Roast pork loin with garlic

Roast Pork Loin With Garlic

Roast pork loin with garlic

Roast pork loin with garlic, so pretty–so tasty–so easy!

This is a very simple recipe–barely a recipe, really–that I put together while on vacation this summer. I wanted an easy dinner I could cook in our rental condo that didn’t require a lot of ingredients that I wouldn’t use up before we went home!

So play it loose. You can use pork loin, as I did, or you can use pork tenderloin. You could add fresh herbs or ginger, whatever you like–or if you’re staying at a rental house, you might have a bunch of “interesting” ingredients at your disposal. Salt and pepper is necessary, of course.

Roast Pork Loin With Garlic

You need:

3 lb pork loin (I used two 1.5 lb pork loin “cutlets,” or you could use pork tenderloin)
10 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Drizzle of olive oil (or a bit of butter)

Preheat your oven to 425. Place your pork on a rimmed baking dish or sheet and rub with the garlic, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil (or top with a little butter).

Roast for approximately 35-40 minutes, until done. I didn’t have a meat thermometer (vacation rental), so I took my pork out on the early side and cut into it to make sure it was cooked through–but not overcooked. Don’t overcook your pork, modern grocery store pork has so little fat in it that it goes tough and dry easily.

When it seems just done, take it out of the oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Slice and serve!

Monthly Meal Planning Take 2: Bulk Overload

Meal Planning Zero Waste

So many lentils and beans. And almonds! Next month . . .

So I dusted off my old Monthly Meal Planning spreadsheets last month and gave them a spin. Overall, it was pretty great: not only did I feel more prepared at mealtimes and waste less food, but we saved 25%–even though I threw a Super Bowl party. Yay!

However, when I started planning this month, I realized I still had some issues to work out: mainly, the jars and jars of dry bulk food in my cabinets. I love to purchase beans, grains, etc. from the bulk bins with my own bags! My problem: I am a terrible judge of how much we actually need. Plus, I decided to make mason jar mixes as gifts for Christmas and really went overboard.

So, Challenge #1: create a menu that would use up my surplus, focusing on:

  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Couscous
  • Pecans
  • Oatmeal
  • Sundried tomatoes

Challenge #2 was I wanted to still save 25% or more over our average monthly grocery bill, yet I wanted to splurge for Valentine’s Day with steak and lobster tails. However, I think Challenge #1 will actually make that quite easy, since we’ll be eating so many things we already have on hand.

Challenge #3 is that we’re having house guests this month for a couple of days. Yay! My problem is I always want to go a little bigger when guests are here. Just yogurt doesn’t really seem like an adequate breakfast! The other issue is one of our guests is a pickier eater and doesn’t care for vegetables. But this is actually something I can really work with. I mean, I’ve already gone through Sid’s picky period. And really, this is just an excuse to make a lot of comfort food like meatloaf (with Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix) and homemade macaroni and cheese (with the rest of the Velveeta from the Super Bowl party.

So here’s what I came up with! You can download my February Meal Plan here. You can also peek back and download my January Monthly Meal planning spreadsheets here.

If you haven’t read my previous posts, here’s the deal: I make a meal plan for the entire month, create a shopping list, and sort it by store, department, and week. I try to buy almost everything for the month in Week 1 at WinCo, because it’s the cheapest, and freeze all of our meat, etc. That mainly just leaves weekly dairy and produce, which I buy at our Fred Meyer grocery, which is closer and more convenient.

This month went according to plan, except . . . when I went to WinCo, I discovered that I had someone lost my list of like 53 items. Aargh. With no other choice, I buckled Sarah into our cart and went to work. When I got home and checked against the list, I was surprised–I had remember 51 things! Clearly, writing everything down and having an idea of what I was going to cook helped a lot. But still. What a dumbass.

We’re in the middle of Week 2 and going strong! Here are links to several of the recipes we’re making this month:

Banana Wheat Muffins
Black Beans with Couscous and Avocado (recipe calls for brown rice but I subbed)
Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies
Butter-Poached Lobster with Orzo
The Best. Coffee Cake. Ever.
Curried Lentil Soup
El Dorado Casserole
Lipton Onion Soup Meatloaf
Shells & Cheese (With Bacon & Peas)
Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl with OMG Sauce
Tenderloin Steak

Is anyone else trying to plan their meals? What have you done in the past? Comment below!

 

 

Seriously Good Chili

Seriously Good Chili

Seriously Good Chili

Seriously, seriously good chili. Yum!

I named this delightful concoction “Seriously Good Chili” for two reasons: one, it is seriously good. And two, because I adapted it from a far more labor-intensive chili recipe from Serious Eats. I was going to call it the “easier” version, but you’re still cooking beans from scratch (which is actually easy) and it still includes a ton of ingredients. It’s worth it: this chili is complex and full flavored, thanks to a range of ingredients including chocolate, anchovy paste, coffee, and New Mexico chiles, but it’s still kid friendly.

I made this for Christmas Eve, along with two other soups, and this was the hands-down winner! Here we go:

Seriously Good Chili

You need:

1 pound dried beans–I used pinto because I had them on hand, but kidney beans would also be great
5 whole New Mexico chiles, seeded and torn into rough 1-inch pieces
3 pounds ground beef (note: the next time I do this, I will coarsely grind the equivalent weight of chuck steak or tri tip instead–I like a little more texture)
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth (preferably homemade), divided
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground coffee
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced fine
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
2 bay leaves
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup cider vinegar, plus more to taste
1/4 cup vodka or bourbon
1 tablespoon Buffalo-style hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Place beans, 6 tablespoons kosher salt (or 3 tablespoons table salt), and water in large plastic container or bowl. Allow to soak at room temperature at least 8 hours, or overnight. (Alternatively, you can bring the beans, salt, and water to a boil. Let rest for one hour, and then proceed with the recipe.) Drain and rinse soaked beans.

Add dried chiles to large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stock pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until slightly darkened with an intense, roasted aroma, 2 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup chicken broth, using a flat wooden spoon or stiff spatula to scrape browned bits off the bottom of pan. Reduce heat until chicken broth is at a bare simmer and cook until chiles have softened and liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer chiles and liquid to a blender, add anchovy paste, soy sauce, tomato paste, ground spices, coffee, cocoa powder, and vegetable oil, and blend at high speed, scraping down sides as necessary, until a completely smooth puree is formed, about 2 minutes. Set chile puree aside.

Heat 4 tablespoons vegetable oil in your Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the jalapeño, garlic, and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add ground beef and cook until browned. Then add chile puree and cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot until chile mixture begins to fry and leaves a coating on bottom of pan, 2 to 4 minutes. Add chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting, add beans, and cook, with cover slightly ajar, until beans are almost tender, about 1 hour.

Add crushed tomatoes and cider vinegar and cook with cover slightly ajar until beans are fully tender and broth is rich and lightly thickened, 2 to 3 1/2 hours longer, adding water if necessary to keep beans and meat mostly submerged.

Remove and discard bay leaves. Add vodka (or bourbon), hot sauce, and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and additional vinegar.

Serve immediately, or for best flavor, allow to cool and refrigerate overnight, or up to 1 week in sealed container. Serve with garnishes: shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, chopped green onions, sliced avocados, lime slices–whatever you like!

I’d just like to add that I loved having a soup party for Christmas Eve–sooouuup party! And the leftovers were divine. Do you have any go-to soup recipes to share? Post them below!

Happy Monday! Easy Dinners & What Do You Do With an Elf on the Shelf

IMG_7791

Glitter houses!

Happy Monday! Sarah is napping and I’m toasting panko in the oven, so I have a few minutes to chat. Yay! Hope your holiday season is going well. I’m less stressed compared to last week: my folks are coming to help with the back yard, I was able to put our community garden to bed yesterday, and we got our Christmas tree! Sid wants to help put the lights on, so I will try my best not to swear.

Links!

Easy Dinners

These last couple weeks leading up to Christmas are jam-packed: shopping, meetups with friends, some new work responsibilities (I’ll announce that shortly), getting ready for a holiday party–the works!

I thought you guys might be busy, too, so I thought I’d share my secret weapon: Martha Stewart’s Breaded Chicken Cutlets. These are delicious: crispy, quick to bake, and good either by themselves or tossed into chicken parm. I actually call these “Sid’s Chicken” in our house because they’re my son’s favorite. It takes about an hour to put four pounds of cutlets together–freeze them uncooked, and it takes about 15 minutes to get them ready. They’re coated in toasted panko (so you can guess what I’m doing between keystrokes), which gives them a great crunch.

Here’s my other go-to, a one-pan meal which is more of a rule of thumb than anything: Kielbasa with Roasted Vegetables. One 12-ounce package of kielbasa and an equal amount of red potatoes feeds three:

Preheat your oven to 425. Cut your potatoes into quarters or sixths, depending on size and personal taste. Spread on a cookie sheet, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast for 15 minutes. While the potatoes roast, cut your kielbasa into six pieces and chop or slice vegetables of your choice into strips or chunks. Popular at our house: peppers and onions, zucchini, or broccoli. When 15 minutes are up, spread the kielbasa and vegetables on top of the potatoes; stir, and add a little more salt and pepper, as well as any fresh or dried herbs you may desire (rosemary, basil, oregano). Roast another 15 minutes, then remove and serve!

Crafting

I giveth, and then I taketh away: I gave you a time saver, above, and now I’m introducing you to a time waster. Ha! I finally glittered some paper houses I made ten-plus years ago (from a Martha by Mail kit–sigh, remember Martha by Mail?) and now I’m obsessed. The kits are no more, but she has a Winter Village template and instructions online.

Do you love making geeky crafts? Or buying geeky crafts? I’d like to introduce you to GeekCraft Expo, a curated craft market created by comics writer Daniel Way (Deadpool, Gun Theory) specializing in handmade, “geek”-themed crafts like clothing, accessories, toys, home decoration, furniture, art, and more! There are sixteen Expos taking place across the US and Canada, including (drum roll please) a new Portland show June 11-12! This might be connected to my upcoming announcement. Ahem.

Finally, not exactly crafty, but . . . my lovely, thoughtful mother-in-law sent us an Elf on the Shelf. I’m not sure what to do with it, but I did enjoy The Best Time I Got That Goddamn Elf Off My Goddamn Shelf over on Jezebel. Ha!

That’s what I’ve got, and now I need advice: after several months of sleeping through the night, 14-month-old Sarah has started waking up to nurse once a night. I thought it was a temporary phase, but it’s been a few months now, and I’m worried it’s a habit. How do I put a stop to this?!? Wahhh.

Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Yes You Can: Make Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Can you hear it calling?

I’m about to do you a favor. You’re going to use my Grandma Forsythe’s spaghetti sauce recipe for the rest of your life. You’re going to pass it down to your children–and they’ll pass it on to theirs. This is why:

  • This spaghetti sauce is amazingly tasty
  • It’s super easy–it just needs simmer time
  • Also: quite cheap
  • You don’t need a lot of tools: a cutting board, knife, frying pan, pot, and spoon should do it
  • It will make your house smell amazing

This is one of my go-to recipes that has seen me from my first apartment in college to present-day dinner parties with out-of-town guests. Everyone (who eats meat) loves it!

I’ve altered the recipe just a tad over the years–the original called for vegetable shortening and garlic salt. Also, this is actually part of my Grandma Forsythe’s fabulous lasagna recipe–and it is fabulous, rich and delicious and perfect for potlucks or families with new babies. But making lasagna is a pain, and making spaghetti is easy and still quite rewarding. So let’s get to it.

Grandma Forsythe’s Sumptuous Spaghetti Sauce

Makes enough sauce for at least two pounds of pasta

You Need:

2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large (28 oz) cans tomato sauce
3 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons dried basil
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup water with bouillon cube (I usually use a cup of water with a teaspoon of beef “Better Than Bouillon,” or a cup of chicken stock, or water in a pinch)
1 lb ground beef
1 lb mild Italian sausage

Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Saute the onions and garlic until soft. Add the next six ingredients. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, partially covered.

In a frying pan, saute the ground beef and Italian sausage until cooked through. Drain and add to the sauce. Simmer for another 1 1/2 hours, partially covered.

Put a large pot of water on to boil, and then cook spaghetti according to the package directions. Toss with sauce, then top with a little additional sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Lasagna Variation

Serves at least 12

You Need:

1 lb ricotta cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese
Parmesan (unspecified: I use at least 1 cup)
1/2 box lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions and spread out on cookie sheets. Place 1/4 of the sauce in the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ pan. Place a third of the noodles over the sauce and top with 1/2 of the ricotta and mozzarella, and 1/3 of the parmesan. Repeat with 1/4 sauce, 1/ 3 noodles, 1/2 of the ricotta and mozzarella, and 1/3 of the parmesan. Finish with a layer of noodles, the remaining sauce, and the remaining parmesan cheese. To make ahead: refrigerate at this point if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (longer if refrigerated). Let set 20 minutes before serving. Mangia!

Macaroni and Cheese

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese With Roasted Tomatoes

Macaroni and Cheese

Oh baby . . . come to Mommy. Oh yeah.

It’s raining today, which is heavenly. Fall is my favorite time of year, especially for cooking. Soup! Casseroles! And, of course, macaroni and cheese.

I came up with this recipe when I needed to use up a bunch of cheese (I always have too much cheese on hand, it’s a sickness) and we’ve had a bumper crop of tomatoes and basil from the garden. It’s modeled on Ina Garten’s Mac and Cheese recipe, except it’s not baked (I prefer stovetop macaroni and cheese), and I use–gasp!–American and cheddar cheeses.

Listen: American cheese is simply the finest cheese for macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese, and I won’t hear anything different. It melts smoothly and doesn’t separate. Paired with a good sharp cheddar, it is freakin’ amazing! End rant.

Baby Macaroni and Cheese

Sarah’s portion–chopped up!

Since this macaroni and cheese is not baked, I decided to oven-roast the tomatoes with basil, garlic, and olive oil. The results were . . . sublime. My husband took one bite and told me I got my cheese mixture perfect for the sauce. Thank god I weighed everything so I can preserve this momentous achievement for everyone to share! Ahem. I get excited about macaroni and cheese.

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese With Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 4-8

You need:

6 oz American cheese (I used Kraft Deli slices, which at least aren’t individually wrapped), chopped or shredded
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups milk (plus more to taste)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb rotini (or your choice of pasta) or, use 1/2 lb pasta and save half the cheese sauce for cheeseburger mac, another recipe I will post soon!

For the roasted tomatoes:
1 lb fresh tomatoes, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil, julienned
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lay tomatoes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Roast for one hour. Remove, let cool, and reserve for macaroni and cheese.

Place a large pan of water on to boil. Heat the milk gently in a small saucepan, but don’t bring it to a boil. Melt butter in a second large pot or saute pan and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat and add the cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Meanwhile, add salt to your large pan of boiling water and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and add pasta to your sauce, adding milk if necessary to achieve a smooth, creamy texture.

Spoon into a bowl and top with oven roasted tomatoes. Prepare to go to heaven!

Your Potluck and New Baby Go-to: El Dorado Casserole

Juanitas Tortilla Chips

I don’t have a casserole picture! I’ll have to take one next time. But use Juanita’s chips, if you can!

El Dorado casserole was so prevalent in our family growing up that I refused to make it for years–especially when I got into Martha Stewart and “real cooking” in college. This was a main dish made with crushed tortilla chips and canned sliced olives! I certainly could not make it for other people!

But El Dorado casserole is comfort food in the extreme–beefy, creamy, cheesy, salty, and crunchy.

I believe this was either my Grandma Benge’s or Great-Grandma Potter’s recipe, and it was always the go-to dish when I was a child. Mom liked to make it when we were expecting out-of-town company, which I never understood as a young adult–couldn’t we make something fancier? Now I see: it appeals to virtually anyone, feeds a crowd, and can be ready and waiting to pop in the oven at a moment’s notice–especially handy in pre-cell phone times, when we were never quite sure when our road-tripping guests’ car would pull up.

My snobbishness about El Dorado casserole cracked when I made it as a backup dish for a huge dinner for a group (it is awfully handy). My friend Caroline glared at me as she scarfed it up, demanding, “Why haven’t you ever made this for me before?!?”

So make this and bring it to potlucks, freeze it and gift it to baby-having friends, and–of course–use it to welcome out-of-town guests and torment teenage would-be foodies.

El Dorado Casserole

Serves 8-12

You Need:

1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. minced onion (I usually use a whole onion)
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup sliced ripe olives
1 cup sour cream (I accidentally doubled this once and I’ve always made it that way going forward)
1 cup cottage cheese (ditto)
1 4-oz. can green chiles
Monterey jack cheese, grated (there’s never been a published measurement, just have at least 2 cups)
1 8-oz package tortilla chips, crushed (I just start crushing chips–Juanita’s, of course–from a big bag and layer as needed)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Brown meat in a pan and add onion, garlic salt, and tomato sauce. Combine the next four ingredients in a separate bowl.

Place a layer of crushed tortilla chips in a greased 8″ x 13″ casserole dish. Layer on half of the meat mixture, top with half of the sour cream mixture, and then sprinkle on a layer of cheese. Repeat with chips, meat mixture, sour cream mixture, and cheese. Top with additional chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. We usually had this with salad on the side, and if we were at my Grandma Benge’s, she would make sure to save any leftover (dressed!) salad in the fridge, which I attributed to her living through the Depression. Listen, I said I was snobby already.