Friday, February 22, 2008

Pork & Poblano Skillet with
Creamy Slow-Cooker Beans

Chile warmth for chilly nights - but not too hot! This recipe combines quick-cooked pork with a succulent sauce that's warmed (just warmed, not heated) with a little roasted poblano.

Quick supper recipe, pork braised with roasted poblano pepper.

For years, I peeked at the pepper piles in the produce section, sure that even proximity was ‘too hot’ for comfort. Slowly if unsurely, I experimented with one then another.

So far, my favorite pepper is the dusky-dark poblano, whose green skin is almost black, whose roasted flesh warms not burns. In Pork & Poblano Skillet, just one adds a seductive smoky sweetness.

Both of today’s recipes are my adaptations from a favorite new cookbook, Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless. Authentic Mexican ingredients are increasingly easy to find and worth seeking out!

CREAMY SLOW-COOKER BEANS Introduce your family to the nothing-like-canned taste of home-cooked dried beans. Just stir eight ounces of rinsed dried black (or navy or red kidney) beans, a chopped white onion, a tablespoon of bacon fat or butter with five cups hot water in a slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours until the beans are cooked, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste, reduce heat to keep warm til ready to serve, adding water if needed.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Makes 3 cups cooked beans, per half cup: 148 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium; 24g Carb; 6g Fiber; 1g Sugar; 8g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 2, PointsPlus 4.
ALANNA's TIPS Poblano peppers are relatively mild chiles. Still, if chiles are new to your family, start gingerly, as if working with, well, hot peppers. Chile heat resides first in the membranes, next in the seeds, then in the flesh. After handling chillis, wash your hands well before touching anything else, especially your skin or eyes, even a pet. Use enough foil so that after roasting, the peppers can be fully encased. If the oven’s still warm from broiling, keep the meat warm there.


Smoky pepper sweetens supper
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Serves 4
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin or boneless pork loin, cubed small
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire (don’t skip)
  • 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • Sour cream or guacamole, optional

Slice pepper in half vertically; remove core, membrane and seeds. Flatten halves skin-side up on foil (see TIPS) on a baking sheet. Place under broiler til skins blister and blacken. Remove from broiler, fold foil over the pepper to form a tight packet; let rest 5 minutes. Lift off and discard skins; slice flesh into strips.

Meanwhile, heat oil on medium high til shimmery in large skillet. Add pork, salt to taste, stir often til meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Leaving liquid behind, remove meat, keep warm (see TIPS).

Add onions and garlic, cook til beginning to brown, adding water and Worcestershire when skillet begins to dry. Stir in tomato and poblano. Cook down a bit, about 5 minutes. Return meat to skillet; cook 15-20 minutes until sauce darkens and thickens, adding cilantro in last 5 minutes.

Serve with Creamy Slow-Cooker Beans or cooked rice with a dollop of sour cream or guacamole on the side.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Serving: 274 Calories; 10g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 11g Carb; 2g Fiber; 349mg Sodium; 90mg Cholesterol; 33g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 6, PointsPlus 7

CREAMY SLOW COOKER BEANS I am learning the hard way how much temperature variation there is among different slow cookers. For years, I successfully cooked these beans again and again for 4 hours on high, perfectly cooked every time. Unfortunately that slow cooker died. I have now purchased four new slow cookers, trying to find one I like that works. In one recent batch, the beans never cooked at all (that slow cooker is defective and has been returned). In another, the beans cooked in about 8 hours although with much excess liquid, it's usually absorbed into the beans and leaves a light, creamy sauce. When the beans cook properly, they are fabulous but I would advise caution until you know how your own slow cooker will perform.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

Pining for Poblanos! More Recipe Ideas

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Grilled Pepper Salad Sweet Potato Salad Grilled Steak with Summer Tomato Salad
Green Chili Burgers My Sister's Crockpot Chili Refried Bean Sauce with Eggs on Top

Quick Links to This Page

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~ Creamy Slow-Cooker Beans ~

Friday, February 8, 2008

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

This Valentines, whisper "I love you" with home-baked cookies baked with love and, well – cinnamon! My recipe for cinnamon-y butter cookies (many people call them Snickerdoodles!) is specially written for new bakers who might wonder, Why does a recipe say that? What do they mean by that? You have questions, now you have answers!

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies ♥, a classic recipe for sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon, let's call them Snickerdoodles! Lots of baking tips for young cooks.


"... they are delicious!" ~ Angela
"... they were excellent." ~ Susan
"These cookies are delish. My 2 1/2 year old who doesn't like cookies absolutely loved them." ~ Anonymous

This Valentine’s Day, whisper “I love you” with a plateful of just-baked cookies. If you’re an experienced cook, how about sharing your knowledge and a cookie-baking afternoon with a young cook? Or if you’re a new cook baking on your own, let’s decode a simple but delicious cookie recipe step by step.

Why this? Why that? The cookie-baking answers are here!

BUTTER QUESTIONS Cookie recipes call for butter warmed to room temperature so the butter will mix more evenly. To get it to room temperature, just leave a stick on the counter for two to three hours. If you're in a rush, cut the butter into small cubes and separate them on a plate, they'll soften to the proper temperature in about 30 minutes. But hey, don't be tempted to just melt the butter in the microwave! Liquid butter doesn't have the same structure as unmelted butter. You'll end up with a buttery mess instead of cookies! Many American recipes call for unsalted butter, this allows the baker control over how much salt is added. Me? I prefer salted butter, especially for old-fashioned cookies recipes. It's the only butter I buy anymore. Who joins me with salted butter? European bakers, that's who! I do add a little bit more butter but if you prefer, omit the added salt when using salted butter.

SALT QUESTIONS Small grains of "table salt" are able to distribute evenly throughout cookie dough. Table salt is that every-day salt, Morton's sells it in containers with the girl under an umbrella. You can also use kosher or sea salt but only if it's very fine grained, is not always easy to find.

EGG QUESTIONS Barely-warm eggs capture more air, resulting in lighter cookies. If you think of it, get the eggs out to warm up alongside the butter, otherwise, a bowl of warm (not hot) water works like a charm. It's a great trick, one I use over and over.

FLOUR QUESTIONS Always fluff flour before measuring it, otherwise you’ll use more than needed (often 25% and up to 40%), that means more calories and worse, tough baked goods, not just for these cookies but for other cookies, breads, even pancakes. Better yet, better than even fluffing? Invest in a kitchen scale to measure the flour and sugar in grams. Consistency is the #1 benefit of measuring by weight, the #2 benefit is not having to find/dirty up measuring cups! I use a kitchen scale many times a day!

OVEN QUESTIONS Cookies baked in the middle of an oven benefit from even heat distribution from the top and bottom. It takes an oven 10-15 minutes to "preheat" an oven to reach the optimal baking temperature.

DRY INGREDIENT QUESTIONS In this recipe, the "dry ingredients" are flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and table salt. When dry ingredients are lightly but thoroughly mixed beforehand, it’s easier to not overmix the dough (which can cause toughness) when combining the dry and wet ingredients.

BAKING QUESTIONS Leave space between the dough balls when arranging them on the baking sheet, this prevents the cookies from touching as they spread while baking. A time range, versus a specific number of minutes, allows for variations in oven temperatures and other conditions. Check the cookies after 8 minutes, if they’re done, proceed; if not, bake another minute or two til done.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


Soft and chewy, bright with cinnamon
Hands-on time: about 30 minutes
Time to table: about 4 hours
Makes about 30 small cookies
  • 1/2 cup unsalted or salted (why?) butter (1 stick/114g), warmed to room temperature (why?)
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 1 large egg, immersed in warm water for 5 minutes (why?)
  • 1-1/2 cups flour, fluffed with a fork before measuring (why?) or 187g
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table (why?) salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Place an oven rack in the center slot (why?). Set oven to 350F/180C and let completely heat up. (why?).

While the oven heats, use an electric mixer to mix butter and sugar in a large bowl until they're thoroughly mixed, a good couple of minutes, scraping the bowl every so often to make sure the butter and sugar are completely combined. Add the egg and mix until smooth, then another minute to aid some air.

In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (what?) with a fork (why?). Mix the dry ingredients into dough (in two or three batches if you like) but stop mixing as soon as all the dry ingredients are incorporated. (Why?)

In a small bowl, stir together the 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Break off a piece of dough about size of a cherry tomato with your fingertips and shape the dough into a ball between your palms. (For nearly identical cookies, use a small cookie scoop to break off the dough, then weight each dough ball to weigh about 15 grams.) Roll each ball in the sugar-cinnamon mixture.

Arrange the dough balls in rows on a cookie sheet (no parchment is needed) about two inches apart (why?). When the sheet is full, place it in the hot oven to bake for 8 – 10 or maybe even 12 minutes (why?) until the bottom edges are turning golden and cookie tops are slightly soft (but not raw or buttery) in their centers. In my oven, the cookies need just 10 minutes on my favorite non-stick cookie sheet but need 12 minutes on a standard metal sheetpan.

Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let the cookies cool without touching them for about 5 minutes, then gently use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies onto a paper towel or a rack on a counter to finish cooling. Let the cookie sheet cool off completely, then repeat with the cooled tray until dough is gone. (Naturally, you can also use second tray).

Savor, share, be proud!

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cookies, assumes 30: 72 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 15mg Cholesterol; 64mg Sodium; 10g Carb; 0g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1.5 & PointsPlus 2 & SmartPoints 3

WHAT MAKES A SNICKERDOODLE A SNICKERDOODLE, ANYWAY? Truth be told, while I'd heard of snickerdoodles, I didn't grow up with them. I'm pretty sure that what I call "Cinnamon Sugar Cookies" here were inspired by an old church cookbook dating back to the 1960s and it wasn't until a reader clued me in that I realized they might be what others so fondly know as "snickerdoodles".

What was it, exactly, that made the reader recognize my cookies as snickerdoodles? Two things.

First, an ingredient, the "cream of tartar". Cream of tartar is what we call an acid. In cooking, we use its powdered form, it's one of two components which make up baking powder. I use it in meringue to make the egg whites fluff up extra high.

Second, a technique, rolling the cookie dough in a cinnamon-sugar mix.

So it's the combination of an extra ingredient and a simple technique that turn my "cinnamon sugar cookies" into snickerdoodles.

And Now ... Snickerdoodle Bars!

Snickerdoodle Bars ♥, like snickerdoodle cookies except with the firm, chewy texture of blondies.

No cookie sheets? No patience to form cookies? Starving for snickerdoodles like, now? Try Snickerdoodle Bars! This recipe has gone round 'n' round the internet, soooo many fans!

More Old-Fashioned Easy Cookie Recipes for the Ones We Love

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Chocolate Shortbread Cookies Cut-Out Spice Cookies Perfect M&M Cookies

More Romantic Recipes for Our Valentines

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Lavender Steak & Lavender Potatoes Cauliflower Risotto Seared Scallops with Chimichurri and Garlicky Polenta
~ more ideas for Valentine's Day recipes ~