Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Crockpot Adventures- Braised Pork Chops with Arugula Peach Salad

I started with four pork chops from Trader Joes, two packs of two pork chips. I had never cooked pork before, so I really had no idea what to look for in a pork chop. I still don't know, but found that these tasted wonderful after sitting all day in the crockpot, which is all that matters really. I put generous amounts of salt and pepper on both sides of the pork chops and placed them in my heavily oiled, large Le Creuset grill pan to sear on either side. 

When done, I placed them on a plate and put them off to the side. Then, I added finely cubed pancetta from a packet, 1/2 a yellow onion, and a lot of garlic. I absolutely think garlic makes every meal better. You can never ever have enough garlic. I did not pour off any of the fat. I also think fat makes everything taste better, especially meat. the pancetta, onion, and garlic mixture saute until it turns brown. 

When browned, pour in about 4 ounces of beer or dry white wine. Transfer this to the crockpot. Pour in 1/2 cup of chicken stock and mix. The recipe call for 1/2 cup, but I think that crock pot recipes should be flexible allowing for different lengths of cook time and different types of crock pots. I own the Cuisinart Multicooker. I find that it cooks really fast and well, so I place a bit more liquid in the crockpot to cover the time that the crockpot is just on warmer if I know I won't be home in time. 

Place pork chops inside the liquid. Set the crockpot of low and cook for about 7 hours. 

I did all of the prep at night, placed the crockpot in the refrigerator ready to go for the morning. I took the crockpot out at around 6:30am. It cooked until 1:30, and then was on warm until around 5. The pork chops were still moist and delicious. 

For the arugula salad with peaches, I grilled the peaches on my Le Creuset grill, tossed a simple dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, and honey, and laid the peaches on top the arugula. If you have honey mustard or stone ground mustard, you can add that to the dressing. I have always thought of the dressing as the way the French dress their salad because I learned how to make it from my French landlord while studying abroad in Paris. 

This recipe was pulled from the William Sonoma The New SLow Cooker cookbook. 
It was delicious. My 2 year old son ate almost one whole pork chop to himself, and my husband said it was the best meal I had ever made, which doesn't say a lot since I am just starting this cooking thing, but it made me very proud!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Crockpot Adventure- Marinara Sauce

I started off my adventure with something easy. I have always wanted to learn to make my own pasta sauce. It seemed like such a waste buying it at the store when homemade is so good.

I started by placing one chopped yellow onion, 2 minced garlic cloves plus some because garlic makes everything better, a couple of pinches of dried oregano and basil, and olive oil in a saute pan on medium-high heat until the onion were soft and almost translucent. I added some sea salt with dried garlic, red pepper flakes, and rosemary to the pan while cooking. I add this mix to almost everything because it is so delicious. It was given to me at my bridal shower in a basket of specialty cooking items. It has a place in all my dinner recipes. I guess I would say it is my secret ingredient.

I had left over mushrooms and cherry tomatoes that were going to go bad, so I decided just to throw them into the mix as well. The saute pan was large enough to push the mixture to the side allowing the mushrooms to sweat before combining it all together. This is not necessary though. If you don't like mushrooms just don't add them.

When the contents of the pan are ready to be transferred to the crock pot, I add some dry white wine to the pan first. Not only does dry white wine add flavor, but it gets all of the stuck onions and garlic up off the bottom of the pan.

Transfer this liquid to a 5-7 quart slow cooker. Then, add 3 28-32 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes with juice and some fresh ground pepper. I bought the cans with added Italian herbs because I enjoy rich and flavorful pasta sauce. I did not find it overwhelming. I could have added even more. As the sauce is cooking, you can always taste and add anything that you feel would improve the taste. I think I might have even tossed in some red wine because it was around and open.

I love slow cookers because you are able to adjust the timing depending on when you will be home. For this, it takes about 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. I cooked mine from 6 am to 4:30 on low, sending my husband home at lunch to check up on it, and it turned out wonderful.

The best part of making your own sauce is that all the extra leftover sauce can be frozen.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Apple Pie Perfection

I have never considered myself much of a cook, but after apple picking and making applesauce with my 1st grade class, I decided to dive right in to making all things apple. With a two year old, definitely going through his terrible twos, I gave myself a break and bought pie crust from Whole Foods. It made things a whole lot easier. The apples I used were straight off the tree at Swanton Pacific Ranch. I peeled and cut about 3 pounds of apples give or take. I used the green ones in the bag. I could not tell the variety because most of the apples were nothing I had
ever heard of before.

The pie crust need to thaw for an entire 3 hours. I took it out and allowed it to thaw while I was preparing the apple pie filling. 

I placed the 3 pounds of cut apple, 2/3 cup unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon,  and 1 cup sugar into my extra large frying pan. I might have added a bit more butter and sugar, but I think it can only make it taste that much better. I let the apples cook about 10 minutes until the juices were out and they seemed tender. Then, I took the apples out of the liquid and placed them into a glass tupperware container. I should have allowed them to drain more, but I do not have a colander. I kept the liquid on medium heat until it thickened up. Once it was thick, I poured the liquid over the apples and let it cool. 

Once the apple pie filling has cooled, it can be placed inside the pie crust. 

Lay the second pie crust across the top sealing the edges together. I just pressed the crusts together. Then I pressed the edges down with a fork and cut an X into the center for ventilation. What makes the crust spectacular is egg washing it and sprinkling sugar over the egg wash. 

Bake the pie for 45 minutes on 450. Make sure to watch. My pie only took 35 minutes. However, the ovens thermostat has been known to be off. 

Let the pie cool and serve with vanilla ice cream!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Apple Picking

Last weekend, Scott, Kendrick, and I went apple picking in Davenport at Swanton Pacific Ranch. It was a great way to spend time as a family while getting apples for Kendrick's lunch, which he is a fruit he is loving right now. The ranch had about six different types of apples, all organically grown and many that I had never heard of before. One kind was actually black and reminded me of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I knew they existed, but had never seen one. Kendrick loved going down each row of trees while up on Scott's shoulders, picking apples high up on the branches. He walked a bit too, picking apples low to the ground.  The trees were of all heights, allowing the whole family to have fun plucking apples. There was a family there having a picnic, which not all farms allow. I almost wish we would have done that, but we stopped at Santa Cruz Falafel instead, which was delicious. There is no one at the farm to weigh your apples and take payment. It is purely trust based. They have a little house where you weigh your apples, and it is 2 dollars a pound. We ended up with 11 pounds of apples! Apple pie here we come!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pizza Night

I wanted to start getting my son interested in cooking. He is two and loves to pick out his own dinner even if it consists of waffles. Scott and I had made pizza and had left over dough so I decided pizza would be easy and fun. He had such a good time and loved the final project!