Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Caribbean Jerk Pork Chops and Personal Triumphs


My recent voyage on the Carnival Dream not only gave me the chance to enjoy delicious food, but it was also the scene of two of my life’s greatest triumphs.

Okay, maybe not greatest, but absolutely the most fun!

First, I won the Hole-In-One Challenge at the mini-golf course. I don't golf, and I hadn’t played putt-putt golf for years, so honestly it was pure luck! Still, it got me a Ship-on-a-Stick, otherwise known as a trophy.

Next, I won Game Show Mania 2 in the main showroom, thanks to my two nephews, Anthony and Bradley, insisting I participate because they learned on the trip that I’m pretty good at trivia games. It was a bit nerve-racking being up on the stage, under the lights, with everyone watching. However, after I got past being worried about making a fool of myself, it was fun! My prize was a medal and a bottle of Champagne!

Both of my awards are proudly displayed in my apartment so I can brag about my accomplishments to anyone who will listen. 

Even with my personal triumphs, my cruise memories always gravitate back to the food. 

This jerk pork dish was one of my dinner favorites. The Dream’s Executive Chef Taunus D’Silva shared the recipe with me, and I tinkered with to make it home-cook and weeknight friendly. The original called for a whole five-pound pork loin. I changed it to boneless pork chops to quicken the cooking time. I also found jerk seasoning in the spice aisle of my local store, but you can mix up your own. (There are a number of recipes on the internet.)

Don’t be intimidated by the length of the ingredients list since most are for the marinade. Also, be sure to schedule your time to allow for the chops to marinated before cooking. It is easy to whiz up the marinade in the morning, pour it into a zipper bag with the chops and pop it in the fridge, head to work, and then cook the chops for dinner that night.

Caribbean Jerk Pork Chops
Serves 4
2 tablespoons jerk spice
1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger
1/2 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 bay leaf
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worchester sauce
Juice of 1/2 a lime
4 boneless pork chops, cut about 1-inch thick
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Diced scallions, for garnish

Place the first 12 ingredients into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a zipper bag and add the pork chops. Seal the bag and toss to make sure the pork chops are coated in the marinade. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days. (The longer you marinate the chops, the stronger the flavor.)
           
To prepare the chops, place a cast iron grill pan into the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. (You can also prepare the pork chops in a regular oven-safe skillet or on an outdoor grill.) Remove the chops from the marinade and place on a plate to come to room temperature.
           
Pour the marinade into a saucepan and add the ketchup and chicken broth. Bring the marinade to a boil, and reduce until thick, about 10 to 15 minutes, to create a sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste, after the mixture is reduced. Keep warm.

Remove the grill pan from the oven and place on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops. (Turn on your stove fan since cooking will produce some smoke.) Cook on the first side for about 5 minutes, or until the chops have dark grill marks. Turn the chops over, and then place the pan back into the oven. Allow the pork chops to bake until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and tent the chops with foil. Allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

To serve, place a chop on each plate and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve with a side of rice and beans, as they did on the ship.

Disclaimer: While the crew and employees of Carnival Cruise Lines and the Dream were very hospitable and accommodating during my time on board, I paid for the trip myself. I’m not being paid by Carnival to make this or any upcoming posts with recipes from the cruise. All of the opinions and experiences are my own.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup


The weather is strange here in Kansas today. The high temp is headed towards 80 degrees thanks to abundant southern breezes. Still, in spite of this taste of spring, many of my friends are feeling under the weather and in need of comfort.

This Asian Chicken Noodle Soup recipe has become my go-to meal for days I’m not feeling well, both in body and spirit. The inspiration for this dish came from two places. One was a terrific vegetable soup I often ordered from my favorite New Hampshire Chinese restaurant years ago. The other was Nigella Lawson’s Noodle Soup for Needy People recipe, which I posted about a few years ago.

This soup is full of healthy ingredients. Feel free to experiment with your favorite vegetables to make it fit your tastes. It is great for using leftover chicken. If you don’t have any, you can use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, or poach 2 boneless chicken breasts in the chicken broth before making the rest of the soup. Also, I use those inexpensive packets of Raman noodles, but you can use any type of noodle you like.

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup gives comfort, both when you’re not feeling the best and when you’re just in need of a warm, soothing meal.

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 4 to 6

2 32-ounce containers low sodium chicken broth
2 carrots, sliced thick
2 celery stocks, sliced
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 to 4 cups chopped bok choy, to taste
2 to 3 cups diced cooked chicken
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 to 4 packages Raman noodles
1 can bean sprouts, drained
Snow peas
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Green onions, sliced, for garnish

Pour the chicken broth into a large pot. Bring to a boil and then add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Turn the heat to a simmer and cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
           
Remove the garlic pieces from the pot. Add the ginger, soy sauce, bok choy and chicken to the pot. Continue to simmer until the bok choy is crispy-tender (or to taste.) Check the seasoning and add salt and black pepper to taste. (The soy sauce is salty, so you may not need additional salt.) Add the red pepper flakes, to taste. (You can leave them out if you don’t like the heat.)
           
While the bok choy cooks, prepare the Raman noodles according to the package directions, leaving out the flavoring packet. Once cooked, divide the noodles between the serving bowls, and add some snow peas and bean sprouts to each dish. Ladle the hot soup into each bowl over the noodles, peas and sprouts. Garnish with green onions and serve.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Kiss on the Lips Cocktail








Are you looking for a special drink to have with your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day this weekend? Or maybe you're tired of the winter weather? I've found the cocktail to solve both problems.







I recently returned from a cruise onboard the Carnival Dream. This is the second year I’ve traveled with this cruise line, and I’m happy to report I the second time was as fun as the first. This year I sailed from New Orleans (a city in full Mardi Gras form) to Key West, Florida, and the Bahamas.


Last year, I enjoyed Carnival’s signature Fun Ship Special Cocktail (and shared the recipe with you here.) This year, it was the first drink I had upon boarding, and it was as good as I remembered. Then I noticed the waitstaff carrying trays of a beautiful orange and red drink. I asked one what it was, and he replied, “A Kiss on the Lips.”

That caught my attention! After I tried one, I was hooked. The blend of mango and peach schnapps made a delicious tropical combination. The Dream’s beverage manager, Clifton Morrison, made sure I got the recipe and said I could share it with you. 

This is a drink I plan to enjoy often.

 
Kiss on the Lips Cocktail
Serves 1
1 1/2 ounce peach schnapps
4 to 6 ounces mango daiquiri/margarita mixer
1 tablespoon grenadine

Pour the peach schnapps, mango mixer, and some ice into a blender. Puree until smooth and slushy. Pour the grenadine into the bottom of a cocktail glass. Pour in the mango mixture. Serve with a slice or orange, a cherry, and an umbrella.





Disclaimer: While the crew and employees of Carnival Cruise Lines and the Dream were very hospitable and accommodating during my time on board, I paid for the trip myself. I’m not being paid by Carnival to make this or any upcoming posts with recipes from the cruise. All of the opinions and experiences are my own.