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.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

You would think that since I haven't posted in nearly a week that I was busy. Nope. Not really. Last weekend was the great snowstorm that didn't happen. Dire predictions of 8" snow and then we got 1" rain and 2.5" snow. Around here, 2.5" snow isn't much. But since we were supposed to get 8" snow, we got all the shopping done early and didn't make any plans. It was nice to just sit around for 3 days (it was a holiday weekend). We watched TV, read, cooked, did laundry, relaxed.

Not sure what's going on with the stink bugs. Normally they are not around in January but in the past 24 hours I've been terrorized. First, I went to grab a tissue for my umpteenth nosebleed in the past 2 weeks (so dry inside and my nose is not liking it) but there was a horrible stink bug on top the first tissue. Then about an hour later as I was typing away and trying to figure out something, one crawled out from somewhere and across my desk towards me. Ugh. Then this morning as I was shampooing my hair, I opened an eye and saw next to me on the shower curtain another stink bug. I called in SP to rescue me.

I'm starting to fear March & spring. I still vividly remember 20 March 2018. I'm not yet laughing about it. My eyes have been constantly scanning the floor ever since.

What We're Eating:

  • Stuffed Pork & Roasted Cauliflower
  • Shrimp & Arugula Risotto
  • Dessert: Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking Illustrated

What We're Watching:

  • We started The Punisher Season 2. It's a little slow but overall we're enjoying it. I think we've watched 6 of 13 episodes.
  • We missed that there were 2 episodes of True Detective the night it premiered. So this past Sunday we had 2 episodes, 2 & 3, to watch, instead of just the third episode. We're still enjoying it.
  • Worst Cooks is still funny. The hash Tyler made for his team looked yummy. 
  • The usual shows.

What I'm Reading:
The same as last week.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Everyday Noodles

We really like Everyday Noodles in Squirrel Hill but since we do not live in the area, we only make it there about once/year, usually in the winter. This past Monday I had a doctor appointment in Oakland. Since we were done around 12:15 pm, lunch time, we decided to head over to Squirrel Hill for some noodles. The people there are always so nice & welcoming. We were seated right away. While SP used the restroom, I marked our sheet with the dishes we wanted. We always get the same things!
A noodle soup. I always let SP pick the soup flavor. He chose Chicken Noodle Soup Consomme with thin noodles. I love the freshly made noodles. I always hold my little bowl up to my face and slurp away, remembering all the times in Japan when I slurped steaming bowls of soba/udon. I still spew bits of broth onto my shirt and the table as the noodles get slurped into my mouth.
We love the Pork Soup Dumplings. Sure, I always burn my mouth and dribble some soup onto my shirt, but they're so darn tasty & warming & comforting. I don't even need the ginger, soy, or chili oil. Just give me the steaming soup dumpling.
Pork & Vegetable Potstickers. I love these. They remind me of the potstickers (gyoza) I ate in Japan.
A lovely, thin dough surrounding the pork filling. Yum.

So good on a cold day. Filled my belly and warmed my body. It's a quick meal. And a tasty one. I guess we'll be back in about a year?!

Everyday Noodles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Right now I am typing and watching snow steadily fall out the window. Ugh. I know. I live in Pittsburgh. But the older I get, the more I loathe winter and the cold/snow/slush/salt. We're supposed to get a lot of snow over the weekend, and maybe some ice, which means we won't go out because it's very difficult to maneuver the wheelchair through snow/slush/ice. Also, SP won't want to clear the walkway and driveway multiple times! It's also supposed to get pretty darn cold. I think last night the evening news said a high of 14 next Monday? Brrrrr.

Last Saturday was the day we finally saw Hamilton. We both went in a little skeptical, as did our friends S & R. Would it really be so amazing? Worthy of all the hype? The crazy ticket rules and prices and such? Our answer: yes. I'm not sure it's our favorite show ever, but we'd definitely go again. And again. We've been listening to the soundtrack a lot since Saturday. It's a good thing we both really like the soundtrack!

SP & I enjoyed this article and have been noticing and saying the same things for years.

What We're Eating:

  • Tomato Soup & Macaroni & Cheese
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Dessert: whatever we find in the house

What We're Watching:

  • We finished Killing Eve and really liked the show. Bring on Season 2 (in April).
  • Victoria is back on PBS. 
  • True Detective is back on HBO. So far Season 3 is pretty darn good. Or maybe it's that Mahershala Ali is that good. If you haven't seen Moonlight, you should. And even if you dislike Marvel Comics, he's excellent as Cottonmouth in Luke Cage Season 1.
  • A new season of Worst Cooks is underway. As usual, we wonder how the contestants are so clueless in the kitchen. It's as if they never had to make a slice of toast. Is it possible to have never had to make a piece of toast? 
  • We started watching The Passage, a new TV show. It's based on The Passage, which is Book 1 of the trilogy by Justin Cronin. We really enjoyed the books. The first episode was pretty good and it sent us both into research mode to refresh our memories of what happened in the books. It's been a while since we read them, especially the first one, which came out in 2010. So 8 years since we read The Passage.
  • The Punisher's new season comes out tomorrow on Netflix. 

What I'm Reading:

  • The Reckoning by John Grisham.
  • The magazine pile is down to 1 Bon Appetit, 1 Pittsburgh Magazine, and 3 Smithsonian magazines.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Last Saturday we dined at fl.2 with S & R. We all had just seen Hamilton for the first time (so good) and were ready to talk about it over drinks and food. It was our first time at fl.2 though we had dined in the same space when it was Habitat. S & R had dined at fl.2 before.
We were seated in the back dining area, near the open kitchen, and next to a window so we were able to watch the food preparation and the snow swirling and coating the city white.
 Our drinks:
For SP, Calm Before the Storm (Famous Grouse, Laphroaig, Vermouth, Yerba Mate). For me, chardonnay. We both liked what we ordered.
S & R had raved about the Chickpea Fricassée (tomato confit, garlic aioli, ciabatta), so that's what they ordered to start. I didn't try any (garlic).
SP & I started with Chicken Hand Pies (parmesan, apple, mushroom). These were yummy. Crisp shell, lots of parmesan sprinkle, yummy filling.
S & R shared a green salad while we shared Roasted Cauliflower (labneh, citrus, quinoa, almond). The tower of cauliflower is blurry in the photo, and I quickly crumbled the tower when I served myself. This was delicious.
For his main meal, SP ordered Octopus (lentils, ham piperade, coriander). 
I took a couple photos, trying to get the octopus swirl to show up atop the dark lentils on a dark colored plate in the dim lighting. He said it was delicious.
Ever the veggie lover, he also ordered  aside of Ratatouille (eggplant, pine nuts, pancetta, cave-aged cheddar). It was delicious. I only ate a bit since I assume all ratatouille has garlic (though I didn't smell/taste it). We took most of it home for Sunday lunch.
I opted for Flatbread (fromage blanc, caramelized onion, smoked lardons). It was delicious and a little messy. I cannot eat anything with syrup because I end up a sticky mess. In this case, the balsamic drizzle.
Three of us ordered a coffee drink, one chose an after dinner drink, and we shared desserts. For me & S, Chocolate Torte (milk chocolate ganache, dark chocolate mousse, luxardo cherries). It was delicious and chocolaty and smooth and yum!
SP & R shared Carrot Cake (pineapple gel, candied walnuts, cream cheese). They said it was delicious. Carrot cake is not my idea of dessert. Yes, it's cake, but it also has carrots, a vegetable. And this one included some pineapple,which I do not much like.

The restaurant filled up while we were there, but it never got too loud, which was nice. Our food was yummy, Service was great. I thought the meal was nicely paced. Our server did check with us to see if we were headed to a show so I imagine that if you are headed to one, they can pick up the pace of your meal. We'll be back.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

This week it's back to the usual routine. No more short weeks with holiday breaks. No more visitors from out of town. Less indulgent eating. It's salad and soup for dinner week. Boring.

Last week TX SIL was here with nephew #2. They stayed with us, which was nice. We hadn't seen them in a long time. Unfortunately a stomach bug swept through some factions of the family, so they didn't get to visit with everyone. Fortunately, they didn't catch anything from being around people who were very close to Ground Zero of the stomach flu. That means we've been OK, too, thankfully.

We ate out more than usual, with dinners at Bravo (calamari & lasagna) and Downey's House (fried zucchini & cheesesteak) and breakfast at Central Diner (blueberry pancakes & bacon).

We're in a "yuck" phase with Bravo. At least I am. I was very disappointed with the service and the food. I wanted the Cacio e Pepe, described on the menu as "al dente spaghetti with 3 simple, but "full-of-flavor" ingredients - aged grana padano zanetti, creamy butter and fresh cracked black pepper." It doesn't list garlic. It says pasta with 3 additional ingredients and it lists 3 ingredients. But I asked anyway. I was told, with a slight condescending sneer, that yes, of course it had garlic, they put garlic on everything. Um. What? I've never before had cacio e pepe with garlic. I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure cacio e pepe is not supposed to have garlic, just pasta, cheese, pepper, butter, and some pasta water. So I ordered lasagna because I've eaten their lasagna before and been OK. We ordered fried calamari to share. I've had calamari before at Bravo. They've changed it. Who puts chunks of fresh garlic on top fried calamari? Apparently Bravo does now. Why? It's already fried food served with 2 dipping sauces. What does the garlic bring to the dish? Thank goodness TX SIL noticed the chunks were garlic and not cheese and warned me before I ate more than 2 bites.

So Bravo joins the "will not dine at" list for me. They seem to be adding garlic to every dish just because they're an Italian restaurant and for some reason think Italian = garlic on everything, not because it brings anything to the dish. You'd think an Italian restaurant would know how to make a proper cacio e pepe.

What We're Eating:

  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Salad & Shrimp with cocktail sauce
  • Dessert: Madeleines

What We're Watching:

  • We started watching Killing Eve and we both love it. We have 2 more episodes to watch.
  • More of "the usual" shows are starting up again, like Big Bang Theory, The Gifted, SEAL Team. 
  • Gotham is back and while I'm watching, I'm ready for it to be over. These are the final 12 episodes, so I hope it can be a better story and have some sort of satisfying ending. It always seems to get bogged down in shifting alliances and betrayals and very soap opera-like with enemies becoming allies then enemies again then friends again and ugh so annoying.

What I'm Reading:
Magazines. We just received our first issue of Cook's Country. There are several yummy sounding recipes we're anxious to try.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Yard (Robinson)

The Yard is a local chain restaurant specializing in grilled cheese, burgers, and craft beer. The first location was in Shadyside and the second in Market Square, neither of which is wheelchair accessible. The third location is in the Galleria in Mt. Lebanon and while accessible, we were underwhelmed. A fourth location recently opened in Robinson (well, North Fayette) near the Target, Pool City, and Stout Pub. We decided to give it a another try. This time, we liked it enough that the following weekend, we suggested it to extended family in town for dinner. 
Our first visit was on a Saturday around 3 pm. We were having one of those days where we couldn't figure out what order in which to do everything we had to do, what did we want to eat, etc. So we opted for a late lunch/early dinner. We were seated right away. The beer/cider menu is huge. SP pored over it, and after consulting with our server, he chose a Rhinegeist Bubbles Cider (rose ale, brewed with apples, peaches, cranberries). He really enjoyed the cider. I stuck with fresh brewed iced tea.
We shared a House Salad because SP is all about making sure he eats veggies. It was a good salad, I just don't get excited about salad the way he does.
For his meal, he chose Brun-Cho’s Bro (Tater Tots / Scrambled Eggs / Bacon / Jalapeños / Beer Cheese / Stout Gravy / Shredded Cheddar / Pico De Gallo). It's on the weekend brunch menu. He really liked it. I liked his tater tots.
I chose Grilled Cheese. Specifically, Fried Green Tomatoes Grilled Cheese (Cheddar / American / Fried Green Tomatoes / Applewood Smoked Bacon / Chipotle Ranch / Arcadian Greens). I substituted mac & cheese for chips.
This time, I thought the grilled cheese was cheesy. When we tried the third location a couple years ago, I didn't think the grilled cheese was very cheesy. This time, I could taste cheese. It was really tasty, especially dunked in the tomato soup. I ended up taking the mac & cheese home for lunch the next day.

Our second visit was a week later with my parents and GA family. They had lemonade for nephew, wine for mom, beer/cider for everyone else. Niece wanted a beer but she's not quite 21 so she had soda. She sure does know all about the different beers, though!

This time I tried this grilled cheese:
Los Pollos Hermanos. I don't see it online, but I remember the name. There was a breaded chicken breast, Swiss, white cheese sauce, bacon, tomato, and a honey mustard sauce.
It was messy and I managed to get cheese sauce and sticky honey sauce all over myself. But it was really good. The mac & cheese was different than the week before. It was spicy on this visit - ? Not my favorite, but I ate it.
Nephew, who was done with wrestling and no longer had to worry about making weight, chose The Walking Ched (Signature Burger Blend / Cheddar / Mac 'n' Cheese / Topped with a Mac Attack Ball). Yes. Mac & cheese on a burger, on a bun, topped with a fried mac & cheese ball with fries on the side. Yikes! He loved it. Ate it all. I mean all. Every last fry. Gosh do I miss the stomach I had when I was 14, when I could eat that much of that kind of food and not leave feeling like I might puke or have a heart attack while moaning from being way too full.
SP chose My Diet Starts Monday (Provolone / Homemade White Cheese Sauce / Waffle Battered / Bacon / Pickle / Hot Sauce / Maple Syrup) and substituted cole slaw for his side. My dad had wings and fries. Everyone else had a grilled cheese. I'm not sure my dad really, really enjoyed his wings, but I think everyone else enjoyed their sandwiches and beers.
I like that this location is easily wheelchair accessible with lots of free, easy parking. It's spacious inside, tables aren't jammed close together. It can get a bit loud. We like that it seems cheesier than we remember. The beer/cider list is great. Both times our servers were terrific, friendly & knowledgeable. The first time, our server helped SP chose a cider. The second time, our server did a nice job with our group of 8. We haven't been seated near the front door, so I can't comment/respond to some who say it's too cold in that area, but I imagine it is because anytime in winter you're near a door it's chilly. We were chilly at Burgatory 2 weeks ago because of a draft from the door and where our table was. It's just winter in Pittsburgh. I also like that you can make a reservation for a large group.

We'll be back.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Thursday Thoughts on Friday

I started this post yesterday, but things got a little busy. So Thursday Thoughts got delayed.

It was nice to not think about the blog for a few days. We had a busy New Year's holiday, including seeing Aquaman and spending an entire day putting away holiday decor and cleaning the house. Ugh! Exhausting! But so nice to have the living room back to normal. And clean. Although I can still see bits of glitter glittering from the crevices into which they tucked themselves. One thing I really hate about the Christmas holiday: the glitter stuff that people insist on purchasing/giving. I despise glitter. It gets everywhere and refuses to depart. I would like to ban it, or have an inspection of packages/bags/cards before they enter the house. But that's too Grinchy.

TX SIL and one TX nephew have been in town and are staying with us. It's been quite a while since we saw them, so it's been nice to catch up in person. Also, they are providing a great reason to not yet tackle the To Do List that followed us from 2018 into 2019 (like the deck repair).

The holiday cookies are nearly gone. Yay! I love baking them and eating them but don't like when they linger in their containers and we get bored with them.

What We're eating:

  • Chicken Piccata with steamed broccoli & dinner rolls
  • Leftovers from Christmas and restaurant meals and pizza delivery
  • Dessert: Holiday Cookies, Holiday Candy

What We're Watching:

  • Over the holiday weekend, we watched Season 3 of Daredevil.
  • We also watched BlacKkkKlansman and Christopher Robin. Both were good.

What I'm Reading:

  • Look Alive Twenty-Five from Janet Evanovich. Enjoyable. Somewhat formulaic. Somewhat predictable. 
  • Magazines.