Smoked BBQ Pork Chops (From the Oven!)

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Every summer for the past few years, I’ve thought about buying a smoker for the back yard. It seems like it would be so much fun! But every year, summer ends and I’m still smoker-less. I’ve experimented with smoking things using my gas grill, but it’s just not the same.

Which is why I was so excited to see “Smoker Bags” at my last trip to Fresh Market. These bags promise smoked meats and vegetables right from your oven. It sounded too good to be true, but for $2.99 I couldn’t resist.

I made a quick garlicky BBQ rub for some pork loin chops, diced some potatoes, and let the bag work it’s magic. I have to admit, I was very impressed with the results. As promised, everything was infused with a subtle hickory flavor — enough to be detectable, but definitely not overpowering. The meat was juicy and tender and reminded me a lot of ribs (minus the fat)!

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The concept behind these bags is pretty neat — wood chips and wood “syrup” are encased between heavy layers of foil and let off smoke when heated. You just fill the bag with whatever you want smoked, seal it up, and pop it in the oven. After about an hour you cut the bag open,marvel at the smoke that escapes, and enjoy your dinner. There’s virtually no mess, and the bags have a ton of room – I wish I had thought ahead and made some chicken for the next night too.
These bags take a little more time than I generally like to spend on a weeknight meal, but since it was also one of the easiest meals I’ve made in a long time, I didn’t mind at all — especially since the result was so delicious.
(I unfortunately don’t remember the name of the bag that I bought — does anyone recognize it?) but a Google search shows a few similar products.
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Thai Chicken Sandwiches with Ginger & Sambal Oelek

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Served with spring mix and endamame dressed with wasabi vinaigrette, this Thai Chicken Sandwich has recently become one of my favorite things to make for a nice lunch or a quick dinner. I can’t get enough! A simple ginger, lime, and sesame marinade ensure there’s a ton of flavor in every bite and I love the contrast between the fiery chili sauce and the cool, crisp cucumbers. And that’s really all there is to say about it.

Sambal Oelek is a chili paste that is similar in flavor to sriracha, but thicker and less vinegary (you can find it in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores). This stuff is basically pure chili pepper, so it has some pretty serious heat — a little goes a long way! Start with a very small amount and add more to taste. I like a lot of spice and use about a quarter and teaspoon on my sandwiches.

Click to continue reading and get the recipe for Thai Chicken Sandwiches with Ginger & Sambal Oelek –>

Orange, Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Pound Cake

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In these last days of winter, it can be hard to find inspiration for new recipes – I’m tired of starchy winter vegetables, and it seems like there’s nothing in season. It’s times like these when I like to turn to citrus. Navel oranges are at the peak of their season and offer a refreshingly bright note amid winter’s heavier flavors.

This rich pound cake was inspired by one of my favorite breakfasts – Greek God’s Vanilla, Cinnamon, and Orange yogurt. I love the way the spicy, musky notes of the cinnamon and vanilla balance out the tangy citrus, and thought they would be a good way to jazz up my standard pound cake recipe. I really loved the way this came out — the sugars from the fresh orange juice caramelized and created a delicate “crust” around the cake, which is dense and tender.

This cake is perfect straight out of the pan but for an extra-special treat, try lightly toasting it under the broiler or in a hot pan.

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Kitchen Tip: Ever wonder how bakeries get their loaf cakes to crack in a perfectly straight line across the top, rather than in a haphazard mess? Simply use the edge of a knife to draw a line of melted butter across the top of the cake before you put it in the oven — like magic, the crack will form right where the line was drawn. When tasting for doneness, do not insert your tester into the crack — since no crust forms here, the cake will be moister and may lead you to think that the cake isn’t ready. Instead, insert your test about an inch to one side or the other.

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Udon Noodles in Tea Broth with Smoked Turkey

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Remember last summer, when I developed and posted a series of recipes incorporating tea as part of the Tazo Challenge? Although I didn’t win the challenge, two of my recipes have been featured as part of a “Cooking with Tea” feature that has been published in a bunch of newspapers across the country! (Seriously, check it out!)
Since it seemed appropriate to celebrate the articles with another tea recipe, I finally had a reason to experiment more with tea-infused broth — something I’ve been meaning to do since the very first time I used tea in a savory recipe. The flavors in this dish were actually inspired by an old Weight Watchers cookbook, but they were surprisingly bold. The floral notes of the Earl Grey tea balanced perfectly with the earthier mushrooms and smoke flavors, and the noodles were perfect for slurping. This simple dish is even better the next day, after the noodles and carrots have soaked up even more flavor.
I had no problem finding smoked turkey at my regular grocery store, but I’ve also seen smoked chickens in specialty butcher shops that would work just as well. In a pinch, a drop of liquid smoke in the broth would achieve a similar result.
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Click through to continue reading and get the recipe for Udon Noodles in Tea Broth with Smoked Turkey –>