Monday, March 22, 2010

Pork and Poblano Skillet with Creamy Slow-Cooker Beans

I love finding recipes that let me use meat as more of a condiment rather than the main item on my plate. It almost always means less calories and it's usually less expensive, too. Remember the big pork roast I cut up? Well the pork for this dish was sitting and waiting in my freezer until I had all the ingredients to put it together.

Starting at least the day before, prepare your Creamy Slow-Cooker Beans. Soak 1 cup (I doubled this part of the recipe) of whatever kind of beans you like (I used pinto) overnight. The next morning, drain the beans and put them in the slow-cooker, along with a chopped up onion, a minced clove of garlic (optional) a tablespoon of bacon fat or butter and enough hot water to cover the beans. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for about 6-8 hours until the beans are cooked through. Add salt to taste, reduce heat to keep warm until you are ready to serve.

When you are ready to prepare your meal, slice a poblano in half vertically; remove core, membrane, and seeds. Flatten halves skin-side up on a sprayed baking sheet or a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler until the skins blister and blacken, like above. Remove from the broiler, fold the foil over the pepper to form a tight packet; let rest 5 minutes.

Lift off and discard the skins; chop up the remaining flesh. Meanwhile, heat oil on medium high and add the pork, salt to taste, and stir often until browned, about 5 minutes.

Leaving the liquid behind, remove the meat to a plate. To the pan, add onions, cook until it begins to brown, add the garlic, water and Worcestershire sauce and cook for a minute. Stir in the tomato and poblano. Cook down a bit, about 5 minutes. Return the meat to the skillet; cook 15-20 minutes until the sauce darkens and thickens, adding cilantro in the last 5 minutes.
Serve with Creamy Slow-Cooker Beans, and/or cooked rice, and a dollop of sour cream.

Pork and Poblano Skillet With Creamy Slow-Cooker Beans

1 cup dry beans (your choice), soaked overnight

1 chopped onion

1 tablespoon bacon fat or butter

hot water

Drain soaked beans. Put beans, onion, bacon fat or butter, and hot water to cover into slow-cooker for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Add salt to taste.

Pork and Poblano Skillet

1 poblano pepper

1 tablespoon oil

1 pound pork tenderloin or boneless pork loin, cubed

Salt to taste

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2/3 cup water

2 tablespoons Worcestershire

15 ounces canned diced tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Sour cream

Slice pepper in half vertically; remove core, membrane and seeds. Flatten halves skin-side up on foil on baking sheet. Place under broiler til skins blister and blacken. Remove from broiler, fold foil over the pepper to form a tight packet; let rest 5 minutes. Lift off and remove skins; chop up pepper.

Meanwhile, heat oil on medium high til shimmery in large skillet. Add pork, salt to taste, stir often til meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Leaving liquid behind, remove meat.

Add onions, cook til beginning to brown; add garlic, water, and Worcestershire. Stir in tomato and poblano. Cook down a bit about 5 minutes. Return meat to skillet; cook 15-20 minutes until sauce darkens and thickens, adding cilantro in last 5 minutes. Serve with beans and rice and a dollop of sour cream.

I'm posting this as a part of $5 Dinner Challenge and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Tutorial: Poached Eggs

We love eggs of all kinds at my house but one of my recent favorites is poached eggs. The texture of the yolk is much more different and better in a poached egg than in a fried egg to me. If you aren't familiar with poached eggs, hopefully seeing how I make them will give you the desire to try them yourself. All you will need is a saucepan or skillet, a slotted spoon, and a small cup or bowl. Butter the bottom of your skillet or pan and fill with water to about 3 inches and bring to a rolling boil. Add a splash of vinegar to keep the whites tight against the yolk as they cook. (You won't taste any vinegar in your eggs.) Lower the heat until the water is barely simmering. Crack your eggs, one at a time into a small cup or bowl. Bring the edge of the bowl level with the surface of the water and slide each egg in gently so the yolk doesn't break.

Simmer until the whites are set, about 4 minutes. With practice, you will be able to judge just the right amount of doneness that you like. My husband likes them at 3 minutes, but the whites are a little too runny for me, so I cook mine for 4 minutes.

Remove the eggs with a large slotted spoon, and drain well before serving.

My husband likes his eggs on buttered toast like in the picture above but you don't have to do it that way. I like it with my toast on the side. The larger your pan, the more eggs you can make at one time but you don't want to overcrowd them.

I'm posting this as a part of Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap this week. The theme is Eggs.

What I Did With 10 Pounds of Chicken Leg Quarters

When I find a great deal at the grocery store, especially on items that are generally more expensive, like protein products, I usually snatch it up. So, every 3 or 4 months, my local grocery store advertises a 10-pound bag of chicken quarters for $3.80, it's hard not to buy. Thirty-eight cents per pound for any kind of chicken is just hard to pass up, even though it's not my family's favorite part of the bird. So what can I do with it?

Well, bring out the slow-cooker, of course!

I rinsed the pieces off in the sink and put all 10 pounds of them into the crockpot. I added some celery, onion, carrots, salt, pepper, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar helps to bring out the minerals and nutrition from bones and into the stock. I let it do it's thing until the meat on the bones were practically falling off, about 6 hours. I then took a large slotted spoon and took out the meat pieces, allowed them to cool, and then took the meat off the bones.
I put the bones back into the crockpot and let it continue to cook for another few hours, and above is what I was left with. I love the rich color of the broth!
I poured the broth and bones into a large colander placed over a large bowl to separate the two and above is all that was left, just bones and cooked-down vegetables. Oops! There's a large piece of stray thigh meat. That goes in the with the rest of the meat.

I now have a very large bag of cooked chicken meat that I put into the freezer and a large bowl of homemade chicken broth that I put into the freezer overnight so the fat can rise to the top. In the morning, I scrap the fat off and save it for sauteeing vegetables and meats. With my chicken and broth, I'm ready to make possibly some chicken pot pie.

Or, I could make some yummy chicken and dumplings. Do you have some favorite recipes that you use for cooked chicken? I'd love to hear! I'm always looking for a new recipe to use up what I already have.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cabbage Dishes

I currently have 2 and 1/4 heads of cabbage in my refrigerator right now, not to mention the bowl of coleslaw I made on Saturday. We love cabbage around here, and when it's only 18 cents a pound, I tend to get as much as I think we can eat. I have lots of ways that I like to use cabbage and I know not everyone likes it, plus the aroma that often lingers in the house after cooking it.

Coleslaw is one of our #1 ways of using cabbage. We also like it just as a side dish for whatever we are having for dinner, lightly steamed with a pat of butter and some salt. And, since we are in the month of March, we like to have a good Irish-style dinner on St. Patrick's Day, which is coming up tomorrow.

So, corned beef and cabbage with red potatoes and carrots are on the menu for this week, along with Irish Soda Bread-Yum!

I recently found a recipe for sauteed cabbage that I adapted from my Joy of Cooking Cookbook.

Sauteed Cabbage

One 2-pound head cabbage, outer leaves and core removed

4 slices bacon

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Shred or thinly slice the cabbage. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Add the cabbage to the bacon fat remaining in the skillet, adding the onion, salt, and paprika. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring until the cabbage is crisp-tender. Crumble the bacon and add to the cabbage and serve. Makes about 4 servings.

I've also made this hearty Ham, Cabbage, and Bean Soup a couple of times. Accompanied by a loaf of homemade bread makes it a complete meal.

1/2 head cabbage (about 1 1/2 lbs), cut into 1/2-inch strips

1 cup chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, chopped

1 mdium potato (about 1 lb.), peeled and cubed

8 cups stock, any kind

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt to taste

pepper to taste

2 cups cooked cubed ham

2 cans (15 ounces each) Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

In large soup pot, combine vegetables, stock, marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until veggies are tender, about 30 minutes. Add ham and beans and simmer until flavors are blended, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf and discard. Serves 8-10. This soup freezes very well.

I hope these ideas about cabbage will spur you to cook with it more. The health benefits are amazing and is one of the most economical fresh vegetables in the store.

I'm participating in the $5 Dinner Challenge and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Cabbage graphic courtesy of Everyday Health.

Sourdough Know-How

Do you like sourdough bread? Have you ever made it? If you did, you would have to have a sourdough starter, which I was pretty clueless about until about a year ago when I sent for my first starter from Carl. Who's Carl, you are probably wondering, right? Well, go over there and find out. I'll wait. Pretty interesting, right? The first time I sent for my free starter, I fed it until, well, I just stopped feeding it, and it died a horrible death. I finally got up my nerve to send for another one about 6 weeks ago and it is doing very well. I haven't made any bread with it yet, but I have made pancakes, which were absolutely delicious.

The internet seems to be overrun with sourdough articles from blogs these days. Katie from Kitchen Stewardship has a very good in-depth series of articles on how to make your own sourdough starter as well as lots of recipes to use it in. If you are familiar with Katie's site, you know she doesn't leave any stone unturned, and that's a good thing!

Passionate Homemaker also has an article on her blog called An Introduction to Sourdough that will give you an overall picture of sourdough starters and recipes if you don't have time to read all of Kitchen Stewardship's articles.

If you need some visual help on sourdough-like I do-go to and you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about sourdough or breadmaking in general. I'm especially interested in learning how to make the No Knead Sourdough Bread recipe.

I will share with you my bread from my sourdough starter as I make them and I am really hoping that I can get others excited about this new skill.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Whole Grain Cooking

Cooking with whole grains has recently become more popular, like using brown rice instead of white rice and replacing whole wheat pasta in place of the semolina kind; and in my quest to cook more healthfully, I'm always looking for new ones to cook with, About a month ago I went to my health food store and found some whole grains I either can't find in my regular grocery store or are packaged in boxes that are way out of my price range. Paying $3 for a tiny box of couscous just doesn't fit into my budget.

One of the whole grains I found was wheatberries. I had never cooked with them before, and so I did a little research. Since I wasn't sure how my family would receive this new grain, I thought it would be a good thing to mix them with some brown rice, half and half.

I soaked about 1/2 cup of the wheatberries overnight in 1 1/2 cups of water. I did the same thing with the brown rice in a separate bowl. Soaking not only is more nutritous, it also makes it easier to digest and cuts the cooking time in half. The picture above shows what the wheatberries looked like after soaking. They really puffed up.
I melted some butter in a skillet, added some chopped onion, garlic, and mushrooms about 5 minutes. I added the wheatberries and some chicken broth, brought the liquid to a boil, and simmered for 20 minutes. I then added the brown rice and cooked until all the grains were softened, about 30 minutes. I added salt and pepper to taste. It was very good and I'll be making it again.

These cookies are another winner and the recipe calls for old-fashioned rolled or quick oats as well as whole wheat flour. I love that these cookies only call for 1 stick of butter instead of the traditional two. They are chewy, and oh, so good. The original recipe, which I got from Kitchen Parade, did not call for chocolate chips, but I thought, what can it hurt?
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon (yes, tablespoon!) vanilla
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups oatmeal (old-fashioned or quick, not instant)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugars together. Add the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Mix into the butter and egg mixture. Add the oatmeal, then the raisins and chocolate chips.
Drop the dough by tablespoons onto lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. (I baked them for only 8 minutes because I like them chewy). Remove from the oven and place on wax paper or cooling racks.
I'm participating in Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Crusty French Bread

I love homemade bread! There's nothing like it, warm and fresh from the oven. This past Sunday we had a dinner of pasta and a fresh green salad, so French bread was something I knew my family would love to go with it. I've bought lots of French breads from the bakery in my grocery store, but compared to what I can make at home, well, it just doesn't compare. I use my bread machine to make the dough and I finish up by using the method from my 1950 Betty Crocker Cookbook to form it and bake it in the oven. The crust is nice and crusty and the inside is perfect. I've made this bread with both unbleached white flour and whole wheat flour.

French Bread (makes a 1 1/2 pound loaf)

9 1/2 ounces warm water (1 cup + 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Add ingredients to your pan prescribed by your particular bread machine instructions. My bread machine calls for the liquid ingredients first. Load pan into bread machine and set on the dough setting, which will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

When the bread machine completes the dough cycle, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly grease a large baking pan. Roll dough out into a 15-inch by 10-inch oblong shape. Roll up tightly toward you beginning with the wide side. Seal the edges by pinching together.

With a hand on each end, roll gently back and forth to lengthen the loaf and taper ends. Place it diagonally onto the baking sheet. Make 1/4-inch slashes in the dough at 2-inch intervals. Brush the top with cold water.* Let stand uncovered about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the bread with cold water again and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and brush again with the cold water and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake another 10 more minutes. Remove the bread from the oven one more time and brush again with the cold water. At this time you can sprinkle the bread with sesame or poppy seeds. Continue baking another 15 to 20 minutes until the bread is a nice golden brown.
*If you want your bread nice and crusty, make sure you brush the entire surface of the bread with the cold water every time. It will make a difference.

Go to Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday for more inspiration in the kitchen!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Menu Plan for March

I've tried all kinds of different ways to plan our meals-weekly, bi-weekly, or fly by the seat of my pants-style! None of these work real well for me. But, I've found that what does work the best right now is to do it by the month since we get paid once a month. Since we are going on the second week of March, I have just about all the meat that we need in our freezers until we get paid again next month. Unless there is a huge sale on something or there is something special we want, I will mostly be buying dairy, grains, and produce until April.

So, this is what I have planned so far for the rest of March:

Mostaccioli Bake with French Bread

Ham and Cheese Omelets

Ham, Cabbage, and Bean Soup-we have lots of leftover ham pieces in the freezer!

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Pizza with sausage and vegetables

Broccoli-Cheese Soup

Lentil Cakes and Green Salad

Salmon Patties with Caesar Slaw

Pork Roast with wheatberries/brown rice

Chicken Pot Pie

Pork and Poblano Skillet with Creamy Slow Cooker Beans

Indian Lentil Puree with Naan

Crustless Quiche

Butter Chicken and Rice

Ham and Beans over Rice

Spaghettie Pie

Cheesy Broccoli Rice with Chicken

Roast Chicken

Taco Salad

I am posting this as part of Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What To Do With a 5-pound Pork Loin

Sometimes pork loin roast will go on sale in my area anywhere from $1.48 per pound to $1.79 per pound. I've seen them for both of those prices this week. I picked up a big 5-pounder but it is way too much to feed the 4 of us so I divided it up into three pieces.

I put one of the thirds into a freezer bag to make pork roast and threw it in the freezer for later in the month. I cut the second piece into cubes and put it into a freezer bag and it also went into the freezer. I have special plans for that one (Pork and Poblano Skillet with Creamy Slow-Cooker Beans-yum!). I will share my recipes for both of these dishes as I make them.

The last piece I cut up into cubes, too, but we ate it right away. I sauteed some onions in olive oil until they were sweet and tender and then added the cubed pork. It only took a very few minutes to cook on a fairly high heat. With pork you either cook it on high heat very quickly or at a very low heat for a long time. I cooked the cubes until they were cooked through about 5 or 6 minutes. I added barbecue sauce to the pork and onions, spooned them onto french rolls and topped it with a little shredded cheese. I popped them into a 375-degree oven for a few minutes until the cheese was melted and the bread was toasted. They were very good!

So, don't be intimated by those big pieces of meat at the grocery store. I'll share later about my 10-pound bag of chicken legs and thighs!

For more great recipes go to the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap,

Image of pork roast courtesy of Savenors Market

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Honey Nut Bread

Most of my quick breads have way too much sugar in them but I love making them and my daughters love eating them, so I've been doing some searching for healthier versions of quick breads. I found a recipe in my Joy of Cooking cookbook called Nut Bread with the alternative of using honey instead of sugar. I also substituted most of the flour for whole wheat and I added raisins. This is just a good all-purpose quick bread that you could add all kinds of ingredients to, such as dried cranberries, orange or lemon zest, almonds, almond extract, etc. This bread is a good substantial bread that I feel good enough about to eat for breakfast with my coffee. It even stood up to the toaster, which most quick breads do not. I'm confident it freezes well, too.

Honey Nut Bread

1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 (or less) cup honey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans
3/4 cup raisins

Butter or spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl whisk until blended the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the liquid ingredients together. Add the nuts and fruit, if using. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool slightly, then turn out onto a cooking rack until cool. Makes 1 loaf.

I'm participating in the Ultimate Recipe Swap and Foodie Friday this week.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spanish Rice

My husband loves rice and asks for it a lot and when we have Mexican-style meals, he still asks for some rice. So, I started looking for some good rice recipes to go with our tacos and fajitas that tasted more flavorful than just rice with tomato sauce. Some of the recipes I tried just didn't do for us-until I looked in my Joy of Cooking cookbook and found it's recipe for Spanish Rice. It was right under my nose the whole time! The last few times I've made this, we just had beans, with the rice, topped with sour cream, lettuce, and cheese, along with a few tortilla chips. Really good and filling.

Spanish Rice

1 tablespoon oil

2 slices bacon, minced

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup white rice*

1 3/4 cup chicken broth

1 cup chopped drained canned tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet or flameproof casserole, heat the oil, and add the bacon, onion, and bell pepper, until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic the last minutes or so. Add the rice, stirring to coat it with the vegetables and oil for another minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir once, cover, transfer to the oven, and bake until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Uncover and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

*For brown rice, add the juice from the tomatoes and leave in the oven about 45 minutes or until the rice is done. You may have to add more liquid (water or broth), so check it after about 30 minutes to see if the rice has absorbed the liquid but isn't tender yet.