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 2020:
* Make at least 20 recipes for the Instant Pot
* Use the Spiralizer more often

Friday, February 28, 2014

Beer-Braised Pork Chops

We had a bottle of beer in the fridge that was just sitting there--for a really, really long time.  I don't drink the stuff.  I don't know if beer goes bad, but I decided to use it in a recipe to help clear out the fridge.   I found this recipe and decided it looked good.  It was.  I didn't really taste the beer in the pork, but the pears were quite saturated with the beer juice and I noticed it there.  I accompanied the main dish with boiled red potatoes and green beans.

Beer-Braised Pork Chops with Pears
from Eating Light Magazine
Serves 4;  348 calories/serving

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 center-cut bone-in pork loin chops
salt and pepper
2 Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
1 bottle (12 oz) lager beer (or any beer)
3/4 teaspoon dried sage

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season pork chops with salt and pepper.  Add to skillet and sear about 4 minutes on each side.  Transfer chops to plate.  Add pears to skillet and cook about 6 minutes or until golden.  Transfer pears to plate.  

Add beer and sage to the skillet, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon.  Return the pork and pears to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and braise for 5-7 minutes until pork is cooked through.  Remove pork and pears, increase heat to medium and cook about 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half.  Serve pork with pears and sauce.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Split Pea Soup with Homemade Croutons

The Wheel of Meals landed on Legumes

I was going to go with lentils because I haven't made anything with those before, but Jeremy suggested peas, so I picked the classic split pea soup.  I found a crockpot recipe and used a ham hock for the first time.  I wasn't sure if I was going to like the soup so I had a pizza in the freezer as a backup plan, but I was pleasantly surprised; it was actually quite good.  I also found it to be filling because of all the carrots and ham in the soup. 

Split Pea Soup
Recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution
Makes 6-8 servings

2 onions, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1 pound (~ 2 cups) green split peas, picked over and rinsed
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
1 smoked ham hock
8 ounces ham steak, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper

6 slices bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons melted butter
dried thyme
salt and pepper

In  a medium bowl, combine the onions, garlic, oil, thyme, and red pepper flakes.  Microwave for about 5 minutes until onions are softened.  Transfer to a slow cooker.   Stir the broth, water, split peas, carrots, and bay leaves to the slow cooker and nestle the ham hock in there.  Cover and cook until peas are tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.

Remove ham hock and shred pork into bite-sized pieces.  Return pork to slow cooker and discard the skin and bones.  Discard the bay leaves.  Stir in the ham steak, and cover and cook and high for 15 minutes to allow ham to heat.  Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make croutons, toss bread cubes with butter, salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice.  Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350º for 15-20 minutes until crisp.   Croutons can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Red Velvet Cookies

These cookies are almost too good.   Soft and delicious Red Velvet cake in cookie form with a hug surprise and cream cheese frosting.  Mmmmm.   Happy Valentine's Day!

Red Velvet Cookies
Recipe from Recipe Girl website
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 box Red Velvet Cake Mix
1 small box of instant vanilla pudding mix
4 to 5 large egg whites
1/2 cup sour cream
24 Hershey's "Hugs" Kisses

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1&1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream or milk

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix 4 egg whites and sour cream.  Using a wooden spoon, mix it into the dry mixture.  The mixture will be extremely thick. Add an additional egg white if it is impossible to stir.   

Drop a tablespoon of cookie dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Press a hug/kiss into the cookie dough, and then top the kiss with another tablespoon of dough.   Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.  Bake at 350º for 12-13 minutes, until the cookies are set.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

For frosting, combine the cream cheese with 1&1/4 cups powdered sugar and drizzle in enough whipping cream or milk to create a nice spreading consistency, adding more powdered sugar if needed. Spread the frosting on the cookies. Top with decorative sprinkles, if desired.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bacon & Eggs over Asparagus

Breakfast of leftover ingredients that I had to either use up or throw out.  I liked it, but it made a mess in the baking sheet.  I would suggest using foil in the pan so that you don't wreck your pan.   Also, one of my egg yolks broke when I tried to center it on the asparagus which made me sad.  Points off for presentation.

Bacon & Eggs over Asparagus
from Light & Delish Magazine
235 calories/serving

Ingredients per serving:
2 slices bacon
6-8 asparagus spears
fresh chopped thyme leaves
2 large eggs
chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 425º.  Arrange bacon on a rimmed baking sheet and roast about 8 minutes until browned and crisp.  Transfer bacon strips to a paper towel; set aside.  Drain and discard excess bacon fat, leaving just a thin film of fat.

Add the asparagus to the pan and roll in the bacon fat. Arrange in a tight single layer.  Sprinkle thyme leaves and ground black pepper on asparagus.  Roast about 8 minutes until asparagus are tender.

Carefully crack eggs, without breaking yolks, directly onto the asparagus spears.  Carefully return to oven and roast 5-6 minutes until whites are just set.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and parsley.  To serve, use a wide spatula to transfer to a plate and add the bacon.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Venison and Parmesan Roasted Asparagus

Tonight's dinner featured venison tenderloins from the deer my sister-in-law shot.  Reading various internet sources, I concluded that grilling was the preferred method of cooking, but it's freezing outside and our patio is still covered with a mountain of snow, so that's not happening.  I found a recipe online in which it was cooked on a grill pan on the stovetop, and I copied that idea.   I even got out my vacuum sealer to marinate the tenderloin which was fun.  I really liked this recipe.  Maybe it was the bacon, or the marinade, but the venison didn't taste "gamey" at all.  It was tender and delicious, like a steak.  I had meant to cook it to medium/medium-rare for the best flavor, but I accidentally went to medium/medium-well.  It was still good and not tough.  The parmesan asparagus was also excellent.  I highly recommend it.

Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Venison
Serves 2

10-12 oz venison tenderloin (backstrap)
4-6 slices bacon
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the seven marinade ingredients.  Add the venison and turn to coat.  Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4-8 hours or overnight, flipping bag over once during the time.  If you vacuum-seal the bag, you can reduce the marinating time if you want.

Remove tenderloin from fridge and discard marinade.  Starting at one end, wrap a slice of bacon tightly around the tenderloin  and secure with a toothpick.  Repeat with the next strip, slightly overlapping bacon, until entire tenderloin is wrapped.

Heat a grill pan on the stove top to medium and grill bacon-wrapped tenderloin to your preference, turning to brown all sides and get bacon crispy all the way around.  I think it took 6-7 minutes per side.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  I was aiming for an internal temperature of 150º at the end of the grilling.  After it rested, the temperature was close to 160º.


Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Serves 2

12-16 asparagus spears
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
lemon juice, optional

If desired, with a vegetable peeler, peel the outer skin off the lower 2/3 of each spear.  Trim the spears by holding each end and bending until it snaps.

In a tray, toss the spears with the olive oil.  Sprinkle with the remaining ingredients.  Arrange asparagus on a baking sheet lined with foil.  If desired, sprinkle with a little more grated Parmesan.  Bake in a preheated 425º oven for about 10 minutes, depending on thickness of spears.  Sprinkle with lemon juice just before serving.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mustard-Maple Roasted Salmon

The Wheel of Meals landed on Chef's Choice again.

Lucky me.  I decided to make something healthy and picked up some salmon from the grocery store.   I also prepared quinoa and a leafy green salad to accompany it.   I found this recipe online and it was just okay.  It could be that I substituted Dijon mustard and Mrs Butterworth syrup since that's what I had in my kitchen.  I much preferred the Balsamic Glazed Salmon I made last month.  In fact, I liked the cilantro quinoa better than the mustard-maple salmon.

Mustard-Maple Roasted Salmon
Recipe from Food Network
Serves 2
2 center-cut 6oz salmon filets
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place salmon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast at 400º for 8-10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the mustard, maple syrup, garlic, and lemon juice.   Brush salmon with the mixture and return to the oven to cook another 5 minutes or until salmon is cooked through.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Superbowl 2014: Sticky Wings, Broccoli Salad, and Guacamole

For this year's Superbowl Party, I decided to make Chicken Wings (they were on sale at the store).  This slow-cooked version finished under the broiler kept the chicken nice and moist with a deliously sweet and gooey sauce that was finger-lickin' good.  Really superb.    The broccoli salad tasted healthy and fresh, thanks to the blanching technique.  Jeremy didn't like the raisins, but I liked the little bite of sweetness with the salty bacon and walnuts in the salad.  This guacamole recipe is a keeper too.  Mmmm, guac.

Sticky Wings
from Slow Cooker Revolution
Serves 4-6

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
3-4 pounds whole chicken wings, wingtips discarded and wings split
salt and pepper
For basting sauce:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to slow cooker.  Combine brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and Cayenne, and add to slow cooker, tossing to coat chicken.  Cook until chicken is tender, about 4 hours on low.

Place a wire rack on a foil-lined baking pan and coat with vegetable spray.   Transfer chicken to rack; discard accumulated liquid in slow cooker.

Combine ingredients for the basting sauce and brush chicken with half the mixture.  Broil until lightly charred, about 10 minutes.  Flip chicken over, brush with remaining sauce, and broil on second side 5-10 minutes.  Serve with extra napkins. :)


Broccoli Salad
Recipe adapted from Cooking for Two-2013
Serves 2-4

1 head broccoli, florets cut (~10 oz)
2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
1/4 cup light Miracle Whip (or mayo)
1/2 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons raisins or dried cranberries
3 tablespoons toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded cabbage 
1/2 small shallot, minced

To blanch broccoli (which helps reduce woodiness and eliminates need for sugar): Boil water in a medium pot; add broccoli and cook for 1 minute.  Drain and immediately place broccoli in a large bowl of ice and water to cool, about 2 minutes.  Drain again and spin dry.

In a large bowl, whisk together the Miracle Whip, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Add the broccoli and all the other ingredients and toss to combine.



3 ripe Haas Avocados
1 lime, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh Cilantro leaves

Mash the avocado, lime juice, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Add everything except for the tomatoes and mix to combine.  Gently fold in the tomatoes.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Italian Wedding Pasta

I was browsing through my cookbook magazines, and I realized I had almost all of the ingredients to make this, so I put this on my dinner plan for the week.    It was really good and I was impressed that it was under 400 calories.  I cheated a bit and used meatballs that I already had in my freezer, but I'm sure the taste was the same overall anyway.   I halved this recipe and put it in an 8x8 pan to bake.

Italian Wedding Pasta
from Eating Light magazine
Serves 8; 390 calories/serving

1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large egg
1 cup freshly grated Romano cheese (divided)
1 pound farfalle pasta
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1&1/2 cups milk
1 can (~14oz) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 bag (9 oz) baby spinach
freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, mix the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, egg, and 1/4 cup Romano until just blended.  Shape mixture into small meatballs.  Place on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Bake in a preheated 400º oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to boiling.  Add pasta and cook to al dente.  Drain pasta and return to pot.

In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk cornstarch into milk.  Add the milk mixture and chicken broth to pot with pasta.  Heat to boiling, stirring frequently, and continue to boil 1 minute longer to thicken sauce slightly.  Remove from heat and add spinach, 1/2 cup grated Romano, meatballs, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; toss to combine.  Transfer mixture to a 9x13" baking pan.  Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Romano cheese over top.  Bake 20 minutes or until hot in the center and golden brown on top.