Coca Cola Hoisin Pork Chops with Baby Bok Choy

When I read a tip that came out of America’s Test Kitchen I immediately believe it and put it to use.  When I read a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen I believe it must be amazing and have the best methods of cooking whatever it is.  I’d like to get a job there.  Or at least spend a day or two there, just observing the amount of thought, effort, time and testing that goes into everything.  It makes me kind of excited to think about it all!

They do what I only wish I had the time, money, energy and intelligence to.  Want to know the best kind of cookie sheet to buy?  Ask the test kitchen.  They’ve already put all the brands out there through a battery of tests and know which gives the best browning and texture while not warping in the oven and doesn’t cost a fortune.  Want to know the best kind of cocoa powder?  Ask the test kitchen.  They’ve already tasted and baked with them all.  You won’t have to make a bad batch of chocolate cookies that burned on your poor quality cookie sheets!  Now some people don’t like the specificity and scientific bent in their articles and think that maybe they’re too engrossed in the food or the recipe to consider the home cook.  Like who has time to check the temperature of their butter before they use it in the perfect pound cake?  I’ve made that pound cake, and I took its temperature and it was spectacular.  But does it make that much of a difference?  If the test kitchen says so, then it must.

The only reason I bring it up is that this recipe came from a cookbook from The Test Kitchen called The Six-Ingredient Solution.  What a genius idea!  I love when a recipe is uncomplicated in its ingredients.  It makes grocery shopping and life just a little bit easier.  But I guess this actually has 8 including pepper and water called for in the directions…still 8 ingredients ain’t bad.  And they turn out a stellar dinner.

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I don’t cook pork chops.  I’ll often cook a pork tenderloin in the oven or Ben will grill one.  I worry about under-cooking pork, and so in an effort to not under-cook it I end up worrying about over-cooking it and making it dry and tough.  I am happy to say that this meal yielded really delicious pork chops that were cooked pretty well.  I got the thumbs-up from Ben on it!  But I did have trouble getting it to temperature during the searing.  I did 3 minutes per side and it was only at 120°F.  Once it got to 130 I took it off and let it cook the rest of the way in the sauce, which worked well.  It’s not the way they instruct in the original recipe, but it worked for me.

I’ve never cooked bok choy before, and I think I’ve only had it once or twice.  So this was a step out of my comfort zone in more than one way.  It cooks quickly and has good amounts of vitamins A and C.  I really enjoyed it and found it to be a perfect side for this meal.  Some people may not be a fan of the texture.  Sub broccoli for the bok choy if you’d like.  Steam it and serve it on the side.

I HAVE cooked rice before.  Lots of rice.  So it was the only part of the meal I was able to put on the stove and know was going to be edible.  And, to be honest, I kind of liked the thought of a big bowl of buttered rice for dinner.  But what we had was much better and more well balanced.

The sauce is amazing, and how could it not be?  It’s delicious on the pork, bok choy and rice.  I think it would be a great sauce for chicken as well.  The sauce ingredients here are what they call for for 4 chops and 4 bok choy, so if you do decide to make this recipe for 4, I’d suggest doubling the sauce.  You might end up with extra, but it would be a shame to run out!  Enjoy!

Coca Cola Hoisin Pork Chops with Baby Bok Choy

From America’s Test Kitchen

Serves 2


  • 1 3/4 cups sushi (short grain) rice
  • 2 thick cut bone-in pork chops (8 ounces, 3/4 inch thick)
  • 2 heads baby bok choy
  • 1 cup coca cola
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • black pepper


  1. Halve bok choy lengthwise and set aside.
  2. Pat pork chops dry with paper towels, then cut 2 small slits through the fat on the side of each pork chop.  Season both sides with ground black pepper and set aside.
  3. Whisk cola, hoisin and 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Combine rice with 2 1/4 cups of water and a pinch of salt in a medium sized saucepan.  Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 10 minutes then remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.
  5. While rice is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add bok choy, cut side down.  Watch out for oil spatters!  Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and cook for another minute until stems are just tender.  Transfer to a plate and cover.
  6. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels and adjust heat to medium high.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet, then add pork chops and cook 3-5 minutes per side, until the temperature is 130-135, then move to a plate.
  7. Wipe out skillet again, keep heat at medium high and add the cola mixture.  Whisk until slightly thickened then add chops and any juice on the plate back to the pan.  Turn the chops to coat them with the sauce, then cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Check temperature of the chops, they should register 145°F.
  8. Plate chops, bok choy (pretty browned sides up) and rice.  Drizzle bok choy with sauce from the pan.  Serve with extra sauce.

Chicken and Rice Casserole with Roasted Squash and Spinach

We’re moving in 12 days!  I’m starting to wonder why we thought moving 7 weeks before my due date was a good plan!  I’m actually very excited, just anxious and stressing a bit.  My sweet mom came down and helped me for a few days last week.  We didn’t pack the entire kitchen, but that process is beginning.  I plan to have the kitchen pretty much packed away by the beginning of next week.  That last week I plan to eat easy breakfasts, freezer meals, give Carson a lot of convenience foods (and his weight in strawberries of course) and explore the take-out situation in our neighborhood.  I’ve already stocked up on paper plates, plastic utensils and cups.  I don’t want to find myself packing plates and silverware at 2 am the night before we move.

Eating restaurant food is probably going to get old after a few days.  I like cooking and knowing what goes into our meals.  So I want to cook a lot in the coming week.  The problem with that is how unprepared I have been recently when it comes to groceries.  And if I’ve forgotten something, I have little to no desire to take Carson to the store for one item.  One night last week I made dinner with what we had around, which was an adventure.  And a pretty tasty adventure.  So tasty, in fact, that I typed this recipe up right after we ate so that I wouldn’t forget it.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but casseroles in general are just plain unattractive.

I made fried chicken earlier in the week.  Since 2 people can’t (and shouldn’t) eat an entire chicken we had quite a bit left over.  My thought for dinner began with that chicken.  I knew we had rice, but I couldn’t think of what else I was going to throw in my chicken and rice dinner.  So began the scavenging.  Squash from Farmhouse.  A shallot.  Green onions.  A half bag of spinach.  The remains of a box of chicken broth.  The rest of a carton of sour cream.  Leftover white cheddar cheese.  And a packet of Lipton chicken noodle soup mix.  This was going to be dinner.  The biggest gamble was the squash.  I roasted it and figured if I didn’t end up using it in the casserole I could snack on it and give some to Carson.  It ended up being really great and something I would definitely repeat.

Chicken and Rice Casserole with Roasted Squash and Spinach


  • 2-3 cups 1/2 inch cubed squash (I used patty pan and butternut)
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1 cup white medium grain rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 package Lipton chicken  noodle soup mix
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4-1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (optional but delicious)


  1. Roast Squash:  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Toss seeded and cubed squash with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, tossing about halfway through.  Set aside.
  2. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a large skillet.  Once hot, add in shallot and cook for 2 minutes, add in green onion and cook 2 minutes, then add in garlic, stir and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the rice, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add in the spinach and cook until slightly wilted.  Turn off the heat and mix in the chicken and roasted squash.
  4. Pour in the chicken broth, soup mix, sour cream and milk.  Stir until well combined.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.  Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and sprinkle with the cheese, if using.
  6. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

Curried Chicken and Rice Soup

This is a great meal if you’re looking for a nice alternative to chicken noodle soup.  This hearty chicken and rice soup is flavorful, loaded with veggies and has a nice crisp flavor thanks to the fresh herbs and lemon juice added at the end.  The curry isn’t overwhelming, but gives the soup a nice spice that makes it a unique chicken soup.  It’s great with the herbs and lemon.

We really enjoyed what was most likely the last hot soup we’ll have for a while.  I have a feeling that the weather is just not going to get cool enough for soup until October or November.  Oh, Houston.  If you live somewhere that is still experiencing or expecting a cool and rainy day, take advantage of it and give this soup a try.

I used this recipe from the Food Network kitchens as my starting point for this soup and then changed a few things to create a soup that had more of the things I like.  I’m sure it’s still great without the changes I made.  I added more carrots and celery, more broth, more rice, pureed only some of the soup instead of all of the rice mixture, added spinach and put lemon juice right in the soup instead of serving it with lemon wedges.  I also changed the cooking method a bit by doing it all in one pot instead of cooking the soup base and rice separately.

Since this was my first time to make this and I was kind of figuring it out as I went, I didn’t measure exactly how much broth and water I used.  Luckily, you can add as much or as little liquid as you want near the end of the cooking to get the consistency you want in this soup.  When I reheated this soup last night for dinner I added a little more broth since it had thickened up overnight in the fridge.  Soups are so forgiving, one of the many reasons I love them.

To make getting this meal on the table quicker and easier cook the chicken ahead of time and refrigerate it, or shred a rotisserie chicken.  If you do this, you will still need all the chicken broth and water called for below.  Slice the onion and chop the carrots and celery and store them in baggies or containers, the onion should be in its own container since it goes in before the carrots and celery.  You can chop the herbs and store them as well, but I think they lose some of their flavor if they are chopped too far in advance.  I’d recommend chopping them while the rice is cooking, but I doubt there would be much difference in flavor if they sat in the fridge for a few hours, just make sure to store them in covered containers to keep them from drying out.

Curried Chicken and Rice Soup

Adapted from Food Network Magazine


  • 2 bone-in chicken breast halves, skin removed
  • 5-6 cups low sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 4-5 cups water, divided
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch coins
  • 4 large celery stalks, cut 1/2 inch slices (you may want to halve the stalks if they are very large)
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 3-4 ounces baby spinach leaves (left whole or roughly chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1 large lemon, juiced


  1. In a large pot, heat 3 cups of water and 3 cups of broth over medium heat.  Once liquid starts to simmer, add chicken breasts, a pinch of kosher salt, peppercorns and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken from broth and let cool until you can handle the chicken and shred it.  Strain the bay leaves and peppercorns out of the broth and set the broth aside.
  3. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, sugar and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, until onions begin to soften.  Add carrots and celery and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add curry powder, stir and cook for 1 minute.  Add the rice, stir and cook for about 2 minutes, then add 3 cups of the reserved broth.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. After rice is cooked, take about 2 cups of the soup and puree it in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Add it back to the soup along with the chicken.  At this point you can add more liquid to achieve the consistency you’d like in your soup.  I added equal amount of broth and water, probably a cup of each to start with, but you can do what looks right to you.  More broth for a soupier soup, less broth for a more stew-like soup.
  6. With heat on medium low, stir in spinach and herbs.  Let simmer for 5-10 minutes until spinach is wilted down.
  7. Stir in lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

This past few days I have been hearing a lot about Mardi Gras.  I have seen many blog posts featuring Mardi Gras recipes like King Cake and Gumbo.  The recipe websites that I frequent like allrecipes, epicurious and myrecipes also have little sections devoted to this day and time of year.  Why not jump on the bandwagon?

I was feeling very ambitious as I began looking for recipes and was set on making a King Cake.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think that I’d have time to make one after work unless I wanted to be up until the wee hours of the morning since the dough has to rise for about 2 hours.  I should have made it anyway because with just two people, I had a much better chance of getting the baby and being Queen for a day!

I settled on jambalaya.  Jambalaya is a Creole dish with Spanish and French influences.  These cuisines were meant to be combined.  I have only been to New Orleans once.  I went with a couple friends in college the year before Katrina.  We ate great food.  There is something wonderful about the flavors and ingredients that they use that is just incredible.  I wanted to go to Emeril’s Delmonico, but we were college students on a college students budget.  We did eat beignets at Cafe du Monde and got powdered sugar all over ourselves as we drank chicory coffee.  I loved every minute of that trip.

This dish is very simple and quick.  There is no seafood in this jambalaya, but you could easily add shrimp to the mix during the last 5 minutes or so.  I would decrease the sausage to 1 pound if you decided to add about 1/2 pound of shrimp.  Another ingredient that is common in jambalaya is tomatoes.  There are none here, but I will consider adding a can of chopped tomatoes with the juice next time I make this.

The flavors are great and not overpowering or too salty.  I did not use the cloves because I thought I had some, but I was wrong.  I am sure that would have been a great addition, but it was just fine without it.  The moisture is just about perfect.  I did add another 1/2 cup of chicken broth after about 20 minutes of cooking because it looked like it would be a bit dry.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Courtesy of Bon Appetit, 1997

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds of chicken pieces
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped green bell peppers
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds kielbasa or other fully cooked smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 cups long-grain white rice
  • 6 ½ cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Working in batches, add chicken and cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to platter.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-high; add onion, bell peppers, parsley and garlic to pot. Sauté until onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add sausage, bay leaves, chili powder, thyme, cayenne pepper and cloves; sauté until spices are fragrant and flavors blend, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir to coat.
  4. Pour broth over rice mixture in pot. Add chicken; press to submerge in liquid. Bring to boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, rice is tender and chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Season with salt, pepper and more cayenne pepper, if desired. Serve hot.

Baked Rice Custard

Rice pudding is such a comfort food for me.  It is always so wonderfully creamy, rich and just slightly sweet.  Rice pudding is perfection in a bowl…or on a plate I guess if you like it that way.

Rice pudding has an incredible number of variations.  It is eaten in many different parts of the world.  Each type of rice pudding uses slightly different ingredients and flavors, but most come together in the same way and have similar textures.  In Sweden, rice pudding (Risgrynsgröt) is eaten at Christmas.  Coincidentally, Christmas is when my family eats rice pudding…we just can’t shake those Swedish traditions!

I’ve made rice pudding using the recipe given to me by my mom.  It is delicious.  We have always, and will always, eat this delicious dish cold sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, which is also traditionally Swedish.

I did not know until later in life that there were many ways to eat rice pudding.  You can eat it warm or cold.  You can eat is plain, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, served with fruits or fruit sauce, with or without raisins and nuts, or if you live in Iceland you might top off your pudding with blood sausage.  I will stick to cinnamon sugar.

Most rice puddings include these basic ingredients which are used as a springboard for all types of puddings:

  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Sugar (or some sweetener)
  • Flavoring (vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)

What about eggs, you ask?  My family has never used eggs.  I never even really considered the use of eggs in rice pudding, until I came across a rice custard recipe.  Being one who enjoys trying new things, I decided to make this Scandinavian baked rice custard this past weekend.  Could it live up to real rice pudding?  Or would it surpass all my expectations and be…God forbid…better than “real” rice pudding?

This rice custard was definitely different than rice pudding but definitely delicious.  I liked the texture that the eggs provided.  It kept its shape when served, unlike my mom’s rice pudding which had a tendency to spread a little.  The flavor was incredible.  The combination of the vanilla and almond extracts is wonderful.  I would recommend adding in about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

I served this with a cranberry sauce that I put together with pantry items.  Lingonberry jam, if you can find it, would be good as well.  Or you can eat is plain, which is wonderful.  I tried it warm after a little cooling time, and the next day after it had been sitting in the fridge.  Either way is yummy.

The question is, was this custard better than the pudding?  No.  They are both very good and I will make them both in the future, but there are just too many great memories attached to eating my family’s version of rice pudding.  Try both and let me know your opinion, though.  I am biased.

Scandinavian Rice Custard

Courtesy of Group Recipes

  • ½ cup medium grain white rice
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • dash of salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten just slightly
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • dash of cinnamon, if desired
  1. Add rice to boiling water; boil for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain rice in a colander; rinse and drain well.
  3. Put rice into a well buttered baking dish; stir in the butter and salt.
  4. Mix the beaten eggs with the sugar and salt.
  5. Stir egg mixture into the milk.
  6. Add the extracts and cinnamon ;pour over the rice.
  7. Set rice dish in a larger pan that is half filled with hot water (be sure to use HOT water).
  8. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 to 90 minutes (center of pudding should still be jiggle-y in the middle, but rice must be done).
  9. Stir rice every 10 minutes the first 30 minutes of baking.

Photo courtesy of taste.com.au