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Wednesday, in No Particular Order

When you have lots and lots of inspiration (read: caffeine and time), it’s easy to churn out blog posts. My recent blogging hiatus has not been due to lack of desire, but lack of the time or energy to devote to more than 30 seconds of leisure writing at any given time. With the annual #GBE just a week away, I have to drum up some creativity for my guest post…I don’t even know what I’ll be writing about yet. And since I don’t have the energy right now to do any focused posts on dedicated topics, instead I will treat you (read: torture you) with this– a list of the things on my mind this Wednesday, in no particular order:

1. Family Time

My dad and stepmom just left this morning from a 4 day visit to Pittsburgh. It was a super nice visit. We did lots of excellent cooking and drinking wine. We made and devoured Triple Chocolate Ice Cream (with chopped up Sarris Chocolate bars in it, delicious). We even played Cards Against Humanity, which was all the more hilarious because my stepmom didn’t know what half of the cards meant and had to keep googling things.

The first few days they were here it was cold and wintery, but yesterday was one of those gorgeous Pittsburgh spring days, and we got to go to the park for a bit.

Park

Mr. Beez and I had some work obligations so we were not able to stay home with them the whole time they were here, but I think there is something special about them getting to have time with Baby Beez when we are not there. I’m glad to give them that time together. We also talked about Baby Beez spending time with them up in Oregon during summers, and they are all for it. Although this summer’s plans are all mapped out, I am looking forward to future summers where she’ll get to go visit them, and go camping, fishing, hiking and all kinds of outdoorsy things, and just generally have a nice time together.

We have more family time coming up soon, as we are shortly leaving for a family vacation in Playa del Carmen. We’ll get to hang out with the grown up family members, while Baby Beez will swim and build sandcastles with a bunch of cousins.  I’ve got my audiobooks loaded in my phone, my sunscreen and hat packed, and cannot wait to sit in the sun and do nothing for several straight days.

2. Round and Round

We bought Baby Beez a season pass to the Schenley Carousel again this year. I would have liked to go a few more times last year, but I still think it was well worth the money. It was fun to take her to the carousel, and let her ride it over and over and over and over. We also got snacks at the nearby food vendors, would go over to the library to pick out some books and movies, then go back to the carousel to ride it around another half dozen times.  I’m excited for the carousel’s opening in April, and hope to take her there a whole lot of times this summer.

Schenley Carousels

3.  Bartram House

Mr. Beez and I went to brunch at Bartram House bakery a little while back.  The bakery case is gorgeous, so many beautiful cupcakes, pastries and bars. I had a breakfast burrito full of fresh veggies and cup after cup of hot coffee. I feel like Bartram House is the fresh, local cafe that a certain nationwide bakery-themed eatery is trying to be. While I do like that certain nationwide eatery, there is a something lost in all that homogeneity  Bartram House has all these amazing baked goods, with the authentic personality to boot. And to boot, you get the option of having a croissant as the “bread” side with your breakfast. Yassssss! We really enjoyed this place and are excited to bring Baby Beez for our next visit.

Bartram House


Breakfast Burrito


Bartram House S'Mores Bar

4. Blogga Dinna

I visited Chaz & Odette with blogging friends a little while back. We went scheduled a dinner for a Sunday night, which we did not realize is jazz night. On jazz nights, they feature a jazz band and a limited menu of small dishes. While it didn’t quite fit the goal we had of long-catching-up type conversations, the place did have a pretty cool vibe. I would like to go back there for a date night with Mr. Beez, and I think it would be a fun place to go for something a little different than the usual drinks-and-apps type outing.  On the whole, the food was great. The chicken, in particular, was expertly seasoned. I have a very vivid memory of it and would love to go back to try more of their dishes.

Chaz & Odette Jalapeno Cornbread

Grits

Chaz & Odette Chicken


5. Time to Bake

Mr. Beez has found a new interest in learning to cook, which is JUST FINE BY ME THANKYOUVERYMUCH. Our Temple has recently offered some cooking classes, and we took a hamentaschen baking class the other day. Mr. Beez loves hamentaschen, and this was  fun, different activity for us to do together. It was a small class in our temple’s kitchen, and was just a couple hours on a weeknight. I had been promising Mr. Beez that cooking is easy, and I think he saw from this class that it can be pretty simple. As an added bonus, we got to go home with a whole bunch of treats!

Hamentaschen Class

Hamentaschen

Hamentaschen

Hamentaschen

6.  My pores. My pores. My lovely lady pores.

I loooove me some makeup sampler boxes, and Benefit is by far my favorite makeup brand.  I recently dug a sample size of “The POREfessional” out of my giant tub o’makeup. It feels nice on my skin and makes it look good, but I can’t help but be puzzled that pores are something we can be self-conscious about now? Why do I need to hide or minimize my pores? Pores are something to be worried about? Pores are just part of your face. I recently saw an article in Allure about some fancy lady actress saying the part of her body that she is most self conscious about is her pores? Huh???? Anyway, I am not worried about people seeing my pores because that is ridiculous, BUT Pores No More is actually a nice product and makes my skin look nice, separate and apart from my pores. I LIKE MY PORES. But the product isn’t bad, if I do say so myself.

Pore makeup

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NaBloPoMo Day 22: Catch Up with the Farmshare Breakfast Strata

NaBloPoMo Day 22: Catch Up with the Farmshare Breakfast Strata

Someday I will develop a taste for rhubarb, daikon and massive quantities of kale. But until that day comes, I’m going to stick to my pattern of bringing home the farmshare each week, throwing the veggies in the crisper drawer, and then when the drawer is full dig through desperately brainstorming something, ANYTHING to make with all these veggies before they rot, and cursing myself for not getting around to it earlier.

One of my favorite techniques for using a lot of veggies at once is roasting:  Cut up a whole bunch of stuff (it’s good if the things you pick have similar densities, like potatoes/carrots/winter squash or zucchini & bell peppers), toss with olive oil & seasonings, and roast at 400 degrees until it reaches desired level of cooked-ness (my preference is burned beyond recognition).

Another techniques is to make a strata.  I’ve had mixed success in the past, but the one I made this weekend hit all the marks.  Since you cook the veggies before mixing them in with the eggs, you can use whatever veggies you have sitting around from your farmshare, threatening to rot if you don’t COOK THEM SOON.

strata

Elizabeth’s Clean Out the Crisper Strata

Ingredients (unless otherwise specified, these ingredients are measured in the highly scientific amount of “whatever feels right”)

-Onions (I also had a couple of shallots, so I threw them in too)

-Garlic

-Vegetables, cut up into smallish pieces (in my case, I had a ton of swiss chard)

-Shredded cheese

-Oil for pan

-about 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and other amounts of seasonings as desired

-1 dozen eggs

-Not necessary but a very nice touch: stale baguette (or bread) & milk

strata

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut up onions & garlic and cook in pan with olive oil for a couple minutes
  3. Add in the other vegetables and cook steadily. Add the more dense vegetables first (here: the cut up chard stems), and the less dense vegetables later because they take less time to cook (here: the chard leaves). Cook until everything is obviously cooked, but not SO long that it’s a soggy mess.
  4. Spray some oil in a baking pan.  If you have some stale bread or baguette, slice it up and line the bottom of the pan with it. Then pour some milk (like 1/2 cup or so) on it. You don’t have to saturate the bread, but put enough on there that the bread starts soaking it in.
  5. Beat 1 dozen eggs long enough that the yolks are all mixed in, just lie if you are making scrambled eggs. Mix in shredded cheese salt, pepper and other seasonings (except for red pepper flakes).
  6.  Scoop the veggies on top of the soaked bread in the baking pan (if you didn’t go with the bread, just put the veggies in a greased baking dish).  Then pour the egg mixture all over it. Be careful about it and do not over fill the pain, because the strata will expand while cooking.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
  7. Bake until the strata begins pulling away from the sides of the pan, and the middle has set.  I think it took around 40-45 minutes.

Serve with salsa, sour cream or hot sauce!

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NaBloPoMo Day 1: Welcome to #NaBloPoMo and a Recipe for You

NaBloPoMo Day 1: Welcome to #NaBloPoMo and a Recipe for You

It’s NOVEMBER! In addition to the 18 day countdown to my 29th (again) birthday, it’s also National Blog Post Month (or, National Novel Writing Month for People Who Do Not Have the Attention Span to Write A Novel….but that hashtag was unwieldy).

I’ve participated in NaBloPoMo a few times in the past. Some years I have made it the whole month. Other times, the rest of life has pushed blogging to the backburner, and I have lost steam. Blogging has taken a backburner a lot lately, and I’d like to turn that around.

My first post is not full of insights and witticisms because I’ve got a narsty chest cold that left me sleeping on the couch most of the day. Mind you, the husband wasn’t home all day, so this meant my 5 year old was physically climbing on me and jumping on me and I was without energy to yell at her or fight her off. So yeah. #DangKids  Also, she never stops talking ever. At all. And if she stops with words, she starts with singing or noises or smacking things around to make noises with them. Calgon please take me away. To anywhere that is silent and does not involve a 5 year old knee to my sternum.

I did manage to throw together a respectable miso stew that is hitting the spot.  Like many comfort foods, the photo is unimpressive, but it tasted good and helped me feel a little better.

Miso Stew

Ingredients:

1 onion

Some oil (I used olive oil, you can use whatever you like to fry things in)

Some garlic

Some ginger

Some rice vinegar

Block of tofu (preferably previously frozen then defrosted)

Dried Kelp or kombu

Sliced shitaake mushrooms (I used frozen)

Miso paste

Soba Noodles

  1. Slice up the onions and cook them in a soup pot with the garlic and ginger until fragrant
  2. Add in a bunch of water, as well as ginger, rice vinegar and miso. You’ll probably need more miso than you expect, unless you are good at cooking with miso and already have a feel for that kind of thing.  I say “some” for all of these, because I added them in til I got the taste I wanted.
  3. Slice the tofu into little blocks and add it, along with the kelp or kombu and shitaake mushrooms, and cook for a while. I think I brought it up to a boil and then simmered for like half an hour or so.
  4. Add in the noodles and cook for a while. I think they were done in about 10 minutes.

Serve with a side of your preferred decongestant, and hopefully you’ll be feeling better in a jiffy!


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A St. Pat’s a little more my speed, with @SouffleBombay ‘s Sweet Irish Soda Bread

While I spent last Saturday shaking my fist and yelling “Get off my lawwwwwn!” from all the yinzers pouring in from Lord Knows Where to get draaaahnk in our neighborhood, I did spend last Sunday in a more pleasant mood. I’m not even remotely Irish, but Corned Beef & Cabbage (or as my dad jokingly called it “Corned Beef & Garbage”) is one of the best foods ever. I’m also in love with halushki (I’m not Polish) and Easter bread (I’m not Greek). Basically, if it’s comfort food, I’m there.

At the first Big Potluck I attended, I sampled Colleen’s soda bread topped with Kerrygold butter and OMG. Then I sampled it again and again. I think I may have eaten an entire loaf. She then told me that the recipe is available on her blog, and I was like NEED. Since I believe in giving clicks where credit is due, you gotta click this link here to head over to her site to get the recipe for yourself.

Any normal or remotely organized person would be like “oh, I will go home and bake it this week!” But I’m neither. I didn’t get around to it over the last like 2 years. Mostly because I assumed it would be hard or take all kinds of ingredients I don’t have. So, to give me the push to make it someday, I added it to my 32 before 32 list, and didn’t get around to making it in an ENTIRE YEAR. Then, mostly out of shame for failing to accomplish such a simple baking assignment, I tagged it on to this years 33 before 33.

YOU GUYS I FINALLY GOT AROUND TO IT.

IMG_3348

Baby Beez helped me out. She’s good at mixing and pouring things into bowls getting bored after 15 minutes and going to watch TV so I have to finish everything myself.  But that was OK this time, because the recipe was basically “mix the things together, pour them in a pan.”

Mixing

Mixing


Pour in pan

Pour in pan


It didn’t even take that many exotic ingredients from the grocery store. The only things I had to buy especially for this were buttermilk and cream. I probably should have picked up turbinado sugar to dust the top of the loaf, but I dusted it with regular sugar instead and it was fine.

When you make 1 big loaf, you have to bake the bread almost twice as long as the 45 minutes it states in the recipe. So heads up on that. But otherwise, the recipe came off without a hitch. And the bread was amazing. I basically ate the entire thing because oink.

IMG_3358

IMG_3359

The corned beef & cabbage I made was also FANTASTIC, but I’m not putting pics of that up, because no food looks good when it’s been boiled.

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Thoughts on a Full Month of @EastEndCoOp Shopping

Thoughts on a Full Month of @EastEndCoOp Shopping

My New Years Resolution for 2015 was to do all of our grocery shopping at the East End Food Co-op. We’ve made it through January, and to my husband’s shock and joy, I did indeed stick to this resolution. There are times where there is an item or two that we need that the Co-op simply doesn’t have, so we’ve been picking things up from other local vendors such as the Butcher on Butler and the vendors at the Pittsburgh Public Market.
I’ve had to make some adjustments in how I shop in order to make my Co-op shopping a success, but honestly, it’s been far easier and less disruptive in my routine than I expected. I’ve learned:

1. Co-op food goes bad fast. I don’t know if it’s because the fruit isn’t waxed or treated or whatever, the shelf life on co-op produce is short. There’s been a bit of a learning curve, with me throwing out more produce than I’d like, but I’m getting into the swing of things. This means that when I get home, all the produce gets out of the produce bags immediately and into bowls on the counter. This also means that I have a specific plan for the produce I buy. Either it’s going in a recipe or going to be snacks/in packed lunches. I can’t just buy produce with the intent of figuring out what to do with it, because by the time I get around to thinking about it, it will have gone bad. But I’ve developed that habit now, and have gotten myself to buy one week’s worth of produce, which we do eat within that week (my habit at standard grocery stores was to buy TONS of produce, which would sometimes last as long as 2-3 weeks…that doesn’t work with co-op produce).

2. Because of #1, I definitely need to go grocery shopping every single week. I used to stretch out shopping to every 10-14 days, and I’d buy a lot more, but it could last a while longer. Now, I definitely have to make it there once a week, so that we have enough and fresh food.

Co-op snacking

3. BUT ON THE UPSIDE Shopping at the co-op is a lot faster. I can do a full-out shopping trip in about 45 minutes. Yes, the selection is far smaller than at a standard grocery store, but to be honest, by the time I get around to grocery shopping (which is usually a weeknight, when I’m tired already), I have decision fatigue. I don’t want to have to compare four different products. I just want to be like “I need frozen ravioli, oh look, here is the frozen ravioli” and put it in my cart. Also, I really like that the products at the co-op are focused on health and the business practices of the companies whose products they stock. I don’t have to sift through political issues and concerns about all kinds of preservatives and food additives that I don’t understand. Those kinds of products aren’t even stocked at the co-op, so I don’t have to worry about weeding them out.

4. I’ll be honest, the co-op is expensive (I’d say comparable to Whole Foods in price). The bulk dry products (rice, beans etc.) are actually very inexpensive, just much more time consuming to prepare. The rest of the stuff can be pretty pricey. I am planning on getting a farmshare again in the spring to bring our produce costs down. I do make far fewer impulse buys…although the impulse buys I do make tend to be a lot more expensive ($10 pint of Jeni’s ice cream and $10 block of gourmet cheese, please).

5.  I’ve gotten into a pattern with our meals and shopping. It’s not full-on meal planning, but I do need to put a little thought into the shopping list ahead of time. each week I pick 2 or 3 recipes to make, and we have those for dinner throughout the week. For example, this week I made the Post Punk Kitchen’s Tamale Shepherd’s Pie, and it was fantastic. Even though we eat meat, I often use vegetarian or vegan recipes (sometimes adding in meat, dairy, eggs etc.), because their kinds of ingredients are always available at the co-op. Also, I was a vegetarian for a long time, am comfortable with veggie cooking, and do like preparing meals that are heavy on veggies, beans, etc. rather than the meat & potatoes approach.

We pack lunch for work, which is usually sandwiches or soup with fruit & veggies, so all of that is also easily purchased at the co-op. I also keep a couple boxes of frozen pizzas, frozen ravioli, and frozen vegetarian chicken nuggets on hand for the inevitable “got home way too late need to make something FAST” nights.

6. I do enjoy grocery shopping nights because I pick up something from the hot bar or prepared salads, which is healthy, tasty, and relieves me of having to cook on a night I’m already getting home late anyway. Their hot bar is pretty rockin. I got sweet potato gnocchi this week that were fan-tastic. Can’t wait til those are on the menu again!

I’ve liked this first month and feel like the goal I picked for 2015 is both manageable and worthwhile. I don’t even feel like it’s been much of a challenge so far. Although they don’t have the processed foods I would often buy at standard stores, I’m familiar with the kinds of products they do stock, and don’t have any sort of learning curve in terms of learning to cook with them. Also, the Jeni’s ice cream and gourmet cheese. I can never be sad with Jeni’s in my cart.