Google Groups
Subscribe to The Culinary Creative
Visit this group

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Plate Palette

For tonight's post I'm just going to lay some groundwork for upcoming posts.  I apologize for the cop out but the reason for that is pollen.  Yes...I said pollen, I am blaming pollen.  As much as I love living in North Carolina, there comes a time of year when the yellow stuff takes over and for those of us with bad allergies, well, let's just say pollen put me firmly in my place earlier this week so I'm not as prepared tonight as I was hoping to be. Stoopid pollen.

On Sunday when I was writing about the pork chops, I mentioned in the NOTES section that I served it with broccoli because it provided a nice color contrast with the meat and sauce and that triggered a thought.  When I was going through the culinary program at ACC, I remembered back to a class discussion about plating and the art of structuring a meal, because there really is an art to making a meal -- whether it be dinner as usual or something a little more upscale for a special occasion -- notable.  And I think it would be fun "peek behind the Oz curtain" information to have...and useful to boot.

Now somewhere in the chaos known as my "filing" system, I have detailed class notes securely tucked away, but offhand the two main concepts I remember are:

BALANCE -- having to do with nutrition and portions

CONTRAST -- engaging the senses through texture, color, and shape

So over the next couple of posts, I'm going to discuss each of those concepts (with fun recipes tucked in between info sessions, I promise!) and talk about ideas and suggestions for making your meal plate a work of art that's not only good, but good for you.

So please stay tuned, I will be back on track this weekend with more sustantial stuff.

Until then, bon nuit from TCC!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pork Medallions with Mixed Orange Sauce

I always love the combo of pork with citrus and this is a particularly tasty one.  The original idea was to make a blood orange sauce because you can never go wrong with blood oranges, they have a beautiful richly sweet flavor that matches their color.  BUT if your regular grocery stores aren't carrying blood oranges during the week you're hoping to post a pork recipe with blood orange sauce, then a mix of oranges and tangerines or tangelos will work too (but try to do it with blood oranges if you can).

Pork Medallions with Mixed Orange Sauce

4 pork loin chops, boneless
flour for dredging
4 tbsp butter
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried marjoram
1-1/3 cups orange juice (yield from 7-8 oranges)
1 tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pound pork chops with a mallet on both sides.  Reform tenderized meat into rounds and tie with kitchen string.

Lightly dredge rounds in flour, shaking off excess.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 4 tbsp of butter.  Place medallions in skillet and brown for 4-5 minutes on one side, then turn over and brown on the other side for 4-5 minutes.

Lower the heat to medium-low and drain off any grease in the skillet.  Add in the garlic, majoram and orange juice.

Cover the skillet and let medallions cook for 3-4 minutes.  Uncover skillet, flip the medallions then replace cover.  Cook an additional 3-4 minutes.

Remove pork from the skillet and put burner on high. In a small bowl mix 1 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp of juice from the pan.  When the sauce in the pan is boiling, whisk in cornstarch mix and allow to boil for 1-2 minutes, sauce will thicken slightly.  Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper (to taste) then pour over the medallions.


Can subsitute veal chops or chicken breasts for pork.

Like I mentioned above, if you can't find blood oranges, regular oranges would work as well, you just wouldn't have the rich color that the blood oranges provide.  Try a mixture of different types of oranges.

Serve with some nice green veggies, they'll provide a nice color contrast with the medallions on the plate.  I served this with broccoli and the orange sauce on the broccoli got rave reviews from the parental units!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Zesty Orange Chicken Stirfry

For some reason, this time of year I always love a good stirfry.  It's quick, it's easy and pretty much a result of whatever I can find in the fridge or cupboard.

Since I had some orange juice concentrate leftover from Sunday's recipe thought I would find another use for it so here you go.

Zesty Orange Chicken Stirfry

1 lb chicken breast fillets, cut into strips
salt and pepper to taste
2/3-1 cup snow peas, halved
1 can baby corns, halved
1 can water chestnuts (optional)
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp chili sauce
mandarin orange segments, drained

Mix orange juice concentrate, vinegar, and chili sauce together and set aside.

Place chicken strips in a large (or deep) skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper (to taste).  Cook over medium-high heat until cooked almost all the way through, then remove from pan.

Cook the corn and snow peas until peas become bright green.

Add the chicken back into the pan, then pour in the sauce.  Stir until chicken and vegatables are all saucy.  Cook over medium heat for an additional 6-7 minutes.

Serve over rice and garnish with mandarin orange segments.


It's the first time I've done this recipe and while I really liked the flavors all together, I would have liked the chicken itself to be a bit more orangey.  If you would like your chicken to be more orangey, I would recommend adding 1 tbsp of the mixed sauce to the pan when you first cook up the chicken.  That will help it cook into rather than just coat the strips.

You could just as easily buy a package of chicken tenderloins if you aren't as into the chicken cutting thing.

I think the next time I make this I will also change the sauce a bit and use 1 tbsp vinegar to 3 tbsp of chili sauce just to give it a bit more of a bitey tang.  If someone gets a chance to try it before I do, let me know how it goes.

The mandarin segments were a last minute "hey I got mandarin oranges in the cupboard" addition and turned out to be quite yummy on top.  Another good garnish would be some lightly toasted almond slivers.  Or both, both would work too.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quick-n-Easy Orange Pecan Coffee Cake

Here's a warm baked way to start off any Sunday, especially if it's a dreary one like we have this morning in NC.  These are SO good, the only problem you will have with them is knowing when to stop eating them.

Quick-n-Easy Orange Pecan Coffee Cake

2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 tsp lime juice (or lemon juice)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans, rough chopped
1 8-ct roll refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

Melt the butter in a small bowl until just melted (35 seconds in the microwave will do, then whisk to make sure it's emulsified).

Mix in sugar, OJ concentrate, lime juice and cinnamon until well blended.

Pour the glaze mixture into an 8" pan and cover the bottom with it.  Sprinkle the pecans on the glaze.

Place the buttermilk biscuits on top of the glaze. Place pan in oven and cook for 16-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Run a knife along the edges to make sure none of the biscuits are sticking to the sides.

Then flip the pan over onto a plate.

Voila!  Ready to devour.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Good and Good for You: Oranges

In our continuing cover of all things citrus, this week I’d like to talk to you about oranges! know.  I've tried to narrow it down, but there's some real cool things that I didn't know, so here goes.

No one will be surprised to learn that they are super fabulous good for you, chocked full to the brim with all sorts of healthy nutriousness.

Oranges are actually really good for dieting because they are low in calories, contain no saturated fats or cholesterol, but most importantly are rich in pectin which was described by once source as a dietary fiber that acts as a bulk laxative.
Pectin has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels.
As we all know, oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C (pulling in about 60% of your Daily Recommended Intake) which is a powerful natural antioxidant.
Oranges contain very good levels of vitamin A also know to have antioxidant properties.
And oranges can be a good source of B-complex vitamins too.
Orange fruit also contains minerals like potassium and calcium.

All parts of the orange can be used for something.

The fruit sections make a nice addition to salads and both savory and sweet dishes.
The juice, besides being a fabulous stand-only beverage is used to sweeten jams, jellies and sauces.
Dried orange blossoms and leaves are used for herbal tea.
Orange peel (zest) can be used for flavoring and actually contains the highest level of vitamin C and fiber found in the fruit.
Orange blossoms are an essential component in perfume-making.
Besides being edible, orange peel is used in exfoliating facial scrubs and bath oils because it’s good for your skin.

And here are some lesser-known uses for orange peel.

Keeping ants, slugs, and cats away from your garden.
Being used as kindling…for a fire…in your fireplace.
Using as a deodorizer.
Repelling mosquitoes by rubbing them on yourself (good times).

Oranges are believed to have originated in Southeast Asia and are known to have been cultivated in China by 2500 BC.

Italian traders are credited with introducing oranges to the Mediterranean area in the 15th century where they thrived. It became popular in Europe, so much so that many wealthy persons would grow their own in specially designated hothouses known as orangeries (like the one at Versailles).

Because of their wonderful anti-scurvy property, citrus trees were planted along trade routes to allow easy access to the fruit.

Christopher Columbus was the man who made them possible in the New World by bringing citrus seeds with him on his second voyage in 1493.

From there they spread north to Florida and Louisiana and west to South America, Mexico and the North American West by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. In 1792, oranges made their way to Hawaii.

The oranges we know today are called “sweet” oranges, and there is another orange species known as bitter oranges (those would be the Seville oranges). Other common types of oranges are the bergamot orange (it’s primarily used for its peel which helps flavor Earl Grey tea), the mandarin orange which is like the large sweet orange only much small and less acidic (also has a thinner easier to peel peel), and blood oranges which are much darker (due to an abnormal, though naturally occurring, red pigmentation) and have the most tasty juice of them all.

Oranges are the most commonly grown fruit trees in the world, with Brazil being the largest orange-producing nation.

Now, orange you glad you know this stuff.  (Hahahahah...yeah, I should've resisted but oh well.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Zesty Black Bean Salsa Moosh

Poor black beans...they are tasty and nutritious and good for you but yet so very VERY unpretty when mashed.  I know the moosh is not attractive, but if you could taste it through the screen, you would be as crazy about it as I am.

I used it to garnish a simple chicken fajita, but it works well as a dip, too, with some crispy tortilla chips, or as a flavorful layer for a layered dip.  The beans make give the moosh a creamy texture, but the added combo of the fresh lime juice and salsa give it a light open taste.

Zesty Black Bean Salsa Moosh

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup hot salsa
1/8 cup fresh lime juice
2 tsp minced garlic

Rinse your beans and put then in a small bowl.

Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend together.  I like mine a little "chunky" so I used a mixer rather than a food processor.

Ready to serve.

For my fajita, I cut simply cut some chicken strips and sautee them with a tidge of oil, threw on some chili powder, cumin and fresh cracked sea salt, then cooked until they were no longer pink.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ginger Lime Beef Stirfry

I love a good stirfry, easy to fix, not a lot of prep and easily adjustable to suit anyone's taste.

Ginger Lime Beef Stirfry


1 lb beef, cut into strips
1 (8 oz) can bamboo shoots, drained
1 (8 oz) can waterchestnuts (diced or sliced), drained
1 to 1-1/2 cups baby corns, halved
1 to 1-1/2 cups steamed green beans, halved


1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsbp olive oil
1-1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 tsp cornstarch

After you have sliced and diced your stirfry-ables, set them aside before cooking.

Mix together all but the cornstarch in a large measuring cup. 

In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp of the blended sauce with the 1 tsp of cornstarch and set aside.

Over high heat in a large skillet, cook your beef until halfway done, stirring constantly.  Next add in your bamboo shoots, waterchestnuts, baby corn and sauce.  Stir until well coated.

Add in your sauce-cornstarch mix until sauce starts to thicken.

Mix in your steamed green beans, cook an additional minute or two then serve.


Whatever cut of meat you use, you want to make sure it's very tender otherwise the beef will get very tough as it cooks.  You can use a nice beef tenderloin; the Guinea Pig Parents offered up some filet mignon for this dish (with the understanding that they got to keep the leftovers).

I cooked the beef in a dry skillet, but if you want your meat to have a bit more browning on it, add a tsp of oil to the pan first.

I added a minimal amount of cornstarch just to give the sauce a slightly thicker consistency.  If you want it to be even thicker, increase the amount of cornstarch you use (up to 1 tbsp).  The trick to getting the sauce to thicken is to make sure that the liquid in the pan is boiling when you add the cornstarch mix.  This will allow the starch molecules to cook up, thus giving you a thicker sauce.

If you wanted to use different veggies or add in some others, you could easily substitute/add in broccoli, snowpeas, snap peas, carrots or onions.

I served it up over brown rice, but you could use white or jasmine too.  Or if you are trying to watch your carb intake, chop up some white cabbage and serve it over that.

I've got to be honest, there is a much more limey than gingery taste to this dish, but Ginger Lime Beef had a nicer ring to it than just Lime Beef.  You can always add more ginger if your taste leans that way.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Key Lime Coconut Cupcakes

Back to a bit of baking.  For your tastebuds pleasure, a little lime-flavored goodness from the Keys.

Key Lime Coconut Cupcakes

1-3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
6 egg yolks, room temp
2-1/2 cups flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
9 oz skim milk
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp lime zest

easy icing

1 (16 oz) can whipped white frosting
1 tbsp key lime juice
1/2 cup powder sugar, sifted
1-2 drops green coloring (optional)
1/2 of a (7 oz) bag of coconut, toasted

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar, shortening and egg yolks.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Alternately add flour mix and milk to the creamed mixture.  Once it's blended, add in lime juice and zest.

Fill cupcake cups 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

While those are baking, put the coconut in a dry skillet and toast over medium high heat for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Mix up the icing and slather on.  Roll the cupcake in the toasted coconut and munch away.


You can get 1 tbsp of zest from 1 regular-sized lime.

If you want more of a coconutty taste in the cake, you can substitute 1/4-1/2 cup coconut milk for skim milk.