Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Our DELICIOUS dinner!

I know I said that I'd update the blog again tomorrow, but I was so excited about how well dinner turned out tonight that I had to just do a quick update tonight!
The Menu
Garlic Bread
Stuffed Pork Loin
Potato Tart
Green Beans
I had already planned to do a stuffed pork loin for lunches for the week, but since Curt was coming home early, I decided to make it as part of our dinner and we'd have the leftovers as lunch.
One thing that I'm trying to get better at is using the ingredients I have in the house before they go bad. I usually have extra ingredients left over after making the recipes and consequently will have 1 odd potato or a few slices of cheese that will go bad.... so I've been determined to concoct some tasty recipes from them. It was this determination that helped me come up with the potato tart! But first things first:

Stuffed Pork Loin
Again, I don't really have a recipe for this per se. I intended to make stuffed pork chops, but the Asian grocery store didn't have any... they did have a very pretty looking pork loin. So I decided to cut it up and stuff it and then bake the whole thing. (Sorry, I forgot to take pictures while I was assembling most of it!)
1 pork loin
1 bag baby spinach
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup cremini mushrooms, cut in half
1/2 small onion, minced
5 slices of smoked gouda
6 slices of bacon
In a large skillet, I cooked 3 slices of bacon, then removed, drained and crumbled them, placing them in a separate bowl. Keeping the bacon fat in the pan, I added the minced onions, garlic, and mushrooms and sauteed until all were tender. Once they were almost completely cooked, I added the bag of baby spinach and sauteed it until it was all wilted. I then added the mixture to the crumbled bacon and set aside.
For the pork loin, I cut it in sort of a spiral, so that it opened up flat. I then pounded it a bit with a meat tenderizer (well I would have used a meat tenderizer if I had one... instead, I used a rolling pin). Once it was flattened a little bit, I seasoned it with some salt and pepper, then I layered the gouda cheese, then spread the spinach mixture on top. Then I rolled the whole pork loin up, jelly roll style. I made sure the pork loin was rolled very tightly and wrapped it tightly in saran wrap to keep its form. I then put it in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.
Once it was chilled a bit, I pulled it back out and unwrapped it, leaving the seam of the pork loin facing down. I draped the last 3 slices of bacon over the top of the pork loin as well. I wanted the fat from the bacon to sort of keep the pork moist since it has a tendency to dry out. In a large skillet, I added a little bit of olive oil and turned the heat on high. I wanted to sear the bottom seam so that it wouldn't fall apart in the oven. I placed the pork loin in the hot oil for 5 minutes and didn't move it. Once it was seared, I moved it to an oven safe dish and baked it at 350. I don't remember how long I baked it, I just kept checking on it to see if it was cooked all the way through.
It was really yummy! I love the way that gouda melts and leaves its smokey flavor on the whole pork loin.

Garlic Bread

I had bought a loaf of french bread for our church group dinner last night, but unfortunately forgot it in my car. By the time I realized it, the loaf of bread had started to dry out a bit, so I sliced up half of it to make some garlic bread and then sliced the rest and left it in a bowl to dry out. I'll make bread crumbs out of it tomorrow (again with the not wanting to waste extra food).
  • 4 tbs butter, at room temp
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • crusty French bread

Because the oven was already at 350, I decided to roast the garlic cloves a bit to bring out the flavors. I just stuck the 2 cloves in the oven on a cookie sheet and let them roast until they were soft, about 10 minutes. Once they were nice and soft, I removed the cloves from the "paper" and put them in a small bowl. After they had cooled a little bit, I added the butter and Italian seasonings and mixed with a fork until well combined. Then I just spread the mixture on both sides of the slices of bread and put on a cookie sheet and baked for 4 minutes per side (or until golden brown).

Potato Tart
I got the idea for this when I was watching "the next food network star" Yes... it's a favorite show of mine and it's addicting! Anyway, one of the contestants, Melissa (who is my pick to win), made a potato tart. I had a little bit of extra pie crust and 1 extra potato from the pot pies, and a few slices of bacon and gouda from the pork loin. I thought this would be the PERFECT way to use the random extras that I had... Granted, I had no idea how to make a potato tart, but I made it up and absolutely LOVED it!
  • 1 baking potato
  • 1 refrigerator pie crust
  • 4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 8 slices of gouda
I pricked the potato with a fork and stuck it in the microwave for 5 minutes to give it a preliminary cook through. While it was cooking, I rolled out the pie crust and placed it in a pie pan that somehow found its way to my kitchen. I then layered a few slices of the gouda on the bottom. Once the potato was finished in the microwave, I sliced it into thin slices (to make sure it was all completely cooked). I layered about half of the potato on top of the cheese and then added half of the bacon pieces. I then repeated the layer by adding more gouda

, potato and bacon and topped with the leftover gouda.

In a separate bowl, I whisked together the egg, flour, milk, salt and pepper until it was light and well combined. I then poured the mixture over the potato/cheese/bacon mixture and added the tart to the pretty well stocked oven. Since the potatoes were almost cooked before baking, it only took about 20 minutes to finish up. The result was delicious! It was definitely one of my favorite creations ever! You all should definitely try it sometime! I'm sure you can add other yummy recipe extras too like broccoli, mushrooms, onions, etc...

Oh yeah... the green beans... nothing fancy there! I just steamed them in my steamer and tossed with a little bit of olive oil and garlic salt! (I can't make EVERYTHING gourmet) haha

Week 1

So for this week, I'm making a couple of different dishes! For Curt, I'm making a baked pasta, a stuffed pork loin and some chicken to put on top of a salad. I also have to make some extra food for Monday. Curt and I go to New Life Church and every Monday night, we meet up with some friends from church to eat, relax and chat.... We all take turns bringing dinner for the group, so this week is our turn! I'm making some chicken pot pies and a cucumber salad and then dessert... so here goes! For the baked pasta... I didn't really follow a recipe. I just boiled the penne noodles, tossed it with sliced zucchini, pepperoni and my homemade pasta sauce... then tossed in mozzarella and baked it. Voila!

I was watching an episode of "barefoot contessa" which is where I got the idea of making a cucumber salad. She used dill in hers and I'm not a fan of it, so I made up my own tweaks to her recipe.
  • 5 cucumbers
  • 4 cups of fat free yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbs lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 red onion- very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

First, I peeled the cucumbers and sliced them in half lengthwise... then I scooped out all the seeds ( you could also just get the English cucumbers with less seeds). Then I sliced the cucumbers so they looked like little "C"s. I also thinly sliced the red onion and put them in a colander with the cucumbers and then sprinkled with the salt. Then I set the colander over a bowl and put them in the refrigerator. The salt will draw out a lot of the water that the onion and cucumbers retain. According to Ina, you do this because otherwise, when you combine all of the ingredients, the waters will start to be released from the cucumber and your cucumber salad will be way more watery than you want. So, you let the water drain for a couple of hours.

Next, you want to drain the yogurt too because, again, it has a lot of water. You line another colander with paper towels, then put the yogurt on top to drain. Let this drain for several hours too.

Once everything was drained, I put the cucumbers and onion in a serving bowl. In a separate bowl, I mixed the drained yogurt and sour cream. At this point, I think this is where Ina adds in lemon and dill, but since I didn't have fresh lemon, nor do I really like the taste of dill, I added lemon pepper seasoning, garlic powder, and then (because I had some in the crisper), I added half a cup of fresh chopped parsley. I mixed it all together and adjusted the seasonings to taste.

Once I had the "dressing" seasoned to how I like it, I just folded the mixture in with the onions and cucumbers and mixed it all until thoroughly combined. Then I covered it and chilled it until dinner!

In case you want to see the real recipe.... http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/creamy-cucumber-salad-recipe/index.html

Chicken Pot Pie!

I love chicken pot pie! It's one of those comfort foods that is always yummy. I remember being broke in college and going to the super walmart and buying the frozen Banquet Pot Pies for $.45 each... they were great to stick in the oven and just eat on the go! When I started cooking, I decided to look for a yummy recipe... as in most of my cooking, I find a recipe that I like and then add my own twists, so here's my recipe for chicken pot pie!

  • 2 frozen deep dish pie crusts
  • 1 package (which contains 2) refrigerator pie crusts
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 baking potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 small onion, minced

I cheat and used prepared pie crust (I know that I could make my own, but with all the cooking I do, it takes more time than I have). Peel and chop the potatoes and microwave for 4-5 minutes. Then let them cool completely (you can toss some ice cubes in them to cook them down- just make sure you drain the water out after). Since potatoes take longer to cook than everything else, you want to cook them a bit before you bake the pies.

In a large bowl, mix the cooled potatoes, chicken, chicken soup, onion, mushrooms, and frozen peas. You can add any veggies you like. I've added carrots, green beans, and celery before, but since I'm not a huge fan of them, I tend to leave them out. Once everything is combined, you ladle the mixture evenly into the 2 frozen deep dish pie crusts.

Now comes the fun part. You can just top the pot pies with the refrigerator pie crust and make sure to cut slits in the top so steam can escape. Since I like my food looking super pretty, I decided to try my hand at making a lattice top. It's hard to explain how to do it... I just basically used trial and error and they turned out great! Here's a link to watch how to make a lattice pie top though! ~> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv4809RKhzg

After the pies were finished (I doubled the recipe since I was cooking for more people), then I brushed the tops of the pie with the beaten egg to give the pies a nice golden brown crust. Bake the pies at 350 for 45 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on the pies, so the crusts don't burn. If they start getting too brown, just cover them with aluminum foil and you're all done!

And here's the finished product!!!

So.... that's basically what I've cooked so far! I started making the pork loin, but I didn't finish it... I'm intending to make that for dinner for me and Curt tonight.... I'll update that tomorrow :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Welcome to my kitchen

Good Morning!

So... I'm new at this... I've never created a blog before and computers seem to hate me. But... I do love to cook.... I'm not saying that I'm a great cook by any means, but I love reading food blogs and thought it would be fun to catalog my forays into the cooking/baking world.

I'm a newlywed (just got married on July 4th of this year) and my husband works in finance. Part of our little routine is that on the weekends, I cook several different meals to last both of us throughout the week... that way we don't have to run out trying to find the nearest burger joint.

Sometimes the food I cook is yummy... sometimes it's gross... if it's gross... I usually pack it up and send it with my hubby anyway because he probably won't know if it doesn't taste the way that it should. Sometimes the food looks gorgeous... sometimes it looks burnt or overcooked.... I'll post all the pictures of my experiments - good and bad!

So welcome to "the cookin cutie" hopefully you'll get some form of enjoyment from my experiments!