Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spur of the Moment Dinner: Stuffed Pork Chops

I took inventory of what I had on hand for dinner tonight and then went searching through my Pinterest recipes - which, by the way, I have HUNDREDS of!!  I settled on a recipe for Stuffed Pork Chops which originally came from Recipes.com .  I was missing several of the ingredients that the recipe called for but figured that I could make substitutions that would work.  And WOW did they work!!  Dinner came out awesome.

The ingredients called for were:

  • 4 pork loin rib chops, cut 1 1/4" thick
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 tbsp. margarine or butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tbsp. chopped pecans
  • 1/4 tsp. dried sage leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 20 Keebler Town House Original crackers
  • 1/3 cup apricot spreadable fruit
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

I only had two chops, and they were a bit thinner than 1 1/4" - but, they would work.  I didn't have dried apricots - but I did have Sun-maid Fruit Bits. The only pecans that I had were left over from Christmas and were glazed.  I didn't have any Sage but had some fresh Rosemary.  And I didn't have any apricot spreadable fruit - but I had some locally made Apple Butter.

So I started out by trimming the fat from my chops and cutting a pocket in each.

Next, I finely chopped the onion and the celery - then cooked in a medium saucepan with the butter until tender.

I chopped the fruit bits and pecans.

I chopped up the fresh Rosemary and added it to the pecans along with the pepper.

I removed my onion mixture from the heat and stirred in the fruit, pecans, Rosemary and pepper. The crackers came next.  I put approx. 20 crackers into a zip-lock bag and crushed them coarsely.  The crackers were then mixed into the onion mixture too.  Ummmm - the smell at this point was wonderful!

I stuffed the pocket of each of my chops with the onion mixture and secured with toothpicks. The chops were then placed on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and baked, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

While the chops were baking, I mixed 1/3 cup of Apple Butter and a teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce.

When the chops were just about done, I spooned this mixture over the top of the chops and continued to cook for another five minutes.

I served the chops with some of the remaining stuffing on the side.  My husband loved it :)


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Valentine's Day . . . From Third Century to Present Day

Fun, Facts & Food to Celebrate the Day!!

Valentine’s Day - the Feast of Saint Valentine - such a light-hearted and good-spirited holiday.

Valentine’s Day began as a church celebration of a third century Roman saint by the name of Valentinus who died on an ancient Roman road over the Apennine Mountains.  History isn’t even sure if there is only one St. Valentine or two of the same name.  Legend has it that St. Valentine was imprisoned for “performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire”.  It is said that while in prison, St. Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer and that before he was executed, he wrote, “from your Valentine” as a farewell.  St. Valentine was buried on February 14th – the day that we now know as Valentine’s Day.

Not until the High Middle Ages and into the 15th Century did this celebration become associated with “romance” . . . which originates with the “medieval ideal of chivalry.”  The romantic writings of Chaucer inspired the whole idea of Valentine’s Day being a holiday symbolized by love, hearts, doves and Cupid.

Medieval Period, English Renaissance, Modern Times – all brought more and more symbols and traditions of our present Valentine’s Day.  Discover all of the fascinating details by going to Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine's_Day to learn more.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, this post will accent the many traditions that have developed over the years and provide fun things to see, do or make – all relating to Valentine’s Day.

Bursting with L♥VE: Felt Heart M&M's Holder - from Lolly Jane

Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve - from Country Living

Valentine's Crispy Treats - from Cookies & Cups

Cinnamon Swirl Cream Cheese Mints - from Barbara Bakes

Blowing Kisses Valentine Treat Bags - from Polkadots and Puppies

Valentine's Day Word Fun - found on Pinterest board by Church House Collection

Strawberry 2 Ingredient Fudge - from Cookies and Cups

Valentine Throw Pillow - from Diary of a Quilter

Valentine's Day Sensory Sink - from My Nearest And Dearest

Valentine 5-Layer Finger Jello - from The Food Librarian

DE-LISH Neopolitan Cupcakes - from i{heart}2stamp via allrecipes.com

I Dig You Valentines - from Fry Family

Valentine's Day Countdown - from Curbly

Valentine Bingo - from Makoodle

Valentine Cupid Foot from Gallamore West

Strawberry Heart Oreos - from Thirty Handmade Days

Top Romantic Movies for Valentine's - from Better Homes and Gardens

Devil's Food Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies - from Sally's Baking Addiction

Valentine Pencil Tops - from at Second street

So enjoy the fun of Valentine's Day.  And remember, Valentine's Day is not just about falling in love with someone and being romantic, it is also love of yourself, love of the people around you, love of the Earth that we live on, love of being alive.  I read where someone said that February 14th should be thought of as "Appreciation of Love" day.  I like that idea.

"We should appreciate the love that surrounds us; we should share the love that lies within us and we should treasure the love that is given to us. The hearts I have broken in the past taught me to never settle for less and always go for what you want in life. The people who broke my heart taught me how to mend one.  Most importantly, Valentine’s Day should be a day where we are grateful for the people who taught us how to love."  -  by Jermel-Lynn Quillopo / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Football & Food - Welcome Super Bowl!!

It just seems like football and food go together.  And I am a huge fan of both.  The ultimate football day - Super Bowl XLVII - is fast approaching and it got me thinking about the hundreds of different food items that will be made on that day.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them all!  If your experiences of Super Bowl Sunday are anything like mine, it's one big eating-drinking-yelling-jumping-dancing-high-fiving fest of a day!!  Of course, my team is the Patriots and we have had a pretty awesome last 10-12 years or so. 

I decided that I would browse through all of my recipes and find 15 of what I think are the most yummy-looking Super Bowl recipes.  Some I have tried and some I have not . . . but I certainly want to try the ones that I haven't :)  I tried to choose some healthy ones in my list as well . . . but let's face it, the unhealthy ones just taste so good!

Be sure to let me know which ones YOU have tried.  And if you have any yummy suggestions of your own that you think should be added, by all means please, direct us to them in your comments!!

Beer Cheese Dip - posted by Cheryl from "Tidy Mom" - I haven't tried this one yet but it sounds absolutely amazing!

Touchdown Taco Pockets - from Mandy at "Gourmet Mom on-the-Go"

Cheesy Potato Wedges - from the girls at "OH SO DELICIOSO"

"Better than Takeout" Crab Rangoon - from Melissa at "I Breathe I'm Hungry"

Buffalo Chicken Taquitos - from Marsha Warner of "Real Women of Philadelphia"  - I made these for the Patriot Playoff game against Houston last weekend and they were awesome.  Plus, really cheap and easy to make.

Steamed Cajun Shrimp - from Kristen at "SlenderKitchen" - I made this a couple of months ago and I actually put the shrimp along with some diced celery and some skinny slices of red, orange and yellow peppers in a steam basket above the liquid while cooking rather than right in the liquid to cook. I then served the shrimp and vegetables with some of the liquid poured over the top.

Hot Wing Shots - from Kristen at "Baker Bettie" - I think that these are such a cute idea!  And I found little plastic shot glasses at my local grocery store which will work perfect for these.  They only cost a couple of dollars for 25 of them.  I tend to like my buffalo wings really crispy so I'll probably cook mine out on the grill rather than under the broiler though.

Queso Dip - from Maria and Josh at "Two Peas & Their Pod"

bite-sized BLTs - from Marilou Suszko at "Our Ohio"

Easy Fruit Dip - from Nikki at "Chef in Training"

Frank's RedHot Buffalo Chicken Dip - by Campbell's Kitchen found on the "allrecipes.com" site - This is one of my go-to dishes and is always requested when we go to visit friends, have a party or have to bring a pot-luck to work!  It's easy to make and I never, ever have any leftovers.  I prefer to boil and shred fresh boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts rather than using the Swanson precooked kind.  I like using chunky blue cheese dressing.  And . . . I always sprinkle lots of shredded cheddar cheese on the top and let it get brown and crispy during the last few minutes of cooking.  Yummmm!

Snickers Dip - by Kim from "relativetaste"

Baked Jalapeno Poppers - from Tracey at "The Kitchen is My Playground"

Turkey-Cheddar Kabobs with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce - published in the September 2007 issue of "Southern Living" and found on "myrecipes.com"

Texas Caviar - from Faye Leavitt found on "Heloise.com" - I have made this a few times and it is wonderful!  There are many recipes out there for Texas Caviar but this is the one that I like the best.  Thanks to my friend Janet for introducing me to this at a "Spamshiners Party" that I went to a few years back :)

Well . . . I hope that you get a chance to try them all!  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

MY Thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the New Year, 2013, and the time when many people make their New Year’s Resolutions.  

According to Wikipedia, "a New Year's Resolution is a commitment that a person makes to one or more personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit.  A key element to a New Year's resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year and new beginnings.  People committing themselves to a New Year's  resolution generally plan to do so for the whole following year".

New Year's Resolutions date back in history to the Babylonian era where promises were  made to the Gods to return borrowed items and pay back debts.  "The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.”  At the end of each Christmas season, medieval knights would take what was called a “peacock vow” to show their “commitment to chivalry”.

Not only is there a historical background, there is also a religious background to New Year’s Resolutions.  Take for example, the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah.  This continues through the High Holidays and ends with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  During this period, people look back over the past year and ask forgiveness of their sins and wrongdoings.  The concept, regardless of history or religion, tends toward self-improvement.

But, 88% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions fail to actually stick to their resolution (2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol) for the entire year or through the completion of their initial goal.  I sure seem to know a lot of people in this 88% - including myself!

So for 2013, I have decided to try a little bit of a different concept.  I’m not going to try to change myself.  I’m not going to try to lose weight.  I’m not going to make an effort to go the gym.  I’m not going to try to spend less money.  I’m not going to do any of the thousands of things that people promise themselves they are going to do.  Instead . . . I am going to live each day as it comes, accept the good, accept the bad, and make the most of ALL of it.  I am going to appreciate everything that I have instead of wishing for more.  I want to love more, live more and enjoy more.  I want to get back to old-fashioned family values and appreciate the little things like our Grandparents did.

In 2013, I am going to:

  • Talk more with my family – TALK . . . not text, not IM, not email, not message on Facebook - TALK.
  • Take more pictures – of EVERYTHING!  With cellphone technology, there is no reason to not be snapping pictures of interesting and beautiful things every day.
  • Get outside and enjoy the scenery more – I love the outdoors and as a kid I was outside every chance I got.  Whatever happened to that?
  • Smile more – at EVERYONE.  A little bit of kindness goes a long way and there isn’t enough of that in our world nowadays.
  • Pray more – This brings peace and serenity to my soul.
  • Relax more – My “inbox” will always be full.  Might as well quit worrying about emptying it and kick back and take a breath once in a while.
  • Be creative more – I LOVE being creative.  I actually crave being creative.  Crocheting, writing, painting, sewing, cooking – time to do a lot more of this.
  • Read more – I used to be able to read a ½ dozen books a week.  I love to read.  But life got too busy and I stopped making time for a good book.  It’s time to start making time.

Are you making any New Year’s Resolutions?  Why or why not?  What are you going to do in 2013?

Check out these Top 10 New Year's Resolutions - By Albrecht Powell, About.com Guide   http://pittsburgh.about.com/od/holidays/tp/resolutions.htm

        1. Spend More Time with Family & Friends
          2. Fit in Fitness
          3. Tame the Bulge
          4. Quit Smoking
          5. Enjoy Life More
          6. Quit Drinking
          7. Get Out of Debt
          8. Learn Something New
          9. Help Others
          10. Get Organized

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Holiday Cookie Swap

I am so amazed at the number of fantastic looking cookie recipes that can be found online.  Each night, I browse through all of the postings on Pinterest and add interesting items to my boards and over the last few months, I have pinned a whopping 150 different cookie recipes to my "Recipes - Cookies" board!!  So, of course, I have been dying to try some of them out.

I initiated a "Holiday Cookie Swap" at work a couple of weeks before Christmas and went about reading through each recipe to see what I wanted to cook as my contribution to the swap.  I actually decided on two different recipes and . . . they both came out AWESOME!!!

The first recipe that I chose was Chocolate Peanut Butter Snowballs from "Recipe girl".  Not only were they pretty easy but they tasted fantastic.  They are the type of cookie that just melts in your mouth.  These cookies received rave reviews from my co-workers.  And they definitely LOOK like cookies that should be at a Holiday swap as well.

The second cookie recipe that I chose was Pumpkin Caramel Kiss Cookies from "Something Swanky".  These cookies were even easier and have such a wonderful Autumn spiciness about them.  I found that these were the ones that I had difficulty not eating too many of since they are quite addicting.  Another rave review from my co-workers, too!

I will certainly be trying out more of my cookie recipes soon.  In fact, I have been craving a good Oatmeal Raisin cookie.  I am looking for one that is nice and moist.  If any of you have any recipe suggestions, please comment with a link to the recipe.  I will be sure to post a review.

Pictures above compliments of Recipe girl and Something Swanky.