Thursday, February 27, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Yesterday was SP's birthday! His family birthday dinner was this past weekend at Cafe io. Sadly, nearly half the family couldn't make it because of illness, which is understandable, but he was a little sad anyway because it's a BIG birthday for him. It was just our parents and us. Here's what we ate:

  • Crispy Green Beans (tempura green beans, horseradish dipping sauce)
  • Iovino Appetizer (tempura mozzarella, Italian sweet sausage, marinated tomatoes, basil, organic mixed greens)
  • Monster Grilled Cheese (gouda and cheddar cheeses, bacon, egg, pulled pork, tomato, caramelized onions, spinach)
  • Ricotta Cheesecake

I forgot to take a photo of his fish tacos.
Sunday, he & I used his Big Burrito Birthday Card to go to brunch at Eleven. Here's what he ate with his two Bloody Marys:

  • Pork Belly (buckwheat blini, maple, chili, bourbon-black pepper glaze, sunny side egg)
  • Short Rib Hash (poached egg, Madeira jus, pomegranate reduction, herb & horseradish crumb)
  • Prosciutto Cotto, Carmelized Onion, & Cheddar Omelet (fingerling potatoes, bacon or sausage)  
  • Sea Scallop Salad (spring greens, gala apple, fennel, crispy wild rice, feta, ice wine vinaigrette)

I think he had a good birthday. We don't usually get each other gifts but since this was a BIG one, I got him a few gifts. I didn't make him a cake this year because we were eating Chex Mix for dessert plus we have lots of Girl Scout cookies we bought from the neighbor. More dessert didn't seem like a good idea.

What We're Eating:

  • Grilled Lamb and Grilled Asparagus
  • Ham, Pierogie, Broccoli
  • Dessert: Chex Mix, Girl Scout Cookies

What We're Watching:

  • We finished His Dark Materials (HBO). I mostly liked it. The polar bears were the best part.
  • Movie: Jojo Rabbit. We loved this movie! It has my vote for second best movie of the year, after Parasite. I laughed & cried.
  • Movie: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I cried less than I thought I would! Really good movie about the friendship that developed between writer Tom Junod (named Lloyd in the movie) and Fred Rogers.
  • Seal Team is back! 

What I'm Reading:

  • To Kingdom Come (Barker & Llewelyn Series #2) from Will Thomas. A good read. It's set in May of 1884, and Scotland Yard has just been blown up, the latest attack in the Irish Republican Brotherhood's dynamiting campaign to force Home Rule, so it's an historical crime novel. After I finished the book, I went down the internet wormhole reading about the Fenian dynamite campaign & bombings/attempted bombings in London from 1881-1885.
  • The Limehouse Text (Barker & Llewelyn Series #3) from Will Thomas. I just started it, so I'm not very far in yet.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Beer Batter Bread

Sometimes quick breads are tasty. Other times, they are not. At all. This one, from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book, is a tasty one: Beer Batter Bread.
It's really quick. Only 6 ingredients: flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, beer, and melted butter. Mix together, pour in loaf pan, bake.
It has a nice lumpy top.
It's really tasty warm with butter melting into it. After the first day, we reheated slices in the toaster oven. There's a lovely beer taste. It is a bit dense/heavy. Excellent with soup.
Definitely a Make Again bread. You can use whatever beer you have on hand, which is nice because then the bread flavor can change a bit each time you make it because it'll take on the flavor of the beer you use.

Recipe here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Florentine Prosciutto Broth (with spinach & farro)

We made a new-to-us soup. It's not much to look at. Honestly, to me, it doesn't look very appetizing. But it's yummy. It's Florentine Prosciutto Soup from the Giada's Italy cookbook which I recently was flipping through once again, looking for inspiration.

It's easy to make. Simmer prosciutto, carrots, celery, shallot, garlic, thyme, and parmesan rind for 45 minutes. Strain. While the broth is simmering, cook the farro in a small saucepan. When the broth and farro are ready, cook some sliced onion in olive oil until golden. Deglaze the pot with marsala. Add broth and farro, bring to a simmer. Add spinach and stir until wilted. Serve.
We made the suggested parmesan crisps, too. They're simply mounds of grated parmesan baked until crispy. I didn't put my crisp in the soup because I didn't want it to get soggy. SP put his in the soup.

This was yummy, quick, and easy. It gave us two dinners for the week. We ate salad on the side, too. Make sure to ask for the prosciutto ends.

Recipe on Food Network here.
Recipe on Giadzy here.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

This past weekend we met friends for lunch at Aladdin's. Here's what SP & I ate:

  • Fatayer (a zesty combination of spinach, onions, and feta folded into a pita pie and topped with feta and scallions)
  • Fattoush (chopped spinach and romaine, Lebanese Salata, and pita chips seasoned with zaatar, tossed with lemon juice, garlic, sumac, extra virgin olive oil, and herbs)
  • Greek Pitza (feta, zaatar, diced cucumbers, green peppers, sliced tomatoes, calamata olives, and sweet basil flakes)

Saturday dinner was at Burgatory. The reason we went there was for the Chocolate Strawberry Shake Special but then we were too cold for a milkshake! My chicken-bacon-egg-greens-tomato-cucumber on brioche was yummy.

What We're Eating:

  • Florentine Prosciutto Broth with Farro & Spinach + side salad
  • Chicken Agrodolce + Baked Goat Cheese Salad
  • Dessert: Raspberry Linzertorte

What We're Watching:

  • Movie: Ford v Ferrari - loved it! I thought I might be a little bored because I do not like racing (I cannot stand Nascar) but this movie made me interested in racing. But not interested enough to watch Nascar. Ugh, so boring watching people drive in circles. How is that even a sport?
  • Movie: Zombieland: Double Tap. It was great to have the original four main cast back & it was a fun movie.
  • TV: We made some progress on His Dark Materials (HBO). Two more episodes to go. The polar bear is the best part of the show.
  • TV: The usual shows. Nothing too exciting.

What I'm Reading:

  • And Dangerous to Know by Darcie Wilde. Of course I started another series with the most recent instead of the first book. Whoops. It was in the mystery section of the library book magazine but it's actually also considered romance and I am not a fan of romance. Ugh. So I have mixed opinions on this one and I'm not sure I'll read the first two books in the series, especially since I have all the Will Thomas & Ken Bruen books to read.
  • My final issue of Bon Appetit arrived. I've been a subscriber for 16 years. I am sad about not renewing. If I end up missing it, I can re-subscribe.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken

Last weekend we made one of the easiest and tastiest meals we've ever made: Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken from the August/September 2019 issue of Cook's Country. What we really liked about this recipe is that there is no prep work before putting everything in the slow-cooker. No meat browning, no browning of anything. No chopping. Just remove the skin from the chicken and then put everything in the slow-cooker on low and walk away for 4-6 hours.
The Cook's Country photos are much prettier than mine. I didn't take a photo of the chicken thighs intact. We made this on Sunday with the intent to have it for dinner on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So on Sunday after the chicken was done, SP removed the meat from the bones and pulled it into small bites. He divided the meat into 3 containers and poured an equal amount of sauce into each container.
On re-heating days we set up the rice cooker to have the rice ready around 7 pm. Around quarter til, I put one foil covered container of chicken in a 350 degree oven and I started heating the water for steaming the broccoli. The chicken took about 20~25 minutes to heat.
It's delicious. Chicken thighs seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, thyme, and lemon juice. We zested lemon into the chicken after re-heating it, used dried instead of fresh thyme, and omitted the parsley & granulated garlic. It's really good with the steamed rice & broccoli. This is definitely a Make Again Dinner because it's so easy, tasty, and we usually have everything but the chicken on hand.

Recipe here: Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken

Or here.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we went to see Miss Saigon. I saw it about 20 years ago and loved it, bought the soundtrack, and frequently listen to it. I've been hoping that the show would return to Pittsburgh and this year, it did. I was so excited but also a little apprehensive because sometimes when you have fantastic memories of something, if you revisit it, it doesn't live up to the memories. I was afraid I might be disappointed. I was not! It was fabulous! I'm not sure of my favorite show, but Miss Saigon is definitely in my Top 5. After the show, we ate dinner at Meat & Potatoes.

We started with:

  • Chardonnay and Penicillin (blended scotch, smoked honey, lemon, ginger, ardbeg float)
  • Fried Brussels & Fried Pickles
  • Waldorf Salad (iceberg lettuce, granny smith apples, pecans, celery, pomegranate seeds, goat cheese buttermilk dressing)

Entrees & Desserts:

  • Salmon (black rice, kim chi, cucumber, Chinese sausage, Korean hot sauce, fried egg, ginger scallion relish)
  • Pappardelle (bolognese sauce, pancetta, pork shoulder, garlic bread)
  • Chocolate Pot de Creme 
  • Apple Caramel Bread Pudding

It was delicious! And filling. I brought home pasta for lunch the next day. It had a bit more of a kick than I remember it having. I also liked this version of Waldorf Salad. Not a sea of mayonnaise with apples, grapes, and walnuts.

What We're Eating:

  • Pub-Style Steak & Ale Pie with mashed cauliflower
  • Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken with rice & steamed broccoli
  • Dessert: Leftover snacks like M&M's, popcorn, etc.

What We're Watching:

  • Movie: Ad Astra. SP saw this in the theater but I hadn't yet seen it. I liked it a lot even though I kept peppering him with science and space questions. I know Brad Pitt won his acting Oscar for Once Upon A  Time in Hollywood, but I thought he was terrific in this.
  • Movie: 6 Underground. A Michael Bay movie on Netflix starring Ryan Reynolds. Ridiculous. Implausible. Hilarious. Predictable. Lots of action. So much fun to see the stunts. What a ride! Much easier to follow all the action than other Bay movies. It did not require any brain power, made us laugh, and held our attention as we tried to guess what preposterous action would next occur.
  • Movie: The Good Liar. Helen Mirren & Ian McKellen. We both really enjoyed this film.
  • Movie: Booksmart. Mostly I wanted to see Kaitlyn Dever. She was fantastic in Justified as Loretta and in Unbelievable as Marie Adler. It's a fun film though I felt really old. 
  • Our normal TV shows. 
  • I watched Survivor last night for the first time in years. I don't know who more than half the winners are. But I remember Boston Rob, Amber, Sandra, Pavarti, Ethan, Yul. Sadly, one of the people I was cheering for was voted out. 

What I'm Reading:

  • I read The Guards by Ken Bruen. This is the first in the Jack Taylor series. I liked it more than the most recent one in the series (the one I read first) because his odd style of writing didn't bother me as much. It didn't take me too long to read it, but I'm not sure if that's good or bad?!
  • I finished Some Danger Involved. I think I'll continue reading this series. I already requested books 2 & 3 from the library.
  • I cancelled/decided to not renew two of the magazines, Saveur and Bon Appetit. Lately I've not found much of interest in BA plus it seems like they Tweet/Instagram/Facebook everything in the issue before I receive my issue in the mail and that annoys me so much because I pay for it and because I've been a subscriber since 2004. As for Saveur, they've reduced the number of issues to 4 a year and they've made the print small enough that I have to find my glasses to read it (also a complaint about BA). I only need my glasses for reading and even then, not always, but the font size is so small that I can no longer just pick up an issue and read an article for 5 minutes or so. I have to go find my glasses. I know, first world problems. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Pub-Style Steak & Ale Pie

I bookmarked this Pub-Style Steak & Ale Pie recipe from the March/April 2017 Cook's Illustrated nearly 3 years ago. I really liked the pub pies we ate in London and wanted to try making one at home. We finally gave it a try.
It tuned out to be more work and more time consuming than we expected. I was in charge of mise en place for the filling. SP made and rolled the crust. He also did the cooking on top the stove since I cannot reach.
Ready to go in the oven. Instead of one large 9" deep dish pie, we made three smaller servings since we wanted 3 dinners. We made extra dough to make sure we had enough crust.
Baked pie. The crust sank down into the filling and the filling bubbled up over the crust and down the sides of the glass dishes.
The crust sinking down into the filling means our crust didn't completely bake. The parts touching the filling remained uncooked while the top got nice and golden brown. It looked like we had it crimped and sealed well, but turns out, nope, we did not.
This dish is only a partial success for us. I already mentioned the raw/uncooked crust bits. The liquid is ultimately supposed to simmer and become thick enough to thoroughly coat the beef. Our liquid never seemed to reduce/thicken enough. We think it was much soupier than it was supposed to be. We even simmered it about 30 minutes longer than the recipe says. Then we baked the entire pie for about 30 minutes longer than the recipe says and the crust was not all that golden brown. At 8 pm, we decided it was time to eat. We ate one of the three pies and left the other two in the oven for another 30 minutes!

Days 2 & 3 were tastier than Day 1. The crust was more thoroughly cooked and the gravy had thickened up more (I guess from cooling & reheating). The beef was tender and pulled apart easily with a fork. The gravy was delicious. Lots of yummy bacon flavor. The crust was delicious, especially on the two that baked longer. I picked off the uncooked parts. I'm glad we used extra mushrooms because they were yummy. The bacon is not supposed to be crisped and browned but we both felt it remained too "soft" and next time would crisp it.

I'm not sure we'd make this again. The meat was pricey. While we chose to make a beef dish, we don't usually eat a lot of beef, so we both felt this dish was too beef-filled for us. It was a lot of beef in one serving, much more than a hamburger or sloppy joe or meatloaf (our usual beef meals). It also took several hours and it still wasn't done! It was a huge chunk of time and with everything else we usually need to accomplish on Sundays, we just don't have the luxury of that much time for one meal.

Recipe here: Pub-Style Steak & Ale Pie
Or here.
*We used chuck-eye roast since our stores didn't have boneless beef short ribs.
*We served mashed cauliflower with this.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Poached Pear & Almond Tart

We have wanted to make a Poached Pear Tart for a very long time. We finally made one a couple of weeks ago following the recipe for Poached Pear & Almond Tart in The Perfect Pie.
It was delicious and worth the effort. This one is a project and takes a lot of time. First we poached the pears:
Four pears, halved & cored, and nestled in an entire bottle of white wine plus sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, cloves, and vanilla bean. The pears only simmer for about 10 minutes, but then they rest/cool for about an hour.
The crust is Classic Tart Dough and is made in the food processor. We love making dough in the food processor. The dough chills for at least an hour before you roll it, chill it for another 10 minutes, put it in the tart pan, and freeze it for 30 minutes. Then you line it with foil, fill with pie weights, and bake until golden brown (about 30 minutes). After that, let it cool for an hour.
The filling is also made in the food processor. Almonds, sugar, egg, almond & vanilla extracts, plus butter.
 Evenly spread the filling in the cooled tart shell:
 Carefully and gently slice & nestle the pears in the filling:
Bake about 45 minutes.
It's such a pretty dessert, even if your pears are a little off-center!
It smelled so yummy! Surprisingly, we didn't mangle the first couple of slices:
The crust is delicious. The filling is yummy. The pears are soft and boozy. We could definitely taste the wine.
This is a Make Again Dessert, but only when we have extra time because there are a lot of steps and it's time consuming. Good thing it's worth the time & effort!

Recipe here: Poached Pear & Almond Tart
Crust Recipe here.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

I rarely post photos in Thursday Thoughts posts but I wrote about Downey's House last fall, so I decided to just post the photos from our dinner there a couple weeks ago. SP had seafood chowder and salmon with cole slaw. I had Philly Chicken with cole slaw. As always, we shared the fried zucchini. We always get the zucchini - it's so good!
This past weekend we went to Hofbrauhaus. I was going to be good and just have my meal, no snacks, but of course SP really wanted the pretzel with extra beer cheese. It is awfully tasty. So we got it. We brought some home for snacking on Sunday.

What We're Eating:

  • Chicken Tacos with avocado, tomatoes, cheddar
  • Mixed Greens Salad with Shrimp & Hard-Boiled Egg
  • Dessert: Cast-Iron Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookies

What We're Watching:

  • Parasite, a Korean movie. Really good. It's nominated for Best Picture at this year's Oscars and I'm rooting for it. I've seen five of the nine nominated films and in my uninformed, untrained movie critic eyes, Parasite is the best of those five. 
  • We've made it through 4 episodes of His Dark Materials. It's better than when we started but I'm still having a hard time keeping things straight and I'm constantly asking SP questions. It got much better when the show got to the polar bear, easily my favorite character thus far. Can't wait to (hopefully) see him rip apart the bad guys.
  • We watched the Super Bowl. Well, more like the game was on while we ate dinner, folded laundry, cleaned up, read books, played games on our phones, etc. As usual, we paid more attention to the commercials. Darn that Google commercial for making me all teary. 

What I'm Reading:

  • Magazines. Of course.
  • I'm in the middle of Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas. It's the first of the Barker & Llewellyn series. I started with the 11th back in December and now I'm going to read from the beginning.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Cast-Iron Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

I think I have a new favorite cookie: Cast-Iron Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie. It's from America's Test Kitchen and is in the Cook It in Cast Iron cookbook. I must have seen it on Instagram and followed the link to the recipe because I just recently printed it. We made it this past weekend. It seemed like it would be quick & easy to make. It was.
I love that this doesn't require scooping, baking, and cooling multiple sheets of treats. The whole thing bakes at once in a single skillet. The skillet creates a delicious crust on the cookie. I didn't love the browning the butter part because I find it tricky to properly brown butter in a black skillet, but we (SP) managed.
I love the wedges! Soft and chewy at the point (the middle of the cookie), then it gets crisper and crisper (but not too crispy) as you make your way to the edge. I love the edge.
It's no surprise I love cookies and I really love these. SP has to take the container away from me in the evening so that I don't go on a cookie snarfing rampage.

Recipe here (Parade Magazine, 27 January 2017) or here (AP News 28 January 2019).

Monday, February 3, 2020

Baked Ricotta Chicken

This is a super easy, quick, and delicious dinner: Baked Ricotta Chicken. You can use store bought red sauce but we had some homemade sauce in the freezer so that made it extra yummy. The ricotta cheese is mixed with olive oil, parmesan, oregano, salt, and pepper. Simple: brown the chicken, set it aside. Layer sauce, chicken, sauce, ricotta, panko in a baking dish and bake until chicken is cooked through (160 degrees).
The chicken was juicy. There was just enough sauce and cheese. Not too much, not too little. The panko added a nice bit of toasty crunch. We ate our ricotta chicken with a side salad. This is definitely a make again dinner. It's so much easier to layer these ingredients than to stuff the chicken breasts with the ricotta mixture.

Recipe here or here.