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Restaurant Review: Post Office Pies

Post Office Pies

209 41st St S, Avondale, Birmingham, AL 35222

Marc and I went here for dinner at 7:45 on a Saturday night and it was packed, which was absolutely fantastic.  We ordered and wound up having to sit at the bar, because no tables were available, which is a good sign for popularity, but annoying as a customer.  As a Chicagoan, I know a good pizza when I taste one and this place does not have it.  Birmingham is not known for its pizza, but there are decent pizza places here, so if you’re in the mood for pizza, go to Trattoria or Slice.  Post Office Pies’s too-soft crust and runny sauce makes for a disappointing, mushy pizza.  The atmosphere and beer (from Avondale Brewery next door) are the really redeeming qualities of this place.  Hopefully they can improve the pizza and make it worth returning.

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Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Between dietary restrictions, food allergies, and the upcoming Passover season, cooking for friends and family can be a challenge.  Luckily, Quinoa Stuffed Peppers are the answer to all your cooking quandaries!

Kosher? Check!  It’s even kosher for Passover!

Gluten-free?  Check!

Vegan/Parve?  Check!

Delicious?  Double Check!

StuffedPeppersQuinoa-1

What You’ll Need (serves 2 people)

  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 peppers, tops removed and seeded.  I used red peppers, but you can use any color.
  • 1.5 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 tomato, diced
  • 1/3 cup spinach
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese (note: the recipe won’t be vegan anymore and, while I don’t usually turn down the option to add cheese, this recipe really doesn’t need it)

Let’s Get Started!

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add quinoa.  Stir quinoa in olive oil for 2-3 minutes to toast it.  Add water and bring to boil.  Reduce to simmer, cover pot, let cook for 10-15 minutes until water has been absorbed.
  3. Place peppers cut-side down on baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes or until skin starts to brown
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat.  Cook onions and herbs & spices for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in tomato, cucumber, and spinach and cook for another 5 minutes.  Stir in quinoa until heated through.
  5. Spoon quinoa and vegetables into peppers
  6. OPTIONAL: Top with cheese
  7. Return peppers to oven for 5 minutes

You don’t need to save the pepper tops, but if you do, you can serve it with the tops as a garnish.

Yum!

Yum!

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Shabbat Shalom

There is nothing better than the smell of fresh baked challah on Shabbat.

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Restaurant Review: Gianmarco’s

Gianmarco’s Restaurant

721 Broadway St, Homewood, AL 35209

As soon as I walked in, I knew this place would be great.  It smelled fantastic.  The food was delicious and our waiter was attentive and knowledgeable.  They have a fantastic wine selection.  I highly recommend the tomato and fresh mozzarella appetizer.  The eggplant parmesan and cheese ravioli were great vegetarian options.  If you can’t decide on a side, go with the mac and cheese.

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Tofu Chicken Nuggets

TofuChickenNuggets2

 

There are plenty of reasons to make your own tofu chicken nuggets:

  • You have recently become vegetarian/vegan
  • You keep kosher and don’t have easy access to kosher chicken OR you don’t want to wait six hours to eat dairy
  • You don’t know what else to do with the tofu in your refrigerator

It’s very easy, but does require some forethought.  Tofu is spongy and tastes like nothing if you don’t marinate it, so you have to plan ahead for any tofu recipe you try, but otherwise, it is very easy.

What You’ll Need (makes enough nuggets for 2-3 people)

  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • 2 cups vegetarian/parve chicken broth
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon safflower or vegetable oil

Let’s Get Started!

  1. Open tofu, drain water, and press tofu until most of the moisture is gone from the block.  This will allow the tofu to absorb your marinade.
  2. Cut tofu into nugget-size squares
  3. Put 2 cups of vegetarian/parve chicken broth in a bowl (Whole Foods carries vegetarian no-chicken broth OR you can make your own using parve chicken-style consomme)
  4. Dump your tofu squares in the broth, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and put in the refrigerator for 6 hours (you can marinate it for less time, but try to leave it for at least 2 hours)
  5. Drain broth
  6. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat
  7. Put corn starch in a small bowl
  8. Coat tofu squares in corn starch and fry on both sides until browned
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Homemade Banana Pudding

BananaPudding2

 

So you bought too many bananas and a few of them have gotten kind of mushy before you had a chance to eat them?  Use them for banana pudding!

What You’ll Need (makes 2 puddings in 4.5 inch ramekins)

  • 30 vanilla wafers
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar

Let’s Get Started!

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Line the bottom of your ramekins with 5 crushed wafers per ramekin
  3. Cut one banana into 1/4 inch slices.  Layer the banana slices on top of the wafer crumbs in the ramekins.
  4. Line the sides of the ramekins with 8 wafers per ramekin
  5. Drizzle agave or honey over bananas in the ramekins
  6. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and 1/4 cup milk
  7. Whisk egg yolk into sugar mixture
  8. Add remaining milk and butter
  9. Slice second banana and add to saucepan
  10. Cook sugar-banana mixture over medium heat, stirring regularly about 15 minutes or until mixture thickens
  11. While still hot, pour 1/4 of pudding into each ramekin, leaving half of the pudding in the saucepan
  12. Sprinkle 1 crushed vanilla wafer per ramekin on top of the pudding
  13. Pour remaining 1/4’s of the pudding into the ramekins
  14. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar over each ramekin
  15. Sprinkle 1 crushed vanilla wafer per ramekin on top of the pudding
  16. Bake for 15 minutes and chill before serving
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Seitan-Chicken Pot Pie

I love chicken pot pie!  It’s delicious.  But now that I keep kosher, I can only get chicken pot pie in a kosher restaurant (and there aren’t a lot of those in Birmingham, AL).  In fact, I have only had chicken pot pie once in the 3.5 years that I have been keeping kosher and that was a few months ago in Chicago.  Since then, I have been learning how to cook and I am now skilled enough to make vegetarian chicken pot pie.  Hurray!

SeitanPotPie8

Kosher Seitan-Chicken Pot Pie for Shabbat!

I based my pot pie off of this recipe from Food.com.  I made 2 pot pies in 4.5 inch diameter ramekins, but Marc and I each only ate half before we were full.  A 3.5 inch diameter ramekin would have been enough to feed one person.

What You’ll Need (makes 4 pot pies in a 3.5 diameter ramekin)

Crust (This will give you a top and bottom crust. Cut it in half if you don’t want a bottom crust.)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup milk (I used 2%, but I don’t think skim or whole would change it significantly)

Filling

  • 1 package of seitan (if you don’t keep kosher and/or you aren’t vegetarian, feel free to replace this with chicken)
  • 2 cups water + 2 teaspoons parve chicken-style consomme (you can find Osem brand in most kosher aisles of the grocery store) OR 2 cups of vegetarian no-chicken broth (available at Whole Foods)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2/3 cup milk (again, I used 2%, but go ahead and use what you’ve got)
  • 1/2 (16 oz) bag frozen peas and carrots
  • 1/2 (16 oz) bag frozen broccoli

Let’s get started!

Filling

1. If you have vegetarian no-chicken broth, put 1 cup each into two separate bowls and skip to step 5.
2. If you are making your own parve chicken broth, put 2 cup of water in small sauce pan or in microwave safe bowl and bring to boil.
3. Add 2 tsp parve chicken-style consomme to boiling water and stir to create a parve chicken broth.
4. Divide the broth, so that you have two bowls with 1-cup of broth each.  Put one bowl away to use later.
5. Cut up seitan into bite-size pieces and add to parve chicken broth.  Cover with plastic wrap and put bowl in fridge.  You’ll come back to it later.

Crust

6. Combine flour, baking powder and salt
7. Cut up butter and mix with dry ingredients
8. Add milk and stir until the mixture is wet
9. In stand mixer or by hand – knead for 8 minutes or until dough is smooth and loses most of its stickiness
10. Cut dough into 8 pieces (4 bottoms, 4 tops)
11. Place the “bottoms” in the ramekins and flatten them against the sides of the dish to form a crust.  It can be easier to partially flatten the dough before putting it in the dish.

Filling

12. Put vegetable oil or safflower oil in a frying pan and cook the seitan
13. Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Make sure not to burn it.
14. Stir in flour, chopped onions, salt, and pepper.
15. Cook until bubbly.  Be sure to stir frequently.
16. Remember that 1 cup of broth that you set aside at the very beginning (in step 1 or 5)?  Get it out now.  Remove your saucepan from heat and whisk in milk and the 1 cup of broth.
17. Bring the entire mixture to boil and stir until it thickens
18. Add cooked seitan, frozen broccoli, peas, and carrots and stir

SeitanPotPie1

Baking

19. Preheat oven to 425° F
20. Spoon the filling into ramekins as shown above
21. With a rolling pin or by hand, flatten the remaining 4 pieces of dough into a thin, circular shape to cover the pie.  These are the “tops”
22. Place the tops over the pie and pinch together the edges with the bottom crust.  Cut an x into the middle of the dough.
23. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown

SeitanPotPie6

Yum!

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