Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the easiest salted caramel sauce

Usually when I write about a recipe, it's because I've read a lot about the dish at hand.
I read a ton of recipes, decide which ingredients I like/dislike, then add something to make it my own.
Which usually ends up being cumin, chili powder, hot sauce, or some combination of the three.
Let's be honest.

But sometimes I'll come across something that works perfectly the way it's written.
I won't be able to think of any way to improve it, which is weird, because making recipes my own is one of the things I love most about cooking.
Everything is so easy to personalize.

This salted caramel sauce is one of those things.
Before I made this, I had never attempted caramel before.
It always seemed so intimidating.
Especially because in the midst of research, there are always the people obsessed with candy thermometers.
"You must have a candy thermometer! Your caramel will burn! Don't even attempt this if you don't know the exact heat!!!"

Well I've got news for all of you.
I successfully made a delicious caramel sauce, sans thermometer, and it really wasn't hard!
So you can do it too, trust me!

I couldn't really get pictures of the process since it requires your full attention, but believe me when I say it's totally doable and worth the effort.
And there's only four ingredients.
So yeah, there's that.

tutorial via Two Peas & Their Pod
Things you'll need:

2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks of butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sea salt {optional}

Before you get started, prep your ingredients.
Cube the butter.  Measure out the cream and sugar.
This will make it a lot easier to ensure the sugar doesn't burn.
Heat the sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to melt.
Begin whisking the sugar as it melts.
It will clump and stick to the whisk a bit, but keep going.  Eventually it will become smooth.
Once smooth, the original recipe says to stop whisking and swirl the pan around while the sugar continues to cook.
However, I just lifted the pan a bit and continued to whisk {since I don't have a thermometer to keep watch on the temp}.
Continue cooking the sugar until it turns a deep amber color {the color you want your caramel to be!}.

Once the sugar reaches the desired color, carefully whisk in the butter until melted.
Remove the pan from the heat, and slowly whisk in the heavy cream until completely incorporated and smooth.
Whisk in sea salt, if desired.
Allow caramel to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a jar to cool to room temperature.
This recipe yields about two cups of caramel sauce.
I cooled 1 1/2 cups of it and served the other 1/2 cup immediately with mini wonton apple pies!

recipe found here

For any other caramel sauce, the only thing I would've thought to do is stir in some salt.
And, of course, Maria and Josh beat me to it.
This sauce is so delicious and will last in your fridge for about a month, which means you can drizzle it over brownies and dip your fruit in it every day if you want.
Not that I do that or anything.

What else is new?

Last weekend we had our annual cabin trip, which I would deem a success except for the tragedy that is Georgia Football.
It was so nice getting out of town for the weekend though.

The house we stayed at was three stories and beautiful.
Very cozy with tons of woodsy decor.

We spent the weekend having pomosas by the fire...

...watching the most devastating game I've seen in a long time...

...and trying to laugh off the heartbreak with card games and many {many} drinks.

Overall, not a terrible way to spend a weekend I'd say!

This weekend, Friday morning to be exact, Joe and I are off to Cancun for five days.
So this may or may not be the last post you see from me until we return next Wednesday.
Unless I bake a pie in my new pie dish tonight, which is totally possible.
I mean I do have all this extra caramel lying around.

Wednesday night feels like a good night for pie, am I right?

Friday, November 15, 2013

garlic lime pork chops

Last week Joe and I took a day off work to do something we never do.
Go on a date in the middle of the day!
It was such a great way to get a head start on the weekend and do an activity together.
The activity of choice this time?
Check out the Georgia Aquarium!

I had never been before, so I was really excited to check out everything it had to offer.
I won't lie to you, it turned out to be much more kid-centered than I expected.
Maybe I wasn't prepared because the last time I went to an aquarium I was a second grader?
Who knows.
However, it was still a lot of fun!

 Joe made some new friends...

...and so did I.
Now I officially want a penguin.
But since we couldn't take one home with us, Joe bought me the next best thing.

My favorite new stuffed animal, Nicholas the Christmas penguin!
He's been keeping us company on the nightstand for a week now, slowly easing us into the holiday spirit.

And speaking of holidays, can you believe it's almost Thanksgiving?
Where did November go?!

I've spent a lot of my time this month baking (shocker) and trying new dinner recipes.
I feel like I was in a dinner slump for almost a month and finally hit my wall of frustration.
Something had to be done.
So one Sunday, I set out to the grocery store (with no meal in mind) to wander around aimlessly, hoping to be inspired.

This time it just so happened to be pork chops, which I've never cooked before, believe it or not.
How I've gone this many years and avoided pork chops is beyond me, but I'm upset about it!
Because these chops turned out so delicious.
Totally up my alley, with tons of spice, garlic, and lime.
And they're made in a cast-iron skillet, my current favorite kitchen accessory.

If you're looking for a quick and easy dinner packed with flavor, this is what you want!

adapted/inspired by Skinnytaste
Things you'll need:

3 medium-sized boneless pork chops
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp chili powder
3 tsp paprika
1 lime, juice and zest of
sea salt
black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Season chops on both sides with cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
I sprinkled each side with salt and pepper, then used about 1/2 tsp (give or take) of each spice on each side of the chop.
(If you don't love spice, do less!  These are totally adaptable.  I just really love heavy seasoning.)
In a bowl, toss chops with garlic, lime juice, and lime zest.
Marinate, covered, in the fridge for 2 to 2.5 hours.
You can really marinate these as long or as short as you want, but I'd recommend at least 30 minutes if possible.
I did mine for 2.5 hours, and I could taste all of the flavors beautifully.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a cast-iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
Sear pork chops for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
Transfer skillet to the oven for 6-10 minutes, until pork chops are cooked thoroughly.
Serve and enjoy!

It's that easy.
I threw mine in the fridge, went to a yoga class, and when I got home dinner was ready in 20 minutes.
I served these on top of some lime rice (white rice cooked normally, then tossed with the juice of a whole, fresh lime), and they were amazing.
Finishing off meat in the oven is so easy and SO worth it.
They weren't dry at all and had amazing flavor thanks to the simple marinade.
And FYI, these would also be amazing on the grill...because everything is amazing on the grill.

So, if you want to spice up your dinner routine, or you're tired of the usual boring pork chop, these are your remedy.
I wouldn't steer you wrong.

What are you doing this weekend?

This afternoon, Joe and I are headed to Blue Ridge with some friends for our annual cabin trip!
The girls and I have spent our week meal planning, grocery shopping, and picking out as many cocktails as we can.
Up first on the list to try: boozy apple cider.

I cannot wait!

Have a great weekend!