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Carnitas with Chile and Sweet Potatoes

If I told you that our Super Bowl party was literally a bloody awesome time, you may assume that I’m one of those people who wrongly uses the word ‘literally’ to express exaggeration rather than expressing actual events. But no…there was literally blood everywhere at my super bowl party. In fact, there is still blood everywhere.

It all began earlier in the afternoon. The boys were playing Xbox Kinect with my husband while I was preparing party food in the kitchen. Everything was coming along wonderfully. The spinach dip was made, the chicken wing dip prepped, and the creole deviled eggs ready to go. Then came the urgent call from the living room. It had appeared that our three year old had somehow cut his toe, as it was covered in fresh blood. Weirder yet, the entire living room appeared to be sprayed in the same blood. My husband started the clean up while I brought our little guy upstairs to clean and bandage the wound. I could find no wound to bandage, but everyone seemed ok, so we carried on with our party prep, puzzled by the mysterious blood.

A little while later, while my husband was giving the boys a pre-party bath, I spotted fresh blood on the sliding glass doors in the living room. At that point, I realized the blood had been coming from our dog, not our son’s toe. A bit of blood on his nose led me to believe it was caused by a nose bleed, but since the bleeding appeared to be under control, we carried on our merry ways.

Everything was going swimmingly at that point. All of the food had been prepped, the house was clean, the kids were dressed. And then our first guests arrived and everything fell into utter chaos. It all happened so fast. As our friends approached the door, along with their three young children, our dog began his typical guest-greeting frenzy, wildly wagging his tail in eager anticipation of our first guests. It was in that moment that we very quickly discovered the true source of the blood. As his tail wagged, smacking our entranceway baskets and walls, blood flew everywhere. And I mean everywhere. In a matter of seconds, the walls, baskets, floors, curtains, and clothing of anyone standing with 10 feet of the dog were instantly speckled with streams of bright red blood.

In walked our first guests, followed in rapid succession by our other guests. We quickly ushered young children through the blood soaked entrance as we frantically tried to make it appear less like the scene of a violent crime and more like the site of a festive occasion. We put the dog outside where I unsuccessfully tried to wrap his wagging tail in gauze. The children played and helped themselves to an unsupervised buffet of red, white, and blue jelly beans, while some of our friends grabbed wipes and cleaned dog blood off our floors. (I throw a great party, right??)

Ultimately, we came to the realization that our pup needed medical care. So, my husband packed our bloody dog into the car and headed off to the emergency vet, leaving me in our blood-speckled home with our houseful of guests and a gaggle of kids in the midst of a major sugar rush…one of which was now doubled over in bellyache pain.

Our friends are lovely though, and everyone took turns passing the baby around as I served drinks and heated the food, while breathing through the panic attack that lay just beneath the surface of my calm demeanor.  Our friends were even so gracious as to claim that it was a great party as they left later that night. (I think they were just being polite.) My husband arrived home by half-time with our dog (who had been shaved, sedated, and stitched) along with a hefty vet bill. The evening will forever be remembered as the Deline Family Super Bowl Massacre, as it would appear to anyone approaching our front door, which is still streaked in red.

I will spend the rest of the week cleaning up from the worst party I’ve ever hosted.

I’d hoped to be sharing a recipe for the Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread I made last night, which was insanely fantastic, but in the chaos of last night’s events, I didn’t take a single picture. So, that recipe will need to wait until I have a chance to make it again…Don’t worry, I’ll find some excuse soon!

In the mean time, here are a couple recipes for a really tasty meal…tender, slow-cooked pork carnitas in a sauce of sweet potatoes and spicy chiles. On the side, a simple variation on my favorite roasted brussels sprouts, cooked with spicy chorizo to coat the sprouts in utter deliciousness. The pork has a long cook time, but reheats beautifully. So, either prepare the pork a day ahead of time or plan it for a day you’ll be around to babysit the oven.

Enjoy, friends! Hope your super bowl celebrations were a bit less bloody than ours!

Carnitas with Chile and Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 6-7 pound pork shoulder, trimmed of most excess exterior fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato (yam), cooked until tender, skin removed, lightly mashed*
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • Salt
  • Ground cayenne pepper
*To prepare the sweet potato: Prick the exterior several times with a fork, then bake in a 375 degrees oven for about 60-75 minutes, until quite tender. Cut the potato in half and scoop out the tender interior. Use a fork to lightly mash the potato.

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously season the pork with salt. Heat olive oil over medium/medium-high heat in a large dutch oven pan or oven-safe pot. Place the pork shoulder in the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Remove the roast from the pan and set aside. Add the onion and peppers to the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sweet potato, chicken broth, and honey. Return the pork shoulder to the pan, the cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook on the middle oven rack for about 3.5 – 4 hours.

After 3.5 – 4 hours, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature. Once the pork is cool enough to handle, remove it from the pan and use a fork or your fingers to pull apart the meat, which should be incredibly tender. (I prefer the use my fingers, since it’s easier to remove and discard any bits of fat.)

Allow the sauce to rest while you’re pulling the meat. As it rests, the excess fat should rise to the surface. Use a spoon to skim and discard the excess fat. Then, using a blender, food processor, or immersion blend, puree the sauce until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes over medium heat, until about 1 1/2-2 cups of nicely thickened sauce remains.Stir frequently to prevent burning. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and cayenne pepper, if desired.

Toss the meat with the sauce.

To reheat the meat and develop some nice caramelized bits, heat the sauced meat under a hot broiler for a few minutes until the top begins to turn a golden brown.

Serve in warm tortillas.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo

Ingredients

  • 4 cups brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
  • 4 ounces spicy Spanish chorizo, quartered and sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a baking dish. Cook for 40-45 minutes, tossing every 10-15 minutes to coat the brussels sprouts with the delicious oil, which will render from the chorizo. Season with salt, to taste.

Diet Day: 37  Weight Loss: 13  Motivation: Stable…enjoyed myself at last night’s party, back on track today!

Cocktail Meatballs Three Ways

When it comes to any type of sport, I’m more of a go-to-a-game kind of person than a sit-on-my-couch-cheering-and-cursing kind of person. There’s a whole atmosphere to being at a game. There are people passing out beer and food. There’s music and singing. There are people doing ‘the wave’. And I really like ‘the wave’. I like the whole experience of attending a game. But watching sports from my couch…boring.

So, sports-watchin’…not really my thing. But game day snacks…totally my thing! We’re throwing a little super bowl party this year, because it’s a great excuse to have some friends over and enjoy some tasty food. We’ll eat. We’ll drink. We’ll laugh. We may even do the wave.

I’ll be serving of few of my old favorites, specifically chicken wing dip, creole-deviled eggs, and spinach dip along with a few new items, like pepperoni pizza monkey bread (doesn’t that sound delicious??) and these cocktail meatballs in three different sauces.

We’ll start with a basic, versatile meatball, made with a mix of beef, pork, and turkey, then we’ll dress them in three different, but equally delicious, sauces. Make one, two, or all three! These meatballs can be made ahead of time, tossed in their sauce and refrigerated or frozen until use. Reheat in a 350 degrees oven for 15 minutes or so, until heated through. Meatballs can be reheated from frozen, but allow for extra time.

**Each sauce recipe makes enough to thoroughly coat 1/3 of the meatball recipe. Doubling any of the sauce recipes should make enough sauce for the entire meatball batch.

Basic Cocktail Meatball

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients until well blended. Roll the mixture into balls, about 1″ diameter. Place the balls in a single layer on baking sheets which have been lightly rubbed with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked.

Makes about 90-100 meatballs

Honey Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup spicy brown mustard
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Pour over the meatballs.

Sweet and Sour Pineapple Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pineapple preserves
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Pour over the meatballs.

Thai Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 green onions, chopped

Directions

Combine all ingredients, except green onions, in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Stir in most of the green onions, saving some for garnish. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt or additional red curry paste, as desired. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Garnish with remaining green onions.

And if those meatballs don’t do it for you, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom meatballs…

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs

Asian Style Turkey Meatballs in Hoisin Peanut Sauce

Favorite Thanksgiving Ideas

Hard to believe Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. I’d better get my butt in gear and start preparing.

To be honest, I’d been struggling to come up with new Thanksgiving recipes to share with you. I’m just really in love with my standard Thanksgiving dishes. It’s a menu that’s evolved over the past several years and in my mind, it’s the perfect Thanksgiving feast. But, as my husband reminded me, Thanksgiving is very much about tradition.

So, this Thanksgiving, we will be enjoying what has become our traditional Thanksgiving feast, but I have come up with a few new ideas to share. Over the next two weeks, keep your eyes out for a Pumpkin Vanilla Custard, How to Make an All-Butter Pie Crust Photo Guide, Spiced Pumpkin Wontons, From-Scratch Green Bean Casserole with Homemade Crispy Onion Straws, Garlicky Creamed Spinach, a fun twist on a classic Apple Pie, and Braised Turkey Drumsticks.

Yikes! Ok…it’s probably unrealistic that I’ll be able to get all of that posted before Thanksgiving. But I’m gonna give it an honest effort. Let me know if there’s anything in that list you’re especially interested in seeing and I’ll try to prioritize that post.

In the mean time, take a look back at some of my classic Thanksgiving favorites:

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy

Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan Streusel 

Sausage, Apple, and Leek Stuffing

Cranberry Orange Sauce 

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts 

Hot Doughy Buns 

Italian Wedding Soup

I’m about to eat my words.

“I guess I just don’t really think too much about soup. I never crave it. I rarely get the itch to make it. ” – Me, October 26, 2010

Well, I’ve changed my mind. A girl’s allowed to change her mind, right?? I think about soup all of the time lately. I crave soup frequently. I always have the itch to make it. In fact, I can barely think of anything more comforting on a chilly autumn day than a bowl of soup; a creamy pumpkin bisque, savory chicken noodle, or spicy sausage and bean. I love them all.

While I’m busy eating my words, I might as well admit that my lifelong, passionate distaste for Rod Stewart has been gradually waning. Rod Stewart, the thought of whom used to give me unpleasant shivers. I now find myself singing along to his songs on the radio. I may have even raised the volume once or twice. What’s happening to me?

I’m swimming in soup this week as I prepare for our littlest guy’s upcoming baptism. I’ll be serving a menu of soups, salad, and assorted breads. There will be a Roasted Pumpkin Caramel Bisque, a Sausage, Bean, and Rapini soup, a Spicy Beef Chili, and this Italian Wedding Soup.

Italian wedding soup is typically composed of a chicken broth with meatballs, leafy greens, and pasta. It’s a simple, but perfectly married combination of flavors. I start my soup with a homemade chicken broth. You can skip this step and use prepared chicken broth to save a whole bunch of time. But, if you make the broth from scratch you’ll have the added benefit of enough cooked chicken to make meals for the rest of the week! Totally worth the small investment in time!

Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients

For the broth:

  • 2 whole chickens
  • 2 cups carrots, coarse chopped
  • 1 head celery, coarse chopped
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 6-8 cloves garlic

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Pepper

For the soup:

  • 3-4 teaspoons salt
  • Pepper
  • Splash of hot sauce
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, coarse-chopped
  • 1 pound small pasta (ditalini or orzo)

Directions

To prepare the broth, place two whole chickens into a very large pot (12-16 quart stockpot). Add carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. Add enough water to cover an inch or two above the chicken and veggies. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 3.5-4 hours. When cool enough to safely handle, use a slotted spoon to remove most of the chicken and veggies. Pour the remaining mixture through a fine-sieve strainer. Save the chicken for other uses (salads, quesadillas, chicken salad, pasta dishes). Discard the vegetables. Transfer the broth back to the pot and bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered for 20-30 minutes to reduce the liquid and concentrate the flavor. Allow to cool. Use a spoon to skim some of the fat from the surface of the soup. (If desired, you can cool the broth completely in the refrigerator to easily remove the excess fat, which will rise and harden on the surface of the broth. This is not a necessary step, but is the most effective way to remove the fat.) Reserve 16 cups of the broth for the soup. Freeze any remaining broth for other uses.

To prepare the meatballs, combine all meatball ingredients until well-blended. Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls. Bake on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

To prepare the soup, bring 16 cups of the full-flavored broth to a simmer. Add salt and pepper, as desired. About 3-4 teaspoons of salt should do the trick. (Store-bought broth, which has already been salted, will require less salt. Taste as you go to prevent over-salting the broth.) Add a splash or two of hot sauce, as desired. Add the meatballs and spinach. Simmer until the spinach wilts. In a separate pot, cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes less than directed. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Strain, then add the slightly under-cooked pasta to the hot soup.

Thanksgiving Burgers

Three of the Most Embarrassing Moments of My Life:

1. The time in elementary school when one of my best friends took the opportunity to announce my crush to the entire class. Amy likes Anthony, my pal announced to her fully-attentive audience, leaving me red-faced and fumbling for words. If only I could have come up with some clever retort, like So’s your face or Your mama dresses you funny! Except that we all wore matching plaid uniforms… You can bet I kept my crushes to myself after that.

2. The time in high school, when, during a class exercise involving a map of Europe, I replied “Switz” in response to a question about SwitzERLAND. Hey…it said Switz on the map and none of the other countries were abbreviated. I wanted to crawl into a hole when the teacher responded, “Switz? Do you mean Switzerland?” Ummmm, yeah. The correct answer would be Switzerland…not the mysterious land of Switz; home to Switz cheese and Switz watches!

3. The time in college, when I discovered I’d been walking down Main Street with the back of my skirt tucked into my pantyhose. Yes, that really happens…to me, apparently. I only discovered my wardrobe malfunction after trying to decode the odd looks I’d received from my employer, who’d been standing on the porch of  the local bar and restaurant I’d worked at, as I passed by with my tushie on display. For goodness sake, quit ogling and tell a modest girl she’s half dressed in the middle of town!

Oh, and did I mention that I started high school with a face covered in poison ivy? Yeah, for real.

I was never meant to be one of the cool kids anyway. If I were a food, I’ve always been more of a lima bean than a cupcake. I like unicorns, cried at the end of Battlestar Galactica, and won a bridge-building contest in my honors physics class (cause I’m cool like that). I trip over my own feet with concerning frequency and somehow manage to miss my mouth while drinking, more than I’d like to admit. I’m a clutz, a germaphobe, and a neat-freak.

It’s ok. I happen to like lima beans.

Knowing what you know now, are you sure you still want to hang out with me? Would you still like me if I told you that seeing the Christmas decorations currently on display in my local Target makes me giddy with excitement? There is no too early for Christmas stuff in my book. It’s coming and I can’t wait. And somewhere in between now and my favorite holiday, there will be Thanksgiving!

If you’re having a hard time waiting for that Thanksgiving meal, try this tasty burger on for size! The patty combines all the flavors of the turkey with the stuffing. Served on a doughy potato bun and topped with gravy and cranberry sauce, this turkey burger (with a twist) gives you a burst of Thanksgiving flavor with every bite!

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Burger

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound bulk breakfast sausage
  • 1/3 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup leeks, finely sliced *
  • 1/2 cup dried apples, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 6 potato buns
  • Turkey gravy, homemade or store-bought
  • Cranberry sauce (jellied or whole berry), homemade or store-bought
* Click HERE to see my photo guide on how to slice leeks.
Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using your hands, combine the turkey, sausage, celery, leeks, apples, salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper until well blended. Form into six patties. Place the patties onto a lightly greased baking sheet (a little vegetable or olive oil will do the trick). Cook for about 12 minutes, until fully cooked (internal temp of 165 degrees). Place each cooked patty onto a potato bun. Top with warmed gravy and cranberry sauce.

Pepperoni-Braised Chicken

We took the kids for a hike in the woods this past weekend. It was the perfect family activity for a gorgeous fall day.

But, I’m not gonna lie. I sort of freaked out in there.

We’d gone to a local ‘nature center’ for our adventure. Not sure what I was thinking, but I’d expected a well-cleared, child-friendly path. I’d almost worn sandals. I definitely wasn’t prepared for a mountainous hike through barely-marked, densely-wooded trails. There were harrowing cliffs and treacherous mudslides. Old wooden bridges creaked as we crossed over rushing ravines. And ferocious wilderness creatures crouched behind every tree, waiting for their chance to attack.

Ok, so I may be exaggerating a little bit about the terrain. But I swear that chipmunk looked at me funny.

It didn’t help that when, at last, we found a trail marker, with a faded, barely legible map, we identified ourselves to be at location known as the “grave bed”. That’s when I almost started to cry. That’s when I wanted to curl into a ball and surrender my fate to the wilderness.

It could be that my husband and I have watched way too many ‘horror in the wilderness’ type movies lately. For as we wandered deeper into the solitary woods, my mind flooded with every worst-case scenario. My heart raced as my maternal protective instincts went into overdrive. Was that a banjo I just heard?? Are those berries safe to eat?? How could I forget my grappling hooks?? That sasquatch wants to eat my baby!!

Oh, I may have been more relaxed had we brought absolutely anything into the woods with us besides my husband’s iPhone…you know, like survival gear? Is there an app for that?

No one even knew we were out there. And the baby kept squeaking. Would wild bears perceive the baby’s squeaking for weakness, in the same way that sharks perceive kicking legs to be an injured fish…easy prey?? Hush baby! Mama doesn’t feel like wrestling a bear today!

Oh, and the bugs…as big as birds and as hungry as dinosaurs. I walked with my arms flailing around me, windmill-style, to prevent those vicious creatures from landing on my precious baby, whose meaty, naked legs hung from the carrier, like a juicy ribeye being waved in front of a rottweiler.

Bears, bugs, and bigfoots aside, it was a fun family adventure. But I think my four-year-old said it best as he ran towards the trail exit screaming, My life is saved!!

I think next weekend we should go back to apple-picking.

Here. Eat this. It’s about as comforting as comfort food comes!

Pepperoni Braised Chicken 

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1-pound bag frozen pearl onions, defrosted
  • 1 cup pepperoni, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim chicken of excess skin and fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium/medium-high heat in a large dutch oven pan. Place the chicken in the pan, skin-side down. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp. Turn over and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic, pearl onions, and pepperoni to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, then nestle the chicken thighs into the mixture, skin-side up. Add the chicken stock to the pan. (It should not completely cover the chicken.) Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pan and place it on the middle oven rack. Cook, covered, for 45 minutes. Then, remove the cover and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken, onions, and pepperoni from the sauce. Skim and discard the excess fat from the surface of the sauce. In a small bowl, stir a few tablespoons of the hot sauce with the cornstarch. Return the cornstarch mixture to the pan. Bring the sauce to a simmer for a few minutes to slightly thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes.

Sweet and Spicy Pork over Smashed Sweet Potatoes

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Anyone else inherit the same paranoia about undercooked pork that I did? Do you find yourself perpetually overcooking your pork until it practically crumbles and barely resembles meat? You’re not alone. Overcooking pork is a common practice, stemming from the fear instilled in us by our well-intentioned elders, who warned us never to mess around with undercooked pork. Fearing for our lives and horrified at the thought of contracting some miserable illness, we did as we were told and cooked that pork to a dry 170 degrees.

Turns out that nowadays, Trichinella (the parasite of concern in pork) is not so much a problem as it once was. Improved sanitation standards and pig diets have resulted in a much safer pork quality. Furthermore, trichinella is actually killed at a temperature which is much lower than 170 degrees. There’s really no reason to cook your pork to death.

Wouldn’t you rather enjoy a juicy pork chop instead of something akin to cardboard? Well, you’re in luck! Recently, the USDA officially lowered it’s recommended minimum temperature for pork. You can now rest at ease with cooking your pork to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees. Add a recommended three minute rest time for a little carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute and you’ll have yourself a delicious, juicy piece of pork. (Click here for more information on the USDA’s revised recommendations.)

It’s now easier than ever to remember the safe cooking temperatures for all types of meat. Just three numbers to remember for safe, delicious meat! Pork, beef, lamb, and other whole cuts of meat all have a minimum recommended temperature of 145 degrees. The recommendation for poultry remains unchanged at a minimum cooked temperature of 165 degrees. Ground meats maintain a minimum recommended cooked temperature of 160 degrees. (See my summertime safety note below the recipe.)

The best way to measure the temperature of any meat is with an instant-read meat thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the meat. If you don’t already own a good thermometer, get yourself one. It is, without a doubt, one of the most useful kitchen tools you’ll own.

I’ve got just the thing to celebrate the new, lowered safe temperature recommendation for cooked pork; a lean pork tenderloin glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce made of honey and sambal oelek (ground chili paste). Check in the international section of your grocery store for the sambal oelek. If you’re unable to find it, a ground chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in adobo) would make a good substitute. Our perfectly cooked tenderloin will be served atop a mound of lightly spiced, smashed sweet potatoes and drizzled with a bit of the honey sauce.

Sweet and Spicy Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients

  • 1 1-pound pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
  • Salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove any excess fat or silver skin from the pork tenderloin. Place the tenderloin on a baking dish. Season with salt.

In a bowl, combine the honey and sambal oelek until well blended. Pour about half of the mixture over the tenderloin. Place the tenderloin in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes, until it has reached an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees. Halfway through the cooking time, pour the remainder of the honey mixture over the tenderloin. Allow to rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

Serve over smashed sweet potatoes. Drizzle with excess honey sauce from the baking dish.

Serves 2-4

For the sweet potatoes: Place 2 large sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Bake in a 375 degrees oven for about an hour, until very tender. Split the potatoes in half and scoop out the tender insides. Smash the potato with 3 tablespoons of butter and about 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, until as smooth as desired.

**Semi-unrelated Summertime Safety Note**

The recommended minimum temperature of 160 degrees for ground meats includes burgers, despite some people’s preferences for a more rare-cooked burger. The higher recommended temperature for ground meat (as compared to whole cuts of meat) is due to the nature of the product. Whereas bacteria exists mainly on the surface of whole meats, which enables it to be fully killed during the cooking process, bacteria in ground meat has the potential to be spread throughout the entire product. If you prefer your burgers on the rare side, your best bet is to purchase the highest quality meat from a trusted source and grind it in your own, impeccably clean meat grinder.  Irradiated beef, which has been exposed to radiation in order to kill bacteria and parasites is another option for rare-cooked burgers, though personally, the idea of irradiated meat doesn’t sit well with me. I’d much rather just cook my burgers to the recommended safe temperature. Using a ground beef with a higher fat content (80/20) is the best way to maintain a well-cooked, juicy burger.

Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole

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Don’t you just love a good breakfast casserole? Something savory, made with eggs and cheese or maybe something sweet, like a French toast casserole, oozing with cinnamon and syrup? There’s just something so satisfying in its completeness.
For some incomprehensible reason, I’d never even heard of breakfast casseroles until well into my adulthood. It just wasn’t something my family ever made. My first experience with a breakfast casserole was at a monthly workplace breakfast. An unknown casserole sat on the table alongside the tray of bagels and bowl of fruit salad. One scoop of this casserole contained bread, eggs, sausage, peppers, and cheese. I thought, What brilliant genius created this complete breakfast in a baking dish? The following month, someone different made something nearly identical. My workplace was clearly dripping with geniuses. And the month after that, someone else made it again. Seriously, Mensa should send an evaluation team to this place.
Over the years since, I’ve enjoyed numerous breakfast casseroles from various coworkers, friends, and family members. It seems that everyone, except for me, was privy to this genius breakfast casserole idea. And I’m pretty sure that everyone is using the same secret recipe, for every one of these casseroles has been nearly identical (and equally delicious).
Recently, I fell upon a different version of a breakfast casserole that sounded too good to resist; a casserole of eggs with sausage, biscuits, and gravy. Ummm…can you say comfort food?? I’ve made this casserole twice now and it does not disappoint. In fact, my brother-in-law’s response to his first bite was something to the effect of, If I wasn’t already married to your sister, I’d marry this casserole. I’d venture to say that he enjoyed it.
I can not take credit for this recipe, nor can I cite the original creator. It’s one of those recipes which is all over the internet in a hundred variations. Perhaps you’ve already enjoyed something like this, but just in case you haven’t, I needed to share it with you. Make it for breakfast, brunch, or breakfast for dinner. Share it with your coworkers, friends, and family. You’ll be happy you did!
***
Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole
***
Ingredients
  • 8 large buttermilk biscuits, frozen or refrigerated
  • 1 pound bulk breakfast sausage (without casings)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 envelope country gravy mix
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Directions

Bake the biscuits according to package directions, using the lower end of the recommended cooking time so they do not overcook. When cool enough to handle, cut the biscuits in half to create a top and a bottom. Set aside.

Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat, until fully cooked. Use the edge of a spoon to break the sausage into small pieces as it cooks.

Spray a 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the baking dish with the bottom halves of the biscuits. Scatter the cooked sausage on top of the biscuits. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 cups of the cheese over the sausage.

In a large bowl, whisk together the gravy mix, milk, and eggs, until well combined. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Arrange the top halves of the biscuits over the eggs. Lightly press the biscuits into the egg mixture.

If desired, cover and refrigerate the mixture for a few hours or overnight.

Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 50-55 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the biscuits during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Split Pea Soup with Ham

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Still looking for something festive to make for St. Patrick’s Day, but corned beef and cabbage isn’t your thing? How about some smooth, green pea soup, slow-cooked with smokey ham hocks, and served with homemade croutons? Might that be your thing?

Split Pea Soup with Ham

Ingredients

  • 4 cups dried split peas, rinsed and picked through
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 10 cups chicken broth, water or vegetable broth
  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to get tender. Add the carrots. Cook for a couple more minutes. Add the peas, liquid, and ham hocks. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent the peas from sticking on the bottom. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 1/2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. The peas should almost completely break down as the soup simmers. Remove the ham hocks and set aside. Allow the soup to cool for a few minutes. Then, carefully use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender to puree the soup to your desired texture. If the soup is thicker than you prefer, add a bit more broth or water. If the soup is too thin, simmer uncovered to reduce the liquid. Season with a generous amount of salt (a few teaspoons should be about right) and pepper. Remove the skin, bone, and fat from the ham hocks. Pull apart or chop the meat and add it to the soup.

For the croutons: Cut French bread into chunks. (Slightly stale bread works best.) Toss in a bit of olive oil. Season as desired. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder work well. Bake in a 375 degrees oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. I prefer my croutons to be crispy on the outside and slightly tender in the center!

A couple other St. Patty’s Day dinner ideas:

Guinness-Braised Beef over Buttered Noodles

In Like a Lamb Shepherd’s Pie


Pork with Pork, Pork, and Pork

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Happy Fat Tuesday! Put those Lenten resolutions of abstinence and chocolate deprivation on hold for one more day. Tomorrow, we fast. Today, we feast!

Recently, during a particularly lucid early-morning shower brainstorm, I developed a recipe which is either my most genius creation or proof that I’ve completely gone insane; pork stuffed with pork and pork, wrapped in pork. I’m calling it The Whole Hog. We’ll start with boneless pork chops, then stuff them with a sweet and savory filling made from bacon and sausage, and wrap them in prosciutto for the final touch. This is a dish to send the three little pigs running for the hills.

In honor of Fat Tuesday, I proudly present you with The Whole Hog: Pork with Pork, Pork, and Pork.

Genius or insane? You decide.

The Whole Hog

Bacon, Sausage, and Apple stuffed Pork Chops wrapped in Prosciutto

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 4-5 slices applewood-smoked bacon, chopped*
  • 4-5 breakfast sausages, removed from casings**
  • 1 granny smith apple, diced
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • Salt and pepper

* Regular bacon can be substituted

**Use an apple flavored sausage, if available

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and sausage. Cook until bacon begins to crisp and sausage is fully cooked. Use the side of a spoon to break up the sausage as it cooks. Add the apple and cook for a few minutes longer, until softened. Add the panko and stir until the panko crumbs absorb the excess fat and pan juices. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper, as desired.

Split each pork chop almost all the way through, to create a pocket for the stuffing. Generously stuff each pork chop with the bacon and sausage mixture. Scatter any extra stuffing on the bottom of a baking dish. Place the pork chops on top of the extra stuffing. Season the outside of the pork chops with salt and pepper. Wrap each pork chop with prosciutto. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until fully cooked.

Serves 2

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