.  In a small bowl, stir together butter, Old Bay, and lemon juice until a paste is formed.  Rinse turkey thighs with water and pat dry with paper towels.  Place turkey thighs in a 7 x 11-inch glass baking dish.

Gently slip your fingers between skin and meat, working the opening without completely separating the skin from the meat.  Evenly spread butter mixture under skin of each thigh.  Season thighs with salt and pepper.

Roast in oven 35 to 40 minutes (I went with 40) until skin is crispy and brown and juices run clear when meat is pierced with a knife.  (If you have an instant read thermometer, it should read 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding bone.  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.  Enjoy your summertime feast!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Raw corn & zucchini salad

Two no-oven recipes in one week?  You bet.  And this one is so much easier than I originally thought it would be.  When I first spotted this fresh veggie salad, reminiscient of my two favorite shades of Crayola crayons, I assumed I'd have to boil the corn before cutting it from the cob.  You see, I come from a family that boils their corn, but I've also heard of grilling it, too.  Then I read the recipe note again -- no boiling or cooking at all?  Eating corn from the cob raw?!  What are we, barbarians?  We have fire!  And ovens!  I stuck my nose up slightly at this instruction and made it anyway.  

And oh, am I glad my inner snob didn't win this war.  The bright salad was so tasty.  I actually think I prefer corn raw now, telling anyone who will listen that, did you know?  You can eat corn raw!  And if that makes me uncivilized, so be it.  I'll just be in the corner, eating my salad with sans utensils (and probably making a mess), thank you.

The cool crunch of the corn and the thin tender zucchini was a perfect light side to accompany a main dish I'll write about later this week.  In fact, I took some of it along with me to work for lunch because it was that good on its own.  Simplicity is the key!  Oh, and it was totally inexpensive and 1-2-3 quick.  Because while some things deserve time and energy to be the shining star of a meal, the supporting cast need not be a huge production to be appreciated.

Raw Corn and Zucchini Salad
(adapted from Everyday Food)
-serves 6 as a side

3 ears of corn, husked and cleaned
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced and quartered
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper

Carefully, using a sharp knife, cut off the corn kernels in sheets and place in large bowl (or plastic container with a lid, for tossing and storing later).  Discard the cobs.  Add the zucchini to the bowl, olive oil, and lime juice.  Toss gently to break up the corn and coat the vegetables with dressing.  Taste, seasoning with salt and pepper as you desire.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mushroom & spinach quesadillas

The spell has been lifted!  After a much-needed weekend rainstorm, the temperatures have returned to a much more tolerable mid-80s range.  Thank goodness, because I've been slowly dying inside without any items to bake.  Please permit me (and most likely the rest of the northeast) a brief moment to complain.  Last week the weather was hot.  I'm talking wicked hot.  So hot that I totally skipped my normal 3-mile walks at lunch.  So hot that my little flowers needed to be watered not once, but twice, a day.  And, finally, so freakin' scorching that I didn't dream of turning on my oven.  In fact, I can't remember the last time it was on... oh wait, it was when I made these.  (Confession -- I actually made the enchiladas on Saturday and saved the post until then.  Hey, they are delicious either way, right?  Right.)

It was too hot to trek to a local restaurant because I'm pretty sure immense sweating isn't appropriate for dining in public.  I didn't want cereal again for dinner, though I'm not ashamed to admit that at least once a week it is, in fact, what I serve myself when it's either too hot or I'm too impatient to wait to feed my growling stomach after the gym and need some immediate reprieve.  A quick survey of my supplies -- I had some mushrooms left from the pizzeria chicken, of course there was spinach on hand, so I figured I'd whip up some quesadillas.

Total time over heat -- about 7 minutes, but no oven, so whew.  And, what do you know, there is sour cream left for dipping!  Though it wasn't a meal of epic proportions, it was fantastically satisfying.  Something about extreme heat just zaps my appetite for what passes as normal dinner food and sends me in the direction of popsicles.  A small meal with vegetables?  That is a total success in my book when compared to an orange, grape, or cherry frozen novelty.

A quick note -- I'm not fancy enough to have a panini press or anything that is specifically meant for grilling and smashing things at the same time.  However, I've found that, after folding the quesadilla over in half, a heavy bowl placed on top of the tortilla does just fine.  After a few minutes, carefully flip it over and repeat with glass bowl.  Ta da!

Mushroom & Spinach Quesadillas
-makes 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced button mushrooms
2 cups baby spinach
1/3 cup diced red onion
Ground black pepper
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese (cheddar and pepper jack would work, too)
Sour cream, for serving

In a large nonstick skillet, wilt spinach in oil slightly over medium heat until volume has reduced by half, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add mushrooms and onions to just warm for another two minutes.  Remove to a bowl, and wipe out skillet with a paper towel.

Return pan to heat and place one tortilla in center, top whole (or half if using one tortilla) with a sprinkling of cheese, half of the vegetable mixture, and more cheese.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Top vegetables with second tortilla and press slightly, then place large bowl on top and allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until you can see that cheese has melted.  Carefully flip and cook on other side in similar fashion.  Repeat for second quesadilla.

Cut each into quarters and serve with sour cream (or salsa or guacamole, if you prefer) for dipping.  And thank your lucky stars that your oven wasn't turned on for even a second :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cheesy chicken & bean enchiladas

After I spent the holiday weekend indulging in some of the most American foods I could sink my teeth into (lobster rolls!  milkshakes!  ballpark hot dogs!  French fries...?! ), it was time to plan some meals and restock my very empty fridge.  First up?  Enchiladas.  I've had a hankering for them since the end of May when a bunch of friends headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch after a fun wedding-filled weekend.  I ordered a taco, a chalupa, and an enchilada, which was saved for last since it's my favorite.  I got to thinking -- why haven't I tried enchiladas in my own kitchen?  I've made tacos, burritos and a Mexican lasagna, while Matt has made fajitas... it can't be that difficult, can it?

I am happy to report that no, this dish wasn't difficult at all.  Probably the most challenging part of it was restraining myself from munching all of the cheese that was set aside for the recipe.  That didn't stop me from having just a little :)  I'm not sure why making foods like this seem like such a daunting task when Taco Bell can whip up the stuff and somehow profit while charging $1 and under for most of the items from the menu.  (Actual quote uttered at lunch that day: "Wow, I thought chalupas were only a Taco Bell thing."  Sadly, I must admit, me too.)

This homemade version was so much better than anything you could get from a drive-thru.  And, another note, this dish wasn't heavy at all.  No oil, lots of veggies and lean protein, and a nice spicy kick from the enchilada sauce.  My apartment smelled incredible while making this so my stomach was growling when dinnertime rolled around.  The veggies still had a slight crunch to them, the beans and chicken were filling, and the cheese was melted and made for some nice fork twirling.  Oh yeah, and do accept my apologies for no plating picture.  If there's one thing enchiladas are not, it's photogenic.  Or maybe it was due to my impatience taking them out of the dish.  I prefer the former reason.

A few notes: If you'd like to make this a vegetarian dish, feel free to substitute another can of beans or corn for the chicken, or even try a package of frozen spinach (thawed and drained super well).  For extra heat, you could add some chopped jalapeno peppers or a little hot sauce.  But don't worry, I won't tell if you omit them both.  I'm a wimp, too.

Cheesy Chicken and Bean Enchiladas

-serves 4, 2 enchiladas each

Nonstick cooking spray
1 small white onion, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded (about 8 ounces)
1 (15-ounce) can of black beans, drained well
3/4 cup + 1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Sour cream, for serving

Preheat broiler or oven to 450F.  Coat a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add onion and pepper, and sauté about 2 minutes just to soften vegetables.  Add the entire can of enchilada sauce and bring to a boil.  Cover pan (a sheet of foil will do), reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, black beans, 3/4 cup of cheese, and cumin and toss well.  Warm tortillas in a microwave for 20-30 seconds, in order to make rolling easier.  Coat an 11-inch by 8-inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Set up a little assembly line and spoon a generous (slightly more than a) 1/4 cup of the chicken-bean mixture onto the center of a tortilla, spread along the middle, and roll up.  Place tortilla wrap, seam side down, into the baking dish.  Repeat with remaining 7 tortillas.  Pour enchilada sauce mixture over tortilla rolls, spread with rubber spatula to evenly coat.

Bake in oven for 5 minutes.  Remove, sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese evenly over top, and return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cheese has melted.  Remove from oven to cooling rack.  Serve with sour cream and chopped cilantro, if using. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dippy eggs over greens & mushrooms

As detailed here, this weekend was a bit of a gluttony fest.  Oh, you better believe I relished every single second of it, be it the fried potato pancakes or the various cold treats or the heaping piles of lobster.  But I found myself craving a light simple breakfast on Saturday morning before the onslaught of food began for that day.  And, since I hadn't yet been to the grocery store (bananas, oh how I miss thee!), I was working with very limited supplies.  Somewhere, possibly in Julia Child's My Life in France or an Ina Garten article, I once read about a type of salad the French serve featuring sunny side up eggs over mixed greens.  Sounded a little odd, but I had the goods to try it for myself.

And boy, was it exactly what I wanted.  Mixed greens, a few sliced raw mushrooms, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, two dippy eggs, and a little salt and pepper.  That's it.  Yum!  Breaking the yolk and letting it dribble over the crunchy lettuce, mm.  I never thought I'd want a salad for breakfast, but this felt so satisfying and even a little high brow :)  A quick tip for cooking eggs like this -- a pan over low heat and eventually covering the pan for a minute or two, so the heat circulates and cooks the top of the egg, too. 

What do you call eggs that look like that (above)?  Dippy?  Sunny side up?  Or something else? People always laugh when I call them dippy eggs, but that's what I grew up hearing, so that's what they shall forever be!

Today's going to be another hot (94 degrees) and humid (75%) day in the city of bridges.  About 5 minutes into my morning run, sweat was literally dripping off my face.  It was totally worth it, though, since there was a cold bowl of overnight oats waiting for me after my cold morning shower.  Yum :)  I'm going to wager that tonight's dessert will probably involve some neglected as of late popsicles...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

All-American weekend recap

Happy Tuesday!  So who needs another day to recharge from the holiday weekend?  [raises both hands emphatically, a la Hermione Granger]  This girl for sure.  Four, count 'em - FOUR! - days of hot sun, classic American food, city fun, and visitors galore!

Friday was my favorite kind of day, filled with some productivity and even more fun.  Since you already heard about my morning, I'll tell you that Matt's family arrived just in time for lunch and we headed to Point Brugge Cafe for some eats (the ultra tender steak frite for me).  After lunch, Matt's family headed off to the baseball game to witness Pgh's own Pirates crush the Phillies, while I came home to finish painting some trim around my apartment.  That little task has physically been on my to-do list for at least 3 months (and mentally, about 2 years).  Coat #1, check.  Needed some dry time in there, so I strolled to Razzy Fresh for a treat, and got home to complete coat #2 before sleep.  Early to bed because Saturday was going to be a busy little bee kind of day.

...starting with some OnDemand yoga and a little cleaning up before lunch at Hofbrauhaus!  Have any of you ever been there?  Just another reason to visit Pittsburgh -- this spot is only one of three locations in the country!  Two times in one week, I know, we're a little spoiled/obsessed with this place.

Funny moment when poor Matt and his friend actually hugged the giant metal tanks that had been outside in the scorching sun all day.  Boy geniuses, I tell you :)  So here they are almost touching the tanks, having been burned (literally) the first time.  From the HBH, we headed to PNC Park for another Pirates. vs. Phillies game, where the latter pummeled the former.  Thankfully, a 5th inning treat of cookies and cream Dip 'n Dots turned out to be the highlight of the game.  Post-game fireworks in shades of red, white and blue over the river were the perfect end to a fantastic day.  When I got to bed, man, I crashed hard, folks.  I'd venture to say that I was asleep in under 5 minutes.  Old lady alert!

Sunday was a totally different kind of day than the jam-packed thrilling Saturday; Independence Day was the ultimate lazy day, perfect for spending with my parents.  We headed to the Strip District for lunch, to a place that's been on my restaurant to-try list for ages: Roland's Seafood Grill.  They are known for their lobster roll, so can ya guess what my dad and I each ordered?  Yessssssss!

Oh heavenly sandwich.  Heavenly affordable sandwich!  I love lobster and would eat it every day if I could, but it's a little pricey to eat even every week or monthly, so I try to save it for special occasions.  However, after having this lunch for $15, I might have to rewrite my lobster frequency rule!  The bread, hailing from Mancini's, was chewy and crusty with a touch of sweet, while the lobster... holy chunks of lobster!  Merely drizzled with melted butter, that's it.  The creative minds over at Apple have proven that there's something so desirable about simplicity (hello, look at the iPod) and this sandwich was a study in minimalism.  This was no lobster salad drenched in mayonaise and seasonings, just the basics.

After the eating and people watching, we poked our heads into the few shops that weren't closed for the holiday, and headed over to the South Side for milkshakes.  Creamsicle for me, chocolate for my mom, and moose tracks for my dad.  What a sweet afternoon.  My parents headed home to beat the insane traffic around the city, and since I wasn't feeling well, I stayed home to read this month's book club pick and watch fireworks on TV in the much-needed A/C.  Perfect day for me :)

Monday was pretty lazy, too -- said goodbye to the last of the visitors and lifted the self-imposed grocery ban.  That means fruits and vegetables are back, and I can cook some awesome dinners.  Woohoo!  Oh, and caught a few minutes of The Bachelorette and even more of the Jake/Vienna interview... can I get a collective "what the heck?"  Those two are RIDICULOUS!!  Talk about a train wreck and assault on the ears listening to them bicker.  But, clearly I didn't turn it off immediately... woops.  Anyway, back to work today.  Fingers crossed for lots of energy.  Hope everyone has recovered from the weekend!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Easy pizza chicken packets

A little late getting to writing today, but that's because I'm home and off work on this gorgeous Friday to start my four-day holiday weekend!  Woohoo!  I "slept in" until 6:30, made it out for a quickie 2-mile run, watered my flowers (oh, you guys are due for an updated picture -- coming soon!), made a very colorful breakfast sandwich, and tidied up for the company that's on its way at this very moment :)

Last night was my turn to host dinner for Laura and, in keeping with this week's theme of cleaning out the fridge and pantry, I scrounged up ingredients to make a quick little Italian feast.  It was one of those days that, had it been a Monday, would've sent me crawling back into bed.  But, thankfully it was a surprise Friday and I was able to laugh at every ridiculous thing that happened.  Everyone mysteriously losing things at work?  Check.  Pipe under my kitchen sink coming apart and spilling water everywhere?  Check.  New ice cream treat turning out to be gross and bad for some reason?  Check.  Crazy man following us on the street pretending to look at us through an imaginary periscope?  Oooooooh check.  This dinner was a true testament to the fact that good friends and good food can make you forget about everything.  The ultimate comfort food in the form of a tender chicken breast smothered with sauce, veggies, and ooey gooey cheese over a bed of buttery garlic pasta.  And that bad ice cream?  Yeah, we just high-tailed it to Dave & Andy's where some mint cookies and cream soothed my soul.

My mom always made chicken pizzeria for us at home, but I decided to adapt it to a bit of a smaller crowd.  While she normally made it in a large glass baking dish, I opted for a no-mess foil packet preparation.  And I did a quick sauté of the mushrooms with a little oil to soften them up a bit, but that's not necessary at all.  Personalize this as you would your very own pizza!  I like green peppers and mushrooms, so that's obviously the route I took.  Pepperoni would be a great topping, and I know Matt would enjoy it.  Diced onions, thinly sliced and chopped ham, even sausage.  The sky is the limit!  Well, maybe not that high as you do want the foil to envelope your little pizza-ized chicken.

I think I'll go read a little on the porch before the guests of honor arrive.  And, a little downtime before a busy weekend full of baseball games (I am pro-Pirates, for once!), the three rivers regatta, and fireworks!  Have a great holiday, everyone! :o)

Pizzeria Chicken
-serves 2

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced green peppers
Spaghetti noodles (I enjoy heaping piles of pasta, so cook as much as you want)
Garlic salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Cut two 12-inch square pieces of foil and place side by side on a baking sheet.  In the center of each sheet, place a chicken breast, top with half of the marinara sauce, sprinkle with cheese, mushrooms, and peppers.  Fold the foil up around the chicken breast and tent it slightly, then fold over to seal.  You want to leave some room in there for heat circulation and that way the cheese won't stick to the top of the foil.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water 8-10 minutes.  Drain, and season with garlic salt and a tablespoon of butter.  Toss, and set aside.  Remove chicken from oven.  Serve over fresh pasta and enjoy... whilst listening to the music from the motion picture The Godfather playing in the background to reiterate the Italian theme :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

24 Dazzling recipes for July 4th!

Happy July!  Can you believe it's already July?  Whew.  I was hoping that today would be a very relaxing easy day because, even though it's Thursday, it feels like Friday to me (holla no work tomorrow!).  But, of course, that's a recipe for a super jam-packed day with a lengthy to-do list and a scattered brain that would disturb even the most flighty person :)  Thankfully I made cookies so a little treat here and there is doing wonders for my energy.  (Is sugar really the answer?  I guess we'll find out in an hour or two.)

Another reason I'm all over the place is that I'm excited for this weekend.  Visitors are coming to Pittsburgh!  You know what that means -- I'll be busy in the kitchen tonight and tomorrow before they arrive.  I'm starting to see the advantages of an online archive of many of my culinary adventures because I love that I can sort through recipes when I need ideas.  In need of some suggestions?  Take a look:

Having overnight guests and need some easy breakfast ideas?  I'm a big fan of make-ahead meals, especially in the morning so you can converse casually with loved ones over tea and coffee, nibbling on light morning fare, rather than standing in front of a hot oven.  And some of these are even patriotic with surprise bits of red and blue, double bonus!

So you've got the burgers/sausages/hot dogs/steaks/kabobs/whatever main dish picked out but are unsure of what to make to go along with it for side dishes?  Something that you can make ahead and serve when necessary but that's way more exciting than the traditional yawn of potato salads and baked beans?  Try any of these:

What would a celebration be without dessert?  Our forefathers would've manned up a heck of a lot sooner had they known any of these treats would be served at a celebration of this country's independence, ha!

Last day of work before a four day weekend!  TGIT :)