Monthly Archives: January 2011

Good Morning, Monday Morning Muffins!

I will make a confession: I have never had a really good muffin from a bakery or grocery store. I’ve had good ones. I’ve had decent ones. And I’ve had ones that were downright awful (and really, is there anything worse than trying to get through a chalky, crumbly, mess of a failed muffin?). But I’ve never one that was to die for, and that’s a shame. I’ve been to a lot of good bakeries, had muffins in many cosmopolitan cities, dined in fine establishments worldwide… but I’ve yet to have a decent muffin that wasn’t directly out of someone’s personal kitchen.

Not sure why this is, really. Maybe it’s a muffin preference. I like mine to be a tad crumbly, not overwhelmingly large, moist, and not super sweet. I don’t want icing on the top or even sugared crumbs (good in theory, not so great when they’re dotting the front of your jacket and pants). Also, the window of time for muffin perfection from the time they come out of the oven to the time they go into your mouth is perilously tight. Maybe I like my homemade muffins better because they come out of the oven and as soon as they are cool enough to swallow, they get eaten. (I really have a patience problem when it comes to sweets…)

Get your Monday morning and burgeoning muffin top started off right with these banana nut muffins. They’re extra nutty, cause I’m just feeling that way these days.

Monday Morning Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients
– 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 4 ripe bananas, mashed
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup applesauce
– 3 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup walnuts
– 1/4 cup pecans
– 1/4 cup shaved almonds

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12 count muffin pan.

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a mixer blend together bananas, sugar, oil, extract, and applesauce. Once completely blended, gradually fold the dry into the wet ingredients. Add nuts and stir until just mixed.

Fill each muffin cup to about halfway. Bake in the oven for 18 – 20 minutes.

(Recipe adapted from “Crazy Good Banana Muffins” on VegWeb.com)

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Check Me Out On the Dormont-Brookline Patch

I recently became a contributing writer for the Dormont-Brookline Patch, an online newsletter for the Dormont and Brookline neighborhoods. Started in early January, the site is steadily building a readership locally and in the surrounding Pittsburgh area, and I’m happy to be a part of the growth of this project.

My first article for the site has been posted. It’s a news feature on the struggling Dormont Fresh Market. If you live in or around the South Hills, or are just passing through via the Red Line T, do yourself and Cher Murphy a favor and stop by the market. She’s really built a store from a personal philosophy and is trying to bring fresh, affordable goods within reach of the entire community. The fact that she is struggling to sustain when so many people could benefit from her services is damn criminal, and an example of how communities fail their small businesses.

Click on the excerpt to visit the article!

Expecting a drop in business with the low foot traffic on Potomac Avenue, Murphy expected to make up the difference with grocery deliveries. The service, announced in October, is provided to Dormont, Brookline, and Beechview residents and is free for senior citizens. But aside from some loyal patrons, the service has yet to take off.

Now, disappointing in-store business is echoed by a delivery service that hasn’t yet justified the extra inventory it requires. Murphy predicts that if business doesn’t pick up soon, she will have no more than six weeks left.

Good Morning, Dunkin!

There are a ton of terrific locally-owned bakeries in the area, but half-frozen on a walk home on Friday, there was only one refuge promising caffeine and an insane dose of sugar.


Say what you will about Dunkin Donuts. They serve up a damn fine cup of coffee. And their crullers aren’t bad either.

Good Morning, Steelers Sunday!

I grew up a misfit teenager shunning all jock trappings. Due to my commitment to the South Park High School Eagles Marching Band, I was an unwilling witness to many, many football games, none of which I paid the least bit of attention to, preferring the company of a small penlight and book. I even got homework done in the stands. Playoffs time, when we lost, I was secretly overjoyed for the end of the football season. No more Friday nights spent shivering on the metal bleachers. No more playing halftime shows that people in the stands used as an excuse for bathroom breaks. No more pretending (albeit poorly) to care.

Then something happened in college. No longer expected to care, I started keeping track of pro football (as well as a few other sports, but more on that another time),  although I stayed fast and loose with game-time commitments. Still, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2006, I whooped and hollered celebrated with my then-housemates. After the game, we ran out to Forbes and Murray in Squirrel Hill and celebrated with the rest of our neighborhood. I saw people running around shirtless in the snow, sliding down Forbes by holding onto moving cars and buses. I saw people knock down a dumpster and dance on top of it. The young and the old, the drunk and the sober. I saw how this city celebrates their team. And it was exhilarating. (And a little scary.)

The 2009 Super Bowl win against the Cardinals held a different kind of significance for me. I had my heart broken in the Fall of 2008 by no less than a devout Seahawks fan, who loved to claim that our city’s team had stolen their Super Bowl title due to a bad call. Months after the final conversation of our relationship, I sat in a roomful of friends, cheering out of equal parts love for our team, our city, and spite for that guy from Seattle. Mature? Not really. But we won. Again. Damn right.

Going into this most recent season, I cooled on the Steelers a bit. It was a mix of reasons, but mostly the Ben Roethlisberger stuff and a new-found enjoyment of college football, specifically the team of my partner and his family, the West Virginia Mountaineers. Still, seeing the unruly mane jutting out of the helmet of #43 Polamalu, catching the sunny/frightening smile of #86 Ward, the hulking frame of #34 Mendenhall… There’s really nothing like rooting for the home team.

That’s my abridged history with football. For the AFC Championship weekend, we cooked up something that might have to make a Super Bowl reappearance. This recipe is based on the traditional “Pittsburgh” salad, but it’s also based on a failure. I was all set to make lentil burgers, but upon their completion in the oven, they were just too crumbly to make it on the buns. My intrepid dining companion and partner came up with this terrific solution to our dinner problem. So this recipe truly belongs to him.

The Vegan Pittsburgh Salad

Ingredients
– 1 lentil burger patty, crumbled (I haven’t included my recipe, cause it’s still a work in progress, but the Veggie Table has a good one.)
Iceberg salad mix
– Sweet & Sour dressing (not the same as the sauce used in Asian cooking – we used the tangy Giant Eagle variation.)
– 1 avocado, thinly sliced
– 1 small tomato, chopped
For the potatoes:
– 5 to 6 small red potatoes, cut into even chunks
– 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
– 2 tsp turmeric
– 1 tsp cumin
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 2 tbsp olive oil

– Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss potatoes in oil and spices and cook in the oven for 25 minutes, tossing a few times as they bake.

– Once the potatoes are done, assemble the salad:

  • Iceberg salad mixture
  • Crumbled lentil patty
  • Avocado & tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Dressing

Grab a fork and enjoy! Just don’t get any on your Terrible Towel.

Good Morning, Citrus!

It is time that I added more citrus to my recipe book. Sure, I have the odd lemon-infused muffin here, orange juice makes a few appearances there, but I haven’t really dedicated myself to assembling recipes that best use the fruits that this season has to offer.

Why not, you might ask? There’s many, many reasons to. The mighty orange offers nutrients that have been said to prevent everything from high blood pressure to arthritis to cancer. Grapefruits, also rich in Vitamin C, can reduce cholesterol and slow atherosclerosis. Lemons are a top-notch antioxidant and can, among other helpful uses, sooth stomach aches and indigestion. Limes are rich with dietary fiber and Vitamin K.

Blood Oranges with Star Anise Syrup from Sifting and Sowing

Whoa. Those are something freaking nutrient powerhouses. And did I mention that they’re all delicious? No, cause I didn’t have to, right? You all know that already. So what am I wasting your time for? Here are some recipes that won’t waste your time and will get you a good citrus fix:

– Oh, Sifting and Sowing… I could stare at your picture for Blood Oranges with Star Anise Syrup all day. So bright, so cheery, so unbelievably delicious looking. With a little yogurt on the side, this could actually make me look forward to the morning. (As long as that morning starts at 10 am…)

Cupcakes Ate My Soul is cooking up a Christmas-y cake of Cloves, Oranges and Cinnamon. So, I just found this blog, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but… I love this blogger. Her recipes are little nuggets of genius in an adorable scattershot package. I’m making this cake before the next big snowfall, and hopefully, I will have a nice big mug of mulled wine to go with it.

Agave-Lime Grilled Tofu from Krule in the Kitchen

– It’s equally important to get your protein this time of year, but don’t worry, Krule in the Kitchen has you covered with this excellent recipe for Agave-Lime Grilled Tofu. This is the recipe I will have in mind next time I’m at Lotus Foods in the Strip, weighing down my bag with pound after pound of tofu. I just need to remember the limes…

Lemon Curd from TasteFood

– Lemony recipes? TasteFood had a hundred lemons on their hands, so they practically did all the work for me! I love Lemon Curd, although I have yet to have anything close to resembling a vegan version, so I’ll probably be keeping this all to myself. Accompanying this recipe is a handy rundown of various lemon-featured recipes culled from other food bloggers.

Ruby Grapefruit Marmalade from Subatomicbetty

– It comes off a little old-fashioned, but I love marmalade. I’m used to getting my marma-fix in orange form, but I love this recipe for Ruby Grapefruit Marmalade from Subatomicbetty. This is also a really nice recipe for preserves-lovers who don’t want to make a whole ton of the stuff (she doesn’t give the exact quantity the recipe provides, but it doesn’t looking overwhelming). It also has lemons! A perfect citrus spread for people who really need to jazz up their morning toast.

Lunchtime Link: Bad News Day

The Post-Gazette ran a story today about the closing of Le Cordon Bleu Downtown and the potential effect it will have on local dining. Didn’t realize it had an effect on local dining? Psshaw:

Graduates of the 25-year-old program, previously known as the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, fill many of the top spots at notable restaurants around town, including Danielle Cain, executive chef at Soba in Shadyside; Kevin Sousa, chef-owner of Salt of the Earth in Garfield; Justin Severino, executive chef and partner at Elements, Downtown; and Richard DeShantz, chef-owner of Nine on Nine, Downtown.

Anyone else going to sincerely miss seeing the white-clad culinary students Downtown?

The Local Food Report: Wednesday, January 19

Local food news happens all the time, and it’s unbelievable how much you miss if you don’t check out local publications. Recently read something worthwhile? Link it at the bottom!

– Despite an annoyingly ill-structured headline, Stacey Federoff’s Tribune-Review article on the sudden and tragic death of David “Chef Dato” Kadagishvili is a fitting tribute to the talented and locally beloved food entrepreneur. Chef Dato was killed last Wednesday in a car accident on Route 217. “He came here with his skills and he turned himself into an icon,” Anderson said. “He was the epitome of the American dream, worked hard and achieved success. He saw the opportunities, and he took them.”

– A nice little feature on Hyeholde from the Trib‘s Pam Starr. The Moon Township restaurant has been getting a lot of attention as of late, both in regards to its terrific gourmet menu and unique setting: Hyeholde was built in the 1930s by William and Clara Kryskill, to resemble a medieval castle. With its turrets, enormous waxed beams, dark slate floors, stained glass windows, antique European furniture and various nooks and crannies, Hyeholde instantly transports visitors to a faraway time and place.

  I always seem to want a beer after reading about Bocktown Beer and Grill, and this article on Pop City is no different.  Conceived as a neighborhood pub, Bocktown has developed a significant fan base, despite its Robinson location. Much of the following is owed to owner Chris Dilla’s online diligence. Bocktown has an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Hootsuite, AND WordPress. (Jeez, don’t you have a restaurant to run, Chris?). “Everyone told me I was crazy… And it’s the worst location ever (across from Target). But we’re going nuts. I attribute it to world of mouth and social media. I’m diving into it.”

About ten years ago, the world was still wrapping its head around gluten intolerance and the effects of celiac disease. Now, gluten-free items are flooding the market, and the gluten-free diet is not just a thing of medical necessity, but a potential weight-loss tool. Does it have benefits for the unafflicted? China Millman examines the situation, as well as offering a list of local restaurants that offer gluten-free options.