Monday, January 26, 2015

Breaded Pork Chops with apples and onions and taters

What's for dinner? Well, the planning started with the potatoes, because I had a lot on hand and they needed to be eaten. Then I went to the freezer and asked it, "What goes with mashed potatoes?" My freezer said pork chops, which was perfect, because I also had some apples that were a little beyond crisp, but would work well in a skillet dish. 

Apples and onions in a blueberry vinegar reduction with breaded pork chops and mashed taters

I had a recipe all bookmarked on Pinterest that paired breaded pork chops with onions, apples and spinach. I was fresh out of spinach, but I did have some curly kale to add to the dish. Perfect! The recipe also called for apple cider vinegar, spicy brown mustard and honey for the sauce, and I am all out of apple cider vinegar, too. However, a friend gifted us a bottle of some spicy blueberry vinegar from her recent travels to New York, so I figured that would be even better. No honey required because the vinegar is already sweet, another deviation from the recipe. Making it my own, I am!

So I peeled and boiled eight potatoes until they were soft and easy to smash, then I let my husband mash them up with some butter and salt and a dab of cream cheese thrown in for a rich creaminess. Meanwhile, I took four pork loin chops and dipped them in egg, then dredged them in a seasoned breadcrumb mixture. I had made my own breadcrumbs using some leftover french bread that I chopped in the blender. The breadcrumb mixture was seasoned with a couple of teaspoons of an onion soup mix that I put together myself and had in the pantry, and I added some garlic, salt and pepper mix to it as well. The chops were then pan fried in canola oil until the crumb coating was browned and crispy.

I removed the steaks to a serving dish, then proceeded to saute some onion slices in the same skillet I had fried the chops in, adding more canola oil to it. When the onions had wilted slightly, I added two peeled and sliced apples and sauteed them for about two minutes. Next, I mixed together 1/2 cup of the blueberry vinegar with two tablespoons of deli mustard and stirred that into the onion and apple skillet. Then I added two cups of chopped kale leaves. At this point, I added about a half cup of water gave it all a stir, and put the lid on the pan until the kale had wilted. I think this could all work by putting the mashed potatoes in a pasta bowl, topping it with the onion and apple saute, then the pork chops right on top. But I let everyone plate their own food, so it looked more like the picture at top, with everything separated.

Pork Chops with apples, onions and kale

4 pork loin chops
2 eggs, scrambled
1 cup bread crumbs, with added seasonings, such as onion soup mix, garlic, salt and pepper
canola oil

1/2 a large yellow onion, sliced
2 small apples, peeled and sliced
2 cups curly kale, chopped

1/2 cup Blueberry vinegar
2 Tbs Deli mustard
1/2 cup water

Dip the pork chops in the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture, coating both sides well. Fry on both sides in a skillet with some canola oil, until the outside crumbs are browned and crispy. Place chops on a platter. Using the same skillet with more oil added, saute the onions until soft. Add the apple slices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sauce ingredients and stir well. Add the kale and water, put the lid on the skillet and cook until the kale is wilted. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Sweet Potato Alfredo with Farfalline

Sweet Potato Alfredo sauce on Farfalline ribbon pasta - lotsa vitamin power here!

Sweet potatoes are such a wonderful food! I love them baked in their skins, mashed, diced and roasted, or pureed into soups. Now I can add sauces to that list. I was laying in bed this morning on my day off, nursing a sore throat and browsing my Pinterest recipes because we are getting our SLO Veg delivery today and I need to be prepared. : )

I still have some things to cook from the last delivery, because I am just not having a lot of time to cook with my new work schedule. If it doesn't get cooked Monday through Wednesday, its probably just not gonna get cooked, or prepped, or anything. So I have six or so assorted-sized sweet potatoes in my pantry, about five pounds of russet potatoes, a head of cauliflower and some curly-leafed kale. I finally used the last of my Dino kale in a soup last week, but I still have some soup leftover in the frig because I made a big pot-full. I have taken some to work to eat every day, too!

Anyhoooo, I saw a recipe for sweet potato alfredo and got all excited! I told my husband I just had to make it right now, for breakfast, and that I would put an egg on top if that made him happy. He agreed (What else could he do? Cook? hahahahahahahaha). So I made it; it was fabulous; and here it is:

Because we ate this at 9 a.m., I topped it with a fried egg. Breakfast of Champions!
Pretty, huh? Ribbon Farfalline
One cool think is I used my Torino brand ribbon farfalline pasta that I had picked up before the holidays, thinking I would use it for a special Christmas pasta dish. Instead I made lasagna and didn't use these here pasta noodles, which are naturally colored with spinach, beetroot, paprika and curcuma. (I had to look that up, too.) Curcuma: Its a type of plant that turmeric powder comes from.
That's great, because sweet potatoes are good for you, turmeric and beets are good for you, and when its all mixed together in this pasta dish, its a win-win! This sauce is going to be a go-to thing in the future, I am thinking! 

Here is how I made it:

Sweet Potato Alfredo

2-3 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 lb. pasta (I used Torino Farfalline today)
water and salt for pasta
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk 
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

1) Bring a pasta pot of water to a boil. Cook 1 lb. pasta of your choice until al dente.

2) Peel and dice enough sweet potatoes to make 1-1/2 cups. Boil in water until soft and mashable. Drain water and mash potatoes. (You should have about 1 cup, mashed).

3) Melt and brown a cube of butter (1/2 cup) until browned in a large saute pan. Whisk in 1/2 cup of flour until it is smooth. Add one cup of milk and stir while it thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, Parmesan cheese, 1 to 1-1/2 cups water, salt and pepper, and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper.

4) Gently stir in the farfalline pasta, being careful not to break them up too much. Serve in pasta bowls with a little more Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, or an fried egg, like we had this morning!

Bon apetit!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Garam Masala Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Peas

I got a little wild and added kale and garbanzo beans to this Garam Masala Chicken Stew recipe.

Have you ever bought a bottle of spice for a certain recipe, then the bottle sits there forever in your pantry waiting for you to think of a way to use it again? I have a bottle of cardamon that I use about once a year in a recipe for a Ukrainian honey cake. I make it on my Mom's birthday, because she was full-blooded Ukrainian and its a nice way to remember her. Every now and then I come across another recipe that calls for cardamon, and I think, "I must try that", mainly to use some more cardamon. 

Well, my garam masala spice blend has been hanging around for quite some time, also. Its a mixture of spices from India that includes cloves, cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, black and white peppercorns, bay leaves and caraway, and the blends will vary by region. I just know it works really well with chicken. I bought mine atNew Frontiers store, where they sell spices in bulk. I got enough to fill my spice jar for about $1.50.

When I spied this recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens recipe site, I knew I needed to make it for three reasons: 1) use up some garam masala; 2) I have frozen chicken breasts, and 3) we got some nice big red potatoes in our last box from SLO Veg. I almost had forgotten how good this spice blend is! I should use it more often, like when I am sautéing chicken breasts for a chicken salad or something. It's a nice change from the usual salt-pepper-garlic go-to blend I use every day.

I varied this slightly by using chicken breasts that I cubed and put into the crock pot with just a bit of olive oil. I also added a bag of pearl onions that had been in the freezer for a good six months. I let them cook in there on high for about an hour while I got ready for my day. Then I added the other ingredients and left to run errands. When I returned to the house about 3 hours later, the potatoes were nearly ready. We ate this stew for lunch, which was perfect because my husband had stayed home from work with a cold and this was perfect! The only thing is, I forgot to stir in the yogurt, but that's okay, because there are leftovers. I will try it with yogurt added today!

Garam Masala Chicken Stew with Peas and Potatoes

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized cubes
1-2 tsps garam masala spice blend
1 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

5-6 large red potatoes, halved and sliced
10 oz. pkg frozen pearl onions
10 oz. pkg frozen green peas
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
4 ribs kale, sliced into ribbons
15 oz. tomato sauce
3 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup plain yogurt

I swirled the olive oil in the bottom of my crock pot, then added the chicken and sprinkled on the garam masala. Next I added the garlic and ginger, salt and pepper. I gave it all a stir and let it cook for an hour on high heat until the chicken turned white. Then I added the potatoes, pearl onions, kale, garbanzo beans, tomato sauce and chicken broth and let it cook for 3 hours until the potatoes were tender. Ladle into serving bowls and top with a dollop of yogurt.

Chinese Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I was out riding my bicycle around town and came across this mini-park with a Chinese motif. It was built to commemorate the Chinese heritage in San Luis Obispo. In the late 1800s, there used to be quite a large Chinese population that was brought in to help built the railroad over the Cuesta Grade. The park is a beautiful tribute to their cultural contributions.
Lion at entrance of Chinese Mini-Park in SLO
All that exercise made me crave some Asian food, for sure! But I have been in a bit of a rebellious mood lately--I've also been craving iceberg lettuce! I know, I know! It doesn't have any nutritional value, the greener stuff has all the vitamins, its what our Mom's used to feed us, etc, etc, but I just want some...for the crunch. You see, I am trying to cut down on breads, and that translates into no crunch. I made a wedge salad last night with a thinned-down ranch dressing and some bacon crumbles and hard-boiled egg wedges, and it was wonderful! My husband refused to eat the iceberg--I had to make his salad with the spring mix he loves so much. C'est la vie!

I was looking a recipes for orange chicken, because my friend just brought us a grocery bag full of oranges freshly plucked from his friends' tree. I might have to juice a bunch of them, but what I really want is some orange chicken! So I was perusing the orange chicken recipes, and found a few "skinny" ones, without breading. Pretty simple, just saute some chunked chicken breast and make a sauce with soy and orange juice (and garlic and ginger, of course!) Top it with sesame seeds and diced green onions and serve over rice. (Cue: vinyl record zipppppp) Wait! How about orange chicken wraps? with iceberg lettuce? or some of that ground turkey that I have some in the freezer? Oh what a good idea! 
Because I am on a new schedule and working weekends with my late nights being Friday and Saturday, I just finished doing a little calendar menu planning that goes something like this: 
   Sunday - Lee cooks something in the crock pot so he can do his chores at home all day and still feed me when I get home
   Monday - Fish, because our SLO Veg box gets delivered and its fresh
   Tuesday - Pasta of some kind, so many possibilities
   Wednesday - Potluck, whatever needs to be cooked up
   Thursday - Salad night (turkey wraps, perhaps?)
   Friday - Pizza pick up has become our Friday night thing
   Saturday - Deli chicken pick up unless there is a better offer, like 
                     someone else cooks

I like having a loose plan for menu ideas. It keeps me more organized and helps with using up the vegetables before they go bad, because I know just what night I can fit them into the meal plan. Also, we usually take our leftovers for lunch, but when we don't have any leftovers, we know what else we can whip up. Lee takes a big salad every day, using a salad bowl I picked up that has a top section with dividers that can be frozen to keep everything nice and chilled. He loads it up with tomatoes and garbanzos and peppers and olives, making a nice sort of Mediterranean salad that draws attention from all of his coworkers. Mechanics aren't usually that gourmet. His lunch also includes tuna salad. I prefer to have my tuna salad without all the lettuce part, maybe in a tortilla wrap or with crackers or veggie scoopers, like celery or peppers. I also like diced celery in mine, and he doesn't. 

Rice, lettuce, orange chicken in sauce, and crunchy Chow Mein noodles
Anyway, what the heck was I talking about? Chinese flavors. Orange chicken. Here is my version in a lettuce wrap:

Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 chicken breasts, cubed into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
one head iceberg lettuce, cut into 4 wedges

3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 Tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp white pepper
zest of one orange
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups cooked rice or quinoa

Top with toasted sesame seeds, diced green onion and more orange zest, or those crunchy Chinese noodles

Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a glass mixing cup. Set aside.

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Saute the chicken in olive oil and sesame oil until cooked through and lightly browned, 7-8 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and bring it to a slight boil on medium heat. Cook until slightly thickened. Removed from heat and serve with a scoop of rice or quinoa in a lettuce wrapper.

Cheung Park from the inside

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fish Night with Two Fishes

Sorry, it was so wonderful I had it mostly eaten before I thought to take a photo! That's the
Blue Fin tuna on the top left, with the flour-coated sand sole below it. They are sitting on top
of my husband's tartar sauce.
Fish night became the tale of two fishes: Blue Fin tuna and sand sole. The tuna arrived yesterday, and I was having such a busy day, I let Lee unload the box and I didn't even get a chance to look at it. Today, I gave it another look.

Oh my! Sushi-grade Blue Fin tuna! I had tried making sushi once, with dismal results, so I would be pan frying this stuff, very lightly pan frying it. Its a fish best served rare. I had the perfect marinade for it, too, a locally-made Pear, Ginger and Wasabi Balsamic vinegar from Chaparral Gardens. We had picked that up at a craft show hosted by the Tibor Canyon Olive Ranch in Edna Valley last November. Chaparral does tastings by appointment only, but I have seen their product in local grocery stores, as well. We stopped by the Chaparral booth and tried several vinegars, then ultimately picked the wasabi one. I let Lee choose because I knew he loves wasabi, and it had been sitting on the pantry shelf since then, waiting for the perfect food to marry. Well, the Blue Fin was it! I poured a small amount of the vinegar over the fish that I had portioned into four pieces from two steaks. We get one pound of fish with our SLO Veg delivery, which they offer in partnership with SLO Fresh Catch, and it comes packaged in 1/2 pound portions. A half pound of tuna is really a lot for one portion, although the guys may beg to differ with me on that statement. But really, its a dense fish that eats like a steak, and they were four of us tonight. So, four small portions. Then I was afraid it might not be enough, so I grabbed a package of white fish, sand sole, that I had frozen from a previous delivery, and plopped it into a bowl of cold water to defrost.

I had rice in the steamer, purple and orange carrots sliced into little coins in a saucepan of water, ready to cook. I decided to top that with the rest of the broccoli, as well. It could all steam together. Later, I decided that wasn't so great because the broccoli took on a bit of purple coloring from the water it was cooking in. Plus, the juices seeped into the rice on my plate, and it wasn't visually appetizing. Next time I will probably cook them in separate vessels.

The sand sole needed a flour coating, so I put a scoop of flour into a bowl, added a dash each of granulated garlic, onion powder, paprika and dill, plus some sea salt and black pepper. By this time the sharks were circling, so I put them to work. I had two saute pans heating with olive oil and butter, and I asked one of the guys to "watch" the tuna sear. He did a great job, flipping it after about two minutes, and removing it before it was well done. I quickly coated the sand sole and began pan frying it, adding more butter as it evaporated. I needed to cook the white fish longer than the tuna, because it was only partially defrosted and I wanted a nice crust on it. I cooked it on each side for about 6 minutes. I gave my husband the task of making the tartar sauce, since it IS his specialty, and slicing the bread, which needed to be done, but really a caveman could have done it, but probably without such precise precision.  

We plated up two fishes, rice, carrots and broccoli, french bread slices and tartar sauce. Everyone got a slice of lemon to squeeze on the fish and vegies. It made a pretty good meal. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lemon Chicken Pesto Pasta

It all started with the kale. I hadn't yet used it from last week's SLO Veg box...why? I don't know! I didn't have time to wash it? or cut it up? I was too rushed for time? I don't know, but the Dinosaur kale was just laying there, being pushed around the green onions and shredded carrots and cherry tomatoes, languishing in the frig until some creative idea came along. Originally, I was thinking kale salad with apples and raisins mixed in. Or braised kale with onions and bacon bits. Then, as I was browsing through my magazines, pulling out recipes before I tossed them into the recycling bin, I found it--Presto Pesto made with kale. No actual cooking of the kale was involved! Which eventually translated into Lemon Chicken pesto made from kale. Which made a marvelous dinner--so marvelous I had to recreate it last night for my daughter and son-in-law when we went to visit the new baby and brought dinner along with us. Bribery with food isn't necessarily necessary, but it helps us to be able to hang out longer and hold on to that cute little guy.

The magazine recipe called for spaghetti squash, which I had previously had on hand, but then used last week with a spaghetti meat sauce on top. I did, however, find time to blend up the pesto last week, which then sat in the frig in a jelly jar for another couple of days. It can take it, since the olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese was added and bound it all together. My one batch made enough pesto for two pasta dishes. Simple ingredients: kale, sea salt, garlic cloves, nuts, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese. Also, I used walnuts instead of almonds, because my almonds had been stashed in the back of my pantry and seemed to be a little...stale. My walnuts were in the freezer, where the almonds could have also been if I had been a little more proactive. Sigh!

I decided to add chicken for a protein component, so I cubed up two chicken breasts, sauteed them in olive oil and then added a cup of water to braise and tenderize the chicken for another 20 minutes. At that point, the water had evaporated to about 1/2 a cup, so I mixed in the pesto, then poured it all over some freshly cook and drained penne pasta noodles. A little more Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top, plus some piping hot buttered French bread, and the feast was on!

We got more kale in this week's vegetable box--curly kale. Also some nice parsley. I think I will whip up some pesto and freeze it in cubes for later quick work-night pasta meals. Taylor could even use it in his Top Ramen and elevate those noodles to a new level. Hah! I am trying to teach him that he can make better food at home for pennies on the dollar rather than picking up fast food, and with the same levels of sodium. (That's a sick joke!) I think I like the kale pesto better than a basil pesto, because its not so spicy hot! You can use all sorts of dark greens for pesto: arugula, spinach, basil, kale. (oh, yeah, just did that!) Giada makes a green pea pesto, also, which seems like a good idea.

The recipe pictured here just calls for the Parmesan to be sprinkled on top, but I like to blend it into my pesto because I like the cheesy, salty, pasty properties it brings to pesto.

Here is what I did:


2 cups chopped kale (about 6 leaves)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pine nuts)
1-2 Tbs lemon juice
5-6 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil

Put everything into a blender except for the cheese and olive oil. Blend until everything is chopped and resembles a paste. Add in the Parmesan cheese, then drizzle the olive oil in through the top of the blender lid until the desired consistency is reached. Use immediately, or spoon into ice cubes trays and freezer for later use.


2 chicken breasts, cubed into bite-sized pieces
olive oil
garlic, salt, pepper blend
lemon juice
16 oz pasta noodles, any type

Bring a pasta pot of water to a boil. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the boiling water and then add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about a coffee cup full of pasta water. Put drained pasta back into the pasta pot.

Coat a saute pan with two twirls of olive oil. Saute the chicken until cooked through. Season with garlic salt pepper blend and a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice. Add a cup of pasta water and let the chicken simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of pesto. Pour this mixture over the pasta in the pasta pot and stir until all the pasta is coated. Dish up in pasta bowls and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese.


1 loaf French bread, cut in half length-wise
minced fresh garlic or a garlic powder or garlic salt

Cut the bread in half, spread with softened butter. Sprinkle with garlic or seasonings. My daughter had a TJs grinder with sea salt, garlic, pepper and parsely that smelled great. Some minced parsley is nice, too.
If you are playing is safe, heat in a 350 degree oven until the butter is soaked in. If you are being adventurous, toast under the broiler for a few minutes until the bread is lightly browned. Don't have a glass of wine and get to talking like I did last night, or the bread will be burned to a crisp and smell up the house and set off the smoke alarm and wake the baby. But this does cut down on carbs. Just sayin'!