Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stuffed Pork Chops

I know.  Two entries in one day.  Aren't you all lucky?  We just won't mention that I've been slacking the rest of the month.  I meant to do some catching up while my husband was away, but that didn't happen.  I didn't do a whole lot of cooking since it was just me for a week.  Though I did take the opportunity to have a few things that I like and he won't eat.  The first night he was gone I had some southwestern style stuffed portabello mushrooms that I picked up from Sprouts.  The second night I had sauteed cremini mushrooms and spaghetti squash with some andouille sausage sausage thrown in the mix.  As you might have guessed, my husband won't eat mushrooms.  He also doesn't like any squash except pumpkin.

Anyway.  I picked him up from the airport late yesterday afternoon, and we just picked something up on the way home for dinner.  So, for his birthday dinner (his birthday was this past Thursday), I made stuffed pork chops followed by the Ginger Nutella Brownies from a previous post.

I was using things that we already had on hand since we're also fairly strapped for cash until Friday.  Vacations are expensive, though he did really well keeping the costs down.

On to the pictures!

I started out by preparing the stuff that was going to go inside the pork chops.  You should also preheat your oven at this point.  I had mine set to 425 degrees F.  Tonight I was stuffing them with some prosciutto, some cheese, sage and garlic.  I also threw a little fresh ground pepper in the garlic-sage mix.  Since prosciutto comes in slices, like this:

... my first step was to slice this into ribbons.  I found that the smaller pieces could be more evenly distributed in the pork chop pocket.  To make this a little easier (since prosciutto is also tissue paper thin), I rolled each slice at an angle before slicing.

I kept each set of ribbons in separate piles and once all four were sliced, I portioned out the cheese to go with it.  I used a half slice of provolone and a little bit of shredded mozzarella for each pork chop. 

Next, I eyeballed the dry sage.  You could definitely use fresh sage leaves in this as well.  One to two leaves per chop would be good.  If using fresh, you should slice those in ribbons as well.  I probably used about 1 tablespoon of dried sage.

That was a tiny little bowl.  Next I took 3 small cloves of garlic and grated them into the sage.  I have a little hand held grater that grates in both directions.  I love that thing.  It makes using garlic so much better.  Makes it small enough that it spreads evenly throughout your dish.

I mixed the sage and garlic with some fresh ground pepper and set that aside. 

Now that all the filling stuff was ready, it was time to deal with the pork chops.  When we were originally shopping for groceries, my husband suggested that we get chops that were already butterflied.  I chose not to for two reasons.  The first was that it was cheaper and the second was because I didn't want the chops fully butterflied.  I just wanted a pocket.

So, I took our chops and very carefully cut a slit in them with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut all the way through to the other side.  I also left both top and bottom in tact as well.

Once I had all four cut, I took the sage-garlic mixture and rubbed it in the pockets

There's just no really good way to get a shot of that step.

Next I stuffed the pockets with the prosciutto, followed by the provolone, and finally the mozzarella.

At this point, you can secure the openings with toothpicks to try and keep everything inside.  I did not because I like a bit of crispy cheese.  I did stretch the meat almost closed though. 

Season one side with salt and pepper, and place seasoned side down in a preheated, oven safe skillet with a little olive oil. 

Season the other side of the chops and wait for a few minutes.  You want to sear the outside of the chops, so you don't want to move them too much.  You want to allow them to get some color to them before flipping them.

Turn them over when it's time and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven.  The cooking time for these will really depend on how thick the chops are.  If you go with thinner one's like mine, they only needed another 8-10 minutes.  Long enough for me to saute the asparagus and heat the water for the potatoes (more on this in a minute).  If you go with ones about 2" thick, you should probably allow closer to 20 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer to check that they're done. 

According to the USDA, you need to cook pork chops to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees F.  Ground pork is a different matter, but you can see that on the link above too.

Now, as you may have guessed, I did use instant mashed potatoes.  Again, I was using things that I had on hand.  Some of you who know me, know that I love mashed potatoes.  My parents used to give me a hard time because I was very specific about how I ate my mashed potatoes when I was younger.  I used to build a well, put butter in it and mold potatoes over the well to seal that in.  Essentially, I was making a potato volcano.  I also did not like "fake"/instant mashed potatoes.  To date, the only instant mashed potatoes that I like are the Idahoan Mashed Potatoes.  They are quick, easy and pretty close in taste to normal mashed potatoes.  They are acceptable to me.  If I had potatoes and the time, I'd make mashed potatoes from scratch.

Anyway.  That was dinner.  I just sauteed the asparagus with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

We followed up with the ginger nutella brownies for my husband's birthday "cake."  He turned 30 on Thursday, so I put 3 candles on one and none on the other.  There was no way I could fit 30 candles on there.  We'd probably set off the fire alarm.

Thanks for reading and happy eating!

Buttermilk Pancakes

So, I have found a new Buttermilk Pancake recipe that I really do like.  They're probably my favorite pancakes ever.  I originally made them because I had some leftover buttermilk from making some green velvet cupcakes.  I only needed a cup of buttermilk for the cupcakes, but the smallest container I could find was a quart of buttermilk.

Anyway.  This recipe was perfect.  I don't quite remember where I found it, but if I figure that out, I'll edit this.

 I'm going to share the recipe first, then share some thoughts.  I have made these a total of three times to date.

Buttermilk Pancakes 

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted


1. in a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl (or in my case a 4 cup measuring cup) beat together the wet ingredients.  Keep these separate until ready to cook.

2. heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat.  You can test this by flicking water across the surface.  If it beads up and sizzles, then it's good to go.

3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, using a wooden spoon or a fork to blend.  Stir until just blended together.  Do not over stir.  (It's okay if it's lumpy)

4. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle (approximately 1/2 cup per pancake).  Let cook until bubbles pop and don't refill and the edges start to cook.

5. Flip and brown side two.  I usually have my oven heated to about 200 degrees F with a cookie sheet on it to keep the finished pancakes warm until all the rest of breakfast is done.

Now, as I said earlier, I have made these three times.  The first two times were with liquid buttermilk and they turned out great.  The recipe states that the recipe requires fresh buttermilk, but I thought I'd try it with some other stuff I keep on hand.

And, yes... I took that picture while the container was inside my refrigerator.

 Basically this is a powdered buttermilk.  It works great for buttermilk biscuits and probably any other oven baked breads.  It worked okay in these pancakes.  You use 4 tablespoons of this to a cup of water to make a cup of buttermilk.  If you look at the picture of the dry ingredients, the yellower powder is this buttermilk powder.  The wet ingredients had three cups of water instead of the butter milk that the recipe asked for.  

I guess the problem with using this was that the batter wasn't as thick as it was when I used fresh buttermilk.  It affected the consistency of the pancakes.  They weren't bad by any means.  They just weren't as light and fluffy.  I ended up adding more flour to the mixture to make it thicker.  Once the additional flour was in there, they worked great.  

I think next time I try them, I'll add another 1/2 cup of flour at the beginning and see how it works.  If it's still not right, I'll probably just stick to using the powdered stuff in baked goods and get a quart of buttermilk when I want to make these pancakes.

And as a side note, these are great as a dessert too.  Just pop the leftover pancake in the toaster and spread some nutella on it.  My husband says that they're dangerous that way.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie"

The title of this is in quotes because there will be some purists who may find this and state that Shepherds Pie is only made with lamb and mashed potatoes, and if it's made with ground beef, it's Cottage Pie.  I like calling this Shepherds Pie because most people I know are familiar with the dish, and may not be familiar with Cottage Pie.


A few weeks ago, my husband found a recipe in a newspaper at work.  He took pictures and texted them to me with a request to make it.  It didn't seem difficult (and I have made Shepherds Pie and Cottage Pie before, so I knew the basics), so this week, it was added to the meal planning.  I tweaked the recipe a little bit.  Rather than type out the original recipe and the changes I made, I'm just going to post my updated version.  The original recipe can be found here.

So, without any other rambling, on to the recipe.

Sweet Potato and Sausage Shepherd's Pie


  • 2 Sweet Potatoes (I used large ones)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 medium to large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots sliced (I used a handful of baby carrots)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage (I used 3 mild sausage links)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (I eyeballed fresh ground pepper)
  • 1 bottle stout or other dark beer (we had Guinness in the house, so I used that)
  • 1 cup or so frozen sweet peas
  • 1 1/2-2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp cool water
  • 1 - 8.25 ounce can creamed corn
  • 1 cup frozen corn (again, I eyeballed this)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp butter/margarine
  • 1 Tbsp packed brown sugar


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray/lightly oil your baking dish of choice and set aside.

Place chopped sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with water (covering potatoes by approximately 1").  Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until soft.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, combine olive oil, onion, celery, and carrots over medium high heat.  Saute for about 4 minutes, then grate in garlic and continue sauteing another minute.  Add the ground beef and sausage.  Cook until meat has browned and is cooked through (about 8 minutes)

Add beer and peas.  Simmer until liquid has reduced by half (4-6 minutes or so).

In a small glass bowl, mix the cornstarch and the water to make a slurry.  Add this mixture to the skillet and stir until thickened (this should be a very quick thing).  Remove from heat and pour this mixture into the bottom of your baking dish of choice evenly.

Mix the can of creamed corn with the frozen corn and layer this evenly on top of the meat mixture and set aside while you finish up the sweet potatoes.

Once the sweet potatoes have cooked, drain them and return them to the pot.  Add the butter, brown sugar and half of the milk.  Mash this all together and add more milk as needed to make it as smooth as you'd like.  (I ended up using about a half cup of milk.)  Season with salt to taste.

Spread this evenly over the corn layer.

Bake for 35 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned at the edges.

I put a sheet pan on the shelf directly below this to catch any overflow.  It turned out to be a smart thing to do.

Hubby and I really enjoyed this dish.  I think next time I'll leave out the creamed corn and just add the corn to the meat mixture.  Hubby doesn't like creamed corn anyway and I'm not sure it really added that much to the recipe.

I was a little concerned about the sauce flavor when I was making this.  All the other recipes I've used called for Worcestershire Sauce, but this just used the beer.  I'm not a beer drinker (my husband always tells me I don't like anything good), but the flavor in this sauce was really good.  It didn't need the Worcestershire Sauce in my opinion. 

Please try this and let me know how it comes out for you.

Thanks and Happy Eating!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

My husband needed to get some cash out one day, and he only needed to get $10.  I can't remember if it was for quarters to do laundry or for something else, but that's besides the point.  Usually if we need less than $20, we go to the store and get something that we needed anyway and get the cash back option. 

This particular day, my husband brought home strawberries since they were on sale.  I didn't want to just cut them up.  I felt like doing something special with them, so I decided to try my hand at Chocolate Covered Strawberries. 

After a small amount of research online, I confirmed the basics and started the experiment.  I had two bags of chocolate chips in the pantry.  They were supposed to go towards making chocolate chip cookie dough to keep in the freezer, but I hadn't made that yet, so their purpose got shifted.  I decided to use my dark chocolate chips because my husband and I generally prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate.

I washed the strawberries, patted them with paper towels and set them on my cooling rack to finish drying.  If you get water in your melted chocolate, it can cause the chocolate to seize up and it won't be as smooth and pretty.  It also won't stick to the berries as well.

Once they were completely dry, I set them on a paper towel lined plate until I was ready to dip.  You want the strawberries to be at room temperature for this as well.  Aren't they pretty?

I started out by putting some water in a pan and placing a glass bowl over the water (not touching it) with about 1/2 bag of chocolate chips in it.  Essentially I created a double boiler.  As you heat the water to a boil and stir, the chocolate chips start to melt.

You keep this up until the chocolate is almost fully melted (You don't want to overheat the chocolate).  I took it off the pan of simmering water and let the last little bits finish melting under it's own heat until it was nice and smooth.

You can also melt chocolate chips in the microwave, but I've found that it's a lot easier to burn your chocolate if you aren't being very careful.

I had a baking sheet lined with wax paper already prepared.  So the next step was dipping.  This step is kind of self explanatory.  You just take hold of the top of the berry and dip it in the chocolate.  Once it's covered to your satisfaction, give it a little shake to help the chocolate make its way into the little nooks and crannies where the seeds are (and sometimes it will get rid of any excessive chocolate... if there is such a thing), then lay it on the wax paper lined cookie sheet.

At this point you can put them in the fridge (or in the freezer for a shorter time) and allow the chocolate to set up.  I went one step further though.  I also had some white chocolate chips left over from the last time I made white chocolate chip and cranberry scones.  So I thought I'd melt some of that up and make my strawberries a little fancier.

Because I didn't need a lot, I didn't use the double boiler method to melt these.  I used the microwave.  I wasn't exactly successful with that.  I didn't really fail either.  I'm not sure if I had the wrong technique, or if there's something about white chocolate that makes it melt differently than regular chocolate.  The white chocolate seemed to start melting, but it went straight from "almost melted and thick" to grainy.  The grainy version still tasted like white chocolate, so I added a little almond milk and that seemed to do the trick.  The white chocolate grains seemed to melt/dissolve into the almond milk and thin out enough for me to drizzle the mixture onto the strawberries.  I just used a fork to make messy drizzles.  If you wanted to make them nice and neat, you could always spoon this mixture into a bag, cut a corner, and use it like a icing bag.

See?  Messy. 

After this was done, I put my strawberries into the freezer (mainly because I didn't have any room for a full tray of anything in the fridge) for no more than 10 minutes.  That seemed to be plenty of time for the chocolate to harden back up.

I left them out on the counter until we were ready for dessert.  They can be eaten cold or at room temperature.  They're good either way.  It's best if you eat them the same day that you make them.  If you can't eat them all, store them in the fridge.  We had a few that we didn't eat.  I packed them up so that we could take them with us to work the following day.  They were still good, but it seemed like the chocolate (or more specifically the sugar in the chocolate) pulled some of the juices out of the berries and trapped them in the chocolate shell.  While this isn't really a bad thing, I can see how it could be worse if you didn't eat them quickly.

All in all it was a successful experiment and a yummy one.

Try it... it's not that hard.

Thanks and happy eating.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ginger Veggie Stir Fry

So, as I stated 2 posts ago, I was making the Ginger Veggie Stir Fry that came in the last packet from Linda.  You can find the recipe on this post.

For the record (and because you'll see by the pictures), I don't really measure my vegetables.  So when the recipe calls for a cup of this and a cup of that, I just chop whatever amount looks good to me.  With this in mind, I did bump up the amounts used in the sauce as well.  And I ended up having to cook the veggies in two different pans.  One non stick skillet and one wok.

Before I started chopping veggies, I mixed up what was going to be the sauce and set it aside.  I made sure that I mixed all the cornstarch in so that it wouldn't be lumpy.  I also added the spices into this mix so that they had time to infuse their flavors into the sauce mix as well.  I don't know how much more flavor it added if any, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I also decided to add meat to this dist (because my husband likes meat in the meal, though he also asked if I was going to make rice with this and I told him I wasn't because it had sweet potatoes in it).  I cooked up some kielbasa while I chopped up the first round of veggies and used the fat/oil that resulted to stir fry the veggies.  After the sausage was browned, I pulled it out and set it aside to add back in at the end.

Because of the amount of veggies I was using, and because I only have one larger cutting board for this purpose, I had to cut the veggies in two patches.  I cut the broccoli, carrots and trimmed the snap peas first.

Once the first round was cooking up in the wok (as per the directions), I chopped the onion and the sweet potatoes.  I purchased the non-orange sweet potatoes.  I've read conflicting things about what the difference was between sweet potatoes and yams.  I've always thought of the orange variety as yams and the white-ish as sweet potatoes.

By the time I was done peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes, he green veggies were looking pretty good.

I added the onions and sweet potatoes and realized that my wok was too full to really stir the veggies, so I split the mixture into another skillet.  Once the sweet potatoes were tender, I tossed everything back into the same pan, added the sausage and the sauce mixture and let that cook until it thickened up and coated everything.

The sauce helped pack the veggies down a little bit too.  My husband wasn't too sure about the choice of kielbasa in this, but I wanted something with it's own distinct flavor, and chicken just wasn't going to cut it for me.  I kind of liked the combination and after dinner, my husband admitted that it was pretty good too.

Since then, I have made one other stir fry, but that one I did with a bunch of veggies I had to use up (I had some older carrots, some broccoli stems and some celery), stir fried some chicken and made up some rice to go with it.  I needed leftover rice for a dish later on in the week.

I should be getting on here more often to post.  Lately my work schedule has been weird and my days off have been split up which makes it hard to have a day to just do things that I want to do because I'm always taking care of little things around the house or running errands.  However, I have finally been offered a full time position and that comes with a set rotation, where my days off are together for 3 of the 4 weeks in the month.  As of right now, I have a list of 17 more things to share in the blog and that's not counting all the new things that I'm trying to do as well.  So I'll have plenty to share.

Thanks and happy eating!