Monday, October 31, 2011

Apricot Mustard Pork Chops

With a week's worth of menus and ingredient lists in hand, we kicked off Monday with the dinner below!

Apricot Mustard Pork Chops, Grilled Eggplant, Mixed Greens with Cinnamon Balsamic Glazed Pistachios

Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2

2 c mixed greens
handful of unsalted roasted pistachios
cinnamon balsamic vinegar
olive oil

1 Black Beauty eggplant (from our garden!)
olive oil

2 all natural pork chops, ~3/4 to 1 inch thick, bone in
coarse salt
1/3 c apricot preserve
1 T stone ground mustard (with seeds)
1 t ground ginger
1 t ground cinnamon

  1. Trim fat off chops. Season with coarse salt on both sides. Grill on medium heat for 20ish minutes, until meat reaches 160 degrees F.
  2. Clean preparation area to avoid cross-contamination.
  3. Peel and slice eggplant in 1/4 inch slices horizontally. Place prepared eggplant in colander in single layer, sprinkle with salt, and place a heavy bowl filled with water on top. This process will help remove any bitterness from eggplant. 
  4. While the eggplant is pressing, wash your greens and place on one side of serving plates. In a small bowl shell pistachios and drizzle in balsamic vinegar and olive oil and mix until lightly coated. Pour over mixed greens.
  5. Mix together apricot preserve, mustard, ginger, and cinnamon for glaze. Set aside.
  6. Rinse eggplants slices and pat dry. Arrange in a single layer on aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil. Slide onto grill for remaining 10 minutes.
  7. Glaze chops occasionally on both sides for remaining 10 minutes.
  8. Plate food and enjoy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tri-Color Ripple Throw

Four throws have been started for several months now and I finally completed one! Usually I am very committed to one project and work on it relentlessly to completion. However, with throws, they're much larger and repetitive which in turn makes it a little boring. Alas, patience is a virtue.

This tri-color throw is made from 4 skeins of Cozy Wool (90 yards per skein, 50% wool/50% acrylic) in Sweet Grass, Mushroom, and Thunder (total of 12 skeins). I used a 10.00mm N size crochet hook. Below is the pattern adapted from Lion Brand. I followed the instructions incorrectly and ended up cancelling my "dips" and "peaks" so it just made a straight line for the first several rows. Not wanting to take everything out and start over... I made the middle section correctly and finished with straight stripes to finish "the look."
  • With color A, ch 76.
  • Row 1: Dc in 4th ch from hook, *dc in next 4 ch, dc3tog, dc in next 4 ch, 3 dc in next ch; rep from * 4 more times, dc in next 4 ch, dc3tog, dc in next 4 ch, 2 dc in last ch - 6 ripples (after the initial mess up, my ripples came up shy of 6...).
  • Row 2: Ch 3, turn, dc in first dc, *dc in next 4 dc, dc3tog, dc in next 4 dc, 3 dc in next dc; rep from * 4 more times, dc in next 4 dc, dc3tog, dc in next 4 dc, 2 dc in top of turning ch. Change to color B. To change color, work last stitch with old color to last yarn over. Yarn over with new color and draw through all loops on hook to complete st. Fasten off old color.
  • Rows 3-36: Rep Row 2, continuing in Color Sequence as established by changing color every other row. Fasten off. Weave in all ends. The row count from 3-36 is from the original pattern. I stopped counting and just worked until it looked right. I ended up with 56 rows, fitting nicely across a queen size bed.
  • sc with leftover yarn all the way around, with three sc in the corners
  • ss in each sc all the way around for a more polished edge, because there's no give with the ss, it'll prevent the dcs from getting stretched.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

French Lavender Lemon Cranberry Scones

My mother has been raving about making the perfect scone for several weeks now. She said she Googled "scone" and used the first one she found, the World's Best Scone Recipe. Since that day, she has been creating many flavors and variations of scones! Perhaps it is time I give this adventure a try. With a jar of French lavender sugar waiting patiently in the pantry, this seemed like the perfect debut. They're super moist and fluffy with an herb-y perfume and slight sweetness!

Yield: 8 scones
Total Time: 30 minutes
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup French lavender sugar (feel free to substitute with white sugar)
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter chopped in chunks
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon lemon zest (from our Meyer lemon tree!)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or rubbing between your fingers until it is in pea-sized lumps. Stir in dried cranberries. Using a fork, mix together 1/2 cup milk, sour cream, and lemon zest in a measuring cup. Pour into dry ingredients and stir gently until well blended. If the dough is overworked, you'll end up with tough scones!
  3. With floured hands, quickly pat scone dough into balls 3 inches across. Place onto parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon milk to make an egg wash. Brush tops of scones with egg wash. Sprinkle a little sugar on tops of scones if desired. Let them rest for 10 minutes. 
  4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in preheated oven, until tops are golden brown. 12 minutes worked out perfect for me. 
  5. Serve with butter, jam, or as they are!

Rachel's 8 Month Photo Shoot - 10/22/2011

On this beautiful Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of peaking into the world of little Miss Rachel, one frame at a time. How can you not fall in love with this sweet face???

Friday, October 21, 2011

Child's Play Blue Sweater Vest

The sweater vest saga continues!!! I based it off the same Baby Hoodie Pattern from previous postings (6-12 Month Baby Girl Hoodie and 18-24 Month Hoodie). This time I choose a sturdier yarn that can be tousled around in. I also made it a larger size to fit a young child. So much fun to make! Can't wait to see the smiles that will come with it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Curry Soup

Without a clear vision of what to do with a 4lb butternut squash...I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, drizzled on a generous dose of olive oil, sprinkled on coarse sea salt, ground on black peppercorn and slid it into the oven at 425 degrees F for an hour. Now I have an hour to figure out what to do with it. Initially, I bought it to make a roasted butternut squash lasagna I'd been eyeing all week from a food magazine. After I bought the squash, I read the recipe more carefully and found out it would take at least 4 hours. Ok. That isn't going to work for me tonight. After searching through several recipes, Ina Garten came to the rescue. I was inspired by her Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Curry Condiments Recipe. Here is my rendition!

Yield: 8ish servings (6oz per side dish serving)
Total Time: 90 minutes
  • 4lb butternut squash, halved and seeds scooped out
  • 2 medium yellow onions (I used one and a  half large vidalias), chopped in chunks
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, in chunks
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • ground pepper
  • 4 to 6 cups of vegetable stock (depending on desired thickness)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons curry powder

Scallions, trimmed and sliced diagonally
Unsweetened coconut, shredded, lightly toasted
Banana chips

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place butternut squash on parchment paper-lined baking tray with rim (I didn't line mine so had to do a little more soaking in the clean-up phase...I'll probably use my huge ceramic baking dish next time), douse cut side with olive oil, sprinkle on salt, ground on fresh peppercorn. Flip over and roast in oven on top rack for an hour.

Meanwhile, with another rimmed baking tray lined with parchment paper, place onions and apples. Drizzle olive oil, mix around with your fingers. Slide into oven on bottom rack at about 30 minutes to go.

When roasting process is done, let veggies cool. When squash is cool enough to touch, peel off skin, it should come off pretty easily. Beware of hot-finger-burning-steam! In batches, puree the roasted veggies with stock in a food processor or blender (I don't have a food processor so I use the latter). As you finish with batches, pour them into a large stock pot. Add the curry powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Taste to make sure all flavors come through. If soup is too thick, stir in additional stock. Reheat and serve with condiments. Serve immediately or freeze this soup and pull it out on those weeknights you don't know what to make!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

(Easy) Caramel Apples!

There's something so whimsical about a caramel apple. My college roommate Julia got me hooked on them freshmen year when her parents sent a care package with these beautiful treasures. A combination of delightful textures and tastes. Sweet. Sticky. Tart. Crispy. Nutty. Rich. After researching several recipes, I found a fool proof recipe by Paula Deen. She used the microwave to melt her caramels but I did mine on the stove so the recipe below is slightly different from hers but just in preparation (there isn't much to change with the actual ingredients!).

Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 apples
  • 6 Granny Smith apples, washed thoroughly to get the wax off if you're getting them from the store, or check out your local orchard!
  • 6 craft sticks
  • 14 oz package of individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
  • 2 T milk
  • toppings of choice (ground peanuts, cinnamon sugar, sprinkles, crushed candies, another coating of chocolate ganache, etc.)

Place caramels and milk in a non-stick pot and stir on low-medium heat until well melted (keep an eye on them so they don't burn!) - takes about 10 minutes if you're unwrapping and melting simultaneously. Meanwhile, press a craft stick into the top of each apple. Also, prepare a baking sheet with buttered or Pam sprayed wax paper (I didn't do the grease coating and had a little sticky problem). Allow caramel sauce to cool slightly. Roll each apple quickly in the caramel sauce until well coated. You might need to use a spatula to get some hard to reach spots. Hold for a little while upside down for the caramel to evenly roll down the sides, if you place it on your prepared sheet right away, it will pool to the bottom. Roll caramel apple in desired toppings (get creative!) and place on prepared sheet to set. Note, if the bottom has a good coating of the topping, it'll be less likely to stick to the surface the caramel apple is sitting on. If you prefer a stiffer caramel, stick the apples on the pan in the fridge for a couple minutes (it'll be easier to cut too).

Left to Right: Cinnamon Sugar, Ground Peanuts, Chocolate Sprinkles

Friday, October 14, 2011

Coconut Macaroons

After making homemade noodles for dinner, I had two egg whites leftover. Seems like a waste not to use them .... Aha! Coconut macaroons!!!

Pillowy. Chewy. Whimsy.

Bite O'Macaroon
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 20 minutes per tray
Oven Temp: 325 degrees F
Yield: 20-30 cookies (depending on your scoop size)

Stiff Peaks
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. GRADUALLY add sugar (very important to do this gradually otherwise your peaks won't peak like they're supposed to), about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand up straight and mixture is glossy). Gently fold in coconut.

2. Drop mixture by rounded teaspoons 1-2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets. I used my 40 size ice cream scoop (1.5 T per scoop) so I ended up with 20 macaroons. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Slide parchment with macaroons off onto wire rack to cool.

Macaroon Pretending to be Ice Cream for Halloween

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Roasted Tomato, Basil, and Feta Orzo

Basil bushes continue to thrive. Tomato plants spiraled out of control and had to be pulled out. This quick and easy dish is super flavorful and brings a delicious close to summer!

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30ish minutes

Ingredients (everything is approximate because nothing was measured...):
~1/2 lb orzo
~1 c tomatoes, halved lengthwise (we didn't have any so I used locally grown grape tomatoes)
~4 T olive oil
~2 T balsamic vinegar
~1 t sea salt
~2 t granulated sugar
~1 cup feta, crumbled
~2 T butter
large handful of fresh basil, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place halved tomatoes, cut-side up on pan (I used a small ceramic baking dish it can take high heat, it's easy to clean, and I don't have to worry about spilling hot tomatoes). Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle on salt and sugar. Bake for 20ish minutes. Note: After about 8 minutes, I turned it up to broil on high for about 5ish minutes and then turned it down to broil on low for another 5ish minutes. When it smells great, and the tomatoes are kinda wrinkly, and they seem caramelized, you're golden!

2. Meanwhile, cook orzo in boiling water, uncovered for 9 minutes, until al dente. While it's cooking, clean and chop the basil. Once orzo is done cooking, drain into a strainer (a colander may have holes too big for the orzo). Melt butter in the pan and add feta. Stir until combined, then add hot orzo to the feta butter. Gently stir and add chopped basil.

3. Roasted tomatoes should be done now too and can be added (along with some of the liquidy balsamic and olive oil and sweet tomato juice goodness) to the pot.

4. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

(Butterscotch) Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some times I think cookies make the world go round.... Who can resist a melty chocolate chip cookie? Note: The butterscotch is optional, hence the parentheses. If omitted, feel free to add 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips instead of 1/2 cup. 

Yield: ~22-30 cookies
Bake Time: 10-12 minutes per tray
Bake Temp: 375 degrees F

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, and baking soda. Beat until mixture is well combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Slowly beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Stir in chocolate and butterscotch chips.

2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. I use a size 40 ice cream scoop (1 1/2 Tablespoons) which results in 22 cookies but if you use the rounded teaspoons, you'll probably get closer to 30 cookies. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

3. Enjoy! If there's any left, store in an airtight container once completely cooled.

18-24 Month Hoodie

I'm on a roll! These hoodies are so just so adorable and after making the pinky purple one, I just had to make a green one too! I used the same pattern but a slightly thicker yarn. I didn't follow all the increases as instructed to make the medium size hoodie but because my yarn was thicker, the measurements seemed to match that of a 18-24 month old. I used Red Heart Soft yarn in Guacamole, Simply Soft Caron in Off White for the edging, and Impeccable Bronze and Pumpkin for the leafy button.

Care Instructions: Hand wash gently in warm water using a mild detergent or put in laundry bag and use delicate cycle of washing machine. Gently rinse well in cold water. Lay flat on a towel and roll in towel to remove excess water. Do not use dryer.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

6-12 Month Baby Girl Hoodie

Large projects are daunting. Crocheting items of clothing is daunting. BUT with a change in weather to the 70's, I am inspired. Projects for children seem manageable so I tackled on a baby hoodie! The pattern is very easy to follow. I used Caron Simply Soft Blackberry and Off White. As usual, my creative energy led me off the pattern slightly... leaving off the sleeves and adding a floral button!
6-12 month old
Emily Anne
Care Instructions: Hand wash gently in warm water using a mild detergent or put in laundry bag and use delicate cycle of washing machine. Gently rinse well in cold water. Lay flat on a towel and roll in towel to remove excess water. Do not use dryer.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sweet Chili Sauce

Our garden has exploded with Thai chilies and Serrano peppers. Hmmm.... sweet chili sauce??? Doing some research online, it looks like most recipes use corn starch as a thickener. I achieved a similar thickness using a little more sugar.

  • 3 garlic cloves or more (I think I used 7? but some were really small), peeled and chopped if you'd like but doesn't have to be because it'll be pureed
  • 2 Serrano peppers with or without seeds depending on how brave you are; this time I choose with seeds but we'll "seed" if I survive (ohhhhh can't resist the pun)
  • 1/2 cup (and more) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
In a blender, puree all ingredients. Pour into a small frying pan on medium high heat. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Cook until volume reduces by about 50%; took me about 20 minutes but I wasn't really keeping track. I added a little more sugar too so it would be a little thicker with reduction. Let cool completely before pouring into a glass jar. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy with spring rolls, fried rice, or a stir fry. It can also be used as a marinade or grilled with chicken or fish! Once I find another glass container, I'll try making one with red Thai chillies!!! Note, the heat will dissipate over time.

NOTE: I racked my brain multiple times over trying to figure out the proper way to spell chili or is it chile and what about the plural form???? Here is what Miriam-Webster has to say:

a : a hot pepper of any of a group of cultivars (Capsicum annuum annuum group longum) noted for their pungency —called also chili pepper
b: usually chilli plural chillies also chil·lis chiefly British : a pepper whether hot or sweet

a : a thick sauce of meat and chilies
b : chili con carne

Variants of CHILI

chili also chile or chil·li

Origin of CHILI

Spanish chile, from Nahuatl chÄ«lli
First Known Use: 1604

Green Chile Cheeseburgers

Hatch, New Mexico grows red and green chili peppers, known as Hatch chiles. Hatch chiles are purchased locally in many parts of the Southwest, but distribution outside of the region is limited. This has led to direct marketing by small local farms online. We purchased a few from our grocery store to see what the excitement is all about!

Green Hatch Chile
Roasted Chile
Green Chili Cheeseburger

1. Prepare chiles: Clean chiles and dry thoroughly.

2. Prepare heat: Get the heat source ready. Pre-heat grill.

3.   Char chiles: Place cleaned chiles on grill and turn every minute or so until the skin is blackened. The entire chile will not be completely black, but it should be charred about 60%. It should take 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Remove from heat: Carefully remove the charred chiles from the grill using metal tongs.

5. Sweat chiles: Carefully place the chiles into a baking dish or bowl and seal it with plastic wrap. This will steam the chiles to continue the cooking and make the skins easier to remove. Let the chiles sweat for 10-15 minutes.

6. Remove skins: Remove the chiles from the bag one at a time. As you remove them, rub the chiles to remove the skins. Do not run the chiles under water otherwise you'll wash away the flavorful oils.

7. Eat chiles: Removing the seeds is optional. You can just use your fingers by running two fingers down the chile, scraping them out. We enjoyed ours on burgers with Monterey Jack (and a side of mixed greens with mango, tomatoes, green onions, and lime). No seasoning needed. Smoky sweet with a hint of heat!