Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

This past weekend we made pierogies! We make them once a year and usually end up with about 9 dozen.
This past weekend we also celebrated SP's birthday with his family. Birthday dinner was at Cafe Io. This weekend is his actual birthday. We have celebratory plans for both days so it'll be a busy birthday weekend.
Meals This Week:
Grilled leg of lamb, pierogies, salad, roasted cauliflower
Dessert: Raspberry Shortbread Bars
What We're Watching:

  • Not sure if I mentioned it before, but we decided to stop watching The Walking Dead. We are very close to giving up on 24: Legacy, too. And Quantico. When the last episode of Quantico ended this week, we looked at each other in disbelief. Neither of us can figure out what is going on, who is the AIC/CLF, who is bad/good, whatever. So. Lost.
  • We started watching Big Little Lies on HBO. I'll be curious to see how it progresses and what SP anticipates/figures out. I feel a little like it has been spoiled for me because I read the book, so I know who dies and how plus the "big little lies." 
  • This Is Us. Oh how I wish I could quit you. Every week you make me cry and I hate crying but I can't quit you because you are just so darn good. I cried almost the entire episode this week because I knew what was coming. 

Movies:

  • A couple weeks ago, we went to see Hidden Figures. Excellent. See it.
  • Monday afternoon we watched Arrival. Also excellent. See it.
  • Not excellent? That would be The Girl on the Train. I enjoyed the book but the movie? Boring. I didn't feel like they developed the characters very much. Also, the slow reveals and realizations by Rachel & Anna didn't seem particularly realized & revelatory. Read the book. Don't bother with the movie.

Reading:

  • I finished A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I really liked it. I enjoyed the verbal excess, the digressions, and I gasped aloud at the end because I thought I knew the Count's fate but turns out I got it wrong. That's a good thing.
  • I started Towles' first novel Rules of Civility. My library pile is overwhelming me right now. I have 3 books and 1 week to read them all. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Tuesday was Valentine's Day. It was so romantic. I spent the entire day home alone in my sweatpants while SP went to work and then the hockey game with his brother. He did send me roses, though, so that was quite nice.

Meals This Week:

  • Roast chicken with sausage stuffing & green beans
  • 20 Minute Homemade Macaroni & Cheese (from the latest Cook's Illustrated)
  • Dessert: We baked Cappuccino Biscotti

What We're Watching:

  • Still enjoying Taboo though it's definitely strange at times.
  • Still enjoying Victoria on PBS.
  • The Americans comes back in March and The Feud starts in March on FX. We're looking forward to both.
  • Last week I watched Deepwater Horizon, which was less of an action movie than I expected but also less of a serious movie than I would have liked.
  • We watched Snowden and while we enjoyed the movie for what it is, it's very clear which side of the patriotic whistleblower or traitor side the film-makers come down on. I would have liked a more balanced approach to telling Snowden's story.  
  • I watched Hell Or High Water and enjoyed it. I liked the story, the shots of west Texas, rooting for the bank robber brothers to outwit the law. I didn't recognize Chris Pine at first and Jeff Bridges was his usual terrific self as the grizzled, old, about-to-retire lawman. It's more than just a simple western-bank robber-action flick. 

What I've Been Reading:
Some magazines and I started A Gentleman in Moscow. I'm not very far along but so far, I'm really enjoying the writing. It's rich and satisfying and charming.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sienna on the Square

Last weekend we met friends at Sienna on the Square in Market Square. We've dined at SotS several times and every time we've had a tasty meal with great service. Here's what we ate this time:
Calamari (lemon, smoked arrabiata). This was the first time we've tried the calamari at SotS. I love calamari when it's done right. My idea of "right" calamari is a light breading, non-rubbery calamari, a little seasoning, and a dipping sauce. It's not good when there is too much breading, or greasy breading, or the calamari turns tough/rubbery/too chewy. This was delicious calamari. I ate the ones from the top of the pile since we figured the sauce was a little spicy. I did have a bit of the arrabiata and it didn't taste too spicy, but then again, I just had a wee bit of it.
Stracciatella at SotS always makes me happy. Add some mosto cotto, arugula, and toasted bread and I'm even happier.
SP ordered the Duck entree. I think the dish also had charred root vegetables, shallot, creamy polenta, rosemary jus. His duck was a nice medium pink and he said it was, as usual, delicious.
If SotS has a short rib dish, I usually order that (there used to be a short ribs with mac & cheese and one time I had a super yummy short rib cannelloni). If there's no short rib, I order Meatball & Ricotta Flatbread (tomato sauce, provonello, basil) because I love the tomato sauce (it reminds me of my mom's sauce) and because these meatball slices are maybe the best meatballs I've ever had. Sometimes I'm glad when the choice is easy because when I have to choose between a short rib dish and this flatbread it's a tough decision.
On one of our visits there were donuts for dessert but not this time. I was a little sad but this Chocolate Cake made up for the lack of donuts! It was light and moist cake, chocolaty, and a yummy hazelnut smear next to it.

As always, a satisfying & delicious meal.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we tried making Espresso Shortbread Cookies. Total failure. I have no idea how this makes 20 cookies. The 15 we managed to eke out tasted like dry cardboard & paste. We each ate about half a cookie and we pitched the rest. They were so bad we didn't even think for a second of pawning them off on co-workers.  I have no idea how a major food magazine published such an awful recipe. Definitely a Never Ever Make Again recipe.

Meals This Week:

  • Breaded chicken chunks, multi-grain bread, steamed broccoli
  • Sloppy Joes on multi-grain bread, steamed broccoli
  • Thanks to the espresso shortbread failure, dessert is M&M's or popcorn, whatever we find in the house

What We're Watching:

  • We watched the first episode of Six on History and like it enough to keep watching the episodes piling up on the DVR.
  • We also started watching 24: Legacy. I always enjoyed the original 24 and Jack Bauer's exploits, even if it was unrealistic at times, silly at times, and just ridiculous at times. This is more of the same.
  • I watched Pete's Dragon. It was cute. I cried. 
  • I have many more questions for Quantico. I think the show has lost me. I have no idea who the good/bad guys are or what's going on or why and I guess I'm not supposed to know yet but instead of feeling like a mystery is slowly unspooling for my enjoyment I feel like I'm being trapped and befuddled by a way too complicated while also being too simplistic story. Make sense? Neither does the show.

What I'm Reading:
I read Order to Kill. I still enjoy the Mitch Rapp series but I miss Vince Flynn. Mills is fine but somehow, it seems a bit different. I do not really like when an author passes away and another takes over the character/series. The first post-Flynn novel seemed pretty good and close to Flynn but this second one just seemed "not quite right."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Farro with Mushrooms & Pancetta

Quite some time ago (maybe a year ago, or more) SP came home with a small bag of farro. I've always liked farro when I've eaten it out at restaurants, but I had never made it at home. Neither had he. And for a year, we didn't. But then I saw a David Lebovitz post for Farro with Mushrooms & Bacon. I remembered the bag of farro, lost in a cupboard. I suggested this recipe to SP and he agreed we should try it.
While he chopped the 1/3 lb pancetta (our choice instead of bacon) I chopped onions and cremini mushrooms.
 As usual it was a giant Costco package of mushrooms, so we used 24 oz instead of 12 oz.
Browning the pancetta fills the house with a delicious smell. Add onions and rosemary and then the mushrooms:
Stir in farro, wine, and chicken stock. We used 1/2 lb farro.
 Cover & simmer until done, stirring occasionally.
We omitted the dried porcini because while I like mushrooms, I don't like too much earthy mushroom flavor. Since we omitted the porcini and their soaking liquid, we increased the stock to 3 cups and that seemed to work just fine. For reheating, I  reheated it in a covered casserole in the oven at 350 for at least 30 minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure it thoroughly heated.
This was really tasty. Creamy, nutty farro, the bite of parmesan, earthy mushrooms, salty pancetta. We both really liked this dish. I guess we need to actually buy farro now so we can make this again. We ate roasted cauliflower on the side but I think a small salad might be nicer with the creamy farro.

David Lebovitz's Recipe here.

Our ingredient adjustments:
no dried porcini
olive oil
1/3 lb pancetta, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
no garlic
scant 1 tsp dried rosemary
24 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 lb farro
3/4 cup white wine (we used a pinot grigio)
3 cups low sodium organic chicken stock
1 cup grated Parmesan

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

It seems like recently cauliflower has become a popular vegetable in the food world. In particular, I've seen a lot of cauliflower crust pizza recipes. I wasn't really sold on the idea. I'm not one for fake meat or fake pasta (I mean, come on, spiralized zucchini in a marina sauce does not taste just like spaghetti, as I've seen some claim) and this seemed like fake pizza. But we were watching Worst Cooks in America and for their challenge, Anne Burrell's team had to make a Cauliflower Crust Pizza. SP was intrigued. We both like cauliflower. So we decided to try it.
We used Chef Anne's cauliflower crust recipe but chose different toppings (not that merguez, goat cheese, and kalamata didn't sound yummy). We bought 2 bags of cauliflower florets at Costco but used only 1 bag and got 2 pizzas. Above is the pulsed cauliflower after wringing it out.
Add some cheese, eggs, and pepper to the cauliflower to make the crust dough and then form it into a 1/4 inch thick pizza round.
We happen to have both a pizza stone and a paddle. Are these necessary for success? No. You could plop the crust on parchment onto a cookie sheet and slide it in the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes. If you are eating the pizza right away, take it out, add sauce/toppings, and then finish baking. We were making the crusts for later in the week, so we baked them 20 minutes to make sure they were cooked (eggs), let them cool, and then wrapped them in plastic and put them in the refrigerator.
When it came time to make our pizza, we topped it with roasted tomatoes, Italian sausage, mozzarella, kalamata, and spiralized zucchini.
It was delicious. The crust was a little egg-like/spongy and had good cheese & cauliflower flavor. You can use any topping/sauce you want, or no sauce like us (the roasted tomatoes were squashy and liquid-y so they were kind of like a sauce). Next time I might add a little grated onion to the crust (we omitted the garlic but didn't substitute anything).
Definitely a make again fake pizza.

Official recipe here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Happy Groundhog Day!

Last weekend we stopped by La Gourmandine in Mt. Lebanon and picked up some treats. Yum! The apple tart was good but what we really liked were the chouquette.

We lost power Tuesday evening for 1.5 hours. Kind of annoying. That's the second time this month (the last time it was out 4 hours) and the 3rd or 4th time since last August. Every time it's because an overgrown tree/shrub/vine fell on the power line. Which makes me wonder who the heck is responsible for the woodsy stuff along the roads and why they or the power company aren't required/don't make more of an effort to trim them back from the lines since it's becoming a more frequent issue.

Meals This Week:

  • Farro with Mushrooms & Pancetta
  • Cauliflower Pizza
  • Dessert has been Chex Mix or M&M's

What We're Watching:

  • We finally watched the first 4 episodes of Taboo that were on the DVR. I really like Tom Hardy and I'm enjoying the show but it can be a little weird, and a little slow paced, but overall, it manages to suck us in. Especially me (Tom Hardy!). Looking forward to the next 4 episodes (it's an 8 episode series on FX, Tuesdays at 10 pm).
  • I very much enjoyed the return of my Thursday night shows, although HTGAWM is a bit of a drag with Annalise in jail.

What I'm Reading:

  • I read Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra. I really enjoyed this book. It held my interest and it was a quick read. It's about the disappearance of 16 year old Rebecca. Her disappearance is never solved and then eleven years later she is replaced by a young woman who, desperate to be set free after being arrested, claims to be the missing girl. Soon she is "reunited" with Rebecca's family and living her life but the welcoming. happy family and friends are not quite as they seem. As "impostor Rebecca" dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the "real Rebecca" and soon realizes that she is in imminent danger from the same dangers "real Rebecca" faced. 
  • I also read The Secrets of Wishtide, which is set in 1850 London and features a 52 year old widow investigating a murder. I enjoyed it a lot and am looking forward to the next Laetitia Rodd book.