Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

1. Happy Halloween! It's trick-or-treat night and even though the doorbell rings just 3-4 times, we bought some candy to hand out instead of turning out the lights and pretending we aren't home. This year: Milky Way bars.

2. Yesterday I had a doctor appointment. I had to get up early, before the sun was up, and I wasn't too happy. Happily, SP stopped and bought me a chocolate cream donut from Big Daddy's Donuts.

3. I got my flu shot and sheesh does my arm ache today. It hurts more than it did yesterday. I also feel kind under the weather, but I suspect it's my allergies more than the flu shot making me feel sick.
4. This week's dessert: Spice Biscotti. I love these cinnamon-ginger-clove spiced biscotti. They are especially tasty dunked in some of the apple spice tea we just bought.

5. Tea. We stocked up/replenished our tea supply by visiting Margaret's this past weekend. So happy to have more Clementine Clove but also happy to have some new flavors (Apple Spice and Lady Londonderry).
 6. The Spice Biscotti are so darn tasty that they make what I already dubbed The Worst Biscotti Ever even worse than worst! We made Almond Orange Biscotti a few weeks ago using a recipe from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. It calls for cake flour. I think that's where the problem is. These biscotti were bland, not the right texture, not crisp. So not worthy of even being called biscotti. They weren't even saved by the almond extract or tons of orange zest. I ate 2-3 of them and called it quits, telling SP they were not even worthy of being eaten. He ate almost all of them over 2 weeks or so, whenever he went low and needed a snack to bring his blood sugar level up. The most bland and boring biscotti ever.
7. My dad had surgery this past Tuesday. It went well, they think, but only time will tell.

8. There has been zero progress on the reading pile and on the cross-stitch in the past week. I'm not sure what I've been doing, but it's not reading or sewing. My office currently resembles SP's office. My normally clean, organized, clutter free office currently has papers strewn all over the desk, pens scattered about, baskets and boxes on the floor, magazines and travel books in precariously balanced piles. It's making me very twitchy, but I'm so tired from still not sleeping well and having a constant allergy-sinus headache that I cannot bring myself to clean it.

9. My doctor seemed to think that taking a pain killer before bed would help with the pains and aches I get in my surgically repaired hips when I sleep on them. So I took 2 Tylenol last night. They didn't help at all. I have a prescription for something else she thinks will help, but we'll see. I'm not too hopeful. I don't like that it seems that for the rest of my life I'll only be able to sleep for 2 hours before waking up in pain and rolling over and then after 7 hours of restless sleep, I'll need a daily afternoon nap.

10. Like a little kid: I can't wait for tonight when I can raid the leftover Halloween candy & snarf up 4-5 little bars while sipping tea and watching Scandal.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bob's Diner

Going out to breakfast is one of those things that always seems so appealing at first, but then you realize how easy it is to make some bacon and eggs and pancakes so you think you should stay home and make your own, but then you realize that it's just too much effort and clean up to make your own bacon and eggs and pancakes. It's much easier, and tastier, and faster to have someone do it for you. One of our favorite breakfast spots is Bob's Diner. Usually we go to the one in Kennedy but a few weeks ago we were in Carnegie, so we went to the Carnegie Bob's.
We both chose to order My Dad's Favorite: 2 eggs, 1 pancake, 1 slice bacon, 1 sausage link, home fries, and choice of toast. I got scrambled eggs, SP got dippy eggs. I chose Mancini's toast, SP chose rye (or maybe wheat, I forget). We both chose a specialty pancake (costs a bit more). I chose blueberry:
SP chose the seasonal special pumpkin pancake, served with 3 candy corn pieces on top:
The eggs were cooked perfectly, toast was crispy, sausage and bacon were tasty and not too greasy, the home fries were delicious, and our pancakes were delicious, too. They aren't like Pamela's thin pancakes, these are thicker and fluffier. Definitely quite filling. In fact, we took home some of our home fries and half of each pancake.

It was our first time at Bob's in Carnegie. I'm happy to report it's just as tasty and the employees are just as friendly and nice as at the Kennedy location. Bob's Carnegie Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mushroom Stroganoff

Sometimes, food lurks in the freezer or refrigerator for a wee bit too long. Like the goat cheese I recently re-discovered. We bought it at Costco and we used one of two logs. One day I pulled the remaining cheese log out to inspect it and realized it had a 'best by' date in mid-September. Oops. It was still good, it hadn't been opened, but it's a culinary sin to waste goat cheese, so we started thinking about what to do with it (besides crumbling it on a salad or tomato tart).
The solution: Mushroom Stroganoff with Goat Cheese from Alton Brown. I love beef stroganoff. The sauce, that's what I love. Beefy, creamy, tangy. Mixed with pasta. Perfect for these colder evenings. Beef free stroganoff is just as tasty and satisfyingly warming.
This is super easy to make. Simmer mushrooms, add onions, add broth, stir in sour cream and goat cheese, spoon over noodles, and enjoy.
This is so good! It tastes just like the beef stroganoff I used to make, but with a bit of goat cheese tang (perhaps because we used a very generous 4 oz of goat cheese). The portabellas are just as meaty and filling as beef. We made it Sunday afternoon, intending to simply divide it in half and re-heat it during the week. I wanted to take photos in the daylight so of course after taking photos I had to sample it... and then I couldn't stop. I ended up eating about half the dish in the photo as an 'appetizer.'
The only change we made from the recipe is using a leftover half a white onion instead of green onions.

This is definitely a make again meal. It reheats well, too (we kept the glass casserole lid on while re-heating for 30-45 minutes at 350).

Recipe here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cake Vodka Cocktail

Usually on Sundays when we cook, we open a bottle of wine or enjoy a cocktail. Usually, if it's a cocktail Sunday, SP makes me an orange martini or a bourbon/whiskey & club soda. But a while ago, we received a bottle of cake flavored vodka. I wasn't sure what to do with it so I looked up some recipes and most seemed too much like dessert for me - cake vodka mixed with another dessert liquor like chocolate liquor or Baileys and topped with whipped cream. There also were some recipes for mixing it with pineapple juice, or orange juice, or cranberry juice.

We decided to try the cake vodka mixed with club soda & cranberry juice since we had some on hand. While it was tasty, it didn't really make me think we would be finishing the bottle any time soon, if ever. However, a few weeks ago, we tried it again, and now I am hooked on this cocktail - we might even have to buy another bottle of cake vodka soon!

Here how SP makes it:
Fill an 8~10 oz glass (rocks glass) with 4-5 ice cubes
Fill 1/3 ~ 1/2 with cake vodka
Fill 1/3 ~ 1/2 with club soda
Top with as much/little cranberry juice as desired
Cake vodka is sweet so this drink is a little sweet and tastes vanilla-y/cake-y, but it doesn't feel like you're drinking dessert before your dinner. I think the tart cranberry juice helps tone down the sweetness. The first time we tried it, we used a tall 12 oz glass and I think that was just too big. This glass is just the right size.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

1. Walmart Update: After swearing that the first charge couldn't have gone through because it wasn't in the journal and even if it did go through, it would void out, well, you know what happened. Monday morning I logged into the credit card account and sure enough there were 2 Walmart charges from the Saturday debacle. I was livid. Of course SP had to make a trip there after work and waste another 40 minutes standing in the customer service line and then having them get the manager who had to 'look into things' before issuing us a cash refund. I would rather have received a credit on the credit card, but... whatever. Right now, the Walmart rage in this house is strong.

2. We had a $1 off coupon for GEMD bakery. Treats! I chose vanilla biscotti. Bad choice. The biscotti were not very biscotti like. So disappointed. We won't be buying their biscotti again.

3. I did not manage to read a book this past week. I finished W is for Wasted and picked up another library book, but didn't start reading it. Another National Geographic arrived so now I have 6 of those to read. At least I know it won't reach 7 unread issues since I didn't renew the subscription and this was the last issue. I did read the brand new Bon Appetit and Pittsburgh Magazine.

4. I spent 2 days working on my cross-stitch, but I got frustrated. I think I must have aged a lot in the 2 years since I started this one because my gosh those stitches are tiny. I find myself squinting, even with my glasses on, and wishing for a magnifying glass. Just wait until the gold metallic thread fun starts, and then making a tassel.

5. Today was the start of a new breakfast meal... maybe. The yogurt I used to eat started using some disgusting sweetener, so I won't eat it anymore. The homemade yogurt has been suffering in quality. Not sure what we're doing wrong, but the texture has been off. Then when I broke my hip, blood work showed low potassium, and I was looking for a 'new' breakfast, so I started eating a banana every morning. After nearly 5 months of a banana a day, I am sick of bananas, which I don't really like in the first place. In fact, I despise everything banana except for an actual banana and the only way I can eat an actual banana is if I slice it into rounds on a plate and use a fork while trying to not inhale banana smell, which is gross.

I decided to try smoothies - but it cannot have milk because since my 20's, milk has made me feel sick to my stomach. Solution: plain yogurt, frozen fruit, fresh orange juice, maybe a squeeze of honey or a dash of vanilla/almond extract, depending on the fruit. But seriously, am I going to do that much work? Me, the girl who recently decided that aside from banana taste & smell, it was just too much work to peel and slice a banana then go all the way over to the compost bin to get rid of the stinky banana peel? Nope. I enlisted SP. A long time ago, he used to make himself smoothies for breakfast and he already eats yogurt with fruit on top anyway, why not puree it?

So the plan is that right before he leaves for work, as I am finishing my shower, he'll whip up a smoothie and pour some into a travel mug for himself and some into a glass for me.

We'll see how long this lasts. After all, someone has to dismantle the blender, clean the blender, and reassemble the blender every single day if we keep up this smoothie thing. If we decide this is a good long-term breakfast, we might purchase a small smoothie blender/personal blender with a blending jar that is also a travel mug/sport bottle, something like this or this. Something that can go in the dishwasher but with 2-3 bottles/mugs so we don't have to wash it every day!

I miss ripping the lid off a perfect portion of yogurt and eating it. All I needed was a spoon, and the spoon I use for my tea could double as a yogurt spoon.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Greek Meatballs with Lemon & Arugula

My mom bought an issue of Food Network Magazine when she was here and we liked it and found several recipes to try. So we bought another issue for inspiration. That issue, the October issue, had several meatball recipes and I had been craving meatballs for a while so we decided to try Greek Meatballs with Lemon and Arugula
Given the time and effort involved, plus the cost of ground lamb and happy ground beef, we both found these a little disappointing. They were lacking the strong flavor that I expected given the lemon, mint, allspice, marjoram, and provolone. Plus, perhaps because the meatballs simmer for long in the broth, they ended up a little too moist, almost soggy.
They were edible. They weren't disgusting. Just water-logged and bland. Perhaps we should have added more lemon juice/zest and mint on top the finished meatballs? Maybe feta instead of provolone, which was not at all noticeable in the meatballs? We ate them all with arugula but we agreed that these are not make again meatballs. But they were worth trying.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Park Bruges

One of our favorite places in Pittsburgh is Park Bruges. I wish we lived closer so we could go more often. A few weeks ago we made a return trip. Here's what we drank & ate:
For SP, beer (the receipt says Ayinger draft, I know nothing else!). For me, Dark & Snappy cocktail (rum, ginger beer). For both of us: fresh brewed Earl Grey iced tea. Lately I have been really into ginger beer cocktails and this is another terrific one.
SP's appetizer: Bourbon Peppercorn Glazed Pork Belly with braised cabbage & apples. SP loved this appetizer, and I liked it, too, the few bites of pork belly I tried. Sweet, sticky, porky - yum!
My appetizer (which could be a dinner): Classic Tarte Flambee creme fraiche, caramelized onions, rosemary ham, chives, shaved cheese. This is one of my favorite dishes ever. The onions are perfect - soft, sweet, slightly browned. Salty, rosemary ham, the creamy creme fraiche & cheese - all together it just melts in my mouth and all the flavors just mix together so well. I don't think I will ever be able to not order this at Park Bruges. The next morning, I ate the one leftover piece for breakfast because I had not been able to stop thinking about the leftover piece all night long. I'll be sort of sad when SP starts devouring more carbs because then he'll eat more of my tarte flambee.
SP's entree: Dinner Special: Halibut w/eggplant curry, rice, wilted greens, and cucumber raita. He loves fish and said it was cooked nicely. The cucumber raita was a cool and creamy companion to the spicy but not too spicy eggplant curry. It must have been good because he ate it all. Usually he gets moules and he missed them a bit on this visit, but I guess that means we should return again soon.
My entree: My usual, the Sauteed Chicken Breast with onions, tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, herb risotto, marsala sauce. I love this dish. I gave some serious thought to trying the braised short ribs, but I couldn't resist the sweet marsala sauce, tangy artichokes, earthy mushrooms, sweet onions and tomatoes, and juicy chicken atop creamy, herby risotto. I don't usually eat quickly, I am a slow eater, but with this dish, my taste buds are so happy and they can't seem to get enough. I kept eating forkful after forkful and before I knew it, I had nearly devoured the entire dish. There was a small piece of chicken, spoonful or two of risotto, and maybe 1 piece of each veggie to take home for lunch the next day.
Dessert: Apple Tarte Tatin. One of our favorite fall desserts and we get excited when it is offered. Truthfully, I was stuffed and really shouldn't have agreed to share this dessert. I can't even remember anything about it except it was delicious and we ate it all.

As usual, we left Park Bruges overly full, but happy, and very satisfied. Our service is always terrific, friendly and knowledgeable.

Still one of our favorite Pittsburgh restaurants.

Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The DMV, Walmart, and Gas - A Sunday Rant

This weekend has not been an especially good weekend. I am, at this point, utterly exhausted and every part of me is achy and sore, so I have a very short fuse right now, perhaps no fuse at all because I just flipped out on SP because he is out in the kitchen crunching, no, make that chomping on potato chips so loudly that I can hear CRUNCH CRUNCH CHOMP all the way in my office and IT IS SO ANNOYING.

1. Yesterday morning we went to the DMV to get my new photo license. I had only 2 Saturdays left to accomplish it, this Saturday and next Saturday, so we chose this weekend. We zipped down 79 and arrived at the Bridgeville DMV a little after 10 am. The entire building in the strip mall is under some sort of construction so none of the handicapped parking is available because it's covered with scaffolding and yellow crime scene tape. The curb cuts are also taped off. So we parked far, far away in a space with no one on my side so I would have space to get out of the car. We trekked over, went backwards up the small curb, and entered hell.

My ticket was stamped 10:14 am. It said "expected wait time: 24 minutes." I can do math. I figured around 10:40 my number would be called. Maybe a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, there was no handicap/wheelchair area in which to wait, so I 'parked' at the end of a row, which meant I was in an aisle area, which meant every time someone walked by, I was stumbled over/slammed into. Some people smelled funny, some looked like they hadn't showered in days, some looked like they were still drunk from Friday shenanigans, some looked really skanky. It was gross. It was almost worse than People of Walmart. Someone's child had had some sort of incident in the restroom, necessitating the mother acquiring a plunger and then spending 30+ minutes cleaning the bathroom with bleach and a mop and various other commercial grade industrial strength cleaners which, yay, it was clean and disinfected, but those cleaners smell gross to me so since we were near the bathroom, I got to inhale these gross fumes and feel sick to my stomach from the fumes for not 24 minutes but 55 minutes.

Did I mention the wandering children? With no supervision? Causing DMV employees to call out "Whose child is this?" every time one started to enter an employees only area? Did I mention the screaming children? The crying children? The whining children? Why on earth do people take their children to a DMV in the first place, a place notorious for long waits? And do not tell me they had absolutely no other options on a Saturday morning, no spouse, no other parent or grandparent or relative or neighbor or friend for the child to have a play date with. Not buying it. My parents never took us on such errands and if they did, by golly we were quiet and sat in our seats or else when we got home we got punished and maybe even spanked for misbehaving in public.

I thought about it later and realized every other time I'd been to the DMV it had been early on a weekday which is why I had never before experienced the DMV hell. Or factored in a photo license taking an hour.

2. Walmart. Oh I know, no one likes Walmart, but they do have low prices, especially on certain items we frequently need, like English muffins, which I eat every day for lunch. Walmart cost: $2.68. Market District price: $4.19. Calculate the difference and multiply by 52 weeks in a year. It comes to around $75 savings, just on that one item. So we go to Walmart. But we have a system to minimize Walmart hell. We did pretty good zipping around and avoiding grief until someone (HI HUBBY) made the decision to use the self check out area. No lie: It took 40-45 minutes to check out. Why? I will attempt to quickly summarize: aside from the stupid register freezing frequently, there is some STUPID design feature that WEIGHS COUPONS to make sure you don't cheat and the machine locked up because it decided we had not put enough paper coupons in the coupon slot to justify the coupon deductions on our receipt. The self check out helpers could not fix it. The manager could not fix it. NO ONE COULD OVERRIDE THE SYSTEM. They had to reboot the system, which takes 10-15 minutes, then it still wasn't working, they said our stuff wasn't in the journal, so our purchase hadn't really happened, but SP had swiped the credit card so he thought it had gone through, but then he thought maybe not, no one could print a receipt, no one could find our $85 purchase so they re-scanned everything and assured us the original one would be voided/never show up on the credit card.

This morning, I logged into the credit card account and sure enough there are 2 Walmart charges under pending charges for yesterday. If both move from pending to actual, I will raise holy hell at that hellhole and it will be worse than my flip out on the manager after we had waited 40-45 minutes and he started babbling about re-scanning everything and I told him we were not paying twice and he SWORE the first one would never show up/would be voided. Uh-huh.

3. Dinner. There was a home Penguins game, home Pitt game, and it was the last day for The Duck. We saw the inbound parkway traffic when we drove over it on 79N. So we decided to stay in Robinson for dinner. In an attempt to kill 2 birds with one stop, we decided to have a quick dinner at Houlihan's at the mall and then get SP a new winter coat at Macy's. We already had the options picked out, we picked 2 out last week when we were at Ross Park Mall, but we took a week to think about it since we are having a difference of opinion (I like one, he likes the other).

Anyway, Houlihan's was a 20 minutes wait for a seat. Then no one greeted us/came to our table for 10 minutes, not even to bring water. Then it took 30 minutes before the appetizer/side salad showed up. I didn't even time dinner arrival because I was feeling so tired and crapped on by the universe, but we did order the doughnut dessert before we finished our meal and it still took 15+ minutes. On the plus side, the server was super apologetic and comped our appetizer, side salad, and dessert.

As for the coat, SP 'won' but turned out the only one in his size had a flaw, so we are going to the mall, again, next weekend, but a different mall. Oh joy.

4. That was a super busy day for me after a summer of doing nothing because of my hip. We were out from 10am~9 pm with just a quick stop at home to bring in groceries and have a bathroom break. I was exhausted and my hips/legs ached. But could I sleep? No. Insomnia plus neither hip responded to the ibuprofen, so... still exhausted today.

5. So it was SP's bad luck this morning to 'accidentally' turn the back burner to low instead of off, as he meant to do, before heading downstairs to be with his brother, who was here to help SP do something, and sometimes when the burners are quickly switched to low, they go out, so when I came out after my shower, the kitchen smelled strongly of gas because the burner had been on but not lit for 15-30 minutes. I was furious.

So his CRUNCH CHOMP noises set me off. I really hope next weekend's outings are less sucky.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Porch At Schenley

A couple of weekends ago, we finally made it back to The Porch At Schenley for a second visit. I am happy to report that we liked it as much as we did the first time we went in March 2012. Here's what we ate:
Soup of the Day: Creamy Tomato Soup.
Farm Bread with Apple Butter and Honey Butter
Daily Special: Smoked Lamb stuffed with lamb sausage served with lobster mushrooms and beans
Another Daily Special: PEI Mussels with Brussels sprouts, white wine garlic sauce, and I forget what else
Dessert: Doughnuts with Apple Butter
Our server was great. It was noisy inside, probably because we were seated next to a large group with 3 young children who were reaching their limit on quiet/good restaurant behavior. The farm bread, creamy tomato soup, and doughnuts were great. I especially loved dipping the bread in the soup. SP said his mussels were deliciously different with the Brussels sprouts and while he liked it, he's not sure if mussels and Brussels really work together.

I liked my lamb but didn't love it. The lamb sausage was delicious, but there was just so much of it and I don't like sausage in such large quantities. The lamb had a terrific smoke flavor and smoke ring, but there was a lot of fat layered with the meat and also the skin on the exterior and it was a little difficult for me to really get to the lamb meat. SP loved my dish and actually ended up not only eating a fair portion of it at the restaurant but also devouring the leftovers the next day. It was a very filling dish, especially with all the mushrooms and beans.

We still like The Porch and will be back.
The Porch at Schenley on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

1. This week's dessert treat is my favorite chocolate chip cookie, the recipe from Cook's Illustrated. The cookies are quite big but I still manage to eat 2 every evening.

2. One night I ate 2 huge chocolate chips cookies plus a biscotti from a new bakery near where SP works. I wasn't too impressed with the biscotti. I dunked the biscotti in my tea and as I was holding the biscotti over the mug to finish dripping before transporting it over the arm of the couch to my mouth there was a sudden plop! Sploosh! The stupid biscotti had no structural integrity - the dunked portion had softened so much it broke off and fell into the very full mug of tea. Tea splashed all over the end table and floor. So annoying! Dunked biscotti should stay intact.

3. The Steelers finally won a game! Of course this coming weekend they play the Ravens. Might be a short lived win streak.

4. SP's NY Giants are still winless. It's a very bad topic in this house. I am afraid to even mention the team.

5. Reading pile update: I managed to read the Saveur magazines plus the new Cook's Illustrated but am still looking at the 5 National Geographics. I guess I made the right decision to not renew that magazine.

6. This week's book: W is for Wasted. I've been reading Sue Grafton's alphabet series for years. I'm not finished yet, I'm about halfway through, but so far it's pretty good. My 'more favorite' alphabet books are the ones that reveal more about Kinsey's past, like W. I can't wait to see how the 2 plots merge and then how everything gets resolved.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lasagna Soup


Once the weather starts to get cooler, we start craving soups. Soups are great because they can be made in a crock pot and they make enough for 2-3 meals. The October issue of Food Network Magazine had several soup recipes and this was the one we decided to try: Lasagna Soup.

Basically, this is a tomato soup with sausage, cheese, and noodles added to make it taste like lasagna. The nice thing for us is that we could keep the noodles separate and add as much/little/none as desired and the cheese amount could be controlled on a per bowl basis.
The soup really did taste like lasagna. Any kind of pasta would work, but we used the seven remaining lasagna noodles we had. Next time, I would break them into smaller pieces than those in the above photo. Once in the soup, the pieces were just too big to easily eat.

We also got to go back to Ricci's and buy more of their delicious homemade Italian sweet sausage (we opted for sweet sausage instead of spicy sausage)..
Above is the soup with noodle, before cheese. Below is after cheese (parmesan & ricotta):
We both really liked this soup. Tomato soup is one of our favorite soups, if not our favorite soup. I added lasagna noodles to my soup, SP did not. Not surprisingly, I used more cheese than he did. I think the ricotta is what really gives the soup the lasagna flavor. Otherwise, it's just a tomato soup with lasagna noodles.
Our minor changes/choices:
*No garlic
*We used half & half (not heavy cream)
*We used sweet, not spicy, sausage
*We added some of the parmesan rind we have hanging out in the refrigerator while the soup simmered, then took the rind out after it simmered/before adding the cream.

This is definitely a make again soup - so we'll definitely be freezing some of the fresh basil from the garden for the winter months.

Recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/lasagna-soup-recipe/index.html

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dirty Risotto, Revisited & Improved, with Ricci's Sausage

Every fall we make Dirty Risotto. I'm not sure why it works out that way, but we never seem to make it unless it's fall. This year was by far the best version we've made. I think there are two reasons why:

1. We bought pancetta. It seems odd that we wouldn't have bought it the other times we made this risotto, but neither of us can remember buying it for this dish the way we remember buying it for other dishes we've made. Plus, there's a note on the recipe print-out that we used 8 oz sweet sausage instead of 2 oz pancetta and 6 oz spicy sausage. So much tastier with pancetta.

2. Instead of pre-packaged sausage or GEMD meat counter sausage, we went down the street to Ricci's Italian Sausage and bought their homemade sweet Italian sausage. What a difference! This sausage is so good! I think from now on we will buy all of our sausage from Ricci's.
There might be a third reason, too: we used more red pepper and mushroom than called for in the recipe.

Now that we've discovered just how much tastier this dish is with the pancetta and the homemade sausage, I think we'll be making it more often. It reheats nicely, too, since this makes enough for 2-3 meals for us.

Recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/dirty-risotto-recipe/index.html

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

I'm a little behind on blogging - I have 10 posts in drafts! I decided that since it's finally starting to feel more like fall I should post this dish because while I've made it in the cooler months, it seems like more of a summer / warm weather dish to me: Mediterranean Chicken Salad from Bon Appetit.
We made this back in September. It is a great make ahead dish and then all you have to do for dinner is spoon it into a bowl. It's also great for us because I like the orzo but SP likes quinoa instead. On Sunday we cook our orzo/quinoa and put them in bowls large enough for the additional ingredients plus we make the dressing and cook the chicken. On Monday, I chop the chicken and the vegetables, mix them into the orzo/quinoa, and add the dressing.  
Simple. Easy. Delicious. I love the tanginess from the artichokes and kalamata olives. We used store bought tomatoes as well as some from our garden.

Our deviations:

*We bake 3-4 chicken breasts instead of purchasing a cooked chicken
*We do not add currants
*We use dried instead of fresh tarragon
*We do not follow the quantities for the tomatoes, olives, artichokes, etc. We just add whatever looks good. We like kalamatas a lot, so we add more. We buy huge jars of artichokes at Costco, so we guess on how much might be 6 oz. A little more/less doesn't hurt. We also use way more than 1 cup cherry tomatoes.
Recipe here: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/mediterranean-chicken-salad

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

1. I am sad the Pirates lost last night, but happy that not only did they give us a winning season, but a playoff season, and they made us excited for baseball. Looking forward to next season.

2. SP is doing a wee bit better, but he got a shot in his wrist and ever since the shot, it's been even more sore. I am hoping the shot reactions wear off soon, that the prescription meds kick in soon, and that he can stop taking ibuprofen soon. I've never before seen him take this many ibuprofen in a day!

3. My dad is home from the hospital after a medical procedure, but still in pain, and in the next week or two he'll need another procedure to fix the issue. Hopefully, it'll be an outpatient procedure, but he had a bad reaction to the anesthesia after the first procedure, so...

4. I had one last library book in my pile, Lexicon by Max Barry, and I finished it yesterday. I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I enjoyed figuring out what really happened and why it happened. I enjoyed figuring out the true agenda of each character. I enjoyed the romance and thriller aspects of the novel. But the whole international coalition that wants to take over/control the world by employing random, gibberish words (agents are referred to as poets) and this thing called a bareword being able to cause the destruction of an entire city? I know words have the power to persuade people, but to completely control? To compel people to kill each other, to destroy an entire civilization or city? I suppose essentially it was using words to hypnotize/control people into doing bad, bad things.

5. My current reading pile is down to just magazines: 5 National Geographics, 3 Saveurs, and a couple others.

6. Maybe now that the reading pile is sort of under control, I'll get back to my cross-stitch soon. I've been working on this one for 2+ years now.

7. I've had a Miley Cyrus song stuck in my head the past couple of days. SP is horrified, especially after I showed him the real video and the SNL parody video. He couldn't even speak, he just looked horrified and sputtered then went and ordered the new Nine Inch Nails. It's not as if I like Miley's music, I just wanted to see the SNL parody, and then the real video, and the next thing I knew... it's a catchy tune.

8. It's Thursday which means new episodes of Big Bang Theory, Grey's Anatomy, and Scandal. Yay! We've tried a couple other new shows, but I think we're not going to keep watching them and just stick with Sleepy Hollow and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Just to clarify, SP does NOT watch Grey's or Scandal; he heads downstairs to the mancave for supposedly more manly shows!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Apple-Mustard Chicken

We eat a lot of chicken and are always looking for new ideas to make chicken dinners a little more exciting, something different from the usual, but also quick and easy. That's why I was excited when the Food Network Magazine issue my mom bought had a pull out section titled '50 Chicken Dinner Recipes.' They all start with simply sauteing chicken breasts.

We decided to try the Apple-Mustard version. I'm not usually a fan of fruit and meat paired together, but I really wanted something different and something fall-like.
It was really tasty. I cooked the chicken breasts in the oven and sauteed the apples in about a tablespoon of butter before adding the chicken broth. We bought whole grain mustard because we have a lot of dishes that use it, but often, we use regular Dijon in place of whole grain mustard. I like mustard flavor a lot, so next time I might add a bit more, more than the generous tablespoon I added, to really up the mustard flavor. It was there, but not super noticeable.

Definitely a chicken dinner I'd make again - plus, the chicken broth meant that when the leftovers were reheated, they didn't dry out.

What I did:
*4 chicken breasts, seasoned with salt & pepper, drizzled with olive oil, cooked in oven
*one apple, chopped, sauteed in 1 tablespoon butter (regular or unsalted, whichever we had on the butter dish that day)
*3/4 cup chicken broth
*1 generous tbsp (or more) mustard (whole grain or Dijon), added after the broth reduces

Source: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes-and-cooking/50-chicken-dinner-recipes/index.html

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Batter & Dough Baking Company

A couple of weeks ago, after having lunch at La Bella Bean, we decided to walk over to a bakery we had just found out about: Batter & Dough in Bridgeville. Sadly, we arrived around 2 pm and the selection was pretty sparse since it was late-ish in the day for a bakery. We decided to try 3 cupcakes: Peanut Butter with Chocolate Ganache, Lemon Lavender, and Chocolate with Chocolate Icing.
We also bought two biscotti: Gingersnap and Orange Chocolate.
Later that afternoon, I decided to eat the chocolate cupcake. Look at all that icing! In order to eat such a tall cupcake, I had to use a fork and break it into smaller pieces.
Definitely a great icing to cake ratio. Moist, chocolaty cake. Smooth chocolaty icing. Delicious!

We ate the other treats over the next couple of days. I didn't try the peanut butter-chocolate cupcake, but SP said it was really good. Of course, he loves that flavor combination. The lemon-lavender cupcake had a terrific, strong lemon taste with a hint of floral lavender. I think it may have been one of the best lemon flavored treats we've ever had. The biscotti were not too hard so SP ate his undunked while I dunked mine in tea. The gingersnap one was so good we fought over who got to have more of it. Gingery & spicy. The chocolate-orange biscotti was yummy, too, with lots of orange flavor and terrific chocolate icing on the side.

The bakery does have one smallish step to get inside, but it wasn't too bad and SP managed even with a sore wrist to get me & the wheelchair up and inside. The lady behind the counter apologized for being out of a lot of items but took the time to identify each cupcake and biscotti flavor for me (though I did wonder why there weren't little signs to show the flavor).

I definitely would like to try more of the treats at Batter & Dough, especially the cinnamon, espresso bean, and dulce de leche biscotti (some of my favorite flavors) but next time, we'll have to go earlier in the day. Of course, that's the case with any bakery/donut shop - we frequently discover that we just didn't get there early enough.

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