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.