Welcome to my Food Blog!

Welcome! My name is Anne, aka ThePharmGirl. In 2010, I successfully made 100 recipes as a New Year's Resolution to expand my culinary repertoire and cooking skills beyond the frozen microwave dinner. This blog is a continuation of my culinary journey and serves as my personal virtual recipe box. Sometimes I like to have fun-- Check out my Muppet Mania Menu, The 12 Days of Christmas, and my Musical-themed recipes.

My current mission for 2015: hmmm, still thinking..

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Smothered Pork Chops

The picture in the cookbook looked good, so I decided to make it.  It was time-consuming, but the chops turned out super tender.

Smothered Pork Chops
from America's Test Kitchen: Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook
Serves 2

1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 (8-10oz) bone-in blade-cut pork chops, ~1" thick
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon beef broth
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

Combine onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl.   Cut two slits, about 2 inches apart, through outer layer of fat on each chop.  Pat chops dry and rub evenly with spice mixture.

Heat oil in an 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown chops well on each side, about 3 to 5 minutes per side; transfer to plate.  Add butter fat left in skillet and melt over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.  Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in 1/2 cup broth and bay leaf.

Nestle the browned chops back into the skillet along with any accumulated juices, cover, and bake at 300º for 90 minutes.

When done, remove chops from skillet and tent with foil to keep warm. Strain braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup.  Discard bay leaf and save onions.  Let braising liquid sit for 5 minutes and use a spoon to remove fat from surface.  Return 1/3 cup defatted pan juices to skillet and bring to a simmer.  Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon broth and cornstarch together in a small bowl and then whisk into the skillet.  Simmer until sauce is thickened.  Stir in the onions and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve sauce and onions over the chops.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Asparagus, Broccoli, and Orzo Salad

I combined a couple different recipes to make this veggie-packed pasta salad with asparagus spears, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and tri-color orzo.  I thought the balance of lemon to olive oil was not quite right for the dressing somehow, but I still liked the dish overall.

Anne's Asparagus, Broccoli, and Orzo Salad

1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-2" pieces
1 small head broccoli, cut into 1" florets
salt and pepper
1 heaping cup dry orzo (I used tri-color)
1/4 cup lemon juice + 1 tablespoon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the asparagus and broccoli and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until veggies are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice and water.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the veggies to the ice bath and let cool 2 minutes.  Remove from ice water and let dry.

Return the pot of water to a boil and add orzo.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.  Drain, rinse with cold water, then drain again, leaving just a little wet.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1/4 cup lemon juice, garlic, shallot, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper.  Whisking constantly, drizzle in the olive oil.  Add the remaining tablespoon lemon juice.   Drizzle over the orzo.  Stir in the asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, and chopped basil.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Balsamic Roasted Chicken Thighs with Acorn Squash and Brussels Sprouts

We had some chicken thighs in the freezer, so I thawed them out and made this easy recipe.  It's designed to be a make-ahead recipe, but it works just fine on the spot, too.  The chicken was super moist and the roasted veggies I added to the roasting pan were good too.   When I can home with an acorn squash, Jeremy was worried that I'd drown it in brown sugar (which is what we did to make me like it as a kid), but my grown-up palate was fine with just olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves.

Balsamic Roasted Chicken Thighs
from Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer
6 servings; 226 calories/serving

6 chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Transfer to a large freezer bag and add chicken, turning to coat thoroughly.  Let marinate in the fridge or freeze for another day.  When ready to make, thaw completely in the fridge.

Place chicken, skin side up, into rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.  Roast at 350º for 40 minutes.

(As I mentioned, for the acorn squash slices and Brussels sprouts, I just brushed them with a little olive oil and sprinkled salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves all over the top.  Halfway through baking, I flipped them over.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pan-Seared Tilapia

Super fast and easy recipe, and it tasted great too!   We paired it with brown rice and steamed green beans for a simple healthy dinner.   This recipe is a keeper.

Pan-Seared Tilapia
from Prevention magazine
Serves 2; 277 calories/serving

1 tablespoon butter
2 tilapia fillets (thawed, ~6 oz each)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cajun seasoning (I used Emeril's Original Essence)
1 lemon, juiced

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the tilapia and sprinkle with the parsley, garlic, and cajun seasoning.  Drizzle lemon juice over the top.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side until the fish flakes easily with a fork.   Done.

Risotto con Parmigiano-Reggiano

I had some Arborio Rice in the cupboard, so I decided to make risotto to go along with the Walnut and Rosemary Oven Chicken (which I've made before) and Braised Red Cabbage (no recipe posted for the cabbage because, honestly, it sucked).   The rice was delicious, but perhaps a bit TOO cheesy--and I can't believe those words just came out of my mouth.   I didn't have parsley on hand, but I did have peas in the freezer, so I added some of those to the recipe.

Parmesan Risotto
adapted from Epicurious
Serves 4-8 (depends on whether it's a side dish or main course)

4 tablespoons butter
1&1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1&1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
~5 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas (optional)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add onion and saute until very tender but not brown, about 15 minutes.  Increase heat to medium and add rice, stirring for 1 minute.  Add wine and let fully absorb.  Add 1&1/2 cups broth and boil gently until broth is absorbed, stirring frequently.  Add another cup of broth, cooking and stirring until broth is absorbed.  Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, about 25 minutes.  Add peas and stir in 2 tablespoons butter and 1 cup grated cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  To serve, sprinkle with parsley and shaved Parmesan if desired.

Balsamic-Glazed Salmon and Mashed Cheesy Cauliflower

I decided to try something new and make a cauliflower puree.  Plus it gave my blender something to do other than make smoothies.  The recipe promised it would taste as good (or better!) than mashed potatoes.  Ok, no.  It wasn't bad or anything, but I wouldn't compare it to potatoes at all.  For cauliflower, though, it was okay--just different.   Luckily, the salmon was super delicious to make up for my disappointment with the vegetables.  

Balsamic Glazed Salmon
from America's Test Kitchen: Light & Healthy 2010
Serves 4;  290 calories/serving

4 (6-oz) skinless center-cut salmon fillets, ~1&1/2" thick
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

Pat the salmon dry and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Carefully lay the salmon, skinned-side up, in the skillet and cook until well browned on the first side, about 5 minutes.  Flip the salmon and continue to cook until the sides are opaque and the thickest part registers 125º, about 3 to 5 minutes longer.  Transfer to a platter.

To make glaze, whisk together the orange juice, vinegars, honey, and pepper flakes.  Pour into the skillet over over medium heat and add the rosemary sprig.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the glaze is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.  Discard the rosemary and season the glaze with salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon over the salmon and serve.


Mashed Cheesy Cauliflower
from the internet
Serves 4-5

1 large head cauliflower, chopped into florets and steamed
2 tablespoons lowfat milk
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives

Add ingredients to Vitamix blender in the order listed and secure lid.  Start on speed 1 and slowly increase to speed 7.  Blend until desired consistency is reached, about 1 minute.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Virginia Ham Soup

The Wheel of Meals landed on Soups/Stews

The good ol' wheel landed on Soups, so I pulled out a recipe card from my Bridal Shower Collection (yup, still working on those three years later).  This recipe was provided by my cousin Laura.  We liked it, and even the leftovers were good.  The only change I made was to use Great Northern Beans instead of Lima Beans because I couldn't find any lima beans in the grocery store, frozen or otherwise. I like white beans better anyway.

Virginia Ham Soup
Serves 4-6

1&1/2 cups ham, cubed into 1/2" pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 cup celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
4 cups chicken broth
10oz package frozen lima or baby lima beans
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/2 cup Jack cheese, cubed (optional)

for Croutons:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
4 slices firm white or wheat bread, cubed

Heat butter in a large pot. Saute the onions, carrot, and celery until onion is soft and translucent.  Add broth, ham, beans, pepper, and thyme.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the croutons, place bread cubes in a bowl.  Mix together the oregano and melted butter and drizzle over bread, tossing to coat evenly.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375º for 6-8 minutes until golden.

Puree 1&1/2 cups of the cooked vegetable mixture in a blender and return to soup, stirring to combine.   Serve hot with croutons and cubed cheese.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Root Vegetables

This recipe is definitely a keeper.  Delicious crispy flavorful skin on the chicken and the vegetables even tasted great too.  I especially enjoyed the Brussels sprouts for some reason.  The fresh thyme added nice fragrance to the dish.

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Root Vegetables
from America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2013
Serves 2

2 bone-in split chicken breasts
6 ounces Brussles sprouts
6 ounces red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 shallots, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 475ºF.  Toss Brussels sprouts, potatoes, carrots, shallots, garlic, oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper together in a medium bowl.  Place veggies in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, arranging sprouts in the middle and leaving a couple inches from the sides of the pan.

In a small bowl, combine melted butter, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.    Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Place chicken, skin side up, on top of the Brussels sprouts.  Brush chicken with the herb butter and roast until chicken registers 160º, about 30-35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking.   If necessary, remove chicken and keep tented and return vegetables to oven for another 5-10 minutes. (It wasn't needed for me)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chinese Five Spice Pork Chops

The Wheel of Meals landed on Meals Under $10

It's fairly easy to make a meal under $10 when it's just two people.  I'm sure I could have come up with something for under $5 if I wanted, but I was in the mood for pork chops.  I rounded to the nearest nickle from my grocery bill:

$4.35 Center-Cut Rib Pork Chops  (2 chops)
$3.50 Bok Choy  (1 head) - This was more costly than I had expected
$2.00 Microwavable Rice  (1 package)  I was feeling lazy
all other ingredients were in my pantry/fridge
$9.85 total

Ok, the aromas coming from my kitchen while this baked were incredible.   I wasn't sure how the Chinese five-spice blend would work with the pork, but it was good.  I served it with white rice and sauteed garlic bok choy for an Asian feel.

Chinese Five Spice Pork Chops
from somewhere on the internet

2 large pork chops (3/4-1" thick)
1/2 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Arrange pork chops in a glass baking dish.  Sprinkle the five spice powder over the chops then drizzle the soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic over the top.  Rub mixture into the meat.   Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Uncover and bake in a preheated 325º oven for 30-40 minutes until the meat is cooked through.

For the bok choy, I sauteed the chopped white bok choy stem pieces in a small pat of butter in a skillet over medium heat along with a couple minced gloves of garlic.  When softened after 5-10 minutes, I added the coarsely chopped green leaves and let the leaves wilt, just a minute or two.  Add salt and pepper and serve.

Oven-Baked Bone-In Chicken Breasts

Oops.  I accidentally bought bone-in split chicken breasts instead of the skinless, boneless variety I had intended.  I found this recipe online, and it was fast and easy to prepare the chicken.   The flavor was great overall, but it seemed a little salty to me so maybe I'd cut back on the celery salt next time.  I liked the crispy skin and the chicken was juicy underneath.  A good healthy alternative to fried chicken.

Oven-Baked Bone-In Chicken Breasts

2 or 3 bone-in skin-on split chicken breasts
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 425ºF.   Trim the chicken of fat if necessary.

Combine all the spices and rub them over the chicken breasts.  Place chicken on a baking pan lined with foil and fitted with a baking rack (coat the rack with cooking spray).   Bake for 45-55 minutes (depends on the size of the breasts) until a thermometer reaches an internal temp of 165º.