Photos of the Week

This week all of my photos were taken from the top of Mt. Washington. This vista is probably one of the most photographed views of Pittsburgh. Understandably so. It’s the perfect view of the whole city and all three rivers. I didn’t fuss with the pictures too much when I edited them because I wanted to pure beauty of the scene shine through. The statue in some of the pictures is of George Washington and Chief Guyasuta. I can’t remember what the plaque said about the statue but I can tell you there are many things in PIttsburgh (streets, townships, schools) named after said chief. Must’ve been one important dude around here.



Photos of the Week

This week my photos come from downtown Pittsburgh. The purpose of heading downtown was to take some shots with ordinary people as the focus. I haven’t taken many pictures with people in them yet (other than those I know). It didn’t occur to me until I got all the way downtown that the number of people out and about is significantly fewer on the weekends. I have been so used to living in bustling metropolises like Seattle and Philadelphia that I completely overlooked the fact that Pittsburghers just don’t live in downtown Pittsburgh like they do in the other cities I’ve lived in. Aside from business days and sports events, downtown Pittsburgh is pretty drab. Most of the activity occurs in the smaller more unique neighborhoods spread out in the surrounding areas. Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Oakland, and others. I’ll head to one of those next time I work up the courage to stick my camera into strangers’ faces. Until then here are more people less photos. Enjoy!

Leftovers Reimagined

The past few days I have been left to my own devices in my parent’s house. My parents and my little sister (who is still on break from college) have all left for a few days to go soak up some sun in the Turks and Caicos. I’m incredibly envious but at the same time I am reveling in the independence. There is something incomparable to the feeling I get taking care of a house/apartment in which I am the only occupant. Well really just the kitchen. (I could do without bathroom cleaning).

I love cooking for others and feeding them delicious foods, but it is hard for me to really experiment with my cooking like that. What if something goes horribly wrong? I can’t expect others to eat my disasters. If I am cooking for just myself though, it’s likely that I will just eat the disaster anyway. At least the salvageable parts of it.

The past two nights I have made myself meals that have been a combination of leftovers and freshly cooked foods. Sunday night I was in the mood for a nice warm soup. I didn’t want to just heat up something from a can but I also didn’t want to spend all day stewing up a thick and heavy soup. I noticed that there was an abundance of carrots in the fridge… carrot soup it was! I made a beeline to the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook to see if they had a nice recipe to give me a little guidance. Sure enough, they did.

Since it was just me eating, I halved the recipe and it made the perfect amount. I ate two large bowls and still had a full serving leftover to save in the fridge for another night. I followed the recipe basically as it was given. I left out the potato, chose non-fat plain yogurt for my dairy addition, and used cashews instead of almonds because I felt that they would add a richer flavor. This is where the leftovers come into play. A few nights ago my mom made oven roasted shrimp and broccoli. So delicious and so simple. All it is shrimp, broccoli, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, and a little lemon juice tossed in a baking dish and slid in the oven to get all happy. Because it was such a hit, there was only a small bit leftover. I picked out al the broccoli for a snack earlier that afternoon so the only parts left were the shrimp and the seasonings. I tossed that into my soup and added a little fresh ground ginger. Done! It was so delicious and the shrimp added a nice little textural surprise and, not to mention, some protein. So yummy. Moosewood sure knows their veggies!

Tonight’s leftover rework was for the bean burgers. There were just two lonely burgers still chilling in the fridge. I wanted to give them some love. The ingredients for my freshly cooked addition also were scraps left in the fridge. I feel rude calling them scraps since they made something delicious, but there just wasn’t enough of each individual ingredient to make them the star of their own dishes. The trio? Button mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and baby spinach. I started by sautéing the mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil. Once they just about were coated in the olive oil I poured probably 1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar right into the pan. I let them cook and shrivel up for a bit while I rinsed the tomatoes and cut them in half.  I threw those in, added a little salt, and kept the heat between medium and medium-high so the tomatoes would soften and get a little glazed. Just about a minute before I turned off the heat I tossed in the spinach. As soon as the spinach started to wilt I turned off the heat. I poured my creation right on top of a bean burger that I quickly heated in the microwave. Who need ketchup when you have this lovely medley? It was just the right amount of juice from the tomatoes, meatiness from the mushrooms, green from the spinach, and the little touch of sweetness from the balsamic that reduced as it cooked. I kept eating the topping more quickly than my burger so I kept going back for more. I love toppings. By the time my bean burger was gone, so was the entire pan of veggies I had just cooked up. What a scrumptiously simple creation.




Photos of the Week

My photos this week were all taken in a neighborhood of Pittsburgh called The Strip District. This is a quaint little area just a few blocks long with many specialized grocers, Pittsburgh apparel retailers, and other specialty shops. With these photos I was trying to capture the unique yet simple essence of The Strip District. Calm and peaceful on some streets, and bustling and hectic on others. The time I was there was a slower hour but it certainly can get hectic, trust me. (Particularly at the stores selling Pittsburgh paraphernalia.) Enjoy!

Great Things Come in Three

Since returning to my humble abode I have been unavoidably graced with an immeasurable amount of free time. I was well aware it was coming. I was looking forward to it in a way. Some days (like today) there is something oh-so-satisfying about lazing around in my pajamas until the early hours of the afternoon. Other days, I can’t imagine anything worse. On those days where my need to prance around begins to drive me crazy, I cheer myself up with a few fail-proof activities… shopping, taking pictures, and cooking. My triad of stress relievers.

I’d say shopping has fallen behind the other two activities for the time being due to my current unemployment and dwindling funds. The holiday season really brings a crushing blow on one’s account. The unemployment matter will be resolved in just two days however. I am about to begin part-time intern work, a perfect solution to earn money while still having enough time to maintain my same level of focus on ballet.

Photographing has come in second place. For a little time almost everyday I have either taken my camera out to take pictures or have sat and edited photos on my computer. When my mind is involved in a creative task (be it photographing, editing, dancing, or even cooking) I forget about all the other upsets that so frequently occupy my thoughts. It gives my mind freedom and thus helps me relax and enjoy the calmer moments, keeping me emotionally balanced.

Cooking has certainly been at the fore front of my activities in this past week at home. My dear mother has been loving my enthusiasm to cook and is enjoying the weight I’ve taken from her shoulders by aiding her with the task (or pleasure) of making dinner for my family nearly every night this week. The week began with us collaborating in the kitchen. As each day went by I began cooking the meals more and more on my own. From minestrone, to an omelet and roasted sweet potatoes, to homemade pizzas which I made from start to finish entirely on my own. Ok, I started with a pre-made pizza crust and sauce. Those were already in our fridge so why not use them? In fact, I put much of this meal together by creatively combining ingredients that were already present in our kitchen. An activity I rather enjoy the challenge of.

I made three different pies.

Grilled chicken and roasted broccoli.

To a certain extent this was a request from my little sister who is not the boldest when it comes to ingredient affection. For example, I left a corner of the spinach pizza without cheese because she doesn’t like goat cheese. (What a nice big sister.) The chicken I pulled from the freezer, it was left over from a previous meal, and the broccoli was hanging out in the veggie drawer of our fridge. I chopped the broccoli into bite size pieces and tossed it in a pan with some salt and olive oil and let it roast in the oven for about 15 minutes until it began to soften and get a nice brown to it. To assemble the pizza I first put just a few large spoonfuls of sauce onto the dough and spread it around. I left about an inch of dough around the edge that I then brushed with some herb infused olive oil to make a lovely golden crust. Sometimes the crust can be my favorite part of a pizza. On top of the sauce I arranged the pieces of chicken and broccoli and then slices of incredibly fresh mozzarella. I made sure to evenly place all the ingredients so each bite had a mix of different flavors. The pizza went in the oven directly on the wire rack and baked at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until the crust began to brown and the cheese was fully melted.

Mushroom and onion.

I sadly must admit this was the blandest of the three. I am an avid fan of mushrooms. I just did not put enough seasonings on this pizza, or maybe shiitake mushrooms were not the best choice. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible. I just know I could’ve made it better. I began this one by sautéing some onion and the mushrooms with a bit of salt and olive oil. This is where I should’ve thrown in some extra seasonings. I spread the sauce out just as I did on the previous pizza, brushed the rim of the crust with olive oil, and laid the toppings on in the same fashion as before. In the oven under the same guidelines, yadda yadda. If I were to make this again I don;t think I would sauté the mushrooms first. They became too wet and lost much of their mushroom flavor. I would also put in more seasonings like oregano and basil and other pizza flavors. Maybe some crushed red pepper would’ve given it a nice level of excitement.

Spinach and egg with goat cheese.

This was the first time I have ever made a pizza with egg on it. I have eaten it in a restaurant before (Serious Pie in Seattle, WA) and absolutely loved it! The egg adds such a wonderful richness and depth of flavor.  We had both spinach and eggs in our fridge… what better time than the present to give it a go? For this one I decided to forgo the traditional red sauce and instead brushed the entire crust with the herb-infused olive oil that I had brushed on the rim of the other pizzas. I then spread around the spinach that I had quickly wilted in a pot with a little water. I cracked two eggs into a bowl, one at a time, to make sure I didn’t get any stray eggshells. I delicately poured them on the pizza far enough from the center that they wouldn’t collide. Into the oven this one went. It was in there for a few minutes less than the others, I didn’t want to over cook the yolks so they would still be a little runny. Once the pizza came out I crumbled fresh goat cheese on all but the corner I left cheese-less for my sister. This pizza was my favorite. It was the simplest yet had the most interesting flavor combinations. Upon reflection of all the pizzas I have made, this night and previous nights, I don’t think I am always the biggest fan of red sauce on my pizza. It is hard to use jarred sauce and get the same flavor complexity as a sauce made from scratch that many restaurants use. I also have struggled with what is the best amount to spread on the pizza.

My family members all commented several times on how great the pizzas were. I was left unimpressed but I am most definitely my own worst critic. All three pizzas were completely gone by the end of the meal so I am happy they were well appreciated by my fellow diners. That is what matters most.

Photos of the Week

A few days ago I took my camera out to Hartwood Acres Park in the below freezing temperatures to get my creative juices flowing again. I was playing around with the adjustments in the aperture and shutter speed to try to get different looks to my photos. I quickly discovered that by slowing down the shutter speed and leaving the shutter open as I moved the camera it created a photo that has the look of a painting. The way the light and dark colors drag across the image looks to me like strokes of paint left by a brush. Awed by the fact I could produce an image with my digital camera that looked hand painted, naturally I experimented with the technique in a few different way. I swept the camera side to side, up and down, and also in a circle. Sometimes the original object of the photo is still recognizable, other times not. I haven’t decided yet which I prefer aesthetically but I think it’s pretty interesting regardless. Hope you think so too!