Thursday, September 24, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

The only exciting thing in the past week was getting out our fall/Halloween decorations. I guess it's a little early, but we're a little bored!

I still have yellow-green bruising in my left arm from the failed CT scan needle. But at least I can put pressure on the area now and not gasp in pain.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We started Season 3 of Bordertown (Netflix) and are 3 episodes into it. Finland looks really cold in winter!
  • The Boys Season 2 (Amazon). I'm not enjoying it as much as Season 1. It seems more depressing and much gorier.
  • Lovecraft Country (HBO). There are 4 more episodes and I'm hoping everything comes together and makes a complete story because right now it seems disjointed.

What I'm Reading:

  • The Templars' Last Secret (#10), A Taste for Vengeance (#11), and The Body in the Castle Well (#12) in the Bruno series by Martin Walker. I enjoy the books a lot. I have two left to read, #9 & #13.
  • Total Power, A Mitch Rapp Novel from Kyle Mills and Vince Flynn. I liked the Mitch Rapp books much better when Flynn was alive and writing them. Now they seem a bit more predictable, lighter, and more formulaic than they used to, or maybe that's just a problem with many long running series.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

This week I had my one-year follow-up CT scans. Good news (I guess?): the carotid dissection looks stable, no change in the past year, so no need for follow ups/more CT scans unless I develop new symptoms. 

I was more than a bit terrified to go in for the scans because of coronavirus and sliding into a tube where virus bits might be floating around. I ended up changing the scans from a hospital in Oakland to a facility in the south hills to avoid parking in Oakland and taking several elevators and walking through lots of hallways and being around lots of people to get where I needed to go. I also did a telemedicine visit with the neurosurgeon instead of going to his office for an in-person appointment the day of the scans.

I have the tiniest veins ever and the technicians always have a difficult time. They said the CT needle is bigger, I guess because of the dye injection. Anyway, I don't know what happened in my left arm, but it hurt so much after she put in the IV thing. Just sitting there, cradling my arm, it hurt and made me gasp in pain. So she ended up taking it out and put one in my right arm. My left arm has a big bruise and has been incredibly sore. For a day it was a bit swollen, too, and even today, after 6 days, I still cannot move my arm certain ways without pain. The crook of my elbow has been beautiful shades of deep purples and now yellow-greens. I'd post a picture, but it's pretty gross. My right arm is still sore, too, but nothing like my left. 

We've entered the "run the heat in the morning and the a/c in the afternoon" time of year. I also switched from a summer night gown to light pajamas. I like the cooler temperatures for sleeping, but waking up in a house as chilly as it is in winter is a bit tough!

What We're Eating: 

  • Chicken Fricassee with apples, Potatoes Galette, Steamed Broccoli
  • Pasta with Sausage, Mushrooms, Peas, Parmesan, Fresh Basil, and Lemon
  • Dessert: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cinnamon & Espresso

What We're Watching:

  • Bordertown. We finished Season 1 and started Season 2.
  • The usual: Lovecraft Country (which was especially gross last weekend), The Boys.
  • The new season of Halloween Baking Championship. I'm ready for fall and Halloween!

What I'm Reading:

  • The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer - I really liked this one. I thought I had it all figured out, but then I ended up a bit surprised.
  • The Children Return by Martin Walker (Bruno, Chief of Police Series, Book 7) & The Patriarch by Martin Walker (Bruno, Chief of Police Series, Book 8) plus a short story, A Market Tale.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

We had a four day weekend but didn't do much of anything. It was a beautiful weekend, so we spent a lot of time outside on the deck. We had my parents over for a socially distanced dinner on the deck to celebrate mom's birthday. It was the first time I'd seen my parents since early March. It went OK. Even though we had 2 tables appropriately distanced, someone had trouble adhering to the rules and when I yelled insisted that there was no way they had the virus. Sigh.

What We're Eating:

  • Smoked Pork, Macaroni & Cheese, Tomatoes
  • Crab Cakes, Tomato Tart, Grilled Zucchini
  • Dessert: Cheesecake with peach topping

What We're Watching:

  • We finally finished Hinterland (Netflix). We really enjoyed it. I liked that investigations from the first two seasons all came together in the third season, the final season.
  • We started watching Bordertown (Netflix), a Finnish show, last night. So far, we really like the lead investigator and his quirkiness and his relationships with his wife & daughter.
  • The Boys (Amazon) is back! The first three episodes were released and now there is a new episode released each Friday until October 9. It's still violent & bloody with terribly behaved superheros!
  • I've stuck with Lovecraft Country (HBO) and am enjoying it more than I expected.

What I'm Reading:

  • The Black Hand: A Barker & Llewelyn Novel from Will Thomas. It was the one that isn't available in Kindle form from the library. Now I've read them all and await the next one in the series.
  • Bruno and the Carol Singers from Martin Walker. It was a short story, so it didn't take long.
  • I started The Children Return by Martin Walker (Bruno, Chief of Police Series, Book 7). I'm about one-third through the book.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

It's September. It's OK to dive into pumpkin spice everything now. I won't complain. I bought some new fall decor, as if we really needed to add to our two plastic bins of fall holiday decorations. I even asked SP first, figuring he'd talk me down from the online buying ledge. He'd be reasonable and gently remove my hand from clicking BUY, right? Nope. He likes fall/Halloween, too, and indulged me.  

What We're Eating:
What We're Watching:
  • Project Power (movie, Netflix). This was fun. 
  • Rocketman (movie). Not exactly what I expected. I'm not sure I really liked it but I'm glad we watched it.
  • Still working our way through Hinterland (Netflix). We finished seasons 1 & 2 and now have season 3 (4 episodes, each one 1.5 hours).
  • The Boys new season releases tomorrow!
What I'm Reading:
I finally was able to read One Last Lie by Paul Doiron, the latest Mike Bowditch book. I tried to take my time and savor it but it was so engrossing that I finished it quickly and now I find myself anxious for the next book!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Cast Iron Beer-Batter Cheese Bread

Last Night we made this Cast Iron Beer-Batter Cheese Bread for dinner and it was delicious! It's easy to make, and pretty quick. It bakes for 20-25 minutes. 
It calls for a 10 inch cast iron skillet. I like the round shape, the craggy crust, and being able to cut a wedge of bread - it made it seem like we were eating pizza with our grilled shrimp and salad.
At first we thought that maybe we did something wrong because it looked a little thin. Ours is perhaps not as uniformly even as the one from America's Test Kitchen but it's not too thin/wrong.
Our pot of chives is thriving which is good since the recipe calls for a half cup of minced fresh chives. It also calls for 2 cups grated gruyere, 1.5 cups in the batter and half a cup sprinkled on top the bread. It made for a terrific top crust of cheese. We used Yuengling beer for the mild lager.
We'd definitely make this bread again. It's our favorite of the 3-4 beer breads we've tried making. 

Recipe here: Cast Iron Beer-Batter Cheese Bread


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

We did some chores for our neighbors while they were away. To thank us, they brought back some Moxie. SP really likes it. I think it's an acquired taste. I have not acquired a taste for it! It's not terrible. I just don't like carbonated beverages. They also brought back some blueberry tea, which I am looking forward to trying.

I am jealous of people brave enough to go away or go out to eat right now. We are not that brave, fearing the virus because of our compromised immune systems. We've done take out. But we're not quite ready to dine somewhere, even outside. I'm also jealous of people not in wheelchairs. I'd love to be able to get out and hike in the woods/parks, just to get outside, but I can't. We decided against paved paths in parks because the few times we drove around to check them out, they were crowded. So here we sit, sick of our house and longing for "normal."

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We finished Dark (Netflix). We really, really liked it. I like that it had an ending.
  • Hinterland (Netflix). We are really enjoying this. It's serious, kind of grim, but well done. Each episode is a new case to solve and each episode is 1.5 hours long, so it's like a short movie. Definitely not like the hour long crime shows here in the US, most of which seem to not have much character or plot development and last just 40-45 minutes.

What I'm Reading:

  • The Resistance Man, book #6 in the Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker.   
  • Wedding Cake Crumble and Dying for Devil's Food (Books 10 & 11) by Jenn McKinlay. I have one more, the most recent one, to read. Even though these are light, quick reads for me, I like that, unlike other authors, McKinlay's characters are changing, growing, aging. The "love triangle" was "resolved" after 2-3 books, not still happening after 26 books.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

I know August is almost over, but it is still summer so I don't want to hear anything about pumpkin spice or fall foods! I'm not a pumpkin spice hater, I just don't think it should show up until after Labor Day. 

We're still staying home and doing our best to avoid the virus. I'm glad we don't live in the south but we do have relatives who live there. Specifically, in the same town where college students had a large gathering without masks. I hope our family is being careful, but I'm worried. One niece is in college in NC and it sounds like a return to classes at several NC universities has not gone well. 

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Lovecraft Country started last Sunday on HBO. It's a "drama horror" series based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Matt Ruff. SP is quite excited about the show. I figured I'd give it a try. It's... well, I'm not sure! I like it enough to keep watching but I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.
  • Dark (Netflix) We finished Season 2 and started Season 3. We have 2 episodes left so we'll finish tonight. Still really liking the show even if I keep getting more & more confused by the timelines and people and who is what/where/when!

What I'm Reading:

  • New food magazines. 
  • The Dark Vineyard and The Devil's Cave, books 2 & 5 in the Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker.   
  • Sugar & Iced, Dark Chocolate Demise, and Caramel Crush  (Books 6, 7, and 9) by Jenn McKinlay. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Japanese Milk Bread

We're still baking bread for lunch every week. Last week we tried another bread from Bread Illustrated, the Japanese milk bread, or Hokkaido milk bread. It looks like a regular loaf of white sandwich bread but it has a fluffier texture. It also uses a unique shaping method: portions of dough are rolled thin and formed into tight spirals. The spirals organize the gluten strands into coils and they bake into feathery sheets. There are 2 spirals placed in the loaf pan which is why the bread looks like two giant dinner rolls fused together. This bread also uses a technique called tangzhong which incorporates extra moisture into the dough in the form of a flour-and-water paste. The paste makes it easier to shape the dough, which is well-hydrated. 
I'm not a fan of white sandwich bread. The "fluffiness" is what I consider unpleasant, as soon as the bread is in my mouth it seems gummy and gross. I have to toast or make a grilled cheese/panini with sandwich bread. So I didn't try this plain. I toasted it. Toasted for lunch, it was a  yummy sandwich bread and had a bit more flavor than regular old white sandwich bread. SP ate it untoasted and said it's yummy Wonder Bread. The same texture, but more flavorful.

Recipe: Japanese Milk Bread

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Party Cake Shop in Brookline has paczki from now until August 22. We'll be picking some up later today. They have curbside pickup and are closed Mondays. The paczki are dessert for the next 3 nights since we finished the Grasshopper Pie. This time, we used Mint Oreos for the crust as the recipe instructs (last time we used chocolate wafer cookies). I liked the Mint Oreo crust.

I've been reading a lot this week. I never much liked reading on my tablet but lately I've been reading only on my tablet. I'm starting to prefer it to reading an actual book - never, ever thought I'd feel that way!

I also re-started my subscription to Ancestry and have been working on trying to clean up/fill out my family tree. If you've ever done this kind of research, you know how frustrating it can be. Names at birth give way to nicknames so sometimes it's hard to match people up, first and last names are spelled so many different ways, especially Slavic last names. As an example, one of my great-grandfathers was named Nicholas, spelled these ways: Nicholas, Niclas, Nicklas, Niklas, Nickolas. Same guy, just the spelling is different, even on census forms. Another great-grandfather's last name is spelled about 6 different ways, including on the Ellis Island paperwork. I was lucky enough to find a distant relative who was kind enough to share her research and who had confirmed some of this with a real researcher. 

What We're Eating:

  • Grilled Shrimp with farro salad and peaches with burrata or tomatoes with mozzarella
  • Lamb Burgers
  • Dessert: Grasshopper Pie

What We're Watching:

  • Perry Mason (HBO) finale. I enjoyed the show and hope it gets a second season. 
  • Two hour season finale of The Alienist (TNT). I enjoyed season 2 much more than season 1. I can't stand the Violet character, not because she's engaged to John but just because I don't like the character. I really like the new character Bitsy. 
  • Two hour series finale of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. Of course I got confused by all the jumps in time but I liked where each character ended up.
  • Dark (Netflix). We finished season 1 and started season 2. I still cannot keep track of all the characters and their relationships! Not to mention all the time periods and time traveling and all the impacts of the traveling/actions/characters. In spite of frequently feeling confused, I still enjoy the show a lot.

What I'm Reading:

  • Black Diamond and The Crowded Grave, Books 3 & 4 in the Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker. I really like this series. 
  • Death By the Dozen, Red Velvet Revenge, and Going Going Ganache by Jenn McKinlay. Nice, quick reads.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Last Friday was an exciting day. We interacted with other humans! We got haircuts. Picked up cookies at Bethel Bakery (curbside pickup). Bought tomatoes, peaches, and corn at Simmons. Went to the liquor store. And I got photos to renew my passport. That's the part that is the big deal. My passport expires next summer. Most countries require that your U.S. passport have at least six months of validity beyond the dates of your trip. Obviously, we're not traveling overseas anytime soon. But, maybe, just maybe, we might be able to in summer/fall 2021? So I need to renew between now & January. I had to remove my mask for the photos! Twice, because the girl thought the first photos was a little blurry. Twice! Maskless! Inside a building! Around strangers! So I've been a little worried since last Friday. My allergies flaring up is not helping. I think I'm OK, but good grief is being around strangers scary. 

What We're Eating:
  • Grilled Teriyaki Chicken with Rustic Tomato Tart and Zucchini
  • Pasta Salad 
  • Dessert: Cookies from Bethel Bakery
What We're Watching:
  • We spent last weekend watching season 2 of The Umbrella Academy (Netflix). We thought it was great.
  • Watched episode 2 of Black Mirror (Netflix). I'm done. Ugh. SP is on his own for the remaining episodes.
  • I agreed to give Dark (Netflix, show from Germany) a try in spite of it being sci-fi and time travel. So far, I'm sucked in, even if I spend nearly every episode trying to remember which character is which/how they're related! We're 3 episodes in.
  • Worst Cooks ended its most recent season. The Blue Team won. We liked both finalists but wanted Red Team to win.
  • Agents of SHIELD finally ends next week with a 2 hour series finale. This season and last season I've enjoyed. Season 3-4-5, I really started to dislike it (especially seasons 3 & 4) and kept wanting to stop watching.
  • One more episode of Perry Mason (HBO).
What I'm Reading:
  • Buttercream Bumpoff by Jenn McKinlay. Book #2 was enjoyable, if light & sugary like #1.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Summer Vegetable Gratin

Our garden has been giving us lots of zucchini. We decided to make Summer Vegetable Gratin from The Side Dish Bible (America's Test Kitchen). 
Since we had so much zucchini, we didn't buy any yellow squash. We just used more zucchini. We have found that large tomatoes do not work in our garden because bugs and critters get to them before they're ripe enough for us so we bought tomatoes.
This is delicious! Zucchini (and squash) shingled in a baking dish, topped with sauteed onions, topped with shingled tomatoes, topped with a bread crumb-parmesan-shallot mixture. There's fresh thyme throughout the entire gratin and servings are topped with fresh basil (which we keep forgetting to do!).
We will definitely make this again - but not on a 90+ degree day. It was not a good day to have something in the oven at 400 degrees! Especially not after we had also baked cookies, bread, and cooked a turkey breast. We both thought the gratin tasted better after the first day. It's really good, especially the crispy bread crumb topping, and gave us 8 servings. It was our only side with grilled chicken thighs.

Note: We omitted the garlic, used only one onion, and used half a shallot. That was plenty for me. I didn't want to risk another stomach episode since I just had one.

Recipe: Summer Vegetable Gratin

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Recently we made some exciting purchases! Something to look forward to: packages in the mail! Yes, life is pretty boring these days, no dinner dates, no movies, no museums, no travel, no gatherings with friends/family. What did we buy? A ravioli mold for the next time we make ravioli. I've been doing OK doing it by hand/freeform, but the ravioli are inconsistent sizes! We also bought a bread lame to see if SP's bread slashes are better with the real gadget instead of the knife he's been using. And we have some tea coming.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:.

  • The Alienist (TNT) is already half over since TNT has been airing 2 new episodes every Sunday night. I like this season better than last season.
  • The Invisible Man (movie). I liked this more than I expected although I am not good at watching suspenseful movies!
  • Bombshell (movie). As expected, we yelled at the FOX News jerks and Roger Ailes. I don't understand why any woman would want to work there.
  • Radioactive (movie, Amazon Prime). Rosamund Pike portrays Marie Curie. It was good, not great, but as always we enjoy this kind of film. SP is still sad that he wasn't able to see Marie Curie's tomb in The Panthéon (it was closed off that day).
  • Marvels Agents of SHIELD has just 2 episodes left. I've been enjoying this final season even though the time jumping/timeline stuff bugs me (as it always does).
  • Black Mirror (Netflix). SP has been suggesting this for a long time and I finally relented. We watched Season 1, Episode 1. Um. Huh. It was about the British Prime Minister being blackmailed into having sex with a pig. It was disturbing. I am not sure I will watch more episodes.

What I'm Reading:

  • Fair Warning by Michael Connelly. This is not a Harry Bosch novel but a Jack McEvoy novel. He's the investigative journalist from The Poet. I couldn't put the book down and I am very glad I never acted on any remote interest to submit the DNA for an ancestry profile.
  • Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinlay. A light and fluffy (sugary?!) mystery novel. This is the first book in the Cupcake Bakery Mystery Series. Until now I've stuck with just the Tea Shop Mysteries from Laura Childs, but I think I might try some others. They're not as deep/convoluted/well written as some of the other thriller/mystery books I read, but they keep me entertained for a few hours/let me escape the pandemic and political crap. There seem to be a lot of this kind of series.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sourdough Crumpets

It's taken me a while to post about these Sourdough Crumpets. I was hoping we'd make them again before I posted, but that hasn't yet happened. These were a spur of the moment ~ SP wanted to use his sourdough starter discard kitchen adventure. We ate them for dinner, not afternoon tea, or breakfast.
These don't take very long to make and they cook on a griddle like a pancake but to make sure they stay round, pour the batter into a shallow metal ring. We used a 4" biscuit cutter ring. This is similar to the set we have: Round Cookie Biscuit Cutter Set, 12 Graduated Circle Pastry Cutters
I had never tried a crumpet. I remember there being a crumpet place at Pike Place Market in Seattle when we were there about 4 years ago but we didn't have a chance to try the crumpets. It's a cross between a pancake and an English Muffin. 
I loved the crisp exterior and the soft, chewy, English Muffin-like interior. We both really liked these and hopefully will make them again! There's a crumpet recipe that was in an issue of Cook's Illustrated sometime in the past year, so we'll have to try those.

Recipe: Sourdough Crumpets

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

It took a full week but my stomach finally recovered from whatever was bothering it. It's nice to eat flavorful food again!

I tried to visit with my dad earlier this week. He came over to pick up some things and we sat out on opposite sides of the deck. After half an hour, it started raining. So that visit ended. I was annoyed because I'd checked the forecast and it did not look like rain in the morning. I hadn't seen him since March 9 and then all I got was half an hour. Stupid summer weather. Stupid virus.

Meanwhile I still haven't seen my mom. She is experiencing a terrible allergic reaction to something. She has awful hives. Dad took her to urgent care and then 3 days later to the ER. Mom said that the ER nurses told her they'd never seen a case of hives as bad as hers. It sounds awful. Last I heard, she was doing a bit better but she's taking a lot of medicine. The ER doctor quadrupled the dosage of the medicine urgent care gave her!

What We're Eating:
  • Grilled Pizza with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, tomatoes, prosciutto, fresh basil
  • Homemade Whole Wheat Bread topped with  Pimiento Cheese Spread, bacon, tomato, avocado
  • Special lunch treat:  Zucchini Fritters
  • Dessert: Milano cookies, M&M's
What We're Watching:
  • We finished Warrior Nun (Netflix). It ended on a cliffhanger but SP tells me he saw it was renewed for seasons 2 & 3, so that makes me happy.
  • We watched season 2 of Homecoming (Amazon Prime). It was just 7 episodes. It was a little lighter than season 1, which was nice, and I thought concluded the story nicely.
  • The Gentlemen (movie). This was a fun movie with a great cast.
  • The Hunt (movie). This movie is controversial. It's "a satirical thriller wherein wealthy Americans hunt “deplorables” for sport." I'm not going to say much more. It's over the top. It's a movie. Lighten up people. We enjoyed the fight scenes. We had a few laughs. We were entertained. If you want to know more about the movie/the controversy, just do a search.
What I'm Reading:
  • The latest Daniel Silva book, The Order. As always I enjoyed Gabriel Allon's latest adventure, especially one that wasn't an elaborately planned intelligence operation but rather more of a murder mystery.
  • The latest Sharon Bolton book, The Split. It held my attention but at the same time I felt like I'd read it before - ? 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Zucchini Fritters

It's zucchini season. We weren't planning on eating zucchini this week but then SP discovered four nicely sized ones in the garden. We're trying to pick them before they grow humongous! One went to my mom. One is still in the refrigerator. And two got turned into Zucchini Fritters for lunch today.
The recipe is from The Side Dish Bible but it also is in The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook and was on the Test Kitchen Instagram Feed last week. The mixture itself doesn't look too appetizing in the bowl, a mush of grated zucchini, feta, dill, chives, eggs, and flour.
They smell delicious as they fry and crisp up on the exterior.
 A quick blot on paper towels and then the tasting.
Yum! Crispy brown exterior, soft zucchini-herb-feta interior. I thought they could have used a little more feta than 4 ounces. Next time, we'd plan ahead and have the scallions; this time we used chives. Definitely squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the fritter. Next time we might grate in a little lemon zest.
We'd make these again.

Recipe: Zucchini Fritters
*We used chives, not scallions, since that is what we had.
*We omitted the garlic simply because of my stomach.
*The Instagram Feed recipe said 8 ounces feta, The Side Dish Bible said 4 ounces. We used about 6 ounces.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

It's been a difficult week. Sunday night I started having one of my "extreme digestive distress" episodes and I'm still experiencing it. Really painful cramps/spasms and feeling like I might throw up or have diarrhea or both, at the same time. Usually garlic/shallot/spicy foods trigger these episodes, but we cannot figure out what caused this one. Monday I ate a piece of toast. Yes, one piece of toast all day. I've been getting a bit better. I can eat yogurt and grilled cheese and grilled cheese with turkey. But even those bland foods set off the cramping pains. I've been sleeping a lot and trying to drink a lot of water.

So SP has a lot of food for his lunch & dinner this week!

What We're Eating:



  • Toast
  • Grilled Cheese. Sometimes Grilled Cheese & Turkey
  • Dessert/Snacks: Club Crackers. Graham Crackers.

What We're Watching:

  • Warrior Nun (Netflix). I'm enjoying this a lot more than I expected! There are 10 episodes, each about 40-45 minutes. We have three left.
  • We finished Money Heist (Netflix). It's a lot to watch, 4 seasons/38 episodes, but it's really good. 
  • Season 2 of The Alienist (TNT) starts this Sunday with a 2 hour premiere. I liked but didn't love season 1, but I liked it enough to give season 2 a try.

What I'm Reading:
Magazines. I have 2 books from the library. We just picked them up yesterday.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

It's really hot here, so we've not been able to enjoy the deck. Good thing we replaced the a/c a few years ago because it would be awful to be without it right now. The poor unit pretty much runs non-stop from the afternoon until after dinner.

Virus numbers are still going up here. The house is my protective bubble and I imagine everything outside the house bubble as infested with spike covered balls hovering the air, waiting to murder me. Today I brought in a package that UPS delivered. It was a padded envelop (a really large one) and after I put it in SP's office, I started stressing out about virus blobs so I washed my hands and then I clorox wiped everything I'd touched and I still felt vulnerable. That's what this pandemic is doing to me. Constant irrational fear and obsessive washing of hands and cleaning. Random body aches & pains. 

I ordered some new bath towels from Kohl's. Turns out, our Kohl's has curb-side pickup. So after he went for his bloodwork, SP picked them up. Right now, since so much of what we usually do is closed and/or indoors and therefore not appealing, new towels are pretty darn exciting!
What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Money Heist. We are on the fourth season and have 5 more episodes. 

What I'm Reading:

  • Masked Prey from John Sandford, the latest Lucas Davenport novel. Kept me hooked, as always.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Seared Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

I think of Brussels sprouts as a fall/winter vegetable. Apparently SP does not since he came home from Costco with a 2 lb bag of them. I've enjoyed the sprouts I've eaten in restaurants but never much liked the ones we make at home. To make me more enthusiastic about eating all the Brussels, he suggested we try the Seared Brussels Sprouts with Bacon from The Food Lab Cookbook.
I agreed (bacon!) but then lost my enthusiasm after I prepped the little monsters. Maybe it was just this bag, but gosh they were huge and it was tough to chop off the bottoms and slice through the middle. That was my job while he cleaned the bathroom. I guess I got the better end of the deal, but prepping these did not make me like them. On the plus side, this recipe is quick & easy. These were good but ultimately, they're still Brussels and just not one of my favorite vegetables. Proof that bacon does not make everything better. SP loves them.

Recipe here: Seared Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

*It's possible we should have par-cooked them since they were large. Next time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Creamy Potato Salad with Herbs

Usually we made a vinegar dressing for potato salad but we both had a craving for creamy potato salad last weekend. My grandma and mom always made creamy potato salad with just mayonnaise for the dressing, but I don't really like that anymore. Fortunately, the latest Food Network Magazine had a creamy potato salad recipe, and the dressing was a mix of mayo, sour cream, and vinegar. That sounded good (plus we had a container of sour cream we needed to use up).
Yum! I like the tang from the sour cream and the hint of vinegar. A bit of vinegar is also drizzled over the potatoes when they're hot. I like both versions, vinegar and creamy, but I think the creamy dressing is especially yummy with the fresh dill. Our dill is growing like crazy and we wanted to use a bunch of it before the heat kills it (as has happened in past years).

Recipe here: Creamy Potato Salad with Herbs

*we did not measure our herbs, we just chopped a bunch and sprinkled some in, stirred, then added more, stirred, and repeated until it looked herby enough for us
**we used a 3 lb bag of potatoes, so we scaled up a bit on some the other ingredients/the dressing

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Today is the first day of a four day holiday weekend for us. We're smoking a pork butt which we will enjoy with homemade macaroni & cheese and some tomatoes with basil.

We have no 4th of July plans. It's going to be way too hot to be comfortable outside and we're not wanting to be inside with other people, not even our family at our/their house. Allegheny County is up to 233 new cases in one day, most ever since this all started, and while it might be mostly younger people going to bars and people going on vacation (which, why? what the heck are you thinking?) all those people could infect people who could infect people and you get the idea. No way are we going to a restaurant, especially after seeing this and this plus social media photos of jam-packed places with people not wearing masks, or wearing them but not over the nose, or worse, wearing them on their chin.

Seriously, people, do better. Do you want this to end? Just wear a mask.

What We're Eating:

  • Grilled Teriyaki Chicken with grilled asparagus & rice
  • Dessert: S'mores Bars

What We're Watching:

  • Money Heist. Really enjoying it. 
  • Our usual cooking shows plus Agents of SHIELD and Perry Mason.

What I'm Reading:

  • Old Scores, a Barker & Llewlyn novel by Will Thomas. It was good. Now I have one left to read. Hopefully we'll be able to request library books soon, but if new coronavirus cases keep rising, probably not anytime soon.
  • Masked Prey by John Sandford. I just started the latest Lucas Davenport.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

S'mores Bars

I like s'mores a lot but since we do not have a back yard that allows for to fire pits, bonfires, etc. (wood deck, too many trees/woods area close to house/deck), I don't get to roast marshmallows on a stick and then squash them with chocolate between graham crackers. I was excited to see a recipe for indoor S'mores Bars in the most recent issue of Cook's Country.
Layers of graham cracker crust, chocolate bars, marshmallow creme, mini-marshmallows.
Easy to make. I love the roasted mini marshmallows! Browned and gooey and just calling out for me to pluck one or two or more off (but I controlled myself).
These are yummy. Sticky, gooey, marshmallowy.
We'll definitely make these again.

Recipe: S'mores Bars

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Another week, another Thursday, nothing exciting going on. I know restaurants are open, but with virus numbers rising a bit in the county and people becoming more & more anti-mask, we're not feeling comfortable with another restaurant outing. We're both starting to get a little stir crazy. Frustrated. Bored. Really bored. But then also lacking energy to do something, go somewhere. Because, really, where can we go? We agree nowhere indoors with other people. Outdoor activities like hiking and biking and kayaking are out (wheelchair). We could find a paved path, but in our experience, paved walking paths are always crowded. Much as we enjoy movies, no way are we going in a theater anytime soon (I think they re-open next week?). The Cultural Trust has cancelled/rescheduled next year's fall Broadway shows, so we have no shows in 2020, which is good because indoors/people/virus but also bad because bored, so bored.

At least I have some new library books. And SP got a pellet smoker so we're expanding our culinary horizons (or something like that).

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • 21 Bridges (movie). This was better than we expected. We enjoyed it a lot.
  • Harriet (movie). This was good, too. It sent us to our tablets to look up Harriet Tubman's biography. What an amazing woman!
  • Perry Mason (HBO). I've never seen the original show, or read the books, so I have no preconceived notions of how it should be. So far, I like this version. I like that it's set in 1932, I like Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason (if you haven't watched The Americans, you should). There are 8 episodes, a new one each Sunday.
  • We started Money Heist (Netflix). I've watched a lot of subtitled shows lately (White Lines, My Brilliant Friend) and this is another one. We've only watched 4 episodes and I think there are 31 total. So far, we are enjoying it.
  • New season of Worst Cooks (Food Network). Poor Alex Guarnaschelli, I don't think she knew what she was getting into, just how bad the cooks would be!

What I'm Reading:
  • Two Nights by Kathy Reichs. This one is not a Temperance Brennan novel so maybe that's why I missed it when it came out in 2017? I liked it, a lot.
  • The Good Killer by Harry Dolan. Maybe because this was a new author (for me) and new characters, I really enjoyed it/couldn't put it down. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Piccolo Forno

A day after writing that we would not be going out despite entering the Green Phase and restaurants re-opening, we went out to lunch. Gasp! We had rules for this dining out date. We'd only sit outside. In the afternoon. At a non-busy time. In a non-busy area (not on a sidewalk where a lot of people walk or wait for a bus). Wearing masks. At a restaurant we trusted. Final result: A 2 pm reservation to eat outside at Piccolo Forno.

Did we feel safe? Yes, but look at our rules. A lot of places were ruled out because of location, outdoor dining availability, and hours. I am saying I felt safe under this particular set of circumstances!

We were the only customers. Several people walked by our table on the sidewalk, some masked, some not. One person, masked, waited for a bus 6+ feet away from us. Our server wore a mask, correctly (covering nose & mouth), and gloves and tried to stay as far away from the table as possible. There was disposable cutlery. Also, we took a bottle of wine (BYOB) and it was a screw top, so no need for her to handle our wine bottle.

Here's what we ate:
SP had the delicious Lemon Risotto (and added shrimp) that had enough garlic I wouldn't feel safe eating it myself but I did sneak 2 bites and yummy! He liked it a lot. There was squash & kale in it, too. This risotto makes our homemade versions look so sad!
I had Prosciutto, Funghi, Rucola Pizza (crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, prosciutto, arugula, shaved grana padano). Always a delicious pizza.
Dessert? Of course - they have Tiramisu! Light & tasty.

We took some of lunch home and ate it later that night for dinner. We took some of our wine home, too. But no dessert. We managed to finish that while we were there, enjoying being outside on a date.

It was a lovely lunch out with him and it almost felt like "normal." We hadn't been to Piccolo Forno in a while and are happy it's as tasty as ever.

Will we be going out again? I'm not sure. We see a lot of social media comments about people not wearing masks. We read some terrifying accounts this week of patients who survived having this virus but are left with what will be lifelong serious health issues. We see stories of friends who went to a bar and now they all test positive for the virus. We are seeing numbers rise in TX, FL, AZ, OK and as people travel, especially those who go to FL for summer vacations (it seems like many from this area do so), there's risk of rising cases here. There was one day this week with 0 new cases before 2 or 3 days of 5-10 new cases/day. Still low, but when you're in that high risk category, it makes you think twice. Most likely, we'll try it again in a month, pending the number of daily county cases, and under similar rules.

But it was so nice to be out at a restaurant feeling like everything was OK even if just for 2 hours.

Previous Meals at Piccolo Forno:
October 2017
September 2013
September 2012
June 2011
June 2010

Friday, June 19, 2020

Classic Burger Sauce

As a child, I liked my burgers with cheese on a bun. No ketchup, no mayo, no mustard, no relish/pickle, no toasted bun. no vegetables. Plain. Boring. Squishy white bun. I like more stuff on my burgers now, and definitely a toasted bun, and usually with mustard on the bun - until we made this Classic Burger Sauce (also known as Special Sauce) from America's Test Kitchen.
You can see the pink sauce just peeking out from the top bun, oozing onto the tomato slice.
On SP's burger, a blob of special sauce dripped onto the grilled onion hanging out the left side of the sandwich.

It's really good stuff. Ketchup, mayo, relish, sugar, vinegar, & pepper mixed together. This will be a staple on all future burgers.

Recipe here: Classic Burger Sauce

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we spent quite a bit of time out on the deck, enjoying the sunshine.

SP has been working a lot. He's on call this week and, well, I don't ask much, but there have been issues so he's been working a bit in the evenings, too, before our tea/dessert/TV time.

Our deck herbs seem to be doing well this year. This week we used a lot of mint for the fattoush. It was nice to have an all vegetable meal after last week's lamb burgers and this week's beef burgers.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We watched Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame), a British TV show that is on Netflix streaming. It's set in London & Tokyo with dialog in English & Japanese. It's about a Tokyo detective who travels to London in search of his brother who was previously assumed to be dead. The brother has been accused of murdering the nephew of a Yakuza member which threatens to start a gang war in Tokyo. We really, really enjoyed the 8 episode show.
  • I've been watching My Brilliant Friend (HBO). I finished season 1, started season 2, and have 2 episodes left. I am really enjoying the show and it's making me think a lot. I have not read the books, but maybe I will.
  • We watched the third and final episode of Quiz on BBC (or maybe it aired on AMC?). The show tells the story of Charles Ingram, a former British army major, who caused a major scandal after being caught cheating his way to winning £1 million on the game show 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' He and his wife were found guilty of cheating, but the show leaves some doubt about if they really are guilty.
  • We got caught up on John Oliver, Worst Cooks Celebrity Edition, Ina - Cook Like a Pro, and Valerie's Home Cooking. Ina made some really delicious sounding dishes on the latest show: Cauliflower Toasts (with gruyere, mascarpone, prosciutto), Baked Zucchini & Spinach (with rice, gruyere, cream, basil), and Spiced Lamb Stuffed Eggplant (with ricotta, goat cheese, mint).

What I'm Reading:

  • Magazines.
  • I have a new library book! I just haven't started it yet.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Thursday Thoughts has become difficult to write because I have so many thoughts these days. If I start expressing them, the post would be way too long! Also, this space was always meant to be a food, travel, entertainment space, and so I'm going to  leave it as that. 

Last Friday our county entered the "Green Phase" for re-opening. To celebrate, we got hair cuts, and in my case, color. It felt so good to have 2 inches of hair lopped off and every time I see myself in a mirror and see brown hair without streaks of white, I am happy. We went first thing in the morning, so we were the very first customers since March. We both feel that L did as much as she possibly could to minimize risk for everyone.

Almost as exciting, we picked up paczki at Bethel Bakery. 

We're still not comfortable going to a restaurant. Maybe outdoors, but definitely not indoors. We both are "higher risk" people so we're sticking with curb-side pickups, carefully thought out Costco trips, and hair cuts every 8-16 weeks!

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We finished White Lines (Netflix). We enjoyed it. A good escape from reality!
  • We watched Jumanji: The Next Level (movie). We've enjoyed the latest Jumanji movies much more than we thought we would.
  • I started watching My Brilliant Friend (HBO). The show is based on the books by Elena Ferrante. I have not read the books. I've only watched the first two episodes of season 1 but so far I'm enjoying it.  
  • We started watching Quiz on BBC. It's about the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire cheating scandal in Britain in 2001.
  • We're watching the final season of Agents of SHIELD. I think this is the best season of them all. I'm really enjoying it. 

What I'm Reading:

  • Magazines. 
  • I am ready for the library to re-open!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Summer Berry Pie

Summer Berry Pie is the latest pie we've made from The Perfect Pie. It is delicious. I think the recipe is also in Baking Illustrated and about a week ago it was on the Test Kitchen Instagram Feed with the recipe for free.
Look at all the berries! Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. 
The crust is a graham cracker crust. Graham crackers, butter, sugar, baked until beginning to brown.
Some of the berries are pureed, strained, and then cooked with sugar, cornstarch, and salt to make a delicious not quite jelly but not quite pudding fruit filling. It's so smooth and flavorful and not too sweet. The rest of the berries are tossed with some jelly (we used apricot).
Pour the puree into the cooled crust. Gently arrange the berries atop the puree. Chill until set (at least 3 hours).
We topped our slices with whipped cream (not homemade) but it's good without whipped cream. We both really like this pie. SP probably because he loves fruit and fruit desserts. I like berries a lot and I like that the puree doesn't taste and have the consistency of a too sweet jelly. Most definitely a Make Again dessert - probably again this summer!

Recipe: Summer Berry Pie

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

I don't know what to say about the news headlines, so I'm not going to say anything.

Tomorrow our county enters the Green Phase. Whoo! We have our hair appointments scheduled for first thing tomorrow! For me, it's been 16 weeks since my last cut/color. I've been hiding my hideous gray roots and unruly mane under a variety of head bands, bandannas, hats. Not that I've gone anywhere besides the driveway and deck. But still. I had this crazy idea I might not hate my gray hair after I let it grow in for a while, maybe it would look distinguished (hahahahahaha I just look like an old hag) and that maybe I'd like having long hair again (hahahahahaha). Nope. I do not. It's white, not gray, and there's a lot of it. Also, I forgot how much I hate long hair. It takes forever to wash, rinse, condition, rinse, and even then it's still tangled and painful to comb then it takes twice as long to blow dry and just... UGH. How can anyone stand hair longer than chin-length?!

Tomorrow, all will be fixed. I will be happy.

Bonus: We scheduled a curb-side pick up at a bakery for special Donut Day paczki.

What We're Eating:

  • We used the grill rotisserie to roast a whole chicken, so that's what we've been eating this week, plus potato salad & sliced tomatoes/steamed broccoli
  • Two nights we ate grilled hot dogs. Hot dogs are a once every three years kind of meal.
  • Dessert: Cast-Iron Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

What We're Watching:

  • Killing Eve (BBC) ended its third season (8 episodes). It was good but also a little untidy, is maybe the word I'm looking for? Maybe not. We sort of find out who killed X in episode 1. I don't want to spoil anything by writing anything else. 
  • We watched Run (HBO) and enjoyed it. It's 7 episodes, each a bit under half an hour long. 
  • We started White Lines (Netflix) and so far, after 2 episodes, are intrigued. Ten episodes total, each an hour long.
  • We got caught up on Amy Schumer Learns to Cook (Food Network) and some other Food Network shows but still have a Worst Cooks to watch.
  • I watched The Assistant (movie). It was good but slow. Also, it made me angry! 
  • We watched Midway (movie). It was good. As always, movies like this sent us to our tablets as we watched so we could look up details on the war and battles. 

What I'm Reading:
A Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs. I'm wondering if I missed a book, or forgot something, because it seemed like I missed some key developments. But, it was good.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Strawberry Cream Shortcake

I love light, fluffy, fruity desserts. Makes me think of the jello and whipped cream dishes my grandma used to make. This Strawberry Cream Shortbread is from King Arthur Flour and is a fancy, grown up jello-whipped cream dessert.
Instead of me mashing together some scoops of jello and Cool Whip in a bowl (a favorite childhood dessert in the summer), this is real whipped cream, pureed strawberries, and a homemade crust in a springform pan. Plus some gelatin.
This is easy to make. I think the most difficult part is getting that darn ring secured to the bottom with the bottom straight, not on a slant. It's a very old springform, around 40 years old, so it can be temperamental. The strawberry-cream mixture filled our 9" round springform. The finished dessert had about 4 hours in the refrigerator before we pulled off the springform ring.
It's light and cool. Good strawberry flavor. A pretty pink color. Not too filling.
I'd make this again. It's a great warm weather dessert.

Recipe: Strawberry Cream Shortbread