January 30, 2013

Simple Pork Chops

The simplest weekday dinners are made in the oven. This means I don't have to babysit something on the stove and I can multitask while the food is cooking. And by multitask, I mean watch the lovely Ina Garten on the Food Network. After I posted my blogging goals, some friendly folks suggested I try reviewing recipes. I'll definitely start with an Ina Garten classic, but for tonight, we're having simple pork chops.

Ingredients & Tools
  • 4 pork chops
  • 2-3 onions
  • 4 tablespoons [1/2 stick] of butter
  • Kosher salt
  • pepper
  • oven-safe dish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice the onions. A smaller chop may burn in the oven, but the total cooking time isn't quite long enough to roast whole onions. A slice is the happy medium.

Toss the onions with a few drizzles of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

The chops also get this simple seasoning of salt and pepper with an added bonus of a pat of butter. The butter also softens and adds more flavor to the onions. I prefer bone-in cuts because the price is right and I think they're juicier.

Arrange the pork chops in the dish and cook for 30 minutes.

We had this with roasted carrots, but we both wished there were five times as many onions. Sweet, cooked onions are so tasty. My husband and I always bring leftovers to work for lunch. It was a challenge to eat this politely with a plastic knife and fork. Okay, fine, I ate this with my hands! And it was good!

January 28, 2013

Grilled Hanger Steak with Garlic Butter

I grew up in a meat and potatoes house, but steak was rarely that meat. I'm weary now of buying steak to cook at home because I don't want to ruin an expensive protein. It was just my luck when I saw hanger steak on sale.

Ingredients & Tools
  • hanger steak
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/6 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • Kosher salt
  • canola oil
  • shallow dish
  • grill pan
  • paring knife

Prep all 10 cloves at once. Five are for the marinade and five for the garlic butter.

Break the garlic down into a paste using a tablespoon of Kosher salt. I used a mortar and pestle for this, but it can easily be done on a cutting board.

I took a picture of the garlic and the salt together, but not the finished, mushed up product. Le sigh.

Hanger steak has a tendon running right down the middle. It isn't tasty. Removing this before cooking will also make the steak grill more evenly. 

I seriously need a paring knife. Using a chef's knife for this job was not ideal. If you have a paring knife, please use that to have control over cutting down into the tendon. The goal is to create two equal cuts. My steak did not have equal amounts of meat on either side of the tendon. It usually does, but don't worry, we ate it!

The last butchering step is to butterfly the steak. You'll reveal all the beautiful marbling by making a horizontal cut without cutting it completely through to the other side.

Put the butterflied steak into a dish and it's time to start marinading. Add 1/6 of a cup of Worcestershire sauce.

Add 1/2 cup of good red wine.

Add the salted garlic and cover with aluminum foil. Allow the steak to marinade for 1-2 hours. Turn it over half way through.

I patted my steak down after taking it out of the marinade, in the hopes of getting a nice crust. The meat was so moist, though, it released some of the marinade on the grill itself.

Moisten a paper towel with canola oil and give the grill a rubdown. Preheat the grill and season one side of the steak liberally with Kosher salt. Place the seasoned side down on the grill and then salt the other side.

Cook on each side for 6 minutes for medium rare, but I'm suggesting 8 minutes per side. I know, I know, any steak aficianado will roll her eyes at cooking steak above the medium rare temperature. I almost always agree, but hanger steak is a tougher cut than, say, a strip and it needed more cook time for my taste.

While the steak is on the grill, cut up 1/2 stick of butter and melt it over low heat with the five cloves of garlic.

Allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes before cutting to allow the juices to redistribute. Cut against the grain and serve with garlic butter. This felt like a very fancy dinner and was even better on the second day when the steak was cooked through a bit more.

January 23, 2013

Organize Recipes with Evernote Clipper

You could use bookmarks to save the recipes you find online, but you can't access them unless you're on your computer. You could use Pinterest, but once I pin, I quickly forget what I saved, where, and I'm not in the habit of going back to check. I've never been someone to collect physical paper copies of recipes, so the solution for organizing recipes has to be a digital one for me.

I've confessed my love for all things tech and Evernote especially for menu planning in a previous post. I have a menu tag for day to day cooking organization, but I use a recipes tag as an archive and Evernote clipper helps me save my inspiration in about three clicks.

Evernote Clipper is a browser extension. It's available for Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. An extension is like an app for your browser. The downloaded extension, or web app, literally adds a button to your browser, making common online tasks easier and faster.

When I come across a recipe I'd like to try, I click on the Evernote elephant and I get a new window.

Let's say I'm browsing online and come across this recipe [the source of the Wonder Bread].

I can click on the Evernote elephant and get a new window. I like the extension best on Chrome because it pre-populates some of the fields and it's usually accurate. This has given the title of the article as the suggested title of the note and correctly tagged it as recipes. Some of the extensions in other browsers don't have these options.

If you don't like the suggested title or if you want to add tags, you can do that all from this window. There's no copying and pasting into Evernote.

And that's it! I can open up Evernote on my desktop, Android, or iPad and the note is there. If you're even more organizationally savvy, you can use more specific tags like breakfast or slow cooker. Right now, I have all of my recipes in my main notebook, but I may need to create a separate cooking notebook.

Happy clipping!

January 21, 2013

Slow Cooker Potato Leek Soup

The temperature has taken a plunge and that always means it's time for soup. This recipe is simple, with few ingredients and accidentally vegan if you ignore the bacon. I did not ignore it. I wanted a lot more of it.

Ingredients & Tools
  • 4 potatoes
  • 4 leeks
  • 6 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 6-8 slices of bacon [triple this to make yourself happier]
  • slow cooker
  • immersion blender

Leeks are delicious vegetables from the onion and garlic family. They taste like mild onions and you only use the white and light green parts. Chop off the dark green tops, usually at least half of the leek.

Leeks often have dirt and sand within its layers. You probably noticed that in the picture above. Split the leek length-wise and fan out the layers under running water to make sure any trapped dirt is rinsed off.

Chop the leeks into one inch pieces and add them to the slow cooker's stoneware, but do not chop them into two inch pieces. Do you want to ruin everything!?

Peel and chop the potatoes and add them too.

Add the salt. If you prefer to use vegetable or chicken stock instead of just water, you may want to adjust the amount. If you're not adding the bacon, you may need more salt.

Add the thyme and the crushed garlic cloves.

Add 6 cups of water. Cook this on high for 4 hours or on the low setting for 8. 

Cook and dice the bacon.  While the bacon is cooking, blend the soup with an immersion blender.

This was so good, mainly because of the bacon. I'll make this again and ensure I have a lot more bacon in the house. I may edit the title of this post: Bacon and a little soup on the side.

January 8, 2013

Baked Oatmeal in the Slow Cooker

In 2008, Stephanie O'Dea used her slow cooker every day of the year. Every. Day. She blogged about it and hers was one of the first food blogs I followed regularly. Since then, she's written a cookbook called Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking and followed it up with another one because she's that popular. Her blog is alive and well! Check it out here.

I tried her baked oatmeal recipe 5 years ago and I've made it nearly every week since then. It's perfect for a healthy breakfast on the go. I usually eat it at my desk at work with Greek yogurt. I made a few variations because this recipe can easily be tailored to your specific tastes.

Ingredients & Tools
  • 3 cups of rolled oats [do not use instant]
  • optional 1/4 cup ground flaxseed 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 mashed very ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1/3 cup of dried cranberrires
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • slow cooker

Combine the dry ingredients--oats, flaxseed [if you're using it], baking powder, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Mash the banana and add it to the wet ingredients--eggs, milk, and vanilla.

Add the dried fruit to the dry mixture and stir in the wet ingredients. Less than a minute of stirring combines everything well.

There's little sugar in the recipe, but excellent sweetness from the ripe banana and dried fruit. If your family prefers dried apricots or something else, use it. This recipe is very adaptable. I tried fresh blueberries a few times, but they just explode and don't add much flavor. When they're in season, I do add fresh berries when it's already baked, right on top of the yogurt.

It'll look and smell delicious even at this stage.

Spray the slow cooker's stoneware with a nonstick spray and pour the mixture in. Evenly distribute it.

Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours. The cooking time will depend on the size of the slow cooker. The bigger it is, the faster it will cook. This is one of the few things that can burn in the cooker. Check on it after two hours, but do not continuously remove the lid. Heat and moisture will escape and the total cooking time will increase.

This is not like granola. The consistency is somewhere between cake and cookie and so, so good.

Serve alone or with yogurt. 

January 6, 2013

2 Minute Dinner: Salmon

One of my first favorite cooking shows was Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals. It debunked the idea that a home cooked meal needed to be a long, arduous process. Still, sometimes I don't have 30 minutes. Actually, this is about energy. There are days when I come home from work and I barely have 10 minutes of energy. This is when a two minute meal saves the day.

This is a literal title. It will take you less than two minutes to prep this dinner--the cooking time is more. I suppose I could work on a two minute salad, but today we're having salmon with all of its omega-3 benefits.

Ingredients & Tools
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • Dijon mustard
  • breadcrumbs
  • Kosher salt
  • pepper
  • aluminium foil
  • baking dish

Preheat your oven to 400. The fish will be prepared before the oven even reaches temperature. Drink wine while you wait.

Measurements in this recipe are loose at best. You could also easily increase the number of fillets to feed a larger crowd.

Make clean-up less than two minutes and line your baking dish with aluminum foil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and give each fillet a generous coating of Dijon mustard.

Sprinkle the fish with bread crumbs. I used the kind with Italian seasonings.

That's it! Bake in the 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

We had this with avocado and Wonder Bread, but you could easily grill up some vegetables while the fish is cooking. 

January 3, 2013

Blogging Goals

Happy birthday, Blog! You're a month old. This has been so much fun, and I'm still stunned that folks have tried the recipes. I make a lot of goals and enjoy the kind of reflecting goal-setting requires. I tried to keep the goals for the blog actionable and measurable because I will be checking on my progress throughout the year. I'm sure some of my supporters will too.
  • Frequency: I wrote ten posts in December, but I didn't start out with any specific goal. I know a seldom updated blog is a dead blog, so I will post eight times a month. I think having a monthly goal instead of a weekly one gives me permission to get busy with other parts of life, but an average of twice per week seems reasonable.
  • Challenge: On our honeymoon, my husband and I ate at The French Laundry in Napa. That experience was a living dream. We've eaten at some spectacular places: Per Se, Daniel, Jean Gorges, Le Bernardin. At the end of our meal at The French Laundry, there were two surprises. My new in-laws had treated us to this once-in-a-lifetime meal. How sweet are they!? My new husband also had a copy of The French Laundry Cookbook autographed by Thomas Keller ready for me. I was thankful, but leery about his expectations. Did he want me to make Oysters and Pearls? I was relieved to know he meant for it to be a memento, but I'm up for a challenge. This year, I will cook five recipes from The French Laundry Cookbook. [Results not guaranteed]

The New Mr. & Mrs. at The French Laundry
Thomas Keller's Famous Oysters and Pearls

  • Diversify: I'm not referring to my stock portfolio, but to the content of my posts. I am loving the triumphs in the kitchen and have even taken a cooking class, but I'd like to share about other things. If I'm blogging eight times a month, one post will be something other than a recipe.
  • Share: There are so many food blogs I follow. I'd love to have one person guest post this year. This feels like the loftiest goal because the blog has a modest following right now, but I'm hoping that grows. If you're interested in posting on The Crying Cook, reach out to me on Twitter @TheCryingCook.

January 2, 2013

Healthy Whole Wheat Pancakes

The close of 2012 and the start of 2013 have been wonderful. My husband and I have been spending time with our family and friends and substantial time with just each other. Vacation euphoria is a good way to describe this feeling. We rang in the new year with some good friends, Cards Against Humanity, and a delicious dinner. There have been many rich, indulgent meals during this break: squid ink pasta with a seafood ragu at Marea, duck breast at Gramercy Tavern, the traditional Christmas ham with my family, and a questionable number of desserts.

On New Year's morning, we turned our attention to more balanced eating [and exercise!]. I made whole wheat pancakes with apples and you should too. You can skip the syrup and get in a serving of fruit before heading to the gym to use that new membership. The batter makes about 10 medium-sized pancakes and they reheat well.

Ingredients & Tools
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 2 apples
  • 1/4 brown sugar
  • cooking spray
  • frying pan
  • small saucepan

Combine the dry ingredients and mix.

In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients including the eggs and vanilla. Add them to the dry ingredients and mix.

The batter may be a bit thinner than traditional pancake mixes, but it cooks just like the pancakes you may be used to. Set the batter aside and prepare the apples.

You could use other stone fruit for this part of the recipe. The apples release some of their own sweetness and with the brown sugar, I think this is far better than the artificially flavored syrups.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into bit-sized pieces. I had a fancy tool for the job.

Add the apples and the brown sugar to a small saucepan. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until the apples are tender and the sugar has created a simple syrup. Stir occasionally.

As the apples cook, prepare the pancakes. Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray. I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup to control the size of my pancakes. As you can see, they still decided to kiss in the middle of the pan.

Cook over a low flame on one side for 3-4 minutes. Look for bubbles to form on the outer edge of the pancake. This tells you when it's time to flip.

The second side cooks quickly, in under 2 minutes. When the pancakes moves easily with a slight tilt of the pan, they're ready to eat.

Spoon the apples and syrup over the pancakes. Cheers to a healthier start to the new year!