Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pork Chop Experiment | Onions and Garlic and Wine, oh my

And Shittake mushrooms! But that just wouldn't fit right in the cutesy title.

I really didn't feel like cooking tonight. In fact, after trying to convince my husband that HE could start dinner and I'd find the Bulls game (which he declared was NOT a fair trade), he started getting the pork chops seasoned for me. And he started rice. Yes, he is a good man.

I went in the kitchen and got one of the pork chops in the good old cast iron skillet. I also decided since I don't have to work for the next two days that tonight was a good night to open the bottle of wine someone gifted us with for Christmas. As I was standing there making sure the pork chop and broccoli didn't burn I thought hmm, I bet this wine would be good with these pork chops...(just another confirmation that wine makes everything better, even your thinking skills!)

I got some already chopped onions from the freezer, noticed the mushrooms and grabbed those too, and grabbed some garlic. When the first pork chop was finished, I added about a tablespoon of butter to the pan and let it melt. Then I added my onions and mushrooms. I let those cook until they were at least thawed and then I threw in about 2 tablespoons of minced garlic. The smells. Yum.

Next, I grabbed the bottle of wine. This was a pinot noir. I poured it in the skillet until it covered the bottom of the pan. I let it cook down until there was very little liquid left.

I didn't want to take any of the mix out of the pan, so I scooted it to the sides and put the second pork chop in the middle. Then, I loaded the mix on top of the pork chop and let it all cook.

Paired with broccoli and rice. (And yes, I only took half the "good" pork chop so my good man could try some of it). Man was this a crazy good experiment.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Chicken thighs & mashed potatoes in the Crock Pot!

Like the rest of the world, I love anything I can put in the crock pot and have done when I get home. I've been a little more creative recently, coming up with  my own concoctions rather than perusing Pinterest for ideas. Today's was a huge success. It was so simple too, which is even better.

I started with chicken thighs. I just used three since we're a family of two. I rinsed them, left the skin on, and put them in the crock pot. I seasoned them with cajun seasoning, lemon pepper, and garlic powder. I usually do the seasoning while they're in the crock pot, there's less mess that way. Once seasoned, I added 1 cup of chicken broth.

Next, two large potatoes. These were big, bake potato type potatoes. I peeled them and chopped them in big chunks, I'd guess around 1 1/2 inch cubes. Nothing neat, you just need big chunks. I plopped them all on top of the chicken. To give you an idea of how large these two potatoes were, you couldn't see the chicken once they were in. I added some more garlic powder and lemon pepper and turned the crock pot on high. It cooked for 6 hours.

When I got home this evening, I turned the crock pot off and scooped out all of the potatoes. This was a little tricky because the chicken just shreds right up after cooking in the broth for so long. I put all of the potatoes in a bowl with half a stick of butter and mashed them up. You could add some milk here, but I didn't find it necessary. The potatoes have so much juice to them from the broth, that the butter was just enough. I swear these are the easiest, real mashed potatoes I've ever made.

I made some green beans as a side and that was dinner. So much flavor, so much goodness.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Buffalo Chicken and Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potato fries are my new favorite thing. They're delicious and when they're homemade, they're actually quite good for you. Well, as long as you cook them in a manner that's good for you. Deep fried is deep fried, regardless of what it is :)

Have you discovered the Pioneer Woman? I've been using her recipes forever. Every one I have used has been fantastic. Her sweet potato fries were no exception. I was just feeding two, so here are my changes:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced to your desired thickness
2 T butter
1 clove garlic, minced
Seasoned Salt
Chili powder

As per usual, I did not measure the seasoning. A couple shakes of salt, a couple shakes of pepper, and a healthy pinch of chili powder all went into the melted butter and garlic. Also, I love garlic on sweet potatoes so there's a hearty dose in my version. The rest is all per Ree, 15-17 minutes at 450, flipping in the middle. Make them yourself. The frozen bags are easy, I know, but these are so delicious and they're not fried.

I didn't have any sriracha so I made the ketchup version of her sauce. It worked well, especially since I'm pairing them with buffalo chicken.

As much as I love sweet potato fries, the chicken was my favorite part. I am fairly certain that this recipe is in a Weight Watchers cookbook. Somewhere in our numerous moves since being married I lost that cookbook so it was really a guess at how it should go. As far as guesses go, this was a good one.

1 large chicken breast sliced into "fingers" (think human finger size, not restaurant chicken finger size)
2 T butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
~1/4 cup your favorite hot sauce (Frank's Red Hot is our fave)
You can really use as much hot sauce as you want. This was about perfect for one chicken breast. My recommendation is that you add it last so you can see how saucy it will be, you have a little more control that way.

I seasoned my chicken fingers with some cajun seasoning. Just a light coat. Cook your chicken in a frying pan until cooked through. I didn't use any oil or butter for this step. My dad and stepmom got me some pretty awesome pans last Christmas, so it's really not necessary. If you need to, I'd use it sparingly. Once they're cooked through add your butter, let it melt and add the garlic. Then add your hot sauce. Add as much as you desire and mix everything up in your pan. Let it cook a few minutes to heat the sauce well and you're set. So good and so easy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lettuce wraps and healthy eating

So, I'm just coming off a 10 day green smoothie cleanse. If ever you're interested in doing one I recommend JJ Smith's book. Great smoothie recipes and information. It's meant to help detox your body of toxins that you ingest. It does that and also helps you lose some pounds quickly (13lbs in 10 days for me!) Here's the thing about coming off 10 days of no meat, grains, dairy, or processed sugar...some of those things you love may hurt when you try to eat them again. My aunt makes the most delicious bread for Thanksgiving. The whole family looks forward to it every year and she makes plenty for us to all eat during dinner AND take a loaf home. Ours has been wrapped up in the fridge since then. Yesterday, my first day off the smoothies, I cut into the bread. I slathered on some butter and had myself two giant slices. I then spend the rest of the evening with stomach cramps and indigestion. Sad day folks. So, that being said, I think I'm going to try to cutting wheat out of my diet. That leads us to tonight's dinner.

My husband came home with a big thing of hamburger patties. The good kind. You know the ones. They're not frozen, they're thick, and they're delicious. But wait a minute, I'm trying to not eat bread. I've seen these wraps before, I figured what the heck.

One thing I have resolved is that if I'm going to eat healthier, I'm going to make sure I have all of those healthy things I LOVE so I don't feel like I'm depriving myself of anything. I took a trip to the grocery store this afternoon and bought a few of my favorite things. I really should have take a picture of what my burger looked like, it was quite pretty. So pretty that I ate it in about 2 minutes. I'm not sure I breathed. The pic below gives you a really good idea of what mine looked like though.

I had a nice big leaf of romaine lettuce and placed my grilled burger on one end of it.(side note folks: my husband bought me a grill that goes over the stove, it's amazing. He also seasoned the burger and made it for me while I was working. I have no idea what he put on it but yum). I next added a thick slice of tomato, a thick slice of onion and a quarter of an avocado. I folded the lettuce leaf up and dug in.

Can I tell you something? How delicious is a burger in lettuce! You can actually taste the meat and all of those favorite veggies of mine. It was so good. I had left over tomato, onion, and avocado so I folded them up in another leaf and had myself a veggie wrap as a side. Just fantastic. I'm very much looking forward to this new wheatless journey!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Smothered Pork Chops

Today was one of those days when I finished cooking and thought, "I totally nailed it."And then I took I bite...and I was right!

I actually used a recipe and followed it relatively closely. You can find the original here, by Aaron McCargo Jr. We haven't had cable since we moved a couple years ago. I swear the only thing I miss is the Food Network. Down Home with the Neely's, Big Daddy's House, my favorite used to be Ask Aida. She always made something interesting. Anyway. Smothered pork chops.

Here's what I did different. I didn't have 1 inch thick pork chops. I'd guess they were about 1/2 an inch. Since they were smaller I decided I would do more than 2. I prepared 3. I didn't bother dredging them in flour. It just dirties another dish. I sprinkle each side liberally, pat them down, and repeat on the other side. I only have whole wheat flour in the house, so that's what I used. This may have been why my sauce didn't thicken as much as I expected, but honestly I don't think it matters. It was still delicious.

Olive oil works just fine if you don't have grapeseed oil. I think grapeseed oil has a higher smoke content...I'm not really sure what that means but I always have olive oil so that's usually my go to choice.

I used my cast iron pan. Turns out 3 good sized pork chops won't fit! Luckily, I have another small cast iron that was perfect for one more chop. I just cut the remaining ingredients in thirds and divided them appropriately.

Now, I'm sure there's a difference between yellow onion and vidalia, but I had yellow on hand so that's what I used. I chopped half of a pretty large one. I also didn't measure the garlic. I buy minced garlic packed in water. It's just easier and if you pay attention to ingredients you can find some that's not packed with preservatives.

And the last change I made, I only used chicken broth. It's what I had, so it's what was used. Again, I don't think it did much difference to the flavor. It was quite tasty. I paired it with some lightly seasoned brown rice and green beans! Oh, and garlic rolls. Can I just tell you that the best part was probably dipping the garlic roll in the sauce. So good. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mac and Cheese

Do yourself a favor and go to this website and make this mac and cheese. Alton Brown is right on. I love that it's not made from a roux, so there's not any kind of grittiness to it, just creamy goodness. I will say, it was a little too mustardy for my liking. When I make it again, I will either it just use 1/4 t or cut it completely. And, don't fret about the hot sauce. You probably won't even notice it. I used Frank's Red Hot sauce, because we're (my husband) wing fanatics and we always have some. Enjoy the deliciousness.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Meat and Potatoes

I love my new job. Essentially, on 2-3 days a week I sit at my desk for 8 hours and answer questions about Epic. No, not the film, the medical records system. I went from microbiology to computer software training. Best decision of my life. They paid me to learn the program, teach their doctors, and now answer questions. It's amazing. The only downside is I sometimes work evenings. I know. If this is as bad as it gets, I am quite certain I will survive. So, being a lover of creativity in the kitchen, I have to do some planning ahead. Today, I did so with meatloaf and sweet potatoes. It was so EASY to put this together and then put it in the fridge until later. All I had to do this evening was take it out of the fridge and stick it in the oven.

Like I do with most recipes, I look at a bunch of them and then make my own. My research today focused on recipes that used oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs. It's healthier and works just as well. Most recipes seemed to agree with 1/2c of oats to 1lb of meat. That's really what I needed to know. Meatloaf is one of those meals where you can really be creative. You can throw in whatever spices and sauces you'd like and see how it turns out! For example, today I had an old marinade packet of seasoning. I've done away with most seasoning packets, so to find this in the cabinet was a little surprising. It was a backyard bbq marinade. I looked at the ingredients and decided it could go in my meatloaf. I also added 1 egg and some bbq sauce.

With meatloaf you have to get your hands dirty. Take off your rings ladies, and dig in. You get an even mix when you do it this way. You can also gauge more accurately how much liquid to add. I usually add my dry ingredients first. (SN: most meatloaf recipes call for 2lbs of ground meat. There are just two of us here, so I just use one. It tends to be perfect for dinner and lunch the next day. If you are cooking for more than 2, then definitely use the 2lbs and use 1c of oats and 2 eggs.) I mixed up my seasonings, oats, and ground turkey. Then I added an egg to the mix. You can beat the egg beforehand, I don't and it tends to be fine. After the egg is in I start adding other liquids. You can use bbq sauce, ketchup, really you can use anything you'd like depending on what flavor you're looking for. I opted for bbq sauce today with some Worcestershire as well. Start small, mix it up, and add more as you see fit. I probably added about 1/2c of bbq sauce. You don't want your mix to be soupy, it should still stick together, but you need to have enough moisture so it's not dry.

How do you top your meatloaf? My mom loves ketchup on top. I usually go with bbq. Sometimes, I make a beef gravy and serve it with mashed potatoes. Today, I had some bourbon glaze sauce in the fridge and I though, why not? I spread some on top and stuck the whole dish in the fridge. When I was ready to eat this evening I took it out and put it in the oven. Then I turned the oven on 350. I was baking in a glass dish, so this allowed the dish to warm up with the oven, rather than going from cold fridge to hot oven and risk breaking. Let it cook about an hour. Check on it or it may burn...

Since I went with a sweeter sauce for the topping, I went with sweet potatoes as the side. Can I just tell you how delicious this was?  I know you're looking at this picture and thinking, ha, she burned it. You're not wrong but, the bourbon sauce caramelized and it's fantastic. Happy cooking friends.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Beef Stew and Corn bread

It has been a LONG time since I've blogged. A really long time. And not because I haven't been cooking, I've cooked all sorts of new things. I'm just a slacker.

We've cooled down really quickly here in good old Indiana so, with fall rapidly approaching, I've had my slow cooker out often. This evening I made beef stew. I have this habit with vegetable soups and stews of just not following recipes. I tend to read a lot of them for ideas and then throw everything out and do what I want. Luckily, most of the time it turns out just fine.

My stew tonight was very simple. I love to cook but our schedules lately have been hindering the extent of how much time I have to cook. Case in point, I've just started eating dinner and it's 10:53pm. That being said, I like to call most of my cooking semi-homemade. I'm pretty sure there's a food network show that's based on the same concept. This is what went into my crock pot tonight: stew meat, a peeled and chopped sweet potato (honestly, because it's what I had and I've been trying to replace a lot of regular potato dishes with sweet potatoes), 2 cloves of minced garlic, about 3oz of tomato paste, salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley. I used 16 oz of pretty watery chicken broth, because I realized I had 1/2 teaspoon of chicken bouillon powder after I started cooking and I was not about to head to the store. Normally, I would use beef broth, but I didn't have any and frankly, I usually just make do with whatever's in the cupboard. I let all of this cook on high for 6 hours. You could probably leave on low for around 10 hours if you have the time.

When I got home tonight I mixed a 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour with about 3/8 cup of water. Once it was mixed well I added it to the stew mixture to make it thicken up. I also added a bag of frozen mirepoix mixed veggies (celery, carrots, and onion) and about a cup of mixed veggies (corn, carrots, peas, and green beans), hence the semi-homemade aspect. I let that cook for about 30 minutes or so, until the veggies were cooked through and the stew was hot again.

The real homemade aspect came with the corn bread. While the stew was cooking, I mixed up some homemade cornbread. I wish I could remember where I found this recipe. It's probably the best cornbread I've ever made. Sweet enough that you don't have to load it with butter, but you'll want to because delicious.
3/4 c whole wheat flour (1c if all-purpose)
1 c corn meal
1/3 c white sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
3 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 egg 
1 c milk
1/3 c vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9x9 baking pan or muffin tin. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add all the rest and mix until incorporated. Pour into pan and cook for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven. Mine are usually done at 20 minutes exactly and my oven runs hot.
You'll thank yourself for trying these out.