Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. It's been one of those days.

2. As soon as SP left for work, I thought I heard a noise. Like an alarm. I was in the bathroom and I couldn't figure out from where the sound was coming. It wasn't super loud, so I figured maybe it was my ears. I frequently have a ringing in my ears and it worsens when I have allergies - and I've been sneezing up a storm lately. Or maybe it was from outside. Since I wasn't yet dressed, I decided to not investigate. I went ahead and finished getting cleaned up.

But I still heard the sound. I thought I was going crazy. So I started slowly creeping around the house. Finally, I opened the door to the basement and lo & behold - I wasn't crazy. I wasn't hearing things. My ears weren't ringing. An alarm was going off.

Of course it was in the basement, where I cannot go to investigate. So I called SP. As his phone was ringing, I was sniffing the air for smoke and peering down the stairs looking for smoke. Of course, I waited just long enough to investigate that SP had just arrived at his desk. At his job. 30-40 minutes away. I described the issue, he said it was probably one of his back up ups systems with a low battery. I grumbled because the STUPID ups things ALWAYS decide to malfunction when I am home alone. They drive me nuts when the power goes out because they beep non-stop until power is restored. SO. ANNOYING.

So I called his mom to see if she was on the way because she was supposed to be stopping by to drop something off after 10 am and it was after 10 am. But I got her voice mail. So I called a friend of mine who currently has a sort of consulting job and he isn't always working. Fortunately, he was at home and he said he'd be over but to please be sure to open a door or window if I started feeling sleepy in case it was the carbon monoxide detector.

SP's mom then called back and asked if everything was OK. I told her what was going on and she said she was on her way from the post office. She arrived first, but I don't think she even noticed the alarm noise when she was here and since it was likely one of SP's 'nerd set up' noises, she didn't investigate. S showed up. MIL left. S went downstairs, verified it was the ups by the tv, and unplugged it to be sure it wouldn't go off again.

3. By then it was near 11 am and I hadn't had breakfast, but I didn't really feel like eating. I made tea for me & S and we sat and talked for an hour, just catching up with things since we haven't hung out in a while. Oh, and we ate chocolate chip cookies.

4. S left around noon and a couple of minutes later, M & P arrived for lunch. In all the alarm excitement, I had forgotten that I was supposed to call and order food for lunch. So we ordered pizza and then looked at photos from M's recent family vacation on a Disney cruise. It's always fun to chat and giggle with M & P - they are friends from when I worked at V but since V recently closed its Pittsburgh offices, M has started a new job and P took a position with V in OH and is commuting back & forth (4 work days in OH, 3 day weekend in Pgh), so it was fun to hear about their new adventures, especially P's story of her husband attempting to navigate the roads in downtown Pittsburgh after picking her up at the Greyhound station (they live in Butler county).

5. I finally got to read the newspaper around 3:30 pm.

6. Now I am finally catching up on 'computer stuff.' Like tracking the stuff I ordered that shipped the day I ordered it. It went from OH to NJ to Etna and it's still trying, a week later, to make it to my home. I would think that a company this well known would have better, more efficient shipping practices, but... It was free shipping.

7. I also likely just spoiled my appetite for dinner because I couldn't resist the call of the Fritos. Crunch crunch.

8. To summarize, today I got to visit with 3 friends. curse out SP's nerd set up, and eat cookies, pizza, and Fritos. Sounds like a pretty darn good Thursday so far.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Meat & Potatoes, Revisited

Saturday we had tickets to see Peter & the Starcatcher (not a show I enjoyed much) but best of all, we had reservations after the show at Meat & Potatoes. I've been thinking about the macaroni & cheese and the flatbread ever since we last dined there in November 2013. I took my camera, but I was sure I wouldn't take photos because we would probably order the same dishes we always order, plus, it's usually a bit too dark for good photos.

Of course that didn't happen. There was still lots of sunshiny bright natural light. And SP ordered something new, plus we tried new-to-us cocktails. So out came the camera...
Delicious fresh brewed iced tea and Sgt Pepper's Old Fashioned - so good!

Southie - Jameson Black Barrel, lemon, black Irish tea syrup, apple cider, mint. This is really tasty, a little sweet, refreshing from the mint.

After I finished my Old Fashioned (really surprised how quickly I sucked that down, because it was a strong, for me, drink) and helping SP with his Southie (yum, and, well, he's not supposed to be drinking much anyway) I decided to try Bufala Negra - heaven hill, ginger, balsamic reduction, basil, brown sugar, Pittsburgh seltzer. This is another really good cocktail and I can't decide which of the 3 I liked best. I guess we'll have to always order all 3!

No surprise - we ordered the Fried Brussels. So. Good.

Of course we got the Fried Pickles with spicy ranch - still the best I've had.

SP ordered the coup of the day - a take on vichyssoise, with broccoli, cheddar foam, and ramps. He loved it. Me, not so much, but remember I am not a huge fan of soup and especially not chilled soup, especially not chilled soup with ramps - whether a ramp is a wild leek or wild garlic or spring onion, it all means tummy unhappiness for me.

 Short Ribs & Blue Cheese Flatbread with cheddar, horseradish, pickled onions, and arugula. Just as delicious as last time.

Mac-n Cheese with chorizo, pulled pork, government cheese. I am never going to be able to resist ordering this. 

SP got the daily charcuterie board. I can't remember everything that was on the board.

Closer view.

Closer view. In between mouthfuls he mumbled something about delicousness and before I knew it, the board was empty except for the bread, which was more of a carb issue thing than tasty bread thing.

Someone wanted dessert. And it wasn't the person who usually wants dessert. The dessert craving person chose Strawberry Pretzel Pie. The white part is like a super smooth, creamy white chocolate mousse (I think). Crushed pretzel crust. Strawberry topping. It was very tasty, but I had just a couple spoonfuls because I was stuffed.

Such a pretty dessert.
We have enjoyed Meat & Potatoes more & more with each visit. When we walked past on out way to the show, it was so sunny and warm that we stopped in, mentioned our reservation for later on, and asked to be seated outside. Of course by the time we went back for dinner around 5:15, there wasn't any sun shining on the outdoor dining area and there was a breeze which had given me a chill as we sat in Eyeball Park for a while after the show. So I asked if they could seat us inside after all. And I felt horrible. Because I probably messed up all their planning and arranging of reserved tables. But I was very happy that the hostesses happily changed us to indoor dining. I'm such an old lady - a breeze in a shady area on a 73 degree day makes me chilly and want a coat.

Our server was terrific. The food delicious. The cocktails refreshing & yummy. And my dining companion was pretty great, too. Still one of our favorite places.

I'm already planning which show in the next Broadway Across America series is followed by dinner at Meat & Potatoes.

Meat & Potatoes on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fun & Food in the Sun

After a long, cold winter, Olaf isn't the only one who was super excited to be outside this past weekend - it was a lovely, sunny, warm holiday weekend. The weather was wonderful for hanging out on the deck. Olaf got to experience summer & sun! Of course you can't see Elsa's magical flurry cloud above him, keeping him from melting. Thanks to The P's 2 daughters for bringing Olaf to the cookout!
It was also a great weekend for reading in the sunroom and sipping an Old Fashioned.

A good weekend for fussing over the herbs & tomato plants, wondering if they're getting too little/too much sun/rain.

A great weekend for grilling: burgers. Sometimes stuffed in a pita...

...and sometimes cut up on a plate with ripped pita and cheese plus veggies.
Best of all it was a great weekend to gather with friends for a cookout and eat, drink, and laugh too much.
Beer bread, brought by Mr. & Mrs. P. They also brought dips - the bacon dip was a hit.

We made a veggie tray

And some veggie dip - Beau Monde Dip

Mr. B brought homemade salsa, which wimpy me didn't try but everyone else proclaimed it quite delicious and not too hot. Jalapenos and raw onions scare me...!

B&R brought veggie pizza - this time they chopped the veggies in the food processor. I like the super small veggie bits.

My first snack plate
SP grilled chicken. Some was seasoned simply with salt & pepper. Some with Penzey's Northwood Seasoning. Some got basted with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce. Some got basted with SP's homemade sauce that wasn't supposed to be hot but when I tried it Sunday night I gagged and deemed it 'gross' - it seemed too thin/runny and it had too much hot sauce for my taste. Others at Monday's cookout liked it and said it could have been hotter. I stuck with the store-bought stuff!

We made fruit salad: honeydew, strawberries, grapes, and blueberries - plus a little bit of lime zest & lime juice and a little bit of sugar.

B&R made delicious fudgy brownies. SP & I made chocolate chip cookies and vanilla bean ice cream. Mr. B brought Almond Crisps (not pictured) from Market Fresh. Mr. & Mrs. P brought loft sugar cookies with sprinkles (not pictured). Lots of cookies and dessert, which we washed down with some dessert wine, courtesy of Mr. B. The orange muscat was very sweet and strong while the black currant was not as strong and fruitier.
Hope your Memorial Day weekend was as fun and delicious as ours.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. We went to see Godzilla - it was fun! Not only was it a blast to watch Godzilla fight the MUTOs but it made me fondly recall past holidays when my family would have an old Godzilla movie on TV as we made the holiday dinner. Somehow, my brother's VHS of the movie where Godzilla battles Mothra is in my possession. I just can't part with it. My brother has even introduced his son to holiday Godzilla viewings!
Small garden covered with bed sheet the morning after a frost warning.
2. Of course after we moved all the plants outside there were frost warnings. Twice last weekend SP went out at 11:30 at night to cover the garden and petunias out front and then out onto the deck to bring the herb pots into the sunroom. Stupid cold weather. Thank goodness we have a bunch of old bed skirts and sheets - they seem to work well when plants need covering!

3. We added a new herb to our herb line up: tarragon. SP bought a plant at the Frick greenhouse yesterday and transplanted it last night.

4. It's Memorial Day weekend! That means it's summer. Right?

5. Whoo - the Brenchels didn't win Amazing Race! It was SO MUCH FUN to watch her dissolve in tears as they failed to win in their hometown of Las Vegas. I laughed so hard when she couldn't find the employee entrance at The Mirage when she used to work there! Hahahahaha!
6. We made a roast chicken this week. We haven't done that in quite some time. We used the last bag of stuffing cubes (I bought too many bags of stuffing cubes last Thanksgiving) to make sausage~mushroom stuffing and steamed some broccoli to go with it. Yum! The chicken was seasoned with sauteed onions, lemon, salt, and parsley.
Chicken seasoning - rubbed under skin and inside
7. Dessert this week is madeleines.
It's been a long time since we baked these. This was one of the better results since I managed to get them out just as they were starting to brown so they stayed moist. I'm glad that we can make such delicious, mouth-watering desserts, but on the other hand, when I have will power problems and eat 5 cookies at once, maybe it's not so good.

8. Hope you have a great holiday weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze

It's been a while (OK, 2 months) since we made this cake. More precisely, it was March 23 when I declared that we had to make a spring-like dessert because I was so tired and bored with winter weather & foods and I needed desperately to feel like warmer weather and lighter foods were coming. Plus, I had been sick for 2 weeks and I was sick of being sick and eating sick foods!
This dessert came to mind: Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze. It has lots of citrus - orange, lemon, and lime juices and zests. It is a loaf cake, so not too big, which is good for us. And it was pretty simple, just a little time consuming.
There was lots of juicing and zesting of lemons, limes, and oranges. Making the cake. Making the simple syrup to brush all over the cooled cake. Making the glaze to drizzle on top the cooled and syrup-ed cake. But it was worth it - this is a moist & super citrus-y cake.
We didn't have any problems with our cake sinking in the middle like some of the reviewers for this recipe. We happened to have the exact size loaf pan as suggested plus we took the time to coat the pan with non-stick spray, line with parchment, and coat the parchment with non-stick spray. In the past, I would have ignored those steps because it's a non-stick pan, but after some 'incidents' over the years with my lazy approach, we now take the time to grease and flour and sometimes line with parchment whenever we bake, even if it's a non-stick pan.

Our glaze seemed off - it wasn't white and it was much thinner than the photo. It ran all over the cake platter. Despite being runny, it was delicious, and we simply scooped some of it up off the platter and onto each piece of cake as we cut and ate it.
Next time, we would go ahead and poke almost all the way to the bottom oft he cake to really get the simple syrup into it and maybe use a bit less juice in the glaze to make it a thicker glaze.

Recipe here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chicken Piccata with Lemon Fettuccine

We made this dinner a couple of weeks ago and I am still thinking about it - it was that delicious: Chicken Piccata and Lemon Fettuccine.
I'd been thinking about Chicken Piccata for some reason. Simple. Lemony. And capers - I like just a hint of caper flavor but SP loves capers. I figured he'd be up for trying a piccata dish.
I really wanted a side of fettuccine with the piccata. A simple pasta, with lemon flavor, but somehow just adding lemon juice & olive oil, maybe some zest, didn't seem like it would work. There had to be more to a delicious, lemony pasta. There is: heavy cream. Every lemon pasta recipe I looked up used heavy cream with the lemon juice & zest. Hmmm. Heavy cream = not so healthy. Especially with butter. And pasta. We talked it over and using some fuzzy math/justification skills, finally decided that it was 'only' 1/2 cup heavy cream for a total of 6 servings (we planned on 3 chicken piccata-fettuccine meals) so that was only like a tbsp or so per serving, so it wouldn't be too unhealthy, right?!
I knew the basics of chicken piccata: lemon juice, chicken stock, white wine, capers. I checked out a few recipes online to see if I was missing anything and discovered that some use only stock, some use only wine, and some use both.  I wanted both, plus the lemon and butter and capers. OK, I really wanted to drink some wine, so I figured we should use some of it in the chicken, too.
Our meat pounder is a glass with a heavy base. We butterflied our breasts and then lightly pounded them before flouring them.
It doesn't take too long to cook the thin chicken, about 3-4 minutes per side. We always cook chicken a bit longer because of my sensitive stomach.
The sauce:
Back in the skillet with the sauce and capers:
Time for the fettuccine. Ever since my mom bought a package of DeLallo Fettuccine Egg Pasta, I can't seem to get it out of my mind. It is so tasty. She likes it so much that she has me mail it to her in Las Vegas because she cannot find it out there! Here's our cream-butter sauce-lemon juice & zest sauce - so indulgent!
Ribbons of fettuccine:
Mixed together - the sauce did a nice job of coating & clinging to the pasta:
We both loved the lemony fettuccine and it paired wonderfully with the lemony & briny chicken piccata. SP did an excellent job of thoroughly cooking the chicken but making sure it was still juicy. I know it couldn't have been a light meal because of the pasta, but the lemon and wine flavors were so bright and fresh that it felt like a light meal.

I thought for sure we would finally finish our huge jar of capers from Costco (where else?!) but sadly, even with a very generous amount of capers, there are still some left. We have had that jar for... um...  a really, really long time. I'm almost embarrassed to say how long (5-6 years) but the date on the jar indicates they're still good, so... And no one got sick or died from old capers!

Anyway, we have plenty of capers to make this dish again, which we definitely will do!

We steamed some broccoli for our vegetable. Green beans would be nice, too. Or a side salad.
We used this chicken piccata recipe and this lemon fettuccine recipe.

*We did not stir the last 2 tbsp of butter into the chicken piccata. The sauce doesn't need it to be delicious.