Growing up I HATED pot roast. But to be fair, I pretty much hated anything that wasn’t a dessert or a snack until my mid-teens when I forced myself to start liking vegetables. Hard to believe I was that picky. Now I know that pot roast, when made according to a few fundamental rules, can be a totally delicious addition to your culinary repertoire… check out the blog and recipe under the “Braising Bonanza” tab…
We all know, food is sustenance for our bodies—and family and friends offer nourishment for our souls. So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade… and that’s what we did…
It was a sad occasion that brought us out to Western, PA in early November. Russ’s beloved mother Mary passed away so we, along with his three grown children, and sister Dee and her husband David, all rendevoused to Concordia at Cabot, Mary’s current residence. Daughter Julia, sister Dee and her husband David all flew in from California (each on separate flights), while son Daniel commuted in from Massachusetts, and joined his mom and brother David to continue the trek from Glenside… Got all that??
Russ was already out there for several days prior to my arrival, so I drove a second car across the state. And good thing because we needed two vehicles for schlepping people around—not to mention transporting an assortment of household goods back East with us.
You may recall that Russ and I moved Mary from her house of 40 years into independent living last June. During that trip we visited several new—and delicious—restaurants in the area. So with those establishments in mind, we enjoyed a few good meals as a family, despite the difficult times. One such scrumptious meal was had at the not-so-new Saxonburg Inn— which last year we enjoyed with Mother Mary and her close friend Janet—but since I wrote about that last September under the blog title “Dining Out on the Mother’s Trip” I’ll concentrate on a few of the others.
Before the kiddos came to town, the four older adults planned to dine out at Savor in Sarver (say that three times fast!) It’s a quaint little BYO restaurant in a small strip mall with regional american cuisine, operated by chef/owner Mike Rogers. But before we journeyed to Savor in Sarver, Dee’s husband David got stranded on the highway when his shuttle from the Pittsburgh airport broke down—kid you not! So the foursome became a trio…
The facade of Savor… in Sarver… There, you said it three times 😉
We were impressed with the cutlery presentation at each table setting.
Their menu is not extensive, but the offerings are ever-so-tempting! Dee started with a side of the popular Savor Salad—fresh baby greens trimmed with chick peas, artichoke hearts, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers, topped with the house feta vinaigrette dressing. Her entree choice was Keith’s Waterford Salmon—fresh salmon filet pinwheeled with a clever blend of feta cheese, roasted red peppers and spinach with aromatic sundried tomato lemon butter and set atop a pedestal of garlic smashed potatoes. Large enough to tote home a doggy bag…
What appealed to me was the combination Towering Turf and Surf Salmon, consisting of an exquisite crab cake and a cod filet amid three steak medallions with a splash of three pepper lemon beurre blanc set on a foundation of garlic smashed potatoes. And Russ finalized the decision with The Other Guy’s Crab Cake. It started with jumbo lump crab meat mixed with Chef’s special ingredients into a succulent baked crab cake with risotto, honey braised red cabbage and mango compote. They all sound fabulous don’t they? And they were…
Dee’s luscious salmon filet pinwheels.
A plate of surf and turf was Lynn’s entree.
Jumbo lump crab cake baked with risotto for Russ.
And let me tell you, Dee’s bedraggled husband David was more than ready for a glass of wine by the time he finally arrived!
The next night was a Friday and we had reservations at Evolution Grille, a seasonal restaurant in Freeport that showcases progressive american cuisine, with a unique menu that blends traditional classics prepared with a contemporary flair. With a large variety of options, I knew it would appeal to everyone’s discerning palette—plus it’s BYO! Our waitress Jessica was a hoot, and certainly knew their menu backward and forward. That particular evening everyone was starving, having commuted, and/or in Russ and Dee’s case running around, all day without any lunch.
So appetizers were calling our names, loud and clear! Younger son David zeroed in on the Gyro Flatbread special that was loaded with ground lamb and veggies. Son Daniel and brother-in-law David, both chose the Pierogie of the month—their signature Tailgaters, filled with pastrami and caramelized onion. Julia and I decided to share the Scallop special dressed with gorgonzola and a balsamic drizzle—to die for!! And Russ enjoyed a special that consisted of a crab cake filled grilled portobello. Not a shy one in the bunch, we all shared and therefore got to taste a bit of everything.
A house favorite, “Tailgater” pierogies.
The divine scallop appetizer.
Now onto those entrees. The boys each ordered the Sarver Supreme Burger—6 oz burger, with peppercorn bacon, cheddar, BBQ sauce and a whopping tower of onion rings (and they both opted for chunky blue cheese instead of the cheddar.) Dee and I chose the Crab Cakes—two 5 oz jumbo lump, tabasco remoulade with root fries and vegetables; each having enough leftover for another meal. Julia truly enjoyed her Seafood Pasta—hand cut pappardelle, scallops, shrimp, tomatoes, spinach in a lobster sherry sauce. And the “men,” as men do, ordered the huge NY Strip Steak smothered in sautéed mushrooms, a special of the night.
Daniel and David devoured these towering burgers and fries.
Russ and big David managed to finish these behemoth steaks.
This crab cake dinner with parsnip and sweet potato fries became two meals for both Dee and me.
So if you ever find yourself out in that neck of the woods, you have a few tried-and-true restaurants from which to choose. And despite the somber occasion, it was so good to see family and friends and bond over some excellent meals. With so many visits back to Butler County over the years, we all have fond memories of dining with Mary. God bless…
There are oodles of Asian marinades and a myriad of ways to cook salmon. This one was sent to us in our weekly “Make it Tonight” subscription that I wrote about a few blogs ago. If you like big, bold flavors then this recipe is for you—I would not recommend for someone who tends toward the bland. Both the rice vinegar and the mirin impart a slight sweetness in this dish, while the quick roasted mushrooms add an earthy counterpoint. And the grated ginger and tamari kick it up a couple of notches. The real star of this salmon is the glaze.
As a side dish, Five-spice Red Cabbage Salad was suggested, but we were satisfied with just the salmon and mushroom mix for our weeknight meal. And I was highly suspicious of cooking the salmon for only 10 minutes—and I was right! After 10 minutes the fish was still very rare. So I checked after another 10 minutes, and added an additional 5 minutes on top of that to get the salmon to our liking, somewhere between medium and medium-rare. Part of the reason may have been that I cut our fillet into three pieces instead of the suggested four.
Mushrooms brushed with sesame oil on rimmed baking sheet.
After cooling a bit, the mushrooms are sliced down.
The completed mushroom, scallion and red pepper salad.
- 5 cups stemmed fresh shiitake mushrooms, or a mix of shiitakes and oyster mushrooms (about 1 lb. before trimming)
- 1-1/2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
- 1/3 cup tamari or good-quality soy sauce
- 1/3 cup mirin
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 Tbs. finely grated fresh ginger (use a rasp-style grater or a ginger grater)
- 1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch combined with 1-1/2 tsp. water
- 1-1/2 lb. salmon fillet, preferably center cut, skin and pin bones removed; cut into four portions
- 1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper (about half a medium pepper)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (both white and green parts from about 1 small bunch)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms with 1 Tbs. of the sesame oil. Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until softened, 10 to 15 min. When cool enough to handle, slice the mushrooms into 1/4-inch slices and return them to the bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 Tbs. sesame oil with the tamari (or soy sauce), mirin, rice vinegar, and ginger. Set aside 1/3 cup of this mixture and transfer the rest to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the cornstarch-water mixture and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
- Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with foil. Arrange the salmon portions in the dish, skin side down and evenly spaced. Using a pastry brush, thickly dab the tops and sides of the salmon with the warm glaze. Use all of the glaze and don’t worry if some of it slides off of the fish. Bake until the salmon is cooked to your liking, about 10 min. for medium rare; 12 min. to medium; 14 minutes for medium well. (Cut into the thickest part of a fillet to check.) While the salmon cooks, add the red pepper, scallions, and reserved soy mixture to the mushrooms. Toss to combine and season to taste with pepper.
- Drizzle the fish with any glaze that has pooled in the baking dish and serve topped with the mushroom salad.
A perfect dinner for Meatless Monday!
by Kate Hays from Fine Cooking
Sundays often find us making a homemade soup-of-the-week, perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or weekday lunch. Recently our interest was piqued with the description of smoky bacon, herby sage, and sweet apple that gives this Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Bacon layers of flavor.
Don’t hesitate to make this one, it would make a great addition to your Thanksgiving menu… check out the recipe under the “SOUPS” tab…
Probably not going to win over any hard-core meat and potato lovers, but this Sheet-Pan Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca is amazingly good, very filling—and healthy to boot! Certainly fits the bill for vegetarians and those on a gluten-free diet. Rather than pasta, serve the salty and spicy flavors of this classic Southern Italian dish with spaghetti squash “noodles” for a delicious, hearty vegetarian dinner.
Although not part of the original “One-Pan Meal” series, this is certainly a welcome addition to that fleet of recipes. After analyzing the ingredients, and reading several reviewer’s comments, we decided to triple the amount of garlic and anchovies. And next time will probably increase the amount of crushed red pepper flakes too—which give it a nice kick. You also might want to be a little more heavy-handed with the olives and capers… just sayin’…
Even though I am not in love with ricotta cheese, it did add a decent counter-balance to the other flavors. It was Russ’s idea to sprinkle on some grated parmesan as an additional garnish. In place of shiitake mushrooms, we think portobellos would be a good substitute… And the leftovers are great for lunch the next day.
- 1 large spaghetti squash (3 1/2–4 pounds)
- Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
- Nonstick vegetable cooking spray
- 1 oil-packed anchovy fillet, drained, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups)
- 1 pint shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, quartered (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/4 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, chopped
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil, divided
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley, divided
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- An 18×13″ rimmed baking sheet
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Season inside of squash with salt and pepper. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray; lay halves cut side down on sheet and bake 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine anchovy (if using), garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, capers, red pepper flakes, and 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl. Remove baking sheet from oven and transfer tomato mixture to sheet alongside squash. Return to oven and cook until squash is tender and shell is easily pierced, about 15 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, toast pine nuts in a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Immediately transfer to a plate; set aside.
- Remove sheet from oven. Scrape squash crosswise to pull strands from shells into a medium bowl; discard shells. Using the back of a fork or spoon, gently push down on tomatoes on sheet to break them up and release their juices. Scrape tomato mixture and any accumulated juices into bowl with squash. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, then toss with half of basil, parsley, and reserved pine nuts. Divide among bowls and dollop with ricotta. Garnish with remaining basil, parsley, and pine nuts.
Normally I wouldn’t use my blog as a pulpit for promoting products or services. But in this case I am making an exception. Russ recently found this offering from FineCooking.com, a food site where we’ve been satisfied members for years. It was intriguing enough that we decided to give it a try and we’re really glad we did!
For the low fee of $19.95 for one year’s worth of quick weeknight recipes, you receive 52 weeks of over 250 easy, 30-minute meals. Literally, less then a penny per day—not bad! Plus, you can download the plan and print out the included shopping list, or view it at the store on your mobile device. Destress and start the week with a stocked pantry and a ready plan for dinner every night.
Another plus is, they incorporate some of the same ingredients from one meal to another so that if followed, there is no waste. We’ve been picking and choosing usually two recipes from the supplied weekly total of five. And so far, our meals have been very good and down-right interesting. One of the first meals we made was the Spicy Chicken with Black Bean, Cranberry and Sweet Potato Salsa. This colorful all-in-one meal is full of bold Southwestern flavors, thanks to cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. It even suggested a side dish, in this case Roasted Cabbage Wedges. An odd combination, but it worked—and well! It found it’s way into our recipe bank for future repeats.
The prep is a bit time intensive with a fair amount of chopping and measuring, but once you start cooking, it goes fast.
- 4 Tbs. canola oil; more for the broiler pan
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/4 cup finely diced red or Vidalia onion
- Kosher salt
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 1 large clove garlic, mashed to a paste
- 1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
- 2-1/2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
- 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler to high.
- Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook for 1 minute. Uncover and cook, stirring, until the onion and sweet potatoes are tender and the water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Keep warm.
- Meanwhile, combine 1 tsp. salt with the chili powder, cumin, and cayenne in a small bowl.
- Butterfly each chicken breast by slicing it horizontally almost but not entirely in half so you can open it like a book. Rub the spices all over.
- Lightly oil a broiler pan, put the chicken on it, and broil, flipping once, until just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes total.
- In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, lime zest, juice, and 2 Tbs. of the canola oil. Add the potatoes and onions, black beans, cranberries, and cilantro and toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with the chicken.
Directions for Roasted Cabbage Wedges
Cut small cabbage into thin wedges (four per half head), leaving the cores attached so that they stay intact. Brush the edges on both sides with olive oil and place on a foil-lined sheet. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper, and whole cumin seeds. Roast in a 450 degree oven, turning once, until tender and browned at the edges, about 30 minutes. Serve.