Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Buttered Herb Noodles

This is a super quick and easy pasta side dish that goes with almost anything. If you need a simple starch to round out your meal, this goes great with pork, chicken, fish, you name it.

Just some great simple flavors at work. 

This recipe is really just a basic starting point. I don't measure anything for this, just sort of eyeball it. It's easy to make larger or smaller amounts, using this as a starting point. I've also used dried parsley instead of fresh, and swapped feta cheese for the parmesan. I'm sure there are quite a lot of great variations that could be made from this!

Buttered Noodles
From: Taste of Home
Serves: 4 (as a side dish)

You'll need:
2 1/4 c uncooked egg noodles
2 T butter, melted
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
2 t minced fresh parsley (or about 3/4 t dried)
1/4 t salt
1/4 t garlic powder
1/8 t pepper
1/4 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook the egg noodles according to the package directions.

While the pasta is boiling, melt your butter and chop the parsley. Drain the pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour in the melted butter and stir to coat.

Add all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the mozzarella...

... and mix well. Finally, grab a small handful of mozzarella....

... and stir it in and watch it melt.


Thursday, May 19, 2016


This is my new favorite thing.

Okay, let's be honest: I have a lot of favorite things, and most of them are food (or drink). But making bagels really is one of my favorites.

They're just plain fun to make. Oh, and the fact that they make your house smell like a bakery?

Get outta here.

Why, someone may ask, would a person go through the trouble of making bagels when one could simply buy them at the store? (Besides the fact that it's fun!) Yes, it takes a little time and effort. So here's the rationale (this may sound familiar):

1. No unpronounceable ingredients, no preservatives. Just real food.

2. BIG cost savings. Buying 12 bagels at the grocery store can easily run upwards of $6, and forget about bakery-fresh ones. But making them yourself? You can make a dozen for - wait for it - less than $1.

Yes. I did the math. $1.

(Cream cheese not included.)

3. They taste Uh. May. Zing.

So, in summary, real food that tastes better and costs less. Who would say no to that?

Adapted from here and here
Yield: 8 to 12 bagels
Total time: about 3 hours

For the dough, you'll need:
1 1/2 c warm water
1 T dry active yeast
1 T brown sugar
2 T honey
2 t salt
4 c flour

For the water bath, you'll need:
about 1 qt water
2 T brown sugar
1 T sugar

For topping you'll need:
1 egg white
1 T water
cinnamon sugar, coarse salt, poppy seeds, etc. for optional toppings

Put the 1 1/2 cups warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it stand for 2-3 minutes so the yeast can bloom. Next, add the brown sugar, honey, salt, and flour. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low for a minute or two until well mixed.

Pause, scrape the sides with a spatula, and then turn the mixer on medium-low and allow it to knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough will be sticky but smooth and elastic.

(Note: If you don't have a stand mixer, you can easily do the first phase of the mixing with a sturdy hand mixer on low speed, transfer the dough to a floured surface, and knead it by hand. However... Oy, what a workout!)

Oil (or spray with nonstick cooking spray) a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, turning once to coat the dough with oil. Cover with a towel and allow the dough to rise for an hour and a half (90 minutes).

The dough should double in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into 8 to 12 pieces. Decide what you want to end up with: 12 smallish bagels, 10 medium bagels, or 8 large bagels. Just try to make them all the same size so they'll bake evenly. Form each piece into a ball. I do this by folding all the corners underneath and pinching them together.

Space the dough balls out on the floured surface (they're going to rise some more) and cover with a towel for about 30 more minutes. These...

... will now look like this.

During that time, prepare the water bath by placing the water, sugar, and brown sugar in a large, wide sauté pan, sauce pan, or wok and bring it to a steady simmer.

During this time, you should also prepare your baking sheets by laying parchment paper on them or lightly greasing them. If you're making 8 bagels, you may be able to crowd them onto one baking sheet, but for any more, spread them out over two sheets. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

When the 30 minutes are up and your water is simmering, it's time to shape bagels. Flour your fingers and then gently poke a hole in the middle of the dough. Without crushing the dough, gently pull the dough outward to stretch the hole to about 1.5-2 inches in diameter.

Then place it gently in the water bath. (Please don't splash yourself with hot water.) Add another bagel or two to the water bath (whatever will fit in your pan) and simmer for about 2 minutes.

The bagels should puff up a bit. Flip them over gently (don't splash!) and simmer about 1 more minute.

Remove the bagels to your prepared baking sheets, and repeat with the rest of you bagels, working in batches.

Finally, beat together the egg white and water and brush lightly over the bagels. Then sprinkle them with any toppings you wish, like poppy seeds or cinnamon sugar.

At last: time to bake! If you made 10-12 smaller bagels, bake them for 18-22 minutes; for larger bagels, add 3-4 minutes. If your oven has hot spots, be sure to rotate the pans so you don't burn the bottoms.

And now that your house smells like a New York bagel shop, I double dare you not to immediately rip into one of these. But seriously, cool them on racks for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to a week, or slice, seal in something airtight, and freeze. (None of ours have ever made it to the freezer.)

The Bug says... "Mmm... Bay-bels!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Oven-Braised & Grilled BBQ Pork Ribs

'Tis the season to fire up the grill. At least, it is where we live, because we've already broken 80 degrees a couple of times. And regardless of what month it is, hot weather calls for cold beer and cooking outdoors.

And pork.

Because, well, pork goes with everything, every time.

Who's up for some melt-in-your-mouth, tender, falling-apart, crispy-BBQ-edges porky goodness?

Start to finish, these ribs take about 4 hours, but there's only about 25 minutes of actually paying attention to them. If you're not home during the day, these are perfect for a relaxing weekend. Start them early in the afternoon, forget about them for a few hours, and then spend about 20 minutes at dinnertime putting on the finishing touches. How easy is that?

Oven-Braised BBQ Pork Ribs
Technique taught to me by my friend, Chrissy, and adapted by the Husband and me
Serves: As many or as few as you like

You'll need:
Country style pork ribs (boneless or bone-in is a matter of preference... I prefer bone-in)
Your favorite barbecue sauce
A grill
A grill top pan designed for grilling fish, veggies, and other delicate or small foods
A basting brush

About three and a half hours before dinnertime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place your pork ribs into an appropriately sized casserole dish.

Add water to the dish, until the ribs are at least halfway submerged.

See the water line?

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 3 hours... during which time, your house will absolutely smell like pork heaven.

(Since the oven is already on, this is a great day to make some baked or twice-baked potatoes.)

When the three hours are up, carefully remove the pan from the oven and remove the foil. Get a trash bag for the bones and excess fat and a plate for the ribs, and grab some tongs and get to work.

First, pull out the bones and any clumps of fat. After three hours braising, the meat literally falls off the bones.

You'll also notice as you try to grab the meat with the tongs that it will completely fall apart.

Seriously. Give it a gentle squeeze and see what happens.

Now, some people like to leave the meat in bigger chunks for easier grilling. However, this is where the grill pan comes in. The Husband and I are in agreement that lots of smaller pieces means you can get more barbecue sauce to adhere to the pork, so that's a win. And with the grill pan, you don't have to worry about tiny pieces falling into your grill and going to waste. SO, decide how much you want to tear up your pork, and collect it on a plate.

Oh, and I dare you not to sneak bites during this process.

Helpful hint: PLEASE don't destroy your sink drain by trying to put all that fatty, greasy water down the drain. Even if you have a garbage disposal, that's not a good idea. I put the pan way back in the corner of the counter and let it cool until dinner is over, so that most of the fat solidifies on the top. Then you can skim most of it off, throw it in the trash, and carefully pour the rest down the disposal with LOTS of cold water.

Back the the pork.

Turn the grill on high, and get out the barbecue sauce. At our house, Sweet Baby Ray's is the boss, and we buy it by the jug.

See? I wasn't exaggerating.

Spread out all the pork on the grill pan and slather it with a generous layer of sauce.

The Husband usually does this first coat on the kitchen counter with the grill pan resting on a cookie sheet. Then take it outside, lift the grill pan onto the hot grill, and close the grill. Cook on high for about 15 minutes. During that time, flip the pieces of pork over and baste with more sauce 3 or 4 or 4 times. (So we're flipping and basting every 4-5 minutes.) Don't leave your pork on the grill too long; we don't want to dry it out, just get that sauce caramelized on the outside.

And there it is. Your pile of melt-in-your-mouth, spicy, saucy, smoky, pork.

Try not to drool.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Better Than Shake 'N Bake Breaded Pork Chops

Ah, pork. The other white meat. That versatile and flavorful protein. What's better than a classic oven-baked breaded pork chop just like mom used to make, with that bag full of breading from the prepared foods aisle?

I can tell you what's better: making your OWN breading.

Once again, making it yourself vs. buying a pre-made mix saves you a bunch of money AND delivers WAY. MORE. FLAVOR. Why pay four times as much for someone else to stir together your flour and spices? Trust me, the flavor here is more than worth the, oh, two extra minutes that it'll take you to prepare it.

The recipe is for the breading, which can be used on any type of pork chops (thin cut, thick cut, bone-in, boneless, sliced pork loin...) and can be easily scaled up or down to make more or fewer chops.

Better Than Shake 'N Bake Breaded Pork Chops
From: My mother-in-law, Carol
Makes enough breading for 4-5 thin or boneless pork chops OR 3-4 thick cut or bone-in chops

You'll need:
1/4 c yellow cornmeal
1/4 c flour
2 t dried sage
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 t paprika
about 1/4 c milk
(and, of course, pork chops)

So simple, right?

First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Second, trim any excess fat off your pork chops. Next, measure the cornmeal, flour, sage, salt, sugar, and paprika into a gallon-size plastic bag.

Hold the top closed and shake to mix.

Pour your milk into a shallow bowl and set up your breading station: chops, milk, bag of breading mix, and an appropriately sized baking dish that's lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Taking one pork chop at a time, dip it in the milk, wetting every side...

... and drop into the bag, and (holding the top of the bag closed) shake, shake, shake!

Pull the chop out, place it on the baking dish, and repeat with the remaining chops.

Look how perfectly the coating adheres.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. Note: If you use thick-cut, thin-cut, or other abnormally sized chops, please adjust your cooking time.

(Those black spots? I use bone-in chops so sometimes the bone gets discolored in the oven. Don't worry. I wasn't planning to eat the bone anyway.)

And there you have it. Better flavor that only costs you about 1-2 more minutes than the store-bought stuff, and saves money in the process.

I love to serve them with green beans, applesauce, and baking powder biscuits.