Tag Archives: Cooking

So, we built a swing set…


It was a fun family project.  We told the kids that birthdays & Easter would be light as we were putting a lot into the swingset.  I’m not sure they understood or cared.  Our moms helped with the purchase, too.  Bethany & I looked online at 6,487,932 swing sets, and narrowed it down to 15 or so in our price range.  I made a spreadsheet to compare them, because OCD or something.  Looking at the roadside swing sets at those places that also sell sheds and rocking chairs, we got a similar product for about ⅓ or ¼ of the price, albeit with no installation.

Installation is expensive, and now we know why.  Ha ha.  Everyone who knew we were getting one gave warning, so we weren’t surprised, but it was an interesting task.

It came in 3 boxes from Walmart.com, and we did in-store pickup because I measured & it all fit nicely in the family vehicle.

Yay, #swingset!

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It took two weekend days with one week night in between to get it done, but the first weekend day was slowed by the kids “helping,” a move-the-tools-in-because-it-looks-like-rain delay, and maybe even a “let’s undo that part because I put it on backwards” moment.  The week night was hindered by the fact that as soon as I attached the ladder & sliding board, the kids needed to test it out.

Bethany & I enjoyed the kids helping.  We do the Home Depot Kids Workshops so both kids are comfortable with a hammer & a screwdriver, and we have done some other stuff at home like carpet removal and hanging curtain rods where they have actually helped.

Hard at work!

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Had some "helpers" today, ha ha.

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My mom even got video of the little man showing off his ratchet skills;

We have been at the house for a few years now, but the project this year is another step to getting the back yard to where we want it, and next year we’ll work on the front.  Having some trees removed recently & moving our garden really opened up some space in the back yard.  I’d like to put in a fire ring, and a toy car race-track play area.  I actually proposed removing the Bean House to make room for the latter, but I was vetoed by a 2yo boy saying “Unh-uh, Daddy.  Hoooome.  Hooome.  Daddy, unh-uh.”  I really hope the beans take off this year.  I have some sprouts popping up already.  I have some squash around it too. I don’t think the soil is all that great there though.

I even recently built this Pinterest inspired potting bench…

Back to the swing set, we even got a few extra add-ons from Amazon, like the steering wheel, telescope, telephone, and some handles.  I think I want to replace the kitchen area tarp walls with some chalkboard-painted wood… and eventually when the canopy fades or dry-rots, I’d like to replace it with some type of solid roof.

"There's so much room for activities!" @CedarSummitPlay #Laurentian #PlaySet #Swingset

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At any rate, I encourage you to tackle a project as a family.  I encourage you to get kids outdoors.  I encourage you to not be afraid to give young kids some tools with a bit of guidance and a lot of supervision.  I encourage you to get them into building, gardening, cooking, and the business of imagination.  I encourage you to try projects yourself, and don’t be afraid to involve the whole family.  It’s amazing how much you can learn through Google, YouTube, and a maybe a few tries.

I think the kids like it…

Hamburgers vs. Meatballs vs. Meatloaf?


This thought came to mind while making hamburgers for the holiday.  I remembered the commercials for ranch burgers & I had a packet of the ranch dressing mix, so I looked up their recipe.  It contained breadcrumbs.  I always thought breadcrumbs belong in meatballs or meatloaf, but not hamburgers.  Then there’s egg.  I put it in meatloaf but not in meatballs or hamburger.  They’re all almost the exact same thing… but then they’re all completely different.

I generally always throw them all together without a recipe.  They’re easy to do that way.  I guess everyone has their own way to do things.  I make them all the same sometimes, but sometimes I add something different for fun.

I’m just wondering how other people do things?

I’d love some feedback in the comments below.  I’ll share how I generally do things.  These aren’t really recipes, and I don’t measure much, but this is typically what goes in each:

Hamburgers

Meatballs

  • Ground Beef (Sometimes Turkey)
  • Crushed Croutons (Whatever we have for the salad if we’re having one, or a nice mix of spices or whatever.)
  • Parmesan/Romano “shake” cheese
  • Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian Dressing (It spices them well, keeps them nice & moist!)
  • Black Pepper

Meatloaf

  • Ground Beef
  • Egg
  • Bread or crushed crackers.  (I like the bread ripped up more than the crackers.)
  • A1, Ketchup, Mustard, or BBQ sauce… or a combo of all of them.
  • Season All
  • Black Pepper

(Click here for a crazy meatloaf recipe.)

Of course sometimes I add garlic, or onion powder, or something crazy.  That’s the fun if it though, isn’t it?  So, what goes in your meatballs, hamburgers, or meatloaf?

Raw Ground beef

Raw Ground beef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nine Can Vegetable Soup


This is an incredibly easy & delicious dinner or lunch.

Well, the name’s misleading.  Sometimes it’s not exactly nine cans.  I’ll give you the recipe as it was given to me…

Nine Can Vegetable Soup

  • 2 cans Hormel chili, any variety
  • 1 can vegetable soup
  • 1 can green beans
  • 1 can sliced new potatoes
  • 1 can mixed vegetables
  • 1 can corn
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (for extra kick, use a can of tomatoes with green chiles in place of one can of diced tomatoes).

Optional: 1lb ground meat*

Dump the entire contents of every can into the crockpot – liquid and

all.

*Brown turkey or beef and drain and add to veggies in crockpot. Heat on low all day, or on high for less than 2 hours.

Well, sometimes I do it like this…

  1. Hormel Chili with Beans
  2. Hormel Chili with No Beans
  3. Campbell’s Beef With Barley & Vegetables Soup
  4. Campbell’s Vegetable Beef Soup
  5. Cut Green & Wax Beans
  6. Diced New Potatoes
  7. Succotash (Corn & Lima Beans)
  8. Mixed Vegetables with Potatoes
  9. Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic, & Oregano
  10. Petit Diced Tomatoes
Nine Can Vegetable Soup

I didn’t take this picture, or make this soup. This is pretty much what it looks like though. (athomewithkim.com)

Sometimes I add other stuff.  I think I’ve put in Garbanzo Beans, Mexicorn, or

the diced tomatoes with jalapeño or chili peppers, and even plain old navy or black beans.  Sometimes I dump some of the liquid of the cans out.  I like thick soup.

I’ve used ground beef & ground turkey… both work really well.  I’m sure a vegetarian version of this would be easy to make. (Hormel makes a vegetarian chili, you can get vegetarian vegetable soup from Campbell’s, & the ground tofu, seitan, or tempeh would work well… or you could just add more beans or vegetables.)

I just put it into the crock pot on low all day.  Dinner’s ready when you get home!

I like to have it with homemade bread, or over biscuits like a pot pie.  If you’re camping and have a mountain pie iron or if you have en electric sandwich maker that seals the edges you can add some flour to thicken it up or strain it a little to make incredible filling.

I also like the tiny saltine crackers.

A any rate, we make some & it lasts a while… as a main dish, or a side with sandwiches.  It freezes & re-heats easily.

Do you make something like this?

What are some good soup recipes or easy crock-pot recipes?

Turkey Noodle Soup


So, I made some really easy turkey noodle soup yesterday.  It turned out to be pretty delicious, and I lucked out because a lot of the ingredients were on sale.

Turkey Noodle Soup!

My cell phone takes absolutely terrible photos, but trust me... this was delicious.

In the morning, I popped 2 turkey breast cutlets into the crock pot, piled on top of chopped baby-cut carrots & celery.  I added some a cup of water with a chicken bullion cube… and piled on some spices; Poultry Seasoning, Season All, black pepper, garlic, sage, and parsley.  I should have probably added an onion, but I forgot.

8 hours later, I boiled some wide noodles in 2 cans of turkey broth, 2 cans of vegetable broth, and 2 cans of low sodium chicken broth.  When the noodles were cooked, I chopped up the turkey boobs, and dumped the contents from the crock pot into the boiling pot of noodles for the soup… I added a little more water, another bullion cube, and simmered for a while.

Result?  Rather effortless yet delicious soup.

I found myself wondering if the broth & noodles would have cooked well in the crock pot.  Will noodles cook well without the boiling & just the saturation?  Would they eventually fall apart if over-cooked?

I’ve also done something similar with a rotisserie chicken… I’ll sauté the carrots, celery, & maybe garlic & onion with some butter in the soup pot, then add chicken and/or vegetable broth, boil the noodles, & add chicken.

How do you make chicken or turkey noodle soup?

How do you make your other favorite kinds of soup?

Have any secret ingredients? 

I generally put in cayenne or something else hot… but I’ve been told to cool it with the spices for a while thanks to G.E.R.D. lately.  Sometimes I add beer to soups… just because I can.  I dunno if it’d go well in chicken or turkey noodle though?

Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 2)


So, last time I blogged about pizza, I covered some of my favorites: Aiello’s, SLICE, & A’Pizza Badamo.  This time I’ll blog about other area big-hitters.

Beto's Pizza on UrbanspoonBeto’s is another place nearby that is just excellent.  They’re the place that you’ve probably heard of that doesn’t cook the cheese & other toppings.  You’ll probably either love it or hate it.  I dig it, the wife does not.  The only thing I’d change is the consistency of the sauce… I’m not a fan of chunks of tomatoes in pizza sauce, but the flavor is excellent.  They don’t get all fancy with toppings here either, just simple, straightforward pizza with cheese that’s melting as you eat it.  I think my favorite way to eat it is just as plain cheese pizza.  Why mess up such a beautiful combination?

Molly's Pizza on UrbanspoonMolly’s Pizza is close by too.  They have some great pizza, and some really crazy specialty pies like the Ranchero Steak Pizza and the Pierogi Pizza.  I personally like to get a pizza with zucchini on top.  Excellent stuff!  It’s hard to pick a favorite around here.

Fiori's Pizzaria on UrbanspoonFoiri’s is a south hills institution.  Sorry, I don’t get it.  Is it good pizza?  Most definitely.  Is it overrated?  In my humble opinion, yes.  Maybe I’m biased because you can get deathfish as a topping there.  At any rate, if you’re in the area and a pizza aficionado, it’s worth checking out before you decide that Slice is the best place around.

Il Pizzaiolo on UrbanspoonIl Pizzaiolo isn’t your regular Pittsburgh pizza shop.  They’re fancy.  They have great pies in a steep Neapolitan tradition.  As they say themselves…

…the restaurant has become a vibrant gathering place for lovers of Neapolitan pizza, pasta and Italian wine. Nearly everything on the menu is hand-made. And if it’s not made in-house, it’s imported from the best artisans, cheese-makers and salumeria in the world. Mozzarella di Bufala comes direct from Naples every Thursday and the pizzas are baked at 1000˚ in a handcrafted, wood-fired brick oven for less than 90 seconds. This, along with perfectly leavened dough, San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, produces the most authentic Neapolitan pizza possible.

So obviously, this is no Pizza Hut.  They make incredible gourmet pies.  Unfortunately it’s entirely not what I’m craving when I “just want a pizza”.  This is where you want to go when you’d like a nice evening out to enjoy some of the lightest most delicious pizza you’ve ever eaten.

Italian Village Pizza (Canonsburg/McMurray) on UrbanspoonItalian Village Pizza is all over the place.  Both by location and quality.  They used to have a killer A1 Steak Sub at the one on Rte. 51, but I don’t think they have that any more.  The last one I frequented was the one in McMurray, but I only ever got the pizza once or twice.  The steak & Italian subs are incredible, but the sauce was just too bitter for me.  It tasted like straight tomato paste with some basil thrown in.  Some people love it, but it just wasn’t my thing.

Here I’d also like to try to address this thing…

VinceNt’s vs. Vincent’s

I’m still not sure what the exact dispute is… if there’s still a dispute, and if there are only two Vincent’s involved in this saga.  Can anyone fill me in on this?  I’ve heard several amalgamated stories over the years.  Some credible news even.  First, you’ve got to get your head around the locations…

There’s Vincent’s Pizza ParkOne on 30 in Irwin/North Huntingdon, one on Ardmore Blvd., and one in Holiday Park (the one I used to frequent).  And there’s Vincent’s “of Greentree” …oddly enough in Greentree, Southpointe, and the West End.  (There also seems to be a Vincent’s Pizza Pub on Mt. Washington – I’m unsure if they’re related to any of the others.)

I haven’t been to Vincent’s Pizza Park in Holiday Park in a long long time, but I remember it as the greasiest pizza I have ever had.  It was good, but greasy.  Some people like that.  I’m not the biggest fan of grease, but I remember they had a nice thick crust & a flavorful sauce.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Vincent’s in Greentree, but the one in Southpointe has great steak subs, garlic buns, and pretty good pizza.  Their “like it” percentage on Urbanspoon is pretty low though.  No idea what’s up there.

Vincent's Pizza Park on Urbanspoon Vincent's of Southpointe on Urbanspoon

Which Vincent’s is your favorite?  Which Vincent’s location is the best & the original?  (I think it’s Vincent’s in Forest Hills)

Please, chime in on any of these locations, any from my previous pizza post, or any that I may have missed.  I may dive into pizza chains next.  Pizza is always a subject of hot debate (and it goes well with beer).

Radical!

Radical!

How to Drink Buttermilk


I’ve been quiet with blogging lately.  I’m not all that busy, and I’m certainly not out of things to ramble on about.  I guess I’ve just been doing other stuff.  I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday & any time with friends, family, or time off of work.  Today. I was inspired to make a post about buttermilk, and thought I’d get it down before I forgot about it.

Charlie’s Old Fashioned Buttermilk

Charlie’s Old Fashioned Buttermilk

I like buttermilk.  Occasionally, when at the grocery store… something hits me that says I want buttermilk.  Much to my wife’s dismay, I listen.  Buttermilk is an acquired taste to say the least.  Most people any more seem to see it as a cooking ingredient.  It makes great pancakes, ranch dressing, and mashed potatoes.  It’s a good dredge for breading.  It’s good in many recipes.  But, it’s also a delicious drink.

Generally I prefer Charlie’s Old Time Buttermilk (by Turner’s) or Country Charm Cultured Buttermilk (by Dean’s).  Uncle Charlie’s has the tiny added butter flecks.  If you like things like sour cream, cottage cheese, or stinky cheeses… you may also like buttermilk.  (Maybe if you like yogurt too… but I personally hate yogurt.)  You may like it only after your first couple of tries, like beer or coffee.

No, it’s not higher in fat than regular milk like you’d expect.  It’s good for you.

I don’t remember not liking buttermilk, but there aren’t many of “us” out there.  My parents always drank it, my grandparents drank it.  I was used to it forever I guess.  It’s delicious, and now something I crave like a special treat.  I’ve had people make horrible faces after trying it.  I’ve had people swear at me, and even hit me after letting them try it.  This is how you man up (no offense to ladies, the dairy-allergic, or the lactose intolerant) & drink buttermilk the right way:

  1. Get a nice tall glass.  (I like a nice beer mug or even a really tall weizen or pilsner glass.)
  2. Pour in just enough buttermilk to cover the bottom.
  3. Add salt & pepper to cover a good portion of the top of the buttermilk.  (Paprika like on old-school diner cottage cheese if you’re fancy.)
  4. Pour buttermilk to the top of glass.  Top off with more salt & pepper if desired.
  5. Make the first gulp obnoxiously large.
  6. Make a refreshing “ahhh” sigh.
  7. Enjoy the rest at a relaxed pace.

…or just drink straight from the tiny jug or carton if you’re a barbarian.

Tall glass of buttermilk

Tall glass of buttermilk

Get Stuffed.


I can’t wait to make stuffing again. It’s ridiculously tasty. I love the carb overload. Maybe I will get those goggles, and I need to pick up some Yuengling.  A week from tonight, I should be in the process of creating this awesomeness.

I’ll show you my stuffing recipe if you show me yours.

How do you do it?

Maybe this year, I’ll try to make some Potato Filling too.  There are a bunch of recipes for it out there.  Maybe stuffing balls would be good…  Now I’m hungry.

STUFFING!

STUFFING!

Yuengling Lager

Beer

So, Pepto-Chili may not be a good idea…


pepto

Pepto!

Made some chili the other day.  I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same twice, but I dig that.  This time, I puréed some fresh & roasted peppers, and added hominy.  Next time, I’ll try less tomato stuff.  Maybe less spices.

This batch caused some absolutely ridiculous gastrointestinal distress.  I had to employ both Vernor’s & Pepto.  Serving leftovers over some creamy buttermilk mashed potatoes helped a little, but not much.

Chili à la AiXeLsyD over mashed potatoes... topped with shredded triple cheddar.

Chili à la AiXeLsyD over mashed potatoes... topped with shredded triple cheddar.

Anyone ever use anything in your chili to cut down on heartburn or any other side-effects?  I rinsed the beans (black & kidney here).  My grandma said baking soda may help, but I think that’s for gas from the other end.

Classic Vernor's logo with "Woody", ...

Vernor's Ginger Soda

I think the peppers or spices are what got me here… maybe the garlic.  I burped so much after drinking a little Vernor’s that I actually amazed myself.  Where did all that air come from?  Surely some spectacular chemical reactions where going on inside my stomach.  SCIENCE!

Can;t wait for that coal-black Pepto poop.

Think Vernor’s would be a good ingredient in the chili?  What about Pepto?  How about some Tums?

Cleanliness and awesomeness at Market District in Robinson


Giant Eagle Market District Restaurant on UrbanspoonI’ve written about the Market District restaurant before (& specifically about the allergen signage), and have even posted a review & photos on Urbanspoon.  I probably will again.

I feel the need to write once more to applaud their cleanliness & friendliness at the BBQ station (OK, the Smoke & Fire Rotisserie).  Bethany & I were there for dinner & grocery shopping last night on a trip to get a bunch of stuff and take advantage of the dastardly cult-like fuelperks!®/foodperks!™ programs.  (Don’t tell anyone, but Tuesday night is a great night to go shopping there.)

PRETTY PLEASE! (with a cherry on top) USE MAIN ENTRANCE ←with a cart― NOT THE ROTATING DOOR
sign for the special sort of Yinzer…

I noticed a few things.  First, I noticed a sign above the soups that said that seafood soups would be available in the seafood section.  I wish I had snapped a photo.  It may not have anything to do with allergies & potential cross-contamination, but I like it.  Keep the deadly seabugs in their own little corner.

Next and more importantly, I noticed the employee that handled my order.  She told me that she’d be with me as soon as possible while she handled the order for the people in front of me.  I had no problem waiting, but the acknowledgement of my presence was a great start.  You can’t imagine how many people behind a food counter will just ignore you, and how such a simple thing as a hello makes all the difference.

The big surprise came after I ordered my turkey sandwich with St. Loius style sauce & grilled vegetables (which are so incredibly awesome).  I watched my new favorite employee take the carving knife carving, wash it in the sink, then come back to spray/wash/wipe the cutting board, then proceed to carve the delicious turkey for my simple yet tasty sandwich.

(You mean, there are steps beyond wiping a knife with a dirty rag?  Yes, I’m talking to you, Subway.)

Such simple steps, such a comfort for someone with food allergies.  I know I go to the Rotisserie station because it’s deathfish free, but hopefully this is an insight to Market District‘s overall food prep/handling policies.  If not put in place by training, I applaud this team member’s personal dedication to cleanliness!  I wonder if they’ve looked at FAAN’s guide to welcoming guests with food allergies?  I was already a fan of the place because of other chefs there that I had talked to regarding food allergies, and this just put it over the top.

I hope to write to Market District to express my awe & thanks.  If only they would do a few more simple things, they would indeed be the most awesome grocery store ever:

Turner's Tea-Bird
Turner’s Tea-Bird

Pittsburgh Chipped Ham BBQ


Pittsburgh Chipped Ham BBQ.

This is how we had chipped ham BBQ when I was growing up…

It was put in a pot on the stove & just heated until it was ready.  It has to be Heinz, it has to be Coke (No Pepsi, RC Cola, or Faygo.)

None of the pre-made sauce either.

It needs to go on a nice roll, like Cellone’s.  I never added cheese as a kid, but I like it with a nice Swiss or Brick cheese these days.

I’ve done a large amount of this in a crock pot… several pounds of meat, then eye the ketchup & Coke.

Chipped Ham BBQ

Pittsburgh Style Chipped Ham BBQ