Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!

Nothing says Easter at my house like classic, deviled eggs. We've always colored the "whites" using the same formula you use to color the shells at Easter. Hard boil your eggs the Martha Stewart way: Cover room temperature eggs with cold water in a sauce pan. Put a lid on and bring it to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat and leave it alone for 16 minutes. Drain the water and cover the eggs with cold water and ice. Let them sit for about 15 more minutes, peel and cut in half. Remove the yolks, and put them into a mixing bowl, set aside. Immerse the halved eggs in your food dyes -- just follow the directions on the food coloring packages for coloring Easter Eggs! After they get the color you want them, drain them well on paper towels and dry them or the deviled yolks will pick up the color of the "whites". 

 To devil the eggs, I like to mash the yolks with celery salt, yellow mustard and light Duke's mayonnaise. Yummy and delicious too!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Perfect Spring Dinner!

Panko breaded pork chops, oven roasted green beans and fingerling potatoes
Last night I made a meal that was new to our family. I am not usually a big fan of pork chops, but I think that is mostly due to to the fact that most of what I've been served have been overcooked. Chewy, tough leathery meat, is not palatable to me, even if it's been slathered in barbeque sauce. For a long time, I've looked for a recipe that showcases the tenderness of pork and tells how to produce it. I found this recipe in an old Southern Living magazine, and made it almost exactly the way it was written. The article had paired the chops with oven roasted green beans and pecans, which I tweaked slightly and make with almonds. I also added new fingerling potatoes, a new favorite of my husband. Tender and flavored with fresh herbs, these tiny potatoes are worth the price! The best part of this meal is that it can all be put together in about 35 minutes, making it perfect on a busy weeknight. I'll try and walk you through it, with a timeline that will help you get it on the table quickly too! You are going to love this easy, good for you, springtime dinner! First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash the potatoes and "snap" the beans and rinse them well. (To "snap" them means to remove the stringy ends, totally optional) Drain all the water off of the beans and potatoes and put them on a clean dishtowel to dry out. While they are drying off, prepare the mixture for dredging the pork chops.
Pan Fried Pork Chops
4 center cut pork chops, about 3/4" thick 1/4 c. vegetable oil, for frying 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs 1/4 c. parmesan cheese 1 T. lemon zest 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper Mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, lemon zest and thyme in a wide shallow dish (a pie plate works well). Season your chops with a little salt and pepper, both sides. NEXT, prepare the potatoes.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes 1 lb. fingerling potatoes, halved if large 1 T. olive oil 1 T. chopped fresh rosemary 2 cloves sliced garlic 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper In a ziplock bag, toss the potatoes with the olive oil and herbs. Put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook at 400 for approximately 30 minutes. Go ahead and put them into the oven to get going. NOW, dredge the pork chops and preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Put in the vegetable oil and let it heat up a little. The pan is ready when a breadcrumb dropped into the oil sizzles on contact. Place the chops into the pan, and set your timer for 5 minutes. While they sizzle away, prepare the green beans.
Oven Roasted Green Beans 1 lb. green beans 1 T. olive oil 1 garlic clove, minced 1/4 c. slivered almonds 1 tsp. butter On a cookie sheet, toss the green beans with the olive oil and garlic. Spread them in a single layer and cook in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. While they are cooking, melt the butter and saute the almonds. After 10 minutes, remove the beans and pour the almonds and butter over them. Return them to the oven, and roast 5 - 10 minutes more, until the almonds and beans brown but don't burn! After 5 minutes, turn your chops over and fry for another 5 minutes. Don't let your pan get too hot and burn them! You may need to adjust the heat, so keep your eye on it while you are getting the veggies ready. I cooked the green beans and potatoes in the same oven, simply by putting the beans in after the potatoes had been cooking for about 15 minutes. That way, everything came out hot and ready at the same time. If you chops are ready first, put them on a plate and cover them loosely with foil or put them in a warm (275 degrees) oven.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chicken Stir Fry

Growing up, I don't believe I ever even heard of a "stir fry". My mother never made stir fry, but she did make what she called Pepper Steak. Basically, it was a cheaper grade of steak, sauteed in a little oil -- Wesson Vegetable, I am certain -- with green peppers, onions, celery and lots of soy sauce. She would pour 2 - 3 cups of beef bouillon over this, added in some salt and pepper, and let it cook for at least an hour, over low heat. Closer to dinner time, she made some rice -- always Uncle Ben's Converted, don't ask me why -- and thickened up the broth with a teaspoon or two of cornstarch mixed with 2/3 cup of water. She said the cornstarch would make the broth smooth, no lumps, and she was right. That was the extent of "Chinese" cooking in our house. Tasty, but not too exciting, it seems like comfort food to me, now that I am the grown up. Since we lived in lots of different places, and spent 3 years in Germany, there was not always take-out food available to us, and I guess she figured it out the best that she could!

However, I digress. Stir fry is an easy way to get your vegetables and use up a leftover chicken breast or two. I like to marinate the chicken for for some added flavor. My family likes things spicy so I am always looking for easy ways to "kick it up a notch"! Try my way the first time you make this, and then do it YOUR way. A stir fry is easy, good for you and you get to eat all your vegetables in one meal! Let me say, however, that in my opinion, a good stir fry ALWAYS has onions, garlic, celery and bean sprouts. The other veggies can be anything you want or like, but I've always got to have those basic elements.

Chicken Stir Fry For Four

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Marinated in:

1 tsp. Chinese mustard powder

1 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder

2 T. soy sauce

2 T. fish sauce

1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

Get your rice going: the ratio is always 2 to 1-- that is two cups water, brought to a boil, add in one cup of rice, turn it down and cover it, cook for 16+ minutes until the water is absorbed and you will have 3 cups of rice.

Next prepare your vegetables, chopping everything and slicing it up before you start:

1 medium onion, sliced

2 - 3 sliced garlic cloves

3 ribs celery, cleaned and sliced on the diagonal

1 - 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

1/2 c. green pepper, cut in matchsticks OR 1/2 c. shredded carrot

1 c. chopped broccoli

1 c. bean sprouts

Peanut Oil for the stir frying

salt and pepper

a little more soy sauce

1 cup chicken broth

2 - 3 tsp. cornstarch mixed with about 1/2 cup water

Get your pan screaming hot. I use a wok, but any heavy bottomed, large frying pan will work, as long as it has fairly deep sides. Pour a little peanut oil over the bottom and and add in your chicken. Stir that rapidly until it begins to brown and turn opaque. Remove your chicken to a clean bowl (NOT the bowl you had the marinade in -- cross contamination!!) and begin to stir fry your veggies, starting with the heavier ones, like onions, peppers, broccoli and celery. Never overload your pan, always make sure you have room for things to cook and stir around. Remove and add in more as you need too. Don't add the bean sprouts until the very last thing, as they are tender and don't take long to cook. When you've cooked it all up, put it ALL back into the pan, and pour over the chicken broth, a few more T. of soy sauce and lastly the corn starch and water combination. Bring this mixture to a boil, and let it cook through over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Voila, stir fry.....serve over rice.

Don't forget to pass the Sirachi Sauce and crispy rice noodles! Pick up some egg rolls or spring rolls -- it's almost a party! Stir fry at home is tasty and good for you!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mixed Berry Cheesecake Trifle

A beautiful additon to your table, Mixed Berry Cheesecake Trifle
A few years ago, on an impulse, at one of those at-home-buy-stuff parties, I bought what I thought would be a small punch bowl and pretty stemmed glasses to match it. I learned pretty quickly, that is was a VERY small punch bowl, and much better suited for dessert. Now, I am not much of sweets eater, and rarely eat dessert, but my husband's family really can't leave the table without dessert. How they all stay so thin is beyond me, but such is the inequity of life.

Since I had bought this pretty bowl, with matching serving pieces, I had to come up with something to put in it. Something tasty yet pretty enough to do my impulse purchase justice, thereby validating my shopping. I started out with a few layered jello-type salads, but they were SO big, I had to have a boatload of company to make them. So, I began researching layered desserts. Watching my girl Nigella one morning, way back in the days when she was on the Style Network, I discovered Trifles. A trifle is basically a fruit, cream, cake and liquor concoction, layered into a deep bowl with high sides. The bowl is traditionally glass, the better to show off the layers. Nigella was making an Italian Trifle, which featured mascarpone cheese. Back in 2003, in Richmond, VA no one carried mascarpone cheese except one International grocery store, which was on the other side of town. Since I was still travelling with my small boy fraternity back in those days, I decided to come up with an alternative. It's not so "haute" cuisine as the original, but I promise, it's tasty! I also cut way back on the liquor in my trifle, as I had several under 21 eaters! This dessert is a winner, if I do say so myself.

Mixed Berry Cheesecake Trifle

1.5 lbs. strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved

6 oz. blueberries, washed

1 loaf plain pound cake

1 pint whipped cream

a small jar of lemon curd

1 Jello No Bake cheese cake (plain) (1 1/2 c. cold milk)

3 oz. framboise or Lemoncello liquor

First, prepare your berries, whip your cream and make the cheesecake filling from the package, according to package directions w/the 1 1/2 cups cold milk. Slice the pound cake -- as thinly as you can -- into an even number of pieces. Make sandwiches of the pound cake -- 2 pieces with a little lemon curd spread in between.

Lemon Curd and pound cake

This is what you will use to line the bottom of your trifle dish. Cut them into halves or quarters as needed to line the bottom and a little ways up the sides. Save 3 or 4 to use in another layer. Drizzle about 1.5 oz. of framboise or lemoncello over the sandwiches, as shown below:

Drizzle the liquor over the pound cake.

The next layer will be a layer of fruit, half of the halved strawberries, half of the blueberries, drizzled with a little more of the framboise or lemoncello.

Top with lots of berries!
Next, spoon on half of the cheesecake batter and half of the whipped cream. Now do it again.
First, your remaining lemon curd sanwiches, cut into 3rds. Drizzle a little liquor, arrange the rest of the berries in a pretty pattern, pressing a few against the sides of the bowl, so that they show (be sure to save a few pretty berries for the very top!). Next, smooth over the other half of the cheesecake batter, the rest of the whipped cream and a sprinkling of the graham cracker crumbs from the cheesecake box. Finally a few choice berries for decoration. Voila! Isn't it pretty?

Finished Mixed Berry Cheesecake Trifle