A cooking and baking journal

Blazing Through "Braising"

5/24/09: Pork Chop Supreme and Long Grain White and Wild Rice

  • Meal details: Main course, Pork Chop Supreme -- boneless, loin pork chops braised with ketchup and topped off with one slice of onion and lemon and a pinch of brown sugar
Side dish, Wild Rice -- boxed rice from Gordon's Food Service.

  • Recipe sources: Annemarie's Betty Crocker cookbook was where I found the pork chop recipe. The wild rice mix we had for a side dish was a boxed rice from Gordon's Food Service.
  • Defining moments: First time cooking with pork chops and first time baking rice in the oven. (I've only done it on the stove top before.)
  • What I learned: I was introduced to many new things this Sunday. First, I learned that there are three different types of pork chops: shoulder, sirloin, and loin; the third being the most tender because it has the least amount of connective tissue. I used a boneless loin cut for my pork chop recipe.
I also learned what the word "braising" meant. Braising is a cooking technique where the meat (or vegetable) is seared and then later left to simmer with a bit of liquid (typically water or stock) with the pan cover on. This technique allows tougher cuts of meats to become more tender and gives richness to the entire dish because the ingredients have time to intermingle. I was very interested in learning about braising because I realized I have been doing it for years when cooking ground beef. My family likes to use partially frozen meat products when cooking because we find it less messy. (I never like those raw meat juices dripping on the kitchen counter!) Since we use meat in this state we always need to add a bit of water to the covered skillet in order for the meat to quickly, and thoroughly, thaw. In other words, BRAISING. So very interesting, don't you think?

Because I cooked some wild rice for a side dish I decided to read up on this type of rice and find out why it is called "wild." This is what I found. Ahem. Wild rice (aka Canada rice, Indian rice, and water oats) is the name given to four different species that make up the genus Zizania. Three of these species are native to North America and the fourth is native to Asia. Why is it called wild? I couldn't find any source that would answer this question directly, but from what I have read it is because these four species tend to grow along slow-flowing streams and small lakes.

  • Any modifications? Nope. Did everything according to the recipe.
  • How it tasted? I had rave reviews about these pork chops! They were fantastically tender and full of flavor. The brown sugar and lemon really made it special. The wild rice was a bit hard to chew (that is how wild rice is), but it was mighty tasty.
  • How about a 2nd time? Absolutely for the chops, but the wild rice will probably be replaced with a softer variety.

Here are the chops simmering away in our nonstick dutch oven. Boy, it seems like I have to pull that dutch oven out every time I cook!

I'm sorry I wasn't able to take a photo of the wild rice I made--they took a little bit longer than I thought so my mind was more on them being done than on photos! But here is a reference photo from Uncle Ben's website to give you a picture of what I made. My rice resembles it very well.

Strawberry Search

Strawberry season is coming soon and I would like to make some strawberry dishes for my family, freeze some, and maybe make a smoothie. Now I just need some ideas and I am hoping some of you who are reading this post may share a recipe or recipe idea in the comments section. It would really help me out! You can share desserts, smoothies, or main dish recipes; I'm open to anything.

So which strawberry path should I take. . .

(image from notquitenigella.com)


(image from fun345.com)

Strawberry Pie?

(image from luvsandlife.blogspot.com)

Strawberry Cheesecake?

(image from thekneadforbread.com)

Strawberry Bread?

Or maybe. . .


. . . you fill in the blank, thanks!

"Layering" on the Flavors This Week

5/17/09: Cheesy Meat Lasagna and Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake

  • Sources: Both recipes came from http://www.kraftfoods.com/foodandfamily/.
  • Defining moments: This would be my first ever lasagna and pudding cake. Actually, I never even heard of a 'pudding' cake until I came across the recipe on the Food and Family website.
  • What I learned/modifications: Guess what? I learned how to make instant pudding! :) Nah! I'm kidding. What I did learn was that there are two types of lasagna noodles: oven-ready and boil. The oven-ready are very easy to use (you just place the dry noodle in the casserole dish and allow the sauce to cook it), so I used them. The ones you have to boil are tricky to use and a bit sloppy. I never handled them before but that is what I gather from Annemarie.
Any modifications? I substituted ricotta cheese for the cottage cheese and I didn't really pay attention to the exact number of noodles to use. I just made the layers and eyeballed it. And instead of using ready-made pizza sauce I used our homemade tomato puree. I allowed it to reduce and thicken and then I added oregano, Italian seasoning, and granulated garlic to the pot.
I made a tiny mod for the pudding cake. Instead of using the boxed devil's food cake I made the cake batter from scratch using the "New Popular Devil's Food Cake" in Annemarie's Betty Crocker cookbook. The cake recipe uses melted chocolate so it is a bit different than your traditional. You should have been by the oven during the last ten minutes of baking time for this pudding cake! The cake started forming huge bubbles and rupturing like a volcano! The recipe instructions gave me a head's up to this, um, 'pudding cake quality' so I placed a cookie sheet under the 13x9 pan it was baking in. No spills made it to the bottom of the oven, and that is a very good thing!
  • How it tasted? The lasagna noodles were a bit crunchy on top and I think the flavors didn't stand out--according to my taste buds. Everyone else seemed to like it but I think it could have been better if I added more seasoning and placed sauce and ricotta cheese on top of the final layer of noodles. The ricotta cheese probably would have aided in the noodle cooking.
The pudding cake was a bit dry and the pudding top layer was rubbery. I could have baked it for too long. I wanted to make sure a toothpick would come out clean (like the recipe says) so I kept on waiting and waiting. The pudding probably threw off my toothpick readings so the cake ended up baking for too long of time. I mean, a typical cake bakes for 30 min. or so, but this pudding cake stayed in the oven for an hour and 10 min.! So I think 50 minutes in the oven would be just right for this dessert.

  • How about a 2nd time? If I pay attention to the points above I will make these two dishes a 2nd time.

Can you see the lava flow in this picture? :) Wow, that was some cake!

Here's an interesting tidbit: both recipes use a layering technique in their assembly. I do love layering, it always add visual appeal, but it always reminds me that we don't have a trifle dish. :( Ah, another wish of mine. I shall but it right beside my cake stand wish!

Interesting Data I'm Seeing

Yes, very interesting. After viewing my long list of tags on the sidebar I noticed that most of them are used 1 or 2 times. But wait a minute--the chicken has EIGHT. Gosh, I like to use chicken, don't I? :)

Roll Out the Red Velvet Cake for Our Mother Mary!

5/10/09: Chicken BBQ Pizza from The California Pizza Kitchen and Red Velvet Cake for dessert.

  • Sources: Pizza recipe came from recipezaar.com and the cake was from Annemarie's Betty Crocker cookbook. I made the Chicken BBQ Pizza before, so check it out here.
  • Defining moments: First ever Red Velvet Cake and first time using a piping bag. You can certainly tell it was the first time--read on!
  • What I learned and modifications: Did you know that Red Velvet Cake and Devil's Food Cake are one and the same except that the former has red food coloring added? I didn't know that one!
I chose to bake a cake this Sunday in honor of the month of Mary: May. I was planning on adding fondant roses to the cake but wasn't able to find glycerin in time. I then decided to make the roses out of buttercream frosting but yours truly had one of her clumsy moments and the piping bag came apart at the seams. One big and heavy sigh. I couldn't make the roses this time but I'm looking forward to buying another piping bag and decorating tools to have at least one little rose to come into existence. I requested The Icing on the Cake from the library so should be able to figure out what I need soon.
So any mods this time? Well, I sort of winged it with the pizza recipe. I never did follow it, even for my first attempt. The recipe ingredients sort of sowed the "seed" in my mind and I went on from there.
Here is what I did:

Becky's BBQ Chicken Pizza
Prep: 1 hr. Cooking: 25 min.
Yield: Two 10 x 15" cookie sheets
  • 1.5 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 3 boxes of Jiffy Pizza Dough Mix
  • 4 cups of bbq sauce (I add some ketchup, worcestershire sauce, and granulated garlic to Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 1/2 c. bell peppers
  • 2 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cook the chicken in the dutch oven with 2 cups of water. After they turn light brown take them out and cut them into small cubes, then transfer them back into the pan and wait until they are thoroughly cooked. In the meantime, cut the onion and peppers and prepare the bbq sauce and pizza dough. After the chicken is done move it to a small bowl and toss it with a small portion of the sauce. While the chicken is cooling knead the dough and role it out to the pan size. Spray the pans with cooking spray and move rolled dough to each pan. Pat down and stretch dough up sides of pan. Bake crust for 2 minutes. Take pans out of oven and brush crust with bbq sauce. Top with onions, peppers, chicken, and cheese. Place back in oven and bake for 25 minutes. Cut each pizza into 8 pieces. IMPORTANT NOTE: I must leave two pieces free of onions and peppers for Annemarie. :)

  • How it tasted? Can you really complain about this pizza? No, I didn't think so. The cake was good, too, even though it was missing a rose. I believe Mary wouldn't find fault with it so that's good to know. :)
  • What about a 2nd time? Yes, indubitably.

Here's a cake for Mary. You can see that I used the star tip with the piping bag for the filling--before it broke!

What's this?! My photographer happened to take a shot of me cooking the chicken! Boy, you're a sneaky one, sis!

A Wish Come True

5/03/09: Spanish Chicken with Pasta and The Ultimate Cheesecake with Warm Blueberry Lemon Sauce
  • Sources: Chicken recipe--southernfood.about.com. Cheesecake recipe--foodtv.com. I made the Spanish chicken with pasta before, check it out here.
  • Defining moments: First ever cheesecake. Man, I never thought I would bake this particular cheesecake! I saw Tyler Florence, a chef on the Food Network channel, make his version of the ultimate cheesecake around two years ago. It is really the only dish I saw on t.v. that I drooled over. :) After I watched the show (Tyler's Ultimate) I thought to myself, "I never will be able to make it, , I don't know how to use a spring-form pan, I've never done a hot water bath before, and thick and syrupy blueberry sauce? No way!" But I did it and the preparation turned out to be really simple and easy to do. I would have to say it is simpler than pie.
  • What I learned and modifications: I didn't follow the cheesecake directions exactly so here is what I did. Instead of a 8" spring-form pan I used a 10". Why? Because that is the only one we have! Since I adjusted the pan size I adjusted the amount of some of the ingredients. Here is my ingredient list:
21 graham crackers
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 and 2 tbsp. butter, melted

2 1/2 blocks cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 pint sour cream
1 lemon, zested (I used the cheese grater for this step)
1 tbsp. vanilla

Warm Lemon Blueberry Sauce:
2 1/2 cups blueberries
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tbsp. sugar (recipe calls for more, but my goodness, do our homegrown blueberries need to be sweeter? Thanks Papa for planting those bushes!!!!!)

  • How it tasted? Everything was superb! I used the tricolor type pasta for the chicken dish, everyone loved it. The cheesecake was light and airy and the added lemon really made it special.
  • How about a 2nd time? Yes, for both.