Archive | October, 2013

Butternut Squash Lasagna Recipe

30 Oct

I saw this recipe for butternut squash lasagna on Pinterest a while back and could not wait to make it.  I made it tonight with a few modifications, mostly because I could not find two of the things that she used.

Here is what I used

Lasagna Noodles (I used no bake, next time I’d prefer whole wheat)

Two packages of Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash (it’s already cut to bake and puree)

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

15 oz ricotta cheese

A little less than 1/2 Tbsp each of cinnamon, thyme and sage (dial back the cinnamon a little next time Kari)

Salt and Pepper

1 tsp garlic

A few slices of Gouda cheese for on top
If you clicked on the link above for the recipe, you’ll see that she used sel de cuisine.  I could not find that in my grocery store, nor could I find the pureed butternut squash she used.  So I improvised.  First, I decided to make my own puree, it was rather easy, I just baked the squash with a little bit of water in the pan for about 45 minutes at 350.


For the seasoning, I decided that I wanted cinnamon with it.  Last night I had pumpkin ravioli for dinner out and it had sage with it as well, which was so good.  So I decided on thyme and sage since those two go together.  I added that and the garlic and some salt and pepper (to taste).IMG_0035

I then mixed it all together.  I decided it needed a little more moisture so I added about 2 tablespoons of milk as well.  It made it this sort of dark orange color.


I also mixed together the ricotta a quarter cup of the Parmesan cheese and some salt and pepper in a separate bowl.


Then came the layering of the lasagna.  A little of the butternut squash puree in the bottom then two noodles followed by 1/3 of the butternut squash mixture.  Two more noodles and then the ricotta mixture.


Keep layering, squash, noodles, ricotta, squash, noodles, ricotta.  Top it off with Parmesan cheese that was left over.  I covered the dish and baked it at 375 for 45 minutes.


Then I added the Gouda cheese to the top and baked uncovered for another 15 minutes.

Before baking the Gouda…


After the baking the Gouda… yum!


I let it sit long enough to write a draft of this (about 10-15 minutes).  And Dug in!  I will admit, I was nervous about this, I wasn’t sure I’d like it.  But I did.  The Gouda was absolutely necessary, it added a lovely cheesiness to it and I think it would have been a little boring without it.  I’d totally make this again.


I ate this with fish tonight.  I just need protein in my meals especially on days when I lift weights (which I did tonight).  I give a lot of credit to vegetarians, I’m not inventive enough to find different sources of protein.

So I’d say that I was happy with this creation and I will make it again, but I’d probably tweak the seasoning.  If you give it a shot let me know what you think or what changes you made!  Also, I need a better camera, these pictures suck.

Cure Review

26 Oct

Jen and I continued our mission to go to the best Pittsburgh restaurants this past week.  We decided to go to Cure in Lawrenceville.  Honestly, the only reason I hadn’t gone yet was because I really thought we’d already been there.  See, this is one of the main reasons I started this blog, so I could keep a running list of where we’ve gone and which we liked.

In this case, I wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped to be.  Maybe it’s because I’ve gone to some truly amazing restaurants around town and when I draw comparisons these days, everything is compared to my favorite meals.

First impression was of the restaurant decor, which I really liked.  It was small and rustic looking and very cute.  When we went to order was when I had my first reservations.  There was absolutely no altering of the dish.  I get it, the chef has gone through a lot of trouble to put dishes together, but when Jen asked for something to be omitted because she doesn’t like shellfish, they said they only alter dishes for allergies.

So, we started with the brussels sprouts.  They were done with bacon, walnuts and goat cheese.  They were actually amazing.  I’ll still give credit to the brussels sprouts at Root 174 as my favorite, but these were a close second.  So the meal started out really well.


Jen ordered the butternut squash risotto.  Here is where things got a little more off for both Jen and myself.  While the risotto itself was fantastic, it came with too much extra “stuff” in my humble opinion.  There was a basil oil, a Chianti froth, mushrooms and smoked mozzarella.  I get that each of those could compliment the dish, but were all four really needed?  I think that one or two of those things would have worked just as well.  I honestly loved how the basil oil tasted with the risotto, but the rest felt like overkill.  You can see all the stuff in the picture below (I didn’t use the flash, it would have just been embarrassing to use in a place like this).


I ordered the hanger steak.  When I ordered I was told that it is usually prepared medium rare, but the chef would be willing to do it medium if I asked.  So basically, if you like your steak over medium, you aren’t getting it at this place.  As with this dish, I loved the steak but it came with too many little sauces.  I actually liked all of them, but it just felt like too much to me again.  There was a cheddar custard, lobster béarnaise, red eye bordelaise and caramelized onion puree.  I really did like the caramelized onion puree and I would have been happy with just two of those sauces.


To end the night we decided to get the chocolate souffle cake. This I also really enjoyed.  It was served simply with some pistachio butter and sea salt.  I think I liked it so much because it was relatively simple.


My overall take on Cure was that I was very glad I tried it, but it isn’t someplace that I’m likely to visit again.  Everything just was a bit too complicated for me, and I don’t normally shy away from different dishes.  Also the fact that there was little to no flexibility didn’t make me especially happy.  If you are a bit of a picky eater, you aren’t likely to be happy at this restaurant.  I’d say it is more for those with rather adventurous pallets.


Cure on Urbanspoon

Planning and Cooking for Shoulder Surgery

17 Oct

I found out earlier this week that I’m going to have rotator cuff surgery in early December.  I tore it months ago while lifting weights very very poorly.  I knew better, I have been lifting since I was in High School.  So here’s my note to everyone, if you are doing something in a class or at the gym and think that it doesn’t feel quite right, STOP.  Ask the instructor or a trainer for help.  Man do I wish I would have just stopped and corrected myself instead of working through it all.  Also, on a funny note, I’m 35 and this is my 3rd surgery due to athletics.  Seriously, maybe I should just stop trying to be athletic (kidding, I won’t stop).

So for the next few weeks I’m going to be making myself some meals and freezing them.  Unfortunately it’s my right shoulder, so cooking and eating will be a challenge.  Here are the things I’m planning on making ahead.  I’ll post recipes and pictures when I actually make them.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

White Chicken Chile

Pot Roast (this one I’m planning on putting together and putting into a freezer bag and throwing it all in the crock pot the day I want it)

Red Curry Chicken

Lasagna (this is on the maybe list)

With the other things that I have in the freezer already this should get me through the 6 weeks of being in a sling having very limited movement.  My mom offered to take care of me, but I don’t want to make her cook constantly and I’d like to eat healthfully while I’m sitting on my butt.

Anyone have any other ideas for things that are easy to freeze?  Anyone have similar surgery before with words of wisdom?

Dinner at Arlecchino

13 Oct

Last week I went out to dinner with some folks to this amazing restaurant in McMurray (Peter’s Township), Arlecchino.  My cousin had invited me here over a year ago but then we ended up cancelling our plans and I’d wanted to go ever since she mentioned it.  This place is in an old, converted school house.  It’s not very big and even on a weeknight I’d probably recommend reservations.

The staff is very courteous and seemed to know when to pay attention and when to leave us alone.  The menu was amazing and the portions are very large.  They get in their meat and produce daily so know everything is fresh.  They also modify the menu each day depending on what they get in I think!

So to start, they bring out a salad for the table to share.  It had roasted beets and many other good things in it and was lightly dressed, it was perfect.  They also bring out their bread and some “holy oil” (which is infused oil for dipping).  After the salad, out came some pasta with a vodka sauce.  They also brought out a hot pepper oil if you want to add that to the pasta.  A little went a long way, but it did add a little kick to the pasta and was really good!

After all of that food, out came our meals.  I really only remember what I got, but I know there was a pork dish, a veal chop and a fish dish around the table, here are some pics of their meals…

IMG_0888 IMG_0890 IMG_0892

I did get to taste each of these and they were all fantastic.  Everything was very fresh and cooked perfectly.  As for me, I ordered the Cottoletta del Monzu.

IMG_0889This was three pieces of thin veal scallopini finished with fresh mozzarella, colossal lump crab, arugula, and toasted pine nuts.  It was so good, but there were two leftover pieces when I was done.  After the salad and the pasta who could blame me, this was huge!  The flavors in this blended perfectly and there was just enough cheese, not too much as sometimes happens when you go out for Italian.  I loved the addition of the arugula, it added something to the dish that I can’t quite explain, but I think it really brought the crab and the veal together.

And since it was still my birthday week, we got dessert.  We ordered a raspberry Tiramisu.

IMG_0893It was light and fluffy and awesome.  The topping reminded me of a burnt almond torte, it was nice and crunchy.  The filling was so fluffy it was a little like what I assume biting into a cloud would be like 🙂

Overall, I was super impressed with my meal.  This isn’t a place I’d go to all the time, it was pricey, but was also worth the money.  This may be one of my favorite places that I’ve been to since I’ve been back in Pittsburgh though, and I’ve been to some pretty amazing restaurants around town!

Arlecchino Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Happy Birthday to me!

6 Oct

I turned 35 today.  It just sounds weird.  I don’t know why, but it does.  I’m not bothered by that, I’m happy with my life and I don’t feel old or anything, but it just sounds strange to me.

Anyway, lots of good birthday stuff!  I, like everyone else on Facebook, got lots of happy birthdays, which just makes one feel validated for absolutely no reason at all.

Last night, I went out to eat with Maura and Kirra to a place called Social in Bakery Square.  Overall, I wasn’t especially impressed with the food.  Maura and I shared these fried cauliflower patties and some buffalo chicken dip.  Those were both fine, nothing to write home about, but they were good.  I also ordered these ahi tuna nachos because they sounded interesting.


I had the flash off, so you can’t really see the tuna, but it was rare and on top of a little guacamole with some red pepper sauce and wasabi sauce on top as well.  They were good, but honestly, I could barely taste the tuna because there was just too much sauce going on.   That’s my only complaint with these.  As Maura and Kirra pointed out though, the presentation was lovely, so I took a picture.

The one thing I will say about being in my mid-30’s is that I don’t like to stay out too late often because I’m a waste the next day.  So, we called it a night early and I was home a little after 10.  Which was great, because that meant I could wake up early and go to spinning at 8:15!

So I did that today then stopped at Starbucks and got myself a birthday pumpkin spice latte (skim milk, no whip of course).  And while there, I saw the cutest little girl.  She was about 2.5-3 and was with her dad.  She had an orange bow on one side of her hair and a pink headband with a large pink flower on the other side of her head.  I just said that it was obviously a 2 hair-bow kinda day.  Also, I saw a guy walking a cat in my neighborhood.  I kid you not.  My birthday was obviously complete at that point, but it was only 10 am!

I then headed over to my mom’s to make lunch/dinner.  I took a little detour to see miss Sarah at my aunt’s house on my way.  I got my birthday hug and got to feed her and see some smiles.  Again, could my birthday get any better?

My mom had been asking me what I wanted to do for my birthday for weeks and I couldn’t think of anything that I really wanted to do.  I finally decided that I simply wanted her stuffed green peppers.  It’s one of those odd meals that my mom makes much better than I do.  I don’t know why, but when I attempt to make this, it’s never as good as when my mom makes it.  So we cooked together today.

First up, we cooked up a combo of ground turkey breast, lean ground beef, diced onion, diced celery, garlic, salt, pepper and lots of italian seasoning.


Then we added in about a cup of marinara and another 1.5-2 cups of tomato sauce.


My mom had the last of her peppers from her garden and we used those to stuff.  My mom used to cut the tops off and stuff them standing up, but she found it was easier to cut them in half and lay them down, so we stuffed them that way and topped them with a little tomato paste.


Eric’s girlfriend Jamie and her two girls came up to eat with us, bringing me a cute pumpkin lantern and a home-made card.  My mom got a small cake for us and they sang to me.  Nothing like having a 6 and 9 year old there for your birthday… as they were leaving, the youngest goes to me… wait, we didn’t watch you open presents.  I was like, oh, honey, you don’t tend to get a lot of wrapped gifts at my age.  She just was looking at me like that must be the worst thing in the world.  Little does she know just having people who love you is more than enough on your birthday.

Oh, and when I said could my birthday get any better, it could.  The bucco’s won!!!  Seriously, it’s October, I haven’t seen the Pirates play on or around my birthday since 1992.  It’s a glorious day.

Park Bruges Restaurant Review

2 Oct

I went to Park Bruges in Highland Park for dinner tonight.  First of all, I love going to the Highland Park area.  There are so many pretty old homes there.  They are all in different states, some have been restored and others are still in a state of neglect, but overall, it’s a very pretty area.  And there are lots of really good restaurants there.  There is a Thai place that I like and E2 is there, which is really one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh and it’s super tiny and cute and run by hipsters.  I love it.

Anyway, on the Park Bruges, which is a french bistro style restaurant.  It  has a sister restaurant called Point Brugge Cafe in Point Breeze also.  My friend Jen and I had been trying to get here for a few months.  We tried one night, but the wait was horribly long for some reason so we ended up eating at E2 that night.  So I was really excited to try it.

I started with a beer, and being October I ordered a pumpkin beer.  I got the Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale.  It wasn’t too heavy on the pumpkin with a very subtle cinnamon and nutmeg flavor and a bit of a hoppy taste to it.  I’m rather sensitive to hops though, so for some of you, it may not seem very hoppy.  I really did enjoy it.


We’d talked about their frites so many times that I couldn’t wait to try them.  We ordered the Poutine in the Montreal style, which came with Amish cheese curds and gravy.  Seriously, yum.  The fries were thin and crispy and they weren’t too heavy handed with the gravy.  Which was perfect.  Sometimes you get fries with gravy and you can barely taste the fries.  These were done very well and Jen and I enjoyed every last bite.


For entree’s Jen opted for the Gemelli Pasta with peas, artichokes, asparagus, arugula and lemon herb ricotta.  She also got tofu with it.  It was very fresh and they put nutmeg in it.  Which was surprising and really tasty at the same time.  I had a bite and really liked it.  Jen’s only complaint was that the tofu was an afterthought and wasn’t really tossed with the dish but rather just placed on it.  I get that it’s an option, but I think it would have been better if it had been incorporated differently.  And the bread was so good.  I love a good, crusty piece of french bread.  Especially since I’ve been eating sprouted wheat bread at home lately.


I really debated about what I should order.  I really wanted the PEI mussels when I arrived, but there was also this scallop dish that sounded good.  I asked our server what she’d suggest and she said that they’d always have the mussels but the scallops wouldn’t be there forever.  So, I went with the scallops with an Israeli couscous salad with roasted eggplant & tomatoes, harissa, tahini-yogurt and roasted cauliflower.  I cleared my plate, it was really good.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, just seared.  The harissa was interesting.  It was very spicy to me and I have a decent tolerance for heat.  I only needed the tiniest bit with each bite.  I was laughing though, my friend Bhavini would have mixed all of it into the dish and probably asked for more!  I liked the balance of it though with the cool yogurt sauce.  It was an interesting little dance in my mouth.  That sounds dirtier than intended.  Get your minds out of the gutter.


Lastly, and forgive me, I forgot to take a photo, we ordered dessert.  You know, I kept forgetting to take pictures all night.  Jen had to keep reminding me and I still forgot to take a picture of dessert.  They don’t post desert options on the website or the menu for that matter.  I assume this means that they change often.  We ordered a chocolate soufle with a salted caramel cream filling.  WOW.  It was so good.  I mean, salted caramel anything really.  The soufle part was very light as was the filling.  It was the perfect end to a great meal.

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal and the atmosphere.  The staff was friendly and attentive without being overbearing.  The location is very cute and the inside is simple and understated.  I said French Bistro style earlier, right?  This is definitely someplace that I would visit again!

Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

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