Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pumpkin Braised Pork with Greens ~ An updated New Year's Tradition

Ringing in the year with 'good luck' dinners is a custom that goes way back. I previously told you about the German-based tradition my family follows, which features roasted pork and sauerkraut. The dish I'm making today is a variation on that theme, where the pork roast is enhanced with a pumpkin sauce for the slow cooking that ensues.  In the winter I like to make slow cooked dishes that are mostly one-pot meals. They warm the kitchen and add a fragrance to that makes your house feel like home. You can make this dish in a crock pot or in a Dutch oven.  I'll give you the subtle differences in preparation below. And if you want to add cabbage or sauerkraut you certainly can.

Julian's Pumpkin Braised Pork with Kale
Pumpkin, pork shoulder and winter curly kale make the perfect combination for meals served on cold winter days.  Until recently I haven't used pork shoulder much in my cooking.  But this Spring when it was still quite chilly I included it in an Italian sauce and served it with pasta.  The in the summer I found myself slow roasting/smoking it on the grill.  So it really is a versatile cut of meat that only requires long, slow cooking to render it tender and flavorful.

I got the idea for this recipe from a photo in Williams-Sonoma's catalog, where you can also purchase the pumpkin braising sauce pre-made if you don't mind the price.  I give you the ingredients to make it yourself, although I did try the sauce from Williams-Sonoma and it is as good as my own so don't be shy about using it if you are in a hurry.

I also made this with fresh pumpkin puree, but in the recipe below it really doesn't matter.  If you want to add fresh pumpkin and make the puree in the pot as you go, roughly follow these instructions.

Browning the pre-cut pork adds more surface for flavor.
If you haven't cooked with curly kale, give it a try.  It absorbs the flavors of the sauce and adds great color and nutrients to the dish.  It's tough, as you will see when you clean it, and as such holds up well to the cooking.

Finally, if you can get boneless pork shoulder the preparation is quick (as in 15-20 minutes).  From there it just cooks for several hours as the flavors meld and the meat becomes tender.  If you use a bone in roast, the carving and removing of the bone will add about 20 minutes to the preparation time.

Ingredients (serves 6-8 adults)
2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-2" pieces
salt and pepper
1 large yellow onion
1 1/2 cups white wine*
14 ounce can crushed tomatoes*
15 ounces pumpkin puree*
1 cup apple cider*
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar*
1-2 cups chicken stock*
pinch of brown sugar*
pinch of cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound carrots
fresh mushrooms (optional)
1 bunch curly kale

*these items are used if you are not using prepared (canned) braising sauce.

In a large heavy Dutch oven (or a skillet if you are going to use a crockpot for cooking), heat oil until very hot but not smoking.  Season the pork pieces with salt and pepper.  In small batches so the meat doesn't touch one another while cooking, quickly brown on two sides. Remember meat sticks to the surface until well browned when it naturally releases.  Do not to turn it prematurely. Remove to a bowl and repeat until all the pork is browned.

Sauce:  Peel and roughly chop the onion into large chunks.  Add the onion to the pot/skillet and cook 3-4 minutes, until beginning to soften.  If using prepared pumpkin braising sauce add it to the pot and skip to the next paragraph now.  Otherwise, add the white to the pot and deglaze the bottom scraping loose any brown bits and incorporating into the mixture. Stir in the tomatoes, pumpkin, apple cider, and cider vinegar. Cook for 2-3 minutes reducing heat to medium as the mixture begins to simmer. Add the chicken stock until you have a loose sauce that it somewhat watery.  This will cook down during the long cooking period and become more thick. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and taste. Adjust spices as needed for your taste. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and stir to combine.

Braise:  Cut the carrots into 2 inch or so chunks.  Wash the mushrooms.  Add the browned pork into the sauce along with half the carrots and half the mushrooms.  Stir to combine.  Place the Dutch Oven in a 325F oven or place the mixture into the crock pot set on high and cover.  Cook for 3-4 hours, until the meat is tender.  It will cook more quickly in the Dutch Oven.  Check for moisture content several times while cooking. If necessary add water to maintain a sauce consistency.  After the pork has cooked for 2 hours, add the remaining carrots and mushrooms.

Clean the kale by tearing off the leaf portions into 1-2" pieces.  Discard the tough stems. Approximately 20 minutes from serving time, stir in the kale. Serve with mashed potatoes or French bread for dipping. There will be some sauce that may be used for gravy on the potatoes, or simply plate the potatoes and place the braised pork over them.

Julian's Pumpkin Braised Pork Shoulder with winter Greens

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Loaf ~ Perfect for Christmas Morning

These easy make-ahead, freezable loaves will become part of your standard baking repertoire. Because of the apples they stay moist longer than a normal breakfast bread.  They also freeze beautifully and are almost as good as when they were fresh from the oven.

The "winning" Apple Cinnamon Loaf Recipe
I tested multiple recipes to find just what gave the best results.  On Pinterest and Facebook you see many recipes with lovely photos.  But if you've tried them you know you must beware.  Some of them are really just marketing gimmicks to get you to look at a page that contains an ad.  With this recipe you needn't worry.  I've done all of the testing and taken the best of several recipes and made them in to one that never fails.

Look Good ~ Taste Bad
These three cute little loves above don't look bad at all.  I got this recipe on Facebook.  And while the flavor wasn't terrible, it wasn't good and worse yet the texture seemed all wrong.  Instead of crumbly and brown, the dough was white and pasty.  They failed to rise properly.  I won't bore you with the many other tests and related photos, just suffice it to say that the winning recipe below will make a great breakfast loaf or snack for your family and fill the house will the wonderful smells of winter baking at the same time.  Give it a try and let me know how you like it!  Merry Christmas!


2 cups flour
Better Topping than Loaf
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar (granulated white)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons applesauce
2 apples

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Combine flour, soda, salt and spices. Set aside. In a large mixer cream the butter until lighter yellow and somewhat fluffy.  With the mixer on a medium-high speed, slowly add the white then brown sugar until well combined.  Beat in the eggs and applesauce. (May use sweet or unsweetened applesauce.) With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Stop the mixer.  Peel, core and chop the apples into small pieces. Fold in with a spoon or with the mixer on very low/stir.

Spoon the batter into a loaf pan(s) that have been greased or sprayed with food release (Pam).  Use one standard loaf pan or three mini-loaf pans.

Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the tops of the loaf(s).

Bake 30-35 minutes for mini-loaf or 55-60 minutes for a standard loaf, or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Making many for Christmas gifts.

Wrapped and ready to go!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Veal Scallopini with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Italian-Americans often serve classic Italian dishes for the holidays.  In my family we frequently had pasta for Christmas and pork for the New Year celebration, as was the custom of the German immigrants in our area.  This year I'm serving up Veal Scallopini with a rich, silky mushroom cream sauce.

Julian's Veal Scallopini with Mushroom Cream Sauce
Of course a good mushroom cream sauce will go with just about anything, but one of my favorites is veal.  By quickly browning the veal, then topping with the cream sauce, you will have very tender veal with a mild sauce just perfect this time of the year.  I love the flavor and texture you get when you combine the veal with cooked mushrooms and cream.  You can of course substitute chicken if you prefer.

So easy to make, I prepare it in all seasons.
Because veal scallopini is pounded out quit thin, it’s easy to over cook.  If you do over cook it, you’ll turn the tender, delicate veal into a tough unappetizing piece of meat.  Veal this thin takes only 2-3 minutes total cooking time if your skillet is hot enough to begin with.

Julia Child is well known for adding her mushrooms to a dish near the end.  She preferred, or perhaps was trained, to like them more firm.  To my mind however, they are better more fully cooked when they have released their flavorful fluids into your sauce and lose that somewhat slimy but firm texture. The choice is of course yours.

When choosing your menu remember that, because both the veal and the sauce is rich, relatively small servings and lighter side dishes are in order.  My Italian butcher sells veal already pounded thin and cut into portions.  If yours does not then you will start by placing the meat between sheets of plastic wrap and pounding it thin.  You should plan on about two pieces per person or a bit more if you have big holiday eaters.

Veal Medallions Cut and Pounded Thin by Butcher

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

1 pound veal medallions (approximately)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 small onion diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (any type)
1 clove garlic diced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
salt and pepper


Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.  Sprinkle veal lightly with salt and pepper.  Add olive oil and one tablespoon of butter to a fry/saute pan and heat over high heat. Lightly flour enough of the veal medallions to fit into your pan. Do not over-crowd the pan. Do not flour the remainder until ready for cooking. Quickly brown the veal on one side (no more than 2 minutes) then turn and cook for one minute more on the other side. Remove to an oven safe platter and cover with foil.  Saute any remaining veal using the same technique.  Add a little more oil if necessary.  Transfer all veal to the platter, cover with foil and place in the warm oven.

Click To Englarge
Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the pan along with the diced onions and saute for a minute or two, then add the mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cook until the liquid from the mushrooms is mostly evaporated. Stir in the garlic.  

Add the white wine and de-glaze the pan (stirring loose any brown bits stuck to the pan, as these are a flavor powerhouse.)  Add the chicken stock and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the dried tarragon and the Dijon mustard and stir to combine, then stir in the cream.  Cook until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.  Taste and add salt/pepper as necessary.

Remove the veal from the oven and top with the cream sauce.  Garnish with dried parsley and serve.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Julia Childs' Famous Boeuf Bourguignon

Tougher cuts of beef can be prepared in a number of ways to render them juicy and flavorful, but perhaps none is more famous than the method Julia Child demonstrated in her first episode of Public Television's the French Chef way back in 1963.  Now you may be scared off by the French name but it really refers to beef prepared in the style of the peasants that lived in the Burgundy region of France.  If peasants can prepare this dish, so can you!

Julian's Bouef Bourguignon ~ Delicious!
Like most places, the less fortunate in life had to make do with the less desirable (less tender) parts of the meat and I'm sure this is what developed the cooking techniques that evolved.  And as wine was plentiful in Burgundy, it became a key ingredient in preparing this classic dish.

The dish bears some resemblance to other beef dishes like Classic Yankee Pot Roast and Old Fashioned Country Roundsteak.  Beef stew also shares techniques with this hearty meal, as the meat is cut into pieces and cooked in a sauce for tenderizing. The key elements here are browning the meat first, then cooking it in liquid slowly for 3-4 hours.  Many variations on this theme will work, and you need not follow Julia's classic technique to the letter for a successful dinner, so long as you remember the key elements. I strongly suggest using red wine, onions and mushrooms, but you may omit anything that doesn't suit your taste or add carrots or other vegetables for flavor.

Rather than reproduce her technique for you as I normally do, instead you can watch the famous episode in its entirety here, and get the techniques straight from Julia.  It's a relatively short video.

As you can see in my photos, I did serve it with the classic boiled potatoes and as she suggests, I also added the mushrooms just at the end so they 'don't disappear into the sauce'.  The meat does come out fork tender and packed with flavor.  Cutting into large chunks to begin with renders smaller, nice sized pieces for serving, each coated all around in that silky flavorful sauce.  I did use a good Burgundy wine as she suggests, but I've had equal success with all good hearty red wines when making this classic dish.  If for some reason you don't wish to use wine, substitute with 50/50 beef/chicken broth.

Served with the classic boiled potatoes and green beans.

Note to self "buy more Burgundy wine next time."

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes ~ A Vegetarian Entree

After the holiday feasting you may be in the mood for some vegetarian fare and so this week I’m making a great new dish that is filling yet healthy.  I’ve made this twice previously and even a guest that indicated he didn’t really like sweet potatoes found it very good.  The potato really just acts to hold the other ingredients together and I did serve them in the sweet potato skin, but certainly you could place the mixture in a ramekin or other baking dish.

Julian's Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
This recipe has many founders as shown when searched on Pinterest, but I think they all originate from the Pinch of Yum food blog.  Wherever they came from they are certainly good and deserve to be added to your Meatless Monday repertoire.

2 large sweet potatoes, well proportioned
2 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked, cleaned and patted dry.  (Substitute frozen corn)
1 12-15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 small fresh peppers, spicy or mild according to your taste, chopped
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
3-6 tablespoons shredded cheese ( Cheddar, Colby Jack, Taco mix of your choice)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Skillet-Roasted Sweet Corn

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Scrub the sweet potatoes and cut them in half lengthwise.  Rub the insides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Wrap in aluminum foil.  Bake 60 minutes until the flesh is very soft.  Remove and let cool slightly.

While sweet potatoes are baking, heat a cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Cut the corn off the stalks or use frozen corn.  Add the corn to the hot skillet with no butter or oil. Let the corn roast and brown undisturbed for 4-5 minutes. Stir gently to turn the corn and let it continue to brown. Continue this for about 10 minutes until the corn is well browned and cooked but still has some crunch.  Remove corn from skillet and set aside.  Wipe the skillet with a paper towel.  Saute the onion in butter in the same skillet for 2-3 minutes.  Add the chopped fresh pepper and continuing cooking for another 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Ready to Stuff
Drain and rinse the black beans and add to a medium sized bowl.  Add the roasted corn and the sautéed onion and pepper.  Stir gently to combine.  

Using a tablespoon, scrape out the flesh of the sweet potatoes, leaving the skins intact. Leaving a thin layer of potato inside the skins will help them to maintain their shape.

Prepared Stuffing
Mash the potatoes by hand or with a mixer until well blended.  Mix the flesh of the sweet potatoes with the sour cream. When well-mixed, gently stir in the black bean mixture and cilantro.  Taste the mixture and add additional salt and pepper as needed.

Spoon the filling into the skins and top each with 1-2 tablespoon shredded cheese. Bake in the 400F oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and potatoes are heated through.  Serve hot.

Stuffed and Ready for Cheese

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps

If you are looking to use up some of that leftover turkey or just want a healthy lighter taco, this is a great recipe which I adapted from Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes.  You can either use left over cooked turkey or fresh ground turkey.  And after spending lots of time in the kitchen preparing a holiday meal, a quick and easy recipe to use up some of the leftovers is a welcome change.  Because the flavors are Mexican it will taste like a completely fresh meal.

1 lb shredded cooked or fresh ground turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 small pepper (spicy, mild or bell pepper of your choice)
• 1 clove garlic, chopped (optional)
1 package taco seasoning*
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup water
Iceberg lettuce

* If you would prefer to make your own taco seasoning just mix together the following ingredients.  It will be more healthy and taste just as good.  Mix together the following and use instead of the package taco seasoning noted above.
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp oregano

Toppings and Sides (optional)
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Taco sauce
Tomatoes, chopped
Spanish rice
Roasted corn

We enjoy the above toppings with our turkey lettuce wraps, but certainly any ingredients of your choosing will work just fine.  I typically make a box mix of Spanish Rice and to that I add two ears of roasted sweet corn or previously cooked corn.  While these can be served as a side dish, we enjoy the rice/corn mixture inside the taco wrap along with the traditional fillings.

Spanish Rice with Roasted Sweet Corn
Directions: Using Leftover Cooked Turkey
Select the small pieces of light and dark turkey meat and using two forks shred them until you have approximately one pound of shredded cooked turkey.  Set aside.  Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the onion, pepper and optional garlic and sauté until tender, about 3-5 minutes.   Add the turkey and chopped tomato to the skillet and stir in until heated through (another minute or two).  Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the turkey and stir until combined. Add the water and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes until the water is reduced and nearly gone, stirring occasionally.

Directions: Using Fresh Ground Turkey
Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.  Brown the turkey until it is no longer pink.  Add the onion, pepper and optional garlic and sauté with the meat until tender, about 3-5 minutes.   Add the chopped tomato to the skillet and stir in until heated through (another minute or two).  Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the turkey and stir until combined. Add the water and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes until the water is reduced and nearly gone, stirring occasionally.

Lettuce Wraps
Cut a head of iceberg lettuce in half and remove the core.  Carefully peel off about 8 outer leaves.  Wash and dry the lettuce. Place meat in the center of leaf and top with ingredients of your choice as noted above.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Turkey Roulade ~ Elegant Holiday Dinner

If you find yourself with only a few guests this Thanksgiving holiday, consider serving turkey roulade (or turkey breast roll).  It makes for an elegant holiday dinner and is not hard to prepare.  Certainly it doesn't involve the myriad techniques and advance prep work required for a great whole roasted turkey.  And in many ways, it's more impressive!

Julian's turkey Roulade
You can stuff it with a wide variety of fillings and prepare it well in advance.  About an hour in the oven and it's ready to serve.  I recommend purchasing the bone-in breast (or bone-in breast half) so you can make a good broth for gravy or later soups.  Each half of the breast halves make a separate roll. And a large breast (two halves) can easily serve 6-8 adults.

3 Hours in Advance of Dinner Time

De-boning half a turkey breast.
As it will just be two of us this year, I'm doing just half a breast which I found fresh in my grocer's meat case.  If you can get fresh instead of frozen the flavor will be better.  Simply cut along the breast bone to remove the breast meat.  Place the bones in cold water with some salt, celery, onions and carrot.  Bring the pot to a boil while you season the meat and reduce to a simmer for excellent gravy base. Then using your favorite seasonings give the breast a good rub on both sides.

A rub down with spices than a rest.
Today I'm using Williams-Sonoma Ultimate Roast Chicken Rub, which I received as a gift and I must say it is quite nice.  Of course just a combination of salt, pepper, garlic, fennel, thyme and lemon would work, or standard poultry seasoning with salt added.  The key to the rub is really the salt, because once you have it well coated all over, it must be placed into the refrigerator covered for one to two hours. This dry rub technique will help the meat remain moist during roasting.  Then simply remove from the refrigerator, brush off excess seasonings (but leave some behind for flavor) and place on a work surface.

Plastic covered and ready for pounding, skin side up.
I like to place plastic wrap both under and over the turkey breast.  Several sheets of plastic wrap on top will be required. as the mallet will likely tear through a single sheet.  If it does, and the meat is exposed, just add another layer.  It's important that the skin side of the breast be up as it will ensure the meat stays together.  Then using some force, pound the meat into a flat disc about one-quarter to one-half inch thickness.

Pounded flat and ready for stuffing.
Lay 4-6 pieces of butchers twine across a work surface, and flip the breast over so the skin side is down on top of the twine.  Repair any holes by pushing the breast together or using small pieces from the edge.  The breast is now ready to stuff.

The hardest part of the meal is now upon you.  What to choose as a stuffing?  Really any combination of your favorite flavors will work.  Famed chef Ina Garten likes dried figs, dried cranberries, brandy, pork sausage, fresh rosemary, pine nuts, and bread dressing. But then who wouldn't?  See her exact ingredients here.  Emeril likes a spinach, mushroom and bacon filling, which even Martha Stewart uses in her recipe.

Julian's stuffing ingredients.
Today I'm using fresh basil, which amazingly is still growing in my garden, along with roasted red peppers, mushrooms, garlic and fresh mozzarella cheese. I've chosen a filling that doesn't need to be precooked.  The peppers are from a jar of already cooked peppers packed in oil.  The remainder of the ingredients don't take much to cook through and the juices released by the mushrooms will add flavor and moisture to the turkey.  But if you instead wish to use chestnut bread dressing, pork sausage, etc. you must prepare that in advance so it is cooked through and has come back to room temperature before using as a stuffing.

Ready to roll!
When placing the ingredients on the flattened breast, try to leave a good inch or more around the edges so it doesn't squeeze out during rolling.  Then carefully lift up the long side and slowly and gently roll it up into a tube suitable for roasting, ending with the seam side down and the skin side up on your work surface.

Roulade ready to roast.
Tie the butchers twine to hold the breast roll together. Don't tie it too tightly or the filling will be squeezed out.  Use a toothpick or two if needed to close up the ends. Oil and season the surface. TIP: I always sprinkle with a little bit of white sugar to ensure good browning.  At this stage you can either roast or refrigerate for several hours, provided that all of the filling ingredients were cold. If you filled it with warm dressing or anything else that was heated, it must immediately go to the oven to prevent food borne illness.

1 Hour in Advance of Dinner Time

Pre-heat the oven to 375F degrees and place the oiled roulade on a rack in a dish or rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.  If you are doing the full breast (two rolls) a large baking sheet is required to give them adequate space and distance to permit even cooking.  Place the roulade in the upper third of your pre-heated oven with a meat thermometer.  Check the roulade during the last half-hour of cooking to ensure it is not overly browned.  When desired browning is reached, cover loosely with foil during remainder of cooking time.

The roulade is ready when the internal temperature reaches 160F degrees.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 15-30 minutes while you finish up any side dishes.

Now if you are like me, you placed the breast bones into a pot of water at the very beginning and by now have a nice turkey stock.  You can use this for gravy if you are making mashed potatoes.  While I  can get away with making one non-traditional item on the holiday table, it would be sacrilege if I didn't serve good mashed potatoes with the holiday meal.  I discussed the method for Perfect Mashed Potatoes recently, so I won't review that here.  But suffice it to say, any great mashed potato is only better with silky gravy.  And a more flavorful stock you will not find for gravy, then a fresh stock made in your own kitchen.  Use some of this to deglaze the roasting pan.  Strain out the solids, and thicken lightly with a corn starch and cold water mixture.  You are now ready to serve this elegant holiday dinner.

Cutting board has a tray carved in to hold the meat and catch juices.
Slice the roulade using a good sharp knife or an electric knife as I am here.  Each person will need 2-3 slices about an inch think.

Roulade ready for the platter.
You may wish to lay them out on a platter and pass them at table.  The roulade will make an elegant display this way, although if you do I would recommend you ladle just a bit of the fresh hot turkey stock over it on the platter to keep it moist and hot during serving.  Do not use gravy for this.

If you are plating each persons meal, then do place some gravy over each serving and on the mashed potatoes, along side the vegetable dish of your choice.  Save the remainder of your stock for future soups and stews.

From my kitchen to yours, have a happy holiday and enjoy a delicious dinner with family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Sauteed Apples

With only 20 minutes prep time, this is a great dinner, even on a weeknight.  It starts with tender pork medallions, uses cinnamon and nutmeg on the meat, and tops it with apples.  This provides a sweet yet savory flavor that you don't expect in your main course, but is quite welcome.  I attempted to keep the apples pretty firm to provide some texture and color, as you do not peel them for this dish. I also used mushrooms in mine but that is optional if your family doesn't prefer them. They are served here with twice baked potato and steamed broccoli.

When selecting a pork tenderloin, you can really use any type and size you prefer.  I like the smaller vacuum packed variety and selected one that had been pre-seasoned.  However plain would also do well in the dish as you do add additional seasoning to the meat.

I recommend using a stainless steel or cast-iron skillet as these will provide optimal browning and give you those flavorful brown bits in the bottom of your skillet enhancing the flavor of your sauce.  Don't worry if the meat sticks.  When you are ready to turn it, use a metal spatula to ensure as much of the browning stays on the meat as possible.  The crust that's left behind in the pan will easily come up when the wine or cider is added.


1 teaspoon olive oil
Food release (Pam)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1, one to two pound pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup "baby Bella" mushrooms, sliced
1 large Gala apples, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine or apple cider


Heat oven to 250F degrees.  Cut the pork crosswise into 1/2 inch slices.  Spray a large stainless steel or cast-iron skillet with food release.  Heat olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat.

Combine the salt, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg and sprinkle spice mixture evenly over pork slices. Add the pork to the skillet and cook until well browned (about 3 minutes) then turn and cook another 1-2 minutes.

Remove pork from pan and place on a oven-safe platter and cover with foil. Place in the oven.

Melt butter in the pan and onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3 minutes until becoming tender.  Add the optional mushrooms and continue to sauté for another 2-3 minutes, then add the apples.  Sauté until apples have some color but are still firm.

Add white wine or apple cider to pan release any brown bits that stuck when the meat was cooking  Cover and cook for about 4 minutes more, until the flavors are combined but the apples still have color and are somewhat firm.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the pork from the oven and spread the apple mixture and sauce over pork and serve.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Dessert

All the rage this season, is an easy to make dessert that seems to be replacing pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving table.  I first heard of it from my sister, then a friend.  When searching it out online I found hundreds of food blogs and Pinterest posts talking about it.  It is often called a 'dump cake' as you pretty much dump the ingredients together and give them a stir, top with the cake mix and you are done.  Paula Deen is making it on YouTube and her son Bobby has a lighter version. I wouldn't call it a cake as it can't be cut into clean pieces.  Rather you spoon it out onto plates so it's perhaps best as a buffet food.

Testing Recipes
You'll find these 'cakes' made with varying spices and usually one of three types of cake mix; yellow, butter pecan or spice cake.  The brand of cake mix doesn't really seem to matter, as I tested several. They all use the basic recipe for the pumpkin custard, using more or less pumpkin pie spices. You can also use the substitutions noted in my recipe below for lower sugar/fat.  Testers couldn't tell the difference.

I made two versions for a taste testing for a crowd at work of about 20.  When the votes were cast it was 60% favored the spice cake version and 40% favored the yellow cake version.  Both are really tasty and I personally preferred the one with the spice cake mix.  I increased the amount of nuts from the basic recipes I found online to give it more crunch.


1 box cake mix (yellow, spice or butter pecan, Betty Crocker preferred)
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk (substitute non-fat)
3 large eggs (substitute 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites)
1 1/2 cups sugar (substitute 3/4 cup Splenda Baking Blend)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup butter, melted

Whipped cream, Cool Whip or Paula Deen's cream cheese whipped cream topping are all good options for this dessert.


Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or spray with food release (Pam) a 9" x 13″ pan.  Mix pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt with a whisk until well blended.  Pour mixture into prepared pan. The mixture will be very loose. Gently sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture and top with pecans.  Drizzle melted butter over pecans.  Bake 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Savory Pumpkin Side Dish

Our grocery offers three types of pumpkins at this time of the year.  He labels them “cooking”, “baking” and “carving”.  Of course these are not the actual varieties but what he feels they are best used for.  I've discussed pie pumpkins for baking in the prior posting and as the variety is limited you can trust that your grocer has them labeled correctly.  But what about ‘cooking’ pumpkins?  They do have several varieties all of which look quite different.

I used Kakai pumpkins as that is what he had labeled for cooking.  Better yet, he offered them sliced into halves and quarters which was perfect for a side dish for 2-4 persons.   For a full description with photos check out “All About Pumpkins” to find the perfect variety for your use or just go with your grocer’s recommendation.

1/2 (about 3 pounds) fresh pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or other vinegar variety)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup water
green onions, cilantro or parsley for garnish

Wash the outsides and slice off the stem.  Using a heavy ice cream scoop, scrape out the seeds and strings leaving the lighter orange flesh intact with the shell.  (You may wish to save the seeds for later roasting.) Slice the pumpkin into wedges about 2 inches thick at their widest center.  Using a sharp knife, cut off the skin and discard it.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat with the olive oil.  Add the onions and cook 3-4 minutes until tender.  Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the pumpkin and stir to coat in the mixture. Sprinkle with the vinegar, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Stir to combine flavors.  Turn the mixture every minute or two to encourage cooking on all sides, for about five minutes.

Add water to the pumpkin and cover with a lid.  Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes more, until the pumpkin is tender yet still firm enough to maintain its shape.  Serve as a side dish,

 I you prefer, cook it longer until it is soft and then serve it mashed like potatoes.  Garnish the dish with slices green onions, cilantro or parsley.  A delicious taste of autumn that is quick and easy to prepare!