Perfectly Grilled Pork Chops…..

We had grilled pork chops tonight and everyone cleaned their plates!   I thought I’d share a few tips on grilling pork chops.

1)  First and foremost, buy a whole boneless pork loin.  Watch the sale papers as whole pork loin often goes on sale.  Buy a couple and freeze one for later, they thaw beautifully.    I usually figure 6-8 ounces per serving.  Remove the loin from the store packaging and wrap with cling wrap.  Wrap with heavy duty foil, label and date.  When you want to thaw it out, you can do so in the refrigerator for a couple of days or I put the wrapped loin in a zip bag and let it sit in a large bowl of water.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator to keep it safe.  It will take several hours but will be much quicker than thawing in the refrigerator.  Give it a turn after a couple of hours.
2)  With a very sharp knife, cut the loin into equally sized chops to your desired thickness.  I like  1 1/2″ chops.
3)  Season however you wish.  Tonight I used Penzey’s Chicago Steak Seasoning but you could season very simply with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and a little granulated garlic.
4)  Allow the seasoned chops to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.
5)  Preheat the grill.  Lower the heat to medium-low.  Place the room temperature chops on the grill and close the lid.  Resist moving them around, allow them to sit.  For a 1 1/2″ thick chop, cook on medium low for 5 minutes then give a quarter turn for nice grill marks.  Close lid and cook another 5 minutes.  You should be able to see that the meat is cooking up from the bottom and it’s becoming opaque.  Flip the chops and cook another 5-8 minutes.  An instant read thermometer should read 140′.  Allow the meat to sit covered with foil for 10 minutes before serving.  Spoon those lovely juices that accumulate on the plate over the chops when serving.  Cooking lean pork over high heat will dry them out quickly.  Also, know that it’s ok for the center of the pork to be slightly pink.  Some restaurants even serve it medium, not my personal preference.

There you have it.  Moist, juicy, tender, inexpensive and most of all, delicious and perfectly grilled pork chops.  Serve with grilled onions and mushrooms, a simple baked potato and steamed green beans.  Simple perfect dinner.

Have a great day!


Corned Beef Brisket…..

Everyone will be making corned beef tomorrow.  I made it this week for my clients.  I made it the traditional way and the way the package suggests which is to cover with water, add the enclosed seasoning packet and simmering for 2 1/2-3 hours.

Tomorrow we’re having Joe’s family over and I’m making traditional St. Patty’s Day fare.  I’m going to try something a little different with the corned beef.  I usually trim off as much fat as possible before cooking.  This time I’m going to save the trimming until after the beef is cooked tender.  I’m going to put it into a large roasting pan (that has a lid) with the seasoning packet and just cover it with water.  In other words, a lesser amount of water.  Instead of simmering on the stove top I’m going to oven braise at 325′ for 3 1/2 hours.  I think the combination of the very heavy roasting pan and consistent moist heat will make an amazing corned beef…we’ll see.

Once the meat is tender, I’ll remove it and add the halved red potatoes and back into the oven for 30 minutes or so.  I do not boil the cabbage as I think it has little flavor.  I much prefer sauteed cabbage.  It has much more flavor and is quite delicious.  I make it often throughout the year.

I will also make Margie’s Irish Soda Bread and homemade horseradish (scroll down to the next post).  Be sure to use lots of raisins in the soda bread as the recipe suggests.  The bread is so, so delicious!

Of course, I’ll make some sort of sweet ending.  I’m thinking assorted cookies as the corned beef dinner is so heavy.  Have you seen the strawberries??  They’re in season and so beautiful at this time.  If I can find some on sale tomorrow it may change what I’ll be doing for dessert…maybe strawberry shortcake?  I always change my mind, even at the very last minute!

Have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day!



Twenty Minute Homemade Sloppy Joes…..

It is that time of year when there just isn’t loads of extra time to spend in the kitchen.  I do not make this meal often enough for my people as they go nuts when I make them!  So simple.   I make my Sloppy Joes with ground turkey and a few basic ingredients.  Since your family will love this, double or triple the recipe and freeze it for a couple of other quick weeknight meals.  You’ll be so happy you did!

If you REALLY want to drive ’em crazy make these.  My Oven French Fries  are sure to please and they actually taste like a real potato…imagine that!  They take a bit more effort than opening a bag (which I am certainly not above!) but will be well worth it!

Homemade Sloppy Joes

1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey*
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder, or more to your taste
1 6 ounce can of tomato paste
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups water
8 hamburger buns

1)  Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the oil.  Add the ground meat to to the hot skillet and add the onion garlic and salt and pepper.  Cook until the meat is cooked through.
2)   Add the chili powder, tomato paste and the brown sugar.  Stir the mixture to incorporate the ingredients into the meat.  Add the water all at once.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until you’ve achieved the right consistency for the saucy meat to to onto a bun.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Makes 8 happy, smiley, and very much appreciated servings.

There you go.  An easy, delicious and healthy dinner for your family that everyone will LOVE.

Have a great weekend!


*you can substitute beef for the turkey meat.  I would suggest cooking the beef all the way through and then draining off any excess fat before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce…..

Bolognese sauce is one of my absolute favorite sauces for spaghetti and there is something elegant how it rolls off the tongue, isn’t there?  This takes a bit more cooking time than most of my sauces.   Don’t be turned off by the fact that there are chicken livers in the sauce.  They add a deep and rich flavor and they will literally disintigrate while cooking.  I would recommend doubling or tripling the recipe and freezing the extra sauce to enjoy later.

I used my food processor to finely chop the ham and the vegetables that go into the recipe.  I love the texture of the ground meat and the richness of the sauce.  I subbed out turkey ham for the ham.  Either way, you get amazing flavor from the smoked meat.

When cooking the pasta for the sauce,  under cook it by a couple of minutes.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.  Put the pasta back into the cooking pot and add a few ladels of the bolognese sauce with some of the pasta cooking water.  Cook the pasta the rest of the way in the sauce.  That way the pasta will actually absorb the flavor of the sauce.  SO GOOD!  Serve with my simple Garlic Bread aTop with fresh grated parmesan cheese and some

Homemade Bolognese Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 lb chicken livers, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup smoked ham, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. pasta

1)  Coarsely chop the chicken livers.  Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Cook the chicken livers for about 5 minutes or until they’re done.
2)  Add the olive oil, ham, onion, carrots and celery.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cook for one minute.
3)  Add the ground beef and cook through breaking up large clumps of meat with your mixing spoon.   Add the tomato paste and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
4)  Add the wine and beef stock.  Reduce the heat to low and partially cover with the pot lid.  Simmer for 2 1/2-3 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes.  Add a little more stock or water if the sauce is too thick.
5)  Add the heavy cream and nutmeg.  Stir well and give it a taste.  Add salt and pepper to your taste.  Serves 6.

Simple Apricot Glazed Easter Ham…..

I love to plan for any food celebration!  Easter is especially exciting because of all of the spring produce readily available.  Your holiday dinner doesn’t have to be complicated!  I truly believe that the best foods are the ones with the simplest preparation.  There are many side dishes that can be prepared ahead and simply warmed before serving.

Personally, I especially love a precooked  Easter ham.   Since it’s fully cooked all you need to do is warm in the oven and add a tasty glaze.  I make a simple glaze with apricot preserves, a little dijon mustard, and  a little cider vinegar.  Be sure to warm the ham with a little water or pineapple juice in the pan and cover it tightly with foil.  Your ham will not dry out.  

Warm a precooked ham at 350′ for 15 minutes per pound.  (example:  10 lb. ham x 15 = 150 minutes.  Divide 150 by 60 minutes=2 1/2 hours.  You want an internal temperature of 160′.  Even though it’s fully cooked, rewarming foods, especially meats, need to reach a certain temperature to make it completely safe.  Use an instant read thermometer or one you can put into the ham and leave while in the oven.  With the bone in, figure about 1/2 lb./serving.  Save the bone for soup!

If you’re using a ham that isn’t pre cut, you’ll want to score it with a sharp knife about half way through cooking.  So for a 10 lb. ham score after about an hour and 15 minutes of cooking.  Simply run your knife lightly over the ham making a criss cross pattern.  You will begin to glaze at this point as well.

My Favorite Easter Ham with Apricot Glaze

1 ham-can be spiral cut or uncut
1 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
pinch of salt and pepper
2 cups Pineapple juice

1)  Preheat oven to 350′.  Place the ham in a shallow baking dish fat side up (you can use a pan with a rack).  Add  pineapple juice or 2 cups of water to the bottom of the pan.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for about half of the cooking time.  Remember, 15 minutes per pound.  Insert your thermometer if using one that is oven safe.  Try not to touch the bone.

2)  Half way through cooking, remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil, watch out for steam, it’s terribly hot!  Score the ham if you need to.  Generously coat the ham with the glaze.  Lightly re-cover with the foil.  Add a little water to the pan if the pineapple juice has evaporated.  Back into the oven.  Baste with the glaze a couple more times before it’s done.  Remove from the oven and keep the foil on the top to keep the heat in.  Allow the ham to rest for about 30 minutes.  This will allow you to use the oven to warm any other side dishes you’ll be serving.   Baste the ham one last time before serving.  Enjoy!

More easy Easter recipes to come!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Simplest Barbeque Ribs…..

This recipe uses very few ingredients and a very simple cooking technique called braising.  Slow roast the simply seasoned ribs in the oven with low heat for a couple of hours and finish on the grill for 10-15 minutes.  Feeding a crowd?  Cook the ribs ahead and refrigerate (you’ll want to use within a few days).  Grill for 10-15 minutes and add BBQ sauce and serve.

Here we go….

There is a skin on the underside of the ribs, you’ll want to remove it.

Using your fingers, grip the skin and pull away from the ribs.

If it’s too difficult to grab ahold of the skin with your fingers, use paper towel.  This will help to grip the skin.

Once the skin is removed,  halve the slabs to make them more manageable when cooking.  Choose a meaty spot between two bones and slice with a sharp knife.

Preheat the oven to 275′.  Foil line a deep pan that will hold the ribs without too much crowding.

Now we’re ready to season.   I  season simply with salt and pepper.  I think salt and pepper bring out the natural flavor in the ribs and of course, you get tons of flavor from BBQ sauce.

Place in prepared pan.

Cover the pan tightly with foil.  Roast for 2 1/2 hours.

They’re done.  They don’t look very appetizing at this point but believe me, they’re tender and ready for the grill.  I find that they are more manageable when you allow them to cool a bit before grilling.  Preheat the grill to medium high.  Place ribs on the grill.  Grill until they’re heated through.   Add your favorite BBQ sauce at the very end.   I LOVE Sweet Baby Ray’s, it’s sweet, thick, and a bit spicy, so good.

Best BBQ Ribs

1-2 slabs of baby back ribs, skin removed and halved
salt and pepper
Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce, or your favorite BBQ sauce

1)  Preheat the oven to 275′.  Foil line your pan with heavy duty aluminum foil.

2)  Remove the skin from the back side of the ribs and halve the slab.  Season generously with salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning or rub.  Place into prepared pan.

3)  Cover the pan tightly with foil.  Place in 275′ oven for 2 1/2 hours.  No need to peek.

4)  Remove from oven and cool or refrigerate to grill later.  Preheat grill to medium-high.  Place ribs on the grill for about 15 minutes.  Liberally add BBQ sauce to the ribs and watch carefully as to not burn the BBQ sauce.  Serve immediately.



Step by Step Sunday Onion Braised Pot Roast…..

This is a family favorite.  Tender, succulent onion braised beef served with sour cream mashed potatoes and gravy.  Are you hungry yet?  Let’s begin…..for the pot roast you will need:

2 1/2-3 lbs. beef pot roast
salt & pepper
2 large onions
5 large cloves garlic
1 1/2  cups water
1 cup wine

Generously season what appears to be half a cow!  Cripes!  Anyway, this is a 3 lb. roast.  It makes for wonderful leftovers, so I recommend making more than you need.  Don’t worry about over seasoning, especially with this amount….

Next, heat a large dutch oven or pan that can go into the oven with a lid over medium high heat.  When hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and put the seasoned meat into the pan.  Cook about 7-10 minutes per side to caramelize the beef.

While the meat is browning, thinly slice a couple of large sweet onions…..

When the meat is nicely browned, remove the meat from the pan onto a platter.  Set aside.  Add onions to the pan, stir often.  Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan to prevent scorching.  Cook for about 10 minutes, or until soft.   Can you imagine how my house is smelling right about now?????
Of course, we must have plenty of garlic.  Slice 5 large cloves and add to the onions….
Cook for about 2 minutes.  Oh yes, time to preheat the oven to 325’…..

Push the onions off to the side and add the meat with the juices on the plate back to the pan.  Cover the roast with the onions and garlic.  Time for my favorite braising liquid…..

Add 1 1/2 cups of water and 1 cup of wine.  Oh look, a glass for me…how convenient! 
Cover with the lid and place into the oven….oh wait, the meat takes 3 hours, we’re eating at 6:30…better wait a bit!
Cook for 3 hours.  This would be a good time to prep your potatoes.  Peel your potatoes and put them into a large pot, add salt and cover with water.  I like to turn the heat on about 1 1/2 hours before the meat is done.  That way I can mash them and have them ready to go when the meat comes out of the oven.  My house smells unbelievable! 
The meat is done….it is so tender that it’s falling apart…..the epitome of comfort!
For the gravy…..
It is best to remove as much of the fat as possible from the drippings.  Put the roast onto a serving platter.  Remove as many of the onions as you can and put on top of the roast.  Cover with foil to keep warm.  If you have one of those fat separators, use it.  If you don’t put all of the liquid into a 2 cup clear measure.  Using your turkey baster, put it into the bottom of the cup with the juices and suck out just the liquid from the bottom, leaving the fat layer on top.  Put this liquid into a medium sauce pan.  You’ll want about 1 1/2 cups of broth, if you don’t have that much, just add water to get it to 1 1/2 cups.  In a liquid measuring cup, measure 1/2 cup of water and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Mix well and add to the broth mixture.  Turn on the heat to medium.  Heat until nicely thickened and give it a taste.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
I love this savory rich meal with a lovely cabbage salad.  Try my Red Cabbage and Avocado Salad with Peas.  The tart of the cider vinegar is fabulous with the roast.  Enjoy!

Salisbury Steak with Homemade Beef Gravy…..

Forget about TV dinners, this is fabulous!   The best part about it is the ingredient list.  We have a little fiber, equal parts ground turkey, ground beef, and meat substitute crumbles.  For extra flavor, fresh onions and garlic.  If your people have an aversion to “chunks,”  feel free to puree the onions and garlic in the food processor.  I made the recipe large so that you may have some to freeze. 

The best way to freeze is to put the steaks and gravy in the same dish, cover with plastic wrap, right on top of the meat and gravy reducing the amount of air that can get at the food.  Then, cover tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil.  As always, label and date.  It’s easy to write on the foil with a Sharpe pen.  When you’re ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.  When rewarming, remove the plastic wrap and save the foil.  Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan and cover tightly with foil.  Bake in 350′ oven for 30-40 minutes.  Remove foil carefully!  Serve with mashed potatoes and a simple vegetable.

Salisbury Steak with Gravy

1 cup quick oats
1 ¼ cup water
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs
1 medium onion finely minced
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 lb. meatless meat balls crumbled or meat substitute crumbles
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil

For the gravy

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 14 oz. can of beef or chicken stock, or Better Than Bouillon, (warm in microwave for 45 seconds)
2 tablespoons sherry
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
¼ teaspoon pepper

1) Preheat oven to 350’. Foil line a cookie sheet with sides with non stick foil, or foil with a coating of cooking spray. Set aside.
2) Place oats and water into a large mixing bowl. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire, and eggs, mix well. Add minced onion and garlic. Add the ground beef, turkey, meatless crumbles, salt, and pepper. With meticulously clean hands, mix well. Divide into approximately 10-6 ounce balls. Shape balls into oblong patties. Heat a cast iron or non stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and brown the patties on both sides and place on prepared baking pan.
3) Bake for 30 minutes. While they are baking, prepare gravy.
4) Over medium heat, add butter and oil to the skillet you used for browning. Once butter is melted, add the flour. Stir over heat for about 1 minute. Add warmed stock and whisk well until incorporated. (warm liquid is added to prevent lumps) Stir often to prevent scorching. Bring to a low boil and continue cooking for one minute. Add sherry, salt, and pepper. Taste. Add additional seasoning, or additional stock to thin out if necessary.   Makes 10 servings.

Simple Grilled Steak with Rub….

Who doesn’t love grilled steak and potatoes?  It is a summer staple here in the US.  I think the leanest and most flavorful cuts are sirloin and flank steak.  Cook them from medium (warm pink center, sirloin picture above), medium rare(cool redish pink center), to rare (pretty dang red, or “moo-ing”) for the most tender result.  The more well done they become, the less tender.  Marinate the sirloin for 30 minutes to a couple of hours, it is a pretty tender cut of meat.   Marinate a flank steak anywhere from 2-24 hours.  The key with the flank steak is to slice it thinly against the grain.   Be sure to serve with those delicious juices you see on the plate.  Serve with Twice Baked Potato Casserole (below) and a crisp salad with a homemade Creamy Yogurt Ranch Dressing.  Delicious!

Simple Steak Rub

2 ½ lbs flank steak or lean sirloin steak
1 fresh lime, zested and juiced
2 teaspoons canola oil

For the rub:

1 teaspoon salt, I like kosher
1 teaspoon each:
 Dried oregano
 Black pepper
 Garlic powder
 Onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Zest of the lime you will be using above

1) You will need a large container with a lid, I like to use one large enough that the steak can lay flat. Zest lime, set zest aside and spread out on a small plate to dry. (it will dry quickly on the counter) Juice the lime and rub the juice into the steak. Rub the canola oil into the steak as well, evenly coat.
2) Mix all dry rub ingredients together, add zest. Rub generously into prepared meat, coat evenly. (be careful not to “contaminate” the rub by touching the steak and going directly into the rub)  Allow to marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour or as long as you like. Save any remaining rub in an air tight container, label with contents and date. 
3) Grill over medium heat on preheated grill. For a 1” thick piece of steak, medium, grill for 5 minutes per side allow to rest tented with foil for at least 15 minutes before carving. For flank steak, slice thinly on a diagonal, against the grain. Serve with the au jus.

The sure fire way to know the doneness of a piece of meat is with an instant read thermometer.  You can pick one up at most any store with a kitchen department.  They cost from $5-10.  You simply insert into the thickest part of the meat and wait for a couple of minutes for it to completely register.  Do not leave in meat while cooking in the oven or on the grill with the cover closed!  Meat continues cooking when you remove it from the heat, so always allow it to “rest” for 15 minutes to retain juices and finish the cooking process.

*Internal temperatures for different degrees of doneness:
Rare-120′ to 130′
Medium rare- 130′ to 140′
Medium- 140′ to 150′
Medium well- 150′ to 160′
Well- 160+

Classic Slow Cooker Pulled Pork…..

What’s not to love about pulled pork?  Well, for one thing, the fat.  I use lean pork loin roast, most recipes call for pork shoulder.    In addition to the lean meat, you don’t have to work around all kinds of bones, grizzle, and large pieces of fat.  It makes for much quicker and healthier preparation. 

If you’re entertaining a crowd, like most of us do in the summer, make this ahead and serve it warm in a crock pot.  If you have guests arriving at different times, say for a graduation party or open house, food will remain hot for every guest.  Serve with small rolls that are easy to eat and can withstand the juicy meat and slaw.  You do not want to use hard rolls as the filling would “squish” out when you bite into them.

The pork is sweet and spicy so I love to pair it with a simple red cabbage salad with slight acidity, it’s a great flavor combination. 

The thing I love most about it is not having to cook while you have guests.  Sooooo simple!

Classic Pulled Pork Sandwiches
In the Slow Cooker

3 tablespoons canola oil
4 lbs. pork loin roast, cut in half
1 cup cider vinegar
¾ cup ketchup
½ cup dark molasses
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
1 teaspoon dry mustard or 1 tablespoon regular yellow
2 teaspoons granulated onion powder
2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1) Turn slow cooker on low. Season the pork roast with salt and pepper. Preheat large skillet over medium high heat and brown pork roast on all sides. Place meat in slow cooker.
2) Deglaze pan with a little water. Add all ingredients to the pan, mix well and bring to a bubble. Pour over meat and cover. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high 4-5 hours. Meat should be very tender.
3) Remove meat from cooker, set aside. Skim as much fat as possible from the top of the sauce.  (There will be very little)  Using two forks, shred pork and add back to sauce. Serve over soft mini buns. 1 1/4 lbs. of cooked pulled pork will easily feed a family of four.  Freeze leftovers for another hot busy day!

For the simple red cabbage slaw:

1 head of red cabbage
olive oil
cider vinegar
salt & pepper

Core the cabbage and very thinly slice.  Place in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the cabbage.  Sprinkle two pinches of kosher salt and pepper over cabbage.  Gently toss to coat.  Drizzle one tablespoon over cabbage, toss.  Taste.  Add more seasoning if necessary.  Serve alongside the sandwiches.

*The reason for putting warm ingredients into the slow cooker is that time won’t be wasted in the crock pot getting up to cooking temperature.
**If you’ve made the pork ahead, warm in microwave before putting intot he crock pot.  The crock pot is more for holding warm food,not for actual re warming.
***Freezes well