Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blog 1st Birthday Brunch Party

To celebrate 1 year of Aloha: Yinz Mangia's existence, I decided to throw a party.  Yes, it's a bit of overkill to throw a blog it's own birthday party, but I'm totally fine with that.  It crossed my mind that I might have some friends who read my blog and see all the things I make but have never actually graced their taste buds with my cooking!  So, instead of finding out which friend that may be, I invited them all over for a blog birthday brunch!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day!  I have one awesome Dad, that's for sure.  

He's the person who taught me cooking basics, back when I was young.  I specifically remember early lessons on grilled cheese and scrambled eggs - two of my favorites that I still eat quite often.  He's funny when it comes to food, though.  My Dad is a meat and potatoes kind of guy who shys away from anything that's too healthy.  If it says fat-free on the label, he doesn't want it.  He's also "allergic to chocolate" which is a total lie!  He will eat half of his dinner, declare that he's full, then make a large bowl of ice cream an hour later!  It's amazing that he's so skinny with the way he eats.  Lunches from his favorite bar and dessert every night, right Mom?!  I remember when I was a kid, it was easy to remember my Dad's favorite cakes because they had other foods in the names: carrot cake and cheesecake.  

I'm an only child and my parents and I are all pretty bossy "eager to help" each other!  Being in the kitchen with Dad is ANNOYING.  

Dad:  Ang, do it this way, do it that way, use that pan, blah blah blah.  

Me:  Dad, go in the other room!  

The worst part of that is that I do the same thing when someone else is cooking!  Aren't we all turning into our parents?  I sure am.  I'm not innocent here, either, as I'm always trying to sway his ways in the kitchen.  

Me:  Dad!  You can't use a wooden cutting board for meat, that's gross and so bad, you could get sick!

Dad: What are you talking about!? I've been doing this my whole life and I haven't gotten sick yet.

Touche, Dad!  

In honor of my dear old Dad, here are some photos of him for you to enjoy:

My Dad's first Hawaiian shave ice, on Maui!

Here he is at Spam Jam.  In addition to "being allergic to chocolate" he also "hates Hawaii".  You be the judge - here you see him perusing the streets of Waikiki, wearing an Aloha shirt, eating (and enjoying) a Spam-flavored macadamia nut!  He liked them so much he went back for seconds, then Santa brought them in his Christmas stocking.

Here's all of us at Spam Jam.  This was my parents' Christmas Card last year!

Besides food, here are a few other things my Dad likes:

My Mom :)  They've been married for 34 years!

My alma mater, Penn State.  Although he follows (University of) Pittsburgh sports more closely and it makes me CRAZY!

Fashion.  This is the signature Mike Anderson summer look - shorts, wool socks, and boots.  Don't forget the cold beer!

The Pittsburgh Steelers.  He's a season ticket holder and makes sure to save the extra ticket for game closest to Christmas for me every year :)

And, of course, me!  I'm his only child and a Daddy's Girl.  Let me tell you, that's NOT an easy job for Dads or Daddy's Girls!

I humored him by doing many things that guys want to do with their sons that he didn't get the chance to do: I learned about tools and how to fix things and change the oil in the cars, helped him build model cars, played basketball and even let him coach my team (I have a friend who still calls my Dad "Coach Mike"!).  All the while I was still taking dance lessons while he had to suffer through all those recitals!  We both probably couldn't count the amount of times we watched the Wizard of Oz together. Every grown man's dream, right?!  Worst of all - I grew up.  I got grounded by dear old Dad indefinitely a handful of times during high school, which really didn't last more than a few hours!  I started dating much to my Dad's dismay.  (I'm now 25 and I think he's starting to get used to it.)   Oh yeah - there was that time when I moved to Hawaii, 5,500 miles away from home - that wasn't his favorite!

That said, I'm sorry I can't be home today to celebrate Father's Day with you Dad!  I'll see you in a month and we'll celebrate then.  Thanks for the cooking (and life) lessons, I wouldn't be the person I am without you (huge heads, knack for telling bad jokes, and all!).  Gosh, we can't ever just be serious, huh!?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yelp Elite Status and Another "Birthday"

Wow, my first post of the second year... so much to say!

Yesterday, I was delighted to receive the invitation from Yelp to become a member of the Yelp Elite Squad!

Yay, hooray, yippee, bravo!  Containing my excitement is tough.  I've been secretly hoping to become an elite Yelper one of these days.  Remember when I was featured in the weekly Yelp newsletter - twice?  That was awesome and this is even better.  I replied to the email to let them know I'd love to oblige and now I'm just waiting for it to be official.  (If you're on Yelp, let's be friends!  Here's the link to my page.)  I'm not sure exactly what this new status entails, other than being invited to supercool events, but I'll be sure to tell you all about it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

1 whole year of Aloha: Yinz Mangia

Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog!  Exactly 365 days ago I told you about my lasagna and have been reporting my cooking, baking, and eating experiences with you ever since. 

Let's recap the year! 

The best parts:

Learning to make my favorite dessert of all time, cannoli
Carrying on the Pittsburgh tradition of a wedding cookie table to Arizona
Getting my first, and second, Le Creuset items
Marking holidays with lovely desserts - My Goddaughter's 4th Birthday, My 25th, and Valentine's Day
Dressing as a pierogie for Halloween
Having my first really fancy restaurant experience

The farthest-from-the-best parts:

Chocolate orange cheesecakes
Primanti Brothers Part II - the post that never followed up Primanti Brother's Part I, due to post-Super Bowl misery!


This will be the 82nd post
There are 21 followers
There have been 3,925 visits to this page

I really enjoy sharing my food with you, through stories and pictures, and in real life.  Hopefully you enjoy reading about it and eating it.  My goal is to make you hungry, give you inspiration to cook, convince you to try new foods, and if nothing else, make you laugh.

Happy Birthday, Aloha: Yinz Mangia! 

To celebrate, I'll be hosting a Blog Birthday Brunch party next weekend!  I've invited my friends and plan on serving a menu of brunch finger foods, as follows:

  • Mini quiche
  • Mini strawberry muffins 
  • Waffle, nutella, and banana sandwiches
  • Fruit kebabs

What's a party without drinks?  We'll also have:

  • Pineapple mimosas
  • Bloody Marys
  • Irish coffee
Of course, if you can't make it to the party, I'll tell you all about it later!

I suppose I should set some goals for the next year...
  • Cook a whole turkey for Thanksgiving
  • Bake more often, and with more patience
  • Eat and cook many new things
  • Become a "blog of note"! 
Thanks so much for reading my blog, or at least looking at the pictures!  If you're here, "follow" Aloha: Yinz Mangia, it makes me seem more legit, and please leave comments and let me know what you think.  I'm always open to new recipes, suggestions, and any reason to celebrate with food!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pork Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas - seasoned shredded pork - is my favorite carnivorous option for Mexican food.  It actually means "little meats", who knew!  I like carnitas on my nachos, in tacos and burritos, with a shot of tequila, and so on!

This month's (June 2011) Everyday Food magazine is a really good issue.  It's where I got the recipe for the Roasted Salsa I made last week and also where I found these Pork Carnitas Tacos.  Making it especially exciting, this recipe called for a cast-iron skillet so I was able to use my Le Creuset!  Nope, still not out of the "it's so cool because it's new" phase yet!

Pork Carnitas Tacos

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1.5 inch pieces  We bought 2.6 pounds and have leftovers for days!

In a large cast-iron skillet, cover pork with 1/2 inch water and bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high.  Cook, turning pieces occasionally, until water evaporates, about 45 minutes.  It took about an hour for my water to evaporate, probably because I used extra pork!  

Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook, turning pieces frequently, until crisp and browned on all sides, about 12 minutes.

Taking photos of meat is pretty gross, I must admit.  In an effort to minimize the disgust and show the transformation while cooking I made this nice little collage.  It shows the pork: first before meeting the hot stove, next covered with water, third about halfway through the cooking process, and finally beginning to brown after 45 minutes.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bitches Who Brunch - Longhi's

Today, June 11, 2011, marks the second installment of Bitches Who Brunch!  (If you have no clue what I'm talking about, please check out the original Bitches Who Brunch post.)  This morning we gathered at Longhi's Restaurant in Ala Moana, where I had the best breakfast of my life.

Longhi's is on the 4th floor of the mall and has a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean.  Today we even had a nose-bleed-section view of the King Kamehemeha parade!  (The same parade caused us to cancel our previous reservation at a restaurant in the path of the whole ordeal and reschedule for Longhi's last minute.)  At times we could actually see Mother Nature raining on the parade, sad!

Longhi's is very open and airy and has a great, charming atmosphere.  They put us girls in the far corner of the restaurant next to another loud bunch, which was perfect!  I especially love the curved booths in the nooks on the right and the black and white floor!  

We spent far too long blabbering, gossiping, chit-chatting, and enjoying each other's company right out of the gate and forgot to place our orders!  Many Bloody Marys, mimosas, fancy house drinks, and cups of coffee were consumed before we did any real caloric damage.  In my book, drinks don't have calories!  Like my theory?  (Yes, it's totally incorrect and I'm fine with that!)

The BWB favorite dish was the Crab Cake Benadict.  This was ordered by 3 bitches!

Of course the brides-to-be, Allison & Marichris, were a little more strict with their indulgences and opted for egg white omelets.  Please note the size of the toast.  These huge and delicious slices of toasted baguette were the base for the benedict dishes.  I didn't take note if the engaged ladies actually consumed these delicious carbs or not!

Here's another omlet, these one kept its yolks and was joined by a side of bacon!  Please note: this meal did not belong to an engaged woman!

Finally, I share with you the best breakfast I've ever had: Maine Lobster Benedict.  As you can see the pieces of lobster were quite large and the toast was huge.  The eggs were perfectly poached and the yolks, when poked with a fork, spread their delicious goodness all around!  The hollandaise sauce was amazing.  I was obsessed and didn't offer a single bite to anyone.  About 95% of the dish was gone before I realized how full I was and returned the fork to the plate for good!

Today's brunch included 7 beautiful bitches: (Left to Right) Malia, Allison, Lisette, Felicia, Me, Marichris, and Lisa.  It was almost 3 hours later by the time we finally left.  We tried to set a date for the next brunch but as it turns out our next outing may be Bitches Who Bachelorette!

Thanks for another great brunch, bitches!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Never Buy Salsa Again

Never buy pre-made salsa from the grocery store ever again.  

No, there's not a scary recall on one of the ingredients or a new study that shows that it will cause you to go blind faster than your non-salsa eating counter part.  You should stop buying it because it's so, so simple to make!  We'll talk about how much better it tastes in just a bit...

The recipe came from the Everyday Food June 2011 magazine, although I made some changes of my own.

Classic Roasted Salsa

Start with 2 large tomatoes, 1 medium white onion, 1 jalapeno, and 4 cloves of garlic with skins on.

Preheat the broiler, with rack in top position.

Halve the onion, remove seeds and ribs from the jalapeno and halve it (if you're brave you can leave them).  Place all of the ingredients in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

Boil until vegetables are blistered and slightly softened, rotating and flipping them frequently, 6 to 8 minutes.  I have a major paranoia about using the broiler and compulsively checked on and flipped the veggies every 30 seconds or so!   

That's it, you're done cooking!  Look how nice the veggies look, post broil.

I love the charred jalapeno, especially.

The skins on the tomato split!

Now, let's finish up this salsa recipe.

Discard garlic skins.  In a food processor, pulse garlic and veggies until coarsely pureed.  My food processor is brand new and this was my first time using it, causing me to get a little pulse happy.  My salsa was very, very well pureed - oops!  Add 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice and season with salt and ground pepper.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro.

Homemade Chips
Years ago I actually had a recipe for homemade tortilla chips, now I just wing it.  Using a basting brush, apply EVOO to both sides of medium flour tortillas.  Stack them in a pile and slice them into wedges using a pizza cutter.  Arrange on a baking sheet, add salt, and bake in the oven until just lightly golden brown.

The chips before.

Finally, the grand finale - homemade chips and salsa! 

The flavor of this salsa was outstanding!  The vegetables gave it such a fresh and delicious taste.  Since I don't like it hot, one jalapeno was just enough to give it the right flavor.  Overall, fresh salsa trumps store bought salsa for sure!  

The homemade chips were light and salty without being greasy.   These will certainly be made frequently throughout the summer months.  

During my next trip to Home Depot I'll get my own cilantro plant and see if I can keep it alive long enough to make this salsa again!