Free Range Nurse

Cooking therapy from a former travel nurse

I Believe in a Thing Called Brine May 16, 2010

Filed under: chicken,dinner — freerangenurse @ 3:22 pm

I’ve made fried chicken many times.  I’ve made good fried chicken many times.  I made exceptional fried chicken for the first time.  What was the difference between the chicken I’d been making and the chicken I will make from here on out?  A little thing called brine.

I’d heard of brine before now.  Deb at Smitten Kitchen extolled the virtues of brine here and here.  I just hadn’t ever tried it, fearing it would make the chicken too salty.  I then read Thomas Keller’s recipe in his Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. (more…)


Blue Cheese and the Other White Meat April 29, 2010

Filed under: dinner,pork — freerangenurse @ 9:11 am

It has been years since I’ve had a pork chop.  My husband doesn’t much care for them, so I don’t make them very often, but the other night, I had a real craving.  Not in the way I usually like my chops (just salted, peppered and baked in the oven), but with something different.  I went to one of my favorite websites – Epicurious – and searched pork chop recipes and found this.  It spoke to me.  It involved cheese.  It involved bread, and mushrooms, and butter.  Really, need I say more?  My husband was nice enough to go to the grocery store for ingredients because he is sweet like that, and because if I go, I will come back with $200.00 worth of other stuff we don’t need.  Yep, impulse buyer right here!

I altered the recipe just a bit, adding panko bread crumbs with a little dijon mustard to the outside.  I don’t believe less is more, apparently.  The results were delicious.  The blue cheese lends a nice tang to the stuffing.  I did leave one pork chop plain, however, because I know my husband wouldn’t touch blue cheese if his life depended on it.  He’s a simple man with simple tastes.  He takes his baked potato with butter only!  Disturbing, I know.  Sydney is a little more adventurous, thankfully.  She gave it thumbs up.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops

adapted from Bon Apétit, September 1998

  • 4 1-inch thick pork chops, with or without bone, butterflied
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 1 1/2 cups small cubes of French bread
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp liquid from cooked mushrooms
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs



Conquering Your Fears and Following Your Instincts April 25, 2010

Filed under: appetizers,dinner,lunch,seafood — freerangenurse @ 2:30 pm

I have a confession.  Artichokes have always intimidated me.  These big thistles are covered with spike tipped leaves, have a center choke that will make you do just that if you eat it, and have always seemed like a lot of effort to basically serve as scoops for mayonnaise or butter sauce.  Yet, with all these obstacles, I do enjoy artichokes and their tender hearts, so when I saw this recipe for shrimp stuffed artichoke bottoms, I couldn’t resist getting over my fear of artichokes.  Another fantastic reason to conquer my fears were the beautifully photographed step by step instructions in Fine Cooking Magazine for preparing artichokes in a number of different ways.



Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto April 7, 2010

Filed under: dinner,lunch,side dishes — freerangenurse @ 2:19 pm

As part of my fall in spring meal, I added this wonderfully delicious risotto recipe I came across on Epicurious.  I have to say that as tasty as the scallops were, this was the real show stopper.

Yes, this dish takes time.  Yes, this dish requires more than one pot (in fact, two pots and a sheet pan).  Yes, this dish requires constant stirring and supervision.  Yes, this dish is absolutely worth every ounce of trouble.  Creamy, hearty and with enough vegetables to almost consider it a health food….well, at least in this household.  My husband, who never eats vegetables of any kind, not only ate this, he even proclaimed it delicious!  Sure, he picked out the spinach, but he was blissfully unaware of the squash he was eating.  Yes, this dish is sneaky. (more…)


Seared Scallops with Apple Brandy Cream Sauce

Filed under: dinner,seafood — freerangenurse @ 1:12 am

It’s spring here in central Texas…of course it’s spring everywhere, but I mean if feels like spring here.  The weather is absolutely beautiful.  Warm temperatures, lots of sunshine, low (for Austin) humidity and the perfect time for finding the freshest spring berries and vegetables, firing up the grill and spending time outside.  Is that what I’m doing?  Nope.  I had a craving for some decidedly fall ingredients.  Seared sea scallops with apple brandy cream sauce, wilted spinach with garlic and butternut squash risotto.  Sometimes you want what you want.  If I had to pick a favorite of the three, I would have to say the risotto was the winner.  I’ll post that recipe, too. (more…)


You say Gra-TAN, I say GRATn, either way it’s delicious! March 27, 2010

Filed under: dinner,lunch,seafood — freerangenurse @ 8:32 am

The first time I tried this, I wanted to drink the butter broth right out of the dish.  The flavor is so amazing.  This dish is when I discovered shallots, which might be my favorite thing in the world.  Another winner from Ina Garten.  I have made a couple of modifications, but it is hard to mess with perfection.  The other great thing about this dish is that it is so easy and fast to put together.  It can be used with bay scallops or shrimp.  I’ve done both with tasty results and in under 30 minutes.

Bay Scallop Gratins

adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook



Spring is in the air…and in my kitchen March 24, 2010

Filed under: dinner — freerangenurse @ 4:36 pm

I love the spring.  Seeing the blossoms on my pear trees, finding fresh ripe (in season) berries in my grocery store, having spring wildflowers lining the highways and feeling the sun upon my face (Stacy, that one is for you!).  I just can’t help but feel reborn a little.  There’s a little more pep in my step, the feeling that I will stop squandering time and start accomplishing the things I’ve got piled on my to do lists.  Okay, that last bit rarely ever happens, but my point is spring is a renewal, a time of hope and promise…and a time for fresh spring veggies.

This recipe for risotto is a perfect celebration of spring.  Tender, flavorful Arborio rice, slightly sweet, crisp vegetables and a creamy taste that makes it spring comfort food.  It’s a hug and a warm smile.  I love it and I hope you will, too. (more…)


Miso Salmon, me love you long time! March 12, 2010

Filed under: dinner,seafood — freerangenurse @ 11:27 am
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What the crap is going on with the universe when I post two healthy posts in a row?  The name of this one always makes me think of the song Me So Horny by 2 Live Crew, that controversial tune that added fuel to the fire of Tipper Gore’s fight to have parental warning stickers on CDs.  I can’t help but sing, Uh, miso salmon, uh uh miso salmon, uh miso salmon, me love you long time.  I’m showing my age, aren’t I.  Anyway, this recipe has also become a favorite and I would even say the second time around was better than the first.  It is a Bobby Flay recipe and is easy to put together and gives a slightly sweet flavor to the fish. (more…)


Lasagna, layer by layer March 9, 2010

Filed under: beef,dinner,pasta — freerangenurse @ 12:32 pm

Got a minute?  You won’t have time to make this dish.  Got five hours?  Okay, now we’re talking.  You may be asking yourself why anyone would want to spend five hours in the kitchen.  The answer is because I enjoy the process (and the results).  If I have the time, I love making recipes the old fashioned way – sauces from scratch, slowly simmered, fresh ingredients.  I want my food to taste homemade, it doesn’t have to look perfect, but I do want it to reflect the care and time I took to prepare it.  Do I have time to do this every day?  To quote Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles, “No way, Jose!” (more…)


Chicken Tortilla Soup February 8, 2010

Filed under: chicken,dinner,lunch,soup — freerangenurse @ 8:31 am
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Okay folks, you asked for it and I delivered.  As my facebook friends know, I asked what Mexican food recipes you wanted to learn how to make and you answered….boy, did you answer!  Unfortunately, few of you answered with the same suggestion.  I decided to go with one I know like the back of my hand (although, truth be told, I don’t really spend much time getting to know the back of my hand).  Tortilla soup is one of Sydney’s favorite meals.  She asks for it all the time.  She doesn’t care if it’s 100 degrees outside, she wants her tortilla soup.   I usually don’t want soup until it gets cold outside.  Thankfully for Sydney, we have had a lot of cold days this winter. (more…)