Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pork Piccata

This recipe is originally Chicken Piccata and I’ve made it before and the whole family loved it, but the other day I pulled out a pork tenderloin from the freezer with no plan for it.

When I came home from work with 2 hungry kids in tow, I had to come up with a plan fast, and although there are so many ways to make / work with a pork tenderloin, nothing was speaking to me and I didn’t have time for it to marinate (my favourite way to eat it, marinated and BBQed).

So I modified this recipe to be a pork dish because pork is such mild flavour it worked very well.  The kids thought it was chicken (and ate it well) and Hubby and I both went back for seconds.

Pork Piccata

1 pork tenderloin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup capers, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

To prepare the pork tenderloin, first cut remove silver skin, then cut into thirds, take each third and butterfly.  Using a meat mallet to pound out each piece to an even thickness (I got mine to about 1.5 cm thick).

Sprinkle both sides of each piece with salt and pepper, then dredge both sides in the flour.

Over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with olive oil; once hot cook the pork pieces on both sides until just brown (about 3 minutes / side).  Make sure not to over crowd your pan, you might need to do 2 batches.  Remove pork from pan and set aside.

Add chicken broth, lemon juice and capers, bring to a boil and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the pork to the pan, turning over to coat in the sauce and simmer until cooked through (5-7 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork).  Using tongs take the pork out of the pan and place on serving platter.  Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, then remove from heat and pour sauce over the pork.  Garnish with parsley and serve alongside your choice of starch (I did rice).

Yield: 4 servings.
Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe in Giada’s Family Dinners cookbook.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Soft Ginger Cookies - #52cookies

I have some very fond memories of soft ginger cookies; to me they are a cold winter, comfort food cookie.  Now I am sure I could have called my Mom and had her dig through her recipes to maybe find the one from my childhood, but instead I scoured the internet for one that sounded good and I thought would bring back some memories.

Now the interesting thing about this cookie is that it was not good warm.  It was too soft and gooey and it actually stuck in your teeth, but cold, well that is a different story – so different in fact that I had Hubby try one again the next day and allowed him to revise his earlier opinion of the cookie.

This cookie pairs very well with a cup of tea or coffee – it’s not really a dunkable cookie because it is so soft, but it is yummy and has just the right flavour to pair with coffee or tea.

At home panel:

Little Girl:  Gingery; so sprinkly; gummy in my teeth (eating it warm); sugary.
6 out of 5 stars (We might need to work on that a little still.)

Little Boy: yummy; sprinkly; brown.
2 out of 5 stars (Not sure he understands this either since he kept asking for more.)

Hubby: (Trying it warm) Too gummy, sticks in your teeth; I don’t really like them but I will eat them because they are sweet and cookies
1 out of 5 stars

Hubby: (Trying it the next day cold) Much better today, too crunchy with all the big sugar crystals, not bad.
3 out of 5 stars

At work panel:

Brent: Damn good!!! Chewy, I like chewy.  Good flavour.  This would go even better with a coffee, can I have another one, I need to go and get a coffee now.
4.7 out of 5

Sandee: Ohhh, I like the softness; too much sugar on top, the one I tried rolled in regular sugar I liked better.  Perfect consistency, perfect ginger balance.
4.5 out of 5 stars

Barb: Mmmmm, I would make these and feed them to my family, nope, I would eat them all myself!  I like the sugar is crunchy and the cookie is soft.
4 out of 5 stars

Sarah: Too much molasses; not enough salt; good softness.
3 out of 5 stars
Bryce: Too much sugar, good consistency, nice and soft, good amount of ginger.
4 out of 5 stars

Andy: Really good; moist & sugary.  My favourite so far.
4.5 out of 5

Amber: Perfect, buttery.  I like that they are not over molassesy or gingery.  I like the sugar texture. 
5 out of 5

Overall rating: 4.0 out of 5

 Soft Ginger Cookies
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup molasses
Sugar for rolling*

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy.  Add in the egg, water and molasses, scrape down the sides and beat until well combined.  Then slowly add the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
Form walnut sized cookies and roll them in sugar.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Removed from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet before removing to a wire rack to fully cool.

*I used a coarse decorator’s sugar for rolling and although a few people liked the crunch it provided (and it is much prettier) the overall feeling was the cookies were better rolled in regular white sugar.

Yield: 2 ½ dozen cookies.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Spicy Sausage Pasta

If I am lucky I can walk through the front door with the kids just before 5 pm and I know for a lot of working parents that is living in a dream world but for me it is still on the late side.

You see once we walk in the door, I have to deal with the dog, change out of my work clothes, get a snack for the kids, make dinner and be sitting down to eat all within 45-60 minutes.

So you can imagine that one dish meals on a week night are one of my best friends.

This dish did not disappoint.  I used a spicy petite cut tomatoes as I indicated so it had some kick, but you could use a non-spicy version if you are not a fan of spice.
Anyway, it was good, easy and fast.

Spicy Sausage Pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. sausage, raw & sliced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (540 ml) petite cut tomatoes*
8 oz. (2 ½ cups) raw fusilli pasta
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 green onions, thinly sliced

In a large skillet or pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the sausage and onion and cook until lightly browned 3-4 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Add in the chicken broth, canned tomatoes, pasta, cream, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally until pasta is done.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese.
Serve with remaining cheese and sliced green onions.
*I used Spicy Red Pepper – but you could use any type you like.

Source: Modified from Kevin & Amanda.

Monday, January 21, 2013

52 Cookies - Chunky Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

This cookie comes to us from the Nestle Toll House Best-Ever Cookies cookbook.
I have owned this cookbook for quite a while and I make their chocolate chip cookie recipe as my standard but I haven’t tried a lot of other recipes yet.
The overall rating on this cookie is more positive than negative but you will notice one major trend, everyone wanted more peanut butter in this cookie.
I did make a few minor changes:
The original recipe called for 2 cups of chocolate chips – I dropped it down to 1 ½ cups because there was a good chocolate chip ratio at 1 ½ cups – add more if you want, but I don’t think you need the full 2 cups.
The original recipe also said to bake them for 7-10 minutes – mine were nowhere near ready at 7 minutes and although I probably could’ve taken them out at 10 minutes, I wanted them to have a bit of colour – but I also got asked if they were a bit over cooked by one person.

At Home Panel:
Little Girl: Yummy; It tastes like peanut butter inside and chocolate chips!  I like the whole flavour; it was delicious!
100 out of 5 stars
Little Boy: I like chocolate chip and peanut butter.
A billion out of 5 stars
Hubby: A little heavy on the chocolate chips, there is a small hint of peanut butter but the chocolate outweighs it.  Needs more peanuts and peanut butter.
4 out of 5 stars
Me: A good cookie but the peanut butter is lost.  I like the added crunch of the chopped peanuts but it felt more like a chocolate chip cookie instead of a peanut butter cookie.
3.5 out of 5 stars
At Work Panel:
Andy: Really good.  Really sweet and yet moist – I hate dry cookies.
4 out of 5 stars
Brent: Needs more peanut butter – about 30% more.  A little too dry, good chocolate chip balance.  It’s a confused cookie – it’s not chocolate chip, and it’s not peanut butter – but it is trying to be both.  Tasty, just needs more peanut butter.
3 out of 5 stars
Sandee: Good but too crisp.  I like softer cookies.  Needs more peanut butter; I like the lots of chocolate chips.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Sarah: These cookies are a solid 5 out of 5.  Nice balance of sweet and salty… and I was glad they were moderately soft.  Well done!
5 out of 5 stars
Bryce: It has more of a peanut butter after taste than a real peanut butter taste.  A little too sweet for me.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Shani: Needs more peanut butter, I like the crunch, but it is unratable because it is lacking one major ingredient – peanut butter.
Overall rating: 3.8
Even though I explained to the kids how a 5 star rating goes, they did not quite get it and I laugh everything I think about their answers.
We had cookies for dessert the following day and they wanted me to write down their thoughts again about the cookie, this is going to be a fun year and I feel sorry for anyone that gives them a cookie after we have done a few more months of this.
Chunky Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
Source: Nestle Toll House Best-Ever Cookies book

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups chocolate chips
½ cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts

Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Using a stand mixer, cream the butter, white sugar, brown sugar and peanut butter until soft and fluffy.
Scrape down the sides and then add in the egg and vanilla. Once incorporated, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until combined.
Mix in the chocolate chips and peanuts with a wooden spoon.

 Drop onto parchment lined baking sheets in rounded tablespoons (I used a 2 tablespoon scoop). Flatten slightly with a fork and bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are set but centres are still soft.
Cool on baking sheet for 4 minutes before removing to cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Mom Card Revoke

Let me start with a little story.

Last spring I signed Little Girl up for soccer.  She is 5 so she plays on the U5 team.
On the first day of soccer it is cold, rainy, and yucky; she is not 100% she wants to be there anymore –but we persevere. 

We check in and are told to go to a specific spot – there are 4 fields where 8 different teams are going to be playing / practicing – some of the teams are U5 and some are U6.
So I work my Mom magic (complete with placebo magic soccer pills that help calm her nerves) and we have our first practice / game.

But at the end of the game we find out we are on the wrong team – she has been playing on one of the U6 teams!  Well damn it! That would explain why so many of the other kids were so much better than her.

So off we go to join our team and the rest of the season is hunky dory. 
Blue Jersey = Wrong Team
Red Jersey = Right Team
Let’s fast forward to last night.

Last night was Little Girl’s first skating lesson and it also happened to be preschool registration night for Little Boy.

So again I work my Mom Magic and Hubby goes to stand in line for preschool registration, I wrangle the kids with a multitude of food / snacks and Little Boy’s LeapPad to keep him happy (didn’t quite work – I ran out of food).

But anyway, we get to the arena yesterday straight from day home and Little Girl’s name is not on the list.

So I pull up my handy receipt on my email – and voila – she is registered in the Wednesday class!

So we missed the first class already.

Well a huge thank you to the City’s recreation department because they let her join a class last night and next week we will go on the CORRECT night for skating lessons.

But really, I am surprised my Sports Mom Card doesn’t get revoked.
We are taking both kids for skiing lessons tomorrow morning – but Hubby booked them so we should be okay?!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cookies, Cookies and More Cookies

A long time ago I stumbled onto a blog a woman was writing where she was baking her way through a cookie cook book.

And then there was Julie Powell who cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and not only blogged about it, but got a book and movie deal out of it too.

Now I am not looking to become famous, write a book or even have a movie made about me (however I would like to say that if this does happen, I want Jennifer Garner to play me), but I just love the concept of cooking through a cookbook or baking with a specific reason / target in mind.

So after years and years of thinking about it, I am taking the plunge.
I am not going to bake through a cookbook, but I am going to take on a 52 Cookie Challenge.

My goal is to bake 52 different types of cookies and blog about it over the course of a year, and since it is already the middle of January I have some catching up to do.

But here is what I am doing:
I am not getting my recipes from one specific cookbook.
I will be making cookie recipes that somewhat appeal to me and also recipes that I don’t normally make.
I will be getting a panel to judge each cookie each week, give me their thought and a rating out of 5.
I will be blogging this whole process and sharing the recipes with you all.

I will be making the cookies on Sunday, having my home panel give me their thoughts and then bringing cookies into work on Monday and Monday morning my work panel will give me their thoughts.

I haven’t quite worked out what day I will get each post up but I do know I will be working one week ahead – this will give me time to put together the post not have to kill myself on Monday nights.

But the first post will be up Monday January 21st, but here is a sneak peek for you...