Saturday, January 31, 2015

Smothered Pork Chops with Onions & Bacon

I'm not a huge fan of pork. Don't get me wrong. I love bacon (thin and extra crispy!) and ribs have become one of my favorite go-to crock pot recipes. But pork chops or pork tenderloin? Not so much. However, my husband loves pork chops and while I try to cook as many recipes that we both enjoy, every now and then I try to fix something that he loves that I'd just as soon skip.

While perusing America's Taste Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution, I stumbled upon this recipe and thought it might just be a winner. Forgetting that I already had plans for the night (margaritas and Mexican food with two co-workers!), I decided to go ahead anyway and make the recipe for my husband. The verdict? He said it was awesome. We had the leftovers a couple of days ago and I thought the pork was a little dry. I'll definitely give it another chance when I can actually eat it on the same day it's prepared.

Smothered Pork Chops with Onions and Bacon

4 oz. bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
3 onions, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 tsp. brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 bay leaves
6 (7-oz.) bone-in blade-cut pork chops, about 3/4 inch thick, sides slit to prevent curling
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet over medium over medium heat until crisp, 5-7 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat left in skillet.

Add onions, 1 teaspoon sugar, garlic, and thyme to fat in skillet and cook over medium-high heat until onions are softened and well browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps; transfer to slow cooker.

Stir remaining tablespoon sugar, soy sauce, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until pork is tender, 6 to 8 hours on low or 3 to 5 hours on high.

Transfer pork chops to serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves. Stir in vinegar and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon 1 cup sauce over chops and serve with remaining sauce.

Serves 6

My Notes:

Since I leave for work at 6:45 a.m, I prepped everything for this recipe the night before. All I had to do in the morning was heat the refrigerated bacon/onion sauce in the slow cooker before adding the chops.

I never bother to chop bacon. I simply fry it as I normally would and then break it into pieces or crumble as directed.

3 onions seemed like an awful lot, so I went with 2. 

I always use low-sodium soy sauce.

I didn't have any fresh parsley and I don't think it was missed.

I served this with rice for the first meal and mashed potatoes for the leftovers.

Next time, I'll probably just use 3-4 chops instead of 6.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Slow-Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili Verde

Last weekend I shared a recipe (Slow-Cooker Santa Fe Chicken) from my newly acquired copy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook. This week I bring you another slow-cooker recipe from the same cookbook. It was was even better than last week's soup! I think I'm on a roll here! I love Gina Homolka's gorgeous cookbook, which is full of beautiful photographs of most of her recipes. The ingredients are items I would normally stock in my pantry, and the directions are uncomplicated and, so far, quick & easy. This is my kind of cookbook!

So here's the soup/chili. Doesn't it look delicious?! My house smelled so good when I came home from work. Even better, there wasn't much left to do other than grate a little bit of cheese, slice an avocado and crack open a Shiner. I made a simple cheese quesadilla to serve on the side, but a green salad would be good (and healthier), too.

Slow-Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili Verde
from The Skinnytaste Cookbook

1 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup chopped cubanelle pepper
3 medium tomatillos, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 (15.5-oz.) cans Great Northern or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 (7-oz.) can fire-roasted chopped green chiles
1/4 cup chopped jalapeno pepper, fresh or pickled (remove seeds if you prefer mild heat)
2 1/2 cups Swanson 33% less sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions or red onion, for garnish

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then the onions and cubanelle pepper. Cook, stirring, until golden and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatillos, garlic, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of the cumin and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the mixture to the slow-cooker and add the beans, green chiles, jalapeno, chicken broth, chicken breasts, cilantro, oregano, chili powder and bay leaves.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Remove chicken from the broth, shred with 2 forks, and return to the slow-cooker.

Season with the salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, or to taste, and discard the bay leaves. To serve, ladle the chili into soup bowls and top with the scallions.

Yield: 6 servings

My Notes:

I cheated. I had a 16 oz. jar of La Victoria Thick 'n Chunky Medium Salsa Verde in my pantry and after reviewing list of ingredients on the label, I knew it would be an easy substitution for the onion, cubanelle pepper, tomatillos, garlic, fire-roasted green chiles and jalapeno. It was definitely a time-saver to skip all that chopping and the soup turned out with just enough heat that I knew I hadn't compromised the recipe for our taste buds.

I skipped the additional cumin and kosher salt in the last step and didn't notice the lack of seasoning. 

As pictured, I topped my soup with sliced avocado, a few sprigs of cilantro, grated Colby-Jack cheese and a few tortilla chips. Light sour cream would also be a good addition.

According to the author, this freezes well. We wouldn't know. We had it for dinner and again for lunch the next day. There's very little left to freeze.

Recipe courtesy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook

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Rustic Italian Gnocchi Soup

Rustic Italian Gnocchi Soup
from The Skinnytaste Cookbook

1/2 cup cold water
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 cup water for soup
14 oz. fresh sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
4 1/2 cups Swanson 33% less sodium chicken broth
1 cup fat-free milk
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
2 large roasted red bell peppers, jarred or homemade
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 (16-oz.) package of gnocchi
3 cups baby spinach, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving (optional)

In a small bowl, make a slurry by whisking together 1/2 cup cold water and the flour.

Heat a large nonstick pot over medium heat. Add the sausage (casings removed) and cook, using a wooden spoon to break the meat into small pieces, until cooked through and slightly browned, 4 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup water, broth, and milk and bring to boil. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, Parmesan rind (if using), roasted peppers, and black pepper and return to a boil. Partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover, slowly stir in the slurry, and continue stirring while the soup returns to a boil.

Add the gnocchi, spinach, and basil. Cook until the gnocchi starts to float to the top and become puffy (or according to the gnocchi package directions) and the soup thickens. Season with black pepper to taste. Discard the Parmesan cheese rind. Ladle the soup into individual soup bowls and sprinkle evenly with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Serves 8

My Notes:

I used Italian pork sausage and 2% milk. So much for skinnytaste. ;)

I cooked the sausage much longer, probably 10 minutes. Once it was cooked, I dumped it in a colander to drain off the fat (into a separate bowl) and then blotted the cooked meat with paper towels, before returning it to the soup pot.

I didn't use the Parmesan rind, although I'd like to try it next time.

I used jarred roasted bell peppers and need to remember to cut them into bite-sized pieces next time I make this soup.

Neither of us cared for the gnocchi. We decided, after removing the remaining gnocchi, to use potatoes (peeled, quartered and parboiled) for our leftovers. Much better!

I didn't bother chopping the spinach leaves.

I didn't have fresh basil, so I threw in a tablespoon of dried.

Next time around, I will use 2 stalks of celery and 2 carrots.

Recipe courtesy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Slow-Cooker Santa Fe Chicken


1 (14.4-oz.) can Swanson 99% fat-free chicken broth
1 (15-oz.) can low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups (8 oz.) frozen corn kernels
1 (14.5 oz. can) diced tomatoes with mild green chiles
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 scallions, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts


1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the stew:

In a slow-cooker, combine the broth, beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and cayenne. Season the chicken with salt and lay it on top. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.

Thirty minutes before serving, remove the chicken, shred it with two forks, and return it to the slow cooker.

Serve in soup bowls and top with scallions and cilantro.

My Notes:

I only used 1 cup of corn, 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper and substituted petite diced tomatoes for the diced tomatoes with mild green chiles.

This is also very good ladled over rice. I want to try it in burritos and as nacho topping, as well.

Additional toppings: 

Sour cream, diced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

Yield: 8 servings

Recipe courtesy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook

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