Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple

I was so excited yesterday to see that Kroger had boneless pork loin chops on sale for $1.88 per pound. This is one of my favorite meals to cook as all three of my children actually like it, and it involves little effort from me. (A definite win-win situation in my house!)

Normally I use one of the seasoning packets from Weber Grill Creations pictured below. If you clip coupons, you can pick up one of these envelopes for free with double coupons. But, even if you pay full price, it is less than a dollar and the taste is really great.

This time, I wanted to try and duplicate the results I get with seasoning mix with a home-made recipe.

The package in the picture shows 3.88 lbs of pork chops. I did not use all of these chops. I used 7 of them and put the other 2 in a bag for later use. Not shown in the picture is the can of pineapple rings that I bought on sale a few weeks ago for 50 cents per can. Including the cost of the wine and olive oil, I estimate this dinner to cost $7.50 and fed our family of 5 easily.

You will need:
1/4 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 lbs. pork loin chops (boneless)
1 can pineapple rings

First, mix the white wine, olive oil, seasonings, salt, and lemon juice in a measuring cup and whisk together using a fork or small whisk. Place pork chops in a zipper bag and pour the marinade over the chops. Seal bag and place in the fridge to marinade for at least 2 hours.

What I did next is heat up the indoor grill on medium high heat. (I use a George Foreman, but you could just as easily use a grill pan on the stove or an outdoor grill.) After it has had 4-5 minutes to heat up, I added the pork chops and closed the grill. After 4 minutes, I opened the grill and rearranged since the chops closest to the hinge on my grill cook faster than the rest of the areas. Another 4 minutes and I did another quick rearrange. Then I let the chops cook for just another minute or two more. You want to remove them from the grill when you see grill marks on the chops and they are still a little bit pink when you cut into them. They will continue to cook internally as you let them rest for a few minutes.
After giving my daughter a quick taste test of the pineapple in the can, I added the rings to the grill to cook for 4 minutes so that they were heated all the way through. If I had done this on the outdoor grill, they likely would have had some beautiful char marks as well. (But, I prefer the indoor grill for the ease of cleaning.) Remove the pineapple when they are heated all the way through and cut into bite sized pieces.
The taste on these pork chops was especially yummy if you add a small bite of pineapple to every bite of pork chop on your fork. Unfortonately, my youngest is sick today, and he has refused to eat anything other than a peanut butter sandwich, but my 9 year old thought these chops were DE-licious, but she doesn't care for the pineapple. So, she had her serving sans pineapple.
NOTE: Be sure that you are using KOSHER salt when you measure. If you use table salt, you wont want to use nearly as much salt at the crystals are much smaller and take up about 1/3 the space.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Meatloaf is comfort food. It takes me back to being a little girl sitting around the kitchen table with my sisters and my parents. It is also my 9 year old daughter's favorite food for dinner. She asks me weekly if I will make meatloaf for her, but I generally only make it once a month. Since ground beef was on sale last week, I picked up a 3.5 lb. package and used 2 lbs. to make meatloaf. The rest I browned with a bit of chopped onion and saved to make stroganoff later in the week. I generally use 80% lean ground beef to make meatloaf. I have used 90% or even 95% lean, but in my opinion it is not as flavorful and turns out a bit to dry. The downside to using 80% is that I have to drain the grease from the pan several times while baking, but I think this is worth it for the results. (In this case, Angus 80% lean ground beef was on sale for $1.97 per lb. The rest of the items are staples in my house. I estimate the total cost of this 2 lb. meatloaf at about $5 total. With an entire bag of frozen green beans and a bowl of mashed potatoes, this complete meal was about $6.50 and fed 5 with leftovers.)

I used the following:
2 lbs. ground beef (80% lean)
1 package onion soup mix
3/4 cup Itialian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup ketchup
1 T spicy brown mustard
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs (slightly beaten)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl carefully. You want to thoroughly combine but also handle the meat as little as possible. Mixing with your hands is best, but it is a bit messy. Once combined, form into a loaf shape inside of a 4x9 loaf pan.

Place in oven to bake for approximately 1 hour. After about 40 minutes, pull out the pan and drain the grease as much as you can. Then place the pan back in the oven for another 10 minutes, then drain again and back in again for 10 minutes, then drain again. At the one hour mark, the meat should be "almost" done and you have likely drained off quite a bit of grease. At this point, I drizzle some ketchup across the top of the loaf and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Some people like to use canned tomatoes to make a sauce, but my family prefers the simple drizzle of ketchup. Once out of the oven, let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

I like to serve with mashed potatoes and some sort of green vegetable.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Butterscotch Pie

It's Easter and holiday times mean family coming together. This year, my parents are coming for lunch, and in memory of my grandmother, I made butterscotch pie for dessert.

Butterscotch pie is my dad's favorite dessert. He told me that he remembers as a young boy sitting in the kitchen while his mother fussed around the stove trying to get the butterscotch custard to set just right. The only people who made this pie to my dad's liking were my grandmother and my Aunt Juanita. Both of these wonderful ladies have passed away and gone to be with the Lord. I know that I cannot compare to either of these ladies' cooking ability. But, I am thankful that my cousin Shannon shared this family recipe with me, and it warms my heart to have a copy of this recipe in my Aunt Juanita's handwriting. The first time I used Juanita's recipe, my dad said that although the flavor was close, my grandma used to use brown sugar in the meringue. So, now I make this recipe with a brown sugar meringue. At Thanksgiving, Dad said it was just like grandma's. (I don't actually believe him, but he is the greatest dad in the whole world. So, I'll keep making this pie and remembering my grandma.)

You'll Need:
1 pre-baked pie crust
3 eggs separated
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/8 tsp. salt
5 rounded tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla (1 for meringue and 1 for custard)
6 tablespoons brown sugar (for meringue)

Start by separating the eggs. I went ahead and put the whites into the bowl for my mixer, and I put the yolks directly into top pan for the double boiler. Set aside whites for later. Whisk to break up the yolks. Mix in salt, then milk, then flour, then brown sugar.

Note: My grandmother only used Imperial brand brown sugar. I remember her buying a different brand one time for her cookies and the results were simply not the same. So, I only use Imperial brand sugar for this recipe as well.

You'll want to go ahead and put the butter into the pan as well. Then move the pan over on top of the boiling water in the bottom part of your double boiler. It will look something like this.

This is the tricky part. Just keep stirring while the bottom part boils away. As the mixture heats up it will look smoother and smoother. Just keep stirring. Then the mixture will take on the color of caramel. That means you are getting closer to being done. Just keep stirring. The tricky part of this recipe is if you remove it from the stove too soon, you will have butterscotch soup instead of butterscotch pie. (Just being thick enough to coat the back of a spoon is NOT thick enough.) You want the custard to be almost as thick as you expect the final chilled custard to be before you remove it from the stove. The custard does not thicken much after you remove it from the stove. So, just keep stirring until you get it thick enough. Then remove it from the stove and allow to cool for a few minutes on the counter. Next stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla before pouring it into your pre-baked pie crust.

Time to make the meringue. Remember those egg whites you set aside earlier? Beat these with your mixer until you get stiff peaks Then add 6 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix again until incorporated.

Spread the meringue across the top of the pie. For this, I generally scoop out several large spoonfuls across the pie then use a spatula to spread them together across the pie like below.

Next, place the pie in a 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes until slightly browned on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

I haven't told my family about this blog yet, but eventually I will. So, for my family, here is the original recipe in Aunt Juanita's handwriting. (Thanks, Shannon!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Quiche (AKA "Scrambled Egg Pie")

My 9 year old daughter loves quiche, but when she was little she younger she turned her nose up to the mention of any dish that she wasn't familiar with the name of. So, one night I wanted to make quiche for dinner and she turned her nose up and said "I don't want that." without even listening to hear what it was. So, I asked her, "Well, what if I make you a scrambled egg pie?" and she was interested. She asked what was in it, and I replied "Hmmm... Let's see. There's scrambled eggs of course, and some cheese, and ... bacon". Once I said that magic word "bacon" out loud, she was hooked. She begged me to please please please make her a scrambled egg pie. So, I made a bacon and cheese quiche and we all called it "scrambled egg pie" when we sat down at the dinner table. Success!

Eggs are cheap and I always have at least a dozen in the fridge. I also buy shredded cheese when the store has them on sale for 4 packages for $5 and throw them all in the freezer. When bacon goes on sale for "buy one get one free" I buy 6 packages and put 5 of them in the freezer. Pie crusts are inexpensive to make, but I do buy the pre-made ones when on sale (and many times with coupons too) and keep several in my freezer on hand as well. So, on any given day, I can put together a quiche for only a few dollars. One quiche is enough to feed myself and my children. If my husband is home for the meal, two quiches are needed. This quiche cost me about $4 total.

You'll need the following ingredients:
1 deep dish pie crust
6 eggs
1 package bacon (I prefer center cut)
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Start with your pie crust. If you are using a pre-made one that is currently in the freezer, pull it out and allow it to thaw on the counter. Once thaw you'll need to start by using a regular table fork to gently poke holes around the bottom of the pie crust and a few on sides as well. You want to press gently so you don't crack the crust (if it cracks thaw it a little longer) but firmly enough to press all the way through to the pie pan. The holes will help keep you crust from forming bubbles while it bakes so that it will maintain it's shape. Next, take some strips of aluminum foil and cover the perimeter (outside edge) of your pie crust so that it won't brown when you pre-bake it. (Although pre-baking the crust isn't completely necessary for quiche, I believe it helps keep the bottom of the crust from getting soggy when you make the quiche. So, if a soggy crust doesn't bother you, feel free to skip pre-baking. But, seriously it doesn't take long to pre-bake a crust, and your quiche will be oooh so yummier if you do.) Pre-bake the crust in your oven for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and remove foil strips.

Cook your bacon until crispy and drain on paper towels. Then take a paper towel and blot any of the spots you may have missed. In a 1 quart bowl, beat 6 eggs together with a wire whisk until the yolks and whites are incorporated into each other. Add 1 cup of milk and continue whisking. Add salt and pepper to your tastes while whisking. I use about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and a pinch of pepper.

Chop your bacon and place in the bottom of your pre-baked pie crust (after eating 2-3 whole slices while no one is looking. Yum... bacon) Then sprinkle about 1/2 cup of your favorite shredded cheese on top of the bacon.

Pour your egg mixture on top, then take your fork that you used for poking holes earlier and very very very gently scrape the bottom of the ingredients around the bottom of your pie plate. Be careful here, you are trying to just barely lift the bacon and cheese up from the bottom layer of the crust so that you don't end up with a "layered" quiche. I suppose you could have whisked the bacon and cheese in with the egg mixture and poured it all at once into the pie plate, but when you do that, all of your cheese ends up in the "middle" of the quiche. And, I really like the way that pouring it over the top causes some of the cheese to float to the top while others are completely covered in egg mixture.

Place in oven and bake for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Modifications and tips:
  • You can make any kind of quiche you want with any types of cheese or veggies you like.
  • I like to add thawed frozen spinach to quiche, but if you do be sure to thaw it completely and then strain it pressing it against the strainer to get all the liquid out. Otherwise you'll end up with a watery mess in your quiche.
  • Another idea is to thaw some frozen chopped broccoli and add some diced leftover ham. YUM!
  • Most recipes I have seen call for using swiss cheese in quiche, but I prefer cheddar with bacon.
  • Use what you like or what you have on hand. There is no need to thaw your cheese if you have it in the freezer, but if you are adding frozen vegetables to your quiche, I recommend you steam them part of the way in the microwave first to thaw them out.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Smothered Pork Chops

Pork Chops were on sale for $1.49 a lb. this week, so I bought 2 of the large Family Value Packs. Although I prefer the boneless chops, I was happy to get a good deal on these with the bone in. My husband loves what we call "Smothered Pork Chops" because he loves the gravy for dipping bread into or serving over mashed potatoes.

You'll need the following:
1.5 lbs pork chops (about 5 chops)
2 T olive oil (not pictured)
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic (I ran out of fresh so used 2 teaspoons of the jar kind)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (feel free to mix and match with cream of chicken, cream of celery, etc.)
1 can chicken broth (or beef)
salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil to your pan on medium heat and allow to warm up. Chop your onion and add to the pan. Cook until tender (not translucent) then add minced garlic. Salt and pepper the onions and garlic lightly. After about 1 minute, add the pork chops in a single layer and DO NOT TOUCH for 7 minutes so that the chop is lightly browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper and flip over (keeping a single layer). Cook for another 5 minutes and remove from pan.
Reduce heat to medium low, and add chicken broth (feel free to substitute beef or vegetble broth). Stir to incorporate brown bits on bottom of pan. Add both cans of cream of mushroom soup and continue stirring until no lumps remain. Add chops back to pan. Reduce to low and cover. Simmer for another 10 minutes and serve.

I like serving this with mashed potatoes or rice for the gravy. Tonight I served it with a cucumber salad, but sometimes I will serve green beans or steamed broccoli.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

We had a dinner guest this week... a friend I hadn't seen in several years. So, I wanted to bake a special dessert instead of just sending the kids to eat whatever happened to be in the cookie jar. I bought Betty Crocker cake mix at the grocery store a little over a week ago for $1 per box and was able to just pull one out of the cupboard. I didn't have any marachino cherries on hand, but this cake was just as yummy without them.

The Betty Crocker website has a recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake using a yellow cake mix. The instructions state to use a 9x13 pan, but I wanted a round cake for my Springtime cake stand, and I didn't want a large cake at dinner. So, I made two round cakes planning to freeze one for later use.

You will need:
1 box yellow cake mix
all items listed on the box to prepare a 2 layer cake (eggs, oil, water)
1 can pineapple rings (reserve juice)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar

This recipe is VERY EASY. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place 1/2 stick butter in each of 2 9 inch round nonstick cake pans. Place pans in oven until butter melts. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of brown sugar into the bottom of each pan on top of the melted butter.

Drain the can of pineapples (reserving juice) and place five pineapple rings in a single layer in the bottom of each pan on top of the butter/sugar mixture.

Mix cake mix as directed for a 2 layer cake (BUT, replace part of the water with as much pineapple juice as you have reserved from the can.) Pour batter evenly into each pan. Bake in oven as directed on the box of cake mix. Cool on wire rack before removing from pan.

When it was time to de-pan, I went around the edge with a table knife to loosen the edges. Then I placed my cake plate upside down on top of the pan. I then held each side firmly and flipped the entire cake upside down before removing the pan gently.

We LOVED this cake. It was very moist and was a good use of cake mix instead of the usual frosted cake or even frosted cupcakes. It felt special without breaking the budget at around $2 total for the ingredients. My guest had two servings and it felt like a very Springtime dessert. I hope you will try it too and let me know how you enjoy it! In the meantime, if you see cake mix go on sale at your store, I recommend that you put at least one box in your cupboard.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Iced Tea

I know, it isn't dinner, but I get lots of praise for my iced tea. I have friend with British parents who told me once that in order to have good tea, you must 1. BOIL the water before adding it to the tea. and 2. LEAVE IT ALONE for 5 minutes to let it "steep" (brew).

Tea is very inexpensive and living in Houston, it's HOT outside and I want something refreshing to drink. I buy a box of 24 quart sized tea bags when on sale for less than $2.00. This means I am able to fix my 2 quart pitcher for about 20 cents per day.

Every morning, while my daughter eats breakfast, I make a pitcher of tea to put in my fridge and keep on hand throughout the day and to serve with dinner. So, this morning I took some pictures and am posting a step by step just for you. (Whoever you are out there reading...)

1. Fill electric teapot (or pan for stove) with COLD water. It is tempting to use hot water to get it to boil faster, but your hot water heater may be older and could possibly have sediment in the bottom. So, I recommend using cold water.
2. Bring to a boil. Now, we are not talking about tiny little bubbles just beginning to boil. We are talking rapid bubble that really shake the water.
3. Remove from heat and add to teabags. I use a teapot to steep my tea, but if you don't have one just throw 2 quart sized bags into the hot water in your pan and put the lid on. (I don't recommend adding the tea bags to an electric kettle because it will stain and it is really hard to clean. I also use my electric tea kettle for more than just tea. So, I like to use it for only water.)
4. LEAVE IT ALONE. Wait at least 5 minutes before you proceed. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Pace back and forth, or sit down and have a snack. Jump in the shower if you need to before coming back to your pot of tea.
5. After at least 5 minutes (you waited, right?) add the brewed tea to a 2 quart pitcher with 2-3 cups of cold water already inside. (Make sure you don't use a glass pitcher for this. The hot/cold shock and make it crack... don't ask me how I know this.) I like to use my Rubbermaid pitcher with the thick sturdy plastic sides.
6. Fill remaining space in pitcher with cold water. Give it a quick shake/stir to mix the hot tea and cold water together. (NOTE: I did not mention ice anywhere did I? That is because if you add the hot tea directly to ice, it can sometimes become cloudy. So, I mix hot tea and cold water. Then I let it cool just a little while before pouring myself some over a glass of ice).
7. Place in fridge for later use. (If you want a glass right away, you should be ok as long as the tea is only warm and not hot. Or, if cloudy tea doesn't bug you, by all means pour yourself a glass while it is still hot. (Just don't use glass if it is still hot because of the hot/cold causing the glass to break.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I'm kind of a recipe addict. I follow several food blogs online. I enjoy watching several Food Network shows. I collect cookbooks old and new (...from the 1920s to 2010). I have even dabbled with some Once A Month Cooking recipes.

After reading several blogs online and chatting with a friend over dinner Sunday night, I have been encouraged to "find my voice" in the blogging community. Since, I love to cook and hate wasting money, I've decided to let you all in on my cooking experiences as I shop from the weekly sales ads. I don't plan to write exclusively about dinners, but dinner does seem to be my main focus most days. But, I did manage to pick up some cake mixes for 99 cents a box last week, and I also enjoy baking. So, you'll probably see some desserts here and there as well.

I hope you enjoy my experience... more to come soon!