Monday, April 30, 2012

Pork and Kraut

 This is a slightly tweaked version of a recipe that I saw Paula Deen making not so long ago. She used baby back ribs, but I decided to use boneless country style ribs instead. Actually, I was gonna use pork chops, but the country ribs just looked so good that I had to go with them. Basically any kind of pork will work, though....even a small pork roast. I think I may try that next time....hmm.....
 OK, so, here we go...let's discuss sauerkraut... I know, I know....some of you may not be fans of sauerkraut, because it's too this or it's too that....yeah yeah yeah, I've heard it all before. But seriously, give this one a try! Have I ever lied to you? For starters, rinsing the sauerkraut makes it less harsh. So right off the bat, it's not, like, crazy sour. Not only that,  I always add apples to sauerkraut because, frankly, that's what my Mom always did. It makes it a little sweeter and besides, pork and apples are a classic pair. And when everything gets together...the pork, the apples, the onions, and the kraut, it all comes together PERFECTLY and it tastes anything but sour. It's just slightly tart and big time flavorful! So there. That's my sauerkraut argument. And can we just talk about the pork??? OMG it just falls apart! I absolutely LOVE how tender it comes out. If you don't own a heavy cast iron Dutch oven, I SERIOUSLY recommend getting one. I use mine ALL the time and it's quite literally my favorite piece of cookware. Just sayin! So give this recipe a try.
It's REALLY easy and just as yummy! Promise!!

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1-2 lbs any kind of pork (roast, ribs, chops, boneless or bone in, all fine)
Salt and pepper
2 medium onions, chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
6-8 medium, white new potatoes, quartered
1 pound bag sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken broth (or any other kind of stock, white wine, or even just plain water)

Heat oven to 350F.
Set Dutch oven over medium-high and heat the vegetable oil.
Season the pork generously with salt and pepper. Place in the pot and sear on all sides. Transfer to a platter. Add the onions and apples. Saute until softened, scraping up any browned bits from the pork. Add potatoes. Add the meat back to the pot, along with any juices. Place sauerkraut on top. Poor chicken broth over all. Cover and place in oven for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

If you use another kind of potatoes, it might be a good idea to go ahead and peel them before you quarter them. The skins of the new potatoes are very tender, so there's no need to peel, but other types of potatoes have thicker skins and may not be as tender. 
You can also cook this dish at a low simmer on the stove top for the same amount of time. You could do this in a crock pot as well.
And as always.....
Whenever you cook sauerkraut...add some chopped celery leaves to the pot. It'll help to make the sauerkraut as pleasing to your nose as it is to your taste buds. Really!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jenny's Pineapple Fried Rice with Tofu and Veggies

Here's another throw-it-together dish from my fabulous friend Jenny P. Since I'm ALWAYS getting requests for vegan recipes, I figured it's time to post another one of Jenny's impromptu creations. I'm glad she wrote it down this time! Actually, it kind of cracks me up the way she writes a recipe. It's like she's just having a conversation with you, instead of listing the ingredients and then saying "first do this, then do that." Clearly, Jenny loves to cook with lots of FRESH herbs and other fresh ingredients, which is why I could devour anything she improvises in the kitchen. To make it a little easier, I've listed the ingredients she used, but I'm guessing you can switch things up however you like. Btw, don't let the long list put you off (I'm talking to YOU, Terri). Just use the list as a guideline and let your own tastes shine though. That's exactly what makes Jenny such an amazing cook! If you don't have any herbs and spices in your pantry, perhaps this would be a great reason to start building your spice collection!
 Thanx Jenny P!!

a cup of dry brown rice
olive oil
lemon juice, zest
salt and pepper
fresh sage
Thai basil
Earth Balance
Firm tofu
red onion
red bell pepper
soy sauce
fresh kale

Okeedokey....I think this is what I

I sautéed some minced garlic (a clove) and a cup of dry brown rice in olive oil over medium heat, just until a nice, light, golden brown; adding a little lemon zest and fresh ground pepper. Then I added 2 1/2 cups of water (cause that's what the people who wrote the directions on the rice package said to, a few sprigs of fresh sage and Thai basil and seasoned it with cumin, coriander and a touch of salt. I also grated a bit of fresh ginger into the pan, giving everything a light stir and turning the heat up to high. Once it started to boil, I dropped the heat down to low and covered it, letting it simmer for about 25 minutes (or until all the water was absorbed).

* The pan I used didn't have a non-stick coating on it, so when I added the water & spices, I dropped about a TBSP of the Earth Balance in there too so the rice wouldn't stick to the bottom. *

While that was set to simmer I cut up some firm tofu into bite size-ish, rectangular pieces and started to fry them up in olive oil (altho you could use whatever oil you like...I imagine sesame would work well for this) a large saute pan. I grated some more lemon zest and ginger over the tofu and seasoned it with the coriander, cumin & pepper and a little fresh lemon juice. I like to let the tofu get a nice golden brown, cooking most of the way thru on the one side before flipping it over.

 In the meantime, I diced some red onion, red bell pepper, carrot and celery. I didn't cut up a whole lot because I wanted the pineapple and the tofu to be the "stars" of the dish. Once the tofu was ready to flip, I added these veggies and some low sodium soy sauce and then lowered the heat a little.

While that was cooking, I chopped up a handful of fresh kale (cause we're all about it this, discarding the stems for this dish, and set it aside. Then I grabbed the pineapple from the fridge...which Louie had already chopped up the other day...maybe 3/4 to a full cup (however much you's the star! lol)...and set that aside. I also chopped up some more fresh sage, mint and Thai basil guessed it! Set it aside. Lol.

When the rice had almost soaked up all of the water (about 15-20 min), I tossed the kale in with it, right on top, removing the sprigs of sage & Thai basil and put the lid back on. *Don't stir!* Then I added the pineapple chunks to the center of the saute pan and turned the heat back up (pushing the tofu & veggies to the edge of the pan so they wouldn't overcook) to get them golden brown.

Once the rice had absorbed all of the water, I gave it a stir and then added it to the saute pan with a little more soy sauce, gently combining everything together to allow the flavors to meld together. (maybe 5ish minutes over the high heat)
 I waited until it was plated to add the fresh spices, that way you have the layered flavors of both muted (cooked) and bright (fresh) herbs. Then I sliced an avocado in half (leaving the pit in the half I didn't use to keep it fresher in the fridge) and sliced it longways in its shell, seasoning it with a touch of salt and fresh lemon. I placed the slices of avocado on top of each plated dish and served it up! And I think that's it! It was pretty easy. The whole thing only takes as long as it takes the rice to cook to make. Take that Rachel Ray! Lol.

Jenny's Tips:
-You can add more oil where needed depending on how much the tofu absorbs.
-Whenever I cook with soy sauce, I don't really use salt, but you can always add more s&p to taste if need be.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cheesy Beef and Cabbage Bake

 If you know me, you know how much I love a delicious casserole that's easy and comforting. Those were the exact words that came to mind when Claire sent me this recipe that she had found. I love beef, I love cabbage and I love cheese...sounds like a winner to me!
Of course, I decided to tweak it a little....
 The original recipe didn't call for the french fried onion ring topping, but I always feel like a little crispy on top is a good thing. Another little change I made was that it was supposed to be baked in a pie plate, but like I always say, "More is more!" so I tweaked the amounts and baked it in a larger casserole dish. What can I say? When you grow up having 10 siblings, you get used to cooking for a larger crowd!
 So there you have it. Try it the next time you want something homey and comforting. It'll definitely hit the spot!

1 pound ground beef
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 cups cabbage, about half of a medium head, chopped
3 tablespoon butter
4 oz mushrooms, (any variety) sliced
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 cup chicken broth
1 half pint heavy cream
8 ounce cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, shredded
3 eggs, beaten
Extra shredded cheese
1 cup french fried onion rings

Brown the hamburger, celery, and onion in a very large nonstick skillet or wok; drain the fat. Add the cabbage and butter; cook until the cabbage starts to wilt. Add the mushrooms and cook until the cabbage and mushrooms are very soft and start to brown slightly. Season with pepper, salt and garlic powder to taste. Add the thyme, broth, and cream; bring to boil and cook on high, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened. Watch closely so it doesn't boil over or evaporate completely. Remove from heat. Stir in the cheese, then the beaten eggs. Pour into a greased 9x13 glass casserole dish. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes.Remove from oven. Top with extra cheese and french fried onion rings. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the onion rings are crispy and golden. Let it stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Whenever I make a casserole, I always wind up going a little heavier with the veggies, hence baking it in a larger casserole. (I even thought about adding sliced carrots.) In this case, the original said to add only one rib of celery and only 2 tbs of chopped onion. I prefer to use the whole onion, rather than having any of it leftover, only to be wrapped up and forgotten in the bottom of the crisper drawer of my fridge. Is that scenario familiar to anyone else or am I the only one who does that?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Raspberry Cheese Danish

 My friend, Laura, was about to throw away some old magazines, and she asked me if I'd like to have them. Since they were all about cooking, of course, I said yes. Eventually, I got around to browsing an issue of Taste of Home, and I found a bunch of recipes that all start with a can of refrigerated crescent roll dough. These little bits of heaven were the first to get my attention, and they looked so simple and quick, I decided to try them.
 I did make one little change, though. You know how the crescent roll dough has perforations when you pop it out of the can? Well, the recipe required you to press them together to make squares of dough, rather than triangles. So, I figured, why not just buy the solid sheets of dough instead of the crescent rolls and just cut them into squares? It makes sense, right? So that's exactly what I did, and it worked perfectly. Chris and Claire were happy to do the taste test for me and told me they were "slammin". Actually, it was around 5:00 pm when I brought them to them, and Chris said "These won't even make it to 6:00." True Story!
 So, give these a try. They're simple enough for a novice baker, and they only take a few minutes to prepare. Perfect for a Sunday Brunch!

1 8oz tube of refrigerated store bought regular or seamless crescent roll dough
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
raspberry pie or pastry filling

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbs milk

Heat oven to 375F.
Unroll crescent dough. If using the regular crescents, separate into 4 rectangles and seal together the perforations. Cut each in half making 8 squares. If using the solid sheet, simply cut it into 8 squares using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife.
 In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar. Spread 1 tbs diagonally across each square. Top with 1 tbs of the raspberry pie filling. Pinch together the 2 opposite corners of dough over the filling to seal. Bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
 Stir together 1/2 cup powdered sugar with the milk until smooth. Drizzle over slightly cooled danishes. Try not to eat every single one of them in one sitting.

I guess the main helpful hint in this recipe was the using of the solid sheet of dough instead of the perforated one. It really just made everything so much easier. Plus, it makes a nicer cleaner finished product. You could even make mini danishes by cutting it into 16 tiny squares instead of the 8 large squares. Of course, you would use half as much filling, but the baking would remain the same.
 If you don't have pie or pastry filling, you can also use raspberry jam. I was concerned that the jam might melt and drip down the sides of the danish, so I used the pastry filling, but feel free to use whichever you prefer.
 Substitute any flavor you like! Pineapple, strawberry, blueberry, cherry, peach, and even chocolate would be FABULOUS with the cheese filling, or just let the cheese stand alone!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bananas Foster French Toast

Have you ever had Bananas Foster? If you're not familiar with it, it's a FABULOUS dessert consisting of bananas cooked with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, then spiked with a little rum and ignited until the alcohol burns off. Then you serve it over vanilla ice cream. Sounds like heaven on a plate, doesn't it? (Actually, it's been on my list of recipes for a while now, soon to be posted!)
 So, what if you took all of that awesomeness and made a French toast version of it? When my sister, Cathy, showed me Betty Crocker's version, it CLEARLY fell into the "How can this not be good?" category. Of course, I tweaked the recipe ever so slightly, and then I decided to make it for Chris and Claire. It was an immediate hit and it was SUPER easy! It's also a time saver because you throw it together the night before you wanna serve it, then just pop it in the oven in the morning. Simple!! I think I might need to make this for Easter Brunch.
I think you should too!!!

1 loaf Pepperidge Farms Cinnamon bread
10 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup maple syrup

2 cups maple syrup
1 tsp rum extract
6-8 ripe bananas
1 cup chopped pecans, (optional)

Spray bottom of 13x9-inch (3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange bread cubes in baking dish in an even layer. In large bowl, beat eggs, milk and 3/4 cup of the maple syrup with wire whisk. Pour over bread in baking dish. Using the back of a big spoon, press bread cubes down so that they get coated with the custard liquid. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
 Heat oven to 350°F. Uncover; bake 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown along edges. Let stand 7 to 10 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, in medium microwavable bowl, microwave remaining 2 cups maple syrup uncovered on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until warm. Stir in rum extract. Sprinkle banana slices and pecans (if using) evenly over bread; drizzle with warmed syrup mixture. Serve immediately.

This goes PERFECTLY with your favorite crisped bacon or sausage. Just sayin!
The French toast part of this recipe serves as a blank canvas for any kind of topping you like. If bananas are not your thing, try any kind of fresh fruit! Sliced ripe peaches or apples sprinkled with a little cinnamon sugar would be amazing. Also strawberries or blueberries. Oh, and make sure you heat the maple syrup. It's just SO much better that way!!!
Actually, come to think of it, the next time I make this, I think I might put the bananas and syrup together in a small pan over medium heat, just until the bananas are heated through (instead of just heating the syrup and pouring it over cold bananas). Mmmm......