Monday, February 22, 2010

Braised Pork Roast with Rigatoni

There's nothing like a big pot of red sauce on a chilly winter Sunday. I still have canned tomatoes from my garden last summer and honestly, they make the best sauce ever. It makes me wonder how I survived with store bought tomatoes all these years. It has also made me determined to grow LOTS more tomatoes this year. I plan to fill the front yard with them if necessary.

I've been working most Sundays lately and this week was no exception, but the beauty of working from home is that it gives you freedom to start cooking dinner in the afternoon and then hop back to the "office" to work until dinnertime.

This recipe was inspired from one the Kitchen Genius found in Lydia's Italian-American Kitchen. She used pork spare ribs, but I had a pork roast in the fridge so I used that instead. I also changed up the herbs and really the only thing that stayed the same was the pickled cherry peppers and rigatoni.

I also added meatballs, because my guys can't get enough meat. Plus red sauce just begs for meatballs and I love to have some on hand to slice as a topping for our weekly homemade pizza night (because those guys love meaty pizza too).

I'm sending this recipe to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Michelle at Italian Mama Chef. This weekly roundup of pasta recipes started by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast is about to celebrate it's third anniversary, but I just found out about it from Reeni at Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice.

Wow, that's alot of links! But go check them out anyways. And then join the fun and get your own pasta on.

Braised Pork Roast with Rigatoni
serves 6

3 - 5 pound boneless pork roast
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 quarts whole tomatoes in juice
8 pickled cherry peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Slice pork roast into one inch slices, season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in large dutch oven and add as many of the pork slices as will fit without touching each other. Sear pork slices on both sides (about 3 minutes a side on medium heat).

Remove pork and leave resting on a plate. Add onions and garlic to pan drippings and cook until tender, about four minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly. Tuck pork slices into sauce and simmer on low heat covered for 2 hours. Uncover and continue to simmer for an additional hour. If desired, meatballs can be added at this point.

Serve over one pound of cooked rigatoni and garnish with fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Creamy Spinach & Broccoli Soup

Some food just does not photograph well and this soup certainly qualifies. No matter what angle I tried, it just looked like a big bowl of green mush. The dollop of plain yogurt didn't improve the photo, but it did add a nice tangy flavor that melded well with the lemon juice I added at the end of the cooking process.

Even when it was cooking it looked a bit funky.

But it sure was tasty. I've been trying to eat more veggies, lots more veggies, and soup is my favorite lunch. This week I also wanted to participate in Deb in Hawaii's Souper Sundays over at Kahakai Kitchen.


This soup was a true refrigerator soup, using up things I had on hand. I had a full bag of baby spinach that I meant to put in the lasagna I made when we invited our teenage daughter's boyfriend's parents over for dinner this week. Our daughter was afraid they wouldn't like spinach (Are there people who don't like spinach?), so I left it out of the lasagna and used it here instead.

The best thing about this soup (aside from the nutritional boost) is that it's quick and easy to make. Add a nice Greek salad and it would also make a light, but delicious dinner.

And just cause I wanted to share a cute photo...

Our puppy Sadie thinks she's a person. Every night she sleeps with either our son or our daughter (they take turns). In the morning the Kitchen Genius retrieves her and they go out together to let out the chickens. Then Sadie races to the front door and jumps in bed with me for some cuddling. It's a pretty sweet way to begin the day...

Creamy Spinach & Broccoli Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes (2 medium sized ones)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 9-ounce bag baby spinach
2/3 cup fresh grated Romano cheese
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven pan, heat olive oil and saute onion, garlic and bay leaf over low heat until veggies are tender (about four minutes). Add potatoes and chicken stock and simmer for five minutes. Add broccoli and spinach and gently simmer for ten minutes until broccoli is tender, but still bright green.

Puree soup using a wand style blender until smooth. Add Romano cheese and lemon juice and stir to incorporate. Remove bay leaf and after testing the flavor, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pan Seared Scallops with Pesto Cream

With my herb garden hiding under a layer of snow, I'm forced to buy fresh herbs at the grocery store. My biggest objection (aside from the cost) is that you can't simply pick what you need. Instead you are stuck purchasing a whole package. My usual solution is to chop and freeze the leftover herbs, but sometimes I get more creative when I have extra basil and make pesto.

Pesto can be used in so many different ways. The last batch I made was perfect for an easy pasta dinner the first night. A few days later it was a tasty spread for grilled chicken sandwiches. But my favorite use of it was in a cream sauce for some local scallops that the Kitchen Genius made.

Paired with mashed cauliflower, these scallops make an elegant, but oh so easy meal. Best of all, this dinner only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to make.

Pan Seared Scallops with Pesto Cream
Serves 2

1 pound sea scallops
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 package baby spinach
1/2 cup light cream
3 tablespoons walnut basil pesto
salt and pepper to taste

Pat scallops dry with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil. In small batches making sure they don’t touch in the pan, sear scallops 2 to 3 minutes per side until brown, but still medium rare inside. Use tongs to flip them. Place seared scallops on a plate and continue until all scallops are seared.

When all the scallops are seared, add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan and add spinach, tossing until wilted. Turn buner down to low and add cream and pesto to pan. When warm, taste before adding salt and pepper. Put scallops back in pan and simmer for five minutes or until cooked through. Do not overcook.

Walnut Basil Pesto

1 package of fresh basil leaves (about 25)
1/2 walnuts, toasted in oven and cooled
1 large garlic clove
1/2 fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put basil, walnuts, and garlic clove in food processor and process until chopped finely. Add parmesan cheese and pulse until just blended. Drizzle olive oil through the tube of the food processor, a little at a time until the pesto is the consistency of a loose paste. (You may need slightly more or less than 1/4 cup.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cranberry Crunch Coffee Cake

Happy Valentine's Day! This morning the Kitchen Genius and I renewed our wedding vows along with all the other married couples at our church. There is something so thrilling about looking your husband in the eye and still meaning those words after nearly 20 years together. It gave me goosebumps.

In keeping with our morning activity, I baked a recipe from our newly published church cookbook, "Cooking With Spirit." The recipe was from Bertha Fuqua, a wonderful lady who has sadly passed on.

This coffee cake is incredibly moist and flavorful and feeds a crowd. The recipe called for a 13 by 9 pan and at first I thought there wasn't enough batter. I was wrong. It rose up nicely in the oven.

Making breakfast is a great way to show someone you love them. And speaking of love, I even got some chicken love today. Count them, seven (yes seven!) eggs in one day. Throughout the winter we've been getting about two eggs a day because the days are shorter and egg production is tied to hours of sunlight. We didn't want to add a light to our coop to force our ladies to lay in the off season, so we let nature take it's course. Well here's the proof that spring is on its way:

Even our older chicken, Jasmine joined in and laid the pretty green egg on top. She hasn't laid anything since late September. Rosie has been quite productive all winter and today she laid two eggs in one day! We know this because she is our only chicken who lays white eggs.

Here's to love, the coming of spring and a bounty of eggs!

The Recipe:

Cranberry Crunch Coffee Cake
(adapted from recipe by Bertha Fuqua)

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 3/4 cups cranberries, minced (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 X 13 inch baking pan and set aside. Beat butter on medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar, beating well. Add eggs.

Combine 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk. Beat well. Spoon half the batter into pan.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and chopped walnuts. Sprinkle half of brown sugar mixture over batter. Top with cranberries. Top with remaining batter and remaining brown sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

When the things you enjoy most become a chore, it's time to take a break from them. So I took a break...and I waited until I missed this place so much I couldn't wait to get back. That time is now.

We've been playing with recipes lately because the Kitchen Genius is working on a new menu. Last week he had an unexpected weekday off (because he worked all weekend), so I decided to celebrate by making him breakfast. There's something so nice about sharing a leisurely breakfast with your hubby even if you then have to go to work yourself.

This is a perfect breakfast for a cold winter morning because it is both hearty and yummy. It has oatmeal, apples, raisins, walnuts and cinnamon...need I say more?

I found this recipe in the cookbook, Sleep on It, by Carol Gordon, a lovely woman who is the Innkeeper of the Nantucket House in Chatham along with her husband Jerry. The best thing about this cookbook is that all the recipes can be prepared the night before and simply popped in the oven to serve to your guests the next day.

It is also my go to cooking "Bible" every year when KG and I help the Youth Group at our church prepare the fundraising brunch for the annual ski trip. I take the recipes and times them by 20 (yes 20!) and then we spend a few hours on Saturday prepping the food with an enthusiastic bunch of kids. The next day we serve brunch to a very appreciative congregation.

It's just plain fun to spend a day in the kitchen with a dozen teenagers. Their energy is infectious.

The Recipe:

Valley Farms Baked Oatmeal
(modified from the Inn at Valley Farms Bed & Breakfast in Walpole, New Hampshire)

Serves 8 - 10

5 cups rolled oats
3/4 cups raisins
3/4 cups chopped walnuts
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of salt
2 1/2 cups milk, plus additional for serving
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup honey
Maple syrup for serving

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, raisins, walnuts, and apples. Add the baking powder, cinnamon vanilla, salt, milk, eggs and honey. Mix well and pour into an ungreased 9 X 13-inch glass baking dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day:

Remove the pan from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until lightly golden, about 30 - 40 minutes. Serve with milk and maple syrup.