Friday, August 26, 2011

Quick & Easy!

I recently had a request for an easy weeknight dinner, and I pretty quickly settled on this Herb-crusted pork loin roast & vegetables.  It's quick & easy enough for a weeknight, and special enough for a Sunday dinner.  The bonus is that your whole meal is in one pan - how great is that?!  The pork sits on the vegetables & potatoes that you have placed in the bottom of the roasting pan, so they brown in the drippings from the pork.  To die for!  Make sure you do not overcook your pork.  The roasting time of this recipe depends on the size of your pork (this one calls for 4lb pork loin roast).  I cook mine to 140 degrees on an instant read thermometer, then I tent it with aluminum foil & let it rest for 10 minutes.  It will finish cooking as it sits.  I promise.

Now that school is back in session, I look for these types of dinners to ease the daily stress.  Many of our afternoons are spent at the barn riding horses and we don't get home until 5:00, so I need delicious dinners that are quick.   Look for a lot more of these recipes in the near future, because I'm on a mission to create them.  This one is for Jean and everyone else who is in need of a wonderful dinner that is easy, delicious & your whole family will love! 

Herb-Crusted Pork Loin Roast & Vegetables

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 T stone-ground mustard
1 T minced fresh garlic
1 T minced fresh thyme
1 T minced fresh sage leaves
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 boneless pork loin roast (4 lb.)
kosher salt & black pepper to taste
6 large Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
6 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
6 whole shallots, peeled

Preheat oven to 400.
Pat vegetables dry & scatter them in the roasting pan.  Stir together butter, mustard, garlic, thyme, sage & rosemary in a small bowl.  Dry outside of pork roast with paper towels, then rub top & sides with the butter mixture.  Season roast with salt & pepper; place buttered side up in the roasting pan on top of the vegetables.  Roast meat & vegetables in oven until pork reaches internal temperature of 140 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 40 minutes.  Remove pork from pan, tent with aluminum foil & allow to rest 10 minutes.  Toss vegetables in pan & return to oven to continue roasting while the pork rests.  Slice pork & serve with vegetables.

You can make this recipe even quicker by cutting up the vegetables & refrigerating them the day before.  Make sure to keep the potatoes in a bowl of water to prevent browning.  Mix the herb butter & chill (allow the butter to soften before putting it on the roast). 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Soup in the Summer? Yes!

I love filling my house with the warm aromas of simmering soups on crisp Fall afternoons & chilly Winter evenings. Soup just seems to warm your body and soul. Recently, my husband underwent a dental procedure and could only have semi-soft food. I immediately thought of ten different soups I loved & could make for him; but wait a second, I thought, it's July & 92 degrees outside. How could I possibly make soup?? Well, I had no choice, the man had to eat, so I put aside my prejudice against soup in the Summer & pressed on. For selfish reasons, I chose Sausage, Tomato & Orzo Soup, which is one of my hands-down favorites. One of the bonuses of this recipe is that it calls for two tomatoes...back to the farm stand I go!  I have been preparing this mouth-watering soup for years, but have never made it in the Summer.  With hindsight being 20/20, I now see the genius in Summer preparation of this dish.  The tomatoes play a major role, so fresh farmstand tomatoes take this recipe to an epic level.  I must admit that I no longer feel that I can't make soup in the Summer, it was fabulous! I can't wait for our next Summer soup night; but let's leave the dentist out of it!

Sausage, Tomato & Orzo Soup

For the Parmesan croutons:
3 C baguette, cubed
1/2 C Parmesan, grated

For the soup:
1lb. Link Italian sausage, sliced into 1" pieces
2C onions, diced
1 T garlic, minced
2 tsp. Dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. Red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
1/2 C dry white wine
4 C (32oz.) chicken broth
2 C tomatoes, seeded & diced
1/2 C dry orzo pasta
3 C fresh spinach, chopped
Parmesan croutons

The Parmesan croutons take this soup over the top. They only take a few minutes to make, so don't skip this step!

Toast baguette cubes in 2T olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove pan from heat, toss with Parmesan;set aside.

Saute sausage in 2T olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until browned. Add the onion, garlic, and seasonings; cook 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is soft.

Deglaze with wine & reduce until almost evaporated. Add broth, tomatoes & orzo; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 10 minutes, or until pasta is cooked.

Stir in spinach until wilted. Serve soup with croutons on top.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes!

July in the South is a month that brings some of the hottest days of the summer, but it also brings the beloved tomato season!!!  While one can go to the grocery store any time of the year and procure tomatoes, summer is the only time when you can get "real" tomatoes.  Who makes a tomato sandwich in December?  Or a tomato pie in February?  Really.  My anticipation of fresh Summer tomatoes is on par with Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin.  I kid you not.  My mouth waters at the thought of white bread, Hellman's mayonnaise, sliced Summer tomatoes & a hint of salt.  Now that's heaven.  Pulling into the gravel lot of the farm stand causes my heart rate to increase a bit, anticipating the bounty I am about to behold.  I get my bags full of tomatoes (who can leave with just one?) and rush home to my waiting loaf of white bread.  If I close my eyes, I almost feel like a kid again, sitting at my mother's kitchen table eating that much loved summer treat.  What are you waiting for?  I'll see you at the farm stand.......

Here are two of my favorite tomato recipes (besides the tomato sandwich, of course); Cucumber & Tomato Salad and Tomato Pie.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!!

Cucumber & Tomato Salad

2 cucumbers, peeled & thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled & sliced (*see note below on peeling tomatoes)
1 large vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. dill
1 T white vinegar
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (or to taste)
1/4 C parsley, chopped
2 T Canola oil

Put cucumbers, tomatoes & onions in large bowl.  Combine remaining ingredients.  Toss all together & chill two hours before serving.

*To peel a tomato.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Carefully drop tomato into water for about 10 seconds.  Remove from water & peel (the peel will easily pull off).

Tomato Pie

4 tomatoes, peeled & sliced
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
3/4 cup thinly sliced vidalia onion
1 (9") pre-baked deep dish pie shell*
1 C grated mozzarella
1 C grated cheddar
1 C mayonnaise
salt & pepper to taste

Bake pie crust according to package directions.  Set aside.
Place tomatoes on wire rack, sprinkle both sides with salt & let drain approximately 10 minutes.
Layer tomato, basil & onion in pie shell.  Combine cheeses & mayonnaise.  Spread over top. 
Bake 350 degrees, 30 minutes.
Serve warm.

*I use Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts found in the dairy section of the grocery store.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fourth of July Treat!

Need a last minute idea for the 4th?  How about Mini Cheese Cake bites with strawberries & blueberries?  They make a wonderful red, white & blue dessert that the whole family will enjoy!  I challenge you to eat just one!

Merry Cheese Cakes

1 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C butter, softened
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C chopped walnuts

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg
2 T milk
2 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pie Filling (cherry, strawberry, blueberry)

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine first 3 ingredients (do not cream butter first).  Beat with mixer at low speed until particles are fine.  Stir in nuts.  Reserve 1 cup of mixture; put remainder in ungreased 8" square glass dish.  Bake 8 - 10 miutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven.
In small bowl combine filling ingredients & blend until smooth.  Spread over crust.  Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Return to oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool & cut into squares.  Top with pie filling & serve.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Breakfast is Served.....

We have a lot of friends & family who visit us, and nothing makes guests feel more welcome than waking up to a delicious homemade breakfast.  This is why I am always on the hunt for wonderful breakfast ideas.  Who wouldn't love to wake up to the aroma of warm french bread dripping with caramel that is coated with a cinnamon sugar glaze?  This recipe for Caramel-Soaked French Toast is just that and more!  What's even better is that you throw it together the day before, so in the morning all you have to do is put it in the oven to bake.  Perfect.  I have been making Caramel-Soaked French Toast  for my family & friends for as long as I can remember, and I hope you & yours enjoy it as much as we do!!!  I would love to hear about your family's favorite breakfast dishes!!!

Caramel-Soaked French Toast

1 1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 C butter
1/4 C plus 2 T light corn syrup
10 (1 3/4 inch-thick) slices French bread
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 C half & half
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
3 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 C butter, melted

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until mixture is bubbly.  Pour syrup mixture evenly into a lightly greased 13"x9" baking dish.  Arrange bread slices over syrup.
Combine eggs and next 3 ingredients; stir well.  Gradually pour mixture over bread slices.  Cover & chill at least 8 hours.  (I let it sit overnight.)
Combine 3 tablespoons sugar & cinnamon; stir well.  Sprinkle evenly over soaked bread.  Drizzle 1/4 cup melted butter over bread.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 - 50 minutes or until golden & bubbly.  Serve immediately. 
Yield:  10 servings

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Love Affair with Pork Sausage

As crazy as this sounds to my own ears, there was a time in my life when I was not aware of the existence of pork sausage. My father had a corporate career that moved us all over the country, starting in California, and eventually landing us in Rhode Island where my brother Derek and I grew up. We had wonderful food there, but little did I know that I had yet to meet one of my favorite food groups - pork sausage!

It wasn't until we moved to Oklahoma in 1986 that I made the aquaintance of my new friend. Derek and I went out for breakfast one morning and biscuits & gravy were on the menu. Hmmm....that sounded interesting. I did know what cream gravy was, and I knew I liked that! Well, a love affair was born that morning and I've never looked back. I find a way to slip that luscious meat into just about any type of dish; cheese dip, hashbrown casserole, chili, enchiladas, muffins, spaghetti sauce, stuffed mushrooms, squash casserole...I could go on & on!

I have also introduced many friends to my favorite food vice. My best friend in Elementary school, Marisa, had recently moved down to the South from Rhode Island. Needless to say I was ecstatic! I had Marisa, her husband Tom and their kids over for dinner and served stuffed mushrooms with pork sausage as an appetizer. Well of course they were hooked! The funny part was trying to explain to Marisa what the package of sausage looked like. I kept telling her it looked like a round tube - I think it took a couple of trips to the store for her to finally find it! Little did she know that all she had to do was ask any person in that grocery store and they would have taken her right to it. This is the South after all!

The following recipe is one of my absolute favorites. After you serve this, just stop for a moment and listen to everyone at the table. I promise, there will be lots of mmmms. By the way, Marisa likes this one too!

Biscuits & Gravy

3/4 lb. ground pork sausage
1/4 Cup butter
1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 Cup half & half
1 1/2 Cup milk (I use skim, but any kind works)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp Italian Seasoning

Biscuits (no reason to make these from scratch. Buy Pillsbury frozen biscuits; buttermilk is my favorite)
  • Bake the biscuits while you're making the gravy
  • Brown the sausage, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings in the pan. Drain sausage on paper towels & set aside.
  • Add butter to drippings & melt on low
  • Add flour & whisk until smooth. Cook 1 minute
  • Gradually add half & half and milk
  • Stir constantly until thick & bubbly
  • Stir in sausage & spices
  • Split biscuits open & pour gravy over the top

I hope you love it!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Request Granted...

I've had a request for one of my favorite summer appetizer recipes, Avocado Salsa. It's simple, easy & delicious! Actually, you can make it any time of the year.....just substitute quartered grape tomatoes for the 1 large fresh tomato. I'm also adding a second appetizer recipe this week that is wonderful when you have a large crowd. Enjoy!

Avocado Salsa

2 avocadoes, diced
1 large tomato, peeled & diced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Gently toss all ingredients together in bowl (you want it chunky). Serve with tortilla chips.

Seven Layer Southwestern Dip
(the amounts in this recipe do not have to be exact - just have fun with it!)

1 small can refried beans
3 cups shredded lettuce
1 (15oz.) can black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (any color - I prefer red)
1/4 cup sliced green onion
8 oz. sour cream
2 fresh jalapenos, sliced (you can use less, or omit if desired)
1 tsp. shredded lime peel
1 cup (8 oz. jar) chunky salsa, drained
1/2 avocado, diced
2/3 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, or muenster work well)
1/3 cup sliced ripe olives
  • Line 12" platter with beans, then cover with lettuce.
  • Stir together black beans (that have been rinsed & drained), bell pepper & green onion. Spoon on top of lettuce, leaving a slight border of lettuce.
  • Dollop sour cream on top & spread, leaving border.
  • Sprinkle with jalapenos & lime peel.
  • Stir together drained salsa & avocado. Spoon over sour cream layer, leaving border.
  • Sprinkle cheese on top, again leaving border & top with olives.

It's fun to brown some Chorizo sausage & mix it in with the beans before spreading them on the platter!

Serve immediately or cover & chill up to 8 hours. I like this best with Fritos Scoops, but any tortilla chip works!