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Maple Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops

2-4 chops – about 1/2 lb. each, bone-in chops are preferred

These are so amazing I’m not sure I’ll ever want to eat pork chops any other way. First, you want to brine the chops so they’ll be even more juicy and delicious.

Brine Basics:
This is your base brine solution for any meat – adjust quantities as needed.

2 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt (if using regular salt, just reduce by half)
1.5 cups light brown sugar

Add Ins:
1 clove, whole
4 allspice berries, whole
1 T mustard seeds
3-4 bay leaves
5-7 sage leaves, fresh and torn
a few grinds of pepper

Bring the water to a boil. Turn off heat and add salt and sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add herbs and spices and cool down.

Once cool, add meat to the solution and put it in the fridge. I put mine in a gallon size plastic baggie and be sure to flip over about half-way through so all meat gets evenly soaked. Brining times for pork chops are listed anywhere from 12 hours to 1-2 days. Ain’t nobody got time for that, so mine sat for about 7 hours, and were just fine and tasty thank you very much.

Give your meat a good rinse off before cooking and pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat your oven to 375.

Maple Bourbon Glaze:

You’ll want to start this cooking before you throw your chops in the pan to cook, as it will take longer than they need to cook to reduce.

1 cup orange juice (I used simply juice since it has no added sugar, etc. but you can also squeeze fresh)
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup maple syrup (use the real stuff!!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 sage leave, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 squeeze (about 1 tsp) of Dijon mustard

Bring OJ and bourbon to a boil, and cook about 5 minutes. Then add maple syrup, sugar, sage, garlic, and mustard. Bring to a boil again and then reduce to low heat. Be sure to stir frequently as the glaze thickens.

Heat up your cast iron skillet for a few minutes to med-high heat. Sear the pork chops on both sides. This should take about 2-3 minutes each side.

Turn off heat and pour 2/3 of the glaze over your chops. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they reach 160. Meanwhile, you can further reduce the remaining glaze if it needs thickening. Pour this over chops when they are ready to eat.

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Pumpkin Chickpea Curry

1-2 T Coconut Oil
1 Onion – diced

3 Cloves Garlic – minced

1-2 T Fresh Ginger – minced
1 Box of Fresh Baby Spinach

1 Bunch of Cilantro – top chopped off, minced

2 – 15oz Boxes of Pumpkin

1 -13oz Can of Coconut Milk
2-3 T Curry Paste

1 Can of Chickpeas

Salt to taste

Heat coconut oil in a large pan until melted. Saute onions, garlic and ginger. Add spinach and cilantro until cooked down. Add pumpkin, coconut milk and curry paste. Stir together and heat for a few minutes. Add Chickpeas and simmer a few minutes until fully hot.

Serve over jasmine rice.

New Year’s Red Beans and Rice

This is a great recipe to use up leftover holiday ham. We usually get a spiral sliced ham (bone in) for the holidays and there are only so many ham sandwiches you can eat! This recipe has been adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for Ham Hock, Red Beans and Rice.

Ingredients:1 chopped onion
3 stalks chopped celery
2 tablespoons crushed (or pressed) garlic
6 ounces andouille sausage, cut into small bite sized pieces
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1 ham bone with some meat left on
3 15-oz cans red beans (if using dried this is equal to about 3/4 lb. dried beans)
8 to 10 cups chicken stock
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
Cubed ham pieces (whatever is left, use it all or freeze some for later)
Cooked white rice, I prefer Jasmine
Directions:
In a stock pot, saute the onions, celery, and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sausage, bay leaf, black pepper, thyme, cayenne, and salt, saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the ham bone and beans. Cover the mixture with the stock. Bring up to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add ham cubes. Cook for 20-30 minutes while you make your rice, or if using dried beans cook for 2 hours or until the beans are tender. Mash 1/4 of the mixture against the side of the pot with a spoon to thicken mixture if desired.  Serve over rice.

Princess Funfetti Cake

Princess Funfetti Cake

Princess Funfetti Cake (photo by Andi Zeisler)

Princess Funfetti Cake (recipe adapted from Baking Outside the Box)

3 1/2 Cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 Cups granulated sugar
1 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1 Cup milk
1/2 Cup sour cream
1 tsp princess emulsion
7 egg whites
1 Cup jimmie sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour (or use Baker’s Joy w/ flour spray) two 9-inch cake pans.

Mix flour, salt, and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl and stir well. In a separate bowl, cream butter, sour cream and sugar. When mixed thoroughly, mix into larger bowl with dry ingredients and add milk, Princess emulsion and mix together with mixer. Add in egg whites and mix again (don’t over-mix). Stir in sprinkles until evenly distributed.

Evenly distribute into two cake pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Magnolia Bakery’s Traditional Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (adapted for maximum princess flavor)

1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
8 Cups confectioner’s sugar
½ Cup of milk
2 tsp princess emulsion (original calls for vanilla extract)
food coloring of your choice

Place butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar, then milk, and princess emulsion (or vanilla extract). Beat until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, until icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency (you might not need all of the sugar). Add food coloring and mix thoroughly. Frost at room temperature.

 

Gluten Free Banana Flax Muffins

Gluten Free Banana Flax Muffins (Adapted from The Minimalist Baker)

Ingredients
• 2 eggs (for vegan flax eggs version see The Minimalist Baker’s recipe)
• 2 ripe bananas
• 3 Tbsp agave nectar, maple syrup or honey if not vegan
• 3 Tbsp unsweetened vanilla or plain almond milk
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 cup almond meal (ground from raw almonds)
• 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp ground flax seed
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin with 8 paper liners, or grease pan.
2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs.
3. Next add bananas and mash. Add agave, baking powder, vanilla, almond milk and stir.
4. Add almond meal and ground flax seed and stir once more.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a tooth pick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean and they become somewhat firm to the touch with a little give.
6. Remove and let rest in pan for 5 minutes. Then cool all the way on a cooling rack.
7. Store in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

These muffins didn’t rise much (or maybe not at all) when baking, so next time I think I’ll add a little more baking powder. I also realized that I completely forgot the almond milk, whoops! But they were super tasty!

It’s Ms. Honey Badger to You

As printed in Erin Parker’s “Am I There Yet?” Newsletter
by Megan Cox – Guest Columnist

While Ms. Parker is busy gallivanting about the world being a sparkling entertainer, I am usually sitting in my grey-walled cubicle dodging
monotonous office work. Earlier this year I read an article stating that “Advertising Account Executive” was among the top 10 most stressful jobs. Even though what advertising professionals do doesn’t exactly matter in the same way that say, pilots and EMTs who havethe fate of human lives in their hands every day do, somehow seeing my line of work in this list somehow justified my nail biting habit a bit. But it’s not just me – we are all clearly a stressed out bunch of people lately.

There are few things that get me through my days. Clandestinely scrolling through Erin’s newsletter on my ipod has been one of them. Other stress relievers include staring deeply into my sprinkle ring, devouring bars of Cadbury dark chocolate, dreaming of one day having my own lavender and blackberry farm, and thinking about what the honey badger would do.

My boyfriend Alex loves watching online videos, mostly of animals doing silly things, preferably cats. Personally, I’ve never been big on this form of entertainment since I find about 98% of amateur videos tobe utterly boring and anti-climatic. I’ve come to realize that video watching is his way of releasing stress. Focusing on things like a cat repeatedly jumping into a box and then out again allows him to let go of his crappy day at work. Me, I prefer
yelling at the other cars on my way home. I always thought watching silly videos was a waste of time, but I guess that getting my road rage on, while cathartic, isn’t exactly the most healthy form of stress release. I’m learning the art of decompressing a little less toxically, but I never knew how much a silly video could affect my life until I was introduced to Randall and his famous honey badger video.

I find it hard to believe by now that there is anyone out there who hasn’t seen this video, but if you haven’t seen it, please, I implore you, go to YouTube now and watch it. FYI, the official video is titled The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger (original narration by Randall).

Randall’s honey badger isn’t just a funny video; it’s a way of life with the transcendental tagline of “Honey badger don’t care.” I cannot tell you how many
times I have whispered this line to myself as I am starting to get worked up over stupid email or a client’s request that feels like it’s about to ruin my day. I say the words and become one with my inner honey badger. And yes, it really helps to hear those words in a saucy gay tone that implies “I ain’t takin’ any shit from you, stupid.” Not only does honey badger not give a shit, (and why should he? He can get bit by a venomous snake with little consequence) he’s also a total badass, just taking what he wants.

We should all take a little life lesson from the honey badger. Whenever life or work gets you feeling so stressed you want to bang your head
against something, take a deep breath and exhale as you repeat to yourself “Honey badger don’t care. Honey badger don’t give a shit.” Your world will be a more peaceful place.