Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1. The Night Manager ended this week. What a great 6 episode series! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the outcome of Pine versus Roper.

2. Game of Thrones made me cry. SP caught on before me. I was too busy trying to understand the time travel/warg stuff while watching and then suddenly I got it and I gasped and said NOOOOOOOOO. And then when the episode ended, I cried.

3. Last Saturday we ended up eating at Bakn. I enjoyed my usual Breakfast Sandwich #1. SP had Salmon Frittata. We shared a salad. I really, really like their roasted tomatoes.

4. Our outdoor grasses/shrubs, etc., looked nice for about a week and now they're growing wildly out of control and my parents are back to calling our yard The Jungle. The grass is pretty high, too. So yard work is a very high priority this weekend, probably #1 priority. Plus planting pretty flowers and transplanting herbs and veggies. Lots of rain + warmer weather = lots of weeds and growth.

5. Last night SP got our new front bench put together. I'm pretty sure it looks nice on the front patio. I only saw it briefly last night in the dark. Hopefully this one holds up better than the previous one.

6. We also bought a patio table umbrella. Finally. We'll see how much it helps with the annoying sun on Sunday when we have friends over for a cookout. We should have just bought it when we bought the table and chairs 8 years ago, but... Better late than never, I suppose.

7. In addition to tons of errands and yard work and hosting a cookout, we have SP's dad's birthday dinner this weekend. SP told his mom 5 pm would be best but we might be able to be there at 4:30. So she made the reservation for 4:30 - ? Um, OK. Are they all just going to sit there for half an hour? Order and eat without us? She has a history of being ridiculously early for things. We suspect she'll be there by 4 pm. So if we said we probably cannot be there until 5 and she shows up at 4, are they just going to hog a table for 5-8 people for an hour, sipping beverages?

A couple weekends ago, for her belated Mother's Day dinner (we are alternating which mom gets the actual holiday), she chose a Chinese place. I cannot eat Chinese - no matter what I order, I end up feeling queasy and sick in my stomach. I don't even like the dumplings at the place she chose. So SP told her that and asked if she would consider changing the restaurant. She said no. Um, thanks a lot. Basically, my MIL just said she didn't care if I could eat at the place or not and if I couldn't, then just don't come. OK. Way to make us feel like we are wanted and cared about.

8. MIL also blabbed to everyone except SP about Z buying a house. ? Why are we not kept in the loop? What have we done lately to be ostracized from the family? I don't get it. I also don't get why Z hasn't told her siblings she and S bought a house - though she did supposedly put it on Facebook this week. I guess that's what you do now, share big news with family on Facebook instead of phone calls or emails? Kind of big news, right, buying your first house? Am I crazy for thinking you might email your parents/siblings about big news before tossing it into a Facebook feed for casual friends and acquaintances to see as well?

But perhaps it's just us. Perhaps, they, too, like MIL, have issues with us and are cutting us out. Ever since they moved to MD they have not remembered our birthdays. I can understand forgetting mine, I'm just a lowly in-law, but not sending her oldest brother a card, no text, no email, no phone call, nothing? They always get cards from us, but I guess remembering our birthdays isn't important. Even though I've been beaten over the head by MIL about how they are such a close and loving family that I tried to break up and ruin by stealing SP away. Uh huh. At least I remember birthdays with cards and attend birthday dinners.

9. So basically we feel left out of the family. It's pretty clear they don't care to share things with us and don't care anymore if we're around. When MIL started planning Z's baby shower last February, she told everyone the June date to save it. Turns out we are busy the day of the shower. We bought tickets to a show over a year ago (in Feb 2015). So basically by not checking before picking a date and then by not changing the date after we told them 4 months in advance that we couldn't make it (nothing was reserved yet, no deposits made yet), I guess they didn't care if we were able to go or not? But of course I am sure we are expected to send a lovely baby shower gift.

10. Our almost year old a/c is working great! Yes, it's running. Our house seems to easily & quickly heat up. The last couple of days it's been 76-78 inside.

11. Happy 3 day weekend!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Espresso Chip Madeleines

Sometimes I check out cookbooks from the library, just to see if I like them enough to buy them. Recently I checked out Madeleines: Elegant French Tea Cakes to Bake and Share by Barbara Feldman Morse. There are a lot of yummy sounding madeleine recipes. We decided to try the Espresso Chip Madeleines.
Like our usual madeleines, they were easy to make. We made them one evening after dinner.
We had a fresh jar of espresso powder to make the "espresso paste" (which was more like a liquid than paste).
After our bundt cake sticking issue, SP bought a can of Pam with flour and used it to grease & flour the madeleine pans. Much as I dislike greasing every nook and cranny of bunt pans and madeleine pans, I'm just not sure about this cooking spray with flour. Something about it makes me all "eewww yuck." But it's much easier and less time consuming.
Our madeleine molds were filled quite high, higher than normal, and we still didn't use all the batter. They smelled delicious as they baked.
They didn't develop the hump that madeleines are supposed to have and the shell lines weren't quite as pronounced.
Soft coffee-chocolate madeleines. Despite these being two of my favorite flavors, these madeleines didn't blow me away. They had a great coffee flavor and the chips were a nice addition but these got sticky wet quickly.
After they cooled, I sprinkled them with powdered sugar and put them in a container. By the next morning, all the powdered sugar had been absorbed into the cookies. They were sticky wet and left cake residue on every surface they touched. I found that sticky-wet thing to be the reason I never much liked the Lemon-Almond Madeleines we used to make, so I was disappointed to discover these were the same.
These were worth trying, but I don't think we'll make them again because I didn't like the stickiness and I much prefer regular madeleines to these ones.

Recipe here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Industry Public House (North Fayette)

Going out to dinner this past Saturday was a disaster. It was drizzling, which stinks for me because rain means a wet transfer slide board which means I have a really, really difficult time getting in & out of car, usually getting "stuck" on the wet board. Also, thanks to sitting in a wheelchair, while I can wear a raincoat with hood to keep my head and upper body dry, there's not much I can do about my legs. They get very damp. Sometimes sopping. Sometimes I hold an umbrella over them, but that can be problematic, and once I tried draping a plastic rain poncho over them, but if not carefully arranged, it can catch in the wheel spokes and cause problems.

So it was very reluctantly that I agreed to leave the house Saturday for dinner. Mostly it was because SP wanted to try somewhere new to us and I thought, well, why not, I really should get out of the house. So we went to Industry Public House in North Fayette. It's in the building that used to be Don Pablo. They use the No Wait app and the app said Come On In, so we were happy because at least there wouldn't be a wait for dinner.
When we arrived, we saw the yellow caution tape. It looked like it was draped across the wheelchair access curb cuts. SP got out to investigate and sure enough, that path was blocked off. Grrr. But he swore the curb wouldn't be a problem. We do sometimes go up/down a curb but try to avoid high ones. I was not happy because the curb in front of the entrance is a high curb, and it was raining and very wet so potentially slippery, but SP got me up OK. Once inside, we waited in a short line. When it was our turn, we were told it was a 30-40 minute wait. Seriously?!! I had checked No Wait on our drive over, we live 8 minutes away, and we arrived about 5 minutes after I checked and it said Come On In. So SP & I looked at each other, then looked at them, and at the same time informed them that the app said to Come On In. The response? Oh, that isn't updating right now. ? Uh huh. But the other restaurants in the area that use the app were updating. They all showed varying wait times.

So I was super annoyed. I decided to ask why the curb cuts were blocked off. They cheerfully responded that they were making an outdoor patio.

I was wet. Annoyed for many reasons. And I snapped. Because my choices were to wait 30-40 minutes or leave, hungry, back out into the rain, go down a high curb in a wheelchair because they blocked off the curb cuts, and find somewhere else to eat. I think I may have actually looked at them and told them I was very *issed off and then I snapped at SP that we were out of there because no way were we waiting to eat at that place. So we left.

SP tweeted, with the above photo: "Not cool, @IndustryPGH - blocking off all the curb cuts?"

They replied: IndustryPGH ‏@IndustryPGH  May 21 The curb cutouts are very much accessible. The caution tape is four feet in.

That response surprised us because we had just been there.

So SP replied. The rest of the conversation:

‏From SP:  May 21 @IndustryPGH if that's the case I apologize, but the tape definitely looked to be *in front of* the curb cuts (which is why I posted a pic)

IndustryPGH ‏@IndustryPGH  May 21 we just poured fresh concrete for our new outdoor seating space. Please stop by in a few weeks and enjoy a cold craft outdoors.

‏SP: May 21 @IndustryPGH Sounds cool, but in the meantime that tape definitely does block the cuts. (photo included)

No apology, no sorry, just that the curb cuts weren't blocked because the tape was 4 feet back. Um, really? And then, perhaps, a sort of possible admission? SP & I differ there. He says maybe yes, I say no, just an explanation (fresh concrete).

Do not tweet what is not true especially something as easily verifiable as this.

After our delicious dinner at Bakn, for which we used No Wait and which had our table ready when we arrived, complete with a regular chair removed to make space for the wheelchair, we went back and took these photos.

I think they both prove that the yellow caution tape is not 4 feet back and leaving room for a wheelchair to get by. The tape is, in fact, blocking the entire front walk and both curb cuts. The only area not cordoned off is directly in front of the entrance. It was not at all wheelchair accessible. If it was someone in a wheelchair by themselves, or someone in a power wheelchair, they would not have been able to get in at all.

Between the app saying Come On In when there was really a 30-40 minute wait, the lack of accessibility, and the restaurant tweeting that we were wrong, the tape was 4 feet back (when it clearly wasn't), I'm pretty sure I never want to set foot in this place and I give them 0 stars. That might be harsh, but it does look like they could have left a pathway for a wheelchair (the concrete area that was not just poured, as you can see in the photo). A restaurant is more than just food & drinks, it's customer service, too. Service was lacking. Whether the customer is right or wrong, you offer an apologetic tone for their unhappiness, you don't attempt to shame them with incorrect information.

  Industry Public House - North Fayette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

1. This just might be the weekend we move our garden from the dining room table to the garden bed outside. Today SP is bringing home tarragon, spearmint, rosemary, and 2 kinds of tomato plants from Grow Pittsburgh. I'm really looking forward to fresh herbs and home grown veggies.

2. I'm also looking forward to berry season. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. Not mention cherries and watermelon and all the other summer fruits (even though you can buy them year round, they're much tastier in season). Bye-bye breakfast bananas.

3. I moved my stuffed Iceburgh from my office to the living room for the Penguins-Tampa Bay Lightning series. Then the Pens lost Game 1. So I moved him back into my office. The Pens won Games 2 & 3. Coincidence? SP says no. He mocks me. But... if the Pens win 4 games and move to the finals, Iceburgh is staying in my office. Once they hoist the Stanley Cup, he can come out & play.

4. I'm anxious to see how The Night Manager ends next Tuesday. I have no idea if the show is following the book or not, I haven't read the book, so I don't know if Pine will defeat Roper or the other way around.

5. I'm not sad to see Castle end, it was always unrealistic and it was awful when they split Castle & Beckett. The ending was unsatisfying and felt like the fans were cheated. Seriously, that guy was the big bad Locksat?!

6. Game of Thrones - the episodes have been great so far this season. The first and last scenes of the last episode - so good. We watched them a couple of times! I think I read that HBO has said season 6, then 2 more shortened seasons totaling 13 episodes. A finite end date is so much better than an open ended show. It makes for better writing and story telling. Take notice, Quantico, as your 22 episode season was slow and bloated and annoying and frustrating. I think the story could have been better told in fewer episodes rather than all that unnecessary, drawn out drama filler crap to stretch it to 22 episodes. There are other shows I feel are guilty of the same things, not just Quantico, but that is the one that springs to mind. Be more like American Crime and The Night Manager. I think that's why I tend to enjoy the shows like Justified and The Americans and Fargo so much more than stuff on the "big 4" networks. Shorter seasons. No wondering if they're going to "get" 10 episodes or 22 episodes.

7. I had my long awaited, long dreaded, and long stressed over doctor appointment this week. I really like this doctor (first time seeing this kind of doctor). Even better, after the exam, she said I don't have possibility #1 nor possibility #2 (though I am still high risk for developing one or both) and there is no need to further investigate the symptoms from last Jan-Feb unless they occur again with greater frequency. I cannot tell you how happy I was. I think I clapped my hands in joyful celebration in the doctor office. I feel like such a weight has been lifted. Now we just need to get through another new doctor appointment for me next week and then SP's surgery follow up test in June.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Turkey Devonshire

While SP has been eating the Ketchup & Mustard Pork Chops (Sloppy Pork Chops), I've been eating Turkey Devonshire (aka Kentucky Hot Brown). I know. Not healthy. Creamy cheese sauce & bacon & white bread. But it's so good and it has been on my mind the past few weeks.
I've loved Turkey Devonshire since I was a kid. I forget the name of the restaurant [maybe one of the Freddie's in Peters, which closed, I think, in 1995] but whenever we dined there, I enjoyed this dish.
It's been on my mind because in December 2015, Bobby Flay contributed a Kentucky Hot Brown recipe to Food & Wine and then in a recent Food Network Magazine, Damaris Phillips contributed a Kentucky Hot Brown recipe. We haven't made it in a very long time (4 years). But it was on my mind and I couldn't stop thinking about it.
As delicious as the recipes from Bobby & Damaris sounded, I ended up sticking with our usual Frank Blandi's Original Turkey Devonshire recipe. The sauce is a combination of cheddar cheese, chicken stock, butter, flour, and milk. I like the addition of the chicken stock. Toasted thick white bread topped with roasted turkey topped with bacon and roasted cherry tomatoes topped with cream sauce, sprinkled with paprika, and baked until piping hot.
A delicious mess of comfort food.

Recipe here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pork Chops in Ketchup & Mustard

I keep an inventory of what is in the freezer because I don't like to keep things too long. By too long I mean more than 4-5 months, depending on the item. We had four pork chops that had been in the freezer since early last October, so they'd been frozen 7 months. Too long for me. I told SP he had two choices: 1. Eat the chops and I would eat something else or 2. Toss them out. He chose to eat them.
In fact, he got a little too excited. Nostalgia, I think. Every so often when we talk about dinners we had as kids, he mentions his mom's Pork Chops Cooked in Ketchup & Mustard. My reaction? Eeewwww gross. I mentioned these pork chops to TX sister one day. She has no recollection of them. Could she be blocking the ick out? I know she dislikes mustard. Is this the root of the mustard hatred? Maybe. But the fact remains: he wanted his pork chops cooked in ketchup & mustard.  
There they are. Browned chops with sauteed onions simmering in ketchup and mustard. I kept thinking it was like a bad McDonald's meal only pork chops instead of a sad supposed beef burger on a squishy white bun. All he needed was to toss in some pickles.
He swears they are quite delicious. They are easy. The sauce keeps the chops from drying out.
It's basically a super simple, super basic homemade barbecue sauce. I did a quick search and there are a lot of similar recipes. Some add vinegar and/or brown sugar.

Pork Chops in Ketchup & Mustard

pork chops, boneless or bone in, any thickness
as much/little onion as you like, sliced or diced
ketchup (Heinz, of course)
any mustard you like (he used Dijon, his mom used Gulden's brown mustard)

Heat skillet on stove (or electric skillet, which is what his mom used to cook enough pork chops for 5 kids + 2 adults) and brown your onion in some butter. Add the chops and brown them on both sides. If they are thin chops, don't cook them too high or for too long. Squeeze in ketchup, covering the tops of the chops. Dollop a spoonful of mustard on top each chop. Gradually add some water and stir everything together to make a sauce, using just enough water to make a sauce of the consistency you like. Simmer until chops are cooked through.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

Dinner for mom: ribs, salad, green beans
1. You may have noticed that I took a week off from blogging. I just haven't felt like it. Honestly, much as I like cooking, baking, eating, dining out, reading food magazines, I'm a little burned out on it all. I've lost interest in food blogs. Even mine. I don't yet want to quit, but I think over the coming weeks there might only be Thursday Thoughts posts.

2. I actually took a break from the internet/social media/computer/smartphone/tablet/TV news. I find that sometimes (OK, pretty much always these days) it just overwhelms and/or annoys me. I think I'm too old to really get it. I still don't really get Facebook (Please don't try to explain. I understand what it is/its purpose, it's just not how I am. I just don't care to be friends with the 200 people I graduated high school with and couldn't stand back then so why would I friend them now? Or friend people I've never met?).
  • All the presidential news stresses me out and worries me. I keep hoping a white knight in shining armor will swoop in and save our country from the bozos trying to be the next president.
  • Horrid news is just horrid and that seems to be all I hear and I wonder why we can't just be nice to each other and respect each other and behave like decent humans? 
  • Seeing the same things tweeted over & over every single weekend is just annoying.
  • Seeing repeated tweets of your dining adventures from 6+ months ago annoys me.
  • Excessive hashtag use annoys me. Do you seriously need 15+ hashtags on every Instagram?
There's more. Much more. But I'll stop there. Just know I am old. So I don't get it.

I definitely need to continue the break from the interent/social media/computer/smartphone/tablet/TV news.

3. In the past week I read John Sanford's latest Lucas Davenport novel Extreme Prey. As always, I enjoyed the latest Lucas adventure and I'm looking forward to the next one where he just might be a US Marshal?! I'm in the middle of Cold Barrel Zero by Matthew Quirk. I'm enjoying it, but also having trouble being completely absorbed in it and unable to put it down like when I read Daniel Silva or Greg Iles or Lee Child. But that could be my twitchy allergy eyes.
4. Lately I can't stop listening to The Lumineers Cleopatra. My favorite song is Angela. I'm so quaint and old - I actually still buy CDs. Yes, I use Spotify and I have lots of Spotify playlists with lots of stuff I like, and I browse new music on Spotify, looking for new stuff to like, but for the music I really, really like, I buy the CD.
Homemade BBQ Sauce
5. TV update: still loving Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager. Loving Game of Thrones. Enjoying The Americans. Wishing Orphan Black would move a little faster. Annoyed with Quantico. Feeling like Castle is going to be very disappointing next Monday. Loved Butch & Penguin in last Monday's Gotham. Looking forward to the Scandal season finale tonight. All the other stuff we watch? It's OK.
Grilled green beans with bacon & onion
6. Last year we saw SP's mom on Mothers Day so this year we saw my mom. My mom asked for ribs or grilled chicken. We made both along with salad and grilled green beans & bacon plus we had appetizers of Mediterra farmhouse bread with tomato-basil dipping oil and a cheese plate. We washed it all down with 2 bottles of chardonnay plus old fashioneds for my dad.
"Salad" - no lettuce because dad doesn't like it.
For dessert, we made creme brulee. We made the same cappuccino one we made in February and we made a lemon one. Sadly, not all the cappuccino ones set. Mine was very runny and disappointing. We even gave them an extra 10 minutes in the oven, but... So sad.

7. My 17 year old niece called on Mother's Day. She had just survived taking the SATs and prom, on the same day. Plus, before prom, she & her prom date went to a reception with his parents and some Congressmen/other political people for incoming freshmen at military academies. Her "sort of maybe boyfriend" (never ask too many questions about the boys!) is graduating and will be attending the Naval Academy starting in September.

We are excited for GA niece & nephew. Niece is going on a church mission to Ecuador this summer and we're pleased that she's getting out and seeing the world. She's also applying to colleges this summer. Very exciting time for her.

As for nephew, he is in Odyssey of the Mind and his team is the first team from their school district to ever qualify for the world competition, which will be held in Iowa in a couple of weeks. His 7 student team will be flying with their 2 teachers to Iowa. It's a great opportunity for him, to meet kids from all over the world and to travel away from home without his parents.

I love hearing both kids so excited about these things - I remember being that age and I'm just so happy they're getting to have these experiences and see places so different from the small town in which they live.