Friday, October 30, 2020

Lighthouse Inn Potatoes

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

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

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

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

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

What I'm Reading:

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

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

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

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

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

What I'm Reading:

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Cenacolo Restaurant, Unmasked

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous visit:

May 2017

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

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

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

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

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

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

What I'm Reading:

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Jade Grill

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Cider-Glazed Apple Bundt Cake

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

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

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

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

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

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching: 

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

What I'm Reading:

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

No-Knead Sourdough Focaccia

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

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

Monday, October 5, 2020

Pasta with Sausage, Mushrooms, & Peas

This One-Pot Pasta with Sausage, Mushrooms, & Peas is really good and easy to make. It was in the  Cook's Country Dec/Jan 2020 issue. We used orecchiette instead of medium shells. I liked how the pasta cradled tiny bits of sausage or peas.
I also liked that you only dirty one pot. Lots of mushrooms and peas for veggie. Lots of flavor from the white wine, lemon, fresh basil. Cook the sausage, mushrooms, shallot. Add the white wine. Add water ad pasta, simmer until pasta is done. Add peas. Stir. Sprinkle with fresh basil. Definitely a make again recipe.

 Recipe here: Pasta with Sausage, Mushrooms, & Peas

Friday, October 2, 2020

Potato Galette

My mom used to make skillet potatoes - simply slicing potatoes, piling them in a skillet with onions and butter and cooking them until done, entirely on the stovetop, sometimes covered, sometimes uncovered. I loved those skillet potatoes. This Potato Galette recipe in The Side Dish Bible seemed similar, so we decided to try it.
Layers of creamy, soft Yukon Gold potatoes.
I think ours got too browned (black?!) but it was still good. These were pretty easy to make, looked pretty, didn't involve too much hands-on time (especially since we used the food processor to slice the potatoes), and tasted yummy.
We did not add the rosemary because of whatever we were eating with this (I forget what it was). We will definitely make these again. 

Recipe here: Potato Galette

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

It feels like fall. The furnace runs for a bit in the mornings. We've switched from t-shirts to sweatshirts. The fall and Halloween decorations are out. It's my favorite season, but since we're still stuck at home thanks to stupid coronavirus, it seems much less exciting than usual. 

What we're Eating:

  • Breakfast for Dinner: Waffles with apple compote & bacon; Blueberry Pancakes with sausage
  • Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken with rice & steamed broccoli
  • Cider Glazed Apple Bundt Cake

What We're Watching:

  • We finished the third season of Bordertown (Netflix). Such a good show!
  • Lovecraft Country (HBO) - I'm still can't see it all coming together. Three more episodes.
  • Great British Baking Show Season 8 (Netflix). The first week was cake. The showstopper challenge involved the bakers creating a cake in the shape of a bust of their favorite celebrity. Some of the results were funny, but mostly, I felt bad for them. The cake is supposed to taste good but to hold the shape of a head, I have no idea how the cake can be soft/tasty and not dry/hard. Plus, all the carving and all the fondant to create the face - fondant is yucky. It seemed more like an art challenge than baking challenge.

What I'm Reading:

  • Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith. It took me a while to get through this one - it's around 930 pages long! I enjoyed it. I liked the progress in the Robin-Strike relationship. I didn't need the focus on the other 4-5 cases, but they provided a break from always focusing on the main case, especially when it took the agency 13 months to resolve the 40 year old case. There's a lot more there. I enjoy the Cormoran Strike books and this was another good one.
  • Pumpkin Spice Peril (Cupcake Bakery Mystery Book #12) by Jenn McKinlay. This was a quick read for me. I like that the series has the characters progress and develop, unlike some other series I read where nothing seems to change but the case itself.