Sunday, August 31, 2014

Baked Beans with a Little Extra Heat

Jenny's Baked Beans have been a favorite of mine for the last few years. Today I did a quick re-mix and subbed Sriracha for Franks Hot Sauce and used Dijon mustard instead of the yellow. It's hot, but not too hot, so don't let the sriracha scare you. To me, it was just perfect, and the recipe is super simple!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Franks, Beans and Bacon Casserole

This was kind of a fridge cleanout, so please adjust amounts of anything you have in your pantry and fridge. I promise, whatever the ratio, this will come out tasting great.

Franks, Beans and Bacon Casserole
Made in an 8" x 8" casserole dish
Can feed one hungry person or six normal appetites

5 beef frankfurters sliced 1/2 inch
1 T canola oil
1 onion diced 1/4 inch
1 green pepper chopped 1/4 inch
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can 28 oz Bush's Original Baked Beans
1/4 cup ketchup
1 T Dijon mustard (I normally use yellow mustard but didn't have any- still pretty good with the Dijon)
1 T Splenda Brown Sugar Blend or 2 T regular brown sugar
1 T hot sauce (I used Franks)
4-5 slices hardwood smoked bacon

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare baking dish with cooking spray. In medium size saucepan on stovetop over medium low heat, add canola oil and onions and green pepper. Soften veggies and add chili powder, coriander, salt and pepper. I usually add a bit of cumin but couldn't find mine. Add some if you can find yours and cook about 5-7 minutes.

Remove from saucepan and add to mixing bowl. Add sliced franks, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and hot sauce.

Combine mixture and pour into baking dish. Top with bacon.

Cover with aluminum foil and fold one corner of foil back to vent. Bake one hour, remove foil and bake uncovered for another half hour. Serve with Texas toast (sorry no picture), but all you need to do to make the toast is... while the casserole is cooling, combine a few tablespoons of butter with garlic powder and fresh chopped parsley. Slather the butter mixture on one side of thickly sliced (one inch) Italian bread. Bake in oven for 7-9 minutes. Yummy meal and it reheats in the oven or microwave like a dream.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pork Sirloin with a Thai flair

I became a fan of Thai food in the 80's. A restaurant called The Star of Siam opened across the street from my office building and I went there for lunch or ordered in almost every day. Guess what- lunch at the time was $4.95, how could I go wrong? I just loved the flavors they offered. And I never got tired of their menu. Now this was before I got into cooking, so you can imagine that when I started experimenting in the kitchen I had to learn a few Thai dishes. Here's one I came up with tonight that I can't say is by any means authentic, but the Thai flavors are there: Red curry, peanuts, chilis and lots of veggies. I braised this dish on the stovetop, and I'm pretty sure Thai cooking does not involve braising. But it is so delish I have to share. Any ingredients that you are not familiar with are most likely available in the International aisle of your local grocery store.

Braised Pork Sirloin with Coconut Milk and Thai Spices
This recipe was inspired by Kathy Griffin, a favorite internet cooking buddy who made me remember how yummy cooking pork with coconut milk is

2 pounds pork sirloin
salt and pepper for seasoning pork
2 T canola oil
1 onion diced
1 T red curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen)
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth (I had this left over in my fridge- I think you can sub 1 cup of water instead of opening a new can or box of broth)
1 T fish sauce
2 T brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup Thai Kitchen Peanut Satay Sauce
1 T chili garlic sauce
Juice of 1 lime
3 T chopped dry roasted peanuts for garnish
2 T cilantro leaves for garnish

Jasmine rice
4 oz mushrooms
6 oz string beans
1 red pepper sliced

Ready to cook? Let's make the cooking sauce/liquid first. I used my blender. Put your red curry paste, garlic, coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, brown sugar, Thai Kitchen Peanut Satay Sauce, peanut butter and chili garlic sauce in a blender. This is an easy blend and you'll be done in less than a minute. Look at that beautiful color.

Set the sauce aside and let's tend to the pork. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the sirloin.

Heat canola oil in a skillet and brown pork on all sides. As tedious as this sounds, this is an important step because you want to seal all the juices inside the pork. So sear the top, bottom, sides and ends.

Remove pork from skillet and place in large soup pot. Add the chopped onions. Why would you add onions to a Thai dish? Truth be told, my mom added onions to all braised dishes. And it didn't hurt this dish one bit and added some lovely flavor. After the long cooking time they almost evaporated.

Now, get that delicious braising liquid out of the blender and add it to your soup pot.

Bring liquid to a boil, lower temp to simmer and braise (covered) on stove top for 2-1/4 hours. If you have the time, turn the roast every half hour or so. I usually babysit my braised roasts, but I don't think it's necessary.

While roast is cooking make your rice and prep you veggies.

 After 2-1/4 hours of cooking your roast add the vegetables. Cook for an additional 15 minutes and add the fresh squeezed lime juice. Your dinner is ready. When plating, add some chopped peanuts and cilantro for a garnish and enjoy! It's a feast you will make again and again. I have quite a bit of sauce/gravy left over and I'm thinking I'm either going to spoon feed it or intravenously inject it to myself, or make a soup. I think the soup idea is the best option.

Dig in, this a dish you will enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2014


As you must know by now, by Thursday I'm pantry cooking unless I've really planned ahead. Well I didn't plan ahead this week, so how does one make a last-minute pantry meal memorable? With Lidia Bastianich's garlic toast! Super easy and so delish.

I made a potato chowdah tonight that needed a bit of a boost and I had half an Italian bread waiting for me in the freezer. So after defrosting, I sliced it into six 3/4 inch servings and toasted them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. I turned them over and the bottom sides were toasted to perfection. I took 2 cloves of fresh garlic and rubbed the aromatic herb all over the toasted side of each of the bread slices. Sometimes Lidia stops at just the garlic rub, but I also discovered I had some shredded parmesan cheese in the fridge. I topped the garlic bread slices with a teaspoon or two of parm and put them back in the oven for about 2 more minutes. What follows is a toasty, melty, aromatic and cheesy addition to a pantry meal. Give this simple recipe a try. You'll probably like it better than your actual dinner. I know I did. Thanks Lidia for your help in the kitchen!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Citrus Orzo Salad Re-Mixed

I love the last orzo salad recipe I posted. It was tasty. And sweet. And salty. And right up my alley. But there are a lot of folks out there that are not wild about capers, olives and raisins. So I did some experimenting this weekend and came up with a more conventional version. Well, I shouldn't put it that way, because there is nothing conventional about candied walnuts in an orzo salad. Plus I amped up the amount of sweet navel oranges, added more crunch with the addition of celery, and swapped out the creamy goat cheese for some extra tangy Gorgonzola. Serve this on a big platter or make up individual Bibb lettuce cups. It is a crowd pleaser!

Citrus Orzo Salad with Candied Walnuts

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 large onion diced
Kosher salt
1 cup uncooked orzo
Additional salt and pepper
1-3/4 cups water

4 scallions chopped
4 navel oranges supremed
2 stalks celery chopped
4 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 cup walnuts
3 T sugar
1 T unsalted butter

Salad Dressing:
1 clove garlic finely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
1 T rice vinegar
Liquid from supremed oranges
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard

To make the orzo: (This is my mom's method, and it is no fail). In medium size saucepan on medium low heat, melt your butter and olive oil. Add the chopped onions and some salt and pepper. Cook uncovered on stovetop to soften the onions, not brown them. After about 5 minutes they will be translucent and ready to accept the orzo. Add the cup of orzo and coat with the buttery onions. Add a bit more salt and pepper (the orzo has absolutely no flavor if you do not season it). Stir to combine onions and orzo and let the orzo toast a bit (2-3 minutes). Add water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to the lowest simmer and cook 12-13 minutes. The orzo will still be a bit watery, but keep covered off the heat and all the liquid will evaporate.

While orzo is cooling, let's candy the walnuts. In large saucepan on medium heat add the sugar and butter. Mix to combine. Now add the nuts and coat them with the sugary liquid. Toast the mixture for about 3 minutes (that's all the time it takes). Just make sure to keep an eye on the walnuts so they don't burn.

As soon as the nuts are sweet and toasty, transfer them to a piece of parchment paper and separate them the best you can. You do not want clumps of nuts on top of your salad. Set them aside to cool.

To make the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a medium size jar and shake. Or just whisk everything together until it emulsifies.

Assembly: In large bowl combine scallions, orange supremes, celery, and cilantro.

Now add your Gorgonzola and cooled orzo.

If I'm making this dish ahead, I dress the salad with only half the dressing, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Then I  dress it again right before serving time. By the way, I like this salad served at room temp, but it is still delish served cold. And don't forget, liberally sprinkle those sweet, toasty walnuts on top of your salad right before serving.