Archives for February 2012

Instagram Week 2

Here are a few of my favorite shots from this past week!

There are probably several of you that know about my severe bird phobia. Well, one morning I was sitting in the lounge working on the laptop and suddenly I got this very icky feeling. I turn around and just outside the window this little guy was staring at me. Thank goodness there was glass between us or I would have been in full blown panic mode. Since then I’ve been told that this bird is lucky. Let’s hope so!
Eating out with friends at a Japanese restaurant. Mmmm, sashimi! Also on the menu, steamed eggs, wasabi squid, tempura shrimp, grilled garlic, and stuffed conch shells.
Delighted to find an import store that sells cocoa powder. Not the greatest brand in the whole wide world, but it sure as heck will do when I have a craving for a brownie once we move into the new apartment!
After enjoying the familiar comfort of the import store (and cocoa powder) I was reminded that things are still very different here. How about some fresh chicken feet? (PS. This photo was taken at Walmart)
Friday I went in to work with Jesse to take some photos of the facility. In order to be allowed in the print room you have to gear up in a clean room suit (or as I like to call it a “zombie makin’ suit”). I seriously look like the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

I also finally got out my real camera this weekend and will be sharing some of those photos later this week. Along with a fantastic fish recipe for all your lent needs.

Have a great week!!

Garlic and Herb Crusted Pork Loin

Years back I wasn’t a big fan of pork. It always seemed chewy and tough and flavorless to me. Then my mom tried a new recipe for pork tenderloin and it opened my mind to world of pork. Now I think it’s safe to say that it’s one of my favorite meats to prepare and eat at home. Just as versatile as chicken and when it’s prepared correctly, and not overcooked, the result is tender and juicy, the perfect vehicle for a huge variety of flavors.

I think you already know about my love of Pulled Pork, and this Island Pork Tenderloin really knocked my socks off. Now I can add this Garlic and Herb Crusted Pork Loin to my list of pork loves.

Knowing that I was going to be making the Lemon Garlic Potatoes for a side dish, I added just a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the crust. Not only did it add a nice flavor to the pork, but it also gave the crust a beautiful golden brown color. The inside of the pork was juicy and even though the crust was on the outside, the herb and garlic flavor was infused into the pork. Really a simple dish you could throw together for company. Or if you’re in the position I was in, pack while it’s cooking, plate and photograph, then eat on the floor surrounded by half full boxes. Whatever fits your needs. 🙂

Garlic and Herb Crusted Pork Loin

1 (4-pound) boneless pork loin, with fat left on
1 Tbsp kosher salt (scant 1/2 tsp if using table salt)
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2-3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves (1 tsp dried thyme)
2 tsp chopped fresh basil leaves (1 tsp dried basil)
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary (1 tsp dried rosemary)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Place the pork in the bottom of a roasting pan. In a small bowl combine the salt, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, thyme, basil, and rosemary to form a thick paste. Spread the mixture over the entire surface of the pork, massaging it into the meat with your fingers.

Roast for 25 minutes at 475 degrees. Then reduce the heat to 375 and roast for 45-60 minutes, using a meat thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. *Once the internal temperature of the pork reaches 145 degrees (Fahrenheit), remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before carving and serving.

*When it comes to cooking meat it’s always best to go off of temperature. 30 minutes into the second roasting start checking the temperature every 5-10 minutes. You may find your pork has reached 145 degrees in less than an hour. You should also note that these times and temperatures have been adjusted from the original recipe from which I made my adaptations. My research has shown that 145 degrees is now the standard for cooking pork and in my experience 155 degrees will yield dry, overcooked pork.

Adapted from Paula Deen via


>4 years ago Jesse gave me my dSLR camera. It is a Canon Rebel Xti and even though I haven’t explored a lot of lenses (just the kit lens, 50 mm and 70-300 mm) I absolutely love it. One day I hope to upgrade both the body and lenses, but for now it serves me well. I have captured a lot of shots with that measly kit lens of my mine and the nifty 50 is my best friend when it comes to food photos. But…. I have a confession to make… Since arriving in China I have only taken my camera out of the bag once, and the battery was dead so I didn’t even take it with me.

I have totally fallen in love with an iPhone app called Instagram (It might be on other smart phones, like Android, as well. Anyone know?). In case you somehow haven’t heard about it yet, it’s a photo app that moonlights as a social networking app. You use it to take a photo, then you choose one of the preset filters (or leave it as is), give it a title or description, and upload it to your feed. You can find your friends and follow their photo feed and in return they can follow you. Another cool feature is the ability to link it to Facebook and Twitter. So if you really like a photo, you can post it right to your Facebook wall from the app.

Needless to say, I’ve been having a lot of fun using this app. I love it so much that I am thinking about trying to do a weekly Sunday post with my favorite Instagram photos from the week.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from this week!

Last weekend we found a grocery store with a huge selection of butter. SCORE!

On Tuesday (Valentine’s day) we had dinner at the hotel then hung out in the hotel’s bar for a little bit. Isn’t my Valentine handsome?

My new friend, Joyce, took me to a new place for lunch on Friday. Mushrooms, rice and soup!

Jesse’s coworker and friend, Derek, took us to lunch on Saturday. How about that fish?! It was actually really really good. Sweet and sour fish with NO bones!

After lunch on Saturday we took a little walk around the pier next to the restaurant.

Today Jesse had to go in to work for a few hours so I’m doing some blogging in the lounge.

Are you on Instagram?? If you are, look for me! My username is Jigginjessica. Let’s share the photo love. 🙂

Basic Chocolate Cake

Hello from China and happy Valentines day!

Well after months of anticipation and weeks of hard work, packing, moving, and flying, I have finally arrived in Suzhou. So now what?

It’s a bit strange because I have pretty much always been a busy person. Much of my adult life has been spent working a full-time job and teaching dance part-time or working a full-time job, a part-time job and teaching dance part-time or going to school full-time, working part-time and teaching part-time or packing/moving and working part-time/full-time. See the pattern? Busy girl. So this abundance of free-time feels a little funny.

Of course I can’t sit still for too long so I am working on filling my time back up. I’m in the process of enrolling in a online BSN program, I also want to start taking classes to learn some Mandarin, and we will be looking for an apartment soon. We went out the other night and found a great grocery store, so once we get in an apartment I can hopefully get back on the cooking and blogging bandwagon. In the meantime I will appreciate the time I have and just be thankful that I am able to take it. I definitely understand how lucky/blessed I am right now.

On the topic of keeping myself busy, in the weeks leading up to the move I did my best to build up a collection of photos and recipes. I also told you that I wanted to share some great baking basics, that might not be the fanciest of techniques, but were great jumping off points and good for when you’re in a pinch and need a go-to dessert recipe.

I’ve already started to compile a collection (and gave it it’s own label of Baking Basics) that includes go-to recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies, Brownies and Blondies. I wanted to add to that list of basics a recipe for both classic chocolate cake and yellow cake.

Today I’m sharing the chocolate cake recipe. You might be confused because the picture is clearly of chocolate cupcakes. And you’re going to be even more confused when I tell you now that this recipe is much better suited for regular layered or sheet cake, and not cupcakes. The crumb is super light and airy and it just doesn’t lend itself to being a sturdy cupcake. It’s also perfect for a layer cake because it *doesn’t* dome up much, which is what you want when you’re stacking cakes but isn’t what you’re looking for when you make cupcakes. Are you sufficiently confused now?

I can’t tell you why I decided that night to make cupcakes instead of pouring it into cake pans and making a regular cake. It probably had something to do with the mountain of boxes and missing kitchen supplies that were surrounding me at the time.

After realizing how ridiculous it would look and sound to tell you it’s better suited for cake, I wanted to remake it and get new pictures. Alas, I ran out of time. Now it’s Valentines day, I am craving chocolate cake and it just feels like the right time to share it.

So again, this recipe makes a KILLER CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE. The crumb is light and airy, but still rich and chocolatey. It uses regular all-purpose flour (which most everyone has on hand) and not cake flour which I look at as a bonus. It calls for coffee, but don’t be worried. It doesn’t taste like coffee it just enhances the chocolate flavor. It can obviously be made into cupcakes, but, again, it’s better suited for CAKE. It’s one of those do what I say and not what I do things. And actually the cake tastes just as rich, moist and delicious in either form so it’s not like making the cupcakes would be wrong… Eek, I should stop before this turns into the worlds longest novel about cake vs. cupcake.

Basic Chocolate Cake

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans with butter, flour, and parchment paper. (Grease pans with butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan. Butter the parchment paper then add about a tablespoon of flour to each pan, shake and tap until it’s evenly distributed)

In a glass measuring cup stir together the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment). With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients, mix until evenly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, add the hot coffee. Mix just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one more time.

Evenly distribute the batter between the two cakes pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow the cake to cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then flip out onto the wire racks. Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.

Source: Ina Garten via Food Network