Slow cooker ranch pork chops

Slow cooker ranch pork chops

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Let me share something that really bothers me. Like, really bothers me. I really hate it when people use “like” to mock people’s speech. On Facebook the other day, I saw a guy make fun of a young couple in a drugstore, who were, in reality, probably really obnoxious. But he was making fun of what they were saying and inserted “like” as every other word. I really doubt they were using it that often.

Coming from California, the state which I believe has ownership of “like” as our colloquialism, I was offended! I don’t know if I say, “like” a lot, but I certainly write it a lot. In chats, in emails and certainly on this blog.

Why does “wicked” (a la Boston) and “ya’ll” (a la the South) and “eh” (a la Canada) and “n’at” (a la Pittsburgh) get a free pass, but suddenly I use “like,” and I’m likened to a 15-year-old girl? Not fair.

Clearly there are more important things of which to chose to be offended, and clearly there are bigger problems in the world. But can we please just get over speech stereotypes, in general. And while we’re changing the world for the better, let’s all make this super easy, super painless, super delicious dish of ranch potatoes and pork chops.

I seriously threw this together in, like, 10 minutes before I left for work. And came home, steamed some broccoli and served dinner. Easy peasy, guys!

I got this recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff.

I started by spray my slow cooker insert with cooking spray, which isn’t something I normally do, but the recipe recommended it. Then I cubed some potatoes into bite-sized cubes and threw them in there.

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Sausage-stuffed mushrooms

Sausage-stuffed mushrooms

Today is Father’s Day, so I want to talk about my dad.

My dad is the quintessential family man: everything he does is for his family.

My childhood — and, now, my adulthood — has been an endless stream of support from my parents. My dad, especially, has always told me to “follow my gut” in the pursuit of happiness.

The only thing he has ever expected of me is to put myself in the best position possible to be happy. That’s all he’s ever wanted for me, and it’s all he’s ever asked me to do: do what’s necessary to pursue happiness.

Dad is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. His time at work is spent fiercely concentrating on whatever task on which he is working. Conversely, his time at home is spent fiercely concentrating on his family.

As a child, Dad was always right next to me helping me reach my goals. Whether I was playing soccer — Dad never missed a practice — or practicing the flute — he would sit with me for hours to nail down a string of notes for an upcoming solo.

And then he would be right there celebrating with me when I scored the goal or performed the solo — usually with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks.

As my goals changed, his goals changed. He never questioned my decision to move 2,000 miles away to pursue journalism. Or move an additional 1,000 miles east for my full-time reporting job.

It seems like such logical, simple advice, and I guess it is, but what Dad doesn’t know is that he helped shape my gut.

Every day we are all faced with a variety of decisions — some simple and some not so simple. And he gives me the same advice each time and I always do what he suggests — go with what I feel is right. But when I’m trying to figure out exactly what I feel, I think about Dad.

I think about how hard he’s worked during his lifetime. I think about how he always puts in the maximum amount of effort so things are done correctly. I think about how much he researches everything from vacation plans to new cars to dishwasher models so he can arm himself with as much information when making a decision. And I think about what will make him proud. And what’s really great is what will make him proud is doing what will make me happy.

Unfortunately I can’t be with my dad on his special day, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Father’s Day Daddy!

I also wanted to thank A.J.’s dad for his hand in raising A.J., who turned out to be a pretty OK guy. So we brought these stuffed mushrooms to A.J.’s parent’s house yesterday to celebrate Father’s Day with them.

Stuffed with sausage and sage and smothered in mozzarella, I can’t think of a better way to thank a man for raising the love of my life. He really liked them.

I started by browning some breakfast sausage in skillet with some seasoned salt, sage, garlic and pepper. I broke the sausage up with my spatula as it cooked. [Read more...]

Glazed pork kebabs

Glazed pork kebabs

I don’t have a grill. Heck, I don’t even have a backyard or a porch of even an undersized balcony where I could put a grill.

So I get a little bitter as we move into the full-fledged summer months and every single one of my food magazines — and I sort of get a lot — is all about grilling.

So I fake-grilled some kebabs in the oven. Pork kebabs. With an asian glaze on top. [Read more...]

Bacon asparagus pizza

Bacon asparagus pizza

I stabbed myself with a knife the other day. Not while making this pizza. I was actually teaching cooking to my friend Michou (a post about this later, I promise). She expertly cut our avocados in half for the guacamole we were going to make. I showed her how to score the avocados and mush the pieces out of them into the food processor. I took the halves with the pit and said, “I’m going to take the pits out because it’s sort of a dangerous job.”

Then I proceeded to attempt to stab the pit with a sharp kitchen knife and completely missed the pit. The knife plummeted through the avocado and into the palm of my hand.

I clearly survived. It wasn’t even that bad. But I do feel as though I just went through a rite of passage. My first cooking-related rite of passage. Every cook has their own cooking disaster story.

My mom still talks about the time she spilled boiling water on her ankle and had to go to the emergency room. Even Joy the Baker mentions that one time she touched boiling sugar.

It happens to all of us, including me now. My little 1-inch-long cut (no, but it was deep, guys) is healing very nicely, mostly because A.J. has been vigilante about making me put Neosporin and band aids on it every day.

But I’m really hoping for a scar.

This pizza is delicious. And is easy enough that you could totally make it while nursing a cut on your hand. Or if you’ve had a hard day at work. Or if you just don’t feel like cooking. Whatevs.

I started by frying up some turkey bacon in a dry skillet. You can use regular bacon if you want. I fried it until it was crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle because that’s how I like it. You do it your way. I don’t judge. After it was done frying, I put it on some paper towels to let the grease drain off. [Read more...]

Bacon-wrapped dates

Bacon-wrapped dates

(Don’t forget about the Oven Lovin’ giveaway!)

I made these bacon-wrapped dates for the Allegory Gallery and Second Chapter Books event in Ligonier last week. They taste just like candy. Bite-sized, a fabulous marriage of sweet and salty and exotic enough to create an air of sophistication.

Too bad it ruins the sophistication when I share this easy, easy recipe with you guys. But first I have to thank Rae Nudson for the suggestion. When I told her I was looking for another savory recipe for the gallery opening two weeks ago, she immediately replied bacon-wrapped dates, which instantly caught my attention. Everyone loves bacon.

These were good warm, but stayed delicious even at room temperature, which makes them perfect for a party.

The first thing I did was pre-heat my oven and start wrapping the dates. I cut the bacon strips into thirds and then wrapped each date in one-third of one strip and clearly these combination is a marriage made in heaven, because one package of bacon wrapped exactly one package of dates.

I placed the dates seam side down on a greased, rimmed baking sheet. I would recommend wrapping the baking sheet in aluminum foil first and then greasing the foil for an even easier cleanup. [Read more...]

Open-faced pulled pork sandwiches

Sometimes in the middle of the dark, cold, windy, snowy winter, I pay like $10 and go to a tanning salon. It’s not so much that I feel the need for glowing skin — I’m resigned to the fact that I’m pasty — but it’s that 5 minutes under fake sunlight that makes me feel almost overjoyed. I think it’s the Vitamin D.

Sometimes in the middle of the dark, cold, windy, snowy winter, I make picnic-like foods. It’s not so much that I feel the need for cookout cuisine, but it’s that taste of sunshine that makes me feel almost overjoyed. [Read more...]

Orange zest wontons! With sweet and sour sauce!

You guys, wontons are so fun to make! I’ve been looking forward to trying them for awhile since I put them on my list of 2012 culinary goals.

I have to be honest, I don’t really know why I considered them a “goal,” other than I saw a recipe in my mom’s Susan Branch cookbook (why, oh why is her entire website written in Comic Sans? I can barely look at it!) and felt like I needed an excuse to try it — it’s sort of hard to make a whole meal out of these, but they make a great snack or appetizer. Also you can add un-fried wontons to soup, although I have to admit I really liked them fried crispy and dipped in sauce.

I was totally surprise how easy they are to make, too. I used Susan Branch’s recipe as a base, but added orange zest and orange juice to the sauce to give the wontons some extra zing.

In this bowl is a couple sliced green onions, minced garlic and the zest of one orange. [Read more...]

Ham and bean soup

I have a new favorite kind of soup! I feel like a real Pennsylvanian now.

Humor me for a minute while I wax poetic about this soup.

  • I did all my prep work ahead of time, which involved chopping like two vegetables, and then I put everything in a pot and walked away from the kitchen.
  • This simmered for several hours and made the whole house smell amazing.
  • I had complete control over the consistency of the soup.
  • I got to work with ham hocks for the first time, which are inexpensive and an amazing source of previously untapped flavor.
  • It’s simple and budget-friendly: few, simple ingredients, almost no spices and inexpensive sources of protein.
  • It’s filling and hearty. Like, I could barely finish half a bowl.
  • Oh, and it tasted great, too.

So this is a ham and bean soup. I used Great Northern Beans, which according to Wikipedia, is a type of navy bean and is typically used in soups. I adapted this recipe from a Susan Branch recipe.

Other than the ham hocks, it has a fairly short list of rather simple ingredients and little to no seasoning. I was actually surprised how flavorful it turned out, for having so few ingredients. I would describe the flavor as almost pure compared to most soups because none of the flavors were masked by fancy spices or tomato-based pastes, sauces or juices.

So let’s talk about ham hocks for a minute, before I move on to how I made this soup.

From Wikipedia:

A ham hock is the joint between the tibia/fibula and the metatarsals of the foot, where the foot was attached to the hog’s leg. It is the portion of the leg – also known as pork knuckle – that is neither part of the ham proper nor the foot or ankle, but rather the extreme shank end of the leg bone and the associated skin, fat, tendons, and muscle.

I used to play it safe with meat. I used to stick to the meats that I know like chicken breasts. But chicken breasts get boring.

And I used to be afraid of unknown meats such as ham hocks because I thought it was gross. (OK to be fair, I didn’t really know what ham hocks were until I did some research from this recipe. But I used to think anything other than working with chicken breasts was gross, and even that can get gross sometimes.)

But after working with ham hocks, it’s not so scary or gross. For this soup, I just threw them in a pot! (And then did some work later, but just a tiny bit.) And it’s kind of nice to know that I’m using a part of an animal that is sometimes wasted.

Edit: The ham hocks pictured below do not have toenails. It’s mostly a bone, bone marrow, a little bit of meat, and some cartilage and tendons. It wasn’t bloody or even hard to handle. And it’s not less expensive because it’s poorer quality. It’s less expensive because there’s not much meat to them. They’re for flavor more than for the meat.

Anyway, I’m done talking about pig joints. Mostly.

I started with a big pot and two smoked ham hocks. I found these at my local Giant Eagle store, and if they have them, I truly believe most stores will have them. [Read more...]

Crock pot Pork Ole

You guys trust me right?

Like, really trust me?

Like, if I say something is good and super easy to make, you’d try it right?

Even if my pictures didn’t turn out that great?

I promise this is good. I really promise.

You might remember that I went through a bunch of recipe books I found at my parents’ house. In one of my grandma’s cookbooks I found this recipe that my mom gave my grandma. It was called chicken ole.

Unfortunately, frozen pork and frozen chicken look very similar in clear plastic baggies. I accidentally thawed pork instead of chicken, so I ended up making pork ole. You should use chicken. But pork was good too. Trust me.

This bowl is your sauce. Really, really trust me.

I combined one can of condensed chicken soup, one can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, some green salsa, some minced onion and sour cream. [Read more...]

Maple-bacon biscuit bake

Remember earlier in the week, when I told you about the mapley, bacony biscuits. It’s mapley, bacony biscuit day!

I seldom make the same recipe twice, but I’ll be making these again for A.J. AND writing about them now makes me want them all over again.

They’re sort of like an upside down cake, in that you put a bunch of maple, bacon goodness on the bottom of the pan, layer some biscuit dough on top and after it’s done baking, you flip the pan over to serve.

To make this, I adapted Eat, Play, Love’s recipe.

First things first, I had to make some bacon. My favorite way to make bacon is in the oven. I know I’ve told you guys about my friend Anna Koeppel’s cooking-bacon-in-the-oven process, but have I ever showed you?

You place a wire cooling rack in a deep backing dish and then lay the bacon on top and bake it at 350 degrees in the oven. [Read more...]