Asian Pork Chops

Plum sauce is one of several commonly used Chinese condiments. The sauce is both sweet and tangy, allowing the product to work well in a number of different applications.

The basic plum sauce is made using plums that have been allowed to ripen to the point where the flesh of the fruit is at its sweetest. As part of the preparation, the skin of the plum is usually removed by immersing the whole plums in hot water for a short period of time, allowing the skin to be peeled away from the fruit with relative ease.

Often you will find plum sauce made from other fruits, most commonly apricots. Or made from a combination of apricots & plums. It is also common to add other seasonings to plum sauce like garlic, star anise or Chinese 5-spice powder. The additional seasonings add different nuances to the flavor of the sauce and vary depending on the tastes of whoever is preparing it.

In this particular recipe, I’m using plum sauce as an ingredient in my sauce mixture rather than on its own. The combination creates a unique Asian flavor for the pork.

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Asian Pork Chops
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, brown chops in oil. Combine the plum sauce, orange juice, soy sauce, garlic, mustard, ginger & pepper; pour over chops.
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Remove pork chops to serving platter & drizzle with sauce. Sprinkle with sliced green onions & sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice.

Black Bean Pulled Pork Quesadillas

A quesadilla is a Mexican dish that dates back to the 16th century. Traditional quesadillas were made with a corn tortilla that was warmed on a griddle, filled with cheese and various other fillings (meat, vegetables), and then folded over to be eaten by hand. The addition of toppings like guacamole, salsa and sour cream seems to have come along later.

Quesadillas are simple and quick to make. Place the quesadilla in a dry griddle (or skillet) over low to medium low heat. That way, you don’t have to handle greasy tortillas with your hands. But more importantly, oil is a heat conductor which browns the tortillas faster than the filling heats through and the cheese melts. Tortillas are thin – and they cook fast!

If you cover with a lid, the filling heats through and melts the cheese faster, before the tortilla gets too brown. Cook until underside is golden and crispy, then remove the lid.

Pulled pork and savory black beans are a great match by themselves but adding creamy avocado takes it up a few more notches. 

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Black Bean Pulled Pork Quesadillas
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Instructions
  1. On a griddle, heat butter & sauté mushrooms until moisture has evaporated; add corn & green onions. Sauté for another few minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to a dish.
  2. Wipe griddle with paper towel; place 2 tortillas on dry griddle & top each with 60 gm of the cheese. Next, divide black beans, green onions, corn & mushrooms between the 2 tortillas. Top with another 60 gm each of the remaining cheese. Cover the tortillas with the 2 remaining tortillas.
  3. If your griddle does not have a cover, use a sheet pan to cover the 'quesadillas' until cheese melts & quesadillas are heated through. Remove from griddle onto cutting board. Cut into wedges & place on serving plates. Top with avocado slices & diced Roma tomatoes. If you prefer, sprinkle with additional cheese & green onion. Serve with your choice ... salsa or sour cream or maybe both!

Wild Mushroom Quiche w/ Parmesan Crust

I realize mushrooms aren’t for everyone but if you do enjoy them, it seems there are no end to recipes you can use them in. As well as making a great filling for your quiche, its nice to add even more color and flavor with crust variations. Keep in mind that the best time to add extra ingredients to your pastry is after you’ve blended your flour and butter together in the food processor and before pulsing in the cold water.

Here’s a few ideas to elevate savory quiche crusts:

Herbs: Try adding 2 tablespoons each of any of these fresh herbs – chives, thyme, parsley, rosemary & sage. If you only have dried herbs, cut back to about 1/2-1 teaspoon each.

Cheese: As we all know, cheese makes everything better! Adding it to pastry is amazing. Try mixing it up with different combinations of cheese: Gruyere in the filling and parmesan in the crust for example.

Spices: Such as turmeric, fennel seed or even a grind of peppercorn (black, white or pink) can significantly alter any savory crust.

Bacon: Even just a little bacon will add some smokiness to the quiche. Be sure to chop it small enough after frying so it can be well incorporated into the crust.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Although they add tanginess and a nice smoky red color, they are often best as a background flavor. Since they can easily overpower when used in the filling, add them to the crust.

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Wild Mushroom Quiche w/ Parmesan Crust
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Parmesan Crust
Filling
Servings
Ingredients
Parmesan Crust
Filling
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Instructions
Pastry Crust
  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, grated Parmesan & salt. Cut in shortening & butter, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture forms coarse crumbs the size of small peas.
  2. Combine ice water and lemon juice (or vinegar); drizzle 1/2 of the lemon water over cold flour mixture and stir until the dough just starts to come together or turns “shaggy”. Begin adding a few more tablespoons of water at a time, stirring between each addition. Once most of the water has been used (but you have a tablespoon or two remaining) use your hands to gather the shaggy strands into a ball and knead the dough two or three times. If you have dry bits remaining in the bowl, add a little additional water.
  3. Gather the dough in a ball, dust your counter with a tiny amount of flour, and quickly pat dough into a small flat disk. Cut dough in half and then stack one piece on top of the other, flour side down. Use the heel of your hand and press the dough down and divide once more. Cover each piece with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator, but overnight is best.
Filling
  1. Slice green onion & mushrooms. Sauté in butter, add minced garlic, stirring often. Allow to cook for five minutes uncovered so the moisture evaporates.
  2. Cut broccoli into florets & add to pan along with chopped red pepper. Cook another 6 minutes then remove from heat.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Grate Havarti cheese. In a container, whisk together eggs, milk & seasonings.
  5. Remove pastry from refrigerator & place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll dough out to fit a 9-10-inch pie pan. Trim away any excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang to form the crust.
  6. Sprinkle a small amount of the Havarti over bottom; top with vegetable mixture then remaining Havarti.
  7. Bake until quiche tests done. Since the quiche is made with milk instead cream it will take longer to bake. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. This quiche tastes great just out of the oven, but even better the next day.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to use cream instead of milk if you would like a richer filling.

Chicken Katsu w/ Saskatoon Chutney

Chicken Katsu is simply a Japanese version of chicken cutlets. While it is great to enjoy a good dish, its worth knowing where the idea originated.

Katsu was first created in the late 1800’s by a restaurant in Tokyo that wanted to offer a European style meat cutlet. Now, katsu can be found everywhere from convenience store takeaway bento boxes to Western style Japanese food restaurants. The name ‘katsu’ comes from the English word ‘cutlet’. It is typically made from either chicken breasts or thighs coated in panko breadcrumbs.

Frying or baking chicken cutlets is simple, but its like cooking pasta, when you get it right, it changes everything. Breading helps to seal in moisture during the cooking time. Its a basic process that’s used for making everything from chicken to onion rings. Japanese panko crumbs are lighter and crispier, the secret to ultra-crunchiness which yields to the kind of crust that you can actually hear when you bite into it.

Since its ‘Saskatoon Berry‘ time here on the prairies, I wanted to make some saskatoon chutney to have with these crispy cutlets.

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Chicken Katsu w/ Saskatoon Chutney
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Instructions
Saskatoon Chutney
  1. Combine all chutney ingredients in a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, cook until mixture is the consistency of runny jam, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat & cool completely.
Chicken Cutlets
  1. Place chicken breasts between plastic wrap & carefully pound to 1/4-inch thickness. Season with salt & pepper. Coat with flour then dip in beaten eggs & lastly coat with Panko crumbs. Cover with plastic wrap & place in fridge for 15 minutes to chill before cooking.
  2. In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt butter & add oil. Place cutlets in a single layer in skillet & fry on both sides. When no longer pink inside & golden on the outside remove from skillet & blot on paper towel.
  3. Serve immediately with Saskatoon Chutney.
Recipe Notes
  • The standard breading technique includes three steps: dredging in flour, moistening in egg wash, then coating in crispy panko crumbs. The flour helps the egg wash adhere & the egg helps the breadcrumbs adhere. 
  • Once you have all the food coated, you will want to place it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will ensure the breading actually sticks to the food instead of falling off in the hot oil.
  • If baking, put breaded food on a rack set over a baking sheet, drizzle with a little oil & place in the oven. Bake until golden brown & cooked through.

Shrimp Dutch Baby Pancake

A Dutch baby pancake is a cross between a fluffy style pancake and a soufflé. Its less work than standard pancakes and less complicated than a soufflé.

If you follow our blog, you probably have seen other versions, both sweet & savory featured on it. Dutch baby’s are such an easy meal to make, they are a regular in our meal rotation, not to mention how delicious they are.

Dutch baby recipes work best in cast iron pans because they retain heat and cook evenly. If you don’t have cast iron cook-ware, I find pyrex bowls will work as a substitute.

Because of the delicate nature of the batter, you can only add your toppings once the batter has baked. For some toppings, this will require cooking these ingredients on the stove top while the eggy batter bakes.

Be careful with recipes that instruct you to mix chopped veggies and meat directly into the batter. The combination of weight and moisture will prevent the batter from cooking and puffing up as it should. One exception to this would be finely grated Parmesan cheese. To help create height, bring the eggs to room temperature before mixing into the batter.

Being seafood lovers, this meal really works for us.

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Shrimp Dutch Baby Pancake
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Instructions
Dutch Baby Pancakes
  1. In a bowl, whisk together eggs & milk. Add flour & whisk until incorporated then whisk in parmesan cheese, scallions, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper. Set aside in refrigerator until sauce & filling are made.
Gouda Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter; sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Mix well; add milk & broth, stirring until sauce becomes thickened. Blend in cheese; set aside
Shrimp Filling / Baking
  1. Peel & devein shrimp (you can chop into pieces if you prefer). Prepare filling veggies for cooking.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  3. Place 2 Tbsp butter in each of TWO 7-inch pyrex baking bowls (alternately you can use one 10-inch cast iron skillet). Place bowls in hot oven to melt butter (and heat the bowls for baking pancakes in). Once the butter is melted & the bowls are hot, divide the batter between them. Bake for 25 minutes.
  4. The Dutch Baby will puff up during cooking, but once its removed from the oven & starts to cool it will deflate slightly. At this point its nice to do the final sautéing of your filling so that when the pancakes come out of the oven you are ready to fill & serve.
  5. In a large skillet, sauté zucchini, onion, mushrooms & garlic in oil until tender-crisp. Combine soy sauce with water in a cup; add to vegetable mixture along with shrimp. Gently stir fry ONLY until shrimp is cooked, then fold in Gouda sauce.
  6. When Dutch Baby pancakes are finished baking, remove from oven & transfer to 2 serving dishes. Divide filling between the 2 pancakes & serve hot.

Shrimp Chili w/ Cornbread

Cornbread is one of those culinary creations that pairs well with almost anything. Over the years, I have prepared so many cornbread ‘pairings’, I have lost count. Needless to say, I love ‘everything corn’.

When it comes to chili, the version made with ground beef usually comes to mind. Although, Brion & I enjoy the original, this shrimp chili is a nice change up for us seafood lovers.

These little cornbread ‘cakes’ have only a hint of honey. This makes them a good compliment to the spicy chili as opposed to the sweeter, dessert version of cornbread (which, of course is wonderful too!)

March seems like a good month to still enjoy a bowl of chili before our thoughts turn to some lighter meals for the spring & summer.

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Shrimp Chili w/ Cornbread
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Shrimp Chili
Cornbread
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Ingredients
Shrimp Chili
Cornbread
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Instructions
Shrimp Chili
  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms & garlic; cook, stirring for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in zucchini; cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Stir in spices & salt; cook for 20 seconds. Pour in tomatoes with their juice; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in shrimp & cilantro. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Cornbread
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder & salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, oil, egg & honey until smooth. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring only until just moistened.
  3. You can either drop heaping tablespoons of the cornbread batter over the shrimp mixture OR bake it in greased individual pans.
  4. Bake until the cornbread is golden brown (& the filling is bubbling) about 40-45 minutes if baked as a casserole. If your cornbread is baked on its own, test the cakes for doneness after about 15 minutes.
  5. Garnish with grated cheddar & sliced green onions before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • We enjoy the addition of some black beans in this chili as well.

Mushroom Beef Roll

When you cook meatloaf/roll were connected to something bigger …. a tradition and a time line. A comfort food that has been enduring not only an answer to hunger but is served without undue fuss or expensive implements. It reigns supreme.

The reason meatloaf has stayed with us through so many generations is because it is a master of evolution. It can be personalized and adapted any number of ways, all the while requiring only basic skills.

In the 1955 edition of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, a recipe for ‘mushroom-stuffed meatloaves’ was featured. To enliven a simpler offering, there was an inexhaustible trend for garnishing, glazing, saucing and decorating.

Then in 1966, the Campbell’s Soup Company featured a recipe for a ‘rolled, stuffed meatloaf’ to promote their tomato soup (in place of traditional tomato sauce). The idea was that by rolling a vegetable into the meatloaf, you could save the work of creating a separate side dish. A new one dish meat and vegetable dinner …. and soup makes it great!

The fact that meatloaf takes on variations so easily shows how it dresses up just as well as it dresses down. This meal definitely does not lack in flavor.

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Mushroom Beef Roll
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Beef
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Beef
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic, soy sauce, salt & thyme. Cover & simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add heavy cream & cheese. Allow to cool.
Beef
  1. In a bowl, combine beef with kalbi sauce; mix well.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. On a piece of plastic wrap, press out meat in a rectangle about a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle meat with green onions. Top with mushroom filling. Using the plastic wrap, roll from the short end in a jelly-roll style.
  3. On a piece of parchment paper, spread crushed french onions in a rectangle shape. Place meat roll on top & roll to cover it with the crushed french fried onions.
  4. Place parchment paper with meat roll on a baking sheet & bake for about 50 minutes.

Stuffed Acorn Squash w/ Turkey & Rice

Squash is one of those quintessential autumn foods that we have come to recognize. Even though it is considered a winter squash, acorn squash belongs to the same species as all summer squashes including zucchini and yellow crookneck squash. The main difference between the classifications is that summer squashes have soft skins and tender seeds and are fairly perishable, while the winter types have hard shells, fully formed seeds and are very suited to long storage.

For all their many splendored shapes and colors, squash is not something most of us crave, although they are an integral part of the cuisine in scattered points of the globe, such as South and Central America, the West Indies, India and Japan.

The acorn squash is similar in flavor to the butternut squash yet has a bit of a nutty taste to it as well. Resembling its name in shape, the acorn squash usually weigh between 1-2 pounds and generally grow between four and seven inches long.

Roasting them partially before stuffing makes the squash a lot more tender and easier to eat. I am always aware of the concept of ‘seasonal eating’. I was born in September, so I figure its totally natural to love fall food (& colors) such as squash, pumpkin, apples and cranberries.

The large cavity of acorn squash just begs to be filled. In this recipe, seasoned ground turkey and smoked Gouda cheese join forces in the savory stuffing. One squash the size of a grapefruit or a little larger is usually enough for two people.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash w/ Turkey & Rice
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray the fleshy part of the seeded, acorn squash & place halves on a baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until flesh is slightly tender. Cook rice & grate cheese, set aside
  2. In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of oil. Sauté garlic & shallots for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cumin & thyme & sauté another 3 minutes. Remove veggies from pan & set aside in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the remaining Tbsp of oil to skillet & brown the ground turkey for about 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain if necessary & add to mixing bowl along with cooked rice. Stir to combine well.
  4. Using a spoon, take equal portions of the filling & place into the cavity of each acorn squash half. Place the baking tray back into the 400 F oven & bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Top each acorn squash half with sprinkles of the shredded cheese. Place back in the oven & bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
  6. When ready to serve, garnish with sliced green onion.
Recipe Notes
  • To make it easier, microwave the acorn squash for a few minutes, just to soften a bit before attempting to slice in half.

German Potato & Cauliflower Salad

When I think back to my childhood days, I have a very fond memory of my mother’s potato salad. This is probably the case with many people, but one has to be careful. Trying to create the taste of childhood is a slippery slope filled with our adult expectations. Time and distance change many things such as memory, experiences and knowledge.

Potato salad is widely believed to have originated in Germany and was brought to America by German immigrants. The thing I remember most about my mother’s potato salad was that it consisted of only a small ingredient list and had a nice slightly sweet but tart dressing. If I’m not wrong, I believe she used a bit of juice from her bread & butter pickles in the dressing. The other magic ingredient was some of her new potatoes from the garden. As the saying goes, it was ‘to die for’.

I’m not sure how popular potato salad is anymore but since its the season, I wanted to share a couple of salad recipes.

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German Potato & Cauliflower Salads
Instructions
Potato Salad
  1. In a large pot, cook potatoes in salted boiling water. Cool, peel & cube. Boil eggs & coarsely chop. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan & blot on paper towel reserving bacon drippings for dressing. Crumble bacon. Slice green onion & radishes. Place everything EXCEPT the radishes in a large bowl.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together reserved bacon drippings, light salad dressing, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, celery seed & dill weed. Blend well. Pour over potato mixture & carefully combine well. Cover & refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  3. Just prior to serving, add radishes & add more salt if necessary. Carefully combine & serve.
Cauliflower Salad
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp, Remove from pan, reserving bacon drippings.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & coat with cooking spray. Spread cauliflower florets on foil; sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower begins to brown slightly. Remove from oven & cool slightly.
  3. While the cauliflower bakes, saute the onion in bacon drippings until tender. Set aside. Cook, peel & cube potatoes.
  4. In a small dish, combine salad dressing, cider vinegar, sugar, mustard & garlic salt. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, cauliflower, sauteed onion & dressing. Fold together & taste to see if more salt is needed. Serve as is or chilled.
Recipe Notes
  • I found, if you add the radishes just before serving keeps them crisp & prevents them from 'bleeding' their color into the salad.
  • In regards to the cauliflower salad, I have also made it leaving the cauliflower RAW & substituting the white onion for green. I liked that added bit of 'crunch'.

Chicken Avocado Fiesta Salad

For some of us, the best part of salads is everything but the greens! I have always had a hard time digesting lettuce so I’m never drawn to it when we get to salad season.

The idea of a full meal (lettuce-less) salad has always appealed to me. Of course there are many of these using a variety of ingredients. Probably one of the most popular was the taco salad. The earliest record of it dates back to the 1960’s with its predecessor being the small teacup-sized ‘Tacup’. It consisted of beef, beans, sour cream and cheese, served in a small ‘bowl’ made entirely of a Fritos tortilla.

The taco in a Tacup was invented by Charles Elmer Doolin, the founder of Fritos (tortilla chips). He created a device that looked like tongs but with two tart molds at the end of each tong. One mold would fit within the other mold with a tortilla sandwiched between them. The scalloped-edged shell was the dipped into hot oil. Holes in the bottom mold exposed the tortilla to the hot oil, enabling it to cook evenly.

Tacups were first served in Dallas, Texas in the early 1950’s and by 1955, he was selling them in Fritos’ flagship restaurant, ‘Casa de Fritos’, at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It became popular enough that the Tacup was made bigger and served as a full, main-dish sized salad bowl.

Today’s salad is a satisfying meal (without a shred of lettuce) served in an edible tortilla bowl.

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Chicken Avocado Fiesta Salad
Instructions
Marinade
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients. In a large resealable plastic bag, pour marinade. Add sliced chicken; seal & turn to coat. Refrigerate for 1-4 hours. When finished marinating, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Remove from heat & set aside.
Salad
  1. Cook corn cobs in a pot of boiling, salted water, covered for 5-7 minutes. When cool enough to handle, hold the corncob vertically on a slip-proof cutting board & cut corn kernels from top to bottom around the sides with a sharp knife. Leave corn in bite-sized pieces.
  2. Fry bacon slices until brown & crispy. Chop into small pieces.
  3. Peel, pit & cube avocados. Sprinkle with a bit of lime or lemon juice to keep from turning brown. Dice Roma tomato. Slice green onions, chives & dill. Drain sliced black olives. Cube Gouda cheese.
Tortilla Bowls
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush the inside of 2 heat-resistant glass bowls with oil. Place one tortilla in each bowl so that the shape more or less adheres to the bowl. Line each tortilla with cheddar cheese slices & then place the second tortilla on top.
  2. Place the bowls with the layered tortillas in the oven & bake for 7 minutes. Remove the bowls from the oven & allow to cool before removing the 'edible tortilla bowls'.
Assembly
  1. Place tortilla bowls on serving plates. Place cooked chicken on the bottom, top with corn, avocados, tomato, onions, olives Gouda & herbs. Drizzle with Ranch dressing (or dressing of choice). If you wish, before putting the dressing on, give it 30 seconds in the microwave to warm it slightly again.