Monday, February 29, 2016

Slow Cooker Honey Basil Parmesan Pork Chops

This is a really unusual recipe.  I found it on the Who Needs a Cape blog a month or so ago and was just intrigued by the combination of ingredients.  You don't see honey, basil, cheese, and soy sauce together that often!  It did indeed turn out interesting.  The basil flavor is quite prominent (in a good way) and it's kind of sweet and savory.  This isn't the best meal I've ever cooked, but we did definitely enjoy it and I plan to make it again.  The gravy is really good over steamed broccoli and other veggies.
When I made it, I altered it a bit by changing the original romano to parmesan (I hate romano), and I reduced the amounts of basil and garlic because it seemed like a lot.  I also reduced the honey because I didn't want it to be too sweet, and found that the gravy needed only half the amount of cornstarch.  Below is how I made it, but I've listed the olive oil as optional because even though I added it, I don't see how it would be necessary.
Slow Cooker Honey Basil Parmesan Pork Chops
3 lbs pork chops (I trimmed off the fat and cut the chops in half because they were very thick)
3/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 C soy sauce
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp dried basil
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp cold water
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Lightly grease the crock of a slow cooker and add pork chops.  Place cheese in a medium bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, except cold water and cornstarch.  Pour mixture over pork chops and turn to coat.
Cook on low 4-6 hours, exact amount of time will vary depending on the slow cooker and how thick the meat is.  I cooked mine in the Instant Pot on high for 1 hour, then regular for 4 hours.
Remove meat from slow cooker and set on a plate, cover with foil to keep it warm.  The juices in the slow cooker will have a lot of clumps of cheese and meat bits in it, so puree it with an immersion blender until smooth.  Bring liquid to a boil.  While you wait for it to boil, stir together the cold water and cornstarch, then stir it into the boiling liquid.  Cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly, then pour over the pork chops to serve.
Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Grandmother's Corn Pudding

Here's another family recipe, and definitely among my most treasured.  I have no explanation for why it's taken so long for me to share it.  This is from my paternal grandmother, a remarkable woman who was born in Kentucky in the 1920s and lived there her entire life.  She was a fantastic cook, and my personal favorite thing that she would make was corn pudding.  My parents got divorced (amicably, thankfully) when I was a teenager, and my mom likes to joke that the three most treasured things she got from her marriage were her two children and my grandmother's recipe for corn pudding.  My parents aren't married anymore and the four members of our nuclear family are spread in 3 states thousands of miles apart, but we all make corn pudding for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.  You can see from all the cream that it is very far from being a healthy veggie dish, but some things are just special and worth it and this is one of them! 

Quick Note:  You can very easily halve this recipe, just use an 8 by 8 baking dish and reduce the baking time some.  For Christmas I made a full recipe, but baked part in a 7 by 11 dish and part in a loaf pan, which is what you see in the photo.

Grandmother's Corn Pudding

4 C corn (frozen or freshly cut from cobs)
8 eggs
4 C cream
2/3 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 baking dish.  Evenly spread corn in bottom of dish.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs until smooth.  Whisk in remaining ingredients until evenly mixed.  Pour carefully into the baking dish with the corn.  Bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Yield:  About 12 servings

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Copycat Lofthouse Soft Sugar Cookies

This was a completely impromptu recipe that I made the night before Valentine's Day.  I took a nap in the afternoon, and woke up wanting to make Lofthouse style cookies to take to work for the kiddos to enjoy.  Truly I have no idea why this occurred to me, I've only had Lofthouse cookies (or crack cookies, as my husband calls them) a few times, and not for years.  Regardless, I quickly found a recipe (a slight variation on this one from Back to Her Roots) and whipped it up.  The cookies turned out great.  Very similar to Lofthouse, but I think better!  Note that I don't always say that about homemade things- for instance, Twinkies have a charm all their own that can't be replicated at home- but these ones are better.  They're thick and pillowy, but not dense, and the cookies themselves are not overly sweet.  The frosting adds plenty of sweetness, though, and the almond extract just really makes them special.  They have a lot of kid appeal, too.
Copycat Lofthouse Soft Sugar Cookies
for cookies:
2 sticks salted butter, softened
1 C sour cream
1 3/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 C flour
for frosting:
2 sticks salted butter, softened
4 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
5 Tbsp cream
food coloring
Preheat oven to 400 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat together softened butter and sour cream until smooth and creamy.  Beat in sugar, extracts, and eggs, then add baking powder, baking soda, and flour.  Mix just until well combined.
Roll dough into golf ball sized dough balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Grease the bottom of a drinking glass with butter and flatten the dough balls to 1/4 inch thick.  Bake until cookies are set and barely, ever so slightly beginning to think about turning golden (but mostly white), about 7-9 minutes (mine took 9).  
When cookies have cooled, prepare frosting.  Beat together butter and powdered sugar until smooth and thick, then add extracts, cream, and desired amount of food coloring.  Beat for a couple of minutes, until thick and fluffy.
Spread frosting on top of cookies and top with desired sprinkles.  I suggest you frost a few cookies at a time, and add sprinkles as you go, pressing them down lightly so they adhere.
Let frosting set on top before storing in a covered container.
Yield: 48 cookies

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Stout Chili

This is my version of a chili recipe from Nick Kindelsperger over at Serious Eats.  It's originally from Bon Appetit.  After going to a local restaurant called Silver Gulch for years now, my husband and I finally tried their chili a couple of weeks ago, and were blown away.  It was so good!  It had stout in it, so of course I immediately planned to try making it myself.  My version is probably not as rich, uses ground beef instead of steak, has a lot more beans, and smaller pieces of veggies, which is just how I like it.  The flavor of this chili is awesome, especially for one that's simmered such a short period of time.  Honestly, I think this chili would be good without the beer, but the beer deepens the flavor in an indescribably good way.  I'm pretty sure this recipe will supplant the favorite red chili recipe I've been making for the past 5 years.  Next time I may even make a double batch because chili freezes so well.  Yum!  (Update: I actually never made my old red chili recipe again because we love this one so much, and I do always make a double batch of this one!)
This chili lasted for several meals, but for dinner the first night, I served the chili in corn bread bowls.  A couple of weeks ago, we impulse purchased a waffle bowl maker and I had the idea to cook corn bread batter in it.  Turned out awesome, and that's what's pictured below.
Quick Note:  I'm not fond of big pieces of onion in chili, so I chopped my onions in the food processor.  I also minced the jalapeno and garlic in it.  For the tomatoes, you can either drain them (reserve the juice!) and chop them, or blend them with a food processor.  I am weird and don't like chunks of canned tomato (fresh are fine), so I blended mine.
Stout Chili
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
2 onions, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp chili powder
3/4 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
4 tsp salt (or to taste)
12 oz bottle stout beer (I used Alaskan Stout)
28 oz can whole tomatoes (chopped with a knife/kitchen shears or blended smooth)
2 28 oz cans pinto beans, drained (or 1 lb dried pinto beans, soaked, simmered until soft, and drained)
In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook ground beef until it's cooked through.  Scoop out beef into a bowl and drain any excess fat.  Reduce heat to medium or medium-low.  Add onions, peppers, and jalapenos, and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables get tender and the onions begin to turn clear, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, plus the chili powder, cumin, and coriander, and stir constantly for another minute or two, being careful not to let it burn.  Stir in beer and remaining ingredients, including the cooked, ground beef.  Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce heat to low and simmer chili for 30 minutes.
Serve topped with grated cheese, sour cream, or whatever else you'd like.
Yield:  About 8 main dish servings

Friday, February 5, 2016

Brown Sugar & Cloves Baked Ham

This is the ham recipe I've used for Christmas the past two years, and I plan to stick with it indefinitely.  It's not as pretty as the pineapple and cherry studded hams, but it tastes amazing, so I'm sticking with it!  The recipe comes from Our Best Bites, which is a blog just bursting with great recipes.  Usually I'm not a huge meat eater, but I really love this ham, and so does my husband, who suggested we make it at Thanksgiving instead of turkey.  The glaze and the sauce it's served with are just great.  I've used a 9 lb Private Selection (Kroger brand) spiral cut ham wrapped in foil both years, and it's turned out great each time.  The leftover ham is perfect reheated or made into sandwiches, and the serving sauce goes well on sandwiches, too.  I put the ham bone in the freezer to make into pinto beans or hoppin' john.
Brown Sugar & Cloves Baked Ham
for serving sauce:
1/2 C mayo
1/4 C dijon mustard
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
for glaze:
2 Tbsp melted bacon grease
1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
3 Tbsp thawed, frozen orange juice concentrate
3/4 C dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cloves
If possible, make the serving sauce the night before so the flavors have time to meld.  Just stir the ingredients together in a small bowl and stash it in the fridge.
When you're ready to bake your ham, preheat oven to 325, lower the oven rack to the second lowest position, and line an approximately 8 by 12 inch baking dish with foil.  Place the ham in the dish fat side up.  Insert an oven safe thermometer probe into the thickest part of the ham (in the non-sliced region).  Cover the ham with foil.  Bake until temperature of ham reaches 110 degrees.
While the ham bakes, make the glaze by stirring together all of the glaze ingredients.  Remove ham from oven and generously brush the glaze all over, on the outside as well as between the slices.  It can be a little tricky to get the glaze between the slices, but it's worth it, just try not to tear the slices off the bone.
Return ham to oven and continue to bake to the temperature recommended on the package, or 145 degrees.  It will probably take about 3-3 1/2 hours for the ham to get up to temperature.  Check on it occasionally and cover again with foil if it starts getting over browned.  Remove ham from oven, tent with foil, and let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving with the sauce on the side.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Baked Lemon Oregano Salmon

This is something I just made one night without using any recipe.  It's barely a recipe anyway since it has so few ingredients and is so straight forward!  Regardless, it tasted really good and my husband and I gobbled it up.  The oregano and lemon went great together.  Usually I gravitate towards dill with salmon, and wait to add the lemon juice until after thesalmon is out of the oven, but I'm glad I tried something different this time because we loved it.  I served it with roasted green beans tossed with bacon grease, baked on the same baking sheet as the salmon, and cheesy mashed potatoes.
Baked Lemon Oregano Salmon
1 salmon filet (mine was about 1 1/2 lb)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
dried oregano to taste
1/2 lemon, cut into slices and seeds removed
Preheat oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, folding the edges of the foil up to contain any salmon juices.  Lightly grease the foil with canola oil.  Lay the salmonfilet on the foil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.  Top evenly with the lemon slices.  Bake until the thickest part of the filet flakes easily with a fork and it looks opaque, about 15-20 minutes.
To serve, cut the salmon into serving pieces, making sure each filet gets a lemon slice.  Encourage your fellow diners to press the lemon slice with a fork and spread it around on their piece of salmon.
Yield:  About 4 servings