Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Apple Cider Braised Pork with Apples, Fennel and Potatoes

Does anyone else have the winter blues? This pork is the perfect fix.


The winter hasn't even been that bad here in Wisconsin. No blizzards. Only a few days with below zero wind chills. I'm just so excited for warmer weather but mostly for school to be over.

Braising is the best. This could probably be done in a slow cooker, with less liquid. This recipe was also intended for the Fall, when there was a plethora of apples, but it works for winter too. Am I right? I am. Thanks for agreeing.

When braising, the initial steps are key for a delicious finished product. Searing the meat, getting a nice caramelized exterior is key for flavor.

Sauteing the mirepoix (fancy for carrots, onions and celery etc.) in the drippings. You want a caramel-y brown color without scorching anything. Balance is key.


Step three is deglaze the pan, with brandy in this case, getting all of those caramelized brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Flavor city. Little flavor bombs. Tiny, yet powerful! Be sure to scrap the bottom of the pan.

Then you add your braising liquid. Enough to go about 1/3 to 1/2 way up your pork butt. We aren't boiling our pork. We are braising. Give the liquid a hand, bringing it to a simmer on the stove and then put it in the oven.

Forget about it for awhile. Simple.

In the last 45 minutes, add your vegetable. Take it to the next level. Fennel and apple add some flavor to the broth, making a nice aromatic of sorts.

Potatoes cooked in with all that flavorful sauce are perfect for serving.

One-pot meal!



This makes a ton of meat. Probably more meat than potato-veg mash. I ended up using leftover meat for tacos, tossing it in some store bought sauce and making a soup.

I would have been eating the same thing twice a day for at least a week otherwise. I need more variety in my meals.
This is a really impressive meal, with minimal effort. Just a little bit of preparation and planning. Braising is really easy, with a crazy flavor impact for such little labor.

Pork not your thing? Chicken could work really well in here too. Or turkey!


I mashed all the veg together to make a little bed for the meat. Not necessary, but that is my preferred vessel for meat of this sort.

The apple cider adds a caramel-y, tangy, sweetness to the whole dish and the fennel and lemon zest add brightness and a little something unexpected. It isn't too sweet though.

Finishing the whole thing off with a little cider vinegar adds brightness, cutting the sweetness. It really makes a difference. Rounds the whole dish out. Promise.

Cheers,
April

Serves 5 to 6 

Ingredients

4 to 5 lb. pork butt
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
Kosher salt
ground black pepper
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion diced
2 whole dried bay leaves
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
Zest of half a lemon, wide strips (3-4 strips)
1/4 cup brandy, apple brandy if you have it
1-1/2 cup lower-salt chicken broth
1-1/2 cup apple cider 
1 medium fennel bulb, diced
1 apple, peeled and diced
6 to 8 small red potatoes
1 to 2 tsp. cider vinegar
Instructions
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. In an 8-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Add pork to the pot, and cook, turning with tongs, until nicely browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the pan.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, carrots, celery and onions to the pan. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the aromatics are soft and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add bay leaves, lemon zest, thyme, and garlic, and cook, stirring, until well distributed and fragrant, about 1 minute.

Pour the brandy into the pot and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, until the liquid is reduced to about 2 Tbs., about 1 minute.

Transfer the pork (and any juices that have accumulated) back into the pot. Pour the chicken broth and apple cider over the ribs.

Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and put the pot in the oven. Cook, turning the pork with tongs after about an hour, total cooking times is about 2 to 3 hours. In the last 45 minutes of cooking, add the apples, fennel and potatoes, until the potatoes are fork tender and the meat is falling off the bone. (The meat may fall off most of the bone about midway through cooking; this does not mean that the ribs are fully tender.)

Transfer the ribs to a serving platter or dish. Let the sauce and solids sit in the pot for a few minutes to cool and with a shallow spoon, skim off as much of the fat as possible from the surface. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, and add the vinegar.

Optional: spoon out the vegetables, mashing them, making a chunky mashed potato mixture. Then reduce the sauce for 10 to 15 minutes, making a sort of gravy. Serve the meat over the potatoes, drizzled with the reduced sauce.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

April's Sunday Brunch

Happy Sunday funday friends! Hear me ROAR!
 

Have you ever been to Le Tigre Lounge? You must go. It is covered in tiger. They even have Tiger Beer!  It is my new favorite date night spot. Promise me you will go?

The scarf below, has been a three year project. I've never actually finished a knitting project. My mom kindly finished this one. It was in rough shape.

It was like I was drunk when I was knitting it. I wasn't. I swear.


Can you tell which half she knitted? I think it has a nice rustic look to it. I never finish knitting projects; yet, I chose to knit my man a blanket.

He can expect a blanket in about 6 years. It is my way to make sure he sticks around. Just kidding...but really who wouldn't want to stick around for my first completed knitting project.

Here is to hoping I don't drop too many stitches.


My new favorite breakfast is steal cut oats. They taste a million times better than old fashioned oats. For real. I cook them in my rice cooker with a little water, milk, honey and vanilla.

 I make a big batch and eat them all week, switching up the toppings.

I've officially completed my last first week of class. Graduation here I come! For the firs time in the past year and a half, I'm excited for my classes.

I'm excited for my future career, mostly. It wax and wanes. I think that is natural though.





There has not been an all out panic yet either. Maybe that should be assumed when I've only had one week of class, but not for me. I'm a neurotic panic maker. I think it has something to with being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and my amazing Day Designer Planner.

It is amazing. The front is full of spaces for goal planning and branding yourself as a human, in my case, or as a business. I think your business is a reflection of yourself anyways. It goes both ways.

There is space for an agenda, daily to do lists and a space to pick the three most important tasks. It has really allowed me to become focused and less overwhelmed.

Did I mention it has a daily gratitude box. Positive psychology for the win! I need a reminder to focus on the good things every now and then.


I made this Chocolate Pound Cake from the new Joy the Baker cookbook. The cake is a sort of bon voyage to freedom, joy and sanity for the next three months. I got this though.

Three more months isn't that long. It is practically summer.

Cheers,
April

P.S.
Don't forget to follow me on Instagram @badgerkitchen and to follow us on Facebook



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets, Pomegranate Dressing and Goat Cheese

Oh my word. This might be my favorite salad of all time. Prepare yourself.


The colors are beautiful. Are they not? You can't deny it. All those reds and oranges. Possibly the perfect Valentines day salad? I might be getting ahead of myself here.

It might be because this salad was supposed to be posted before Christmas, again due to its beautiful reds and some green; therefore, I don't care if its too soon to think about Valentines day.

It is just too pretty, but too tasty not to eat.



Valentines day is a total hallmark holiday scam, but it is just another holiday excuse to eat lots of chocolate and make something extra fancy special for dinner.

I actually do that most weeks anyways, but its good excuse to have. It makes me feel more normal.

In all reality, I will probably be ordering a extra large pizza with my main man, watching The Big Lebowski, drinking white Russians.

Pizza is my favorite and white Russians are his. His and hers. Too cute.



I digress, but this is all connected to the salad. Trust me.

It is truly maybe my favorite salad I've ever made at home. Ever. It borders right on unhealthy and healthy, depending on your veggie to cheese ratio. My cheese ratio is usually, always high.

Don't let the beets scare you. They are tender, like butter and almost sweet, with a hint of earthiness.

The dressing is just the right amount of thick, creamy, a little sweet and tart. It is dreamy. I'm not one to eat salad for dinner or enjoy salad very much.


 I try very hard. I would just rather a big bowl of carbs and cheese. This salad I ate for a whole week straight. All the ingredients, dressing included keep for for at least a week.

Pomegranate molasses might be hard to find. I hear Whole Foods sells it, but you can always make it too. I used this recipe.

The salad toppings are also very customizable. I bet raspberries or strawberries would make great substitution for the pomegranate seeds.

A nice blue cheese would work well here too, in place of the goat cheese. Walnuts or sunflower seeds would be tasty too, depending on what you have in your pantry.


xo,
April

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets, Pomegranate Dressing and Goat Cheese
Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients:
for dressing:
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon red cooking wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt
Pepper

for salad:
Spring mix
6 to 8 small beets, roasted, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
Goat cheese, crumbled
Pumpkin seeds
Pomegranate seeds

Instructions:
roasted beets:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Wrap beets in tin foil, in a single layer (you may need to make two tin foil packages). Roast the beets for 40 to 60 minutes or until fork tender. Let the beets cool until able to handle and then peel.
for dressing:
Combine all the ingredients in a medium mason jar and shake to combine. Dressing will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator
for the salad:
In a large bowl, combine the greens, beets and desired amount of dressing, tossing to coat.
Divide among plates, topping each with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds, goat cheese and pomegranate seeds.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

A couple of weeks ago I rang in the new year with friends down in Houston, Texas.  Some highlights of the trip included a trip to the Houston Zoo, which was the biggest zoo I think I've ever been to, and the Johnson Space Center.  Also we went ice skating! Outside!  In Texas!  The weather actually wasn't the greatest when I was there (think 30s and raining) but at least it was better than back home in Wisconsin.

I didn't go all the way to Texas to not try out some southern cooking.  Cajun cooking was consumed.  We discovered a hidden treasure in Ray's BBQ Shack for some mighty fine Texas barbecue.  I also experienced kolaches, which is a pastry, not quite biscuit but not quite croissant, filled with fruit jams, cheeses, bacon or sausage.  From my understanding there are many different flavor varieties of which I only tasted two.  I think Texas is depriving the rest of the country from these gourmet breakfast hot pocket type treats.  Maybe we should start a campaign to spread the love.  #ShareTheKolaches anyone?
With a new year comes a new reading challenge (feel free to add me on Goodreads if you use it)!  Like last year I set a goal of reading 26 books which I didn't even come close to but I'm giving it another shot for 2015.  First up I read Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham, a Texas football story that follows a love triangle from childhood to adulthood.  I gave it 4/5 stars because I became really engrossed in the story and enjoyed watching the characters develop but ultimately didn't like how the book ended.

On top of reading, I've been busy knitting as well.  I recently had the first sale in my Etsy shop!

Did you guys see this story about a flower girl and ring bearer who ended up marrying each other 20 years later?  What a fun story to be able to share!

Wasting food is something I continually seem to have a problem with.  Not only do I feel bad about it because there's so many people in the world that could use it, but it's like throwing money in the trash.  Wasting less is something I'm going to work on this year thanks to the help of this synopsis on how to store your food better.

I hope everyone has a great Sunday and Go Pack Go!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tomato Salmon Foil Packets for Two

The only fish I ate growing up came in a can and can also be referred to as chicken of the sea.  Unless you're Jessica Simpson then you know I'm talking about tuna.  My mom did pretty much all of the cooking and since she doesn't like fish, we never ate fish.


When I was in high school I worked as a waitress for a couple of years at a restaurant with a Friday night fish fry.  If you're from Wisconsin, you know what I'm talking about.  If you're not, then you're missing out.  Trying bites of my coworkers fried cod was the start of a very gradual transformation to my taste buds pleasure.


The big bang came when I studied abroad in Spain for a summer and lived with a host family.  When you live with a host family you eat what they eat, and the Spaniards sure do love their fish.  Much to my pleasure (and relief) I found that I enjoyed eating fish, even when it wasn't battered and fried in beer.

I became a fish eating machine, eating the fish whose names I never understood that were put on my plate.  I chowed down on pan fried fish.  Fish off the bone.  A fish that was good for stomach aches.  Sardines (I'm 90% sure that's what those little guys were at least).  And even fish that still had eyes!  While I still haven't adventured full on into the world of seafood, I'm definitely on my way.


Thanks to the masterful cooking and kind urging of Badger Kitchen's good friend Emily, I have discovered a new found love of salmon!  This salmon recipe is perfect for a fish cooking newbie like myself.

The fish stays super moist and juicy since each fillet is cooked enclosed in it's own foil packet.  Once you cut into the salmon it practically falls apart.  The olive oil and spices add flavor to the salmon and are complimented nicely by the tomato and oniony shallot.  I enjoy serving it with a side of vegetables and a chunk of bread to soak up the juices for a healthy, balanced and filling meal.

Hope you enjoy!
Kelsey


Recipe adapted from Food Network.

Ingredients:
  • 2 (5oz.) salmon fillets
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 7 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • aluminum foil
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine diced tomatoes, shallot, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  3. Massage 1 teaspoon olive oil, salt and pepper onto salmon fillets.  Place fillets oil side down on individual foil pieces.
  4. Spoon tomato mixture onto salmon fillets until they are fully covered.  
  5. Fold the sides of the foil so the fillets are fully covered and fold it so that it's sealed.
  6. Place foil packets on a baking sheet.  Cook for 25 minutes or until fish is just cooked through.
  7. Transfer from foil packets to plates and enjoy!
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