Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mexican Meatballs with Smoky Chipotle Sauce from Cinco de Mayo Salsas

Every time I visit Arturo the "Salsa Guy" (Cinco de Mayo Salsas) at the Pittsburgh Public Market, he asks me if I'm ready for a new recipe.  Duh, of course I'm always game for a new recipe, especially one from Arturo!  So thanks to his instructions, I made meatballs for the very first time a couple of weekends ago!

Mexican Meatballs with Smoky Chipotle Sauce from Cinco de Mayo Salsas
Mexican Meatballs with Smoky Chipotle Sauce

Mexican Meatballs with Smoky Chipotle Sauce from Cinco de Mayo Salsas
Mexican Meatballs with Smoky Chipotle Sauce

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, small dice
2 stalks celery, small dice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 cup stale bread crumbs*
1 (12 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (8 oz) tub Smoky Chipotle sauce from Cinco de Mayo Salsas

For the sides:
Spanish rice
black beans

* I asked Arturo if it would be OK to use store-bought bread crumb, and he said it's better to make your own stale bread crumb. Just cut a few slices of bread into squares (I used 6 regular slices of whole wheat), leave them out for a couple of days until hard, then grind in food processor.  (UPDATE 4/14/2012: I recently came across this blog post demonstrating that at least some store-bought, commercial bread does not go stale for a long time, so I'd recommend sticking with something from the bakery.)


Preheat oven at 375 degrees.  Mix together the first six ingredients (from ground beef to bread crumbs).  Form into one-inch balls and bake in a baking dish  (a 9 x 13 dish works well).  Meanwhile, mix together the chipotle sauce and the tomato sauce.  After meatballs have baked for 20-25 minutes, pour sauce over meatballs and continue baking for another 10 minutes.

Serve with spanish rice and whole black beans.

Makes about 16-20 meatballs.

Click here for more recipes using Cinco de Mayo Salsas, available at the Pittsburgh Public Market during the winter and all around town during the farmers market season.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Waffles, INCaffeinated (New Brighton)

R. loves waffles, and I had been meaning to take him to Waffles, INCaffeinated up in New Brighton for a while. New Brighton is a bit out of the way so the trip requires some planning.  The first few times we made plans to go, things just didn't work out: either something came up and we had to cancel our reservation at the last minute, or we couldn't get in on a busy Sunday, or we would have plans to go on a Monday just to realize that they close on Mondays.  But the fourth time was finally the charm!

It was our first ever trip to New Brighton, and I didn't realize its main drag on 3rd Avenue is so cute.  Just up the street from Waffles, INCaffeinated is the First Presbyterian Church, which is pretty in a small historic town sort of way:

First Presbyterian Church in New Brighton
First Presbyterian Church in New Brighton

And located just a block down and across the street was the charming little house where we would enjoy brunch:

Waffles, INCaffeinated

Just like the neighborhood, Waffles, INCaffeinated is cute.  There is a small patio that is absolutely lovely, and the inside is modern and comfy:

Inside WafflesINCaffeinated

Inside WafflesINCaffeinated
View from our seats

T-shirt Sign at WafflesINCaffeinated
A sign on the wall

Since we drove all the way up here for their famous waffles, I focused my menu browsing energy on the few pages that were dedicated to waffles.  It was a tough choice; everything sounded amazing, and there is even the opportunity to create your own waffle using the myriad of topping and mix-in options available.

After waffling a bit (lame pun intended), I chose the Bananas Foster, which has walnuts inside the waffle and topped with sliced bananas, homemade butter rum sauce, and vanilla ice cream.  It was as lovely as the restaurant itself!  Also, the presentation was awesome!

Bananas Foster at WafflesINCaffeinated
Bananas Foster ($8)

R. picked the Mega Berry, which is also an excellent choice.  It has raspberries and blueberries mixed in, and topped with more raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream.

Mega Berry at WafflesINCaffeinated
Mega Berry ($7)

Since it was our first time there, the waitress gave us all three syrups - vanilla, rum, and maple - to try.  I only tried a little bit of the vanilla as my Bananas Foster was already plenty flavorful, which was good, and R. liked that one the best as well.  I asked the waffle fan if he thought Waffles, INCaffeinated was worth the drive, and his response was an enthusiastic "yes"!  Yeah, I'd make the drive here again, too.

Restaurant info:
Waffles, INCaffeinated
1224 3rd Ave, New Brighton, PA 15066
(724)359-4841 weekend reservations highly recommended
On Facebook:
On Twitter:

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Waffles INCaffeinated on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tin Front Café (Homestead)

Last week, R. and I visited the family-owned, family-run, all-vegetarian Tin Front Café in Homestead for the first time.  I had known of Tin Front Café since last September when I attended the Waterfront Food & Wine Tasting event and tried their delicious award-winning chili.  I was glad to finally have the chance to visit the actual restaurant!

On this night, it had just gotten warm enough to sit out in the courtyard in the back, so we did.  The first thing  that caught my attention was the cute decor on the wall, sculpted by the owner's stepfather, David Lewis:

Tin Front Cafe patio
Tin Front Cafe's Patio

For our meal, we decided to first split the Butternut Bisque, with basil and coconut milk.  We were pleasantly surprised when our bisque came already split for us into two smaller cups. What a nice touch!

Butternut Bisque with Basil and Coconut Milk at Tin Front Cafe
Butternut Bisque ($3.75)
Photo shows half of an order

There was also a complimentary salad that accompanied each entree:

Salad at Tin Front Cafe

For his entree, R. ordered the Carrot Ginger Risotto that sits in portabello cap and atop some sauteed spinach.

Carrot Ginger Risotto at Tin Front Cafe
Carrot Ginger Risotto ($12.95)

While R. thought his entree was great (it was - I tried it too), he couldn't stop digging his fork into my Butternut Squash Lasagna, which was served in a basil bechamel sauce.  His rude behavior was completely understandable, however.  This cheesy lasagna was the perfect marriage of sweet and savory; it was decidedly the best lasagna we've both had in our lives!

Butternut Squash Lasagna at Tin Front Cafe
Butternut Squash Lasagna ($13.95)
Also goes by the name "Pure Heaven"

Beyond the lovingly-prepared food, I also adore the simple, friendly, down-home atmosphere at Tin Front Café.  While owner Daniel Valentine worked in the kitchen, his mother took excellent care of the patrons.  It was a lovely first visit that exceeded all my expectations, and we will be back again for sure.

And next time, I'll need to come a little earlier to check out the attached Annex Cookery, run by mom Judith Tener-Lewis, which sells some interesting art and kitchen gadgets.

Restaurant info:
The Tin Front Café
216 East 8th Ave, Homestead, PA 15120
(412) 461-4615
On the web:
On Twitter:
On Facebook:
Bonus: Free Wifi

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The Tin Front Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Roasted Chickpeas

I bought some dried chickpeas last weekend and decided to roast them.  First the dried chickpeas had to be soaked for 12 hours (after which they expanded about 2.5 times their original size) and then simmered in boiling water for about an hour.  After they've been drained, cooled, and dried, I tossed them with olive oil, salt, garlic salt, ground cayenne pepper, and lots of smoked paprika.  Then I placed the chickpeas in a jelly roll pan and roasted them at 400°F.  I started checking on them after about 30 minutes.  For some reason, the chickpeas didn't roast evenly, so I had to start removing the ones that were done, stir the rest and continue roasting until they were done, checking occasionally, of course.  Great snack!

Roasted Chickpeas
Roasted Chickpeas

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Casa Rasta (Beechview): Take Two

Tuesday is normally an off night for Casa Rasta in Beechview, but last Tuesday it was "open" for a fundraising event, organized by Señorita Cibulka and Burgh Gourmand, for the Spanish Club at West Mifflin High School, where Señorita Cibulka teaches.  Of course I couldn't pass up a great opportunity to visit Casa Rasta again, and for a good cause, too!  Señorita Cibulka has already recapped the event nicely on her blog, so here I will just share a photo of my three tacos: Jerk Chicken, Shredded Beef, and Vegetarian Potatoes.  They were great!  For more thoughts on the gem that is Casa Rasta, check out my earlier post.

Jerk Chicken, Shredded Beef, and Rajas Tacos at Casa Rasta
Clockwise from top left: Jerk Chicken, Shredded Beef, Vegetarian Potatoes Tacos

Restaurant info:
Casa Rasta
2102 Broadway Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15216
On Twitter:

Casa Rasta on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

My third vegetarian meal this week was a Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili.  Admittedly, I had to try this twice to get it right, but it was wonderful once I did.

Instead of canned black beans, I picked up 1/2 pound of dried beans from Crested Duck Charcuterie (they have a store in Beechview and are at the Pittsburgh Public Market on the weekends).  With dried beans, there was the additional steps of soaking and cooking them before they were ready to be added to the chili.

To soak the beans, I covered them with several inches of water and a little salt in a container and let them soak in the refrigerator overnight.

What 1/2 lbs of dried, pre-soaked black turtle beans looked like in my 6-cup container

They doubled in size after about 10 hours!

Beans, post-soaking, rinsing, and draining

I rinsed and drained the beans, and then placed them in a pot of boiling water to simmer for about 1.5 hours, skimming the foam at the top and checking towards the end to ensure doneness.  I also seasoned the beans with salt.

They were then ready to be added to the chili!  The first time I tried this recipe I thought it was a little bland, so this time I used twice the amount of ground chiptole chile recommended (so 1 tsp total) and put in two sweet potatoes instead of just one.  As a result of the additional sweet potato, I was also fairly generous with the amount I used of the other ingredients, for example, using 3 cups of water (instead of 2.5), juice from a whole lime (which is a little more than 4 tsp), and generally adding in a little more of each of the spices.  The final product was really good, and once tomatoes are back in season, I'd love to try this recipe with fresh tomatoes as well!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Recipe courtesy of:
EatingWell (get the recipe here)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Beet Tacos with Arugula and Crunchy Tofu

I love beets.  No, I loooooove beets!  If they weren't so high maintenance, I'd be eating them all day, every day!

And who would have thunk that beets go well with fried tofu?  Well, apparently Leah Lizarondo over at Brazen Kitchen did.  For my second vegetarian meal this week, I made her "Turkmen Tacos": Beet Tacos with Arugula and Crunch Tofu.  I also like tofu, so I was very curious to try this recipe out.  The one change I made was using vegetable (soybean) oil instead of olive oil to fry the tofu, since the only kind of olive oil I have is extra-virgin which, from what I understand, isn't great for frying because of its lower smoke point.  I also didn't have vegenaise on hand so I used mayo, which means my version of the tacos was not vegan, but the recipe itself is.  The tortillas I used were fresh corn tortillas from Reyna Foods in the Strip District.  The result was fabulous, and surprisingly filling, too!

Beet Tacos with Arugula and Crunchy Tofu
Beet Tacos with Arugula and Crunchy Tofu

Recipe courtesy of:
Brazen Kitchen (get the recipe here)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I'm cooking all vegetarian this week.  That is not to say that I'm going to eat vegetarian all week, but I've been cooking and consuming so much meat lately that I felt I should balance it out with more veggie dishes.  First up was some Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms from a Cooking Light recipe I found a while ago but never got around to trying.  It works well as an appetizer, a side dish, or even part of a main course.  I myself paired it with some red pepper pasta topped with homemade roasted red pepper and tomato sauce.  A very tasty, easy, and light meal.

Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Recipe courtesy of:
Cooking Light (get the recipe here)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Square Cafe (Regent Square): Take Two

I met up with Señorita Cibulka and Burgh Gourmand for brunch at Square Cafe this morning.  I hadn't been there since my first visit last summer and I was definitely excited to be back.

I'm a big fan of crepes so I really couldn't resist ordering something from the crepe column.  Unfortunately, they no longer have the amazing Creamy Salmon and Roasted Tomato Crepe I loved last time, so I chose the Vegetable Crepes instead, with mushrooms, zucchinis, onions, green peppers, spinach, topped with a sundried tomato spread and parmesan cheese.  It was good, and my favorite part was definitely the sundried tomato spread which gave everything else a bold flavor.

Vegetable Crepes at Square Cafe
Vegetable Crepes ($9.59)

BG invited me to take a picture and a bite of his White Bean and Pancetta Soup, and it was great as well.

White Bean and Pancetta Soup at Square Cafe
White Bean and Pancetta Soup

And of course, our caffeinated beverages gave us a nice little energy boost.  I have been trying to watch what I eat, but when I saw the Banana Nut Toffee Latte, I just couldn't resist!

Caffeine at Square Cafe
Coffee, Peppermint Patty Latte,
and Banana Nut Toffee Latte

It was most certainly a lovely brunch to kick off the weekend.  I also verified with the server that they are able to use egg whites for their egg items, which is good to know for future visits. :)  Hope to be back again soon!

Restaurant info:
Square Cafe
1137 S. Braddock Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15218
On the web:
On Twitter:!/TheSquareCafe
On Facebook:

Square Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 2, 2012

Toasted Ciabatta with Fontinella Cheese and Black Bean Dip from Cinco de Mayo Salsas

I'm not really into black beans per se, so of the many varieties of Cinco de Mayo Salsas, the Black Bean Dip was I had never really considered getting.  R., on the other hand, loves beans of all kinds (to my dismay...), and as he was getting a taste of the black bean dip, owner Arturo suggested a great snack option:  Ciabatta bread topped with some black bean dip and fontinella cheese, then toasted.  R. also happens to be a bread fiend, so this was pretty much the ideal snack for him!  Arturo had suggested ciabatta from Breadworks, but we couldn't get it in the Strip District so instead bought ours from Ryan outside the Jimmy & Nino Sunseri store.  We decided to skip the cheese line at Penn Mac and got our fontinella next door at Stamboolis Brothers.

Even though I'm not big into black beans, I really liked this snack!

Toasted Ciabatta with Fontinella Cheese and Black Bean Dip from Cinco de Mayo Salsas
Toasted Ciabatta with Fontinella Cheese and Black Bean Dip

P.S. This doesn't look like ciabatta because I had to slice the loaf vertically rather than horizontally, as by the time I got around to snapping photos of this, R. had already finished most of the bread!

Click here for more recipes using Cinco de Mayo Salsas, available at the Pittsburgh Public Market during the winter and all around town during the farmers market season.