Thursday, September 29, 2016

Farmer's Pork Chops

This Farmer's Pork Chop recipe from Paula Deen's The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook is one I've had forever and a day is and old family favorite. The flavor of the pork chops baked on top of the potatoes and onions....mmmmm! mmmmm! It is simply Comfort Food at its best.  Now mind you, I haven't fixed it in a long time as we have been modifying our diet to eat a lot healthier. I'm proud to say Andy is totally out of the woods and I've added some good recipes back into the menu with a few stipulations. Regardless of how good it tastes, we do not eat the whole pan and back off on the quantity of potatoes, rice, etc. Offset the "bad" by adding more broccoli or green beans for example, as a side.

There is a little more effort required in fixing this, but it's still easy.  (It's also on the menu tonight!!) The recipe calls for eight pork chops and potatoes to serve eight people. As you see, when I worked on this dish last, I had five chops as they were pretty big. I also added more onion and reduced the potato count. This does make a lot of food, so modify as necessary but keep the white sauce amount the same.

4-5 bone in 1/2" thick pork chops 
4 medium-large potatoes
1  large sweet onion
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. Lawry's Seasoned salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup vegetable oil
White Sauce (Prepare first)

1 stick butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pan, melt stick of butter and set off the heat. Quickly stir in the flour and add salt and pepper to taste. Place back on the stove eye after butter and flour are mixed well. Slowly add in milk a little at a time until well blended. Keep whisking so that you don't get any lumps! Remove from heat.
Using your mandolin slicer, thinly slice potatoes and onions. In a large greased casserole dish, alternate layers of potatoes and onions and lightly season each layer. Evenly cover with the white sauce. Place in oven uncovered and bake for 15 minutes.
 Mix flour and seasoned salt in a pan and coat both sides of all the chops. Lightly brown both sides of the chops on both sides. Don't cook them completely through. If the potatoes are done, lay them on top. If they are still baking in the oven, set the chops on a plate and add as soon as you take them out.
Once all chops are browned, place dish back in the oven and let them finish baking for 45 to 60 minutes. The sauce will be nice and bubbly and the potatoes will be fork tender.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pressure Cooker Pulled Chicken

For the majority of my adult life, I have been scared to death of using a pressure cooker/canner. A few years ago I let that fear go and bought a pressure canner to put up green beans Andy raised in our garden and haven't looked back.

I've gotten in the habit of living with Andy's extremely early work schedule since I've been off this summer. So what is on TV before four in the morning? A little news but mostly infomercials. Normally we ignore that type of thing unless it has something to do with cooking. Then we change the channel before we can get the offered doubled for just the cost of shipping and handling and a 30-day no questions asked guarantee.

Last year I was relating this particular cooking gadget to Vince the day after a sleepless night. He was telling me how EVERYONE at the Cali plant had one of these pressure cookers and absolutely loved cooking and canning tuna with them. He had me sold on this being a necessity in my kitchen. An electric version that was a lot smaller than the stovetop version I used to can green beans was starting to show up on my horizon. Being the procrastinator I am when it comes to ordering stuff off the internet (not wanting to sit in front of the computer after being there all day), I put it off for another day.

As luck would have it, they started appearing in stores. Momma's birthday money gift to me put the 8QT. cooker on my counter and it's not been moved since. (options are 6, 8 & 10QT for this brand) I didn't get the extra bonus for ordering from the internet (whatever gadget that would have been) but let's say the experimenting has begun and I love, love, love cooking with it.

The cooker has a recipe book included, but I got this for simplicity so I'm testing the timing on dishes you can put on the table fast with very little effort. The first two things I fixed were not photographed as I was a little skeptical and I hate that because they both turned out AWESOME!!! For time on two three pound partially frozen whole chickens: 38 minutes once pressure was reached. Did I mention you can brown the meat with this thing? Seriously!! There is no reason to not cook with this thing around. Ziti and meatballs? 8 cooking minutes and you just dump ingredients in the pot.
 With pressure cooking comes steam. Be sure to attach the condensation collector on the back of the device! Read the owner's manual!!! There's a lot of important information in there. Safety first!!

Place five boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the inner pot.
Add 1-1/2 cups of barbecue sauce and 3/4 cups of water. I recommend using tongs to position chicken so that some of the barbecue sauce/water gets under the chicken. Also, use plastic/silicone tools so you don't scratch the surface of the inner pot.
 Put lid on top by lining up with UNLOCK and sliding counter-clockwise to the LOCK position.
 Slide the button on top to CLOSE so the cooker can start building pressure.
 Select COOK and push the button until you get to thirty minutes.
The zeros will rotate until pressure is built up. Then the timer will start counting down.
 While your chicken is cooking, fry up some hoe cakes. I've been using cooking spray instead of frying in oil and we like them so much better and they are not as greasy. Hopefully they are slightly healthier???
 The cooker will flip over to KEEP WARM/CANCEL automatically when the timer runs down.
 CAREFULLY give the button a few quick flicks to start releasing some pressure. Then flip it over to the RELEASE position to let the pressure completely release. THE LID AND STEAM ARE VERY HOT!!
Be careful you don't get burned by the steam. Once the steam is dispelled; you will hear a valve drop. After you hear that, you will be able to move the lid to the UNLOCK position. If the lid doesn't move, it's because there is still pressure. This is a safety feature.
 The chicken will be cooked and the sauce will look a little juicy.
 I chose to remove the chicken breasts to a pan to shred.
You can do it inside the pot but I didn't want to scratch up the inside.
Return the chicken to the pot and mix in the barbecue sauce until all is coated throughly. I added another 1/2 cup of sauce and put the lid back on with it still set to keep warm.

If you make a sandwich with the hoe cakes; use a slotted spoon to remove some of the juice. If you're eating open faced on hoe cakes, spoon on the chicken and some of the sauce. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ending My Summer Vacation In Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska. My sister can see part of the glacier from her living room. What a view!
This summer has been absolutely incredible! I spent a few months enjoying time off from a public job. This was the first time in my adult life I have ever done something like this. During that period I marked so much off of my to-do list, Andy was wondering when I was going to take a day off from working and just enjoy myself. Let me assure you, getting things done around the house I've put off for YEARS; spending time with Alli and Aydan, canning, blogging and more allowed me ample time to think and put things in perspective and didn't feel like work. In addition, that time allowed me to start enjoying life again. Never again will I let a job control my life. I've got my priorities straight.

With the goal of minimizing and making life less complicated; with a friend, I opened a booth at a local store with all my goodies I quit using. I'm sure you've noticed I had time to post more Recipes and  Ramblings. Plus, it put me in the frame of mind to look for and find a position that will bring joy and let my creative side shine through! I'll make that announcement public soon.

The best thing of all was the time off allowed me to RELAX and ENJOY a visit with my sister and brother-in-law at their new home in the beautiful state of Alaska. We have been planning this trip since April when my sister made the move 3000 miles away and we both can't wait to go back.
Leaving Salt Lake City, Utah
My husband had never flown in his life but he got broken in well on this excursion. Plane changes in Salt Lake City and Seattle (with an eight-hour layover) and arriving in Juneau a mere 18 hours later after take off in Nashville was a serious reality check. His seat was near the window on each leg of our journey so he could really enjoy the beauty of our country from a different perspective.
Mt. Rainier on the way to Seattle, Washington.
During our eight-hour layover in Seattle; my friend Nancy, whom I  haven't seen in ten years, met us and showed us the sights around this beautiful city.
Andy wouldn't go up in the Space Needle...He'd had enough of heights. You know I had to experience it!
 Sometimes the best photos in life just magically happen. Yes, it was a very long, long day.
I don't think he has seen this picture. (Shhhhhh!)
Nugget Falls with my sister Dawn. Mendenhall Glacier is immediately to the left of these falls.
Even with a late arrival, we were all up early and ready to hit the trails. My brother-in-law graciously had a list of every single place he thought we should visit and eat. The thirty degree temperature change was most welcome after 80+ days over 90 degrees in Tennessee. 
Warnings to be on the look out for bears didn't stop us from hiking the Nugget Falls Trail to get back to the glacier and falls. We experienced a little rain that morning, but after that; we had a remarkable week of cool and sunny weather. The beauty in Alaska is absolutely breathtaking. There is so much of the landscape left unspoiled and we were blessed to take it in.
 Well, you can't say we weren't warned as we started out hiking the Perserverance Trail the next day.
 Andy and Don check out the waterfalls and creek flowing below.

My sister comfortably taking in the view near an extremely steep cliff.
We sure enjoyed visiting Alaska with these two as our tour guides.
On our trip to enjoy the Tracy Arm Fjords, our captain Adam Underwood fished out a huge chunk of glacier ice. After we released it back to the water, I wished we had saved it to break up for our toddies that night.
The water, as we got closer to the glacier, was the most beautiful emerald green or aqua blue depending on how the sun was hitting it. Captain Adam said we were in waters 1000+ feet deep.
Everywhere you looked, there were waterfalls, mountains and incredible scenery. There were no signs of civilization, with the exception of a random tour boat, for the majority of the day. Talk about being unplugged!
Cotton candy blue icebergs were everywhere.
This huge chunk of floating ice was immediately to the right of Sawyer Glacier.
There are no words to describe the beauty of Sawyer Glacier up close.
The vivid blues seen that day are forever etched in my mind.
Captain Adam congratulating Don on his great catch.
Notice this native Alaskan had on a t-shirt and we were all bundled up.
Don's 68 pounder was a keeper! The filets he grilled were delicious!!
Fishing for halibut in 200+ feet of water gave your arms a great workout!
My little ten pound halibut was a mere baby I released back into the water to grow.
We were able to see whales all along our 45 mile journey to Tracy Arm Fjords.
Well, hello there!

Our arrival back to the harbor in Juneau after a day of sightseeing and fishing gave us this incredible view.

You only go around once so why not experience a tram ride straight up the side of Mount Roberts?
Andy took a lot of grief from friends with his "death grip" on the bars.
Cruise ships were coming in and out of the port everyday. This shot shows how steep the incline was.
Thank goodness our guide up the mountain distracted Andy enough to make this climb.
The top item on my bucket list was to view the Northern Lights. To be blessed with viewing them not once, but twice on this trip was more than I could ask for. Every night I looked and hoped and on the third night I saw a faint glimmer of green over Thunder Mountain. The next thirty minutes of viewing the lights dancing across the skies were the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
Two nights later, we were given another 15 minute show. Not as showy as the previous viewing, but just as glorious with the addition of the clouds.
Watching the sun break the horizon (even through a dirty window) was a beautiful sight to behold as we started our journey back home to Tennessee.
We can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Old Fashioned Shepherd's Pie

My northern roots will show through on this family favorite. I'm not saying it isn't fixed in the South; but in forty-one years, I've yet to see it on the menu anywhere. Momma used to fix this dish for us growing up and I loved it. It is very easy to fix and you can spice it up however you want. Momma ALWAYS used the early baby peas in the silver label can. Like she fondly says, "I'm not going to eat golf balls." I agree with her on this one. Even when baby peas were very expensive, this was one thing she didn't compromise on. You can now buy other less expensive versions. I finally let her know I didn't buy the silver labels anymore and she couldn't tell the difference. The simplicity is what I like the best. Shepherd's Pie is truly comfort food. The only draw back I forsee is if you have some folks in your household who can't deal with their food touching each other. I fixed this for Momma a few Wednesday nights ago and she thoroughly enjoyed it.

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.

Brown two pounds of hamburger meat and onions. Feel free to add mushrooms or peppers to jazz it up a little. Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste. Additionally, add several dashes, to taste, of your favorite beef seasoning sauce. We like Alabama sauce, which is slightly less salty than Dales.

While the meat is cooking, peel, chop, boil and drain two large potatoes. Mash and season them like you would if you were eating mashed potatoes. Included in mine are a little butter, sour cream and salt and pepper to taste.
In a pie pan layer the meat mixture, top with one can of drained baby peas and frost these layers with the mashed potatoes.
Bake in the oven until the top of the potatoes slightly crusts over (or gets a little tinge of brown) and the contents get heated through.