Juiciest Pork Chops!

Photo credit: Debra M. Kirsch ©2020

Say “no more” to dry, tough chops, impress your family with these wonderful, moist, tender pork chop beauties! The secret is in the method, you can really use and seasoning that you are in the mood for.

One key point, is to make sure your meat is room temperature. It’s best to take them out of the fridge a good 30 minutes before you cook them and sprinkle with salt on both sides. Since the meat is very lean, this initial seasoning helps to bring out more flavor.

Then pat your meat dry and take your favorite spice blend and pat it over the chops on both sides. If you want to add a little flour to the spices, it will help create a nice crust, I skipped it.

In a hot cast iron skillet, or braiser, with a little olive oil, sear one side of the chops until nicely browned, about 2-3 minutes. Then, flip them, cover the pan and turn down the heat to low. The second side will brown and the meat will cook through, gently, with the lid on, yielding flavorful and tender results. Cook meat to 145 degrees internally, about 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness.

Transfer meat to a plate and let rest while you finish the sauce. On medium-high heat add some chicken stock, honey and vinegar, adjusting to taste. Let it cook down by about half, you can add a little butter if you want something a little richer, I skipped that.

You can return the chops to the pan to cover with sauce, or slice them and pour sauce over them, or serve it on the side and pass it at the table. A little green parsley to dress it all up, would be nice, clearly my plate was whisked away before that step… Hungry spouse lives here!😂

Here is where I learned about this method, it hasn’t failed me yet! https://www.inspiredtaste.net/37062/juicy-skillet-pork-chops/ ENJOY!

Apricot Almond Cake

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

With a haul of fresh apricots from a local farm stand, I set about finding ways to use them and enjoy the fresh sweet-tart flavor. Today, I settled on an Apricot Almond Cake, the bonus was that I had everything I needed already on hand. I used a recipe, as a base, I found from food52.com, and cut it down to a smaller square pan.

This was the original: https://food52.com/recipes/77272-apricot-almond-cake if you would like to check it out.

An additional bonus of this cake, was that it works for loads of different fruits; cherries, peaches, or even pears. It isn’t too sweet so besides a light dessert, I think it will shine as a breakfast cake with my morning coffee.

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 C confectioners sugar
  • 1 C all purpose flour
  • 2 C Almond Flour
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • 3-4 fresh apricots, halved & pitted
  • 2 T granulated sugar

Process:

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line a 9×9 square pan with parchment, grease parchment and sides
  • Beat egg whites until foamy
  • Add confectioners sugar to the egg whites and beat an additional minute
  • Add flour, almond flour, baking powder, melted butter, and salt, folding gently
  • Pour batter into pan and place apricot halves, cut side up in the batter.
  • Sprinkle granulated sugar across top
  • Bake for 30 minutes
  • Serve with vanilla whipped cream or enjoy as a breakfast treat!
Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

NOTE: As a post coffee update, I would suggest more apricots! They were so tender and gave great flavor, I would definitely double them next time! Also, since the fruit sank deeply into the cake, I would suggest placing the halves on top of the batter and not pressing them into it, then you might have a prettier line across the top surface. ENJOY🍑

Chocolate Chip Cherry Bars 🍒 from @averiesunshine

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

Kirsch means cherry in German, so it natural that we Kirsches gravitate towards these sweet treats. These were the perfect project today, I’m surrounded by fresh cherries everywhere I go up here in Michigan! The stores are full of them, farmstands are bursting with fruit from local orchards, and little stands with honor boxes dot the roads. I came across this recipe from @averiesunshine and her blog averiecooks.com, then one of my daughters messaged it to me with a “must do” tag. Great minds think alike, so here we go.

These were so easy to make, basically blondies with chocolate chips and fresh cherries folded in. They came together in minutes and made the house smell wonderful. I baked them a bit longer than recommended, as I used a lot of fruit and they were very juicy, just watch for a lovely golden color and the center to set.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
  • 3/4 to 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup cherries, fresh or frozen (you could use other berries, or stone fruits, too.)

PROCESS:

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a square baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 30-60 seconds, depending on your microwave.
  3. To the melted butter, add the brown sugar and stir to combine.
  4. Add the egg, vanilla, and stir to combine. Add the flour, salt, and stir until just combined, taking care not to over mix or the blondies will be tough.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips and fruit (I halved the cherries, as they were really big), and scoop batter into prepared pan, smoothing it lightly with a spatula.
  6. Bake for 27 to 32 minutes, or until edges begin to slightly pull away from sides of pan and center is set. Baking time may vary depending on moisture content of fruit. (My batch went 36 minutes.)
  7. Allow bars to cool before slicing and serving. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Enjoy these wonderful treats and check out the full recipe and blog at https://www.averiecooks.com/chocolate-chip-and-cherry-blondies/ she has loads of great recipes!

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

Melon Caprese Salad, or Skewers if you want!

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

I spotted the idea for this salad on one of my favorite Instagram accounts, @whatsgabycookin. She did them as appetizer skewers, with the addition of Honeydew melon, and they were so beautiful. I decided to toss what I had into a bowl and present it as a side salad, it turned out great and was a fresh accompaniment to grilled flank steak.

With the summer in full swing, we have such wonderful fruits bursting with fresh flavor, and these local melons were spectacular. I have to admit, I was a little dubious about drizzling on the basil vinaigrette, but it was the perfect foil to the melon, and it went perfectly with the mini mozzarella balls, and chopped prosciutto, kind of a perfect balance of sweet and salty. The bonus was that my basil plants were in desperate need of cutting, so I had plenty of fresh basil on hand.

I think, as skewers, this will be a definite addition to my appetizer list. It’s colorful, delicious, and easy to prepare, making it a real winner!

Check out the full recipe and more from @whatsgabycookin, you wont be sorry. Enjoy! https://whatsgabycooking.com/melon-caprese-skewers/

Maple BBQ Pork Rub

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

Ingredients

  • 4 pork loin chops
  • 2 tablespoon Maple sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Combine all ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Preheat grill on medium high (around 400 degrees F) for 10 minutes.
  • Coat the pork loin chops with the rub and massage into the meat and set aside for a few minutes, while you start your side dishes.
  • Place the chops on the hottest part of the grill and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Move the chops off of the direct heat and continue cooking for an additional 5-6 minutes per side until the internal temperature of the pork chops reaches 145 degrees F.
  • Remove the chops from the grill and allow them to rest for 5-6 minutes before plating.
Let your pork chops rest a few minutes with the rub before you put them on the grill.
Photo credit: ©️Debra M. Kirsch 2020

We really enjoyed this, you can add a 1/4 t of Cayenne pepper to the rub if you like a bit more heat as well, I didn’t have any on hand, so…🤷🏼‍♀️

Enjoy!!

Fresh Herb Vinaigrette

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

After the delightful dinner we had from Alinea last weekend, I’ve been eager to try a fresh herb vinaigrette made from herbs from my herbs garden, aka “walk up salad bar”. So I did it!

This is the framework for the recipe, I think it can be tweaked and adjusted to fit most anything. I liked the little bit of heat from the cayenne pepper and lemon have it a freshness.

  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Large handful of fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, oregano, chives, thyme and mint)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place everything in a blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. Toss over tomatoes and cucumbers, or your favorite greens for a taste of summer!

Poached Salmon with Lemon and Dill

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

This easy salmon dinner is light and quick. All you need is:

  • Salmon fillets
  • 1 or 2 lemons sliced thin
  • Fresh dill
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • ~1/2 C Wine, stock, or water
  • 1 T Butter

Place sliced lemon in the bottom of your baking dish and sprinkle a generous amount of fresh dill a over the lemons. Season both sides of the salmon with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then place on the lemons and dill bed. Add about a 1/2 cup of whichever liquid you choose, I used water here since my supplies were low.

Cover the dish with tin foil and bake at 375 degrees until the fish is cooked, check around 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Remove from oven and let rest about 5 minutes before serving. Chop a little extra fresh dill and sprinkle over the fillet on the plate as a garnish. Enjoy with a fresh salad along side for an easy meal.

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

Proud to be a Queen of Take Out! 👑

Well with all of the quarantining that has been going on over the last several months, we have had the opportunity to try some pretty fabulous take out! I’m not usually big on it, since I still end up doing dishes and usually I’m the one that flys, while my other half buys. Personally, I like going to a restaurant and having a change of scenery, being waited on, and not having the house smell like dinner afterward. However, we have been fortunate to have some pretty fabulous restaurants within reach that have embraced the format, and it has truly been a superior experience.

All set for our Father’s Day steakhouse meal kit from Alinea!
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

We are blessed to have Alinea, the only restaurant in Chicago to have earned the coveted Michelin 3-Star rating, now offering take out options to enjoy at home. We were gifted the Alinea 15th Anniversary dinner for Mother’s Day by our daughter, which was such a treat, so of course for Father’s Day we went for it again, this time getting Alinea’s riff on a classic Chicago Steakhouse dinner. The beauty of these meals is that they come complete with fabulous directions for flawless preparation and assembly, as well as everything you need, food-wise, down to the the little herb garnishes. Incredibly, thoughtfully put together.

This was two of the four servings for the meal as we began the unpacking.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

With the directions in hand, and having watched the video on instagram for the meal preparation, we set out on our culinary journey for the night.

The first course, Maine Lobster Bisque.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

The first course was Maine Lobster Bisque, with a timbale of lobster and corn succotash, fresh croutons, and a little parsley garnish. After the soup had come to a simmer on the stove, we added the sherry that was premeasured and included in the kit, this was a no fail soup. I took the tip from Chef Grant Achatz, and pressed the lobster and corn into the little cup, then turning it onto the soup bowl and lightly tapping it to release. All four held their shape! The soup was free poured around the bowl and was simply delicious.

Fresh Tomato and English Cucumber salad.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

Next, we had a lovely salad of fresh tomatoes and English Cucumber, with a delightful red wine & herb vinaigrette, topped with capers and a fresh basil garnish. It was a perfect foil to the the lobster bisque, cutting through the richness and setting you up for the richness to come!

Potatoes au gratin.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

While we were having our first two courses, the potatoes au gratin have been cooking in the oven getting ready to melt in your mouth, these were divine. Layers of potatoes with gruyere cheese, and topped with gruyere and Vermont cheddar, all in a pool of heavy cream. A perfect steakhouse side, but done in Alinea ⭐️⭐️⭐️ style.

Filet au poivre.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

The main course was filet au poivre, and it was beautiful! The meat came precooked to 140 degrees so all we had to do was put a nice caramelization on the top bottom and sides, and baste it with butter and herbs to finish. I wish I had taken a pic of the inside, but alas, I was to into enjoying this fabulous meal at home, but trust me, it was a perfect medium rare. This sat in a rich sauce of peppercorns, that seemed to have a hint of rosemary too, it was lovely.

Strawberry shortcake!
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

The final course was a strawberry shortcake with fresh lemon whipped cream, garnished with a sprig of fresh mint. The strawberries were cut into a small dice and were bursting with flavor, the sauce was perfect for the shortcakes to soak up. We really lucked out, since this is one of my husband’s favorite desserts!

So there you have it, not our usual take out of pizza, salads, or salmon, but an evening of fine dining at home. I didn’t even mind washing all the dishes and pots and pans. One of the things that I have really enjoyed about the Alinea take out meal kits, is the interactive approach. I have learned some things about food preparation and I have enjoyed being involved with putting these fine meals on the table. I think the involvement is part of experience, kind of like the interaction that Alinea puts into your experience at the restaurant. If you ever get a chance to go, do it, it’s like no meal you have ever had!

Father’s Day choices by the guest of honor.

It wouldn’t be a complete meal at our house without some wine! We started with the Pulgny-Montrachet before dinner, Kistler, one of my favorites with the soup and salad, and the beautiful 1999 Chateau Pavie with the filet and potatoes. A banner night celebrating a most worthy Father!

Bon appetit from the TAKE OUT QUEEN👑 !

Candy Melt Water Lilies

Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

I offered to make a cake for my brother’s birthday, who doesn’t want a homemade cake?! So, I asked him what flavors were his favorite and the winner was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, a fine choice.

I haven’t made a homemade chocolate cake in years, and I forgot how rich it was, but since there was some leftover batter, I do have some chocolate cupcakes to keep me going too. The chocolate frosting was light and easy to work with, I think I should have let it sit a bit then whipped it again, just to get it truly smooth.

I had the idea to make flowers out of candy melts brewing in my head for awhile. Somewhere I saw a video about using the back of a spoon to create the petal shape and I would say that was a great idea. Since the cake was for my brother, and I know he loves fishing, I thought water lilies would be a good choice.

Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

I used several spoons of slightly different shapes to create the petals, and I’ve even thought of some other ways to stream line the process for a larger batch. For the centers I used a Russian Tip with vanilla buttercream to shape the inside petals and little stamen, then sprinkled a little yellow petal dust for definition. The chocolate petals were stuck into the buttercream mound in staggered layers to create the open bloom.

All in all, this was a fun project. I think I could even make some other flowers using this technique. The 3-D effect of the blooms is quite dramatic and really makes a statement! so give it a try, the good part is if you don’t like the petals, or a bunch break while in molding, you can just remelt them and try again. Win-win!

“Better Together Fruit Tart” from @thebakefeed

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

I saw this beautiful fruit tart as I scrolled through my Instagram feed the other day. The beautiful picture grabbed my attention, but the story from @thebakefeed was even better, so I thought I would give it a try. I think that with the current climate, it is good to remember that what makes things shine is diversity, and both food and people are more interesting with variety! I have to admit, I thought I had peaches & strawberries at home, so I walked on by, but I guess the “home office worker” had gotten to them for breakfast, and they were out of kiwis. So my diversity got sideswiped, argh. But alas, it gives me a chance and reason to make this again, and dive into the bounty of the season. I need to take my time and open my eyes, even at the grocery store, to see those items and people around me, making my world delicious.

I ended up making 3 small 4.5 inch tarts instead of the single 9 inch. There was plenty of dough for the crusts and more than enough filling. I brushed them with some melted apple jelly to preserve them in the fridge, these will take us a day or two to work through, one is enough for us to share. Below is the link to the recipe I used, enjoy and remember the world is better together, just like a fruit tart!

https://www.foodieinnewyork.com/home-main/2020/6/4/better-together-fruit-tart