Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One-Pot Pesto Pasta, Potatoes, and Green Beans

 My friend Lisa sent me this awesome cookbook for my birthday – The I <3 Trader Joe’s Cookbook! I love it. It has so many amazing recipes that use ingredients that are all found at TJ’s. There are lots of different categories with a great variety of unique recipes with lots of beautiful pictures! I especially love the “starters and small plates” section – there are so many great ideas for party food in there!DSC00629

For the first-time recipe, Andy and I decided (okay I decided and he agreed) to make One-Pot Pesto Pasta, Potatoes, and Green Beans. I really liked this recipe because it looked easy, delicious, and I had all but two of the ingredients. For the two missing ingredients, (pesto and green beans) we made a quick trip to Aldi to pick them up. So we didn’t go to TJ’s, but Aldi’s brother company (also called Aldi) owns Trader Joe’s, so it all kind of works out!DSC00625   

To start, we cubed, boiled, and set aside one potato.


Using the same pot/water from the potatoes, we cooked the spaghetti. When it was done, we added the green beans (Aldi’s green beans are seriously amazing. You’d never know that they were frozen. Seriously!) to steam for a minute.


It wasn’t all going to fit in my sauce pan, so we had to transfer it to a wok to mix everything together. We then added goat cheese (I wish I would have had lots more!!), pesto, the cooked potatoes, s&p, and red pepper flakes. We stirred everything around to mix and ended up having to add milk to make it more saucy.


As a slightly unhealthy yet totally delicious side, we made these TJ’s Scallop Bites. So good! They took WAY less than 40 minutes to cook in my oven, so just a warning in case you ever make these.


YUM!! The pasta was wonderful and flavorful. I really liked how well the potatoes and green beans went with the pasta. These flavors were definitely meant to be together! The scallop bites were excellent too. They actually have pretty large pieces of scallops in them!


We enjoyed a Arcadia Ales Cereal Killer Barleywine Ale. Andy really loves Barleywines, but I usually think they’re too sweet. This one, however, was not to sweet at all! I could definitely knock back a couple of these by myself. Absolutely delicious.


The beer went very well with our dinner. It had a great balance of sweet and bitter. Definitely a winning food/beer combination!


I can’t wait to try out more great recipes from this cookbook. It is available on Amazon if you’d like one for yourself!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mushrooms and Spinach in Wine Sauce


Whenever I buy mushrooms to use in a dish, I always end up with a large amount of leftover mushrooms that end up going bad. I hate that! I paid for those darn mushrooms, and it’s so sad whenever I find them old and wrinkly in my fridge. I made this dish lightly inspired by Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms to solve my most recent leftover mushroom issue. I’ve now fallen in love with these mushrooms and will be making this with every leftover mushroom from now on! Seriously.

For the recipe I used Red Truck, which is a red blend. I really like this wine! I bought it because it was on sale, but I’m definitely buying it again sometime.


The other ingredients are one package of whole mushrooms or whatever is leftover, 3/4 bag of baby spinach, butter, 1/4 onion, and whatever spices you want.


First I sautéed 1/4 onion in butter for about 7 minutes until they got transparent. Then I added a pinch of curry, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.


I added the mushrooms plus a couple splashes of water to help them cook.


The next obvious step was to pour myself a glass of wine, since all civilized people drink wine at 9AM on a Wednesday.


I cooked the mushrooms until they were very brown and the liquid was mostly cooked off.


Next was the wine. I started off by adding about 1/4 cup, waiting until it cooked down, and adding more.


I did this a few times until the mushrooms looked completely soaked in wine, and the wine was reduced to a syrupy sauce.


I then filled the pan with spinach. This was about 3/4 of a bag. I added a couple more splashes of wine to help the spinach wilt. Did I mention my kitchen smelled absolutely amazing at this point? Well, it did.


I let the mushrooms and spinach simmer with the wine until it was once again reduced.


The perfect bite! It was really good at this point, but I let it sit covered for a few hours hoping more magic would occur.


It worked! After a few more hours, the mushrooms turned a beautiful deep purple, and the spinach was completely drenched in wine and butter. Mmmm wine and butter. Perfect. I turned the heat back on, added a splash more wine and some more red pepper flakes. The red pepper flakes gave it a wonderful amount of heat that just seemed to go great with the flavor of the wine. The piece of bread was definitely necessary to soak up the rest of the sauce.


Delicious. I can’t wait to make this again. This would be perfect as a side dish or on pasta, or just eat the whole thing by yourself like I did :)


Mushrooms and Spinach in Wine Sacue

1 package whole button mushrooms
3/4 bag spinach leaves
2+ Tbsp. butter
1/4 large onion or 1/2 small onion
Garlic powder (or cloves)
Any other seasoning (I used a pinch of curry, black pepper, and red pepper flakes)
1 bottle of dry red wine

Dice onion and saute in butter for 5-7 minutes or until transparent. Add spices.
Add mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes on low or med-low. Add 4 Tbsp water.
Add a little more butter too - why not?
Turn up heat to medium until liquid is gone
Turn down heat to low and add 1/2 cup wine. Cook on low or med-low until wine looks like syrup. Continue to add wine and reduce.
Add spinach and let sit for a few seconds. Add more wine to help it wilt.
Stir around until spinach is wilted.

Let sit covered for a few hours if desired. Turn up heat again and add more wine. Then eat!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Trying to Make a Pizza

Last night I was rummaging through my fridge/cabinets and realized I had the perfect ingredients for a pizza. The only problem was that my pizza dough was over a week old. It looked fine, but it was very liquidy. Kinda weird. Anyway, I googled “week old pizza dough” and the general internet consensus was that it would be fine. My toppings included baby spinach, mushrooms, and hot peppers. Keepin’ it simple.


Oh, and some herbed goat cheese, of course!


At this point, I put my pizza stone in a cold oven and turned the oven to 425. After the dough sat out at room temperature for a while, I spread it out on a floured surface. This was a mistake. I didn’t really think about how I was going to transfer it to the pizza stone after the toppings were added. Or why didn’t I just plop the dough on the stone at this point? We’ll never know. I’ll blame it on sleeping way too many hours a day.


I added a thin layer of pizza sauce. I was worried about it getting too soggy if I added more, but the end result definitely could have used more sauce. (Let’s keep in mind here that I’m not a pizza-making professional…)


I added all of the toppings, and it looked great! I’ve seen other people/places add the spinach/lettuce after the pizza is done cooking, but I wasn’t really worried about crispy spinach. Then I was faced with the task of adding this floppy (but pretty) mess to the pizza stone. Let’s just say it was ugly.


My terribly disfigured pizza came out of the oven 7 minutes later looking pretty sad, but it tasted great! No really, it was actually good. The week-old dough was surprisingly fine, and I think I liked that it didn’t rise as much in the oven. The crust was dense and chewy. The pizza stone also made it perfectly crispy.


This was a great-tasting pizza! And it provided me with a meal at work for three days for about $4!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Lunch at Casbah

 Late last week, my friend Kat and I met up for lunch at Casbah in Shadyside. Casbah is a Mediterranean restaurant (so they say…I don’t really think it is) and is part of Big Burrito’s group of six restaurants. I have only been to three of the six, but I can definitely say they have all been great experiences. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so we chose to sit on the covered patio. I’m pretty sure in the summer they open it up a little more. It was a great choice – super sunny and warm with a nice breeze coming from the open doors.


We were given warm, fresh crusty bread shortly after we sat down. It was delicious!


There were lots of great-sounding cocktails to choose from, but I ended up with the Beet and Potatoes (Beet and tarragon infused Boyd and Blair vodka, orange juice, tarragon simple syrup), and Kat chose the Ruby Red Salty Dog (Bluecoat gin, fresh ruby red grapefruit juice, grapefruit salt). Wow…they were both delicious. My drink was sweet from the simple syrup and tasted very strongly of beets (in a very, very good way). It wasn’t too strong and was perfect for the beautiful spring day.


We ordered the smoked salmon appetizer which came sprinkled with onions, capers, and egg and was drizzled with aioli. Placed on top was a warm, creamy truffled potato pancake. We were both in heaven. This was the freshest smoked salmon I have ever had, and the additions to it just made the experience better. The potato pancake was perfect with the smoked salmon!!


For my entree (my free birthday meal – thank you mailing list!), I ordered the Piccolo Gusto Menu, which comes with a choice of soup, pasta, and half sandwich. This ended up being too much to eat, but I really wanted to try everything! The first course was a cup of Mushroom and Parsnip Puree. This was served hot with a dollop of rapini-almond pesto on top. This was very earthy and delicious. I think it also may be easy to recreate at home!


Next up to drink was a Lemon Spritzer – prosecco with a splash of lemoncello. Amazing! I think I am definitely going to make this at home as well. I don’t think you can get more of a refreshing drink. It was great.


The next course was a half sandwich of jumbo lump crab with lettuce and avocado on a ciabatta roll. I really liked this! You can’t tell from this picture, but there was a lot of crab on this sandwich. I could have gone without the bread, though. After all, there was still pasta to make room for! Ahh!


I meant to order the cauliflower risotto, but I accidentally blurted out this pasta dish. Not a problem though – it was wonderful. It was “Torchetti, hen of the woods mushrooms, roasted tomato, rapini, black truffle butter, walnuts, and fennel-olive oil ricotta.” Heavenly! The hen of the woods mushrooms were divine and tasted very meaty. Everything together made such a wonderful combination. This was something I could eat a giant bowl of for dinner.


Sadly, our indulgent hours-long lunch came to and end. As we left, we spotted Buffalo Blues with its front garage doors/windows wide open, so we had to stop in for a beer. We had a nice time enjoying the warmth and the breeze while kind of watching the basketball games. A nice ending to a great afternoon!IMAG0915

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Birthday Weekend Part II!

 We had a super Friday night celebrating my birthday with fun, food, and drinks, so how did we continue the celebration on Saturday? With more food and drinks of course. My sister’s fiancée had never experienced a Primanti's sandwich, so we started the day with lunch at the Primanti’s in Harmarville. I’m definitely a fan of the suburban Primanti’s (plus the Harmarville location is only 2 miles from me) because they’re way less cramped and less crowded. Definitely no lines around the block here. If you are unfamiliar with Primanti’s, it is the historic restaurant that serves sandwiches with fries and coleslaw packed inside. Some Pittsburghers think they’re overrated, but I personally think the sandwiches are delicious.

I began my afternoon with a Monongahela Mary, which is a Bloody Mary made with Absolut Peppar and served with a pickle spear. I LOVE the pickle spear. They make pretty tasty drinks at Primanti’s!


The bar side of the restaurant is inviting and spacious. Andy and I have been here a few times on weekend nights for some beers or to watch a game. I really like that it’s never smoky, and there’s always good food available :)


Emily and Brian got a corned beef sandwich and a pastrami sandwich and then traded halves. Andy enjoyed the Pittsburgher, which is similar to a cheesesteak, but made with a beef patty. Everyone enjoyed their sandwiches, but Brian said the corned beef was way better than the pastrami.


I went with the imported sardine sandwich with the fries on the side. It was amazing! This was definitely my favorite sandwich I’ve ever had there, and I don’t think I’m going to ever be able to order anything else. YUM. The sardines were so delicious. The coleslaw is different that regular coleslaw. It’s all cabbage and had a sweet and sour dressing on it, as opposed to a creamy dressing. I love it.


Our next stop was the Penn Brewery. The Penn Brewery is located on the North Side, just across the river from the Strip District. I think their beer is great to drink, but nothing compares to actually drinking it at the brewery. The beer is so fresh, the selection is obviously great, and the atmosphere is wonderful. The restaurant is set up like a German beer hall. The exposed wooden beams, old light fixtures, and long wooden picnic tables almost make you feel like you’re in Germany!


We spent a few minutes sampling beers, and the bartender was very friendly and knew a lot of details about each beer. I ended up with a pint of the Allegheny Pale Ale, and everyone else picked the Märzen. I really enjoyed both. In fact, I’d say they were the best beers I’ve ever tasted there.



Emily and I (because we were fully committed to this weekend of food) ordered soft pretzels with spicy beer cheese. Delicious! This classic combo was definitely a good choice. The cheese would have been better if it was heated up, but it was still good cold.


Our next stop was downtown. We somehow avoided all St. Paddy’s parade traffic and only had a short walk to the Sharp Edge on Penn. While the prices are definitely higher than the four other Sharp Edges, I still really enjoy the atmosphere and the fact that it’s downtown.


We snagged the prime real estate: the big comfy leather couches next to the bar and the giant windows. We watched people walk by outside covered in green from head to toe while we sipped our beers. Andy and I enjoyed a mystery beer, Brian had a black and tan, and Emily went with a fresh squeezed limeade.


We were getting pretty worn out, so we made a quick trip to Trader Joe’s to pick up stuff to make dinner. We ended up with tons of food, and only spent about $9 a person. Awesome!

I also paused to enjoy the beautiful day…


After a well-needed nap, I woke up to dinner being made. My only job was to sit and drink a beer – totally okay with that! Andy made some hamburgers and cooked some chicken sausage with sundried tomato. They smelled amazing.


He also made some strange-looking (but apparently delicious) beef bacon.


Emily used the cast iron skillet she got me for my birthday (I love it!!) to roast brussel sprouts. These were awesome, and I can’t wait to make more dinners in this skillet! I love how crispy parts of the brussel sprouts got. Mmmmm.


She also made cheesy potato wedges. Delicious. We enjoyed our wonderful dinner and also snacked on more cheese and crackers, of course!


We ended our night with a short trip to House of 1000 Beers for a beer and so Brian could pick out some special brews to take home. Oh, and I finally made it to 25 drafts, so I can get my name on the wall :) I bet my parents are so proud!