Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Going Bananas!

     I beg you, my few dear followers, to forgive me for not posting in so long. I have been overwhelmed lately because I am, for the first time in 10 years, getting ready to go back to school! I haven't completely decided if I just finally got motivated enough or if I just finally completely lost my mind. Not only am I going back to school, I also go back to work (as a preschool teacher) in a few days. My 8 year old is also gearing up to go to 3rd Grade and my little ones are waiting as anxiously as I am to hear that there is room for them in the early childhood education program I enrolled them for.
     In any case, I had an extremely large amount of over-ripe bananas from my local store having a sale and me stocking up so I cultivated a couple of new "must-try" recipes.  The first, a banana pudding made from scratch is actually healthy enough to serve for breakfast while the chocolate chip banana bread is really more of a dessert.


 Homemade Banana Pudding

 1 C Sugar (or sweetener)
 3 eggs (beaten)
 2 TBSP Cornstarch
 2 C Milk
 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract - be sure to use Pure Vanilla if using a sweetener, I have found the imitation vanilla with sweetener leaves an unpleasant after taste.
 3-4 Ripe Bananas (pureed)
 Dash Salt

 Mix salt, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix cornstarch with milk and add to first mixture. Pour in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over med-high heat stirring constantly. Add bananas. Cook until thickened, about the consistency of a pancake batter. Remove from heat, pour into a storage container and cool in refrigerator until set to pudding consistency.

 Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

 2 C Flour
 1 C Sugar or Sweetener
 1 tsp Baking Powder
 1 tsp Salt
 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
 1 C Mashed Bananas (3 small bananas)
 1/2 C Butter
 2 Eggs
 1 C Chocolate Chips

 Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease a loaf pan. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients. Add butter, eggs and bananas and blend well. Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer to loaf pan and bake for 60-65 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

 So good even the man who doesn't eat bananas said "Yum!"

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sometimes box food is ok

     Generally speaking I am a big proponent of cooking with fresh or frozen ingredients, but let's be realistic. I have three young children at home and my Chris is visually impaired which means I catch most of the household chores also, so cooking a full meal from scratch has to be weighed against just how exhausted I am on a given evening. Sometimes those life savers like instant mashed potatoes or ready-for-the-oven frozen dinners taste just like heaven on earth. Tonight's meal illustrates my point nicely.  I fight with rounds of insomnia and last night I was not supposed to sleep. Didn't even get to bed until two a.m. and then was woken up twice before the girls got me up at seven. When I pulled the package of pork chops out of the freezer this morning I had no idea what I was going to cook, wasn't exactly sure what I just took out of the freezer even, just knew that it was meat of some kind. Come time for cooking dinner I shuffled into the kitchen and leaned on the counter while peering into the cabinets, hoping something would jump out and cook itself. Then I spotted it, at the very back of the cabinet, a box of Rice-a-Roni next to a jar of Apricot Preserves. These kinds of things get pushed to the back because I just never use them, but for some reason one of the little recipe cards flying around in my junk drawer of a brain popped up and reminded me of a recipe I had seen for Apricot glazed pork chops. Rice goes well with pork chops so I drug out the box of Rice-A-Roni also.  A little guess work and 30 minutes later we were sitting down to eat something new. Sweet (and sour) success!! Now, if I could just convince the dishes to get in the dishwasher without me..........

 Asian Apricot Glazed Pork Chops

 1 4-6 oz Pork Chop per person
 1 C Apricot Preserves
 2 TBSP Lime Juice (lemon juice or white wine works too)
 1 tsp Fresh Ginger, grated
 1 tsp Soy Sauce
 Salt, Pepper, Onion and Garlic Powders, to taste
 1/2 Medium Onion, sliced thin
 2 C Frozen Broccoli Spears
 2 C Frozen Sliced Carrots
 Olive Oil

      Preheat oven to 400.  Mix preserves, juice, ginger and soy sauce, set aside. Heat a little oil in a large skillet and brown pork chops on both sides. Place chops around the edges of the baking pan and put broccoli, onions and carrots in the middle.  onion on top and drizzle sauce over all of it. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook another 10-15 minutes. Chops are done when pork is white all the way through. Remember - NO PINK FOR PORK!

 **My measurements on vegetables are only approximate. When it comes to veggies, the more the merrier!

Thanks for reading! Sweet Dreams!

Friday, August 5, 2011


     After days of my mind going completely blank anytime I sat down to write something I finally got some inspiration!  Yesterday was a lovely, quiet, relaxed sort of day and I was inspired to spend some time in the kitchen coming up with a new dish. I had picked up 2 packs of lovely, lean butterfly cut pork loin chops, perfect for making stuffed pork chops. So stuff them I did!
    Ever since the first time I watched "Under the Tuscan Sun" I have been semi-obsessed with Italian cooking. It's only half-kidding to say we eat enough garlic to be bug proof. Garlic actually has many many health benefits, but that's another blog, another day. Yesterday was sort of magic in the way it came together. Both of the men-folk (Chris and our "adopted" 20 year old, Travis) were out of the house and for the first time all summer, all 3 kids were being good at the same time. T.V. off, music on and turned up loud, I got into house cleaning mode and was very satisfied with the results. Great, great mood, amazingly good karma for cooking!
     I took each pork chop and with a meat mallet I pounded them out to about 1/4" thick, then stuffed them with a mix of petite diced tomatoes, olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt and shredded mozzarella, then rolled them in Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and baked. Made mini-shell pasta in a garlic white sauce to go with and green salad, so pretty on the plate for the few minutes it was there!
     I had a few days of no real inspiration in the kitchen and some poor reviews on my attempts so I had been feeling sort of discouraged. To be able to pull last night's meal off can only be attributed to the zen-like feeling around my house yesterday. So, I suppose the moral of this story is take advantage of those zen-like moments to recharge your karma and creativity and find your culinary inspirations! I love traditional Italian and Mexican style cooking and a lot of down-home Dixie food and draw a lot of my inspiration from those bases.

Andiamo a mangiare!  (Italian for Let's Eat!)

Italian Stuffed Pork Chops

6 Butterfly Cut Pork Loin Chops
1 28oz can Petite Diced Tomatoes THOROUGHLY drained.
1 C Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/8 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 C Minced Garlic
2 tsp Sea Salt or Mineral Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/4 C Finely Minced Onion OR 1 tsp Onion Powder
2 C Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs

     Preheat oven to 400. Grease a 9x13 baking pan and set aside. Mix filling and set aside. Using a meat mallet, pound each pork chop to approximately 1/4" thick **Tip - when pounding out meat, wash a plastic grocery bag with soap and water, turn inside out and cover meat to keep from slinging raw meat juice everywhere. Now put the breadcrumbs on a cookie sheet. Fill each chop with about 1/2 C of tomato mix, then set in breadcrumbs, press down, turn over, press down and move to baking pan. Drizzle with with just a little E.V.O.O. Repeat for each chop. It's ok to crowd them in the pan a little. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 15-20 minutes to crisp the tops.  

Garlic White Sauce 

1/2 C Butter or Margarine 
 2 TBSP Minced Garlic
1 TBSP Lemon Juice
3 TBSP Cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
3 C Milk 

     Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat, add garlic and stir slowly for 1 minute. Stir in cornstarch, salt and pepper. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, boil for 1 minute - STIR CONSTANTLY. Serve over your favorite pasta! 

Grazie! Venite tutti indietro, hai capito?     (Thanks! Y'all come back now, y'hear?)