Monday, April 30, 2018

Farro Salad

Farro is a grain I have come to really like. I like it much, much more than quinoa. A couple weeks ago we tried a new-to-us farro dish inspired by a recipe in Food Network Magazine. It's like a lot of grain salads we've made: grain (or pita), tomato, cucumber, feta.
There is also arugula. Since we were making this dish on a Sunday but not eating it until later in the week, we decided to cook the farro and refrigerate it. We added the tomatoes, cucumber, fresh mint, dried parsley, and dressing to the farro later and had the arugula on the side. We sprinkled the feta on top each night we ate this for dinner. We omitted the red pepper flakes and radishes.
This is definitely a make again dish, especially for the (hopefully) coming warm months. Quick, easy, delicious.

Recipe from magazine: Farro Salad with Radishes, Arugula and Feta.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

It's been a busy week. I survived a trip to the dentist. It was a routine check up/cleaning but oh my gosh do I despise having my teeth cleaned. Thank goodness I don't have any problems that need to be fixed.

I visited with my mom and she did the ironing when she was here. I don't like ironing. I am a slow ironer. I am not a good ironer. I put lots of unwanted creases in things. Oops. Mom is an excellent ironer. And fast. She zipped through 4 pants & 5 shirts in the time it would have taken me to figure out how to position a pair of pants so as to not add an extra crease down the front (and then I probably would have anyway).

I also got to visit with M. I hadn't seen her in a year. So nice to catch up.

In other news this week, I'm attempting to survive the noise from the gas line upgrade. Oh my gosh the noise. It started last week and it has been all this week, the sounds of clanging pipes, jack-hammering, construction vehicle beeping, oh the beeping, the loud rumblings and droning noises, the shouting, the restricted traffic on the street, the flag man standing right outside our house, staring into our front window as he directs traffic. So much loud noise. Earlier today I resorted to earplugs.

Instead of blog stuff, my computer time has been all about vacation planning and new purchases research. We knew that this year we'd be looking at 2-3 "big" purchases and we'd hoped to put them off until late summer/fall, but recent developments have forced us to consider earlier than planned purchases. So, lots of research. Thus far I've managed to just confuse myself with possibilities and ratings and now I am thinking, hmmm, we can put this off another year, right? The answer is, sadly, not really.

What We're Eating:

  • Quiche Lorraine & salad
  • Meatloaf, pierogies, and salad
  • Dessert: Blondies

What We're Watching:

  • Spring Baking Championship. A contestant I really like was eliminated and the one I really don't like is still there. Boo.
  • The Americans! What did Phillip do??!!!! And Paige - what is going on there? Did she have to do that in the bar?
  • McMafia ended. I guess there are plans for a season 2? It was a good show and I enjoyed it, but it was almost too much of a slow, low key, simmering burn that ended with not much of a bang.
  • I'm not sure what I'll do with myself tonight. Scandal is done. HTGAWM ended its season. I gave up on Quantico a long time ago. Station 19 isn't really grabbing my attention. I have only Grey's Anatomy now on Thursdays.

What I'm Reading:

  • I got through 2-3 magazines, but there is still a pile of 4-5.
  • No books this past week.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we met L for lunch at Aladdin's in McMurray. We hadn't been to Aladdin's is a long time so it was extra tasty. SP had a salad with chicken and I had the Sfiha (seasoned ground lean beef sautéed with diced tomatoes, onions, roasted pine nuts, and herbs folded into a pita pie and topped with cheddar and scallions) appetizer, which was enough for lunch for me.
Earlier in the morning we had stopped at Bethel Bakery's North Strabane location to purchase yum yums to celebrate the blog's birthday:
There were a lot of special treats this week. SP brought home these goodies Monday evening:
They were an anniversary treat. We ate them Monday night even though our anniversary was Tuesday.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Bosch Season 4 on Amazon Prime. Love the show! I have read all the books. SP hasn't, but he likes the show a lot. We blew through the new season from Friday-Monday and now are ready for Season 5.
  • The Americans - 6 more episodes!
  • Tonight is the series finale of Scandal. I'm a little relieved it's ending although I will miss it. I thought it went off the rails a bit a couple seasons ago, a little too crazy, but this season has been better. I'm curious to see the fallout from revealing/testifying about B6-13. I can't decide if I want them all arrested and punished or to walk away free and clear.

What I'm Reading:
Since last Thursday, nothing. I have 2 library books and 4 magazines.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. SP took a vacation day and we enjoyed a "date day." We went to the Heinz History Center to see American Spirits: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition exhibit. It's a very good exhibit and we recommend it. I enjoyed reading every poster propaganda piece against booze! There is a lot of other great stuff to see, too. After we finished, we walked over to Gaucho Parrilla Argentina for a late lunch/early dinner. It was our first visit and we were looking forward to trying it because we'd heard so many good things about the food. It didn't disappoint.

Here's what we ate:
I chose the Cerdo plate, small portion: roasted pulled pork, caramelized onions, spicy Dijon mustard sauce, toast, salad (greens, carrot, radish, grape tomatoes dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar). The small was a bit too much for me, although to be fair before I tackled it, I ate some other food. It was delicious. I really liked the salad dressing. The pulled pork mixed with the onions and sauce was so darn tasty.
We tried an order of Provoletta, basically a lovely piece of grilled provolone with some fresh oregano atop toast with arugula/olives off to the side. Grilled cheese = one of my favorite things.
SP had the Catch of the Day sandwich: red snapper. He added bacon. It was huge and he ate all of it, save a bit of the bread, and he said it was delicious.
Of course we tried some Empanadas. They're Argentine pierogies and I love pierogies. We tried 2, pork and chicken. I think the chicken also had a bit of chorizo.
Inside the empanadas. These were delicious. A tasty, flaky, substantial dough pocket. Both fillings were good. I could make a meal out of just these empanadas.

Gaucho is BYOB with no corkage/glass fees but since we went between 2:30~3pm, we didn't BYOB. SP had fresh iced tea and I had hot tea because even though it was April 17, it was windy, cold, snowy, and I was bundled up again.

I had heard about the long lines and wait for Gaucho. Happily, maybe since we went during the work week after lunch time/before dinner time, there were only 2 people ahead of us in line. That gave us time to study the enormous chalkboard menu. We ate across from the order area because there are about 6-7 steps up to the other dining area but it does look like if we went outside and up the street, there is a side door for level entry to the "upper" dining area. After you order, you find a seat - or maybe they seat you, I'm not sure, I just went right to an empty table on the main level while SP paid. It wasn't busy and I was in a wheelchair, so maybe that's why no one said anything to me about just going to a table. It didn't take too long for our food to arrive. The employees who cleared dishes from our table and refilled our beverages were all very nice. Nice is kind of a bland adjective, maybe what I mean is they seemed pleasant and happy to be working there and like they enjoyed their jobs. It's always a plus when the employees seem to like their jobs and interacting with customers.

We'll definitely be back.

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pasta with Spinach, Ground Sausage, and Ground Beef

This recipe is a Giada recipe from a Giada Entertains episode a few weeks ago in which she hosted a 70's themed party. She said the inspiration for this Italian Helper was Hamburger Helper. I've never eaten Hamburger Helper but I remember the commercials with the talking oven mitt. I guess since my mom didn't work, she didn't take too many short cuts for dinner, or maybe my dad wouldn't have eaten the short cut food. My brother and I were never given different, special, kid-friendly food for dinner. We always had to eat what mom & dad ate. So Hamburger Helper wasn't in our house.
This recipe uses ground beef and sausage plus pasta, spinach, tomato puree, and lots of cheese (parmesan and mascarpone). It's really easy to make.
It's sort of a one pot meal since it is made in the same skillet in which the meats are browned, but the pasta is cooked separately so I guess it's a two pot meal - or rather, a skillet and a pot meal.
It smells great and tastes even better. Lots of beef, sausage, and tomato flavor. A little creamy from the mascarpone, a little sharp/salty from the parmesan. I didn't really taste the spinach, but I like that it is there for the veggie. I think next time we'd add more spinach. This time, we had some spinach on the side as a salad, too.
Definitely a make again meal. Easy, quick, tasty, comforting - the best kind of meal.

Recipe here.

*Note: personal preference, we omitted the shallot & garlic and instead used onion

Saturday, April 14, 2018

9 Years

It has been 9 years since I started this blog. I'm surprised I've stuck with it this long! I do like having a place with all the recipes we've tried plus comments and photos. We frequently refer back to the blog when we're cooking/baking. I also like being able to refer back to what we ate and our thoughts on restaurant meals.

I don't have any special blog celebrations planned, but maybe SP will treat me to some Yum Yums from Bethel Bakery? We'll be in the area...

Thank you to everyone who reads.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

I just spent the afternoon with the official Critter Dude. He didn't see any entry points for my slithery visitor last month. Yay? He said he's never before had a call about a snake in March. He was surprised. Especially after he didn't see any entry points (there was one wee possibility that he caulked but he said it was unlikely) and after he saw no evidence of mice. Yay, no mice. Yay, no other critter evidence. But nonetheless, there was a snake, and no one knows how it got inside, not even the Critter Dude, and so I'm not feeling especially reassured. He floated the idea that it got inside last fall and was inside all winter. Fabulous. Not reassuring.

What We're Eating:

  • Parmesan Breaded Chicken with arugula salad
  • Farro Salad
  • Dessert: Lemon Bars

What We're Watching:

  • The Americans is so good! Really enjoying the final season.
  • Something weird happened with AMC and our guide because we almost missed the last 2 episodes of McMafia. It's not quite as good as some shows we've watched, but we're still enjoying it. I just wish AMC hadn't switched it to 11pm and that our satellite provider could offer a correct guide. The last couple episodes weren't marked as new, so they weren't being picked up for recording. I went in reset it to record new and reruns. It's not the first time the guide has been messed up. It seems to be happening a lot lately.
  • The new season of Bosch stares on Amazon tomorrow and I am super excited. Of course, we still haven' watched Jessica Jones, and we're behind on "regular" TV. But... Bosch! Love the books and show.

What I'm Reading:

  • Still making slow progress on the magazine pile.
  • I read As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti. This book grabbed my interest more than I expected and I enjoyed it much more than I expected. It's set in a desert town where, upon turning 18, each resident can enter a "wishing cave" and make a wish, though there are rules (for one, it cannot impact anything/person outside the town), and the wish always come true but of course, there are consequences. It was thought provoking, making me wonder what I would have wished for at age 18 and how I would have worded my wish. I told SP about the premise of this book and he was intrigued, not enough to read it, but we had a discussion of wishes and wording, etc. The books has several "levels" from everyday teen issues to difficult & heart breaking family issues to the ethical dilemmas that wishing can create.
  • I also read The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd. It's the second Ian Rutledge book I've read and I enjoyed it. It's kind of refreshing to see crimes (murders) solved back in the early 1900's, before all the advances like DNA and fingerprinting and databases and all the electronic device tracking.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Walnut Grill (Robinson)

Several weeks ago, we went to Walnut Grill in Robinson. We've dined there before, but it had been a while. We didn't have reservations but we were seated within 5 minutes. Here's what we ate:
As always, Loaded Tater Tots (four cheese alfredo, smoked gouda, candied jalapeños, bacon). As you can see, we like these so much that I forgot to take a photo until they were nearly gone. Cheesy deliciousness.
We shared Strawberry Salad (field greens, balsamic marinated strawberries, goat cheese, candied almonds, balsamic reduction). It's good, though I find the balsamic a tad strong/sweet.
SP's entree: Caper Flounder (light lemon caper cream sauce) with the vegetable mix of the day. He likes lemon and capers a lot, so this was a great choice for him.
His other side: cole slaw, which I helped eat.
I chose California Turkey Wrap (roasted turkey, candied bacon, greens, tomato, avocado, honeycup mustard, goat cheese, wheat wrap). This was very good although I don't like wheat wraps. I figured I'd give it a try but I don't think I'll try wheat wraps again. I mentioned to SP that wheat wraps tasted kind of bland and cardboard like. He agreed - but he's the one who always wants wheat wraps and scolds me for my white wraps! And he finds them bland, too!
I chose sweet potato fries for my side. I didn't eat them since I was full from tater tots, salad, and half a wrap. We ate them for lunch the next day.

Happily, there is again fresh brewed iced tea. The last time we were there, it was fountain tea - boo. We like Walnut Grill and are glad it's an option so close to us in Robinson. I'm sure we'll be back.

Walnut Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, April 9, 2018

Union Standard

It has been a couple weeks since we dined at Union Standard. It's been open for over a year, but this was our first time there and it did not disappoint. We especially liked that there is an elevator to the second floor, which means we were able to sit there and not be restricted to the first level. Also, lots of natural light through the large windows.

Here's what we enjoyed:
Drinks: Mellon Square Cocktail for him (gin, chamomile sabona, dolin blanc, orange bitters, cardamom tincture) and Folie a Deux Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, CA for me.
To start: Warm Potato Bread (cultured butter, apple butter, goat butter). Oh my gosh this warm bread was delicious, especially with the 3 butters. We wiped the plate clean and wanted more.
We shared a salad: Endive & Asian Pear (speck, smoked pecans, sherry vinaigrette, Goat Rodeo Chevre). This was different than the salads we usually order. I liked the salad even though I find endive just sort of meh. The other components are what made it yummy.
Entree for him: Bacon Wrapped Monkfish (Carolina Gold rice, toasted pecans, braised greens, black eyed pea vinaigrette). He said this fish was delicious and he ate everything on his plate.
For me, Sea Scallops (ember roasted beets, cider glazed carrots, benne, lemon, granny smith apple, celery). My scallops were delicious. I was a little full from the bread and salad and I wanted dessert, so I couldn't/didn't eat many of the carrots/beets (beets not being a food I really enjoy) but I did eat all the scallops, lemon, and apple. It was a very pretty dish in person although my photo makes it looks a little bit like a crime scene of red-pink splatter. Trust me, it was beautiful in person.
Decaf coffee for me.
Shared dessert: Vanilla Dutch Baby (lemon ice cream, apples, candied pecans, honey). Really good. We quickly devoured it, scraping the pan clean.

We both enjoyed our food. Service was good. I felt bad when I asked for specifics on the lamb dish because as soon as our server went to check, I remembered that we were having lamb the next day and then leftover lamb for several days during the week, so I knew I wouldn't end up ordering it. Oops.

We'll be back - especially for that potato bread and Dutch baby.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend was Easter, and as a treat, mom brought us some nut roll from Bethel Bakery. Yum! This is probably the only nut roll I've ever liked.

We had a busy Easter weekend. We started by picking up my new glasses. I like the new ones much more than the old ones, which should be the case but the last time I got glasses, it was not. Then we went to The Frick Art Museum to see Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. We both really enjoyed the exhibit. We were there when there was a small talk about a Van Gogh painting and it was nice to really learn about the painting, not just read the description and admire it. The exhibit runs through July 8 and we definitely think it's worth seeing.

After gazing at art, we decided we were hungry so we went to Mercurio's. It was Good Friday and I was trying my best to avoid meat. We shared a salad and 2 pizzas. I would have preferred pizza with prosciutto or sausage. Instead I enjoyed one with eggplant, basil, and roasted red pepper and another with artichokes, mushrooms, and roasted red pepper. For dessert, I had mint chunk gelato and SP had Baileys. As usual, yummy, and leftovers for lunch the next day.
Over Easter weekend we also saw Rent at Heinz Hall and had dinner at Union Standard for the first time. It was yummy - more on that in an upcoming post.

On Easter, SP spent part of the day visiting his family and then we had dinner here with my parents. It was nice enough outside that he was able to grill the leg of lamb. We also had paska and Spring Vegetables with Warm Vinaigrette. Dessert was the Strawberry Cheesecake Squares.

It has been a crappy week, weather-wise, with snow and rain. Someday spring will get here. Our groundhogs are out and "visiting" us so it must be close.

What We're Eating

  • Split Pea Soup
  • Leftover Easter dinner
  • Ham, pierogies, green beans
  • Dessert:  Strawberry Cheesecake Squares and nut roll (also a breakfast treat)

What We're Watching:

  • We're caught up on The Kennedys special on CNN. 
  • We've been watching Christiane Amanpour's Sex & Love Around the World. Last week's episode  was in Beirut and it was definitely interesting. The first 2 episodes were Tokyo and India and this week is Berlin.
  • The Americans is so good - and also a little confusing as we try to remember the characters and interactions and past events. It took us a while to remember Henry is at boarding school and even longer to remember the General in the park in last night's episode.

What I'm Reading:

  • I managed to read 4 of the 8 magazines. Half the pile! Pretty excited about that.
  • I read The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey. This is the first Tim Dorsey book I've read. So it's the first Serge Storms story I've read. Apparently, there are a total of 21. I haven't read #'s 1-20, just #21. I'm not sure what I think. I read it in one day, so I guess I enjoyed it and it held my attention. But Serge was a little too... crazy? And Coleman too... stupid? I'm not sure. Something was bugging me. But I think I might start at #1 and start reading in order and see what I think/how far I get.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Strawberry Cheesecake Squares

The past few years we've made this cheesecake  for Easter dessert. It's what we would have made this year, too, if not for MIL giving us the April/May 2018 issue of Cook's Country and us immediately spotting the Strawberry Cheesecake Squares.
It's a little time consuming, but simple. We made our graham cracker crust Saturday night and covered it overnight. Sunday we made the cheesecake layer and strawberry topping layer and baked them.
For Easter, we garnished the squares we ate with a strawberry slice, but for desserts during the week, we're not bothering to garnish the squares.
I think these are pretty and spring-like to look at because of the pink topping.
I thought the pink layer might be too tangy from the sour cream, but it's not. The cheesecake layer is nice and smooth and creamy and light, though it seems strange to call a cheesecake light. It's not dense and heavy like some cheesecakes I've eaten. I also like that the fruity/strawberry part isn't a runny or gelatinous glop of too sweet fruit. I like that it's tangy and smooth and just a tad sweet. These are definitely a make again dessert.

Strawberry Cheesecake Squares - recipe here.