Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pork Chops with Orange-Mushroom Sauce

I was all set to blog about
this lemon poppyseed shortbread. But then I made

these pork chops with a delicious orange-mushroom sauce, and the shortbread idea wafted into the kitchen exhaust fan and blew out into the night sky.
Because the chops were just that good.
4 pork shoulder chops or steaks (about 1/2-inch thick)
2 T. butter
1/2 lb. small mushrooms, halved (mine were a little large, so I quartered them)
1 c. orange juice
1 T. grated orange peel
1 1/2 t. cornstarch
1/2 c. plain yogurt
Place pork chops in large skillet, overlapping. Cook over medium-high heat, covered, for 10 minutes. This should draw out the meat's juices. Remove the cover and cook until the liquid boils off. Brown chops on both sides. Remove to plate.

Add butter and mushrooms to skillet and cook until mushrooms start to brown, maybe three or four minutes. Add orange juice and peel; stir, scraping up bits off the bottom of pan.

Put the chops on top of the mushrooms and liquid, cover, and simmer over medium heat until chops are tender when cut, about 15 minutes or so.
Remove chops and mushrooms to a plate and keep warm (you can stick them in the oven at the "warm" setting). Mix the cornstarch into the yogurt, and stir into juices in the pan. Cook on high, stirring constantly, for about three minutes, until sauce boils and then thickens. Place chops and mushrooms on plate and serve with sauce.
And yes, that is one mighty large pork chop.
And yes indeedy, I did eat the whole thing.
Thank you for asking.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And the winner is . . .

Helena at A Gal Needs at Least 2 Blogs , who won the mixer. Yeah, Helena!

And Karenpie, who happens to be hosting her very own giveaway this week to celebrate her one-year blogging anniversary, won the copy of Queen of the Castle. Yeah, Karenpie!

Congratulations to you both. And a big thank you to everyone who entered. Because what fun would a giveaway be if no one entered?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Homemade Brownie Mix

Aaaaah, brownie mix. Convenient to have on hand and, for those of us who love to play with our food, fun to mix up for yourself. You can store it in quart-sized glass jars or zippered plastic bags and pull it out next time you need a quick dessert.
I found this terrific recipe over at Lynn's Kitchen Adventures blog. They bake into tasty, fudgey treats, which you can

shape into brownie pops

or, for your own amusement, simply leave in the jars and pose among the grape hyacinths

or the pretty pink tulips.
Because we are all about keeping ourselves amused.
And referring to ourselves as the royal "we."


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Giveaway

Top o' the mornin' to you.
In honor of this, my 180th post, not to mention St. Patrick's Day, we're having a giveaway here at the castle. Because is there anything we like better than a cool prize that's absolutely free?
I was contacted recently by CSN Stores, a company that owns a number of sites selling all kinds of stuff -- from kids bedding to accent rugs to -- whaddya know -- some really nifty cooking stuff.
They're offering one of you, dear readers, the chance to win this 5 speed mixer.
I would love to win it myself, but somehow I think it'd be a bit suspicious if every commenter is named "Lynn."
Here's the deal: If you want a chance at winning this handsome mixer, leave a comment below. If you mention the giveaway on your blog and link up, leave a second comment so you'll be entered twice. I'll randomly choose a name in a week, on Wednesday, March 24. Let's say by noon, so we all have time to get out of our p.j.'s.
And just for fun, I will pick a second name of someone who'll receive a copy of Queen of the Castle: 52 Weeks of Encouragement for the Uninspired, Domestically Challenged or Just Plain Tired Homemaker.
Because I just really like that book :)
Best o' luck to you! Don't forget to leave contact information if you don't have a blog.

Full disclosure: I have received no compensation for this post other than the joy of knowing one of you will get a free mixer. With which you can, we hope, whip up some magically delicious goodies.

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Week's Quiz

So which one of this week's cooking experiments was the best of the bunch? Was it the poppy seed bread sticks?
The scalloped potatoes with cheese (official name: Gratin Dauphinois)?
The chocolate bundt cake with coconut-cream cheese center?
The scallop-peppers salad?
Or the crocheted potholder? Ooops, how'd that get in there?

What do you think?
If you guessed the bread sticks, you'd be wrong. The dough was ooey and gooey and difficult to work with. I won't be making this again.
If you guessed the potatoes -- you'd be half right. We loved them. Best of all, as a Cooking Light dish, they weren't loaded down with fat. I will definitely be making these again.
If you guessed the bundt cake -- you'd be totally right. I was in the mood for chocolate, and this recipe started with a cake mix, making it pretty easy. I should have taken a picture once we cut into it because the center is filled with a thick white ribbon of cream cheese and coconut goodness. But alas, no picture. We ate the subject as it posed.
If you guessed the scallop salad, we will throw a few points your way because it was plenty tasty. But it was not the true winner.
Because really, how can you compete with chocolate bundt cake filled with cream cheese/coconut goodness?
1 (18 1/2-oz.) package chocolate cake mix
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 T. butter, softened
1 T. cornstarch
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. coconut
Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour into well-greased bundt pan. In separate bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, and cornstarch; beat until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk. Add egg and vanilla, stirring until smooth, then add coconut. Plop mixture evenly over the cake batter and bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes (mine took 55), until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes, then remove from pan and serve.
The directions say to store leftovers in the refrigerator, but I cannot verify this by experience. At our house there were no leftovers.
Note: This recipe comes from a little book called Hospitality Clues for the Clueless.
Secondary note: If anyone wants the potato recipe, send me an email and I'll launch it your way.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Versatile, Delicious Plantains

Is this not one of the most beautiful desserts you've ever seen? It's a Banana Plantain Crisp, made by Michelle over at Big Black Dog blog.

A couple weeks ago, after a discussion spurred on by this post, Michelle and I decided it would be fun to do a plantain recipe swap. We'd both post about plantains on the same day, and also post pictures and link to each other's plantain dish.

That was back when I knew absolutely nothing about plantains.
Now? Now I know these things about plantains:

Plantains are more expensive than regular bananas, and you can't find them at every grocery store.
Just like bananas, there are different levels of ripeness. The one on the left, with the black stuff, is more ripe. The one on the right, that's kind of green, is less ripe. The one in the middle? It's . . . well, it's in-between ripe.
I learned that plantains can morph from veggie to fruit. When they're green, they're firmer and similar to potatoes; use as a veggie. When they're blacker, they're softer and sweeter; use for desserts.
Also, keep plantains at room temp. Do not refrigerate.
So what to do with my plantains?
Plucked from the depth of my ever-expanding file of recipes to try

was this wizened newspaper clipping. "Versatile, delicious plantains," it claimed. I believe this article was written sometime during the Carter administration.

The article gave me ideas.
For its first suggestion, I selected the greenest plantain,
then peeled, sliced, and boiled until tender (at least five minutes).
Drain, mash, and season like potatoes.
Not bad.
Suggestion number two: using the medium-ripe plantain, I again peeled and sliced. (Peeling, by the way, takes effort. You don't just peel these babies with your hands like you would a banana. You will need a knife, a sharp one, to pare the skin off.) Saute slices in butter until brown and a bit crispy. Sprinkle with salt.

These make a decent side dish or after-school snack for kids. They're potato-y, kind of like mini hash brown patties you'd get at a fast food restaurant.

The third suggestion was for "fully ripe" fruit. Aaaah, dessert time. I'd saved my blackest plantain for this one.
A surprise, however, was in store. When I cut off the skin, the fruit inside was mottled. My little newspaper clipping had not warned me about mottled fruit. I wasn't sure I wanted to eat mottled fruit. So using my trusty vegetable peeler, I cut off the mottled parts.
Leaving me with this. Posed next to regular bananas for the full effect.
It was a plantain stick. A plantain nugget. A little itty-bitty, mini-plantain.

Not only that, my mini-plantain was very firm. Not much different from the other two. My hopes for a glorious dessert were dashed.

Ditching the article, I decided to slice and saute what was left in butter, salt it and sprinkle with sugar. Hmmm, not bad. Probably the best of the three.
My conclusion? Go visit Michelle over at Big Black Dog blog. When it comes to plantains, that girl knows what she's doing.

So what do you think? Have you ever eaten plantains? Ever cooked with them? Do tell.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

That's the best word to describe this blue cheese salad dressing. Recipe thoughtfully provided by Lisa who blogs about family, faith, food, nature -- lots of fun stuff -- over at Moore Minutes.
I've tried five blue cheese dressing recipes over the last month or two. Most have been edible (well, except for the one that was mainly water and vinegar). But I was looking for that knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark recipe. I love making foods from scratch but honestly, if I can't at least duplicate the quality of what I can buy at the store, I'm not sure it's worth the trouble.
Until this recipe, I had always liked store-bought blue cheese dressing better than what I could concoct myself. But now? No stinkin' way. Lisa's recipe is superb. Better than the stuff I've been buying. Reminds me of the cold, creamy, chunky dressing you'd get at your favorite restaurant.
2 c. mayonnaise (do not use fat-free or light mayo, says Lisa. Also, no Miracle Whip)
1 c. sour cream
3/4 c. buttermilk (I used regular milk with a couple t. of lemon juice added; let sit 5 minutes)
tub of blue cheese crumbles
a few drops Worcestershire sauce
a few drops red wine vinegar
garlic salt
onion powder
dash of salt
Stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, and blue cheese. Add in seasonings and refrigerate.
This makes a lot, so feel free to divide if that works best for your family.
What do you think? Do you have foods you prefer to buy ready-made because you can't find a great homemade version?
NOTE: I've linked this post to Works-for-me Wednesday, the blog carnival where you can get all kinds of great new ideas. Check it out here.

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