Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chocolate Pork Chops

Whoa! CHOCOLATE AND PORK!!! That sure gets your attention doesn't it?

The Brain and I have been playing a new "game". (Get your mind out of the gutter.) Every weekend he picks three packages of meat out of the freezer and I find some way of cooking them. We started this little ritual after he realized that I could take an entire evening to make my weekly meal plan. Yes, I like to know what I should be eating for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner every day. (Unfortunately, there sometimes appears something delicious like oatmeal cookies that throw a wrench in any meal planning and I eat them until they're gone.) It's been working out pretty good so far. I've been trying to loosen up and go with the flow at mealtime and we're slowly eating all of the meat in the freezers.

This week though, things really came into line. Monday night I was sitting around watching TV, wondering how bad the storm was going to be, wondering if school was going to be cancelled on Tuesday (it was), when I flicked to Paula Deen making these beautiful pork chops. I was stunned. I was hungry after watching. I had already made dinner. D'OH!

So at the earliest opportunity (the next day), I pulled the thawed pork chops out of the freezer and had at it. Fortunately I had most of the ingredients in the cupboard because we were snowed in. I kind of tweaked what I had to make do for the stuff I didn't have. I was sad to see my package of pork chops only had two in it. (All our meat is wrapped in butcher paper so it's like opening little presents.) But I'm saving the extra rub for next time the Brain pulls out a pork chop package. The dry rub is super easy to mix together and the pork chops cook really nice and quick. If I liked gravy, I might make a gravy out of what I'm sure are the delicious drippings still in the pan. Even the Brain, who eats whatever I make and doesn't really comment, remarked that these were some delicious pork chops.

I sure wish there were leftovers...

Chocolate Spiced Pork Chops
adapted from Paula Deen's recipe

2 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 Tbsp dehydrated onion flakes
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
4 (1 1/2 inch thick) bone in pork chops
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, Italian seasoning, onion flakes, cocoa powder, garlic salt, paprika, red pepper, cumin, and black pepper. Rub the mixture evenly over the pork chops.

Add the oil to a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork chops and cook for 3 minutes per side. Put the skillet in oven and bake the pork chops until cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven, transfer the chops to a serving platter and serve.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Last night Super G and I had an interesting phone conversation. She was complaining that I was anticipating not just one snow day, but two if the full 12 inches of snow hits like it's supposed to. It started at 7am this morning. Right on schedule! (As it turns out, Super G can no longer whine about there being no snow days in New York City. School is cancelled for her tomorrow too!)

To make her feel better Super G and I were discussing the benefits of living in New York City. Not that I really know, because I've only lived in what seems like every major metropolitan area in the Midwest not the East Coast. So I pointed out things like being able to find rice flour, or marscapone cheese and being able to go to places like fancy chocolate shops and Murray's cheese shop, and if she wants Indian food she doesn't have to cook it herself. Super G then started to feel better because, as she pointed out to me, she was able to have some Scharffenberger cocoa powder delivered to her house with her groceries.

I don't think I can find Scharffenberger cocoa out here. Well certainly not in this county anyway. Askinosie isn't available either. I have to admit that I was starting to feel a little blue. The best cocoa I can find is whatever Walmart carries. But then I started to think of the advantages of being out here in the middle of Nowhere, Ohio. For example, all of our meat is raised lovingly by little kids and is pretty near organic. Also, the secretary at the school I'm doing my student teaching at sells farm fresh brown eggs from her very own chickens.

Super G may have access to fancy expensive specialty foods, but I know where mine comes from. I know the 15 year old 4H "farmers". And sometimes you just don't need fancy specialty foods. Some good old fashioned oats will do. And some raisins. And there you have an iconic cookie. The Oatmeal Raisin cookie.

Sometimes when I'm lying awake at night trying to go to sleep I create impossible stories in my head. Nothing that will ever come about, but fun to think about kinds of things. Like owning a bakery. That would be fun. Well except for the whole employees and taxes and inventory and rent and electricity bills and stuff like that. But if I ever did own a bakery, these would be the oatmeal cookies I would sell. They are sturdy and yummy and yet down-home and delicious. I think the oatmeal cookie recipe from the Quaker Oats box has just been bumped from my recipe collection!

The recipe comes from a Christmas present cookbook from my brother and his beautiful wife. The Grand Central Baking Book. The recipes are easy to follow. The photos are drool-worthy. And frankly, if every recipe in the book is as good as the oatmeal cookies, then I may have to make a trip to Portland (or Seattle) and eat at the Grand Central Bakery. As it turns out, they celebrate the same food philosophy I do. They are all about foods that are locally grown, artisan breads, and homemade scratch cooking. Yum! (If you perhaps live out in the Pacific Northwest, you should really check them out. The bread is apparently in grocery stores, and there are bakery locations in both Portland and Seattle.)

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 3/4 cup (8.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups (11.5 ounces) rolled oats
1 cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 5 baking sheets with parchment paper (or if you don't have that many sheets, only line 2, but you will have to wait while cookies cool on the baking sheets.)

Whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, and sugars on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Scraping the bowl occasionally. While the mixer is running, crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup and add the vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to low and pour the eggs, one at a time, into the batter. Allow the first egg to be fully incorporated into the dough before adding the second. Scrape the bowl again.

Add the dry ingredients in 2 or 3 additions with the mixer on low speed. Scrape the bowl again. Mix the oats and raisins in the now empty flour bowl and then add them to the dry ingredients. Mix just until everything is well distributed.

Weigh out scoops of dough that are approximately 1.5 ounces each. Roll these scoops into balls. Place 6 balls on each cookie sheet and then gently flatten them to about 1/2 inch thick. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through cooking time. When they are done they should look a little underdone in the middle, but golden at the edges. Pull the sheets out of the oven and let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets. (The cookies continue to bake on the hot cookie sheets.)

These aren't the quickest batch of cookies to make, but they really are worth the time spent making them!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Narangi Keema

This month the Brain and I celebrated 6 years of togetherness. Well celebrated is a little strong of a word. We noted the passing of time. See we're not shmoopy traditionally romantic people. I can honestly say I've never gazed into the Brain's eyes for any long period of time, despite the fact that he has the most beautiful blue eyes and really long lashes. We don't hold hands very often and if we do it tends to be something of a silly moment. That's just how we are.

(3 weeks after we met)

Don't get me wrong. We are very compatible and live a life full of love and laughter, but we're not traditional. Did I ever tell you we met on the Internet? Indeed. I met his requirement of being a Catholic without any children and he met my requirement of being bald. Yes. I like bald men. A lot.

This is us about 8 months later (when I already knew there was no going back.) Aren't we cute? That's one fine looking bald man...

So yeah, sometimes I like things a little different than the next person. For example, I have always had a certain soft spot for a bald man. I think I get it from my mother who thinks Danny DeVito is a wildly sexy man. I'm not even making that up.

Given some ground lamb and a craving for Indian food most people make Ground Lamb with Peas (or Mutter Kheema). It's delicious. But I had just gone to the library and checked out From Curries to Kebabs, recipes from the Indian Spice Train by Madhur Jaffrey. In this very interesting cookbook is a recipe called Narangi Keema, which is short for Hyderabadi Ground Lamb with Orange. It's a really unusual, really delicious dish. I didn't alter it too much from the original recipe. The only difference is that at the end of the recipe she says to add the garam masala, but doesn't include it in the ingredients list. and the unit of measurement is missing from the coriander leaves. It just says 1. 1 what? 1 bushel? 1 tsp? 1 cup? Yes, it's the standard how to annoy a math geek moment. But anyway, this was really different and tasty way to try a new Indian ground lamb recipe.

Narangi Keema
from From Curries to Kebabs with alterations previously noted.

1 large orange
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp peanut oil
2 medium onions, sliced into fine half rings
2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 Tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, crushed to a pulp
4 Tbsp plain yogurt
2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tsp salt

3 serrano peppers, sliced into very fine rounds
1 cup lightly packed cilantro, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala

To prepare the orange, peel off the orange rind, making sure to leave the white pith behind. Cut the rind into very fine, 1 inch long julienne strips. Combine the turmeric and salt with 6 cups of water in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour half into a measuring cup and reserve. Add the rind to the boiling liquid in the pan and boil rapidly for 1 minute. Empty the pan through a sieve set over a sink. Pour the reserved turmeric water back into the pan and bring back to a boil. Put the rind back into the pan and boil again for 1 minute, then strain again through a sieve set over the sink. Rinse the rind under cold running water and set aside.

To prepare the lamb, pour the oil into a large, nonstick, lidded pan set over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the onions and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, or until a dark caramel color. Add the cumin and coriander and stir for 30 seconds. Add the ginger and garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the yogurt 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting for the previous tablespoon to be absorbed before adding another. Put in the lamb, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir and cook for 5 minutes, breaking up all the lumps in the meat. Add the orange juice, rind, and salt. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently for 40 minutes. Add the chilies, cilantro, mint, and garam masala. Stir to combine. Cover and continue to cook for 10 more minutes. Serve.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Hello. How are you?
Have you dropped a little weight?

You're looking pretty good!

I've been dieting some. I've also been working out more.


Because there's so much going on in the world today that I can't do anything about. I can't help those people in Haiti besides write a check. I can't do anything about all the poor people (and self employed people) who have very limited access to healthcare. I can't adopt one of the hundreds of thousands of little orphaned Haitian babies. I can't find Osama Bin Laden. (Okay, I haven't looked either.) It seems to me that every time I listen to the news it's just more and more that I can't do anything about. I find it a touch depressing.

What I can do, and the reason for the dieting and working out, is ride my bike. I have a teensy little seat and I'm seriously hoping it gets MUCH more comfortable in the next 7 months. Because July 29th - August 1st I will be riding 328 miles in Pan Ohio Hope Ride. I will be riding to raise funds for the American Cancer Society and their Hope Houses. In fact, today, when I learned yet another person I love very much has been diagnosed with cancer, the only thing that made me feel the tiniest bit better was to put on my biking clothes and ride my bike. So if you'd like to support me, here's the link to my page. If you'd like to join the team I'm on (Adam's Army- named after a soldier who was a good friend of my team leader Mike) we'd love to have you! Just click on the button that says "Join My Team."

Also, expect to see updates ocassionally on how the training is going.

And yes, those noodles are made from scratch, not a box.

If it weren't for the Pan Ohio Hope Ride, I would be doing what every other chubby, emotional eater, in rural Ohio does and eating plates and plates of this delicious Spaghetti and Meatballs. Okay. I did eat plates and plates of Spaghetti and Meatballs, but in my defense, yesterday was my birthday, and I seriously think The Complete Meat Cookbook is one of the top 5 cookbooks in my library (one of the spare bedrooms, not the public library.)

Meatballs and Sauce
adapted from The Complete Meat Cookbook

1 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound bulk pork sausage
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
2 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced onion
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley (I used 1/4 cup dried because it's what I had)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 medium stalks celery, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef stock
3 cups canned tomatoes
1 tsp Italian seasoning. (Ok, it supposed to be basil, but somehow I have none in the pantry)

In a large deep bowl combine all meatball ingredients. kneading and squeezing until everything is well blended. Shape the meat into 24 meatballs (approximately 1 1/2 inch balls). Place the meatballs on a cooking sheet lined with parchment and place in a preheated 500° oven and bake for 10 minutes, ocassionally shaking the pan.

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a Dutch oven, add the onions, celery, and garlic and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring once in a while. Pour in the red wine and bring to a boil. Cook until the red wine is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer. Add the Italian Seasoning (or basil) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes and then using an immersion blender puree the sauce to as smooth as you prefer.

Put the meatballs into the pan and simmer over low heat for another 30 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and serve over the cooked pasta of your choice.

Serves 8.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Egg Tomato Curry

It's snowing outside. It's been snowing for several days. Okay, maybe just two whole days, but it feels like longer. It's the perfect kind of weather to snuggle under an afghan, drink a steamy mug of hot chocolate and eat something robust and hearty like beef stew and homemade bread with thick slabs of butter. Real butter, not margarine.
But it's January. Which means one of two things. 1) You have New Year's resolutions and are avoiding things like snuggling all day under an afghan (you need to get moving!) and thick slabs of butter. Or 2) You are sick and tired of rich foods and butter and chocolate (hard to believe THAT happened!) and instead are desperately craving something with a vegetable in it. Or maybe you feel like you can only afford to eat Ramen Noodles (BLECCH!) after looking at the credit card bill. Ah January. What a month.

Because there was a -1 billion degree windchill outside, the Focus does not have heated seats, and I needed to eat something quick and warm and delicious and healthy (and fairly cheap), I told my sister Super G, while driving home from work on Sunday that I would be making Egg Curry for dinner that night. Super G regularly follows my blog and informed me that she didn't think I'd ever posted a recipe for that and she Google searched to be sure. I told her that was ridiculous because I must have posted an egg curry recipe before. It's my go to quick, easy, delicious, cheap, and healthy recipe. Super G insisted I hadn't because she is curious about trying it.

I'm embarrassed to say Super G is correct. I have somehow neglected to post a recipe for egg curry. This is even more embarrassing because I have two different egg curry recipes that I've used in the past. Ooops. Deepest apologies. This is without a doubt super comforting food for me and although it took a moment of courage to get over the idea of hard boiled eggs in tomato sauce, it has squarely landed in the rotation as a meal I cook often. So without further ado, Here's the recipe...

Egg-Tomato Curry
adapted from Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking (don't judge, it's a really good cookbook)

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion
2 medium cloves garlic
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 (15oz) cans of petite diced tomatoes
1 cup water
4 large hard boiled eggs, cut in half
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro

Quarter the onion and process in the food processor with the garlic until very finely chopped. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for several minutes until all liquid has evaporated and onions start to turn brown (about 5 minutes).

Stir in sugar, salt, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and turmeric. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes stirring constantly. Stir in tomatoes and water. Simmer uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes.

Gently stir in eggs and simmer for another 1 to 2 minutes to warm eggs. Remove from heat. Gently stir in cilantro.