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.
  • Voilà! 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.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cinnamon Biscuits without the Drive Thru Line

We're fans of Jiffy Buttermilk Biscuit Mix. The biscuits are great whether made with water, milk, or, best of all, buttermilk. They're good plain, baked with chunks of cheese in them, or as fluffy soup dumplings.  But on a weekend morning they are great for cinnamon biscuits.

  • 1 8-oz. box buttermilk biscuit mix
  • 1/2 cup water, milk, or buttermilk
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 wedges Laughing Cow Lite Swiss Cheese (alternatively use cream cheese or Neufchatel)
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Mix biscuit mix and water until the mix is moistened
  3. Roll the biscuit mix out into a 12-inch square
  4. Mix the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour into a paste and spread it out on the square of dough
  5. Roll the square up and use the palms of your hands to flatten the ends so that it is a neat cylinder
  6. Cut into 8 slices and place them in an ungreased pie plate, baking pan, or glass cake pan.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes.
  8. Mix the cheese, milk and powdered sugar into a loose glaze.  Spoon this over the  hot biscuits.
  9. When cool enough to "inhale" them, do so.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Butternut Squash and Salami: Sweet & Savory!

Here in the U.S., the common way to embellish butternut squash involves lots of sweetness like brown sugar and marshmallows.  Don't get me wrong, I like a good tooth-aching, carmelized, gooey butternut squash casserole as much as the next person but, when paired with a savory topping, butternut squash is wonderfully sweet on its own.  It's also a much healthier base for "Italianate fixin's" than a bowl of pasta.

  • 1 medium butternut squash, washed
  • 2-3 ounces sopressata or other good dry-cured salami,cut into fine dice
  • 8-10 mushrooms, sliced
  • several handfuls baby spinach, julienned
  • 1-2 ounces grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (optional)
Procedure for the squash:
  1. Place the butternut squash in a glass roasting/lasagna pan.
  2. Roast in a 400°F oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until the squash is quite soft and the skin looks a bit dimply like it has a cellulite problem.
  3. As soon as the squash is cool enough to handle, cut it in half lengthwise.  
  4. Discard the seeds and stringy goo.  
  5. Scoop the rest of the squash meat into a bowl and mash with 2 Tablespoons evaporated milk and two tablespoons butter.  Do not salt or pepper it.  The salami will take care of the flavor.
  6. When ready to serve, heat briefly in the microwave.
Procedure for the topping:
  1. In a medium sauté pan, briefly cook the salami until some of its fat has been released.
  2. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms are slightly colored but have not yet released their liquid.
  3. Add the spinach and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the spinach has lost its raw color.
  4. Add 2 Tablespoons evaporated milk and simmer to reduce.
To serve:
  1. Mound the butternut squash on the plates.
  2. Spoon the salami and veggie mixture over the squash.
  3. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
  4. Serve.


Monday, February 8, 2010

VERY Tasty Turkey Patties

Nothing like adding fat to improve the flavor of ground turkey — or anything else for that matter.  These turkey patties were juicy and tasty and ... okay, so they weren't particularly healthy but they were good!

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3-4 slices pre-cooked bacon
  • 2-3 ounces cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tbl. mustard
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs, Italian flavored if you have them.
  • 1-2 Tbl. olive oil
  1. Finely dice the bacon and cheese.
  2. With your hands, mix turkey, bacon, cheese, mustard and bread crumbs.
  3. On a clean surface, smooth the meat into a 1/2 inch thick sheet.
  4. Using a wide-mouthed glass or round cookie cutter, cut equal-sized patties.  Remold the scraps until all has been used for patties.
  5. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  6. Sauté the patties 3-4 minutes per side.  
  7. Remove patties from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  8. Serve.
This made 9 "old-fashioned glass" diameter patties. 

UPDATE: This is more than one meal for us so we got to test them as leftovers the next night.  We "nuked 'em in the nuker."   A few seconds in the microwave, enough to hear them sizzle, brings them back to moist and tasty.  I can see mass-producing these for the freezer the next time ground turkey is on sale!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quick Fish & Corn Chowder

I've been hankering for some nice warm fish chowder.  Last night was a "teaching night" but fish chowder is one of those things you can throw in a pot and pretty much ignore.  When the potatoes are soft, it's done.

  • 8-10 ounces frozen fish fillets, thawed a bit and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Haddock loins work well here.
  • 3-4 slices pre-cooked bacon cut crosswise at 1/4 inch intervals.
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced and well washed.
  • Several baby or 2-3 medium new potatoes, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 1-1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can fat-free evaporated milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper.
  1. Put all the ingredients in a large covered sauce pan.
  2. Simmer.  When the potatoes are soft it's done.
  3. Serve.
Now, was that easy or what?  And warm, and creamy, and satisfying on a winter evening.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Clementine Chicken

Those wonderful boxes of clementines are too cheap to pass up this season of the year.  But, oh!  How can we consume them all?  Why not tuck chicken into a bed of clementine slices for a citrus-y, aromatic roast?

  • Chicken parts
  • Clementines, well scrubbed and sliced
  • Salt and lemon pepper
  • For option 2: 1 cup mixed wild and brown rice 
  • For option 2: 2-3 stalks celery, sliced
  • For option 2: 2-3 carrots, sliced
  • For option 2: 6-8 mushrooms, sliced
  • For option 2: 1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with clementine slices. End slices should be placed so that the flesh is facing the chicken.
  3. Lay the chicken, skin side up, in a single layer on the clementine slices.
  4. Salt and lemon pepper the chicken. Use black pepper if preferred.
  5. Cover the chicken with another layer of clementine slices.
  6. Bake one hour.
Serving option 1 — Roasted chicken:
  1. Check chicken for doneness.  Serve skin on, reserving couple of the better looking clementine slices for garnish.
  2. Optionally, discard remaining clementine slices and make a gravy of the pan juices by adding a "knuckle" of flour and butter to the juices and simmering until thick.  Adjust the gravy seasonings with salt and pepper.
Serving option 2 — Clementine Chicken, Mixed Rice & Vegetable Bake

  1. Discard the orange slices
  2. Set aside the chicken to cool
  3. Pour the pan juices into a glass measuring cup and add enough water to make two cups.
  4. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, discarding the bones, skin, cartilege, and fat.  Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.  Optionally, reserve the breast supremes for another meal.
  5. In the roasting pan left from baking the chicken, spread the rice on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Scatter the vegetables and chicken on top of the rice.
  7. Pour the juice over rice, chicken and vegetables and scatter a bit of rubbed sage on top.
  8. Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the rice is done.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Carnitas meets Cuban Sandwich - Pulled Pork and Annatto Paste

The other day I picked up some Annatto (Achiote) paste from the expanded Hispanic offerings at the nearby Food Lion.  Many of us consume annatto without being aware of it.  Annatto gives many cheeses their orange hue, some cheddars, Muenster, etc.  Since it is a natural ingredient it is not often listed on contents labels.  When used more heavily, it not only adds an orangy-red color but the slightly peppery-sweet flavor often gracing enchilada sauces and the like.  There are some lovely pictures of the annatto seed, pods, and flower on The Perfect Pantry blog.

Well, as followers of this site know, we now have a freezer-full of pulled pork and I've been ad lib-ing  no-knead bread varieties. We had Swiss cheese and some bread-and-butter pickles in the fridge. So supper the other night was pulled pork and swiss cheese on no-knead french bread, a paean to the Cuban sandwiches I used to get in New York.

Ingredients for two large sub-shaped sandwiches:
  • 8 oz. pulled pork
  • 2 tsp. annatto paste
  • 2-3 Tbl. catsup
  • 1-2 Tbl. tomato paste
  • 1-2 Tbl. chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbl. cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • 8-12 slices bread-and-butter or dill pickles
  • 2-4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 2 submarine rolls or french bread
  1. Preheat the broiler
  2. In a medium skillet, mix and quickly sauté the first seven ingredients
  3. Slice the rolls lengthwise
  4. Spread the meat mixture on the bottom half of each roll
  5. Top meat with pickle slices
  6. Cover with Swiss cheese slices
  7. Place the four roll pieces (two with the meat, pickles & cheese, two bare) face-up on the broiling pan
  8. Broil on a middle rack just long enough for the cheese to melt and the bare roll parts to toast
  9. Place the bare tops on the filled bottoms
  10. Optionally, flatten the sandwiches with a rolling pin for a bit of authenticity
  11. Serve while still hot

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Absolutely Easiest Pulled Pork, Or What to Do When Pork Shoulders are BOGO

A pork explosion has happened at our house!  Fresh butts (shoulders) were buy-one-get-one this week and since we were all out in the freezer, I took two home.  Now, wrestling two of them meant it was going to be tricky trying to turn them over every 45 minutes like I usually do without eventually burning myself by splashing the hot brine.  So, I decided to experiment and it worked great!  No rub this time.  Just brown sugar, sea salt, a splash of cider vinegar, and beef broth.

  • pork butt(s)
  • sea salt (2-3 teaspoons per butt)
  • brown sugar (1 Tablespoon per butt)
  • cider vinegar (1/4 to 1/2 cup per butt)
  • beef or chicken broth sufficient to fill each roaster to 1 inch deep
  1. Preheat oven to 275°F
  2. Wash any bone dust off each butt and place each, fat side down, in covered roasting pan(s)
  3. Spread salt and sugar on top of each butt
  4. Pour in the vinegar and broth, making sure not to wash the salt and sugar off the top.
  5. Cover and roast 5 hours.
  6. Remove butts from the brine and let cool.
  7. When cool enough to handle, shred the pork discarding any fat.
  8. Divide into meal-sized portions and freeze.
Later use can be as simple as thawing in the microwave and slathering with barbecue sauce.  That and a frozen veggie makes a very simple meal for a busy night.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Difference an Experienced (Jaded?) Palette Makes

My sister sent us 4 fillets mignon from a famous mail-order steak place for Christmas. Bill and I had two of them Christmas weekend and were, frankly, unimpressed. Yes, they were well aged and tender but didn't taste like much. Is it because they really didn't taste like much or because we are used to eating tougher cuts which develop more flavor like flank steak? Anyway, we had two more steaks to eat this weekend so I decided to pull out a recipe I had fond memories of from long ago.

The recipe for tournedos Renata is from The International Color Guide to World Cookery, a 1970s hodge podge of what were to me then, exotic, vaguely European recipes. The steaks are seasoned with salt, pepper, marjoram, and thyme. The mushrooms are cooked in brandy and cream. Thirty-plus-years-ago, I was WOWed -- or so it says in my handwriting all over the recipe.

Last night, I was bored. Looking back, I think I was wowed then and bored now because it was different from the food I grew up with. Cooking mushrooms with butter not margarine, real garlic, cream, and brandy would have been a new taste sensation for me. Not now. Now, this is pretty basic.

I've got to give that book credit. It taught me to make a tower of profiteroles aux chocolat and that pasta could be made from scratch -- although its cannelloni filling tasted like really high quality Alpo. It started me on the cooking adventure that continues to this day.

So, I will keep my well-worn copy of The International Color Guide to World Cookery, not so much for its recipes but for its memories.

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.