Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cran-Apple Pork and Sweet Potatoes

This is a recipe I got from our church's ward cookbook, submitted by Cherie Jones.  I thought I'd try it because it was a Crockpot recipe, and even though I have a Crockpot I don't use it often because I don't usually plan far enough ahead.  Anyway, it was a great dinner, although it did turn out looking a bit stewy, if that's a word.  But the flavors went well together.  We ate it with some more apple sauce and some mixed frozen vegetables on the side (cooked, of course!).  How easy is that?  The simplest-to-prepare meal I've made in a long time.  And I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Cran-Apple Pork and Sweet Potatoes

1-2 cups apple sauce
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4"-thick slices
2 lbs boneless pork chops (I used about 8 thinly sliced top loin chops)
1 can whole cranberry sauce
2-3 T brown sugar
Salt and pepper

Pour the applesauce into a 3-qt or larger Crockpot (mine is 5 qt).  You want enough to cover the bottom of the pot.  On top of that, spread out the sweet potatoes.  It doesn't matter if they form more than one layer.  Sprinkle the brown sugar on the sweet potatoes and a little bit of salt and pepper.  Put the pork chops on top of the sweet potatoes; season with salt and pepper.  Spoon the cranberry sauce on top, covering it all.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  (Mine was actually done by 6 hours but was still good at 8).  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Taco Salad

Tonight I wanted something healthy, with a Tex-Mex feel.  I also wanted something that my kids would eat.  So I did a variation on a taco salad.  I ate the yummy salad (and I'm assuming J will when he gets home), and the kids ate tortillas, cheese, olives, corn, and beans.  Success!

Taco Salad

6 cups mixed greens (or your favorite lettuce)
1/2 can black beans, drained and well-rinsed
1/2 can whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed
1 can black olives, sliced or not as you prefer
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, or a Mexican cheese blend
1 large tomato, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
2 large flour tortillas
2 T Salsa
1/2 cup Ranch Dressing
1/4 tsp Lime juice

First, make a quesadilla.  Place a tortilla on a flat grilling pan or a large skillet. Sprinkle grated cheese until mostly covered, then top with another tortilla.  Cook on medium to medium high for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt.  Flip, then cook until cheese is fully melted and the tortilla is slightly browned.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the quesadilla in half, then slice each half into 1-inch strips.  Arrange the strips around the outside of a large shallow serving bowl.

Assemble the salad.  Place lettuce in the serving bowl, slightly overlapping quesadilla.  Top with beans and corn, then tomatoes, olives, avocado, and whatever cheese you have left.

In a small bowl, whisk together Ranch dressing, salsa, and lime juice.  Drizzle over top of salad, and serve immediately.


Mashed Potatoes and Root Vegetables

I'm going to try to put more of what I'm cooking up here more often, to get comments and to help out others who are in a dinner rut (as I often am).  Tonight, we made Mashed Potatoes and Root Vegetables, with parsnips for the root vegetable.  They were a side dish, of course, to go with "My Favorite Chicken," which is what the kids call the Tyson's breaded chicken breasts that we have at least once a week.  We also had some broccoli on the side.

For the record, the kids didn't touch this dish.  But J and I thought it was yummy, a nice variation on mashed potatoes, if it does take a bit longer to prepare.

The recipe is from America's Test Kitchen, one of my favorite places to get recipes.  Try it out. :)

Mashed Potatoes and Root Vegetables

Russet potatoes will yield a slightly fluffier, less creamy mash, but they can be used in place of the Yukon Gold potatoes if desired. Rinsing the potatoes in several changes of water reduces starch and prevents the mashed potatoes from becoming gluey. It is important to cut the potatoes and root vegetables into even-sized pieces so they cook at the same rate. This recipe can be doubled and cooked in a large Dutch oven. If doubling, increase the cooking time in step 2 to 40 minutes.

Serves 4

tablespoons unsalted butter  (I used salted and it was fine)
ounces carrots , parsnips, turnips, or celery root, peeled; carrots or parsnips cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons; turnips or celery root cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2
pounds Yukon Gold potatoes , peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices; rinsed well in 3 or 4 changes of cold water and drained
cup low-sodium chicken broth 

Table salt 
cup half-and-half , warmed
tablespoons minced fresh chives 

Ground black pepper 

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add root vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter is browned and vegetables are dark brown and caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes. (If after 4 minutes vegetables have not started to brown, increase heat to medium-high.)

2. Add potatoes, broth, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Cook, covered, over low heat (broth should simmer gently; do not boil), stirring occasionally, until potatoes fall apart easily when poked with fork and all liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. (If liquid does not gently simmer after a few minutes, increase heat to medium-low.) Remove pan from heat; remove lid and allow steam to escape for 2 minutes.

3. Gently mash potatoes and root vegetables in saucepan with potato masher (do not mash vigorously). Gently fold in warm half-and-half and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve immediately.

Angel Hair Pasta with Vegetables and Herbs

Last night was one of those nights when I didn't have anything planned, so I just threw together something.  For a lot of people, that means pasta.  I've been working on my kids with pasta.  They wouldn't eat anything pasta (including Macaroni and Cheese, which they still don't like) for years.  I put it in front of them enough that they finally did eat plain angel hair pasta, but would never touch it with a marinara sauce.

Well, last night I made pasta, but I didn't make the sauce, being in a hurry and knowing they wouldn't eat it anyway.  I gave them their pasta and asparagus, and then said, "This is how I'm going to eat mine.  If you'd like some, you can try it."  It was a huge hit, and E, who previously would eat a few measly strands of spaghetti, ate two full helpings.  Let's just say that this will be on my more frequent list now.

And just for the record, he didn't eat the tomatoes.

Angel Hair with Vegetables and Herbs

Angel hair pasta or spaghetti, cooked and drained
Asparagus, cooked
1 tomato, chopped into bite-sized pieces
garlic salt
dried or fresh basil
Olive oil

Combine pasta, asparagus, and tomato.  Add oil and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and basil to taste.
*You could also add a bit of some good balsamic vinegar, which is how my husband ate it.  Yum!

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Tonight I looked in my fridge and decided that I had all the right ingredients for homemade vegetable soup.  I just threw it together based on what I had, so you could alter the recipe to fit what's in your fridge, pantry, or freezer.  The kids ate it and liked it.

We served the soup with cornbread.  Have I ever told you about E's love of cornbread?  It's his standard of goodness.  For example, he'll say something like, "Mom, that looks pretty yummy, but is it as good as cornbread?"  I think the soup tonight was as good as cornbread.  And went well with it, too!

Here's the recipe:

Homemade Vegetable Soup

3-4 medium potatoes (I left mine unpeeled because I'm lazy like that, but you could peel them if you wanted to)
2 parsnips (leftover from the mashed root vegetables the other night)
4 stalks celery
Carrots (I used what was left in my bag of baby carrots, but I would recommend 2-3 big ones)
1 medium onion
1-2 T minced garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, and the juices
1 cup frozen peas
1-2 15-oz cans chicken stock (I used 1 1/2, because I had half of one in the fridge)
Bay Leaf
Black pepper
Chili powder
Olive oil

Chop all vegetables into 1/2-inch cubes.  If using parsnips, be sure to remove and discard the center core of the vegetable.  Pour a couple tablespoons olive oil into a big cooking pot and heat over medium-high heat.  Toss in garlic and onions and saute for a few minutes, until the onions begin to soften.  Turn down the heat if necessary so the garlic doesn't burn.  Add the chicken stock, then all the other vegetables (including the tomatoes) except the peas.  Season with spices.  (I didn't measure, just dashed a bit of each of them in.  You can always add more at the end if you don't think you added enough.)
Add enough water to cover all the vegetables, then turn to high and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, cover with tight-fitting lid and turn to low.  Let simmer until the carrots and potatoes are soft, 1-2 hours.
Just before serving, add the peas and stir in.  Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.

Makes about 8 main-dish servings.  Or maybe 6 if they're all grown-ups. :)