Friday, December 19, 2014

Lime Icebox Cookies

The cookie baking continues! This time, a new for us cookie: Lime Icebox Cookies. SP & I both like citrus a lot, so when we saw these in the December Food Network Magazine, we decided they'd be a great new cookie for this year's holiday baking. We made the dough Thursday night and let it chill overnight. I sliced and baked them on Friday.
The hardest part of making these is juicing and zesting all the limes! There's zest and juice in the cookie dough and then before slicing & baking, the logs are rolled in a mixture of regular granulated sugar, green sanding sugar, and more lime zest.
We did not get 84 cookies - not even close. Our logs were not 12 inches long. Frankly, that seems way too small. They're tiny as it is - just a one or two bite cookie. But yummy. Lots of lime flavor and the lime sugar on the edges adds extra sugary crunch and lime flavor.

I really like these - definitely a make again cookie.

Recipe here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. I cannot believe it's just a week until Christmas Day. Our stockings are hung by the fireplace with care and all the gifts have been purchased and wrapped. The cookies are a work in progress.

2. This past weekend, we baked three kinds of cookies:
Nothing new, just the usual. As usual I was frustrated by the Triple Ginger not baking as puffy as the first two years. SP cursed the cinnamon pinwheel dough. And the Raspberry Shortbread took 20 minutes longer to bake than the recipe says.

They're in the freezer to keep them fresh.

3. Mom came over today and helped me bake three more kinds:


By help I mean that mom handled all clean up and moved cookie sheets in & out of the oven and transferred cookies onto cooling racks. And sampled a few. Mom doing clean up is a HUGE help.

4. Today is my niece's 16th birthday. Wow! She's already been driving for a year and can now get her license. I cannot believe I have a 16 year old niece! I still think of her as a little kid. We do not get to see them very often so every time we see her I am astounded and impressed by what a lovely young woman she is turning into.

5. This coming weekend we are supposed to see SP's family for a birthday dinner. I'm a little apprehensive because at least one family member has said they do not feel well and they have swollen glands, etc. These days it seems like I pick up every little virus that comes within 20 feet of me so I am not at all happy that someone is feeling this ill. It's the same person who was ill last March and made me ill - for 3 times as long since it also takes me a long, long time these days to get over things. If this gathering still happens, I might have to protect my health and not go since someone is sick. I cannot afford to get sick in the next week, not when we will be seeing my GA family for the first time since Thanksgiving 2013.

Plus, I just got done being sick for 3-4 weeks. Not looking for round #2 so soon.

6. SP's work holiday party was last weekend at the History Center. The first hour was a cocktail & appetizer hour and I have to say, the snacks were yummy! Little pierogie, dips on crackers shaped like spoons, mini egg rolls, veggies and dip, lots of cheeses, bacon wrapped scallops. At one point, SP went off to socialize and I stayed at a table off to the side, which turned out to be near where the treats were coming out. I ate a lot of pierogie and cheese.
We also got to tour the history center and I finally got to see the steamboat exhibit I've been wanting to see. Very interesting. And that 100+ year old jar of pickles! So cool!
There was more food for the other 3 hours - sushi and pastas and salads and I can't even remember what else plus dessert and coffee/tea. One of those nights where you end up eating a lot of food because you keep grazing!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BRGR, Revisited

This past weekend, we met a friend for dinner at BRGR at the Galleria. It was my second time there (first visit post here) but first time for everyone else.

I still really like BRGR. Going for dinner now that it has been open a few weeks was a lot different than lunch with my mom after just 1-2 weeks open. It was a lot more crowded for dinner. We used No Wait. We put our name on the list around 5 pm and had a 70 minute wait! Also, there were a lot of children. Way more than I am used to when dining out.

That being said, we all enjoyed our food and since we ordered different dishes than on my previous visit, I figured I'd write about them. No photos, though. I had only my cell phone and the lighting was pretty dim.

Appetizers:

Grilled Cheese Bites: provolone, applewood smoked bacon, truffle aioli, tomatoes, pickle chips on grilled Texas toast served with a side of tomato fondue. Oh my. Theses are delicious. It's a smallish grilled cheese sandwich cut into four triangles which are then stacked and skewered before being placed on a plate with a ramekin of tomato fondue. We got the aioli on the side. Definitely an order again appetizer.

Fried Zucchini & Portobello Mushrooms: served with smoked tomato aioli. These were good, but not the best fried zucchini I've ever enjoyed. My heart belongs to the fried zucchini at Downey's House. SP & I ended up dipping ours in the tomato fondue from the grilled cheese bites. The smoked tomato aioli was a tad spicy for me.

Meals:

I created my own grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, mushrooms, cheddar, and caramelized onions on brioche. I love caramelized onions. Salty and sweet and soft and just... oh so good. I wish we could make them at home but every time we've tried, we get them too dark in spots and not a uniform, soft, caramelized color.

SP created a bunless salmon burger with bacon and caramelized onions and I forget what else and really liked it.

Friend had the Fire in the Hole burger (jalapenos, guacamole, pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli, sriracha). He liked it, but said it was spicier than he expected. He drank a lot of water and ended up leaving behind 2 of the jalapenos!

Dessert:

SP & I shared a spiked Salty Caramel Shake: bourbon, caramel sauce, sea salt, vanilla bean. It was good, but a little bit sweet for me. Our server was nice enough to split it into 2 cups for us.

Friend had a Root Beer Float, which he enjoyed.

Our server was friendly, didn't rush us even though there was a long wait, took the initiative to split our shake for us. We found our food yummy. We're glad they use No Wait because at least 20 minutes of the wait was spent driving to the Galleria. And it's nice that they're in a mall because during the rest of the wait, we were able to wander through stores and also sit on some mall couches to pass the time.

  BRGR on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 15, 2014

Apple Pie

Mid-December is not really pie time, it's cookie time, but I discovered this post in my drafts folder. It's from Thanksgiving: Apple Pie. This pie is worth writing about - it's delicious. It's as good as, maybe better than, the peach pie we make every year around Labor Day. But a bit easier - no lattice crust!
This was our second year making apple pie for Thanksgiving. For me, apple pie is so much tastier and so much more satisfying than pumpkin pie. Just like last year, we followed the recipe in Baking Illustrated.
We followed the entire recipe in Baking Illustrated this year - not just for the filling. We made the crust recipe as well. Last year we used the flaky, pastry crust recipe from Joy of Cooking. It's an excellent crust recipe, but this one just might be better.
Look at that crust! The structural integrity! Even when the apples came cascading out, that top crust stayed put! It was a thicker crust than the crust we get out of the Joy of Cooking recipe. I love crust, so that's a big plus for me. But they are very similar recipes. They both use butter & shortening.
The apples are a mix of Granny Smith and McIntosh. They're mixed with lemon juice & zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
I sort of wish the apple pie had been a miserable disaster. It's so good that now we are forever stuck making two pies at Thanksgiving. But that's OK. It's totally worth it.

Recipe can be found here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. I've had a cold for 3.5 weeks. I am finally starting to be less congested in my nose. I'm using fewer tissues each day, but still more than usual. I am hoping this is my cold for the winter season, but something tells me I'll have at least one more 3-4 week long sickness before spring.

2. Our two dinner meals this week:
  • breaded pork chops, mustard roasted potatoes, and steamed green beans 
  • scrambled eggs with ham and colby cheese on toasted English muffins
3. Last weekend we started the Holiday Cookie Baking! We made my mom's favorite: Chocolate Dipped Crescents. SP & I sampled a few, I gave a dozen or so to mom, and the rest are in the freezer. These freeze well, so I'm OK making them early.

4. Tonight is the finale of Gracepoint. The people behind the show keep saying the killer will be different from the killer in the original (Broadchurch) but so far, everything has been exactly the same, so I'm doubting the killer will be different. I am wondering if I will cry like I did at the end of Broadchurch.

5. We've been watching The Newsroom and this Sunday is the final episode. I'll be sad to see it end. I always like Aaron Sorkin shows - I love his rapid-fire dialogue and that he doesn't dumb things down. However, I do feel as if this final 6 episode season has been not as good as the previous ones.

6. We continue to feel a bit guilty at laughing at Getting On. Some of the stuff they say/do... Maybe we'll finally be able to finish OITNB since we're caught up on our shows - even The Walking Dead which usually ends up stacked up and waiting for a holiday week binge. Plus, most shows are done with new episodes for a while.

7. We're looking forward to winter TV - Downton Abbey, Justified, The Americans. I can't wait to see how it ends for Raylan & Boyd!

8. This weekend and next week will involve lots of baking. I don't think we'll make as many cookies as usual, but I do have a list and we'll work our way through it. If some cookies remain unbaked, well, that's that. It's supposed to be fun, not a chore.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cucumber Crab Appetizers

My mom made this appetizer for Thanksgiving, but it'd be great at any holiday, or in the summer at a picnic. It's very simple and tasty. Cucumber Rounds Topped with Crab Salad. That's what I'm going to call these. She didn't follow a recipe, and really, you don't have to. You can make any kind of crab salad you like and plop a spoonful on top a cucumber round. Crunchy, crabby - yum!
Basic idea:

Use a regular, fat cucumber, not a skinny English cucumber. Wash it. You can peel it if you want. You can peel stripes if you want. Or leave it be. Slice it into rounds. Not too thick because you don't want too much cucumber crunch in each bite, but not too thin because you don't want it so thin that when you pick the round up it droops and spills your crab onto your lap.

Make your desired crab salad. Use any kind of crab you like. Small cans of tiny crab, lumps of jumbo crab, whatever. Add whatever seasoning you like. Mom kept it simple with a little mayo, salt & pepper, a tiny bit of very finely chopped shallot, and a squeeze of lemon. Mom forgot the chives. I'd add some lemon zest. You could add some celery, but again, very, very finely diced. You don't want huge chunks.

Dollop the crab salad on top each round and enjoy.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Braddock's Pittsburgh Brasserie

A couple of weeks ago, we finally checked out Braddock's in the Renaissance Hotel. Our reservations were for 5 pm after we saw Newsies, which was a fantastic show. We were seated right away and were able to peek out at the windows area at the wedding in the lobby area.
I ordered a Braddock's Smash (Maker's Mark, fresh sours, seasonal berries, bitters) and SP had a Sazerac (Templeton Rye, simple syrup, bitters, absinthe). I don't care for Sazerac cocktails but SP really likes them. I really enjoyed my Smash. It had a nice berry flavor and a tiny hint of sour flavor.
Warm, crusty bread served with butter with salt on top. We must have been hungry because we quickly devoured the bread.
We shared the Beet & Goat Cheese Salad (fried goat cheese, pistachios, roasted beets, seasonal greens, sherry-shallot vinaigrette). Our server offered to split the salad onto two plates for us, which was nice & much appreciated. The fried goat cheese was yummy if a bit more crumbly than other fried goat cheese I have eaten. Crisp greens, just enough vinaigrette. I thought the roasted beet would be mixed in with the greens but it was actually thin slices of roasted beet under the greens. It was a bit too much beet for me, but then again, I'm not a huge roasted beet fan. SP likes them and enjoyed this presentation.
We also shared Braised Short Rib Pierogies (creamed leeks). The creamed leeks are under the 3 huge pierogie.
These were so darn delicious. Huge, homemade pierogie filled with tender shredded short rib. My favorite part of the meal.
SP ordered Roasted Tomato Bisque (bacon lardons, basil oil). This was a very tasty tomato soup and the bacon lardons added a nice, unusual flavor, in my opinion, since I do not think we've ever had a tomato soup with a bacon garnish.
Another shared dish: Bacon Wrapped Shrimp & Grits. OK, this might have been even more delicious than the pierogies. It's hard to choose! Three huge shrimp wrapped with bacon in a BBQ sauce with cheesy grits. I'm pretty sure the grits had a bit of bacon flavor, too - there was something in the grits that kept us eating and eating and eating and then we had a spoon war over the final scoops.
Our grits are in a separate jar because the chef said there was some garlic in them and they were being very, very careful of garlic after I asked about it in a couple of dishes. The grits passed my sight, smell, and taste tests, which means there wasn't enough to bother my stomach, just enough to add some flavor. I have had overly-garlicked grits in the past, which is why I asked.
For his entree, SP chose Seared Scallops (roasted red pepper polenta and sweet corn puree). Four large scallops, nicely seared, atop the polenta with corn puree on the side. His comment was 'yum' and he quickly ate it all.
For my entree, I chose a small portion of Lobster Gnocchi (peas, asparagus, parmesan cream sauce). The chef made it without garlic. Truthfully, by this point, I was not very hungry. The gnocchi were delicious. The cream sauce, my gosh, so rich and buttery and cheesy and decadent. The lobster was real lobster and there was a generous portion of it. It was good if a tad over cooked for my taste (I found it a wee bit chewy). I was only able to eat half of my half order. I took the rest home and while the leftovers were good, it didn't re-heat especially well (I removed the lobster and re-heated the sauce and gnocchi for about 10 minutes).

We did not have room for dessert. Plus, it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, so we had lots of pumpkin pie and apple pie at home.

Our server was terrific. He and the chef did an excellent job of checking on garlic and checking with me. We enjoyed all of our food, in particular the pierogies and shrimp & grits. I liked the atmosphere and the tables were nicely spaced. By the time we left, the restaurant had filled up but we didn't notice any increase in noise level from when we arrived nor did we have to squeeze between people to leave.

It's definitely a pricier place, but it was worth it. We'll definitely be back.

Braddock's American Brasserie on Urbanspoon