Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

Pork Fried Rice

Growing up I was always a Lo-Mein kinda girl. So much so that when my parents would order Chinese, I would never even look at the menu (and pretty soon they just stopped asking me and just knew what to get me – Lo-Mein and Hot & Sour Soup!!). They would always make me try other things and here & there I would find things I liked (General Tso’s chicken, Sweet & Sour Chicken, Boneless Spare Ribs), but overall I was just a Lo-Mein Girl! Then, I went to college and for some reason I started ordering different things – or asked to try friend’s stuff! And it was then (even though I had always had it growing up) that I really decided that Pork Fried Rice is awesome!

So when my mom called me recently because she was going to Shop-Rite’s Customer Appreciation Day and did I want pork loin, because the price was too good to pass up but they already had some in the freezer – I obviously said yes. Little to my surprise (a ‘thank goodness I got a new fridge already’ kinda surprise) she had purchased me a 10 pound pork loin!

Yeah – 10 lbs and 2 people… wow! So I got to slicing and dividing (ended up with 4 meals of sliced pork loin, two 2 pound-ish hunks for slow cooker or something, and some small chunks to use in what else but pork friend rice!).

So I started to do some searching for good Fried Rice recipes because I always seem to just not make it right. This time I made sure to cook my rice as SOON as I got home from school so it was cooled by the time I went to cook the rest of the dish. The secret that I have been missing has got to be hoisin sauce – this taste was right on!! I like more kick to my fried rice, so next time I will get some of that red chili sauce or maybe just chinese mustard – but I want more of a kick.

This was super tasty, not too time-consuming – perfect for the next time you have a ton (literally!?) of pork sitting around OR have leftover pork OR just have the craving for fried rice (you can even add in whatever other veggies you like, or make this vegetarian very easily – play around & let me know how it goes!

Pork Fried Rice

as adapted from Sweet Pea Chef

  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 boneless pork chops
  • 6-7 cremini (or a container of baby-bella) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced plus more for garnish
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups cooked long grain rice
  • 3 tbsp. (low sodium) soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • [1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed]
  • 1 small container sliced water chestnuts
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste

Heat 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil and 1/2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Generously season pork chops with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Brown each side. When cooked through, remove from heat and allow to cool, reserving the drippings in the pan. When cool enough to handle, chop the pork into bite-size pieces and set aside.

In the same pan, add the remaining 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil and 1/2 tbsp. olive oil and heat to medium-high. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the shallot, green onions, garlic and ginger and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chopped pork, rice, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and thawed peas and stir to combine.

Push the rice mixture to one side of the skillet. Pour the eggs into the cleared side of the skillet and scramble. Once mostly scrambled, break up with spatula or spoon and combine eggs and rice mixture. Season with kosher salt and ground black pepper, if necessary. Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.

And I leave you with this quote… “Ever consider what pets must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul – chicken, pork half a cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on Earth!” (Anne Tyler)

May 29, 2011

Sweet 16 Candy Bouquet

What better gift for a Sweet 16 than a Sweet Bouquet!? 

We have all seen the beautiful edible arrangements that you can buy (or make those on your own too – I have done that too and actually featured one as my first post!). Although those are beautiful – they only last moments before someone digs into one!

Since my ‘baby sister” was having her Sweet 16, I wanted to make her something sweet (just like her, haha). I have seen really cool Candy Bouquets before & figured it really couldn’t be that hard! Check out the AWESOME arrangements at Sweet Celebrations by Stacey – I was inspired by her Sweet 16 Bouquets and will be visiting that site again to figure out how to make all sorts of bouquets in the future.

Just think of all the times a Candy Bouquet would be perfect: Baby Showers, Secretaries Day, Teacher Presents, Get Well Soon – whatever you want!

HOW TO: Just pick your recipient’s favorite candy (or whatever matches the color scheme) get a container, some flower foam (the more dense one), bbq skewers, hot glue gun, & some taffeta or cellophane, your creativity/sense of adventure and have fun – happy crafting!!

More Detailed Directions:

  • Hot Glue your sticks to the back of the candy (being sure to look at the direction and think about varying heights as you go
  • (tightly) Fit the flower foam into your container (make sure its a stable container since this will get top heavy, pick a wide base & you’ll be fine)
  • if you are using “grass” put that in before you start sticking in your candy
  • Now just start sticking, work from the front back (thinking of a big triangle, you want to almost have just a single one in the front and then 2 next, then 3, etc so you build a big pyramid.
  • Stick in your fillers for the empty space – I used taffeta this time, but think that a metallic cellophane would have worked better
  • Experiment, have fun, your friends will love you for it!

I would love to see what you have done (will do) – send me a link to your creation & lets get crafting!

May 25, 2011

Fondant Fun for a Sweet 16

My baby sister turned 16!

Ok – lets back this up. She isn’t the youngest of the family AND she isn’t really my sister. Many moons ago I began doing theatre in my middle school. I instantly clicked with my directors, a husband & wife team (they may be regretting this today). My first show that I did with them was “A Christmas Carroll” and for some reason they thought it would be a good idea to let this 7th grader carry their 4 month old on stage as a poor beggar woman (yes, I have known her for 16 years since she was an infant). Luckily for that little baby, she cried before the curtain went up every night and I went onstage with just a basket (and ‘threw’ the crying child at my mom who was helping backstage). The next year one of my featured roles was walking around dressed as a maid with my [5-year-old?] “brother” dressed as Sandy the dog on a collar/leash (guess he actually listened to me at that point and that is how I got that part – hey, he listened to me, imagine that).

officially sisters as of 2000: Music Man

A few years later and that boy-dog is capturing hearts on stage being adorable & the crying baby is still shy but now wearing matching outfits as me during “Music Man” I always wanted a sister and being cast as Zaneeta with J as my little sister (I think she had an official name!?) gave me the opportunity to call this girl my sister.

Fast – forward another 11 years and we reach today where this beautiful young woman introduces me to her friends as her “big sister” and I have spent many-a-holiday and random event at their house.

my siblings - the ones I choose

They taught me many things over the years, including: you’re never fully dressed without a smile, a good night’s sleep is important, Irish accents are great fun, happiness is anything that’s loved by you, and that yes – there is hope! It is said that that the family you choose is just as important as the family you are related to – well those 6 people in that family that I chose are some of the most important people in my life and I wouldn’t imagine it any other way. 


Wow – that was a long & sappy sidetrack, sorry!

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To decorate these I colored 1/2 the container of frosting bright pink and the other half a bright green (using a combo of colors from the Wilton 12 icing color pack). Then I did the same thing with the fondant (yay to playing with play-doh) and rolled it out (it should have been way thinner). Finally I just used my nice, small cookie-cutter to make a whole bunch of stars.

"naked" cupcakes

These may look really pretty (ok, really pretty for my first time – at least maybe give me that?) but the taste is just ‘eh’. I was not a fan of any of the “boxed” flavors and the fondant tastes like worn out bubble gum. I am usually a taste over looks kinda girl (you can’t just be a pretty face) so overall, I give these a thumb down… even though they did look nice on the dessert part of the table.

stars for the star

JoElle's beauty

Talk about looking nice, why don’t we take a look at JoElle’s (first attempt too, might I add) fondant covered cake that she made. Somehow we created almost the same color fondant too! From now on, I am leaving major cake decorating to former classmate JoElle & I’ll stick to other things… great work lady!

p.s. bonus points if you can name the shows that I kinda-sorta-ish referred to in this post that I was in….

May 23, 2011

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Since I bought my house in 2009, every year at the end of April and through May I get very excited. You see, the wonderful woman that I bought my house from was a wonderful gardener and had a green thumb with her flowers – both things that I struggle with (Rich is a half-way-decent-ish gardener and I am working on the flower thing). Because of Marie’s skills (she was 89 and still living well and happily on her own –  may be all be so lucky) I end up with quite a few bunches of asparagus, during the season we get at least a dozen pieces every day

fresh from the garden to your bowl

huge bunch of asparagus from my 2009 harvest

We eat most of our asparagus fresh (& warm from the sun) right after picking it. We love it grilled as well.

This week I was craving some soup – so whipped up this Cream of Asparagus Soup. Putting some toasted garlic bread with fresh butter & parmesan on the side, we had a fresh, light, healthy, filling, quick, tasty dinner.

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Just because its spring doesn’t mean that you need to give up ‘soup days’ – just come up with different ways to enjoy it.

SO – How do you enjoy your spring/summer soups!?

Cream of Asparagus Soup

[adapted from Simple Bites]

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cleaned and chopped leeks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoons)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds trimmed green asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • fresh Parmesan, for serving (if desired)

Melt the butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When melted, add the leeks and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute.

Stir in the flour, mixing well with the butter, and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the white wine. Make sure to scrape up any browned bits. Cook for 1 minute. Add 3 cups of broth, whisking to eliminate any lumps. Bring liquid to a simmer over medium-heat. Add the asparagus pieces and the bay leaf. Reduce to medium-low heat and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the mixture to a food processor (or use that great immersion blender), working in batches if needed, and purée until soup is very smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of broth, if needed. Pour the soup back into the pot over low heat. Stir in the cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice. Heat the soup for 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, and add extra liquid until preferred consistency is reached. If desired, grate a bit of fresh Parmesan on top.

Marie, the wonderful woman I bought the house from

Marie (asparagus-planting former home-owner) & Me

I also want to try this raw asparagus salad from Geny Foodie later this season too!

May 20, 2011

Chocolate Mug Cake

Microwave Chocolate Cake

5 – Minute Chocolate Cake

10 – Minute Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Mug Cake

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

How many of you love those Warm Delights by Betty Crocker, but cant’t bring yourself to spend the money to spoil yourself on them? (Or you just get them when they are on sale/you have a coupon & you wish you could have them more often since molten warm goey chocolate cake is too good to not have whenever you want it)…. Ok – thanks, put your hands down!

This is the make at home, do it yourself, whatever, whenever, whoever, version of those ‘instant’ cakes and they are just TOO GOOD! You are now just 10 minutes from warm Chocolate Cake.

Wait, let me repeat that… “You are now just 10 minutes away from fresh warm Chocolate Cake.” Did it sink in that time?

10 Minutes: the time it takes to put on your makeup, the time time it takes to make a pot of coffee, [less than] the time it takes to make a pot of pasta, the time it takes to walk a mile, OR the time it takes to make a fresh, from scratch chocolate cake!!

Remember, just because you can have something this delicious in just 10 minutes [every day] doesn’t mean that you should (that is a reminder from me to both of our waistlines, feel free to check out Calorie Count as a reminder as to why you do not need this every day & that yes, it is still cake).

A photo of the e-mail print-out my mom gave me…

RECIPE

  • 4 Tablespoons Flour
  • 4 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Applesauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Oil
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • optional: 3 T chocolate chips
  • 1 large mug
Add all your dry ingredients to the mug & mix well. Toss in your egg and mix thoroughly (you may want to mix your egg in another container before putting it into the mug). Then add your milk, applesauce, & oil to combine that. (I mix my wet in another container & then put them into the mug to make sure its mixed well) Once it’s all combined, add your vanilla and any mix-ins you are putting it.

popping with goodness

If you are cooking just one mug at a time it should take about 3 minutes in a 1000-watt microwave. The mug will “explode” over the top but should not spill over, don’t worry! Allow to cool for a few minutes and enjoy right out of the mug (or make another dish dirty and spill it out onto another plate).
The “original” recipe calls for 3 Tablespoons of oil, but when I looked up the nutrition facts of it that way I almost died, so decided to do a 2 to 1 ratio of applesauce to oil: feel free to make this with whatever ratio of oil/applesauce you want!

asking to be eaten

Nutella Version – I’ll have to try this one! AND – while we are making variations on this dangerous cake… why not try adding a tablespoon or two of PEANUT BUTTER to change the flavor, or some CARAMEL, or add different flavored chocolate chips!?

Have funbut just don’t eat this too often (there:  I said it again  – now I can’t be blamed for any weight gain for this easy to make cake!)

Oh yeah – HAPPY 100th POST TO MEin honor of my 100th post, I made myself my own personal chocolate celebration cake!! And I made a 2nd one to treat my man & favorite photographer: Mr. Rich Alborn, NJ Wedding Photo!

what are you waiting for?

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