Maple dijon roasted pork tenderloin

If I invite you to dinner at my house (so, if we’ve ever met, because I invite EVERYONE to dinner at my house), there’s a 70% chance I’ve never made the dish I’m serving before. Every “hostess tip list” says this is a terrible idea, lest you screw up/it takes too long/you stress yourself out. I say to hell with that – if my friends are there, even falling flat on my face is fun.

But most of the time, I don’t – because I have my own tricks. 1. I always have an appetizer. And let’s be clear, that “appetizer” can be as simple as straight-up cheese or chips and salsa. In fact, if you actually show up on time, you’re probably making the munchie plate. Anyone can unwrap cheese, and everyone feels more at home when they help. (Plus, I totally expected you to be late.) 2. Have a back pocket plan. I can whip up a pretty fantastic pasta with marinara sauce in less than 10 minutes, which covers basically every disaster ever.

And let’s be clear – this trial run? Won a gold medal. This pork tenderloin was so good half of us ate dinner standing, because we forgot to leave the island. We ate the “leftovers” with our hands as the night continued – still never leaving the island. Topped with maple bourbon pumpkin butter and served with roasted Brussels Sprout quinoa bake, the only falling you’re doing is in love.

Maple dijon pork tenderloin
Main course: maple dijon pork tenderloin. We could not keep our hands off it. Yes, I said hands. Forks are so appetizer.

You’ll need:

  • 1 package (2) pork tenderloin
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix everything (except tenderloin) together in a small bowl.
  2. Lay tenderloin on a baking rack with a baking sheet underneath. (You can lay it right on the sheet, but it’s harder to flip.)
  3. Brush both sides with 1/2 the glaze and roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Pull meat out and brush with remaining glaze. Bake 10-15 minutes more, until thickest part of tenderloin registers 155 degrees.
  5. Tent with aluminum foil and let the meat rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Serves 6 – no, really, the 6 of us devoured this. Conventional serving sizes may tell you otherwise, but trust me on this.

Brussels Sprout Brown Butter Pasta with Cranberries, Pecans and Goat cheese

Getting married is an interesting exercise in merging tastes. What you each grew up with plays a huge part in how much you love/hate things like lima beans/Brussels Sprouts/broccoli, or even steak/pork chops/pasta. The hubs and I both came from a lot of casseroles – except he hated most vegetables not in casserole form. I developed a love for cooking in college – and with that came a love of crunchy vegetables, al dente pasta and medium rare meat. David, unfortunately, did not share that love. Luckily, they say your tastes change every seven years. I think I may have David on an accelerated rate, but five years ago, the only part of this dish he would have eaten was the butter. Now, he loves Brussels Sprouts so much I actually think I could have served them on cardboard.

Luckily, I didn’t have to. This dish is a great nod to Fall – the cranberries, pecans and brown butter made you feel like the holidays are right around the corner. The roasted Brussels Sprouts give a great crunch and earthy flavor next to the sharpness of the goat cheese, and the pasta just…well, it’s pasta, it makes everything better. David loved this so much he didn’t even ask about meat – which hardly ever happens.

Brussels Sprout Brown Butter Pasta with Cranberries, Pecans and Goat Cheese
All the best flavors of Fall: brown butter, cranberries and pecans – with yummy caramelized sprouts and pasta.

 

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 lb. pasta – short cut is preferable, but really your favorite is fine
  • 1 lb. Brussels Sprouts, sliced in half (or quarters for really large sprouts)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 T butter
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful of dried cranberries
  • Handful of roasted pecans
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss Brussels Sprouts and onions in oil, season with salt and pepper and roast until crispy, 25-30 minutes. (I like mine with some bite still on them, so this may take up to 45 minutes depending on how you prefer your sprouts.)
  2. Cook pasta to your liking, drain and set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Once the butter melts, keep the heat high, cooking the butter until just golden (it will keep cooking even after you turn off the heat.) Turn off heat and add garlic.
  4. Toss pasta in with butter mixture, then add sprouts and onions. Toss to mix, then pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with cranberries, pecan and goat cheese.
  5. Serves 4 as a main course and 6 as a side.

Comfort meal made easy: Roast chicken and mashed potatoes with broccoli

So here’s the deal: yes, making super fancy food can be a super-hella-blast. I like it more than most. But sometimes, I’ve had a long day. I want to come home, put on my jammies and eat something that warms me from the inside out. I want it to be real, wholesome, homemade – and good for me. And cheap-ish is always stellar. (I’m kinda needy, even on jammie night.) So here it is, the warm-you-up, fill-your-heart-without-busting-your-pants-or-budget ultimate meal: roasted chicken. Mashed potatoes. Broccoli.

Roast chicken
This roast chicken is so amazing we had to show it some love. Seriously, we couldn’t stop sneaking bites – we had to make a whole new chicken!

Roast chicken, you say? Well that’s some boring dinner, Amanda. I submit to you, it is not. It may not photograph perfectly (see lack of finished dish photo) but you perfectly roast a chicken with nothing but salt and pepper – I am telling you , your life will change. And mashed potatoes? Do not have to be laden with fat and cheese. (I mean, they’re super good when they ARE, don’t misunderstand, but they don’t HAVE to be.) And broccoli gets a bad rap, but I’m here to tell you, if you make it like I instruct below, you will turn the staunchest of green-things hater into a believer. (And I should know – I’ve done it). So bust out your yoga pants and hoodie, pour a glass of wine and put on the jazz. Or blues. Or teeny-bopper pop, I’m not here to judge.

You’ll need:

  • 1 roaster chicken (4-5 lbs)
  • 1/4 cup + 3 – 4T olive oil, divided
  • 2-3 citrus fruits, quartered (Lemons, limes, oranges – whatevs)
  • 12 cloves of garlic, minced (Yes, you read that 12 right. Garlic’s good for you.)
  • 3 T basil
  • 2 T thyme
  • 1 T rosemary
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 lb of your favorite potatoes, cubed (I like the Klondike rose, which is a redskin … skin… and a yukon gold center.)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use skim because that’s what I drink – sometimes I use buttermilk. Use what you have.)
  • 4 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese (I said they weren’t laden with fat and cheese, I didn’t say they had no flavor.)
  • 2 heads broccoli, cut into florets and stems discarded (Unless you’re into that sort of thing, but me and the stems are a no-go item.)
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

Chicken

  1. Check inside – if there is a bag of innards, remove and pitch. (And be grateful it’s already in a bag for you.) Pat chicken dry. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place chicken in a roaster pan (I like to keep it up off the bottom of the pan by putting it on a roasting rack or even a cooling rack, so if you have one, cool. If not, no worries.)
  3. Combine green spices, salt and pepper and half of garlic with 1/4 cup oil and rub chicken down. No for real, give it a good massage.
  4. Stuff the inside with your citrus fruits, just until it’s full. Some people like to truss the bird (which means tying its legs together so the fruit stays inside). But it’s PJ night and I’m lazy. So I don’t.
  5. Now go and wash your hands, or my sister will have a fit.
  6. Tent chicken with aluminum foil and bake 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the chicken comes to 165 or 170. (It ‘should’ be 180, but it will keep cooking after you pull it out of the oven.)
  7. Remove tent in last 15 minutes or so of cooking, so the skin gets all nice and brown.
  8. Once you hit the magic number, pull out of oven and cover with aluminum foil tent, resting for 10 – 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, back at the counter – your chicken’s in the oven. Broccoli and mashed potatoes won’t take you more than 30 minutes or so. Take a break! Put your feet up, make some tea, read a book. Ok now come back,  we still have work to do.

Broccoli

  1. Lay broccoli on 9 x 13 cooking sheet (love my stoneware sheets for this, but anything works.)
  2. Drizzle with remaining oil, half of remaining garlic and salt/pepper.
  3. When you pull the chicken out of the oven, pop in the broccoli and roast for 10 minutes, or until it’s really, really green.

Potatoes:

  1. Boil a pot of water on high.
  2. Add potatoes, turn down to medium, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until a fork just pierces the potatoes (but they still have some give).
  3. Drain potatoes and return to hot pot.
  4. Add rest of garlic, cheese milk, butter and salt/pepper, and mash with a potato masher until potatoes are your desired consistency. (I like mine chunky. For super smooth, add more milk or cheese and use a hand mixer.)

Serve potatoes and broccoli with your chicken.

Chorizo Sloppy Joes with Tomatillo Salsa

A lot of my best dishes start as inspiration from other blogs. One of my favorites is Annie’s Eats – even as a working mother, she finds time to create delicious and healthy meals from scratch. And as the mama bear of my friends, I’m usually cooking for one or more of my cubs (plus the hubs) every night of the week. Food is my love language, and since I love a lot of people, I need a lot of fast, fun and healthy ideas.

Chorizo black bean sammie
All the best in Mexican food – chorizo, black beans, cheese, salsa, cheese…

The beauty of this recipe lies in its adaptability. Making it for a vegetarian? Just use all black beans (or add crumbled veggies patties/sausage.) Gluten free? Switch out the bun. Dairy free? Hold the cheese. I served this with a Mexican vegetable soup, but you could also serve with chips and salsa.

You’ll need: 

Sandwiches

  • ½ lb. Mexican chorizo (Spanish is usually fully cooked – Mexican has the consistency of breakfast sausage, but you’ll need to cut it out of the case.)
  • 2 15 oz. cans black beans
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup Mexican beer (or any lager)
  • 4 rolls (I used pretzel rolls, YUM.)
  • 8 oz. cheese (I used Iberico because I got some on clearance, queso fresco or manchego would be good too.)
  • Sliced avocado

 Salsa

  • 8 – 10 tomatillos, cleaned and quarter chopped
  • 2  cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, torn off stems
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Splash of water
  • Salt to taste

Get cooking:

Salsa

  1. Pulse all ingredients in food processor until finely chopped. (Or whatever consistency you like – it’s really up to you.)
  2. Spread on sandwiches.

Sandwiches

  1. Saute chorizo until it releases some of its fat (2-3 minutes), then add in onions and bell peppers, and saute until chorizo is cooked through (7-8 minutes) and onions/peppers are soft.
  2. Deglaze pan with beer and cook until reduced by half.
  3. Spoon on rolls with cheese, avocado and salsa.

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

I love to entertain – except for those nights. Nights when you don’t want to clean. Nights after a wretched day. Those nights when you just want to cook something soul-warming, put on your PJs, open a bottle of wine – and call your best friends. Because you’re scared of them seeing your house. Even on those awful nights, Merrill will still come over – in her PJs, homework and Oscar (her dog) in tow. My house can be a mess, I usually am a mess – but we make some room on the couch to eat, laugh and relax. She requested this recipe during a ‘couch date’ – but, as always, we fiddled a bit. It seems like a lot of ingredients, but you’ll probably have most laying around already.

Brazilian Shrimp Soup
The perfect classed-up comfort food – Brazilian shrimp soup.

 

Based on:

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/brazilian-shrimp-soup

 

You’ll need:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1/2 t red-pepper flakes
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cans light coconut milk
  • 2 lbs medium shrimp, shelled and cut in half horizontally
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 1/2 t cajun seasoning
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • Salt, pepper, sriracha to taste

Get cooking:

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften (about 10 minutes.)
  2. Add the rice, red pepper flakes, salt, tomatoes, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir the coconut milk into the soup. Bring back to a simmer and then stir in the shrimp. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are just done, 3 to 5 minutes. erve in large bowls garnished with lemons, sriracha and parsley.

BBQ pork pizza

There is just something about barbecue. No matter what season, what occasion, it seems easy, fun and delicious. The same can be said for pizza. You can make a pizza fancy, fun, heavy, hearty – the combinations are endless.

Anyone who knows me knows how I cook – there should be a new term for leftovers coined just for me, to adequately express the level of leftover food I have after any given meal. The conception of this dish was one such occasion. I’m sure you’ve had chicken BBQ pizza (and in fact, my friend Matt makes the world’s best), but we happened to have a bunch of leftover pulled pork after an event, and I thought, “Well, I could make a pizza out of that!” So I did. And then David started requesting it weekly. So I suggest you don’t make this unless you’re ok with it becoming a permanent dinner rotation.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb pork loin or shoulder
  • 2 large red onions
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 lb mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 lb feta
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 medium pizza crust
  • Cornmeal

Get cooking:

  1. To caramelize the onions: slice, combine with oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Put your pizza stone in the oven with the onions, so it heats up while you assemble the rest of the pizza.
  3. Spread your crust on a pizza peel/parchment paper dusted with cornmeal. (This will help the pizza slide off onto the stone. So be liberal, unless you want a calzone. Which is what happens when your crust gets mangled. Still tasty, but different experience.)
  4. Mix half the BBQ sauce with the pizza sauce and spread on the crust.
  5. Mix other half of sauce with pork.
  6. Add cheese, pork and caramelized onions to the pizza.
  7. Slide (very, very carefully) onto hot pizza stone and bake 15-20 minutes. (You can also place the parchment paper directly on the pizza stone – much, much easier.)
  8. Let sit for 5 minutes (I know, I know, but for real, you’ll burn yourself.)
  9. Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting. I dare you.

Fun foil packets

Camping is an activity I’ve come to love as an adult. As a child, we went once. I was two. My father left my mother alone with twin two-years-olds and an infant to go to work, and I proceeded at stab my mother in the eye with a fork. Then, as the story goes,  it started raining cats and dogs and I think the camper got stuck. Needless to say, we did not camp again. But I’ve been a few times with different groups of people, and when you find a “good camping group,” it makes the whole experience an absolute blast.

We found a great group a couple of years ago through our friends Matt and Andy. Everyone was very nice and welcoming, we had a great time kayaking with them. One of their group traditions is dinner in a foil packet – basically, a bunch of different veggies and whatever meat and seasoning you want, wrapped in aluminum foil, grilled over the fire until the meat’s cooked. I can’t remember which one of the boys came up with which meat option, but we decided to bring shrimp and chorizo. It was a brilliant choice. The fat from the chorizo gives the veggies great flavor (and just means you don’t add as much oil) and the shrimp is amazing. It does tend to get a little done, so we leave it on the top. Or you could always throw it in at the end – that’s probably a better idea. And while we cook these over a fire, you can absolutely do them on a grill or even in the oven at about 400 degrees. We’ve done them all, because we just can’t get enough.

You’ll need:

  • enough aluminum foil to create a packet OR a personal sized foil pan (like for leftovers) that you can cover with foil. (The second options is easier by far.)
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb chorizo (uncooked)
  • 6-8 small red potatoes, thinly sliced (could also use yukon golds, russet, purple – whatever potatoes you love)
  • 4-8 cloves garlic, minced (1-2 per packet)
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • A handful each (per packet) of your favorites out of the following:
    • Summer squash, sliced
    • Zucchini, sliced
    • Green beans
    • Broccoli
    • Mushrooms, sliced
    • Bell peppers, diced
  • Non-stick grilling spray and/or olive oil
  • Seasoning as desired – we like salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and gullah

Get cooking:

1. Get your heat source going, whatever that may be – a fire, a grill over medium high heat or an oven heated to 400.
2. Spray 4 foil pouches or pans with non-stick spray, to help keep everything from sticking.
3. Layer in your ingredients – potatoes on the bottom, chorizo next (make sure you break it up with your fingers), veggies on top of that and shrimp on the very top.
4. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, if desired, and add seasoning as desired.
5. Cover top with foil and place on fire grate, grill grate or in oven and cook for about 30 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.
6. Remove from heat, let stand for about 5 minutes (it will be super hot).
7. Transfer to a plate, stir and enjoy! Also, delicious topped with your favorite cheese.