Recipe: Pork Scallopini

As with all my recipes, this really is my own take on this meal.  I have an idea in my head of how a “scallopini” should look and taste, so I play with the ingredients I have on hand until the final product comes close to my mind’s version.  I may be totally off-base from any traditional recipe but, since this is my own creation (and it garnered lots of “this is really good” comments), I’ll share it with you here.  I posted a teaser shot last night after dinner on my new Facebook page for this blog, so I hope you’re ready to check this one out!PorkScallopini

I started with 6 very thin pork cutlets that I picked up at the local grocery store.  NOTE: The original package had 12 cutlets, so I used 6 for the first go-round and used the last 6 for this dinner.  Essentially, they were used for the same recipe… I just didn’t post directions the first time, since I wasn’t sure how it would go over and hadn’t taken photos throughout the process. I dredged each cutlet… first in a wet mixture of almond milk and egg, then into a mixture of dry ingredients that included breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper… then saute’d them in a medium-hot skillet with one Tablespoon of melted butter.  I flipped them over after a few minutes, using a spatula, and cooked the other side until both were nicely browned.  I then removed the cutlets to a plate and kept them warm in a 200-degree oven until I was ready for dinner.

Before I started on the sauce, I wanted to choose a “base” for my scallopini.  When I made this dish the first time, I had leftover bow-tie pasta in the fridge, so I decided to heat that up and serve the scallopini over the pasta.  Last night, I had leftover mashed potatoes, so I chose to doctor these up for my scallopini base.  NOTE:  Feel free to use what you have in your fridge when making dishes such as these.  I really like egg noodles with this dish, but I tend to be the minority in my house on that ingredient, so I try and accommodate others’ taste preferences when I can.

Since I was using leftover mashed potatoes for this recipe, I knew I was going to have to work with them a bit to make them taste fresh and not look like I just warmed up some clumpy potatoes for dinner.  To that end, I put the leftover potatoes into a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup and microwaved them until they were warm enough to melt some margarine.  Into the large cup of mashed potatoes, I added varying amounts of almond milk, Chardonnay (white wine), margarine, parmesan cheese, parsley, horseradish mustard, shredded cheddar cheese, and some freshly ground pepper.   I used a whisk to incorporate all the ingredients thoroughly and then microwaved this mixture for about a minute.  I repeated the whisking/microwaving step at least twice…. just until the mixture was creamy, tasted good (don’t forget to taste your food as you cook to adjust the seasonings), and had thickened enough to make a nice base for the scallopini.

Now, onto the sauce.  If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I have a post that is dedicated to “how to make a sauce”.  This truly is how I begin 90% of all my sauces.  I had removed the cutlets from the saute’ pan, so I added 1 Tablespoon of butter, a little olive oil, and some flour, then whisked everything together and let the fat cook the raw flour until it became lightly toasted and fragrant.  NOTE: If you’re using a non-stick skillet, please consider investing in a plastic coated wire whisk… you’ll save your skillet and be just as happy with the results.  The one I currently use is blue and I found it at Target… you don’t need anything fancy, just something that won’t scratch the surface of your pan and ruin it.  Now that my thickener (fat/flour mixture) was ready, I whisked some Chardonnay white wine and chicken stock into the sauce.  As hard as it is to wait, I allowed the liquids to become thoroughly incorporated into the thickener before adding more liquid.  This is when you want to adjust things to make the sauce as thick or as thin as you’d like.  I also knew that I was going to be adding frozen peas to the sauce, which would add some water as they thawed, so I had to keep that in mind as I was cooking.  I then added a few simple seasonings to the sauce, in the form of parsley, horseradish mustard, salt, and pepper, making sure not to add too much salt because of all the other flavors from the pork cutlets and the potatoes.  My last step was to pour in some frozen peas and allow them to cook in the sauce.  NOTE: Don’t forget to adjust your seasonings before you finish… it’s better to season while you’re cooking, rather than after, since they will incorporate better this way.

When you begin to plate your meal, feel free to be creative.  When I made this dish with pasta, I simply laid the pork across the pasta on the plate and spooned the sauce over top.  Since the mashed potatoes made a sturdier base, I placed the pork specifically (as you can see in the photo) and spooned the sauce in the middle so all three layers of the meal were visible.  It was a very simple, yet elegant way to present our dinner.

I hope you’ll try out this recipe.  I think it’s one of my favorite ways to cook pork and, because of the versatility of other ingredients used, helps to clear out some of my leftovers from the fridge.  I actually toyed with making mashed potato waffles for under the cutlets/sauce, but chose not to because I couldn’t reach the waffle iron.  Maybe I’ll make potato pancakes next time instead of using pasta?  If you make this dish, feel free to let me know what you chose to use.

Enjoy!

 

Recipe: Chocolate Wine Muffins

This is one of the easiest recipes in my arsenal – essentially a two-ingredient muffin recipe that I like to doctor by using a bit of red wine and mini chocolate chips.  It’s my favorite recipe to take to events because adults and kids alike inhale these delicious bites as quickly as they’re put on the table.  ChocolateWineMuffins

I start with a box of devil’s food cake mix.  I like the “devil’s food” flavor because it seems to have the most chocolate flavor, but feel free to use whatever chocolate cake mix you prefer.  Into this dry mix, I add one can of pumpkin (NOT the canned “pumpkin pie” stuff), 1/4 cup red wine (dry is best but use what you have and what you prefer – I typically will use a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot if I have it available), and a small handful of mini chocolate chips.  NOTE: These are the ONLY ingredients – don’t use the ingredients listed on the box.  Your batter will be thick – make sure to mix it well so there are no dry bits of mix left.

Using a small cookie scoop and mini muffin tins, scoop the batter into the greased pans and cook in a 375 degree oven for 16-17 minutes.  You’ll need to do this three times as the recipe definitely makes more than 48 muffins – I was able to scoop out 57 but you may have less.  These muffins do tend to puff a bit when cooking, so don’t put too much batter into each spot. NOTE:  You’ll see that I don’t flatten the muffins into each spot – I like the puffy look about them in the end – feel free to do whichever you prefer.  You can also make these into larger muffins, but I find that the smaller ones are easier to handle and don’t get overcooked on the edges as you try and cook the inside thoroughly.

When the muffins come out of the oven, remove them to a wire rack and allow them to cool a bit before serving.  These make lovely gifts for neighbors and new colleagues… see if you get the same positive reaction I got when handing them around.  They’re a great ice-breaker and (if you make 52 of them) are only 38 calories each Sign me up for that bake sale!

Recipe: Easy Cheesy Chicken & Beans

We’ve all seen the mayonnaise ad that tells us to smear mayo on chicken, cover with cheese, and bake to create the “juiciest chicken”, right?  If you haven’t, here’s a link to see what they do.  I had been viewing that ad for ages and finally decided to put my own twist on something that would be a simple yet fun adaptation.  My final product was similar to the original, but I thought it had some really tasty flavors going on.  See what you think…

I started with two partially frozen chicken breasts (the kind you can get in the big bag from those warehouse stores?) and sliced them across to open them up like an envelope.  I didn’t want to cut them the entire way through, although I certainly could have done that to create four separate servings.  Feel free to tackle this step however you like.  I laid them on a piece of foil (I really hate to clean baking sheets, so I use foil anytime I can) and flattened them with my hands.EasyCheesyChicken&Beans

I then mixed the creamy topping that would be the “sauce” to hold the cheese onto the chicken.  For this recipe I used mayonnaise, dijon mustard, red wine, and dried parsley.  I blended it all together with a whisk and then brushed the mixture all over the top of the chicken breasts to cover them evenly.  Using a packaged blend of cheddar and colby, I spread the cheese over both chicken breasts and then topped them with salt and pepper.

Since the chicken was so large, I decided to keep things simple and just roast some green string beans as the accompaniment for this dinner.  I could have easily added mashed or baked potatoes, but I really wanted the chicken to be the star.  To make the beans, I grabbed another baking sheet and lined it with foil (easy cleanup, folks… this is my favorite thing about foil!) and spread out the beans on the sheet.  I then sprayed the beans with cooking spray and topped with salt & pepper.  

Baking this dinner was also pretty easy.  I preheated the oven to 375 degrees and baked the chicken for about 40-45 minutes.  I popped the beans into the oven underneath the chicken after the first 10 minutes, so they were cooking for 30-35 minutes.  NOTE: I’ve been under-cooking beans lately, so I went a little overboard on the beans this time – will probably back their cook time down to 20-25 minutes next time, but they were still tasty.

Once dinner was done and plated, I got rave reviews from my husband about the chicken.  It was still juicy but cooked through, full of flavor and simply delicious.  Changing out the flavors and using different ingredients for the “sauce” will be done next time, but this is a great way to start.  Try using white wine, horseradish mustard, different spices, anything that your family likes is fair game in this one.  You could even make it into an Italian version with italian spices and an Italian blend of cheeses… it’s really all up to you.  Enjoy and let me know what you try! 

Recipe: Red Meatloaf & White Carrots

Dinner last night was one of those “comfort meals” that everyone talks about… meatloaf and mashed potatoes… classic, right?  I have a habit of taking classics and adding a new “wine’d up” spin on things, so this dinner was no different.  I was craving meatloaf and I had a small bag of baby carrots in the fridge, so I came up with a way to cook both dishes at the same time.  Brilliant, right?  Actually, it was more of a fluke the first time I tried it last week, but it really does work!RedMeatloaf&WhiteCarrots

I started out making the meatloaf.  I used one package ground turkey, two palms full of seasoned bread crumbs, some dark red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon that my neighbor had given me… yummy!), a hefty squirt of dijon mustard, some Montreal Steak Seasoning, an egg, and some parsley.   I mixed everything together until it was nicely combined (feel free to add a little more of the bread crumbs if it’s too moist).  Then I assembled the baking portion of the meal.

Using a loaf pan, I sprinkled a layer of baby carrots on the bottom of the pan and poured some white wine (I used the Chardonnay I had in the fridge) over top.  I then put a large piece of foil over the carrots, to create a new “loaf pan” for the meatloaf, and sprayed it with cooking spray.  I formed the meatloaf into the pan and made a bit of a well down the center.  Before I popped the pan into the 375 degree oven for an hour, I added a touch of ketchup on top for color and sweetness.

Once the meatloaf had cooked for the hour, I removed it and let the pan sit for 5-7 minutes before lifting the meatloaf off the carrots and slicing the loaf for dinner.  The white wine had cooked the carrots to a perfect al dente’ and the meatloaf was dense and tasty.  Adding some homemade mashed potatoes was just the perfect accompaniment.

If you’re looking for a simple way to make comfort food, this really did it for me.  I hope you’ll try it and let me know how it turns out for you!  Enjoy….

Recipe: Asian Wine’d Salmon ‘n Veggies

Here’s a basic recipe that I used last night for dinner.  It’s a very classic “Using the Force” sort of recipe, where I started with a single ingredient for dinner and then started pulling things from the fridge/cabinet, blending them until the sauce tasted the way I wanted.  I actually went to a few recipe sites, but wasn’t finding the sort of ingredient list I could pull together, so I “Used The Force”.  If this term is new to you, please check out my explanation at the very beginning of this blog (almost <gasp> two years ago).

I started out with two packets of Salmon for our dinner.  Seriously, these are 4-oz packets of frozen salmon that I picked up on a “super deal” at the local grocery store… awesome for a quick meal and easy to add/subtract as your guest count changes.  I  let the salmon thaw in the fridge during the day so it was easier to handle when dinner time rolled around.  NOTE: It might have thawed faster if I had taken it out of the packaging, but I didn’t want to worry about the mess.

Looking in my fridge, I found four small Yukon Gold Potatoes and a head of broccoli.  For two of us. this seemed like the perfect amount to roast for dinner, as long as the potato pieces were thin enough and the broccoli was sliced into bite-sized pieces.  Again, these are items that you could easily increase to serve more people if necessary.  NOTE: If you end up doubling this recipe, I would separate the vegetables from the salmon and roast them in different pans so that you can control the cooking times of each as needed.  You can also substitute your favorite vegetables for this dish… just be aware of size and cooking times of whatever you choose.AsianWine'dSalmon&Veggies

Once I had my main ingredients picked, I needed to create a sauce…and here’s where The Force came into play.  All-in-all, I used the following ingredients:  Hoisin sauce, dijon mustard, white wine (I used a Chardonnay I had in the fridge), balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.  Using a medium bowl, I spooned some hoisin (asian BBQ sauce) into the bowl, poured in some wine. and squirted in some dijon mustard.  These were not equal measures, but I went light on everything so I could add more if needed.  I like using hoisin because it’s got a bit of a kick and it thickens up things nicely.  I then added a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, a generous portion of soy sauce, and sweetened everything up with a bit of honey.  After whisking everything together, I tasted the result and added another bit of honey so the sauce didn’t have too much bite.

I chose to make this recipe on one sheet pan, so I covered a baking sheet with foil and sprayed it with cooking spray so the sweet/sticky sauce wouldn’t be difficult to handle after cooking.  I sliced each potato in half, length-wise, and sliced each half into very thin half-rounds that would cook fairly quickly before layering them on the baking sheet.  I then cut the broccoli into thin slivers, cutting small stalks in half as needed, and layered them on top of the potato thins.  I decided to top the veggies with a bit of sauce before adding the salmon because I wanted to make sure I got most of the veggies touched with the sauce… not necessarily coated, but a little bit would go a long way with this flavor.

Once I had spooned sauce on the veggies, I laid the salmon fillets on top and spooned sauce over them as well, using up all the sauce.  It smelled rich and flavorful, even as it hit the oven, which was my intent… I love when the house smells like something delicious when we’re getting ready for dinner!

Dinner cooked for 30 minutes in a 375-degree preheated oven and was really tasty.  The potato thins were cooked, the broccoli was crisp-tender, and the salmon was delicious. I reheated rolls to have along side this meal, but it really wasn’t necessary.  Just follow your instincts and see what your family prefers.

Remember, this is a recipe that you can change up in a million ways to suit your family’s individual tastes so have fun with it.  We thought it was a hit!

Recipe: Twice Baked Wine Potatoes

As promised, here is the recipe for my favorite Twice Baked Wine Potatoes.  I have been making these for quite awhile now.  I alter the recipe each time, depending on the flavor blend I want to have for the meal it might accompany, so it really does work for so many meals.  I’m sharing the basic idea, but please feel free to adjust and play with the recipe to suit your own family’s tastes and preferences.

I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes for this recipe.  NOTE:  the number of potatoes you bake depends on how many servings you want in the end, but for the two of us, I tend to bake three potatoes so I end up with six small twice-baked potatoes.  Feel free to bake your potatoes however you like, but I typically will cut a small slice in the side of the potato (this will end up being the start of my cut to slice each potato in half) and bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Once the potatoes are cooked, I remove them from the oven (remember that they’re hot, so use oven mitts so you don’t burn your fingers) and slice them in half, lengthwise.  Using the oven mitts and a spoon, scoop out the cooked potato and collect it in a bowl large enough to mix any/all ingredients.  NOTE: If you want to use a mixer for this part, you can put all your potato innards into your mixing bowl… I just like the more rustic feel I get from using a hand masher, similar to one my mom used to use.TwiceBakedWinePotatoes

Once you’ve scooped out all the potato skins, your cooking fun begins!  For the recipe pictured here, I first added the following ingredients:  shredded cheese, one egg, a spoonful of margarine, some great tasting white wine,  and a wedge of Laughing Cow lite cheese.  Once I mashed these together, I needed to adjust the seasonings so I added a spoonful of Greek yogurt, salt, and some freshly ground pepper.  NOTE:  I have used a spoonful of Bourcin Cheese on occasion and this has also been a great addition.  The egg can be omitted, but I find that it adds a touch of richness to the final product that is otherwise lacking.  Feel free to use a Fat-Free Egg Substitute if you prefer, but using only the egg whites won’t produce the same texture – experiment with your favorite ingredients on this one.

Once the mashed potato mixture is to your liking (make sure to taste this part), I use a small cookie scoop to fill the potato skins so I know that I’m filling everything evenly.   You can simply line up the filled potato skins onto a baking sheet, but I have found that I really like to place the potato skins into a muffin tin and fill them inside so they don’t end up rolling off to the side and are easy to store until you’re ready to bake them.   I’m one of “those” people who thinks about dinner early in the day, so if I have the completed Twice Baked Potatoes sitting in my fridge for the day, it’s so much simpler to have them contained in a muffin tin.

NOTE:  This is a recipe that you could easily double and make over the weekend – freeze anything you don’t want to use right away and then you have a perfectly simple side dish available for any night of the week!  I’m a huge fan of “make-ahead” foods that can be stored in the freezer.

To bake these little darlings, just pop them into a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until they’re cooked through and lightly browned on top.  I love the crispiness of the potato skin and think that it’s a wonderful complement to any meal.  I’ve served it with BBQ chicken, steak, lobster, shrimp, burgers… almost anything looks fancier when you put these out as your side dish!

Hope you’ll try this and see just how easy it is to make such a fun side dish… our family loves them and I’m sure yours will too!

Recipe: Roasted BBQ Chardonnay Chicken

This recipe was inspired by Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman when I was looking for a new twist on making BBQ chicken for one of our last meals in our apartment.  I wanted to make something that would fill the apartment with “yummy smells” and give us a meal that could be eaten for a few days in chicken salad or sandwiches.  While I really liked the original recipe, I found it difficult to replicate, possibly because I was using an electric oven instead of a gas range.  I also was trying to use up ingredients from my fridge before the move to our new home, so I definitely did some substituting along the way to create something truly finger-linking.  Here’s my take… I hope you enjoy!

I started with a package of 10 chicken thighs.  I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and used a large, high-edged baking pan, drizzled with the last of my olive oil.  I placed the thighs, skin-side down, in the pan and liberally topped them with garlic salt and pepper before placing the pan in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.  NOTE: I removed the skin from half the thighs to see if there was a marked difference in taste…  in the end,  I didn’t miss the BBQ’d skin in the least.OvenRoastedBBQChardChicken

While the chicken roasted, I made a sauce of 3/4 bottle of BBQ sauce (use what you like), 1/2 jar apple jelly (use whatever preserves you like best – I would have preferred grape or blackberry, but apple jelly was in my fridge, waiting to be finished), a thumb’s length of crushed garlic (the stuff from the tube is fine, unless you want to mince your own… then use 2 cloves or so),  1/2 cup of Chardonnay (I would suggest using your favorite non-oak chardonnay here), and 1/4 cup ketchup.  I heated the sauce on the stovetop and kept it warm throughout the cooking process so I could easily brush the meat with the thickened sauce.

Once the thighs have roasted for 25 minutes, I brushed them with sauce and flipped them over before liberally brushing sauce on the top.   Thus began a series of three “roast for 10 minutes- baste with sauce- pop back in the oven” segments.  Since I didn’t really see the crispy BBQ-look I wanted, I then popped the oven temp to 425 degrees and roasted for another 10-15 minutes.  I liked that the original recipe didn’t call for any flipping of the chicken thighs, but I did have a lot of extra “juice” that I removed after the second or third “10 minutes in the oven” segment.  You can see by the photos that the sauce does get really dark and caramelized as it continues to roast and I do believe that this would have cooked a little quicker in a gas range, but I ended up with the result I wanted and we thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

I”ll post the recipe for the accompanying Twice-baked Potatoes with chardonnay as soon as I can…. these are fast becoming a staple in our house, so I really need to share this recipe as well.  If you like baked potatoes, crossed with mashed potatoes, crossed with potato skins, you’ll love this easy side-dish.

Until then…. enjoy cooking for your family!