September 30, 2013

Apple Glazed Pork Loin

So, it's been son is heading to Barcelona, Spain next summer.  His high school soccer team is going to play in a tournament there, and since it's such a great opportunity, we decided to let him go.  I have some conflicting feelings about this.  I personally LOVE to travel and believe it's really important to take every opportunity to travel as much as possible.  Seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing cultures outside your own are important when you are young.  So for all those reasons I really wanted him to go on this trip.  However, as a mom, I am horribly nervous to let him go...without me!  Traveling overseas in this day and age, in general, just makes me nervous.  Then I start thinking of all the things that could go wrong - like what if he gets hurt or sick while there, what if he looses his passport after he gets there, what if his money gets stolen, what if his phone won't work and he can't call me, etc.  Yeah, I think I will have an ulcer by the time this trip takes place.  Deep breaths....

Since it's fall, I like lots of people out there, am on a bit of an apple kick/fall flavors kick.  While Island Pork Tenderloin is still my favorite pork dish (click here for recipe), I can't make it all the time, so I'm always trying to come up with new dishes.  I saw a picture of apple glazed ribs somewhere, and it inspired me to make this Apple Glazed Pork Loin.  This experiment turned out to be quite delicious!  We all thought it was very good, so this one is a keeper for sure!  It's a perfect fall dish. ♥

Apple Glazed Pork Loin

Rub for pork:
4 tsp chili powder
3 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp onion powder
3 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper 
2 1/4 lb pork loin (or 2 smaller ones equaling the same weight)

For glaze:
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tbsp favorite BBQ sauce
1/4 cup apple jelly, melted
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  In a small bowl mix all the spice rub ingredients together.  Transfer 1 tbsp of it to another bowl and set aside.  Rub the spice mix on all sides of your pork loin.  Heat a couple tbsp of vegetable oil in a large, ovenproof skillet (I used my cast iron skillet) on medium-high heat.  Sear the pork on all sides for a couple of minutes on each side.  

Meanwhile, take the tbsp of the spice rub you set aside and add the glaze ingredients to it and whisk to combine.  Remove the pork from the heat, and pour glaze over top.  Place the skillet in the oven to continue cooking - about 25 minutes or until a thermometer inserted diagonally, reaches 140 degrees.  Remove from oven and cover pan with foil, and let it set for 10 minutes before cutting.  Spoon the extra glaze from the pan over the pork when serving.

September 26, 2013

Apricot Cheese Squares

Do you ever see those "Blue Ribbon" recipe magazines at the grocery store and give in to the temptation to buy them?  Years ago, I used to buy them all the time.....I was a sucker for a recipe magazine!  After a while I realized I was wasting my money because I would usually only try one or two of the recipes from inside, and then toss it out.  Since the internet has become such an endless tool for finding recipes, I no longer buy any recipe magazines....although they do still catch my eye and I have to walk away before I succumb to the urge to buy one!

I decided to go through one of those old "Blue Ribbon" recipe magazines that I had kept the other day (I only keep them if there are a few things in it that I thought would be worth a try some day).  I came across a recipe for apricot Gorgonzola crescent appetizers and thought it sounded delicious, as well as quick & easy to put together.  "Quick & easy" are always important when making appetizers for company!  So, thinking ahead to the upcoming holiday season, I decided to try this recipe out, but with a few tweaks for our personal tastes. 

The original recipe used Gorgonzola cheese, but none of us love it so I decided to use a mild blue cheese instead.  I thought this was delicious, and easy.  I can also think of a million ways to change it up by using different jams and cheeses.  Overall, this was a very tasty appetizer.  While I would serve it as is, I will probably try a few different combinations....just to see if there is something that may be a little more versatile for those who don't like Gorgonzola or blue cheese.  The possibilities are endless!

Apricot Cheese Squares (adapted from David Dahlman)

1, 8 oz package refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1/4 apricot jam
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 tsp pepper
couple pinches of salt

Preheat oven to 350, and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Unroll the dough from the package and spread it out on the cookie into a 9x13" rectangle.  Seal the edges of the rolls together by pinching them closed so it forms one block of dough.  

Heat the jam and butter together until butter is melted, about 30 seconds in the microwave or this can be done in a small pan on the stove-top.  Spread the jam mixture over the dough evenly, then sprinkle the cheese and pecans over top.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until the crust is a dark golden brown.  Cool for 5 minutes before cutting into 12 equal size squares.

September 21, 2013

French Apple Cake

We own some land in upstate NY and there are some apple trees on it.  This year my husband went to great lengths to do whatever he could to make sure we got the best possible apples this year.  So last weekend he drove over and collected the ones he could reach and brought them home for all of us to try.  Whatever he did to those trees must have worked because these apples looked much better than the ones he brought home last year!  They are on the tart side, but that's fine with me because I prefer to cook with tart apples.

I have been wanting to try a French Apple Cake recipe from one of my Cook's Illustrated magazines for quite some time, so that's the first thing I made.  Even though I changed the recipe slightly, the cake turned out beautifully!  Both my husband and son loved it, as did I.  It's very moist, slightly dense and downright delicious (which I am sure has everything to do with those amazing apples ☺).  What shall I make next.....

French Apple Cake (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)  

2 1/4 cups apples, peeled & cored, sliced 1/8 thick (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup flour + 2 tbsp
1 cup sugar + 1 tbsp
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg + 2 yolks
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted but cooled
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla 

Preheat oven to 325, and spray a 9" springform pan with cooking spray.  Place pan onto an aluminum lined cookie sheet.  Place sliced apples in a microwave safe dish, cover and cook for about 3 minutes or until apples bend but don't break (pliable).  Add the lemon juice and toss to combine.  Let the apples stand/cool for 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, whisk together the 1 whole egg, both oils, milk and vanilla until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.  Scoop out 1 cup of the batter and set aside in a separate bowl.  Whisk the egg yolks into the larger portion of the batter, then gently fold in the apples.  Pour batter into the springform pan, and make sure batter is spread evenly in the pan.  Whisk the remaining 2 tbsp of flour into the reserved batter and pour over the batter that's already in the pan.  Sprinkle the remaining tbsp of sugar evenly over the top.  Bake until center comes out clean & top is golden brown, about 1 hr 10 minutes.  Cool on wire rack and cool for 2-3 hours.  Dust with confectioner's sugar when ready to serve.

September 17, 2013

Bourbon Chicken

I haven't done "one new recipe a week" in a long time.  Mostly because things have been crazy busy, so I just haven't had a chance to seek out something new to try.  However, one day this week I had to leave work early to get my car fixed, so I had a little extra time on my hands.  I decided to look at my "saved" recipes folder on Pinterest and came across this one for Bourbon Chicken.  It originally caught my attention because I'd never heard of it, and of course, it sounded yummy.  So Bourbon Chicken it was.

After trying this recipe I still have no idea why it's called Bourbon Chicken because it in no way tastes like bourbon.....and there is no bourbon in it.  To me this is more like a sweet and spicy chicken dish.  We definitely all enjoyed it though.  Very tasty, and best of all - it's quick to throw together, which makes for a great weeknight meal.  I'd definitely make this one again, except next time I'll add some kind of veggie to it I think.

Bourbon Chicken (slightly adapted from

2 boneless & skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple juice
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp cornstarch

Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat on medium-high.  Add the chicken and season with salt & pepper.  Stir and cook until lightly browned, then remove chicken from pan and set aside.  Add remaining ingredients, whisking until blended and dissolved.  Add the chicken back in, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes uncovered.  Serve over rice - this makes about 3 servings.

September 13, 2013

Cajun Roasted Hazelnuts

I recently bought a ginormous bag of raw hazelnuts from Costco.  For some reason I thought they would be good to snack on (don't ask me why).  Turns out raw hazelnuts are not that great tasting.  Needless to say, I've barely made a dent in the bag!

When I went looking for a snack the other day I spotted the bag.  That's when it hit me - roast & season them!  Duh!  So, that's exactly what I did.  I wish this would have occurred to me sooner because these turned out to be really delicious.  Now I can't stop eating them. Wish I had thought of this sooner ☺

Cajun Roasted Hazelnuts

1 cup raw hazelnuts
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp chili powder
couple pinches salt
couple pinches cumin

Roast hazelnuts in a 350 preheated oven on a cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and pour nuts into a bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.  Note: If you like things spicy add a dash of cayenne pepper also.  Also, he your hazelnuts have skin and you want to remove it just place nuts on a towel after you roast them and rub them with the towel to remove the skins. Then place in a bowl and add your seasonings.

September 10, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Dip

For a while now my son has been mentioning how much he looooves spinach artichoke dip, and that I should make it for him to snack on.  Needless to say, I wasn't all that excited about it because most dips like that are mayonnaise based....and we all know how I feel about mayonnaise! 

However, a couple of weeks ago I was going through one of my old church cookbooks I acquired many years ago, and there it was...spinach artichoke dip.  I was going to pass it by without reading the recipe, but the quantity of mayonnaise caught my eye.  Only a 1/3 cup.  Hmmm.  That was enough for me to read over the rest of the ingredients, and once I did I knew I was going to give this dip a try.  

I am so glad I did.  I may even like this dip more than my son!  It is really, really good.  Too bad there was no author of this recipe listed, because they definitely deserve some credit for this delicious recipe (I only slightly modified the original recipe).  I will be making this and serving it in a bread bowl sometime in the near future for sure.  I haven't made it for company yet, but I have no doubt it will disappear fast.  Gotta love those old church cookbooks!  Sometimes you find real recipe treasures in there ☺

Spinach Artichoke Dip

2 cups Parmesan cheese
1, 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
1, 10 oz box of chopped spinach, thawed & drained
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1, 8oz block of cream cheese, softened
3 tsp garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp onion powder

Preheat oven to 375, and spray an 8x8 baking dish lightly with cooking spray.  Mix the Parmesan cheese, artichoke hearts and spinach together.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well using an electric mixer.  Pour into the baking dish and cook for about 30 minutes, or until it starts to hot and bubbly.  This dip is best served hot or at room temp. Serve with pita chips, crackers or bread.  

September 6, 2013

Banana Blueberry Bread

Both my husband and son are hunters, so every fall I cook up lots of different types of quick breads in mini loaf pans so they can each take one when they head out to the woods on the days they hunt.  I'm sure they are getting sick of the usual zucchini, cranberry and banana breads, so I was scratching my head trying to think of something different for them.  I have tons of blueberries in my freezer, so I decided to utilize them in some type of bread.  I then spotted the two leftover bananas I had on the counter, and thought maybe the two together would be a good combination.

I've been experimenting with coconut oil lately, so I decided to use that in my bread as well.  You certainly don't have to, but it is healthier for you.  This bread came out exactly as I hoped -yummy!  The perfect amount of banana and blueberry, and the coconut oil made it wonderfully moist.  I think the boys will enjoy it as they sit in the freezing cold woods this fall.  Hopefully it will give them the energy they need to get those deer - my freezer needs to be stocked with some venison ☺

Banana Blueberry Bread (makes 3 mini loaves) 

3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 coconut oil, in liquid form (can use vegetable oil if you prefer)
2 tsp vanilla
2 bananas, mashed
1 cup blueberries
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 and spray your loaf pans with cooking spray.  Cream together the coconut oil, sugar, egg and vanilla until creamy.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Take 2 tbsp of the flour mixture and toss it around with the cup of blueberries. Fold the mashed banana and blueberries into the sugar mixture.  Add the rest of the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Pour into the loaf pans and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

September 4, 2013

Salted Caramel Banana Pie

We had friends over recently for dinner, so I was looking for something impressive and/or really delicious to serve for dessert.  I wanted it to be something you just don't see and/or eat very often.  That's when this delicious pie came to mind.  I've made it before a few times, and it's a favorite of mine, mostly because of the amazing salted caramel sauce - it just makes the whole dessert out of this world delicious.  In fact, I confess that as I was making this pie, I just might have eaten a few spoonfuls of the caramel sauce along the way.  It is soooo good!!

This dessert was the perfect choice for our friends - they loved it!  Someone even asked if there was rum in it.  No's that amazing caramel sauce!  My husband, who has always declared apple pie as his favorite pie, decided that this is his new favorite pie.  I'm telling you people, even though making the homemade caramel sauce takes a bit of extra time - IT IS WORTH IT!  You just gotta try this.  I promise you will love it ☺

Salted Caramel Banana Pie (adapted from Ann Thornton)

45 Vanilla Wafers + extra for layering pie
6 tbsp butter, melted
3 large bananas, sliced
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar

3/4 c sugar
1/3 c cornstarch
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 cups half & half
2 tsp vanilla

Caramel Sauce:  Click here for the recipe to make the caramel sauce.  After it's mostly cooled add 1 tsp of salt and stir well to combine.

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9 in pie plate with cooking spray.  Pulse 45 vanilla wafers in a food processor until it turns into crumbs.  Transfer to a bowl and add the melted butter. Stir to combine then pour into the pie plate, and firmly press the mixture down with your fingers and up the sides of the dish.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool completely before assembling the pie.

For the filling:  Combine all the ingredients, except the vanilla, in a medium saucepan and whisk them all together until well incorporated.  Continue to whisk as it cooks until it thickens, should be like the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla.  Set aside to cool.  

Topping:  In the bowl of an electric mixer add the cup of heavy cream and beat on high until it starts to form a whipped cream.  Add the confectioner's sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  

To assemble pie:  Slice the bananas, place in bowl and coat with 1 cup of the caramel sauce.  Arrange about half of the banana slices on the bottom of the crust.  Spread half of the filling over the bananas, top with vanilla wafers, then the rest of the banana slices.  Spread the remaining filling over the bananas, then top with the whipped cream.  Drizzle more caramel sauce over top and serve!