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.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Baked Chickpeas


Tired of having rice or potatoes as your side dish, but still blissfully in need of a starch for balance on the plate?  May I recommend trying baked chickpeas instead?

Chickpeas may not be everyone's favorite bag of tea.  They have a slightly nutty flavor that could turn people off, plus their name isn't cool sounding.  But this recipe is easy to make and great tasting.

Preheat your oven to 375.  For two people, open one can of chickpeas and rinse them in a colander in the sink.  Then place them in a baking dish that has a lid that can on top.  Drizzle the chickpeas lightly with some olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Dice up a 1/4 cup of onion and 1 clove of garlic.  If you're feeling zany, put a dash of paprika on them too.  Mix the whole concoction together, add a little water to the baking dish to just come up to the sides of the chickpeas.  Put the baking dish with the lid on in the oven for 1 hour.

The first time I made this, I did them at 300 degrees for 2 hours, but people don't have that kind of time during the week.  Heck, with a 1 hour lag time, you have to pop these in the oven as soon as you walk in the door from work.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Discussing Russell Martin


The Pirates' season ended earlier than I anticipated.  I thought the Pirates could beat the Giants at home, but I didn't anticipate Bumgarner pitching an absolute masterpiece in the Wild Card.

So the Pirates are getting an earlier-than-hoped start to the offseason.  For Neal Huntington, that means working on his to-do list on forming the 2015 roster.  At the top of that list is signing Russell Martin.

Bob Nutting has given his blessing to expand the comfort zone to attempt to re-sign Martin.  What that exact level is remains unknown.  There are plenty of teams, including some big markets like both Chicago teams, the Blue Jays, and the Tigers that could be interested in him.  But the Pirates have an X-factor -- Martin really likes playing here with these guys.  That doesn't mean a lot, but it means something.

Here's my stance on how negotiations should go with Martin and the Pirates:
They should match any 3 year deal he gets.  There's no average annual value under $20M that they can't swing.
They should consider matching any 4 year deal.  I would go up to $14M/year for 4 years.  This keeps him less than McCutchen's free agent year value in his contract.
They should walk away from any 5 year deal.

He's still going to 32 at the start of next year with over 1000 games behind the plate.  No matter how great of an athlete you are (and he is), that's a lot of tread off the tires.  I would like to think that Martin could be spelled by playing a few games at 3B or maybe even 1B, just to give his knees and mind a break.

In a perfect scenario, I would go 3 year/$38M with a club option for a 4th year.  Now it's up to Martin to decide how much the clubhouse camaraderie is worth to him.