Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Quick Cuban Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onion

I belong to the "I-Own-Too-Many-Cookbook-Magazines Club." Over the years, I have bought those handy-dandy magazine storage boxes where I have filed (in chronological order) back issues of my favorite magazines, Fine Cooking, Cuisine at Home, Cook's Country and Cook's Illustrated. But, they just keep sitting where I've stored them, and I forget to use them-- and it's hard to remember which recipes I wanted to make! I had to do something, but what?

For the longest time, I couldn't justify the cost of buying an Apple iPad. Eventually, I began to rationalize consider that I could download cookbooks and magazines, thereby reducing a lot of paper clutter.  I saved for a while, and became an owner of an iPad.   I cancelled my paper magazine subscriptions and switched to digital magazines. Know what? I'm loving it. Sure, there are some cookbooks that I want to hold in my hands-- to admire the beautiful photographs. Still, I discovered that I could download cookbooks (for less money) and I'm not struggling to find room on our limited book storage. Win!

Once I downloaded my first digital version of my favorite cooking magazines, I was in awe at how beautiful the digital photos looked!  This month's Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Cuisine at Home was loaded with quite a few recipes that I loved.  I bookmarked several of them (another useful feature of digital magazines).

Making authentic Cuban pork is on my bucket list, but this quick version seemed like a good place to start-- especially since I'm always looking for fast work night dinners.

The pork tenderloin is seasoned with salt and pepper...

For the Cuban flavors, brown sugar, orange zest, a paste of fresh garlic and salt, cumin, coriander and light  RUM is mixed together.   Yum!  (If you don't want to add the rum, use a little chicken stock.) This is rubbed all over the pork tenderloin and set aside, while I prepare the vegetables.

Sweet potatoes are, pretty much, a staple in our home. I love them roasted, steamed or mashed. I cubed 2 peeled sweet potatoes, in cut up one large red onion, into wedges.  

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Super Simple Blender Hollandaise Sauce for Perfect Eggs Benedict

A few years ago, I blogged about my not-so-secret favorite breakfast place in my hometown of Carmel, CA. I adore their Cheese Blintzes, and hope to replicate them at home. I almost did it-- but it needs more tweaking. When I go to this restaurant, I'm always torn between ordering their blintzes or their eggs benedict. Their hollandaise sauce is perfection-- creamy, with the perfect balance of lemon juice. Totally guilt inducing, either way. The guilt dissipates, once I take a bite.

Sometimes, you just have to live it up and enjoy this delectable brunch dish. Then take a drive along Carmel's Scenic drive, and soak in the beauty of the Carmel beach -- and reminisce of the days when I'd drive my mom's 1965 Mustang to gawk at the surfers. (This side trip was actually a 5 mile detour from the local grocery store that was 5 miles in the opposite direction.) Good times.

If you've never tasted Hollandaise sauce, it's an emulsion of egg yolk and liquid butter, usually seasoned with lemon juice, salt, and a little white pepper or cayenne pepper. My oldest brother is a pro at making this the traditional way-- clarifying the butter, and using a double-boiler to whisk the sauce to perfection.  The risk is that the sauce might break. He has a solution for that, but it's something I didn't want to deal with. For that  reason, I've avoided making my own hollandaise this way.

Those packets of hollandaise sauce mix don't cut it, either.  Awful. I don't recommend it. 

A few years ago, I tried making blender hollandaise sauce with my food processor. Dismal Fail. I abandoned that idea until now.  I finally upgraded my kitchen with a Vitamix Blender.  At first, my husband's eyes widened at the price tag-- and I admit, I had to take a deep breath when I bought it.  I don't regret the investment, because it's more powerful than my old blender (that I gave away).  I'm sure this recipe will work with any brand of blender, though. I'm dubious that a food processor would work as well, given my past experience. But if that's all you have...give it a try!

All you have to do is bring three egg yolks to room temperature.  I place them in the blender while I prepare the fixin's for Eggs Benedict:  English Muffins (I toast them very lightly), Canadian Bacon (you can substitute smoked salmon or mushrooms and spinach).
NOTE: I freeze my egg whites to use for other recipes-- like white cake or making a Pavlova.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunshine Lemon Bars

Sometime, in the early '90's, I first discovered "Lemon Bars". I don't know what rock I'd been living under, to have missed this iconic cookie. All I know is that it was love at first bite, for my son. Did you know that it is said that Betty Crocker's R&D department developed this cookie in 1963?

Since then, I've seen them at Starbucks and many bakeries. I just can't resist them, either.

If you've never had a Lemon Bar, think of this cookie as a layer of shortbread (no eggs) with a gooey, yet creamy, filling of lemony sweetness, dusted with powdered sugar. For some reason, I have forgotten about making these, even though I see all kinds of versions of this classic cookie. So, why would I want to post mine? I'll tell you why in a moment.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sour Dough Bread Rolls

Bread baking is something that strikes terror in so many people. I know this is true, because I used to be one of "them". Many years ago, I can remember trying to bake a loaf of bread, that turned out to be flat and hard as a brick.  Working with yeast scared me, and I gave up.  Once in a while, I'd buy frozen bread dough. Even that produced dismal results. So,  I resigned myself to being a total bread baking dud.

 Then...the magical "Bread Machine" came into our lives, in 1986, from Japan. Yes, the self-proclaimed "Gadget Queen" (that would be 'moi') bought one of the first ones (and it was expensive, as I recall). I marveled that I could simply dump flour, yeast, powdered milk and water, press a button and walk away. A short time later, I'd have this funny looking square loaf of bread.  I felt like I had conquered my fear of bread baking. Then, the machine died. I bought another one, which lasted just over a year. Then, it died.  I decided it was time to quit buying bread machines.

That's when it dawned on me, that I had a perfectly good Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer!  I quickly fell in-love with being able to let that machine mix my dough-- and then, I began to enjoy the feeling of working with bread dough... by that, I began to love the feel of bread dough, and shaping the dough into bread rolls, or loaves of bread. I got better at it, and more confident. Who needs a bread machine?

The internet is loaded with plenty of information on how to work with yeast.  One of my favorite resources is King Arthur Flour.  My pantry is full of their products, because they work.  Their recipes work, too and love their clear step-by-step recipes with plenty of photos.  Plus, they have a toll-free Baker's Hot Line, that I have used plenty of times.

I finally took a leap of faith, and ordered their sour dough starter.  I was scared that I'd kill my starter-- and I really didn't understand what to actually do with it.   At first, my sour dough starter was kept in a glass mason jar, loosely covered with plastic wrap and a rubber band.  Eventually, I bought this special crock pot-- and I will say that I love it.  I can easily spot "the beast" in the back of my fridge.

I "fed" this sour dough starter for two years, before I actually used it!  In hindsight, I don't know what I was  so afraid of. I made these Classic Baguettes, that turned out really well.  I can say that I've conquered another fear.  I can assure you, that my sour dough starter has been sadly neglected for weeks, and still, I managed to revive it and keep it going.  (You can learn all about Sourdough starters by clicking here and here.)

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pasta alla Norcina

I love Italian food, and pasta is one of my favorite comfort foods. Some work nights, when I'm totally beat, pasta becomes my kind of fast food. I can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes and we're all happy campers.

There are so many versions of pasta that I have yet to discover. A few years ago, I made a Sardinian Pasta with Semolina Gnocchi. That was fun to do, and also delicious!  In this month's issue of Cook's Illustrated, a recipe for Pasta alla Norcina was one of the many recipes that intrigued me.

Norcia, in the mountains of southeastern Umbria, is famous for it’s black truffles and pork, particularly sausages and salami. This  recipe, created to highlight Umbria’s delicious sausages can be found all across the region. Umbrian sausage is the traditional ingredient for this cream sauce, but it's not easy to find.  I always find it interesting to read how Cook's Illustrated finds a workaround when a particular ingredient isn't readily available in our local supermarket.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Chex® Caramel Corn Snack Mix (Perfect for Super Bowl)

A few years ago, one of my co-workers presented each of us with a bag of this Chex® Caramel Snack Mix. Just like I was seduced gifted with a Christmas plate of Peanut Butter Chewies, I couldn't stop eating these! I asked her for the recipe, which she readily agreed to do. Then, we both forgot about it and a few Christmas seasons came and went.

Fast forward to this Christmas, when she mentioned she was making her Chex Mix. My eyes lit up, and asked if she'd still share it with me. Sure enough, she handed the recipe to me and I made this (after Christmas).  My husband loves snacks that are crunchy, and I had a feeling he'd love this one as well. I was really excited to make this!

Craig and I enjoy having a Netflix night, with some freshly made kettle popcorn.   I figured this would be the perfect chance to make this for my family.  The ingredients are completely interchangeable-- I used freshly popped corn, Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Cheerios, Chinese Crispy Noodles and cocktail peanuts.    

In total, there are 19 cups of dry ingredients!  Yes, enough to feed a Super Bowl Party!  

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