Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Onions

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This is a delicious fall recipe that I found in the August 2012 edition of Cooking Light.  The apple and onion flavors are wonderful.  This makes a fast weeknight dinner since the only prep required is cutting up the apples.  I have already made this twice, including once for company.  Yum!

Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Onions

  • 2 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 2 cups Gala apple slices
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 pork chops, 1/2-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp flour
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

This recipe requires that you saute the onions on the cooktop and then finish roasting them with the apples in the oven.  Therefore, you need to preheat the oven to 400 degrees F before you start.  Then select a large oven-proof skillet and heat it over medium-high heat.  Coat the pan with 1 tsp of the canola oil and add the pearl onions.  Saute the onions for a few minutes until they start turning brown.  Then add the apples to the skillet and place the skillet in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the apples are soft.

While the apples and onions are baking, sprinkle the pork chops with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 pepper.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add coat the pan with 1 1/2 tsp canola oil.  Place the pork chops in the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes per side until they are cooked to the desired level.

Remove the pork chops from the pan.  Combine the flour and chicken broth in a small bowl.  Then add to the skillet and cook until it is reduced by half (1-2 minutes).  Add the cider vinegar and 1 tsp butter.

When the apples and onions are done, remove from oven and add 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and the thyme.  To serve, drizzle the pork chops with sauce and serve with the apples and onions.

Serves 4.

Pumpkin Pancakes

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Pumpkin pancakes on Saturday morning are a sign of fall in our house.   These are light and fluffy because the egg whites are beaten separately and slowly folded into the batter.  I found this recipe on epicurious.com.

Pumpkin Pancakes:

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt.  In another bowl combine the milk, pumpkin, egg yolks, butter and vanilla.  Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Place the egg whites in a clean mixing bowl and beat them several minutes with a mixer until stiff peaks form.   Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter mixture.

Spray a skillet with oil to coat and heat over medium heat.  Drop 1/3 cup batter onto skillet to form pancakes.  Allow to cook until bubbles form, then flip and cook the other side.  Serve with desired syrup or powdered sugar.

Yield: 10-12 pancakes

Caramel-Apple Cardamom Crumb Bars

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Cardamom is an exotic flavor I fell in love with several years ago.  The spice originated in India and gives masala chai tea its distinctive flavor.  I have been experimenting with cardamom by using it instead of cinnamon in select recipes.  Here I tried it along side cinnamon in these apple crumb bar cookies.

I based this recipe on one found in The All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett.

I chose to use white wheat flour in the crumbs in this recipe since the flavor blends well with the oats and the flour is a little healthier than all-purpose flour.  (Admittedly the butter and heavy cream prevent this recipe from ever being healthy!)  I am a big fan of white wheat flour since it is whole grain and I use it quite often in many baked goods.  However, I always stick with all-purpose flour when a mild flavor is necessary, such as in cakes and delicate cookies.  White wheat flour can be found at some grocery stores and at King Arthur Flour.

Caramel-Apple Cardamom Crumb Bars:

  • 2 2/3 cup white wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1 2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups peeled, cored and chopped tart apples (like Granny Smith)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

I started by preheating the oven to 350F and greasing (with cooking spray) a 9″x13″ baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, I stirred together the flour, oats, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt until well-blended.  Then I added the brown sugar and stirred to blend.  I added the butter and combined it with a spoon (or you can use your hands) to get a crumbly texture.

I pressed half of this mixture into the baking pan and baked for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I made the caramel.  In a 3-quart saucepan, I combined the heavy cream, corn syrup, brown sugar and salt.  Then I brought the mixture to a moderate boil over high heat.  I used a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature and cooked it until soft ball stage (243-244 degrees F).  You can also check the caramel by dropping a small sample into ice water.  When it cools, it should form a squeezable but firm (not hard) ball.

After the caramel reached the right stage, I removed it from the heat and blended in the flour and vanilla.  I spread the apples over the crust and then poured the caramel over top.  Then I topped with the remaining crumbs and baked it for 25-30 minutes until it started to brown.

I let it cool on a rack and then cut into squares.  Yum!

Pork Medallions with Figs

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I recently came home from Trader Joe’s with a big package of figs and no idea what to do with them.  In a strange coincidence, later that day I happened to see a delicious sounding recipe from Sur La Table that included figs. It uses Marsala, which I love in Chicken Marsala, but no cream this time. This actually cooks up fairly quickly since the pork tenderloin is sliced.  Here is how I made this recipe:

Pork Medallions with Figs

  • 12 fresh figs (or you can use dried if you soak in the Marsala ahead of time)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 cup dry Marsala
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Slice off the stem from the figs and then slice in half.

Trim the white fibrous coating from the pork tenderloin.  Then slice the tenderloin into 12 slices.  Place each slice between two sheets of waxed paper and pound with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until it is approximately 1/4 inch thick.

Sprinkle each slice of tenderloin with salt, pepper, and part of the thyme (use 1/2 tsp for all of the slices).

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the tenderloin slices.  (The slices can be cooked in batches if they don’t all fit in the skillet at once in one layer).  Cook them for a minute or two on each side to brown them.  Remove them from the skillet.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shallots to the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes until they soften and turn golden brown.  Then add the sliced figs and turn the heat  back up to medium-high.  Cook these for 3 to 5 minutes, turning them gently to brown.  Then add the Marsala wine and let the liquid boil off to reduce the liquid until it thickens (about another 3-4 minutes).  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tsp thyme and balsamic vinegar over the figs.  Nestle the pork slices back into the skillet and cook a few minutes more to cook the pork to desired doneness.

I served this with a rice mix and steamed broccoli.  Enjoy!

Smoky & Sweet Salmon

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I love eating fish.  It’s tender and juicy so that I never need a knife and it can be cooked up fairly quickly.  Fish can be used as a backdrop for so many flavor combinations, from simple to complex.  It’s also very healthful.  I found this delicious  recipe from the Copper River Salmon website.  The combination of smoky paprika, spicy cumin and cocoa is wonderful.  I chose to panfry the salmon completely; the original recipe recommends finishing the cooking in the oven.  Either way is great.

Smoky & Sweet Salmon:

  • 2 tsp smoked paprika*
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 4 6-8 ounce salmon fillets
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Mix the first 6 ingredients together.  Then rub the spices into the top of salmon fillets.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Place fillets in the hot pan, skin side up.

Fry for about 3 or 4 minutes.  Turn fillets over and cook for 3-4 minutes or more until the fillets are cooked through.

I served my fish with green beans, brussel sprouts and roasted potatoes.  I am a stickler about eating lots of veggies, so that’s why my plate looks like the veggies are taking over!

*Note: Smoked paprika has a smoky flavor compared to sweet paprika.  You can find smoked paprika at Penzey’s Spices. I buy almost all of my spices from Penzey’s. They have so much more flavor that most of the ones I get in the grocery store and are sometimes less expensive, too.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Lightly Lemon Frosting

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I love making cupcakes from scratch.  My yellow cake recipe is an old standby found in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (the one with the red/white checkered cover –  mine is several editions ago).  Then I top with a simple lemon butter frosting.  This recipe is easy enough that I sometimes just make these on a whim when I’m craving something sweet.

I like to use the silicon cups when I make cupcakes or muffins because I don’t have to grease them and the cakes slip out easily.  They are also easy to clean and store. (I don’t have to try to find cupboard space for bulky muffin pans!)

Yellow Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp milk

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, beat the butter on medium-high speed with an electric mixer for about one minute. Add all the sugar and vanilla and beat to combine.  Add the egg and beat for one minute.  Then slowly add small portions of the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Beat on slow speed after each addition just to combine.

Spoon mixture into 12 muffin cups, filling a little more than half full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Lemon Frosting:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 3 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the lemon juice, vanilla and lemon zest.  Beat in powdered sugar.

Frost the cupcakes with the lemon frosting and enjoy!

Empanadas, Argentina Style

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My husband loves empanadas – they are his comfort food.  They are fun food packets bursting with flavor that are great for snacks, appetizers or a simple meal.  I like the mix of olives, raisins, beef and spices that give them their traditional taste.  I found this recipe that is similar to the ones they make in Argentina.  I use dough circles (usually Goya brand) that I can find in the hispanic freezer section of my grocery store so that I don’t have to make the dough from scratch.  I also prefer to bake my empanadas rather than frying them so they have less oil.

This recipe is based on one I discovered at epicurious.com:

Empanadas

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 oz pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • 10-12 empanada dough circles
  • 2 Tbsp canola or olive oil

 

I browned the ground beef in a skillet and then drained any excess fat off.  In another skillet I heated 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium to medium-high heat and added the onion.  I cooked until the onion started to brown and then added the garlic.  I cooked the mixture for another minute or so.  Then I added the remaining 2 Tbsp oil and the rest of the ingredients (except the dough circles) and carefully mixed it.  I let the mixture cool slightly before stuffing the empanadas.

To stuff the empanadas, I put a few Tablespoons of mixture on half of one dough circle.  Then I wet the edges of the circle and folded the dough over to make a half moon shape and pressed the edges to seal them well.  At this point I fold the edges up, empanada style.  I’m not all that great at this and it’s difficult to explain, so you may want to find a video on youtube like this one to show you how to do it.

After all of the empanadas are done, I place them on a cooking sheet sprayed with oil.  I then brush the tops with a bit of oil so they will brown.  (Or, you could brush them with egg wash)  I bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until they start to brown.

I like to serve them with sauce.  You can purchase chimichurri sauce or make your own sauce.  The sauce I used in this recipe was:

  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp chopped red onion
  • 1 minced clove garlic
  • 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 oz chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Just mix up the ingredients and serve with your empanadas.  Yum!

Thai Shrimp Curry

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I love Thai food, but I used to be intimidated by Thai cooking.  The ingredients were foreign and I had never cooked in a wok before.  Finally I took a Thai cooking class and realized that the cooking was actually pretty easy and the flavors are amazing.

Every time I make red curry I am reminded of how quickly it can be prepared and how outstanding it tastes.  I rely on red curry paste (available in the Asian section of the grocery store) to provide the curry base.  Cooking in a wok isn’t hard, but it happens fast.  You need to chop up and assemble all of your ingredients ahead of time.

Here is my recipe for Thai red curry.  You can make this with beef or chicken, but I like it with shrimp.

Thai Shrimp Curry

  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 thai chilies, chopped (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp red curry paste
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 14 oz canned coconut milk
  • small can bamboo shoots
  • 1 lb shrimp, deveined, shells & tails removed
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

After assembling my ingredients, I heated the oil in the wok over high heat.  (You can use a large skillet if you don’t have a wok)  An Asian cook taught me the trick of how to tell when the cooking oil is hot enough by doing a chopstick (or wooden spoon) test: simply stick the end of the chopstick into the pan all the way to the bottom of the wok. If small bubbles form at the base of the chopstick, it is hot enough.

I then added the green onions, garlic, ginger, red bell pepper and chilies (if using).  I stir fried for several minutes until the bell pepper started softening slightly. I  added the red curry paste and cooked for one minute.  I then added the fish sauce and brown sugar to the pan.  If you’ve never used fish sauce before, the smell that comes out when you add the fish sauce will make you think you just ruined it.  Trust me, you haven’t.  The stuff smells awful, but it makes Thai food taste great!  I cooked the mixture for another 30-60 seconds and then added the bamboo shoots and coconut milk.  I let it cook for a few minutes.  Then I added the shrimp and let it cook just until the shrimp was pink.  That’s it – then it’s done!

I served this over brown rice (because it’s healthier than white, but you can use white or jasmine if you prefer).  It was amazing!  My husband loves this dish.  He thinks we need to cook it for company sometime.  It is hard to believe that I can make this at home since it tastes just like the dish at my favorite Thai place.

This recipe was adapted from one used at the Central Market cooking school.

Simple Scrambled Egg Tacos

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On the weekends I like to cook something special for breakfast.  This time I wanted to make something easy, so I put together a very simple scrambled egg taco topped with green salsa and cilantro.

I used store-bought whole wheat tortillas (from a grocery store where they make them in-house) and I used Herdez green salsa.  It was very easy and fast.  The only chopping was the cilantro.

Simple Scrambled Egg Tacos

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 whole-wheat flour tortilla
  • 1-2 Tbsp green salsa (or red if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp chopped cilantro

Heat small 8-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Add butter, let melt and swirl to coat pan.  Add egg to pan; scramble and cook to desired doneness.  Lay tortilla on a plate.  Add scramble egg.  Top with salsa and cilantro

Yield: one taco (I usually eat at least 2 of these)

Walnut and Pistachio Baklava

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I made this baklava and it was sticky-gooey-good!  It rivaled any I’ve had at Greek restaurants and pastry shops.

The walnuts and pistachios are a perfect blend to go with the sweet honey and flaky pastry.  Store-bought phyllo dough makes this easier to prepare than it could be.  (My mom once made baklava from scratch, including making the dough.  It was a long ordeal!)

I should not have attempted this recipe on a day that I knew my baby girl was going to interrupt me soon – layering the pastry requires time and patience.  My work was worth it with the results, though!  I took this to a family gathering and everyone slowly savored their sweet slices over coffee.  I’ll be making this one again, but maybe after my daughter is old enough to enjoy it too!

This recipe was originally printed in the April 2011 edition of Bon Appetit and can be found here on epicurious.com.

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