Friday, February 25, 2011

The facelift

I decided it was finally time to update our little piece of bloggerdom, and give it a little facelift. I'm going to keep tweaking it, but for now, I think it's a welcome change.

I was reading my old blog last night. This might have been a mistake. Do you ever get jealous of your own past? I feel like I was a much better writer back then, and probably a much better person, all in all. Aren't people supposed to improve over time?

But that's not why I brought you here. I called this meeting for a picture update! Yippee!!

This past weekend, Andy and I volunteered at the South Side Soup Contest. The South Side is probably the hippest place in Pgh--lots of cool retail shops and eateries, as well as bars if you're into that scene. It was probably the best volunteering I've ever done: I made sure people threw their trash in the proper bins for an hour and a half, and then I walked around eating soup for the rest of the time. A lot of really good soup, too. On top of it all, we got free t-shirts!

Here's Andy, in his South Side Soup Contest official 2011 tee. The punch card around his neck is how they make sure you're not taking extra samples of soup, although there were 25 different soup stations, so I can't imagine anyone wanting more soup than that. All of the stations were in different retail shops: ours was at stuffurnishings, a pretty swanky little housewares store.

One of the soup stations was located in the Milkshake Factory, otherwise known as the happiest place on earth. They also sell handmade chocolates there, which looked amazing. Upon entering, you see a TV playing the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (behind my head, you can just see the corner of the set), further adding to its charm. It's appointed in the old-school soda fountain / chocolate shoppe style (think an upscale Beth Marie's, all you Dentonites), and I noticed that they were doing a lot more business incidental to the event than any other location on the strip. It is pretty hard to resist . . . and we'll definitely be going back when the weather starts to warm up to appropriate ice cream climate.

Although the parsnip soup won the South Side Soup Contest, this was our own personal soup contest winner. Vegetarian tortilla soup, from this amazing book by Deborah Madison. Even as a mostly-vegetarian, I was skeptical of a vegetarian tortilla soup, but this was so flavorful, spicy, and vibrant that I didn't miss the chicken at all. Top it with some fresh cilantro, green onions, feta + taco cheese, and (of course) some crispy tortilla strips, and you have a little bowl of heaven in your hands. Yum. Of course, it totally ruined the chicken tortilla soup that we had at the contest--there weren't even tortillas in it, which was obviously a faux-pas. Damn yankees.

Lastly, we made these Texas-shaped pop-tarts. I got this idea from Jen, and then saw it again at our favorite Pittsburgh bake shop, so of course I needed to try it. Turns out it's super-easy: just make your favorite pie crust (you could use a refrigerated crust too, certainly, or maybe even a puff pastry), use a cookie cutter to cut out your desired shape, and spoon some jam in the center. Cover it with another cut-out, crimp the edges together, and bake! (I did an egg wash on mine, then sprinkled it with some granulated sugar, just to be fancy.) Word to the wise, though, make sure you let these suckers cool before you dive in. Jam gets pretty hot in the oven, and it just might squirt out of the pastry and leave you with a nice scar on your chin. Maybe.

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