Friday, July 15, 2016

Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy

I love a good stir fry. Not only are they quick and easy to prepare, they're the perfect way to get protein and veggies in one dish. Serve over rice or toss with cooked pasta and dinner is done.

Szechuan pork with bok choy

My friend Mary Ellen recently posted this recipe for Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy. I immediately put it on the menu. Unfortunately, my grocery store didn't have the large heads of bok choy so I guessimated the number of baby bok choy I'd need as a substitute. I was way, way off. The bok choy all but dissolved in the sauce and Steve said he would never have known it was in there if I hadn't told him. Cooking fail.

I vowed to try again and this time, I looked up bok choy on Wegmans' website. I really love that their site lists their products as well as where you can find them in the store. I saw that a large head of bok choy weighs in at 1 1/2-lbs, so I told Steve to buy 1 1/2-lbs of baby bok choy. Problem solved! I remade the dish and this time, there was plenty of that crunchy goodness.

Szechuan pork with bok choy

This is such a simple meal that's packed with flavor. I love how the pork and vegetables stretch 8-oz of pasta into 5 meals and how quickly I was able to get this meal on the table. Thanks for another delicious dinner, Mary Ellen!

Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy
Slightly modified from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations, originally from Rachael Ray

1 1/2-lbs baby bok choy
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 lb ground pork
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce (more or less to taste)
1 cup chicken broth
8 spaghetti, cooked and drained
4 scallions, chopped

Cut off the bottom stem of each baby bok choy and discard any yellowing outer leaves. Chop the remaining bok choy into large chunks.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the bok choy, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and bok choy start to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove the vegetable mixture to a bowl and return the skillet to the stove.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the pan, then add the pork. Cook, breaking the pork up with your spoon, until browned.

Add the soy sauce, chile garlic sauce and chicken broth to the pan. Bring to a simmer, then add the vegetables. Simmer together for a few minutes, then add in the cooked noodles and scallions. Toss together and serve.
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Friday, July 08, 2016

The Best Shrimp and Grits

I'm a sucker for shrimp and grits. If I see it on a menu, I have to order it. I just love the creamy, soft grits topped with the bursty, delicious shrimp. I've tried making it at home a few times, but wasn't successful. Now my search is over - I've found THE BEST recipe for shrimp and grits. This was Katie's first time eating grits and she literally licked her plate clean. Steve couldn't stop raving about it either. We were all silent as we ate, each of us savoring the delicious plate of food in front of us.

Shrimp and grits

The recipe could not be simpler - grits are cooked in a mixture of chicken broth, milk and butter. Aside from stirring them every once in a while, they cook themselves. Shrimp are cooked in delicious bacon fat with a little garlic. The whole thing takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, making it the perfect weeknight meal.

Shrimp and grits

I served the shrimp and grits with spinach sauteed in oil with some sliced garlic. It was the perfect accompaniment, especially since I could just plate it alongside the shrimp. The only thing I might do is add a little fresh chopped tomato - not because the dish needs anything but for that hint of freshness and acidity.

The Best Shrimp and Grits
As seen on The Redhead Baker, originally from Taste of Home

For the grits:
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup uncooked stone-ground/old-fashioned grits
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

For the shrimp:
6 thick-sliced bacon strips, chopped
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Combine the broth, milk, butter, salt and pepper in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shredded cheese and stir until melted. Set aside covered, and keep warm.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon; reserve drippings in the skillet.

Saute the shrimp and garlic in the bacon drippings. Flip the shrimp as soon as they turn pink. Remove once both sides are pink.

To serve, divide the grits into four bowls. Top each with one quarter of the shrimp. Garnish with the reserved bacon and scallions.
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Friday, June 10, 2016

Skillet Salsa Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice

Like most people, I'm a big fan of easy weeknight meals. Obviously I love to cook or I wouldn't have a food blog, but even I have nights where I just don't feel like cooking. That's when a meal like this Skillet Salsa Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice comes in handy.

Salsa chicken with cilantro lime rice

I've seen recipes for salsa chicken floating around the Internet for years, but they all seem to involve the slow cooker, which I don't use. That's why I was so excited when my friend, Melissa, posted this recipe. A skillet salsa chicken was right up my alley and I knew it would pair beautifully with cilantro lime rice.

Salsa chicken with cilantro lime rice

What a show-stopper. Katie isn't a picky eater and loves pretty much everything I make, but she couldn't stop raving about this one. After every bite she said some variation of, "Mommy, you are an amazing cooker. I'm so lucky to have you cook for me. Can you make this again soon?" I was right there with her, practically swooning over the delicious flavors, especially when I mixed the rice and chicken together with the creamy avocado. Yum, yum, yum.

And the best part - dinner took almost no time to make so we could play after dinner. That's a win-win in my book.

Skillet Salsa Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice
Slightly adapted from Hunt, Cook, Eat

1-1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups salsa
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 cup corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1 cup dry basmati rice
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt

Diced avocado, for serving

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with just a touch of olive oil. Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes until no longer pink. Add the onion and saute for another 2-3 minutes until onion is soft and chicken is cooked through. Add minced garlic (if using) and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the seasonings, salsa, water, corn and black beans to the pan and stir to combine.

Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sour cream and lime juice. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro.

To make the rice, follow the directions on the package. My basmati calls for soaking the rice beforehand (which I highly recommend). Once you've cooked the rice, drizzle the lime juice and oil over the top while it's still warm. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and salt, then fluff with a fork.

To serve, pile some rice in a shallow bowl and top with some of the chicken. Add diced avocado and serve.
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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Bacon, Parmesan & Arugula Potato Salad

Sometimes the best things come into your life when you least expect them. Take this Bacon, Parmesan & Arugula Potato Salad. I wasn't looking for a new potato salad recipe, but as soon as I saw Kylee's post I just had to make it. And I'm really glad I did because we all absolutely loved it.

Potato salad with bacon arugula parm

I halved the recipe (the full amounts are listed below) and it was more than enough for the three of us. I brought the leftovers on a picnic the following day to share with friends and they raved, too. The best part is, it's super easy and incredibly flavorful.

Bacon, Parmesan & Arugula Potato Salad
Slightly modified from Kylee Cooks

3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb bacon
1 5-oz bag arugula
mayonnaise
Shaved or grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a large pot of cold water covering them by 1-inch. Bring to a boil over high heat and add salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Don't overcook them or they'll get mushy!

Meanwhile, cut the bacon into pieces using kitchen scissors. Cook it in a pan until crispy, then drain on a paper towel. Reserve the bacon grease in the pan.

Once the potatoes have cooked, drain them and immediately toss with the reserved bacon fat. Drain again and spread out on rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.

Mix the cooled potatoes, bacon, arugula, mayonnaise, Parmesan, and pepper together. Taste and adjust seasonings and mayo as needed.


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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Pulled Pork Flatbread Pizzas

The last time Steve made pulled pork, we had some left over. I'd had this idea of making flatbread pizzas in the back of my mind for a while, so I squirreled it away in the freezer for another time. That time finally came last week. I even had some leftover BBQ from our favorite spot, Sweet Lucy's in Philly.

Pulled pork pizzas

I wasn't planning to blog these, but I posted photos on my personal Facebook page and on Instagram. I had a few people ask me for the recipe, so I promised I'd throw this blog post together. This is more of a method than a recipe. I don't have measurements and I've never blogged the pulled pork recipe Steve uses, so I hope what little I've got for you guys below will work for those who asked!

Pulled Pork Flatbread Pizzas

Butter
6 flatbreads or naan
Leftover pulled pork
Your favorite BBQ sauce
Grated Monterey Jack cheese
Grated mozzarella cheese
Thinly sliced red onion
Fresh cilantro, minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter both sides of the flatbreads. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Add the flatbreads and cook, turning occasionally, until each side is browned and slightly crispy. Remove to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining flatbreads.

Mix the pulled pork with some BBQ sauce, to taste.

Sprinkle some Monterey Jack and mozzarella on each flatbread. Divide the pulled pork evenly among the flatbread. Top each with some of the sliced red onion, followed by more of the cheeses.

Put the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle each pizza with fresh cilantro and cut into pieces. Serve immediately.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Baked Camembert

Do you remember when food blogs weren't nearly as plentiful as they are today? Back when I started blogging (August 2006!) the Internet was a much quieter place. One of the first food blogs I stumbled on was The Food Pornographer. She rarely posts recipes - her focus is on restaurants and photos of food - but she did post this one for Baked Camembert, which her extended family likes to make for special occasions.

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I made the same tweaks that they did - more garlic, no nuts or cranberries - and served it with crackers as our first course on Mother's Day.

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The smell of the garlic and rosemary baking in the oven was downright intoxicating. As soon as it came out of the oven we all descended like vultures and it was quickly devoured. Poor Steve is lactose intolerant so he took a Lactaid pill to enjoy the cheesy deliciousness. And then Katie proceeded to all but elbow him out of the way to get to the cheese. I had to restrain her so Daddy could have a few bites. That girl loves cheese, just like her parents.

Baked Camembert
Modified from Jamie Oliver

8oz Camembert cheese
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
olive oil
crackers or bread for dipping

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cut off the rind from one side of the cheese. Put the cheese into an oven-safe ramekin. Press the sliced garlic into the top of the cheese, then sprinkle with the minced rosemary. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is soft and gooey.

Allow to cool slightly, then serve with crackers or bread cubes for dipping.
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Monday, May 09, 2016

Buttermilk Pie

Whenever I buy a quart of buttermilk to make my homemade chicken nuggets, I end up with quite a lot leftover. I've heard about powdered buttermilk, but I've never seen it in our supermarket. I've also tried a homemade version using milk and lemon juice, but I didn't think it tasted the same. I have an amazing recipe for IHOP pancakes that uses buttermilk, so we usually have pancakes a few weekends in a row. But this time I wanted to try something different, especially after my friend, Kylee, posted this recipe for Buttermilk Pie.

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From what I understand, this is a Southern staple, which means I'd never heard of it before Kylee posted the recipe. I went into this with zero expectations, just excited to try something new.

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The recipe couldn't be easier - you just mix all the ingredients together and pour into a pie crust. This actually makes two pies, so it's perfect for a family get together or to bring into the office. We gave the second one away to a friend and he said the pie was gone the next morning.

The consistency is almost like a custard, but denser. It's impossible to describe - there's a hint of vanilla, a slight tang from the buttermilk and a mellow sweetness. I chose a ready-made shortbread pie crust because I didn't want to futz with making my own crust, but next time I might try to find a traditional pie crust instead. I did over bake my pies (the tops are very brown) so make sure you start with 50 minutes and check it often.

Buttermilk Pie
As seen on Kylee Cooks

6 eggs, beaten
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 unbaked 9-inch pie crusts

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla together with a hand mixer for about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and melted butter. Mix until well combined. Add the sugar mixture to the eggs and stir together, using a wooden spoon, until just combined.

Put the pie crusts (in pie plates) onto a large baking sheet. Divide the filling between the two crusts.

Bake for 50-55 minutes. You want the filling to be loose/wobbly (kind of like a thick custard) when you tap it, but not runny and the top to be lightly browned.

Let the pies cool completely. Serve at room temperature.
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