Recipe | Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloin

Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloin

It’s not easy to make a nice Valentine’s Day dinner mid-week, when there is work, school, and activities. But I was determined to do it yesterday. I’ve been looking through old recipes lately and I knew exactly what I wanted to try: balsamic roast pork tenderloins. This is a recipe I made often when Drew and I were first married. I’m not sure why it’s been so long since I prepared it, but I’m happy to say it will be back in the meal rotation.

The recipe is simple (SO simple), and my kids all loved it, too. Laura especially loved the bits of roasted garlic that flavor the pork.

Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloins

Balsamic roast pork

2  pounds pork tenderloins (1 package with 2 tenderloins)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, cracked
Kosher salt salt and black pepper
2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Trim silver skin or connective tissue off tenderloins with a very sharp thin knife.

Place tender loins on a nonstick, rimmed cookie sheet. Coat tenderloins in a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, rubbing vinegar into meat. Drizzle tenderloins with extra-virgin olive oil, just enough to coat. Cut small slits into meat and disperse chunks of cracked garlic cloves into meat. Combine salt and pepper with rosemary and thyme and rub meat with blend. Roast in hot oven 20 minutes.

Let meat rest, transfer to a carving board, slice and serve.

I served this with baked sweet potatoes and lemon-Parmesan roasted broccoli. This dish would be great to prepare for company because you get a fantastic result with very little effort! Enjoy!

Grocery Day

Grocery Haul

I was trying to think of a blog post for today and, really, all I’ve done is grocery shopping. So I guess that’s what I’ll write about! I have long enjoyed “grocery haul” posts (going way back to the days when Crystal at Money Saving Mom would post what she bought using her $35/week budget). I have done a post like this once or twice, but certainly not in the last couple of years. 

Maybe it’s because I love food and frugality, or maybe I’m just nosy but I really do enjoy seeing what people buy and how they are able to save! I don’t think this is something I’ll do all the time, but maybe on occasion. Of course, if anyone is really interested let me know and I can post grocery hauls a little more regularly.

So first… how I shop. I am not a one store kind of girl. There are some things I always get at one place, some things at another, and then I will hop from store to store for the sales. All these stores are located on the same strip of road, so over the years I have charted my course and if I’m not taking my time I can get it all done in a morning. So, let’s get on with it, shall we?

First stop… Dollar Tree
Grocery haul

I needed lightbulbs and detangler and also picked up some tortillas, spices, and Awesome cleanser. I also got a few other misc. items not pictured here.
Total: 9.48

Sam’s Club
Grocery haul

I went in just for peanut butter and bananas, but I was really excited to find this cilantro jalapeno hummus! I really enjoy the Panera sandwich that uses this flavor hummus and I’ve never seen it in a store anywhere. I hope the flavor is close. I also purchased this Italiano dip because it sounded really good and sometimes items at Sam’s come and go. Thinking I may save this for a party.
Total: 22.24

Walmart
Grocery haul

I was happy that they still have those 1.98 wire baskets. I wanted a few for our bathrooms to hold extra TP. The rose gold was very coppery so I just went with gold. These baskets are really sturdy and I think the price is a bargain! I also scored on beef. One package will be made into burgers for the freezer and I’ll make some beef jerky with the extra-lean stuff. The whisk was a random purchase because it was 50 cents and my wisk is on its last legs. Rugalach was on the day-old bakery counter, so I snatched that up. Then Go-Gurts for Laura’s school lunches, cottage cheese, onions, and red cabbage.
Total: 35.90

ShopRite
Grocery haulShopRite had our favorite American cheese on sale this week, so that was the main reason I stopped in. Also got some turkey for wraps for lunches, and ground turkey which I’ll divide up for the freezer. We prefer to use ground turkey for tacos, but we also like turkey burgers and in the next week or so I’ll use it for copycat P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps, which we haven’t had in forever.
Total: 19.26

Aldi
Grocery haul

Aldi is where I purchase most of our staples. You can’t beat their prices on most items and with only a few exceptions, they’re just as good if not better than the name brands. I bought a giant tub of spring mix (we go through this like crazy), tri-colored peppers, zucchini, carrots, avocado (such a deal this week at 69-cents! I’ll enjoy them while I can), gala apples (my favorite – I eat one a day!), Parmesan cheese, fresh mozzarella, spinach wraps, bagels, fries, half-and-half, eggs, cream cheese, juice boxes, pretzels, unsalted peanuts (they were out last time so I bought two today).
Total: 36.91

And finally, Tops
Grocery haul

I had to pick up our prescriptions and because Wednesdays tend to be crazy, I decided to get fried chicken for dinner just to make things easy. That and a salad and leftover potato salad or chips will be a supper that no one can argue with! I also grabbed my yogurts because they are on sale (have you tried the Dannon whole milk yogurt? SO good!), and these deli soups were BOGO. 
Total: 17.63

So my grand total for groceries today was: $141.42. Considering we are a family of 5, with one teenage boy and one tween boy, I don’t think that’s horrible. Some of this will last us much longer than a week. And there are always incidentals during the week that get picked up (for example, Drew grabbed milk yesterday on his way home, and this doesn’t take into account the ham and bread I’d purchased earlier in the week for school lunches). But obviously, it’s the bulk of my weekly shopping. Living in New York, prices are definitely higher here than in other parts of the country, and we really don’t go out to eat often so everything is made at home. I don’t have a grocery budget per se, so during the month of February I’m really going to track my spending in this area to make sure I’m not going crazy!

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

thanksgivingdinnerCan you believe that Thanksgiving is in just two days? Time just flies this time of year. Normally, I consider Thanksgiving my favorite holiday but due to the nature of this year I’m not quite as into it as I usually am. Nevertheless, I’m doing my best to make it a good holiday.

As usual, we will be hosting at our house. I don’t find the cooking to be a chore, and honestly we really like not having to drive anywhere on Thanksgiving. (Plus, I can have an extra glass of wine — ha!) Drew’s mom and aunt will be coming up, but that’s all so it will just be seven people.

My Thanksgiving menu doesn’t change much from year to year. I keep it pretty traditional, though I’ll try a new recipe or two sometimes. Usually one of the appetizers or desserts will be something new.

Here’s my list…

Cheese ball and crackers
Devilled eggs

Roast Turkey with sausage-cranberry stuffing
Gravy
Mashed potatoes
Roasted sweet potatoes
Asparagus (it happens to be on sale this week and Drew requested it)
Cornbread with cranberry honey butter (new recipe)
Tossed salad
Corn
Cranberry sauce

Sugar-free blueberry pie
Pecan pie or sugared pecan topped cheesecake

For wines I have a riesling, a vino verde, and a petit syrah. I also found a non-alcoholic black currant cordial that I thought might be nice either mixed with seltzer or kicked up with vodka. So we will try that, too! 

A couple weeks ago I made a 9-lb. chicken, so this 12.5-lb. turkey won’t be too far off! Of course, I will also have my Crock Pot ready with onions, celery, and carrots to make an overnight turkey stock. I look forward to the soup as much as the roast bird! And of course I also love a turkey sandwich on Thanksgiving night. I always like to have it on white bread with American cheese and lots of mayo. It’s one of those things from my childhood that still just makes me feel all happy and at home!

Today I also started a cranberry fluff, which we will be taking to the “feast” in my daughter’s class tomorrow. If it comes out good I’ll be sure to write about it.

What about you? Are you hosting Thanksgiving or travelling somewhere? Anything new and exciting on your menu or do you also keep things fairly simple and traditional?

Recipe | Savory Tomato Pie

savory tomato pie

Those who have stuck with my blog for a long time may remember that for a while I attempted to keep my recipes in a separate blog I called “Sugar & Spice.” I just never really kept it up, finding it preferable to keep them here instead. Several months ago I finally decided to delete it from my domain, so of course I downloaded all the content. I’ve been going through all the recipes on there, and realized that many of them I have not made in years! One of those recipes is for Tomato Pie.

Well, Jake made his Confirmation on Friday and with family and friends coming to celebrate I wanted to make a meal that would be tasty, but didn’t need to be hot (the Mass was at 5:30 and I knew we wouldn’t be home until close to 7, at which point everyone would be starving). I settled on a menu that couple be prepared ahead of time: London Broil, green bean and feta salad, pasta salad, and I decided to make this tomato pie after remembering that I made pretty much the same meal for his Baptism!

I made three of these pies for 12 people (8 slices per pie), and only 2 slices were leftover! Yes, it was a huge hit and everyone was asking me for the recipe. The best part? It’s very easy, especially if you cheat on the pie crusts like I do. This would be awesome late in the summer when your tomato plants are going crazy – it’s the perfect side dish and you can change up the herbs however you want. 

Savory Tomato Pie

savory tomato pie

1 frozen pie crust, thawed
2 large tomatoes cut into 1/4″ slices
Kosher salt for sprinkling
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2-3 slices deli Swiss cheese
2-3 slices deli Provolone cheese
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Additional salt and pepper to taste.
Freshly-grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Spread the tomato slices evenly on a cookie sheet covered with paper towels or a clean dish towel and sprinkle liberally with salt. Allow the salted tomatoes to set for about 20 min. Meanwhile, bake empty pie crust according to package directions, and remove from oven. 

Turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees. Spread the mustard over the bottom of the baked pie crust (add more if you need to). Layer the Swiss slices on top of the mustard, than layer the Provolone on top of the Swiss. Layer the tomatoes on top and bake until the pie crust is golden brown and the tomatoes are very soft. (Approx. 35-40 min.)

In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil. When you remove the pie from the oven, sprinkle thhis mixture over the top and carefully spread it out using either a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Top with just a little bit of freshly-grated Romano (my preferance) or Parmesan cheese.

Allow the pie to cool, and serve barely warm or at room temperature.

One pie would be enough for 4-5 people, but just to be safe I’d make two pies because you’re going to want an extra slice or two (plus, the freezer pie crusts always comes 2/pack, so it just makes sense, right?).

Cretons (French-Canadian Pork Pate)

Cretons (French-Canadian Pork Pate)Many years ago, when my husband’s French-Canadian grandmother was still alive, I remember my mother-in-law serving something called cretons at the holidays. Initially, I was put off by this strange pork pate. It was eaten cold, either on crackers or toast, and contained what I (at that time) considered “sweet” spices. I couldn’t wrap my head around how it all worked together.

Flash forward a few years. My husband and our two boys went on a vacation to Quebec while I stayed home with our teeny baby. The hotel served cretons as part of their traditional breakfast and D. fell in love with it all over again. I decided I was going to try making a version.

Over the years I’ve tweaked a bit here and a bit there, and today I’m sharing the version I make. It is authentic? I can’t say — I’ve never tried the real thing! D. assures me, however, that it is pretty darn close. My favorite way to enjoy cretons is spread on top of a buttered, toasted English muffin. Toast will do nicely, too. But you need to have the butter — it just adds a little extra something. So please, just take it from me and try this! I think you’ll agree that it’s a delicious treat.

Cretons (French-Canadian Pork Pate)

Cretons

1 lb. ground pork
1 med. onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

Brown pork in a large pan along with the chopped onions and garlic. Add the salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute. Transfer pork mixture to a food processor and pulse until the meat reaches an extremely fine consistency.
Return the pork mixture to the pan and add the milk and bread crumbs and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Stir well to blend everything together. Reduce the heat to LOW, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is very tender and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 30-40 min. Remove the lid and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and all the liquid is evaporated. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.
Transfer to a bowl and smooth the top with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate until well chilled and firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Adventures in Fermentation – Pickles

Polish Dill Pickles

There’s nothing like a good pickle. Am I right? A crunchy, tangy, sour pickle is the perfect companion to a lunchtime sandwich. I’ve made various types of pickles before — the quick-pickled “overnight” pickles and vinegar-brined pickles that were then canned for storage. But despite all of my attempts, none ever seemed to compare to the delicious Polish dill pickles my Babci used to make.

Ogórki kiszone (oh-GOORR-kee keeSHOH-neh) was a summertime staple in our house. My uncle had a huge garden and every summer my grandmother would make jars of garlicky pickles from the buckets of cucumbers that were harvested.  The kiszone recipe was simple: cucumbers, dill, garlic, salt, and water. You add everything to a jar, let it sit on the counter, and after a while you magically had delicious pickles!

Back then I didn’t realize what the magic was, but I now know that it’s simply fermentation. So when my husband gave me a Kraut Source gadget for Valentine’s day, I knew that this summer I’d be making my own version of Babci’s pickles.

Kraut Source

A couple weeks ago I finally decided to give it a shot. The batch took all of 10 minutes to put together, and the Kraut Source airlock lid was really easy to use. Could this possibly taste good? It’s way too easy, I thought. But I figured it was worth trying.

Polish Dill Pickles

I set the jar on the counter and went about my business. A few days later, I checked on the pickles and started to worry. I had a few concerns.

  1. My fermented pickle brine looks cloudy. Is this normal? Is it supposed to look like that?
    — After a little research I learned that the answer is YES! A cloudy brine is normal and is to be expected. It’s due to the growth of lactic acid bacteria and it’s a sign that fermentation is occurring.
  2. There are white flakes or white specks at the bottom of my jar of fermented pickles. What is it? Are they still safe to eat?
    — I was reassured to learn that the white bits are again, due to the lactic acid bacteria. Nothing needs to be done.

Whew! It was all going to be OK.

A week after I started the process, I decided to crack open the jar and have a family taste test. You understand, I live with some of the world’s most discriminating pickle connesiours. So you can only imagine my excitement when my husband and all three kids started fighting over pickle pieces and declared them “AMAZING!!!”

Hot damn, it worked! I’m not going to say that they were as good as my Babci’s, but they were definitely close.

Polish Dill Pickles

Ogórki Kiszone (Polish Garlic Dill Pickles)
6-8 pickling cucumbers, washed and dried
4 cloves peeled, smashed garlic
1 stem dill with seeds (or 2 Tbsp. dried dill weed)
1 bay leaf
2-3 Tbsp. kosher salt, sea salt, or pickling salt (do not use table salt)
2 cups water

      Bring 2 cups of filtered water to a boil. Pour into a bowl and dissolve the salt. Allow the brine to cool completely.

 

      Trim the blossom ends off the cucumbers. (This helps them stay crunchy). You may leave the stem end on, if you like.

 

      Add the garlic, bay leaf, and dill to the bottom of a wide-mouthed quart-sized canning jar. Pack in the cucumbers.

 

      Cover the pickles with the cooled salt brine until it reaches about 1” above the shoulder of the mason jar. It is important that every bit of vegetable is covered with water, so trim the cukes down if necessary.

 

      If you have a KrautSource, follow the directions to secure it on the lid. If you don’t have the gadget, no problem. Loosely (may I stress loosely?) close the jar with a sterilized cap. Do not secure it tightly – the carbon dioxide that is produced during fermentation needs to escape.

 

    Store the jar out of direct heat (on the countertop should be fine) and check on your pickles every few days to make sure they’re still covered with water. After 7 days, your pickles should be ready to eat.

I can’t wait to experiment further with fermented pickles! For my first batch I used dried dill, but I know the flavor would be a lot better with fresh dill, so my next batch will definitely include it.

Blueberry Dutch Baby Pancake

Blueberry Dutch Baby

I first read about Dutch Babies years ago. I am pretty sure I clipped a recipe out of a very old “Taste of Home” magazine and filed it away. I never got around to making it. Last weekend we were watching an episode of “Bob’s Burgers” and somehow Dutch Babies were involved. My husband laughed  and thought that a Dutch Baby was some sort of joke. I explained that it was for sure a real thing! There was no no question: I was finally going to make my Dutch Baby. I looked through several recipes and finally settled on one to use as a base.

A Dutch Baby is sort of like a pancake, sort of like a clafoutis. It’s light and custardy and (as I would soon learn from my family) is not for everyone. While I thought it was heavenly, the kids were not as impressed. They probably would have preferred regular pancakes or a blueberry coffee cake. Nevertheless, I thought it was delicious and will make it again — even if it means I have to eat it all by myself!

Blueberry Dutch Baby
Inspired by: Everyday Food Magazine

  • 3 Tbsp. room-temperature unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium-sized cast iron skillet. (I did this by simply putting the skillet in the oven while it heated up. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn!)

In a blender (or large Magic Bullet cup), combine eggs, milk, flower, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Blend until the ingredients are well-combined and the batter is slightly foamy.  Remove the skillet from oven and add the blueberries. Then pour the batter into the skillet. Bake for about 20 minutes until the panacake is puffy, slightly browned, and the sides have slightly pulled away from the pan.

Dot the last tablespoon of butter onto the top of the Dutch Baby and sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.

Blueberry Dutch Baby