Sweet & Sour Pork . . . as good as take out without the breading and deep fat frying!

     Duane Newell came up with his lightened version of the breaded and fried sweet and sour pork that is often on the buffet at Chinese restaurants. He sent it to me with a recommendation to give it a try. He also said to vary it as I saw fit; took him at his word and below is my version of his recipe.
     I will tell you that Duane cooks the pineapple and the pepper along with rice; he likes the slightly sweet flavor the pineapple adds it. I achieved a similar result by using pineapple juice in place of part of the rice’s cooking liquid, and opted to stir fry the peppers. We also used smaller sizes of meat and veggies but that’s simply our preference.
     My maiden name is Newell so obviously Duane and I are related, even though it is a distant connection. We’re both from Stafford, Ks. (as is Barry) and actually grew up just about a mile from one another. Our dad’s both farmed and our mom’s were good friends (they talked on the phone at least once a day). Duane’s oldest brother is a year older than I am and his twin siblings were a couple of years younger. When the four of us were teenagers, Duane was a just a little guy!
Duane Newell on left, Barry, my mom and Duane's wife Alyce. 
Sweet & Sour Pork 
1 ½ cups dry minute rice (I used brown rice)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 boneless pork chops, cut into ½” chunks or smaller
2 to 3 additional tablespoons olive oil . . . as needed
1 medium bell pepper (red, yellow or green), cut into ½” chunks or smaller
1 medium yellow or white onion, cut into cut into ½” chunks or smaller
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of pineapple chunks (I used canned, packed in juice & then used part of the juice to cook the rice )
Dash (or more) of red pepper flakes
For thickening solution—Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or tapioca starch) mixed w/ 3 to 4 tablespoons light soy sauce & 1 tablespoon of vinegar — rice wine vinegar preferred (be sure the soy sauce is cold in order to create a smooth solution)
  1. Mise en place (advance prep) – Since stir-frying happens quickly, I cut the pork chops and vegetables into chunks as the first step in this recipe. I also drained the pineapple so I could use the juice in step #2 and used the pork chop bones to make stock. Also combined the thickening solution ingredients so that I could quickly proceed with the rest of the steps.
    Chunked vegetables. 
    Preparing pork stock.
    Sauce for thickening mixture.
  2. Cook rice according to package directions . . . but instead of water I used ¾ cup of pork stock (I made stock from the pork chop bones) + ¾ cup pineapple juice drained from pineapple chunks.
  3. In a wok or skillet (preferably with slanted sides), heat oil on medium high and add pork. Cook until pieces begin to brown, tossing or stirring during the process. Remove from skillet.

  4. Add additional olive oil as needed and add onions and peppers. Heat remains on medium high and continue to stir and toss until veggies reach are close to the tender-crisp stage (or cook to desired degree of doneness). Then add minced garlic and cook a couple of additional minutes.
  5. Return chicken to skillet. Add pineapple, red pepper flakes and thickening solution. Cook until pineapple is hot and sauce has thickened.
  6. Serve over rice.
Recipe without photos . . . 
Sweet & Sour Pork 
1 ½ cups dry minute rice (I used brown rice)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 boneless pork chops, cut into ½” chunks or smaller
2 to 3 additional tablespoons olive oil . . . as needed
1 medium bell pepper (red, yellow or green), cut into ½” chunks or smaller
1 medium yellow or white onion, cut into cut into ½” chunks or smaller
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of pineapple chunks (I used canned, packed in juice & then used part of the juice to cook the rice )
Dash (or more) of red pepper flakes
For thickening solution—Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or tapioca starch) mixed w/ 3 to 4 tablespoons light soy sauce & 1 tablespoon of vinegar — rice wine vinegar preferred (be sure the soy sauce is cold in order to create a smooth solution)
  1. Mise en place (advance prep) – Since stir-frying happens quickly, I cut the pork chops and vegetables into chunks as the first step in this recipe. I also drained the pineapple so I could use the juice in step #2 and used the pork chop bones to make stock. I also combined the thickening solution ingredients so that I could quickly proceed with the rest of the steps.
  2. Cook rice according to package directions . . . but instead of water I used ¾ cup of pork stock (I made stock from the pork chop bones) + ¾ cup pineapple juice drained from pineapple chunks.
  3. In a wok or skillet (preferably with slanted sides), heat oil on medium high and add pork. Cook until pieces begin to brown, tossing or stirring during the process. Remove from skillet.
  4. Add additional olive oil as needed and add onions and peppers. Heat remains on medium high and continue to stir and toss until veggies reach are close to the tender-crisp stage (or cook to desired degree of doneness). Then add minced garlic and cook a couple of additional minutes.
  5. Return chicken to skillet. Add pineapple, red pepper flakes and thickening solution. Cook until pineapple is hot and sauce has thickened.
  6. Serve over rice.

Bone Up on Your Veggies

     Play With Your Food was just one of our presentations for outdoor cooking demos at St. John's Jubilee (St. John, Ks.). In keeping with their theme, Celebrate Life, we prepared healthy (and quick) dishes, and had some fun with local children who had a chance to bone up on their veggies. Barry and I cut and peeled; the kids assembled using a diagram (I found posted on Facebook + received via email as well) as a guide.  
     
     Note: I provided exacting details based on the original diagram (directly below) but the kids changed it a bit, and of course it can be adapted to use the veggies that are on hand.

     Dillons of St. John donated all of the food for our demos, and they had also played around with their own version of the skeleton using a cucumber slice for the head (instead of a bowl of dip) and pepper pieces for eyes.

Bone Up on Your Veggies
INGREDIENTS:
Dip:
Ranch Dressing

Vegetables:
2 Black Olive slices
1 leaf of Curly Lettuce
2 ribs of Celery – cut into 4 pieces (2 for arms, 2 for legs)
2 Sugar Snap Peas (for leg bones or just use 2 sections of celery to create the second leg bone)
6 Baby Carrots (4 for lower arms, 2 for lower legs)
1 Red Pepper, remove top and seeds, cut across the top creating 7 rounds & then cut 6 of the rounds in half for the ribs; cut remaining part of remaining section into 2 smaller 
pieces for part of lower leg bone)
1 small Cucumber, cut into about 9 slices that will be overlapped for spine
3 to 4 Button Mushrooms, thinly sliced for hip bones
4 small Cauliflower Florets (2 for hands, 2 for knees)
2 Grape Tomatoes for feet
2 small Broccoli Florets for toes
    
DIRECTIONS:
1.  Dip — Pour Ranch dressing in a round bowl; add 2 black olives (sliced or leave whole) arranged as eyes on dip + add a leaf or 2 of lettuce for the hair.
2.  Veggies — Wash and prepare veggies as specified above. Arrange veggies and bowl of dip as shown in picture.
Barry on stage at St. John's Jubilee.

Meta on stage at St. John's Jubilee.

St. John kids on stage helping with Play With Your Food demos.

Beyond Biscuit Basics to . . . 7-Up Sour Cream Biscuits


   I have seen this recipe on Pinterest and was intrigued. Finally got around to trying it and the biscuits are light, fluffy and yummy! I did use our homemade biscuit mix rather than a commercial product.
     Although the melted butter took these biscuits over the top, I’m thinking I might omit (or at least reduce the amount used) when making these for everyday fare. This butter-added version was the bread portion of our Mother’s Day menu.

7-Up Sour Cream Biscuits
4 cups homemade biscuit mix (or use Bisquick®)
1 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream)
1 cup 7-Up
½ cup melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Mix baking mix , sour cream and 7-Up. Dough will be soft and a little moist.

  3. Add a little extra baking mix to marble slab (counter or cutting board). Dump out dough and lightly knead dough just until it holds together.
  4. Pat dough out and cut biscuits using a round biscuit cutter.
  5. Melt butter and pour most of it into a 9x13-inch cake pan or baking dish.
  6. Place biscuits on top of melted butter and use remaining butter to brush top of biscuits. Bake for 15 to 20+ minutes or until brown.
    Ready to go into the oven (above) and ready to eat (below).


    Mother’s Day Menu:
    Tossed Salad with Celery Seed Dressing
    7-Up Sour Cream Biscuits w/ Crabapple Jelly
Recipe without photos . . . 

7-Up Sour Cream Biscuits
4 cups homemade biscuit mix (or use Bisquick®)
1 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream)
1 cup 7-Up
½ cup melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Mix baking mix , sour cream and 7-Up. Dough will be soft and a little moist
  3. Add a little extra baking mix to marble slab (counter or cutting board). Dump out dough and lightly knead dough just until it holds together.
  4. Pat dough out and cut biscuits using a round biscuit cutter.
  5. Melt butter and pour most of it into a 9x13-inch cake pan or baking dish.
  6. Place biscuits on top of melted butter and use remaining butter to brush top of biscuits. Bake for 15 to 20+ minutes or until brown.

The mystery behind — Mystery Pilaf

   Pasta (vermiceilli) is the mystery ingredient. After being broken up, the pasta is toasted in the oven before joining the rice in this pilaf.

     This is my take on a recipe from an old cookbook by Jeanne Jones.  “Diet for a Happy Heart” is a low cholesterol, low calorie cookbook (101 Productions, San Francisco, 1975).

Vermicelli is a thin variety of pasta, similar to spaghetti but thinner. If it is not available, angel hair pasta is a good substitute; regular spaghetti would also work in this recipe.

Mystery Pilaf    Makes 12 (½ cup) servings
½ cup uncooked vermiceilli broken into about 1” pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 to 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, optional
2 to 3+ cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Chopped fresh chives for garnish, optional
  1. Put vermicelli on a cookie sheet with sides and place in a preheated 400° oven. Bake until the color of the pasta becomes a rich brown, stirring occasionally — this takes just about 4 minutes. Watch carefully.
  2. Heat the oil a low, flat Dutch oven (or a heavy skillet) add the rice, onion, and mushrooms (if using) and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is lightly browned.
  3. Add 2 cups chicken broth, soy sauce, thyme and browned vermicelli to the rice mixture and bring the mixture to a boil. (Add more broth as needed.)
  4. Put the lid on the Dutch oven (or the mixture can be transferred to a casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid.
  5. Place in a 400° oven for 40 minutes. Check occasionally and add more broth as needed. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing lid.
  6. To make ahead and reheat: Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of chicken stock to the cold rice and mix thoroughly. Cover and heat slowly in a 300° oven for about 15 minutes.
We served Mystery Pilaf as a side for Mother's Day Dinner. Here's the menu:




Recipe without photos . . .
Mystery Pilaf    Makes 12 (½ cup) servings
½ cup uncooked vermiceilli broken into about 1” pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 to 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, optional
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Chopped fresh chives for garnish, optional
  1. Put vermicelli on a cookie sheet with sides and place in a preheated 400° oven. Bake until the color of the pasta becomes a rich brown, stirring occasionally — this takes just about 4 minutes. Watch carefully.
  2. Heat the oil a low, flat Dutch oven (or a heavy skillet) add the rice, onion, and mushrooms (if using) and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is lightly browned.
  3. Add 2 cups chicken broth, soy sauce, thyme and browned vermicelli to the rice mixture and bring the mixture to a boil. (Add more broth as needed.)
  4. Put the lid on the Dutch oven (or the mixture can be transferred to a casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid.
  5. Place in a 400° oven for 40 minutes. Check occasionally and add more broth as needed. emove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing lid.
  6. To make ahead and reheat: Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of chicken stock to the cold rice and mix thoroughly. Cover and heat slowly in a 300° oven for about 15 minutes.