Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pittsburgh's Trader Joe's, N'at

After consuming 16 boxes of Trader Joe's Australian Strawberry Licorice that I had shipped to me by mail from various relatives living near a TJ's store, I finally made it to a Trader Joe's Store for the very first time!  My Mom thought I was insane (more than usual) when I added a grocery store to the list of things to do during my short visit home to Pittsburgh.  She, My Sandy, and I braved the nasty Pittsburgh heat and humidity and went to Trader Joe's!

They even painted this cute welcome sign, just for us!

I, too, questioned my sanity - wondering if I'd be experiencing a typical, cookie-cutter, chain store after all the building anticipation.  Trader Joe is a clever one and the store SCREAMED Pittsburgh!  I was in Burgh, and food, bliss.  

Steelers emblem in the wall, 6 Lombardi trophy's above, Steelers clock... awesome!  Also, I'm sure there's no other TJ's in the world with 6 Lombardi's!  Had to throw it in there :)  WOO HOO football is back on!

Much of the decor in the front of the store is beachy-fun and there are several parrots.  This particular parrot is a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and his little ball cap made me laugh out loud!  Does that make him a Pirate Parrot, too?

2 of 3 Burgh sports teams - covered.  Next up, bridges!  They're everywhere around tahn and around TJ's!

They're even labeled!  Here's the 16th Street bridge, how cute?

The Fort Pitt bridge.  This bridge is my favorite - if I'm on it that means I'm either on my way to the cabin or to Penn State!

The 9th Street Bridge.  This one is next to PNC Park and actually got a great photo of the real bridge at a Pirate's Game.  Want to see?

I thought you did :)  Here's the 9th Street Bridge at night.  Pittsburgh is so charming!

The unique Smithfield Street bridge is in the produce section!  Speaking of unique - do you see all those tomatoes there on the bottom shelf?

That's where I found these Brown Tomatoes!  Have you ever seen or heard of them, or made anything with them?  I didn't have time to experiment in the kitchen while I was home and passed on the opportunity to have my very own Brown Tomatoes.

This baked goods sign, made to mimic the point where the 3 river meet downtown, is so fabulous!  I'd buy one for myself if it were an option!  The pie fountain is the best part.

I bought one of the skinny baguette loaves from the side and made strawberry, feta cheese & mint bruschetta with it!  I took a picture, but... it's better left up to your imagination :)  It was delicious, although not pretty.

We got some chocolate covered blueberries, green figs, and these dried green beans.  They were just ok, I wouldn't buy them again.

This garlic naan bread was so good!  I topped it with hummus or cheese and put it in the toaster oven for a minute, YUM!

Trader Joe's was even better than I expected, overall!  The prices were very reasonable, too.  I was sad that I barely got to eat any of the food I bought from TJs and wish Hawaii could get our very own store!  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Family Dinner at Sarafinos

My visit home to Pittsburgh has now flashed before my eyes.  Don't you worry, I have 700 photos and 8 new pounds to remember it by.  The first meal of the trip was a family dinner at Sarafino's to celebrate the birthdays of 2 of my cousins: 7 year old Spencer and 39 year old Eric.  Sarafino's is an adorable little Italian restaurant that is home to delicious food and allows visitors to BYOB.  Pittsburgh is filled with great Italian restaurants and Sarafino's is one of my favorites, especially because I used to sneak glasses of wine there before I was 21!

Our reservation was for 19 people and we took up half of the dining room!  Our family completely overtook the restaurant and it was absolutely wonderful to be around each other, all talking at once and eating together.  We enjoyed everything you'd expect at such a restaurant:

Bruschetta with goat cheese - very yummy!

Standard bruschetta.  Both types were delicious, despite being served on incredibly rock-hard toast.

Pizza.  This was a small pepperoni, clearly!

Here, the kids eyeing up their half-olive pizza!  Left to right are Cooper (5), Spencer (7 and one of the birthday boys), Morgan (9), and Mackenzie (7).  The only missing child is Marissa, my Goddaughter, who was clung to me all night!  She was probably right next to me as I took this photo.  (Don't let me convince you that I didn't love every second of the attention from her!)

Pasta, of course!  This one is chicken diabolo, I believe.  It was literally the hottest day of the year and the poor souls who ate this dish were even warmer than the rest of us sweaty monsters.

Here's my pasta dish - ravioli with spinach and sun dried tomatoes in pesto sauce.  It was awesome!  I'll add pesto to my list of things to make :)

Another pasta dish with chicken and a large pile of parmesan cheese.

Sandwiches - this is "Duck's Italian" which includes cappocollo, salami, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and roasted red peppers.  It's drizzled with Sarafino's dressing, topped with provolone cheese, and served with pasta salad.  Very colorful!

We brought our own birthday cake, which happened to be a cupcake cake in the shape of a fish!  Birthday boys Spencer and Eric (wearing a lei that I brought him from Hawaii) seemed thrilled to blow out the pretend candles.

I was so busy chatting that I never got a cupcake, but everyone else loved them.  Especially Kenzie, who clearly ate a blue one!

We braved the heat outside for a few quick pictures.  Here are 4 out of 5 cousins of the former kid's table: Amy, Eric, Me, and Dana.

Here I am with the 5 current kids table cousins: Spencer, Cooper, Morgan, Rissa, and Kenzie.

It was a great night and a perfect way to begin my vacation - eating Italian food with my Italian family.  Mangia, mangia!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Going Home

Today, after work, I board a plane and go home to Pittsburgh!  To this house, to be exact...

Well, I'm sure there won't be snow, but you get the point!

I'm going home for my Grandma Sally's 93rd Birthday Party and to meet my best friend's brand new baby boy, Brody.

The excitement could kill me!  There will be many Pittsburgh foods included in this trip:

  • Pierogies
  • Doughnut holes from my favorite bakery
  • A crazy pretzel-roll, pulled pork, and pierogie sandwich at PNC Park
  • My very first trip to Trader Joe's
  • A visit to Deluca's for their ice cream pancakes
I can't wait to go, then to tell you all about the party, meeting the little guy, and the food!

See YINZ tomorra!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fig and Brie Grilled Cheese

Remember when I told you that food in Hawaii is expensive?  It is, I promise.  If you're really in the mood to go broke, just stop by the organic, all-natural, vegetarian friendly, hippie-type stores around town and your wallet will be empty faster than you can say "Alooooha"!

Last night, I did just that.  My debit card and I stopped by at Down to Earth and picked up 4 items: an iced tea for immediate gratification, a small carton of figs, a small jar of sun dried tomatoes, and a bag of chocolate flavored chips.  The damage: $20.01!

Figs are a food that are near and dear to my heart.  My Pap Pap always grew figs in his yard and we used to love eating them together.  I constantly miss Pap, but have been thinking about him even more so this week while making some BIG life changes, more on that in a few days :)  It hurt to pay $7.99 for about 10 figs, but I did it anyway for good measure!

Meanwhile, back home in the fridge, I had some brie cheese leftover from the mini brie-stuffed turkey burgers.  That's 2 of my all time favorite items!  I had to find a way to combine figs and brie...

Today during my lunch hour, while perusing through the farmer's market downtown, I spotted this roasted garlic loaf and had to have it!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Red, White, Blue and Brie Burgers

Happy Birthday, America!

I'm a little late at this point, but a 3-day weekend of partying and a 4-day work week really did me in!  Last weekend was one of the most fun weekends of my life, complete with a block party, a polo match, and a party in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - literally!  It's called "floatilla" and it's a ton of boats, rafts, and even a live band on a boat!  That said, all week I've been sleepy and busy and haven't made time to blog.

Last weekend, to celebrate our country's birth, I made an American classic - Rice Krispie Treats.  To make them festive I considered sticking lit sparklers in each one, but decided instead for the safer option of red and blue peanut M & M's!  

Ok, so really I made "Crispy Rice" Treats.  Here's something you should know about Hawaii, if you don't already - it's expensive.  Rent is a small fortune, gas prices make you want to vomit, and food will literally cost you half of each paycheck.  The real deal Rice Krispies cereal cost $6.99 a box!  The cheaper, knock-off Crispy Rice was on sale for $3.50.  I know what you're thinking, and yes, they still snap-crackle-popped the same!

I wasn't so cost savvy when I bought the huge bag of M & M's!  I separated them into 2 bowls: red and blue in 1, "all others" in the other!

I don't have a recipe for these, it's on the marshmallow bag and on the cereal box!  You know the deal: melt butter and mallows, add cereal, mix, shape - done.

These were just as sticky, crispy, and delicious as expected!  Nobody knew I bought cheap cereal.  It's actually quite humorous to see how excited adults get about these treats!  It's like telling kids they have a snow day, it's that exciting!

Keeping with American tradition, I also made burgers for the grill!  Not just any burgers, Brie Stuffed Mini Turkey Burgers.

Brie Stuffed Mini Turkey Burgers
from Black Girl Chef's Whites, with some changes

1 pound ground turkey
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Salt & pepper
Mini buns If you can find King's Hawaiian Savory Butter rolls, go for it!

And, of course, brie cheese!  It's my absolute favorite cheese in the world.

In a large bowl, mix the turkey, poultry seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper.  Portion the turkey into 1/4 cup patties.  Flatten each portion and top with a small piece of brie.

Fold the turkey meat around the brie and form into an appropriate burger shape.  Be careful to make sure that the meat is surrounding the brie so it doesn't escape!

I packed them up and took them to the polo field to grill there, and also brought some onions along.  Here I am manning the grill!

These burgers were so yummy and my friends ate them up in a matter of minutes!  The poultry seasoning gives them a nice warm flavor and the brie is just decadent.  The only thing that can make these better is more brie!  This recipe was perfect for a long day spent with friends - mess and plate free and not too much food.  If anyone knows how to prevent over eating at a BBQ, please let me know!

We had a great time at polo and a great weekend overall, since America is the land of the free!  

Awesome skydiver between polo matches - GO USA!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Spam Musubi

This is a Spam Musubi.  Say it with me:  Moo (like a cow says) - Sue (the girl's name) - Bee (a stinging insect), Spam Moo-Sue-Bee!

The rumors are true - Hawaii loves Spam.