Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gone Pecan

Weeknight dinners can be tough.  I'm tired from working all day and often don't feel like going all "gourmet" in order to put food on the table.  I know that many women can relate.

I usually have pork tenderloins in the freezer, and they're a quick and healthy dinner option.  A single pork tenderloin generally weighs about 1 pound, which means it's the perfect size for a family of four if you don't want leftovers.  I recently saw this idea in Better Homes & Gardens magazine, and it was well received by my brood.

Cut a pork tenderloin crosswise into medallions about 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick.

Pound each piece lightly with the flat side of a meat mallet to flatten.  Season as desired; I used Galena Street Rub for a little heat, but you could use cajun seasoning or whatever you like.

Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium heat.   Finely chop about a cup of pecans.  Dip the pork medallions into pure maple syrup (NOT pancake syrup!)

 and then the pecans.  Press the pecans in slightly so that they adhere.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet.  When it's shimmering, add 4 to 6 of the pork medallions.

Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, no longer because you want it barely pink in the middle.  Continue cooking in batches, then remove medallions and add about 2 Tbsp. maple syrup, a dash of cayenne, maybe a little cumin, and 1/2 cup fresh orange juice to the skillet (or use a good not-from-concentrate OJ like my favorite):

Reduce until slightly thickened and pour over the pork medallions.  Garnish with fresh orange wedges.

We ate it all, or as they would say in New Orleans, it was Gone Pecan!

Linking to:

Cast Party Wednesday

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pucker Up!

Valentine's Day is traditionally all about chocolate, but this terrific Lemon Yogurt Cake will make you pucker up!

The original recipe is from the incomparable Ina Garten.  I have adapted it slightly because I rhink that the original recipe was a little confusing.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
Slightly adapted from Ina Garten
(click here to print)

1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (fat-free is fine)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon zest (3 small lemons)
    • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (Ina doesn't put juice in the cake, but it increases the pucker power!)
    • 1//2 tsp. vanilla (or lemon oil, if you have it)
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • For the syrup:
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan (8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2 inch or similar).

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and oil.  Mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until ingredients are combined.

Pour into loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  While the loaf is cooling, heat the syrup ingredients in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved.  Loosen the cake from the pan by running a knife around the edge.  Invert onto a wire rack set over a sheet pan or plate.  Slowly pour the syrup over the warm cake so that it is absorbed.

If you do this slowly, there is no need to poke holes in the cake.  Cool to room temperature.

Combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the top, allowing the excess to drip over the sides.  Slice and serve.

Leftovers can be wrapped in foil and kept at room temperature.  This stays moist and delicious for a few days, if it lasts that long! 

Linking to:

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Around Christmas-time, I wanted to make a batch of dark brown sugar sea-salt caramels.  I bought this new Food Network brand candy thermometer at Kohls.

I have had the other type of candy thermometer that looks a little like a test tube for years, but I liked the idea of the flat thermometer which stays clipped on the pot better and is easier to read because the numbers aren't inside the glass like these are:

So I made my caramels which had to be cooked to the firm ball stage (245 degrees).  If you know anything about candymaking, getting the temperature right is crucial.  I figured that my new thermometer was trustworthy because, after all, it was from Food Network!

Wrong.  My caramels were somewhere between the hard ball and hard crack stages, in other words, the thermometer was probably between 25 and 35 degrees off!  Gah!

So I made another batch of caramels with my old faithful thermometer and they came out great.  But what to do with the first batch?  I mean, the taste was wonderful but the texture was a little scary: not hard enough to be broken into brittle chips (which was my initial inclination) and not soft enough to chew without seriously compromising your dental work.

I put it in the freezer and forgot about it until today.  I had a quart of heavy cream that a friend gave me because she knew she wasn't going to use it and decided to try an experiment.  I chopped up my frozen caramel brick as best I could and melted it with about a cup and a half of heavy cream over medium low heat.

It made the most exquisite caramel sauce EVER!

Don't you just love happy accidents?  It's probably good that I don't know the exact way to make this sauce again, because it is so decadently delicious that I could eat the whole jar by myself.  In fact, I kept sneaking spoonfuls at every opportunity.  And then I decided to make some mocha ice cream to go with it...

What about you?  Have you ever brought something back from the brink of failure?

Sharing at:

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Souper Bowl/Sundae

This weekend, I have been having fun in the kitchen.  Some weekends are like that, where I enjoy trying new recipes or tweaking old ones.

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, I made both soup (or more accurately, a chowder), and sundaes (I will share that later this week).

My husband is originally from Massachusetts, so I had to make a fish chowder in honor of his New England Patriots.
This uses cod, and My Man gave us a little speech on the mismanagement of the cod industry in New England while we were eating this at lunch. Thankfully, our cod today was from the Pacific ocean.   ;)

Fish Chowder
adapted from allrecipes.com 
(click here to print)

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans low-sodium chicken stock (or use homemade if you have it)
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 pounds cod, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning, or to taste (this sounds like a lot but this needs a lot of salt)
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and celery and saute until tender but not brown.

Add the potatoes and chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the fish and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Combine the Old Bay seasoning, pepper, clam juice and flour and whisk until smooth.  Add to the pot, stirring gently, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes until it starts to thicken.

Add the evaporated milk and heat through.

Sprinkle with a little extra Old Bay, if desired, for color.

My Man really enjoyed this.  It brought him back to his mom's cooking, I think.  He just kept saying, "This is good!"

I hope that tonight's game isn't giving him indigestion, though!

Linking to:

Hunk of Meat Mondays

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Minute to Pin It

Probably most of you have heard of the wonderful, virtual bulletin board called

If you have the Pin It button installed on your browser, it takes literally a second to "pin" something you see (a photo, cool tutorial, or recipe) to your own personal bulletin board.  In fact, you can have lots of bulletin boards, categorized in any way you want.  And you can share them with others and repin others' stuff to yours.

The best part of all is that the original url where you saw the item you pinned is retained so you can go back to it later.  But the downside for me is that I pin like crazy and then never actually try the great ideas I have seen.

Well, not today!  One of my most "repinned" pins is for a Pottery Barn knockoff for Sheet Music Candles.

Pottery Barn Sheet Music Candles
The original poster was Gail at Can't Stop Making Things, and her tutorial is excellent.

I got my tissue paper, scissors and card stock together as well as a piece of scrapbook paper that has a music motif already (and an aged look).

Make sure you know how your paper should be put in to have it print on the tissue paper side.  I marked a blank paper with a red "X" and put it in face down.

Yup, that's the correct orientation for my printer!
Next, I did as Gail instructed and taped the tissue paper to the card stock.  I then put it through the printer.

Paper jam!
Maybe I didn't use enough tape?  I decided to wrap my card stock a little like a package on my second attempt so it wouldn't get jammed.

It worked!

My advice to use less tissue on the back side than I did on this one because it was a little too thick.  I did better on my second attempt.

I wrapped my Dollar Tree candle and a candle from Ikea ($3 total) with the printed tissue as Gail instructed.

One thing I found is that it's easier to cut the tissue to the correct size if it's still attached to the card stock.

The last step on Gail's tutorial was to heat the candle surface with a heat gun.  I don't have one, but I noticed in the comments that someone recommended a hair dryer, so I tried that.

It worked!
Note that I used the hottest temperature but the lowest (directed) airflow and burnished the paper as the wax heated up to smooth out any wrinkles and increase adhesion.

Here's the finished candlescape!  The little bonbon candle came from Dollar Tree.

Easy, cheap, and cute is music to my ears!

Thanks, Gail!