Category Archives: Something Cooking

Cooking & Recipes

My Favorite Lunch Spots in Downtown Pittsburgh

For the days when I’m running out the door in the morning without a packed lunch, I have found a few tried and true places to visit on my lunch break. Below are my top picks for best downtown Pittsburgh lunch spots. Unfortunately, I have yet to find some really good ethnic food, but what these spots lack in diversity, they make up for in service and taste.

City Oven :: I had originally visited City Oven in their locations north and south of the city, and I couldn’t have been happier when I discovered that they recently added a restaurant downtown. City Oven boasts great fire-roasted pizza with equally good red & vodka sauces. I usually grab a slice & salad and a seat at one of the counters facing the street. An added bonus: City Oven is committed to the city – giving back through their continuing education program that provides mentorship and training to local aspiring entrepreneurs.

Franktuary :: Founded by fellow Grove City alumni, Franktuary has a great variety of gourmet hot dogs made with local, natural beef. My personal favorite is the traditional New Yorker – sauerkraut, onions & mustard. They also have locations in Lawrenceville and a food truck that travels to various locations throughout the week. Track them down – Franktuary is a must-visit.

Noodles & Company :: This place feeds my love of pasta in all its forms. From mac&cheese to their penne rosa (my personal favorite), Noodles is my go-to lunchtime spot. If you can, head over after 1pm, as the lunchtime crowd usually thins out by then.

Bluebird Kitchen :: Bluebird Kitchen is my absolute favorite lunchtime spot – combining amazing food and beautiful furnishings with a cool hipster vibe. I had their Croque Monsieur the first time I ate there, and I have yet to try something else – it’s that good. Their selection of cookies & pastries is also hard to resist. Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly giving, I save half and bring it home to Sean – some things are too good not to share.

Do you have any good lunchtime tips to share? Most importantly, do you know where I can get some good Thai food downtown?

When Life Hands You Apples…

This summer, the third floor apartment in our building came up for rent. As soon as Sean and I found out, we contacted our landlord and told her that we could line up a new tenant for her within the week. We immediately called Sean’s sister and told her about the opening, and about a month later she moved in upstairs!

It has been such a blessing having Audra so close by, especially with Sean’s busy work and school schedule. Audra and I have spent lots of free time together cooking, getting addicted to new TV shows, and talking about her wedding plans (She’s getting married in June!).

After my visit to the apple orchard a couple of weekends ago, Audra came downstairs to help me turn my bag of apples into applesauce.

Since the apples I picked were fairly small, we had to adapt a couple of recipes we found to match the amount that we had to work with. Once again trying out a new recipe, there were definitely a few steps I would have faltered on if Audra hadn’t been there to help. But in the end, our applesauce turned out wonderfully.

(I just realized how bite-sized our kitchen looks, given that Audra is clearly taller than our fridge, and towers above our only counter surface.)

Since we were feeling confident, Audra and I decided to attempt canning the applesauce. I’ll admit this was completely overkill, since we had only made enough to fill 3 1/2 jars, but we deemed it a good practice round and got to work.

I can’t wait to open one of these on New Year’s Day and have the applesauce with pork and sauerkraut! (As long as we canned it correctly, of course!)

Making Salsa: A Hot Mess

Our garden has been overflowing with tomatoes recently, so I decided to try my hand at making homemade salsa. I invited my friend Gabby over to help. She said yes (I think) in hopes that she would get a front row seat to how I manage to turn trying something new into an epic disaster. I did not disappoint.

I found a recipe online for canning tomato salsa and decided to go for a ‘something new double-whammy’…new recipe + first attempt at canning. The recipe was for a large batch so I cut everything in a little less than half, bought a bunch of peppers and we got to work.

Gabby wasn't crying because I was forcing her to chop beyond her breaking point...everything was just really spicy!

We threw everything in the pot and that’s where I made my tragic mistake.

The recipe called for a 1/2 cup of salt. Let’s just stop right there. That’s crazy talk. The entire bag of chips + dip I just ate had less sodium than that.

So, thinking I was being smarty pants champion, I decided to cut that right in half, minus a bit.

But that’s still just a little less than 1/4 cup of salty salty salt. Ooooo disaster.

This is us taste-testing. Right before we realized I had just totally ruined perfectly good salsa with a heap of salt.

We had already begun the canning process before we decided it might be a good idea to taste-test. We were totally shocked when our salsa tasted like ocean water.

Not to be deterred, we Googled for possible solutions. Gabby found a response that said a potato would help.

Apparently, the potato trick works better if you peel and slice it first…at this point I was needing remedies for the remedies.

After trying over a half-dozen different methods for de-saltifying food, we watered it down as best we could and decided to try canning instead.

This part of the evening was slightly more successful, and I am looking forward to trying canning again when I actually make something worth saving.

Gabby – It was so much fun failing miserably with you. Things always go better the second time, I promise.

Make This for Dinner ASAP: Roast Chicken with Herb Butter Sauce

Did I have you at butter sauce?

This is simply delicious…Sean and I had to stop ourselves from fighting over who got to lick the pan.

In other, more appetizing words, you should make this as soon as you can. Below, I provide instructions for cheaters (me) and over-achievers (maybe you?).

Roast Chicken with Herb Butter Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 4-8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter (depending on size of chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh (or dried) rosemary, thyme, parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 whole (3‐to 4‐pound) chicken, trimmed of excess fat, then rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
  • (For cheaters only: 1 whole pre-roasted chicken)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, plus a little more if needed
  • (For over-achievers only: Minced fresh herbs for garnish)

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2. Using a fork, mash the butter together with the herbs, salt, and pepper.

3. Loosen the skin of the chicken wherever you can, and spread some of this mixture between skin and meat, in the chicken cavity, and on top of the breast of the bird. Sprinkle the outside of the bird with more salt and pepper.

4. Put the remaining butter in a casserole or roasting pan and place the pan in the oven. When the butter has melted and its foam subsided, add the wine. Place the chicken, breast side down, on a rack in the pan.

Here is where this becomes ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ cooking. For over achievers, please continue on to step 5. For cheaters (using a pre-roasted bird) please skip ahead to step 11.

5. After the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes, spoon some of the butter mixture over it, then turn the bird breast side up. (If, at any point, the pan juices are beginning to stick to the pan, add a little more liquid.)

6. Baste again, then again after 7 or 8 minutes; at this point the breast should be beginning to brown (if it hasn’t, roast a few more minutes).

7. Turn the heat down to 325°F, baste again, and roast until an instant‐read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160° to 165°F. Total roasting time will be under 1 hour.

8. Before removing the chicken from the pan, tip the pan to let the juices from the bird’s cavity flow into the pan (if they are red, cook another 5 minutes).

9. Remove the bird to a platter and let it rest for about 5 minutes before carving.

10. Garnish with minced herbs and serve with the pan juices. Enjoy!

11. For those with a pre-roasted bird: Roast chicken for 15-20 minutes until heated through. Remove from oven and dig in!

Recipe adapted from 'How to Cook Everything'
Photo Credit




Quick & Easy Meal: Hot Pepper Chicken Pasta

As I hone my homemaking skills, I cherish quick and easy meal recipes. There are some nights that a girl just doesn’t want to have time to put a full meal out on the table. Tonight I whipped up something that was too quick, easy, and delicious to keep all to ourselves.

I’ve decided to call it Hot Pepper Chicken Pasta (Leigh could probably come up with a better name (she’s an excellent namer), but that’s all I got)

Hot Pepper Chicken Pasta

Prep Time: 2 seconds          Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • chicken breasts (or cutlets)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • EVOO
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • spaghetti
  • tomato sauce
  • heavy cream

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large pot of water until boiling. Add spaghetti, cook al dente and drain. Return pasta to pot.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over med-high heat. Add diced garlic and red pepper flakes. In terms of the red pepper – more is more.
  3. Cut the chicken into thin strips and add to the oil. Cook until brown. Add salt and pepper and more red pepper flakes to taste.
  4. Add cooked chicken to pasta.
  5. Top with equal portions of tomato sauce and heavy cream. Simmer on low until hot.

Ta-da! Your basic chicken pasta (with a bit of a kick)…

…ok that’s not exactly the pasta I made tonight…but this is better than the picture I just took of mine…

Serve and enjoy!

 

click photo for credit