Monday, May 11, 2009

I'm moving! Over to my own domain -

I've mainly got my new layout fixed and LLB Designs finished my logo, so I'm hopping over to my own domain. Change your bookmarks and hop on over to - no need to type blogspot or www or anything else, just

The switch is to give me more functionality and to make things like my categories searchable and hopefully one day, findable from a straight google search.

Head my new direction. one more time

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Continuing the Mother's Day Theme, My Mama's Braised Pork Chops

This week seems to have made me very nostalgic for my mother's recipes. My mama taught us all so much about cooking. When I was younger, Marti and I always used to tell a then much much younger Hannah, "This is how southern women learn to cook!" while taking turns holding her and making meals. I've been so blessed to have so many family, friends, and roommates who love to cook, all who've taught me new basics, recipes and techniques. But the foundation came from my mother, so on Mother's Day it's only fitting that I would cook her pork chops.

This method of cooking pork chops yields such a tender wonderful result. Braising takes awhile to reach the perfect point, but really after the browning process, they're simmering on the stove, not actually requiring attention just time.

Smoked paprika is everywhere in the culinary world right now. It seems to be featured on every food show, in every month's food magazines and all over the internet. We've always made this recipe with regular paprika, but I decided to try it in a dish I knew well to taste the difference first. I don't really think I'd repeat it for this recipe, but the smell straight from the jar is fantastic. I'd definitely be willing to try it on deviled eggs or broiled chicken. I think maybe the slow braising process might not have been a good match for the smokiness to present itself. It's not that it tasted bad, it just didn't add anything and if you smell the two spices side by side, there is a definite difference. It also would probably be delicious as a topping on hummus.

3 thick or 6 thin-cut pork loin chops, bone-in (we prefer thin)
2 tbsps butter
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Generously season pork chops with paprika, salt, and pepper. In a large saute pan, melt two tbsps butter on medium heat. Turn heat to high and brown pork chops on both sides. If using thin chops, brown in two batches. Cover with water so that just the tops are showing and simmer at least an hour on low heat. Longer the better. Serve with a side of the broth for dipping.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chocolate Souffle

I started making this chocolate souffle recipe recently and it has jumped to my new favorite desert. I'm not entirely satisfied with this picture as my presentation so I'm going to remake this weekend and rephotograph for you. The key to souffles is all in the egg whites. I was trying to make this version while attempting to do bedtime for my two preschoolers. I'm not even sure if that's the correct terminology for my kids as one technically isn't old enough for preschool, but they're bigger than toddlers.

Anyway, our current bedtime routine looks something like, bath, jammies, books, long discussion over which room and which bed(s) they are going to sleep in, me beginning to lose my temper, finally tucking in somewhere, with one extremely picky over proper blanket placement. Then the bigger one talks to the little one, or knocks on the wall or something, so the little one comes running out to "announce" this irritation, an average of 3-5 times. Anyway, it's pretty chaotic. So that's my backstory for my kind-of screwups on this souffle.

Souffle's have a reputation for being difficult and apt to fall and a whole lot of hassle. This one is very simple and has only 3 real ingredients. I'm not a huge dessert person, but I do like chocolate, and I like to make things for other people who really like dessert. This souffle tasted good, and it did rise, even if not to quite as beautiful a presentation as I usually have. But everything that went wrong, was because of my egg whites, which I knew were totally off so considering, I think this was a really great result.

When attempting to beat egg whites to stiff peaks, it works best to have your eggs at room temperature. I succeeded there - though usually that's the part I screw up, and it has always turned out fine anyway. I started out wrong by absentmindedly leaving the flat beater on my Kitchen Aid instead of my wire whip. You want the wire whip because the whole goal is to incorporate enough air into the egg whites to form first the soft peaks, then later the stiff peaks. Then I didn't notice until I'd been beating the eggs for so long they'd already been abused and weren't savable- really they'd passed on to that ribbony texture that's kind of a yellow-y color instead of fluffy white clouds. So I turned off my kitchen aid and did what I could with my regular old wire whisk, like I should have in the first place, and got them as fluffy as I could.

I should have just started over with new eggs, but sadly, those were the last four eggs in my fridge. I though about calling my neighbor, but she's moving (I'll miss you Genny!) and I hate bothering people after dark. Anyway, moral of the story, souffle's aren't as finicky as you may have believed, cause it all worked out fine - or edible at least.

After I made altered to this version of the recipe I ran the nutrition information for a friend once, so if anyone wants it....

Nutrition info per serving:
choc 150 cal fat cal 60
sugar 48 cal
yolk 27 cal fat cal 21
whites 16 cal fat cal 1
butter 25 cal fat cal 25

Calories 266 fat cal 107 - not too shabby for a real dessert!

1/4 cup of sugar minus 2 tbsps for sprinkling
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
4 large egg whites

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 4 ramekins, then sprinkle with sugar, shaking out excess. In a double boiler, melt chocolate in top portion over barely simmering water. Stir occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat, add egg yolks, stir, mixture will look thickened. Beat egg whites plus a pinch of salt on medium speed until it forms soft peaks. Add remaining sugar, slowly while continuing to beat, then increase speed. Beat until stiff peaks are formed. Stir a large spoonful of whites into chocolate mixture, then gently fold in remaining whites.

Spoon into prepared ramekins, then run your thumb around the inside edge of your ramekin (helps in rise process). Bake in middle of oven on a cookie sheet until risen and crusted, but center still jiggles, about 15 minutes, but I start checking by the minute at 12 minutes. Enjoy!

Soft peaks - when you pull up your whisk peaks droop slightly to one side
Stiff peaks - when you pull up your whisk peaks stand straight up and don't fall
Fold in whites - gently turning half your mixture over other half, not stirring - which would be to jarring on your fluffy egg whites

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Crispy Chicken Breasts with Baked Potatoe and Roasted Zucchini

This crispy chicken is made with panko breadcrumbs. I really don't know how I made it before I knew about panko. It seems like I use panko very frequently and I've probably only known about it for about 5 years. Panko is made from crustless bread, coarsely ground, resulting in a light extra crispy texture. Regular breadcrumbs can seem so dense, panko doesn't absorb your egg or oil and maintains a light and beautiful presentation. I also prefer panko for crab cakes or salmon croquettes or other mixed seafood cakes.

My roasted zucchini is made in my cast iron skillet. I used to do it in a regular All-Clad Saute pan, but the cast iron seems to yield crispier roasted vegetables. I also roast broccoli and asparagus this same way. I used to steam vegetables exclusively, but we all prefer them roasted.

In retrospect on the chicken, I would pound it a little in the future, to break it down a little/tenderize a bit, but this result was good and would work well sliced for a salad dish also.

1 c. flour
2 eggs
1/4 c. water
1/5 c. panko
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
canola oil
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Spread flour over one dinner plate. Mix eggs and water together in a wide, shallow bowl. Spread panko over another dinner plate. Season flour with salt and pepper and stir thoroughly. Dredge chicken in flour, coating evenly and shaking off any excess. Then dip in the egg and finally, the panko. Coat evenly.

Heat a large saute pan on medium high heat. Add canola oil to barely cover bottom, swirl for even coating and heat another 2 minutes or so. Test oil heat with a pinch of flour, if it sizzles immediately, you're ready. Brown chicken breasts in a single layer on first side 4-5 minutes, then turn and brown second side 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Watch heat and underside of chicken to prevent over browning, but use caution when flipping to avoid scraping off breading.

4 zucchini, halved then sliced into 1/2 inch moons
olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Toss zucchini in olive oil, salt, and pepper, coating evenly. Roast in oven about 20 minutes, until liquid has released and zucchini are slightly shriveled. Turn once with wooden spatula to even browning.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mama's Meatloaf and One More Day with Dinner on the Table

Some nights, it's tricky just to get dinner on the table. I like our meals to be special and even more so, now that I'm attempting to write about them. But sometimes what matters is simply providing my family with something to eat.

Luckily this meal was made with all on hand products. It's taken me years to be able to cook anything, much less a balanced meal, without a trip to the store. If you cook often enough, staples add up and eventually dinner can be served even after being out of town. This isn't the healthiest meal ever, but it was quick, comforting, and sufficient.

I'm one of those aliens that actually likes meatloaf. Well, my mama's meatloaf. I'm not sure if I'd like anyone else's. My mom used to make this meal for me whenever I came home. And because we're cut from the same mold, she too felt guilty that meatloaf wasn't "special" enough.

The neon yellow looking rice is Mahatma's Saffron Yellow. I love these packets for several reasons. They cost about 50 cents, which seems unreal. They are a nice quantity for two adults and two toddlers. I tend to grossly over-make rice quantities and we are not very good at using leftovers. It's quick, but not Minute Rice quick. The package takes 20 minutes. Minute rice may only take five, but it's quality is pretty squishy and poor, IMO.

The broccoli came from one of those steamer bags they're carrying in the frozen aisles these days. My husband bought it, I probably never would have so I've no idea how much it cost. In the grand scheme of things, steaming broccoli in a double boiler is pretty easy anyway, and it makes me a little nervous microwaving in plastic. But in a pinch, it was an easy on-hand, not quickly perishing vegetable option.

I'm not a huge fan of bell peppers. A really nice thing about them though, is they freeze well. I freeze a partial in a plastic bag and it will last up to a couple of months, just pull out, slice, and add to your dish, no need to thaw.

1.2 lbs ground beef
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1/2 a small green bell pepper, cored, seeds removed, and very finely chopped
1 egg
1 handful oatmeal
2 tbsps ketchup
6 strips bacon
can tomato sauce
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt

In a large bowl, combine beef, onion, bell pepper, egg, oatmeal, ketchup and spices. Mush into a loaf in a large glass casserole. To cook more quickly, make a shape that is flatter and longer, not more than 1 inch thick. Cover with strips of bacon and cook in oven preheated to 375. After 30 minutes, remove from oven, remove fat from casserole with a spoon. Pour tomato sauce over top of meatloaf and return to oven. Cook another 10-15 minutes and remove from oven. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chicken, Carrot, Kalamata Olive Pasta Salad

This started as a what-do-I-have-on-hand meal. I wanted to run get some feta, but we decided that would defeat the purpose and could be added to the leftovers later. It had a very nice flavor and was pretty simple. We ate it warm, but I'm pretty certain that it would be good cold as well. *update - yep good cold, too*

My sister adopted an olive tree for me for Christmas last year. Nudo sent a very nice package including a description and picture of my tree, as well as a spring pressing package of olive oil and a fall flavored package. The olive oil was outstanding and I totally need to re-up my adoption as well as order some extra. I highly recommend this gift for any foodie friends or yourself. Caution, you may wind up wanting to drink the olive oil.

3 chicken split breasts

olive oil

kosher salt


fresh ground pepper

3/4 c. pitted kalamata olives, sliced

3/4 c. sliced baby carrots

3/4 c. Italian Parsley, chopped

1.5 c. penne pasta

1 shallot, chopped

2 tbsps olive oil

4 tbsps champagne vinegar

1/8 tsp ground mustard

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

3/4 tsp murray river salt

Preheat oven to 400. Season chicken with salt, paprika, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 170.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add penne, cook for 6 minutes, add carrots cook another five minutes. Drain, add to large bowl.

Shred chicken with fork, add to pasta. Add, parsley and olives. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, mustard, pepper, salt, and shallots. Stir then pour over pasta dish. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chicken Marsala with Cremini Mushrooms

Food can bring back memories, and memories can bring back food. I went to a wedding once, not one of my finer moments. The wedding was for one of my now husband's cousins. At the time, I was busy having a nervous breakdown about the fact that I was still not engaged and being asked to step out of family pictures. My husband is from a very Italian family. His uncle is a deacon in the Catholic church, and this wedding was for the eldest of his four daughters. So aside from the fact that I was totally inappropriately dressed (dress too red, too dressy, and too revealing to boot), somehow in my anger/sadness/worry about my impending need to dump my boyfriend because he wouldn't propose, I had a bit too much to drink. The meal was catered by another Italian friend, and the entree was Chicken Marsala. I don't think I'd ever had chicken Marsala before, but in my memory, it was delicious. The next morning, I wasn't so sure.

Anyhow, that night is not one I've often liked to revisit over the years. As we close in on a decade since the event, I suddenly had the desire to attempt my own chicken Marsala. I love that my husband is from a very Italian family. I've always joked that I'm a first generation American. Not that *I* emigrated here, but our lineage is becoming such the melting pot, I don't even know what to call myself other than American. My mother is quite the genealogist and would assure you that this is not true, and that we have very specific western European lineage, but combine that with my dad and it's all pretty muddled at this point. When my husband's grandfather was dying, I cooked a lot of meals for him. It was the only thing I knew how to do, the only way I knew how to contribute. I'd try to cook things he liked or asked for, but a renal diet is rather challenging. But I think Grandpa would have liked this chicken Marsala. Not that he was picky with me, he mainly said everything I cooked was wonderful. In fact once he joked that I could cater my own next wedding. (Which I definitely do not plan on having!)

So I completely spaced out when planning what to serve with this dish. I completely forgot about pasta all together. After ruling out couscous (we had it last night) and black beans (totally inappropriate) I settled on lentils. The husband and kids liked it, but the sauce would have been much more suited to pasta.

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, butterflied, then pounded thin
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
olive oil
5 tbsps butter, divided
16 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups dry Marsala wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
chives for garnish

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge each in flour in a shallow bowl. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil, then 1 tbsp butter. Shake excess flour from chicken, then brown in skillet, about 3-4 minutes per side, minding your heat and adding additional olive oil to your chicken to keep the flour browning. Only cook about 3 chicken pieces at a time. When browned, remove chicken to plate and set aside.

Add 1 tbsp butter to skillet then add mushrooms. Cook over medium high heat about 6-8 minutes or until liquid has released, and mushrooms begin to brown. Add Marsala wine and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half. Add chicken stock, garlic, lemon juice, and remaining 3 tbsps of butter. Cook 4 more minutes, then add chicken back to skillet. Cover and cook 6-7 minutes, turning once. Serve over pasta and garnish with chives.