Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Table Talk: Sauteed Pork Chops with Quick Apple-Ginger Chutney

I knew I would like this week's recipe because I really like the combination of apples and pork chops.   And this didn't disappoint.

I couldn't find boneless pork chops.  I bought a roast and sliced it into chops.  It would have been better with a tenderloin, but I couldn't find one of those either.  And when your kids are relay racing through the store, sometimes you just have to grab something that says 'pork' and get the heck outta there.

I was a little nervous to brine my pork.  The last time I soaked a turkey in brine it turned into a ham, no joke.  (I was not happy.  It was the worst day ever.  I love turkey and tolerate ham.  And it was Thanksgiving.  The pilgrims didn't serve ham at Thanksgiving!)  When I saw brine in the recipe I had flashbacks to that horrid day, but then I saw that it was only for 30 minutes to an hour and not 3 days.  And also, it's already a pork product, right?  Ham goes well with apples.
Guess what!  They stayed pork chops.  Weird, right?

I didn't feel like my chutney really 'thickened' but it got to the point I was worried that there wouldn't be any juice left if I didn't say enough was enough. 
I would make this again for sure, I liked the ginger in there but I might add a little less next time and maybe try to puree the chutney.  Can I call it a 'chutney' if I puree it?  Tyler isn't a fan of cooked fruit with meat, but he really liked the sauce.  Or I guess I could just double the sauce ingredients and not give him any 'chunks' on his plate.  Or I could just tell him to eat it and quit being such a baby.  And maybe I could stop rambling.

If you'd like to try this week's recipe, you can get it at Michelle's blog (or you can buy the book).  She was our lovely hostess for the week and chose the recipe.  Thanks for the great pick Michelle!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Candied Walnuts (and how I lost my mind)

When I was about 5 or so, my mom made me eat a beet.  I had the kind of parents who made you clean your plate and we were having beets that night.  I am pretty sure they were the canned variety and I sat there with a beet in my mouth, refusing to swallow it, for at least a half an hour.  I thought they were so disgusting, I couldn't imagine letting it go down the hatch.  If I would have been thinking less like a 5 year old, maybe I would've just hurried and swallowed it and not savored the horrible taste for quite as long.  Instead, I turned it into a traumatic moment and have steered clear of beets, in any form, since that day.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TWD: Mocha(less) Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This week's TWD was fine by me.  I love chocolate chip cookies.  But I was a little confused when I looked at the P&Q page and saw that people were talking about apricots.??  I thought maybe I had no idea what we were really making this week. But guess what!  There were apricots listing in the recipe ingredients.  With the word (optional) next to it.  Phew!  I am not sure I'm cool enough to ruin my cookies with apricots at this point.  (Maybe one day I will look back and laugh at this comment.  I mean, I did eat a beet the other day and I've held out on those since I was about 5.  It wasn't so bad.  One day I might morph into a chocolate-chunk-and-apricot-cookie eating fool.  Never say never.)  I also left out the mocha since we aren't coffee drinkers.  I didn't want to seem like a loser though so I threw some walnuts into a few of the cookies.

I used semi-sweet chocolate and instead of buying chunks I cut my own. About at this point (below) I was wondering why I didn't just buy those perfect chunks at the store.  Nothing perfect about this mess.  And the recipe said something about white chocolate so I threw some white chocolate chips in too.
 I guess the overnight chill is supposed to develop flavors and stiffen the dough.  Well, I skipped it.  The recipe didn't specify to soften the butter, so I used mine cold and by the time I got the dough formed, it didn't seem to need fridge time to me.  And let's face it, if a cookie recipe HAS to be put in the fridge overnight, I will find another recipe.  I can't trust myself to have that kind of forethought. 
 To slightly make up for skipping the chill, after I scooped (I used my 1 oz scoop) the dough onto the cookie sheet, I put the second pan in the freezer for 15 minutes while the first pan baked.
 The first, non cold batch seemed to do just fine.  They were a little less cripsy around the edges when they came out of the oven.  I think the colder ones get browner edges while waiting for the cold center to bake.
 Either way, no complaints here!  We all loved them!   I made some for Tyler with just white chocolate chips and he said he wanted about a hundred of them. The rest of us all loved the chocolate chunks.
  Next time I would probably skip the chill again and leave the cookies on the cookie sheet for a minute to cool before removing them to a rack.  They wanted to fall apart a bit right out of the oven but after a minute or so, it was easy.

This was a great recipe and you can never have too many great cookie recipes! (In my opinion, anyway)  You can buy the book, or get the recipe at our host blog for the week:  Galettista

If you'd like to see what the other TWD bakers did you can go HERE.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bowtie Pasta with Chicken, Asparagus, and Lemon

Let me start by saying that I feel much more competent when it comes to baking than cooking.  I am so glad we are doing dinners this year so I can get out of my comfort zone a little bit and cook some new things and maybe become a little bit better than before.

 This recipe actually called for penne pasta but I figured it didn't matter all the much.  Hadlee wanted bowtie, and I think when my kids have some kind of say in dinner, they are more likely to eat it.  I am not sure if it's because I let her choose the shape of the pasta or not, but my kids seemed to like this quite a bit.  I love all the components of this dish, especially the asparagus.  It's something we don't have all that often, but when we do, it makes me happy.  The fresh herbs and lemon make this really feel light, fresh, and delicious.  The best news?  According to the book a 1 2/3 cup serving is 380 calories.  I'm sure that changes slightly depending on what pasta and other ingredient you use, but still, that's pretty good for a pasta dish.

I used chicken tenderloins, cooked them whole and sliced them after the first sear the recipe calls for.  (I have a thing about cutting raw meat/chicken and try to avoid it when I can.)  I also wondered if it would have been easier to keep the asparagus whole (after trimming the ends) until after it was cooked.  It wasn't super easy to fish the 1 inch pieces out of my stock pot after boiling them.  My sauce wasn't as thick as I thought it would be after the 15 minutes of simmering so I tossed the chicken with about another T of flour before adding it back to the sauce.  It seemed to do the trick.

I have never used leeks before. (gasp)  Well, not that I can remember anyway, and I really liked them.  I am going to start using those things all over the place.  I also didn't expect myself to really like the thyme flavor but I did. (I don't think I used the whole 2 tsp though, maybe 1 or 1 1/2 because I was scared.)
I felt like it was a bit too lemony but I tend to be that way when it comes to lemon.  Hadlee added more lemon to hers, so there ya go.  Next time, I might reduce the lemon a bit (and just let Hadlee add to hers) and either reduce the amount of pasta or double the amount of chicken and asparagus.  We are trying to be a little better about what we eat lately and even though the pasta was whole grain, I felt like the ratio was a bit off; there was a lot of pasta compared to protein and veggies.  All in all, this was a win for us and something we would make again, and soon! 

If you'd like to try the recipe, you can get it at Valerie's blog (or you can buy the book).  She was our hostess for the week and picked a great recipe.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

We've made these a few times now (like 4 or 5) but I am just getting around to sharing the recipe.  If I could remember and plan ahead everyday, we would have them everyday.  My kids LOVE, LOVE them.  They have almost replaced their favorite breakfast food and they might be my favorite breakfast food.  I love bagels.  And these bagels are so good it's ridiculous.  My favorite bagel recipe so far, by far.

I adapted the recipe to use active dry yeast because that's what I always have on hand (I buy Red Star active dry yeast in bulk) and that's what I want my recipe to call for.  I don't want to have to buy different kinds of yeast.

If you like cinnamon raisin bagels, these need to go on your to-make list.  They take some planning and a little bit of time, but they are so, so worth it!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

TWD: Croissants

I realized the other day that I have been a member of TWD for over a year now.  I've been baking with the group since it started it's second run last February!  And while I haven't missed a week of baking, I've yet to host.  I've been feeling a bit guilty about it, really.  It's all part of being in the group, right?  When they ask for volunteers to host, eligible bakers should volunteer.  I hadn't done that yet and I told myself that the next recipe I saw that I was excited about, I would stop being a pansy and say I would do it.  So here I am.  I realized when I went to make these that I maybe should have read through the recipe (or recipes) before blindly saying I would host.  I mean, could I have picked a longer recipe to type up?  It's really doubtful.  I wasn't super worried about making croissants since I had done it before but now that my arms have gotten a workout with all the rolling, my fingers will now get their workout with some serious typing.
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