Monday, March 28, 2011

Laurie's Pork Chops & Gravy

I’m really not a big pork chop fan. Generally, I think they are tough and bland. But, these pork chops (my mother’s recipe) are tender and full of flavor! They cook for so long, they literally fall apart when taken out of the oven- no knife required! The “gravy” is really just a can of cream of mushroom soup (please use regular ol' Campbell’s condensed!) & water that thickens as it cooks for hours in the oven. I have tweaked this recipe ever so slightly by adding butter, garlic and carrots; I'm confident my mother would approve!

Mom made these a lot for us growing up. If you ask my brothers and me, we would all say this is definitely one of our favorite meals Mom makes!

4 pork chops
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbl butter
2 tsp. dried thyme (divided)
1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 c. onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 c. carrots, cut into rounds
1 c. CAMPBELL’S cream of mushroom soup (condensed)
1/2 to 1 can of water

1. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. Put butter & oil in a large frying pan over medium heat (make sure the frying pan you use is oven-safe)
3. Place two heaping tablespoons of flour in a shallow dish. Add salt, pepper and 1 tsp dried thyme to the flour and mix with a fork. Place the pork chops in flour mixture making sure all of the chop is covered in a thin layer.

4. Put the pork chops in the pan. Fry for about 5 minutes, till nice and browned, and then flip chops to the other side. After the flip, scatter the onions, garlic, carrots and remaining 1 tsp of thyme in the pan around the chops. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring the onions, garlic & carrots occasionally.

5. Add the whole can of mushroom soup to the chops. Fill the soup can half way with water and add to pan. Stir. Put a lid on the pan and put it straight into the oven.

6.Cook on 350F for one hour, then check the chops. If you feel the gravy is too thick, add another 1/2 can of water. Lower the over temperature to 300F and cook for another three to four hours, until fork tender.

I serve these pork chops with *mashed potatoes & roasted green beans with almonds. I ladle the gravy all over the chops and potatoes. Good ol' comfort food! Yum!

*I have found that Alexia makes the most incredible frozen mashed potatoes that you cook in the bag in the microwave! I mean, how easy is that!? I promise you they are delicious! Give them a try and give yourself a break from boiling water!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mini Pancake Muffins

These muffins are light and airy and taste just like a pancake! I love the flavor the cinnamon adds! Serve them at breakfast, instead of a stack of silver dollar pancakes! My boys ate 6 a piece the other day for breakfast! They were shouting, “More!”, but, I had to save a few for the others in the family (including myself!)...

1 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon OR 1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbl melted butter
2 Tbl sugar
2 Tbl maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 c. + 1 Tbl plain yogurt OR sour cream
2 Tbl milk
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350
Grease a 24 mini-muffin pan with cooking spray (you will only get 20 muffins, though).
In a large mixing bowl mix together the melted butter, sugar and maple syrup. Add egg and mix. Add the yogurt (or sour cream) & milk and mix.
In another large mixing bowl add flour, powder, soda, salt & cinnamon (or vanilla), whisk with a fork to combine all dry ingredients.
Add half of the dry mixture with the wet. Stir. Add the rest and mix until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Put approx. 1 Tbl of batter into each mini muffin cup (I use a little melon baller scooper). Bake for 9-11 minutes (until the muffins spring back when you touch them).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Harvest Bread

Yum, yum, yum, oh yummy, yum yum!

1 c. whole wheat PASTRY flour (this is much lighter than regular whole wheat flour)
1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbl cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. apple, grated with skin on (about 1 large apple)
1 c. carrots, grated (about 2 carrots)
1 c. zucchini, grated (about 1 zucchini)
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. buttermilk*
4 eggs
Two loaf pans

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In a large mixing bowl combine flours, sugars, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg & salt. Use a whisk to combine all dry ingredients. Add the grated apple, grated carrots, grated zucchini and walnuts to the flour mixture and toss well. Add canola oil, buttermilk & eggs. Mix well and stir till everything is combined.
3. Spoon batter evenly between two 8X14” loaf pans. Bake for 50 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes. Remove breads from pans and cool completely before slicing with a bread knife.

*Baking Tip! If you do not have buttermilk on hand you can mix 1/2 c. plain yogurt with 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice or white vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes before using.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Apple & Sage Hamburgers

A great tip for making juicy, savory burgers is to use beef AND pork in your patties! It really takes the flavor of your burger to another level. And these burgers are all about flavor! Sage, chives, greek yogurt, Tabasco, spinach, apples...yeah, they’re all in there! Don’t be scared...give these “sophisticated” burgers a try!

For the Burgers:
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 Tbl sage, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
4 wheat hamburger buns, toasted
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled & grated
fresh spinach leaves

For the Topping:
1/2 c. Greek-style yogurt (I like Fage)
2 Tbl mayo
2 Tbl finely chopped chives
3 shakes of Tabasco sauce (more if you like it hot!)

1. Heat the grill
2. Using your hands, thoroughly combine the pork and beef together along with the chopped sage & salt. Form meat into four hamburger patties.
In a separate bowl make the topping by combining yogurt, mayo, chopped chives & Tabasco. Set aside. Using a traditional cheese grater, grate the Granny Smith apples. I like to take the apple after it’s grated and squeeze the excess juice out of it over the sink (if you don’t, I’m afraid your burger might be dripping with apple juice!).
3. Grill patties for 4-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Take note that meat always continues cooking for a couple of minutes after it’s off the grill (just let it rest for a few minutes before serving). Resist the temptation to cook the heck out of it- it will yield a very dry burger!
4. Spread the mayo/chive topping on the top of each toasted hamburger bun. Put a good amount of spinach on the bottom bun. Next the patty, then the grated apple and the top! Open wide because this is one big burger! Enjoy!

*I serve these burgers with Alexia sweet potato fries (have you had these before? They are to die-for good!) and a strawberry/banana smoothie! YUM!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bacon, Gruyere & Pepper Biscuits

These biscuits are simple to make and make an “oh so delicious” accompaniment to any meal! My boys enthusiastically shout “bacon biscuits, bacon biscuits” when I make them for dinner. You know, you could also slice them in half and make a sandwich out of them for lunch! Come to think of it, these savory biscuits would be great for breakfast too (smothered in gravy, I imagine). Basically, they are good any time, day or night!

2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1-2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper (catered to your spice preference)
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbl cold butter, cut into little cubes
1 c. shredded gruyere cheese
4 strips cooked bacon, finely chopped
1 c. buttermilk*

1. Heat over to 350F
2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, powder, soda, pepper & salt.

3. The next step is to “cut in” the small cubes of butter. Some people use a pastry knife to do this- which is just fine. I prefer to use my hands- it’s just easier for me. Basically what you do is “grind” up the butter into the flour mixture using your fingertips until it is fully incorporated and the whole mixture resembles coarse meal. If you have never done this before, please do not be’s super simple and hard to mess up- biscuits are easy like that!

4. Next gently stir in the shredded cheese and cooked bacon crumbles. Toss lightly to combine. Add the buttermilk until the mixture forms a soft, slightly sticky ball
5. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and form into a light ball. Place each ball on a greased cookie sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 16-20 minutes until the biscuits are light brown on the top.

*Here’s a great tip! If you do not have buttermilk handy, you can substitute it for this simple mixture (let it sit for five minutes before using):
1 c. of milk + 1 Tbl fresh lemon juice OR 1 Tbl white vinegar=
1 c. buttermilk

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Anniversary Mushroom Wellingtons

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary! Hard to believe it has been that many years...they have flown! So, in honor of our big day, I decided to go all-out and make my husband one of his favorite dishes. This isn’t the easiest meal to prepare, but, the end results are so scrumptious, you’ll be glad you did it!

These Mushroom Wellingtons are a vegetarian take on the traditional Beef Wellington. Portobellos have a real “meaty” flavor to them; I have subsituted them for beef many times before and am always pleased with the results! This recipe is adapted from one I found in Cuisine at Home magazine (awesome mag, by the way!!). Roasting the portobellos first is a must! Mushrooms have a high water content and if you don’t “sweat” them before combining them into a dish, they will make your meal soggy and watery! Also, please be aware of how much salt you add to the cheese is really salty, so, if you add too much to the ‘shrooms, you may over do it in the end.

2 large portabello mushrooms
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
salt & pepper to taste

For the filling:
1/2 c. minced shallots (if you can’t find shallots, onions are fine)
1-2 Tbls minced garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 c. white button mushrooms, stemmed and minced
1 c. baby bella mushrooms, stemmed and minced
1/3 c. toasted walnuts, chopped
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh sage, chopped

Putting it all together:
2 tsp blue cheese, crumbled
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Remove the stems and gils from the portobello mushroom. I use a grapefruit spoon to do this and it works rather nicely! A regular spoon will suffice, too. Brush each portobello (gill side up) with 1 tsp dijon, 1/2 tsp chopped sage and sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Roast the portobellos for 20 minutes.

3. While portobellos are roasting, saute shallots, garlic & sugar in a large frying pan in the 2 tsp of olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring now and then. Add all the mushrooms and stir frequently until all the water has evaporated from the mushrooms, about 7 minutes. Stir in the walnuts, 1 tsp dijon, sage and salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt!).

4. When you take the roasted portobellos out of the oven, you may notice the mushrooms are filled with water- that’s normal. GENTLY drain the water, being careful not to spill the mustard and sage. Sprinkle 1 tsp blue cheese on each roasted portobello. Divide the mushroom mixture evenly between the portobellos.

5. Cut two 6 inch rounds from thawed puff pastry. Roll it out with a rolling pin until it is approx 10 inches round (sprinkle a little flour on the rolling pin and the surface you are rolling on to prevent sticking). Place each portobello in the center of each round, then fold pastry edges inward. Leave a small gap in the center (or use a knife to cut a small slit) so that the steam can escape. Brush each Wellington with the egg wash.

Bake Wellingtons on a cookie sheet lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Cook for 20-22 minutes, until Wellington pastry is golded and puffed.

I serve this with a simple spinach salad. Oh it’s so good! Enjoy!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Thin Mint Cookie Ice Cream

It’s Girl Scout cookie time! Every year I look forward to getting my boxes of cookies that I lovingly order to support my Girl Scout cookie mean the Girl Scouts! And two weeks ago, those coveted boxes arrived on my doorstop! In my family we all have our favorites. I LOVE Tagalongs, my husband is partial to the Do-Si-Dos, and of course, my kids like the shortbread cookies. But, we all agree that the Thin Mints are truly the best of the lot! For the past five years, I have taken one sleeve of our beloved Thin Mints, crushed them to a pulp and then proceeded to make a scrumptiously good homemade ice cream with them! Yes, it’s decadant, but, it’s a once a year treat that we all look forward to!

I start with Ben & Jerry’s sweet cream base and then add to it. Yes, Ben & Jerry’s has an ice cream cookbook and of course, I own it! It’s fab! It’ll have you hauling out your ice cream maker all summer long!

Okay, so the cream base I use has eggs in it. Eggs make for a creamier ice cream and I’m all about texture! If you don’t care for using eggs, then just omit them. But remember, I cannot be held accountable for your non-egg ice cream! ;)

2 large eggs
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. heavy or whipping cream
1 c. whole milk
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 sleeve of Thin Mints, crushed

Get out your ice cream maker! Freeze can according to your machine’s directions.

Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl until light & fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a 1/4 c at a time. Continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream, milk & extract and whisk to blend.

Add ice cream mixture to your ice cream makers’ can and continue according to your ice cream machine’s instructions. On mine, I time it for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I add the crushed cookies and continue to run the machine for another 3 minutes (just so the cookies are incorporated into the ice cream).

Transfer ice cream to a freezer safe container (but, make sure you try a giant spoonful first- oh yum!). Enjoy!!