Archive for the ‘dinner’ Category

Pork Chops in Mustard Sauce

There isn’t much to say about this recipe except that it was very tasty.  I think the fact that the pork chops I used were really great helped things. They came from my meat buying club.

Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce (Gourmet, May 2005)

  • 4 (3/4-inch-thick) pork chops
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots  *I used red onion*
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup country-style Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream *I used unsweetened evaporated milk*
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot. Pat pork dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet, swirling to coat, then brown chops, turning over once, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a shallow baking pan, reserving skillet, and bake, uncovered, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour off fat from skillet, then cook shallots in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add broth and any juices from baking pan and boil, scraping up any brown bits, 2 minutes. Add mustard and cream and return to a boil, then add lemon juice and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.


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Vegetarian Chili

  Every year at work, we have a chili cook-off to kick off the start of March Madness.  The cook-off is always on a Friday, and it’s always during Lent.  For us Catholics, Lent is a time when we don’t eat meat on Fridays.  The only chili that I felt I made well enough to serve to other people has always had meat in it.  Leaving the meat out just didn’t taste right.  That meant I couldn’t eat my own chili during the potluck lunch! 

  This year, I thought I would do some research online for good vegetarian chili recipes.  This recipe base came from a recipe in Gourmet magazine. You can find it on epicurious.com.  It was highly rated, so I tried it out this week on my Hubby before I made it for the cook-off.  (Thanks for being my guinea pig, Love!)


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besides chocolate cake

 The only real reason I can give for the lack of actual recipes lately is being lazy. Well, more like just being tired of doing dishes.

  The better culinary reason I can give goes hand in hand with laziness;  most of our dinners lately have just been a roasted meat of some sort with starch and vegetable.   When I say roasted meat, I mean I have been roasting chicken breasts and pork tenderloins in their most basic form: seasoned salt + canola oil + convection roasting.   To me, it really is the lazy girl’s guide to a good dinner.   Actually I read in the paper not too long ago that our local restaurant critic always orders roast chicken when on the job because he feels it is the best judge of how skilled the kitchen is.  Something that is so simple, but is really bad when done poorly.

 greek chicken

After trial and error I have found some good tips for the perfect roast chicken breast, so I figured I would put them here.

1) Start with good chicken. I have been using chicken breasts on the bone with skin.  I remove the skin after cooking, but it is important to leave the skin on while cooking to protect the meat. 

2) Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then brush with canola oil and season with whatever spice rub you want. I am partial to McCormick’s seasoned salt.  Put this above and below the skin.

3)  Insert a digital meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast.  I think this is the key to moist chicken. Actually it is the best way to avoid overcooking any type of meat in my opinion.  They aren’t expensive and take so much guesswork out of the process.

4)  Place the chicken on a foil lined baking sheet and roast in a pre-heated 450 degree oven set for convection.  I can’t guarantee this recipe if you aren’t using a convection oven because that is what I have in my kitchen. I love it because it circulates the air around the food and allows it to cook quicker.  You can follow this recipe in a regular oven, but it might not brown as nicely and may take longer.

5)  Cook the chicken until it reaches 165 degrees on the thermometer (about 25 minutes).  Take it out and cover with foil. Let this sit for about 10 minutes, the temperature should hit 170 during this time. 

6)  Eat!

See how this can be an easy weeknight meal?   The recipe for the photo above can be found here.

 Anyway, I am going to try and have more interesting posts in the next few weeks.  While you are here, feel free to drop me a comment just to let me know what you think!

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easy pork tenderloin

For a long time I have avoided cooking pork.  There hasn’t been a pork chop or pork loin in our house for a very long time.  There, I have said it.  That very statement alone may cause avid foodies (and Emeril) to stop reading right there.  I have avoided pork because my husband and I both have memories of dry, bland pork that required shake n’ bake  or honey mustard to cover the fact that the pig had died in vain. 

In my quest to cut back on red meat (see previous posts),  I knew that I needed to explore the world of pork before we were left with nothing but poultry, fish and pizza!  I was wandering around the blogosphere earlier in the week  when I stopped in at another blog that I enjoy reading, The clumsy cook.  There was a beautiful picture of heirloom pork tenderloin that made me decide to do something daring.  I went out and bought a pork tenderloin, and we had it for dinner tonight. 

I decided to start slow, so the recipe I used was ridiculously easy, and I have to admit I stole it right off the ww website.   I mixed the olive oil and spices and tenderloin together in the morning before I left for work and let it sit in the fridge all day.  Hubby had the right description when he called it “zippy”.  If you don’t like things well seasoned, you might want to use less of each spice, or just mix it right before cooking.  We had this with mashed potatoes and a salad.  I thought it went well with the Parducci Pinot Noir we got in our case of the week from Chapel Hill/Hillsborough Wine Co (more on that later).   It is now my favorite weeknight dinner, and I will try all kinds of other seasoning combinations in the future. 

One important note:  It is imperative that you use a meat thermometer, preferably a digital one, so that you don’t overcook the pork.  One overcooked pork dinner could cause you or your children slip into the same black hole of pork-avoidance that I have just crawled out of!  Insert the thermometer probe into the center of the meat before cooking and monitor throughout the process. This will make things much easier. 

Thanks to the Clumsy Cook for my inspiration!

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 pound lean pork tenderloinPreheat oven to 400ºF. Coat a shallow roasting pan with cooking spray.
    Combine thyme, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl; set aside.
    Rub oil all over pork. Sprinkle thyme mixture all over pork and transfer to prepared pan.
    Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of pork reads 160ºF, about 30 minutes.
    Let stand 10 minutes before slicing crosswise into thin (about 1/2-inch thick) slices. Yields about 3 ounces per serving.  3ww units

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Easy Asian Chicken and Noodles

I think I mentioned in the last post that I am trying to reduce the amount of red meat that we eat this year.  This is hard for me, because beef is always my safety net. When I don’t know what to have for dinner, I always know I can make some sort of beef dish and it will turn out pretty well; hamburgers, meatballs, lasagna, baked ziti, london broil, shepherd’s pie, french dips, pot roast, filets.   I know that I can replace the beef with ground turkey for some of those recipes, but let’s be honest… it is not the same.  I don’t ususally cook with pork, but I guess that is something I am going to have to explore.  I think I am going to need some help from all of you out there in internetland!

For this recipe, I have taken a dish that I normally make with beef, and replaced it with chicken.  My trick to get the chicken really thin was to slice the breasts while they were still partially frozen.  Note: You MUST have a good, sharp nice to do this.

The original recipe is  adapted from Cooking Light’s Easy Asian Beef and Noodles.   I love this recipe because it is so fast to put together, and it isn’t too expensive either.  The original recipe is said to serve 2 people, but I always have just enough left over to take in for lunch the next day.  When calculating the ww points for this recipe, I used 3 servings instead of 2.  I also add whatever veggies I have hanging around.  We enjoyed it with a nice pinot noir. 

 Easy Asian Chicken and Noodles

  • 1 tsp dark sesame oil, divided
  • 1 cup green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces 
  • 2 breast uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced very thin.
  • 2 cup packaged coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1 cup zucchini
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 2 ramen noodle soup packages, chicken flavor
  • Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and onions; stir-fry until chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken mixture from pan; keep warm. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil until hot. Add slaw, zucchini and broccoli; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove slaw from pan; keep warm.

    Remove noodles from packages; reserve 1 seasoning packet for another use. Add the water and remaining seasoning packet to pan; bring to a boil. Break noodles in half; add noodles to water mixture. Cook noodles 2 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in steak mixture, slaw, and soy sauce; cook until thoroughly heated.

    ww points: 8-9

    I add more soy sauce on my serving when we get to the table, but that is just me. 

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    Happy 2008!  I love the start of a new year. We have just finished spending 2 weeks in Pennsylvania with family away from my own house and kitchen, and for some reason the nesting instinct has kicked in full-force.  I am obsessed with eating at home and organizing the house.  I give it a month until the lazy half of my personality takes over again!

    Part of my plan for 2008 is to cut back on red meat. For us, that means trying more seafood and vegetarian dishes.  Last night I made a twist on a favorite Cooking Light recipe; Baked Salmon with Cherry tomatoes.

    This recipe is great with salmon or tuna, and would probably suit many other types of fish.  Roasting made even my grocery store cherry tomatoes taste good!

     It is very easy to make and is perfect for a weeknight meal. The fact that it bakes in the oven means I have hands-off time to get other parts of the meal together.  Last night we tried a polenta with parmesan and spinach. It was so bad we shall never speak of it again…. I will keep trying polenta until I get it right.

    Baked Salmon (or Tuna) with Cherry Tomatoes

    • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
    • 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • salt
    • pepper
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • cooking spray
    • 2 salmon filets (I used tuna medallions)
    • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the first 6 ingredients in a baking pan coated with cooking spray; toss to coat tomatoes. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Add fish to pan.  Bake an additional 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.  Serve tomato mixture over fish, drizzle with lemon juice.

    For those of you counting Weight Watchers for the new year, this recipe clocks in at 6 wwp.

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    Italian Chicken Soup

    I know that I can’t complain about the weather here in North Carolina, since it is snowing everywhere else on the East Coast.  For us down here though, yesterday was cold and rainy.  A perfect day to have soup for lunch.  I am sending a mental bowl of this soup to all of you snowed/iced in!

    I made this soup a few weeks ago and froze it in several portions. It is good on the day you make it, but even better after the flavors have time to mingle.

    Italian Chicken Soup

    3 chicken breasts with the bone, about 3 pounds total
    2 quarts chicken stock (chicken Bouillon also works)
    28 oz canned diced San Marzano Italian tomatoes
    1 large onion, diced
    3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
    3 celery ribs, finely chopped                                                                                                      rind from a wedge of parmesan cheese
    8 ounces orzo or other small, shaped pasta
    4 cups chopped fresh spinach, escarole or kale
    salt to taste
    freshly ground black pepper

    1. Remove and discard the skin from the chicken breasts and place the breasts in a large soup pot. Add the chicken broth, bring it to a boil and reduce the heat so that the broth just simmers. Simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and transfer to a plate to cool.

    2. Skim the fat from the broth and bring it back to a boil. Add the tomatoes, onion, carrots, celery and parmesan rind. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

    3. Add the orzo  and cook for 5 to 8 more minutes, until the pasta is al dente.

    4. Meanwhile, discard the bones from the chicken and chop the meat into small pieces.

    5. Add the chicken and escarole to the soup pot and simmer for another minute or two. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  If needed, add a chicken bouillon cube for extra depth of flavor.  Serve in warm soup bowls with a thick slice of Italian bread.

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