The Gleeful Gourmand: November 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, even if we totally ruin this dinner, at least the table looks nice! Wishing you and yours a very blessed Thanksgiving. There is so much to be thankful for.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pork Chops with Cabbage, and Apples (Or Pears)

If you're anything like me, and you just happen to be hosting Thanksgiving dinner, you've got nothing but visions of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce dancing through your head. Don't you find it incredibly hard to plan for meals for the rest of the week during this holiday? Especially if you have company in town, it can get a bit challenging to be creative and hit home runs with meals that don't involve endless mountains of pasta.

I see your finger hovering over your phone, just itching to dial your favorite pizza place. Don't do it. Put your phone down. Get your nose out of your Thanksgiving menu plans. Stop looking endlessly at Thanksgiving tablescapes, and try this one on for size: Pork Chops, Cabbage, and Apples. This recipe is from Southern Living Magazine (February, 2008), and has held up over the years as one of our favorite Fall one-pot dishes.

Spiced-rubbed Pork Chops sizzle in a cast iron skillet.

Sounds simple, but I promise the flavors are so incredible, you will not only hit a home run, but you will end up thinking you're a bit of a flavor genius for trying it out. Imagine this: spice-rubbed pork chops, sizzling in bacon drippings. Cabbage, onions, and sweet apple simmering in luscious tomato paste, and your favorite beer. Yes! Beer! You not only get to throw bacon in this dish, but you also get to dump a whole bottle of beer into it. Now what sounds more hearty, more satisfying, and more wake-your-tastebuds-up then that?

A whole bottle of beer in your dinner! Hurray!

But wait, what's that I hear? You hate Pork Chops? You have memories seared into your food-loving brain of dried-out, tough-as-nails pork chops that you were forced to eat as a kid. These are not those, my friends, I promise. These pork chops are first seared delicately, rested, and then simmered for just a bit, producing a perfect, juicy pork chop. It will change the way you look at pork chops forever.

There will come a moment where you think it won't all fit. Don't worry - it will!
Here are some tips: First, we like to use a favorite Richmond beer, Legend Brown Ale. It's got just the right balance for this dish. Don't get too crazy with your beer and start throwing in anything that has complicated flavors. Lager beer is best. Secondly, I don't actually ever make this with apples, because my husband is allergic. I substitute the 1 Granny Smith with 2-3 Bartlett Pears (depending on size), and it's still just as delicious. Maybe a tad sweeter.

So go on, give it a try. Sounds better than pizza, right? And if you already have your meals nailed down for this week, just think about next week, when there is no Thanksgiving and you're stuck once again wondering what to serve for dinner.

Pork Chops, Cabbage, and Apples (or Pears)

Pork Chops, Cabbage, and Apples (or Pears)

• 3 tsp. Paprika, divided
• 2 tsp. Chopped fresh, or 1 tsp. dried thyme, divided
• 2 tsp. Kosher salt, divided
• 1 1/2 tsp. Freshly ground pepper, divided
• 2 tsp. chopped fresh, or 1 tsp. dried sage, divided
• 6 Pork Loin Chops
• 2 Bacon slices
• 1 Head cabbage, coarsely chopped
• 2 Medium onions, thinly sliced
• 1 Large Granny Smith Apple (or 2-3 Bartlett Pears) peeled and sliced
• 1 Tbsp. Tomato paste
• 1 (12 oz.) Bottle Lager beer

Combine 2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. fresh or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, and 1 tsp. fresh or 1/2 tsp. dried sage. Rub evenly over pork chops.

Cook bacon slices in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat 6-8 minutes. Remove, and drain on paper towels, reserving drippings in skillet. Cook pork in hot drippings, 3 minutes on each side, or until browned and done. Remove pork from pan, and keep warm (I like to put them on a plate and cover them with aluminum foil).

Crumble the bacon. Add cabbage, onions, and apple (or pears) to the pan. Cover and reduce the heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally 15 minutes, or until the cabbage begins to wilt. Add in the tomato paste, crumbled bacon, beer, and remaining spices, stirring to loosen the particles from the bottom of the skillet.

Cover and cook 15 minutes. Add the pork back in and cook, uncovered for 5 minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Serves. 6. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Birthday Pirate Party!

I hope you'll forgive me for being absent the last couple of weeks. We've been dealing with a lot of stuff here over at The Gleeful Gourmand household. The best of what's kept me occupied lately is that our son turned 6 this past weekend!

We knew we wanted to have a smallish party at home to save on expense, so I started thinking about themes. Our kids are completely obsessed with the Disney show "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" so it seemed that a pirate theme was inevitable. Once I pitched it to my son, and he agreed (with a hearty "arrggh!" no less), I did what any self-respecting Pinterest user would do: scoured the web and other people's blogs to see what they did. Boy, did I find a lot! From the ultra-lavish (complete with real pirate sails billowing at each table), to the super simple, I culled the best of what I found, and then modified it to fit our party needs.

Because I felt really grateful that something like Pinterest exists at all, and that I could see all the wonderful ideas people had come up with, I've decided to share what I did - hopefully anyone looking for ideas to steal for their pirate party will be inspired! However, even if you don't give a fig about pirate parties, I hope you'll stay to the end of the post to get the recipe for the cupcakes I made: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip. Oh my!

Decorations, courtesy of a friend who held a mermaid party this summer. Fish net, starfish, and my son's pirate sword.

I decided the party would only be an hour and 15 minutes long. There had to be some activities, and it would all be outside. The first thing I had the kids do was:

1. Walk The Plank: We got two cinder blocks and a long, sturdy plank of wood from Home Depot. From Hobby Lobby I bought two pieces of wood and ginormous Sharpie markers to make signs, and three super cheap inflatable fish to put beneath the plank. If this party had been in the summer, I totally would have had a baby pool filled with water to make it more fun. As it was, the kids had a blast running across the plank.

2. Be A Matey: After they each walked the plank, they could dress like a pirate. I bought all the matey supplies at Hobby Lobby, including foam swords, pirate hats, eye patches, and mustaches. For the girls who didn't want a hat I bought a bundle of brightly colored cloth (around $6) that we turned into bandanas. (I struggled with whether or not to have the swords. The kids did great with them, and only one kid got whacked in the face. That I saw.)

Two sweet Pirate Sisters.

3. Pin the Treasure on the Map: (Party City) This was the next game they played, taped our garage door. It took up a good chunk of time, which was great while I was setting up the food and cupcakes.

4. Treasure Hunt/Goodie Bags: After the kids had their snacks and cupcakes I had them go on a treasure hunt for their goodie bags. The first thing I did was buy a box (about $5) from Hobby Lobby and decorate it with pirate stickers meant for a photo album. Then I figured out each challenge I wanted them to do and drew a map on some card stock that looked like a sandy beach. I rolled up the map, put in the box and hid it from the kids: That was their first challenge - to find the box. Once they did that, they followed the map to their challenges:

A) "Jungle Run" - we strung rope between our deck and some leland trees, and then tied green and white crepe paper to it. I made the kids run through twice - just to run off energy.
B) "Hook's Hidden Hook" - with a hook hand I found at Hobby Lobby, hidden in some bushes.
C) "Secret Spy Glass" - a pirate spy glass I found at Party City in their Halloween section, hidden by a tree.
D) "Rock Hop" - around 10 gray card stock cut in circles and laid out - they had to hop on each rock.

"Be A Matey," "Treasure Map Challenge," "Jungle Run," and "Walk the Plank."

The goodie bags were also from Hobby Lobby, paper boxes that folded into treasure chests. In each was one sheet of pirate tattoos, a small container of bubbles, and from Sweet Spot, a baggie with a giant gummy shark, and three gummy whales.

5) Decorations: I borrowed some decorations from a friend who threw a mermaid party this summer: Fish netting, different colored and sized starfish, a green boa that looked like seaweed, and my son's pirate sword (with his permission) stuck in the middle. For the tables, I used pirate-themed packs from Party City, but for the table the kids sat at, I actually found a great model pirate ship at Hobby Lobby for just $10! I sprinkled doubloons all around it.

6) Food: I kept it super simple: Pirate's Booty, "Fish and Chips" (Goldfish and Tortilla Chips), Fruit Kebabs, Juice and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes - the one thing our son demanded for his birthday party! This recipe comes from Kirsten Oliphant, and as my husband declared, they are "stupid good." Rich and decadent, yet moist and somehow light all at the same time, you can make a full two-layer cake, or 28 cupcakes from her recipe. You can read her full post here. Sinfully delicious, all I can say is, you've got to get in on this action!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcake.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes:


1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (*GG Note: I use Hershey's. I like the taste, and they are safe for those with peanut allergies.)

1 8-oz block cream cheese (room temp)
1 stick butter (room temp)
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, plus more if needed for consistency
4-5 Tbsp. milk
Semi-sweet chocolate chips or bar, shaved or chopped finely
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans or prepare baking cups for cupcakes.
  2. Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until well combined.
  1. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add to the wet ingredients in three increments, beat until well incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.
  2. Bake for 20-30 minutes until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Cupcakes take about 20 minutes and make 28 (using 1/4 cup batter/baking cup). Two round cakes take about 30 minutes.
  1. While the cake is baking, cream the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar, beating until mixed well and smooth. Use milk as needed to give a consistency that is firm enough to stay in place.
  1. Eat. Swoon. Repeat.
The Birthday Boy, too consumed with his cupcake to smile. Or act like a pirate.