Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A savory bread saver

I went to a homeschool convention earlier this month and stayed at a hotel where I could take advantage of the in-suite mini-kitchen to prepare my solo meals.  I brought some favorite homemade foods like thick yogurt, nutty granola cereal and nectarine kombucha along in a cooler but stopped at the C'ville Great Harvest Bread Co. on my way over the mountain to pick up a loaf of their sliced honey-whole wheat bread since I didn't have enough time to make bread before I left.  Of course, as soon as you enter the bakery, someone offers a slice of just-baked bread -- this time it was a crusty slice of  a savory spinach feta bread.  Since it was a little heartier than plain, I picked up a round loaf to take with me for my dinner.

When I got back home a few days later, I still had about half a loaf of the spinach feta bread.  Cubed and dried in the dehydrator for several hours, it went into a jar on the pantry shelf.  Then yesterday, I had a package of pork chops and a can of apple pie filling (recently found at the back of a pantry shelf...) which I wanted to turn into several freezer meals DH could take to work, the dried bread cubes became the basis for homemade stovetop stuffing that was out of this world!

I used a very simple recipe from Kraft which called for browning chops in a little oil and then putting apple pie filling in an ovenproof casserole, topped with the pork chops and prepared stuffing.  The spinach feta bread made this recipe.  I'm going to have to remember to make savory breads like that just for the purpose of using as a base in the stuffing!

Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing

  • 4 pork chops
  • tablespoon or so of vegetable oil for browning the chops
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (20-oz.) can apple pie filling
  • 3 cups dried, cubed bread (I used the spinach feta bread from Great Harvest)
  • pinch each of sage, thyme and celery salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion or 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth or water
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Brown pork chops in a little oil in a heavy skillet.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread apple pie filling in the bottom of an ovenproof casserole dish which is large enough to hold the four chops in a single layer. 

Bring broth, butter, and onions to a boil in a saucepan.  Pour in seasonings and bread cubes and toss to moisten.  Put the lid on the pan and let it stand for a few minutes till bread's completely absorbed the liquid.

Put chops on top of apples and mound stuffing evenly on each chop.  Cover casserole with a lid or aluminum foil and bake at 350ºF. for 45 minutes.  If desired, remove lid for last 5 minutes of baking time to allow stuffing to dry slightly.

Note:  I'm unlikely to have a can of apple pie filling the next time I want to make this so I plan to either substitute fresh apples or canned tart cherries packed in water which I'll quickly stew with a little sugar and maybe a dash of cinnamon before spreading in the bottom of the baking dish.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cleaning out the freezer. . . again.

I love the way food keeps without developing freezer burn in our manual-defrost freezers.  But I'm not too fond of the day, and it always comes, when they must be defrosted.

This weekend it was the big chest freezer that had to be turned off, then quickly unloaded, blow-dried out and re-packed.  We're getting better, though, as I only found two fruit juice popsicles and a lone mini-muffin (where did its packaging get to I wonder?) which had to be discarded.  But there were a couple packages of chicken, a package of pork chops and one chuck roast which needed to be used soon so I cooked a pot roast with vegetables for Sunday's dinner and thawed the chicken and chops in the refrigerator in covered containers of buttermilk.

Buttermilk seems to refresh even the oldest frozen chicken.  (And it's not too bad as a marinade for frozen pork either.)  One package of chicken was boneless, skinless chicken breasts and those went straight on the grill when they'd thawed.  I'll use them sliced on a garden salad and in quesadillas for lunches later this week.  The other package was bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts which I turned into seven pints of spicy pineapple chicken.  (The recipe, found on the Canning2 list a couple of years ago, is supposed to be a PF Chang copycat but I've never tried the original so can't vouch for that -- just that it's easy to make and tastes good when we need a meal in a hurry.)  I cut the meat from the bone and used the bones and skin to make the quart of broth called for in the recipe.  (Because I thawed the meat in buttermilk, I rinsed it before throwing the scraps in the pot for the broth.)

The photo below shows the jars right before I added the liquid to fill.  Pints like this are perfect for two but don't quite stretch when we're all three home.  But since I had the canner out I did a fast soak of 5 pounds of pinto beans and put up 7 quarts of beans when I'd finished the chicken.  (Sort beans and add to enough boiling water to cover by several inches, boil for 2 minutes, cover and let soak for 2 hours.  Drain and reserve soaking liquid, fill jars half-full with soaked beans.  Top with reserved soaking liquid, brought back to a boil, and process for 75 minutes at 10-lbs pressure. Altitude adjustment, if necessary)

The last couple of years I've made more meal-in-a-jar batches than my old freezer-style oamc.  There are still things I make ahead and freeze, of course, but for space-savings and ease of use, a meal-in-a-jar can rarely be beat.

PF Chang Spicy Pineapple Chicken
  • Chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces (I started with 3-lbs of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts)
  • 2 (20-oz.) cans crushed pineapple
  • 1 (8-oz.) can pineapple tidbits, drained and juice reserved (optional)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion per jar
  • 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce per jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic per jar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce per jar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar per jar
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar per jar (I used apple cider vinegar)
Stir fry the chicken.  Meanwhile, divide the crushed pineapple and pineapple tidbits among the jars.  Add seasonings. 

Divide cooked chicken pieces among jars.  Combine chicken broth and reserved pineapple juice, use to fill jars.  Leave 1" headspace.  Process for 75 minutes at 10 lb pressure. Adjust pressure for altitude if necessary.  (Refer to NCHFP website for directions.)

To serve: Add thickener such as cornstarch or arrowroot to sauce while heating and serve over rice.