Stuff and Nonsense: pork

Showing posts with label pork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pork. Show all posts


Ham & Cheesy Chicken Breasts

This was my first attempt at prosciutto-wrapped, cheese-stuffed chicken breasts for April's Improv Challenge. While it came out well, I didn't think it came out quite well enough for the Challenge -- the spreadable cheese was both too mild to stand up to the stronger flavors of the prosciutto and too soft as it ran out of the chicken has it baked. Still, this was my first attempt and I thought it came out pretty well, so I'm leaving it here for kicks.

You can see the (better) prosciutto-wrapped, cheese-stuffed chicken breasts recipe I actually submitted for April's Improv Challenge here. The cheese still escaped, but the flavors were better.

Ham & Cheesy Chicken Breasts

Yield: 2


  • 4 thin slices prosciutto de parma
  • 4 tbsp soft spreadable cheese like Boursin or Aloutte
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 plum tomatoes, halved
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed


  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the prosciutto in pairs on the baking sheet.
  2. Slice each chicken breast in half, almost-but-not-quite all the way through, so it is falls open like a book.
  3. Stuff each breast with half of the cheese, then gently smoosh together to close. Place each breast cross-wise on a slice of prosciutto. Fold the prosciutto over the chicken and tuck the ends under.
  4. Arrange tomatoes around the chicken. Drizzle both with olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle with lots of pepper.
  5. Roast for 20 mins until the chicken is golden around the edges and the tomatoes look a little shriveled.


Improv Challenge: Ham & Cheese

This my second attempt at cheesy ham-wrapped chicken for April's Improv Challenge. The first time, I used a soft, spreadable cheese that ran out of the chicken as it baked and was also a little overwhelmed by the sweet, salty, prosciutto. For my second attempt, I turned to a firmer cheese -- Gruyere -- whose sweet, salty, creaminess balanced a little better with the prosciutto. As I've used it in grilled cheese and paninis, I knew it would also melt better.

But it still tried to escape from the chicken! How do you keep the cheese inside the chicken? Should I have frozen the cheese first, the way you can freeze butter for chicken kiev? Seared the chicken to seal it shut? Using less cheese isn't an option, as I'd say that even with an ounce of cheese per breast, there was still not enough cheese!

Ah, well, what is cooking for if not to master new things? Slowly. With many redos!

If you want to skip the cheese and tomatoes altogether and tweak the cooking times, chicken tenders wrapped in strips of prosciutto are delish on a salad.

Why roast tomatoes, anyway? Why not? Roasted grape tomatoes are one of the most delicious things on Earth. The tomatoes roast down to an excellent jam-like state and their bright, sweet-sour tang goes really well with chicken.

Fancy Ham & Cheese Chicken Breasts

Yield: 2


  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts [Coleman organic]
  • 2 oz Gruyere, thinly sliced [Boar's Head Blanc Grue]
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto de parma [Boar's Head]
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed


  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Cut a deep pocket in each chicken breast, going almost-but-not-quite all the way through.
  3. Stuff each breast with half of the cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, then gently smoosh together to close. Wrap each breast in two slices of prosciutto, tucking the ends underneath like a blanket.
  4. Arrange tomatoes around the chicken. Drizzle both with olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle with lots of pepper.
  5. Roast for 25-30 mins -- until the chicken has reached 164°F, the prosciutto is golden around the edges, and tomatoes have collapsed in on themselves and look a bit charred.


Easy Baked Salsa Pork Chops

Too lazy to go grocery shopping when I could sit on the porch and read, but hungry stomachs still needed to be fed. What's a lazy cook to do? Quick thaw a package of meat in the microwave. Cover it in salsa and cheese and bake it until yum. Then whip up a boxed grain medley and call it a meal.

And it was pretty good, you know. Slightly spicy, tomato-y, and gooey with cheese. How couldn't it be okay? I even went to the extra step of browning the meat first, but I don't know -- indeed, I never know -- if browning the meat before baking it made any difference. Books say "yes, it makes the dish taste better" but I'm darned if I can tell!

Baked Salsa Pork Chops

Yield: 4


  • 4 boneless center loin cut pork chops
  • Salt-free southwestern-style seasoning blend [Penzeys salt-free Arizona Dreaming]
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Jar of your favorite garlicky salsa [Newman's Own Roasted Garlic]
  • 2 oz light cheddar, shredded [Cabot Pepper Jack Light]


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Rub chops with a generous amount of Arizona Dreaming and set aside.
  3. In an ovenproof skillet, brown the onion in olive oil. Push the onion to sides of the pan, add the chops, and brown them on both sides.
  4. Pour enough salsa over the chops to cover them. Transfer skillet to oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle salsa-covered chops with cheese. Bake for 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted and pork has reached at least 145°F.
I used Newman's Own garlicky salsa in this recipe, because I've been having a difficult time finding Green Mountain Gringo -- my goto brand since I was at college in Vermont -- roasted garlic salsa in the shops. Hot, medium, mild ... that's it. Bah. Newman's is pretty good, but it's (obviously) not the same.


My Mom's Oven Ribs

So, clever girl that I am, I got my mom to e-mail me her recipe for baked ribs! I'm confused about how simple her recipe is -- just two ingredients. I remember thinking these ribs were the absolute best when I was a child, but as an adult I find myself think "Kraft barbecue sauce? Really, Mom?" because I am a total food snob now. Also, dude, that stuff's full of sugar. But ... her ribs were sooo good, so might as well try it Mom's way before I go tweaking it:
Bone-in country-stye pork ribs and Kraft original barbecue sauce -- use the whole bottle. I pour the sauce all over the tops of the ribs. Cover the pan with foil. Bake at 350°F oven 1½ hrs. The last 15 mins, uncover the pan so they get brown. [I uncovered mine, basted them with juices, and broiled them for the last 5 minutes for guaranteed browning].

And, you know, the ribs turned out pretty good. Not quite as good as I remember from my childhood, but good enough that we had seconds! We ate them with garlicky green beans and olive oil potatoes and ... omnomnom.

I made the olive oil mashed potatoes using Fresh Sides' recipe for "8 Minute Yellow Mashed Potatoes," which uses heart-healthy olive oil to make a dish that is still as tasty and flavorful as my usual milk-and-butter mash. It's an easy recipe -- just chop the bagged potatoes, mix them with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary, and microwave. Definitely worth making again.


Easy Baked Hoisin Pork Chops

The Husband pointed out we hadn't had pork in a while and I may have overbought pork in response. We have eaten pork recently -- the slow cooker country-style ribs weren't that long ago, after all. But, whatevs, I like to make what he likes because Twu Luv &etc. Or something like that.

I used coconut aminos in this recipe, but you could use soy sauce for similar results. I've been using coconut aminos instead of soy sauce for the past year or so, mostly because I'd bought a bottle for a specific recipe and not wanted to waste the rest considering how much more expensive it is! Coconut aminos are also considerably lower in sodium than even the lowest sodium soy sauce I used to buy and the flavors are close enough for cooking.

Hoisin Baked Pork Chops

Yield: 3


  • ½ cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • ½ Tbsp sriracha
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp powdered ginger
  • 3 boneless pork chops
  • 2 scallions, chopped


  1. In a bowl whisk together hoisin sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, coconut aminos, sriracha, garlic, and ginger.
  2. With a very sharp knife, score the pork chops with an ⅛-inch deep crisscross pattern on both sides to help the marinade penetrate.
  3. Place pork chops in plastic bag or storage bowl. Pour marinade over the chops and shake to coat. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Plop chops into a baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 12 minutes or until they're flirting with 145°F.
  5. Set oven to broil and broil for about 3 minutes for a crispier, browner chop. Serve garnished with chopped scallions.


Succulent & Savory Slow Cooker Country-Style Ribs

My mom used to bake bone-in country-style pork spare ribs in her big blue and white flowered Corningware dutch oven that, I swear, were so tender and succulent that they just fell off the bone. We'd eat them with peas and mashed potatoes covered in the thick, rich tomato-y gravy.

And I do not have her recipe. And I wanted to use a slow cooker, anyway. So I turned to the Internets and found a delicious-sounding recipe at The Southern Lady Cooks. I added a couple dashes of liquid smoke, as one of the commenters suggested, and let the ribs soak overnight in the sauce before I put everything in the slow cooker.

So my best shot was potato-centric :( They were good garlicky mashed potatoes, though.
This is really my favorite kind of slow cooker recipe -- just dump everything in the slow cooker, go away for a good long time, come back to pure unmitigated delicousness.

Saucy ingredients ;)
The ribs were very good -- tender, flavorful, and falling off the bone. The Husband thought they were a little messy, but ribs can be. My only complaint was that I thought they could use a little heat -- maybe a squirt of sriracha in with the other sauce ingredients next time.

Tender, fall-apart ribs.
And, of course, I still need to get my Mom's recipe!


Improv Challenge: Pork & Rice

Baby, it's cold outside! And blustery! And greygreyGREY. What better time of year for a big spicy pot of carbs and meat? I kept thinking I had more time for January's Improv Challenge (pork and rice), than I did ... and then it was Tuesday and I realized I'd been so obsessed with Good Cheap Eats' pantry challenge and reading library books that I'd completely forgotten about the Improv. I knew no-one would hold it against me if I skipped January, but I felt that the ingredients were so basic I should be able to come up with something.

(On the plus side, except for the chorizo, all the other ingredients were already in-house. So, yay for that!)

I used Supremo fresh Mexican chorizo for this recipe, because I knew I wanted loose meat and not chunks of cured/dried sausage and that was all my grocery store had for fresh. It's packaged in inedible plastic casings and I just cut off the ends and squeezed the meat out like toothpaste. That sounds kind-of disgusting, I know, but it cooked up delicious.

Chorizo Rice & Bean Pot

Serves: 6


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 14 oz fresh Mexican chorizo [Supremo]
  • 1 cup medium grain white rice [Goya]
  • 14½ oz can no salt added diced fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained [Muir Glen]
  • 1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth [Pacific Organic]
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 14½ oz can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed


  1. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, and chorizo, bashing the meat with a spoon to break it up as it cooks, until onion is tender and chorizo is cooked and crumbled (about 8 -10 minutes).
  2. Drain off most of the fat, leaving approximately 1 tablespoon behind. Stir in rice and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and broth. Bring pot to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in beans and corn. Cook 10 minutes more or until heated through. Season to taste.
I didn't add any seasoning to this -- not even salt and pepper -- because I found the chorizo added enough flavor on its own, but YMMV. Also, while we ate this dish in bowls with a little salsa and sour cream on top and found it good, it was even better the next day mixed with a little cheese and used as filling for burritos.


Easy Sunday Supper: Pan-Fried Boneless Pork Chops

We were quite the lazybones this weekend and, despite vague intentions to the contrary, never left the house. Instead, we lolled about the living room, reading books, and catching up with CrashCourse videos. Happily, I'm in the midst of a pantry challenge so felt super industrious and organized when I pulled every meal out of the freezer or pantry without having to think (much) about how I could cook and not stop reading Shirley. (Usually, I just say to myself "Book is too good! We don't need to eat yet! One more chapter! Two! Three! Oh, no! It's seven o'clock! Someone, order pizza!").

Anyway, these chops were dead easy and reminded me that I should make pork chops more often. They're a thing I ate quite often as a child, but never really think about when I'm menu planning. The Husband eschews ham and bacon, true, but has no issue with chops or roast so I cannot blame the omission on him.

Pan-Fried Boneless Pork Chops

Serves: 4 (or 2 + leftovers)


  • 4 boneless pork loin chops, each about ¾-inch thick
  • ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp dried marjoram
  • ¼ tsp rubbed sage
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil


  1. Place flour, thyme, marjoram, sage, and pepper in a pie plate or similarly shallow dish. Dredge pork in flour mixture, turning to coat; shake off excess and discard.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes or until done, turning pork once. Remove pork from skillet.
We ate these chops with "Outback Steakhouse Mac-A-Roo 'N Cheese" (I used half-and-half and added a bit of smoked paprika) and a simple salad of chopped cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and vinaigrette.

Pantry challenge ingredients: chops, Velveeta, penne
Glad to see eaten before they went squishy: cucumbers and tomatoes


Pork, the Other White Meat

Sometimes, you have a plan ... but it goes terribly wrong ... and you end up with a supper completely different from what you had intended.

The chicken was bad, you see. I'd had my suspicions at lunch, when I opened the fridge and my nose was greeted by a slightly off odor. Something was going bad. I rummaged around in the crisper, looking for manky produce, but found nothing stinky. Dairy drawer was the same. I completely failed to check the package of chicken, because I knew it had a sell-by date of December 15. Also, I was hungry and it was lunch time.

And then it was supper time. Sliced red peppers. Started heating a splash of olive oil up in my big sauté pan. And then I grabbed the chicken from the fridge and it was just so very clear where the smell was coming from.

So chicken in the bin. Marinated pork tenderloin meant for Sunday into the pan with the peppers and then the pan into the oven for 30 minutes at 375°F. Boil red potatoes. Microwave green beans. Microwave leftover sautéed mushrooms. Portion out. Eat.

Now I just have to figure out what we're going to do for Sunday's supper. Plenty of raw potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and peppers ... maybe, I'll thaw some chicken! Hahahaha.


Slow Cooker Season! Country-Style Pork Ribs

Trying to use my slow cooker more consistently this fall. Not sure I'll go so far as to declare Slow Cooker Mondays or something like, but I do want to make the effort and use it once during the work week because it's the surest way to guarantee food on the table when I arrive home from work all HANGRY and tired.

This past Friday, I made Pillsbury's "Slow-Cooker Country-Style Pork and Onions" and the ribs turned out so well that we both took seconds which is not a thing that happens very often.

That said, I have questions about the recipe and am not sure I'd make it quite the same way again. Was it necessary to precook the onions? For what purpose was I directed to flouring the ribs? No and none, I think. Next time, I'm inclined to throw the onion in raw and skip flouring the ribs. I'll just add the sage into the sauce mixture -- doubling the amount of sage -- and I might swap the broth out for beer.

Anyway, it's a completely simple and darned tasty throw-together slow cooker dish that I recommend you try. Even if it doesn't photograph well at 6 pm in my badly lit kitchen!

Floured ribs.

Ribs topped with tender onions. See how the flour has come off  the ribs where the onions touch them?

Ribs and onions covered in condensed French onion soup, gravy mix, and water.


Baked Sweet Potatoes With Black Beans

This month's Improv Challenge ingredients are beans and bacon. Coincidentally, August is Bacon Month in the United States (who decides these things?). Needless to say, I was full of grandiose bacony-plans. And then I thought it might be more healthful to focus on the beans and not the bacon. And then I developed a completely unseasonal craving for baked potatoes (seriously, let's not talk about the number of baked potatoes I've eaten recently) and I ended up with this:

Yes, that's a sweet potato filled with black beans, salsa, and bacon and topped with a dollop of 0% Greek yoghurt and more bacon. And, you know, it was good ... but ultimately not good enough for Improv Challenge. So here it is on Not Improv Challenge Saturday. There's something a little ... off ... with the seasonings and the Greek yoghurt would be better straight up. I've written it up as I made it so feel free to tweak it wherever or however you like.

I did (briefly) toy with the idea of wrapping the sweet potato in bacon before baking it -- I've seen pictures of bacon-wrapped sweet potatoes on Pinterest -- but I worried about what would happen when I split the baked potato to fill it with beany goodness. Would the bacon all fall off? Also, frankly, wrapping the potato in bacon seemed like too much fiddliness!

While the recipe only uses six strips of bacon, I freely admit I baked an entire package of bacon for it. It's just as easy to bake the whole package as half and, more importantly, the more bacon that was cooked, the more likely some would be left for the potatoes. I used lower-sodium bacon, because ... I can't taste the difference. Use whatever bacon you like, obviously.
Black Bean Salsa Bacon Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

4 sweet potatoes
6 strips bacon
[Oscar Mayer Lower Sodium]
14½ oz can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed [Goya]
½ cup diced red onion
¾ cup black bean and corn salsa [Desert Pepper Trading Company]
2 tsp salt-free Southwest-style seasoning blend, divided [Penzeys Salt-Free Arizona Dreaming]
5 oz cup 0% plain Greek yoghurt
Cilantro or chives for garnish, if desired
Additional bacon for garnish, if desired

Whisk together the yogurt and 1 tsp seasoning blend. Refrigerate until needed.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange bacon slices on a small jelly roll pan lined with foil. Set aside.

Jab each sweet potato several times with a fork (this can be very therapeutic). Place the sweet potatoes on another jelly roll pan lined with foil.

Put the pans in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Reserve one tablespoon of drippings from bacon pan.

Leave sweet potatoes to bake for 45 minutes longer or until the potatoes are tender when you squeeze them.

Meanwhile, heat the bacon drippings in a skillet. Add onion and cook until onion is translucent. Add beans, salsa, and remaining 1 tsp seasoning blend and cook until bubbly.

Crumble four strips of bacon into beans. Reduce heat to lowest setting ("warm" on mine) and set aside until potatoes are done.

Cut a slit down the length of each potato. Gently squeeze each potato until it pops open. Divide bean mixture between the potatoes, topping them with yoghurt. Crumble remaining two strips of bacon and sprinkle over potatoes.
Since I'm the only one eating these (The Husband loathes both bacon and sweet potatoes), I've been taking the potatoes to work and they reheat fine in the toaster oven.


Improv Challenge: Beans & Bacon

I'm a sucker for Campbell's "Bean With Bacon" soup, but I don't eat it as often as I crave it as it's full of salt. And, yes, I know the Healthy Request version has half as much sodium, but that's still too much considering I'm likely to eat the entire can in one sitting. Also, quite frankly, the stuff I buy now seems neither as beany nor as delicious as the Campbell's "Bean with Bacon" of my childhood memories!

So I decided to just go ahead and make my own version of the soup for August's Improv Challenge. Sure, it's hot and humid out. Sure, the air conditioner is constantly cycling on. It's the best time ever to make soup! Or not. But I wanted soup and soup I would have.

I started by looking at the ingredients on the back of the soup can:
And then converted them into something I could handle:
Canned small white beans, lower-sodium bacon, tomato paste, carrot, celery, onion, bay, thyme, low-sodium fat-free chicken broth, salt, pepper, liquid smoke.
The soup I ended up with was surprisingly tasty for a first attempt ... although, admittedly, not exactly like the canned version! It's smoky, bean-y, and bacon-y and that's good enough for me. (I do find myself thinking I might get better results using finely shredded bits of smoked ham instead of bacon? My mom makes her split pea soup using the meaty bone from her Easter ham and that might work here, too).
White Bean & Bacon Soup

1 1lb 13oz can small white beans, drained and well rinsed
6 strips lower-sodium bacon, chopped fine
3 Tbsp tomato paste [Amore]
1 carrot, chopped small
1 small onion, chopped small
2 ribs of celery, chopped small
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 bay leaf
½ Tbsp dried thyme, crushed
3 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Foods]
Salt and pepper, to taste
Liquid smoke, to taste [Lazy Kettle]
Crispy bacon, for garnish

Pretend it is late October. Cook bacon in large heavy pot on medium-low for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, or until bacon is crispy and as much fat as possible has rendered out. Remove bacon.

Drain all but 1 Tbsp bacon fat from pot, reserving fat for another use. Add celery, carrots, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and covered in bacon-y goodness.

Add the beans, broth, bay, thyme, and tomato paste. Cover and allow to gently simmer on low for 30 minutes.

Remove bay leaf. Puree a little of the bean mixture with your immersion blender (or puree a few cups in a "proper" blender) so your soup is half puree and half chunk (or however you like it best). Stir in bacon. Let simmer uncovered for 10 minutes (this will help the soup thicken).

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and liquid smoke. Garnish with additional crispy bacon bits, if desired.
(I apologize for my photos! I had to take them with my phone as my camera has gone missing. We had people over last weekend and I did a quick tidy hide-all-the-things before they arrived ... and I hid my camera so well I still don't know where it is!)


Maplelicious Chops With Chard

These chops soaked overnight in a marinade is based on a recipe I found in a recent issue of Taste of Home. I wasn't smart enough to copy down the recipe (or take a snap with my phone), but I remembered it was a simple mix of equal parts maple syrup and balsamic vinegar plus some salt and pepper. I used four tablespoons each maple syrup and fig balsamic vinegar plus one teaspoon sea salt and a half teaspoon sriracha. I used four thick six-ounce chops and they took about twenty minutes to grill, flipping twice -- first at eight minutes and then at sixteen minutes.

I had forgotten to hold back any marinade to baste the chops as they grilled, but still found the flavor to be quite good -- a little sweet, a little spicy, and plenty porky. As per the marinating tips at, I had scored one side of the chops in a crisscross pattern before plopping them in the marinade and I do think that helped. The cuts increase the chops' surface area and help the marinade penetrate deeper into the tissue.

Apparently, I don't own any plain balsamic vinegar and it was toss up between the fig and blackberry. (I actually own four bottles of flavored balsamic vinegars, but neither the peach nor the coconut white balsamic seemed remotely appropriate). Fig won the toss, but I'll definitely try this marinade again with the blackberry balsamic, holding back some of the marinade to baste the scored chops!

The chard was simple. Just heat a little broth, onion, and garlic in a pan until the alliums are fragrant. Add as much cleaned chopped chard to your pan as will fit and cook it, stirring regularly, until wilted. Toss with your balsamic vinegar of choice (fig, again) and a little sriracha. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Eat. My intention was to make enough chard to have leftovers to take to work ... but I gobbled it all up with the chops, instead. Good thing the garden is full of chard!


Beery-Good Irish Bacon

I wasn't planning on cooking anything special for Saint Patrick's Day, but then I saw "Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon" over at The Runaway Spoon and, ohhhh, I was just smitten. And, conveniently, I had all the ingredients on hand. (Who doesn't keep a spare package of back bacon in their freezer?).

Glazed Bacon Ingredients

This recipe goes together very easily -- the most difficult part was patiently waiting for the glaze to reduce when all I really wanted to do was stuff my belly with glazed bacon as quickly as possible. I used Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout, which is a bit maltier and milder than regular ol' Guinness. I also broiled my bacon, simply because I couldn't fit all the bacon in a skillet and was feeling too lazy to cook it in batches.

Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon

Anyway, I thought the glazed bacon was fabulous -- a perfect blend of sweet, salty, and smoky. I served the bacon with roasted Brussels sprouts I'd tossed with a little bit of the extra glaze and lots of cracked black pepper. Yum!


Improv Challenge: Crackers & Cheese

It's a new year for the Improv Challenge and we're starting the year with crackers and cheese! At first, my brain was all canapécanapécanapé, but then I read an article about German cooking and fell in love with the idea of Käse Schnitzel, a schnitzel covered in melted cheese. Surely, I could use crushed crackers to crust the schnitzel and then drizzle it with drown it in cheese sauce.

Käse Schnitzel II

I used Club Minis -- a bite-size buttery cracker -- that I chucked in food storage bag and bashed with a meat tenderizer until they were acceptably crumby. Any buttery cracker would work, I'm sure, and you could even use cheesy ones and omit the cheese powder. I used Club Minis simply because they are my addiction and I welcome any excuse to bring more of them into my home.
Cheesy Fried Pork Cutlets
Serves 4

1 lb boneless pork cutlets
3 Tbsp flour [King Arthur Flour White Whole Wheat]
½ tsp teaspoon salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika [Penzeys Hungary Sweet]
1 large egg [Farmers' Cow]
3 Tbsp milk
2 cups crushed buttery crackers [Keebler Club Minis]
2 Tbsp cheese powder [King Arthur Flour Vermont Cheese Powder]
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed

Set oven to warm or whatever is your oven's lowest temperature setting.

If your cutlets are not very thin, you will need to pound them until they are about ¼-inch thick.

Set out three pie plates. In one, combine the flour, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper. In another, combine egg and milk. Mix crackers and cheese powder in the last pie plate.

Dredge meat with flour; dip in egg mixture, then dredge with cracker mixture. Arrange the pork cutlets on a baking sheet or platter and let stand for 5 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Cook cutlets in batches (I could fit 2 in my skillet at a time) for 3 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3. Remove to the warm oven and continue with remaining cutlets. You may need to add more oil between batches.

Frying Cracker-Coated Cutlets

Beery Cheese Sauce
Serves 4

1 10¾ oz can condensed cheddar cheese soup [Campbell's Healthy Request]
⅓ cup pale lager [Foster's]
2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded [Cabot Seriously Sharp]
¼ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp paprika [Penzeys Hungary Sweet]
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine soup, beer, cheese, mustard, paprika, and worcestershire. Heat through, stirring frequently, until shredded cheese is completely incorporated.

I served the cutlets with broccoli and buttered parslied noodles (and cheese sauce over everything, of course). The cutlets were pretty fab -- crunchy and moderately cheesy even without the sauce -- and I cannot wait to make them again. I tried another version of this recipe with baked cracker-crusted turkey cutlets and, while it was pretty good, the cutlets weren't nearly as crunchy and the overall flavor was a bit bland. Healthier, no doubt, but simply not as tasty.

The cheese sauce was pretty fab, too. Creamy and sharp with just a touch of heat from the mustard and pepper ... I'll be making it again just to pour over broccoli or cauliflower! I used Foster's in the pork version and Heineken with the turkey with good results -- you want to taste the beer behind the cheese, but not go "hey! beer sauce!" (unless that's your taste preference, of course).

Käse Schnitzel II


Cheese Sauce On Everything, Please

I bought some cracker meal while playing around with recipe ideas for January's Improv Challenge and, while I instinctively knew it would work best for frying, I tried to be healthy and used it to bread baked turkey cutlets. While the results looked good, they tasted a bit meh.

Cheesy Turkey Cutlets

Cracker meal is just what it sounds like -- finely ground crackers. I bought mine from, but you can certainly make your own if you have access to a food processor. Bashing a bunch of crackers with a rolling pin will work, but the cracker crumbs need to be very fine and uniform, so you may have to go at it for a while. (I admit it's an excellent way to work out a case of the angries and the stuff keeps forever in a tightly sealed container so ... may I suggest diy cracker meal as some fine kitchen therapy?)

I served the cutlets with broccoli and mashed potatoes (and cheese sauce over everything, of course). While the cutlets were certainly edible, I know they would have been better pounded a bit thinner and friedfriedfried (and my final version does use very thin fried pork cutlets). They lacked crunch, color, and flavor. If not for the cheese sauce, they would have been completely forgettable.

Truly, the cheese sauce stole the show. Creamy and sharp with just a touch of heat from the mustard and pepper ... I'll be making it again just to pour over broccoli or cauliflower! It's a complete cheater sauce as it's just canned condensed "cheddar" tarted up with (real) shredded cheddar, dry mustard, paprika, and black pepper. Oh, and beer. Because beer is cheddar's BFF.

There's a restaurant the next town over that makes a cheddar ale soup I really want to clone. Except then I would eat nothing but cheddar ale soup and toasted baguettes and that way lies madness.


Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin

I'd bought a pork tenderloin to turn into escalopes for pork schnitzel, but changed my mind at the last minute (too tired/cold coming on) and decided to sear it and roast it in a skillet. I'm not sure it saved much time, but it definitely dirtied fewer dishes!

Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Night photo under the terrible kitchen fluorescents. Yay.
When I'm tired, like last night, it feels as if my enameled iron skillet weighs too darn much (and is awkward as smeg to move about), but the fact it transitions so easily between stove top and oven makes it worth every ounce. Indeed, I've considered retiring some of my baking dishes, because I don't use them as much since I acquired the skillet.

I used Boxed Goodes' Harvest Season to season the tenderloin, which is a blend of sea salt, sugar, celery seed, onion, nutmeg, coriander, white pepper, and porcini mushroom. I won an assortment of Boxed Goodes' seasoning blends a few months ago, at a friend's benefit supper, and I am completely smitten. Harvest Season is one of my favorites and I've used it to season beef, chicken, and duck with delicious results. I have about two tablespoons left and then ... I'll have to find their shop and buy all the things! Terrible, I know.
Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin

2 tsp duck fat
1 lb pork tenderloin
Seasoning blend, as desired
[Boxed Goodes' Harvest Season]
5 oz low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 oz sherry [Taylor]

Remove pork from fridge, trim well, and rub very generously with the seasoning blend. Let the roast sit for about 30 minutes to reach room temperature.

Heat oven to 425°F.

Heat duck fat in a cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet until it shimmers. Sear pork on three sides for one minute per side or until beautifully browned, then flip onto the last raw side and pop the pork in the oven for 15 minutes or until the meat reaches 145°F.

Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Remove the skillet from the oven, plate the pork, cover loosely with foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

While the pork rests, return the skillet to the stove top, turn the temperature up to high, and add the broth and sherry. Stir, scraping up the stuck on bits, until the sauce is reduced by half. Serve drizzled over the pork.


Carrot Fest '13: Maplicious Carrots & Pork

Started out Carrot Fest '13 nice and simple with a roasted maple-glazed pork loin and carrots! I'm still not used to the new thinking that says pork can be served a little pink so I may have roasted mine "too long," but it was still tender, moist, and delicious.

Saturday Supper

Maple Glazed Pork and Carrots

1 lb carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
[that was one carrot!]
2 lb boneless pork loin [not tenderloin!]
⅓ cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350F°. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and place loin on top.

Whisk together cider vinegar, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard. Toss carrots with half of the glaze mixture and arrange around loin. Brush loin with some of the remaining glaze.

Roast for about an hour, brushing loin with glaze every twenty minutes or so. Remove from oven and allow roast to rest 10 minutes before serving.
I served the roast with potatoes and peas. Because I had white potatoes, not sweet, I didn't want to roast them like the carrots. Instead, I tossed them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them in a glass pie plate alongside the loin and carrots. (The peas were not really necessary, but I was worried The Husband wouldn't like the carrots and wanted a fallback vegetable. Turned out, he liked the carrots just fine).


Slow Cooked Kale "Stuff"

In a hurry to use up the last of the kale and a few wrinkly bell peppers before they went weird, I made this ... stew ... in my slow cooker. It was surprisingly good for something so off the cuff and I was quite happy to eat big bowls of it all week for breakfast. Sopped the broth up with a dry toasted mini bagel and it was omnomnomilicious. And, as The Husband does not eat kale, I did not have to share.

Slow Cooked Kale Stuff

Slow Cooked Kale
Serves 4-6, depending on appetite

2 red and yellow bell peppers, chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 14-oz cans Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
8 oz Irish back bacon, chopped
Chopped kale, as needed

Dump the first four ingredients into the slower cooker and stir. Top with as much kale as will fit. Cover and cook 2 hours on High. Stir pot. Continue to cook 3 more hours on High. Stir well and taste. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Fill a bowl and eat.
While I used Irish back bacon, Canadian bacon or lean ham would work just as well. Or sliced links of smoked sausage. Or omit the meat and throw in some beans, instead. Or beans and meat!


Improv Challenge: Eggs & Bacon

I admit I really had no idea what to do with April's Improv Challenge ingredients. Eggs and bacon are delish, yes, but how to make them interesting enough for the Improv Challenge without creating some kind of dangerous bacon-enhanced cupcake? Because that's what everyone thinks when they hear "eggs and bacon," right? Cupcakes?

I wandered through Pinterest, looking for savory recipes that served one or two. While I was toying with a recipe for sweet potato hash topped with a lovely soft poached egg, I stumbled across Living Paleo's recipe for "Sweet Potato, Bacon and Egg Salad" and knew I had found The One.

Bacon, Egg, & Sweet Potato Salad

Bacon, Egg, and Sweet Potato Salad
Adapted from Living Paleo's "Sweet Potato, Bacon and Egg Salad"
Serves 2

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into thumbnail-sized cubes
2 large eggs
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
4 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp finely minced shallot
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Hard-cook eggs according to your favorite method -- I put mine (6, because it's just as easy as 2) in a saucepan, cover them with cold water, put the lid on, and let them come to boil. Then I remove them from the stove and let them sit for 10 minutes. Submerge them in a bowl of ice water until cooled, peel, and chop.

Cook bacon according to your favorite method -- I baked mine on a foil-lined jelly roll pan at 400F° for about 20 minutes. I like a really crisp, slightly blackened bacon so ytmv.

Put sweet potato in a saucepan, cover with water, and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for about 4 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife.

Combine dill, mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest, and shallot in a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs, sweet potato, and bacon. Stir well. Season with pepper to taste.
The original recipe notes this salad can be eaten warm or cold. As it serves two, I ate half warm for breakfast and the other half cold over a bed of shredded romaine for lunch. While I think lunch's flavors were better for having sat a few hours, I preferred the salad warm. Therefore, I recommend you let it sit and then warm it a little in the microwave before you eat it. (The bacon seemed as crisp at lunch as at breakfast, so no worries about soggy bacon).