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(s) for 2017:
* Use the Spiralizer at least once per week for healthy veggie-rich meals
* Continue to spin from the Wheel of Meals for recipe inspiration

Friday, January 31, 2014

Kung Pao Chicken and Fortune Cookies


The Wheel of Meals landed on International

 This week, we spun the wheel and it landed on International.  My dear husband said, "Don't make anything crazy like Moroccan-spice Wasabi."  Umm okay.   Because of that comment, I was going to make something Moroccan, but then I realized today marks the start of the Chinese New Year, so I decided to go with a Chinese theme instead.   The Kung Pao Chicken was indeed easy and very tasty.  I would definitely make this again.  The salad was good, too, and you can't go wrong with fortune cookies.  The cookies were a little time-consuming since I could only make two cookies at a time, but they were worth it for the fun of the occasion.  :)

Easy Kung Pao Chicken
from Light & Delish Magazine
Makes 4 servings; 353 calories/serving

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more for extra heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, cut into thin strips
2 small green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts

Directions:
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, ginger, sugar, cornstarch, crushed red pepper, garlic, and water.  Transfer 2 tablespoons of the stir-fry sauce to a medium bowl; add chicken and toss to coat.  Marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot.  Add the marinated chicken and cook until meat loses its pink color, about 5 minutes.  Remove to a plate.

Add remaining teaspoon of oil to the skillet and add bell peppers and onions.  Add a couple tablespoons of water if pan is too dry.  Stir-fry for about 5 minutes.  Pour remaining stir-fry sauce over vegetables and boil for a minute.  Return chicken to the skillet, add the peanuts, and heat through.  Serve over rice if desired (add 100 calories per 1/2 cup rice).

*****

Asian Salad
Adapted from Light & Delish Magazine
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
1/2 medium red onion, cut into thin strips
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons roasted unsalted peanuts
mandarine or clementine orange segements

Directions:
In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, garlic, brown sugar, fish sauce, and sriracha.   In a large bowl, combine everything else and toss with dressing.  Serve.

*****

Fortune Cookies
Recipe from The Best Little Fortune Cookie Kit Ever
Makes ~18 cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions:
Sift together the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.  Add everything else and beat until smooth.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out a spoonful of batter and pour onto a greased cookie sheet. With the back of the spoon, swirl batter into a thin circle about 3 to 3&1/2 inches in diameter.  Bake that one cookie in a preheated 300º oven for 8 minutes until edges are golden brown.  You can try to bake two or three cookies at a time if you're really fast at the next steps.  Using a flat spatula, lift the cookie off the sheet and flip over onto your work surface.  Place a fortune in the middle of the cookie and gently fold cookie in half.  Next, place a finger next to the center of the folded edge and press inward while pulling the two edges back toward that finger to make the classic fortune cookie shape.  Immediately place cookie in a 1/4-or 1/3-cup measuring cup or cupcake tin to help maintain shape while it cools.  Repeat until you run out of batter.  Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Soft Pretzels



Mmmm, soft pretzels.  Work was having a "bring a treat to work" day, and I thought about baking the usual cookies/brownies/cupcakes, but I felt like doing something different.  This was on my bucket list of things to try, so I went for it.  They turned out great.  I attempted to make a few with a cinnamon-sugar topping instead of salt, and the cinnamon got a little burnt, so I don't recommend that.    Also, I recommend eating them sooner rather than later because they got a little dough-y and chewy as they sat throughout the day.  But fresh out of the oven--- they tasted just like the pretzels at a ballpark.  Yum.


Soft Pretzels
Recipe from Alton Brown - Food Network
Makes 8-12 pretzels

Ingredients:
1&1/2 cups warm water (110-115ºF)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4&1/2 cups flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil, for pain
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
pretzel salt  (I used course sea salt)

Directions:
Combine the water, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.  Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.  Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl, and oil it with vegetable oil.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm place for 50-55 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450º.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil.  Set aside.

Bring the water and baking soda to a rolling boil in a large pot.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 to 12 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.  Make a U-shape with the rope, cross the ends over each other and press into the bottom of the U to form a pretzel shape. 

Place the pretzels, one at a time, into the boiling water for 30 seconds.  Remove them from the water using a large spatula and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet.   Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.  Bake until golden brown in color, about 10-14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops


The Wheel of Meals landed on Chef's Choice

I know, I know.  I get Chef's Choice and all I do is make a simple breaded pork chop.  Well, we had these chops in the fridge and HAD to use them, so I was cooking pork no matter what we spun.  I found this recipe and rolled with it.  No complaints.

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops
Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen: Cooking for Two 2009
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Panko or any bread crumbs
1 small shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
pinch dried thyme
~1/2 cup flour
2 large egg whites
1&1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 boneless center-cut pork chops, 3/4-1" thick

Directions:
In one shallow dish, place 1/4 cup flour.   In a second shallow dish, whisk egg whites and mustard together and whisk in 3 tablespoons flour.   In a third shallow dish, toss bread crumbs, shallot, garlic, oil, salt, pepper, Parmesan, parsley, and thyme.

Make 2 slits in the top edge of each pork chop, about 2 inches apart (to prevent curling) and season with salt and pepper.  Dredge the chops in the flour and shake off excess.  Next, coat the chops with the egg mixture.  Finally, coat the chops with a thick layer of bread crumbs.  

Spray a wire rack with cooking spray and place on a rimmed baking sheet.   Place the chops on the wire rack and bake at 425º for 15-20 minutes until the pork is done and registers 150º.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chicken Parmesan Sub


The Wheel of Meals landed on Sandwiches.

I've had this recipe flagged in my cookbook for awhile, and I finally got an excuse to make it.  I know it's not much of a recipe...pretty easy--mostly an assembly.  But I cooked the chicken and spinach so I say it counts as a recipe.  I liked it.

Chicken Parmesan Sub
from Eating Well Serves Two
~400-460 calories/serving (depending on the ingredients)

Ingredients:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ground pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (8 oz)
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6-oz bag of spinach
1/3 cup marinara sauce
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
2 whole wheat sandwich buns/rolls, toasted

Directions:
Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish.  Place chicken between two large pieces of plastic wrap and pound chicken to 1/4" thickness.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add spinach, and cook, stirring often, until wilted, 1-2 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan.  Add the chicken, and cook until golden on first side, about 2-3 minutes.  Turn the chicken, reduce heat to medium, and top with the wilted spinach, marinara sauce, Parmesan, and mozzarella.  Cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the chicken is cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.  Serve on rolls.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bachelor Beef Stew


This week, the Wheel of Meals landed on Soups/Stews

I decided to make a slow cooker recipe since I was short on time, and with temperatures below zero, you can't go wrong with a hearty beef stew.  Jeremy liked the name of this recipe and we went with it.  He was disturbed because the original recipe said to microwave the onions first, but I said it wasn't necessary if it was going in the slow cooker for 10 hours.  It came out fine.  We liked it.

Bachelor Beef Stew
Adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup frozen chopped onions
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup beef broth
4-6 oz baby carrots
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Minute tapioca
1 bay leaf
1 pound beef steak tips or boneless chuck chunks
salt and pepper
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup frozen peas

Directions:
Throw everything into the slow cooker.  Cook on low heat 9-11 hours.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Balsamic Glazed Salmon and Baby Bok Choy


I loved the glaze on the salmon and bok choy.   We made some quinoa&brown rice mixture to go with it for a healthy and delicious dinner.

Balsamic Glazed Salmon 
from Light & Healthy 2010
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2-3 heads baby bok choy, cut lengthwise
2 (6 oz) skinless center-cut salmon fillets, about 1&1/2" thick
pinch salt
pinch pepper
1/2 tablespoon oil

Glaze:
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 rosemary
salt and pepper

Directions:
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add boy choy, cut side down and cook 2-3 minutes until browned.  Turn over and cook 2-3 minutes on other side.  Transfer to a plate.

Pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Lay the salmon in the skillet skinned-side up and cook over medium-high heat about 5 minutes until browned.  Flip the salmon and continue to cook until the sides are opaque and the thickest part registers 125º, about 3-5 minutes longer.  Transfer salmon to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

For the glaze:  Whisk the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, honey, white vinegar, and pepper flakes in a small bowl.  Pour glaze and rosemary into the skillet and simmer over medium heat.  Cook until the glaze is syrupy, about 5 minutes.  Remove and discard the rosemary sprig and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon some glaze over the salmon to serve.   Return the baby bok choy to the skillet and coat with remaining glaze. 


Friday, January 3, 2014

Maple-Mustard Pork Chops, Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes, and Sautéed Swiss Chard


Wheel of Meals landed on:  Light/Healthy

First spin of the New Year, and it landed on light/healthy.  Well, I guess that's a good way to start.  I thought the Pork Chops tasted great. I liked the maple-mustard sauce.  The sweet potatoes were okay, and so was the chard.

Pork Chops with Maple-Mustard Sauce
from Eating Well Serves Two
Serves 2;  254 calories/serving

Ingredients:
2 boneless pork loin chops
1&1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon rubbed dried sage

Directions:
Combine 1/2 tablespoon mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Rub all over pork.

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pork and cook until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

While pork is resting, heat vinegar in the skillet over medium-high heat.  Boil, scraping browned bits with a wooden spoon, about 30 seconds.  Whisk in the maple syrup and remaining tablespoon mustard.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add any accumulated juices from the resting pork to the sauce, along with sage.  Serve the pork topped with the sauce.

******

Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Shallots
from Cooking Light: The New Way to Cook Light
Serves 4;  200 calories/serving (~1/2 cup)

Ingredients:
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (~ 2 medium)
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1&1/3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Heat 4 teaspoons oil in a medium skillet over low heat.  Add shallots and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle with sugar; cook 20 minutes or until shallots are golden, stirring occasionally.

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain.  Place potatoes in a large bowl.  Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Add rosemary, salt, and pepper, and beat until blended.  Serve topped with shallots.

******

Sautéed Swiss Chard
from Cooking for Two 2010
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch Swiss Chard, stems chopped medium and leaves cut into pieces
1/4 cup minced onion
salt and pepper
1 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions:
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the chard stems, onions, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5-7 minutes.   Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the chard leaves; cover and cook until the chard is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes.   Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle with remaining 1 teaspoon oil and serve.

2014 - The Wheel of Meals

A new year, a new cooking resolution!  For 2014, I decided to make a spinning wheel with various categories from which to cook (Thanks to Tristin for the 'Wheel of Meals' name idea).  My handy husband laminated my creation and mounted it on a board with a cute carrot spinner.  I figure this will force me to try some new recipes from categories I may not normally attempt.

My resolution is to spin the wheel at least 50 times this year to determine what to cook.




Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lemon Meringue Pie


For my family's New Year's Day Christmas gathering, I was in charge of dessert.  So I made a classic Lemon Meringue Pie.   The lemon filling could have been cooked thicker before I poured it into the crust, but the meringue turned out great, and it all tasted great.


Lemon Meringue Pie
from The New Best Recipe cookbook

Ingredients:
1 Pre-baked Pie Crust, cooled completely

Lemon Filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1&1/2 cups cold water
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice from about 2-3 lemons
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Meringue:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
For the filling:
Mix the cornstarch, sugar, salt, and water in a large saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally at the beginning and more frequently as it begins to thicken.  When the mixture starts to simmer and turns translucent, whisk in the egg yolks, two at a time.  Whisk in the zest, then the lemon juice, and finally the butter. Bring to a good simmer, whisking constantly.  Remove from the heat and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling to prevent a film from forming.

For the meringue:
Mix the cornstarch and water in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally at first, then more frequently as it thickens.  When it starts to simmer and turns translucent, remove from heat.

Beat the egg whites and vanilla until frothy.  Combine the sugar and cream of tartar and add to the egg whites, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until the sugar is completely incorporated and soft peaks form.  Add the cornstarch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue to beat the meringue to stiff peaks.

Remove the plastic from the lemon filling and return to heat for a couple minutes to ensure filling is hot.  Pour the hot filling into the pie shell.  Using a spatula, immediately distribute the meringue evenly around the edges and then to the center, making sure the meringue attaches to the pie crust all the way around (to prevent shrinking when cooked).  Use the back of a spoon to create peaks all over the meringue.  Bake the pie on the middle oven rack at 325º for about 20-25 minutes until the meringue is golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Serve the same day.