Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we saw Captain Marvel. It was a good, but not great, movie. For some reason, I don't really like Brie Larson. Obviously I don't know her, she could be a super duper awesome person. But something from her previous roles/news coverage makes me not like her. I was sad when I heard she was going to be Captain Marvel, but I enjoyed her performance and didn't have any "ugh Brie Larson" thoughts. I'm looking forward to the final Avengers movie in April.

Saturday dinner out was at Downey's House. As usual we shared fried zucchini and this time I had a chicken cordon blue sandwich with tomato & honey mustard sauce.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We started watching Umbrella Academy on Netflix. So far, we're enjoying it. We're only 4 episodes into it.
  • We watched The Passage finale. I'm happy about the time jump at the end.
  • I watched Collateral on Netflix. I really liked it, how the characters were all related/intertwined into the main crime.
  • I watched the movie Widows. Viola Davis is always amazing. The cast is amazing. 
  • Speaking of Viola Davis, I finally got to watch the season finale of HTGAWM. Good grief all the plots twists and turns and people being wrong then right then wrong and more death and kidnappings/disappearances!

What I'm Reading:

  • I finished Cemetery Road from Greg Iles. Excellent book. It's the kind of book I most enjoy reading. I hope that maybe there will be another book or two with these characters like there were six books with Penn Cage. 
  • I've been extra tired lately and not reading magazines. So the pile is growing. New issues of Saveur and Cook's Country arrived last week but I haven't opened them yet. They're sitting on top the 3 Simthsonian Magazines I have yet to read.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Cast Iron Roast Chicken with Lemon-Thyme Pan Sauce

Ever since my hospital stay and diagnosis, I've been, well, stressed, worried, in denial, disbelieving. And every time I feel a twinge in my shoulder or neck, I freeze in terror. I know diet had nothing to do with this particular issue, or any of the other issues I have, but since I'm a mess, I decided it should be chicken and salad week. But not an unhealthy chicken. No cream sauce, no rich sauces with bacon or pancetta. Just roast chicken. SP took it upon himself to try a new roast chicken recipe: Cast Iron Roast Chicken with Lemon-Thyme Pan Sauce. It's really easy to make. I was napping while the chicken cooked and I woke up to a strong roast chicken smell.
The pan sauce is easy, too. My contribution to dinner: stirring the chicken broth-lemon-mustard-thyme sauce a bit.
SP made a pretty plate of chicken and poured the pan sauce into a small container. This was an excellent roast chicken. It was really juicy and tender. The sauce was delicious, even better than our usual go-to roast chicken sauce with lemon juice and chicken stock.
I kept my salad and chicken on separate plates. Like a little kid, I didn't want my food touching! Here's my plate of cut up chicken with the sauce:
This is my new favorite chicken.

Recipe here: Cast Iron Roast Chicken with Lemon-Thyme Pan Sauce

*We used dried thyme.
*We omitted the shallot because we didn't have one.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Since last week's Thursday Thoughts, things have not been great. I don't know if I ever mentioned on the blog, but since November, I've been having problems with hearing my heartbeat in my ear. For 2 months I was told it was a sinus/Eustachian tube dysfunction issue. Then I was told it couldn't possibly be that, it was an ear thing. Then ear doctor said there wasn't anything wrong with my ear, I just had a form of tinnitus and I had to learn to live with hearing my heartbeat in my ear. But just to be sure, get a CT scan, but 98% of the time it doesn't reveal any reason for the pulsing.

So last Friday I had the CT. We went to lunch and as soon as we got home, I had a call that they found something on the CT and could I come in again that afternoon for an angiogram, an outpatient procedure. Then someone else called and said I would need an MRI, too, and to prepare for an overnight stay.

Any idea how much I hate being in the hospital? I spent 2.5 weeks in one for the hip replacement followed by 3 weeks in a rehab facility. Two years later, I was in the hospital for several days for the femur break. A month later, I was in for a week for femur surgery and then a year later it was 2 days for knee surgery. Then six years ago I was in the hospital again for my broken left hip. I hate the hospital 5 seconds after I arrive.

Add in my uncontrollable fear of dying that day because of the carotid dissection, my fear of having a stroke and ending up like some of the people I saw when I was at that rehab facility for my hip, the fear of having an angiogram - it was not good. I wasn't in pain from a broken bone or surgery this time, so no morphine to help me sleep/mute my annoyance and stress. Just the disgusting, hot, sweaty bed with head/leg controllers that were next to my head, so really difficult for me to twist and reach. People coming in every 20 minutes nearly all night to take my blood pressure, draw blood, insert an IV, whatever. A room right next to the heart monitor screen for the nurses, a screen that beeped. A lot. Loudly. I was so exhausted from getting up so early for the CT and then I couldn't sleep. Saturday was even worse. I was told morning angiogram. That turned into 1 pm. That long wait came after Friday afternoon when we rushed to get back by 3 pm and then no one came to see us until 8 pm. Five hours sitting a room with nothing, just nurses saying, oh, they know you're here. I was livid. Oh and I hadn't had anything to eat since lunch on Friday because they didn't order me a tray for dinner and then from midnight on I wasn't allowed any food or water.

The doctors were great and the nurses/care people were great. But now I'm being billed for an overnight hospital stay when both an MRI and an angiogram could have been scheduled outpatient appointments. With my existing health issues, sleeping in that bed and twisting/contorting to reach the bed controllers has left me feeling extra sore & achy - particularly in my neck/shoulders. I've got 4 holes in my left arm from being poked, 2 are a lovely yellow bruise. The one on my right arm is also a lovely yellow color. They tried to do the angiogram through my right leg, but after poking around a lot they couldn't find the artery (vein?) so they had to do my left leg. This means I have poke holes, bruising, and soreness in both areas instead of one.

I suppose I am on the mend. For now, treatment is an aspirin/day for 6 months then repeat CT to see if the dissection healed. I am hoping that with time I become less stress/worried about a clot/stroke. I am hoping my neck achiness/soreness is from twisting and contorting to see/reach the bed control buttons and not from anything serious. I had a horrible headache Saturday night/Sunday morning and I was convinced I'd be dead by morning. In retrospect, I was so darn tired and hungry that I had my "tired/hungry" headache, but something about a carotid dissection at age 48 for no apparent reason (no trauma like a car accident) has really freaked me out.

Oh, and the best part? The doctors said the location of the tear means it is likely NOT the cause of the pulsing in my ear.

I am laugh/crying over all this. But mostly crying. And a hot mess of worry.

What We're Eating:

  • Meatloaf, pierogie, roasted asparagus. All week long. 
  • Dessert: paczki, whatever we find in the house

What We're Watching:

  • Victoria ended. I was happy with several developments. It'll be interesting to see how some of the cliffhangers are resolved.
  • Worst Cooks ended and Team Red won - yay!
  • I feel like The Passage is dragging a bit. It's like they had enough story for 8 episodes but are being forced to make 10. 
  • I have not seen any of the season finale of HTGAWM because last Thursday night we lost power right at 10 pm for 2-3 hours. I suppose I could watch online, but I haven't felt like it. 
  • I do not like Meredith and Deluca. At all. Ugh.
  • I Am the Night ended. I guess the ending was OK. It answered the questions, at least in this Black Dahlia version, but it wasn't all wrapped up with a neat bow and everyone living happily ever after & justice prevailing.

What I'm Reading:
The new Greg Iles book. One of my favorite authors. Diving into Cemetery Road is taking my mind off other things.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Meat & Potatoes

I haven't written much lately. I was busy with other things. This past weekend was not good. I'm not ready to write about it, so I thought I'd post some food photos from our last couple dinners at Meat & Potatoes. It's one of our favorite restaurants but we only go when we're already in the city, usually after seeing a show. Our most recent dinner was with my parents after we saw Phantom of the Opera. We also were there over the summer. Above is a Dark & Stormy Cocktail, which we first had one one of our earliest visits after they opened. This more recent version seems different, not as gingery, but it was still good.
Above, from last summer, I forget what the drink on the left is but on the right is Sgt Pepper's Old Fashioned. That's been my favorite for quite some time but on our most recent visit, it wasn't quite as good. I didn't enjoy it as much.
We always order Fried Brussels (not pictured) and Fried Pickles. I love their fried pickles.
A tomato salad special from last summer.
There's always a Mac & Cheese appetizer, but the flavor changes. On our most recent visit, it was with brisket, smoked gouda, & fried onion breadcrumbs. Yum!
My dad loves wings so he & SP shared these Smoked Wings with whiskey buffalo sauce. They both really liked them though my dad thought they were a bit too hot for him. He kept eating them anyway and took home the leftovers! 
SP often has the Salmon (black rice, kim chi, cucumber, chinese sausage, korean hot sauce, fried egg, ginger scallion relish).
Last summer he switched it up and had this lamb shank with, I think, lentils.
My mom had a special : Meatloaf with smashed potatoes, onion rings, broccoli rabe, sauce diane. It was huge and delicious.
My dad enjoyed Smoked Short Rib (polenta, baby carrots, confit pearl onion, pickled orange zest)
I also enjoyed a special: Pork Schnitzel with ricotta gnocchi, mushrooms, bacon, Brussels sprouts. Really good and a nice change from my new usual:
Pappardelle (bolognese sauce, pancetta, pork shoulder, garlic bread). It's delicious. It's my new usual since they took the Three Little Pigs sandwich off the menu. I'm still pretty bummed about that.
Desserts change. Last time, SP & my mom shared Carrot Cake with pistachio ice cream, which they really liked.
Dad & I hoovered up the Chocolate Pot de Creme. There were little bits of chocolaty rice krispie treat on top. 
Last summer we had, I think, a French Toast Brulee dessert, which was good.

I always take photos of what we eat when we're out, but I don't always share them on the blog/Instagram. So since my blog content has been lacking and I'm not doing well, I figured I'd post all the recent food photos from Meat & Potatoes. Enjoy and definitely get there for some yummy food.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last Sunday was a super windy day. Ugh. I kept thinking we might end up in our very own version of the Wizard of Oz, roof blown off and house whisked away. Despite many brief power outages, we didn't lose power for any length of time, which is surprising. Both our parents lost power for about 12 hours & my parents now have a boil water advisory. Good thing I called them to ask about it because they had no idea. ??!!

The power flickering on & off so much did make cooking a bit difficult & frustrating. Each part of making the cake was interrupted by a brief power outage. Lots of devices beeping and rebooting. Last night we had a bunch of brief power outages, too, which made cooking the French toast and sausage a little difficult. Not so much the cooking because we can manually light the burners but the getting food in/out of the refrigerator.

Last weekend we saw Phantom of the Opera, which is one of my favorite shows. My parents went with us. My mom and I saw it years ago. I don't think my dad was too into it, but he enjoyed his dinner at Meat & Potatoes after the show. I had a special for dinner: Pork Schnitzel. I love schnitzel. I was served with gnocchi, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms. Yum!
SP's birthday was on Tuesday. The older we get, the less we want to acknowledge our birthdays! SP got to pick the meals for this week, and the cake, but we haven't gone out for a birthday dinner, just the two of us. I'm not sure when we will because things are getting quite busy. This weekend we are having a family birthday dinner, but it's the dinner celebration for a birthday from last December. We're a little behind!

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • True Detective is over. I thought it was a good season. Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff were terrific. And I liked the ending.
  • We decided to watch the first episode of Whiskey Cavalier. It was fun. Don't think too much about the plot/realities of the situations and the consequences, just enjoy the ride.
  • I'm starting to worry about the direction of The Passage. This first season is a tiny, tiny bit of the first book and only 1, maybe 2 characters, I can't remember all the details from the book, but the current show characters except for 1 or 2 are not in what I consider the "main" story of the book, which is the story involving Peter and Alicia and that colony.
  • Thank goodness it appears Victoria & Albert are done squabbling and now Feo can focus all her scheming on finding her daughter a husband instead of making Victoria miserable. This Sunday is the last episode for Season 3.
  • This Sunday is also the last episode of Worst Cooks. I think I'm rooting for Team Red because from the very beginning, we've been hoping the ditzy girl on Blue Team would be eliminated but now here she is, the Blue Team finalist. 
  • The Gifted ended Season 2 and I like how it ended but overall it wasn't as strong as Season 1. 

What I'm Reading:

  • Magazines. As usual I've zipped through the food magazines but the Smithsonians are piling up. They've turned into my new National Geographic. I love both magazines, but they require more brain power than food magazines and sometimes, I just don't feel like using my brain!
  • I have a library book, but I'm having a hard time picking it up. I'm not sure why. Usually I love reading but lately, I just haven't wanted to dive into a book. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Saturday dinner out was at Mercurio's. We had our usual Della Casa salad plus Sausage & Mushroom Pizza and Capricciosa Pizza. Then we had cappuccino and gelato. This time I got Mint Chunk and SP had Black Cherry Bordeaux (which is what I usually get). As usual, it was yummy and we had leftovers for lunch on Sunday.

Last weekend was Pierogie Weekend. We make them once a year, usually in February. As usual, my mom came to help (and claim some). We made about 8 dozen. This is the second year we used farmers cheese in addition to cheddar in the potato mixture and we really like it.

We both have felt a little under the weather this week. SP seems worse. He's been sneezing and blowing his nose a lot. I just have a lot of sinus crap.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Only 1 more episode of True Detective! Episode 7 was great.
  • Victoria & Albert. Still squabbling. Feodora. Still causing trouble. 
  • Manifest ended for the season. I guess it was OK. A cliffhanger. And the fate of the guy who "drowned" in the van made for an interesting reveal.
  • The Gifted hasn't seemed as strong to me as the first season. I'm glad to see "the team" reunited. Don't care much about if the shot character is dead or not. And can't wait for someone to kill Reeva.
  • I watched The Old Man & the Gun. It's a beautiful movie and has a terrific cast.

What I'm Reading:

  • Magazines.
  • I finished The Blues Walked In. I really enjoyed it even though it's not my usual kind of book.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Happy Valentine's Day. I feel obligated to write that, like if I don't write it I'm the Valentine Grinch and maybe I am because the truth is I still don't like Valentine's Day. It's dumb, I hate red & pink hearts and crappy chocolate in heart shaped boxes and those disgusting heart candies with the dumb phrases on them and stuffed bears with hearts on them and everything else about this stupid holiday. We still do not plan a special dinner, not at home, not at a restaurant. No cards. No gifts. All that is allowed is for SP to return home from work with a dessert treat. Special dessert treat is allowed because it's our "thing." He often brings home dessert treats for me. So a dessert treat tonight is special but not special like "oh hey look at the calendar telling me I need to do something romantic tonight." Just the usual "I have the best hubby ever" special.

Last Saturday we went to South Hills Village Mall. When we left, traffic was a mess. We figured it was because there's so much in a tiny area: the mall, theater, Market District, Trader Joe's, Fresh Market, Whole Foods, restaurants, etc. We were at dinner at Cafe io when we saw a forward email from SP's mom about the horrible traffic at SHV due to water main breaks in the area. Huh. Traffic was bad, but for a Saturday night at dinner time in a normally congested area, it seemed like the normal disastrous traffic.

Wednesday I had a morning doctor appointment in Oakland. After the appointment, a bit after 10 am, there was a horrible snow squall. The roads were covered, you couldn't see that far in front of you, it was awful. By the time we got through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, the squall was over, the roads were clear, it was sunny & looked pretty. But guess who forgot, just this one time, to check the traffic map on their phones? Guess who ended up stuck in horrible traffic? Apparently, when the snow squall hit the Parkway West, people forgot how to drive and there were multiple accidents inbound & outbound. Fortunately we were able to crawl to the Green Tree exit and come home that way. Then guess who had to shovel the driveway and walkway while his wife waited in the car? Yup. Poor SP. The forecasted flurries dumped a half inch of snow on everything between when we left and got home. Too tough to get the wheelchair through that. Also, holy crap was it windy and cold Wednesday morning!

What We're Eating:

  • Lasagna
  • Braised chicken, roasted cauliflower, rice (or dinner roll)
  • M&M's, Pocky, whatever candy/treat we find

What We're Watching:

  • I'm not sure what's happening, but we are falling behind and shows are piling up on the DVR. We still have the latest episodes of I Am the Night, The Gifted, and The Rookie to watch.
  • I watched White Boy Rick and it was an OK movie. Then I looked up the real story behind the movie based on a true story. 
  • We finished The Punisher Season 2. It was fine. I'm sure it'll be cancelled like the other Marvel shows on Netflix.
  • On Victoria, Victoria and Albert are still squabbling and I am not a fan.
  • Watching the Worst Cooks eat pies & try to guess the flavor was funny. Seeing Anne and Tyler get dunked was funnier. Don't worry, Anne protected her hair with a swimming cap.
  • I hope Manifest has a decent season finale next Monday to keep me interested for a potential season 2. I hope it doesn't end like that stupid Revolution show that never offered up any answers for the world losing power, it just kept careening along with various factions fighting and people being secretive and people flip flopping factions and beliefs every other week and never wrapping up anything before moving on to the next "thing."

What I'm Reading:

  • The Blues Walked In by Kathleen George. I'm about halfway through. It's not my usual thriller/mystery/detective/spy novel but I'm enjoying it. 
  • I finally finished the November issue of Smithsonian Magazine. I especially enjoyed the articles about the newly translated diaries of young women from during World War II. The war ended 73 years ago and I fear important lessons are not being learned as it fades into "ancient history." SP & I both enjoy history, re-learning events we have forgotten from our high school history days, and some of our favorite days on vacations have been spent visiting Pearl Harbor and Utah/Normandy Beaches & the American Cemetery in Normandy. When I see our photos from those days, the remains of the USS Arizona, all those white crosses, and photos from my visits to Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and think about what happened in World War II, I get teary. Just like when I read all those articles in Smithsonian Magazine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Honey-Mustard Pork Loin with Bacon

I forgot about this Honey-Mustard Pork Loin with Bacon. We made it last October! I remember it being yummy. It's easy to make, just a bit of time and effort to prepare the loin for roasting.
First coat the pork loin with the mustard sauce (mustard, honey, rosemary, garlic), then layer the bacon on top.
Use twine to secure it all and roast. Pretty sure we should have done our bacon going the other direction, but... oh well.
Let it rest a bit, remove the twine, slice and serve.
I really liked the mustard-honey-rosemary flavor and wish there had been more of it, perhaps if the loin had been butterflied and the mustard spread on and then the pork rolled up? I felt like I lost a lot of my bacon and mustard when I sliced off the fat. Granted, there was very little fat, but I always cut it off my meat. Maybe we should have cut off all the meat fat before saucing & bacon-ing?
We had some arugula with dressing on the side.

We'd make this again.

Recipe here.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Pasta with Asparagus, Prosciutto, & Smoked Mozzarella

Yes, another pasta dish. and yes, we used casarecce for this one, too. A while ago my mom gave me her Giada cookbooks and this Ziti with Asparagus, Prosciutto, & Smoked Mozzarella recipe is in Everyday Italian. My mom & I made this years ago, before she had the cookbooks, so we probably saw Giada make this on her Everyday Italian cooking show. By years ago I mean 12+ years ago. I'm not sure why it took so long to re-make this recipe. SP & I made it last December and it was delicious.
We used 16 oz casarecce, 2 lbs asparagus, 6-7 oz prosciutto, and 6-7 oz smoked mozzarella. No garlic. A little dried basil. We got 3 dinners from this. 

The nice thing is that after blanching the asparagus, you use the same pot of water to cook the pasta. After draining the pasta and reserving some of the cooking liquid, everything gets combined in a skillet (if you need to saute garlic or onion; if not, you could use the empty pasta pot to mix everything together).
We've definitely moved away from time consuming dinners in favor of quick & easy. This one is very quick and easy. I like that it's a one pot meal, so only one casserole dish is used when re-heating it.

Recipe here.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

After the freezing cold polar vortex last week, this week's spring-like weather is very welcome. Plus, the groundhog says we're going to have an early spring. I don't believe him, but I hope he's right.

The warm weather meant that Sunday we stepped out onto the deck to check out the repairs and peer down the hill. The repairs look good. The new wood matches the existing style and he even added an extra support to keep the one section of railing from wobbling like it did before. Now we just have to wait several months and then get the new parts stained and sealed. We had a great view of the 3 fallen trees. The one that was good and fell down the hill. The remains of the one that fell into the driveway and crunched the junipers. And the remains of the really bad one that crunched the deck.

Last weekend we saw Charlie & the Chocolate Factory at the Benedum. I didn't especially like the movies so I was apprehensive about this show. It was OK. The first act was a little slow. The second act really picked up and was more enjoyable. Our dinner out after the show was at Butcher & the Rye. They've pared down/changed the menu a lot in the past year or so. We loved the cauliflower & farro dish, but that's gone. The pig wing is gone. Happily the Brussels and mac & cheese & Sunday gravy are still on the menu. Plus, they had a Lamb Sugo special that was really, really good. I kept stealing bites from SP's plate. He kept stealing bites of my Sunday gravy. Yum!

Yesterday we saw on Instagram that Pork & Beans has several new sandwiches on their menu and one is called Three Little Pigs. I got sooo excited but it's not quite the same as the Meat & Potatoes sandwich. No fried egg. And this one has Brussels slaw. Not sure how I feel about that. Sadly, I didn't see the brisket grilled cheese on the menu so I'm pretty bummed about that because I love that sandwich. Stop taking away my favorite dishes! I guess we'll have to go to Pork & Beans to try this version of Three Little Pigs.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Last night we watched The Girl in the Spider's Web. We enjoyed it, probably because we're fans of the Lisbeth Salander books. I didn't really remember the book, and it seemed like a lot was changed/ignored, but I suppose that's because these books are difficult to turn into a 2 hour movie.  
  • True Detective, the last 15 minutes or so where old man Hays meets old man West. So good! And the hints as to what happened with the previous investigation(s)! Only 3 more episodes.
  • There are only 2 episodes of Manifest left and I hope that means that they can get the show back on track. It seemed to have lost its focus a bit. I'm surprised it's not going until May, but sometimes I think shows get dragged on with bloated, pointless episodes/stories just for the sake of having a certain number of episodes.
  • We still need to finish The Punisher.

What I'm Reading:

  • Holy Ghost from John Sandford. It's a Virgil Flowers novel (not Lucas Davenport). So far I'm really enjoying it. 
  • I've been enjoying the latest issue of Pittsburgh Magazine. I've always loved Turkey Devonshire and remember ordering it at restaurants when I was a kid and my parents would take us out. So it's nice to read about the history of the dish. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Pasta with Creamy Tomato-Red Pepper-Spinach Sauce

One day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I saw a delicious looking photo of spaghetti with creamy tomato sauce, shrimp, & spinach. Yum! When I found the recipe, I saw it also used red pepper paste. I showed it to SP and he agreed that we should make it for dinner, especially since we've been trying to use up some shrimp in the freezer. All we had to buy was the spinach. This dish is really easy and only takes about 20 minutes to make. We changed a few things to suit our tastes. Here's what we did:
Made the tomato-cream-red pepper sauce in a skillet while we cooked the pasta. We have a lot of pasta in the pantry. We chose casarecce. We reserved some of the pasta water but found we didn't need it after we mixed everything together:
What is in the pot is actually what was left after we ate dinner.

We didn't use uncooked shrimp. We thawed pre-cooked shrimp and stirred them in at the very end to warm them up but not make them tough/rubbery. We used only enough shrimp for one meal at a time. When we re-heated the leftovers, we warmed them in the oven then stirred in thawed shrimp and let it warm another 5-10 minutes.
It's really tasty. The pureed roasted red pepper adds a really nice flavor to the tomato-cream sauce. This would be good with chicken, too. You could add some garlic and/or onion if you wanted. We'll definitely make this dish again.


Pasta with Creamy Tomato-Red Pepper-Spinach Sauce

10-11 oz pasta*
1.5 cups milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp pureed roasted red peppers
8 oz tomato paste
4 cups fresh spinach

parmesan (optional)**
shrimp/chicken (optional)
fresh basil (optional)
garlic/onion (optional, saute in skillet before adding sauce ingredients)

Cook pasta according to package instructions, set aside. In medium size pan on medium to low heat, combine milk, cream, pureed roasted red pepper, tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper. Once combined and heated through, combine sauce & pasta in pasta pot (or in sauce skillet). Add spinach. Toss to mix in/wilt spinach. Add shrimp/chicken, if desired. Serve.

*We didn't use a full 16 oz package of pasta because we would have had too much food for the week. Ours was saucier looking than in the inspiration post because we used less pasta. You could use a whole 16 oz package and the same amounts for the sauce or make another half batch of sauce. 10-11 oz pasta usually gives us 2 dinners/4 servings while 16 oz usually gives us 3 dinners/6 servings depending on what else is in the pasta dish/what we're eating with the pasta.

**For sprinkling on top. We didn't feel like grating cheese, so we didn't use parmesan sprinkle. I didn't miss it.

Inspiration photo/post here.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Denver Omelet Hash

We enjoy watching Worst Cooks in America on Food Network. This season, it's once again Anne Burrell and Tyler Florence as the chefs. I love how easy they make it look in the demo part of the show and then I love watching the craziness in the kitchen when the worst cooks try to replicate the dish! There are fires, cut fingers, burnt food, undercooked food, messy plates, strange flavor combinations - but the contestants do get better with each episode. A couple weeks ago, Tyler taught Blue Team to make Denver Omelet Hash. Despite the word omelet, it's not really an egg dish, just 2 egg whites mixed into the shredded potatoes. We decided to try it for dinner because it was something new, it looked quick & easy, and a giant potato pancake looked fun.
I diced the red and green peppers and ham. I hope my knife cuts are a good, consistent size. I'm pretty sure Anne would have red sharpied my thumb/fingers while I chopped!
While I chopped, SP whipped egg whites and shredded potatoes. We didn't "cheat" with the food processor. He used the box grater for the potatoes. Nor did we use the stand mixer and the whisk attachment for the egg whites. We used our electric hand mixer.
Then it was time to cook the giant potato pancake.
And to saute the ham cubes.
Golden brown potato pancake, successfully flipped.
Peppers added to ham and sauteed until soft/beginning to brown.
To serve, cut a wedge of the pancake.
Top it with the peppers and ham.
If you're me, dollop on sour cream and let it melt a bit then smear it around. If you're SP, no sour cream.

Tyler is the real chef and he calls the potato mixture a hash brown. I like calling it a huge potato pancake. Whatever you call it, it was delicious. We wanted 2 meals from this, so it was a lighter dinner for us since we ate a quarter of the pancake each for dinner. It could be 1 meal (2 servings) if you have a bigger appetite at dinner. I was still a little hungry, but we had paczki for dessert, so not a big deal because I ended up stuffed after enjoying my evening tea and a donut. We'd definitely make this again.

Recipe here.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Beef & Barley Soup

It has been cold here, polar vortex and single digits and all that winter fun. It's the time of year when I enjoy soup, unlike my husband who thinks soup is great all year long, even when it's 95 degrees out.

As you can see from the photo, we actually made this soup back in December. I've been craving barley soup and this week we actually made Graupensuppe but I think I like this Beef & Barley Soup even more than I like the graupensuppe. I think it's time to make it again.

This version of Beef & Barley Soup from The Make Ahead Cook (America's Test Kitchen) is delicious. Warm, hearty, filling. It's also super easy because it's made in a slow cooker and there's pretty much no prep work/cooking - everything just goes right into the slow cooker. No need to cube the meat. No need to saute the meat and/or vegetables. Chop an onion. Mix it with some other ingredients in a bowl & microwave about 5 minutes until the onion is soft, then pour into the slow cooker. Stir in some other ingredients. Season the beef blade steaks and nestle them into the slow cooker. Cook. After it's done, you remove the beef, shred it, and stir it back into the soup.
Definitely a soup we'll make again. I really liked that the meat is so tender and that it's shredded. The barley makes it hearty and filling. Onions, carrots, and tomatoes for veggie. Soy sauce for some extra flavor. So easy and so yummy.

Recipe here. Our recipe microwaves the onions, tomato paste, vegetable oil, and thyme, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, not sauteing in a skillet. Ours also calls for only 1/4 c dry red wine. We used beef blade steak, which shredded nicely.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

I am fortunate that I have not had to leave the house during the recent polar vortex. Brrrr. Five degrees with a wind chill of -20?!! No thank you! At least we don't live in Chicago where Wednesday's high was something like -10 with a wind chill of -31.

Big news: our deck is repaired! Well, almost repaired. The railing and other broken/missing pieces are fixed. We'll have to wait quite some time before we can have the new parts stained to hopefully match the rest of the deck. At least there is a railing now.

Last Saturday was busy. We went to Bethel Bakery for paczki before meeting friends at Panera for breakfast/brunch. After that we both had hair appointments. Staying gray-free is becoming a bit high maintenance and I'm considering just letting it go. Based on the roots I see after 4-5 weeks, it looks like I'm 80%+ gray, well, it looks more white. Every time I mention letting it go, the hair salon ladies get looks of horror and talk me down. Then I add up how much I spend on coloring my hair every 5 weeks and how much time the whole process takes (1-1.5 hours) and start to feel guilty and wonder why I just can't accept my fate. After making my hair all brown again, SP dropped me off while he did the grocery shopping and then we went out for more errands. We ended up at The Yard in Robinson for dinner. I ordered Los Pollos Hermanos again and it was just as messy as last time but so good. This time, I substituted hash browns.

Then we went home, put on our pj's, started laundry, watched The Punisher, and ate paczki.

What We're Eating:

  • Denver Omelet Hash
  • Graupensuppe (German Barley, Potato, Bratwurst soup)
  • Pasta with Spinach and Cream Sauce
  • Dessert: Bethel Bakery paczki, Better Maid donuts, whatever we find in the house

What We're Watching:

  • We started I Am the Night with Chris Pine on TNT. So far, it's fine. Not super engrossing, but interesting enough that we'll stick with it. I think it's only 6 episodes.
  • We watch Manifest on Monday nights. Until recently, we really enjoyed it, but lately, I feel like they're losing their way a bit.
  • I'm also bored with Supergirl.
  • I'm not bored with Victoria on PBS, but I do wonder at the direction they've taken some of the characters/relationships.
  • We're still working our way through The Punisher Season 2. Three episodes to go. The last episode was kind of boring.

What I'm Reading:

  • MIL dropped off a stack of magazines. So the pile is very tall..
  • Liars' Paradox from Taylor Stevens. I was sad to not have her new book be another Vanessa Michael Munroe novel, but once I started this new Jack and Jill series, I couldn't put it down. I'm looking forward to a second novel featuring these new characters.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

15 Minute Pantry Tomato Soup

It's cold. Really cold. That means soup. Even though we both really like tomato soup, we've only tried making it once. That time, SP insisted on adding pork bones/pigs feet to the soup while it simmered. The soup tasted like porky tomato soup, which was good, a little too porky for my liking, but it wasn't what I had wanted. I wanted tomato and only tomato flavor.

We have a lot of tomato soup recipes. One day I found all the tomato soup recipes and put them all on the kitchen table to compare/contrast. It's not tomato season, so none with fresh tomatoes. I didn't want anything too difficult or time consuming. And no competing flavor like pork or red pepper. We narrowed it down to 15-Minute Pantry Tomato Soup from The Food Lab cookbook BUT we added 3 oz diced pancetta, which was in our second choice recipe.

This soup was exactly what I wanted. Quick & easy to make. Not a lot of special purchase ingredients, not even vegetables like carrots and celery. Lots of tomato flavor and even though we added some pancetta, I couldn't really taste it. Also, it was pureed smooth, it wasn't chunky, which I like. We left the red pepper flakes out since I don't like heat/spicy but SP sprinkled a few into his bowls of soup.

We did not eat our tomato soup with grilled cheese. I love grilled cheese. It's an excellent companion to tomato soup, especially when dipped into the soup, but we decided on macaroni & cheese. Forkfuls of macaroni & cheese dipped into tomato soup are delicious.
This is definitely a make again soup.

Recipe here.

We used milk, not heavy cream.
We used vodka, not whiskey or brandy or none.
We cut down on the onion a bit.
We omitted the red pepper flakes.
We had some fresh basil from our indoor aerogarden.
We served the soup with macaroni & cheese, not grilled cheese.
If you don't have an immersion blender, use a regular blender or a food processor.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Pork Tenderloin Roulade with Pancetta, Pear, and Cheddar

Last weekend we made a really tasty pork dish: Pork Tenderloin Roulade with Pancetta, Pear, and Cheddar. It is from the most recent issue of Cook's Country (Feb/Mar 2019). Ours isn't as pretty as theirs but it's the flavor that matters and it was delicious.
SP got to butterfly & pound the pork to 1/4" thickness. Action photo:
The meat mallet is a blur in the photo. Before starting on the pork, we made the filling.:
Sauteed pancetta, pear, shallot, and thyme. After it cools for a bit, stir in the cheese:
We pre-cut our twine to tie the pork roulade, but it turned out our strings were a little too short. So be sure to make yours longer than the ones in the above photo.
Spread on the filling and roll it up.
Tie and then brown in an oven proof skillet:
Our skillet was a too bit small, but it got the job done:
Roast in oven until stuffing registers 140. Let it rest for a bit, then cut & serve.
Ours fell apart easily:
It was really good. The pork stayed moist and flavorful. The filling was so good. Sweet pear, salty pancetta, creamy & sharp cheese.  In the past I've not really liked fruit cooked with my meat but I have to say our pork & peach recipes are really good and now this pork & pear one. It's pretty easy and quick to make.

There's another version that uses bacon, apple, and gruyere as the filling. I'd like to try that next.

Pork Tenderloin Roulade with Pancetta, Pear, and Cheddar recipe. The link is available for everyone for another couple months but after that you'll have to join.