Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Spice Mixes & Crock Pots & Pork Chops

I don't know about you, but I've noticed that the newer crock-pots are a lot hotter than the older ones.  Looks like the FDA came in and set some sort of minimum heat level guidelines, and so the manufacturers had to respond.  Now, I'm not complaining, but if you just bought a new crock-pot, be aware that it will cook faster than your old one.  Not that it's fast, but still.  Anyway.

I have long loved the spice mixes you can get from Penzey's Spices, and one of my favorites is the Pork Chop Seasoning.  I love Penzey's because they don't put junk in their spice mixes, and this pork chop seasoning is no exception.  The description (which matches the label) lists the following: fine salt, hickory smoke, garlic, onion, white pepper and ginger as the ingredients. They have single spices and herbs, the seasonings like the one above, and a variety of speciality & salt-free seasonings too.

All this to get to the main point of this post - a super easy/ super lazy way to make some really good pork chops in the crock-pot.

    1 pork chop per person (Ok, 2 for the teen-ager if the pork chops are small). I used frozen boneless pork chops.
    Penzey's Pork Chop seasoning
    1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce per pork chop
    1/2 stick of cinnamon (maybe a bigger piece if you have more than 6 chops)
    4 or 5 whole cloves (easier to find and dig out)

The quick version: 
    Sprinkle the pork chops with the seasoning then layer them with applesauce in the crock-pot.  Add some cinnamon stick and whole cloves and let simmer on low until done and tender.

  1.  Sprinkle the pork chops with the Pork Chop Seasoning and set aside for a few minutes.
  2. Hunt for the applesauce (last time I used two of the single-serve cups), cinnamon, and cloves, and get out the crock-pot.  Use a crock pot that will be at least 3/4 full when you put the pork in. (I use a 1.5 qt crock-pot which fits two thick boneless pork chops very nicely)
  3. Put the first pork chop flat on the bottom of the crock pot, and pour the 1/3 cup of applesauce over it.
  4. Set the next pork chop on top of the applesauce on the previous pork chop, and continue until you have layered all the chops with the applesauce.  The applesauce should cover over the top of the last pork chop.
  5. Break the cinnamon stick in half and place it in the applesauce that has come out from between the chops.
  6. Sprinkle the cloves over the top of everything.
  7. Plug in the crock-pot and set on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours.  The meat should have an internal temperature of 165ºF, and be very, very tender.
  8. Carefully take the pork chops out of the crock pot, then scoop the applesauce out and serve over the chops.  
That's it! Enjoy.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oven Roasted Cabbage

Cabbage: it's not just for St. Patrick's Day! Oven roasted cabbage is a surprisingly simple, tasty, and inexpensive winter side dish.  

There are only four ingredients.  Cabbage, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Shred the cabbage. I tried using a food processor but found it to be faster to use a knife.  
Bonus:  less equipment to clean up.

Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir to coat. It’s going to look like a lot, but it cooks way down. And you'll wish you had cooked two heads. Ok, maybe one will be plenty.

Layer it all on a baking pan and cook at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally to cook evenly.

There should be plenty of brown bits when it's done. The brown bits are the best part.

This stuff is good. Really good.

1 head shredded cabbage

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Toss all ingredients together and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to make sure everything is cooked evenly.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is an old, old recipe from my old, old Betty Crocker's Cooky Book ( ©1963)! I like it for a couple reasons - first, because it isn't attached to any one brand of chocolate chips, and second, because it makes about 3 dozen, using a 6 oz bag of chocolate chips.  Which just happens to be the size of the bags of the Scharffenberger chocolate chips, and is plenty of cookies for Ian and me.  You should double this recipe if you are using a regular (12-14 oz) bag of chips.

2/3 cup shortening (part butter or margarine) -- I use 1/2 cup plain Crisco, plus 2-2/3 tablespoons of butter.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 six-oz package semi-sweet chocolate pieces (1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I usually omit these - Ian doesn't like them and I don't care)

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF (quick mod).  (use 350º if you have a convection oven combo)
  2. Mix shortening, sugars, egg, and vanilla thoroughly.
  3. Stir dry ingredients together (add 1/4 cup more of flour for a more rounded, softer cooky) and blend in.
  4. Mix the nuts (if using) and chocolate pieces in.
  5. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough about 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until delicately browned (cookies should still be soft)
  7. Cool slightly before removing from baking sheets.
  8. Makes 4 to 5 dozen 2" cookies (I only get 3 dozen, but I think they are bigger than this)
Thanks to Susannah Skyer Gupta for the lovely photo (above) she took of the cookies she made (with nuts) using this recipe.