Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pork Chops, Rice and Gravy

Most people pour gravy over mashed potatoes, but here in Louisiana, we eat rice and gravy.  Maw Maw's feed it to their grand babies.  Wives feed it to their husbands and bachelors feed it to themselves.  It's equally loved by all because it's filling and delicious.  Plus, it's versatile.  You can make it with just about any kind of meat.  Last night, I made it with it pork chops.  When my Old School Italian husband went back for thirds and my pickiest-eater-ever son proclaimed it was his new favorite, I'm not gonna lie, I did a little dance.





PORK CHOPS RICE AND GRAVY

4 bone-in pork chops
all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
Cajun seasoning
3 TBS oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
1 TBS Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce (optional, just makes it a little darker)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water

Heat oil in a large heavy pot (that has a tight-fitting lid) over medium-high heat.  Season the pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides.  Put some flour on a plate or in a large shallow bowl and season it with Cajun seasoning.  Dredge each pork chop in the seasoned flour and shake off excess.  Brown the chops, one at a time, in the hot oil.  When browned on both sides, remove to a plate and set aside.  (The reason I do one at a time is because they won't brown properly if you overcrowd the pot.



Once all the chops are browned, drain most of the oil from the pot.  Saute the onions, bell pepper, green onions and garlic for a few minutes over medium-high heat.



Add Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, Kitchen Bouquet, broth and water.  Bring to a boil.  (See how dark the Kitchen Bouquet makes it)



Return the pork chops to the pot.



Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Remove the lid and continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until the gravy has thickened.




Serve over rice, of course.  The pork is fall off the bone tender and the gravy is super flavorful!  You could make the same dish using steak, chicken or sausage.  A great recipe to have in your arsenal!

This takes some time, but it's really simple to make.  It's the perfect Sunday Supper!  There's nothing like making a good old fashioned rice and gravy to show someone you love them.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Old Fashioned Beef Stew

When the weather gets chilly, I crave a big bowl of piping hot beef stew.  What's more comforting (and filling) than that?  Tender beef, vegetables, and a thick, delicious gravy all in one pot!  I'm in!  The only thing that could make it better is adding a big chunk of crusty French bread for dunking!  (I'm getting hungry just writing about it!)

Here's the recipe:

OLD FASHIONED BEEF STEW

2 lbs beef stew meat (or cut up a chuck roast into chunks)
1 can (15 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 can (10.5 oz) beef broth
2 cups water
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
4 red potatoes, quarted
Flour
Cajun seasoning
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley

In a large pot, heat a little oil (3 TBS or so) over medium high heat.  Toss the stew meat in flour that has been seasoned with Cajun seasoning.  Dust off excess flour.



Brown the beef in batches (don't over crowd the pot or the meat will steam instead of brown).  Once browned on all sides, remove the beef to a plate and set aside.



With the pot still hot, add broth and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pot.



Add the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and water.  Return the beef to the pot (including any juices on the plate).  Add onion, garlic and celery.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Then, reduce heat, cover and simmer on low heat for 1 hour.



Add carrots and potatoes.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes more, until potatoes and carrots are tender and stew has thickened.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.




There you have it, delicious, old fashioned comfort food.  Perfect for this chilly time of year.  Warms your belly and your soul.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Taco Tuesday (on Monday)

Everyone loves Taco Tuesday!  And, yes, I know it's Monday.   Monday means Red Beans and Rice around these parts.  But, we're having tacos tonight and red beans tomorrow.  Confused yet?  OK, here's what happened:  I forgot to soak the red beans overnight.  I always soak the beans on Sunday night so I can put them in the crock pot on Monday morning.  But, of course, I forgot.  So, we are flip flopping Red Beans and Rice Monday with Taco Tuesday.  There you go.

I usually give you set recipes in this blog but today I just wanted to give you a few ideas for Taco Night.

The first idea is how to make crispy tortilla bowls.  I just bought these cute pans:





You don't need any special pan to make these.  Just ball up a large piece of aluminum foil, lay a tortilla over it, spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 - 10 minutes.  Let cool a bit before removing from the ball of foil.  Serve your salsa in these or use them as a bowl for a taco salad.


 The next idea is a quick side dish to go with your tacos, Salsa Rice.  Just warm up some leftover cooked rice, add a little salsa and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Easy and a great way to use leftover rice.


Another tip is to use an upside down muffin tin to hold your taco shells while you fill them.  Great tip for little ones! (Or older ones who are a little clumsy, like me)


                                  

You can use another muffin tin (right side up) to hold all the fixings.




Finally, here is a recipe for Make Your Own Taco Seasoning.  This recipe replaces that packet you buy at the store.  If you have these seasonings in your kitchen, there is no excuse not to have a Taco Tuesday (any night of the week).

MAKE YOUR OWN TACO SEASONING

1 TBS chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Blend everything together.  Sprinkle over 1 lb cooked and drained ground beef or ground turkey (vegetarian version: use a large can of black beans, rinsed and drained).  Add 3/4 cup water.  Stir well.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for a few minutes until thickened.

Here's a taco bowl with all the fixings:


Fun, right?

So, there are a few tips to make Taco Tuesday (even if it's Monday) a success.  Enjoy!






Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pumpkin Walnut Mini Muffins

Yes, I am still on the pumpkin kick.  Big surprise.

These mini muffins are cute, easy, and so good.  They're not too sweet.  Spiced just right.  Perfect with a cup of coffee.

PUMPKIN WALNUT MINI MUFFINS

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Steen's cane syrup (or dark corn syrup or molasses)
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil (or vegetable oil)
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Zest of an orange
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 mini muffin tins with liners (or grease them well).

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.  Gently stir with a whisk until combined.  Set aside.



In a medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, syrup and eggs.  Add pumpkin, oil, milk, vanilla and orange zest.  Whisk to combine.



Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Do not over mix!  That will make the muffins tough.  Gently stir in the walnuts.




Spoon evenly into the lined muffin cups.  I use a small scoop but you can also use a tablespoon.  This makes them all the same size.




Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.





*If you prefer big muffins, bake them in a regular muffin tin for 17-19 minutes.

Yet another way to get your pumpkin fix.  Enjoy!





Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pumpkin Rice Krispies Treats

I made these little cuties for my nephew's birthday party.  They are easy to make and super cute!  The kids loved them.  They're great for Halloween or Thanksgiving.  Here's how I made them:

PUMPKIN RICE KRISPIES TREATS

1/2 stick butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
5 cups rice krispies cereal
Orange food coloring (or red and yellow food coloring)
30 tootsie roll midgies

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted.  Once melted, add orange food coloring.  Stir well.  Put cereal in a large bowl.  Pour melted marshmallows over the cereal and stir well.  When totally combined, let sit a few minutes to cool a bit.

The secret to success here is wet hands.  Wet your hands with cold water, then take a heaping tablespoonful of the mixture and squeeze it together into a ball.  Roll gently.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  If your hands get sticky, just wet them again.  After you roll all 30 balls, add the tootsie roll stem.  Make a small indention in the top of the ball with your finger.  Place the tootsie roll in the indentiuon and squeeze the cereal around it to hold it in place.




That's it.  Easy, cute and festive.  Make these for Halloween or any time this Autumn season.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Silver Dollar Pumpkin Pie Pancakes with Butter Pecan Syrup

If you read my blog, you know I love everything about Fall (I won't shut up about it).  I am also a self-proclaimed pumpkin nut.  Since I will be cooking/baking/thinking about all things pumpkin, I thought I would bring you along for the ride on the pumpkin crazy train.

This morning, I whipped up Pumpkin Pie Pancakes.  And, as if that wasn't enough, I gilded the lily (or maybe gilded the pumpkin?) by making Butter Pecan Syrup to go with them.  Yum!  They were so good it was like eating dessert for breakfast.  But, pumpkin is so good for you that it's really a health food, if you think about it (You have to think really hard).

This recipe makes about 16 silver dollar sized pancakes.  It's very easy to double or triple depending on how hungry you are.

Here's how I did it:

SILVER DOLLAR PUMPKIN PIE PANCAKES

1 cup complete pancake mix (the kind where you only need to add water)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup pumpkin (not pie filling mix, pure pumpkin)
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp cinnamon + a pinch of nutmeg)

Place everything in a bowl and mix gently just until combined.  It's very important that you don't over mix.  Over mixing will cause your pancakes to be tough and nobody wants that.

Heat a skillet (I like cast iron) over medium-low heat.  Melt a little butter (or spray with cooking spray but we're making butter pecan syrup to go over these, so just use butter, seriously) in the skillet.  Using a small scoop (or a Tablespoon) drop batter into skillet (make sure it's hot first).  Don't overcrowd them.  I do about 4 at a time.




Let them cook until the edges start to set and the bottom is golden.  Gently flip each pancake over to cook on the other side.  They don't take long at all and always less time on the second side.  That's why I like to make small, silver dollar sized pancakes (They cook faster, I eat sooner).




Since you cook them in batches, as they are done, set them on a plate and loosely cover with foil.  This will keep them warm until you are finished cooking them all.




While the pancakes are cooking, make the syrup:

A note about the cane syrup:  I love Steen's brand.  It's made in Louisiana.  It's made from pure cane sugar (no preservatives or additives) and it's insanely delicious.  If you can't find cane syrup, you can substitute dark corn syrup or even regular pancake syrup.  But look for Steen's.  You will love it so much you just might write me a thank you note.





BUTTER PECAN SYRUP

1 cup dark cane syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 TBS butter (real butter, no substitute)

Heat everything together in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Once it comes to a gentle boil, turn it off.  Stir it well and let it sit until you're ready to eat pancakes.







I can honestly say, these are the best pancakes I have ever eaten.  The pumpkin makes them moist, the spices give them great flavor and the syrup, well let's just say I could take a bath in it (if it wasn't so sticky).  Make these.  Now.  Then go ahead and write me that Thank You note.  You're welcome. by the way.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake (made in the slow cooker!)

At the risk of repeating myself, I love all things Fall.  I love the beautiful weather, the new shows on television, sweaters and boots, but especially, pumpkin!  This time of year, I go a little pumpkin nutty.  I put pumpkin in everything!  My coffee (of course), muffins, pancakes, syrup, gravy, everything.  But I think this is my favorite, pumpkin cheesecake!  It is creamy and wonderful and spiced just right.  The mixture of cream cheese and ricotta cheese makes it so delicious.  Bonus:  you make it in a slow cooker!  Seriously!  I saw a lady do this on T.V. and had to try it.  I changed the recipe up a bit (added pumpkin for starters) and it came out great.  The moist cooking environment keeps the cheesecake from cracking (like it can in the oven).  Here's how I did it:


PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

1 cup ricotta cheese
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling! Plain pumpkin)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Zest of half an orange
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt
graham cracker crust (I buy the pre-made kind)

In a food processor (or stand mixer), puree the ricotta cheese until smooth (scrape down the sides as needed).  Add the cream cheese and process until smooth.  Add the sugar and process long enough so that it is not grainy (a minute or two).  Add the eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, orange zest, pumpkin pie spice and salt.  Process until smooth.



Place a bowl in your slow cooker.




Place a plate on top of the bowl.  This makes a stable surface for your cheesecake to sit on.  You don't want it directly on the bottom of the slow cooker.  It'll be too hot.




Place the crust on the plate.



Pour the batter into the crust.




Place a thick layer of paper towels (4 or 5) over the top of the slow cooker.  Don't let the paper towels touch the cheesecake.  The paper towels keep the condensation from falling down on to the cheesecake.



Put the lid on tight and cook on HIGH for 2 hours or until the cheesecake is set in the middle. (Don't keep lifting the lid to check on it!  Once you lift the lid, it takes a long time for the slow cooker to regain heat).



Let cool for 30 minutes then place in the fridge and chill.  I let it chill overnight, but it should be ok after a few hours.





All I can say is YUM!  If you like pumpkin pie, you will like this.  It's so creamy and spiced just right.  Plus, I just think it's cool that I made a cheesecake in the slow cooker.