Sunday, August 28, 2016

Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chops

This recipe from Crockin' Girls is very simple, but very good.  Pork loin chops are very lean (other than the fat on the edge) and are often tough when cooked, but for some reason these ones were tender enough to cut with a fork.  The flavor was great, too.  It has a little bit of a tex mex flair to it because of the chiles in the Ro-Tel.  I served it with garlic mashed potatoes and kale salad with a sweet dressing and it was a really nice dinner.  
Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chops
9 thick pork loin chops (I cut the fat off)
2 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
Montreal steak seasoning to taste
1 oz packet dry ranch dressing mix
2 10 oz cans Ro-Tel tomatoes (diced tomatoes with green chiles), undrained
Melt butter in a large skillet and add garlic.  Add pork chops and sprinkle one side with Montreal steak seasoning.  Brown chops on both sides, then arrange them in a slow cooker.  Sprinkle ranch dressing mix on top, then pour on tomatoes.  Cover and cook until meat is cooked through, about 4 hours on low.
Yield: 9 servings

Monday, August 22, 2016

Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

This recipe really surprised me by how good it is!  I was just looking for a quick, easy, no fuss mac and cheese to serve along with Easter dinner, and came upon this one on Recipes That Crock.  Cream of mushroom soup in mac and cheese, how odd, but I decided to give it a go because you'll never know if you don't try.  Wonder of wonders, it turned out really well.  My husband ranked it in his top 3 mac and cheese favorites and I thought it was really good, too.  This is a great choice if you're cooking a bunch of things and need a side dish that can tend to itself for a while, or if you're headed to a potluck and need something that will stay nice and hot and tasty.
Quick Note: You can puree the cream of mushroom soup with a food processor or immersion blended if you (or the people you're serving it to) won't like the little bits of mushroom in the finished mac and cheese.  Also, use freshly grated cheddar for this because the coating on purchased grated cheese may prevent it from melting into the sauce nicely.
Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese
12 oz macaroni (cavatappi is pictured because the store was out of macaroni)
10.25 oz can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 C milk
2 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 tsp seasoned salt (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper 
12-16 oz freshly grated cheddar cheese, divided
Cook macaroni in salted water until partly softened, but still underdone.  Drain and return to pot.  Add cream of mushroom soup, milk, seasoned salt, and pepper, then stir in 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 C grated cheddar (I used 3).  Taste and add more salt if needed.  Grease the crock of a small slow cooker and add mac and cheese.  
Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours, or high for about an hour and a half- exact amount of time will depend on your slow cooker.  You can stir halfway through to make sure it cooks evenly, but don't stir after that or the mac and cheese won't have a baked consistency to it.
Remove lid, sprinkle with an extra 1/2 to 1 C grated cheddar, and continue to cook until cheese has melted.
Yield: 10 side dish servings

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Peanut Butter Pie

This is probably the recipe on my blog that I feel the most sentimental about.  My husband and I found it in a free booklet of Smucker's recipes at the grocery store in the summer of 2006, when we'd just been dating for a couple of months.  Seeing as we're both peanut butter lovers and had basically been eating our way through all of the peanut butter pies offered as dessert at the restaurants around town, we scurried home from the store with the ingredients for the pie and made it that night.  A favorite was born.  We started a little tradition of making peanut butter pie together every year on our dating anniversary, in addition to once or twice randomly throughout the rest of the year.  My husband even proposed to me on our dating anniversary in 2009 while we were eating this pie.  It's definitely a special recipe to us, and I don't really have an explanation for why I haven't posted it until now!
As much as I enjoy trying different versions of the same recipe (I have multiple favorite recipes for mac and cheese, spaghetti sauce, baked ziti, chocolate cake, etc), this is the one and only peanut butter pie recipe I've ever made.  The reason isn't actually really sentimentality (not entirely, at least), it's just that this pie is incredible and can't really be improved upon, so I haven't tried!  I found the recipe in a Smucker's booklet, but it online it can be found here on the Jif website, where it's called Decadent Peanut Butter Pie.  I have changed a couple of small things, namely that we like to divide the fudge into two layers and I use less Cool Whip because I've never seen a 12 oz tub of it at the store.  I also streamline the process a bit (no waiting for it to chill in the refrigerator between layers) and make my own cookie crust.
Quick Note:  If you don't have a food processor, you can crush the cookies in a gallon Ziploc bag with a rolling pin and just mix up the filling in a mixing bowl with a spoon.
Peanut Butter Pie
25 Oreo cookies
5 Tbsp butter, melted
8 oz brick cream cheese, softened
1/2 C sugar
1 C peanut butter, plus 2 Tbsp more for garnish
11 oz jar hot fudge topping for ice cream
8 oz tub Cool Whip, thawed
Place Oreo cookies in the bowl of a food processor and process until they turn into crumbs.  Pour in melted butter and pulse until well combined.  Dump cookie crumbs into a pie plate and press evenly along the bottom and up the sides.  Set aside.
Wipe out food processor.  Add cream cheese, sugar, and peanut butter, and pulse until combined.  Scrape down sides with a spatula, and pulse again until mixture is smooth.  Remove cutting blade.  Add 2/3 of the container of Cool Whip to the food processor and fold into the peanut butter mixture with a spatula until well combined.  Set aside.
Heat jar of hot fudge in jar according to directions on the label, then pour half of the jar into the pie crust.  Spread over the bottom of the pie crust with a spoon.  Set the rest of the hot fudge aside.  Spread pie filling evenly into the crust.  Top with the remaining hot fudge, reserving 2 tablespoons.  Spread to cover the filling evenly.  Spread remaining Cool Whip over the hot fudge.
To make the garnish, spoon the remaining 2 tablespoons hot fudge into a small Ziploc bag and the remaining 2 tablespoons peanut butter into another small Ziploc bag.  Cut the tip off one of the corners of the bag with the fudge and pipe it randomly over the pie.  Microwave the bag with the peanut butter for about 10 seconds (just so the peanut butter melts), then do the same as with the bag of hot fudge.
Place pie in refrigerator and chill until filling is set, about 4 hours.  Enjoy!
Yield:  About 8 servings.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Pizza Subs

This is a simple but delicious recipe.  Good for a small crowd if you want to make something easy, or good to make ahead to reheat later.  I most recently made these for my brother and his wife to keep in the freezer for a quick meal after the birth of my nephew.  The original recipe is from Southern Plate.
Pizza Subs
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
7 oz package pepperoni, cut in half and separated
14 oz jar pizza sauce
small can sliced olives, drained
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 C grated mozzarella
8 sub rolls
Brown ground beef, drain.  Stir in all remaining ingredients except cheese and rolls and heat through.  Divide meat mixture evenly among sub rolls and top with grated cheese.  
To serve immediately, preheat oven to 350 and place as many subs as you want to cook on a cookie sheet, then bake until the bread is toasty and the cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes. 
To serve later, wrap the subs tightly in aluminum foil and either refrigerate or freeze.  To heat, bake the foil wrapped sub in a 350 degree oven until heated through (about 20 minutes), making sure to thaw the sub overnight in the refrigerator if it was frozen.  If you don't have access to an oven (like if you take it to work for lunch), you can heat the unwrapped sub in the microwave until hot.  It will still be good, but not as nice as if it was heated in the oven.
Yield: 8 subs

Sunday, July 31, 2016

SRC: Summer Spaghetti

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Dancing Veggies.  Is that a cute name or what?  Dancing Veggies is written by a mom named Amanda who is a vegetarian and enjoys looking for and thinking up recipes that are delicious and not too hard on the wallet.

This was one of those months where I made my SRC recipe really quickly, within a couple days of receiving the assignment.  There were lots of tasty looking options on the blog, and I actually made the delicious Peach Dutch Baby, too, but decided I would share Summer Spaghetti because we loved it so much.  This is a very flavorful dish, but it's not super saucy.  It isn't spaghetti with marinara sauce, it's more like spaghetti in chopped up tomato heaven.  I used a combination of smallish on the vine tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes.

Thanks for the recipe, Amanda, my husband and I were crazy about it!

Quick Note:  The original recipe called for 1/4 C minced fresh basil.  The store didn't have any, so I purchased fresh oregano.  I used it and thought it was delicious, but will probably use dried in the future unless I happen to be growing some.  We didn't notice a big flavor difference between fresh and dried of this particular herb, and that little bundle of oregano cost like $3.  Fresh basil is a different story, though, and would definitely be good in this!

Also, to reheat the leftovers, I put the pasta in a large nonstick skillet with a little chicken broth (you could use veggie broth) and heated it over low until the pasta was tender again.  It was almost as good as the first night, which definitely would not have been the case had I heated it in the microwave!  We would have been eating a giant clump of noodles that way.

Summer Spaghetti

3 Tbsp butter
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, stems removed and chopped coarsely
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano or 1/4 C minced fresh basil
12 oz angel hair pasta, cooked until just before it reaches al dente
salt to taste

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add onion and saute until completely softened, about 15 minutes.  It's okay if the onions turn a little brown, but that's not the goal.  Add the garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.  Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, oregano (add later if you use fresh basil), and salt to taste.  Turn to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.  You want the sauce to be at a gentle simmer.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil while the tomatoes simmer.  Add angel hair and cook until it's a little firmer than you want, then drain and add to the skillet with the sauce.  Cook and stir for a couple of minutes, until pasta is completely coated in sauce and tender.   Add the fresh basil if you're using it, and serve.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Oatmeal Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies aka Lactation Cookies

My beautiful little nephew was born recently and my sister-in-law was having some issues with breastfeeding while I was visiting, so I searched the internet and found a cookie recipe that's supposed to help increase a mother's milk supply.  I decided to go with this recipe from, but was forced to leave out the brewer's yeast after not finding any in the 4 stores I looked in.  Brewer's yeast is supposed to increase milk production, but so is flax seed, so I decided to quadruple the flax instead.  The other changes were due to necessity (mini chocolate chips!) and advice (the baking powder to help them puff up a bit more).  
I can't know for sure whether they helped with the milk supply, but I can say they were surprisingly good even for us non-lactaters.  Nice and sweet and soft, and rather unique because of the flax meal, which adds some pleasant texture.  Even my 6 year old nephew enjoyed them, as did my parents and brother.  Honestly, I'd like to make these again, lactation cookie or not.  If you'd like, you can add 4 Tbsp brewer's yeast, though that has a pretty distinctive flavor and probably will not improve the flavor of the cookie.  That's beside the point though if you're making them for milk supply purposes!
Oatmeal Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies aka Lactation Cookies
1/2 C flax meal
10 Tbsp water
1 C butter, softened
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 C oats
6 oz by weight mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir together flax meal and water and set aside for 5 minutes while you begin to make the cookie dough.
Beat butter and sugars until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, then flax meal mixture and vanilla extract.  Add flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix in.  Add oats and stir just until combined (don't over mix), then stir in mini chocolate chips.
Drop spoonfuls of dough (make as big or small as you'd like, ranging from large cherry to large walnut) onto prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch or two between cookies.  Bake until they begin to turn golden on the edges and on the little craggy bits on the top, anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes depending on your oven and the size of the cookies.  Cool cookies for 10 minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
Yield:  About 60 average size cookies

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Jellied Pineapple Rings

I have an odd fondness for Jell-o, considering that I didn't grow up in a household where Jell-o was made frequently (the one time I remember making it with my dad as a kid, it didn't set up!), and I've never really cared for the texture of plain Jell-o without anything added to it, but the fondness is there nonetheless.  It's no surprise, then, that I decided to make these pineapple rings right after I came across the recipe on Joy of Jell-o.
This is seriously one of the quickest, easiest recipes a person could ever make and is about 1/2 a step up from just making a plain box of Jell-o.  It's been around for quite a while, as evidenced by the cute 1960s style ads describing how to make it.  My one change was to use the drained pineapple juice in the Jell-o instead of just dumping it and using water.  I've included that in the directions below, because the added pineapple juice really punched up the flavor.  My husband and I both really enjoyed them, much more than I expected.  
As adorably tacky as these pineapple rings are, I'll probably make a can with lime Jell-o and a can with cherry Jell-o for Christmas.  How cute would they be arranged in alternating colors in a spiral on a platter?
Quick Note:  I suggest using name brand pineapple vs store brand.  We tried it both ways and liked the name brand better.  We also tried both strawberry and lime Jell-o and preferred the lime.
Jellied Pineapple Rings
20 oz can pineapple slices
3 oz box Jell-o powder (I used lime)
Drain pineapple juice from can into a measuring cup.  Add enough water to it so that you have 1 cup total liquid.  Bring liquid to a boil in a small sauce pan, remove from heat, and stir in the Jell-o powder until completely dissolved.  Pour Jell-o mixture over the pineapple rings.  You will have some Jell-o mixture left over, just pour that into an extra bowl to enjoy as a snack.  Place the can of pineapple rings and bowl of extra Jell-o in the refrigerator to solidify.  This will take several hours.
When you're ready to eat the pineapple, dip the can into a bowl of hot water for about 10 seconds.  Flip it upside down over a plate and open it from the bottom with a can opener.  If the can is the traditional style that you had to open with a can opener, you can just gently push/shake the pineapple out of the top of the can.  If the can is the newer style with the pull tab, flip it right side up again and gently push/shake the pineapple slices out the bottom of the can onto the plate.  You want the pineapple to come out the bottom of the can because they will get mangled if they come out the top, since pineapple cans have the pull tabs and are slightly narrower at the top.
Gently slice the rings apart with a knife, and serve.