Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

It's been 2 weeks since SP's company told employees to work from home. Since he was sick before that, it's more like 3-4 weeks that I've had company during the day (he took several sick days and worked from home a few days while he was sick). We've settled into a new routine, one that is not much different from the previous routine. He works from his office, I do my usual things, sometimes I hear his conference calls, sometimes he goes for a walk, dinner is still after 7 pm, we still don't go to bed until nearly 1 am, but we do sleep in until 8:30-9 am. It's amazing how much extra time there is without a 40 minute commute each way!

Like everyone (or like everyone should be), we are staying home except for grocery trips. Our plumber visits did not end last Friday. Turns out a pipe under the garage/driveway was leaking, so this past Monday the plumbers jackhammered up a corner of the garage to replace a section of pipe.  Four plumber visits, thousands of dollars, gallons of bleach, and cans of bleach wipes later, everything is OK (as far as anyone can tell).

I'm still suffering from allergies which means my mind still goes to horrible places when I sneeze, ache, or feel it in my chest. I guess that's the "new normal" for me for the next 18 months. I worry what this stress/anxiety is doing to everyone's health. I know we're both very worried because we both have pre-existing conditions that put us in the high-risk category. We try to stay informed but sometimes, we have to turn off the news.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • The Outsider (HBO). Really good. We watched all ten episodes last weekend. I liked it more than I expected.
  • Abominable (movie). Cute animated movie.
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette (movie with Cate Blanchett). I enjoyed this more than I expected based on reviews. I have not read the book, but now I might.
  • Survivor. I haven't watched for years but started again this season. Interesting how the tribal council votes have gone.

What I'm Reading:
I finished The Body Outside the Kremlin by James L. May. Very good read. I have a lot of thoughts about the book and what's going on in the world right now but I'm going to to keep my thoughts to myself!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Happy Spring!

Last weekend we were supposed to see The Band's Visit and have dinner at Mezzo with friends but then the Cultural Trust cancelled events for a while. Since 75% of our dining group are at higher risk for COVID-19, we cancelled dinner, too. Instead, we stayed home & ordered pizza delivery.

We got cozy inside, disinfected the house, and then we discovered the leak. I kept hearing a noise and as usual, SP couldn't hear it, making me think I was crazy, or maybe having a new kind of ear/carotid issue. I even said it sounded like a drip but none of the sinks/tubs were dripping. Then Saturday afternoon he went to change the furnace filter and found a puddle of water in the utility room and it looked like a leak from the bathroom above it. So we called a plumber. One came, checked things out, and said they'd be out Tuesday to fix things. Tuesday we waited & waited & waited and finally the plumber arrived, entering our safe, germ free zone. Turns out, we had 2 minuscule holes in a piece of copper pipe that were spraying constant water up onto the ceiling and at a certain point, the sprayed water started dripping down onto the floor (what I heard). So he replaced that piece of pipe. Thank goodness it was accessible (not above a finished ceiling). There are some other issues, too, a couple new and a couple I've just been living with, so the plumber needs to come back Friday to fix those (the hot water handle that leaks when water is used, the overflow drain leak, etc.).

Ugh! So we cleaned the house then found the drip, re-cleaned my bathroom after the plumber (so much bleach I felt like I couldn't breathe and then thought I had the virus), and now we'll have to clean again on Friday. Fun times. Lots of bleach and Clorox wipes.

SP had to get the car inspected today. He went armed with Clorox wipes and rubber gloves to disinfect the car, just in case. We also tried to stay 6' away from the plumbers.

Meanwhile, I feel crappy today. Tired, a little achy, congested, just not great. I've been feeling not great/like I have a cold or bad allergies for 3 weeks. Of course my mind is going horrible places every time I sneeze.

What we're Eating:

  • Coq au Vin
  • Italian Flatbread (Piadine) with prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula)
  • Lunch: Polenta with Roasted Tomatoes & Mozzarella
  • Dessert: Pizzelles
  • Snacks: Veggie Straws

What we're Watching:

  • We watched I Am Not OK With This on Netflix. It was really good! Only 7 episodes, about a half hour each.
  • Spring Baking Championship. Some of the sunrise/sunset doughnuts were so pretty as were some of the Celestial Event theme desserts (shooting stars, northern lights, etc.).
  • Our usual shows.

What I'm Reading:
The Body Outside the Kremlin by James L. May. Really good, just taking me longer to get through than most books.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Italian Flatbread (Piadine)

Like many people, SP is working from home and will be doing so for a few weeks. Since he currently doesn't have a commute, we have a bit more time to make dinner in the evenings. This week, we used the extra time to make Italian Flatbread (Piadine). The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated September & October 2019.
There isn't yeast in these, so they're quick & easy. Just flour, baking powder, salt, vegetable oil, and water. The dough does need to sit and rest for 30 minutes before you roll it out and cook it in a skillet. We used our cast iron skillet, but the recipe says a non-stick skillet can be used.
The recipe makes four flatbreads. They only take a couple minutes on each side in the skillet and then you fill them with whatever you like. We used prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and arugula with a drizzle of balsamic syrup. The first night we weren't too hungry so we split a flatbread.
These are really tasty. It's like a less chewy and less dry pita.We both really liked it. They'd be great in the summer with all sorts of fresh, summer vegetables. Any combination of meat, cheese, greens, veggies. The recipe suggests Nutella with mascarpone as a filling so I guess these can be dessert, too.
Definitely a Make Again recipe.

Recipe here: Italian Flatbread (Piadine)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Last Sunday, my parents invited us for dinner. Mom made rack of lamb, tomatoes & mozzarella (there was balsamic syrup, too), Brussels sprouts, and twice baked potatoes. It was yummy!
Saturday dinner out was at Downey's House. As always, fried zucchini. For me, grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar, onion straw, BBQ sandwich. For SP, salad with grilled salmon.

The yard service is here today, getting the yard ready for spring & summer. It'll look great until early June when everything will have exploded into a jungle (as my mom calls it) and I start nagging SP to trim the tall grasses. I hope the mulch lasts longer than it normally does. Fresh mulch always looks so pretty.

SP's company has strongly suggested that those who can work from home until mid-April. So he's home. Again. It's Day #2 and I haven't killed him. He brought home bakery treats after his doctor appointment, so I guess he'll live to see Day 3. But I might go crazy from the messier than usual kitchen during the day.

What We're Eating:

  • Roast Pork Tenderloin with baked potatoes and roast cauliflower
  • Salad with shrimp
  • Dessert: Girl Scout Cookies

What We're Watching:

  • Movie: X-Men Dark Phoenix. Not as bad as the reviews but not very good.
  • The usual.
  • It feels like we haven't watched much. We're considering cancelling our satellite service and switching to a streaming TV service so we're in the midst of a trial period. I'm still trying to learn how to navigate the streaming screens and like most streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube), I'm finding them not especially user friendly. As in, I keep getting annoyed & frustrated & asking WTF the developers/designers were thinking. I have so many suggestions for improvement, but I'm sure my ideas are not correct. Why? Because I've voiced negative opinions on some redesigns SP's company had made to their service(s) and when he explains what the developers/designers said (in response to similar criticisms voiced by employees not on the team), well, I just roll my eyes and all I can say is, the nerds don't really get the average user. Or maybe I'm just too old? Too dumb? I'm tired of constantly re-learning things! Maybe if they made it less nerd-intuitive, they'd get more users. I'm surprised my parents stuck with Netflix and figured out how to use it!

What I'm Reading:
Dead in Dublin by Catie Murphy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Butcher and the Rye

A few weeks ago we went to Butcher and the Rye. We've been there several times, but I don't think I've actually written a post in a while. Since we were already in the city for a show, and since it was just after SP's birthday, this was his choice for a birthday dinner.
We always enjoy the cocktails. This time, he started with a special: Wisconsin Old Fashioned (Jim Beam, Brandy, orange, cherry, if memory serves). It was yummy! I also had a delicious, and far to easily and quickly downed, cocktail, Hey, the Gardens (ketel one, grapefruit, rose, lemon, oat straw honey).
As always, we started with Brussels (brown butter, dill, parmigiano reggiano, preserved lemon aioli). So good. And as always, Brussels make for a terrible photo, a blob of a mountain covered with parmesan snow.
One of my favorite dishes in the city: Sunday Gravy (lamb neck, tomatoes, ricotta, olive oil, warm country bread). So. Good.
We shared this cocktail. Sadly, I do not remember the name, and it's not listed online. I remember bourbon and a mulled wine syrup (I think). It was really, really good.
We shared a special: Chicken & Biscuits. Oh my. This was delicious. I wish it would be added to the menu! Hearty and comforting on a windy, cold day. Lots of chicken, shredded into the sauce and the leg in the middle. I couldn't stop eating the shredded chicken gravy.
Coffee to counteract the booze and extra warmth before going back into the cold. 
Dessert: Chocolate Mousse Coupe (dark chocolate cremeux, chocolate mousse, vanilla chantilly cream, chocolate streusel, palmiers). Also delicious. SP probably would have preferred the Apple Bread Pudding, but bread pudding sounded like too much. 
We still really like Butcher and the Rye. We ate a lot less than normal, but that could be because SP was sick and didn't have his usual appetite. We both were stuffed, though, so maybe we usually overeat?! This is the first time we had a seat with a view of the bar and we both enjoyed watching the bartenders climb the ladder to find whiskeys and mix up drinks. We always sit on the first floor (wheelchair) and are happy B&tR has a wheelchair ramp up the one step to the non-communal table dining area. Our server was great, helping me when I was debating between a couple cocktails. Still one of our favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh.

Previous meals at Butcher and the Rye:

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Not much has happened the past week because SP is sick. He's taken a couple sick days and worked from home a couple of days while he sniffles and coughs. He saw a doctor and has some medicine, but whatever he has, it's lingering. He's never sick this long. I'm the one who gets sick and has it last for weeks. I think I am sick, but I'm not sure because I'm not sniffly, I'm not coughing, I'm just tired and my nose feels congested and I sometimes feel like I have a cough coming on, but then nothing happens.

What We're Eating:

  • Lasagna ( my mom's recipe - yum!)
  • Chicken Tacos
  • Dessert: French Almond Browned Butter Cakes

What We're Watching:

  • We blew through a 6 episode show from Norway called Beforeigners (HBO Europe). The show is set in Oslo. The premise is that suddenly there are flashes of light in the sea that turn out to be a phenomenon where people from the past (the Stone Age, the Viking Age, and the 19th century) suddenly emerge in the present. Fast forward several years & the "beforeigners" are struggling to fit into modern Norwegian society. When one is found dead, a cop who found the first beforeigners and his new partner, a beforeigner who has become a police officer, investigate. It's really good and we can't wait for Season 2!
  • Movie: Marriage Story (Netflix). The movie was a Best Picture nominee and Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress. It's an excellent movie, but not one I could watch again as it's painful to watch Charlie & Nicole navigate their divorce and feelings. The scene where they let loose screaming at each other? Yikes! The movie is somehow both sad and uplifting.  
  • Movie: We watched Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw. I have never seen a Fast & Furious movie. But this one has Idris Elba. So we watched, and enjoyed it for what it is.
  • John Oliver is back.
  • Otherwise, just the usual shows.

What I'm Reading:

  • I finished The Limehouse Text (Barker & Llewelyn Series #3) from Will Thomas. It was good. I have a few other books to read before requesting the next books in the series.
  • Magazines.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Creamy Gruyère Sauce

Usually our vegetable side dish is plain and not very exciting because we put the most effort into a tasty protein. Then one day we made chicken and rice and decided we'd make the vegetable the exciting part. We made Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Creamy Gruyère Sauce from The Side Dish Bible.
This was yummy! I like that it used the florets and the stems. I know we could steam them (steaming being our usual broccoli preparation), but neither of us much likes the stems. Until now. The stems are actually tasty prepared this way. The gruyère-mustard-sherry-cream-cayenne-shallot sauce coats the broccoli, but the broccoli isn't swimming in sauce and it's not a heavy sauce. You can barely see the sauce in the photos. I also really like this pan-roast method. The broccoli stays crisp, it's not as wet/soft as steaming, but it's also cooked through (not crunchy).

We'll definitely make this again, although next time I think we'll try the Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Lemon Browned Butter and see which version we like more.

When we reheated it, we covered the glass container with foil and reheated at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Recipe here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020


I posted this on Instagram a while ago but I'm late getting it on the blog. This is the Linzertorte from The Perfect Pie that we made in February. Our PBS station seems to be behind in airing episodes of America's Test Kitchen and it turned out they aired the episode with this Linzertorte the Saturday before we planned to make it, so we watched the episode before baking it that Sunday. It looked easy, and it was, but the crust & lattice take a while with all the freezing, chilling, etc. It uses hazelnuts and almonds as well as cinnamon and allspice. I wasn't even sure we still had allspice because that's not a spice we use very often!
The filling is simply raspberry jam and lemon juice.

This is a yummy Linzertorte. But since the recipe didn't say to grease the tart pan and since our tart pan is non-stick, well, you can see where this is going. We destroyed the tart chiseling it out of the tart pan. It was delicious, just not in pretty slices. Definitely not photo worthy.

We kept our torte in the refrigerator and reheated "slices" for dessert each night. It's much tastier at room temperature or warmed up. The tart dough is really good. I kept wanting more of it! We'll make this again, but next time, remember grease the tart pan.

Linzertorte recipe here or here (videos) or here (from Test Kitchen Instagram link).