Sunday, October 28, 2012

First Anniversary Round 2 (last post about it I promise)

Okay, I might be overdoing the First Anniversary posts but I promise this is the last one.  We'll call this First Anniversary Round 2.

We didnt end up going to Spice Island, as we had originally planned.  We do mean to go back (because their food is fantastic) but decided to spend our first anniversary in our own home, making dinner together.

We did a play on a dinner that was always Gina's fav growing up, and one I had never had, vegetarian or otherwise:  Chicken Piccata.

Gina is really responsible for putting the dinner together - and oh, BTW, she is going to be posting on this blog too now.  I decided that I guessed it was okay...

Anyway, my responsibility was more running to Giant Eagle after work to pick up what ingredients we didnt have.  I chose the Giant Eagle in Kennedy rather than Shop and Save (even though the latter is kinder to our bank account) simply because Giant Eagle, though pricier, carries certain things that we needed that Shop and Save does not usually carry.

Piccata is an Italian method of cooking in which a "meat" is sliced, coated, sauteed and then served in a sauce sometimes over a starch (we used pasta, as that is what Gina's mom used to do.)

Since the meal is typically prepared with Chicken that is sliced, floured, and then browned in butter and olive oil - we chose to use these bad boys since they were pretty much already made (we come from an impatient generation), and they were delicious as a fake chicken goes:

 - as a side bar, I didnt check but I am pretty sure these are not vegan, just in case anyone reading this may want to know.

Gina could tell you more about the for real preparation - when I had arrived back home she already had things going.  I did some prep work (I have this weird love for slicing up garlic and shallots.), and I got put in charge of adding the capers and brine juice because I think the words "brine juice" as a combination kind of turns Gina off.  Oh, and I think I measured out a healthy portion of lemon juice and white wine for the sauce too and was also proudly in charge of throwing in what the recipe described as a "generous pinch" of rosemary.  I think I generously pinched rosemary pretty sufficiently.

Here is a picture of the amazingly delicious sauce with the "chicken" simmering near completion:


In the mean time, we broke out the fancy dinner plates we got for our wedding but had yet to use, and when the amazing smelling concoction was done, we set it up like so:

This tasted as amazing, if not more so, than it looked:

 The greens are arugula, which I hadnt really given much thought to before this meal but really fell in love with.  A couple nights later I had an arugula salad after work to tide me over until dinner and they are really flavorful leaves, even just by themselves with some apple cider vinegar.  They have this great peppery flavor.

Anywho - we ate this delicious meal and I have to be honest, I'm actually really glad we didn't go to Spice Island.  Making dinner together was really fun and we had, I think, more of a chance to reflect on the year that we just experienced.

So we toasted it:

Gina's mom then brought over the top of our wedding cake which had been frozen all year:

And the tradition was kept through us too.

As a final commemoration of the first year we made it through - my parent's were amazingly kind enough to book us a room at Bedford Springs in Beford PA.  It is this really cool hotel founded in 1806 by John Anderson and was originally a mainstay for seekers of the ground's mineral springs.

We arrived in Bedford Saturday morning, and did a little shopping and a wine tasting.  I kind of fell in love with this wine:

While I'm not typically an East Coast wine kind of guy - these wine's didn't have that super sweet taste I have come to expect from East Coast wines.  I'm definitely not a wine snob, my method is cheapest and biggest at the state store - but these were a nice treat.

I did some walking around the grounds and saw some of the mineral springs:

And then stumbled across this weird clearing - like a crater - filled with very old looking broken bottles:

I have no idea what it meant.  I mean, the crater was FILLED with them.

Anyway, we had a really great time.  We had dinner at one of the hotel's restaurants called 1796 which is most generally a chop house with a menu consisting pretty much entirely of meat and sea food, but they were very accommodating - to the point were the waiter pretty much said:  "We can make whatever you want."

They had, amazingly, tempeh on hand and created this really good concoction of tempeh, pasta, and pita:

We felt super classy.

The hotel learned that we were there celebrating our anniversary and gave us this complimentary tray of chocolate covered strawberries and berries:

And to round off our weekend of living like royalty, we ordered room service this morning:

We felt good and pampered.

So now we are back home, getting ready to return to the work week.  I have been hugely craving Indian food recently but we didnt feel like jumping in the car again after the car ride back from Bedford this morning.  So I decided to cater to my craving by making my own Indian feast.  Gina has a bunch of cookbooks from Isa Chandra Moskowitz (of The Post Punk Kitchen fame), and in one of them - Appetite for Reduction - I found Isa's recipe for 2nd Ave. Korma (page 226).  I even found some frozen naan at Giant Eagle, along with some basmati rice.  It was pretty damn good, I have to say - and it looked a little something like this:

So that is my final post about Anniversary #1.  We had a really great time celebrating.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Breakfast with the Family

This morning we met my parent's at Eat N' Park in Robinson for breakfast.

I'm not even going to pretend like it's a place anyone reading this has not ever been before - my earliest eating memories include visits back to Pittsburgh from wherever we lived at the time and eating at Eat N' Park.

The vegetarian options on the menu are less than overwhelming, but a vegetarian can definitely make do.  I remember when I first went vegetarian eating a ton of the fried zucchini here - which is pretty decent.

For breakfast, they have things like pancakes and veggie omlets.  I typically get Oatmeal and Homefries, but today I wasn't really feeling oatmeal, so I just ordered the below double order of homefries (the empty glass of tomato juice was round #2):

And Gina got what appears to be a breakfast sandwich, homefries, and fruit (I ended up eating the fruit):

Then everyone at the table provided their insight into how crazy I am for thinking eggs are super weird, conceptually.  I wasn't swayed.

I couldn't just be content with just going to Eat n' Park - I also had to look up the history of the place on wikipedia.  If you're also interested you can read it too, here.  But it pretty much just says it opened in 1949 in the South Hills and used to be a franchise of Big Boy and now has 75 locations across 3 states.

I was always a King's kind of guy in highschool - and, evidently, so was Stephen Chbosky from the way the Perks of Being a Wallflower film managed to mention Kings, set scenes in Kings, or have subtly displayed background adds for Kings in, like, every other scene.(Side note on King's:  They just opened up a new location on Neville Island, and you can order beer there: word on the street called Wikipedia says.)

Now Gina and I are home and being totally lazy. Our basement was filled with drums so I moved those all to the garage, and now I'm really trying to persuade myself to do something productive like exercise or draw or something.  I haven't given up hope yet that this may happen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Paper Anniversary

My wife and I will be celebrating our 1st Wedding Anniversary (the Paper Anniversary) on Monday (we beat Kim Kardashian a long shot.) and to celebrate we will be re-visiting the restaurant where we got engaged:  Spice Island Tea House, in Oakland.

We were initially going to go on Friday so we could celebrate without having to worry about getting up for work - but decided at the last minute to just stay in, order Angelia's (damn good with olives, banana peppers, green peppers, and tomato) exchange anniversary gifts, and drink the better part of a gigantic jug of our good friend Carlo Rossi.

Because she is awesome, and because she knows what a gigantic dork I am, my wife got me a 1976 printing of The Hobbit with Illustrations by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I totally geeked out.

It was the perfect gift for our paper Anniversary.  She also got me a sketch of Jack from Lord of the Flies inked onto a page from the novel.  Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Flies are at the top of my list of books that have impacted me the most, I'd say - for obviously different reasons.

I had considerable trouble deciding what to get her.  I initially wanted to get her this paper lantern that you write your hopes and dreams on and the light a small candle under which sends it drifting off into the night.  I really liked the imagery - but then, because I'm crazy, I could not shake the image of our drifting dreams landing on someones house, setting it on fire, and then burning down a neighborhood.

So I canned that one.

Instead I got her this:

It's a heart made out of paper - which sounds super lame, but actually ended up having the consistency of really tough cardboard - but with a glossy texture - probably sealed with a varnish of some kind.

She loved it!

So Monday will be Spice Island.

On the culinary front - we really haven't gone out too much.  We did go to The Pine wednesday evening for dinner.  I got the pasta dish where you create it yourself, Gina got the grilled cheese.  Truthfully, thats about the only two items on the menu that we can get - but they weren't bad.  I got penne, marinara, and broccoli.  Their sauce isn't bad - but no restaurant's is ever as good as Mom's.

Last note - I recently got very into (like, almost annoyingly so) Of Monsters and Men and am listening it to it as I write this.  Freaking great stuff.

I'll report on Spice Island after Monday.

I will leave you with a picture of the delicious Vegetarian Chimichanga I had for lunch from Petrone's in Wexford - I went there with my Dad for lunch this afternoon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Yinz got Quinoa?

 This past February, my wife and I bought my Grandmother's house and relocated ourselves to Kennedy Township PA from the Greenfield Neighborhood of the city of Pittsburgh.

Gastronomically, its been an intense transition for two vegetarians (and seemingly the only two vegetarians around).  We shush eachother every time one of us mentions New Dumpling House, or any Indian Restaurant at all (oh Taste of India...)  While we do love pizza and pasta as much as the next guy (and gal), it can begin to get a little old.  To put it mildly, Kennedy Twp. is definitely not wanting for more Italian+ food - though, they do a really good job with the genre.  There is a lot to offer in this town, though - and quite a few hidden gems.

A Kennedy Twp. Pizza and Italian Food overview:

When we first moved here we initially fell in love with Picasso Pizza and Pasta - I started to like their pasta's more, specifically Pasta Insalata which is a tossed penne dish with artichokes, spinach, kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes in a garlic olive oil sauce.  I've started trying to cut out more cheese in my world so I usually ask them to hold the mozzarella, but if you like cheese you can get this with cut up fresh mozzarella too.  Gina likes their Portobella Mushroom pizza which comes with spinach, roasted red peppers, and feta.

Recently, though, we've started to really dig Angelia's Italian Grille Restaurant & Bar - the pizza is a little more reminiscent of pizza in the city (here's lookin' at you Mineo's) They also have a pretty decent bar and these killer Fried Zucchini which are, surprisingly, battered in what their menu describes as "Japanese Bread Crumbs, almost like tempura.

Other standouts include:  The Pine - Rockafeller's Grille and The Stroll Inn, which I haven't been too since Highschool but remember fondly.

Kennedy does have one fast food Asian place that makes decent General Tso's Tofu, and there's a Wendy's (where we can order pretty much nothing), and there's a Subway which will not carry the veggie patti (Gina actually wrote to Subway HQ, they said the decision to carry it is based on the owner of the branch and the Kennedy Twp. branch will not order it.)

Im not complaining, though - we really love it here.  There is a sense of community, and our families are very close.  

I want to hit on all of these places more extensively as the posts go on - because we do live in this community, and love it, and think it's a place people should know about - and showing it from a vegetarian perspective is, I think, kind of an interesting way to do it.

I'll end this post with something I've started making recently - the Shop and Save here in Kennedy carries Quinoa, which I have recently fallen in love with:

The Kennedy Twp Quinoa, Mushroom, Kale Attack (snazzy name, huh?)

We've started cooking a lot more than before mostly for financial reasons (it's tons cheaper), and also to get away from Pizza, which our arteries thank us for which almost audible sighs of relief.

 1 bunch of Kale chopped into ribbons
1 Cup Quinoa
1 smallish carton of button mushrooms, I used the Baby Bella Crimini ones from Shop and Save
2 - 3 cups of vegetable broth (I used Knorr Vegetable Bouillon and made it in a separate pot)
2 Shallots sliced
2 cloves of garlic chopped as small as you can
1 14 oz can of chickpeas
 Probably 2 tablespoons-ish of Olive Oil - enough to saute the shallots and garlic in

First, preheat the olive oil in a large pan (you'll need a lid later).  When it starts to smoke throw in the shallots and saute them until they are translucent and slightly browning, then add the garlic and cook for about a minute or two more.

Then add the mushrooms and saute these until they cook down slightly - maybe two more minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.

Add the Quinoa and cover the pan.  Simmer for 18 minutes.

Add the chickpeas 

Add the kale by handfulls - it will seem like an impossibly large amount of Kale but trust me, it cooks down.  You may need to add a couple handfulls, cook it down, then add more.

Re-cover and  simmer for another 7 minutes or so - until the kale really wilts and melds with the quinoa.  You may even need to add more water, that Quinoa really sucks it up while it cooks.

Enjoy while looking out your window and listening to the bell's from that Presbyterian church up the street that I cant think of the name of - or your neighbors cutting their grass, seemingly every day.