Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ad Hoc's Fig-Stuffed Roast Pork Loin & HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The above photo is by my wonderful hubby, Brad.

***I hope you've got your champagne and confetti ready to go! The new year is only hours away!! I can't believe another year is almost over. It seems like time just flies by lately. This past year turned out to be a great one...However, I'm excited to see what 2010 has in store for us!

Brad and I are excited to be shooting a wedding tomorrow. It seems like the perfect way to start out the new year. Because of this, we decided to have a nice night at home, since we'll be getting up early tomorrow morning for the wedding. We'll be getting home late tomorrow night, so I went ahead and cooked our traditional New Year's Dinner tonight...complete with the following menu:

This photo is also by Brad...

New Year's Dinner:
Fig-Stuffed Roast Pork Loin
Sauteed Spinach with Pecans & Feta
Black Eyed Peas with Lardons
Buttermilk Biscuits (made from scratch!)

The champagne is chilling and our tummies are full from this delicious meal!

I've cooked several dishes already from my new Ad Hoc at Home cookbook that Brad gave me for Christmas. I absolutely LOVE this cookbook!!! When I first get a new cookbook, I always go through and bookmark all the recipes that I want to make first. After reading through this book, I had almost 30 recipes marked...I couldn't help it! I can't remember finding that many recipes in one cookbook that I couldn't wait to try. This cookbook is awesome! As proof of its awesome-ness, Brad actually had a little trouble finding this book before Christmas. It was sold out here in Birmingham and on most of the online retailers (Amazon included!). He finally found one copy left at a local store. I'm so glad that they had it!

Thomas Keller is the man!

Well, I guess this will be my last post of 2009. I hope you have a FANTASTIC New Year's celebration tonight. Have fun and be safe! I'll see you next year!***

One 2 1/2-pound pork loin roast
1 large fennel bulb (I left this out)
Canola Oil
1/2 cup 1/2-inch cubes ciabatta or other artisan bread
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 cup Fig and Balsamic Jam (stay tuned for this recipe in my next post!)
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Gray salt or coarse sea salt

Rinse pork loin with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Let air-dry.

Using a long thin knife, make a horizontal lengthwise cut all the way through the center of the loin. (Instead of making one long slit, you may find it easier to cut halfway into the meat, working from either end.) Turn the knife and make a vertical cut through the meat (the two cuts should intersect like a plus sign.) Let the meat rest at room temperature while you prepare the stuffing. (I cut the pork loin differently).

Cut the stalks from the fennel and trim the root end. Remove the thicker outer layers. Separate the bulb into individual layers and cut into batons about 1 1/4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide; you need 1/2 cup fennel. Reserve the remaining fennel for another use.

Set a cooling rack over a small baking sheet and line it with paper towels.

Heat some canola oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and cook, tossing to brown on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the bread cubes to the lined rack.

Pour off any excess oil, leaving just a light film in the pan, return the pan to the heat, and add the fennel. Cook until tender with just a little bite left, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and shallot and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the jam and warm through, then add the bread cubes, chicken stock, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste, stirring until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put a roasting rack in a small roasting pan and put it in the oven.

Meanwhile, use your fingers to widen the cavity in the meat enough to hold the stuffing, working from either end of the loin. Place the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe it into the opening on one side of the pork, pushing the filling into the center of the roast. Turn the loin around and finish stuffing it from the other end. Tie the roast with kitchen twine, being careful not to pull the string so tight that it pushes out the filling.

Season the loin on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat some canola oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the loin to the pan and brown on all sides, moving it to a different area of the pan with each turn, for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the pork to the roasting pan and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 135 to 140 degrees F. (I cooked my pork loin longer...for about 1 hour...until well done. I prefer pork to be less pink.) Remove from the oven and let rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes for medium-rare to medium.

Remove the string and cut the loin into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange on a platter and sprinkle with gray salt.

***Note: Thomas Keller includes separate recipes for a pork brine and chicken stock. I did not soak my pork loin in a brine...I completely skipped that step. He also includes his own recipe for chicken stock. I used store-bought stock.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Incredible Potato-Bacon Torte - Melissa d'Arabian

***Every once in a while, I get the pleasure of baking a recipe that reminds me all over again why I love cooking so much. This recipe is fortunately one of those! Brad and I watched Melissa d'Arabian make this today on her TV show, Ten Dollar Dinners. We were practically drooling by the end of the episode, so I made out a grocery list and my sweetheart of a husband went to the grocery store for the ingredients. We decided it would go perfectly with the Italian-style pot roast that had already been slow-cooking for hours.

This is one of those recipes that is good to eat at home for several reasons...

Reason #1:
The deliciousness of this dish is sure to make you lose all self-control. You may very well be reduced to a case of the giggles while you revel in the yummy-ness that you are so lucky to be eating. Eating this dish at home will help avoid the embarrassment that may result from said reaction.

Reason #2:
You'll be SO giddy that you have left-overs sitting in the fridge, waiting for their turn in the spotlight at tomorrow's dinner. After all, in a restaurant you'd only get served one helping. Once you taste this dish, you'll realize what a tragedy that would be.

Not to mention...this pie crust is AMAZING...I can't stress enough how perfect this crust is. If you've struggled with homemade pie crust recipes in the past (as I certainly have!), you ought to give this particular recipe a try. It's easy and incredibly flaky. It would work equally well for a chicken pot pie or apple pie!

Need I say more? Really? Please...Do yourself a favor and make this delicious torte as soon as you can. Trust me...You'll thank me later! :-)

4 strips bacon
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Pie Crusts, recipe follows
3 medium baking potatoes, peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese (I used a little more cheese...maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup and sprinkled a bit on every layer...not just the top.)
1 egg yolk, whisked with a splash of water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until just crispy. Drain on paper towel lined plate and set aside. Crumble the bacon when cool to the touch.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the thyme and cream over low heat to a bare simmer. Turn off the heat and let steep for about 5 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs.

Remove the pie pan from the refrigerator. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and then finely slice the potatoes. Working in circles, arrange the potato slices in the pie crust, stopping to season each layer with salt, pepper, and about 1/4 of the crumbled bacon. Continue layering until the pie pan is nearly full. Top with an even layer of the cheese and gently pour cream around and over the entire pie, allowing it to seep down between the potato slices. (You may not use all the cream.)

Roll out the remaining disk of refrigerated dough. Cover the pie with the dough and crimp the edges closed. Brush the top and edges of the crust with egg wash. Make a few slits in the center of the top crust, for the steam to escape, and put the pie pan on a baking sheet. Bake the torte until the crust is browned and crispy and the potatoes are cooked through, about 50 to 60 minutes. If the crust edges get too brown, cover them with some strips of aluminum foil.
Remove the pie from the oven and let rest at least 15 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

Pie Crust:

1 cup butter (2 sticks), cubed and chilled
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 to 10 tablespoons ice water

Put the butter, flour, and salt in the food processor, and pulse lightly just until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing briefly after each spoonful of water. Keep adding water until the dough just begins to gather into larger clumps.

Transfer equal amounts of the dough into 2 resealable plastic bags and pat each into a disk. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Remove 1 of the disks from the bag to a flour coated surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 10-inch round. Gently fit the rolled dough into a 9-inch pie pan, and refrigerate while you prepare the torte ingredients.
Yield: 2 (9-inch) pie crusts

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

What can I say...We had a wonderful Christmas this year. We started the day with Pioneer Woman's amazingly sinful, made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls. You might remember me making these last year on Christmas morning. Those things are so ridiculously good...It's hard to find the words to describe them...Hah.

Pioneer Woman says it best:
"If you begin making these for your friends and family during the holidays, I promise you this: you'll become famous. And, on a less positive note, people will forget everything else you've ever accomplished in your life. From that moment on, you'll be known - and loved - only for your cinnamon rolls."

Folks, she's not kidding...they're THAT good! You can find the recipe HERE.

I even surprised 3 of our neighbors with pans of these cinnamon rolls. They seemed very excited!

I also made another Red Velvet Cake. This time, I decorated the top and sides of the cake with candy canes. They added a wonderful, pepperminty taste to the cake that made it taste like Christmas! Click HERE for the recipe.

I'm so excited to report that I received 5 awesome cookbooks as part of my Christmas loot this year. They include:

A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis (of the famous Chez Panisse)

Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller (Famous chef of The French Laundry and Bouchon Bakery)

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond
(Her FOOD BLOG is awesome and this cookbook is even more awesome!)

The Lady & Sons Savannah Cookbook Collection by Paula Deen

The Christmas Tree...

It was mass chaos in our living room at 8:30AM this morning...hah...

Our pups...Lady & Hannah

MERRY CHRISTMAS and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and your family!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Gingerbread House...Just for Christmas!

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I love this time of the month, because it's Daring Bakers time!! I was super excited when I found out our challenge this month...baking a gingerbread house...from scratch! I was especially excited to get to work, because I had to miss last month's challenge. We were given 2 recipes to select from. I chose the recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine. It sounded pretty traditional and none of the ingredients were too exotic...most of them were already sitting in my pantry and fridge.

I really didn't have any major problems with the dough. My only obstacle was the fact that the dough needed a few extra tablespoons of cream in order to help it come together and be workable. Otherwise, it would have been WAY too hard. I also found that the quantity of confectioner's sugar in the royal icing recipe (3 cups) was WAY too much. About 2 cups would be more like it. I actually had to add a few tablespoons of warm water to the icing to get it back to the correct consistency. If you use this recipe, just start with 2 cups and go from there. It ended up working perfectly.

I had so much fun making this house. Before this challenge, I had never built a gingerbread house before. Right out of the oven, the dough is very easy to trim to get straight lines and correct sizes (if needed). Just be sure not to let it cool down too will crack and break when you try to trim it. I used THIS pattern from Wilton for my house. I simply taped the pattern pieces to cardboard and then cut it out using the guidelines. I used a pizza cutter to cut through the dough to make the shapes before baking...It worked like a charm. You'll find that this gingerbread is made to be sturdy...not delicious. So, if your gingerbread comes out not tasting that great, don't worry. All that matters is that it's sturdy enough to build your house!

Who knows...building gingerbread houses just might become a Christmas tradition around our house each year!


Spicy Gingerbread Dough
Source: Good Housekeeping
2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream (I had to add a few extra tablespoons of cream in order to get the dough to come together and be workable).
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger
1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.
2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.
3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)
4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)
5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.
6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)
7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.
8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.
9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.
10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Royal Icing:
1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar (I found 3 cups to be too much. You may want to start with 2 cups)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup: (I did not use the simple syrup...I only used the royal icing to assemble my house)
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh, Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding!!

A great friend of mine, MK, called the other day and had a very special request. She said that for years, she's loved the Christmas song, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" (specifically the Muppet version..hehe). However, she had always wondered what in the world the "figgy pudding" was that's mentioned in the song. I considered it for a few seconds and realized that I had no idea either! However, it must be pretty tasty because the carolers in the song refuse to leave until they get some.

Have you ever wondered what this classic dessert is? Well, after a good bit of research, I found a lot of recipes for figgy pudding that were actually more like a cake...not a pudding, after all. Traditionally, it's steamed instead of baked. Some say it was first created in the 1400's and really became a popular Christmas-time treat in the mid 1800's in Victorian England.

I think the best way to describe this particular recipe is that it's a mix between carrot cake, fruit cake, and banana nut bread...with a very densely moist texture. I know what you're thinking...Fruit Cake?!? Yuck! But's so delicious!! If you like Fig Newtons, than you would definitely like this Figgy Pudding. If you were to make a Fig Newton Cake, this is what it would taste like!

I looked at a lot of different Figgy Pudding recipes online. A lot of them stuck with the traditional way of cooking it with steam on the stove-top. This method takes about 4-5 hours total. I found the recipe below that sounded like a great compromise. It's baked in the oven, WITH a steam bath. This cuts the baking time in half...down to 2 hours. I also do not have a pudding mold, so I used a Bundt pan instead. This may not be the most traditional recipe there is, but it is no less delicious!

The kitchen smelled lovely while this was baking...figs, walnuts, and spices...Yum! I've made it twice already...once with a the custard sauce (recipe below) and once with a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar on the top. I made the second cake for Ashley's 2nd grade class. They were studying different traditional Christmas foods from around the world...The kids loved it!

I hope you enjoy it too! Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Figgy Pudding
1 pound (453g) fresh black Mission figs (dried figs, chopped, may be substituted)
3/4 cup milk (I used buttermilk instead)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. orange zest, fresh (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 cup chopped walnuts
Confectioners' sugar
Holly Sprig (real or artificial) optional

Serve with (optional):
Custard sauce (see recipe below) or sweetened whipped cream

Special Equipment:
You will need a 2-quart (2-litre/8-cup) pudding mold or pudding basin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Generously butter a 2-quart (2 litre/8 cup) pudding mold or pudding basin.

In a medium saucepan, warm milk over low heat, add figs, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. (DO NOT LET MIXTURE COME TO A BOIL).

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs and melted butter until frothy. Slowly add bread crumbs, and orange zest. Add the milk and fig mixture and using a wire whisk gradually add flour mixture, until just blended. Stir in walnuts.

Spoon pudding batter into prepared pudding mold. Cover and place mold in a large roasting pan or casserole dish. Pour enough hot water into the bottom of the roasting pan or casserole dish to cover the bottom 1/3 of the mold. This "water bath" will help the pudding cook evenly and keep it from scorching. Cook the pudding in preheated oven for 2 to 1/2 hours. You may insert into the center of pudding a wooden skewer or toothpick to check for doneness. If it comes out clean, then the pudding is done. Allow pudding to cool for 15 minutes before inverting and unmolding onto a serving plate. If desired, dust with confectioners' sugar or for a very festive look, pour the warm custard sauce over the pudding and place a holly sprig (real or artificial) on top. Serve with custard sauce or sweetened whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Custard Sauce
2 cups milk
1 large egg
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter

In a medium saucepan, scald milk and allow to cool.

Mix together remaining ingredients, except for butter. Add to cooled milk. Cook over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, mixing well.

Serve pudding warm with custard sauce or sweetened whipped cream. Store unused portions in refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Red Velvet Cake - A Christmas Favorite!

***Ahh...the joys of holiday baking...I love it! I've already been at it hard and heavy this year. This Red Velvet Cake is one of the latest Christmas goodies to come out of my kitchen. I made this for one of my best friends in the world - Ashley. She was having a family Christmas get-together and she needed a scrumptious Red Velvet Cake.

I knew just the recipe to use. I've baked this particular recipe from Southern Living magazine many times, and it has always gotten rave reviews...especially the cream cheese icing.

I also just love a good Red Velvet Cake around Christmas time. There's something special about that deep, red color of the cake batter...I only wish that I could have taken a photo of a cake slice...maybe next time!***

Red Velvet Cake
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3 large eggs
1 (1-ounce) bottle liquid red food coloring
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, vanilla, and vinegar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add food coloring, beating until combined.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cakepans.

Bake at 350° for 20 to 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 5 minutes; remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on tops and sides of cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Beat cream cheese and butter until creamy; gradually add sugar and vanilla, beating well. Stir in pecans.

***Note - I didn't mix the pecans into the frosting as the recipe suggests. Instead, I covered the sides of the cake with chopped pecans.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pomegranate Glazed Pork Chops with Almonds

This photo courtesy of

***Recently, the great folks at POM Wonderful sent me a case of their POM Wonderful 100% Pure Pomegranate Juice and some of their POMx Iced Coffee (which tastes fantastic!!).

My challenge - Create a recipe with the POM juice and share my results here. I was very excited to receive these samples in the mail and start brain-storming about what sort of dish I'd like to try first. These Pomegranate Glazed Pork Chops were my results. And let me just tell you...I was very proud of the way they came out. The taste was amazing, with a subtle and fresh fruity flavor...not too much and not too little, but just right! The sweetness of the pomegranate juice and brown sugar paired with the savory-ness of fresh rosemary and garlic made for a stellar combination. The flavors were perfect with the pork.

In fact, when I asked Brad if I should make any changes to the recipe, his only suggestion was to make more pork chops the next time around! I was in agreement...I could have easily eaten more than one. It was one of those meals where you want to sop up every little bit of extra sauce off your plate with your dinner roll.

The almonds made the perfect addition at the end and finished the dish beautifully. They added a nuttiness that sent the flavor right over the top. If you've never been a big fan of pomegranates or haven't really experimented with them in the kitchen, maybe you should try this recipe to get you started...Chances are, you'll be hooked. Pomegranate juice is also incredibly healthy for you...What more could you ask for?

I've still got some POM juice in the fridge and I have a few more recipes I'd like to try. One of those is a salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette...What do you think??***

2 bone-in pork chops
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice
2 - 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. freshly chopped rosemary
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup sliced almonds

First, prepare the pork chops by rinsing them with cold water and patting them dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant (only about 1 minute).

Add the pork chops to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until they start to get a nice brown sear. Be careful not to let the garlic burn. Remove the pork chops from the skillet to a plate nearby. They will finish cooking once you add them back to the glaze.

Next, add the pomegranate juice all at once to the skillet and stir well. This will deglaze the pan and remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pan (adding more flavor!). Now, add the brown sugar and fresh rosemary, stirring well. The sauce will begin to thicken a little on its own. To speed the process along and to thicken it up to the correct consistency, carefully sift the cornstarch into the sauce...constantly stirring. By sifting the cornstarch, you'll avoid creating any large lumps of cornstarch in your sauce.

Once the sauce begins to come together, place the pork chops back into the skillet and cook on medium heat until the pork chops are cooked thoroughly. Flip them often to ensure that the pork chops are totally glazed with the sauce and cooked evenly. The entire process should take about 25 - 30 minutes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tilapia with Gingered Orange Sauce

***I'm always looking for fast and simple ways to prepare tilapia. It's such a versatile fish, and there are so many flavor combinations that are great when paired with it. I almost always have some stored in the freezer for busy weeknights when I need a fast meal.

A few nights ago, I had some tilapia thawing and I needed a quick recipe. I turned over the package of fish, looked on the back, and found this recipe. I had everything that I needed on-hand already, which made it even easier! I did substitute the ginger root with some ground ginger from my spice rack. I also had to use orange juice concentrate in the sauce. It came out pretty tasty!

Bon Appetit!**

4 Tilapia fillets, thawed
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 Tbsp. ginger root, unpeeled, freshly grated (I substituted with ground ginger)
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Combine all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-high. Boil until reduced to 1/2 to 3/4 cup, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

Coat both sides of fillets with sauce. Arrange tilapia in one layer in ovenproof dish. Bake fillets at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (or until fillets begin to flake). Remove fillets to platter and top with remaining sauce.

Serves 4.

Source: Winn Dixie Fisherman's Wharf Tilapia Fillets, On back of the package

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Easy Home-Style Fries

***There are some side dishes that you don't need to fool with too much...they are always good and non-fussy to make. French fries are certainly a good example. This recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine is very easy, but the fries have a wonderful taste. They are perfectly soft on the inside (thanks to the parboiling), with a crunchy exterior.

I added a sprinkling of Lawry's Seasoned Salt to finish these off. Of course, they would go perfectly with a juicy steak or a scrumptious cheeseburger...and many, many other dishes too! French fries are hardly ever glamorous, but they sure are tasty every once in a while!***

1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. dried thyme
Lawry's Seasoned Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Parboil potatoes 5 minutes in 3 quarts of boiling salted water; drain well.

Heat oil in a large nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and saute 5 minutes without stirring. Stir and cook another 7 minutes, until golden.

Season with thyme, Lawry's Seasoned Salt, and pepper.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Simple Recipe for Chinese Fried Rice

***If you're a Chinese food fan...and I definitely am!...There's no doubt you've had Chinese Fried Rice before. It's one of those side dishes that never gets old, and there are many variations on the popular dish. If you have left-over white rice from the night before, fried rice is the perfect solution. In fact, it's better with day-old rice.

Before making this dish, my only foray into Chinese food was making homemade egg rolls. So, I am by no means an expert on Chinese cooking. However, THIS recipe seemed simple and straightforward, so I decided to give it a try. I paired it with store-bought sushi, and I had a fantastic meal! Feel free to add chicken, shrimp, beef, onions, garlic, etc...!***

1 - 2 green onions, as desired
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying, or as needed
4 cups cold cooked rice
1 cup frozen peas
1 - 2 tablespoons light soy sauce, as desired
Wash and finely chop the green onion. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.

Heat a wok or frying pan and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the peas and stir fry until tender. Next, add the eggs. Cook, stirring, until they are lightly scrambled but not too dry. Remove the egg mixture and clean out the pan.

Add 2 tablespoons oil. Add the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes, using chopsticks or a wooden spoon to break it apart. Stir in the soy sauce as desired.

When the rice is heated through, add the scrambled egg back into the pan. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the green onion. Serve hot.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Classic Southern Pecan Pie

***There are a few days every year that turn grocery stores into a mad house...Thanksgiving Eve is certainly one of them! Did you have to make a last minute run to the store this year? I had a few things left on my list to get, and I knew that the stores would be crazy-busy, but I braved them anyway. It wasn't too terribly bad. I did search 3 different grocery stores for fresh fennel...with absolutely NO luck! I couldn't find the licorice-smelling veggie anywhere. So, I just left it out of the turkey recipe. It still turned out great, so no worries there. I didn't even miss it.

As I frantically made my way through the craziness of all the other grocery shoppers, I decided to make a pecan pie at the very last minute. In fact, I was craving a pecan pie so badly that I almost bought a store-made pie...I know, right? GASP! It sat in my shopping cart for a while, but I finally changed my mind. I figured that I could probably make one for cheaper than I could buy one pre-made, not to mention that it would taste better anyway. So, I tried and tried to remember the recipe for Classic Pecan Pie. I searched high and low for the recipe...on the pecan package, inside the cookbooks for sale in the grocery store, and finally....I knew right where to look...the back of the Karo Syrup jar! This has to be one of the most widely used and popular recipes for the favorite Southern pie. I knew I couldn't go wrong with's SUPER easy and quick. It came together in a flash and did its thing in the oven for about an hour until it was all ready. It doesn't get much easier!

I made the pie on Thanksgiving Eve, along with the homemade cranberry sauce. I also made the compound butter with the bacon, herbs and dijon and stuffed it under the turkey's skin so that it could chill overnight.

The next morning, I simply had to chop the veggies, place the turkey on top and pop it into the oven...basting it every 30 minutes. Next, I tackled 2 batches of dressing and finished everything off by throwing together the Pecan Caramelized Brie. At the end of the day, it all went so smoothly and all of my dishes were a success....Whew!

This pecan pie made for the perfect dessert...with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, of course!

Best wishes to you all during this holiday season!!!***

Classic Pecan Pie
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 55 to 60 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Yield: 8 servings
1 cup Karo® Light Corn Syrup
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon Spice Islands® Pure Vanilla Extract
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecans
1 (9-inch) unbaked or frozen** deep-dish pie crust
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla using a spoon. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into pie crust.
Bake on center rack of oven for 60 to 70 minutes (see tips for doneness, below). Cool for 2 hours on wire rack before serving.

**To use prepared frozen pie crust: Place cookie sheet in oven and preheat oven as directed. Pour filling into frozen crust and bake on preheated cookie sheet.

RECIPE TIPS: Pie is done when center reaches 200°F. Tap center surface of pie lightly - it should spring back when done. For easy clean up, spray pie pan with cooking spray before placing pie crust in pan. If pie crust is overbrowning, cover edges with foil.

NUTRITION TIP: To reduce calories, substitute new Karo® Lite Syrup for the Karo® Light or Dark Corn Syrup.

High Altitude Adjustments: Reduce sugar to 2/3 cup and increase butter to 3 tablespoons. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Source: Karo Syrup

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Honey Pecan Pork Chops

***This time of the year just makes me want to let out a happy sigh...I absolutely love the holidays. What are you thankful for this year? I have so much to be thankful for...I truly feel blessed. I hope that you feel the same way!

Right now, I have a turkey de-frosting in the refrigerator and a grocery list of things that I still need to go buy for the big day. This year, I'm responsible for the turkey, cornbread dressing, homemade cranberry sauce and Pecan-Caramelized Brie for the pressure! ;-)

Here are the recipes I'll be using:
Cornbread Dressing - I'll be using a combination of THIS recipe and THIS one.

These are all recipes that I've used in the past, and I can't wait to make them again!

Now, back to the current post...I wanted to include this recipe for Honey Pecan Pork Chops because it's got "holidays!" written all over it. These porkchops are sweet without being too sweet, and there's just something extra special about them! I think you'll love these!

Bon Appetit!***

4 pork cutlets, tenderized, 1/4-inch thick
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Season flour with salt and pepper; dust surfaces of pork with seasoned flour.

Melt butter in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat; brown cutlets on one side, turn; stir together honey and pecans and add to skillet, stir gently. Cover and simmer for 7-8 minutes.

Serve cutlets with sauce from skillet.

Source: Spark Recipes

Monday, November 16, 2009

Buttermilk Baked Chicken

***As a Southern girl, I just can't resist fried chicken every once in a while. It doesn't get much better than chicken marinated in buttermilk, breaded with fresh bread crumbs, and then fried to a perfect golden brown. However...the one thing that does get better (well, at least healthier!) is when the chicken is baked...instead of fried.

This recipe is the perfect combination of both worlds. You get that delectable crunch that fried chicken has, but without all that extra grease and fat! The addition of Parmesan cheese to the bread crumbs does add a few extra calories, but it adds a great flavor to the finished dish.

I found this recipe in Martha Stewarts' Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook. I can't say enough good things about this particular cookbook. It's divided by seasons, so it really makes it easy to cook according to what ingredients are in season at that time. The recipes are all really simple but certainly deliver on taste. I've probably cooked more recipes out of that book than any other on my shelf.

This recipe definitely doesn't disappoint. It tastes wonderful and is a cinch to make!***

Vegetable oil, for baking sheet
8 slices white bread
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 pounds chicken parts (preferably legs, thighs, and wings), rinsed and patted dry
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously rub a baking sheet with oil. In a food processor, pulse bread until it turns into coarse crumbs.

In a large bowl, stir together buttermilk, hot-pepper sauce, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a separate bowl, mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan, thyme, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Place chicken in the buttermilk mixture, turning to coat evenly. Working with one piece at a time, remove chicken from liquid, letting excess drip back into bowl; dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat evenly. Place coated chicken pieces on prepared baking sheet.

Bake until chicken is golden brown, about 35 minutes.Note: Leave enough space between the chicken pieces so that they crisp evenly all the way around.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pecan Caramelized Brie - Easy & Incredible!

***WOW...I just made this a few minutes ago, and I couldn't wait to share this recipe with you. This appetizer is the perfect fusion of French and Southern cuisine...In fact, it makes me want to say "Bonjour, Ya'll!" Haha.

This time of year, I also like experimenting with new recipes that I might incorporate into our Thanksgiving dinner. Without a doubt, this will be the star appetizer on our table this year! It is incredibly easy...It only took me 10 minutes to throw together...and it makes a gorgeous presentation!

We recently visited a fabulous, family-owned restaurant named The Char in Beckley, West Virginia. That night when we were trying to figure out where to eat dinner, I came across their website and took a look at their menu. I immediately knew that I wanted to eat there when I saw "Pecan Caramelized Brie" on the appetizer menu. I was intrigued! Such a quick decision is rare, folks. Now, let me just explain something....As a libra, I am SUCH an in-decisive person...just ask Brad...LOL. I have trouble deciding everything...where to eat lunch each day, what to wear, what to make for dinner, I could go on and on.

The appetizer menu wasn't the only part that looked ALL looked good! If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend making time to have a meal there.

Just like the Pasta Rosa that I had in New Orleans, I knew that I wanted to try and re-create the Brie once I got home. I found THIS recipe, which sounded really close to what we had. I did make a few changes...I left out both the cranberries and the hot sauce. The hot sauce just sounded too odd...I wasn't sure about that flavor combo. I also didn't have any cranberries on-hand, but there wasn't any in the version at The Char anyway.

This Brie was seriously like a Pecan Pie on top of a delectable round of cheese...YUM! The savory-ness of the cheese balances perfectly with the sweetness of the topping. I served it with doesn't get much better than that!

Bon Appetit!***

1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
One 3-inch round, Brie cheese

Combine brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat. Stir mixture until it comes to a boil. Boil gently, without stirring, for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and, shielding hands with oven mitts, quickly whisk in baking soda. Stir in salt and pecans until mixture begins to set, about 30 seconds.
Working quickly, mound warm nut mixture on top of Brie and let caramel cascade down sides of cheese.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Paula Deen's Squash Casserole

***In my opinion, side dishes don't get much better or certainly...comforting!...than a cheesy casserole. This recipe has comfort food written all over it...After all, what Paula Deen recipe doesn't? Plus, this dish is super easy!

Squash is one of Brad's favorite veggies, and we recently came across some beautiful, fresh squash at a local store. I couldn't help but grab some up! I found this recipe by Paula online, and I knew it sounded fabulous. I didn't have the exact ingredients on-hand, but I made some substitutes that ended up being perfect (my changes are in orange below). For example, instead of sour cream, I used mayonnaise...Plus, I changed the amounts and varieties of cheeses just a little bit. One of my favorite cheeses recently is a scrumptious Gruyere...I have yet to taste something with Gruyere in it that I didn't love. It added a wonderful taste to this casserole and a divine depth of flavor.

This recipe is sure to remind you of your Grandmother's's THAT good! This is also a recipe that you'll go back to time and time again...I can definitely see it making a beautiful addition to your Thanksgiving spread this year.

Bon Appetit!!***

6 cups large diced yellow squash and zucchini
Vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream (I used mayonnaise instead)
1 teaspoon House seasoning, recipe follows
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup crushed butter crackers (recommended: Ritz) (I had to use bread crumbs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Saute the squash in a little vegetable oil over medium-low heat until it has completely broken down, about 15 to 20 minutes. Line a colander with a clean paper towel. Place the cooked squash in the lined colander. Squeeze excess moisture from the squash. Set aside.

In a medium size skillet, saute the onion in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and mix all ingredients together except cracker crumbs. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Spooky Halloween Party!

Our "haunted" house for the evening...

I had fun making this graveyard cake!
The table decorations...

We had so much fun at our Halloween party this year...I just LOVE decorating for the spookiest day of the year, and the party was a hit. There were witches, vampires, princesses, fairies, wolverines, and even burglars! Haha.

On the menu:
Broccoli & Cheese Casserole
Garlic Toast
Pumpkin Spice Cake with a "Bleeding Chocolate" Ganache Glaze! (Graveyard Cake shown above)

Here are a few pics from the night:
I told you that I like Halloween The lights in the house were dimmed for the party and lit by candlelight. Spooky music played in the background, while spider webs covered everything!!!
My adorable niece, Dakota, and my cute nephew, Tristan...
Nicole and our precious neice, Amber Rose...
I was a fairy!
A fairy and a burglar (aka Brad)! Hehe...
Dakota thought it would be funny to make the fairy wear the witch's hat...
We convinced Tyler to put on the witch costume...LOL...
Me with my cute-as-a-button niece...isn't she an angel?