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