The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

March 7, 2012

Pot Luck with a difference

Karen Freeman

TARBORO — Have you ever just opened your pantry door and stood there looking inside, trying to decide what to cook for dinner? I think most of us have done that at one time or another. It could be because we just don’t know what we are in the mood for or it may be that we didn’t have time to grocery shop and things are getting a little thin! Whatever the reason, we need some easy “go to” recipes for those situations.

Our first recipe uses up that bag potato chips that you bought in a moment of weakness. Crushed potato chips make a great coating for many foods.

The second recipe is great for brunch or a light lunch. It’s lemon spaghetti and it’s delicious and easy to make. Most everyone has a bag of pasta noodles in the pantry.

The third recipe uses graham crackers as the base. The kids can help with this one and they will also love eating it.

Our last recipe uses a cake mix to create chocolate fudge cookies. Yumm! These will be soft and chewy. Everyone will want this recipe if you take this somewhere.

Potato Chip Pork Chops

5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped

3 sprigs fresh marjoram, leaves stripped

1 clove garlic

Grated zest of 1 lemon

3 cups potato chips (regular or thick-cut)

2 lbs bone-in, center-cut pork loin roast

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pulse the herbs, garlic, lemon zest and potato chips in a food processor until coarsely ground. Transfer to a shallow dish.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the pork, fat-side down, and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes; remove from the skillet. Brush the pork all over with the mustard, then roll in the chip mixture. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers about 150 degrees F, 50-60 minutes.

Let sit 10 minutes before slicing into chops.

Lemon Spaghetti

1 pound spaghetti

2/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.

Éclair Cake

2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

3 cups milk    

1 (16 ounce) package graham cracker squares

1 (16 ounce) package prepared chocolate frosting

In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the pudding mix, whipped topping, and milk.

Arrange a single layer of graham cracker squares in the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan. Evenly spread half of the pudding mixture over the crackers.

Top with another layer of crackers and the remaining pudding mixture. Top with a final layer of graham crackers.

    Spread the frosting over the whole cake up to the edges of the pan. Cover, and chill at least 4 hours before serving.

Chocolate Fudge Cookies

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix

2 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cake mix, eggs and oil until well blended. Fold in the chocolate chips. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Did You Know?

Pantry Items - Beyond Herbs and Cooking Spices

There are many other items you can keep in your pantry to give yourself either a variety of flavors to choose from, or save time with convenience items, or simply to have an appropriate side dish with your entrée.

Some suggestions:

Rices: have a variety of rice; learn their correct preparation. Ex: Sushi rice, risotto, wild rice, or simple rice mixes.

Canned beans: add quick protein to dishes with black beans, pinto beans, red beans, lentils, garbanzo beans.

Grains and meal: barley, couscous, polenta, grits - can also make a great staple of healthful cooking.

Pasta: Try different shapes. How about orzo pasta? Use the correct shape for the type of sauce you’re making.

Canned meats and fish: A can of tuna can help add protein to a quick dinner meal or canned chicken can help boost up a stew or aid in quick chicken tacos or a casserole dish.

International sauces: Visit the international aisle of the grocery store and stock up on an assortment of flavors that can change the taste of a familiar dish.

Tomato products: Use tomato paste to thicken sauces. Tomato sauces and diced tomatoes with onions or chilis help save on prep time.

Protein standards: Portion chicken breast, shrimp, or beef cuts into ziplock bags when returning from the grocery. Freeze them for later use by portion size. Similarly, portion ground beef, chicken, or turkey into usable forms before freezing. Make hamburgers ahead of time; freeze them.