Friday, June 28, 2013

Pork Chop Roll-Ups with Cream Cheese and Yellow Squash and Tomato Chutney

     My wife has accused me of having an odd thought process. After coming up with this recipe, I think she's right. I originally started looking at rolled chicken recipes. Then I thought I didn't have any boneless chicken and didn't feel like boning the chicken. So I figured I could use pork instead. Then I started to get goofy. I'm not sure what compelled me to use cream cheese and chutney, but it worked. The flavors all complemented each other. I have no idea how or why, but they did. But who am I to question success?

Pork Chop Roll-Ups with Cream Cheese and
Yellow Squash and Tomato Chutney
  1. Pound chops thin with a meat mallet. (I love whacking stuff with the mallet. Just make sure to put a piece of waxed paper over the chop unless you're a big fan of bits of meat and juice flying all over the kitchen. Also make all loose objects are secure, because you're going to be rattling the counter top whaling away on the pork)
  2. Spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese over each chop. Leave a little space around the edge. Spread 1 tablespoon of chutney over the cream cheese.
  3. Roll chops up jelly-style 
  4. Mix flour and bread crumbs in a bowl; whisk egg in another bowl
  5. Dredge roll in flour/crumb mixture, dip roll in egg wash, dredge again in flour/crumb mixture
  6. Place rolls on a cookie sheet covered with non-stick cooking spray. 
  7. Cook 25 minutes at 375, turning once during cooking. If you see any dry spots on the rolls during cooking, just paint them with some of the melted butter. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Good times!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Couscous and Vegetable Salad via 400 Calorie Fix

     If this week's weather is any indication, the summer is going to be horrifyingly hot and humid. If you're like me, on days like this you want to run the stove as little as possible. When the weather gets like this I also don't want super heavy meals. Like I said last week, salads are a great alternative. This week's recipe comes from the book 400 Calorie Fix. This particular recipe is about as healthy as you can hope for. A 1-1/2 cup serving is only 260 calories. If you wanted to bulk it up, you could add some tuna or chicken.

Couscous and Vegetable Salad
via 400 Calorie Fix


  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, 3 tablespoons of liquid reserved
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely shredded
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1 small red or yellow pepper, chopped (we went with red. The wife's not a huge fan of green peppers)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons currants (we didn't have any. We also weren't sold on currants being a good idea in here)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons pistachios or pine nuts (we used pistachios. Any time we have a choice between pistachios and pine nuts, I'm using pistachios)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (spring for a fresh lemon here. The bottled stuff doesn't have the fresh taste you want in this dish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Angostura Bitters (optional)
  1. Bring water, salt and 1 teaspoon of the oil to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in the couscous. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with fork.
  2. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl. Add the chickpeas (setting aside the liquid), peas, carrot, tomato, pepper, currants (not for me), chives and nuts. Toss gently until mixed.
  3. Whisk together lemon juice, thyme oregano, bitters, reserved chickpea liquid and remaining tablespoon of oil in a small bowl (why do recipes always make restrictions on bowl size? What if I wanted to use a big bowl for this? Who's going to stop me. I'll tell you straight up, I used a medium sized bowl. I have no regrets). Mix and pour over the salad. Toss to mix well. 
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to blend the flavors.
Good times!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Corn Muffins with Gouda, Kale and Sweet Pickled Peppers

     I'm really enjoying my Sunday baking. Each week I dig around trying to find something new to make. Sometimes, I can't find exactly what I want. This was one of those days. I knew I wanted to do something with a jar of sweet pickled peppers I had in the fridge, but no recipe I had calls for that. I wound up finding a recipe for Spinach Corn Muffins in (don't be shocked now,) Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals.  I wound up taking the basic muffin recipe and swapping out several ingredients. The result was fantastic. The muffins had just the right amount of sweetness and a nice flavor from the pickled peppers. I'll set you up with the original recipe and, as always, changes and notes are in blue.

Corn Muffins with Gouda, Kale and
Sweet Pickled Peppers
originally boring and dusty old Spinach Corn Muffins
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup fat-free milk (you should know by now that I used 2%)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (didn't have any. I used an equal amount of vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach (I used kale instead. I loves me some kale.)
  • 3/4 cup shredded reduce-fat cheddar cheese (I went with Gouda. I figured the taste would complement the sweet peppers)
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (normally I wouldn't wave off jalapenos, but it wasn't what I was looking for. I went with a scant 1/4 cup of chopped sweet pickled banana peppers. I'm not sure where you're going to find these, I canned these myself last year. In a pinch, if you could find bread and butter peppers, it would work. I imagine bread and butter pickles might be fun, too!)
  1. In a large bowl, combine, the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. 
  2. In another bowl, beat the egg, milk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
  3. Fold in the greens, cheese and peppers (I used the Kitchenaid to do steps 2 and 3. No harm done as far as I can tell.)
  4. Coat muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray; fill 2/3 full with batter.
  5. Bake at 400F for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (mine took 22 minutes on the nose.) Cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack. 
These made 11 muffins for me. Depending on the size of your muffin cups cooking time and yield will vary. 

Good times!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Shrimp Lafayette via Pol Martin

     We love shrimp. We are never without a couple of pounds in the freezer. The are low in calories and so versatile. More often than not, when we're trying to figure out what's for dinner and we're feeling lazy, we end up making some sort of shrimp dish.  There's just so much you can do. Appetizers, entrees, even children's toys!
Not monkeys, SHRIMP! I know, right?
     This particular shrimp recipe comes from my close, personal friend, Pol Martin* and his quintessential 1990's-era cookbook: Pol Martin's Supreme Cuisine. This is a great mid-week meal. The ingredients are simple and should be in most kitchens at any given time. It also comes together quickly, probably about 45 minutes or so start to finish. It does have a bit of heat, so if you are of weak constitution you may want to back off on the peppers on this recipe. As always, changes and notes appear in blue.

Shrimp Lafayette
via Pol Martin's Supreme Cuisine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 green peppers, chopped (my wife isn't a huge fan of green peppers, so we used red)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno pepper (if the heat is going to be an issue, you could probably get away with poblano.)
  • 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, blanched, peeled and chopped (didn't blanch the garlic. Don't judge me.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you're considering omitting this AND the jalapeno, don't tell me. Just make sure you're strapped securely into your high chair, you big baby.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup shrimp stock (If you bought tail-on shrimp, you can make basic shrimp stock. Take the tails and boil them in some water. PRESTO! Low-rent shrimp stock!)
  • 1-1/4 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (we used tail-on frozen. We survived.)
  • salt
  1. Heat half of butter in a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add onion and both peppers, Cook 10 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add tomatoes, garlic, spices and brown sugar. Mix well and cook 10 minutes over low heat.
  3. Add shrimp stock and continue cooking 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Have a nice glass of wine. Go ahead, you deserve it.
  5. Heat remaining butter in frying pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook 3-4 minutes. Mix once during cooking.
  6. Add shrimp to tomato mixture, mix and let simmer 2 minutes over low heat. Serve over hot pasta (we used farfalle. Bow-tie pasta is awesome.)
Good times!

*I totally don't know Pol Martin. I'm not even sure if he's still alive.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Baked Daube Provencal via The Dutch Oven Cookbook

     Certain recipes just ask to be made. It could be a combinations of flavors.  It could be an exotic ingredient. It could just be a favorite comfort food. Or it could be because it calls for an entire bottle of wine. Not a quarter cup, not even a cup. A whole freaking bottle of wine. That is what drew me to this recipe in The Dutch Oven Cookbook. This is a very rich French beef stew. The gravy is absolutely phenomenal. We served it with some mashed potatoes and rustic herb bread for a hearty and satisfying dinner. It takes a while to cook, but it is totally worth it. As always, changes and notes are in blue.

Baked Daube Provencal
via The Dutch Oven Cookbook
  • 2-1/2 to 3 pounds beef chuck roast 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, for coating
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 strips bacon, cut crosswise into 1" slices
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion, cut into crescent slices
  • 1 standard bottle of red wine (I suppose they're insinuating someone might use something non-standard, like a gallon bottle of Gallo or a big old box of Franzia. I used Barefoot Zinfandel, a dry red)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves (Don't forget to take these out before you serve. My mom always swore somebody would choke to death on a bay leaf if you left it in.)
  • 2 strips of orange zest 
  • One 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained (I used a can of stewed tomatoes and chopped them myself. I'm reckless that way.)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F
  2. Trim the fat from the beef and cut into 2" pieces (the roast, not the fat.) Put the seasoned flour in a medium sized bowl and coat the pieces of meat with the flour mixture.
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a 5-1/2 quart Dutch oven. Brown the meat in two batches and remove to a platter, with the juices (seriously, no draining the roast.) 
  4. Add the bacon and onions to the Dutch oven and cook for 3-4 minutes. 
  5. Pour in the red wine and simmer for 5 minutes (use this time to scrape up the good stuff stuck to the bottom of the pot.)
  6. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves and orange zest. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the meat and juices back into the pot.
  8. Put a piece of buttered parchment paper directly on top of the meat (I have no idea what sorcery was at work with this step, but I did it anyway). Put the cover on and put the pot in the preheated oven. Bake for 90 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and discard the parchment paper. Add the chopped tomatoes and bake uncovered for an additional 30 minutes.

Good times!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Maple Bacon Walnut Ice Cream

     Every now and then I have a stroke of sheer genius. A spark of inspiration so bright it is blinding. I run around the kitchen clapping my hands and generally looking pleased with myself. This was one of those times. I had made bacon for breakfast and ended up with some leftovers. Jokingly, I suggested making bacon ice cream. That's when it hit. Not just bacon ice cream. Bacon ice cream with toasted walnuts. And maple! There must be maple! But not just any maple. Maple Crown Royal! So I dragged out the ice cream maker and commandeered the basic vanilla ice cream recipe from the manual.
     The result? The maple flavor of the Crown Royal came through wonderfully. The walnuts and bacon gave a nice crunch. It was the perfect combination of sweet and savory.

Maple Bacon Walnut Ice Cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1-1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla syrup
  • 4 strips crisp bacon crumbled into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons crushed, toasted walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Maple Crown Royal
  1. In a pan, melt butter. Add bacon, walnuts and brown sugar. Cook on medium heat until a thin caramel starts to form, stirring regularly. Set aside to cool.
    This is what you should have at this point
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until light. Add whipping cream, milk, Crown Royal and vanilla. Combine thoroughly.
  3. Add the bacon, walnut and caramel mixture to the large bowl, mix well.
  4. Load into the ice cream maker of your choice and process as directed.

Good times!

Rustic Round Herb Bread

     I've got another bread recipe for you today, and you shouldn't be surprised at all when I tell you it came from Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals. Eventually I'm going to go through all the baking recipes and I'll be screwed. I'll have to start looking elsewhere for new and exciting breads to make on Sundays. This particular bread was a lot less time intensive since there is no rising to be done. As always any notes or changes are in blue.
Rustic Round Herb Bread
via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals
  •  2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese (there's nothing really holding you back from picking a different cheese. I imagine Swiss would give a nice mellow taste.)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk (as always, I just used 2%)
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds (this is something I never have in the house. So little of what I cook actually calls for it, I never am willing to shell out the dough for a jar. I did, however have a jar of sesame seeds, so I substituted a little more than 1/2 teaspoon of those instead.)
  1. In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients; mix well. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs (nope, still haven't bought a pastry blender. Once again I went at it with a couple of butter knives.)
  2. In another bowl, whisk the egg, yogurt and milk. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened (what they neglect to tell you is that the dough will be insanely sticky. You're going to need a scraper to get it all out of the bowl for the next step.)
  3. Spoon into a 9" round backing pan coated with nonstick cooking spray (only coat the inside. Coating the outside would be wasteful and foolish.) Sprinkle with poppy seeds (or whatever has been substituted for poppy seeds. Or don't sprinkle anything over the top if you don't want. You're not going to hurt my feelings.)
  4. Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown (mine took 30.) Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into wedges.
Good times!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Avocado Corn Salad via Moosewood Collective

     Last summer was brutally hot. So hot that there were times I didn't even want to turn on the stove for fear of raising the temperature in the house. When it's hot like that, salads are always a great option. I don't normally turn to a recipe book for salads, but I had this one cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, for a long time and had never made anything from it. It's a good cookbook. It's predominantly vegetarian friendly and is full of interesting, healthy recipes.  The salad we chose wound up being filling and more importantly, refreshing on a wicked hot day. My only complaint was the dressing was a touch bland. Next time I will tweak the  dressing to give it a little more punch. As always, changes and notes are in blue.

Avocado Corn Salad
via Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cut corn
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 medium avocado, preferably Haas (I'm not made of money, I'm using whatever avocado is currently on sale for fifty cents each)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • salt to taste
  • dash of Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • whole or chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
  • 1 hard boiled egg, sliced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • Assorted lettuce (I don't know exactly what we used, we just grabbed a bunch out of the garden. Use whatever lettuce you want)
  • Anything else you think would be good on this salad. Olives, anchovies, chicken, tuna, whatever. There's a lot of wiggle room for extra goodies here. 
  1. In skillet or saucepan, combine corn, oil, water cumin and optional cayenne or red pepper flakes. Cook, covered, on medium heat for 5 minutes or until corn is tender. Uncover and cook for an additional minute or two to evaporate excess moisture. Set aside to cool.
  2. Slice the avocado in half length-wise, and gently twist to remove the pit (I suppose you could leave the pit in if you're a big fan of broken teeth and dirty looks from your dinner guests). Make length-wise and cross-wise cuts in the flesh every 1/2 inch. Scoop the avocado cubes out of the shells and into a large bowl (I am terribly amused at how much direction they gave here. Here's my amended directions for this step: split and pit avocado. Scoop out from shell. Cut into cubes. DONE). Gently stir in lemon or lime juice. 
  3. Cut pepper into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces and add to bowl. Stir in red onion and cooked corn. Add salt and optional Tabasco sauce to taste. Top with cilantro if desired. 
  4. Serve on bed of assorted greens. Top with egg and tomato slices and whatever else you determined needed to go on this salad.
Good times!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cran-Apple Tea Ring

     There's a pretty good chance that if I'm baking, the recipe was pinched from Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals. Their baking recipes have been excellent every time. I figure, why mess with success?  Fair warning, this particular recipe is a bit labor intensive, but worth it. The end result is extremely impressive looking. As always, any substitutions and/or notes are in blue.

Cran-Apple Tea Ring
via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110-115F)
  • 1/2 cup warm fat-free milk (110-115F) (we used 2%. Don't judge me harshly)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel (I'm pretty sure they mean fresh. We used the dried stuff from a jar)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 2-3/4 to 3-1/4 cups all purpose flour (we ended up using the full 3-1/4 cups)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced, peeled apple
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (we didn't have enough cranberries, so we used 1/2 cup cranberries and 1/2 cup raisins)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (I found out you can toast nuts in the microwave. Put them in a single layer and nuke them on HIGH for 1 minute at a time. Eventually you'll smell the tell-tale aroma of roasting nuts. Don't be an imbecile like me and then go to remove the plate with your bare hand unless you're a big fan of burning yourself)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, egg, butter, orange peel, salt, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 cup flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (like I said, I ended up using the maximum suggested amount)
  2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes (as always, I let the trusty Kitchenaid and dough hook take care of this step. I took this time to enjoy a cup of coffee and contemplate my place in the universe). Place in a bowl coated with nonstick cooking spray; turn once to coat top of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  3. In a bowl, toss the apple, cranberries, walnuts, cinnamon and remaining sugar; set aside.
  4. Punch dough down; turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 20"x10" rectangle. Combine egg white and water mixture; chill 3 tablespoons. Brush remaining mixture over dough. Spoon fruit mixture to within 1" of edges.
    You should be looking at something like this at this point.
    Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with long side; seal ends. (I let the wife handle the rolling portion. I was fairly sure I would screw up horribly if I tried to roll this thing).
  5. Place seam side down on a 15"x10"x1" baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray; pinch ends to form a ring. With scissors, cut from outside edge two-thirds of the way toward the center of the ring at 1" intervals. Separate strips slightly; twist so filling shows (we didn't exactly do this by the book. The wife took a super sharp paring knife and slit the dough and just pulled the cuts apart a bit. The whole scissors and twisting was getting too involved for us). Cover and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.
  6. Brush with reserved egg white mixture. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cover with foil during the last 10 minutes. (For once, it actually took close to within the suggested cooking time to bake something! We had this done in about 30 minutes). Remove to wire rack to cool. 
  7. Combine confectioners' sugar and orange juice; drizzle over ring (the icing came out way more translucent than the photo in the book. Maybe next time I'll add more confectioners' sugar. I also considered topping this with coarse grain sugar and hitting it with the kitchen torch next time. It would be nice to use that torch for something besides lighting my cigars). 
Good times!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Yellow Squash and Tomato Chutney

     At the end of last summer, we found ourselves with an alarming surplus of produce. We had more squash and tomatoes than we knew what to do with. Fortunately, we have learned the benefits of canning our own food. This weekend, it was nice to pop open a jar of food we canned last year and enjoy the tastes of last summer. One of our favorite things to can has become chutney. It's versatile and delicious. The Yellow Squash and Tomato Chutney recipe I'm sharing today comes from PreserveIt! from DK Publishing.
     I'm not going to give all the details for canning. It would take forever. However, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation for full details on how to safely can food. PreserveIt! also has lots of good information on safely processing food for canning. Please take the time to read up and familiarize yourself with the procedures involved in canning. Safety first. Always remember, if you poison yourself by preserving the food incorrectly, I had nothing to do with it.
As always, notes and substitutions are in blue. 

Yellow Squash and Tomato Chutney
via PreserveIt!


  • 1 lb. summer squash, trimmed and diced
  • 1/2 lb. onions, coarsely chopped (we used sweet onions, figuring it would be a nice complement to the overall flavor)
  • 3/4 lb. ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (I have no recollection of using ginger in this, but if I did, it wasn't fresh. I never have fresh ginger on hand. It would have been a comparable amount of ground ginger, or a piece of candied ginger. Maybe I'll consider making this sober next time.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Good pinch of sweet paprika (what qualifies as a good pinch? Maybe it's regional. I probably used a bit less than a 1/4 teaspoon)
  • Good pinch of ground white pepper (again with the good pinch! Can I do a bad pinch? Is that where I spill it all over the place trying to get it out of the jar with my fingers?)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
  1. Put all the ingredients in a preserving pan or large, heavy-bottomed, stainless-steel saucepan
  2. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-1/2 hours or until a wooden spoon drawn across the base of the pan leaves a trail. Stir frequently toward the end so the chutney doesn't burn (or you could be OCD like me and stir every 15 minutes or so). If necessary, turn up the heat toward the end of cooking and boil rapidly until thick and glossy (every time I've made chutney I've had to do this. It always takes me longer than the stated time to get the desired results. I think on average, my total cooking time on this is closer to 3 hours. As always, start with the original recipe suggestion, then go from there). 
  3. Pack the chutney into warm, sterilized mason jars (use half-pint or pint jars, a quart jar of chutney is going to take forever to process in a boiling water bath). Leave 1/4 inch headspace (if you've never canned, headspace is referring to the space between the top of the food in the jar and the rim of the jar. If you over fill, the jar can pop the lid or burst when you process it), make sure there are no air gaps in the ingredients (just poke around in the jar with a chopstick or butter knife to work out the air bubbles)
  4. Seal with a two-part top and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (for half-pint jars. Do closer to 12-13 for pints. Then comes the best part, you take the jars out and put them on a towel. When you hear a loud, metallic "thunk!" the jars have sealed. We love that sound.)
  5. Store in a cool, dark place. Allow to sit for one month before opening. Refrigerate after opening.
Good times!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ham and Cheddar Scones (via BHG)

     I was minding my own business while the wife was paging through some old issues of Better Homes and Gardens. It's normally a source of great amusement to see the horrifying things people do to their homes in the name of decoration. These are not middle-class decorators. We generally just laugh at these people's homes and then look at the recipes. It was this particular recipe for scones from a two year old issue that caused the wife to ask me to make them. She loves baked goods. Fortunately, I had some ham in the fridge that needed to be used right away. The scones turned out great. I think with a bit of butter, or some cream cheese and a chutney, they'd be even better. Word of warning, keep working the dough. It's not going to want to stick together. Resist adding anything.

Ham and Cheddar Scones
(via Better Homes and Gardens)

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup diced cooked ham
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp. dried dillweed
  • 3/4 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment (if you've got that parchment on one side and foil on the other kind of paper, you want the parchment side up. You probably already know that, but I'm going to forget and I'm putting this note here to remind myself); set aside. 
  2. In a large bowl combine flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (I absolutely need to get one of those pastry cutters for this sort of thing. It's a colossal pain in the ass to do this step with two knives). Stir in cheese, ham, and dill. Combine sour cream, egg, and mustard; add all at once to flour mixture. Using a fork, stir just until mixture is moistened, Do not overwork (I assure you, this is not a directive that needs to be given to me).
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it for four to six strokes or just until dough holds together (this is why I hate making scones. The dough will fight you every step of the way. It magically will be horrifyingly sticky, but not want to come together into a cohesive dough. I had to knead it way more than the recipe directed. They must employ some sort of dough wizardry over there to get it to hold in a half dozen kneads)
  4. Pat or lightly roll dough until 3/4 inch thick. Cut dough with a floured 2-1/2- to 3-inch biscuit cutter (biscuit cutter? Ain't nobody got time for that. I used the ring from one of my pint canning jars. That's about 2-3/4 inches). Reroll scraps as necessary, dipping cutter into flour between cuts (they are not kidding when they tell you to do this. Keep everything floured. Flour the cutter, flour the counter. Hell, you  probably should go ahead and flour the walls just in case)Place dough circles 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. 
  5.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden (My batch took 20). Cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve warm. If desired, sprinkle with fresh dill. Makes 10 to 12 scones (if you are crafty, resourceful, and handsome like me, you used the canning ring. That means you'll probably end up with 16 scones).
Good times!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sweet Potatoes, Peppers, Onions and Sausage

     Every now and then the inspiration for a recipe comes from a single ingredient. That's what happened here. I had bought some Maple Honey Brats from Toohill Beef and they had been sitting in my freezer for a while. I didn't just want to grill them and call it a day. Toohill's stuff deserves a little more effort than that. It seemed a skillet was in order. I decided to go with the theme of the sweetness of the brats and go sweet for the overall theme. It came out wonderfully. The sweetness of the ingredients played well with the savory undertones of the brats. Basically, it tasted really good.

Sweet Potato, Pepper, Onion and Sausage

  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large, sweet onion, cut into 1" pieces
  • 2 sweet red bell peppers, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1lb. Toohill Maple Honey Brats (obviously, if you're not in Illinois, these may be a bit harder to get. In a pinch, you can substitute sweet Italian sausage)
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Cook the bratwurst however you want. Seriously, It doesn't really matter. Just don't boil them. That would be horrifying. (It was raining like crazy the day I made this, so I couldn't grill them. I wound up cooking them on a grill pan on the stove) Cut into about 1" pieces.
  2. Parboil the potatoes. (time parboiling may vary. It took me about 10-12 minutes after dropping the potatoes into boiling water)
  3. While the potatoes are parboiling, heat the oil in a skillet and all the peppers and onions. Saute for about 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat.
  4. When the potatoes are done parboiling, remove them from the water and cut them up into 1-2" inch pieces. Toss them into the skillet and cook an additional 2-4 minutes depending on how big your potato pieces are. They should be approaching fork tender at this point. 
  5. Add the cut up sausages. Cook another 2 minutes. Add sage and toss to coat evenly. (Cooking times are going to vary. What you're looking for is fork tender potatoes, and peppers and onions with a little bit of crunch. Obviously, the brats should be cooked well enough that you don't poison anyone. That's always critical. Good luck.)
Good times!

Monday, June 3, 2013

White Chicken Enchiladas

     For as many times as I turn to Taste of Home Every Day Light Meals, the publishers should probably start giving me some sort of endorsement deal. Seriously. I'd take a couple of bucks for talking up a product I like. I'm not proud. Anyways, I keep going back to this book because you can't argue with success. Today's recipe has become one of our favorites when it's time to cook Mexican-style. It speaks volumes for this recipe that I will make almost no changes to this recipe. Fair warning, this is moderately labor intensive. It's worth it, though. As always, notes are in blue. With no further delay, I present today's recipe:

White Chicken Enchiladas
via Taste of Home Everyday Meals
  • 12 white or yellow corn tortillas (6 inches) (we used flour instead. If you use flour, you're going to need to eat them in a couple of days or they get super soggy)
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (ALDI makes a great Neufchatel cheese I use whenever reduced-fat cream cheese is called for)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 cup fat-free milk, divided (I used 2%)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1 can (10.75 ounce reduced-fat, reduced-sodium condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) fat-free sour cream
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (If you want more heat, leave the seeds in)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  1. Wrap tortillas in foil. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until softened (I have never, ever done this step. I have yet to suffer a broken tortilla)
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, 1 tablespoon milk and cumin until smooth. (Let the cream cheese soften up or it's going to take forever to get smooth) Stir in chicken. 
  3. In a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray (I went ahead and used a bit of olive oil. I refuse to live in fear). Sautee onion and red pepper until softened. Stir into chicken mixture.
  4. In another bowl, combine the soup, sour cream, jalapenos, cayenne and remaining milk. Stir 2 tablespoons of this mixture into the chicken mixture.
    You should end up with two bowls. The one on the right is the enchilada filling,
    the one on the left is the enchilada topping. Keep that straight. If you do this wrong
    you'll destroy all life as we know it.
  5. Place 1/3 cup of chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla; roll up (the tortilla, not you. You'll be hard pressed to get much done laying on the floor like a pillbug)
  6. Place rolled tortillas seam side down in a 13"x9"x2" baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Top with remaining soup mixture. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
Good times!