Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pickle Juice Pork Chops

I know, this sounds insane, but it really is a delicious way to cook otherwise boring pork chops.  They come out so tender, they practically melt in your mouth.  Here's how to make these babies:

Pork chops--either bone-in or boneless, up to you (I usually make about 8 or so for leftovers the next day)
2 eggs
1/4-1/2 C. milk
1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 pkg. Progresso Italian style Panko breadcrumbs
1 jar of leftover Claussen garlic dill pickle juice (about a cup or so of pickle juice if you don't want to use Claussen--I use it because they are my favorite pickles and there are huge chunks of garlic and peppercorns in the juice).
Oil, for frying.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Drizzle oil in a large skillet and bring up to medium high heat.  Pour pickle juice into a pan and bring to a boil.  Set up three pie plates or bowls.  In the first one, mix the flour with the salt and pepper.  In the second, beat the eggs and the milk together.  In the third plate, pour out 1/3 of the package of Panko.

Dip a pork chops into the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, and finally into the Panko, coating both sides of each chop.  As you use up the Panko, pour just a little more out at a time.  If you pour out the entire package at once, the Panko tends to get soggy and won't stick to the new chops.  I tend to pour out 1/3 of the package at a time with good results.

Brown the pork chops on each side for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown.  Add more oil if breading starts to look dry.  Place chops into a baking pan or casserole.  Carefully pour boiling pickle juice all over pork chops.  Cover pan with foil and put it in the oven.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes for regular sized pork chops.  If you're using thinly sliced chops, bake for 20-25 minutes.  I serve mine with Stovetop Cornbread stuffing.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Our duckies are really growing!

Since it's been a bit since I talked about our little feathered friends, I thought I'd give everyone an update.  To put it mildly, they have had a growth explosion in the past week!  When we first got them, we were able to hold each one in the palms of our hands.  We were also able to pick up all four at once when we needed to move them during cage cleaning.  Now, it takes two hands to pick one duckling up and picking up all four at once, fuggedabout it!  I will post some photos later of the duckies.

They are about 8-10" tall and about the same length.  They have all of their feathers and two of them have tail feathers that are trying to turn up.  It may turn out that Daisy & Delta are actually boy ducks. :)  They are so soft and I love petting them but they still go nuts when you try to pick them up.  They quiet down once I have one in my arms, but then the others freak out because their brother/sister is missing!

They eat like crazy and love swimming in their cake pan pond.  I have to change their water a lot more now since they splash it out more with their bigger bodies and crazy antics.  I bought a 5 lb. bag of chicken feed (Purina Flock Raiser) and one bag of chick grit and both are almost gone.  They need the grit to help them digest their food.  Good thing I only paid $2 for the duck feeder as they soon will not be able to get their bills through the holes.  In my opinion, that's actually a good thing, because that thing is a pain in the rear to fill up--I always end up spilling feed all over the floor.

We ended up having to move to a bigger pen last night.  They were getting too big for the Rubbermaid tub we had them in.  We improvised a kind of pen using one of those "under the bed" plastic tubs and some leftover fencing from last year's garden.  They did not enjoy the moving process AT ALL.  At one point, Chico escaped and Toddy and I looked like idiots trying to wrangle this one little duckling around the basement.  We finally caught him/her and it was back into the pen for our little escapee.  They seem to enjoy the new set up, especially since their bedding is a lot drier now that it's farther from the swimming pool than it was in the old tub. 

I got some tips from one of my friends (another duck mama) and I think what we're going to do when they get bigger is to put down plastic sheeting and corral them with an old play yard.  We're trying to score a free chicken coop on Craigslist but the people haven't responded back yet.  If they don't, the plan is to put an extension on the wooden dog house that we got for $10.  If we weren't white trash enough already, now we are putting in pop-outs on a dog house...

The garden is doing very well.  My lettuce is just about ready and the mustard greens are ready.  We never had them before and so decided to try them, but neither of us like them so I think Toddy is going to take them to work to see if anyone there likes them.  Trial & error, I guess.  It turns out, we are going to have a butt-load of tomatoes on our hands but I am not going to complain in the least.  I can always can them and make tons of my favorite salsa.  Not to mention, diced tomatoes and spaghetti sauce will also be on the list!

The bees are doing well.  We figured out that we made a rookie mistake by putting the hive in the shade to keep them cool.  Wrong!  Turns out, they LIKE the heat and are more productive when the hive is warmer.  Duh.  So, Toddy got all of his bee clothing on and moved the hive to a sunny spot this past weekend.  Now, they are reallllly buzzing around and ramped up their honeycomb production.  We still won't get honey until next year but at least we figured out our mistake before it was too late.

The pizza oven is still being worked on.  Hubs and his step-father laid the foundation for it and the fire bricks are laid out.  He decided to go with a hob-style oven (picture of what one looks like below) as it's cheaper and you don't have to use as much bricks and cement. 

I wish ours would turn out to be as pretty of a green color as this one, but it will most likely be a reddish- brown as that is the color of Maryland clay soil.  Should be a neat thing to have though as we both love homemade pizzas and homemade bread.

I will FINALLY be making Toddy's Rhubarb Pudding Cake this weekend.  It kinda got put on the back burner with everything else going on, but I am determined to follow through on it.  Not only did I promise Hubs, but I need to let the Vermonters know how it turned out.  I'll let y'all know, too...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Our new kitchen!!!

Come take the 50 cent tour!

Wasabi-Rosemary Crusted Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Glazed Carrots

Note: to make this recipe, you'll need two vital ingredients from Penzey's spices--my favorite spice company.  They are really inexpensive but their spices are of high quality.  They have an online catalog and their shipping is reasonable.  The closest retail store to us is in Rockville, MD (about an hour away) but it is totally worth it to visit the store as you get to smell samples of each spice mixture and they usually have recipe cards for different meals.  I made this recipe up on my own but theirs are just as good!

Wasabi-Rosemary Crusted Pot Roast

1 pot roast 5-7 lbs.
10 cloves of garlic
Penzey's dried wasabi powder (about 1 TBSP, divided)
Penzey's cracked rosemary (about 1 TBSP, divided)
salt, to taste
coarsely ground pepper, to taste
1/4 C. soy sauce
1 package McCormick's brown gravy
1 C. water

Use either a large stock pot or a dutch oven.  Place the whole garlic cloves on the bottom of the pan and drizzle them with some olive oil.  Lay the roast on top of the garlic cloves.  Sprinkle the roast with the wasabi powder, cracked rosemary, and salt and pepper.  Pour the soy sauce around the sides of the roast.  Mix the gravy mix with the cup of water and pour around the sides of the roast.  Put a lid on the pan and bring the roast to a boil, then simmer it for about 45 min. to an hour.  Turn roast over and sprinkle the rest of the wasabi powder, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Cook until roast is tender.  Let the roast rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before carving.  Strain the sauce and serve as a gravy. 

Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and washed, and cut into 1" cubes
1 stick butter
1/4-1/2 C. milk, to taste
1-2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. coarsely ground pepper

I use a pressure cooker to cook my potatoes but not everyone has a pressure cooker.  It definitely cuts down on your cooking time!  If using a conventional pan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil.  Boil the potatoes for about 15-20 min. or until potatoes are fork tender.  When potatoes are done cooking, pour them into a strainer and let them sit for 5 min. to dry out.  Using the same pan you cooked the potatoes in, melt the stick of butter with the milk, salt and pepper.  When all ingredients are "liquidy," add potatoes back to the pan and mash them.  I use an electric hand mixer.  Mash until smooth and check seasonings to see if you need to add more salt.  That's it!

Glazed Carrots

10-12 medium-sized carrots, scraped and sliced into 1/4" pieces
1/2 C. sugar
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 stick of butter

Put carrots in a pot and cover them with the sugar.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25-30 minutes or until they are fork tender.  Drain, then add butter and salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Well, we finally purchased our ducklings!  We went up to Delta, PA to buy them from a guy who sells chickens, ducks, guinea hens and rabbits.  He also sells the eggs of the different birds he keeps.  He and his wife have a nice little farm right outside of town.  They also have a beautiful 150+ year old Japanese maple tree that serves as a natural umbrella for their various chicken coops.  Todd was so impressed by the tree that the guy dug up two saplings near the big tree so we could plant them in our yard.  Free trees are the bees knees around here.

They were keeping their chicken and egg brooders in their basement and we all squeezed down there to pick out our ducklings.  The original plan was to get two ducks, but my niece was with us and she wanted one, too.  So, we got three Khaki Campbell ducklings.  Then, Toddy noticed that they had bigger yellow ducklings and declared he wanted one of those, too.  So, we ended up getting four ducks total.  The yellow duckling is called a Saxony duck.  Here are some pictures of what our ducks will look like when they are fully grown:

Khaki Campbell Ducks
The male or, drake, duck has the dark-colored head

Saxony Ducks (Toddy's Duck, Daisy)
This is what a male, or drake, Saxony duck looks like fully grown

Right now, our Khaki Campbell ducklings are a light brown with light brown bills and our Saxony duckling is sunny yellow with a light brown bill.  I just changed their brooder out a little bit; I took out the pie plate as they were splashing water all over the place and getting their bedding wet.  Instead, they are now using my Wilton's deep cake pan as a pool instead.  It looks like they have their own above-ground pool.  I had to put rocks in the bottom on one side so they can get in and out--sort of like steps. 

We got them a fancier heat lamp bulb that should keep them warmer than a regular incandescent bulb.  We went to the same place we went to learn about raising poultry.  They have a branch nearby so it was really convenient.  We picked up an actual poultry chick feeder as all the splashing caused the egg carton I was using for their feed to disintegrate.  We also bought bonafide chicken feed for them and a bag of grit.  Since we are feeding them chicken feed, their eggs will taste like chicken eggs, except they will be twice the size.  Can you imagine having a deviled egg that fits in the palm of your hand?!

The ducklings will stay indoors with us for the next few weeks.  During that time, we will be scouring Craigslist and other places like Freecycle to find the materials we need to make a very safe & secure outdoor duck habitat.  We visited some friends from Toddy's beekeeping class who are raising a flock of Barred Rock chickens and they made a chicken house out of a garden shed and just put chicken wire on all of the windows and doors.  It really looks good and the chickens even have a side yard to run around in.  We have to keep things on the down-low to keep from running "a-fowl" with the homeowner's association so some creative ideas are going to need to have to come into play.  Any suggestions would be very welcome!

Make Way for Ducklings!