Friday, January 30, 2009

Disney & Megan's Challenge

We're back after a wonderful and much needed vacation to Disney. We had a great time with beautiful weather and many family members. There was no cooking, and more exciting no dishes, (yea!!!); but there was plenty of eating. Mickey head ice cream bars were usually the choice for the mid afternoon snack- yum!
We had dinner one night at the new T Rex restaurant in Downtown Disney. The restaurant itself is awesome, like the Rainforest Cafe but in dinosaur theme. The food was just fair and very expensive. We loved the dessert, chocolate extinction (I think that is what it was called) .
For Christmas our cousin gave us lunch at Cinderella's castle. It was very exciting for the kids, here is a picture of them making their wishes as directed. The lunch was very good. The men both got this dish below which was like a beef pot pie with shaved beef and pastry sheets for the crust. I can't wait to figure out this recipe and have it here at home.

Tonight I made Spinach and Three Cheese Calzones as part of Megan's challenge at I made two batches separately as I knew the kids would not go for the spinach filling as originally posted. The first batch I made pretty close to the recipe- except I used a little more garlic, frozen spinach and forgot the red pepper.
I found the filling to be a bit plain (maybe that is the point of the pepper?? LOL), next time I will add more flavor there. The crust was very good, no changes needed.
For the kids, I made the filling using ricotta and Parmesan cheese but switched out the fontina cheese to mozzarella. Tasting it uncooked, I thought it would have been too strong for the kids (I knew I was pushing it already with the ricotta cheese that they are not big fans of) ; I think it would have been fine tasting the finished calzone. One of my daughters loves onions on her pizza and since she brought home a great report card today I made her a calzone with the cheeses and onions and garlic.
The other kids (who also brought in good report cards) got chopped pepperoni in theirs. I think the mozzarella was too salty, and liked the fontina cheese better. This was my first try at calzones, and I will certainly make them again. I am already thinking of changes for the future.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cheesburger Soup

Cheeseburger Soup
(adapted from Holly's recipe at
I doubled the recipe to make aprox. 10 servings

one package of ground turkey (mine was 2.2lbs)
2 onions, chopped
5 carrots, shredded
3 stalks celery, diced
2 tsp basil- I probably put in more
4 tbsp dried parsley- again, probably more
one stick butter
6 cups chicken broth
5 potatoes, mashed
1/2 cup flour
8 oz processed cheese food (I used Velveeta)
3 cups milk
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream

Brown turkey, drain & set aside. In the same saucepan saute onions, carrots, celery, basil & parsley in 2 tbsp butter until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add broth, potatoes & turkey and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. (since the potatoes are already cooked- this is really just a holding time for the next step or to warm the potatoes if you are using leftover ones like I have in the past)

In a small skillet melt remaining butter. Add flour and cook for 3-5 minutes or until bubbly. Add to soup. Cook & stir soup for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

Add cheese, milk, salt and pepper and cook and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from the heat. Stir in sour cream. Serve immediately.

my comments- I have written in the ways I have changed it already except that I didn't double the Velveeta- it should have been 16 oz (sometimes the kids are just a bit distracting!!) and it tasted very good this way.

I really love this soup. I went out looking for it maybe a year ago (probably in a cold stretch of winter like we are having now) because my mother in law used to own a deli and she would have 6 different soups a day. One of the favorites was a cheeseburger soup.

I tried with the presentation a bit today. I have a very small plant of parsley they I brought in from the patio in the fall. Not enough to actually cook with - but it served its purpose here!

I am entering this into Souper Sundays at I was so excited to see Deb's soup group (ha ha) because I LOVE soup! What a great way to plan a soup into the week.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pork Chops with Spiced Apples

Last night I tried a recipe from my new Tyler Florence cookbook in the dinner with friends chapter- in our house it's always dinner with friends. I did take pictures this week, but be forewarned presentation is not my thing. With 4 kids, I just need to get it to the table! A nice presentation will be my goal in another 20 years or so.

Thick Pork Chops with Spiced Apples and Raisins
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 2 hr 0 min
Cook Time: 40 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4 servings

Pork Chops: 1 gallon water
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sea salt
1 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 fresh thyme sprigs
4 double-cut bone-in loin pork chops, 1 pound each
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper Extra-virgin olive oil

Spiced Apples and Raisins:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced in 1/2-inch-thick wedges
Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch dry mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl combine the water, brown sugar, sea salt, apple juice concentrate, peppercorns, and thyme. Give it a good stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Transfer the mixture to an extra-large re-seal able plastic bag. Submerge the pork chops in the brine, seal up the bag, and put it in the refrigerator for 2 hours to tenderize the meat. Do not brine longer than that or the meat will break down too much and get mushy.
Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Put a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add a 3-count drizzle of olive oil and get it hot. Lay 2 pork chops in the pan (most likely only 2 of these massive pork chops will fit comfortably) and brown 4 minutes per side. Remove the pork chops to a large baking pan; brown the remaining 2 chops and add them to the others in the pan. Put the baking pan in the oven and roast the chops for 30 minutes. The pork is done when the center is still rosy and the internal temperature reads 140 to 145 degrees F when tested with an instant-read thermometer.
While the chops cook, melt the butter in a clean skillet over medium-low heat. Add the apples and thyme and coat in the butter; cook and stir for 8 minutes to give them some color. Toss in the raisins and add the apple juice, stirring to scrape up the brown bits. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and dry mustard; season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon to wake up the flavor and simmer for 10 minutes or until the apples break down and soften. Spoon the spiced apples over the pork chops.

I didn't follow the directions exactly (I usually never do) so here are the changes I made. I used 6 boneless pork loin sirloin chops which were on sale this week. I made the brine as suggested (except dried thyme instead of fresh), but I don't know what kind of bag would hold all of that- over a gallon of liquid. So I put the chops in a bowl, filled the bowl with as much of the brine as I could, and put that into the fridge. Looking back in it now, I think I forgot to sprinkle them with salt and pepper before frying them, oops! For the apple juice concentrate, I used what was left in the can from the brine. I think it was a bit short, but close enough. I didn't have any raisins or cardamom so I left both of those out. The apples were really delicious! My daughter thought they tasted just like apple pie. The pork was a bit over cooked I think, as it was ready before the corn pudding, my timing was a bit off. I would probably double the apples & sauce next time.

It was suggested to serve with Corn Pudding, so I made that too.

Corn Pudding
2 ears fresh corn
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
sea salt and black pepper
3 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the 2 ears of corn, in the husks, in the oven, directly on the center rack. Roast the corn for 30 minutes, until soft. Cool slightly so you don't burn your hands and then remove the husks. Cut the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife and set the loose corn aside. Leave the over on.

In a large pot over low heat, combine the milk, cream, and butter. Once the butter has melted, turn up the heat slightly and bring the mixture to just under a boil. Pour in the cornmeal in a slow steady stream, whisking at the same time. Cook and whisk constantly until the cornmeal is blended in and the mixture is smooth and thick; it should look like porridge. Take the pot off the stove and fold in the corn, chives, salt & pepper. Mix in the egg yokes, one at a time, to make it more like a batter. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites (use a hand blender if you have one) until they hold stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the corn pudding to lighten it. Coat the bottom and sides of an 8X8 inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes. When it's done, the corn pudding will look puffed and golden brown, like a souffle.

I didn't have any corn on the cob (although with the thought of fresh summer corn, it makes my mouth water!), so I thawed 3 cups of frozen corn in the microwave. I used 1% milk and light cream. No fresh chives, so I used dried ones instead. I had cornmeal made locally at Gray's Mill (one of the oldest mills in the country I think) with good old RI corn, and eggs from ... us! I cooked the corn pudding with the convection oven setting because I wanted to be done faster, it took maybe 20-25 minutes.

I also cooked some of the bread sticks I had left over from the Christmas party. I had frozen them uncooked, had too many for the party, so the left over ones have stayed in a bag in the freezer, how easy! This recipe I got from I used the Parmesan cheese filling.

Pastry Twists
Ingredients1/2 pkg. Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
1 egg
1 tbsp. water
Assorted Fillings


THAW pastry sheet at room temperature 30 min. Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix egg and water.

UNFOLD pastry on lightly floured surface. Roll into 14" x 10" rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise. Brush both pastry halves with egg mixture. Top 1 rectangle with Filling (see below). Place remaining rectangle over filling-topped rectangle, egg-side down. Roll gently with rolling pin to seal.

CUT crosswise into 28 (1/2") strips. Twist strips. Place 2" apart on greased baking sheet, pressing down ends. Brush with egg mixture. Bake 10 min. or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 28 twists.

TIP: Assorted Fillings:Parmesan Cheese: Mix 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley and 1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed.Choco-Berry: Spread 2 tbsp. seedless raspberry jam and sprinkle with 1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate pieces.Cinnamon-Sugar: Mix 2 tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon.

All in all it was another success! 2 of the kids (and I think my husband) liked the apples the best, one liked the corn pudding, and one liked pork. As I mentioned, my timing was a bit off. I think the next time I would make the corn pudding and have that in the oven first before I begin to cook the pork. The apples cooked in the exact time as the pork though, so if that was all I was making, it would have been perfect! I was surprised that the kids liked the corn pudding. My aunt makes one that is sweet, and I thought they would be disappointed with this, but they really liked it.

This will be my entry for Tyler Florence Fridays.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Food Miles

As I have said before, I began this with intentions to document my trying to eat/grow/purchase locally (at least)- and well, I have been failing terribly lately and its a bit depressing. As I was preparing dinner last night the peppers I was cutting were from Mexico (they were very cute tri colored baby sweet peppers though) and the green beans (another FT recipe!)were at least form USA- but eugh! I can't wait for summer to come back!!!

I was just reading a study on how far our food travels to get to us-
I took out a couple of the astounding facts- please see the study for the appropriate citations-

in California alone more than 485,000 truckloads of fresh fruit and vegetables leave the state every year and travel from 100 to 3,100 miles to reach their destinations.

the food system accounts for almost 16 percent of total U.S. energy consumption

Energy use also varies tremendously by the type of food considered. For
example, the energy used to transport a one pound can of corn home
and to prepare it exceeds the energy needed to produce the corn

An analysis of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s
1997 arrival data from the Jessup, Maryland, terminal market found that the average
pound of produce distributed at the facility traveled more than 1,685 miles.
This same study showed the average distance for fruits to be transported was 2,146 miles, while
the average for vegetables was 1,596 miles

From their table 9 using a diesel conventional semi-trailer -
fuel consumption = 368, 102 gallons/ year
calculated fuel costs then (2001 @ $1.58/gallon) $581, 601
CO2 emissions 8,392,727 (lbs/year)
distance traveled 2,245,423 miles

and my calculated fuel costs present ($2.43 from $894,487.86
or how about a year ago (when the average cost was $3.43 also from $12,62,589.86!!!
remember this is for ONE truck!!!!
the trucks leaving California alone- $433,826,195,000 in fuel!

After looking at a link form this wikipedia page ( which has an excellent calculator for "food miles" from all over the world to the UK, I was trying to find one for the USA. Think I could find one- nope. I found one for Canada, but no US. I gave up after the first couple google pages after seeing theses same two over and over.

Well, I didn't expect to be here so long nor have this post follow this direction, but I guess this is why I spent so much time in the garden last summer! I think I'll go have a snack from one of my jars in the pantry!!

There is some good news- although I don't have any more time to be here to comment on it-

I'd love to hear your opinion about this!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tyler Florence Friday- well Thursday

I have been following a great blog, since the summer, I think. It began when I was googling some garden question I had; and I really liked her site. So I bookmarked it, then added it to my blog list and then finally added it to my google reader. (as you can tell, I am fairly new to blogging, and it's been growing on me!) Anyway, she frequently posts recipes, and I found I was liking a lot of them- then I found out that many were Tyler Florence's, this "Tyler Florence Fridays" thing sounded pretty great!

I ordered myself Tyler Florence's real kitchen (my first of his cookbooks) and it came in the mail today! I was eager to made dinner with one of his recipes, but as it was already past 5 and my tribe is used to eating pretty early, I realized I didn't have time for one of his main meals tonight. Instead I chose potatoes gratin (p. 267) as a side and pan seared chicken breasts with my mother in law's chimichurri on top. 3 of the 4 kids liked it and so did my husband- so I think that it qualifies as a success!

Potatoes Gratin
2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and sliced paper-thin
2 cups heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, split
Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Put the potato mixture into a casserole dish, flatten it out with a spatula, and bake for 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the gratin is bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chives.

I started this blog with intentions of trying my best to grow/purchase/cook with things locally. I have been finding this harder to do since the winter has set in. But, for this recipe, I used some of the last potatoes I purchased here in Little Compton form Young's Farm.