Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Feast

Well, for the St. Patrick's Day participants... here is meal that you can make tomorrow for little money and little time!  I made this meal for my husband on Saturday.  My intention was, as always, something that would say "I love you" to him after a long week at work.  So I started chopping cabbage, slicing and grating potatoes.  That's when I realized that this would make the perfect St. Patty's Day dinner.

Typically I do not participate in this holiday.  I have only ventured out once to celebrate the day with green beer and good friends.  So if you are anything like me and prefer to avoid the bar crowds... I hope this dinner will bring a little bit of Ireland to your kitchen.

I made 2 kinds of potatoes because I found a bag of gold potatoes for $2.99 a couple weeks ago.  I used one steak that came in a pack of 2 for $6.00 - so the steak was only $3.  The cabbage was 59 cents.  There are little ingredients, a few new techniques and whole lot of time saved!

Some of these recipes aren't really a big deal but, just something fun and different.  I found the potato pancake recipe in a magazine from Taste of Homes; of course I tweaked it to make it my own.

Irish Potato Chips
- 3 or 4 medium potatoes, sliced paper thin (you can do this with great knife cuts or with a mandolin)
- 1 TBSP of butter of olive oil
- 1 clove of grated or minced garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste

That's IT!!  In a medium skillet, add all the ingredients over a medium heat.  Fry in the pan until golden brown.  It really doesn't get any easier than that.

St. Patty Potato Pancakes
- 2 cups of grated and peeled potatoes
- 1 egg
- 2 TBSP of all-purpose flour
- 1 or 2 TBSP of milk
- Salt and pepper to taste

Yes, it really is that easy!  Grate the potatoes until you have about 2 cups.  When you are done grating, add the potatoes to a cold bowl of water (this will keep them from turning brown).  Use a towel to squeeze out the excess water. 

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and stir thoroughly until completely combined.  The consistency should be just a little thicker than regular pancakes.  If your pancakes are too dry, add a little more milk.  On a skillet or grill pan, add a spoonful of batter and spread out to make a flat pancaked.  Fry on both sides until golden brown.  Serve with butter or apple sauce over the top.  Yumm!!

Steak and Cabbage - Irish Style
- 1/2 a head of green cabbage (you want about 3 or 4 cups dry)
- 1 cloved of minced or grated garlic
- 1 steak; sliced into chunks
- 1/2 cup of diced sweet onion
- 1/2 TBSP of olive oil
- Salt and pepper

Put the steak on a grill pan or skillet.  Cook until your preference (mine is medium-well).  Sprinkle the steak with salt and pepper on both sides.  Let it set when done cooking.  Cut into thin strips or chunks.

In a large skillet, add the cabbage and season it.  Allow the cabbage to reduce a bit and then add the garlic and onions.  Continue to stir until the cabbage has become translucent.  Add the steak and heat through.  Serve!

If you are looking to kick up the steak and cabbage recipe, try this recent recipe post.  It is delicious!!

Dine in and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Italian Dining on a Budget

If you live any where near the surrounding area of the Fox Valley and have not yet dined at Victoria's Italian Cuisine...... shame on you!  It has earned my vote for some of the best Italian food I have ever eaten.  A benefit to dining at this restaurant is the guaranteed leftovers; their portion sizes are HUGE!

On a budget?  No problem.  Victoria's offers a "Dinner for 2" option.  So for only $34.99 you and your significant other can fill up on 2 salads, 1 appetizer, 2 entree's and 2 desserts.  Plus it comes with a bottle of wine and a bottomless bread basket.  I ended up with a 2-day leftover from my entree.

My absolute favorite dish at Victoria's is the Gnocchi Giovanni.  I am typically not a fan of marinara sauce unless it's on spaghetti.  Their red sauce on this dish is light and creamy.  The gnocchi is always perfectly tender and well seasoned. 

I've been to Victoria's several times, even before moving to the Fox Valley.  I still have yet to find a dish that I do not enjoy.  Many of my friends also recommend anything with their "white sauce" or the alfredo.  Yum!

Dessert?  Well, I have to admit that I am not very enthusiastic about their tiramisu (my favorite type of dessert).  As a reader you probably know that I am oddly lacking a sweet-tooth.  So I am very glad to have found a new favorite dessert ... Creme Brulee!

Wow!  Eating the Creme Brulee was like licking the floor of heaven.  Absolutely delicious.  I have never eaten a sugary treat so fast.  The crust could have been a little thicker but other than that... I was very impressed with this custard.

Dine in or order out.  It can be done on a budget.  :)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Send or Make a Recipe for Me!

As stated in the previous post, I've had a number of friends and family offer to make a dish in exchange for food blog publicity.  It's always fun for me to try different dishes prepared by my loved ones.  I also love writing and I am more than happy to write about it. 

Want to see your recipe on Hint of Thyme?  Send your ideas to

I will try making the recipe (when time allows, of course) and will inform you on when it is being posted.  If you would prefer to make the meal yourself, I would be glad to join you. 

I've started a new segment called "Friend Food Features"; which is where the recipes and overall experience will be featured.

Cheers!  Have a great weekend.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friend Food Feature - Coconut Curry Soup

I love it when good friends can share their passion for food together.  I've had a few friends volunteer to cook a meal in exchange for food blog publicity; which is always a treat.  So I found it extra special when one of my great and long-time friends, Danielle Laux (@babumonkey), offered to come over and make soup at my house.

She arrived at my house with a smile and a bag full of groceries.  It's been a while since anyone cooked for me in my own kitchen.  This is a very nice treat, I thought.

According to Danielle, she found this recipe on  Coconut Curry Soup is something that you can find in any Thai restaurant.  By making it at home (or in a friend's kitchen in this case) you will probably save yourself about $5.00.

Coconut Curry Soup
- 2 TBSP of olive oil
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped finely (but if you'd like to get really fancy, like Danielle, you can use a mixture of green, red and yellow)
- 1 cup of cooked, chopped chicken (I am going to say this is optional, especially if you'd like to keep your lunch light)
- 1 cup of cooked rice (use minute rice for a faster cook time)
- 2 TBSP of red curry paste (add more or less depending on how much heat you can tolerate)
- 3 TBSP of brown sugar
- 13.5 oz can of unsweetened Coconut milk or cream
- 21 oz of chicken broth
- Optional:  a few sprigs of cilantro

In a large sauce pan or wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, peppers and carrots.  After approximately 5 minutes, add the curry paste, brown sugar, chicken, and rice.  Stir until the curry paste is completely incorporated.  After 3 or 4 minutes, add the chicken broth and coconut milk.  Stir and the reduce heat to low.  Heat for 15 - 20 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!

While there are a few exotic flavors in this dish, it might surprise you.  I thought it was a very well balanced soup between the spicy, sweet, and tangy flavors.  Truly a great Thai meal.  Give it a try!

Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Slow Cooker Meal - Braised Apple Butter Pork

Ever have some type of meat or vegetable that you'd like to throw in the slow cooker but not sure what kind of sauce or ingredients will go with it?  That's how this recipe started out for me.  I found a "family pack" of porkchops on sale for $6.00 and wasn't quite sure what to do with them.

Another snowy evening in northern Wisconsin made me bust out the slow cooker and put on my food creativity hat.  I knew that something sweet would pair perfectly with the pork.  I didn't have enough rasberry jam BUT, I did have an unused jar of Apple Butter.  Hmmm.  I started thinking "Asian cooking" and immediately got to work on what turned out to be a well executed dish!

Prep Time - 5 minutes
Cook Time - 2.5 hours (high) / 5 hours (low)

Braised Apple Butter Pork
- 4 to 6 porkchops
- 1/2 jar of apple butter (I had a 12oz jar and used the whole thing - my recommendation is to use less than that)
- 12 oz. can of chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 TBSP of brown sugar
- 1/2 of medium sweet onion; sliced
- 1 cup of dried or whole cranberries
- 1 sweet apple; diced (do not use a sour apple like Granny Smith, use a sweet one like Gala)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: 1 tsp of chipotle or cayenne pepper (This gives it a nice kick but, add it after if your family doesn't like spicy food. A little goes a long way, trust me!)

Set the slow cooker to your desired temperature.  In the slow cooker combine the apple butter, broth, and brown sugar.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker.  Cook on high for 2.5 hours or on low for 5 hours.  My recommendation is to keep an eye on the pork so that it doesn't become too tough.  When the pork has reached the desired temperature (160), remove and let it set. 

Pour the remaining sauce into a separate dish.  You may find that the sauce is too thin for your preference.  If you would like the sauce to be thicker you can add a little corn starch (while over the heat) and stir until it becomes thick. 
The remaining apple butter sauce.

The idea of this dish is to combine all the ingredients together on the plate or in a bowl.  I steamed some white rice then added the sauce and pork over the top.  It pairs perfectly together.

I realize that apple butter might be hard to come by in March.  Typically you can find it in the fall months.  Keep an eye out for some at your local farmer's market though.  You may also be able to purchase some online.  Go to Google Shopping and type Apple Butter.

I really hope that you find comfort in this sweet and potentially spicy dish.  Enjoy!


Tips from Mara: 
Always taste the sauce before cooking.  Add a small amount of the ingredients or seasoning at first.  You can always add more seasoning but you cannot take any out.  Your preference is obviously different than mine.  But ALWAYS add salt and pepper to what ever you cook!

Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.