Stuffed Pork Chops

I rarely cook pork chops which is surprising to me since I enjoy them so much but when I found some really nice thick cut chops on sale the other day I couldn’t pass them up. As soon as I saw them I thought to myself “I’m going to stuff these” and then set out to try and decide what to stuff them with. I settled on making a nice stuffing to go inside of these big thick beauty’s but did not want to go through all of the trouble that usually goes with stuffing like cutting the bread into cubes, drying it etc, so I decided to buy a stuffing mix and just add my own flare to it.

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So here is what went into this project.

Ingredients

1 pack of thick cut boneless pork chops

1 pack stuffing mix (not stove top)

celery (1 cup finely chopped)

green onion (1 cup finely chopped)

garlic powder

black pepper

chili powder

poultry seasoning (about a tablespoon but you can add more to get the taste you want)

butter salted (2 tablespoons)

chicken stock ( 4 cups)

Cooking

Melt the butter in a large pan and then saute the onion and celery until they start to turn clear.  Add the stuffing mix, celery, onion, and two cups of chicken stock to a large mixing bowl and mix together thoroughly, adding the poultry seasoning and a few pinches of garlic powder as  you go. After mixing cover the stuffing mix and place it in the fridge for at least 24 hrs. This will help the flavors meld nicely together. You don’t actually have to do this step if you don’t want to but I like to do it.

Now take the pork chops and cut a pocket into the sides of each one. This is where you will stuff the pork chop. Make sure the pocket is big enough to get a good couple of spoonfuls in there. Once you have the pockets cut start stuffing them. You can use some cooking twine to tie them up if you need to but depending on the thickness of the chops you may not need to. I did not this time around.

Now heat your frying pan to medium high heat and brown each pork chop on both sides. Make sure to sprinkle both sides with a little salt, black pepper and chili powder. You are not cooking them all the way through just browning the outside. Take the chops and but them in a deep baking dish and then pour in the remaining chicken stock so that you have about an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees and bake the Pork chops for about 45/50 minutes uncovered.

When the chops are done remove them from the oven and place them on a plate to cool for serving.

This part is optional but I think you will like it and it only takes a few minutes.

Take the remaining drippings and liquid from the baking pan and pour into a frying pan. Simmer on medium heat until it starts to bubble stirring it to break up any larger chunks. Now add a couple tablespoons of all purpose flour and stir to mix it into the drippings making sure to break up any clumps you have. Add a little salt and black pepper and a little garlic powder. Reduce the heat and let it start to thicken up into a nice gravy. If it seems to be to thick you can add a little chicken stock (or water) to thin it out or if it is not thick enough just add a little more flour and stir it in.  This will make you a nice gravy to go over the stuffed pork chops.

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There you have it. Enjoy!

Thanks for Reading

JMW

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Turkey Taco Salad

I have always laughed when people tell me that they are trying to eat healthier and are going to just get a taco salad. I have never met a taco salad that was actually healthy. It is in fact one of the least healthy menu items that you can get from a restaurant or fast food place.  Filled with refried beans, taco meat, tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese, and usually ranch dressing, these “salads” will do nothing for your waistline except stretch it.  With that being said I actually love them and think that they taste great and are almost like eating a giant taco in a bowl. It doesn’t get any better than that. I love bad food and things that are not good for you but I also enjoy trying to make things that are bad for you a little healthier. I see it as a challenge to see how much of the bad stuff I can cut while still keeping it delicious. So with that in mind I set out to bring the taco salad to my table in a healthier version. Here is how I did it.

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Ingredients

Lean Ground turkey (1 lb)

Fresh Romaine lettuce

Kraft Free shredded Cheddar

Local fresh salsa (any brand will do)

Marie’s yogurt ranch dressing

Chili powder

Granulated garlic

Black Pepper

Salt

Cooking

The only thing that needs to be cooked here is the taco meat, which can be cooked ahead of time to just reheat when needed.

In a medium sized pan, brown the ground turkey over medium high heat and break it up into small pieces as it cooks. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 teaspoons black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Since lean ground turkey does not produce much in the way of fat you will need to add in about 1/4 cup of water and stir it all around to get a little extra moisture. Now reduce to low heat and let it simmer while you get the salad part ready.

Cut up the Romaine lettuce into small pieces and put a large handful into a salad bowl.  Top with half cup to a cup of your turkey taco meat depending on how big of a meal you are in the mood for. Then add about a 1/4 cup of salad dressing, a couple big spoonfuls of salsa and then sprinkle on some of the fat free cheese. Now I know you are thinking that I forgot the chips but I did not. I chose not to use any type of tortilla chips to cut out a few of the calories and to be honest I did not miss them at all. This made a very tasty and healthier alternative to something bad that I really enjoy. I will without a doubt be adding this one to my rotation at home.

Enjoy and thanks for reading,

James

The Perfect Cuban Sandwich

One thing I have enjoyed for many years is a good Cuban sandwich. Growing up in Florida I have had my fair share of Cuban sandwiches good and bad and even skirting bizarre. I will have to tell you about the meatloaf Cuban sometime.

When I moved to Texas I realized that there was a shortage of Cuban restaurants and not many places offered a really good Cuban sandwich, or at least not a traditional one. There are a few things that go into making a Cuban sandwich great and without those I don’t think it can truly be called a Cuban. First is the bread;  A Cuban is made with a hard crust Cuban bread or you can use a good French bread which is essentially the same thing, just make sure it is a hard crust bread. An 8 to 10 inch piece will make a filling sandwich. Second is the mustard and pickles, it’s just not a Cuban without mustard and pickles and I mean dill pickles not those vile sweet things people try and pass off as pickles. When I make a Cuban I don’t go for the fancy mustard, I grab the French’s plain ole yellow mustard. For me this just brings out the flavor of the meat. Which brings me to the filling for the sandwich. For it to be a great Cuban sandwich it must use two meats, a good thin sliced roasted pork and a thin sliced ham are the traditional choices and to compliment it you need to add a couple of slices of Swiss cheese. If you want it to be a great Cuban you need the Swiss cheese. Now the last thing to make a great Cuban sandwich is that it has to be pressed flat. Some restaurants seem to miss this step and to them I say “shame on you”. You need to press the sandwich in a hot pan on both sides or even in something like a panini press but however you do it flatten it and get it toasty on the outside or its not worth the effort.

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So lets get into making this glorious creation.

Ingredients

3 to 4 slices of Boars Head Black Forest Ham (sliced thin)

3 to 4 slices of roasted pork (sliced thin)

French’s yellow mustard

French Bread (8 to 10 inch loaf)

Garlic Powder

Dill pickles sliced (about 6 slices)

Swiss cheese (two slices)

Assembly

First cut the end off of the French bread at a slight diagonal and then slice it in half down the center so that there is a top and bottom for your bun. Now spread a nice amount of mustard on the inside of both halves and then lay out the meat slices, ham first then pork. Now cover with the cheese and then pickles and then put the top half of the bun on.

Now take a large pan that will fit your sandwich and give it a nice coating of cooking spray and heat to medium high heat. Sprinkle in  a little garlic powder while it is heating up. Once the pan has heated up put the sandwich in and let it start to toast. While it is toasting you will want to use either a spatula or a smaller pan to press it as flat as you can. After it has toasted for a couple of minutes take it out and spray a little more cooking spray and add a little more garlic powder and do the same thing to the other side of the sandwich. You will know it is done when you see the cheese start to melt a little.

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Now remove the sandwich, cut it in half and enjoy. You may add things to your sandwich if you want,  I have even been known to put a little mayo on from time to time or even a few grilled onions to change it up a bit, but never ever remove anything if you want it to truly taste like a Cuban Sandwich. I think if you follow these instructions that you will end up being just as big a fan of the Cuban sandwich as I am.

Enjoy and thanks for reading,

JMW

A new Year after a Holiday Scramble

Hello everyone. I am back for another great year of fun and food. I hope that you all had a great holiday season and are ready to get back into the swing of things.

I was on vacation over the Christmas break and I was faced with an unusual challenge while staying with my In-laws. What kind of challenge could this be you ask? No, it’s not the usual challenges people face when staying with In-laws because mine are great people and easy to get along with. I am very lucky in that respect.  It would instead be what to make for breakfast in a kitchen that is not really set up to be functional but more decorative and does not really have any two items that go together in the fridge. I love my in laws to death but they live very different lives in regards to food and don’t really have the variety in the fridge that I am used to. So like a contestant on Top Chef heading into a difficult quick fire challenge I started scouring the kitchen to see what I might be able to come up with. Trust me on this, it was no easy task.

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After digging through the fridge, pantry, cabinets and drawers and looking under several rocks, here is what I was able to come up with.

Ingredients

Eggs

Frozen Tater Tots

Frozen chopped onion

Sliced vegetarian cheese

Frozen Italian Meatballs

Black Pepper

Salt

Rubbed sage

Butter

I know that you just read that I thought to yourself “Maybe a couple of those items work together but certainly not all of them”. Well my brain made sense out of them and came up with something that was filling and quite delicious. Everyone involved was pleasantly surprised.

I started out by melting butter in a non stick pan and adding in the frozen onions and tater tots. My plan was to make a rough version of home fries/hashbrowns. While those were heating up I thawed out a couple of meatballs to test and see if I could do anything with them. They ended up being quite bland and I was about to toss the idea of using them when I remembered seeing rubbed sage in the pantry. Now is where the brain juices kicked in. I decided to thaw out a few more meatballs and chop them up into small pieces and toss them into the pan to brown. I started adding black pepper, salt and rubbed sage and to my surprise it started smelling like breakfast sausage. I know that some of you probably saw this coming, seeing as how sage is a component of most breakfast sausages but I was still very happy at how it was all coming together. By now the “sausage” has started to brown and crisp up and the tater tots have broken into smaller hashbrown like pieces. I added a little more sage and then stirred in the eggs that I had whisked up and ready to scramble. When the eggs were about done I added a piece of the vegetarian cheese and melted it through the entire scramble, just for a little extra consistency.

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I will admit to being pretty skeptical about trying this but I am so glad I did. The meal turned out great and if you had not known what was in it you would have sworn it was a breakfast sausage and egg scramble.  Keep this in mind that next time you are looking in your fridge and think to yourself that you have nothing to make. With a little thought and maybe even a little inspiration from MacGyver you never know what you can come up with.

Thanks for Reading

JMW