Friday, May 29, 2009

Eating My Way Through Memorial Day Weekend!

I went back to my hometown for a couple of days over Memorial Day weekend. Usually that's not quite enough time for me to consider it worth the 10 hour drive. But I really wanted to meet my new great nephew before Thanksgiving.

This is Kai.

Isn't he perfect?

Since I was there... I HAD to have some of my favorite foods that I miss so much!

Every trip to Massachusetts, I can't wait to have pizza. Sorry Pittsburgh, but your pizza just doesn't measure up!

On my first night, my mom always has Pizza from Wakefield House of Pizza, waiting for my arrival.

Bob and I had a late lunch around 2 or 2:30 and were totally ready for pizza when we arrived around 8pm.

Sausage & Pepperoni for Bob (of course I had a slice too!)


Cheese for me (actually... my sister Jeannie likes extra cheese, so it was probably extra cheese) YUM!

My nephew Damien also ordered a CheeseSteak Pizza.

It looked better than the picture. I would have tried some, but had to have my favorite first. Then I was just too full. There was some leftover, but I don't think that would have been a very good leftover.

However, the leftover cheese pizza was awesome, cold for pre-breakfast!

Saturday morning, over to Christopher's for breakfast. My sister works there part time and this was her first opportunity to show her perfect grandson. She was working, so we called ahead to get a table in her station.

Of course, I forgot to throw my camera in my purse, so no pics. But I had the Eggs Benedict Anyway You Like It... which is any kind of meat. So I got it corned beef hash. The hash was AWESOME. But I do have to say, the Hollandaise was a little bland. (maybe they'll see this and spice it up a bit!) But my niece Casandra got the Ultimate French Toast, which looked AMAZING!!!

Something that I thought was totally cool was that they have American Chop Suey on the kids menu! I've lived away from Massachusetts for so long, people always refer to it as Goulash... I don't know if I've ever seen Goulash on a menu... but I know I haven't seen American Chop Suey! So that totally tickled me!

Plus my Auntie Evelyn joined us, which was such a nice surprise!

If your looking for breakfast or lunch and are near Reading, MA, I recommend you stop in! (If it's a Saturday or Sunday, ask for Jeannie!)

Later in the day, on our way to the cemetery to plant flowers on my dad's grave with my mom, we stopped at Morena's Cucina Rustica per my request. I had to have a Sicilian Slice and a Hippi Roll.


The Hippi Roll is Calzoni with Sausage, Hamburger, Peppers & Mozzarella.



Next visit I'll get an Italian Sub. In Massachusetts, if you like them, they'll put chopped pickles on your sub... not pickle slices. It's not something that sounds like a big deal, but it is! And it's NOT baked. Ok... I have to stop typing about something I can only make at home and not quite as good as Morena's!

After the cemetery, Mum decided she'd like a Coffee Frappe. That's not a coffee drink prepared by your favorite barista. It's a milkshake with ice cream.

Now normally I'd happily join my mom for a coffee frappe. It's also a favorite of mine; however, we were stopping at Meletharb! YAY!!


They have Lime Rickeys!!!!

A Lime Rickey is quite possibly the most refreshing drink you can have. For some reason, the rest of the country hasn't caught on to this.

It's so easy... a couple squirts of simple syrup, the juice of a lime or three (if you like them sour like me!), drop in the squeezed limes, fill with soda water and stir. That's it! They also make a Raspberry Lime Rickey, which just adds a squirt or two of raspberry syrup. That used to be my favorite, but my tastes have changed and now I definitely prefer tart to sweet.

I don't have a picture of it, because in the paper cup it comes in, it doesn't look particularly noteworthy.

So Mum and Jeannie asked what I wanted for dinner that night. (yes... still eating...) I had been wanting some Steamers. Being land locked in Pittsburgh, it's not easy to just stop in someplace quick for some... if you can find any at all!

We went to Dockside for dinner. It's a little place down the street that they go to pretty often. Mum & Jeannie really like their burgers... but spinach artichoke pizza and nachos are also favorites.

My pictures aren't great...

Dipped in butter

They were awesome!

Creamy buttery bellies, with not a spec of sand!

Saturday night I tried Domaine de Canton which was awesome!!

So Sunday... my last day there, I wanted to pick up a bottle to take home. I knew there was NO WAY I'd find it in PA. Plus, I wanted to find some interesting microbrews for Jon... so off to Kappy's in Saugus.

Earlier in the day I had been thinking I really wanted some fried clams. The little seafood place down the street from Mum's house closed a few years ago. Then it occurred to me that there was a Kelly's Roast Beef in Saugus.

So next food stop... Kelly's Roast Beef! It's funny. I had no intention of going there at all. But my cousin Charlie will be visiting next month and can't wait to go!

We were going out for Chinese food later for my nephew Damien's birthday, so I didn't want to eat a lot. I was hoping they might have a kid's clam roll or something. But I ended up just getting a Clam Roll. Mum ate the onion rings and we tossed the fries.

Doesn't that look awesome???

It totally was!!!

I didn't really have a craving for a Roast Beef sandwich... until I saw the ones everyone else ordered!!! Next time... Kelly's is ON the list!

Next eating/drinking adventure? Wine Tasting with Mum & Casandra.

Name: CK Mondavi Willow Springs Pinot Grigio

Price: $6.99

Year: 2007

PHOTO of bottle:

Short intro from the wine maker about the wine:
Our Pinot Grigio is a medium-bodied wine filled with aromas of wildflowers, peaches and pears. Fresh, tropical flavors combined with a touch of spice lead to a delightfully crisp finish.

Review: Well... I left my notes at my sister's house. She said she'd mail them to me, but I pretty much remember.

Pale yellow in color

No specific aromas I could pick out.

Me ~ squinchy face... definitely not digging it. Maybe can taste some pear; but I don't like pears either!

Mum ~ she wasn't really digging it either... she definitely prefers Chardonnay.

Casandra ~ nice... she liked it and could even pick out some pear flavor

Would you buy again?: I'd cook with it.

Wine Pairing Ideas/Recipes: I just use it for a dry white wine in recipes.

Name: Bolla Pinot Grigio

Price: $7.99


PHOTO of bottle:

Short intro from the wine maker about the wine:
Bolla Pinot Grigio is made from handpicked Pinot Grigio grapes from northeastern Italy in Veneto, Fruili and Trentino. Our Pinot Grigio has lively fresh fruit flavors and aromas of peach, melon, pear and lime. Light-bodied and refreshing, this dry Italian wine nicely complements seafood, poultry or light pasta dishes, soups and salads.

This wine is more golden in color than the Mondavi.

Mum & I liked it better than the Mondavi too...

Even though I liked it better... I still wasn't really digging it.

Casandra liked it less.

We did get a bit of pear flavor.

Would you buy again?: Sounds weird, but even though I liked it better than the Mondavi... I would probably buy the Mondavi before this, just for cooking.

Wine Pairing Ideas/Recipes: I have nothing... but there is an Italian Chicken Pasta recipe on the Bolla website you can check out!

We tried these wines with a cheese that was WAY too much cheese for the wines.

Trader Joe's Goat's Milk, Garlic & Herb Gouda Cheese.


Mum and I really LOVED the cheese!! Casandra & Jeannie really HATED it!

And that was my first trip to a Trader Joe's. I also picked up some Sunflower Seed Butter. But sadly that store didn't carry wine. Oh well... but stay tuned for Sunflower Seed Butter Cookies!!

Hmmm... this is getting pretty long... I wonder if anyone's still reading?

I know (think) Mum will at least read the whole thing! =)

Anyway... last eating adventure of the weekend... so if you're still with me... don't worry, it's almost over.


I LOVE Chinese food in Massachusetts. Every part of the country is a little different. I think you just like what you grew up with best. At least that's how it seems to work for me!

We were celebrating Damien's 25th birthday.

He started off the evening with a Sake Flight.

I started with a Scorpion Bowl (for two - hey if I'm probably going to have two anyway, I might as well get it in a cool bowl right?)

That's me, with Mum in the background.

And Damien decided my Scorpion Bowl looked pretty good after he finished his Sake Flight.

We ordered WAY too much food. We always do. But when we take it home, it doesn't seem to go to waste.

Egg Rolls, Chicken Fingers, Boneless Spare Ribs

Seafood Exotic Fantasy, Teriyaki Nuggets, and my Scorpion Bowl

Beef Lo Mein, more Chicken Fingers (cuz they're SO good), Crab Rangoon

There was more food too... Pan Fried Noodles with Chicken and Veggies, California Roll... I think that might be it... but there could have been more.

So that was eating my way through Memorial Day Weekend!

I didn't want to step on the scale when I got home, because I was afraid I'd break it!!

Expect to see some lighter recipes here!

Have a great weekend!!

And if you're still reading... you actually made it to the end!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Domaine de Canton ~ Ginger Liqueur

Have you ever tried a ginger liqueur?

If you LOVE ginger... you MUST try Domaine de Canton!!!!


When I opened it, I couldn't stop smelling it.

It smells just like freshly peeled ginger root!

Fresh Vietnamese Baby Ginger and VSOP Cognac combined with Tahitian Vanilla Beans, Provencal Honey and Tunisian Ginseng... shaken w/ice and strained into a brandy snifter... YUM!!!!

Check their website for collection of delectable ginger cocktails.

Definitely store this in the freezer for a spicy delicious night cap!!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Chicken Fajitas ~ Why didn't I consider them blog worthy??

It was a very quiet lazy weekend around Casa de Spryte this weekend. The first weekend in at least a month that we didn't have any company.

I do LOVE having company, but it was so nice to have nothing to do at all.

So, as often happens on lazy Sundays, time just slips away and before you know it... it's dinner time.

Early in the day, Jon & I had decided to grill chicken since it was forecast to be a dry and sunny.

It was 5:15ish and I said, "Why don't you start the charcoal at 5:30?" At about 5:25, I get the "Mom, can you pick me up?" call. UGH! Tawny needed a ride halfway home from work. Weekend bus schedules often leave you waiting almost an hour for your connection, so I picked her up. She wouldn't be to the connection point until 6:13. I told Jon to hold off on the coals until around 6... lost a few more games of Mahjong on my DS and left to go pick up Tawny.

When got home, Jon had the chimneys filled with charcoal and getting hot. It was close to 7 before I actually started to grill.... then I remembered I wanted to grill some onions & peppers too, and make some guacamole so we could have chicken tacos.

Tacos, burritos, nachos... to me they're kind of all the same... mostly the same ingredients, prepared mostly the same, just put together differently for eating. Also, this is the kind of stuff we eat my house regularly. How many posts of basically the same nature do you want to see?

So I figured... chicken tacos... nah... I won't blog about it... just more of the same.

I was wrong.

The chicken tacos turned into chicken fajitas (yeah, still kinda more of the same, I know)

But they were AMAZING!

Again I used Tyler Florence's Mojo Marinade and ended up with a big pile of chicken like this.

I also had some onions & peppers drizzled with olive oil on the grill in a little basket. I can't find any previous of pics... so you'll just have to use your imagination... are you doing it? Can you smell the onion & peppers on the charcoal grill??

Of course I had to whip up a fresh batch of guacamole. I like my guacamole really basic... just avocado, onion, lime juice & salt.

Gorgeous sliced grilled chicken, into a warm soft flour tortilla, topped with smokey grilled onions and peppers, shredded colby-jack cheese, fresh creamy guacamole, and some chunky garden salsa.

Do I have a picture? No.

I ate mine standing over the sink.

It was so good.

You know when you take that first bite and your eyes roll back in your head a little... and your whole body says, "mmmmmmmmmmmm"?

It was that good. It was as good or better than any chicken fajita I've eaten from a sizzling skillet in any TexMex restaurant.

For some reason, beforehand, I didn't consider it blog-worthy.

Was I ever wrong!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hummus - it's what's for breakfast...

Everyone at Casa de Spryte needs to lighten up a bit. (well... except Bob) If you're a regular reader of my blog... you've seen the endless parade of fried stuff and stuff covered in cheese... plus all the baked stuff!

Anyway... I've been trying to eat a healthier breakfast at home lately. (as opposed to driving through Wendy's or McDonald's for a Chicken Biscuit or McSkillet Burrito; which I do FAR too often)

I had some hummus left over from Baba D's. Their hummus is so creamy and delicious. It's a gazillion times better than the hummus I make at home.

I also had a gorgeous tomato, half a cucumber and my favorite flat bread.

It's not like me to go meatless. I usually like lean turkey or chicken for breakfast. But I decided to make a veggie wrap for breakfast today.

I LOVE these... they're always very soft and pliable.


Spread flat bread with creamy delicious hummus.

Add gorgeous fresh veggies


This was a tasty, satisfying breakfast!

Just a quick garden update...

Tomatoes one week ago and this morning.

And two Crack Cilantro plants!

I haven't found any Crack Dill yet this year... but I keep checking!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Shane's Brownies

First I want to say, if you haven't checked out Shane's blog, Culinary Alchemy, you need to head over there right now!

Shane is a fantastic cook... and he's often channeling Alton Brown!

This is another one of his recipes. It makes a very rich, decadent, chocolaty batch of brownies that is sure to satisfy even the most demanding chocolate lover.


Shane's Brownies
12 oz Bitter Sweet Chocolate – 60 – 65%
1 1/2 cups Unsalted Butter
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
A Pinch of Salt
6 Large Eggs
1 1/2 cups Granulated sugar
1/4 cup Light Brown sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract -or- 1/2 Vanilla bean scraped
1 TB Strong brewed Coffee or 1 tsp Espresso Powder
1 1/2 cups Plus 2 TB AP Flour
1 cup Milk Chocolate chips

Line a 13x9 pan with Parchment paper, leaving an overhang so the brownie slab can be lifted out in 1 piece.
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large sauce pan, melt butter over low heat.
Chop your chocolate for even melting.
Add chopped Chocolate to the melting butter and stir until smooth.
Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt, then set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugars together with vanilla and espresso powder.
Once the chocolate is cooled, begin pouring in the eggs, in a steady stream, into the chocolate, stirring constantly.
This will keep the eggs from curdling.
Your chocolate mixture should thicken slightly once the eggs are incorporated.
Begin folding in the flour, just until combined, lumps are OK. If you mix it too much, your brownies will be more like cake when they are finished baking.
Once the flour is folded in, add the chocolate chips and incorporate with a few quick strokes.
Pour into your prepared pan and, with a spatula, level out your batter making sure to get it into the corners.

Then bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes. (5 minutes less for a dark pan)
Brownies are not supposed to be cooked to complete done-ness or they will be dry. You will know they are done when the top becomes shiny and mottled and a toothpick inserted should come out with fudgy crumbs.


So I really just followed Shane's recipe... no tweaking.

I weighed out a combination of 70% chocolate & baking squares (54% I think)
Going heavy on the 70%


Melt the butter... then add chopped chocolate.


Mmmmm.... melty...

Whisk in cayenne and set aside to cool.
(I didn't add salt, because I typically have salted butter)

Whisk eggs and sugars together with vanilla and espresso powder.



When the chocolate has cooled, begin pouring in the eggs, in a steady stream, into the chocolate, stirring constantly.
Looks like no action shot here!

Begin folding in the flour, just until combined, lumps are OK. If you mix it too much, your brownies will be more like cake when they are finished baking.

I used a whisk... but wasn't really 'whisking'.


Fold in the chocolate chips.


Pour evenly into your prepared baking dish.


Then bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes. (5 minutes less for a dark pan)
Brownies are not supposed to be cooked to complete done-ness or they will be dry. You will know they are done when the top becomes shiny and mottled and a toothpick inserted should come out with fudgy crumbs.


These were great!

Next time I'd probably throw in a big handful of coarsely chopped walnuts.

This is for you Shane!