Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Easy Sauteed Salmon and Veggies. And a Cantore Story!

You guys.  Remember my post about the weather?  And how I mentioned my secret crush (I guess its not so secret any more!!!) on Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel and how I used to watch his Tropical Updates religiously when I was younger?

Turns out that my brother and sister-in-law's neighbor works for The Weather Channel.  And since my blog is so awesome (or so they tell me), my sister in law sent it to her neighbor who got a kick out of the weather post and had her husband (who's the one who actually works at The Weather Channel) show it to Jim (I think we're on a first name basis now.  Read below and you'll agree). 

Well, Jim seemed to get a kick out of it too, because he autographed a photograph of himself in a hurricane and wrote me a little personal note.  It says, "Ann, Thanks for Watching :-)" and then he signed it Jim Cantore with a little picture of a hurricane.  Swoon!!

My brother and sister in law wrapped it up (along with some other Weather Channel paraphernalia) for me for Christmas and it was the best present EVER (well, except for my iPad, but I'm sure Jim understands how awesome an iPad is).  I laughed so hard I cried.  And then I framed the picture and sleep with it under my pillow every night. 

What??  Totally kidding about that part.  I swear I'm not a lunatic.  I just really like The Weather Channel and its fearless on-air personalities.

ANYWAY, thanks Jim!  I love my picture and Weather Channel lunch box!

Now!  On to cooking.  This meal was super easy but it was so delicious and healthy, I decided to bless the interwebs with its presence.  And I also decided to tell you all about a little secret called Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt (can be found here).  So good!  I'm sure you can mix all the spices yourself (if you knew what they were), but I like Jane and I think you should get a can.  So, do that.

Sauteed Veggies with Garlic Butter
Source: my own, inspired by the Franklin Inn, Richmond, VA
(serves 2)

Small handful green beans (about 15 or so, trimmed)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into strips
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
10 mushrooms (I used baby portabellas), sliced
1 small zucchini, cut into matchsticks
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt
splash of dry white wine
splash of soy sauce
1 pat butter, unsalted

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium/medium high heat.  Add green beans first, stirring for a few minutes to coat.  Add the garlic and the rest of the veggies and saute for several minutes until soft.  Add white wine, soy sauce, and mixed up salt, stir, and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add butter and toss to melt.  Serve immediately with the salmon.

Pan Fried Salmon with Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt
Source: Jane, I guess

2 filets salmon, skin removed
2 tablespoons butter
1 tsp garlic salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt

Heat butter in a skillet over medium high heat.  Sprinkle garlic powder, pepper, and mixed up salt on the salmon filets (both sides), and press down to adhere.  Add salmon to the pan and sear on both sides.  Then allow to cook additional 3-4 minutes or until fork tender.  Don't overcook or it will become dry.  A little medium-rare salmon never hurt anyone.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Bourbon Glazed Chicken Breasts and Peppermint Mocha Martinis

Are you smarter than a 4th grader?  Turns out that I'm not.

A couple of months ago, I was in Atlanta visiting my siblings and one night, my sister brought over some tests to grade while we hung out at our brother's house.  She teaches fourth grade.  The quiz was Social Studies and I helped her grade them.  And by "helped", I mean looked over her shoulder and indignantly deemed her the meanest teacher of all time.  She marked some poor kid's answer wrong because the "T" in Tennessee looked like it MIGHT not have been capitalized!  Then I took the test and was REALLY glad she's not my teacher.  Because she's mean AND her tests are super hard. 

I'm not really sure how it came about, but at some point, we decided that instead of playing a family game of Wii bowling or cards at Christmas, this year, we would play "Are You Smarter Than A Fourth Grader?".  We would print out tests from my sister's class and everyone would take them to be graded by the mean teacher (who wasn't allowed to participate because that wouldn't be fair).  Whoever won would have bragging rights and whoever lost would be mocked and ridiculed for years to come.

The subjects were Social Studies, Science (specifically related to the moon and its phases), and analogies.  We all got a test and a pen (and a cocktail, of course...this isn't the lame kind of fourth grade) and got to work.  Grammar and spelling count, show your work, and no talking during the test.  It was intense.  Did you know that Amarillo was NOT the capital of Texas?  Or that half the moon is always dark?  And that there is something called the Gibbous phase in the lunar cycle (or something like that)?  Or that the order of the words in analogies count (of course everyone knows that, except, evidently, my brother)?  Or that the Louisiana Purchase wasn't purchased from Spain??

I'll go on the record by saying that the test was totally unfair!  Because its been a long time since I was in the fourth grade and since I was a business major in college, I didn't have to take classes like Science and Social Studies. in last.  I think I got a C.  My brother and my Dad tied for first, and neither was happy to not have that spot all to themselves.  There was a lot of yelling and heckling the teacher and desperate attempts at convincing her to give up another half a point here and there. 

I still think I'm smarter than the rest of my family, though.  I did, after all, get the Physics Award junior year in high school.  And I kicked all their sorry butts at Wii bowling the next night.

ANYWAY, I made this chicken last week when we had some friends over.  You always know its a success when their plates are clean 5 minutes after sitting down for dinner.  Or maybe they just hadn't eaten in days.  Who knows.

The chicken was super moist and had the perfect amount of spice vs. sweetness.  I don't usually love chicken on the bone, but it was a must for this one.  Skin, too.  I served it with truffle roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts.  And peppermint mocha martinis, of course.  Yum!

Roasted Bourbon Glazed Chicken Breasts
Source: How Sweet It Is

4 large, bone-in split chicken breasts (skin on)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups bourbon
1 1/4 cups brown sugar (I used 1/2 regular brown sugar, 1/2 Splenda brown sugar)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground mustard
sage, if desired

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the bourbon, sugar, mustard, garlic, honey, vinegar and worcestershire in a small saucepan and whisk. Heat over high heat and allow it to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until mixture reduces by about half. Set aside and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the chicken.

In a bowl, combine salt, pepper, paprika, chipotle powder, onion and garlic powder. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Season chicken breasts on both sides with mixture, then place skin-side down in the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown, then flip and repeat on the other side. When finished, add chicken to an oven-safe baking dish. Pour half of the glaze overtop of chicken, add sage leaves on top if desired, then roast for 30 minutes. Half way through cooking, brush chicken with a bit more glaze.

When chicken is finished, remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve with additional glaze for topping.

Peppermint Mocha Martinis
Source: Adapted from Pink Parsley

2 oz. Peppermint Mocha Kahlua
2 oz. Whipped Cream flavored Pinnacle vodka
1 oz. skim milk

Add ice cubes to a martini shaker.  Add Kahlua, vodka, and milk to the shaker and shake well.  Pour through strainer into martini glasses (making sure the ice stays in the shaker and not in your glass).  Garnish with mini candy canes, and enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lamb Chops with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce and Tuscan White Beans

I love lamp.  I mean lamb!  I love lamb. 

Last Friday night, we invited some guests of honor to our regular dinner with Uncle Brian and Auntie Lauren.  The special guests were my husband's parents, and I had lamb on the brain.  I went to the local butcher and almost had a stroke when the nice butcher man gave me a quote on 12 lamb chops (everyone needs 2 chops, clearly).  I backed out of the store slowly, like, "uhhh....I just remembered that I left the, uh, kitchen sink running....gotta go!".  Then I went to Fresh Market and got them for like half as much!  Even so, the butcher there asked me who I was making such a fancy dinner for and I said, "the in-laws!".  Dude was like, "honey, you do know that they're stuck with you now?  Like, legally.  You don't have to impress them once you're ALREADY MARRIED to their son".  Ha!  I'm totally going back there....that butcher is hilarious, and I didn't even mind that he called me "honey" because he was elderly. 

Anyway, the in-laws ARE stuck with me, but they are wonderful and they deserve all the fancy dinners in the world.  Besides, I got to eat the lamb, too.  Its not like I served lamb to everyone else and ate bologna sandwiches by myself in the basement with boxed wine.  No sir-ee, everybody wins during dinner at my house.

I made a quick red wine/mushroom sauce to serve over the chops and served them with Tuscan white beans and roasted root vegetables (prepared by the lovely Lauren).  And lemon sugar cookies (also prepared by Lauren because I don't know how to make cookies).  And we had wine, of course, but not out of a box. 

Then after dinner we played cards until 2:00 in the morning and didn't make it to spin class on Saturday morning.  Oops.

Broiled Lamp Chops
Source: Adapted from Cooking Light, January 1995

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
12  (5-ounce) lean lamb loin chops
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mash rosemary, thyme, pepper, salt, and garlic to a paste.

Drizzle oil over both sides of chops, and then rub garlic mixture over both sides of chops; cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

Place chops on rack of a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 5 1/2 inches from heat  5 to 6 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.

Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
Source: Adapted from Mount Bethel Winery

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup good quality red wine
1 1/2 cups beef stock
Salt and pepper, to taste

Add olive oil and butter to heavy hot saucepan. Add onions, garlic, mushrooms, sauté until mushrooms are tender. Add flour and cook about 1 minute then deglaze pan with the wine. Add beef stock and cook until thick and flavors are blended and the sauce begins to thicken. 

Serve immediately over lamb chops.

Tuscan White Beans
Source: Adapted from Epicurious

2 cans cannellini beans (I used canned, but dried would probably be better)
5-6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 cloves minced garlic, or more to taste
3 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste 
Drain the beans and put them in a saucepan with a little bit of chicken stock.  Heat over medium-low heat, being careful not to dry the beans out. 
Add the sage, salt, pepper, and garlic, stirring to mix.  Add about a tablespoon of the oil.

Remove from heat and put in a serving dish.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mayonnaise Roasted Turkey Breast with Smashed Potatoes and Garlic Mushrooms

Is it ironic that the day I write a post titled with the word "mayonnaise" is also the day that I hire a personal trainer?  I think yes.

In my defense, the mayonnaise was low fat.

And I'm hoping that my trainer will make me low fat, too.  I actually have experience working with a personal trainer.  It was about 3 years ago and I was super excited to get buff and told my trainer that I wanted him to work me out hard and not to take any mercy on me.  I told him I could handle it and that I didn't want any pansy workout.  Big mistake.  BIG!  I specifically remember asking him if it was normal that I tasted blood (allegedly its totally normal, which I still don't believe).  I also had to sit in my car when it was over, whimpering for like 20 minutes before I could drive home.  I couldn't lift my arms high enough to steer the wheel.  I also may have stopped at Chipotle on the way home, but THAT is not the point here.

The point is that this time, I think I will have my trainer ease me into things a little bit more so I don't throw myself off the roof after the first session.  I'm still going to work hard, but I'm also hoping I'm able to drive home...wish me luck!

Anywhooo, as part of an overall effort to eat healthier food in conjunction with being tortured by a red-shirted Gold's Gym employee, I made this here turkey breast.  I wish I had taken it out before the popper thingy popped up, but it was still really tasty.  And the garlic roasted mushrooms and smashed potatoes (I omitted the blue cheese and chives) were the perfect compliment.  Enjoy!

Mayonnaise Roasted Turkey
Source: adapted from
She Wears Many Hats

1 2-3 pound turkey breast (fresh, or thawed if it was frozen)
3-4 fresh sage leaves, rough chopped
3-4 fresh thyme stems, leaves removed and chopped
2 springs of rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
2-3 springs of oregano (I used about 1 tbsp. dried)
1/2 cup of mayonnaise (I used low fat)
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter, unsalted

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Lay turkey breast in a roasting pan.

Melt the butter in a dish and add sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and mayonnaise; combine well. Rub mayonnaise/butter/herb mixture all over outside of the turkey breast.

Liberally salt and pepper turkey.

Roast turkey in 450°F oven for 20 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 350°F.  Continue roasting, uncovered, until internal thermometer reaches 160°F.

Remove from oven. Cover with foil and let rest for about 20 minutes before carving.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Goat Cheese, Mushroom, and Arugula Stuffed Pork

So, uh....the weather has been pretty crazy, eh?

Have you ever noticed how obsessed people are with the weather?  And how, although its not usually all that interesting, its a constant source of conversation?  Its ALL over Facebook.  I can't check my feed on my iPhone without someone praising the weather or b!tching about it.  I know the weather at this very moment in most of the major US cities and many small towns no one has heard of.  People discuss the weather when they're forced into a small talk conversation with someone they have nothing in common with besides the fact that they are both humans living in a world that experiences,  They have a whole CHANNEL dedicated to weather!  I have 2, count them, 2 weather-related Apps on my iPhone.   In the few minutes before a meeting while we're waiting for everyone to show up, the conversation inevitably turns to how warm/cold/windy/rainy its been and how we can't wait for the next season, whatever season that may be. 

I really shouldn't make fun because I am kind of obsessed with weather, too.  When I was younger (and by "younger", I swear I mean middle school and not like 3 years ago), I used to watch The Weather Channel for hours on end.  I knew that I could count on Local on the 8's, and the Tropical Update at :50 past the hour.  I think its finally time to admit I had a crush on Jim Cantore.  I mean, I know he's a little old for me, but seriously, isn't he BRAVE!?!?  Standing on a pier during a hurricane, braving the elements for the sake of his loyal followers?  He risks his life for us, people, to stand on the beach in a rain slicker and tell us how the hurricane actually turned towards the north at the last minute and missed land altogether.  But, well....better safe than sorry.

I write this post tonight because the weather here IS awfully crazy.  It was like 70 degrees today and then it rained really hard and the wind blew about 1000 miles per hour and then when it was over it was like 40 degrees.  If that's not worth discussing, I don't know what is.

ANYWAY, I like comfort food when its raining, but I'm on a diet, remember?  So I made healthy comfort food and it was just as tasty.  Wine is also comforting, for your information.

Cinnamon Apples
Source: My own, inspired from my days of working at Chili's!

2 green apples, sliced into wedges (I used pre-sliced apples from Trader Joe's and kept the skin on)
1 1/2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Splenda
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Melt butter in a small skillet and add apples.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and stir gently.  Add Splenda and brown sugar, stir to combine.  Allow apples to saute for 10-15 minutes or until soft and the butter/sugar mixture forms a caramel-like sauce.  Serve hot.

Goat Cheese, Mushroom, and Arugula Stuffed Pork
Source: My own

1 medium pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and butterflied
1/3 large log of goat cheese (probably 4 oz. or so)
2 handfuls arugula
1/2 cup mushrooms (I used baby portabellas), sliced and sauteed in 1 tbsp butter
3 sage leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste

Heat over to 425.

Heat butter in a small pan and add sliced mushrooms.  Saute until mushrooms are soft, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.

Butterfly the pork tenderloin to make it lay flat and create an even work surface.  Season the pork with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Crumble the goat cheese and spread across the middle of the pork (leaving the crumbles, no need to literally "spread" it on there).  Place arugula on top of the goat cheese and the sage on top of the arugula.  Top with the sauteed mushrooms.

Carefully fold the pork over in half so edges meet and press together.  Make sure all of the stuffing is "stuffed" in there so it doesn't leak out during cooking.  Secure with toothpicks or cooking twine if needed.  Season the outside (both sides) of the rollup with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. 

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.  Remove from oven and allow meat to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Serve with cinnamon apples and green beans!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Leftover Mashed Potato Cakes

You guys!  This is my 100th blog post!  And I'm wasting it something that isn't really even a recipe, so well....beat THAT for lame-ness.

I made these bad boys and didn't even eat any (well, except for one bite of my husband's and we all know the calories don't count if it comes from someone else's plate).  That's because I'm working really hard to lose some lbs, because I don't currently feel that I'm at my optimal cuteness factor.  And also because I have a doctor's appointment soon and those evil nurses always make you get on the scale and then they write down your weight on their little tablet without saying anything at all.  I am convinced they are judging me.  My nurse weighs like 14 pounds and my doctor weighs 12.  That doesn't help.  But the good thing about getting weighed in the winter is that you can subtract like 15 pounds for boots and your coat.

Anywho, in order to motivate myself, I printed out pictures of myself from 4 years ago when I was a skinny little thing and I taped them to the refrigerator.  I have no idea if this will even work and if I can actually shame myself into eating healthier, but I figure its worth a shot.  Plus, I am vain and every time I'm in the kitchen I can take a gander at the photos and be like, "damn girl, you were looking GOOD!".

My husband said these were really tasty.  I believe him!

Leftover Mashed Potato Cakes
Source: my own

Leftover mashed potatoes (how ever much you have!)
1 cup shredded cheddar (I used low fat)
1/2 cup of flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp Old Bay
2 tbsp butter
sour cream and applesauce for dipping

Season the flour with salt and pepper, garlic powder, and Old Bay.  Mix the cheese into the potatoes and form into patties.  Dip patties into the flour mixture to make a light coating on both sides.  Melt butter in a pan over medium heat.  Once melted, fry mashed potato cakes in the butter until brown and crispy on the outside.  Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hot Spiced Apple Cider with Bourbon

I'm the lamest cooking blogger ever.  I mean, we just finished the most epic cooking/eating holiday ever and I have nothing to show for it besides a measly little cocktail (figures, huh?).  I had 2 Thanksgivings in 2 cities with 19 total family members and 6 dogs.  There were dozens of dishes that were lovingly prepared and scarfed down as if we hadn't eaten in years.  And through all of this, I took 0 pictures and will blog about a total of 0 Thanksgiving dishes.  Sorry.  It was all really good, and I'll try harder next year.

BUT!  Thanksgiving and the weekend following it was lovely and tons of fun.  Some highlights (in chronological order so people don't think I'm rating family memories in terms of fun-ness):

1) Going to happy hour at a retirement home.  Did you know some retirement homes have bars in them?  And that between 4:30 and 6 every night, you can have 2 free drinks?  Who says getting old is hard?

2)  Throwing classiness to the wind and eating buffalo chicken dip as an appetizer for Thanksgiving.  Sure, it was a little out of place next to baked brie and a lovely Pinot Noir, but who's counting?

3) My husband's grandmother preparing a centerpiece for the serving table and including a neon patterned Nerf football made for dogs along with the flowers and greens.  In her defense, it did fit into the vase perfectly and the colors did kind of match.  Like the sweet people we are, we pointed and whispered and laughed.  And then left it there for the duration of the evening.

4) My dear, sweet Dad insisting upon sleeping on an air mattress in the study so his obnoxious offspring and their mangy pets could have the comfy beds in the house (HIS house, mind you).  And then one of said mangy pets leaving a little "nugget" on the floor of his study, right underneath when the air mattress goes.  And, one noticed the nugget until the next morning and we found it squished onto the bottom of the mattress.  At least it was the bottom, right?  Silver lining.

5) Spending an afternoon at a local winery with a friend.  The lady running the tasting room had a heavy hand and, like me, seemed to appreciate a healthy pour.  Free wine is always good in my book, especially when its enjoyed on a mountaintop with fried oysters and good company.

6) Nightly card games between several of the most competitive people on earth.  We duke it out for who gets deemed the sorest loser...its hard to choose just one.

All jokes aside, I had a moment on Saturday where I literally thought to myself, "life can't get any better than this".  I feel very blessed indeed and wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's.  Because the one I have is a darn good time and I have the best family and friends a girl could ask for.  So, let's have some bourbon!

I don't know where I even got the idea to make apple cider bourbon drinks, but I sure am glad it came to me.  This was so easy and delicious.  We felt so fancy drinking these bad boys!

Hot Spiced Apple Cider with Bourbon
Source: my own recipe

1/2 gallon apple cider
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
1/2 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 lemon, sliced
8 oz. good bourbon (recommend Knob Creek)

cinnamon and sugar combined on a small plate

Combine apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, brown sugar, honey, and lemons in a crock pot, and heat on low for a couple of hours.  Leave on low to keep warm.

Wet the rim of a rocks glass with lemon juice and dip into cinnamon sugar mixture.  Add 1 ounce (or more if you like) of bourbon to glass, and then carefully pour hot cider in to mix.  Enjoy immediately.  And then again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chorizo Stuffed Pork Loin and Arugula Salad with Maple Dressing

I've been meaning to blog about this amazing meal for, like, forever.  Or since Friday when it was born.  But much to my dismay, I haven't been able to think of a story I felt like telling alongside the recipe for chorizo stuffed pork and arugula salad with maple dressing.  I guess I could just say that we made it, ate it, and then drank a bunch of wine and then at midnight, while playing Wii bowling, we all decided we should go REAL bowling.  We piled into the car (driven by someone fit to drive, of course) and headed to the classy bowling alley down the street.  Despite my stellar skills at Wii bowling, I'm quite terrible at real bowling, especially after midnight.  It was shameful.  I think I only broke 100 once out of 3 games, and it wouldn't have been SO bad, except for the fact that on the way there, I announced (loudly) at least 5 times that I was really awesome at bowling and was going to kick everyone's butts.  Talking smack doesn't work if you can never back it up.

Anyway!  That's all I've got for today.  Its rainy and gloomy outside and things are awfully slow here in my home office today.  Makes me want to take a nap (not that I would EVER do that).

I had been wanting to make this cornbread and chorizo stuffing for awhile and we thought about making Friday Night Dinner a practice Thanksgiving, but the boys nixed that idea.  So instead we decided to butterfly a large pork loin and stuff the chorizo mix in there, roll it up, and bake it with a little spice rub on the pork.  It was amazing!  And luckily since we cooked at our house, we got to keep the leftovers!  We served this with garlic butter roasted mushrooms and arugula salad with pomegranate seeds, blue cheese, bacon, and maple vinaigrette.  Yum!  And totally easier than it sounds - enjoy!

Roasted Pork Loin with Cornbread Chorizo Stuffing
Source: highly adapted from Epicurious

For the stuffing:
1 pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casings removed (I used chicken chorizo to make it healthier)
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook the chorizo, breaking it up with a spoon and stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have browned, about 10 minutes. Add the crumbled cornbread and cilantro and gradually pour in enough of the stock so the stuffing is not too dry but not too wet. Stir gently.
For the Pork:
1 pork loin roast, 3-4 pounds
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove fat from pork loin and butterfly, so that it lies flat (almost like a thick pizza crust).  Spread cornbread chorizo mix evenly on pork, going about an inch from the edge.  Press down to adhere and then sprinkle chopped cilantro onto the mixture.  Carefully roll pork loin (like sushi!) and secure with cooking twine.  Combine spices in a small bowl and rub mixture onto rolled pork.  Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake 20 minutes.

Lower heat to 350 degrees and bake 20 additional minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 150-155 (make sure you insert thermometer into the meat itself, not the stuffing).  Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing into 1" slices.

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Dates, and

Blue Cheese

Source: My own creation

For the salad:
1 bag baby arugula
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
3 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped (I used apple cinnamon flavored bacon from Whole Foods, and it was AMAZING)
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
7-8 large dates, pits removed and chopped

For the dressing:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2-3 tbsp apple cider
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon maple syrup (I used sugar free)
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

Combine first 7 ingredients (through salt and pepper).  Slowly add in olive oil, whisking to combine.  Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cola Braised Pulled Pork and Stovetop Mac and Cheese

You guys.  Have you ever seen the movie, "The Strangers"?  Its basically my worst nightmare realized in the form of a completely ridiculous yet painfully believable showing of cinematic genius.  Its about these people who make the mistake of answering the door to a stranger in the middle of the night and then they are terrorized and killed for no reason.  Sounds classy, huh?  I literally couldn't sit still while we watched it and instead paced the room, yelling at my husband, "why are they DOING this to me!?!?!  I can't even look!  Turn it off!  NO WAIT, leave it on!!!" and then I would plug my ears for the really scary parts. 

Ever since I watched that movie, I've been kind of scared to sleep in our house alone at night.  Because I'm convinced that I'll wake up to someone knocking at the door, and we KNOW that once that happens, its all over.  I often lay in bed and plan my escape routes should someone break in to come and get me.  I decide whether to hide or scream like a banshee and try to escape, depending on where the imaginary intruder might enter the house.  I think about if I climb out the window, how do I get Lola (the dog) out the window too?  Do I grab a butcher knife or a baseball bat?  Or neither!?!?  Its very stressful, just thinking about it.  And then of course when I go to sleep, I dream about it, too.

My husband was out of town this past week, and of course like a huge idiot, I start thinking about The Strangers as I'm getting ready for bed.  And then I have nightmares and lay awake, listening for the dreaded knock on the door.  Good lord, writing it down makes me sound a little bit crazy.  Anyway!  So then I can't go back to sleep right away because if I do, the dream will pick up right where it left off.  So I have to watch something on TV to get my mind off things.  I had a bunch of DVR'd episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and that show is not scary at all.  It was perfect!  Until I fell back asleep in the middle of the third one.  My stranger dream picked up right where it left off, except that this time, instead of trying to kill me with a knife, the intruder tried to kill me by suffocating me with a pork chop.  I kid you not.

Anyway, now that I've confirmed that I'm completely insane, let's talk about pulled pork, shall we?  Made this for Monday night football when the Eagles lost to the Bears.  Shameful.  The pork, however, was anything but.  I could eat pulled pork every day.  But then I'd be too fat to climb out the window when an intruder comes.  So we'll keep this filed under the "once in awhile" bucket.

Crockpot Pulled Pork Braised in Cola
Source: Tasty Kitchen 

1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 large Bone-in Pork Butt
1 whole Large Onion, Peeled
1 cup Cola (can Also Sub Cherry Cola Or Root Beer - I used Dr. Pepper!)
4 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar (divided In To 2)
1 cup BBQ Sauce (homemade, recipe below)

In a small bowl, combine all of the dry spice ingredients for the rub. Liberally season the pork roast all over with the rub. You may have extra left over, I save it for later use in an empty spice jar.

Slice onion in half crosswise, then cut those slices in half again so that you have 4 large pieces, or dice it if you prefer. Separate the onion into rings. Lay almost all of the onion in the bottom of the crockpot, leaving a few rings for the top. Place roast on top of the onions and lay the rest of the onion on top of the roast. Pour cola and 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar over roast. Cover, turn on low, and cook for 7 hours. After 5 hours check to see if the meat is pulling off the bone.  If it is you are ready to shred, if not check it again in 30 minutes.

When the pork is ready, remove it from the crockpot. Pour out the juices into a large measuring cup or bowl. Set aside. Remove onion from crockpot. Either use them to top sandwiches, or slice them up and add them later to the shredded pork.

Using two forks, shred pork and return it to the crockpot. Mix 1 cup of BBQ sauce with 1/2 cup of juices, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar. Pour over the shredded pork and toss gently to coat the pork. If it isn’t wet enough, add a little more juice, if you like it thicker, add more BBQ sauce. Keep it on warm until you are ready. Then serve and enjoy!

Emeril's BBQ Sauce
Source: Emeril!

4 cups ketchup
1 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup pure cane syrup, or molasses
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Creole or other spicy whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon or other hot pepper sauce  
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Easy Mac and Cheese
Source: Sunny Side Up

16 oz box pasta, I used small shells
2 Tbsp butter
12 oz can evaporated milk
2 egg, beaten
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp red pepper optional
1/8-1/4 tsp Black Pepper
2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese (I used gouda and cheddar mixed, and it must be freshly grated)
Salt to taste

Boil pasta shells 1-2 minutes short of the suggested time on the box. In the meantime, combine the evaporated milk, eggs, mustard powder, and pepper in a large measuring cup and whisk together.

Drain the pasta in a colander and then return it right back to the hot pan. Reduce heat to low. Add the butter and stir until melted.

Carefully add the milk egg combination to the pan, stirring constantly to avoid making scrambled eggs. Stir for 3-4 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Add the cheese in 4-5 increments, making sure that each addition is completely melted before adding the next.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with Mona's Egg Salad Sandwiches

Oh hey there!  Me again.  Been traveling for the past few days and am just now settling back into a routine (not that I have a routine at all....but if I did, I'd be settling into it).  I was in Nashville and Atlanta and got to see some old friends and their cute baby, Thomas, AND my sister and sister-in-law, and my darling niece, Blair.  I even babysat for her and didn't scar her for life.  Super win.

I had some successful meetings and closed tons of business.  Woot!  That's the good news.  The bad news is that I learned that Hyatt Place hotels are not the same thing as Grand Hyatt hotels.  Not the same at all, people.  I wish I had known that before I booked Hyatt Places while I was gone...I've turned into such a snob.  The Hyatt place in downtown Atlanta was the first time I've locked the deadbolt AND chain lock in a hotel, like, ever.  Oh well, live and learn.  And only book Grand Hyatts from now on.

Anyway, I haven't cooked in like a week but luckily I have some tasty things saved up so I don't have to abandon my blog.  I'm sure all 12 of you who read this would be real sad if that happened.

This chicken noodle soup was ah-mazing.  A perfect concoction to enjoy on a chilly weekend, and it was super easy.  My husband did happen to mention, however, that I made his mom's egg salad wrong because I used Duke's mayonnaise instead of Helman's.  He's right that I used Duke's, but he is NOT correct in his assessment that its somehow inferior to Helman's.  I mean, really.


Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
Source: Smells Like Home

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery, medium-diced (1 cup)
3 carrots, medium-diced (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups wide egg noodles
2-3 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots, garlic, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Pour in the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook for 10 minutes, then add the chicken and parsley. Continue cooking until the chicken is heated through and serve immediately.

Simple Egg Salad
Source: My mother-in-law, Mona

8 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
3/4 cup mayonnaise, or to taste
1/3 cup yellow mustard, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
couple sprinkles of garlic powder

Mash cooked and peeled eggs in a large bowl.  Add mayonnaise and mustard and stir to combine.  Adjust mayonnaise and mustard amounts as needed.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve on white sandwich bread.