Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pork Chops with Caramel Apples

Back in college, I got tired of only knowing how to cook spaghetti, at least only knowing how to cook spaghetti well, so I started watching cooking shows and experimenting in my kitchen. I would use my friends as guinea pigs. Before long, they started looking forward to my calls to come over for my latest creation.

One weekend my parents came to visit and I wanted to cook something special I had been working on. There wasn't time for a trial run with the friends, so Saturday night was purely experimental. Fortunately, after a day of visiting west Texas wineries, the experiment paid off. In my kitchen that night, I cooked Pork Chops with Caramel Apples for the first time.

Pork Chops with Caramel Apples
Top Left: Seasoned pork chops in cast iron skillet.
Top Right:Sliced apples sauted in butter.
Bottom Left: Apples in finished caramel sauce.
Bottom Right: Pork chop with apples and caramel sauce. Served with sauted asparagus and onions.

The Recipe:

For the pork chops:
  • 4 pork chops 
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Brush the pork chops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until done, flipping as needed.

For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter
  • 4 medium apples - sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the apples and cook until the apples change color. Add in a few shakes of cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the 1/2 cup of sugar and cook until dissolved. It is important not to cook much longer after the sugar is dissolved so that the sauce doesn't turn too thick.

I have served this with mashed potatoes, pureed cauliflower, roasted potatoes, and in this case, sauted asparagus and onions.




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Father's Day

Even though it has passed us by, I think it is still appropriate to wish everyone a happy Father's Day! We celebrated on Sunday by having my dad and my brother over. It was great to see all of the little ones run around and play together, and I think my dad enjoyed being able to just relax and not worry about anything but which grandchild he was going to play with next.

A Southern Gentleman's Kitchen
A Southern Gentleman's Kitchen





A few years back my wife got me A Southern Gentleman's Kitchen and I've been dying to try it ever since. I'll leave the recipes out of this post so you can enjoy the book as much as I am. We of course had a Bloody Mary and Mimosa bar while everything was still getting ready and enjoyed some great conversation while we waited.


Father's Day Meal
The main event!




For the main event, I made some baked beans, baby back pork ribs, Mediterranean inspired chicken shish kabobs with squash and mushrooms, and jalapeno venison sausage. By special request, my wife made one of my favorite desserts, carrot cake.




The three boys
My brother, dad, and me. I was waving at my youngest son!




When it was finally time to say goodbye, my dad, my brother, and me gathered for a picture. I always enjoy having the three of us together and am looking forward to the next time we can enjoy each other's company.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Family Reunion in New Orleans

As a family, we've always gathered around food. There have always been the holidays where we have dinner, but that's just what you do. And for the last 20 years or so it has just been the Houston crew. It has been too difficult to get the New Orleans bunch together as our lives have taken us all in different directions.

House Number
The house number on the front porch
So last weekend, we did just that. It was a trip we had been talking about taking, but never could get the momentum going. The timing was never right or schedules would never allow. But we all knew there was one thing keeping us from making the trip. It was a request from the last member of older generation in the family and we knew we had to honor it. It wasn't that he didn't want to see us, he didn't want us to see him. That sounds worse than it actually is, or was in this case. My great-uncle, Emmett, had been in the throes of illness and it was his wish that we not see him for fear that we would remember him in his weakened state. The reality is that we will always remember him as loving, kind, funny Uncle Emmett we knew growing up. The Uncle Emmett who used to pull quarters from my ears when I was a child. The time had finally come to make the trip to visit our family. We needed to pay our respects.
Magazine Pizza
Magazine Pizza


So we all loaded up and drove east. So we could all be together and have room to visit, we found a double shotgun house in the Garden District. We had all of the New Orleans family and celebrated the best way we know how. We ate. 



First there was pizza, the best way to satisfy the hunger cravings of a road-weary group of travelers. Magazine Pizza did the trick. Of course we went to the old standby of cheese pizza, but also indulged our cravings with the Margherita pizza and the Mediterranean pizza. We stood around and ate our pizza and learned about what everyone has been up to since we last saw everyone. 
French Market Coffee
Delicious French Market Coffee



Creole House
Creole House Restaurant and Oyster Bar
The next day, after several pots of coffee, we made it over to the New Orleans Aquarium as another tribute to our family's fallen. Emmett and his wife Louise had helped raise money for the aquarium and Louise had even volunteered there when she was able. On the way to the aquarium, we stopped for lunch, and considering we were in New Orleans, it had to somewhere authentic. We arrived the Creole House and had our fill of gumbo, poboys, local brews, and of course oysters. With full stomachs, we were ready to head over to the aquarium. It was a treat to watch all of our kids react to the fish and make memories just as we had with our cousins growing up. 
After a rest back at the house, it was time for all of us to gather in a room and have a meal together. After, it's the best way we know to honor our relatives who have gone to soon before us. We reserved the private room at Pascal's Manale and shared stories and memories of Emmett. As we talked, the food and drink came and went until it was time to be on our way. We all gathered just a little longer at the house to wind down and catch up just a little more, until soon it was time to say our goodbyes. 
Morning Call Beignets
Morning Call Beignets

Me and the little one taking in New Orleans
Sunday morning we hit the road, but not without making one last stop. We couldn't leave New Orleans without a proper breakfast. We stopped off at Morning Call for beignets, cafe au laits, and some live music. My youngest couldn't get enough of the street performer just a stones throw away from us. After we had our fill and let the kids run around City Park, it was time to head west.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

I Think Cheesecake Pretty Much Speaks for Itself

Paris
Paris 2012
We all have recipes we're fairly proud. My cheesecake recipe is one of them. I grew up a friend down the street whose mom would always have a cheesecake made, and sometimes she would make a second one just for me. We would put that pre-made canned cherry pie filling on top of. Looking back, that part wasn't that good, but that was before I really discovered great food.

For our wedding, we were trying to go low budget and had a friend of a friend bake some cheesecakes. They baked them ahead of time brought them in a cooler. I looked for a picture of the wedding cakes or maybe even us at our wedding, but all I could find was this one from our trip to Paris for our 4th anniversary.

For her birthday this year, Jessica asked me to make a cheesecake for her party. I was more than happy to.



The recipe:

For the crust:
1 1/2 Cups cinnamon-sugar graham cracker crumbs
2/3 Cup unsalted butter - melted
1 Tbsp sugar

Combine. Spread the mixture on the bottom of a spring form pan. Press the crust down with your fingers, making sure to spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

**Note: I have found that spring form pans leak, no matter how good quality they may be. Place the spring form pan in a sheet pan to avoid a mess in your oven,


For the filling:
16 oz cream cheese
2/3 Cup sugar
1 Cup plain Greek Yogurt
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 Cup heavy cream (you can also substitute 1/2 cup of plain Greek Yogurt in place of the heavy cream)

Combine ingredients in the order listed, letting mix well in between ingredients. You may have to scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl to make sure everything is well mixed. Pour in to the spring form pan with the crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Turn the oven off and let cool overnight in the oven with the door closed. This will help to minimize settling. Chill before serving.

Cheesecake
Slice of delicious cheesecake. Fruit optional.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Veggies and Picky Eaters

When you have a two-year-old and a one-year-old at home, dinner time can be tricky. The kiddos tend to get stuck on a steady diet of ham and cheese, fruit snacks, and mac and cheese. While we do our best at home to buy organic and natural food, even fruit snacks, there comes a point where a little bit of variety and healthy options need to come in to play.

The other night, we decided to make some meatloaf and mashed potatoes, the old classic, but wanted to have something a bit more nutritious for the kids. Something that my wife and I have played around with in the past is steamed cauliflower, mashed to mimic mashed potatoes. The kids seem to like it, if they only tolerate it.

I've written about the meatloaf before. You can find the recipe here.

For the cauliflower:

Place a steamer basket in a pot with enough water to fill the pot without touching the bottom of the basket. Place the lid on and allow some steam to build up. Cut the bottom off the cauliflower and remove the stem. Place in the basket and cook until tender. It typically takes 10- to 15 minutes. Mix in a bowl with a few spoonfuls of cream cheese and a splash of milk, salt and pepper. You can add a tablespoon or two of butter as well. Mash it up with a potato masher, or puree it to get a smoother consistency.

We served this with meatloaf and some sauteed mushrooms and carrots. It goes great steaks and chicken too.

17 Seriously Delicious Ideas for Shrimp

Some new content coming soon! In the meantime, enjoy these shrimp ideas. I know what I'll be doing this weekend!



17 Seriously Delicious Ideas for Shrimp:



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