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.