Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's For Dinner?

If you haven't yet tried this recipe for pork loin, you're really missing out on something!  It's absolutely my fave pork recipe and it's always a "go to" recipe when I don't have a clue what I'm going to fix for dinner.  Well, last night was one of those nights!  It was the last day of the month, which is always a busy time for mortgage bankers.  I realized around 4 o'clock that I hadn't taken anything out for dinner. 

Phew.....back in the back of the freezer was a pork loin!  Voila!  Dennis did the butterflying of the this:

I filled it and covered the top with the stuffing and placed it in the baking dish.  Then I surrounded it with cut red potatoes that I had tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper.  I added a few of the thyme sprigs and baked it in the oven.

I decided to make cabbage to go with the pork and of my favorite meat/vegetable combinations.....and I love cabbage!

My cabbage cooking technique comes from a dear friend and colleage, Tammy Long, a Realtor with Rose and Womble.  She is a fabulous cook......she entertains alot and I can't imagine anyone turning down an invitation to one of her events....not only for the fun and warmth they add to their gatherings, but for the fabulous food!!!  (I hope I have this recipe right!)

I start by chopping the cabbage...

and the garlic....

the tossing the cabbage with olive oil.

Add salt and pepper...

and saute' on medium until it starts to soften (sometimes I add a little water to help the softening helps to steam the cabbage without it browning, which is yuk)...then add the garlic...

...and cook until done to your liking.

The pork loin turned out great!  The new butterflying method worked so much better!

Dinner was wonderful!  Thanks, Tammy and Dennis!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

And I Hay-ulped!!

If you've been thinking that I cook everything from scratch, well then I've been misleading you....unintentionally, of course!

My work keeps me very busy from the time I open my eyes ....and sometimes until I close them!  Sure, I take breaks to grab a bite, but many times I'm making a sandwich while talking to a client, and eating while doing data input.  I do love when I have the time to make something new and adventurous for dinner, but the time to do that doesn't always exist.  Often I find myself looking at the clock only to realize that I haven't planned anything, haven't taken anything out of the freezer, or haven't gone to the grocery store for dinner!

This happened just last night.....I had a Monday/Friday and it was 6 o'clock when I felt the rumble in my stomach....uh oh!  But this time I was ready!  I had gone to Harris Teeter the night before, and had a little time to browse the aisles, which is rare (I'm usually a get in, get what I need, get out kinda girl).  I happened to notice something I hadn't seen/thought of in many, many years.....
Shake 'N Bake!!!  I remember when this stuff first came on the market....I guess I was around 10 or 11....and my Mom thought it was the greatest invention ever!  I think it was originally produced for pork chops.....they were delicious.  That's about all I really remember, other than that commercial with the little girl helping her Mommy make dinner, exclaiming, "It's Shake 'N Bake, and I helped (pronounced hay-ulped)".  Of course, I looked everywhere for that commerical on the luck.  There were a few in YouTube, but this was my favorite:

Anyway, let's get back to dinner last night....I made Chicken Parmigiana....with Shake 'N Bake!  It was quick, easy and delicious!

I used some chicken cutlets that are pre-sliced and cleaned....put them in the bag with the SNB mix, then put them on a parchment lined baking dish and let them sit for about 20 minutes. 

This helps the coating to adhere well.  (TIP - it's a pain to get parchment paper to lay flat on the baking sheet - just wet it first and it will stay flat)

While they were setting up, I started my sauce.  Yep....premade sauce!  My favorite is Harris Teeter's brand - Traditional.  But I add a few things that the shelf sauces just don't have.....more garlic (I love Gourmet Garden's tube herbs-the garlic is delish!), more oregano and basil and red wine.  I let this simmer while I prepared everything else.

I baked the chicken at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then topped them with mozzarella cheese and broiled that for about a minute or so...just long enough for the cheese to melt.  Then I put the chicken over pasta, topped with my sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese.



It was delicious...and much more so than ordering take out pizza or Chinese food...and it was quick and easy!  Seeeeee......I'm not a fancy cook, really I'm not.  I just love to spend time in my kitchen and I love trying new recipes.....and I love ingredients, whether they are quick and easy or dishes made from scratch!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shrimp Shrimp.....

.....oh wait....with a side of lobster! 

The other day I walked into the kitchen to find one of my favorite cookbooks on the counter opened to a shrimp recipe. " Hmmm.......guess this is what he wants me to make with those shrimp that are defrosting in the sink.", I thought.  Then he walked in and said, "This is what I'm making for dinner tonight.".  What???  Did I hear you correctly??  YOU are making dinner?  Really?  Wow!  That's awesome!

I left the kitchen and he later appeared with my delicious dinner!  We both enjoyed it, but as we always do over a plate of food, we critiqued it....add a little this or that.  And since there were quite a few shrimp left, he decided to make it again a couple of nights later.....and this time I was there to document it for the blog!

I became his sous chef for the evening, doing all of his prep work.  I gathered all of the ingredients that were listed in the recipe, plus the two we'd decided to add (more on that later).  

Since there wasn't quite enough shrimp, and we had a lobster tail leftover from Valentine's Day, I chopped it up and added it to the shrimp I had peeled and deveined.  I also juiced the lemon, diced the green onions, shredded the parmesan

and minced the garlic!
Once everything was prepped, Dennis came in and set up his work area.....

...ummmm....yeah.....he prepped the drink!  He heated the pan and added his olive oil....then put in the shrimp and lobster...

....and sauteed them until just before they were done.....then he added the garlic, lemon juice and green onions.....

Ummm.....took a sip...or two....
...added salt and pepper, then cooked until done...

He then added the butter and allowed that to melt, poured it over hot pasta and topped with the grated parmesan cheese...

It was delicious and it took only about 20 minutes from prep to finish!

The recipe is from the Williams Sonoma "Fish" cookbook and is as follows:

Shrimp Sauteed with Lemon and Garlic

4 tablespoons of olive oil (Dennis found that he needed to add a little more)
1 1/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (we had about a pound of shrimp and then added a small lobster tail, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 green onions, diced (we used more...about 4 or 5)
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh flat leaf parsley (we left this out)
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 whole, fresh lemon)

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add shrimp and cook until pink on one side, about 1 minute.  Turn the shrimp over with tongs, add garlic, salt, pepper to taste, toss.  Then add green onions, parsley and lemon juice.  Toss again and transfer to a warmed platter.  Serve.

Our Variations:  We added about 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter at the end of cooking, poured it all over hot pasta, then topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Quick, easy, delicious.......VOILA!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

I'm a huge fan of Alton Brown's Good EatsAlthough I watch alot of the Food Network's chefs, he is one of my all time favorites.  Most chefs walk you through the recipe while they make it, but Alton gives you the science and the history behind the dish....and he's funny!

Last week I happened to tune in to one of his older segments about classic recipes that aren't as prevalent anymore.  This one was a spinach salad with warm bacon dressing.  I haven't had one of those in years!  Dennis watched it with me and said it was also one of his old favorites, so we decided to make it over the "snowed in" weekend.

I started by boiling my eggs.....Alton used an electric coffee pot, which keeps the water under a boil and doesn't overcook the egg.  I don't HAVE an electric coffee pot....and I sure wasn't going to buy one just to make boiled eggs.  So, I used my old standby way of boiling eggs.
I start by putting my eggs in cold water, then I bring it just to a boil....turn it off, take it off the burner and cover the pan.....

....then let it sit for 15 minutes.

While the eggs were "not boiling", I prepared my spinach....
I listened to Alton on this one and bought the bunched spinach.....I usually buy either the loose or the bagged.  I wasn't so happy with my spinach.  That's a huge bunch, and I barely got enough for two salads...either it was yellowing or it was gooey.  I cleaned what I managed to salvage by putting it in a colander and tossing is under water....

....then I laid it out on a clean dish towel.....

Since I don't have a salad spinner (is that a foodie sin?), I pulled up the four corners and did the "airplane" with my arm (aren't you glad I don't do video?) so they would be nice and dry.  It worked....a little....I still had to pat them a bit to make sure they were good and dry.

Meanwhile, I had four slices of bacon baking in my "baby oven" at 400 degrees until they were crispy. 

Then I crumbled them and hid them....otherwise someone I know would have scoffed them up before I could finish the salad!

Now that all of the components were ready (eggs peeled and sliced, too), I started my dressing.  Alton says to use 3 tablespoons of the bacon grease....what?  I don't have that much....I used center cut bacon!  Sooooo, I scraped what I had out of the pan and into a saucepan on low heat.  I had about 1 tablespoon.....then I added 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and whisked that in, followed by 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard (Maille, of course)...whisked all of that together.  Hmm....I really needed the other two tablespoons of bacon fat.  Oh well....I just added 2 tablespoons of olive oil and whisked it in...tasted.....yes!  Crisis averted.....even when I try to follow a recipe, I can't!

While the dressing is still warm, I poured it over the spinach leaves and tossed.  Then I put them in the salad bowls, added the eggs, bacon and sliced red onion...salt and pepper and VOILA!
It tasted just like I remembered...delicious.

Of course, now that I'm writing this post and reviewing Alton's recipe, I realized I forgot the mushrooms....yes, he sliced and added mushrooms.  Oh well....we didn't miss it, so I'll just add them the next time, which I'm sure will be soon!