Thursday, October 31, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Happy Halloween! Happy Rainy Halloween! It sure is dreary & damp outside. I'm glad we do not have to take any small children trick-or-treating. Our community is going ahead with trick-or-treat tonight. I'm glad they didn't change it but I feel bad for the kids & parents. You have to really want some candy to trudge through this crap. That being said, we will, as usual, be quietly hanging out in the rear of the house since we no longer buy candy. Before you decide we're horrible, horrible, mean people, let me say that this will be our 12th Halloween in this house and in the previous 11 trick-or-treat nights, combined, we've had 3 kids. That's right: 3 kids in 11 years. No one ventures across the busy road to our side plus our driveway is steep. After the first 3-4 years we called it quits on being prepared with a pumpkin full of candy because we no longer wanted the leftover candy. Well, yes, of course our taste buds and brains wanted chocolate, but our middle-aged waistlines and middle-aged glucose levels said something else. Plus, having Halloween candy in the candy dish at Christmas isn't right.

What We're Eating:

  • Angel Hair Pasta with Meatball & Sausage Sauce
  • Crab Cakes and Roasted Cauliflower
  • Dessert: Spiced Biscotti

What We're Watching:

  • We're still playing catch up with shows on the DVR. Almost there.
  • We're caught up on Batwoman and I'm enjoying it.
  • I wish we'd catch up soon so we could watch Glitch, Peaky Blinders, and Jack Ryan.
  • I love the Halloween and Holiday baking shows and cooking shows. It's like a sickness. I loved the bloody cakes they made on the finale of Halloween Baking Show Championship, the bleeding brain, eyes, heart.

What I'm Reading:

  • Still struggling with the magazine pile. I still have some Halloween reading but the Thanksgiving issues are arriving.
  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. I enjoyed it much more than I expected and it made me think a lot about life for women back then versus now and frankly, after reading some news articles lately, I wonder just what has changed. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


We've been home from Texas for a little over two weeks now and I haven't yet written about our dining experiences. We had decent, good meals, not great, memorable meals in Texas. That might be because I do not like Tex-Mex, Mexican, spicy, etc so we didn't go to those places. Another reason could be because Texas is very meaty, specifically beefy, and neither of us much likes slabs of beef. Steakhouses are not for us. Another reason could be that, at least for San Antonio, we tried to dine at restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. Our first meal of the trip, not counting lunch at Panera, was at Hattie's in the Bishop Arts District.
We had 5:30 pm reservation and were seated right away on a Thursday evening. It was hot so we drank a lot of water while also enjoying some wine. Here's what we ate:
Hattie's is an "American Bistro with a southern low-country influence" so they offered Fried Green Tomatoes (buttermilk ranch dressing). Of course we ordered them. They were yummy.
Not even 95 degrees can deter SP from soup: Tomato Bisque (mini grilled cheese). The soup and grilled cheese were tasty.
For his meal, he chose Smoked Paprika-Rubbed Salmon with Forbidden Rice, Grilled Asparagus, Pickled Mustard.
I chose Home-Style Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf (wild mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables). The mashed potatoes were garlic mashed potatoes so the chef substituted mashed sweet potato.
The meatloaf & gravy was really good. A big portion for me but I managed to eat most of it and all the vegetables.
Dessert: Sweet Biscuit Shortcake (strawberries & cream). This was good, lots of nice strawberries, and just the right size to share.

We both enjoyed our meals at Hattie's. Our server was terrific. I don't remember much else because we were so tired from our 7 am flight and the oppressive heat, but inside was welcoming and cool with lots of light from all the windows. We'd go back.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Paris 66

Last Saturday's Dinner Date Night was at Paris 66. It had been a year since our last meal there! I think it rainy and chilly the last time we went, too! Here's what we enjoyed:
A glass of Sancerre for me and Pinot Grigio for him.
We shared an appetizer: Tarte Flambée Alsacienne - Flammenkueche (thin-crusted tart with bacon, onions, crème fraîche). This tart is so good! It's so good I wish I hadn't had to share! I'd be more than happy with this tart all to myself and a salad for dinner.
For SP's meal: Poisson du Jour -  Monkfish with asparagus and rice. I forget what the sauce was, other than delicious because he basically licked the plate and said he could the sauce would be delicious on anything.
I chose Boeuf Bourguignon (slow cooked beef in a Burgundy red wine sauce, bacon, mushrooms, onions, potatoes). I liked but didn't love this dish. I really liked the potatoes, mushrooms, and carrots and the thin bits of bacon, but the beef was a bit chewy for me, not as tender and moist as I expected. Then again, often when I think meat is a tad chewy, others say it's fine and look at me like I am crazy. I just don't have, as SP & I joke, "T-Rex teeth."
With dessert I ordered Cafe au Lait & SP ordered Decaf Coffee.
We ordered Souffle Glace Grand Marnier and got to a flame show.
It was good but different than I remember. Boozier. Not as cold. But maybe that's because last time I just tried a bite of someone else's dessert and this time we had the whole dessert? 
We also ordered Pear & Almond Tart. We always get this because it's so darn good. I eat the whipped cream and the drizzle, but I'm all about the tart crust.

Although we don't get to Paris 66 more than once a year, maybe twice, we still really enjoy it. Our server was terrific, the food tasty, it was inviting, cozy, and warm inside. A great place to spend a rainy evening.

Previous Visits:
October 2018
December 2017
May 2011
May 2010
October 2009
September 2009

Monday, October 28, 2019

Vanilla Bean-Apricot Sandwich Cookies

Ever since SP bought me Halloween cookie cutters, we try to use them and bake a cutout cookie every October. At first we made my grandma's Ischl Tartlets. The last couple of years we made Black Cherry & Chocolate Linzer Cookies. This year, we decided to try Vanilla Bean-Apricot Sandwich Cookies from The Perfect Cookie by America's Test Kitchen.
These were easy to make, just a little time consuming because of chilling the dough for 30 minutes and rolling the dough. To get superfine sugar, we pulsed regular granulated sugar in the food processor a few times. We chose to not decorate the cookies with icing.
These were delicious. You could use any flavor jam but I like the orange color of the preserves since it's autumn/Halloween. The vanilla and apricot taste great together. These were so good it was hard to not keep eating them. Also, while they're tasty when just made, they taste even better after a few hours. We'd definitely make these again.

Recipe here.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Braised Chicken with Mustard & Herbs

We made this dinner way back in February but since the weather is getting cooler, it seems like a good time to finally blog about this braised dish: Braised Chicken with Mustard & Herbs. It was in the March & April 2019 issue of Cook's Illustrated.
Pretty sure I got to chop the onion. I always cry when I chop onions and shallots.
No photos of the brining process, just the patted dry chicken parts. This isn't an overnight, complicated brine process, just 30-60 minutes in salty water. Much easier than the time we brined the 20+ lb Thanksgiving turkey and as far as I am concerned, that was a waste of time and ingredients, not to mention the risk of spreading raw turkey germs all over the counter, sinks, refrigerator.
Brown the chicken.
Then saute the onion.
Everything together, ready to braise in wine and water, seasoned with garlic, thyme, onion, pepper.
When the chicken is cooked remove it from the pot. Add the parsley, mustard, and lemon juice to the pot and stir. Serve chicken with sauce.
This made a delicious sauce, especially spooned over some rice.
We roasted cauliflower, too, which made for a very white and bland plate but everything was delicious. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. The sauce was yummy even if we thought it was a bit thin compared to the photo of their sauce. We really like sauces with mustard and lemon so this is a definite make again meal.

Recipe here.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we saw Joker. It was good, not great, at times difficult to watch, at times disturbing, and Joaquin Phoenix was terrific. After the movie, we went to The Yard for dinner. I had the Los Pollos Hermanos and SP got the Fried Green Tomatoes, so I got to have both of my favorite sandwiches there. 

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We watched the first episode of Watchmen on HBO. SP likes it. I'm sort of liking it. I'll give it another try but it didn't really grab me.
  • We are still slowly catching up on shows on the DVR. It'd be nice if new shows took a week off!

What I'm Reading:

  • I read The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen. It was OK. I'm not sold on the ghost stuff. I really like her Rizzoli & Isles books but this one just didn't pull me in like those do.
  • I also read Bloody Genius by John Sandford. It's the new Virgil Flowers book. I loved it. I was nearly done with the book and I was still changing my mind about who the killer was. 
  • The Thanksgiving issues of the food magazines are arriving. I like seeing the holiday recipes/reinventions of dishes, but if we tinker with anything, guests would likely not be happy. Plus, there are several picky eaters, so we can't get too crazy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Texas Vacation

Sixth Floor Museum
We've been back about a week from a vacation to Texas. When we told people we were going on vacation to Texas, many people looked at us, not quite sure what to say or how to react. I guess it didn't seem very vacation-y. They seemed less incredulous when we explained that we were going to visit TXSIL and her family. They live in the Dallas area. We also drove down to San Antonio and spent some time there.
Pumpkins at Arboretum
I think what we remember most about Texas is the heat. Oh my gosh. The heat. It was October and with the exception of 2 days, it was 95+ degrees/feels like 103. One of the two non 95+ degree days had a wind chill of 47 degrees. We were so cold that day and grateful it was raining when we left for the airport so we'd grabbed our raincoats.

Our next memory is probably the elevated highways, the crazy multi-lane highways, even in suburbia, and the traffic. The day we drove from San Antonio back to Dallas was one of those days where no matter how many miles you put behind you, you never got any closer in terms of time of arrival because "there is a 1 hour 8 minute delay on your route." That was on a Sunday. A Sunday. A non holiday time Sunday.
Peanuts Themed area for fall at Arboretum
Here's what we did in Dallas:
  • Sixth Floor Museum/Dealy Plaza/JFK Memorial
  • Bishop Arts District
  • Dallas Arboretum
  • Fort Worth Stock Yards
  • Sundance Square
  • Dallas Cowboys Stadium

The last two were "drive past" visits. We all were hot and exhausted from the Stock Yards and didn't see any available street parking at Sundance Square, so we just drove around and then drove up to Arlington and past the monstrosity that is the Cowboys football stadium. We did our best to cast a spell on it and they did lose the next two games, but since we got home, they've won. Since moving to TX, our nephews have become Cowboys fans so they were none too happy with us cheering against the Cowboys. Happily, they also like the Steelers.
Fort Worth Stock Yards Cattle Drive
It was neat to see the cattle drive at the Stock Yards. They were pretty mellow cattle. Not one tried to break free or gore anyone with a horn. 
Fort Worth Stock Yards
Maybe next time we can go to one of the evening rodeos? I wish we'd had time to ride the train, too.
Arneson River Theater along River Walk
After four days in Dallas, we were off to San Antonio via West, TX, where we stopped for some kolache. Yum!
River Walk
Here's what we did in San Antonio:
  • The Alamo
  • The River Walk
  • Took a Go Rio boat ride of the River Walk
  • King William District
  • Historic Market Square
  • Toured the San Antonio Missions National Park
  • La Villita
  • Six Flags San Antonio
The Alamo
I had promised SP, the rollercoaster enthusiast, two park trips. We planned to go to SeaWorld on Friday, but with the winds so strong, the coasters weren't running, so we didn't bother going. He was sad. I was secretly happy because I'd spent all morning wondering how the heck I was going to stay warm in the 47 degree weather. It was so windy & cold.

So that day ended up being just us wandering around, ducking into shops to stay warm. The next day was cool but less windy, so we made it Six Flags and he was in coaster heaven since he had never been to that park and everything was a new-to-him ride. I got to people-watch (way too many health issues to ride, especially with the carotid artery still being torn).

We also spent some time with friends of his in the area.
Missions National Park
I'm glad we finally made it to Texas. It's a state I had not yet visited. We had a great time seeing family. But next time we go, we will pick a time of year without a remote chance of 95+ degrees! 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

I missed Thursday thoughts last week because we were in Texas! We finally made a trip to Dallas to visit SIL and while in Texas, we also went to San Antonio. I'll write more about our trip later. I'm still tired from the trip, plus I seem to have caught a slight cold, plus all I can remember right now is how hot it was for the first week (95+ degrees/feels like 103+) then it plummeted to the low 50's/feels like 47 with 35 mph winds and we were freezing because we'd only packed clothes for 95 degrees.

I guess we missed fall in Pittsburgh since it was 87 when we left and now it's in the 40's?! The furnace has been running and I had to dig out the sweatshirts and warm socks.

What We're Eating:

  • Our first night home, we met a friend who was in town for dinner at Downey's House. I had a Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich and SP had a Reuben.
  • The rest of this week is grilled chicken & salad.
  • Dessert: Donut Holes from Market District. They're just OK.

What We're Watching:

  • Everything. Twelve days away means shows really piled up on the DVR. It'll take a while to catch up.
  • Streaming-wise, we're caught up on The Great British Baking Show and are anxious to get to Season 3 of Glitch and Season 5 of Peaky Blinders plus this weekend Watchmen on HBO starts.
  • HBO-wise, since we have to stream it through Amazon because of their stupid spat with Dish, we're behind on The Deuce, we forgot about Succession so we have all of Season 2 to watch, plus we need to catch up on Bill Maher and John Oliver.
  • We're enjoying Stumptown and The Unicorn, two new shows.
  • SEAL Team is back! 
  • Supergirl is back and Batwoman started but we haven't watched any of the episodes yet.
  • I got caught up on Grey's Anatomy and HTGAWM just in time for new episodes tonight.
  • I am three episodes behind on This Is Us.
  • What else? We are caught up on The Rookie, which is still fun. We are not caught up on Young Sheldon, Evil, Emergence, and I forget what else. We wanted to give Evil a second chance even though the first episode was a little too creepy for me. Emergence has received decent reviews, and I like Allison Tolman, so we want to give it a try, we just haven't had time.

What I'm Reading:
I have three library books and a pile of magazine but I've been too tired/sick/busy with other things. There's a lot of laundry and ironing after vacation!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Grasshopper Pie

I have always liked chocolate and mint. I remember sneaking Andes Candies from the guest candy dish on my mom's Card Club nights at our house. I also remember my parents drinking Grasshopper Cocktails when I was a kid and letting me have a tiny sip and I loved it. So when I saw that The Perfect Pie from America's Test Kitchen had a Grasshopper Pie recipe, I had to buy the cookbook. And then we had to make it, our first pie from the cookbook.
Of course that meant buying Creme de Cacao and Creme de Menthe. Plus gelatin. And chocolate wafers. The cookbook calls for a crust made from ground creme de menthe Oreos but I wasn't sure about that. I've never really liked Oreos, particularly the cream filling. I decided to use the chocolate crust from this recipe: No Bake Chocolate-Raspberry Cream Pie.
Butter sugar, and chocolate chips melted together and then combined with crushed chocolate wafer cookies. No baking required.
The grasshopper green filling is quite a few steps!
Soften gelatin, then cook the gelatin-cream-sugar. Whisk eggs, temper the gelatin mixture into the eggs and cook like a custard for ice cream. Stir in the liqueurs, refrigerate for a while, stirring occasionally. Whip heavy cream until you get soft peaks, whisk some of it into the gelatin mixture, the fold in the rest. Then spread into the crust.
A beautiful cool mint green. I love the color, I love the minty smell.
We had a lot of filling and didn't want to waste any so ours is probably a little over-stuffed. It's so good. Cool, minty, light, a chocolaty crust. It got better as the week went on. We made our pie on a Sunday and ate a bit every night, finishing on Friday and it was fine.
It's a good thing we really liked this pie because we now have two bottles of liquor to use! Maybe we can try making a Grasshopper Cocktail, too. We'll definitely be making this pie again.

Recipe here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Rice Salad

Over the summer I got tired of my usual lunch: toasted English muffin with roast turkey & Swiss cheese. I decided to try a rice salad so I looked up a bunch of recipes and ended up making my own version. It was rice, spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and kalamata olives with a lemon-olive oil dressing. It was good but it could have used some fresh herbs, which I kept forgetting to wash and chop in my haste to eat lunch each day. And maybe some fresh lemon zest.
It was a nice change from my usual. Next time I'd make more of an effort to add the fresh herbs or at least some dried herbs and fresh lemon zest and maybe try a vinaigrette dressing instead of just lemon & olive oil. Maybe add some carrot or roasted red pepper. But as a first effort, this was pretty good, and it made lunch really easy for the week.

My version:

Rice Salad
about 1.5 cups uncooked rice
kalamata olives
cherry tomatoes
about 2 c fresh spinach
1/4 c lemon juice
1/3 c olive oil
salt & pepper

Cook rice (we cook ours in a rice cooker). Fluff rice, add spinach, and toss so that the spinach wilts a bit. Let rice and spinach cool. Once cool, add as much/little tomato, chopped cucumber, and olive as you want. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Pour over rice salad. Toss salad. Season with salt & pepper.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Gâteau Breton with Apricot Filling

This post has been a long while coming: Gâteau Breton with Apricot Filling. It's the cake that SP picked for his birthday cake this year. The birthday that was last February! I have no idea why it took me so long to share this one because the cake was delicious.
We didn't use a dark rum. It was a gold rum. It worked just fine.
The California apricots were a bit difficult to find but we finally tracked them down at Trader Joe's.
We like that it's a one layer cake but you do have to pour in half the batter, then spread on your apricot filling, then the other half of batter. Then score the top with a fork.
It's a pretty cake.
Since it was his birthday, I put the cake on my great-grandma's cake stand but I didn't put candles on top. It didn't seem right to poke candle holes into this cake.
It's a little bit of work with pureeing, cooking, chilling, freezing, and baking but the results are worth it. It was delicious. Rich, buttery, tender with a slightly sweet fruit center.
Recipe here.