Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes and Apples

I love skillet meals, the ones that all the ingredients go in one pan and it cooks rather quickly. Clean up is easy too! On busy nights one pan meals have been a life saver for me. This particular recipe is adapted from from an older Southern Living cookbook and is so flavorful and easy. You can sit down to eat in 30 minutes, unless of course you have interruptions! If you have children
there will be interruptions! I used larger pork chops than I needed, but I had purchased these pork sirloin chops on sale for $1.69 per lb., so this was a very economical meal. I browned them for a couple of minutes longer so they would get done. The recipe calls for apple cider, but I substituted apple juice and it was delicious. Hope you enjoy!
Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes and Apples
4 boneless pork chops, about 1/2 inch thick
1 cup apple cider or apple juice, divided
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 in. slices
2 green onions, sliced ( I used 1/2 cup diced yellow onion and it was really yummy)
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 large sweet cooking apples, (I used Gala), cored and sliced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Heat a large skillet on medium high heat and add 1 T. oil. Brown chops on both sides; remove chops from pan and set aside. Pour 3/4 cup of the apple juice in skillet along with the next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover pan with a tight fitting lid and reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add pork chops back to the skillet along with the apple slices. Cover and simmer for another 10- 15 min. until sweet potatoes are tender and chops are done. The apples should be done but not mushy. Remove the pork chops, sweet potatoes and apples to a serving platter, reserving the drippings in skillet. Combine the reserved 1/4 cup apple juice and the cornstarch and stir until smooth; stir into drippings in skillet. Stir constantly until mixture thickens and boils. If the sauce gets too thick add a little more apple juice. Boil 1 minute and then pour over pork chops. We love the flavor of the sauce. The onions soften and kind of caramelize in the juices which adds a delicious sweetness to the dish. This time I also served green beans and crusty bread with the meal, as my husband was really hungry! Do you like to fix one pan meals?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fresh Fruit Salad with Apples and Pomegranate

With all of our wintry weather lately, I've been cooking lots of soups, stews, buttermilk biscuits and just all around comfort foods that we crave when it's cold outside. Yesterday I realized that I hadn't made a fruit salad since Christmas and it really sounded good. When many people think of fresh fruit salad, they think of the berries, melons and peaches of summertime. And while those are so very good, we can have fresh fruit salads in the winter also! Of course, it depends on what is available in your area. This recipe is an adaption of one I found in a 1997 Southern Living cookbook and it allows for a lot of variety. The fruit is drizzled with a light syrup made with fruit juices and keeps really well for a couple of days, unless you use bananas. Bananas taste great in this, but if you use them they will need to be removed from the salad before the next day as they will turn brown and mushy.

Fresh Fruit Salad with Apples and Pomegranate:

Ingredients for Syrup:

1. 1/4 cup sugar

2. 2 teaspoons cornstarch

3. 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

4. 1/2 cup water

5. 3 T. orange juice

6. 1 & 1/2 T. lemon juice

Combine sugar, cornstarch and ginger in a sauce pan; gradually whisk in water and juices until blended. Bring to a boil and stir constantly over med. heat until till syrup thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool while you prepare the fruit.

I decide what fruit to use by what looks good in our local grocery store.For this particular salad I used 2 small Gala apples, 2 pears (one was red), 1 orange, 2 kiwi, 1 cup red seedless grapes, about 1/4/cup of dried cranberries and some pomegranate seeds. Wash fruit well and dry. For the apples and pears, I cored, sliced and cut them into chunks in a bowl. I peeled the orange and cut it crosswise into rounds and then each round I cut into fourths.The Kiwi was cut in rounds and then in half. Mix in the grapes and dried cranberries with a wooden spoon. Pour syrup into fruit and stir gently. Pour into a pretty salad bowl or into individual dessert dishes and chill until ready to serve. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds before serving. Eat and enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore- Slow Cooker style

I can remember when my Mother first bought a Crock Pot in the early 1970's. It was in just one piece, the crock was not removable, so it was difficult to clean. But it was so nice to come home to a pot of soup or stew that had been quickly put together in the morning and then it spent the day slowly cooking until we returned home from work. Wonderful aromas met us at the door in the evening! Well, it can be the same today, only easier because they now come with the wonderful removable inserts, and there are so many styles and price ranges to choose from. Luckily for us there are also many more recipes available to use with the slow cooker. I found this recipe for Chicken Cacciatore in a Betty Crocker recipe booklet and adapted it slightly to use less onion, but more tomato. It call for a whole chicken, cut up, but you may sub chicken pieces that you prefer, such as all thighs, etc.
Chicken Cacciatore - Slow Cooker style
3- 3 1/2 lb. chicken, cut up and skin removed
1/2 cup flour
2 T. vegetable oil
1 medium green bell pepper, cut in strips
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large can diced tomatoes, about 28 ounces, undrained
1 can, 4 ounces, sliced mushrooms, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1/2 tea. dried
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil, or 1/2 tea. dried
1/2 tea. salt
1/4 tea. pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
grated Parmesan cheese, if desired
8 ounces cooked pasta ( I used a whole grain thin spaghetti that had 6 grams of fiber)
Be sure to remove skin from chicken pieces. Coat chicken with flour; heat oil in 12 in. skillet over med.- high heat. Brown chicken in oil for 15- 20 min.until brown on all sides; drain on paper towels. Place chicken in slow cooker. Mix together onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes and seasonings and pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4 - 6 hours or until juice of chicken is no longer pink. Serve over pasta with cheese, if desired. It needed a little more seasoning but other wise it is a very tasty and budget friendly meal. My husband really liked it and said it was a "keeper"!
NOTE: Some slow cookers cook faster than others, so this dish could be done in 3 1/2 hours, depending on individual cookers.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I love Mexican food, but I really didn't get to try it until I was in high school, as it wasn't something that my Mother cooked. I have made some at home and am trying to add to my Mexican recipe collection! I have fixed Quesadillas before, but I used chicken or steak, and this time I was looking for something quick and easy that could be used as an appetizer for get togethers, (like Superbowl parties). So, I turned to Epicurious for a recipe. These are really tasty and so easy to make. The only problem was that the salsa I used was not chunky enough and it squished out when I cut the quesadilla. And, I really like more cheese in them, so next time I must remember that. However, they tasted great! I had one for lunch!
Quesadillas ( from Epicurious)
1/4 lb pepper Jack cheese, shredded(1 3/4 c.) - I used plain Montery Jack
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 T. finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tea. ground cumin
8 (7-inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup chunky salsa
Stir together cheese, beans, cilantro and cumin.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat until hot, but not smoking, then add a tortilla. Top with 1/2 cup of cheese mixture, spreading evenly, then top with 2 T. salsa. Cover with a tortilla. Cook until underside is golden, 1-2 min.,then carefully flip over for another 1-2 min. Repeat with other tortillas. Cut in wedges to serve. I actually find it easier to use 1 tortilla, spreading mixture on half , and then folding it in half and cooking. Then cut it in half to serve. Either way they are delicious!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits

I have always loved biscuits. When I was little my Mother used the biscuit mix from a box, but I loved them and always looked forward to the meals where they would be served. She even used them to top her chicken pot pie, and a sweeter version topped her cherry cobbler. Biscuits have always been comfort food to me!

When I married, and my confidence with cooking grew, I wanted to learn how to make homemade biscuits, so I began trying different recipes. Through the years I have developed my own way of making Buttermilk Biscuits using real butter, which gives the biscuits a buttery flavor and a soft, flaky texture. They are very easy to make and compliment almost any meal. They're great with soups and stews, beans, holiday dinners, and of course, sausage gravy! If you haven't tried making homemade biscuits, you're missing a real treat!
Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups flour
2& 1/2 tea. baking powder
1/2 tea. salt
1/4 tea. soda
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 stick ( 1/2 cup) of cold butter
1 cup of cold buttermilk (be sure to shake it)
In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into pieces with a knife into the bowl. Taking a pastry blender, or a fork, blend the butter into the flour mixture until it is crumbly. Add buttermilk, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a ball. Knead 4or 5 times, then flatten the dough with your hand or a rolling pin into a rectangle. Fold the dough in half and then roll it until it's about 1/2 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or a glass, cut out the biscuits and place on ungreased baking pan with sides of biscuits touching. Roll up the left over scraps and cut more biscuits. Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 15 min. or til golden. Best served hot with butter and honey, or jam! Do you make biscuits? What are your favorite meals to serve them with?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sloppy Joes

Growing up, I loved Sloppy Joes. My Mother didn't fix them, but my school did, and that was one of the few good things they made that tasted good, or so I thought! When I was older and wanted a Sloppy Joe, I would buy a can of sauce from the grocery store and proceed to make them that way. And I continued doing it this way until a couple of years ago, when my daughter and I got tired of the taste of the can of sauce and wanted something fresher. So I began looking for a recipe. I found one on that sounded interesting, but I changed it around some, so I guess you could say that it is loosely based on her recipe. I now like Sloppy Joes again!

This a kid friendly recipe, but you can easily spice it up more if your family likes it that way.

Sloppy Joes

1 &1/2 pounds lean ground beef or ground turkey

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 red or green bell pepper, diced

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 large garlic clove, minced

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 &1/2 T. worcestershire sauce

16 oz. tomato sauce

2 T. ketchup

pinch of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown the meat with the onion and bell pepper until meat is thoroughly cooked. Drain fat if any. Add the rest of the ingredients, along with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 min to let sauce cook down and the favors to combine. Taste to see if you need to adjust the seasonings any. Serve on buns and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chili Tortilla Bake

One summer day last year, I was strolling down the aisle at my local grocery store, when I spied a little display rack near the spice section holding recipes. I can't pass up recipes, so without looking too closely at them I put them in my purse and continued my shopping( they were free, by the way). When I arrived home, I looked more closely at these recipes and decided that Chili Tortilla Bake sounded good and also it would be really easy. So when the weather turned cool, I tried this casserole dish. If you like Tex-Mex style food, you'll like this dish as it has the right amount of spiciness and cheese and it is easy to to adapt to your own tastes. I have made many casseroles for my family and this is one of the easiest. You simply brown the ground beef and add the other ingredients and then layer it with cheese and tortillas, sort of like a lasagna. The recipe is put out by McCormick and this is my slightly adapted version.

Chili Tortilla Bake
1 pound ground chuck
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cans(8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen corn (or canned)
1/4 cup water
1 can (4 1/2 oz.) chopped green chilies, undrained
2 T. chili powder
1 tea. ground cumin
1 large clove garlic, minced (or 1 tea. garlic powder)
1/2 tea. oregano
6 (8 in. flour tortillas)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350. In a large skillet brown beef and onion over medium high heat: drain. Add tomato sauce, beans, corn and green chilies. Stir in water and seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 15 min. In a 9x13 baking dish, coated with cooking spray, place 3 tortillas to cover bottom. Layer with half of chili mixture and half of cheese. Top with remaining tortillas, chili and cheese. Bake 25-30 min. I used more cheese on top than the recipe called for. Also, don't over bake as the cheese gets too rubbery. Garnish with green onions, black olives or cilantro. Do you make casseroles for your family?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Since the holidays, I have only wanted to fix quick and simple foods. I don't want heavy sauces or gravies, nor do I want to spend 2 hours cooking and cleaning up my mess! Of course, I feel like this every year after Christmas; kind of stuffed.This is the year for simple foods, back to basics, if you will. Besides, it will help keep my grocery bill down. Now I love Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as anyone and that goes for the food too. But by New Years I'm ready to leave the rich goodies behind. I know I'm not alone. How many of us make resolutions to either lose weight, or at least eat healthier? I do! Every Year! Now back to simple foods. I have always loved, even craved sweet potatoes. But growing up we only had them covered in brown sugar and marshmallows, or once in a great while baked(I still like them that way, too). Then came along "Sweet Potato Oven Fries", and I fell in love again! I've fixed them several ways and all have been good. I've brushed the wedges with melted butter and honey, put them in the oven and they get a little caramelized and oh so yummy. But lately I've like them a little spicy. And sweet potatoes are good for us, that's an added bonus!
Sweet Potato Oven Fries
You'll need to preheat your oven to 400 degrees. You will need 1 sweet potato per person , depending on the size of the potato,of course. Peel the potatoes and cut off the ends as they can be stringy. Cut each sweet potato lengthwise into 8-12 wedges and place on a shallow baking sheet, sprinkle with chili powder and drizzle with olive oil. Then mix it up with your hands to more evenly distribute the oil. If I think it needs more chili powder I add more and then sprinkle the spuds with kosher salt (or whatever salt you want). Pop them in the oven for about 30 minutes until brown. Actually, you need to turn them after about 15 min. so they'll brown evenly. When done they'll be slightly crisp around the edges, naturally sweet , spicy and delicious! I'm addicted! I hope you like them too. What is your favorite sweet potato dish!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Apple Crisp

I love the aroma of apples and cinnamon cooking together; it excites the senses as it permeates my home and brings back memories memories of my Mother, baking "Apple Crisp" when I was young. Apple desserts rate right up there with chocolate as my favorite sweets! I have been trying to come up with a recipe that has a good apple to crust ratio, apples that aren't too sugary, and a crust that is, of course, crisp! So this is the result of trying different recipes through the years and finally coming up with this one on my own. Be sure to use a firm, tart apple. Don't over bake the crisp or it will be dry and maybe burn, especially the nuts. This recipe fills a 9x13 pan when assembled, but will ,of course, cook down during baking. Enjoy my "Apple Crisp"!
Apple Crisp
In a large bowl add;
8-9 cups of sliced apples ( Granny Smiths that have been peeled)
3 teaspoons of lemon juice
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg(optional)
Mix above ingredients together and place in a greased 9x13 baking dish.
In another bowl place topping ingredients;
3/4 cup of flour
3/4 cup of oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
10 Tablespoons cold butter, cut up
With a pastry blender work the topping until it is crumbly. Add 1/2 cup of sliced almonds or chopped pecans to the topping and work the nuts in with your fingers until you have a fine crumb. Sprinkled evenly over the apples. Bake in a preheated 375 degree for 35-40 min. until brown. A toothpick inserted in the apples will tell you how done the apples are. Remove from the oven, let cool if you want . It's best served warm with whipped cream or ice cream, of course!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Honey- Wheat Muffins

Oh,how I love honey! I love it drizzled on biscuits, rolls, used in marinades and sauces, and as an ingredient in these muffins. I made these often when my children were young, as my two boys were very finicky eaters. My daughter wasn't quite as picky. These Honey- Wheat Muffins were always a hit with them, as well as with my husband and I. They are also very easy and quick to make, and go well with almost any meal. They are yummy for breakfast, or with a salad or soup at lunch, or even delicious at dinner! So, I made these this morning, slathered one with butter and honey,poured a cup of coffee, and sat down to contemplate this past year. While there were some hard times, 2008 was still a good year. I expect that 2009 will be the same. I hope to take those lessons I learned last year and apply them to the challenges of this year. And, I hope to be a blessing to others. So I hope you'll try "Honey-Wheat Muffins"soon!
Honey-Wheat Muffins
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup melted butter
In a large bowl mix flours,baking powder and salt. In a small bowl beat the egg with a fork; beat in milk, honey and butter. Add to the flour mixture;stir just untill blended.Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15 min. Remove muffins from pan to cool, or slather with butter and devour! Makes 12 muffins. Oh yea, this recipe came from a very old Family Circle magazine, from the 80's, I think! Have a wonderful New Year everyone!