Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops

No real story this time. We had pork chops, I suggested a balsamic reduction, The Spouse said "Sure!" then cleaned his plate and had seconds. So I think this one was a hit. ;)

Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 pork loin chops (ours were actually 3 full chops, butterflied, which I cut into 6)
salt (I used my lavendar-infused fleur de sal)

Mix together the broth, vinegar and honey in a medium bowl. Set aside

Heat pan over medium heat. Add butter and let melt until it starts to brown. Add in olive oil.

Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Dredge through flour and place in pan. Sautee 4 minutes on each side or until mostly cooked through. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Deglaze the pan with the balsamic sauce. Using a whisk, loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add the pork chops back in, turning occasionally to coat on all sides. Simmer until the sauce has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Plate the pork chops, drizzle with sauce, and serve.

Wine Pairing: I'd pair my favorite Spanish Grenache with this. Syrah/Shiraz would also be a good choice (as would a grenache/syrah blend).

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chocolate Chip Scones

I'm really behind in my updating this blog. :D

Last weekend I wanted to make a nice breakfast. I was tired of the usual bowl of cereal. So I decided I was going to make homemade scones. I found a recipe online that sounded good and, well, made a few changes (reduced the butter by half, used Splenda instead of sugar, skipped the nuts cause I didn't have any). They turned out delicious, of course. Served with a cup of fresh Alterra coffee (I'm currently enthralled with their "Blue Heeler" blend) and scrambled eggs.

Chocolate Chip Scones
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup Splenda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks
2/3 cup buttermilk (I soured some skim milk with lemon juice - 1 cup + 1 tbsp is the ratio)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Egg mixture for brushing tops of scones:
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven temperature to 400º F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips. In a small measuring cup combine the buttermilk with the maple syrup and then add to the flour mixture, stirring just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into 4 pie-shaped wedges. You will have 8 scones altogether. Place the scones on the baking sheet. Make an egg wash of one well-beaten egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk and brush the tops of the scones with this mixture.

Bake for about 18 - 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and then turn your broiler on high. Transfer to a wire rack to cool or eat hot, fresh out of the oven!

Makes 8 scones.

BBQ Beef Sandwiches

I made these the first time for our first open house when we moved into the condo, along with chili. The Spouse didn't even get to have any, it was all gone - all of it, every last schnibble - within minutes (the chili was also a hit but the sandwiches were the clear winner). I make it at least once a year in a large batch and freeze about half of it.

The original recipe called for ketchup and liquid smoke flavoring. Uh. Ok. Instead I just use Rudy's Original BBQ Sause (no, that's NOT a typo). It HAS to be Rudy's - most BBQ sauces in the store are far too sweet for this to turn out right. Rudy's is tangy and a little sweet but smoky and spicy enough to give you a kick in the pants. There's nothing like it. You can order the "sause" online (I also recommend their rub!).

BBQ Beef Sandwiches

2 1/2 lb. lean boneless chuck roast
1/4 cup Rudy's Original BBQ Sause
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 garlic clove -- crushed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
10 French rolls or sandwich buns -- (10 to 12)

Place beef in slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients, except rolls. Pour over meat. Cover and cook on LOW 8 to 9 hours. Turn crockpot to WARM and remove beef from sauce. Shred beef by pulling it apart with 2 forks and place back in crockpot, stir to mix sauce in and heat thru. Serve warm on rolls.

Wine recommendation: Screw the wine - BBQ calls for Beer. So crack open a Shiner Bock and enjoy!

Vodka Pasta with Soy Crumbles and Sweet Potato Gratin

I've been trying to convince my husband to try soy crumbles for over a year now. He's flat out refused until recently when I made a frittata using them. He couldn't get over how good it smelled and looked - he didn't get to sample any though since it was for a brunch elsewhere.

So, now that I had his curiosity piqued, I decided to give it a go and ease him into the joys of meatless meat. I had some leftover diced olives and artichokes from a pizza I'd made earlier in the week, so I used those up as well.

Vodka Pasta with Soy Crumbles
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 can diced olives
1/2 can diced artichoke hearts
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans tomato sauce
1 pkg Soy Crumbles
italian seasoning
hot pepper flakes

Heat pan and add olive oil to it. Sauteé onions and garlic until soft. Add in diced olives and artichokes and sauteé another minute or two. Add in tomatoes, tomato sauce, crumbles, seasoning, pepper flakes and vodka. Simmer until heated thru, about 10 minutes. Serve over al dente pasta of your choice.

The Sweet Potato Gratin recipe was originally from Real Simple but high in fat and calories. I halved the butter and cheddar and used skim milk instead. Turned out just fine.

Suggested Wine: Purists would suggest that having a vodka martini is the way to go. But for those who would prefer something a bit more refined, you can't go wrong with a Chianti.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

The Spouse dislikes butternut squash (well, ok, most squash) but I convinced him to let me grow some in the garden this year.

There are thousands of recipes for this online. This version is my own. Admittedly, one can create only so many variations on a theme. But this is the only version my husband will willingly consume. I think it's the vermouth. ;)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and deseeded, cut in half lengthwise
spray olive oil
Portuguese sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a roasting pan with spray olive oil, place halved squash on it. Coat squash with spray oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for approximately 20 minutes or until squash is tender. Cut squash into 1" cubes.

Note: You can reserve the seeds and toast them to serve as a garnish.

3 cups leek, coarsely chopped
olive oil
1 bay leaf
3/4 tsp lavender infused fleur de sal
5 cups organic low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup of sweet vermouth
Roasted butternut squash

In a large stock pot, sautee leeks in olive oil until tender. Add broth, bay leaf, salt, vermouth and squash. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 12-15 minutes. Let cool. Puree soup in batches. Rewarm over medium heat.

Top with toasted seeds, if desired.