Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Yam Casserole for Everyone!

When db` came on the scene, DB~ suggested that we make his baby food ourselves.  It's healthy, cheaper than buying the jars, and we know what's in it.  We'll make a batch of whatever pureed vegetable we buy for him (avocado, carrot, squash) and then freeze it in ice cube trays.  After the cubes have frozen, we put them in a Ziploc bag and take 1 or 2 cubes out for him for his meals.

My local Giant Eagle had a Manager's Special on yams, as they apparently WAY overbought for the holiday season.  At first, I thought the sign said 4 yams for $1.  Man, 25 cents a yam?  Great deal.  When I got closer, it actually said 4 LBS for $1.  I still got just four yams, but it cost me a whopping 54 cents.  That's only 13 cents a yam!

After I peeled the yam, I cut it into four chunks and put into boiling water for 15 minutes until fork tender.  I put them in the food processor and added a little of the starchy water from the boiling process to help blend them smoothly.  In one minute of steady processing, it was a perfectly smooth blend.  We got seven cubes out of yam for db`.  In essence, each db' cube only cost 2 cents.  He's basically eating for free.

DB~ looked at the db' yam mix and said that it looked pretty good, so tonight for dinner I peeled and boiled the remaining three yams.  I processed one yam for db` and got another seven cubes for him.  But for us, I processed the other two yams, then put the puree in a casserole dish.  I added approximately 1/4 cup of brown sugar, two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice mix, and mixed it together.  Finally, I topped with some tiny marshmallows.  I baked this at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  The marshmallows melted in to the mix and the brown sugar/spice mix gave it a deep, rich tone.  The mix was so smooth and inviting to eat.

So, yes, essentially we're eating augmented baby food.  Tonight, it was pretty good.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Having a tiny widget like db` has caused us to re-evaluate our social agenda.  Specifically, the fact that our time is no longer our time, but rather it's a byproduct of what db` allows us to have.  Rather than become homebound hermits, DB~ came up with an interesting idea -- go to interesting places for lunch, rather than dinner.  This allows us to feel "normal" while still preserving the all-important nighttime routine for db`.

Our choice this Saturday was Franktuary in Lawrenceville.  With the unfortunate closing of Station Street Hot Dogs, Franktuary is the premier place for gourmet, creative hot dogs.  We had not been to the "new" place in Lawrenceville, so we were thinking it would just be a small place with a counter.

Instead, it's a full sit-down place with a decor that is old-timey with some church elements, such as pews for booth seating.  It also features a full bar with a barman mixing up Prohibition-era cocktails.  Ten years ago, you couldn't find a place in Pittsburgh making such cocktails.  Now you can have one with a hot dog.

Franktuary's menu is robust.  Your hot dog can be a "standard" hot dog or different types of sausages or tofu, if you're a weirdo.  After that, there are different condiments you can get (some free, others for a charge) and up to 13 styles of hot dogs.

DB~ selected the PA Dutch Dog, with a side order of Garbanzo Fries, purely out of curiosity.  Her hot dog was topped with apple jam, cheddar cheese sauce, and scallions.  Of the three hot dogs between us, hers was my favorite.  The Garbanzo Fries were plainish, but excellent.  The garbanzo beans were pureed together, formed into rectangles, then (presumably) fried.  They were light and served with a delightful ranch sauce infused with dill.

My two selections were the Bangkok and the Memphis.  The Bangkok was a Thai-inspired hot dog with peanut sauce, carrot shreds, and cilantro.  I'm not typically a fan of peanut sauces -- maybe a teriyaki sauce? -- but this worked well here, as peanut sauce are a key Thai cornerstone.  The Memphis had barbeque sauce, cole slaw, and potato straws.  It was good, not great, but certainly didn't detract from our overall love of Franktuary.

We'll definitely be back, with db` in tow.  Long live the infant-infused lunch.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Beer Cheese Soup

We're really embracing fall this year, probably more than any other year in memory.  Lot of soups, stews, and casseroles.  It's probably, at least on a sub-conscious level, because we're home a lot more with db`.

We loved this restaurant called Ziggy's that is no longer open, especially their beer cheese soup served with a pretzel on the side.  DB~ found a good recipe and we decided to give it a shot.

To my dutch oven, I melted 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and then added a diced mix of onion, celery, and carrot for the base.  Once this got soft after 8 minutes, I tossed in two diced cloves of garlic for another minute.

After that I added 1/4 cup of flour and tossed it with the vegetables to coat for 2 minutes.  I then added 4 cups of chicken stock to complete the base.  I let this simmer for 40 minutes.  Once the simmer was done, I took the vegetables out and put them in the food processor with a little chicken stock base to make it smooth.  Once they were all processed, I put them back in the dutch oven.

Now comes the part where it turns delicious.

I added 6 oz of Yuengling (the rest is for you!), 8 oz of shredded yellow cheddar and 8 oz of shredded white cheddar cheeses, and 4 oz of cream cheese.  It's important that the heat is just below boil so that these dairy products don't separate.  Whisk well so they all blend in nicely and don't clump.

Then put in 1 cup of heavy cream, a couple tablespoons of Dijon mustard, some salt and pepper.  Let it simmer for a few minutes.  DB~ made little pretzel rolls out of frozen Rhodes dinner rolls.  She melted some butter on top of them and sprinkled some sea salt, baked them for 10 minutes until they got a deep brown.

It's been a good fall for eatin' around these parts.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pirate-Yankee Pipeline Still Flowing Strong

Sometimes you can tell that Fall is in the air.  The crisp, biting wind that riffles through your hair.  Ever-present pumpkins and hay bales.  The smell of burning leaves in the air.

And the Pirates getting a catcher from the Yankees.

Two years ago, the Pirates signed Russell Martin away from the Yankees (let that sink in for a second) to a 2 year/$17M deal.  Last year, the Pirates traded for Chris Stewart.  And on Tuesday, the Pirates traded LHP Justin Wilson for Francisco Cervelli.

Not only were all three of those catchers Yankees, but they also grade out as excellent pitch framers.  Cervelli's career has been forestalled by a series of odd injuries and a PED suspension, but in his limited action he appears to be a poor man's Russell Martin.

Cervelli has good power, especially for a catcher, and he can get on base.  His OBP last year was .371 and stands at .348 for his career.  For the projected estimate of $1.1M, Cervelli should be a bargain this year for the Pirates.  As long as he can stay on the field, which has been his issue.

At first blush, this looks like the Pirates admitting that Russell Martin won't be coming back.  The Pirates, perhaps to preserve positive public opinion, contend that they are still strongly pursuing Martin and Cervelli could be his backup.  Presumably, Stewart would be non-tendered in that scenario.  Otherwise, Cervelli and Stewart will be the tandem in 2015.

The only thing I know is that if he wants to save time, the equipment manager for the Pirates should start getting a jersey ready for J.R. Murphy in 2016.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stuffed Red Peppers

For whatever reason (and it's probably some sort of disturbing psychological reason), I enjoy when foods are stuffed inside of other food.  One of my favorite recipes to make is a variation on a classic recipe -- Stuffed Peppers.  

When I was a kid, that meant ground meat in a tomato-based sauce.  It was simple, hearty, but heavy.  My variation is a vegetarian recipe for DB~.  My least favorite food are mushrooms, at least in their whole state.  Used in a sauce, they're not bad, so I decided to do a rich mushroom sauce for my girl.

First I cooked some Arborio rice just as the straight recipe, not as a risotto.  It was still creamy when done.  While still warm, I added some dry cranberries in an effort to re-hydrate them a little bit.  I added some feta, dry basil leaves, salt/pepper, and a little chicken broth to keep it all moist.

While the Arborio was cooking, I started the mushroom sauce.  I first melted down a couple of tablespoons of butter, then added two cloves of garlic and sauteed them down.  I added a dash of pepper and then a cup and a half of diced mushrooms.  Once that mix was softened, I added a cup of chicken stock and cooked on medium-low heat for 10 minutes.  At the end, I added a couple of tbsp of more butter to make it rich.

Once the sauce was done, I spooned it over the stuffed peppers (which were split in half and laying on their sides).  In the 8 x 8 baking dish, once the peppers were packed in, I added some more chicken stock around the peppers to keep them moist in the oven.  I baked them for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

In the middle, I did some sauteed zucchini with an Italian herb seasoning.  Even though mushrooms grow in the dark and are fungi, I actually like them in a sauce, especially when they make DB~ happy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Francisco Liriano and the Qualifying Offer

On Monday, the deadline passed and 12 players received 1 yr Qualifying Offers valued at $15.3M for 2015.  The Detroit Tigers tendered two players (Victor Martinez and Max Scherzer) and your Pittsburgh Pirates were the only other team to have multiple offers (Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano).

The Pirates are willing to take the gamble that if Martin and Liriano accept the QO, they will be paying $30.6M to just two players next year.  But in reality, it's not a gamble at all.  Martin is in high demand and will easily command a 4 or 5 year deal worth at least $50M total.  Some members of the Pittsburgh media (and, to be fair, the national media) feel that Liriano could be the first player in the history of offering QO's to accept it.

There is absolutely no way he will.  Liriano will pitch 2015 in his age-31 season.  Even though he's pitched just 160 innings in both 2013 and 2014, he's pitched as a #2 starter caliber pitcher.  The combination of his age and his skill level, especially from the left side, will make him a highly sought after commodity in the second tier of pitchers, after Lester/Scherzer/Shields.

Liriano will get a 3 year deal quite easily for probably $14M/year.  There's a possibility that a team may even go 4 years.  I'd love to see the Pirates re-sign him for a 3 year/$36M deal, but he's probably going to get into the $40M+ range rather easily.  Liriano would be the perfect #2 behind Cole this year and act as a good bridge when Jameson Taillon comes up later in 2015.

Liriano is probably going to wait until the big 3 pitchers sign their deals.  I hope that by early December the Pirates know if he'll on the bump for them in PNC Park for 2015 and beyond.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Emporio - A Meatball Joint

Last week, we were feeling bold, so we decided to take our infant son (db`) downtown for lunch.  Since he's a little meatball, we decided to go get some meatballs at Emporio - A Meatball Joint.  This is the bold new venture from Matthew Porco, owner of the excellent Sienna Sulla Piazza in Market Square.

Emporio is part of a three restaurant setup collectively known as Sienna Mercato.  It sits on the bottom floor, Mezzo (appropriately) sits on the mezzanine and is a wine and pizza setup, with Il Tetto consisting of a rooftop beer garden and small plates.

When we entered, it immediately reminded us both of the interior of Tenpenny, right up the street just a block away.  If the same interior designer didn't do both, then the two firms were on the same wavelength.  Dark, rough hewn wood interior with bare yellowish bulbs in mason jar holders suspended from the ceiling.  Very cozy and welcoming.

It's a pretty interesting setup at Emporio, as far as meatballs go.  It's kind of like a fast food style menu, disguised as a gourmet meatball joint.  By that, I mean you can order from 4 types of meatballs -- classic beef, pork, turkey, vegetarian -- and pair them with a host of different sauces, at least 10, plus a special one of the day.  You can also order 1 meatball as a slider, 2 smashed together on a panini, 3 on a meatball sub, or 4 as a mega treat known as "saucy balls".  Snicker.

DB~ went with a turkey meatball slider topped with an almond spinach pesto.  She also got the mac and cheese side dish with "government cheese" (american).  She loved the meatball; you definitely don't get cheated on the sauce.  She also really liked the mac and cheese, although she didn't get a chance to finish all of it -- more on that later.

I went with the 3 meatball sub of beef meatballs, topped with pork bolognese sauce, and provolone cheese.  It was a huge sub and full of sauce, so much so that I actually ate the first few bites with a fork.

My meatball was light, which is the opposite of what a meatball usually is.  I'm guessing it had some bread crumb/cheese mix to lighten the load of the beef, but it also had a great herb mix.  Of course there was oregano, but I couldn't tell if there was basil in there, too.

Our stay was slightly shortened when we looked over and saw db` grunting and his face turning red.  Not only did he poop himself, but the angle he was sitting in his car seat caused it to go down his leg all the way to his sock.  DB~ got to see the wonders of Emporio's baby changing station.  I suggested we just change him in the trunk of our crossover.

Poopnado aside, Emporio is excellent.  As I've been typing this and talking to DB~, we both fondly recalled our lunch.  We have to get back soon.