Monday, February 28, 2011

I Cooked A Steak.

 I don’t eat meat. I haven’t since I was 13. Why? Oh, that’s not important (plus sometimes I don’t really know why). I’m not really grossed out by meat. In fact, sometimes I find myself craving a big steak or a crispy buffalo wing. It never lasts long enough to actually go through with it though. I’ve never, however, felt the need to hold a cold piece of bloody ribeye in my hands and massage salt and pepper into it. Ohh the things you do for love.

Andy’s birthday was yesterday (happy birthday Andy!!), so I decided the best thing I could give him (which probably ended up being his favorite present from me) was a steak. Rare. The lady behind the counter at Giant Eagle looked at me like I was crazy when I said it was my first time buying a steak. I also told her I didn’t know how I was going to cook it, but then I lied and told her I had a grill. There was so much pressure!! She told me my best option was “any of these” and basically pointed to every steak there was. I selected the biggest, thickest steak, which was a boneless ribeye. Coincidentally, it’s the same steak that Pioneer Woman uses with her Onion Blue Cheese Sauce recipe that I was going to use, so I was off to the right start!

I called my sister (she and her fiancé are serious meat experts) and she recommended that I cook it in the oven. I was skeptical at first, thinking that I should use my panini grill, but I’m so glad that I took her advice! I stuck the steak in the oven (10 minutes on each side @ 350) and got to work on the sauce.


Ohhh the sauce. The sauce!!!! PW really freaks out about how amazing her recipe is, and she is SO RIGHT! This decadent, rich, thick, mouth-watering sauce is worth every calorie and gram of cholesterol. It’s freakin amazing.

I melted butter in my skillet and tossed in a whole huge sliced onion.


I cooked the onions on medium for about 10 minutes, then kicked it up to high for a minute so they’d get all brown and crispy.


I turned the heat down to low and added in a cup of heavy cream. Ohhhh yeah! After it thickened up a bit, I put in a handful of crumbled blue cheese, plus some salt and pepper. THAT’S IT!! Butter, onion, cream, blue cheese, salt, pepper. OMG. omg. This was amazing.


The steak came out of the oven and sent a few splatters of blood flying as I flipped it to check the other side. At the sight of blood droplets, I figured it was done to Andy’s liking.


I set it nicely on top of the sauce, just like PW did. I also cooked him a baked potato, but it wasn’t done until halfway through his steak. Whoops! As he was cutting into the steak, I noticed it was probably more brown than he would have liked (but he didn’t say anything and said it was great), so next time I’ll probably do each side for 8 minutes.


  Here is my humble meal. You can’t tell from the picture, but that was one seriously huge sweet potato! I was going to eat them separately, but the sauce and the sweet potato ended up being delicious when combined.


We enjoyed our late lunch with a Mendocino Imperial Barleywine.


This was a seriously tasty barleywine with a gorgeous golden brown color. It was very sweet and very strong. It tasted fruity…kind of like raisins!


We both really enjoyed our meals! This is Andy’s mmmmmsteak face.


Honestly? This was kind of fun. I might have to cook meat for him again. Maybe next time I won’t wear rubber gloves the whole time ;)

Friday, February 25, 2011

A New Beer – Well’s Banana Bread Beer

 Standing in front of the beer cooler, I searched for something new to try. I’ve seen this Wells Banana Bread Beer before and have always though “ewwww.” I really love bananas, but I really hate banana flavoring. You know, Runts and other banana candies. Gross! This time, I saw this beer and figured I might as well give it a try. I mean, I love banana bread, so why not?


Having no idea who Wells is (is that bad?), I looked up their website and found out that Wells and Young’s also makes Young’s Chocolate Stout. Okay, that makes sense. But, they also make Red Stripe and Kirin Ichiban? I’m so confused.


So, how was the beer? I liked it. I didn’t love it, but it was good. After opening the bottle, the banana bread smell is immediately apparent. It smells pretty darn good too! The color is a beautiful gold. The aroma was still strong and delicious in the glass. After being pretty impressed by the smell and color, I was slightly disappointed by the taste. I was expecting a little more depth of flavor. I drank the beer while it was still pretty ice cold though, so maybe I should have let the bottle sit out for a while so that more flavors could come out. Luckily, I didn’t notice any artificial banana flavoring.


I would recommend buying this beer and perhaps splitting it with someone just for the experience. I wouldn’t buy a six pack of it for myself, but it is truly a unique tasty beer!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vegetarian White Chili

Last night at work, the idea of white chili popped into my head…then it wouldn’t leave. All night I had images of creamy beans, grains, and veggies dancing through my head. I couldn’t wait to run home and throw everything into the Crock Pot. I pictured the ingredients in my fridge and cupboards and knew exactly what was going into this delicious soup.

As soon as I got home, I got to chopping. I used one medium yellow onion, one green pepper, and nine cloves of garlic (some of them were small). I sautéed them on high for 3-4 minutes so that the veggies would get brown and flavorful but not cook too much.


Into the pot went pinto, white kidney, and garbanzo beans. No reasoning to this…just because they were in my cupboard.


They look so pretty all together! The white kidney beans were really soft and fell apart easily, but I think that added to the creaminess of the soup.


Next in the pot went vegetable broth. After shopping around, even at small health food stores, I’ve found that Trader Joe’s has the lowest sodium vegetable broth. For some reason there’s always low sodium beef and chicken broth, but never vegetable. I don’t get it!


For some texture I also used 1/2 cup quinoa and 1/2 cup wheat berries.


Everything in the Crock Pot! Next I added: a splash of rice vinegar, 3T adobo sauce, hot sauce, salt, pepper, vindaloo seasoning, cumin, and curry powder. Just a tablespoon of each seasoning, then I adjusted to taste.


It cooked on high for five hours. My apartment smelled soooo good. After it was done cooking, I added about 2 tablespoons of cream.

(It doesn’t look very much like white chili in this pic!)


The wheat berries were deliciously chewy, and the adobo sauce added a wonderful, subtle smoky flavor to the soup.

Served with asiago cheese on top. Delicious!


This is such an easy put-everything-in-and-press-go recipe. Perfect to eat while watching the snow melt out the window!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

North Country Brewing Company

 Last Saturday, Andy and I were craving something different to do. With the help of Google Maps and a thirst for some microbrews, we drove up to Slippery Rock for the day. After a tasty breakfast of toast and poached eggs with hot sauce and asiago, we started the surprisingly short trek up north.


We took back roads for the fun of it, and the drive ended up only taking an hour. I definitely thought it would take longer. Anyway, our first stop was at the Winfield Winery store, which is located right in the middle of Slippery Rock, PA. Their main location is in Cabot, PA, but they still offer tastings and sales of each of their wines at their Slippery Rock location.

The wine was fantastic. We sampled about six of their dry reds and whites, plus one or two semi-sweet wines. We both really enjoyed them all and ended up buying a bottle of the Noiret (A dry, dark red wine with spicy black pepper and oak flavors) and the Traminette Dry (A dry crisp white wine with a nice citrus finish).DSC00341 

It wasn’t quite lunchtime (which we had been planning on having at the Brewery), so we dipped into the historic Ginger Hill Tavern for a look around and possibly (definitely) a drink. This was such a nice place! The Slippery Rock students are so lucky to have such a variety of nice, clean watering holes in a town that’s pretty far out there. In Bethany, we had literally one choice: Bubba’s. After four years, it got old.

Anyway, I had a Bloody Mary with gin, extra spicy. Our bartender could really make a good drink. She was awesome! Andy ordered a 16 oz Coors light bottle which was on special for $2, but she gave him a 22 oz bottle instead…still for $2. Awesome! The menu looked great too. We were getting pretty hungry, but we held out for the Brewery.DSC00343 

Just a few steps later, we made it to North Country Brewing Company. This brewery/restaurant is seemingly made entirely out of hand carved wood. Absolutely gorgeous. The tap handles were especially lovely. Someone definitely did lots of hard work carving them. It was sort of an awkward, tight situation while we were at the bar, so I sadly didn’t get a picture of them.


Andy enjoyed a Psychedelic Nightmare while at the bar, and I had a Liquid Love Stout. They were 100% different from each other, yet both 100% delicious. Seriously, if you are a beer lover anywhere near Pittsburgh, you’re making a mistake if you don’t make it up here. I just can’t say enough about the beer here.

We got a table in about 15 minutes. We would have been fine staying at the bar, but again, pretty cramped. Our waiter was excellent. He checked on us at perfect intervals and was knowledgeable about anything we asked.


I sat next to this beautiful piece of stained glass. The mix of the natural wood and the stained glass was stunning.


So many choices! We couldn’t decide what to get next…


…so we got all of them :)

Nine 5oz beers for $9. Not bad! The decent sized glasses allowed the two of us to have generous tastes of each beer.


Each beer was excellent. Honestly, I couldn’t say that any one of the beers was “just okay.” They were all SO delicious and had individual distinctive flavors. I’m just surprised that such a small brewery can produce so many individual, quality beers.


Up next was the food. I ordered a falafel wrap that rivaled food I’ve had at “real” falafel places. This had homemade, crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, piping hot, amazing balls of falafel with cucumber aioli, lettuce, and tomatoes on a warm, soft pita. Delicious. It was so filling, but not too much that I couldn’t enjoy the beer! Andy ordered the chicken tenders and loved them as well.

Lots of great food and excellent beer. We were two happy people.


Well, I think I’ve gushed enough about my experience at North Country. We’re already talking about our next trip up to Slippery Rock!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Smiling Banana Leaf!

It’s hard to pick, but I think Smiling Banana Leaf might be my favorite Thai restaurant in Pittsburgh. Or maybe it ties with Spice Island. Either way, this restaurant in Highland Park is excellent. The inside is super tiny. I’d say there are eight tables, tops. Since the last time I was there, they remodeled pretty extensively. There are new beautiful light fixtures, and wood benches with lovely pillows now line the perimeter of the room. The atmosphere is just so calm and relaxed, like they picked the color scheme out of someone’s heavy sleep. I’ve been here many times, but only for lunch. Usually there are only one or two other occupied tables, but according to online reviews, it sometimes gets very crowded. That must be for dinner I guess.


I may not look it, but I was truly happy to be there.


We started off with the vegetable spring rolls. Delicious. I let Mr. Imstaaaaarrving have three, ‘cause I’m an awesome girlfriend.


I ordered the Pumpkin Curry. SUCH a good decision. I have never had pumpkin curry, but I had heard good things. I asked for a 10 out of 10 on the spicy scale, but it was barely a 5. It really didn’t bother me though, because the flavors were so amazing. It was exactly what I needed. There was so much pumpkin and tofu in the dish, and everything just soaked up the curry sauce beautifully. If I wasn’t so unbelievably stuffed at the end, I could have eaten three more bowls.


I love the hefty amount of basil. Everything blended together perfectly. I was in heaven :)


Andy ordered the Red Curry with beef, and he was equally as happy as I was. His dish was also loaded with beef.

There was nothing negative about our lunch. Well, except for the spice thing, but it really wasn’t a problem. I love coming here – it’s a nice escape. Another plus is that it’s in Highland Park, so parking isn’t ever an issue. HP is also a sweet, quiet neighborhood to walk around in after you’ve stuffed yourself full of delicious food!


Try out Smiling Banana Leaf sometime if you’re in the mood for a quiet, relaxed, delicious meal!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A New Beer

 After Andy’s delicious fried rice meal on Sunday, we deliberated over what to do/where to go for the rest of the night. Go downtown? Walk around Oakland? We finally, of course, settled on House of 1000 Beers. (If you live in the Pittsburgh area and you haven’t been, you must try it!) Always a delicious choice. Since our recent dinner was spicy and filling, I wanted to try something crisp, refreshing, lighter, and new. Andy suggested Stoudt's Pils. As a native eastern Pennsylvanian, I have sadly never tried Stoudt’s. (How???) Well, it ended up being a fantastic decision.


I’m usually not one to order a pilsner. I don’t really know why. I guess I just always view pilsners as ordinary. Stoudt’s Pils? Definitely not ordinary. I’m so happy I gave it a try. The color was a beautiful clear gold, and it tasted exactly like a true German pilsner. It had hints of lemon and a slight kick from the hops. It was crisp and nicely carbonated. This would be a perfect beer for a warm summer afternoon!


This is an uncomplicated, refreshing beer, and I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Eventful Valentines Weekend

After much confusion all week long as to whether I was working the weekend or not (sometimes my workplace decides to operate throughout the weekend), I was relieved when I was told that I would not have to work. It’s hard to say goodbye to the overtime, but after being sick all week, I really needed the rest. To add even more to my recovery, Andy cooked my favorite dinner of his for me while I relaxed with a beer in hand and laptop on lap.

He made the most delicious fried rice with so many veggies. We drank a delicious crisp Riesling with our dinner, and just sat an talked for hours…it was great :)


He also surprised me with this beautiful Anthurium planter! I love it!


On Sunday, we met Kat and Tyler in the Strip District just to walk around and enjoy the beautiful weather we had! Andy and I got there a little bit early, and the smells of the hippie donut shop on Smallman (I forget the actual name!) lured us in. We seriously tried, but we couldn’t resist. We ordered six deeeelicious mini donuts to share with everyone. They were SO GOOD. I’m not typically a donut person, but the teeny size and the awesome toppings totally converted me!

Raspberry Lemonade (OMG), Smores, Samoa (like the Girl Scout cookie!), Oreo, M&M, and Heath Bar with raspberry icing. Heaven!!


Oh hellooooo lovah! This would be Roland's Seafood Grill's amazing Bloody Mary (with gin, extra spicy). Roland’s is located right in the middle of the Strip District. I had never been there before (it’s usually jam packed), but since we were there on a Sunday, we were able to be instantly sat. This Bloody Mary was GREAT! Strong, spicy, and filled with horseradish.


I also tried raw oysters for the first time!! I loved them! I think I loaded up too much on the horseradish though, because I couldn’t really taste anything but the horseradish on the second oyster. Now I can’t stop craving these little slippery guys…I need to find more!


Oyster face…yum.


I also had the Maryland Crab Chowder which was good, but not really great. It was kind of like they added crab to a can of tomatoes. Another negative aspect of our lunch was the server. Sadly, he was really awful. For a table ordering multiple courses of food and lots of drinks, he treated us pretty poorly. Other than the service and the soup though, I really liked Roland’s!


Andy ordered a lobster roll on Mancini’s bread, which he really enjoyed. Kat and Tyler also ordered soups (French Onion and N.E. Clam Chowder), and they also said they were both great.

Definitely try out Roland’s sometime, just be wary of the service!


To finish off our lovely weekend, we had a beer at the Church Brew Works. I had their Pepper Porter, which was phenomenal! It is brewed with black pepper, so it was spicy and full of so much flavor. I truly loved it. I hope it’s there next time!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Trader Joe’s Soyaki Sauce

 On my last trip to TJ’s, I bought a bottle of Soyaki sauce. I had seen it before, but it was one of those things that I was never too interested in to buy. I’m so happy I finally decided to try it! It’s sweet, tangy and loaded with sesame seeds. Here are two dishes I made this week with it.

As you may or may not know, I work third shift in a lab, so my “breakfast” is always a tricky situation. I typically try to eat something relatively light but filling at about 9PM before I head into work.This usually manifests itself in some type of carb dipped/mixed with some kind of sauce (rice and hot sauce, bread and jam, etc.). This time, I sautéed a green pepper with a delicious sauce, which included the Soyaki sauce.


After the green peppers got crispy in the pan, I mixed together the Soyaki sauce, Sriracha sauce, and peanut butter. I added it to the peppers and let it cook for a little longer.


Ooookay so I added way too much sauce! The sauce was super tasty, but I really overdid it. I should have either added less peanut butter, or thinned it out with soy sauce. I’m definitely going to try this again…it kind of reminded me of a takeout side dish. It was a perfect before-work dish, because the sauce was filling and the green peppers were refreshing.


I also made salmon this week that was marinated simply with the Soyaki sauce and a few drops of toasted sesame oil.


I marinated it for about 30 minutes, then I cooked it in the oven at 325 until it was flaky. I also cooked short grain brown rice in veggie stock. It was a delicious meal!


Definitely try out the Soyaki sauce on your next trip to Trader Joe’s! There are so many possibilities of how to use it.