Pork Chop Casserole – A Comfort Food Favorite

Pork Chop Casserole – A Comfort Food Favorite

I love pork chops. They are inexpensive and delicious as long as you don’t cook the dickens out of them.

We grew up eating pork chops fairly often because of the low cost. My favorite way was with stuffing and applesauce on the side. I stumbled across a recipe from one of my most tattered cookbooks the other day that put the stuffing, apples, and pork chops all together for a very easy to prepare (and tasty) casserole of sorts.

I made a few alterations of my own which I explain below. For the original Betty Crocker recipe (which is hard to improve upon) you can visit their website which is probably a bit easier than borrowing my cookbook!

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Ingredients
1 Tbs butter
3 Granny Smith apples, sliced
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
salt, pepper, garlic, sage, paprika, thyme, all spice
4-6 pork chops

Your own recipe for stuffing or use mine: 
4-6 cups cubed stale bread (I prefer sour dough)
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage with sage browned and drained
celery and onion diced and sautéed in 3-4 Tbs. butter until soft
1-3 cups chicken stock (enough to moisten)
1/4-1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten
salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, sage, fresh parsley

Mix these ingredients together until moist (not mushy) and keep tasting for right amount of seasoning.

Directions

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Brush 1/2 teaspoon butter in bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish. Spread apple slices in dish. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over apples.

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Season the pork chops with whatever spices you prefer and lay on top of apples. I used a combination of salt, pepper, garlic, sage, paprika, thyme, and all spice.

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Cover pork shops with stuffing.

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Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes longer until you get a nice browning on the stuffing.

See how easy that is! Enjoy!

Spicy Chicken A La Diable Is A La Delicious

Spicy Chicken A La Diable Is A La Delicious

Le French Oven cookbook cover

Many thanks to a good friend who gifted me Hillary Davis’s “Le French Oven” cookbook for Christmas this year. The photos are gorgeous and I could not wait to dive in and try one of the recipes right away.

All I needed was a French oven (which I do) and a sous chef (that would be me). Most of the ingredients for this divine dish were already in my pantry and refrigerator.

Full disclosure: I know Hillary Davis’s version would be much better looking. But I intend to get better with practice!

Let me first say this chicken dish is divine. The flavors were so good I wanted to lick my plate. My dinner companions called it the most delicious chicken and biscuits they’d ever had.

Hillary Davis gets full credit for the recipe and the instructions. The photos are all mine!

Spicy Chicken A La Diable

Ingredients
1 whole chicken (organic preferred)
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-4 potatoes peeled and sliced into matchsticks (1/4 inch)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp stone ground mustard
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I only used 1/8 tsp.)
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (I wish I had made my own rather than using store bought)
2 Tbsp minced shallot
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Riesling)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used homemade)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 medium tomato diced (I used 2 Romas)

Directions

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Pour 2 Tbsp olive oil into French oven. Toss in potatoes with salt and pepper. Place cleaned chicken onto potatoes. Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake at 400 degrees 15 minutes per pound.

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While the chicken is cooking whisk together sone ground mustard, cayenne, honey, and thyme. (I misread the instructions and also whisked in the tarragon. It still turned out great.) Set mixture aside.

When chicken is ready, remove it from the oven and spread the mustard mixture all over it. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the mustard paste and pat them down.

Return the chicken to the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes longer. The thermometer should read 165 degrees F. My breadcrumbs were starting to get too brown, so I put the lid on for the last 5 minutes.

Move the chicken and potatoes to a large platter.

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Place the French oven on the stovetop. Add the shallot, vinegar, wine, half the tarragon and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the stock, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, Dijon mustard, 1/8 tsp. cayenne, and heavy cream. Simmer 10-15 minutes longer.

Just before serving stir in the remaining tarragon and the tomato (seeds and juices as well). Cook 2 minutes longer.

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To serve, ladle sauce on a plate and top with chicken and potatoes. I served it with roasted brussels sprouts and biscuits.

I hope to try many more of the great-tasting recipes in this new cookbook. I’ll keep you posted!

If You Amore S’mores – Try Peanut Butter S’more Bar Cookies

If You Amore S’mores – Try Peanut Butter S’more Bar Cookies

Sorry for the horrible twist on words in this title. I couldn’t help myself! But seriously, these cookies are outrageous. You may not want to tell your dentist or dietician you’ve eaten Peanut Butter S’more Bars because the sugar content is off the charts. Just sayin’!

I want to give credit to the bloggers who led me to these wonderful cookies.

I follow Six Sisters’ Stuff. Their roundup posts on baked goods always include some keepers. I’ve struck gold many times and last week was no exception. They linked to a recipe by Melanie who writes The Sweet Life. Her recipe is wonderful just as it and I encourage you to visit her site and try the original recipe. I made a few small tweaks to Melanie’s recipe and this was my end result.

Buon appetito!

Peanut Butter S’more Bars

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (about 1 1/2 packs)
2 large bars Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup bars
1 small jar marshmallow fluff

Directions

s'more cookie dough

Using paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and continue beating until incorporated. Add salt, baking powder, flour, and graham crackers crumbs. Mix until incorporated.

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Press 1/2 of dough into the bottom of a buttered 8×8 baking dish. Lay individual squares, evenly placed in four rows on top of dough. Press in slightly to keep them from shifting.

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Spread a layer of marshmallow fluff over the peanut butter squares.

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Scoop remaining dough onto the top of the fluff layer and carefully spread out to cover entire layer. Tip: An offset knife works great for spreading!

Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees or until the center of the top layer is cooked. Cool and cut into squares.

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I have no clue on the calorie content for these bad boys. Make sure you have a glass of milk handy! If these are too sweet for your liking, try my Chocolate Pillows which use a spritz dough and are not quite as sweet!

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

I’ve shared my method for making risotto in an earlier post. I love that risotto is a blank canvas for whatever flavors you want to add. All you need is time, patience, and arborio rice!

This time I decided to pair two of my favorite flavors, squash and pancetta. Butternut, acorn, delicata, or whatever variety you prefer will work just fine in risotto. I chose butternut this time.

Ingredients
1 butternut squash
Nutmeg
1 package diced pancetta
Fresh sage, chopped
Butter
Olive oil
Arborio rice
White wine
Chicken stock
Chicken boullion
Onion or shallot, finely chopped
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Directions

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Peel and cube squash into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a hint of fresh grated nutmeg on a baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven until golden, or to desired doneness. This takes about 20-30 minutes.

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While squash is roasting, render out the diced pancetta on the stovetop until crispy. I tossed in a small handful of fresh chopped sage too. Drain off fat and save for later.

Pour stock into pan and warm it up.

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In a separate pan sauté diced shallot or onion in some olive oil and butter. Add rice and toast slightly.

Slowly add stock one ladle at a time, stirring often and allowing each ladle to absorb before adding the next.

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After the rice starts to puff up and look creamy, taste a few kernels for doneness. It should have a slight bite in the center. If it is still too raw, keep adding stock until it reaches desired doneness. Do not overcook it, unless of course you prefer mushy risotto!

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Once the rice is done, fold in the roasted squash, pancetta, a splash of heavy cream (this is optional), and a tablespoon of butter (also optional). Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.

Grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve immediately.

Pasta with Cauliflower – Not Very Colorful – But Very Satisfying!

Pasta with Cauliflower – Not Very Colorful – But Very Satisfying!

My friends and family know how much I love to prepare pasta. I learned while in Italy that you can use nearly anything to flavor pasta so I frequently raid the fridge or pantry to come up with something new to me. My latest pasta adventure featured cauliflower.

Ingredients
1 head fresh cauliflower
1 pound pasta (any shape you like)
Olive oil
1 cube chicken boullion
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-2 cups breadcrumbs
Salt, pepper
Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Break up cauliflower into florets and blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain – but keep the cauliflower water and cook your pasta to al dente in it.

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In a large, flat pan over medium heat sauté garlic, chicken bouillon cube, and red pepper flakes in a splash of olive oil. Do not burn the garlic. Break the chicken cube up with your utensil.

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Toss drained cauliflower into pan with garlic and pepper mixture. You may need to add another small splash of olive oil.

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When the pasta is ready and the cauliflower is cooked, but still firm to the bite (5-6 minutes), toss the pasta in with the cauliflower. Add some of the pasta water to moisten. While pasta is finishing up, mix some olive oil into 1-2 cups of breadcrumbs and sauté until light golden in color.

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In a large serving bowl right before you are ready to serve, mix the toasted breadcrumbs in with the pasta/cauliflower combination. Top with parmesan cheese and season to taste.

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The cauliflower really works with the pasta. It is a little too white in color. I think next time I will try this with orange, green, or purple cauliflower to add some interest.

That’s all there is to it! Quick dinner, kind of healthy, and delicious!

If you have a favorite way to serve cauliflower, please let me know. This is the season it tastes best and I am always looking for new ways to serve it up.

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup Warms the Soul

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup Warms the Soul

The great thing about homemade soup is that it is such a forgiving meal. You can forage through your pantry, swag measurements, and make each pot your own creation. The downside is that I can never quite replicate the same pot twice!

That said, this pot of gnocchi and Italian sausage soup was delicious.

Gnocchi and Sausage Soup

Ingredients
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage (I used hot)
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
1-2 chopped fresh tomatoes (optional)
1/2-1 bag spinach
4-6 cups chicken stock (See recipe for homemade.)
1 package gnocchi
1/2-1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Brown sausage in the bottom of a stock pot and drain off grease. You could use turkey sausage or links. If you do, remove casings before browning.

hot sausage, onion, pepper

Add diced onion, chopped bell pepper, and crushed garlic. Sauté 3 minutes longer. I had a homegrown tomato in the windowsill and chopped it up and added to the pot. It was not an essential ingredient, but like I said before, it’s soup so be creative!

Tip: If using a milder sausage, add 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper for some heat. If using your own chicken stock, add 1-2 chicken bullion cubes to intensify the flavor.

Add chicken stock and bring to gentle boil. Add gnocchi and cook 5 minutes or until gnocchi are cooked through. Add spinach and heavy cream. Stir until warmed through and spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

creamy italian sausage, gnocchi, spinach soup

Italian sausage is a great soup ingredient since it comes with its own built-in seasoning. I’ve also used kale instead of spinach. Of course kale needs to cook a bit longer so I add it during the sauté step. You could leave out the heavy cream or substitute with coconut milk and a tablespoon of red thai curry for a completely different outcome.

bowl of creamy hot sausage and gnocci soup

Serve with a warm slice of home baked French bread. Here’s my recipe!

Let me know how you like it.

Buon appetito!

Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

I learned a few things about pasta when in Italy. First, the pasta is the star so don’t drown it. Second, never overcook it. Third, salt the water well. Fourth, finish it off in the pan with your toppings. Fifth, you can make a pasta dish out of just about anything. I even had penne tossed with fresh strawberries, olive oil, and parmesan cheese served to me once. For the record, it was delicious!

When faced with a crap load of fresh tomatoes, I’ve had to find multiple ways to use them up. One can only slice and eat so many tomato sandwiches! Since I love BLTs, I decided to try something similar as a pasta dish. Like I said, you can mix just about anything with pasta! Sorry there are no measurements. This is one of those thrown together deals!

Ingredients
Fresh tomatoes, sliced
Garlic cloves, sliced
Olive oil
Salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil, chiffonade cut
Pasta, I used cavatappi, but any shape would work. FYI: My favorite brand of pasta is DeCecco!
Bacon

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

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Layer sliced tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast to desired doneness. I roasted this batch for about an hour. The longer they roast, the sweeter they get.

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Cook bacon until crispy and drain well. Crumble.

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Prepare your pasta. Cut the fresh basil into thin slices (chiffonade).
Toss hot pasta, more olive oil, salt, pepper, roasted tomatoes, and bacon together. Serve warm with parmesan cheese. And of course, hot pasta is always delicious with warm home baked bread!

Buon appetito!