Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TFF - Perfect Roast Chicken

I'm a big, fat, chicken. No, really. When it comes to chicken, especially chicken on the bone, I am always afraid. Give me pork, beef, or even seafood, and I'm not bothered by the fact that I might under-cook it. But a whole chicken? I rarely cook it (and never for guests!) because I find it so unpredictable whether or not I will get it cooked through in time for the meal. And even then, I am endlessly poking and prodding it to check for doneness.

Then, in a moment of inspiration, I asked for a remote probe thermometer for Christmas a year or so ago. That gadget is a godsend! You just set the temperature you want your dish to reach, and BEEP BEEP BEEP, the buzzer goes off when it reaches that temperature so that you know to take it out of the oven. How fabulous is that? Unfortunately my new friend seems to have met an untimely demise recently, as it won't allow me to use that function any more, but like a true friend, it gave me the confidence I needed to start trying my hand at roasting once more.

I have one word for this chicken. PHENOMENAL. As is typical for me, I made some changes to Tyler's recipe, but out of necessity. See, the mushrooms just aren't an option for me. Its a 25 minute drive to the closest hospital (and its not a hospital I would trust, to begin with!) so I didn't think it was worth testing the potency of my fungus allergy. I considered throwing in the beautiful little baby red potatoes I have in my pantry, but I am saving those for a meal later this week. So for me, this is pure unadulterated chicken. Also, I was out of rosemary, very limited on parsley, and the herb 'thyme' does not reside in my house, so I made a bundle of fresh oregano and sage from my garden instead, and since I had a few containers of homemade compound butter in my freezer, I used that to smear all over the chicken.

The lemon and garlic, combined with all the herbs made the drippings from this chicken a bit like ambrosia. My house just smelled like I'd been cooking all day and I was drawn to the kitchen with my nose in the air....from OUTside the house! Yes, it smelled so good in my first floor kitchen, that we caught the aroma wafting out to us on the deck outside my second story bedroom....

For once, I followed the time in Tyler's instructions exactly, and when I stuck the thermometer in the bird, the temperature was exactly 180! The meat was moist, tender, and flavorful. Simply infused with herbs. I highly recommend trying this recipe, and if anyone knows of a good substitute for mushrooms, please let me know! And don't forget to check out the roundup over at Tyler Florence Fridays this Friday! I'll be out on the east coast by then, but I'll be checking it out, too!
Perfect Roast Chicken
Serves 4
1 4-5 pound whole free-range chicken
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved
1 garlic bulb, halved through the equator
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh sage
1/4 bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley (about 4 sprigs)
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups button mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 400.
Rinse your chicken inside and out and pat dry. Season inside the cavity with salt and pepper and stuff with the lemon, garlic, and rosemary, thyme, and sage. In a food processor, process the parsley and the butter until well combined and season with salt and pepper.Place the chicken breast side up in a roasting pan, tie the legs together, and rub the herb butter over the chicken.Place the mushrooms in the bottom of the pan. Roast the chicken and mushrooms for about 1 hour 45 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 180 degrees. Baste with the drippings and rotate the pan every 30 minute so that the chicken browns evenly. Remove the chicken from the oven, tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen...may I present.....

Linnea Rose
That's right! My gem of a sister finally gave birth to my completely perfect niece last night around 11:00. Linnea gave her mommy a rough time of it, with a labor clocking in at 41 hours (topping my own by 5 hours!), and weighing in herself at 7 pounds, 9 1/2 ounces, measuring 20 3/4 inches in length, with a sweet, fuzzy blonde-but-bald head and a great set of lungs!

Big cousin, Ty, and I will be hopping a plane to the coast Friday morning to meet the newest member of our family, so if you don't hear from me for a few days, you can just assume I am completely lost in the precious little girl's grasp and will not surface for air until absolutely necessary.

Thank you, sister of mine, for blessing us with this beautiful gift and for making me an aunt!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

TFF - Baked Lime Pudding Cake...with a twist

It is HOT. Damned hot. Flipping through Tyler's Stirring the Pot, I see this recipe described as "This dessert is just light enough not to slow you down, and the lime is a really refreshing way to wrap up your meal."
Light......Refreshing.....hmmmm.....sounds like a great recipe for a hot day. And, cake is for celebrations, right? Well, we're celebrating! Our house is finally DONE. D. O. N. E.....done! And, now that we have a new deck to relax on, I didn't mind running the oven for an hour to bake these, either! And hey, if I'm going to cook, it might as well go in the roundup over at Tyler Florence Fridays, so what the heck!
Now, I do love me some lime, but since this was a rather spur of the moment dish, I had to improvise a bit. What citrus do I have in the house? Lemons.....yes, that would work, but then how will I make my yogurt cheese this weekend without making a run to the store? No. Orange? Possibly, but I wasn't sure if the orange would be acidic enough. Ah-HA! Red grapefruit! Yes! Sounds perfect. AND, I even have a fresh container of buttermilk in the fridge!
Ummmmm...ooops. Ok, so the Sell By date on it is June 10. Hmmmm.....how do you know when buttermilk is past its prime? Yeah, I'm not sure...but I wasn't taking a chance. You know what to do when you don't have buttermilk? Improvise! Take one cup of whole milk (or, in my case, cream) and add a teaspoon of white vinegar. Stir it up for a few seconds and VOILA! Buttermilk.
I decided to use my little Longaberger condiment bowls for this since my ramekins were only 4 ounce size, and the recipe calls for 6 ounce ramekins. I didn't want to try and guess at cooking time on a new recipe, so I have pretty little round cakes instead!
I may have let the cakes stay in the oven a bit too long, but it could just be my ability to judge the amount of "spring" the cakes had (or lack, thereof), but it didn't seem to matter, because they came right out of the bowls without any persuasion at all and were just as luscious and dreamy as can be. I could barely stand to take pictures....I scarfed an entire cake down before my husband even knew they were out of the oven. Practically burned my mouth on the gorgeous little thing, but it was worth it. Part pudding, part cake, and every bite leaves you guessing. These would be the perfect finish to a barbecue....a refreshing little bite, in individual portions. I'd say you could just serve them up in their ramekins, but the picture of the creamy top on the cake is just too pretty to hide inside a bowl....don't you agree?
**The recipe below is verbatim from the book, but I replaced the lime juice and zest with red grapefruit juice and zest.
Baked Lime Pudding Cake
Tyler Florence, Stirring the Pot

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
superfine sugar
2 eggs, separated
2/3 cup reduced-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
lime halves and leaves , for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325. Butter and lightly sugar four 6-ounce ramekins. Using the paddle attachment on a kitchen stand mixer, beat yolks, buttermilk, lime zest and lime juice on medium speed until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add flour, the 2/3 cup sugar and the salt, until just combined. Transfer to another large bowl. Thoroughly wash mixing bowl with soap and hot water; return to stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites in the clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture, a little at a time.

Divide mixture evenly among ramekins. Place ramekins in a roasting pan and fill the pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.Bake about one hour, until the top springs back when gently pressed and the cakes have a light golden color. Remove ramekins from water; allow to cool slightly.Carefully invert each onto a plate.


Ahhhhhh the sweet sigh of relief is felt around the world.....or, at least, the neighborhood.

The construction at my house is FINISHED! I came home last night to find a yard free of work trailers and tools, and not only the siding completed, but also the back deck. I am too exhausted physically and emotionally to go into much more detail about it, so I'm going to let the pictures to the talking for me.(the garage, obviously.)
(main view of the house)(stairs leading to the back deck. Now all I need is to lay some pavers between the kitchen door and the base of the steps.)(and finally, a view of the enormous deck we replaced our old deck with. I really hate to admit it, but I like it. I may even be willing to cook out there.....you know, since I won the fight about which direction the stairs should face.)

So, there it is. My new and improved house! Now, we just have to get a grill so we can start partying!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TFF - Penne with spicy Italian sausage, cream, tomatoes and.....tomatoes!

I give up. No, really, I do. For the past three weeks (since I received my new Tyler Florence cookbooks) I have been cooking up a storm, picking exciting, new, and complicated recipes. You know what? My little buddy Friedrich the lobster wore me out last week!

I decided I wasn't going to make an entry for Tyler Florence Fridays this week. With the renovation of our house, being on baby watch (any time now!) and just dealing with the life and times of a 4 year old bully (yep, apparently that is my son's new role at school), I didn't think I had it in me.

Don't believe me? Yeah, neither do I. There is one recipe in Dinner at My Place that I keep going back to, but I keep putting it on the back burner because, well, its too easy. I mean, c'mon, I'm Italian. You think I haven't paired pasta with sausage and tomatoes before? But every time I picked up the book, it would just flop open to that page....beckoning me.Yes, you know I did, I gave in. I mean, after all, my garden is thriving right now. The basil and tomatoes are beautiful. Gotta use them before the heat of summer fries them to shriveled little bits, right?


But you also know I can't just make a recipe. I can rarely resist making some alterations to any recipe I try, even Tyler's.

What's funny, is I have been talking about TFF for ages now and my husband, who previously thought I was crazy, is now gradually coming over to the dark side. He just shook his head at me when I was putting together the light box. But then, after the meal was complete, he was making suggestions, "You need a place mat under the dish." "Put a glass of wine next to the bowl" "wait to put the cheese on top until you get it in there or it'll melt before you get the shot."Silly man....like I hadn't already thought of all that.

Now that I have his attention, however, I have a new problem. My husband has always been competitive. Its why we don't have "game night" at our house. A simple game of Trivial Pursuit can be grounds for divorce. But.....trying to get him more involved and make him feel like a part of things, I asked him to pick the next dish I make. That may have been my first mistake.

He has now proclaimed it a competition. He is going to pick a dish, alright. But, its going to be for HIM to make. He wants to make a dish and do a guest post on my blog so HE can enter it to TFF and beat me to getting picked to be on Tyler's blog.

I'm gonna have to kill him. I can't say 'no'. That wouldn't be fair.....I may just have to step it up a notch though....I can't let him win. There would be no peace in our house again.....ever.

That being said, he watched very carefully while I was preparing Tyler's Penne last night. Asking all kinds of questions....and actually not complaining about the ingredients. The torn basil, the tomatoes....normally things he would frown at, his response was simply, "No, if you need to put it in to make the recipe right, go ahead." I did make some changes though (big shock, here). I know the hubs isn't a big fan of tomatoes. He likes tomato sauce, but not biting into a big chunk, so instead of crushed tomatoes, I used an Italian seasoned tomato sauce. But I also took a bunch of yellow tear drop tomatoes from my garden and sliced them in half to toss in. I figured the were big enough that he couldn't miss them and would be able to pick them out, but it would still make a pretty addition to the pasta, in place of the peas (which the hubs also doesn't like). What I didn't foresee is that they would disintegrate into the sauce, never to be seen again, except for the occasional sweet surprise on my fork.

Now, the tomato sauce combined with the cream was positively decadent. There was not a bit of pasta that was not thoroughly coated in the silky stuff, and before I knew what had happened, my dish was empty! There must have been a hole in it somewhere. I didn't miss the peas a bit, and the torn basil melded into the texture of the sauce so well that the hubs didn't even pick it out....and trust me, that IS a shock! Roasting the sausage in the oven was such a nice twist. It gave the casing a nice bite, and freed up my stovetop. So many times I feel like I'm running a short order line at a diner with a million skillets going at once, but the oven saved me a step, which was great! It did take a bit longer to roast than estimated in the book, however, almost double the time, actually, before the sausage was done. I assumed that I was meant to toss the whole thing together at the end instead of plating the sausage and sauce on top of the pasta, although the directions in the book did not specify.

I have to admit, I wasn't hoping for anything special from this dish, but it went miles and miles above my expectations. I will definitely be trying this again....maybe with some crispy pancetta crumbled on top....mmmm that DOES sounds like a winner!

The hubs cleaned his plate and took an extra serving to work today for his welding partner, and I was lucky to have some pasta leftover for my own lunch today!

Here is Tyler's recipe, as it reads in the book. Put your own twist on it, or make it as is. Either way, it is a keeper!
Penne with Spicy Italian Sausage, Cream, Tomatoes and Peas
"Dinner at My Place" by Tyler Florence
Yield: Serves 4-6. Time: 55 minutes
• 4 links spicy Italian sausage
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 lb penne
• 4 cloves garlic
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
• 1 (28 oz.) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 2 cups peas
• 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for top of plate
• Fresh basil leaves for garnish
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the sausage links on a sheet tray and roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes until slightly golden and just cooked. Cut on the angle into bite-size pieces. Cook pasta in salted water until just tender but still has a bite to it — “al dente.”
Set a large, heavy-based pot over medium heat and add a 2-count of olive oil. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent and fragrant for about 3 minutes. Add San Marzano tomatoes, torn basil leaves and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes then fold in cream and continue to simmer until rich and creamy. Add blanched peas, sausage, and grated Parmesan. Fold together and cook for 2-3 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Serve topped with a shower of grated Parmesan and fresh basil.

Let there be LIGHT!!!

As if I don't have enough projects at home right now (what with the siding going up, and a new deck, and cleaning out the whole house....not to mention a baby quilt that is driving me to drink), I have just added another one to my list.
Donna at My Tasty Treasures turned me on (if you know Donna at all, you know she'll get a ckick out of that) to the idea of making a light box for my kitchen, and ever since then, I have been pissing and moaning about needing one so my foodie pictures look better. Every single picture I take in the kitchen now has terrible shadows, horrible contrast, and in general, they just suck. (ok, that's just a personal opinion and maybe a rationalization for me to spend the money on supplies to build the light box, but hey, the materials are bought and paid for, so its too late now!)

(Donna references this site for the instructions on building your own.)

Here is how it went together:

Using 5 sheets of craft foam board and some masking or duct tape (I even found WHITE Duck Tape at walmart, so it will look nice from the outside, too.), form a box with one open end.

Put 100W Daylight bulbs in 2 clamp-style shop lights and clamp them to the top edges of the open end of the box.

Plug in, and VOILA!One cozy little studio for capturing the essence of all my future culinary materpieces.

Like this:

To be posted about later.....

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Foreboding Sky...and Progress!

On the way to town this morning, Ty spotted my camera on top of my purse and asked if he could take pictures. This is something I've been letting him do periodically lately, and since the windows were rolled up, I figured "why not?" We ended up with 41 pictures. Pictures of the seat in front of him, of his legs, of his bowl of cereal, of the back of my head, and, among other things, of the "storm". It is not raining here...yet....but it is most definitely a foreboding sky. I just hope is doesn't stick around long so that the guys can get my house done today. This is what the sky looked like through the lens. not bad for a four year old, shooting through the closed window of a moving vehicle...
And, as I said, PROGRESS! Barring any natural disasters (or a whole lotta rain) the siding on the house itself will be done today. The front and back are done, and the sides need a little more work. Friday, Matt hopes to have two guys working on the garage and two on building the new deck. I may be taking tomorrow off again as well, to try and clean up the inside while all of this is going on.

Here are a few shots to give you an idea of what my house looks like now.
(The front of the house, with the new gable vent at the top)
(The road side of the house, nearly complete)(The rear of the house, with the header for the new deck installed, but otherwise complete, also with a new gable vent)(The southwest corner. This is where they will be starting this morning, to finish off that tricky spot between the two sections of roof before moving on to the other sides.)(The kitchen, desperately close to being done as well.)

All in all, a very productive day and I am looking forward to coming home tonight to find the house finished! The garage and deck are all secondary to me, especially since I really don't like the idea of the deck anyway, but I'm at the mercy of the husband on that one. We are talking about painting the concrete blocks later this summer. I'm thinking about going forest green for that. It should blend in nicely with my garden....and maybe disguise the weeds. Hopefully, we'll also get some of the landscaping done that I want to see done as well so that I can finally hang a "finished" photo of the house on the wall downstairs.

So, yeah....big sigh of relief. If I am not around tomorrow, I'm hoping to have BIG progress to report on Monday. In the mean time, have a great weekend!

P.S. I'm officially on "baby watch". My little niece is due to be born any day now, so I am waiting on pins and needles for the big call to come through! Everyone cross your fingers for a healthy baby and as easy of a labor and delivery as possible for her mama.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I love lobster. Apart from diver scallops, it may be my most favorite food in the world. Unfortunately, we are more than just land-locked where I live, we are downright secluded.

Enter: Tyler Florence Fridays. I have been in such a rut the last year or so with my cooking. See, this is how our home life is. The husband is a union Boilermaker, spending his days inside (and outside) of power plants. Long hours, extreme temperatures, and often unable to leave the job site to get lunch, even if there was somewhere local to go.

So...I cook. Every night (with a few minor exceptions), I cook. I make a Boilermaker-hearty meal, and I generally double every recipe so that there is enough for the three of us, plus enough leftovers for him to take at least one meal, if not more, to work the next day. Many times, he'll take all the leftovers, in individual containers, and feed his welding partner, or some unfortunate soul who is in between wives, or mortgage payments, and treats them to a home cooked meal. He has already been asked to leave me to a buddy of his in his will. (you think I'm kidding, but I'm not! I'm pretty sure there is a guy out there that thinks he's going to "inherit" me if anything unforeseen should befall my husband.)

Now, if you know anything about the trades, it is that the work is usually seasonal. They get paid well, but they are usually off work in the dead of winter and the dog days of summer, so I am used to getting large chunks of "cooking vacation". The last couple of years, there have been a few "big jobs" going on, or new units being built, and the hubs has been working without a break for over two years. Don't get me wrong, you know I love to cook, and I love cooking for my man, but when you do it night after night, and it is not even usually food that you enjoy eating, it gets, well.....tedious.

Yes, there, I said it! I get BORED with cooking! I always look forward to entertaining, or just having a good friend over who enjoys food as much as I do so I have an excuse to make something fun or new. Well, I no longer feel like I have to wait that long. Tyler Florence Fridays gets me going and motivates me to try something new every week, and I love it!

Now, with that in mind, and my previous statement about loving lobster, there is a recipe in Tyler's Stirring the Pot (and then, again, in his blog) that I have been dying to try, and this weekend I decided it was time.

Please meet my friend, Friedrich:I know, I know, I'm a crazy woman. I don't know what to say, I took him out of the bag from the store, and I asked him, "What should we call you?", and I swear to God, he said "Friedrich".

If you know anything at all about where I live, you're already thinking to yourself, "Where in the blankety-blank did she find a live lobster?" Well, you're right, not anywhere near MY house. I actually drove an hour north of here to the closest store with a lobster tank, walked up to the counter and said, "I need a lobster, please." Ty wasn't too sure about the "monsters" crawling around behind the glass, but he went along with it anyway.

Ok, next confession. I have never cooked a whole lobster. Never killed one. I assumed that being a deer hunter, I would be able to pull it off. And, thanks to Tyler's very detailed instructions on quickly and humanely killing the little critter, I was able to do it! (don't get me wrong...there was a moment where I wavered when the little guy didn't stop moving when I expected him to, but I did it.) And I'd do it again!

Why? Because it was SO. DAMNED. GOOD.

In the book, Tyler pairs the lobster with chips, which is fun, but I was in the mood for surf and turf, so I seasoned up a lovely filet mignon and cooked it to a nice medium rare,and tossed together a bright little caprese salad with the fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil from my garden, along with a light balsamic-lemon drizzle.It was almost too pretty to eat....almost.The breadcrumb topping seals in all the moisture in the meat, and it just comes out tender, juicy and delicious. I only made a couple of tiny changes to this one. One, because I forgot to pick up Panko, so I used regualr breadcrumbs. Two, the hubs and I don't care for thyme, so I pulled some oregano from my garden, along with the parsley, and it was fabulous.

If you've ever wanted to try something like this, I highly recommend it. (But if you have a queasy stomach....I'd have someone else do the butchering.) I'd be happy to come over and help...as long as you're making some for me!


Yield: 4 servings
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

2 live lobsters (about 2 pounds)
2 cups panko bread crumbs
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1/2 stick melted butter
5 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and gently smashed
1/2 bunch, chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, cut into large wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place lobster in freezer to kill humanely then begin preparing the bread crumb topping. In a food processor add fresh parsley, thyme, raw peeled garlic, melted butter and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Process until well combined then stop, add the panko and pulse a couple of times just to combine. Set aside while you prepare the lobster.Using the tip of your knife, split and cut the lobster right through down the middle. Discard the insides and tomali then place the halves flesh-side up in a roasting tray (I'll spare you the pictures of this part). Drizzle with a little olive oil so the panko will stick then pack on the crumb topping.Bake in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown. Now, I really, REALLY need to get a light box in my kitchen so I can get better shots....this was just so amazing, the pictures don't do it justice. But don't take MY word for it, try it yourself!
Really....isn't it gorgeous?I can hardly control the urge to dunk a piece of that lovely white flakiness in that cup of butter...Can you?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Under Construction

Well, the time has finally come. The siding is going up! It has not really stopped raining for more than a couple of hours at a time, but we’re managing to work through. I’ve taken a few shots to show you some progress, so I’ll include captions as we go. This first set is what the house looked like last week: (This is the North, or road side of the house)(This is the west side. Our bedroom is through the patio doors on this deck, which is also the deck we tore off yesterday morning.)(Southwest side, with a window to Ty's room, and one to the kitchen. That's our well you see in the corner.)(South side, which used to be the back porch of the school house, but is now my kitchen)(Finally, the East side, or front of our house)

Saturday, Matt’s good buddy (also a Matt) came over and we spent the day cleaning up the property, clearing a bunch of junk, an old clothesline, some existing grapevines that we didn’t want or use, and we made good use of the dumpster we ordered to clean out the garage, which was desperately needed. I also managed to send a couple of old recliners home with the brother in law, and get rid of some other things inside the house.

Sunday, we had several of Matt’s buddies over and got all the old siding torn off in a matter of about 2 hours. This is what that job looked like. After the tear off, the contractor came over Sunday afternoon and the guys that were left wrapped the house in Tyvek since we were expecting nothing but rain this week. In the process, we decided that we really couldn’t afford NOT to remove the old deck that sits off our second story bedroom. SO, Matt and I both took the day off yesterday to get more work done in that area. Here is the back of the house, with and without the deck.
(with the deck, obviously.)(aaaaaand....without! The hubs had to remind me last night to stop him if he tried to go outside and pee during the night. Yep, we live in the country, peeing outside is pretty common.)

Yesterday morning, the contractor and his crew showed up and started work. The deck came off while they were setting up around the house, and the rain just got heavier and heavier until they couldn’t work anymore, and called it off at 10:00. Fortunately, they were sitting at home watching the radar, and they came back at 2:00 after the rain stopped and got a few more hours in. The siding was starting to go up on most sides of the house. This is what it looked like as of 5:00 yesterday evening.
Most recently, Matt decided to take today off as well, and he just sent me THIS picture of the front of our house, which was untouched as of yesterday.
One other very large part of the day was the "rainout". Yep, we were a tad discouraged when the crew left that morning, and proceeded to dig into the 30 pack of beer we had iced down for the "after party". This is what THAT looked like!
(the other Matt insisted on taking this picture. He thought it was pretty funny that we both put on green shirts that morning and we coordinated so nicely with the new siding. I also just noticed that the siding is pretty much the same color as the background of my blog! Ironic...)

He also told me that since HE’S been getting rained out at work so far both days this week anyway, he is thinking about just taking the rest of the week off to make sure everything gets done. After the siding is finished, they will also be building us a new deck to replace the old one. My job now is to get the INSIDE of the house cleaned up so we can have the family over for breakfast on Sunday and surprise them all. We decided not to tell his mom that we were finally doing the siding this week, so it’ll be a surprise when they come over.

One last shot, a picture of my two happy boys, posing for the camera, and actually SMILING.
That’s all for now, but its not even 2:00 yet, so I’m hoping by the time I get home it will look even better! More to come tomorrow, if all goes well!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sweet and Hot Pork

If you've ever been married, there's a good chance that there are some dishes of your mother-in-law's that your husband still wants. I guess I am lucky in that my husband generally enjoys my food, and often brags about it to his buddies. However, there are still a couple of things that the mother always made that sticks in his memory. For Matt, one of those dishes is his mom's Sweet & Sour Pork. I'm really not sure where she came up with this recipe, but it has become one of her trademark dishes and, of course, being the good daughter-in-law and wifey that I am, I have added it to my recipe box as well.
This is not a dish that makes it onto the menu on a regular basis, mainly because it isn't beef, is has some kind of sauce on it, and its served over rice, not to mention the fact that is has a green vegetable in it. Don't get me wrong, he really likes it, but given the choice, he'd pick steak.
Now, with that said, I cannot force myself to cook beef every night, so he has adjusted to the fact that dishes get rotated for some variety. This came up in the rotation last night and I made a little bit of a switch to it. See, even though the green pepper does impart some good flavor to the dish, Matt still isn't a fan of them, so after they have given the dish their all, he picks them out like the 35 year old child that he is. But me, I know the way to his little foodie heart. As Emeril would say, you "kick it up a notch"!
So here is my variation on the mother-in-law's recipe, and let me tell you, I know its a winner when he takes ALL of the leftovers to work the next day instead of just the dish I made up for him.
Sweet & Hot Pork
2 pounds boneless pork (chops, loin, whatever you prefer)
2 TB oil for frying
1 cup BBQ sauce (whatever you have open in the fridge will do)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
5 jalapeños, seeded, deveined, and chopped
1/2 jar pineapple apricot marmalade
Dredge the pieces of pork in flour, and fry in a hot skillet until golden on both sides. Drain off any excess oil. Mix the sauce ingredients together and pour over the meat.
Cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove the meat from the pan and mix in the marmalade and peppers.Return meat to the pan and cover again. Continue to simmer another 15 minutes.
Serve over rice.
The jalapeños gave this a really nice kick! One note on the pork. In his mom's recipe, you cut the pork up into bite sized pieces like you might find at a Chinese restaurant. I've taken to just leaving them the size of small chops. Takes a lot less time and effort, and it makes my carnivore feel like he's getting a meatier meal.