Braised Pork with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Rob doesnt like pork.  Well he likes ham, sausage and bacon, but not pork loin, or chops or a roast.  Then last week,  he randomly asks for pork chops.  Which he has not done in like 2 years.  Literally.  So when he asked I got some pork chops at the next grocery visit.  

I had seen a couple of recipes that I wanted to combine and make into something new.  One was on some show on Food Network.  I cannot for the life of me remember which show cause I was one day post op from my surgery and I was pretty much feeling no pain on Vicoden.  The other was an article about braising meat in tomato sauce and how the acid in the tomato was great for tough meat.   Then Pioneer Woman posted her braised short ribs recipe and it was incredibly similar.  That kind of was three strikes you were out and I knew what I wanted to do!  So this is an combination of all those elements.

I have to say one thing.  I am a strong lover of low and slow but there is a fine line for me.  I am not one who can handle crock pot meat or things that have been cooked for 15 hours cause it tends to get too overcooked.  That being said I have had bbq that was cooked forever but wasnt icky but not too often.  So this recipe was a test to see what was the best time and the best temp so that the meat was tender but not too over cooked for me. 

I am happy to say that I did a good job, Rob loved it and the kids, well they are not a good indicator, I have seen Nik eat a hotdog off the ground outside.  And not when he was a kid either, this was last summer.    Even I ate a whole pork chop!  I usually dont get through a whole plate of food.  LOL

Ingredients
Total prep and cook time: 4 hours
3 pounds pork country short ribs thicker cut
1 large onion
4-5 cloves garlic
14 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp chili powder
S & P

Cast of Characters (notice the onion and garlic are missing.. I always forget something.

Start off my adding some oil to a large dutch oven or in my case my Pampered Chef wok.  Preheat the oven to 275.

Trim all the fat you can off the pork ribs.  Rob hates fatty meat.  I have seen him throw away half of what I give him because it has a molecule of fat on it.  So I always look for the leanest of any meat possible and cut off more if I can.

Rob loves to take pics of me while I am cooking and I usually delete them but this one isnt too bad, its only bad, not too bad.  HAHA  I am so glad I am working on my double chins!  And please ignore the attire and hair.  I am only 4 days out from surgery at this point and I am cold, tired and still on pain killers.. I should be happy I didnt burn the house down. 

Back to the recipe.  I mean it is why I am here, right?   Salt and pepper your ribs.

Layer your ribs in a blistering hot pan so they are not crowded and brown them to a nice golden brown.  This may take only doing half at a time.

Turn on all sides to get browned evenly.

While they are browning, chop up your onions and garlic.

Once the ribs are done set aside on a plate, turn your pan down to medium and add the onions.

Once the onions are translucent add your garlic.  If you add the garlic too soon it can burn.  I have found that I personally like the taste of the garlic better when it has been almost steamed by the fluid released from the other veggies. 

Once the garlic has cooked for a minute or two add the diced tomatoes.

Then your spices and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.


Bury your ribs into the sauce.

Then any juices lost on the plate.

Throw on the cover and get it into the oven.  For 3 1/2 hours.  Do NOT peek.   Do not try and take a test bite while it is in the bubbling sauce and burn your tongue during the cooking process.  Just dont do it.  Trust me.   When it is done take it out and behold your big pot of yumminess.

There will be some wells of fat, skim them off.  Or you can do what Ree of Pioneer Woman does and make it the night before and chill it to get the fat chunks out but for me, I prefer it the night it is cooked, so I just skimmed.  And then plated it up with some pasta and veggies.

I love meals like this.  They are warm and filling and the house smells fantastic.  This whole meal with egg noodles and veggies cost about $15 to make and it served me three meals, Rob one and the boys the equivalent of two each cause they eat almost two full servings that night.  I am sure this would work well with other forms of pork and certainly beef as well.  Chicken and slow cooking are not something that I really enjoy since I use primarily breasts.    Maybe I should try it with thighs.. wait Rob doesnt like dark meat.  Oh well.

Happy Cooking!!

Spicy Balsamic and Feta Pasta Salad

So it is in the dead of winter here in NH.  Okay maybe not dead but it is cold and snowy and dreary out.  And I want pasta salad.  I want something that reminds me of summer and pasta salad does that.  Well so does potato salad but especially pasta salad.  I love them anyway I can have them, creamy mayo based, oil dressing based, I have even had a weird cheesey based one.  That one was weird and I am not too upset that I never learned the recipe.  LOL   But there is something to be said about the mix of veggies and pasta and something to bring it all together.  And I am totally on Robs side that there is just something fun about cold pasta.  Yum

So two days after my surgery Rob and I were sitting and chattin about pasta and about a conversation that had been on a cooking board I am part of.  We had talked about where people got their recipes from and if people actually just make things up anymore?  So I said to Rob, well I do.  I said (with a little Vicoden induced bravado) that I could make up a recipe for something right then.  And this was born.  I was thinking of the grocery list and I needed feta, we had been out for 3 whole days!  And I needed salad fixings like cucumber and scallions and ohhhhh I want some of my spicy garlic.  Ohhh goodness a caprese salad sounds delightful.. well actually what sounds yummy is the balsamic reduction…….  so this was born.  It was born from a grocery list, balsamic reduction and Vicoden. 

I had a wait a few days to make it since we didnt get to the store that day.  And dont let the Vicoden fool you!  This is good!!  Since WW kind of limits my pasta intake I was not able to partake as much as I would like but Aaron ate almost the entire bowl by himself.  He loved it.  Rob liked the flavor but I had cooked the pasta a bit much.  Nik is weird, he doesnt like pasta salad, with the exception of my italian dressing one.

Ingredients
yield is about 12  3/4 cup servings.   WW points plus is 5 per serving
1 lb whole wheat rotini
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar boiled down to 1/2 cup
2 tsp sugar or 2 packets splenda
1/2 an english cuke  (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup red onion
4-5 scallions
3/4 cup quartered grape tomatoes
Spicy garlic from the olive bar to taste, I used 6 cloves
2 tbsp spicy oil (this was good for us, if you want just a subtle taste go with 1)
S & P
1/2 tsp ground mustard
3/4 cup crumbled feta

Cast of characters


Start by getting your balsamic vinegar in a medium sauce pan and add the sugar/splenda.  Reduce until it is about 1/2 cup, no need to be exact just get close so you can get the intensity of the reduction.  This may take about 1/2 hour and it will need to cool so unless you do a cold water submersion once complete you will need to start this before hand.  Or you can be a dork like me and have some on hand.  I use it for dressing on salads.   Next get your pasta cooking.  Salted water is important! 

While this is going, peel and seed your cuke and dice into pieces.

Dice the scallions.

And the onion

Quarter and seed the tomatoes.  Rob didnt like tomatoes until last year.  He still doesnt like the “slimy bits” in the middle so I get those out of there too. 

Mince up your garlic, or slice it if you would like it a bit chunkier.

Throw all the veg into a bowl and set aside.

Next take the cooled down balsamic reduction and add the spicy oil and some S & P to taste.  Add the ground mustard and whipped them together until the oil and vinegar were combined.

Add the feta to the cooled off pasta.
And then the veggies.

And then the balsamic vinegrette!

And mix thoroughly.   Chill completely.  Serve in a chilled dish.

So very good. Balsamic reduction is slightly tart but with a sweet finish at the end.  The spicy from the oil is subtle and adds a depth.  The veggies are not swimming in dressing so they stay crisp.  The feta is a creamy contrast and I LOVE feta with balsamic anyway so this just works for me.    I hope it does for you too.  Comment if you have any ideas for serving options.

Happy Cooking!!

Chocolate Chunk Chile Mango Cookies

Big Name for a Huge Flavor.  I was sitting innocently at lunch last week and was checking my email and Rob sent me a Facebook link to a Trader Joes site where they use TJ items and make yummy things like this.  I started planning my TJ trip at lunch that day.  After class that night I went and got the chocolate and the mango.  And it sat on the counter until last night.. 5 long nights it sat and stared at me…. begging me to bake them. 

I of course made the mistake of adding to my recipe builder on Weight Watchers.  Not good.  Not good at all.  If they worked out according to the recipe and the amount you were supposed to get.. it would be 4 points per cookie!!  4!! for each cookie.  Undaunted, I knew they needed to be made.  It was something that I had to do.  I mean.. fruit, chocolate, and chili.. what more could be said. 

So last night I got the help of my twin monkeys…  you remember these two right?

and we went to work making these cookies as is.   Somethings I will tweak so I can have them more often but I am trying to not do that with sweet things.  I need to cut back on my sweet tooth.  It is why I am on WW and why it is hard for me to lose it.  So I will make these as a treat, and only infrequently!  The rest of these will go to work tomorrow.. well the few that are remaining.  I have had half my daily points today in just cookies.   Not good!!

In my defense, we had to rush Rob to the ER last while I was making said cookies.  He had a fever and with cancer, that is a bad thing, so his oncologist said get him in to the ER.  The kids had to bake the last two pans..  and my nerves have been shot ever since waiting for the labs to come back.   

Ingredients
6 oz of dark chocolate  (on the TJ bar shown I used 15 squares)
1 bag of chile mangos (if you don’t like spicy you could use 8 oz of dried mango)
1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp hot water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Cast of characters

Next step is to set the boys/men up to do some heavy chopping.  Nik to dice up the mango and Aaron to chunk up the chocolate.  

At first I was annoyed that the chocolate was splintering and not chunking nicely but once the cookie cooked it was nice to have a little nugget or sliver here and there throughout the cookie. 

While those are being chopped and diced, cream the butter and sugars.

This is what your chocolate and mango will look like..   a bowl of spicy heaven..

Add the salt, vanilla and eggs and mix to incorporate.

Add the baking soda to the hot water and then add to the mixer along with the flour.

Mix 5-6 turns or until about 1/2 way mixed, scrap down your side and then add the mango and chocolate.

Mix until incorporated. 

Drop by spoonful onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or use your well-loved Pampered Chef stoneware.. lol  As you can see ours are well used.  I love how I can cook anything on them and the flavors dont mix.

And the finished product.. ready for a nice study break…..

I have to say, I really liked these cookies.  The mango has a sweetness that works so well with chocolate and the spiciness is just an added bonus.  I can say I would love these without the spicy mango (meaning just dried mango) and other than being a bit crisper than I normally like, these are so rich and flavorful I will be adding these to The Box.   I think I might work to make them a bit less crunchy though. These would be amazing with a bit more chewiness to them.   

Oh and in the end it made 80 cookies, so I corrected it in my WW recipe thing and for 2 cookies it is 5 points.. that was a bit better!!  Enjoy!

Happy Baking!!

Three Meat Jambalaya

This is totally a spicy food house.  I mean we all like it.  The kids drink hot sauce practically.  Okay well not drink it but it is eaten at almost every dinner.  They even put it on their eggs.  Rob and I like it as well but we are not as freaky as they are.  I like some flavor behind the heat.  The boys just like to brag how hot they can handle.  Typical teenage testosterone. 

My favorite way to have some heat is as part of a wonderfully flavorful dish.  I love my homemade salsa and hot pepper jams but if given the choice would much rather have a deeply flavorful stew-like concoction of this jambalaya.  I have a few friends with yummy recipes but I found this one a few years ago and had forgotten about it tucked away in “The Box”.  The Box is something I have talked about before and if I wasnt so comfortable sitting here leaned back in my chair I would go take a picture of said box.  For those of you new to my blog, The Box is where all my tried and true recipes go.  This is where I hold the recipes I want to pass down.  This Jambalaya is in The Box.  But it was buried, and now it is found. 

It started out as so many recipes do.. something else completely, then I tweaked the hell out of it.  The original  had only 1/2 tsp of cayenne!  Are you kidding me?  This makes 10 cups.  That ratio was way wrong.   The original was only one meat and had only onions.  It was bland and pretty much tomatoes.  This is better.

Ingredients
yield: 7 – 1 1/2 cup servings  (WW 7 points)  adapted: from AllRecipes

1 onion
1 red or green pepper
5-6 cloves garlic
1 lb of turkey kielbasa
1 1/2 lb of boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 pound of shrimp
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper (start with 1 tbsp and work up is my suggestion, we like this level)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp basil
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
14 oz (or 1/2 of a 28 oz can like I had) of diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup water
1 cup uncooked orzo

Cast of Characters

Add a spray oil to a pan and chop up your onion.

Chop up your garlic and your red pepper.  Add the red pepper and onion to the pan.

Saute the onion and pepper and when starting to release their fluid add the garlic.  If you add the garlic too soon it will brown too much and taste burnt.  Yuck.

Cut the kielbasa up to the size you want,  I like it small so I quarter each round. 

Toss into the veggies.  The great thing about turkey kielbasa is that it adds VERY little fat so you dont have to strain it.

Cube up your chicken and toss that in.

Add the sugar.

Then the rest of the spices.

Then when the chicken has been cooking for about a minute, pour in the crushed and diced tomatoes and the water.  The chicken will finish cooking in the hot sauce.

Stir to combine and increase heat to meduim high.  Once hot, add the orzo.

Peel and cut the shrimp in half.  I like having more bites of shrimp than seeing them whole.   Set aside until the orzo is cooked.

Keep stirring or else you will end up with a gooey mess on the bottom.

Once the orzo is done, about 10 -15 minutes, add the shrimp.  Cook just until the shrimp are done, 1-2 minutes.

Serve in a nice bowl with a side of bread or just like I have it here.. all by itself. 

Pure heaven in a cup.  I was so happy tonight.  HAHA  Nik and Aaron loved it, gobbled it right up.  Just the right amount of spice so they didnt add any hot sauce.  Granted I might have been upset if they had.   Rob is still chemo-ed out, last one was this week, maybe he will get his tastebuds and belly back soon!  I hope so, he hasnt had this yet.  Remember, I told you The Box had hidden it. 

Happy Cooking!!

Summer Curry Chicken w Basmati

Trader Joes is one of my favorite stores.  I am not sure if they have one around where you live and if they dont I am sure you have something similar, but if not I am truly sorry.  It is what my dad would call a hippy store.  My dad is a full blown redneck and to him any place that specializes in all natural or organic or free range, etc is a hippy store.  Personally I love hippy stores.  The produce is better and usually local, the herbs are fresher and they have so many fun and interesting things to try. 

This week at work a friend of mine Lilly had a dish that had been made by another coworker Pauline and I wanted to try it.  So I didnt get to the asian market but thought.. ohhh Trader Joes will have what I need.  Well not exactly so I thought I would make my own recipe. 

The main ingredient besides the chicken is a Summer Curry Sauce from Trader Joes.  If you dont have one around the sauce is made from tomato, garlic, red curry and some spices.   It was a puree and was smooth so I think that if you find something similar it would definitely work!

I liked it, it didnt have the intense curry I was looking for but this was still very good and I will make it again, just need to get some curry paste.  Rob and the kids werent as impressed as I was but liked it enough that with a tweak of extra curry it will be perfect.  I wanted to post this since way since not everyone likes curry as much as I do.  HAHA 

Ingredients 
Yield 8 servings   adapted from Pauline
2 lbs of chicken breast, boneless
1 onion (which was an impromptu addition so it isnt in the Cast picture)
1 jar of TJs Summer Curry Sauce (or similar type sauce)
1 1/2 cup of light coconut milk
2-3 cups of snow peas
salt and pepper
Prepared Basmati Rice

Cast of Characters

Cut up your chicken into cubes and season it with the S&P

Get your rice going while you are prepping the meat and veggies.

While the rice is cooking have the children help you with prepping.  They kind of tag teamed while doing other things so here they are…   This is Aaron!

Niks hands…
Really Mom I dont need my pic in your blog.. but I will smile just in case you use it. 

Dice up your onion.

Saute in your pan lightly sprayed with oil.

Once the onion is done to your liking (we like them a bit crispy still so we barely cook them since they will cook more with the chicken), add the chicken.

Cook until chicken is about 3/4 done****

Add the snow peas and cook for 1 minute.

Add Summer Curry Sauce and stir to  mix together.

Once incorporated, add in the coconut milk.
Stir together and serve over rice. 

****  A side note about cooking chicken.  I have found that I cannot eat dry meat.  If it is dry I simply cant eat it.  I had a gastric bypass a few years ago and it makes me sick, not sure why but it gets stuck and I am done eating.  So I am pretty good with making sure meat is juicy, if I want to eat it that is.  HAHA  So I have found that if I am making chicken with a sauce I only cook it about 3/4 of the way through and it finishes cooking when the sauce is cooking/heating up. 

I was actually pretty surprised by Robs reaction to this.  He said he didnt like curry and he doesnt like coconut but he was having a crappy day so didnt care, if he didnt like it he would have a PBJ sandwich.  He liked it.  Isnt it wonderful when someones palate opens up!

Happy Cooking!!

Redneck Caviar

This was recently a post on the Nest’s Whats Cooking site.  I was surprised to say the least.  I had gotten my black bean and corn salad recipe years ago from Allrecipes and had tweaked it alot, but had never seen it anywhere else.  Now here were recipes that gave me so many ideas for many more tweakings.  Haha  I think most other recipes added other types of beans and veggies to the recipe so that isnt something I can thank one specific person for.  But I would like to thank a couple of the ladies of WC for their recipes that helped me tweak to this final product.. first of all Melissa Bakes for her addition of tomato which was unique to the others I looked at.  And secondly Vintage Victuals for her addition of hot sauce.  YUM.  The rest is from an original recipe I found on Allrecipes  8 years ago and I dont think I even bookmarked it since it needed alot of tweaking. 

Now let me say, this is a total bean and veggie fest.  It is not terrible points wise on Weight Watchers either.  A 3/4 cup serving as a side dish is 3 points and it is high in protein!   It is rich and flavorful and goes well with chicken.  I have been using the last week in place of dressing and only using a 1/4 cup which has the same points as dressing but adds protein and flavor. 

Rob and the kids dont like beans.  Well Nik did until Rob moved in and now he doesnt like beans.  KIDS!!  LOL  Rob doesnt like mushy texture and I have yet to find a bean he will try.   So i eat alot of this when I make it.   It is so good on crackers or tortilla chips.  I served some last Sunday to Robs gaming buddies and they loved it.

Ingredients
yield about 9 cups  adapted from: see above

1 can black eyed peas
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can corn
1 Roma Tomato, seeded and diced
1 medium onion (I use red or vidalia)
1 green pepper (if I had red pepper I would have used that too in addition)
Dressing
1 large fresh jalapeno
4-5 cloves fresh garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne or chili pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dry basil
2 packets splenda (or you could use 2 tsp sugar)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 lemon (or you can use the whole one but this one was uber juicy!)
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 shakes of hot sauce
1 tbsp water

The Cast of Characters

Drain the corn and beans.  Dont rinse but do put the beans in first and then dump the corn on top!  The water in the corn will rinse it a bit.  I might try two cans of corn next time.. but I am a farmers daughter and used to sell corn.. so I do love me some corn.

Finely mince the jalapeno and the fresh garlic.  And YES you do need to use fresh and not that ready chopped stuff.  You are looking for flavor here not ease!

Set aside in a bowl that is atleast 3-4 cup capacity.

 Dice up your peppers and onions.

Toss in a bowl with the beans and corn.

Seed the tomato.  I like tomato but I dont care for the sloppy middle and the seeds.  This eliminates that mess. 

Then dice them up!

Now make the dressing.  Add the balsamic, oil, hot sauce and the water.

Squeeze your lemon into the bowl.  If you have a juicer thingie use it but I dont so my hand is a juicer!

Add seasonings and such.  Taste to make sure it has enough salt and sweetness.  It is supposed to be a bit tangy but still have a touch of the sweetness.

Pour over the beans and veggies.  And mix….

Serve as a side dish,  or with tortilla chips, or any way.   Its yummy!

Happy Cooking!

Steak Chili

My family loves chili.  Spicy and smoky and rich tomatoey chili.  Rob and the kids dont like beans but I do so I always scoop out some and add some beans to mine.  I know that alot of chilis are made with ground beef, or chicken or whatever but my favorite way and my familys favorite is with steak.  One of the things that is great about this recipe is that you can take a relatively tough and inexpensive cut of beef and make it tender and good.  

Picking the meat is important.  Some people think you need to get a tender piece of meat to do something like this but you dont.   The secret is braising.  Braising is the method of browning the meat and then using moist heat to break down the tough collagen and fibers in the meat.  If done right you can take that tough piece of meat and make it into something soft and fork tender!  I will use what is on sale; stew beef, chuck steak, 7 bone steak, hell even a roast will work.  You do need to have some marbling in the meat.  This will help with your tenderness factor and give a nice richness without adding a ton of fat.  That is another advantage of using steak and not hamburger, there is less fat so it is better for you! 

Ingredients 
3 lbs of steak or a roast, cut into cubes cut slightly larger than bite size
3 cans of tomatoes with diced jalapenos
1 large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic chopped
2 jalapenos
1 small can tomato paste
3-4 tbsp chili powder (to taste.. this is medium for us)
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/3 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can of kidney or black beans drained (optional)

First cut up your beef.
Then ask your son to prepare the jalapeno, onion and garlic…… this is the mess he makes.
After said child cleans up his mess and brings the dregs out to the composter, you grind up the veggies with a mini processor.

and brown the meat in a large dutch oven. 
Add the veggies.
And saute for 2-3 minutes and then cover with 3-4 cups of water (or stock if you have it but it isnt necessary). 
This part is not exact.  It depends on the cut of meat.  Some need more fluid than others to get tender.  Bring to a rapid boil and let it go until the water is almost gone. Test a piece of meat.. is it as tender as you want?  If not add some more fluid and let it go again. I usually only add a cup of water at a time at this stage.

Add your  spices.  

And your tomatoes and paste.  If you are adding the beans you can do it now as well.

Simmer until the flavors combine and it is to the desired thickness.  This is when I scoop some out into a small sauce pan and add some beans for my own personal chili! 

Millie wants her own personal chili too……. 

We were so excited to eat it, I forgot to take a picture of it all prettied up.  This is my cup with some cheese on it.. lol 
It is fun to personalize, you can add a dollop of sour cream, some minced onion or just eat it plain.. whatever works for you.   From start to finish this recipe takes about 1 hour to make depending on the cut of meat.  So good and so filling! 

Happy Braising!

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