Memory Meal

In honor of a very special man Mr. J’s family lost I wanted to remember him at home since the  memorial service wasn’t for a while. I asked Mr. J’s Gram what Gramp would pick if he could have anything to eat. She said: pork chops, apple sauce, and sweet potatoes.

I took a spin off these and went with it. I made Sweet Potato Anna and Rye-Stuffed Pork Chops with Apple Thyme Pan sauce. It was good. Definitely not a light summery meal but it was a cool and rainy day which went perfectly!
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Rye Stuffed Pork Chops with Apple Thyme Pan Sauce
I found this recipe on a blog called A Sweet Chef check it out. This recipe looked amazing on there! I have nothing against apple sauce but thought adding apple into the pork would be more my style.

Ingredients:

For the stuffing
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, separated
1 cup rye bread, diced small (about 2 slices)
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup dried apples, diced
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves (I went with dried)
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the chops
2 boneless center-cut pork chops (about 5 oz each)
1 tbsp. olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the sauce
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. shallots, minced (I used onion instead)
1 tsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
chopped fresh thyme leaves (again, I used dried)
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
(I added in a smidge of maple syrup for sweetness)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toast bread in 1 tbsp. butter in an oven-proof skillet over medium high heat until crisp and then transfer to a bowl.  Return pan to heat.
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Saute onion, celery and apples in 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat until soft.  Stir in thyme.  Add vegetables to bread cubes.  Toss mixture with broth, vinegar and seasonings until liquid is absorbed.  Wipe out the skillet.
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Prepare chops.  Fill pockets with bread mixture.  They will be full, but you’ll probably have some left-over stuffing.  Saute chops in oil over medium-high heat until brown on one side, about 3 minutes.  Carefully turn the chops over and add any extra stuffing to the pan at this point.  Transfer pan to the oven.  Roast about 8 minutes, then remove the chops and stuffing from the pan and set aside.  Tent with foil to keep warm.
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Saute shallots (onions) for the sauce in 1 tbsp. of butter in same skillet over medium heat.  Add flour and cook for 1 minute.  Deglaze the pan with cider, wine and vinegar.  Simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Finish sauce with thyme, salt and pepper.
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Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Anna

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato peeled & sliced thin
3 tbs melted butter
1 tbs dijon mustard

Directions

Slice the peeled sweet potato into thin slices (I used a mandolin)
Melt butter and mix mustard in
layer potato slices and drizzle butter on each layer adding salt & pepper too
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Bake 425 for 30 minutes until the edges are brown& crispy!
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Easter Recap: Better Late Than Never

We’re now closer to Cinco de Mayo than Easter, but I’m just now catching up.Some things have to be absolutely the same. My Easter basket is one of those traditions I need. During Easter my first year of college I unexpectedly received a replacement basket for Easter at my parents house! GASP! I don’t dramatically overreact too often, but that was one of them. Dad ended up on a chair or a ladder pulling baskets down until we had the right one. Phew. It was iffy.
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Another tradition inside that basket is a dark chocolate egg. I get coconut creme and Mr. J gets fudge, with our names written on top.

Easter dinner was hosted at my sis’ house. We have a fantastic meal and she’s becoming quite the chef! Check out her tablescape! She’s all about the seasonal decor. (She also loves making trifle and I’m impressed with her creativity to use the trifle dish!)
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I made a dip- more about that later.

Our first course was a Baked Potato Soup from Cooking Light. The traditional loaded potato items were on the side for a garnish which made the soup itself a bit lighter since it didn’t include cups of cheese.
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The main course was a Tuscan pork roast, zucchini and corn saute, and a sausage and sourdough stuffing.
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The pork roast had rosemary, garlic, and it was delicious. Sis didn’t like the zucchini and corn side dish, but I did so I took the leftovers. It had some vinegar and I thought it was fresh and tangy.

Chopped at Home

I love watching Chopped not only for the food factor, but the competition aspect! I’m not always in the mood to be told how to make something on another cooking show. Plus, that 10-second countdown at the end of each round? Eeeek! It’s also fun to see where the chefs have come from and I love some of the judges.

My sis and I play chopped sometimes. It brings us back to the days of Ready-Set-Cook from ‘95. Ready Set Cook had studio audience members bring mystery ingredients to cook along side the chef.

On Chopped, there are 3 rounds: appetizer (20-minutes); entree (30-minutes); dessert (20-minutes).  Each round includes a basket of mystery ingredients which need to be included (in any amount) in the meal with any of the pantry items. We don’t always make 3 courses and we definitely don’t have a time limit.

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My ingredients:

Cannellini Beans
Zucchini
Israeli Couscous
Whole Peeled Tomatoes

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Sis’ Ingredents:

Leeks
Thin Cut Pork Chops
Spam

Our Meal:

Pork chops in mustard sauce
Couscous with spam and leeks
White bean, leeks, zucchini, and tomato hash

Directions:

Chop the leeks and bathe or salad-spin the dirt/sand out of them.
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Mix dijon mustard, chopped garlic, salt and pepper together and spread onto the pork chops while a grill pan is heating.
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Drain tomato and bean cans before dropping into a skillet. Add leeks, chopped zucchini and season generously with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning.
chopped_hash_290_200Finely chop spam and pan fry as if it were bacon.
Start cooking the couscous while adding spam and leeks. This will take about 5 minutes so set the pork chops on to grill.

The spam was totally the curve ball here. I have to say, it’s not as weird when sliced into small strips and fried until crispy. Sis and I eat our share of pork so we went with it.

The pork chops were good! I think our sauce had a nice not overpowering flavor. It was a good quick fix that will come in handy sometime in the future.
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I loved the hash. It also provided a good vehicle for leeks 2 ways. It was fresh and a nice medley.

We toasted the couscous before adding the liquid for a more nutty flavor. Spam was the salt factor and dropped leeks in as well.
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Overall, I think our meal would have scored well…it did by our critique! Sis’ idea for leeks 2 ways was a good one…it tied everything together. I ate the leftover veggie hash for lunch and it was still good. I probably wouldn’t have given much credit to canned tomatoes but it was a great variation from my usual sides.

In the past we’ve made ratatouille stuffed, pita chip crusted pork tenderloin with green beans and no-bake chocolate marshmallow cookies.

I highly recommend you try this game sometime! It’s a good challenge to use something you have on hand or to try something new…spam?

I have several of birthday meals to post soon (Figs, Amrheins, and the Mac & Cheese Taste-Off) so stay tuned!

The Pork is More Than Just Brine…With Butternut Squash Risotto

I don’t end up cooking much meat so I’ve never brined meat before but there’s a first time for everything. I was excited for a new technique.
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I set the country style boneless pork ribs set up in brine for the workday. The pork should absorb a lot of liquid and when this cooks off, the meat will be more tender. True story.

Ingredients

2 cups ice cubes
1 cup cider vinegar
¼ cup salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbs peppercorns

Directions

Boil cider vinegar.
Add salt and sugar stirring until dissolved.
Add ice cubes and peppercorns.
Put pork into the brine and let sit for 8 hours.
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To cook, remove from brine, smother with bbq sauce and bake for 1 hour, covered.
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The pork came out smelling amazing! It was uber tender. Fork tender…no knives required. It would have been really special with homemade barbecue sauce but was so good and I was really happy with it.

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I made butternut squash risotto to go with it. I love risotto and don’t make it nearly enough. It is creamy and delicious with so many variations! I’ve made a weight watchers one with tomato juice and zucchini. The tomato juice makes it red, flavorful, and creamy without being overly acidic. Enough about that, onto today’s risotto.

Ingredients

1 cup aborio rice
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups butternut squash
½ cup white wine
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions

Toast aborio, stirring consistently until golden.
Heat broth and wine on medium low.
Steam butternut squash and add to rice.
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Add ½ cup broth until absorbed and repeat until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Serve with plenty of Parmesan.
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The risotto was sticky and delightful. The squash was a perfect addition. What a great orange color! Needless to say, I ate leftovers for days. I thought making a ½ cup of rice might be weird to have strange quantities but we definitely had more than enough. Maybe arancini will be a fun use of these leftovers.

Itsa meatball!

I made meatballs for the first time ever. Well, not never, but I made them by myself for the first time. I can’t eat red meat so if I want meatballs, they have to be turkey and it usually means I eat them at home after buying them.

When I was little I remember making meatballs. My mum would put all the ingredients into a bowl and dad would let us help roll and cook them. I think as a kid I probably thought she was “letting us help” but it was probably more that she doesn’t like to handle meat with her hands because of the “ick” factor.

We would get some cooking and then make a big one with all the remaining mix and giggle relentlessly before continue to roll them.

Even after buying some frozen turkey meatballs at Trader Joe’s (theirs are the best!). I decided to make some and they were AMAZING, if I do say so myself. This is a prime example of a simple meal, made with really great ingredients, and letting them speak for themselves.

Ingredients

¾ pound ground turkey
2 links sweet Italian sausage
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup milk
2 tbs parsley
2 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs Parmesan cheese
½ cup red wine
salt & pepper

Directions

Remove sausage from casing.
Mix bread crumbs and milk. Let sit a minute.
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Combine ground turkey, sausage, egg, parsley, garlic, Parmesan, wine, salt and pepper. Add breadcrumb mix and combine well.
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Form into balls depending on your size preference. I went with larger ones.
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Heavily oil a baking sheet.
Bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees, turning every 10-15 minutes to evenly brown.
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I was so happy with these! I thought sausage would provide enough fat for moist meatballs instead of proscuitto or bacon, but those would be good too. I was super diligent about turning them to ensure that they cooked evenly. I could have fried them but baking them was way easier.

I’ll continue to purchase them but they weren’t a big deal to make myself. The wine was a HUGE flavor enhancement. A few glug glug glugs of a pinot noir that was already open definitely added some depth of flavor.

They smelled simply amazing! Have you met my sous-chef Windsor? He was standing by, under my feet in our tiny kitchen as usual. I think he was super excited to see what delicious item was coming out of the oven! Even with that cute face he still doesn’t get anything I make.
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Part of my inspiration to make some came from another blog I love We Are Not Martha. Theirs were featuring prosciutto and were pan fried. I literally read the recipe and thought, ooo red wine would be good with these as I channeled my wine-loving college roommates as inspiration. Parsley isn’t my favorite so I just used dried parsley. Rosemary would be good.

I served these with a basic red sauce and spaghetti. I thought my meatballs were good enough and deserved to shine! I’m so proud!
meatball_plate_290_200I didn’t make a ton of meatballs but now that I know this recipe is a winner I’m sure I’ll make more and freeze them. I will probably also make some cute little ones to freeze for appetizers or soup. They aren’t that much effort and I keep thinking about all the exciting additions! Spinach very finely chopped would be good, sun dried tomatoes, maybe a little nugget of mozzarella? Mmmm the possibilities are endless. I also love sweet & sour meatballs which would definitely highlight these guys.

Rachael Ray’s Balsamic Pan Gravy is delish

Rosemary Pork Chops with Balsamic Pan Gravy

I thumbed through Rachael Ray’s Express Lane cookbook features meals with 10 ingredients or fewer. Her recipes always take me longer than 30-minutes but I like that she often substitutes ingredients and features everyday ingredients. I had trouble tracking down the recipe online but I saw it on another blog too.

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I adapted it and didn’t make the sides Rachael Ray made with this dish. I’m a strong believer that if I’m making something new or different then I’m better suited to focus on one new or one more challenging item and one easy or tried & true. Sauces aren’t my forte but I was intrigued with this and Mr. J likes anything with a sauce!

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Ingredients

5 tbs olive oil
2 slices of thick cut bacon (RR reccomends 12 thin slices soppressata)
2 center cut pork loin chops 1 inch thick
salt and pepper
2 sprigs fresh rosemary sprigs stripped and finely chopped
1 tbs garlic, diced
1 cup vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tbs butter (RR uses unsalted)

Directions

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat to cook bacon until crispy, about 4 min and then remove from pan. While the bacon is getting crispy, season the pork chops with generous salt, pepper, and rosemary on each side. When the bacon is done disgard drippings, put bacon to the side and heat olive oil.

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Cook pork chops 5 minutes per side. Once the pork chops are done, transfer to a platter and cover with foil or keep in warming oven.
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Heat garlic and balsamic vinegar, cook 30 seconds and add stock. Bring to a bubble and cook 5 more minutes or until there is only 1/2 cup of liquid left in the skillet. Turn heat off and add butter, stir until butter is melted and add bacon back into the sauce.
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I loved this and thought the baslamic flavor was great and would definitely make it again. I thought it would be great with wilted greens and white beans.

I made steamed broccoli and some Trader Joe’s cornbread stuffing. The stuffing was only ehh but was handy to have around.
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