Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Slow cooker garlic & ginger pork chops

Hey, it's Wednesday!  Do you know what you're serving for dinner?

Well, thank goodness for me.  I've got a recipe that will get you over the mid-week recipe hump, and it takes a whopping 2 minutes to prepare.  The rest -- the part that turns ingredients into an edible meal -- is done by your friendly slow cooker.

Now be nice and say hello.


No pictures were taken because this was such a last minute recipe in so many ways.  Thrown together at lunch on a work day, and quickly served up before running off to do who knows what that evening.  Life, she is a busy one these days.  But dinner doesn't have to suffer! 

What resulted was such a surprise, even to this girl.  This is, hands down, my favorite pork chop recipe to date!  Favorite. Ever.  Those are bold words, folks!  The garlic and ginger give such flavor to a traditionally mild meat.  The soy sauce and brown sugar tag team for a salty sweet combination that will linger on your taste buds' memory for days, nay, weeks!  A pseudo-Asian-inspired flavor saves dinner... that would've otherwise consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches :)

Asian-inspired Pork Chops for the Slow Cooker
-serves 4-6

A few notes: Though my protein of choice was pork, this recipe could be used for practically any meat or poultry you have on hand.  Turkey or chicken would be great for an equally lean dinner.  Next time, however, I think I'm going to cut up a beef roast into 1 1/2-inch cubes and throw it into the slow cooker -- there is simply no way it won't be absolutely delicious!

6 boneless pork chops
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine remaining ingredients in bowl of slow cooker.  Place pork chops in slow cooker and toss to coat.  Cover and cook on low setting for 6 hours.  Serve with rice and broccoli, perhaps, and enjoy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fool-proof party tips!

Want to throw a party?  Perhaps an end of summer shindig or a birthday soiree to honor someone special.  Or just because you want to, no occasion required.  We actually had a party in college and titled it "Happy nothing party!"  Weren't we so clever?  Really it was just because the evite format wouldn't allow the field to be blank.  Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

Whether you're a novice or a hostess with the mostess, here are the absolute best pieces of advice I've ever heard about hosting your own party, specifically regarding the food. And, surprise surprise, these nuggets of wisdom come from my favorite famous hostess, The Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten.  She has such a knack for doing simple food really well, which I love!

1. Only make 2 dishes from scratch, but do them really well.

There's no need to sweat and fret over impressing your guests with a buffet full of only homemade snacks.  Sure, it may earn you a pat on the back or two, but I promise that it's not worth it to have every pan in your kitchen dirtied and yourself so pressed for time that you don't get to enjoy your own party.  Do two things really really well, and guests will appreciate the effort and enjoy your treats.  Need examples?  Try ham and swiss in puff pastry for savory, and homemade Oreos for sweet.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bacon-wrapped potato wedges

Because the plethora of bacon-centric recipes (just added a new "bacon" tag!) isn't enough for me, I'm totally psyched to show you what I made for dinner recently: bacon-wrapped potato wedges!  

Besides, there can never be too much bacon.  Sorry, kosher friends!

Oh no, that's not a T.G.I.Friday's plate you're seeing.  It's way better, friends.  This is my improved homemade response to the legendary T.G.I.Friday's loaded potato skins appetizer.  Everyone knows it, and most would move mountains for it.  But this version can be made in minutes in your own kitchen, and it's infinitely better for you and your waistline -- hey, summer isn't quite over yet!

In other words, consumption of this deliciousness won't be followed by that unmistakeable wave of nausea.  Instead, a napkin-crumpling, stomach-patting (because it's not overfilled) feeling of satisfaction. Win win, right?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ham & cheese in puff pastry

Remember when I showed you how I started my weekend?  Let's just say that I'm convinced that every weekend should start the same way!  Though I might substitute a tall glass of milk and cupcake for that beer :)

Matt and I both spent the weekend in Pittsburgh for what seems like the first in months and lived it up locally.  Multiple strolls around the city.  Breakfast crepes on a lazy Saturday.  Impromptu dinner dates.  Oh, and an evening spent at one of America's oldest amusement parks: Kennywood!  (No pictures -- I take only the essentials with me for fear of losing things.)  We had a blast riding rides and enjoyed the trip down memory lane.  Fact: I've been visiting Kennywood almost every year since I was 6 or 7 years old.  However, I did experience one thing for the very first time at the ripe old age of 27:

A corn dog!  How on earth I've ever tasted one of these until this past weekend baffles me.  Delicious!  Salty!  Sweet!  Crunchy and fluffy.  My goodness.  Food from the Heavens.

(I promise this post isn't entirely about corn dogs.  Keep reading.)

What about this treat was so appealing?  Its simplicity!  A hot dog dunked in cornmeal batter and fried.  That's it.  For that, I waited nearly 30 minutes in line and, once I sunk my teeth into that fried wonder, I never regretted a single second.  I obviously wasn't the only one who appreciated this glorious treat.

It's fitting, then, that after this weekend full of simple pleasures in life that I'm finally sharing with you one of my all-time favorite appetizer recipes: ham and cheese puff pastry!  Ina Garten for the win with this one.  


Friday, August 19, 2011

How every weekend should start

Enjoying a summer sunset with a good book and cold beverage.  Matt's got the right idea, no?  (By the way, have you been watching or reading Game of Thrones?  I think I'm the only person left in the country that hasn't... yet.)

That was last night.  Tonight we're headed to Kennywood for some old-fashioned summer fun -- it just doesn't feel like summer until I've been there.  Phantom's Revenge and fried Oreos, here we come :)  Have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chocolate sandwich cookies (aka homemade Oreos)

Because you can, darn it!  That's why.  Also, reason 1B: Because they are little bites of Heaven.

That's the question asked by many of my friends when I told them what I'd be serving at the apartment-warming party this past weekend.

 "Homemade Oreos?  Why don't you just buy Oreos?"
 "Pfffffff.  Because these are waaaaaay better.  You'll see."
 "But you have to make them when you can just buy them."
 "I like making things!  And you like when I make things."
 "Yeah, but you could also buy them.  I like store-bought Oreos, too."
 "But you'll like these more.  Trust me."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Changes a'comin'!

Happy Monday to all of you!  Have a nice weekend?  I hope so!  The breakdown: I worked on Saturday, hosted a long-overdue apartment-warming party that evening for which I did juuuuust a lil' baking and cooking (obvs!), and got outside to enjoy this picture perfect summer weather we've been having.  Upper 70s and sunny with a light breeze?  Per-fec-tion!  Oh, and then I watched an hour and a half's worth of the show Extreme Couponing on TLC.  That show is a trainwreck but I tear my eyes away from the TV.  Have you ever watched it?

Speaking of busy weekends, the past month or two has been just as jam-packed with things to do, and I've had less and less time to devote to posting about recipes and food and other exciting domestic pursuits.  That means rushed writing and posts that I feel could've been so much better!  (Being a perfectionist is a terrible curse at times.)  It makes me so sad and a bit frustrated, to be honest.  Something like this.

I love love love sharing my latest kitchen pursuits with you and hearing about yours, too!  But I just can't settle for anything less than the best.  Even more frustrating is that my frequency of playing in the kitchen with new ingredients and creations hasn't changed one bit, maybe even increased!  But the time, oh the time isn't there at the moment.  It makes me act like this:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ham & asparagus frittata

Wine?  Wisdom?  My retirement fund?  (One can only hope...)

But really, I'm talking about my cast-iron skillet!  You know, the one that I received as a birthday gift last summer.  By not cleaning it other than a light scrub with salt to remove cooked bits of food, the skillet has become practically nonstick and is so seasoned that I swear I could cook a plain egg and it'd come out tasting fabulous.

Well, I took that plain egg idea a step further when I busted out yet another frittata last night for dinner: ham and asparagus frittata!

You might say I've developed quite an obsession with frittatas.  Easy, quick, incredibly adaptable with whatever ingredients you've got.  ApplesBaconGoat cheese.

You also might ask why on earth I'm sharing another frittata recipe with you.  It's because this was, by far, my most favorite frittata to date!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chocolate vanilla marble cake

Want to see a gorgeous cake?  Of course you do!  One that's so pretty it needs no icing or other adornments.  Ready?

Though that's just one slice, you can surely imagine what the whole cake looks like.  Need another glimpse?  Of course, I'd be glad to oblige.  I'm a giver, after all!

You'll have to forgive me for not having a picture of the untouched finished cake.  You see, I made it for our wonderful DC hosts this past weekend and didn't want to be toooo obnoxious about food photography.  Even though one of said hosts is, quite possibly, this blog's biggest groupie (thanks!).  If anyone would understand, it'd be her.  So I guess I can't blame my lack of archiving on my friends.

At what am I pointing the finger, then?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When a cake just won't do...

(You have no idea how wrong it felt to type that title...)

Treat the birthday guy or gal in your life to a different kind of cake: a cookie tower!

When I asked a coworker for his birthday baking request -- "It can be anything!  Pie, cake, cookies, ice cream dessert, you name it." -- he responded with, "Those oatmeal cookies.  You know.  The awesome ones."

"Are you sure you don't want a cake?"
"Nope, just those cookies."

Wanting to please the birthday boy and still make something worthy of a special occasion, I got a little creative and made a cookie tower, topped with -- what else -- a birthday candle :)

Not everyone is a cake lover (tsk tsk), but that doesn't mean a simple cookie request can't be grand!

One Year Ago:  Glazed mini lemon cakes

Monday, August 8, 2011

Visiting Georgetown Cupcakes + mini Monday

Take that, Monday morning!  Did you think you were going to catch me off guard and groggy?  No way!  A very fun and relaxing weekend revived me and made getting up this morning (to exercise, even!) much easier than I would've guessed.  Our DC hosts were fabulous and made us feel right at home!

While we spent most of the weekend lounging and enjoying the good great company, we did make a day trip to Georgetown on Saturday, where we strolled, shopped, ate, and frequented a cupcake shop you may have heard of: Georgetown Cupcakes.  It's kind of a big deal.

Need further proof?  Here was the line to buy cupcakes.

Truth be told, it really wasn't bad at all since we were in the shade.  From standing in line to cradling our cupcakes, it was just under 30 minutes.  And, honestly, I spent most of that time contemplating my order.  So many choices, 18 total for Saturday alone!


Okay, so planning our orders and partaking in an quick glamour shots session as well.  No big deal :)  Once inside, there were no sightings of the owners, Katherine and Sophie, but these cupcake purveyors were mighty friendly and efficient.

Anyway, I'll get to the bottom line.  Was the wait worth it?  Did these individual petite cakes live up to the hype?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chipotle steak salad with homemade dressing

Happy Friday to you!  I hope you're doing well, swell even.  Rather than a list, I've got a question for you: have you heard of the the Pioneer Woman?  I kinda have a major girl crush on her.

Isn't she lovely?  She's kind of a big deal, too, and rightfully so.  I mean, the woman is the hip midwest theoretical love child of Oprah and Martha Stewart.  She does it all!  But, no offense to Ree, I've only got eyes for one thing: her cooking.

Ohhhhhh, her cooking!

You may remember the cinnamon roll craze of spring of 2011.  Dear Lord, those cinnamon rolls.  If I had to choose between my right hand and those cinnamon rolls, well, I can't say I'd be calling myself an ambidextrous individual anytime after that.  (Yes, the cinnamon rolls are that good.  Do yourself a favor -- and prove me right -- and make them immediately.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Baked chicken with honey mustard glaze

Hey, you!  I was just thinking about you and that we should chat.  Remember that time I made an incredible marinade for roasted chicken thighs?  No?  Wow... this is really awkward.  I guess I didn't invite you.  My apologies.  Well, let me tell you about it.  Let me start with a pic-... what's that?  Epic fail!

Do you also remember the time that this wise gal accidentally selected the "reformat SD card" option on her camera and erased all of the photographic proof of said delicious dinner?  Say it with me: "Nooooooooooo!"

Thankfully, the recipe is pretty darn simple and there were two familiar guinea pigs faces on hand to dine with me that would gladly vouch for its deliciousness :)  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pork chops with mushrooms & shallots

Well, hello there!  I'm going to be frank -- my time in front of the computer has been reduced drastically since Sunday so I haven't had loads of time to properly compose lengthy posts and recipes.  

Clarification: I could have had the time, but I've been too busy camped out watching filming for the new Batman movie that's taking place right outside my apartment/office building!!!

How absolutely exciting and cool, right?!  The city is buzzing with Dark Knight fever.  In fact, Matt and I sat in the lobby of the building watching fight and escape scenes with pyrotechnics (!!!) for almost 4 hours on Sunday evening.  Mesmerized, I tell you!  Just type "Dark Knight Rises filming" into your favorite search engine, and you'll have no trouble finding loads of pictures, videos, and other behind the scenes info. 

So, from Batman to dinner, you're thinking "Where is she going with this?"  Well, you caught me.  There is absolutely no transition I can come up with to go from a comic book hero to dinner.  Except possibly that the occasion -- the first meal eaten at our brand new dining room set -- was a photo-worthy event in its own way :)

Doesn't he look so hairy happy?  Happy about the table and dinner, too: pork chops with shallots and mushrooms.  And, possibly happy that I actually stepped away from my perch watching filming to even make dinner.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Treat yourself today! one of these cool sweets!

Don't hesitate because the calendar says so -- it's national ice cream sandwich day!   Whether you buy one of the classics (pictured above) or you make your own... don't these look amazing? 

Check out some great recipes here, here, over there, way over there, and even here! 

My all-time favorite ice cream truck purchase has gotta be the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.  Of course they were always the most expensive, but I didn't care.  I'd still shell out big bucks for these on a hot day at the beach :)

What's your favorite ice cream truck treat/sandwich?