Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thursday Thoughts - Peace, Love, & Little Donuts

I don't have many Thursday Thoughts today besides donuts. Recently, Peace, Love, & Little Donuts opened up on Steubenville Pike here in Robinson. There are several locations. I think the first one was in The Strip. Anyway, we were excited to have a donut place open up near us. Sure, Pink House (Better Maid) is near us, but PL&LD is even closer. Close enough that SP can run over in the morning, buy donuts, and bring them home for me before he leaves for work. Better Maid is on the way to work so it's not convenient to run out and then come home and then go to work.
He got 6 small donuts. All the donuts are the same, it's what you ask for on top that makes them different and gives them flavor. He asked for 2 maple-bacon, 1 cherry cheesecake, 1 blueberry pancake, 1 lemon ginger, and 1 coffee cake. All were good. I would have liked the blueberry pancake one better without the hint of maple (unless that was just a neighboring donut flavoring it, but I don't think so). The maple-bacon was our favorite.
We're glad to have a donut place in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Crepes of Brittany

Much as I have been missing "real" dessert, I've been missing breakfast. It's late September and my favorite fruit season is over so it's back to bananas for breakfast. Sigh. Sometimes I wish we lived somewhere that I could walk across the street and have a yummy breakfast treat, lovely cup of hot tea, and people watch. Like we did when we were on vacation in Monterey. When we exited the lobby of our hotel, there was a cute crepe cafe right in front of us and that's where we went for breakfast nearly every morning: Crepes of Brittany.
I almost always had the apple tart pastry (if those were gone, I'd have a croissant) and then helped SP eat his breakfast crepe, usually ham or turkey with egg & cheese.
A couple of days, we stopped in late afternoon for a crepe snack like the lemon & sugar one in the above photo. We shared the sweet crepe and got a large cup of tea to go then wandered along the wharf, sipping our shared tea. It was so nice.

Though we weren't super impressed with our hotel, I'd stay there again because of its location to this crepe place & Alvarado Street with its shops & restaurants.

  Crepes of Brittany Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cafe Carmel (Carmel)

The past week or so, we haven't had any official dessert in the house. We haven't baked anything. Instead, we finished the Easter chocolate. Or popped popcorn. Or ate the ice cream we made in July. It made me sad because I look forward to a sweet treat every night. Old chocolate, melty ice cream, and popcorn weren't exactly exciting. Especially when I found these photos in my blog drafts. Photos of giant cookies at Carmel Bakery from our trip last July.
I love linzer cookies & elephant ears & chocolate chip cookies & giant gingerbread people.
I don't love macaroons, but I took their photo anyway because they were huge.
I was overwhelmed with choices but in the end, I picked the linzer cookie.
The linzer cookie with so much powdered sugar that I was coated in white dust before it even got to my mouth. Oh well. That's what the wet wipes are for, right?
Oh yes - they had food, too. SP had quiche and a small salad while I had a turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato wrap.
Definitely a nice stop for a mid afternoon snack after a day wandering around Carmel. Cafe Carmel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 26, 2016

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin is a dish we've been regularly making for years but I couldn't find it on my Recipes Page. So when we made it last weekend, I figured I should take some photos and write about it again, making sure to add it on the Recipes Page. It turns out, I have blogged about it before, back in February 2011.
We still pretty much follow the recipe in Joy of Cooking; we've modified it a bit to suit our tastes. Instead of 8 oz mushrooms, we use 24 oz. We omit the pearl onions. Sometimes we use fresh, sometimes dried herbs. Nowadays we use the Dutch oven instead of a large pot. After the chicken cooks, we peel off the fat and cut the meat from the bone then toss the chunks of chicken back into the pot. It isn't as "pretty" as whole pieces of chicken topped with sauce but it makes eating it easier.
This is still one of our favorite meals to make. It isn't too labor intensive. The kitchen can be cleaned while the meal cooks. We get about 3 dinners from this recipe. It tastes just as good reheated.

Here's our version:

Coq au Vin

3.5~4.5 lbs bone-in chicken parts
4 oz bacon, chopped
1/2  medium onion, chopped
1 cup peeled & chopped carrot
3 tbsp flour
3 c dry red wine
1 c chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or fresh)
1/2 tsp dried marjoram or oregano (or fresh)
24 oz mushrooms (Costco package), sliced
dried/fresh parsley

Season chicken with salt & pepper. Fry bacon in Dutch oven (or large pot) until nicely browned. Remove bacon. Add chicken to pot and brown the chicken on both sides in the bacon fat. Don't over crowd the pan. Remove browned chicken and add remaining chicken to brown. Once all the chicken is browned, set it aside on a plate. Remove all but about 2-3 tbsp fat from pan. Add onion and carrots and cook until softened. Stir in flour, reduce heat, and stir constantly until the roux turns light brown. Stir in wine, stock, tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme, and marjoram/oregano. Increase heat & bring to a boil. Return the bacon, chicken, and any accumulated juices to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through (about half an hour). Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms in a pan (can use butter or olive oil or bacon fat; we use olive oil). When the mushrooms are cooked, set them aside.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pot. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce it until it is syrupy. Skim off any fat that accumulates on top the sauce. While the sauce is reducing, remove the skin from the chicken and remove the meat from the bones. When the sauce is reduced, add the chicken and mushrooms to the sauce, season with salt & pepper if necessary, stir in some fresh/dried parsley if desired, then serve with boiled potatoes, noodles, or bread.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

Happy First Day of Autumn!

I guess that means I won't complain about pumpkin spice everything now. And apple spice. And fall decor. Especially since I got my fall decorations out and the house now smells like apple and cider candles.

But I better not walk into a mall and hear Christmas music or see a decorated Christmas tree.

Meals This Week: Coq au Vin and grilled cheese-tomato-bacon sandwiches. We had to thaw a package of bacon for the coq au vin but only used a portion of it in that dish, so we decided to fry the rest and have a super quick and easy dinner of grilled cheese with bacon and tomatoes from our garden. Yes, we're still getting a few cherry tomatoes.

TV Update: We finished watching Bloodline Season 2 and wow! Didn't see that ending. Can't wait to see what happens in season 3 and how things end since the 3rd season is supposed to be the final season.

We're already a little behind on the new TV season because we were finishing Bloodline. Last night we watched the new show Designated Survivor and we liked it enough to continue watching. But I kept yelling at the TV for Kiefer to turn into Jack Bauer to kick some *** instead of this meek and mild Kiefer!

I also gave This Is Us a try. I liked it even though it made me cry. I think I'll stick with it.

Movie Update: None. I did, however, watch parts of Jurassic World several times this week when I flipped by and it was on. I never tire of watching dinosaurs eat stupid people.

Book Update: I read The Inseperables by Stuart Nadler and Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry. Both were good and held my attention.

Magazines: A new Food & Wine arrived. Sometimes I don't enjoy it very much because of the focus on wine. I like wine, but living in PA with its archaic liquor laws and limited selection means I feel like reading some of the articles is a waste of my time. Also, reading about wineries in France & Italy? Kind of interesting, but it's not like I frequently go to those countries. If I do get there, I'm going to be more focused on being a tourist and sight-seeing than seeking out these wines and wineries. Even Napa, which I've visited and enjoyed, doesn't hold much interest for me these days as it has changed so much since I was there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Patrick's Pub

This past weekend was one of those weekends. The kind that we waste a lot of time trying to figure out what to do, where to eat, how far do we want to drive, do we want to deal with traffic. Part of the problem was the weather. It was supposed to be rainy, so that was putting a damper on our initial thoughts to go to the Squirrel Hill Night Market. The other damper on that idea: traffic. The Liberty Tunnels/Bridge are still closed, so the Fort Pitt Tunnels/Bridge are extra crowded. I just wasn't in the mood for traffic and rain.

We ended up deciding to try a new-to-us place: Patrick's Pub in Moon Township. It doesn't seem like Moon is that far from us, and I suppose part of it isn't, but the part where Patrick's Pub is turned out to be farther away than we expected. Depending on which route we take, it's 11-15 miles and 19-21 minutes from our house. The city is 9-10 miles from us and if traffic into the city isn't bad, it takes less time to get there than to Patrick's Pub in Moon!

We were seated right away. The employees are really friendly and laid back. The Pitt game was on easy to see TVs. And there is a huge beer selection. SP opted for East End Draft. I had iced tea - and happily, they make a tasty, not weak, fresh brewed iced tea.
We started with Mozzarella Cheese Sticks. Tasty marinara, gooey cheese, crispy breading. Earlier in the day I'd been thinking about cheese sticks, so these made me very happy.
SP chose a meal that came with a side salad. He chose Italian dressing. After he ate his salad, the meals arrived. His meal:
Dublin Seafood Coddle - traditional Irish stew with shrimp, mussels, sausage, potatoes, onion, bacon, tomato served in savory broth with garlic bread. He said it was delicious. There was quite a bit of seafood and enough potatoes and sausage that he had a bit leftover for lunch the next day (he ate the bread at dinner).
I thought about Turkey Devonshire, then Chicken Devonshire, then finally decided on Roast Beef n Cheddar. It made me think of Arby's beef & cheddar, only much tastier! A nice bun (not too hard, not too squishy), lots of well done, tender beef slices, and melted cheddar. After the cheese sticks, I was a little full so I ate half my sandwich and took the rest home for lunch.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Patrick's Pub. It was casual and relaxing, I liked being able to see some of the Pitt game (it was delayed in the 4th quarter because of lightning in Oklahoma), the iced tea was really good, and our server was friendly and attentive. The menu has a lot of variety, so there's something for everyone. We'd go back.

Patrick's Pub & Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

I haven't felt like writing this week. I've been busy doing other things and just haven't felt like taking the time to blog. I'm glad that I don't earn money from the blog, it's just a hobby, it's not my income, so if it feels like "work" I can just ignore it for a while.

We met with the roof guy, signed the final paperwork, and paid for the project. So it's officially done.

Thanks to The Steel Trap I now know that Cheetos Chicken Fries are a thing at Burger King. You can read her review here. I admire her courage to taste test these. I never liked and still don't like Cheetos. I haven't eaten at Burger King in 20+ years. I'm guessing "chicken fries" = chicken nuggets and after watching a Jamie Oliver show about what exactly is in a chicken nugget, well, there's no way I'm ever eating a chicken nugget/chicken fry. (Yes, I ate them when I was a kid and I loved them, especially when dipped in those high fructose corn syrup sauces.)

Meals This Week: Rigatoni with Lamb Ragu & Fresh Mint for 3 dinners and grilled bratwurst on leftover hot dog buns with grilled zucchini & garden tomatoes on the side for 2-3 dinners. Dessert is Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies.

TV Update: The new TV season starts next week and we still have a lot of recordings we meant to watch but didn't watch. Sunday night was the 2 hour finale of BrainDead, which we ended up liking for a light summer show. Monday night was the Steelers game. The next 2 nights we spent watching some shows recorded from Food Network plus the premiere of the new season of Worst Cooks in America.

We also watched a few more shows on Smithsonian Channel. We watched The Codebreaker Who Hacked Hitler, a couple shows about Buckingham Palace, and World War II Spy School.

Last Saturday we watched the Pitt-Penn State football game. They played for the first time in a long time. This game used to be such a big deal, such a rivalry. I remember my best friend and I making bets on which team would win when we were in middle school. I'm a Pitt fan, she's a PSU fan (her dad taught there and she went there).

My dad & brother went to Pitt and when I was a kid, my parents bought season tickets for the family so I went to a lot of games. We always went to the Cathedral of Learning to hang out before the games then we'd walk up Cardiac Hill to Pitt Stadium and watch the game then on the way home we'd stop for dinner at a restaurant in Bridgeville. I don't remember the name of the restaurant, but my brother & I always got pizza and then the sundae bar for dessert.

I was sad when Pitt Stadium was torn down and I think the current students are missing out since the football games aren't played on campus but at Heinz Field now.

Anyway, Pitt won.

Movie Update: We finally watched some DVDs I've had since May/June. Legend (Tom Hardy was great but the movie itself was just meh), Zootopia, which was a lot of fun, and Secret in Their Eyes (which was a good story but I found myself at times thinking the movie was a little slow).

Books Update: None. I have 2 from the library and 1 request ready for pick up.

Magazines: Nothing new, still enjoying the ones that came last week.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Corkscrew Cafe (Carmel Valley)

Our final night in Monterey, we again met up with L&T. Originally, they wanted to take us to dinner at a restaurant in Big Sur, but it was a foggy evening so the view would have not been good. Instead, they took us to a place in the Carmel Valley: The Corkscrew Cafe.
It's an adorable place. Quaint and cozy and welcoming inside plus an outdoor garden dining area with grapes hanging over your head and a water feature gurgling gently away.
As usual, L opted for Stella Artois, T for tea, while SP & I enjoyed white wine. As we were seated, T ordered Whole Roasted Garlic (with Baked Goat Cheese & House Made Bread) to start. I don't think they know about my garlic sensitivity! The funny thing is, L wouldn't touch it, either! So it was up to T and SP to polish off the garlic, cheese, and bread, which they happily did.
We also shared a starter of Brussels Sprouts (with spicy orange marmalade).
These were yummy Brussels and I liked that instead of balsamic or cheese or maple, these were flavored with orange. It was really good, that sticky, sweet, citrus flavor on the Brussels.
SP & I shared Heirloom Tomato Salad (melon, cucumber, prosciutto, burrata, charred padron). One of the best salads we've ever had. This was so darn good. Fresh, light, so much flavor.
The menu isn't large and the entrees included veal, mussels, and salmon, all of which we enjoy, but somehow, we couldn't pass up the Meyer Lemon Wood Fired Pizza (Meyer lemon, prosciutto, arugula, mozzarella, parmesan). Wow. One of the best pizzas ever. The lemon was such a nice flavor, not too tart, not overpowering, just such a nice bright flavor with the salty prosciutto, crunchy arugula, and cheeses.

L&T both chose the Salmon (cauliflower, pink peppercorn potatoes, citrus chive emulsion). I didn't take a photo of their food but they both said it was delicious. They were a little sad the salmon pizza was no longer on the menu.
The 4 of us shared 2 desserts. One was a Stonefruit Galette served with vanilla ice cream and the other was a Chocolate Cake served with vanilla ice cream. Both were delicious and quickly devoured.
After dinner, as we were sitting around chatting, L asked us which meal of our 10 day trip was our favorite. We both named the same place: Corkscrew Cafe. He was surprised. I think it was the lovely garden setting, the grapes hanging over our heads, the leisurely pace of dinner, a friendly server, great company, gorgeous summer evening - but also, the fresh, flavorful food. It was filling and satisfying and delicious and just the right portion sizes for us. We were left wanting more but not hungry, just that it was so tasty our taste buds cried out for more. We were full but not overly stuffed.

We will definitely go back on our next trip to the area.

Corkscrew Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

It didn't take long for the wasps to start rebuilding their nests in the new soffit/fascia. Grrr. So SP sprayed. The spray ran down the big kitchen window and left streaks  - streaks on the window that had just been cleaned 4 days earlier. Sometimes you just can't win.

My computer seems OK but now, it's SP's computer. One morning, he walked up to me and proclaimed that it was dead. It had been acting strange for a while, then it started randomly restarting itself, and then it completely died. So now he has a dead computer and a dead tablet.

I'm developing a raging hatred of pumpkin spice and apples and cider and fall, all things I used to love and look forward to since autumn is my favorite season. But, no, I don't want to see pumpkin beer, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice anything, before Labor Day. Or on Labor Day. Or the week after Labor Day. I don't want to see the weekly grocery flyer filled with bakery treats that are pumpkin and apple. Especially not when it's still hot & humid and feeling like July, not September.

Meals This Week: Tomato Tart and Apricot-Mustard Glazed Grilled Chicken with grilled zucchini and sliced tomatoes and Mediterra bread. Dessert was homemade Peach Pie. We make a peach pie every year at the end of August/early September. Now that the pie is gone, we're either not having dessert of trying to finish some ice cream in the freezer.

TV Update: We finished watching Season 1 of Bloodline. We really liked it and are anxious to start Season 2. We also finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2. I wanted to finish watching the second season, but I found myself not really enjoying it.

Meanwhile, I discovered we have a free month of Smithsonian Channel so I've been recording a lot of shows. Last night we watched a 2 hour show about Pompeii. It was really interesting. I love Smithsonian Channel, but not enough to upgrade to the next package of channels since of those channels, this is the only one I'd ever watch.

Movie Update: None. But I think we might watch Zootopia tonight.

Books Update: I read This Was Not the Plan. I read it in an afternoon, so it held my attention, but it wrapped things up in a predictable way.

Magazines: New issues of Saveur & Food Network Magazine arrived. I almost hurled the FNM out the window because it came on Sept. 3 and the cover was all about Halloween and 50 Spooky Snacks. Too early! Halloween is 2 months away!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tomato~Prosciutto~Mozzarella Tart

Several years ago, we made the Tomato-Mozzarella Tart from America's Test Kitchen. The recipe is in Baking Illustrated and in The Science of Good Cooking. At the time, I wasn't super impressed by it. That was surprising because it's from ATK and because it's some of my favorite foods: puff pastry, tomatoes, cheese, basil.
At the time, I much preferred the Roasted Tomato Tart we make with roasted tomatoes and feta or goat cheese. The ATK tomato tart so unimpressed me that it has been years since we made it - the last time we made it was before the blog since I cannot even find the recipe on the blog. But I decided I wanted something different from our usual, so we decided to give it another try. This time, we added the prosciutto.
It's also possible that the one & only time we made it, we didn't use fresh basil. This time, we used some of our dwarf basil.
The puff pastry also got much puffier and flakier than last time. So many golden, flaky layers topped with parmesan, mozzarella, prosciutto, and farmers market tomatoes plus one yellow tomato from our garden.
I don't know what we did last time to make it not so tasty because this time, it was delicious. Oh my gosh. I think I now like this tart better than the Roasted Tomato Tart. Salty prosciutto, melty mozzarella, flaky puff pastry, fresh basil - all the flavors of summer on the "last" weekend of summer (Labor Day weekend).

We need to make this again, very soon, because I'm not sure I can wait until next summer season for the fresh basil and local tomatoes for this tart.

Recipe here.

*We omitted the garlic and added prosciutto on top the cheese/under the tomato.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Zucchini with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Basil

When we bought a spiralizer back in March/April, one of the reasons was to liven up our summer zucchini dishes. We had been growing weary of sliced and grilled zucchini. Of course this year it seems our garden has not produced as much zucchini as it has in the past and we haven't been to the farmers market as much as usual. So we have not eaten much zucchini.
Then I realized it was the end of August and we had not spiralized a single zucchini all summer long. Back in the spring, yes. But this summer? Nope. So I decided we needed to fix that. Around the same time, Epicurious tweeted/emailed a recipe for Zucchini Noodles with Eggplant & Tomatoes. Eggplant? We haven't had eggplant in ages either. So that's what we made.
Our cooked eggplant became mushy and ended up disappearing into the dish, but the flavor is still there.
Three zucchini, spiralized. We sauteed our zucchini spirals for a bit even though the recipe doesn't call for it.
After everything is sauteed, it is tossed together and served. This is quick and easy and tasty. I like the  mix of textures and flavors from the cooked and uncooked tomatoes, the salty olives, slightly crisp zucchini, soft eggplant, the acidity of that bit of lemon.
Our version:

Zucchini with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Basil

3 medium zucchini, spiralized (or cut into matchsticks)
kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-1.5 cups basil leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 eggplant, cut into 1/4" slices
1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, whole
1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup kalamata olives, quartered
fresh buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced

Spiralize zucchini and place in a strainer in the sink or set over a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. salt and toss to combine. Let sit 10 minutes then press gently to remove any liquid.

Whisk together lemon juice, honey, pepper, 1/2 cup basil, olive oil, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a large bowl.

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Cook onion, eggplant, and whole tomatoes until eggplant is browned and cooked through and tomatoes begin to burst. Transfer to bowl with dressing.

Drizzle a little more olive oil in the skillet. Add zucchini and saute until slightly "wilted" and warmed. Add zucchini to bowl with eggplant & dressing. Add sliced tomatoes, kalamatas, and as much fresh basil as you like to the bowl. Gently toss everything together. Either alongside or on top the zucchini, serve as many slices of fresh mozzarella as you like.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Return to Morcilla

In June I started suggesting that we return to Morcilla. We both had really liked the restaurant when we went in January but we hadn't been back. As usual, life interfered, and before we knew it, it was August and we still hadn't returned. Then Morcilla was named one of the Top Ten New Restaurants 2016 by Bon Appetit. I said to SP that we had to return, soon, before it became too difficult to get a reservation without planning weeks in advance. So we made a reservation for 2 weeks from that conversation and finally found ourselves back at Morcilla, although this time on a hot & humid August day instead of cold & wintry January day.
This time, instead of sangria, which is very good, I decided on wine. I enjoyed 2 glasses of albarino while SP first had a cider and then a gin cocktail.

We once again shared a lot of plates. Some were favorites from last time, some were new to the menu, and all were delicious. Here's what we enjoyed:
Sobrasada (spreadable smoked pork salami, pimentón, dried chilis, crispy bread, guindilla).
Serrano Ham (marcona almonds). I love this ham. I ate more than my half. I don't feel bad about that. 
Much as I love the Serrano Ham, I think this might have been my favorite: Montaditos, Oxtail (caramelized onion, Mahón cheese). So good we ordered a second one. The toasty bread, the melted cheese, the sweet carameized onions, the tender oxtail. So. Good.
Of course I also did a good job of inhaling the Queso de Cabra (smoked goat cheese, creamed corn, spicy peach marmalade, basil). Smoked cheese. Enough said.
Tomatoes and Peaches (idiazabal cheese, marcona almonds, sherry vinaigrette, basil). Tis the season and these tomatoes & peaches were excellent.
I let SP eat this one all by himself: Spanish Mackerel (ajo dulce, cauliflower catalan, capers,
garlic, preserved lemon, parsley). He was happy to do so and I swear he made some happy noises as he ate.
Meanwhile I was focused on this favorite: Cordero en Moreno (Jamison Farm spiced lamb meatballs, sumac yogurt, golden raisin and leek escabeche). Lamb. Yogurt. Yum.
Dessert: Churros (hazelnut chocolate, cinnamon crema). Just enough for a little sweet treat after eating all that food. This time I refrained from spooning the chocolate sauce into my mouth. That's because I used my churro to scoop huge globs of the sauce into my mouth. I could probably eat both churros so maybe next time I'll get my own order - then I won't have to share!

I'm happy that the food was just as delicious as I remember and our server was as lovely as last time. Our food arrived at a nice pace and we never felt rushed. I don't like to declare a restaurant "my favorite" or "the best" because depending on my mood or the occasion or the company, it varies. There are a lot of great places in Pittsburgh. Morcilla is definitely in the top 5 of my personal favorite places in Pittsburgh list.

Morcilla Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato