Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Thursday Thoughts on Wednesday

I skipped last week's Thursday Thoughts because it was Christmas Eve. Also, one of us is not doing well and was under the weather over Christmas. Things here have been difficult and worrisome.

It was just the two of us for Christmas Eve & Christmas. Even if the pandemic had magically disappeared, we would have been alone/stayed home because things were that bad. We ate the same meal both days, opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, and watched the new Wonder Woman movie on Christmas. 

This week has been doctor trips, work, and me threatening to start dismantling the tree. We live in an older home and the living room isn't huge. The way things are arranged, during holiday tree time, I cannot see the right quarter to one third of the TV because of the tree. I could sit on the couch, but then my neck would have to turn a bit and that still, at times, sets off the pulsing in my ear, so I won't do it. For Wonder Woman, we moved the tree in front of the fireplace. Thank goodness we put the stand on a towel - it slides easily! We couldn't have the lights on, but that was OK because we turned out all the lights and pretended we were in a real theater!

We managed to make pierogie and bake cookies but I wouldn't say it was fun this year. This year we baked Cinnamon Spice Cut OutsTriple Ginger CookiesIschl Tartlets (Linzer Cookies),  Chocolate Dipped Crescents, Spritz, Chocolate Dipped Orange Slices. We gave a lot to friends who helped us (you know a friend is awesome when they come over and snowblow your driveway for you in 20 degrees!).

We don't have any New Year's plans other than taking down the tree, cleaning the house, and watching TV. We pre-ordered take out from Bistro 19 as a treat.

What We've Been Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Bridgerton (Netflix). I have not read the books. We just finished episode 5. Apparently the next couple are quite steamy?!
  • The Mandalorian Seasons 1 & 2. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. Baby Yoda annoyed me much less than I expected. I liked the little guy.
  • Wonder Woman 1984. We watched this Christmas evening. It was good, not great, not as good as the first one, but still fun and I didn't find myself glancing at the clock to see how much longer there was to go.
  • We have yet to watch the season 2 finale of His Dark Materials.
  • Holiday Baking Challenge. We liked all 3 finalists.

What I'm Reading:

  • Ham Bones (Sarah Booth Delaney #7) by Carolyn Haines. Still enjoyable. Still a quick read. That's OK.
  • Murder Wears White (Book #2) by Stephanie Blackmoore. This was also enjoyable & a quick read.
  • The Devil & the Dark Water by Stuart Turton. This was really good. I couldn't put it down. It's set in 1634 almost entirely on an East India Company merchant ship sailing to Amsterdam. It's a pretty convoluted plot involving a supposedly dead leper, ghosts, the devil, secrets, an imprisoned detective, and while I was a wee disappointed in the ending and incredulous when all was revealed, I still really enjoyed then book.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Outside is a winter wonderland. SP is happy he's working from home because he didn't have to worry about shoveling snow. It's almost 2:30 pm and he's finally going out to snowblow the almost 10 inches of snow. It looks pretty as long as you do not need to go out in it!

What We're Eating:

  • Chicken Marsala
  • Smoked Pulled Pork with biscuits and roast cauliflower
  • Dessert: Amish Cinnamon Bread (from the freezer)

What We're Watching:

  • Station 19. Sigh. It seemed (seems?) like they're trying to cram too much in, especially last week's episode. All in one episode: coronavirus, Black Lives Matter, drug addiction, mask wearing, the church and sexuality. I watch TV (and read) to avoid the crap in the news, not wallow in more despair and hopelessness.
  • On the Basis of Sex (movie). We enjoyed this a lot even though it made us angry all over again because RBG's accomplishments, her story is just so amazing & impressive and she was replaced by ACB on the SC - ? Seriously, no comparison. 
  • The Amazing Race. Of the 3 teams the one we liked the least won. Boo.
  • We finished The Crown and started Marcella (both on Netflix).

What I'm Reading:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke. This was just OK. I don't know if I'll continue with the series.
  • The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer. Another engrossing read from this author.
  • Bones to Pick by Carolyn Haines. Probably one of my favorite "cozy mystery" series (not that I read that many, maybe 5?).
  • Fractured by Karin Slaughter. I like Slaughter a lot and just started the Will Trent books. This one, the second one, was quite good.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

I don't have any exciting thoughts. Here are my not very exciting thoughts:

  • We got a new coffee machine & I'm enjoying a cup every afternoon but as delicious as it is, it's also giving me heartburn.
  • As grateful as I am for central heat, I do not like the system in our house. I'm either seated by a cold air return vent, freezing and shivering, or sitting right in front of a vent blasting hot air in my face, drying out my skin and my eyes. My eyes are so dry that I constantly want to close them and nap.
  • It's Holiday Cookie Baking time but I cannot muster much enthusiasm this year. Or energy. I pretty much just want to be a blob under a blanket, napping in my comfy chair.
  • I accidentally ordered holiday cards with glitter. I guess these things happen when you don't closely read the online description. I despise glitter. If someone sends me a glitter card, I won't even take it out of the envelop. Now my desk is covered with glitter. Those bits get tracked around the house. I don't really understand how, but they do.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • His Dark Materials (HBO).
  • I think the Alliance Trio may have diminished Amazing Race a bit. Not sure I care which team wins now.
  • One more episode of The Crown. I know it's not entirely factual, but good grief Charles & Diana should never have married.

What I'm Reading:

  • Hallowed Bones by Carolyn Haines.
  • Engaged in Death by Stephanie Blackmoore.
  • Fortune & Glory by Janet Evanovich. The latest Stephanie Plum book. It was better than usual. I wasn't as annoyed with the usual predictable stuff (the wrecked cars, the failed fugitive apprehensions, etc.).


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Crabmeat Squares

My mom has been making these Crabmeat Squares for as long as I can remember. She used to make them for Card Club., the group of neighborhood ladies who took turns hosting card playing night once a month - with card playing pretty much meaning eating and gossiping! There was some card playing, too, and the whole event usually went on until 1 or 2 am on a school night! My brother and I loved card party night because we liked sampling the snacks and then eating the leftover snacks plus yummy candies appeared in the candy bowls. My dad disliked card night because it was on a work night and, as you might expect, a dozen ladies chatting & laughing could get quite loud so he never got much sleep. 
That was back in the 70's and 80's before everyone wanted whole grains and gluten free and low carb and fake meat. This recipe is not remotely healthy. It's white bread, toasted, and covered with a mixture of canned crab, butter, and Velveeta cheese. It's sooo good. Mom makes them once a year, at the holidays. This Thanksgiving, she gave us 16 of these delights and we devoured them. 
I know, they're technically Crab Rectangles, not Crab Squares! These are nice because they can be made ahead of time, frozen, and go right from the freezer to the oven.

Mom's Crabmeat Squares (Rectangles)

¼ lb butter
¼ lb Velveeta
4 oz crabmeat (frozen or fresh or canned)
Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Sliced Bread, about 13 slices

Melt together the butter, Velveeta. Add crab. Cut bread slices in half. Put under broiler and toast until hard, not brown. Remove and cut off crusts. Put crab mixture on bread halves and freeze.

Bake 375 for about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Cherry Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

We've made these cookies many times but not in a long time. I'm not sure why because we really like charry and chocolate together. We also like that this recipe used dried cherries, not maraschino cherries. I can't remember the recipe source, but I think I cut it out from an ad for one of the ingredients like the M&M Shortbread Cookies we bake.

These are easy to make. The hardest/most time consuming part is chopping the dried cherries. Also chopping the chocolate, but we "cheated" and used regular chocolate chips.
The dough was pretty crumbly and SP had to use his hands to get it smoothly smushed together before adding the cherries & chocolate. These are just as delicious as we remember. Chewy bits of dried cherry and chunks of chocolate - yum!

Cherry Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dried cherries
  • 1 ounce bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup) 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 

Drizzle :

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon shortening

Our Notes:

  • We use chocolate chips.
  • We don't dip a glass in sugar, we just flatten.
  • We do not do drizzle chocolate on top. We found that it just flaked off when we bit into the cookie.

Mix butter, sugar and almond extract thoroughly using an electric mixer. Gradually blend in flour and corn starch. Add cherries and chocolate. Form into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheets. Pour sugar on a small plate; dip bottom of drinking glass in sugar and gently press down on each cookie to flatten. Bake in a preheated 300 degrees F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until bottoms begin to brown. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For drizzle: Place 2 ounces chocolate and shortening in a small resealable plastic bag. Microwave on high for about 30 seconds, until chocolate is melted. Snip off corner and drizzle over cookies.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Spiced Citrus Chicken

We tried another recipe from Cook's Country Dec-Jan 2021. This time, we made Spiced Citrus Chicken Breasts for dinner. These are yummy! Also quick and easy.
Season the breasts with cinnamon, cumin, salt, and pepper. Dredge in flour. Saute in olive oil. Drizzle a citrus-shallot dressing on top. We served ours with rice and steamed broccoli.
Some of our breasts had more cinnamon-cumin than others. Since I ate the less seasoned ones, I enjoyed the subtle flavors of cinnamon and cumin. SP liked the more heavily seasoned ones for more spice oomph. We both liked the citrus dressing although we omitted the shallot since raw shallot can really flavor a dressing over time and since my stomach doesn't do well with uncooked shallots, onions, etc. I wouldn't have thought to season chicken with cinnamon and cumin so this is a nice change of pace.

Recipe: Spiced Citrus Chicken


 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Our quiet Thanksgiving for two was nice. On Friday we decorated for Christmas. Gosh there's a lot of Christmas stuff and it always takes longer than it should. Like trying to get the garland on the mantle, well not on, but hanging with this kind of clip. We'd get the left side on, then as we were doing the right side, the left would plop off. Or the ends would be up and as we did the middle, one or both ends would plop off. Then the lights on one side were twisted to the back and we had to twist the garland which made it plop off. It took 40 minutes to get the garland up! 

Then assembling the tree took 30 minutes. A tree in 3 pieces with prelit lights. But there was the problem: the entire top section was not lighting up and it took a long time to find the problematic bulb (one had popped out) then we couldn't locate the extra bulbs. Ugh! After that we spent about 2-3 hours hanging ornaments and doing other assorted decorating stuff and then cleaning up.

The other excitement this week: the car. We got an oil change in late Oct. Over the weekend, SP pulled the car out of the garage so he could work on getting the snowblower ready. He found oil puddles under the car. So we assumed it was leaking oil & were angry because of the recent oil change plus the car is only 2.5 years old so it cannot be sick yet! He checked the oil indicator light inside and it said 40%, which didn't make sense for an oil change 1 month ago and given how little we drive. Fortunately, we had another scheduled porch swap with my dad, who also was going to WalMart, so we asked him to get us some oil for the car because SP didn't want to somehow have 0% oil to drive it to the service garage. But when he went to add the oil, the dipstick thingy indicated it was full. 

End result: The service garage said the car is not leaking oil but the person who did the oil change in Oct. made 2 mistakes. One, they didn't reset the oil indicator light. Two, they got oil on the car frame and didn't wipe it up, hence the drips. SP couldn't see that because the car had to be raised up to see the drippy oil residue underneath. All better now. We just need to get some kitty litter to clean up the oil in the garage.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We finished Season 3 of Babylon Berlin (Netflix) and now we anxiously await Season 4. I didn't think the third season was as good as the first two seasons and the ending was a little weird. I had to look it up to understand it! But overall, I still really like the show.
  • We started Season 4 of The Crown (Netflix). We've watched 3 episodes. 
  • Amazing Race (CBS). There were five teams and my least favorite team got eliminated. I don't have high hopes for my favorite team, but we'll see.
  • SEAL Team (CBS) is back! Lots of changes for the team, including Cerberus. 
  • Fargo (FX) Season 4 ended. Finally. The last episode was kind of an epilogue, a where are they now kind of thing. I still think the season was disappointing. 
  • The Undoing (HBO). No spoilers, but I wasn't surprised by the identity of the murderer. 

What I'm Reading:

  • The Sentinel by Lee Child. The latest Jack Reacher book. It was just OK. Lee Child is retiring and turning over the Reacher series to his younger brother to write and this was a joint effort. The plot seemed a little too fantastic for the location. And the book seemed kind of wordy at times, or too focused on fight scenes.
  • All the Old Knives. I really enjoyed Olen Steinhauer's Milo Weaver series so I decided to read the stand alone novels. This one was interesting, but also kind of sad. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving Thursday Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving! Like last year, it will be just the two of us here at home. We are being safe. Avoiding coronavirus. We will be making a small turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberries, and a pumpkin roll.

What We're Eating (besides Thanksgiving this week):

  • Smoked Ribs with salad
  • Pear & Pecorino Ravioli with salad
  • Dessert: Rugelach 

What We're Watching:

  • We finished the first two seasons of Babylon Berlin and started season 3. I keep mixing up characters and getting confused but I love the show!
  • We started His Dark Materials Season 2 (HBO). It's OK.  

What I'm Reading:

  • By Book Or By Crook by Eva Gates. It was better than I expected for this kind of book.
  • The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly. Another excellent book from Connelly, this one about Mickey Haller, not Harry Bosch, though Bosch does make a few appearances.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Snickerdoodles

 


Cook's Country Dec-Jan 2021 has a recipe for Snickerdoodles that differs a bit from our go-to Snickerdoodle recipe in Baking Illustrated. We decided to give the new version a try and are glad we did because they're delicious! The main differences are the addition of cream cheese, vegetable oil (instead of shortening), less butter, less cream of tartar, and 1 egg (not 2).
I think we have a new go-to recipe for Snickerdoodles! Lots of cinnamon flavor, tangy, soft, chewy. It was very easy to eats 3-4 at a time!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Rugelach (Nutella & Jam Flavors)

We made Rugelach from Baking Illustrated back in 2010 and that was the one & only time we made them. It wasn't because they weren't tasty. They were. It was because the cookie was a bit on the large side and I prefer smaller cookies at the holidays because that way, you can eat more kinds rather than being full from just one large-ish cookie. It also was because they were a lot of work. Chill the dough, roll dough, freeze dough, add filling and shape into crescents, freeze crescents, bake crescents. So time consuming.
When I saw a Rugelach recipe in the current Cook's Country (Dec-Jan 2021) I was excited because there wasn't multiple chilling/freezing steps and because the cookie crescents were smaller. Plus, Nutella. Yum.
There were several filling suggestions: Nutella, cinnamon-walnut, and jam (raspberry or apricot). It's very easy to use different fillings on the same batch of dough. 
The dough is rolled into 2 12-inch circles. Each circle is topped with 1/3 cup filling before being cut into 16 wedges and each wedge rolled into a crescent.
We topped one circle with Nutella. For the second circle, we cut it in half and spread one half with raspberry jam and the other half with apricot jam. 
So we have 32 rugelach cookies: 16 Nutella, 8 raspberry, and 8 apricot. They all are delicious. There is sour cream and cream cheese in the dough so the cookie part is really yummy. My favorite is the Nutella. SP's favorite is the apricot.
These were much easier and less time consuming than the other rugelach we made plus the cookie is smaller, which I like. The egg wash and Demerara sugar on top make a delicious, sweet crust on top.

Definitely a Make Again cookie.

Recipe here: Rugelach





 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Double-Crust Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is one of those dishes that my mom never made when we were kids. I think of it as a frozen food meal. Maybe Stouffer's or Hungry Man. Do they even make those? Point is, it's not on my radar of meal possibilities.
But then the latest issue of Cook's Country (Dec~Jan 2021) had a recipe for Double-Crust Chicken Pot Pie and it looked delicious. Suddenly, it was on my radar. And SP's. So we made it. Note, this recipe was published years ago and is from the Cooks' Country archives. We didn't subscribe back then so it's new to us.
It's not too difficult. It is a bit time consuming, but we made it in stages. I chopped the vegetables Sunday morning. SP made the crust Sunday morning & got it chilling. After lunch, he rolled the crusts and got them situated while he cooked the chicken (we did not use leftovers from a rotisserie chicken, we cooked breasts/thighs in the oven). Then after the Steelers game, we assembled the filling and got the pot pie baking.
It's delicious. The crust does not get soggy. Not even when, two days later, we reheated the leftovers. It stayed flaky & yummy. The filling wasn't too wet. I know in the photo it looks like it ran out/leaked everywhere, but it wasn't a thin, wet filling, it was thick. We'll definitely make this again.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

I have a lot of thoughts today (about politics, pandemic, family, holidays, social media), but it's probably best to keep them in my head!

What We're Eating:

  • Double-Crust Chicken Pot Pie
  • Vegetable Soup
  • Dessert: Snickerdoodles

What We're Watching:

  • We are really enjoying Babylon Berlin (Netflix). We finished Season 1 and started Season 2.
  • His Dark Materials started on HBO. Not my favorite show, but I did stick with it all of the first season, so I'll give season 2 a try.
  • I'm not sure what to make of the most recent Fargo episode. Two more episodes.
  • I'm also not sure about Grey's Anatomy. Are we really going to have a 3rd, or 4th, "Meredith almost dies" storyline?

What I'm Reading:

Buried Bones, Splintered Bones, Crossed Bones from Carolyn Haines (Books 2, 3, and 4). 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Asiago Cheese-Black Pepper Breadsticks

We made these Asiago and Black Pepper Breadsticks from Baking Illustrated a few weeks ago. They were pretty easy to make. We made them on a weeknight but wouldn't do so if SP ever returns to working in the office because the rising time is 1.5-2 hours. It's nice now because he's home all the time and we can make things like this during the week.
We didn't use the onion powder because SP thought we didn't have any, but we do. Maybe next time. The grated cheese is in the dough and sprinkled on top before baking. Yum! There is a tablespoon of fresh grated black pepper. It's tasty, but we found that the more we ate, the more the pepper overwhelmed us a bit. Next time, we would use less pepper.

The recipe makes 18 breadsticks. That's a lot for 2 people so we froze them. On the nights that we want a breadstick, we thaw 2-3, wrap them in foil, and heat them in the oven.

We'd make these again, maybe adding the onion powder, maybe trying another flavor like pecorino & herbs.

Recipe here: Asiago Cheese-Black Pepper Breadsticks (page 170)


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

The weather earlier this week was wonderful. SP reached a "use it or lose it" point with vacation accrual, so he took this week off for vacation. We can't do much or travel anywhere (thanks coronavirus) but on Tuesday we took a drive to Mingo Creek Park. The park has relatively flat and paved walking trails, so that was good for the wheelchair. There are 2 covered bridges and the historic Henry House, a house built in the early 1800s. There's also an observatory, but it's closed now because of the pandemic. We drove up to it and wished we gone a couple weeks earlier when there was still fall color because the view from the parking lot would have been a fantastic collage of color.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • The Queen's Gambit (Netflix). We finished this and it was excellent.
  • We started Babylon Berlin (Netflix). We're 4 episodes in & enjoying it so far even though sometimes we're a little confused. 
  • Tonight Grey's Anatomy is back! As is The Unicorn. 
  • The Amazing Race continues to be fun. It's always fun watching people try to drive stick shift in Europe. And when people get hopelessly lost.
  • The Undoing is still holding our interest but I was disappointed at the turn the show seemed to take in the last episode. In my mind, I'd been wondering if that was going to happen but I was hoping not because it seems such an obvious choice but maybe it's just a distraction? I don't want to be too specific in case people haven't watched.
  • Fargo Season 4 continues to bore and with the latest episode, disappoint because while the train station scenes were great, my favorite character was killed, so boo.
  • The Great British Bake Off (Netflix). Oh gosh I feel terrible for saying this, but watching them create ice cream cakes in a 90+ degree tent was amusing.

What I'm Reading:

  • The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer. Not a Milo Weaver book. It was good, although for soem reason I had trouble remembering everything/keeping it all straight as I read.
  • Triptych by Karin Slaughter. This is the first Will Trent book of the series. It was good, I couldn't put it down, but also, yeesh the villain was disgusting. 
  • Them Bones by Carolyn Haines. This was better than I expected although the main character has conversations with a ghost.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

On the morning of November 1, I saw Christmas posts/photos in my social media feeds. Really, people? Nov. 1 and you're posting about Christmas? During a pandemic? What about Thanksgiving? Gah! No Christmas until Black Friday!

Tuesday was a big day. We voted by mail, mailing ours back in early October. We spent Tuesday, and yesterday, and today, trying to not obsessively follow the election coverage. So stressful! 

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:
  • We finished Schitt's Creek. We both really liked the show. Moira was a little much at times, and Johnny could be a jerk, but almost always we were laughing a lot. A very good escape from current events.
  • Holiday Baking Championship started. It still seems a bit early to be watching Christmas themed competitions, but maybe watching will get me in the mood.
  • Fargo Season 4 continues to bore me. Four more episodes. 
  • We started watching The Queen's Gambit  (Netflix). It's based on the book about an orphan chess prodigy and her quest to become the world's top chess player. We've watched 2 of the 7 episodes. 
  • The Amazing Race. We're 4 episodes in and our favorite team almost came in last! The watermelon stack challenge gave them a lot of trouble. 
What I'm Reading:
The Last Tourist by Olen Steinhauer. This is the 4th and final of the Milo Weaver series. It was good, if also seeming a little crazy pants and convoluted.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Orange Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate Chips

I've been baking these cookies for a very long time. The recipe is from the February 2003 issue of Bon Appetit. So I guess I've been making them for 17 years?!! Wow! These Orange Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate Chips are one of my (our) favorite cookies.
They use orange zest and orange extract so there's a terrific orange flavor. They're simple and quick to make and so very tasty. We use semisweet chocolate because that's what we always have on hand. Sometimes we've used dark chocolate, sometimes bittersweet, they all seem to work just fine. We don't butter and flour a cookie sheet, we use parchment paper or a silpat. 
The only down side is that the recipe only yields about 2 dozen cookies. It does not take the two of us very long to inhale all these cookies!
These taste a bit like Chocolate-Orange Milano cookies, only better because they're homemade and they're shortbread cookies. 

Recipe: Orange Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Friday, October 30, 2020

Lighthouse Inn Potatoes

Last weekend we planned to make pork chops for one of our meals this week. I was sad because SP bought pork chops on sale and it turned out they were skinny, bone-in pork chops. The kind that easily shrivel and get tough and dried out when cooked. I wasn't very enthusiastic about these pork chops. We were trying to think of a side and he suggested rice. Really? Way to make a sad, dry, shriveled pork chop meal more appealing. I countered with cheesy potatoes. To my surprise, he agreed to try these Lighthouse Inn Potatoes from The Side Dish Bible (America's Test Kitchen). 

These potatoes come from the Lighthouse Inn in New London, CT. Many people from the area have strong memories of the inn and the potatoes. A New London native led the investigation into the best way to make these potatoes for Cook's Country in the Dec-Jan 2017 issue. She determined that russets were the best potato, light cream (or heavy cream but not half & half as it can curdle the sauce), and a bit of baking soda to neutralize the potatoes' acidic tannins. Top it all with buttery, parmesan-y bread crumbs. 

We liked that the potatoes are cubed, not sliced, which is much easier than slicing by hand or with the food processor (cleaning it, ugh!). Also, there aren't a ton of ingredients, not even bay leaves or garlic or onion. And, after simmering the potatoes in the cream, they can be poured into & cooled in the baking pan and then refrigerated until the next day, so they can be made ahead. 
These potatoes are yummy! Soft and creamy and cheesy with a bit of crunch from the bread crumbs. They certainly made dinner more exciting since we had steamed broccoli and those skinny pork chops (we used this recipe as inspiration to try to liven up the pork chops: Pork Chops with Mushrooms & Thyme) with them.

Definitely a make again potato dish. I might even like these better than the Weekday Scalloped Potatoes (also from America's Test Kitchen, in Cover & Bake).

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

It's been a gray, gloomy, rainy week. But I guess weather doesn't matter much when you don't go anywhere because of the virus?! SP is already excited that there won't be any early morning snow shoveling this winter since he gets to work from home.

I've done a bit of cleaning out and reorganizing. The shredder was empty when I started on my file folders. I quickly filled it, earning a sigh and eye roll from SP because the trash had just been picked up and there I was, generating more. 

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We finished Season 5 of Schitt's Creek and are ready for the final season!
  • The Amazing Race! We're starting to have favorite teams and teams we dislike.
  • We watched the first episode of The Undoing (HBO). So far we're intrigued.
  • Fargo Season 4 continues to disappoint me. Bore me might be a better description. 
  • Halloween Baking Championship is over. We liked all 3 finalists so we had no strong feelings about who should win. Making a floating cake scares me! All 3 cakes were amazing. And didn't fall.

What I'm Reading:

The Shooting at Chateau Rock (Bruno Chief of Police #13) by Martin Walker. I didn't enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed the other books in the series. I was disappointed in the "mystery" and a little tired/annoyed with the food descriptions and Balzac stuff and didn't really understand why he called Isabelle to join him on Balzac's big day or why he agrees that Balzac is her dog, too. There wasn't really  a shooting at Chateau Rock, unless I missed something. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

I feel like virus is coming after us. Not just our weekend restaurant adventure (see yesterday's post) but SP was just at the library on Friday and then Monday the library closed because a back office employee tested positive. Even the book drop is closed. I used a Clorox wipe on the book he picked up on Friday. 

Our fall foliage drive was nice, but I left the car window down for a lot of it and I think that's why I feel sick/have terrible allergies. My left eye has been twitching for 4 days and my nose feels terrible.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Lovecraft Country ended. I enjoyed it even as I have a lot of questions.
  • Fargo Season 4. The usual thoughts. I'm going to say it this week: it's rather boring and nothing is really happening.
  • We finished Schitt's Creek season 4 and started season 5. 

What I'm Reading:

Hidden Creed by Alex Kava. This was better than the last one, the one with the tornado that seemed unfinished. I'm disappointed by the lack of editing/proofreading as there were several instances where I got confused reading a sentence because the wrong word was used, like literary instead of literally. I try to proofread this blog and I know I miss things but this blog isn't published by a publishing company and sold for profit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Cenacolo Restaurant, Unmasked

Last weekend we took a drive to Ligonier to see fall foliage. When looking at the map, we discovered that on the way home we would drive past a restaurant that has really tasty food - Cenacolo Restaurant.  Since it's so far away from our home (about an hour drive) we have only eaten at Cenacolo once before. We pulled over on our drive and called in an order for takeout because we refuse to actually dine inside a restaurant right now. We arrived early, parked, and hung out. Then SP put on his mask and went to get our food. I waited in the car. Meanwhile, another couple parked next to us, put on masks, and went inside. About a minute later, the couple returned to their car complaining that they would never eat anything from that restaurant ever and it was so disgusting. I knew immediately why and started to panic, wondering why SP was still inside the germ zone. Right about then he stomped back to the car.

As he huffed into the car he said he was super angry at Cenacolo. He'd gone in and paid. That person had a mask on. But as he waited for that person to return with the food, he noticed that not a single other employee was wearing as mask. That's what the couple had noticed and why they walked out. Also, a maskless person had gone in and asked the masked employee if masks were required and the reply was no. No. 

Unbelievable. There's a pandemic raging and Cenacolo thinks it's OK to not require masks? Disgusting. Of course at this point I remembered that Cenacolo is actually in Westmoreland County and we'd heard on the news that their coronavirus numbers are terrible - the 7th highest incidence rate in PA (see here and here).

So we both were angry because Cenacolo is not inexpensive and now. because we feared the unmasked employees had coughed or sneezed or even breathed on our food, we couldn't eat all of it. The salads we paid for? We tossed. The bread? Tossed. The meals? Reheated at home until steaming.   

For him, Tagliatelle (Shrimp, Scallops, Calamari, Mussels & Spicy Marinara). For me, Ricotta Gnocchi (Short Rib Ragu, Porcini Mushrooms & Roma Tomatoes).

Too bad the food is delicious because we will never go back to a restaurant that doesn't care about the safety of their employees & customers during a pandemic. 

Previous visit:

May 2017

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

We took another drive to see fall foliage last weekend. It was pretty but also sad because it means winter is coming. 

I don't know what has happened to me, but I actually suggested Chinese food for dinner. I think I felt bad because I know SP enjoys it but I don't much care for it so he hasn't had much of a food he likes/I don't like since March. Chinese food usually makes me feel gross. We tried Jade Grill (take-out) in Mt. Lebanon.

Last Friday we got our haircuts, picked up Bethel Bakery treats (still doing curbside pick up), and got my flu shot. My arm didn't hurt as much as usual. I hope it was effective! We been getting our groceries via curbside pickup but had to actually enter the store for the flu shot. So of course I was worried & anytime someone came near us as we waited for my shot, anytime I saw someone with their nose exposed, I could feel my stress level rise.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always (movie). This was a really good movie. Here's a quick summary from Rotten Tomatoes: "Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin, Skylar, travel across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion." Some people will hate this movie because of the subject matter or because there's not much dialog but I thought it was very well done and I wasn't bored/looking to do something else while watching.
  • The Photograph (movie). This was a nice, sweet movie.
  • Bill & Ted Face the Music (movie). Dopey, silly, sweet, funny - what we need right now when every time I look at the news headlines I feel like crying.
  • The Boys Season 2 is over. The finale was pretty darn good. The last few episodes of the season made up for the first few, which I didn't much enjoy.
  • Lovecraft Country (HBO) is really coming together, especially the last two episodes, so I'm looking forward to the finale this Sunday.
  • Fargo Season 4 (FX). Four episodes in and I'm still trying to figure out where it's going.
  • The Amazing Race (CBS) is back! I don't have a favorite team yet, nor a team to actively root against.
  • We finished two seasons of Schitt's Creek (Netflix) and are enjoying it a lot. Four more seasons to go!

What I'm Reading:

  • Fatal Pursuit by Martin Walker. Now I have just one more Bruno Chief of Police novel I have to read.



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Jade Grill

I do not especially like Chinese food. It leaves me feeling gross, bloated, and greasy. Sometimes just looking at it makes me feel ill, seeing the "meat" inside the dumpling or the grease pools around the food. Unfortunately for me, SP & his family seem to love it. It is often the choice for family birthday dinners. Usually I do not go because of the disgusting food factor. I like not feeling sick after I eat. But not seeing his family because of coronavirus and him working from home since March mean that he hasn't enjoyed any Chinese food since then, maybe even since January. So in spite of my reservations, as we drove around looking at fall foliage last Saturday and talking about dinner, I suggested we try Jade Grill in Mt. Lebanon. We did not dine there, we got takeout. 
I got combo fried rice (no beef though) plus crab rangoon and dumplings. The fried rice had nice size shrimp that were perfectly cooked - unusual, I think, since usually shrimp in fried rice seems a bit tough. The chicken was nicely cooked, too. I wish there had been some more vegetables and maybe a bit more egg. It wasn't too greasy nor salty. 
The crab rangoon were good. The filling was a bit different that I expected, maybe a bit sweeter? The dumplings had a nice thin dough and the pork filling was nicely flavored. I had some trouble chewing some of the rangoon and dumpling but SP thinks that is due to the travel time and then the re-heating.
He ordered Crab Meat Asparagus Soup (no photo) and said it was very good. He also ordered Gong Bao Style Shrimp with brown rice. There were some spicy peppers that even he pushed aside. He liked the thin slivers of ginger in the dish and said that overall the dish wasn't too hot/spicy, just the pepper themselves were a bit much for him.

We pulled over into a parking lot and called in the order from the car. It was a 30 minute wait, so we drove around a bit, then found parking, then walked over. SP went in to get the food, which was ready when we arrived, and then we came home and re-heated it. He liked his food so he'd try Jade Grill again. I didn't feel icky after, so I'd probably try it again, just not too often. Once we feel safer, it'd be nice to try the food at the restaurant, fresh from the kitchen and not re-heated at home.

A new place to add to our take out list and to our "dine at if/when life returns to normal" list.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Cider-Glazed Apple Bundt Cake

A couple of weeks ago we baked Cider-Glazed Apple Bundt Cake from The Perfect Cake (America's Test Kitchen). The cake has been featured on their Instagram feed in recent weeks, too. 
It takes a bit of time to make since you have to boil and reduce the cider and grate apples. It smells fantastic and it came out of the pan nicely. 
As much as I want to love the cake, I just can't. I'm not even sure I liked it much. We already told each other we would probably not make this one again. It just wasn't what we were expecting. The first night it seemed very heavy, dense, and too moist, almost like too much applesauce had been glopped in. On subsequent nights, we reheated slices of cake and it tasted much better warmed & lightly toasted but we both were still a little "meh" about it. The sign it wasn't a hit in our house: a week after baking it, we tossed just under half a bundt cake into the trash. 
I think it's just us because a lot of people have posted rave reviews of this cake. Usually Test Kitchen recipes are a hit with us. Just not this one. But we seem to be in the minority.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

We went for a drive last Saturday to see the fall foliage. It's not at peak color yet, but it was still nice to get out of the house and to see some autumn leaf colors.

We have already voted. I am ready for all this to be over and either to celebrate or prepare/steel myself for another four years. We're not watching the debates and we're muting campaign ads. 

Tomorrow I'm getting my flu shot. Hopefully. I'm not happy because every year my arm feels more and more sore so I'll probably sleep horribly, but SP will probably divorce me if I avoid the flu shot! Or banish me to the cold, cold basement. 

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching: 

  • Enola Holmes (Netflix). Loved this movie! It was so nice to watch something that was just fun. Joyous. Had us smiling. 
  • Fargo Season 4. It's good, but three episodes in and I'm still a little lost at the main plot. I think my favorite character is the creepy nurse lady.
  • Lovecraft Country (HBO). 
  • Schitt's Creek. We started season 1 and so far we're enjoying it. We're almost done with season 1, but with 6 seasons it'll take a while to get through it.
  • Halloween Baking Championship (Food Network). This week's "trick" ingredient was baby food and while most seemed to do a good job incorporating their baby food into the cake, I'm not convinced!  

What I'm Reading:

  • The Nearest Exit (Milo Weaver #2) by Olen Steinhauer. I enjoyed this, maybe not as much as The Tourist, but it kept me engrossed.
  • An American Spy (Milo Weaver #3) by Olen Steinhauer. It was good, but I was sad about one character's death. I felt like this was the weakest of the three novels.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

No-Knead Sourdough Focaccia

SP is still tending to his starter, or, as I call it, science experiment. He started it last March. Sometimes he even uses it to make us tasty stuff like this No-Knead Sourdough Focaccia. The recipe is from an America's Test Kitchen editor/cook/breadmaking instructor.
SP's intention was that the focaccia would be for his lunch, but it smelled and looked so yummy - how could I not try a piece for a snack after it cooled? It was tasty, so then I was jealous because even though I had homemade bread for my usual turkey-cheese sandwich, it just wasn't as exciting as focaccia
There was no way he was going to eat all of it, right? Right. So I suggested that instead of making biscuits we eat the focaccia with the grilled chicken and green beans for dinner. He agreed.
It's homemade, so it takes a while. It takes planning. I like that it baked in a round cake pan so it's like deep dish focaccia. It can also be baked in a 13x9 pan. There's a lot of olive oil involved. And a baking stone (but you don't need a baking stone, see the source link below). This meant our ugly, stained, crusty baking stone came out of hiding! SP added kalamata which I like a lot though in the future I'd like to try adding chunks of cheese like the author suggested. Maybe cheese & kalamata.
Reading over the recipe and writing about it now, I'm intimidated. Despite all the bread baking I've blogged about since March, I'm not actually the one baking the bread. SP is the bread baker. He was not intimidated, but he has lots of bread baking experience since he's been baking at least a loaf a week for 6-7 months. Also, practice makes perfect. You just have to dive in & try it. 

We both really liked this focaccia and think SP's turned out like real focaccia from a bakery. Perhaps someone like Paul Hollywood might not judge it so, but as long as we like it, that's what matters. I'm looking forward to SP's next focaccia.