Pork Belly With Caramelized Veggies

Yesterday we decided to take a break from skiing and spent the day doing other activities – going to church, making a mexican breakfast, rock climbing, watching March Madness and cooking a favorite of ours, an easy pork belly recipe.

If you haven’t had pork belly before, you’re missing out! This is an incredibly succulent, savory cut of meat that, if cooked correctly, will fall apart with a little nudge from your fork.

I had only eaten pork belly in a restaurant before, so I was excited when Luke brought some home from Whole Foods last week. Luke does all our grocery shopping because I can’t stand doing  it and he always surprises me with new things to cook at home.

I searched online for a good recipe and came across  Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio’s pork belly recipe, which was also named GQ’s favorite meat dish.

The original recipe has a bunch of fancy steps like skimming fat, crosshatch incisions and scoring the meat that I just eliminated. Afterall- my Twitter says “wannabe chef” not “Top Chef contestant” and who has time to do all those little steps when the meat already looks delectable the way it is??

Pork Belly with Caramelized Veggies


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds pork belly, skin on
  • 1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 leek, white part only, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • About 3 cups brown chicken stock

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While it preheats, salt and pepper your cut of pork belly and cook fat side down (the side with  more white) in a large skillet that has been heated with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Cook the pork 15 minutes until that side is browned.

While pork cooks, coarsely chop all your veggies (except the garlic cloves).

Once the pork is browned, pour off half of the excess oil/fat and add all the veggies to the same pot. Cook the veggies about 20 minutes until soft, adding pepper to taste. Return the pork belly to the pot and add two cups of chicken stock.

Bring the stock to a simmer on the stovetop and then place the whole skillet into the oven. Braise (aka bake) for 1 hour, then add the remaining cup of stock. Cook for another hour to hour and a half until you can cut into the pork easily with a fork. Your veggies should also look caramelized.

This was the part in Tom’s recipe where things got all fancy – including his suggestion that you throw away the veggies and just use the broth they left behind. Is he crazy?! Those veggies are to die for!

I opted to just cut into the meat and savor all the vegetables right out the oven, and I was not disappointed. :) We paired ours with some sweet potato fries tossed with cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

What a delicious Sunday dish! The pork was tender and juicy while the vegetables were crunchy with a sweet, caramel finish.  I highly recommend you give pork belly a try.


Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

This Friday a friend of mine invited us over for a dinner party. We’re all about meeting and making new friends, so we excitedly accepted. I offered to bring dessert and reverted back to my favorite – cheesecake!

As you can probably tell from the many blog posts about cheesecake, I’m a bit of a fanatic.

This time, I adapted a new recipe from a great cookbook “I Love Cheesecake” by Mary Crownover called Marbled Grasshopper Cheesecake. It’s a yummy mixture of creme de menthe and chocolate.

Chocolate Mint Cheesecake

This is a delicious cheesecake, with lots of rich, dark chocolate flavor and a hint of mint. It would be perfect for St. Patrick’s day, which is right around the corner.

Marbled Grasshopper Cheesecake Recipe:

Crust Ingredients:

– 18 chocolate mint sandwich cookies

– 5 tablespoons butter

Chocolate Mint Filling Ingredients:

– 32 ounces cream cheese

– 1/2 cup sugar

– 4 large eggs

– 1/4 cup sour cream

– 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

– 2 tablespoons corn starch

– 2 tablespoons cocoa

– 2 tablespoons sugar

– 1/4 cup creme de menthe

– 1 teaspoon mint extract

– a few drops of green food coloring

Chocolate Sour Cream Topping Ingredients:

– 5 ounces chocolate chips

– 1/3 cup sour cream

– Tablespoon creme de menthe

– 1 tablespoon sugar

First, make sure ALL your ingredients are at room temperature- the eggs, sour cream, cream cheese etc. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust, put 18 cookies in a plastic baggy and enlist the strength of someone with strong forearms to crush the cookies into crumbs.

Combine the cookie crumbs with the butter and using your fingers, press onto the bottom of a well-greased spring-form pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes.

Cheesecake cookie crust

Set the crust aside and start on the best part- the chocolate mint filling! Beat together the cream cheese and 1 cup sugar until completely smooth. Make sure there aren’t any cream cheese clumps floating around.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one. Then stir in the sour cream, lemon extract and cornstarch.

Remove one cup of the filling and put it in a bowl. Stir in the cocoa and 2 tablespoons sugar.

Go back to the rest of the filling and mix in the creme de menthe, mint extract and green food coloring until you have a yummy, minty flavor and light green color. You can add more extract if you want a stronger mint flavor.

Here’s what creme de Menthe looks like. You can buy it in the specialty liquor section of your grocery store.

Now your filling is done! Pour half of the mint filling into your pan and smooth the top. Then spoon on half of the chocolate filling in the middle. Pour the rest of the mint over it and top again with the rest of the chocolate.

This is where the fun begins! Take a knife and without disturbing the crust, run it through the mixture to create a pretty marbling effect.

Bake the cheesecake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200 and bake for another 2 hours or until the center no longer looks wet.

Turn the oven off and remove the cake and run a serrated knife around the edge to unhinge it from the pan. Place the cake BACK into the turned off oven to cool for 2 hours. Then refrigerate overnight.

When you’re ready to serve, whip up the topping. This is really the finale of the dessert and will also help it look really pretty.

I forgot to take photos of the process, but it’s really easy. Just mix together the chocolate chips, sour cream, creme de menthe and sugar in a sauce pot over low heat.

Pour the melted mixture on top of the cake and spread around with a spatula to the edge. I decorated the edge of mine with chocolate chips to add a little crunch to each slice.

Scrumdiddlyumptious! This cheesecake was literally gobbled up before I could get any more glamour shots. A definite crowd-pleaser.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Yesterday was one of those rare Sundays where I woke up with absolutely nothing on my to-do list. It was wonderful to be able to spend the day doing things I wanted to do vs. things I HAD to do.

I decided that I was in the mood to bake something “Fall” themed to go along with a pot roast for dinner. I opened my favorite book of cheesecake recipes “I Love Cheesecake” by Mary Crownover and fell upon the Pumpkin Cheesecake.

Cheesecake is a delicate dessert that really requires a full 4-8 hours to perfect, so it was great I had my day free.

To start, set all your ingredients out until they reach room temperature. This is important as it can really mess up the end result. Also, preheat your oven to 350.

The recipe I had called for a sugar cookie crust, but I wanted something with more spice to match the pumpkin, so I bought some ginger snaps.

Run 20 cookies through the food processor until crumbly then combine 2 cups of the cookie crumbs with five tablespoons of melted butter until it has a thick texture.

Then press the crust into the bottom of a greased spring form pan until the entire bottom is covered.

To make the filling, start by beating 32 oz. regular cream cheese, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup regular sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla and three tablespoons corn starch until smooth. Next add four eggs and one egg yolk one at a time, beating thoroughly after each egg.

Once smooth, stir in 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Then stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract. This is the step that gives the cheesecake a TON of yummy fall flavor, so don’t skimp on the spices!

Finally, fold in 8-10 oz pumpkin filling. I prefer a less sweet and more savory cheesecake, so I opted for pure pumpkin filling vs. pumpkin pie filling. The difference is about 20 grams of sugar!

Pour the filling on top of the crust and spread around until even with a wooden spoon. Place it on a cookie sheet (spring form pans can leak) and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

While it’s cooking, whisk one cup of sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla to make a yummy sour vanilla topping. Don’t skip this part…it really takes the cheesecake from good to WOW!

After the 3o minute timer goes off, take the cheesecake out and pour the sour vanilla topping on top. Carefully spread it around as far as you can to the edges. Don’t worry if it messes up that “perfect” cheesecake look…it’s more important that it TASTES good!

Turn the oven down to 200 and place the cheesecake back inside for 2 hours. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to prevent the cake from cracking while it cools.

Turn the over completely off and let the cake sit in it for another 2 hours. Chill for 4-8 hours or preferably overnight.

We couldn’t wait that long (of course) and cut into ours about four hours into chilling, but the end result was still amazingly delicious.

The rich, spicy pumpkin taste perfectly crossed with the sour vanilla topping to create a lovely fall celebration in my mouth. I was so impressed with this cheesecake, I’m planning to make it again at Thanksgiving!

I can’t wait to get home to eat that last piece I saved for left overs. :)

Veal Chops with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Mother nature decided we were NOT going to have fun with roller coasters this weekend, so we decided to stick around Chicago instead. The good news about this change of plans was that I was able to cook a DELICIOUS meal last night.

When rummaging through our fridge of meat, I decided to break us out of our normal meat routine and make some gorgeous veal chops we picked up from the Farmer’s Market recently.

I am a big fan of adding extra flavor to meats with a rub. I put Luke to work with our mortar and pestle grinding up three garlic cloves, olive oil, pepper and some cayenne pepper.

I rubbed the garlic paste into both sides of the chops and then pan seared thems in olive oil (heated until smoking) for three minutes on both sides

After searing, I put the chops on a plate and covered with foil. I added some beef stock and scraped up all the seared-on pieces from the bottom of the pan.

Despite not really liking mushrooms, I was craving a mushroom-cream sauce. What can I say? I’m an odd bird. I added some cipollini mushrooms, heavy cream and pepper to the liquid in the pan. To thicken it a little, I added some hazelnut flour (because we try to avoid white flour,) but any type will work.

I know the above doesn’t really give much guidance on the sauce, but you should just eyeball it all to your taste.

I let the sauce simmer 2-3 minutes to cook the mushrooms and then returned the chops to the sauce, covered and simmered another 5-7 minutes. You’ll want to spoon some of the sauce onto the chops throughout the cooking process.

I really like the combination of the tender veal with the creamy, savory sauce. They compliment each other very well.

To add to the inventiveness of the meal, I decided to try a NEW vegetable for a side: Radicchio. This hard-to-pronounce vegetable has a slightly bitter flavor that works really well with a salty counterpart. This is what it looks like at the store:

Kind of like red cabbage, but smaller.

I found a recipe in a cookbook at home for pancetta-wrapped radicchio that looks delicious and easy. To make it, just cut the head into wedges, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap with a piece of pancetta or bacon.

Throw the pan into a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the pancetta is crispy and the radicchio is soft. Drizzle with some balsamic vinegar and what you get is this crazy-yummy “vegetable” side dish.

All in all, I’d say mother nature did us a favor bringing the storms so we’d be forced to stay in town and go on some culinary explorations!