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!