Orange-Sesame Pork Chops

Have you ever bought one of those overly large pork roasts at the grocery store, and used it for separate meals? Recently, my family did, and we portioned it into a smaller roast, as well as several thick-cut pork chops. It’s so economical to get multiple meals out of one cut of meat, and you can control the size and thickness of the pork chops.

100_3782This recipe reflects my love of the Asian take-out classic, orange chicken. I like that it’s sweet and tangy, with notes of ginger and garlic. Of course, pork also naturally adheres well to sweet flavours, like apple, pineapple, and brown sugar, that it seemed a no-brainer to make it the star here.

The most important ingredient here is the marmalade because it adds sweetness and boosts the orange flavour in the sauce. The saucy nature of this dish makes it the perfect pairing to rice!

Orange-Sesame Pork Chops

Serves: 6 people

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Six thick-cut pork chops

1 cup 100 % orange juice

1/2 cup marmalade

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp each finely minced ginger, sesame oil, and soya sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with enough cold water to make a paste

Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

In an oven-proof saute pan, like cast iron, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Season pork with salt and pepper, then sear them in pan, turning once, until both sides are browned. Place in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven until completely cooked through. Remove pork chops to a plate and cover with foil to rest.

Meanwhile, put the oven pan with the pork chop juices over medium heat, and add the orange juice, marmalade, rice wine vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, soya sauce, garlic, and cornstarch. Continuously whisk to pick up all the caramelized bits from the pan, until boiling and thickened.

To serve, move pork chops to a platter or individual plates and cover with the sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

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Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award

I was recently nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award by Marita, the blogger of My Dinner.co.uk. Her blog is wonderful; she writes about German and Lebanese recipes, and takes beautiful photos. My favourite recipes that she’s posted are the pita bread, hummus, and pomegranate molasses glazed salmon, and those are just the few that I’ve tried. You really should check out her work!

I chose to accept the award, which means that I had to answer a series of questions from Marita. Here are the questions with my answers:

1. Where does your blog name come from?

My blog name was the idea of a friend. Once I told her that I would be displaying the recipes that I make at home for myself and my family, ‘Jen’s Homegrown Eats’ seemed to stick.

2. Why did you start blogging?

I was finishing culinary school early last year, and had just finished an internship at a magazine test kitchen. I wanted an outlet to practice what I was taught, from how to write a recipe to how to test and make sure it can be made accurately at anyone’s home.

3. What spice do you use the most often in your recipes?

I use a large variety of spices in my home cooking which is a result of my enjoyment of various ethnic cuisines like Thai, Indian, or Moroccan. Part of this comes from my initial experiences of them in restaurants when I was very young and wanting to recreate those dishes at home. It led me to experimenting and learning about different flavours very early. Spices like cumin, coriander, and cinnamon should be staples in everyone’s pantry as they are used in so many cuisines!

Having said that, the recipes on my blog aren’t very spice-centric at all, with my most widely used spice being cayenne pepper. I love cayenne because it adds complexity to a dish, even though I’m not necessarily always aiming for ‘spicy’. I tend to start my savoury recipes off with aromatics like garlic, onion, and ginger, and build from there with either herbs or spices.

4. What German dish intrigues you?

I’ve had the luxury of eating my German grandmother’s cooking all my life. My favourite German meal that she sometimes makes is roast duck, red cabbage, and kartoffelkloesse (potato dumplings). The potato dumplings are spiced with finely diced onion and nutmeg and are delicious smothered in gravy. If I had to choose a last meal, this very well might be it!

5. How much time do you spend a week on your blog?

My goal has been to develop one recipe, photograph it, and post once per week. I don’t always meet this, but when I do I might spend 3 to 5 hours with the whole process, depending on how complicated the recipe is. Often the recipe might just be something that happened to turn out really well at dinner. I make it a habit to keep a notebook in the kitchen so that anytime I’m making something up out of my head, I can write it down step-by-step.

6. Which recipe on your blog do you think is the most successful and why?

My favourite recipe on my blog is the Easy Pork Bolognese pasta, because it’s delicious, easy, and uses common household ingredients. I minimize the chopping by putting all vegetables in the food processor and keep the sauce to one pot, so I feel I’ve achieved my goals with this recipe.

7. Do you prefer baking or cooking?

I gravitate more towards cooking because I crave savoury foods more often than sweet. I love baking too, but find you really have to put the research in if you’re creating a baked recipe from scratch.

8. What is your favourite food?

The humble potato! To me, it’s the perfect food because it’s so versatile and can be prepared in so many different ways. Often, I’ll eat potatoes simply mashed or boiled, but scalloped are amazing, and oven roasted are a new favourite because they have the crispy exterior.

9. What is your favourite cocktail?

I don’t drink cocktails, so I don’t really have a favourite.

10. Who is your blog crush?

I really enjoy Kevin Lynch’s blog, Closet Cooking. I started following his blog years ago, right around the time that I realized blogging was a thing. His recipes are always very creative, while the food is styled and photographed perfectly. It’s one of the few blogs I’ve seen where the work actually translated into cookbooks and a career for the blogger.

I had never heard of the Sisterhood of World Blogger’s Award before now, and it’s wonderful to be recognized. The rules are simple: all you have to do is thank the person who nominates you, link back to their blog, and pass on the torch by nominating some female blogger’s  you admire with corresponding questions. Here are the bloggers I would like to nominate for the award:

1. Janine – cookingwithcraic

2. Fae – Fae’s Twist & Tango

3. Molly – Quiche-A-Week

4. Connie – Foodessen

And here are the questions:

1. What is your earliest cooking memory?

2. What drove you start blogging?

3. What do you consider to be your best dish or the food that family or friends consistently ask you to make?

4. Who do you admire most as a cook? This can be anyone from someone you know to a culinary celebrity.

5. What is your favourite meal of the day and why?

6. What is your most memorable restaurant experience and why?

7. What would you have for your final meal?

8. What cuisine would you like to learn more about?

9. Who, living or dead, would you most like to meet, and why?

10. What advice do you have for new bloggers?

 

 

 

Cauliflower Gratin

Gratin is that classic French dish of anything baked to accomplish a  luxurious golden crust. The dish can be topped with anything too, but usually includes bread crumbs, cheese, and some kind of fat (oil or butter).  Potato gratin, or what we call scalloped potatoes in North America, is the most classic version of this type of dish that I know, but another favourite of mine uses cauliflower.

cauliflower gratin

Cauliflower has a strong nutty flavour that deepens and sweetens when cooked which makes it a wonderful pairing to the strong flavours of Swiss cheese and rosemary used in this recipe. The sauce is classic bechamel (white sauce), and becomes something even more wonderful than the sum of its parts as it melds with the melting cauliflower and its juices.

The hands-on time is minimal with very little chopping, which can leave you to prepare other components of your dinner freely while the gratin bakes in the oven. It’s so addictively delicious, rich, and creamy that I am often tempted to make a second batch. You probably will be too!

Cauliflower Gratin

Serves: 6 to 8 people

1  3-pound head cauliflower, chopped into bite-size florets

1 cup grated Swiss cheese

2 tbsp each butter and A/P flour

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp each chopped fresh rosemary and salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 cups 35% whipping cream or milk

Bread Crumb Topping

1/2 cups each bread crumbs and swiss cheese

2 tbsp grated parmigiano reggiano

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

In a large casserole dish, toss together the cauliflower florets and the Swiss cheese. Set aside.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in garlic, flour, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and toast for one minute until fragrant. Gradually pour in the cream, whisking constantly. Bring up to a simmer and allow to cook until thickened, approx. 10 minutes. Immediately pour over cauliflower mixture.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss together bread crumbs, Swiss cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, and rosemary. Evenly top the cauliflower with the bread crumb mixture.

Cover the dish with a tight-fitting lid or foil and bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes until cauliflower is tender. Uncover and cook for 15 minutes until the topping is browned and golden. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

Kale, Cabbage, and Fennel Salad With Poppy Seed Dressing

Part of what I like about cooking is the discovery of new ingredients and flavours and figuring out how to use them. I haven’t cooked with kale very often before, but one thing I noticed recently when I made a teriyaki noodle stir fry, is that kale is capable of soaking up a lot of flavour, especially from sauces.

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In this salad, chopped kale and shredded cabbage are doused in a simple poppy seed dressing, which imparts both sweetness and tang. Kale is really hardy which means  it can hold the dressing for a long time without becoming soggy.

This salad is also a great place to use those leftover fennel stalks that you may have sitting around. They are a little tough, but perfectly edible when sliced very thin, and give refreshing licorice flavour to this salad. If you  rather, some finely shredded fennel bulb is a good substitute.

Kale, Cabbage, and Fennel Salad

5 cups finely shredded green cabbage

5 cups roughly chopped kale

1 cup finely sliced fennel stalks or fennel bulb

1/2 cup each dried cranberries and chopped pecan halves

Poppy Seed Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

3 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp poppy seeds

In a large bowl, mix together the kale, cabbage, fennel, cranberries, and pecans. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, cider vinegar, and poppy seeds.

Pour the dressing into the kale-cabbage mix and toss until  completely coated.

Eat immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to two days.

 

Balsamic Onion Dip

This time of year, I find that I have a lot of leftover products that need to be used up from cooking and baking endeavours over the holidays. One of these items was mascarpone cheese, which like other cream cheeses, is terrific in both sweet and savoury cooking. It serves as an amazing base ingredient in this balsamic onion dip.

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I was inspired by the french onion dips you can buy in the chip aisle at the grocery store, as well as my brother’s love for Ms. Vicky’s balsamic and sweet onion chips. The flavour combo of caramelized onion and balsamic is sweet and tangy, and very satisfying. If you would like even more balsamic vinegar flavour, you can drizzle the top for an interesting finish.

The method is very easy; the most difficult part is caramelizing the onions and coaxing out their sweetness. Otherwise, everything gets whirred up in the food processor, and you’re done. You can keep the dip refrigerated when storing, but I recommend taking it out 30 min before serving as it does become quite firm when chilled.

Balsamic Onion Dip

Makes: Approx. 2 cups

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3 small onions, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 cup mascarpone cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream

1/2 tsp onion powder

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Balsamic vinegar to garnish (optional)

In a saute pan set over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions, and cook, stirring regularly, until caramelized and golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in salt and balsamic vinegar, and allow vinegar to reduce, about 15 to 20 seconds. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a food processor, add the onions, mascarpone cheese, sour cream, onion powder, and black pepper. Blend in the food processor until completely smooth.  Serve immediately or refrigerate in a tightly wrapped container for up to 3 days.

Easy Sauteed Garlicky Sugar Snap Peas

When you need a vegetable that’s fast to make, sugar snap peas fit the bill perfectly, because they only take a few minutes to cook . I love eating them completely raw, but some minced garlic gives them some extra appeal for the dinner table.

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I encourage you to try using salt a coarser salt than standard table salt, because it will add some crunch to the dish. My sister and I are obsessed with “Just A Pinch” salts right now and chose to season these snap peas with a pink flake salt from the Murray River in Australia. The flavour is nice and mild, and it gives some extra texture to the snap peas. Fleur de sel would be a great choice too, since it is also a flaked salt. If you can’t find a nice flaked salt, standard table salt will do just fine though.

Easy Sauteed Garlicky Sugar Snap Peas

Serves: 4 to 6 people

1 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 pounds sugar snap peas, head and tailed

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/8th tsp each flaked salt, such as fleur de sel, and ground black pepper, or more to taste

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the sugar snap peas and cook until they are tender-crisp, bright green, and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Mix in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Peppermint Meringues

The holidays are officially over, but I wanted to share with you a simple recipe I made using leftover egg whites from my Christmas baking. It’s peppermint meringues, light and crisp with tasty minty flavour. Yes, meringues are time consuming to make, but the good news is that most of that time is baking and cooling time, so the work of the baker is actually quite miniscule compared with other baking projects that you might tackle.

Peppermint Meringues
Peppermint Meringues

A typical ratio for making a baked meringue is 1/4 cup of sugar per egg white. The sugar is what helps the egg white crisp up in the oven and gives it that beautiful finish. I didn’t follow that ratio because I knew I would be folding in a large amount of crushed candy canes, which is adding sugar anyway, and the texture worked out just fine. The bake time for meringues is difficult to judge, because it really does depend on the weather. If it’s a particularly humid day, your meringues could take up to an extra half hour in the oven, so just keep checking for that firm exterior.

Peppermint Meringues

Makes: Approx. 5 dozen cookies

4 egg whites

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

3/4 cup white granulated sugar

1/3 cup crushed candy canes, divided

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pink liquid gel food colouring (optional)

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl. With a hand mixer or stand mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until they reach the soft peak stage. While continuously mixing, gradually add the granulated sugar, two tablespoons at a time, until completely incorporated, and the whites are at a hard peak.

Fold in half the crushed candy canes, the vanilla extract, and the pink food colouring (if using).

In a large piping bag with a size 5 star tip (the tip size or shape isn’t a must; use what you have on hand to pipe the correct sized cookie), place some of the meringue mixture. Pipe 1 1/2 to 2 inch cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets,  2 inches apart. Garnish with remaining candy canes.

Bake in 250 degree Fahrenheit oven until dry and crisp, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn off oven and allow cookies to cool completely in the still oven for two hours.

 

Easy Red Kidney Bean Salad

This recipe came out of a want for some kind of salad to serve alongside a hamburger stew, and since the stew was already on the go, I needed something simple and really fast. So, I grabbed the only can of beans we had in the pantry, and went to work.

100_3698My Oma always makes bean salads, usually with french cut green beans, kidney beans, raisins, and a very tangy dressing. To me this combination is perfect, so I tried to create a similar flavour profile by using things I had in my own kitchen. The red wine vinegar adds complexity and tang, while the cranberries sweeten up each bite. I also like the addition of some celery and cucumber for texture. For being so easy, it was a hit with my family.

Easy Red Kidney Bean Salad

1 x 540 ml can red kidney beans, rinsed

2 celery stalks, diced small

1/3 cup diced cucumber

1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbsp chopped parsley leaves

1/2 tsp granulated white sugar

Fresh cracked black pepper and salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine beans, celery, cucumber, and cranberries. Set aside.

In another small bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, parsley, sugar, pepper, and salt.

Stir the vinaigrette with the bean mixture. Marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.

Roasted Chicken and Warm Wild Rice Pilaf

This recipe started as wild rice stuffing stuffed into a chicken, but left me asking why take that extra step? For one thing, the rice is cooked before it even goes into the chicken, and for another, I found that the lengthy roasting time meant that any rice exposed to the heat of the oven became terribly crispy almost to the point of being inedible. Oops!

roastchickenwildrice

So, instead I decided to adapt the recipe into a chicken served with a warm wild rice pilaf. The rice would be really good served warm or even at room temperature, and has all the flavours of traditional bread stuffing so it will go well with any kind of poultry. Why not try it with your holiday turkey?

I find wild rice really interesting, because it’s not a true rice at all, but rather is the seed from four types of aquatic grasses, which only grow in North America and China. Historically, many Native North American peoples harvested this rice for food, by traveling along the riverbanks where it was growing and thrashing the grains off the plants into their canoes.

Similar to farrow, wild rice is quite chewy in texture when cooked. The only way to tell if it’s completely cooked is when the grains start to burst.

Roasted Chicken and Warm Wild Rice Pilaf

Serves: 4 to 6 people

Chicken

3-pound roasting chicken

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp each butter and vegetable oil

Pilaf

3 cups water

1 1/2 tsp salt, divided

1 cup wild rice

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup each chopped celery and red onion

3 tbsp finely chopped parsley

2 tbsp finely chopped sage leaves

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries

Place chicken in a roasting pan and generously season with salt and pepper, covering the top and sides. Rub the vegetable oil all over and dot with butter.

Place in a preheated 425 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and cook for another hour and a half, or until skin is golden brown and juices run clear, and an instant read thermometer reads 165.

Meanwhile, in a large covered saucepan, bring water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir in rice and allow to simmer until cooked and bursting, about 45 minutes. Strain into a fine mesh strainer. Set aside.

Melt butter over medium-low heat, add celery and onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent. Stir in parsley, sage, 1 tsp salt, and pepper.

In a large bowl, mix together the rice, celery-onion mixture, and cranberries. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Smoky Bacon and Lentil Soup

Are lentils the new popular ingredient? All I know is that I’ve been seeing recipes with lentils everywhere and up until last year I had never cooked with them before. What I am struck with is not only how healthy they are, being rich in fiber, folate, and iron, but also how cheap and fast they are to make. A large bag of lentils costs only a couple dollars and 1 cup can go a long way to feeding family of four.

100_3688Let me explain this recipe. One day I was stuck on what to have for lunch since groceries were getting low, and I wanted something that was fast, but delicious too. The pantry always has some odds and ends of things that rarely get used, like a bag of red lentils. I’ve made soups and stews with them before, leaving the pulse whole, but I figured why not made a pureed lentil soup instead?

Red lentils take approx. 20 minutes to soften, which made this a pretty good remedy to my lunch dilemma. This recipe uses common pantry ingredients too, like onion, paprika, and black pepper, so there wasn’t the issue of having to run to the store to gather up extras, as I’ve done with so many other recipes.

Smoky Bacon and Lentil Soup

Serves: 4 people

4 slices bacon

1 onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp paprika

1 cup dried red lentils

4 cups water

2 chopped tomatoes

1 chicken bouillon cube or salt to taste

1/2 tsp black pepper

In a large sauce pan, cook bacon until crisp. Set aside on a paper-towel lined plate.

Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat; cook onions over medium-low heat until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and paprika until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils, water, tomato, bouillon cube, and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and either puree with a handheld blender, or in a food processor by the batch. Finely crumble the bacon and stir into the soup or puree with the entire soup.