Sunday, April 11, 2010

This Blog is Moving!

This blog is moving to its new home:!  Head over there to see newer posts starting Monday, April 12, 2010.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cider-Maple-Dijon Pork Chops: Another One-Pot Oven Meal

Here's a meal you can start with frozen pork chops, put in the oven, and ignore.  Maple syrup and mustard are surprisingly good flavor partners for pork.  Add some apple cider and cider vinegar and you have a wonderfully tasty concoction for bringing flavor to boneless loin pork chops and assorted vegetables.

  • 2 boneless loin pork chops
  • 1 shallot or other mild onion, thinly sliced
  • 8-12 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 carrots, sliced
  • 2-3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, preferably Grade B
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  1. Lay the shallot or onion slices in an 8" x 13" glass roasting pan.
  2. Place the frozen or thawed pork chops on top of the onions.
  3. Layer the other vegetables around the pork chops.
  4. Mix together the maple syrup, cider, vinegar and mustard and pour over the chops and veggies.
  5. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes depending on how frozen the pork was.
  6. Uncover the pan, flip the pork chops and spoon the juices and some of the veggies over them.
  7. Return to the oven for another 30-45 minutes.
The cooking time for this is imprecise.  The long cooking time enables the pork chops to become tender and the vegetables to soak up some of the flavors.  The only thing to watch is that you don't let the liquid boil away.  If it seems to be loosing too much liquid, recover the pan for the end of the cooking.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fat-free Cream of You-Choose-the-Vegetable Soup

Good looking asparagus is hitting the supermarket shelves.  Like many folks, hubby Bill doesn't like asparagus so it doesn't end up on the supper plate.  I love it and I love soup for lunch so Cream of Asparagus Soup is on the menu.

It's easy to make a fat-free cream of vegetable soup.  The basic ingredients are
  • a vegetable, either raw or roasted, such as asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, etc.
  • fat-free broth, either chicken, beef, or vegetable
  • fat-free evaporated milk
  • salt, pepper, and a dried or fresh herb mix
  • a flour and water slurry to thicken
  1. Cut the vegetable into chunks and place in a large sauce pan.
  2. Sprinkle on the herbs.
  3. Cover with broth and bring to a boil.
  4. When the vegetable is partially cooked, whir with an immersion blender.
  5. Add the evaporated milk and simmer for several minutes.
  6. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the flour and water slurry and simmer a few more minutes to thicken.
  8. Whir again with the blender to get any flour lumps, missed chunks of vegetables, or dried herb bits.
Serve. This is even better the next day.  I just had a bowl of Cream of Asparagus soup that made my tummy very happy.  It  had in it:
I am not sponsored by any brands.  The only reason for listing them here is so you can know what I used if you want to replicate what I did.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Buckwheat No-Knead Bread

When I start a loaf of no-knead bread, I stand over the bowl and contemplate what is available to throw in it. When the resulting loaf is particularly good, Bill says, "Why don't you put this in your blog so you will remember it?" Well, the present loaf fits that category!  We just got a new box of various flours and cerials from Barry Farms so yummy buckwheat breadmakings hit the bowl.

Measurements for no-knead bread need not be precise. As you make loaves you will develop your own feel for flour/water proportions. A relatively dry dough makes a denser bread. A wet dough rises higher and results in very moist bread. I vary according to whim.

  • 2 slightly rounded cups bread flour
  • 1 slightly rounded cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 slightly rounded  cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat cereal
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 envelope instant yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Use you hands if necessary to get all the dry ingredients fully incorporated in the dough.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a cold oven with the light on.
  • Let rise for 3-4 hours or until doubled in size.
  • Stir down to redistribute the yeast.
  • Flop the dough into a pan lined with parchment paper. 
  • Cover loosely and let rise again for a couple of hours
  • Remove the risen loaf from the oven and preheat to 440°F
  • If you are using an uncovered pan, loosely place a sheet of foil on top to prevent the top from getting too brown.
  • Bake 30 minutes with the cover on and 20 minutes with the cover off.
  • Remove from pan and peel off parchment paper to cool.
  • VoilĂ ! Sweet, dark, buckwheat bread. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maple Bacon Pork Loin

Whole boneless pork loins were on sale. You can slice the loin into chops or roasts or a combination of the two in a jiffy! Just don't think you can do this with bone-in loins as I did. (Once! The results were quite ugly. I needed a band saw!).

The most recent loin turned into a 4-supper-servings roast (with enough leftover for a sandwich) and 16 thick chops. We cooked the roast this weekend and the chops are packed in meal-sized portions in the freezer. We only have the over-the-fridge freezer so there's a constant battle against freezer burn. My most recent efforts have involved the Ziploc vacuum bags which do seem to help. I'll keep you posted.

  • 1 boneless pork loin roast about 4 inches in length
  • bacon slices sufficient to cover the roast
  • 2-3 tsp. rubbed thyme
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, divided (use Grade B syrup if possible)
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • Optionally, several baby or fingerling potatoes
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  2. Place the pork fat side down in a glass roasting pan.
  3. Finely chop the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper together until the garlic is about the size of sesame seeds.  Alternatively, whir in a small food processor.
  4. Rub the seasonings on all the exposed surfaces of the pork.
  5. Liberally coat the seasoned roast with 1/4 cup maple syrup, trying not to dislodge much of the seasonings.  I find a silicone barbecue brush works well for this. 
  6. Wrap the pork in bacon, tucking the loose ends of the bacon under the meat.
  7. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes.

  1. Optionally, scatter the potatoes around the base of the roast.
  2. Remove the cover and roast another 30 minutes.
  3. Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup and the cider vinegar.
  4. Remove the foil from the roast and coat it with the syrup-vinegar mixture.
  5. Roast another 30 minutes.  Poke the potatoes and check the roast temperature to make sure they are both done. 160°F is a safe internal temperature for the pork.
  6. Let the roast rest 5 minutes or so and then slice to serve.  Droozle a teaspoon or two of the pan liquid onto the slices.  Optionally, break the potatoes open and put some pan liquid on them, too.
  7. If you have leftovers, wrap the meat and save the pan liquid in a separate container so it, too, can be reheated. 

Moist!  Moist!  Tasty!  Pork! Bacon! Maple syrup!  What's not to like?

A Proof Box Right Under My Nose!

"A warm place would speed up the no-knead bread," me thinks.

In need of a proof box, in this all-electric house.  And who has a stove with pilot lights anymore?  A dear friend, an army chaplain, made cookies for the troops using Easy Bake Ovens when she was stationed in Iraq.  But I need something big enough for a loaf of bread.  I've heard of folks using heating pads but the time I tried that the heat was too uneven.  Ponder, ponder, cogitate, look it up on the web ...

Eureka!  If you have a light in your oven, you have a proof box!  Why I couldn't put two and two together in my own head I don't know.  But isn't that why we foodie bloggers love the web?  Put 'rise dough in oven' in the Google search box and you'll find lots of suggestions for using your oven as a proof box. So, even if you don't have a light in your oven, all is not lost.  Instructions are given for all sorts of work-arounds by our fellow foodies.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cream of Asparagus & Gruyere Soup

Sometimes simple with a few tasty ingredients is the way to go.  This soup takes about 10 minutes to assemble and is delicious.

  • 1 bunch thin asparagus (8-16 oz.), tough ends snapped off
  • 1 can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 milk-can (see previous ingredient) chicken broth
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
  • salt, white pepper & sugar to taste
  1. Cut the asparagus into 1/4 inch long pieces.
  2. Place the asparagus in a covered dish and microwave on high for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the can of milk and can of chicken broth to the asparagus.
  4. Cover and microwave on high 5 minutes until very hot.
  5. Sprinkling a bit of cheese at a time and stirring constantly, incorporate the cheese into the hot soup.
  6. Taste and adjust flavors with salt, white pepper, and a pinch of sugar.

    Serve immediately. The cheese will settle to the bottom as the soup cools so stir again if the soup must sit or if reheating.

Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.