Oakland Farmers Market

One of my favorite things about summer is getting fresh produce. We’re lucky to live in a city full of great places to get fresh veggies, including The Oakland Farmers Market.

On Fridays, you can visit this market in Schenley Plaza from 3-6 PM. While I haven’t been myself, I am intrigued and will try to make it out there one of these days. Not only is there fresh food, there are also some local vendors mixed in:

-My Goodies Bakery
-Christoff’s Farm &Greenhouses
-Sito’s
-Dillner Family Farm
-Quiroz Farm
-Zeke’s Coffee
-Vibo’s Italian Bakery

You can find out more on their website (http://oaklandfarmersmarket.org/) or on Only in Oakland on Facebook.

Oakland Farmers Market

If you’ve been, share your experience in the comments! 

Fish Fry Friday

After 29 (-6) years as a Pittsburgher, I am sort of ashamed to say that Greg, Arianna, and Evan accompanied me to my first fish fry on Friday. We went with my parents and Grandma to the Rural Ridge VFD Fish Fry. The kids and I had shrimp while the others went with the fish (I took a bite, it was indeed good). Evan was not as thrilled as the rest of us, but we all still had a good time.

Friday Fish Fry (the boy)

Fish Fry Friday

Highly Recommended: Bistro To Go

Greg and I volunteer with The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project, an opportunity that has taken us to various new places in town. This weekend, we had a chance to help organize bags and then got dinner with two others who were sorting. Sure, we could have decided to just grab a sandwich from anywhere, but we were easily convinced to go local after Greg and Ledcat went to pick up totes at Bistro To Go and ogling the turtle cheesecake.

Logistically, we don’t get to the North Shore often (unless it’s for a Pirates game), so without this opportunity, we probably wouldn’t have realized this as a good dining option. It will now be on our “meet-up” and pre-game list. Parking is on-street/metered, but it wasn’t tough finding 3 spots on a busy Saturday afternoon.

The first thing I realized about Bistro To Go is that it is beside Bistro Soul, another restaurant in the Bistro family, and both boast of southern décor. I fell in love immediately, not needing to see that darn turtle cheesecake. When you walk inside, you know you are in for a soul food treat.

If you want technics, you should know this is essentially fast-casual dining, but the prep is nothing but. Amazing specials are in front of you, and served up (big helpings) right in front of your eyes. You can get the food to go, but I urge you to take a seat at one of the adorable tables or even the “bench” seating with an old church pew as one side of the seating. We stayed well past our original meter because we loved the atmosphere so much. Bonus, free wi-fi, people watching out the front window, cheerful employees, and listening to the chefs prep and cook in the open kitchen. Have some time? Sit and read some of the many cookbooks in the dining area. Absolutely beautiful.

Oh, you saw this was a post about a restaurant and want to know about the food? Well, gee! Entrees come with your choice of 1 or 2 sides (pricing is just a little more expensive than getting a combo meal at a drive thru) plus a bun “the size of Ledcat’s head”. From what I can see on the Bistro To Go website, specials change weekly, but there is always a great variety. I selected the stuffed beef cabbage, green beans with turkey, and a chipotle black bean and cilantro salad (no bun, those things were seriously HUGE). Greg got chicken and gravy (the breading was almost reverse fried with stuffing on the outside…), green beans, and…well…I can honestly say I am not sure what his side was. He gobbled everything down quickly—maybe it was mashed potatoes?

We were treated to dessert by Chef Nikki, a supporter of the Tote Bag Project. Greg went for the Turtle Cheesecake, and although I was tempted by the Ho Ho Cake, it was crème de menthe bars for me. Let me tell you a little bit of what I understand about Chef Nikki. She loves Pittsburgh, and she loves our people. She has a big heart. And, she is going to have me attending some of her cooking classes, because I want to amp up the kitchen. Her passion with Bistro to go was to “create a neighborhood restaurant where good food brings people together”. Uh, in my opinion, she’s hit it on the mark. Further, part of the Bistro mission “is to be a Christ-centered business and an employer where all cultures are welcome”. Again, absolutely evident.

We will be back again, and hopefully with the kids. There were high chairs, but I’d have to make sure I knew the menu before going with them for the ‘lil ones dairy issues. Perhaps we’ll even make a Sunday brunch!

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Disclaimer: I was not asked to write this review, and Bistro To Go might never even know how much I heart them. These opinions are 100% my own, and the dessert was provided out of kindness. Time to pay it forward and send you there!

Pieces of the Past

Tonight, I stepped inside a place I haven’t been for almost 18 years. Not too much has changed with the exception of the people and the food. And the couch. The couch where Mr. Rogers or Mr. McFeeley and I would sit and swap stories is gone. And the smell of sticky buns no longer fills the air.

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Tonight, I joined my new work team for a planning meeting at a place where many memories of my childhood were made. Running through the orchard, finding wild mushrooms, being pulled in a wagon, throwing toys in the huge kettle, pretending to make butter in the churn, staring at porcelain dolls. But most importantly, bonding with my family and making memories with my Great Grandma.

Tonight, I hope I made her proud with how far I’ve come.

***

Tonight I dined at Emilia’s Garden which used to be the Friendship Garden Tea Room, my Great Grandmother’s restaurant. Things haven’t changed too much, but the fare is a bit different–it is now Italian food. Everything looked amazing, and everything I tasted (chicken pepperoni soup then tortellini) was 8 steps beyond amazing. I suggest this one goes in your “date night” idea book. Yum!

How NOT to Cut a Sweet Potato

Ever since I joined the Drop 10 in 10 class, Mr. Burgher has become 100x more on board with healthy eating. One of our favorite go to side dish has been sweet potato fries. Mr. Burgher and I both have had our share of nicking our hands while trying to cut these roots into fries, so it’s a bit frustrating when we decide to make them. But let me tell you, they are worth 100s of sweat beads, let me tell you. But on to the story.

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A few weeks ago, Mr. Burgher convinced me to tag along on a trip to Harbor Freight, a discount tool store. Because we are crazy couponers, he had plenty of freebies and discounts for us. The catch? We had to buy a few full price items. While browsing the store, I happened upon this incredible little find.

It sure looks like it would be helpful in cutting up some fries, right?

Mr. Burgher got us set up. The first thing you have to do is peel your potatoes (I mean, you can keep the skin on, we just prefer them “naked”).

Then, he did have to take out the knife and make the potatoes a little more manageable. Not as bad to just outright cut them, but still, a job.

Now came the test. He put the tater in the sleeve and pulled the lever.

I wasn’t in the kitchen when he tried to make the magic happen…but the grunts I heard didn’t sound good. I tiptoed out to see what the problem was and found him struggling to get the lever down. This was not good news. I grabbed the lever and tried myself.

Have you ever bent metal? Yeah…if you try to cut a sweet potato with a fry cutter, you too might find out how it feels. Nope, it doesn’t make you feel strong. Can you see the bend here? If not, take my word on it.

This is how NOT to cut a sweet potato. Struggle through the knife to root. Trust me, ok?

Our Sweet Potato Fries:

3 medium sweet potatoes (peeled and cut)

Shake in this mixture:
2 TBSP EVOO
1/4 cup Orange Juice
Salt, Pepper

Spread out on a cookie sheet and sprinkle some brown sugar on them.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, turning at 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Ghost Pepper

While browsing the Pittsburgh Public Market, we sampled various flavors of marshmallows (they really should just be called amazingness) at the Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory’s kiosk. As you know, we came home with Dark Chocolate Marshmallow Hearts from this trip. What I failed to mention was that I also picked up a Ghost Pepper marshmallow which was appropriately labeled, “Too Hot for You!”.

Silly me held on to the marshmallow for 6 days before trying it, and I decided to do so after having nachos with salsa and hot pepper rings. Oh, and I was home alone with the kids. Since I only had my 2 year old and the phone handy to document, the photos are a little less than desirable, but you’ll get the idea. Here’s how it went down.

I opened the bag and took a sniff. Not bad, I can do this.

I pull it out of the bag and sniff again. Yup, I got this.

Lil Girl, who just ate some hot pepper rings herself, asks, “Mama, can I try? I really want to taste that ‘smello.” Sorry sweetie, this pepper won’t be so great in your tummy…

The microwave dings. I remember that I was preparing some hot chocolate, just in case. C’mon, you know you don’t need it, wuss!”

I conquer the first bite. Seriously, girl, you got this.

I chow down the second. Hmm, yeah, it does have a bit of a burn!

Time for the third. Sweet baby Jesus, 9 pounds 7 ounces, where is my &^%#$@! cocoa?”

He said throw it in, throw it in!!! Goodness this better make it better!

I take a sip. Ah, hell. A asks me, “Mama, you sad?” Is it really evident that my eyes are watering and my insides are angry?

Maybe if I take them out of the cocoa I will be ok? Take it out, now!!!

Oh no, still too much, get milk, milk will help! Not the Silk, you’ll be even worse off…and don’t you dare think about them jalapenos now, girl!

Phew, we do still have regular milk. Get it!!!

I chug it like it’s out of style. More, more!

Then for some reason, I try the cocoa again. Are you not thinking?

Consider the Ghost Pepper too hot for me. Maybe some Chocolate Bacon Cookies would help the burn?