Sunday, August 28, 2011

Quick, Easy Pork Chops

Wow. Where has time gone. It seems just yesterday that the month of August was just beginning and now it's almost at a close. Time has flown this summer. I've moved out of my parents house, had my sanity tried, learned how to grocery shop, learned that a dishwasher is a precious commodity, become an expert at making grocery lists, attempted to adjust my cooking for 2 instead of 4+ (not always successfully!) and  now it's back to school tomorrow. What?!
Instead of juggling cooking for two and various household chores, I'll be juggling books and schedules and homework papers. I'm not sure where dinner will fit in between going to class (ew, class at 5pm til 8pm!) and homework but I suppose it'll work out somehow.
I've been testing out recipes to find ones that will work with both my and DB's schedules. His schedule, unfortunately, tends to run opposite mine; he sleeps during the day and works at night, which leaves little time for an elaborate dinner.

These pork chops from Simple and Delicious fit my criteria perfectly. Easy, fast, tasty, and everything on hand. Done and done. DB pronounced them "Awesome" and I have a feeling they will be on the menu in the future.

Sadly, I only have a (very bad) picture of the finished dish, but it's so quick and simple to prepare, the pictures wouldn't show much.

4 bone-in pork loin chops (the loin chops at my grocery were way too thin so I bought boneless country style chops and pounded them to an even thickness)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 cup sliced onion  (I used 1/2 an onion, sliced)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, brown chops in oil. Remove and keep warm.
In the same skillet, saute onion until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the Worcestershire sauce, honey and mustard to the skillet; stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Bring to a boil. Return chops to the pan. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender.

Served with quick microwaved snow peas and carrots. I hope you find this dish as delicious as DB and I did.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Project Lasagna

Wow. I just finished one of my biggest cooking projects ever. Homemade lasagne. Completely homemade lasagne. Well, almost. I did not make the sauce from scratch, though I'm thankful I didn't because this lasagne was intensive enough.

It all started when I remembered a recipe for homemade ricotta. "I should definitely make this!" I thought. Once I finished that I that (delicious) endeavor, I looked around and saw a recipe for 1,000 layer lasagna. Must. Make. This. And what an undertaking that was. It was the most intense lasagne I've ever made. Actually I think that was the first lasagna I've ever made. And it's the best.

First comes the making of the ricotta:

Heat 3 cups of milk, one cup of cream, and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan until it reaches 190* or, if you do not have a thermometer, until it's almost simmering and there are lots of bubbles around the edges.
Take the pan off of the burner and stir (not too much!) in 3 Tablespoons lemon juice. Let this mixture sit for about 5 minutes  (note: this resulted in ricotta that was more the texture of marscapone. I think if the mixture sits longer it will "curd" up more and be grainy-er) then pour it into a cheesecloth lined colander. I used a thin dish towel instead.

I tied it to the faucet to drain better since my colander is not very perforated.

Drain the ricotta for about an hour and then scoop into a container or eat warm.
I seasoned the ricotta for my lasagna with dried basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. (Not pictured)

For the lasagna:
Prepare yourself because this is going to be a long process. I think it took me about 2 hours, and that was with the meat sauce (jarred, and I added cooked ground beef to it) and ricotta prepared ahead of time. Maybe do some yoga and soothing chants.

Make the pasta dough.

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons water

Mix together the flour and the salt in a large bowl. Crack in the eggs and add the water. Mix with your hands or a spoon until it forms a dough. Turn it out onto the counter and knead until  the dough is smooth and supple feeling. To see a video on how to knead dough look here. Cover the dough with a dishtowel, overturned bowl, or whatever and let it chill out for an hour. This lets the gluten relax and makes it much easier to roll out.
Now at this point I referred to 101 Cookbooks for directions on rolling:

"Thin out your pasta using a pasta machine. Start by cutting the big sheets into 2-inch(ish) wide ribbons. This means making 2 cuts along the sheets. This should yield you about 12 2-foot strips. Run them through the pasta machine. I go to the 8 setting, one shy of the very thinnest setting. The sheets should almost be translucent. Cut the strips into manageable rectangles roughly 4-inches in length."
My pasta roller only has six settings and at 5 they were almost translucent. Your mileage may vary. I found it much easier to roll as I layered the lasagna.
Spoon some sauce into the bottom of your dish (I used 8x8in baking pan. My sauce was just jarred sauce thinned out with water and had ground beef added. The water helps the pasts cook) and put a layer of pasta on top. Spoon some more sauce on top, then a pasta layer, etc. My layers went something like this from bottom of pan to top:

sauce and mozzerella cheese
sauce and mozzerella cheese.

Or something like that; there were a lot of layers. One assembled, bake this monster at 375* for about 35 minutes then let it cool for 10 minutes.

Slice it up and devour 2 pieces because you deserve it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Zucchini Wednesday

Have you ever had something you originally thought was bad turn out to be something good? That happened to me last week. I made a recipe that I was super excited to share but then I got a phone call. My apartment needed some repairs so DB and I had to by out by Monday for a week. Okay, fine, but between rushing to pack an overnight bag, driving to my parents house (Thanks Mom!) and various other distractions, I didn't have time to think about posting. Fast forward to today, to dinner. I had a zucchini recipe I wanted to try and luckily my parents had all the ingredients in the fridge. So instead of sharing one zucchini recipe, I get to share two! Great way to get rid of all that zucchini taking over your garden!

This first recipe was very impromptu; I needed to get rid of my perishable food and wanted something that DB would eat. It turned out really well :-)

Zucchini Bolognese, heavily adapted from Simple and Delicious
The recipe was mostly used for inspiration, I hardly followed it.

First, get your water boiling then add the pasta. I used penne.
While the water is coming to a boil and then while the pasta is cooking, chop up one onion and one zucchini. I quartered the zucchini.

Saute these in about 2 tablespoons oil until crisp tender then pour in spaghetti sauce (I used about half a jar)
Season the sauce to your liking and then let simmer.

I really like Francesco Rinaldi spaghetti sauces. They have the right amount of seasoning without being overpowering and are nicely chunky too. The tomato flavor is good and not overcooked like some sauces tend to taste. I like to add a few pinches of dried basil to my sauce and also a tiny bit of Lucini balsamic vinegar. I abosolutely LOVE this stuff. It's expensive but definitely worth it. It makes the sauce taste fresh but also more "home cooked". Just adds a brightness that is so, so good. But feel free to doctor your sauce however you like, or make a sauce as outlined in the original recipe.

Anyway, the pasta should be done by this time so go ahead and drain it and then top with the sauce. Feed to whatever hungry humans are lurking in your house.

Recipe #2- Crescent Zucchini Pie, from Taste of Home, adapted slightly because of what I had on hand and my inability to read thoroughly
This recipe is my favorite of the two and I will definitely make it again with a few changes. I would prebake the crust for a few minutes before filling because it got a bit soggy and I would not add a splash of milk (I thought the filling looked dry. Do not worry though because the zucchini leaks liquid as it cooks). Also, the recipe did not specify how thin the zucchini should be sliced and I would have like it to be thinner. I'll use a mandoline next time.

  • 1 tube (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent rolls I used garlic flavor- definitely recommend!
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 cups sliced zucchini-
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cubed  - whoops, forgot this but didn't miss it
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese I used cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oreganoI substituted the parsley, basil, and oregano for a few shakes of Italian Seasoning Blend.
Press the crescent dough into a deep dish pie pan and spread with the mustard. Saute the zucchini and onion in the butter until tender. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cheese, seasonings, and the zucchini mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the crust and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Watermelon Limeade

Since the month of August has shown its head I've been seeing more and more recipes featuring watermelon. Watermelon tonics, watermelon jam, watermelon sundaes- you name it, watermelon has probably been mixed with it. I came across the Watermelon Limeade in a Simple and Delicious magazine I stole from my mother. I had set aside a recipe for Watermelon Lemonade from Smitten Kitchen 2 years ago and that's what I had originally planned on making. But the Limeade edged out the competition because it require no squeezing of citrus or making of simple syrup (Yes, I am allowed to be lazy!)
Here's how to make it!

Hack up a watermelon, preferably one that has been chilling out in your fridge for the last 2 weeks.

Cube it into medium sized pieces. Mine were a little large. Measure our 4 cups. (Handy Tip: place your cutting board inside a rimmed baking sheet to avoid juice running all over the counter)

Dump the 4 cups of melon into your blender or food processor and grind it up into pulpy delicious-ness!
Pour this grody looking mess into a fine mesh strainer and let the juice strain out. Help it along with a spoon if you want.

Here's the strained juice. Isn't it pretty?

Pour it into your juice container.
Then measure out 3/4 cup of limeade concentrate. Mine was half frozen and had a totally funky texture. Gooey...

After you're done marveling over the funky juice, pour it into the juice container. If you want to make a bubbly version, add 2 1/2 cups of carbonated water right before serving or just add it by the glass.

And there you have it, Watermelon Limeade. The version here is not bubbly because DB had yet to arrive with my carbonated water....sigh. Still, I love how pretty this is!

(Recipe from) Watermelon Spritzer by  Taste of Home/ Simple and Delicious

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Breakfast Time!

Mornings have always been a challange for me. I hate waking up early and any communication between myself and another person usually just sounds like grunting. Sadly, I'm not of the coffee drinkers camp so waking up is slightly more of a challenge. Since I'm usually half asleep, making a complicated breakfast isn't really in my best interest. Enter the old stand-by: Cereal. Just add milk and, BOOM, done! Only one dish to clean and there are plenty of varieties to choose from.

Unfortunately, I never realised how expensive cereal was. I eat about one box in a week-and-a-half and with my favorite cereal averaging $4 a (small) box, I wanted to find an alternative. I like granola-type cereals (such as Kashi Berry Crisp, yum) so I thought giving homemade granola a whirl. Result? Crunchy cereal with healthy dried fruits and no unhealthy additives. It's simple and so easy to customize for individual tastes.

Granola with Dried Fruit
adapted from King Arthur Flour

I tweaked this recipe a lot. First, I halved the recipe because it makes 18 cups of granola and I didn't want that much. Second, I didn't add a lot of the ingredients called for since I didn't have them on hand. I left out the coconut, wheat germ (subbed a small amt. of wheat flour), almonds, and sunflower seeds. Lastly, I used half Orange Blossom honey and half corn syrup instead of pure maple syrup. It added a nice floral element to the granola without overpowering it.

3 1/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/3 cups wheat flour (this helped make crunchy clumps)
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup orange blossom honey
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2  cups total of raisins and dried apricots, apricots chopped
1 cup Rice Crispies

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, wheat flour, and chopped pecans.
Make sure you use humongous pecans like I did (Terri Lynn has the best nuts...hahahaha)

In a measuring cup, measure out the oil, honey and corn syrup, then add the salt and vanilla to this mixture and stir. Pour over the oats and mix until well coated.

Spread onto a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for about 90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Once the granola has finished baking pour into a large bowl, chop up the fruits and stir them in along with the Rice Crispies (I would have added these at the beginning, stirring them in with the oats, but I forgot).                                                                     

Voila! Granola!