“In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have
a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.”

--Dereke Bruce

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hear ye, hear ye! Semi-annual All-Clad factory sale Dec 3 & 4.












These last few posts would probably make a new reader think this is only a cooking blog - but believe me, it is far more than that -- and any quick cruise through older posts would probably dispel that misunderstanding. But I did want to make this brief All-Clad post now, even though it is following on the heels of two recipe posts, because of the time-sensitive nature of it.

But first of all, I freely admit it -- I am an All-Clad junkie.  I *LOOOOVE* the stuff!!!  Nothing (IMHO) performs quite like it.  Yes, it's pricey, but it honestly is the LAST cookware you will ever need to buy.  Buying it piece by piece (like I did) is as a gradual way to build up a collection of beautiful, functional, KILLER cookware that is simply a joy to use.

I have the stainless collection, in both regular and non-stick.  Some of my All-Clad pieces are over 15 years old, and still look brand new.  And believe me, they get USED!  All-Clad comes with a no-questions asked lifetime warranty, and the stainless pieces (except for the non-stick) are dishwasher safe, too.  Always a plus after busy weeknight dinners.

What you may not know is that most All-Clad is made right here in  PA, south of Pittsburgh in Canonsburg.  And twice every year (in June and December) there is a "factory" sale, and oooooooooh baby, is THAT ever fun!  I have gone MANY times, and each time, I have scored BIG.  At the sale, every piece in every line is usually available, at discounts of 20-80% off MSRP.   It's a great opportunity to see, hold, and handle in person all the various pieces, and get great bargains in the process.  Yes, most of the pieces (although not all) are considered "seconds"... little scratches or "dings", but nothing that affects performance, and the usual All-Clad lifetime warranty still holds.  And honestly, probably nothing that won't happen anyway after some good, hard use in your own kitchen!  

So if you are into quality, premium cookware, and you LOVE a bargain... then you need to be HERE:

WHERE: Washington County Fairgrounds, Washington, PA
WHEN:    Fri & Sat, Dec 3 & 4, 2010; 9 am - 4 pm















(Photos from All-Clad website.)

ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND SQUASH SOUP (Best. Soup. Ever!!!)

















We love soup.  All kinds of soup.  And especially in the winter... hot, delicious, homemade soup just seems to warm us up from the inside out.

Well, I made a new recipe yesterday (Italian Sausage and Squash Soup) that just may be my new favorite soup recipe. Really!  So easy, yet so *different*.  And simply perfect for these c-c-c-cold PA nights!  (Served with hot, crusty artisan bread, I think I could've eaten the whole pot myself!)

My husband LOVED it, too.  Gave it his ultimate compliment: "It's cruise ship good!"  LOL!

ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND SQUASH SOUP 
1lb. bulk Italian sausage
2Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 1⁄2cups diced onion
2Tbsp. minced garlic
1butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks 
1⁄2tsp. red pepper flakes
2cups low-sodium chicken broth
2cups water
1cup diced red bell pepper
1⁄2cup heavy cream
1tsp. ground dried sage
1tsp. sugar
2cups packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped
3Tbsp. brandy

Salt and black pepper to taste
Brown sausage in 1 Tbsp. oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

Sweat onion and garlic in 1 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium heat until soft, 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add squash and pepper flakes, and saute 5 minutes.

Stir in broth and water, bring to a boil, and simmer until squash is very soft, about 10 minutes. Puree soup with a hand blender (or in batches in a standard blender), then add bell pepper, cream, sage, and sugar; simmer until bell pepper is tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in spinach, brandy, and sausage, and simmer until spinach wilts and sausage is heated through, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

1/14/11 ADDENDUM


So my tricky big sister, Laurel, had a great idea that I just had to share,
She used Trader Joe's butternut squash soup (in the box) as a short-cut base for this soup.  Then stirred in all additions as per the recipe.
I tasted it myself and I must say, it was good -- darn good! 
So tuck that li'l time-saving trick under your cap, and if you try it, think of my oh-so-smart sister!   ;o)

Recipe and photo From Cuisine at Home

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CAJUN SHRIMP CASSEROLE (*Yum!*)


















It's starting to get *COOOOLD* here in PA and for us, that means warm, hearty, comfort food.  For weeknight dinners, nothing fits that bill (in my opinion) better than a casserole.  Combine a few fresh, delicious ingredients; bake in the oven, and then relax while the warmth and the aromas fill the kitchen.  Mmmm, mmmm! 

I made the following recipe recently and we LOVED it.  Of course I tweaked it a little (I'm notorious for that!)  I added some kielbasa and crawfish along with the shrimp, I increased the "heat" level with additional ground and fresh hot peppers, and I used brown rice instead of white.  But other than that, I followed the recipe "as written", and the reminiscent-of-jambalaya casserole that we were rewarded with was simply wonderful.  Serve with a simple salad and hot crusty bread. 

CAJUN SHRIMP CASSEROLE
2 pounds large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined.
1/4 cup butter
1 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh or frozen sliced okra
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of shrimp soup (or cream of mushroom)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups cooked long-grain rice
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients; sauté 7 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in okra, lemon juice, and salt; sauté 5 minutes. Add shrimp, and cook 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Stir in soup and next 4 ingredients until blended. Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and cheese is lightly browned. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.


Recipe (and photo) from  Myrecipes.com   

Monday, November 1, 2010

PITTSBURGH - #1 Best Place to Move (WooHoo!)










As a Pennsylvanian (and native Pittsburgher) I was pretty jazzed by this recent article which names Pittsburgh as the #1 American city to consider moving to! 

The article reads, in part:

What people are looking for when they relocate changes from time to time. In the 90s, it was a city with low crime. Then, it was places with good schools.

"These days, you want a job and to make sure you can get a house there," said Bert Sperling of BestPlaces.net, which helps people find the best places to live, work or retire.

Sperling crunched the numbers to find the 10 best cities to relocate to today. The list takes into consideration all kinds of data points from cost of living to crime rates, the number of colleges and how healthy the population is, as well as access to museums, shows, sporting and other events. Plus, one you might not think of - stability.

"We're a big believer in the concept of stability, where there is modest, controllable growth," Sperling explained. "Big booms lead to disruption, and ultimately big busts. Neither is good for livability."

Here are Sperling's Best Cities to Relocate to in America - Why they're the best and who's hiring there.

1. PITTSBURGH, PA
Pittsburgh, like Buffalo, has also made a major transformation from an industrial town - in Pittsburgh's case, steel -- into the 21st Century as a hub for education, health care and the arts.

Yet, it's still surprisingly affordable: The cost of living is 12.2 percent below the national average and the average home price is $116,400, well below the national average of $171,700.

It's repeatedly ranked as one of the most livable cities: The crime rate is low, it ranks high on both arts and colleges, and it's at low risk for a natural disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane or tornado.

It's also repeatedly ranked as one of the best sports cities, with the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team. You would be hard-pressed to find a city with more loyal sports fans - a fact that should not be underestimated when it comes to quality of life.

The unemployment rate is 7.8 percent, well below the national average of 10.2 percent. Indeed.com has named it the No. 18 job market, with two applicants for every job available.

Companies that are hiring now: HCR ManorCare, BNY Mellon, PNC Bank, Ernst & Young, Westinghouse Electric Company, and UPMC, according to Indeed.com.


As for me, I happen to LOVE Pittsburgh.  I think it is a beautiful, culturally diverse, exciting and just-plain-*FUN* city.  We live about 2 hours away now (out in the country) -- but going to Pittsburgh for the day (or the weekend) is still one of my favorite things to do!

Sooooo, anyone out there thinking of relocating?  Well then, I urge you to consider PITTSBURGH!



Oh FYI, the other top 9 "best cities to move to" are:
# 2 Buffalo/Niagara Falls NY
# 3 Omaha, NE/Council Bluffs, IA
# 4 Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
# 5 Austin-Round Rock, TX
# 6 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA
# 7 Madison, WI
# 8 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN
# 9 Denver-Aurora, CO
# 10 Indianapolis-Carmel, IN.

(Pittsburgh at night photo credit: HERE)