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Now, I don’t profess to be a connoisseur of all things Italian, but I like to think that the Italian blood in me can tell when I’ve found something that’s quality.

El Paso… I love this city a little bit more every day, especially when I find gems like this gelato shop.

Gufo Di Milano

http://gufodimilano.com

Had a delightful lunch with my dear foodie friend Amanda, purely so that we could try out this new place nearby.  It was amazing. I could’ve hung out there and eaten till I was sick.  Every flavor they let us try was amazing.  We both settled on a mix of Bacio (chocolate hazelnut) and Crema Catalana (caramel, lemon & cinnamon).  Divine. Makes me want to start my weekend right now. 

Do you live in El Paso?  Check this place out, seriously.  Avoid the Gelato Factory, they’re trying to pass off something that’s definitely not the real thing.  This place on the other hand, knows how it’s done.  If you have the time, click on the link above, and read about how they make it, for a dessert – it’s very natural, and though you may not be cutting back on the sugar…it’s better for you!

Back to real life, and work.

Caio

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It was a success, crispy crunchy outside, tender juicy meat inside… I usually murder pork chops till they’re all dry and tasteless, but this recipe saved my poor pork chops from a horrible demise.

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops (from smitten kitchen) is the way to go, and will be a keeper for me!  At first I thought the home made bread crumbs would be a little too much, and was tempted to use store bought… don’t do it!  They are SO worth the minimal amount of extra work they take.  Mmmm.

breaded pork chop

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Serves 4

CI notes: This recipe was developed using natural pork, but enhanced pork (injected with a salt solution) will work as well. If using enhanced pork, eliminate the brining in step 1. The bread crumb mixture can be prepared through step 2 up to 3 days in advance. The breaded chops can be frozen for up to 1 week. They don’t need to be thawed before baking; simply increase the cooking time in step 5 to 35 to 40 minutes.

Table salt
4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
1-2 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3 Large garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Olive Oil)
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I used Boar’s Head Tomato Pesto Mayonaise)
Lemon wedges

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 1 quart water in medium container or gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Submerge chops, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse chops under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

2. Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss with your hands until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time (Very important to stir and keep an eye on these, they will burn left unattended). (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley.

3. Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard (or substitute) until combined; add remaining 6 tablespoons flour and whisk until almost smooth, with pea-sized lumps remaining.

4. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.

5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 150 degrees, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.  (NOTE: I ended up having to turn the over down to about 375, and bake about 5-10 min longer, because the crust was getting burnt without the pork cooking properly…it’ll probably depend on your oven.)

I didn’t have the energy to make any fabulous side dishes to accompany this work, so I just made some white rice and steamed some fresh green beans in the microwave with butter & Mrs. Dash… it turned out to be a perfect compliment to the flavorful meat.  =)

I like making food. I like eating it more usually.  I made this the other day, def enjoyed eating it more.

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or more =))
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese  (or more =))
  • 1 (or 2) clove garlic, peeled and minced (I love the garlicky kind…)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped fairly small (no need for them to have been marinated)
  • 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (squeeze in paper towels is an easy way)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a small baking dish (8×8 or 9×9 would work.)
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Gently fold in artichoke hearts and spinach.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the preheated oven 25 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.  

And then, dig into the goodness!  Sometimes I like to just use a spoon, but it’s just as good, if not better if pita chips, French bread, tortilla chips, pretzel chips…pretty much anything that can handle it’s consistency. 

Fresh food, healthy choice? maybe not.  Excellent? yes. =)

It’s lovely outside.  Can’t go anywhere, or really, don’t want to go anywhere. =)  I just want to enjoy my fire, throw, hot cocoa and a good book.   Oh, and my man.

So what should I do with my time, the question I’ve been asking myself for the past hour as I browse through blogs and look at what’s coming up next week.  Ricky is inspiring me with his fine example of productivity, waking up an hour before me, and using his time well today; I need to emulate my husband more.

So I think I’ll try.  My plan for today:

_Read that chapter I’ve been meaning to for weeks in Charity and Its Fruits.

_Create my quiet time schedule I’ve been mulling over since last Wednesday

_Finalize meal plans for this coming week =) see below for a successful new recipe I found last week! yay. And making sure I have everything I need for whipping up a little Chicken Parmesan for Family Birthday Lunch tomorrow. =)

_Wrap Ricky’s birthday presents!!  Super excited about his surprise-birthday-date-day on Monday, I’ll let you know how it goes.

_Hopefully go to a friends wedding tonight, Lord willing the weather doesn’t get worse.  Which as the day goes on, I think the family is deciding to stay home… which is such a sad decision, this is a wedding I’ve been looking forward to for a while.  Lauren, I’m praying for you and your groom that this will be a wonderfully blessed day for you, and that you will experience so much of God’s pleasure in your marriage =) and may this snow just add more beauty to an already incredible day.

And good news, I learned not only that you pronounce quinoa as “keen-wah”, but also that it tastes good!  I tried this recipe out last night, and enjoyed it: Thank you epicurious.com

Quinoa with Corn, Scallions and Mint

  • 4 ears corn, shucked
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups quinoa (about 10 oz)
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Cook your corn, and cut it off the cobs. I actually bought frozen corn on the cob, so I could try to get it as fresh as possible, but I wasn’t sure when I was going to make it, and it worked pretty well – though fresh corn I’m sure would taste oh so much better!

Then in a seperate bowl, whisk together your lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, honey (or in my case, honey powder…sadly in need of some fresh honey around here), salt and pepper.

Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a large sieve each time.  (I don’t have a sieve that works, only colanders with holes too large that the quinoa would slip right through, so I used my rice-washing technique of just rinsing it in a bowl and carefully pouring the water out, seemed to work fine.)

Cook quinoa in a 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve (or in my case, a colander – praying that they were sticky enough that they wouldn’t fall through the holes… it worked), then set sieve over same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don’t worry if lid doesn’t fit tightly) and steam until quinoa is tender, fluffy, and dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand (still covered) 5 minutes.

Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in corn, scallions, mint, and salt and pepper to taste.  And enjoy that tasty freshness! =)

And please, don’t try to use any dried scallions or mint or anything, I plead with you to use fresh ingredients.  And really I would consider this a great spring or summer dish.  And… it’s won me over to quinoa… now I just have to figure out the nutritional value of it, is it healthier than rice and pasta? Would it be worth using more?

Enjoy your Saturday folks.

Here we are sitting in one of our favorite Baltimore coffee houses, Spoons.  Great time to think about this break we’ve been on, and looking ahead into the new year.

So the holidays are some of my favorite times:

– Because of getting good times with family and friends.  Like watching cute movies together like “Up”, cooking lots and lots of scrumptious food, and playing fun crazy games like white elephant with cousins, aunts and uncles etc — which is even better when you win a framed print of an old couple that says “Always Kiss Me Goodnight”. yea.

– Because sometimes is snows.

– Because Special things happen, like people getting married.

– Because I get to cook yummy foods, like this Pot Roast: Oh thank you Paula Deen.

– Because there are holiday sales:

– And because there are lots of bloggers blogging and holiday design and bringing inspiration (from some of my favorites: =)

Thanks Sherry for your beautiful work at Young House Love

Thanks for your inspiration Rachel, at the Urban Nest blog

And I love the earthy beauty that the Visual Notes blog brought from Eva Lindh (Images: Eva Lindh)

– And lastly (but of course not leastly), because we got to start off our new year with a wonderfully provoking sermon from Don Whitney on 1 Timothy 4:7 – check out this blog post (or listen to it).  It’s time now for me to think about this question:  Name one biblical spiritual discipline in which you would like to grow this year.  What specific and practical steps are you going to take to grow? (Should probably work on this resolution before determining the rest… what good is physical/practical resolutions that only last a short time, when spiritual disciplines and resolutions can have a permanent affect?)
Ok, so a Lot more happened these holidays. (there are a few more pics on my flickr) Ricky and I had such a great time on his break.  Now, he hits his studies and preaching and paper writing hard core.  Breaks are good, because the regenerate and re-energize one for the hard work meant for us to accomplish.  Here we come new year.

Pecan Pies were requested, so I looked for a recipe – and since she’s never failed me yet (and I have to admit, because she had lots of pretty pictures) I went for The Pioneer Woman’s recipe: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/11/pecan-pie/

Seriously one of those recipes I’ve always been intimidated by, and I’m not sure why.  I did cheat, but it was So easy, and so yummy (I cheated because I used a pre-made graham cracker crust) oh and I used extra Pecans, like 1/2c extra…mmmmm.  I think living in El Paso by all the pecan orchards (or whatever they’re called) converted me to be a pecan lover.

Seriously, try it.  It’s the holidays, eat up.

I love getting opportunities to make this recipe…I never dare make it just for Ricky and myself at home, I will end up eating All of it…which would not be a happy thing for my waist line ;0).  So thanks to my care group snack assignment last night, I got to eat it again =)  And just thought I’d share the recipe joy of it.

Note to CG: Thank you again all of you for praying for us last night after our car accident.  Praise the Lord we were both fine, and no one was hurt; I’m so grateful for the chance to get to pray with you all right after it happened, and to get a chance to pray for the salvation of the others involved.  You all and Gary and Betsy are Such a blessing from the Lord to us!

Ok, so here’s the Bread Pudding recipe:

Croissant and Chocolate Bread Pudding

(Thank you Real Simple for this delicious addition to my recipe binder – you can find basically this recipe and other great stuff at www.realsimple.com)

Hands-On Time: 10m Total Time: 50m

Ingredients

  • unsalted butter for the baking dish, at room temperature (13×9 works great, bakes in less time too)
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I like adding rum extract or rum cream as well)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (you can spice it up by adding cinnamon and ground cloves too)
  • 6 croissants, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 pound)
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks (or reg choc chips will do…and feel free to be generous ;))
  • Optional – Coconut, dried fruit or berries of choice (I’m thinking of trying dried blueberries sometime, in the summer, topping it with fresh berries after it’s cooled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375° F. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish or your 13 x 9.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg (and any other additions). Add the croissants and chocolate and mix to combine.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake until set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

MMMmm-mmm goodness

croissant-choc-pudding_300

This weekend is my Mumm’s bday, so Marzio and I decided to bless her with a trip to the spa, and a hearty italian home-cooked dinner with the family.  It was a good time.  So while my poor husband was trying to study, despite his feverish-congestion; Marzio and I got to work in the kitchen.  Because of being a complete novice to pasta making, when we started I was a little concerned that I was going to ruin the whole thing, but thankfully it actually turned out pretty good! (I wouldn’t want to be judged on it by Mario B or Emeril… but the point was to bless Mom anyways).

Now, I have so much to update about the latest and greatest with our experience here in the PC, but that’ll take more time and thought, so I thought I’d at least get a new post up about this, so you don’t have to keep lookin at that darn coconut-orange bubble loaf anymore…

So we started by getting Marzio set up to make some home-made tiramisu.   Mmmm, I don’t have any completed pics of this delightful dessert, we pretty much scarfed the whole thing down.  It was amazing, here is the link to the recipe we used: http://www.italianchef.com/tiramisu.html

IMG_1758Recommendation: Add a little coffee liquor to the espresso you dip your lady fingers in, adds a nice little kick =)  AND just for those of you out there who are intimidated by the idea of making tiramisu, can I just say, if you like the dessert, give it a try, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to do on your own! =)

Ok, so while Marzio whipped away at the yolks and heavy cream, I started bravely to go where i’ve never been in the culinary world before…pasta making.

Mario Batali helped inspire this recipe:

Mix 1/4 c white wine (any kind you enjoy drinking, or red even), 3/4 c warm water and 1.5 oz of yeast in a large bowl till the yeast is dissolved.  Then mix in 1 Tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.

IMG_1756Add 1 cup of flour and mix it in with a wooden spoon.  Add in the next 2 cups of flour, and mix it with the spoon until you need to dig in with your hand to get it all mixed together.  Then turn it out on a floured surface and get ready for a work out.

IMG_1759Knead that sucker for 6-8 minutes until your arms fall off, or well, at least until you have a nice lookin ball of dough.  then place it in a lightly-oiled bowl and set in a warm area of the kitchen to let it rise to about twice it size…it’ll probably take about 45 minutes.

IMG_1762Next step, really for any italian cooking, is to pour yourself a nice little glass of that wine you used, there’s plenty left in the bottle. Mmm.  Take a deep breath, stretch your sore arms.  And time to get to work on the sauciness.   This recipe is inspired by Emeril Lagassi, another chef I respect.

Important Note: Start a pot of water with a dash of salt going on the stove, those darn thing take forever to come to a boil. Yeah, it’s for the pasta.

Grab an onion chop it in half, and stick one half in a ziplock for the next recipe that comes up in the house that requires their deliciousness (in our case, that night my brother was prepping his brats for the skins game the next day…mmmm).  Chop that sucker up or slice it, however large or small you’d like it in your sauce.

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then get a nice deep frying pan on the heat with some butter and olive oil (some like to keep it healthy with just hte olive oil…but i love the way the butter and the onions make an incredible flavor together).  Add in your onion pieces, and brown them up a bit, then add it a heaping teaspoon of garlic (and I mean heapin!…or more…) and a teaspoon of tomatoe paste and fry that up for a sec.  Mmm, and here comes the good part:

IMG_1775Pour in 2 cans of fire-roasted with roasted garlic diced tomatoes. Oh the smell is getting heavenly in the kitchen at this point. (You could get even more ambitious and roast tomatoes and dice them or puree them yourself….but lets not get too excited.) mmm, at this point I chopped 6 or 7 sundried tomatoes and add this to the growing sauce, mmm, there’s really nothin like sundried tomatoes in a sauce, is there? And, for a little more fun, I threw some red pepper flakes – you always need a little kick in a good red sauce.  And for good italian measure, I grabbed some dried herbs from the cabinet and threw those in as well – a little thyme, a bunch of basil and some oregano. Oh man, my mouth is starting to water.  Before getting back to our pasta, add in about a 1/2 to 3/4 c of chicken stock to the sauce, and a 1/2 cup of that wine you’ve been enjoying (I was usin Chardonney, but a red wine would be scrumptious).  Now, that’s a serious sauce goin on.

IMG_1779Ok, well, if you’re like me, and seriously taking your time to enjoy the sauce and your glass of wine, then 45 minutes have gone by the your pasta dough has risen is ready to go to work.

IMG_1793Grab little pieces of the dough and start rollin them out.  You might want to have your favorite radio station, music or somethin on while doing this. It takes a bit of patience.  Oh, and I learned something. Let me just recommend that you use wax paper on some sort of cookie sheet to place your carefully rolled/shaped pasta on as you’re getting it ready to be boiled.  You want to keep each piece of pasta separate from each other before it’s cooked.

IMG_1798I learned this the hard way.  Uncooked, fresh pasta will turn itself into one big noodle if you throw them into one big pile. oops.  These bad boys only take 5 minutes to cook in the boiling water. So I rolled out about half the ball of dough into my strands, and cooked them.  Yeah, kinda strange lookin noodles, but fun and tasty.

IMG_1801Sprinkle a little olive oil over them to help them from all stickin together, and finish up the other half of your dough ball.  Set them aside.  Time to finish up that sauce.  Add about 1/2 c to 1 c of heavy cream (left over from making that incredible tiramisu ;)), and bring it back to a boil, let it simmer for a few minutes. Taste it. Add whatever herbs or salt and pepper or more garlic…whatever you think it needs to taste a bit better. And then grab the dish you’re going to put your dish altogether in. Take your tongs, get your pasta in your dish, spoon over the pasta your sauce (and be generous here), and toss it together.

IMG_1807Oh boy. Time to dig in, or as mom would say, Mangia!  Happy Birthday Mumms!

A recipe worth sharing =)

IMG_1753I’ve rediscovered the bread machine, and it’s wonderous ability to help me create delicious breads with less work and time.  I found this recipe in my “bread machine magic” book, which has served me pretty well with my bread machine over the years.

Starts out with the basic directions to make your basic sweet dough (and I chose the buttermilk version myself…), which contains: 3 T dry buttermilk, 7/8 c water, 1 egg, 4 c flour, 1 salt, 4 T butter, 1/4 c sugar, 1/4 t baking soda and 1 1/2 t yeast.

IMG_1718And, this is the loveliness of the bread machine – all the work I did was dump the ingredients into the bread pan, select the “dough” option, and hit start.  That’s it. It takes care of all the mixing, sitting, rising, and kneading for me.  Beautiful.

About an hour and a half later, it beeped at me, so I get off my laptop and put a little flour on the counter and dump the dough out onto that.  They say to get yourself a 10″ ring, and brush some melted butter on it. (I used two small bread pans so I could save one for the fam, and take the other to a friend’s get together).

To form the loaf, you gotta melt yourself 1/4 c of butter in a small bowl, and add 1/2 c sugar and the grated rind of 2 small oranges, or 1 large naval orange. Mix that together as your glaze.  grab another bowl and dump some coconut in that, and create an assembly line of sorts – dough – glaze – coconut – bread pan.

IMG_1721Pinch off acorn size pieces of dough, roll it into a ball, cover it in glaze, dip it in the coconut, and place into the pan(s).  IMG_1723 Warm your oven by turning it on for 2 minutes, then turn it off.  Place your pan(s) into the warm oven to let the dough rise for 1/2 hr – 45 min till they’ve about doubled in size.

IMG_1733Take the pans out, preheat your oven to 350, bake for 30 min until golden. Remove from the heat, turn out onto a plate and serve warm. =)  The aroma of the orange with the crunch of coconut is so nice light and satisfying.

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(Click on the photo to see more photos of our July 4th fun)
Yes, to get dressed up in patriotic outfits and go down to see the parade is a must in this family.  Especially when you know there’s a delish brunch to be had at Nana’s afterwards.

Our 4th consisted of parade – brunch with the fam – watching the Patriot – and then hopping family barbecue’s – ending up at a friend’s place way out in the desert and shooting off all kinds of “pyrotechnics”  till late in the evening, until we were so covered in soot and ash that we just needed to get home to our shower.  Good times.

And i got to try a delish, and incredibly simple dessert =) Stuffed Strawberries =)

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