Sweet and Sour Pork

This is a fairly simple Sweet and Sour recipe.  You can easily substitute beef or chicken, or if you want vegetarian, tofu.  Serve with steamed rice and buttered peas for a complete dinner.

Interestingly enough I just watched a chef discuss the limitations of wok cooking on conventional ranges, regardless if they are electric or gas.  He said they did not get hot enough for true wok cooking.  He suggested using a skillet instead or heating your wok in a 500 degree oven before cooking.  I’ll see if I can find a video or link to his show and post it for you.  I’ve never had an issue, but then I’m not a professional chef looking for professional results.

Sweet & Sour Pork

Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • drained pineapple juice

small bowl

Mix cornstarch & brown sugar, add remaining ingredients, blend well, set aside.

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  • 1 to 1 ½ lbs lean, boneless pork
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut in 1 inch cubes
  • 8 oz sliced carrots
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 green pepper, cut into 1 inch slices
  • 4 oz pineapple chunks, drained (reserve liquid)
  • small bowl
  • 2 small plates

wok or deep fry pan

Cube pork into 1-inch cubes, dip into beaten egg, dredge lightly in cornstarch.

Heat 3 tbsp oil in wok, add pork, stir-fry over medium-high heat until evenly browned. Remove pork, add enough additional oil to make 2 tbsp, stir fry onion, carrots, garlic, about 1 minute, add water, bell pepper & cover. Reduce heat and cook for 2 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Add sweet & sour sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (about 1 minute). Add pork and simmer 5 minutes, add pineapple & serve over steamed rice.

Tortellini Chicken Salad

This is one of those quick and easy meals to prepare after a hectic day.  You can cook the chicken anyway you like – boil, broil or fry (if you fry, it works best if you cube it first) – or use leftovers from a previous dinner.  Serve it with Broiled Tomatoes or a fruit platter and dinner is complete.

Tortellini Chicken Salad

  • 19-28 oz (sizes vary) frozen or fresh cheese tortellini, cooked according to package directions, drain*, rinse with cold water & ice cubes. Set aside.

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  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked, cooled & diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 cups frozen sugar snap peas*
  • 4 oz ranch dressing
  • ¼ cup cashews

large bowl

Remove any remaining ice cubes from tortellini, draining well. Add chicken, celery & onions. Thaw snap peas under hot water & drain completely*. Add to salad, along with dressing. Garnish with cashews.

*You can pour the hot water from the tortellini over them if you like.

Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie

Well, supposedly it is Fall now…though we will see near 90 degree temperatures today.  I can only blame myself, I rearranged my closet this past weekend, bringing all my fall and winter things out.  Tempting fate, like washing your car on a sunny day ensures rain.

But I’m certain, eventually, we will have a chill in the air and when we do, it will be the perfect time for this recipe.  A true comfort food and easy to put together.  A complete meal in one pan.

Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup peas

Buttermilk Biscuits:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 4 tbsp powdered buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter to brush on formed biscuits

Mix dry ingredients, make a center hole in the dry ingredients and add in shortening and milk.  Blend together, then knead 10-12 strokes on a floured surface, roll out to ½” thick, cut into 8-10 biscuits.

Set a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat

In a large bowl, combine the chicken thighs with salt, pepper and olive oil. Sear chicken in pan, stirring occasionally, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside in a separate bowl. Add butter to the pan and, when melted, add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the stock, browned chicken, potatoes, and spices.

Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat so that the sauce just simmers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken and potatoes are tender…about 25-35 minutes.

While it simmers, prepare Buttermilk Biscuits.

Fold peas into chicken mixture and then remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the biscuits on top of the chicken and gravy, with 6 biscuits around the edge of the pan and the remaining 4 biscuits in the center (if you have a left over biscuit or two, bake on a separate baking sheet). Be sure the biscuits do not touch, so they cook thoroughly. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter and bake until the biscuits are golden brown and flaky..14 to 15 minutes. Allow the pot pie to cool briefly before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

Men Who Cook: Joshua De Mers

I love opening up my email and finding that someone has sent me a recipe to post (that’s a hint, people) and it’s doubly nice when it’s one of my Men Who Cook.  From friend of blog, Joshua:

I got a good one! And I kept notes!

Yet Another Tuna Casserole

My opinion of comfort foods is you can never have too many variations of them. They make up childhood memories, start and keep traditions, and warm the soul like nothing else. Virtually every mother in the 60’s had a version of tuna casserole, usually from the back of a soup can. If you’re an ingredient control freak (like me!) you always appreciate making something familiar in a wholesome way. Every ingredient is readily available at any supermarket!

  • 1 pound pasta (any curvy shape like rotini or corkscrews will work, but even basic elbows is good too)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 large shallot
  • 8-10 button mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp mascarpone cheese (sometimes sold as Italian cream cheese)
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz frozen green beans or peas (whichever you have on hand)
  • 2 6 oz cans or one 12 oz can tuna (any kind)
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers or 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • olive oil (to drizzle)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks, mince shallots, cut mushrooms in half, then slice thinly. Saute in butter over medium heat with a pinch of salt and a small dose of pepper. When mushrooms start to release liquid, add in white wine. Cook until wine is almost but not quite gone. Add in flour and mix until paste coats bottom of the pan, about two minutes. Add milk and whisk vigorously. When sauce starts to thicken, mix in cheeses, vegetables, and drained tuna. Check sauce for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as necessary. By this point pasta should be done. Drain pasta and add to medium casserole dish. Pour sauce over noodles and mix thoroughly. Crush crackers in hands (you don’t want them too fine) and cover top of casserole. Drizzle olive oil over topping in thin stream until it coats most of top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Only other thing you need is a glass of milk!!

Joshua De Mers

Looks great Joshua!  Thank you.  Look forward to more (hint, hint).  – TaMara

 

A Quick Dinner

Busy doing chores and packing for my trip.  What to do for dinner?  Especially when I’m trying to deplete my refrigerator of fresh foods that will certainly go bad while I’m gone.  How about a quick pasta dinner (sorry no pictures, did I mention I was busy packing)?

I put the pasta on to cook.  Meanwhile I placed some cleaned baby spinach in a plastic colander, diced up a couple of tomatoes and pulled out some spices.  I tossed the tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  When the pasta was ready, I drained it in a colander that I held over the spinach colander, wilting the spinach with the hot pasta water.  I set the spinach aside and quickly rinsed the pasta with cool water.  I drained the spinach well and then tossed the pasta, spinach and tomato mixture together.  Toss with some Parmesan and dinner is served.

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

My life is spinning a bit out of control these days. It’s all good stuff, but it is happening fast and furiously. I counter the stress in a couple of ways. One is cycling, the other is talking whining to friends about it. But what really helps me is to cook. I’ve said it before, but being in the kitchen chopping, dicing and stirring puts my world back in order. It’s even better if I’m cooking for a bunch of people.

Stress combined with lots of rainy, cool days and my Italian heritage make this comfort food a must have. Baked Zita has all the yummy goodness of a nice lasagna without all the work and hour long cooking time.

Serve with some zucchini (try this recipe) and a nice crusty Italian bread – you’re all set. Of course you’ll want a side salad if you’re in my family.  Enjoy.

Baked Ziti

  • 1 pound ziti pasta
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage, spicy or mix 1/2 spicy and 1/2 sweet
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1- 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 – 14 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 12 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan

Saucepan, skillet, 9×13 baking dish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente, you want it very chewy as it will continue to cook while you bake it. Drain the pasta and toss with a little olive oil. DO NOT RINSE (you want the pasta starchy so it grabs the sauce)

In a skillet, brown the sausage. When it is mostly browned, add the onions and stir well to combine. Sauté everything until the onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, spices and stir to combine. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, then add tomato paste, stirring to coat all the meat. Add tomato sauce and bring to a low simmer for 5 minutes.

Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a lightly oiled 9×13-inch casserole pan. Add a layer of pasta, ladle more sauce, spoon 1/2 the ricotta cheese over sauce, in dollops (three across and 4 to 5 up works well, kind of like you’d do cookie dough). Spread a 1/4 of the mozzarella. Add more pasta, more sauce, remaining ricotta, 1/4 of the mozzarella, sauce, pasta and the rest of the sauce. Top with mozzarella and parmesan.

Bake at 350°F until the top is bubbly and browned, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting. I put a cookie sheet under the baking dish to catch any sauce bubbling over.

Serves at least 8

NOTES:

This can be put together ahead of time and refrigerated. Bake for 15 minutes, covered with foil, bake for additional 20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and brown and center is hot.

As this serves 8, you can use two 8×8 baking dishes and freeze one for later.

Thursday Night Menu: Spring Forward Edition

I’m anxiously waiting for Daylight Savings Time. I hate losing the hour of sleep, but love the opportunity to ride every evening. Yesterday was a challenge as I battled unexpected headwinds and 20 mile gusts. I felt like Almira Gulch in the tornado.

One of the guys was stuck in the office with me today, so I ran the options for tonight’s menu by him. He decided the chicken sounded good. We’ll go with the other option next week.

On the board tonight:

  1. Crispy Potato Chicken
  2. Steamed Carrots in butter
  3. Banana Foster Ice Cream

This recipe originally called for Dijon mustard, I am not a fan, so I always omit it, but I kept it in for this incarnation.  You can also add grated Parmesan or shredded cheddar to the potato mixture if you want to change things up a bit.

Crispy Potato Chicken

  • 2-3 large potatoes, peeled
  • 4 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (opt)
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • ¼ tsp ea. salt & pepper
  • ½ tsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ice water

2 bowls & baking dish (8×8), lightly oiled

Shred potato, transfer to bowl of ice water. Rinse & dry breasts, place in baking dish and spread with garlic and optional Dijon mustard. Drain potatoes, pat dry and mix with oil & seasoning in bowl. Spread mixture over the top of the chicken pieces. Bake at 425° for 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown and chicken’s internal temperature is 185°

This is a quick and alcohol-free banana foster, if you want the real deal, try this Alton Brown recipe

Banana Foster Ice Cream

  • 2 large,firm bananas, sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp orange peel
  • dash cinnamon & nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp orange juice or pineapple juice
  • 6 oz sliced almonds
  • 4 cups vanilla ice cream

skillet and 4 dessert bowls

Melt butter in saucepan, add bananas, sauté quickly until lightly brown. Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel and juice. Boil until syrupy, stirring constantly to keep from burning. Add ice cream to dishes, top with ¼ of banana mixture each and garnish with almonds.

Shopping List:

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 large, firm bananas
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice or pineapple juice
  • 6 oz sliced almonds
  • 1 quart premium vanilla ice cream

Also: butter, garlic, salt & pepper, fresh parsley, dried rosemary, olive oil, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, optional: Dijon mustard, Parmesan or cheddar cheese

Thursday Night Menu: It’s all Greek to me

I’m still getting my feet under me after being in the Boston area for a week, it is amazing how much stuff can accumulate when you are gone. I haven’t even had time to go near the kitchen and cook anything beyond the basics, very happy to come home to 60 degree weather, though. Makes me long for grilling season. Tonight’s menu is a favorite. Pasticcio is kind of like a Greek mac‘n cheese, but the cinnamon and nutmeg give it a rich, exotic flavor. Every time I bust this one out at a dinner, the guests want the recipe. Continuing the Greek theme, the salad is full of fresh flavors with a little touch of honey to sweeten the deal. You can finish up with some baklava, but I prefer the apples and walnuts over ice cream.

On the board tonight:

  1. Pasticcio
  2. Salata Meze
  3. Chopped Apples w/honey & walnuts over ice cream

Courtesy of Delicious Magazine UK

 

Pasticcio

  • 7 oz dry ziti
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz grated parmesan/Romano mix
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

saucepan & skillet

8×8 glass baking dish, greased

Cook ziti according to package directions, drain well. Sauté onions, add beef and cook until beef is browned. Stir in tomatoes & salt. Layer 1/2 ziti in baking dish; add beef mixture and then 1/2 of the cheese, sprinkle cinnamon over cheese. Add remaining ziti. Beat eggs, milk & butter together. Pour over ziti mixture, top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes, until center is set. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Salata Meze

  • 8 oz green beans
  • 2 small zucchini sliced
  • 8 oz cauliflower crowns
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 red onion, sliced in rings
  • 6-12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • lettuce leaves
  • 2 oz whole black olives
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese

saucepan & serving bowl

Add beans, cauliflower and zucchini to water in saucepan, bring to a boil. Simmer on med-low for 3-5 minutes until vegetables are tender-crisp. Rinse with ice water & drain well. Mix oil, lemon, honey & spices and toss with vegetables, including onions & tomatoes. Layer lettuce leaves in serving bowl, top with vegetable mixture. Garnish with olives and feta.

Chopped Apples w/honey & walnuts

  • 2 apples, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup honey (more as needed)
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • Dash of lemon juice

Add chopped apples, honey, lemon juice and walnuts to saucepan and heat until honey is melted and coats everything. Let simmer until apples are tender. Serve warm over ice cream.

Shopping List:

  • 7 oz ziti
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 6 oz fresh grated parmesan/Romano mix
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 oz green beans
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 8 oz cauliflower crowns
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 6-12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small head bib lettuce
  • 2 oz whole black olives
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • 2 apples
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Also: cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, salt