Sunday, November 9, 2014

Inventing Recipes - Pork Chops in Hard Cider

I enjoy cooking, but I rarely have time to do it during the week thanks to a long commute.  Whenever I get a chance on the week-ends, I really enjoy either tweaking existing recipes or inventing new ones.  Tonight I invented a new one and I’m really pleased with it. 

My new invention is for bone-in pork chops braised on the stove top with hard cider.  This recipe would work fine for 4 chops, but since it is just the two of us I only cooked two.  Actually, I wouldn't even call this a recipe since I rarely measure anything when I cook.  Think of it as more of a guideline.

I started by putting a glurg of olive oil in a skillet and tossing in some sliced yellow onions. I cooked them until they started to get soft, then added the chops that I had sprinkled with one of those “everything but the kitchen sink” spice mixes.  Once the chops had browned on one side I flipped them over and browned the other.  Then I took the chops and the onions out of the skillet. I used one bottle of hard cider (a single serve size bottle, not one of the huge ones) to deglaze the pan.

After the pan was deglazed I added in about a cup of organic chicken broth, then put the chops and the onions back in.  After that I chopped a granny smith apple into large chunks and added them to the skillet.   After the liquid started to boil, I dropped it down to a simmer, covered the pan and let it simmer away for a while.  Mine took about 20 minutes, but that will depend on how thick your chops are.  Be sure that your internal temperature gets to the acceptable level for food safety.

Pork chops simmering away

Once my chops were done I pulled out the chops, tented them with foil and let them rest. While they were resting I brought the rest of the stuff in the skillet back up to a good rolling boil.  While it was boiling (and thickening a bit) I mushed up the chunks of apple to get all of their goodness out.  After it got to the consistency I wanted I strained it through a fat separator.  Be sure to squish the apples and onions in the strainer to get all of the juices out.

The next step is the best part. Put the chops on your plate, top with sauce, and eat it up.
I was really pleased with this recipe.  The next time I make it I will probably add a little bit of butter to the sauce just before it is finished.  That will make the sauce a bit thicker and will add a bit more dimension to it. Otherwise, I think that the apple and pork flavors were well balanced.  It didn't have much onion flavor, which is how I like it. If you are an onion fan you can always add more onion, or serve the onion with the chops.  I tossed out my onions once the sauce was done since I just wanted the flavor of them.

The finished product with risotto. This was before I poured sauce all over it. 
Normal people would probably want to add a veggie.

My husband thinks I’m a genius and my dogs are following me around the house kissing me.  So, I think the whole family rates this new recipe as a winner!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My First Corporate Retreat

Last week I was able to attend my first ever corporate retreat. It was amazing! At first I was a little bit shocked to be included since I am a contractor and retreats tend to be more for the inner circle of employees. I am thrilled that I got to go and I feel so much more a part of the team now.

I work for a global organization, so many members of my department are based overseas. Listening to all of the different accents made me feel a bit like I had made a wrong turn and wound up at the U.N.! We had attendees from South Africa, China, France, Singapore, Mexico, U.K., Dubai, India, Brazil, and Poland. That list only includes where they are currently based. If we added country of origin it would be much larger!

Part of the team getting read to play mini-golf

Our retreat was held over 3 days at the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, TX. Those of us that are based in the Dallas office took a luxury chartered bus down. We had WiFi, food, alcohol, lots of first-class amenities and even an attendant to see to all of our needs. It was more cushy than any first-class flight I have ever taken.

The view from my room

Our three days of meetings were split up with ice breakers, group activities, and lots of small group meetings. Our dinners were always in a private setting, so there was a lot of "getting to know you" time.

Fire pit for telling stories around during our first dinner

By the time we got on the bus to go home I was utterly exhausted, but also rejuvenated and ready to leap back into all of my projects.

It was an incredible three days and I came out of it with new friends from all over the world, a much deeper understanding of my department & how we fit together, and a greater sense of excitement for how my projects will affect the organization going forward.

To sum it all up in one word - INCREDIBLE!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I'm Back!

Sorry for disappearing for over a month!  My work life has been crazy, but in a good way.

Back in July I mentioned that I had left my job and was taking a class. I had just started getting calls from recruiters and was setting up some initial interviews. Well, that all progressed quickly and I found myself in final interviews for two different jobs. They were both great companies and I know that I was truly blessed to have such amazing opportunities.

I was ecstatically happy when my favored one offered. It is a contract position, but it is scheduled for 18 months. It is a terrific organization and I am loving it! I have been here 4 weeks now and I am thrilled with the work I am doing.

It has been a little rough getting used to everything. I'm really getting to stretch myself and do new things, but my brain is pretty much fried by the time I get home. So, I decided to take a few weeks off from the blog until I got adjusted.

I am finally settled in and looking forward to getting back to blogging. I have some fun adventures coming up and I can't wait to share them!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Best Friends

When we adopted our kitty, Harley, I was really worried about how the dogs would handle it.  I knew that our older dog, Fancy, would be fine. She is a very gentle, easy going dog.  However, I was really worried about Piglet.  She is a very feisty Jack Russell terrier and is quite jealous. I was really concerned that we would have some serious sibling rivalry happening in my house.

Luckily, that is not how it played out at all. Harley and Piglet almost immediately fell in love with each other. Piglet never once even growled at her!  They enjoy playing together and have become the very best of friends. They are convinced that they are litter-mates!

Hey Harley, want to play?

After play time, nap time is fast approaching.

Now they have a lap, so both babies settle in for a snooze.

Life is so much sweeter with fur babies!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

An Anniversary Fairy Tale

Yesterday was our 19th wedding anniversary. In honor of the occasion, I am re-posting the story of our wedding that I wrote last year.

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of San Antonio, there lived a curly-headed princess.  (Well, she was actually a soldier, but the story is much more romantic if she is a princess.)  She fell in love with a kind, handsome prince. (You guessed it, he was a soldier too.)  They fell in love and wanted to share their lives together, but were in no hurry to make things legal. 

Then one day a ferocious dragon attacked.  (She got orders to go to Fort Drum.)  The prince and princess knew that only the power of true love could save them, so they decided it was time to get married.  

On the day the marriage was to take place they ventured out in the midst of a powerful thunderstorm in search of a justice of the peace.  They finally found the JP in a converted jail house. So, in the midst of a raging storm, while standing in a former jail, the prince and princess exchanged their vows. (The wise JP included a wonderful clause in the prince’s vows.  He had to promise to bring the princess presents even when it wasn't a holiday.)  Once the vows were said the dragon was slain and they went off to Fort Drum together. 

They went on to have many wonderful adventures and have enjoyed living their unconventional fairy tale ever since.  Their happily-ever-after is still continuing.

Wedding Day

In the nineteen years since that stormy day we have had many ups and downs and many great adventures. We are quite a bit older, but he is still my Prince Charming.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Good Excuse to go Shopping

I ran into an interesting challenge yesterday.  As you know, I recently quit my job to focus on upgrading my skills. I finished my class, but wasn't planning on looking for something new until after I passed my certification. Out of the blue I got a call from a recruiter that was interested in talking with me.  She asked if I could come by their office for a meeting.  That was really unexpected, but very exciting!

Now, if you have been reading this blog for a while you know that for the last two and a half years I have either worked for a company that had no dress code (and was very, very casual) or worked from home.  So, I walk into my closet to figure out what to wear to my meeting and very nearly have a panic attack. Where are my dress pants? Don’t I have any shoes that aren't sandals? Do my jackets still fit?  Thank goodness that I have a bit of an obsession with jewelry and purses.  Those are the only things that I didn't have to worry about! 

It took a while, but I finally found my dressier clothes and managed to put together a really cute outfit. This was definitely a wake-up call that I need to get my closet reorganized fast!  Also, a very nice excuse to go shopping!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Making the Leap

First of all, let me apologize for disappearing for so long. As if my life wasn’t already crazy enough with the move and settling into our new home, I decided to up the ante. I resigned from my job!
My position had morphed quite a bit since I started at the company. I have nothing against taking on new responsibilities and learning new things, but the part of my job that I like the most I was doing less and less.  I administer CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems. I’ve been doing it for years, and I’ve worked with both SalesForce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
When I decided that the time had come to get back to doing CRM exclusively, I also decided to fully embrace Microsoft Dynamics. Not only am I going to take the certifications exam for administration, I am also going to study development.  I start a workshop on extending CRM on Monday.
My last day at work is Friday, and I start my workshop on Monday. That gives me one week-end to pivot from one mindset to another. I am beyond excited!
This probably means that the techy, geeky side of me will be coming out to blog more often. I promise I’ll try not to bore anyone!  I’ll do my best to bring out the silliness in software!