Monday, September 25, 2017

Maine Trip

Portland Head Light, Maine
We've been back from vacation for a week and I'm still struggling to go through all the photos. Probably because I got sick while on vacation and I'm still fighting it. All I want to do is nap! It's Day 10 of this evil cold and happily, I'm not quite as snotty as I was. Just a lot of throat clearing.
Canobie Lake Park
We decided to go to Maine. As we researched driving times, flights, etc., plans changed and the trip grew in length. We ended up flying into Boston and renting a car, driving first to Portsmouth, NH. Our first vacation day was spent at Canobie Lake Park, where SP got to ride several new-to-him roller coasters and I got to eat fried dough. Win-win (except for that part where he left me near the stage and a twangy country band came on to play and I was going crazy and couldn't move myself because I was on a hill and I didn't trust myself to not roll myself into people, or a tree, or something worse).
The next day we took a walking tour of Portsmouth with Discover Portsmouth. Our guide was Linda and she was terrific. It was obvious she loves her town, we learned a lot, and our tour flew by. One of our stops on the tour was the African Burying Ground Memorial. I'm not going to write all about the memorial, but it was sad yet heart-warming, bittersweet.
I think North Church was our last stop. Such a beautiful church, and to me, what I think of when I think New England Church. It's in the middle, in Market Square, so we saw it a lot as we wandered through shops & checked out restaurants.
Of course there was lots of food, including a meal outside along the river near the tugboats.
Bug Light
From Portsmouth, we drove north along Route 1 to Cape Elizabeth, Portland Head Light, and Bug Light, and had our first lobster roll from a lobster roll truck at Fort Williams Park.
Boats on Casco Bay
We stopped in Portland, Maine for a day or so. It's a beautiful city, though I did have my issues with cobblestone streets and shops that weren't wheelchair accessible. We checked out the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and took a train ride along Casco Bay then climbed the hill (well, SP climbed & pushed me, I just enjoyed the ride) to the Portland Observatory where SP climbed to the top and enjoyed the view. And yes, there was more lobster eating in Portland.
View from atop Mt. Cadillac
Next up was driving to Bar Harbor, Maine. SP had never been to Bar Harbor. My parents took us on a family trip there when I was 4 years old - back when we had the green truck and the camper and camped a lot. I don't remember much from that trip, just a few memories of crashing waves and rocks and my brother getting his thumb smashed in the camper door. Fortunately, I have the photos. In 1999 my mom & I took a trip back to Bar Harbor. We found our old campground! I love Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park. I was so excited to go back this time.
I am so happy that SP loved this part of Maine, too. Acadia is a beautiful national park. We were fortunate to be able to drive up Mt. Cadillac and not have fog blocking our view. We spent quite some time driving the 27 mile loop road, just pulling over and staring at gorgeous scenery.
We both also love Bar Harbor. Lots of shops to stroll through, a shore path to walk along, restaurants to enjoy, water & boats to gaze at.
 And a beautiful sunset to see.
I think a lot of people might overlook the part of Acadia that is across Frenchman Bay, across from Bar Harbor. It's the Schoodic Peninsula and it's stunning.
In some ways, it's more stunning than the Mount Desert Island part of Acadia.The Schoodic shoreline consists of exposed and weathered red granite that varies from 10 to 100 feet in width from ocean to the beginning of plants. This part of the Atlantic Ocean is the first ocean I saw in my life and it's why I always think of the Atlantic as rugged and dangerous, pounding surf, and scary while I think of the Pacific as calm, smooth, soothing. I remember being 4 years old, in Maine, on these rocks, and being warned to sit my butt down and not move closer, not move at all, because the rocks are rugged and slippery and the waves pounding and dangerous yet beautiful. I could sit here for days, just watching.
There is also calm water along the Schoodic loop.

After a few days in Bar Harbor/Acadia (and more lobster), we drove back to Portsmouth, NH for a night and then spent a morning walking around in some mist-drizzle stuff. I felt very much like a non-hardy New Englander. I was chilly, I wanted my raincoat, I wanted to use the umbrella, but no one else was using an umbrella/hat/coat. Then we drove to Boston and after an hour delay, flew home.
I can't wait to go back. I love Maine.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

This past Monday, we returned from a trip to NH and ME. It was a terrific trip, much warmer and sunnier than we expected, lots of lobster and other delicious food. Unfortunately, I caught a cold last Friday and have been sick ever since. We had to buy a lot of over-priced cold medicine and cough drops. I'm getting annoyed with having this cold. All I want to do is sleep.

We're slowly getting back to normal. Tuesday was lawn mowing, 6-7 loads of laundry, going through all the mail. Post vacation stuff.

I set up some blog posts before we left for vacation, including yesterday's post, and I laughed when I read it. Before we left for vacation, it was getting chilly here, but ever since we came home, it's been in the mid to high 80's and that's forecast to continue through early next week. So not really chillier weather, even if tomorrow is the first day of fall, so not really braising and casserole weather.

What We're Eating:
  • A huge batch of Chicken Noodle Soup. Every night.
What We're Watching:
  • We watched a bunch of Food Network shows that recorded while we were gone.
  • We watched the first episode of The Deuce on HBO and so far, so good, so tonight we'll watch the second episode and then be caught up for this Sunday's new episode.
  • "Regular Season TV" starts tonight with the premiere of Gotham and then next week the usual shows start their new seasons. I'm not ready! There's still too much on the DVR!
What I'm Reading:
Nothing this week. I've been napping in the afternoons. I have 3 library books and 5 magazines to read, so hopefully the coughing and snotting will end soon. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Braised Beef Short Ribs

It's getting cooler here which means we're moving from a lot of grilling outside to braising inside. Like these Braised Short Ribs, which we made quite some time ago. The recipe is from Cover & Bake, but we didn't make the Bacon, Parsnip, and Pearl Onion Garnish.
Beautiful short ribs, before and after browning.
These don't brown in the Dutch oven on the stove top. Instead, they are browned in a roasting pan in the oven for quite some time. Then the roasting pan is deglazed with the red wine.
The short ribs after much browning in the roasting pan:
Finally, the Dutch oven part! Sauteing the carrots, celery, onions, adding the flour, stirring in the wine plus chicken stock, tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, tomatoes, tomato paste.
The braising liquid:
The short ribs, after they braised in the oven for 2-2.5 hours:
So tender - the meat meat cleanly pulled away from the bones.
We pulled the meat from the bones, mixed it into the sauce, kept the braising veggies in the sauce, and served it atop rice. A little different from the official recipe, but just as tasty.
This meal is definitely time consuming, but it doesn't involve a lot of active time. I think if I add up all the cooking times listed in the recipe, it's 4 hours, plus the ingredient prep and making the braising sauce (which can be done while the ribs are browning in the oven).

It's worth the effort and time. Delicious comfort food on fall and winter nights.

Recipe here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Scalloped Potatoes

We make these Weekday Scalloped Potatoes from Cover & Bake a few times a year during the colder months. They're easy and yummy - the best scalloped potatoes ever, in my opinion.
The hard part is peeling and slicing all the potatoes. A food processor helps with the slicing part.
Everything is cooked in a pot before being dumped into a baking dish. There's no flour because the starch from the potatoes naturally thickens the sauce as everything simmers in the pot. Using as much chicken stock as heavy cream lightens the sauce up a bit. The thyme and bay leaves help spruce up the sauce.
After dumping the potatoes and sauce in a baking dish, the cheddar cheese is sprinkled on top and it goes in the oven for 20-30 minutes. 
They're not too cheesy, just right. Lots of flavor from the chicken stock and the thyme.
Easy. Yummy. And it makes a lot - for the two of us, it's one of our sides for 4-5 meals. These reheat nicely.

Recipe here.
*as always, we omit the garlic
*sometimes we used dried instead of fresh thyme

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chicken Saltimbocca Panini

This summer our herbs did not do as well as in previous years. Except for the sage, everything looked sad. Not bright green, not growing like gangbusters. The sage was bonkers. Huge and green and happy. So one week, for a quick dinner, we made Chicken Saltimbocca Panini.
We cooked the chicken on Sunday to make sandwich night even easier & faster. Take a ciabatta roll (or torta roll), layer on sliced chicken, prosciutto, chopped fresh sage, and fontina. Cook in panini press. We don't have a panini press, so we dug out my ancient George Foreman, which works in a pinch. You can also use a skillet and plop a cast iron pan on top the sandwich, then flip to do the other side. These were yummy! Saltimbocca has become one of our favorite flavor combinations so hopefully, the sage will survive inside over winter.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

My thoughts are not in Pittsburgh. They're not even in 2017.
They're all the way back in 1974.
Back when I was a wee little girl, and my grandma was alive, and we had the big green truck and the camper.
And also back in 1999, when I revisited some of my 1974 adventures.

More on these adventures to come.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pike Place Market

Last September, we visited Seattle. It was a wonderful trip. I've been thinking a lot about it lately, especially since I had some unfinished posts from our trips to Pike Place Market sitting in the draft folder. Whoops. Since it's been a year, the details are a little fuzzy, but I decided to finally share the photos and hopefully I'll be able to remember what each photo is! We had a lot of fun wandering through the market, up and down into the different levels and getting lost at times. Fortunately, it was within walking distance from our hotel, so we were there nearly everyday, just to explore a little more, or pick up a breakfast treat.
Rachel the Piggy Bank is the mascot of Pike Place Market. She has been “bringing home the bacon” for The Market Foundation since 1986, raising more than $200,000 and counting, to support social services in Pike Place Market.
You can't go to Pike Place Market and not stop by the original Starbucks. For us, "stop by" meant we walked past a lot but never went in. Why? Long lines and neither of us likes coffee that much (although we both really like their iced tea). Plus, walk 1-2 blocks in any direction and you can find a less busy Starbucks.
So many beautiful flowers, including one of my favorites, the sunflower.
The second bronze pig, Billie.
We stopped in twice for a ginger beer. It was always not the right time for a cocktail (for us) though we would have liked to try one (or two). 
I think we tried Cucumber-Tarragon. It was yummy and gingery.
The second time we tried (I think) Blood Orange Ginger Beer:
 There's a crepe place (Crepe de France) so we had a crepe snack:
Ham & Cheese. Yum.
We walked past Beecher's Cheese a lot and always stopped to watch:
A pickled goodies place:
Britt's Pickles. Pickles, kraut, kimchi and more!
And fish. So much fish.
And other seafood delights:
Yum. Lobster:
I didn't eat lobster in Seattle, but I did eat lots of this:
And yes, Pike Place has the Flying Fish place, where fish did fly, but you have to be there just at the right time and stand in a huge crowd of tourists gawking and trying to film to fish flying and honestly, it's pretty annoying! I didn't get a video. Or a photo.
This one wanted to escape.
Lots of seafood. Lots of fruits and veggies:
There were foods I'd not heard of, like rambutans. It's an edible fruit produced by a medium-sized tropical tree and is related to several other edible tropical fruits including the lychee.   
Of course we had to sample some Piroshky Piroshky treats. 
Like a huge Potato & Cheese Piroshky:
 Blurry cell phone photo, but the interior of the piroshky:
I think this was an Apple-Cinnamon roll, which we took back to the hotel for snacking.
Looking through the glass at Cinnamon Cardamom Braids:
 Following the Pig's Feet:
I don't know where the other photos are but we enjoyed other things, too. I fell in love with the MarketSpice Cinnamon-Orange Tea. I really, really like it, so much so that last year for a holiday gift SP ordered me some from the Seattle store. There's a bakery, Cinnamon Works, where I bought and enjoyed an enormous snickerdoodle that was one of the best bakery cookies I've ever eaten.

While we sampled a lot, there's still a lot we didn't sample. I guess we need to go back?