Simple Clean and Homemade I Las Velas 3

After visiting the Three Rivers Arts Fest, we were excited to enjoy a cool beverage and a hot meal. When I go to an outdoor festival, I crave elote or some other grilled corn. When we were in Seattle for our wedding, we visited the Ballard Seafood Festival and enjoyed the corn stand. I loved the spice options. I am not sure why there are not corn stands in Pittsburgh, but to get my fix we headed to Las Velas. Las Velas is located in Market Square. It is a short walk from the point and was shockingly empty for dinner on a Saturday night.

We started with beverages. Pierre chose the Raspberry Cayenne margarita. It was a little sweet for me, but just right for him. We liked the added heat of the chipotle.

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I went with some tequila because when a restaurant has 150 tequilas, I feel like it is necessary. Our waitress helped me pick one.

Simple Clean and Homemade I Las Velas

The chips and salsa were one of the stars. The chips were served warm and are clearly made in house. The salsa had a little kick. Others have noted that there is a nominal fee for the chips and salsa. To me, that is typical of the pricier Mexican-style fare restaurants.

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For one entree, we chose the Steak Enchiladas. When ordering, Las Velas offers red, green, or mole sauce. We asked to have all three sauces on our plate. All were excellent. We enjoyed the mole, but I would have trouble eating a whole plate of it. I would probably order the green sauce if I had to pick just one. With each entree, there are two sides. We picked pinto beans as two of the four total sides. They were creamy and everything I hope for when ordering beans.

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I ordered the Three Tacos Mexican Style on corn tortillas. I ordered chorizo, carnitas, and veggies with habarracha salsa. It was hot but yummy. I was not a fan of the tacos. The fillings were good but a little sparse. The tortillas were slightly stale. I would order the enchiladas on our next visit and skip the tacos. We will go back for the enchiladas.

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In addition to beans, we ordered the creamy poblanos. So good. Creamy, cheesy, and smokey.

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And of course, what we went to enjoy, elote.

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I love grilling. Especially veggies. There is something magical about lighting up the grill and cooking food over a fire that makes everything taste better. We are year round grillers. When I had the opportunity to check out Macy’s Grilling Guru competition at Ross Park Mall, I was thrilled. On top of that, Marc Forgione was the celebrity chef in attendance, I knew I had to go.

Simple Clean and Homemade I  GrillingGuru

We showed up a little early on Saturday to check out the Macy’s Fair in the parking lot before the Grilling Guru Competition started. The fair featured a car show and activities for kids. There was face painting, fun fair snacks, ice carving, and the Franktuary food truck. A fun time for the family.

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The event took place under a tent and featured three competitors. We were able to watch them cook their recipe from lighting the grill to serving Chef Marc Forgione their dishes and watch him take his first bite. I was surprised at how calm they all seemed waiting for the competition to begin.

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The first competitor was Devon Delaney making her Sea to Shining Sea Crab Sliders with Firecracker Chow Chow and Avocado Tartar Cream. She created some fresh crab cakes and grilled them. She said that it is important to make sure the crab cakes get very cold before grilling.

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The second competitor was Kathleen-Holly McGee making Holly’s Best All-American BBQ Chicken. It featured apple cider vinegar and apple sauce. I never thought of cooking chicken with applesauce. I thought it was a unique idea.

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The third contestant was Josh LeDuc making Grilled Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms stuffed with chard, golden raisins, pine nuts, and feta. These looked fantastic. He suggests serving them as a side dish, but they look like a fab meal to me. I need to experiment with this soon.

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Chef Marc Forgione watched the competitors and interacted with the audience during the competition. He had a few ideas that I loved. He said that recipes are not religion. The recipe police won’t come find you if you do it differently. This really speaks to how I cook. I like to get some ingredients and use my cooking knowledge to make something exciting. It was cool to see him because I am a huge Iron Chef fan.

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He also offered some samples of his food. First was this shrimp marinated using his new Bloody Mary Mix, Batch 22. It was well cooked and good. I would love to try the Bloody Mary mix in an actually Bloody Mary.

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The second offering was steak with chimichurri sauce and drizzled with olive oil. This was my favorite bite. I loved the brightness of the chimichurri sauce.

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After all of the entertainment, it was time to announce the winner. Marc Forgione chose Devon Delaney’s crab cakes. He said that he thought it was unique and had tons of flavor. Plus, it is hard to give him something he has never tried before and he never had grilled crab before.

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Congratulations to Devon Delaney who will move on to the next phase of the competition!

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post about Macy’s Culinary Council. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Finding Mexican food I like in Pittsburgh is hard. I don’t like it to be fancy, just the basics. My favorite thing (aside from chips and salsa, obviously) is the beans. I like refried beans to be mostly blended and topped with some melty cheese. Specialty cheeses are nice, but not my favorite when I am looking for comforting Mexican food on a Friday night. For a few years we had a place we visited regularly, but to our dismay it closed. Jose Ole in Robinson across from the mall was everything I look for in Mexican comfort food. They had good chips and salsa and creamy beans topped with cheese. When we found out that the same people from Jose Ole opened a new restaurant in Robinson, we were excited.

Don Jose is located in the plaza near Petco and Eat n’ Park. It is in the spot where Dasonii was located before it closed. They didn’t make tons of changes on the inside. It looks more modern than Jose Ole, but the food is still the same yummy stuff we loved.

SImple Clean and Homemade I Don Jose

We started with margaritas because, well, it was Friday. The margaritas were just what we were expecting. A good way to end a long week at work.

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I actually ordered a meal instead of just beans or beans and a taco because I wanted to see if the meals were good. I chose carnitas. I love carnitas and I like to try them in restaurants. Our waiter said that he liked them the best, so I was sold. The carnitas were good. They had a good flavor but were not as tender as I like them. I would order it again because the combination of all the things on the plate was perfection. The beans are the same beans that I liked at Jose Ole and I enjoyed the salad. This also came with warm tortillas, I just never eat them.

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We also ordered the pollo adobo. This was our favorite thing at Jose Ole, so we had to try it again. This did not disappoint. It was better than I remember. I loved the combination of veggies.

We enjoyed our meal at Don Jose. It is a great local, non chain option in Robinson. The prices are reasonable and the food is good.

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SImple Clean and Homemade I Strawberry Margarita

Did you shop at Hills as a kid? We did. My parents took us there for back to school shopping. We went often to visit our layaway items. Normally I hated shopping as a kid, but Hills was my all time favorite. Every time we went there we got a kid’s size frozen coke and popcorn. I was such a sucker for a frozen drink even at a young age. It is no wonder that I love them today.

I blame Hills to this day for my love of margaritas. I like them frozen. I like salt on the rim, not sugar. I like them with Patron. I knew I needed to make a strawberry margarita recipe for this summer. I like strawberries so the combination is only natural.

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These strawberry margaritas have a homemade strawberry sauce to give them flavor. We loved the flavor of the margarita, but probably the best part was the ghost pepper salt that my mom brought home from her trip to Sanibel Island. The salt’s spiciness gave the strawberry margarita a surprise finish. The salt was not overwhelmingly hot, but a nice heat in the back of our throats.

I wanted to share this with you just in time for the holiday weekend and all those fun cookouts out there.

Strawberry Margarita

by Jessica

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (2 servings)

    Roasted Strawberry Puree

    • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • Juice of 1 lime

    Margarita

    • 1/3-1/2 cup strawberry puree
    • 4 ounces Patron Silver Tequila
    • splash Gran Marnier
    • 1-2cups ice
    • juice 2-3 limes
    • simple syrup or agave to taste
    • Ghost salt

    Instructions

    Strawberry Puree

    In an 8×8 baker, roast the strawberries tossed with sugar at 400 until they are soft and juicy (15-30 minutes). Fresh tend to take longer than frozen. Allow to cool. Add to the blender with lime juice and blend into a puree. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

    Margarita

    In the blender, add strawberry puree, tequila, Gran Marnier, lime juice, and ice. Blend until smooth. Add sweetener if desired.

    Rub the rim of the class with the lime rinds. Dip in salt. Pour the liquid into the glasses and serve.

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    What are your plans for Memorial Day weekend? I really like Memorial Day. It is one of those low pressure holidays. There is no need to purchase gifts or make an elaborate meal. It is more about spending time together with simple picnic foods. It really kicks off the grilling seasons for us. We finally hooked up our grill at our new house for Mother’s Day and plan to kick it into full gear this weekend.

    SImple Clean and Homemade I Piri Piri Chicken Wings

    One of my keys to grilling is to take traditional foods and add a twist to them. These Piri Piri style chicken wings are one of those twists. It hails from Portugal and typically features Piri Piri hot sauce or Piri Piri peppers. Unfortunately, those items are not always readily available, so I made some substitutions to give these wings a similar flavor, but also make them perfect for the grill.

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    My favorite thing about grilled wings is the charred pieces. They add a little crisp and smokey flavor.

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    These are perfect for your weekend picnic or cookout with unexpected flavor and spice.

    Piri Piri Style Grilled Chicken Wings

    by Jessica

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Cook Time: 30 minutes

    Ingredients (3 pounds chicken wings)

    • 2-6 hot chili peppers of your choice
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • 3 tablespoons vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon half-sharp paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/2 onion
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 pounds chicken wings

    Instructions

    Add all ingredients except the chicken wings into the food processor and process until smooth.

    Pour into a large zip top bag. Add chicken wings. Marinade for 4 hours. Grill until cooked through. Serve hot

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    SImple Clean and Homemade I Patatas Bravas

    My favorite tapa to order any time I go to a tapas restaurant is Patatas Bravas. Everyone at the table always loves them, making them a good choice especially with picky eaters. How can you really go wrong with fried potatoes with dips? My favorite patatas braves were at a small restaurant in Salamanca near Plaza Mayor. They came with two sauces. Often, they only come with one sauce, but I like the two distinct flavors. Sometimes the red sauce is like a homemade ketchup, sometimes it is actual ketchup, but my favorites have a paprika sauce called Pimenton sauce. The white sauce is aioli. Some places just put out some regular mayonnaise, while others go with homemade aioli. I like the homemade aioli best.

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    My version of patatas braves is exactly what I love in the dish. The crispy fried potatoes are double fried. The first fry is meant to cook them the whole way through at a lower temperature. The second fry is a higher temperature to add color and crispiness. Immediately after removing the potatoes from the second fry, salt them.

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    I like to serve all the potatoes and both dips on a big plate so everyone can share. I like to combine the dips together. This is a fun, easy, delicious appetizer for any get together.

    Patatas Bravas

    by Jessica

    Prep Time: 1 hour

    Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

    Ingredients (6-8 servings)

      Aioli

      • 2 egg yolks at room temperature
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • juice 1 lemon
      • 6 cloves roasted garlic
      • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
      • 1 1/3 cup light tasting oil

      Pimenton Sauce

      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 1/2 onion, diced
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
      • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
      • 1 tablespoon half-sharp paprika
      • 1 tablespoon flour
      • 1 bay leaf
      • 1 cup water
      • salt to taste

      Potatoes

      • Ice Water
      • 6-8 potatoes
      • Oil for frying

      Instructions

      Aioli

      In a food processor, add the egg yolk, salt, lemon juice, and garlic.

      Turn on low and slowly drizzle in oil in a steady stream until it is all incorporated. It should be thick.

      Remove from the food processor and store in a container with a lid.

      Serve with hot potatoes.

      Pimenton Sauce

      In a small pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Add the paprikas and flour. Cook 1-2 minutes to cook out the raw taste of the flour. Add the water and the bay leaf. Simmer about 10 minutes until thick. Salt to taste. Allow to cool.

      When cool, blend in the blender until smooth.

      Serve with hot potatoes.

      Potatoes

      Cut the potatoes into small chunks. Soak in ice water for 30-60 minutes to remove some of the starch.

      In a heavy, high wall pan, add 2-3 inches of oil. Heat oil to 325. Add potatoes in small batches. Cook until tender. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

      When all potatoes have been cooked once, heat the oil to 375. In small batches, cook the potatoes until they are brown and crispy. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Salt to taste.

      Serve hot with pimenton sauce and aioli.

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      SImple Clean and Homemade I Lomo Sandwich 2

      Today I want to share with you the best sandwich I have ever eaten. I feel like I say this all the time, but this is seriously a sandwich with all the elements of a perfect sandwich. Yesterday I told you about my pork adobado. It brings back memories of Spain for me. While I love the pork, this sandwich is what I was really excited to make. This sandwich may not be the traditional loom sandwich, but each ingredient adds to the flavor profile of the sandwich.

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      There is something about charred bread. I just think it escalates any dish from average to fantastic. When I think about some of my favorite meals in restaurants, they often come with something charred. This charred garlic bread compliments the smoky flavor from the pork beautifully. On top of the charred bread and smoky pork, I charred some red peppers, peeled them and sliced them. They add a slight sweetness that goes well with the creamy manchego sliced super thin. Finally, I made some homemade roasted garlic aioli which adds a richness to the sandwich.

      SImple Clean and Homemade I Lomo Sandwich

      The final product is perfection on a baguette.

      Pork Adobado Sandwich on Charred Bread with Manchego, Roasted Red Peppers, and Aioli

      by Jessica

      Prep Time: 10 minutes

      Cook Time: 20-30 minutes

      Ingredients (8-10 sandwiches)

        Pork Adobado

        • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
        • 1 1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika
        • 1 1/2 tablespoon half sharp paprika
        • 1 tablespoon oregano
        • 2 teaspoons salt
        • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
        • 3 garlic cloves, minced
        • 1/2 cup water
        • 8-10 boneless thin cut pork chops

        Aioli

        • 1 egg yolk at room temperature
        • 1/4 teaspoon salt
        • juice 1/2 lemon
        • 3 cloves roasted garlic
        • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
        • 2/3 cup light tasting oil

        Roasted Red Pepper

        • 2 red peppers

        Sandwich

        • Baguette
        • 2 tablespoons olive oil
        • 2 tablespoons butter
        • 3 cloves garlic, minced
        • salt
        • Pork Chops Adobado
        • Aioli
        • Roasted Red Pepper
        • Manchego Cheese

        Instructions

        Pork Adobado

        Combine all ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Allow to marinade for at least 4 hours. Cook pork as desired. I prefer pan fried or grilled. Serve warm or cold.

        Aioli

        In a food processor, add the egg yolk, salt, lemon juice, and garlic. Turn on low and slowly drizzle in oil in a steady stream until it is all incorporated. It should be thick. Remove from the food processor and store in a container with a lid.

        Roasted Red Pepper

        On the gas burner of your stove, the grill, or under the broiler, char all sides of the papers. Put the peppers in a plastic or glass container for 20-30 minutes. Gently remove the outer charred “skin”. Do not rinse or wash. Slice.

        Sandwich

        In a medium skillet, heat butter, oil, and garlic until the butter melts. Turn off the heat.

        Cut the baguette(s) into the same size as the pork chops. Slice in half and coat the inside with the olive oil mixture. Char on the grill or on the gas stove burner. Remove from the heat when charred and salt.

        Top the baguette with pork, aioli, roasted red peppers, and Manchego.

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        SImple Clean and Homemade I Pork Adobado 2

        Study abroad is a special, life changing experience. Everyone I know who has had the opportunity, fondly remembers spending time in a new country, learning how to be independent, and forging new friendships. I spent my summer in Salamanca, Spain, a place that will always be my second home. I love Spain. The memories make me yearn to go back. I feel like I fit there. One of the most surprising things about study abroad is how quickly we made new friends. I remember countless nights leaving the discotecca or the tapas bars to head to the bocadilleria to get sandwiches. Lomo was always our favorite.

        SImple Clean and Homemade I Pork Adobado

        It took me almost 8 years to finally get around to making my own version of loom. From what I remember, it was a thinly sliced, boneless pork chop marinated in something magical that made it delicious on a baguette. Through tons of research, I found that it is commonly called adobado. It is basically a marinade comprised of paprika, garlic, and oregano.

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        If you notice, I made tons. We ended up eating for a few days in sandwiches for lunch. Tomorrow I will share with you the sandwich recipe. It is so good. We both literally took a bite and declared it the most perfect sandwich.

        Pork Chops Adobado

        by Jessica

        Prep Time: 10 minutes

        Cook Time: 20 minutes

        Ingredients (8-10 servings)

        • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
        • 1 1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika
        • 1 1/2 tablespoon half sharp paprika
        • 1 tablespoon oregano
        • 2 teaspoons salt
        • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
        • 3 garlic cloves, minced
        • 1/2 cup water
        • 8-10 boneless thin cut pork chops

        Instructions

        Combine all ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Allow to marinade for at least 4 hours. Cook pork as desired. I prefer pan fried or grilled. Serve warm or cold.

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        During the whole kitchen renovation process, we found ourselves eating breakfast out on the weekends. We heard about Chev and Rachel’s first from the previous owners of our home. Rachel happens to be their real estate agent, so we actually met her at the closing. We knew that we needed to try the local diner in our new neighborhood and this was the perfect opportunity.

        SImple Clean and Homemade I Chev and Rachels

        Chev and Rachel’s is located on Center Avenue in Emsworth. It is a small, quaint, inviting diner with tons of options. You can watch them make your breakfast behind the counter as you sip a hot cup of copy or a glass of juice. Pierre couldn’t resist trying the Chili Cheese scrambler. He is a sucker for chili. It was scrambled eggs mixed with a small amount of chili and cheese. It was delicious and paired well with the home fries and Mancini’s toast.

        SImple Clean and Homemade I Chev and Rachels

        I ordered the 2 eggs, pancakes, bacon, and toast so I could get a sampling of everything. The bacon was extra crispy, just the way I like it. The eggs were nice and dippy.

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        As you can see, the pancakes are enormous. We shared them and barely got through half of one. They were cake pancakes that soaked in the syrup.

        Overall, we enjoyed our trip to Chev and Rachel’s. We will probably go back because we love to support local establishments. If you are looking for a warm, freshly made breakfast, Chev and Rachel’s is worth a visit.

        Chev & Rachel's Family Diner on Urbanspoon

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        SImple Clean and Homemade I Blue Corn Bread

        Cast Iron skillets are magical. It takes a recipe that is good and makes spectacular. I can especially say that for cornbread. I like cornbread. I like it all ways. Sweet, savory, with stuff added in to it, but in a skillet is by far the best. The skillet gives the bread a crispy, buttery crust. Plus, then you can cut it into cute triangle slices.

        SImple Clean and Homemade I Blue Corn Bread 2

        This recipe uses blue cornmeal. I like the fun color. It just adds something to my plate. You could probably try yellow cornmeal, I have not because I am so into blue.

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        I made this slightly sweet. I know there is tons of debate about sugar in cornbread. I like it with a little sugar to go with carnitas. I think it adds that sweetness to the salty, spicy, smokey flavors of the carnitas with charred peppers, jack cheese, and rice. If you don’t like sweetness in your cornbread, only add a small amount of sugar. If you like it super sweet, add more sugar. Oh and take a look at that gorgeous crispy crust.

        Blue Skillet Cornbread

        by Jessica

        Prep Time: 15 minutes

        Cook Time: 18-24 minutes

        Ingredients (8-12 servings)

        • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
        • 2 eggs, room temperature
        • 1 1/2 cup blue cornmeal
        • 1/4 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
        • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
        • 1/2 teaspoon salt
        • 4 tablespoons butter

        Instructions

        Place a 10 inch cast iron skillet in the oven and heat to 425.

        In a bowl, beat the buttermilk and eggs together until combined. Add the cornmeal, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Stir until the batter is lumpy but there is no visible dry cornmeal.

        When the oven has preheated and continued to heat for 5-10 minutes, melt the butter in the bottom of the pan. Swirl the butter around to coat the bottom and the sides. Pour in the batter and return to the oven. Bake until firm in the middle. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

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