Sunday, December 4, 2011

Our Pilgrimage to St. Marys and Awesome Pizza!

The day after Thanksgiving our hosts took us Black Friday shopping.
For BEER at St. Mary, PA. We had heard about the "Eternal Tap" - but never had the opportunity to make our pilgrimage to the mythical place.

Here we go!

We signed in and followed the signs.

It appears that Straub dealt in milk during the prohibition?

I poured my first! As per the rules, I drank two.
Even the Mrs., who usually frowns upon beer, enjoyed the fresh brew at Straub!

They had this amazing glass washer!

Free post-Thanksgiving beer grub!
Afterwards I bought two cases of Straub's Special Dark for a whopping low price of  $17 per case! Amazing! Unfortunately the two cases will not last long, as the smooth and drinkable nature of the beer has encouraged the Mrs to steal sips from my bottle!

We also bought some functional mementos.
Beer and Pizza are very similar. Both utilize yeast, water, and sugars to make beautiful and tasty things. While most pizzerias can control for the quality of their dry ingredients (i.e. flour, salt and sugar), the majority have to make do with the water they have.

Brockway, PA is situated in the Allegheny Highlands and enjoys clean soft water (for now anyway). For some perspective, if you're living in Pittsburgh, you're probably drinking Brockway sewage that has more additional mineral content picked up during its journey south. Yeast does not like minerals (it especially does not like salts).

So it is really not a surprise that Paesano Pizza in Brockway, PA has the best pizza I've ever tasted outside of New York City. 


Basically - the Allegheny Highlands present the perfect resources for the production of good pizza and beer! Saccharomyces cerevisiae you rock!


I forgot to take a picture before we ate half the pizza. Rest assured it was very good.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

An American Thanksgiving.

In past years, we've had rather unconventional Thanksgiving meals with fellow diaspora students and we had served protein like Cornish game hens, drumsticks, and ribs in place of turkey. However, this year, we were graciously invited to join our friends in Brockway (Spousal Unit's former Roommate & Family, henceforth abbreviated as the "SURF") to celebrate Thanksgiving, and it was an all American feast!

The celebratory meal involved the Mrs and I and three generations of our hosts' family! SURF-mom got up and started cooking before sunrise, even though she was battling a cold. The turkey was cooked slow and low, was honestly the best turkey I've ever had!

What can be more American than Thanksgiving with turkey and stuffing, gravy, coleslaw, sweet potato casserole, mash potatoes and dinner rolls?!
The feast began a little after noontime, which I thought was a brilliant idea because it gave one less time to spoil one's feasting appetite than the stereotypical dinnertime feast. It also gives you more time to eat, nap, go for a walk and tour of town, recover, and eat some more!

The table talk was also fun and entertaining! SURF-grandpa told us that each of the four B-29 engines (which individually produced 2200hp at takeoff) only used four steel bolts to install and shared some humorous stories about his time in Okinawa.

For dessert, SURF-grandma made two pies, a cinnamon pumpkin pie and a minced meat pie. I attacked both with gusto, and the minced meat pie was particularly good with Sailor Jerry's Spiced Rum!




Our host also made a red, white and blue surprise jello to celebrate my naturalization! The red layer included yummy strawberries, the white was a composite layer created from lemon jello and vanilla ice cream, and the blue was blueberries! It was yummy and disappeared without a trace before the day was done!

We spent the remainder of the evening chatting, drinking tea, watching Galaxy Quest (in which Adrian Monk was always eating) and an episode of the BBC's The Supersizers!

All in all it was the most memorable Thanksgiving yet!

Stay tuned for the part two writeup of our pilgrimage to St. Mary and a celebration of  Brockway pizza!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tremble and Weep Yinz. Tremble and Weep.



Let it be known that I can now commit felonies with no fear of deportation. 

Oh and I bought a new watch! It is a Citizen BM8180-03E, which is the entry model of the light powered Eco-Drive powered watches that ought to stay ticking for at least a quarter of a century without a battery replacement. If we ever have kids, I intend to pass this watch to the future generation. 

The Quartz time keeping has been perfect so far, and has stayed accurate to within a second of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology's atomic clock after over a month of ownership.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pittsburgh Grand Prix!

These are pictures from the Pittsburgh Grand Prix from the end of July. I've been sitting on these pictures because I didn't really know what to say - except that we had a lot of wine, cheese, and listened to a lot of cars go vroom vroom. A good afternoon in July.



Audi R8. The last Audi Le Mans Prototype that wasn't a diesel.



Old school air-cooled Porsche!




Hitler's gift to the automotive world.

I could not locate any pot in this VW Microbus.




Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

This car is about 3 times the average home value in the Pittsburgh area.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September Chili!

September has arrived, which means the beginning of the football season, and that the weather in Pittsburgh is starting to get chilly.

Chilly weather + football = chili. There is some serious synergy going on when you combine spices with protein and fat from beef, the depth and body of sauteed onions, starch from beans, and acidity of tomatoes.

Tigger approves of this monster can of chickpeas - $2.89 at your local Costco!

My basic chili recipe came from a photocopy the Spousal Unit made about a decade ago from Evelyn Raab's Clueless In the Kitchen. The recipe sat dormant in a binder unused until about four years ago - when I started experimenting with chili.

This is probably my best variation of that original recipe.

Ingredients:
        • 1.5 lb of beef (minced)
        • 2 large onions (diced)
        • 2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
        • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
        • 2 medium red tomatoes (diced)
        • 1 green pepper (diced)- optional
        • 3 cups of canned chickpeas
        • 1 cup of frozen corn
 
Spices in a bowl.
        • 3 tsp chili powder
        • 1/2 tsp of curry powder
        • 2 tsp ground cumin
        • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
        • 2 tsp salt

Instructions:
1. Saute the onions and garlic in a skillet (medium heat) until the onions are soft and translucent, then add the green bell peppers. Saute until the peppers are fragrant.

2. Add the ground beef and spices.


3. In a large pot, pour your crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, chickpeas,  and corn. Apply low heat.

I used 3 cups and froze the rest in bags.

4. When the ground beef is more or less browned, and the spices are fragrant - empty the skillet into the large pot.

5. Add about a cup of water, cover, and let the mixture simmer on low for 90 minutes.

Yum!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Going Greek: Pastitsio.

I've been cooking a lot of Greek, and Pastitsio is yummy.


Ingredients:

Meat Sauce:
        • 1.5 pounds of ground beef
        • 2 onion (diced)
        • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
        • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
        • 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
        • salt
        • pepper
        • 28 oz. of diced tomatoes
        • 6 oz. of tomato paste
        • 1/8 cup of dried oregano

Bechamel Sauce:
        • 1 stick of butter
        • 1 cup of all purpose flour
        • 3 cups of milk (warmed)
        • 3 eggs
        • 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
        • 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese (grated)

        • 1 pound of tubed pasta

Instructions:
1. Saute the ground beef, medium heat until brown. Remove beef from pan.

2. Add the garlic and onions, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the empty pan, saute until the onions are translucent.

3. Return the beef to the pan, add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, and oregano. Reduce heat and simmer.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and cook one pound of your favorite tubed pasta.

5. Now we begin making the Bechamel. Melt butter in a saucepan, whisk in the flour until the roux is smooth.

6. Add warm milk to the mixture in a steady stream, whisking. Simmer until the mixture thickens (but do not let it boil).

7. Beat the eggs and add it to the Bechamel mixture. Add the 1/4 tsp of nutmeg.

8. Now we begin assembly. Apply olive oil to a 9 by 5 pan. Pour half of the cooked pasta into the pan, spread it evenly.

9. Pour all the meat sauce on top of the pasta, then add the remaining half of the cooked pasta on top of the meat sauce layer.

10. Pour the Bechamel mixture to cover the pasta. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese on top of the Bechamel mixture. Bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until the top is golden.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Making Eggplants Tolerable: Moussaka.

I don't like eggplants. They're mushy and have negligible amounts of beneficial nutrients. Unfortunately, they're silly easy to grow, and therefore common enough to end up in our farm-share basket.

The SU and I scratched our heads and wondered...

What will we do with you?

Then the SU thought of Greek Moussaka, where the Greeks demonstrate their culinary sense by cooking the !@#& out of eggplants so you can't taste it and it is covered by the awesomeness of onions, ground beef, and the tomato.

So we flipped open our copy of The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, and this is our adaption of the federal convict's recipe.

Ingredients:
        • eggplant
        • 1.5 pounds of ground beef
        • 1 onion (diced)
        • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
        • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
        • 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
        • salt
        • pepper
        • 28 oz. of diced tomatoes
        • 6 oz. of tomato paste
        • 1/8 cup of dried oregano
        • 2 eggs
        • 2 cups of Greek yogurt
        • 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese (grated)



Instructions:

1. Slice the eggplant, salt liberally to dehydrate Satan's vegetable and set it on paper towels.

2. Saute the ground beef, medium heat until brown. Remove beef from pan.

3. Add the garlic and onions, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the empty pan, saute until the onions are translucent.


4. Return the beef to the pan, add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, and oregano. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour.

5. Preheat your oven to 400°F, then return your attention to the eggplant slices. Rinse the salt off, dry the vegetable, and in another frying/saute pan with olive oil, fry the slices at medium heat until they're brown.

6. Now we begin layering. Grab a 9 by 13 baking pan, begin by placing a single layer of eggplant, then empty half of the meat/tomato/onion mixture on top of it. Then add another layer of eggplant, and unload the other half of the meat/tomato/onion mixture.


7. Mix the yogurt, eggs, and cheese together. Pour it on top of the material already in the pan.


8. Introduce the pan into the oven, and bake until the yogurt is bubbling and beginning to brown. Estimated cooking time is around 30~40 minutes.

9. Remove from oven, let the Moussaka rest for 10 minutes. Enjoy!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Celebrating America! (Part II)

On the 4th of July, we were off to a busy start! The Spousal Unit (SU) participated in the Brockway Firecracker 10k. The SU says the field was pretty intense, but the course was scenic around the town.

The only police cruiser in town leading the field! You know you live in safe parts when there's only one police cruiser and it is being used to lead a 10k!

The girl in the stroller was going yay the whole time. The mom may not be the fastest runner, but she has got heart.
We enjoyed some Sheetz coffee while the SU ran, and following the run (the SU did great! probably a personal best time for the 10k!), we went to lunch/dinner at the home of the SU's roommate's family friends (SURFF).

The SURFF had a really awesome garden, with wonderful and yummy looking produce, hops, and flowers!


We then went to a library book sale, followed by a car show! There were many beautiful classic cars, even some ricers with absurd spoilers! I thought the folding backseats/luggage boot was a nice touch! There was also a brand new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, which I would have gotten a picture of if the owners didn't seem like douche bags.

Later in the day, we went to the 4th of July parade!

The Village Voices sounded pretty good!

These people really like the Preamble to the US Constitution, the Bible, and tea.

Porta-Potties make modern American life possible!

These guys, the Kittanning Firemens Band were genuinely awesome. Old school & playing it like it is supposed to sound.  

Unfortunately, we could not stay for fireworks because it was a Monday we needed to return to the 'Burgh for the Tuesday workday (and I'm getting old and can't function on 4 hours of sleep and work 10 hours anymore). But I'd imagine it was an epic show? Like our prior visits, this visit to Brockway was awesome. Our hosts, as always were welcoming and a delight, and visiting Brockway always makes this foreigner wish he was born in the US of A (which I think is quite apropos for the 4th of July). Chalk a +1 for another Americana experience!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Celebrating America! (Part I)

For the 4th of July, the Spousal Unit (hereinafter "SU") and I visited her old college roommate's hometown in Brockway, Pennsylvania.

Brockway is a borough where the people are friendly and don't lock their doors at night, wildlife is plentiful, and the water tastes good. I was told that the water in Brockway is soft, which was confirmed by how rapidly soap lathers in Brockway, and the good the pizza/baked goods (I dare say Brockway has the best pizza west of the Hudson River).

This was our third visit to Brockway, but it was the first time we had been able to stay for multiple days (a previous attempt to stay over was foiled by an alarm clock and cats). As a result! We are able experience many new and awesome things!

The first night we were in Brockway, we got to ride in a 1958 Willys Jeep Wagon that had been upgraded with ~300hp, a sound system, uber comfortable seats, and electric windshield wipers (The original wipers were driven by a vacuum engine powered by the manifold vacuum, which worked best when the car was not moving).


Sort of like Dairy Queen. Only awesome!

We also ate some awesome pizza, drank some beer from Straub Beer from St. Mary, and went to a local hangout called "Tastee Freez." This place was sort of like Dairy Queen, only it had $2.00 foot-long hotdogs,
and was generally awesome.

We also got to go to a local shooting range. It was a great educational experience, as I discovered that the SU is Annie Oakley-reincarnated.

Don't believe me? Watch the vid! This is the SU working the lever after about a dozen shots.

video

Note to self, in the zombie apocalypse, give the SU a lever-action .22 rifle and she'll hold down the fort while I look for Rodents of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S) to feed the family!

Searching for R.O.U.S to feed the family.

We also got to see how one can enjoy shooting firearms while also being environmentally responsible and fiscally conservative!
This device re-loads shotgun shells.

Make Shooting a Family Affair!

True to the spirit of the poster, SU's former roommate sending rounds downrange while her younger brother spots on her behalf! 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pittsburgh Efficiency.

This is the structure that will be the surface entrance to the Gateway Center Station of the Pittsburgh Light Rail System. Since March, this structure has existed as you see below.


For three months, welders on cranes have been welding these metal pieces together in the morning, then grinding the welds in the afternoon. Then repeat the same process in the same location the next day.

In the old country, in three months, you can hire a crew, built some molds, tie down rebar, and pour concrete. And still have time left to watch it dry!

This structure is just steel pipes.

No wonder the North Shore Connector Project is behind schedule and over-budget.