Herb & Spice Rubbed Pork Loin

I tried a new spice rub tonight. I combined a few flavors I like, but honestly was taking a risk — I had no idea if they’d be good together. This is another example of me trying to be healthier – making my own seasonings instead of using store-bought, pre-packaged options with lots of preservatives.

Well, it was worth the risk!! The crust on the pork was a little sweet, a little spicy, a little salty. The pork was perfectly tender and juicy. Just look…

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The only thing I might change next time is to stud it with garlic cloves. Because, Yum! You can’t really go wrong with garlic.

Here’s the recipe for the rub:
2 Tblspn Ground coffee
2 Tblspn Brown Sugar
1 3/4 Tblspn Kosher Salt
1 Heaping Tblspn Thyme
1 Tblspn Oregano
3/4 Tblspn Garlic Powder
1/2 Tblspn Crushed Red Pepper
15 Turns of the grinder of Fresh Ground Black Pepper

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Combine in a bowl and whisk to mix

The pork loin I bought was just under 4 lbs. There was some rub left, so if you have a smaller loin, I’d half the recipe.

To prepare the pork, first pat dry with paper towels. Then, if you like, trim some fat off using a sharp knife.

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Fat adds flavor and keeps it tender, so don’t remove ALL of it.

Then begin to add the rub. I like to kind of pour it out of the bowl first…

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Then I use a large pastry brush to spread it and cover the entire surface of the pork, starting in the middle and working out to each side. Then flip it over onto or into your baking dish so the fat side is down (I used a sheet pan covered with aluminum foil for easy cleanup, but I’ve also used a glass dish). Repeat the rub process on the other side.

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After the flip, before applying the rub.

Make sure you cover all the sides as well.

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Completely rubbed pork

I let mine sit for 45 minutes or so in the fridge and then put it in an oven preheated to 350°. Bake for an hour, and then let rest for 10 minutes.

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Look at those yummy juices!

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Sliced, juicy, and tender after letting it rest

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Delicious rub! So much flavor

I’ll definitely be making this again. I served it with applesauce and steamed spinach. Nearly everyone had seconds, and I’ll use what is leftover for my Minezole soup tomorrow!

Happy Cooking!!

Spinach Artichoke Chicken

I have to share this recipe with you. It was so good I made it twice in two weeks. It’s great as a First Meal too!

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I can’t. It was one of Pinterest’s top 20 recipes of 2013.

The first time I made this, I used frozen chicken tenders because that’s all I had (refer to the first super freezing weather of 2014… store was COMPLETELY out of fresh poultry). I also was on the phone while in the frozen aisle, so forgot to grab the frozen spinach. Instead I chopped up fresh broccoli and mixed it in – it was really good. The broccoli florets collected all the sauce and cheese and were so good. I also thought I had mozzarella cheese, but didn’t – so I used the Italian Four Cheese blend instead. The chicken was so tender you could cut it with a spoon. My only suggestion would be to use a sheet pan or different dish to cook the chicken the first time, as it gives off so much liquid from being frozen. I did try to drain it out of the baking dish, but not enough – the sauce was still a little watery. But, it was good enough for me to make again, so I can’t really complain there!

The second time I made it, I used fresh thinly sliced chicken breast. I remembered the spinach this time, but still added broccoli just to have another vegetable. The chicken was a little tough, but again still good. Next time I’ll just use regular chicken breast like the recipe suggests! I used the leftovers in this Second Meal.

One thing I want to try is squeezing lemon over the chicken before the S&P and baking it the first time. I think it would add a little more flavor, and complement the artichokes well.

It’s really good served over angel hair pasta. It would probably also be good over lemon-butter rice, or egg noodles!

Click here to view the recipe! Happy cooking!

Update: I found this recipe on the back of a Knorr Pasta Side that I made for a work – night. If you’re in more of a hurry or want the noodles to be more incorporated in the dish, try this:
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Quick, flavorful veggies

Growing up, I never ADORED broccoli. It didn’t bother me to eat it, but it wasn’t my favorite either. Some regulars where I work bring their two kids with them all the time, and they would always (wait for it) VOLUNTARILY get broccoli as a side!! I was uber impressed. Which may or may not have been the reason I started cooking broccoli more at home 😉

Turns out it’s a good thing I did, since Aubrey now LOVES broccoli! She will even eat it -gasp- RAW!  The first time this happened I was cutting broccoli to make the way I’m going to show you, and she asked, “Mom, can I have one right now?” (grabbing a piece off the cutting board). I was kind of quietly freaking out in my head. Don’t make a big deal out of it or it will ruin it! I was thinking in a terribly over-excited voice in my head. Very calmly and off-handedly I said, “Sure honey.” I watched out of the corner of my eye because I was certain she was going to spit it in the garbage. But she didn’t! And now broccoli is probably her favorite vegetable, with cauliflower coming in a close second.

So how did I make it the first time I bought fresh broccoli and cut it off the stalk? Sorry to say I didn’t steam it or even blanche it. Nah… I take baby steps. Here’s how I like to cook these now – and they’re usually a hit with everyone in the family (I guess I’m still working on the hubs though).

First, obviously, cut up your vegetables. I try to cut the broccoli and cauliflower into smaller pieces for the kids (remember my definition of kid-friendly?)
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Then melt a generous tablespoon or so of butter in a skillet over low to medium heat. (Yes, sorry, this is not really a healthy dish by today’s standards. Back in the 50s maybe, sure.) You want the melted butter to cover the surface of the pan.
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Once it’s all melted and you’ve tilted the pan to cover the entire surface, evenly sprinkle some Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and paprika. It will form almost like a shortened version of a compound butter, which is going to coat our vegetables very nicely.
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Then place the prepared veggies in the pan – just enough to cover the surface. Now DON’T TOUCH! Let it sit for a minute or so, and sprinkle more seasonings on the top of the veg.
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Then give the pan a good shake to move the veggies around and coat other sides of them. After another minute or so you can do a little flip with the pan to rotate them even more.

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Here’s where you have some options.
1. You can add another pat of butter to the middle (aaaand maybe the sides too) of the pan and sprinkle more seasonings over top of the veg. This is the best way. The seasoned butter sticks so well to the veggies and forms almost like a crust of deliciousness!
2. If you have some chicken stock open in the fridge, or possible using it for your main dish, you can add a splash or two to the pan to hydrate the veggies some more. I must warn you: it will sizzle and probably whatever bits of seasonings are on the bottom of the pan, it will kind of clump them up and form a chewy… substance. haha. But if you like them more moist this is probably the way to go.

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Look at that seasoned yummy-ness!

Now. Yes we use a fair amount of butter here, but what I like about it is it gives the veggies flavor without overcooking them (the more you cook veggies the more nutrients leak out). I should tell you now, this is part of my process of introducing new foods to my kids, particularly vegetables (see QUICK TIP). And although I’m glad Aubrey enjoys raw broccoli, I really don’t enjoy the dry raw florets, so this preparation is a perfect compromise! Hope you enjoy it too.

Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice

The smell of fish cooking reminds me of vacations in Florida visiting my grandparents. My grandpa out on the screened-in porch grilling, maybe simultaneously smoking a cigar, while Mom and Grandma chatting away while prepping a side dish or two in the kitchen. And us helping set the dining table.

These are the memories that flooded my head as I grilled up some Mahi Mahi yesterday night – indoors, on my grill pan, while outside the window there was gray 40º weather. Different setting altogether. But I could care less, because the memories and that SMELL transported me and made me so happy!

This is one of those meals, because of those early marriage cooking days, that I look at and think, “Did I do that?!”

I usually pull from a recipe but adjust it a little. In this case I pulled from multiple recipes, so contrary to my normal posts, I will be including the actual recipe for you.

Let’s start with the salsa, because that’s what I prepped ahead of time.
SALSA
1 mango, chopped
1/4 diced red onion
4-5 strips of red pepper, diced
1/4 cup or so cooked sweet corn (I used the microwavable frozen kind –OHI– but I’m sure fresh off the cob would be even better)
Juice from half a lime
Dash salt

Combine all ingredients and stir. Adjust to taste. Easy! I wouldn’t change a thing.
Except…
Well, here’s an opportunity to explain my view of kid-friendly. To me, kid-friendly means the meal is prepared in bite-size, easy to eat portions. It can also mean adjusting to their spice tolerance. Next time, per my daughter’s request, I will add yellow and orange peppers. Maybe even omit the red, or just use less, because as she pointed out, the yellow and orange are sweeter. Another change I might make: substituting yellow or white onion, and maybe even lightly sautéing them with the peppers before adding to the salsa. But for adults, this original recipe was PERFECT.
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‘Blackened’ spices for Mahi Mahi
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed peppercorn
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lite coconut milk

Again, combine all ingredients except coconut milk and make a paste. Just before using, add the coconut milk. It will look like a vinaigrette.
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You can use a pastry brush to spread this on your fish (1.25 lbs Mahi Mahi). I dipped the first piece and then just used my finger to spread it. That’s how we do in my kitchen 😉

Now I have to make a side note. I opened the package from the meat counter and realized I forgot to ask them to take the skin off the Mahi. AHHHHHH! I don’t have a filet knife. I’ve never really even learned how to de-skin a fish. (Is that even the right term? I’m sure there’s a more professional culinary term for this but it escapes me at the moment.) Did I panic with the clock tick tick ticking away the time until dinner? Mm. I chose to keep my head and just do it myself. So out came my raw meats cutting board and my paring knife (the best substitution I had). I tried to remember what I’ve ever seen of someone de-skinning a fish on TV. I put one hand on top of the skin and wiggled the knife underneath, to the point of being afraid I was going to slice my upper hand open. Once I had a good portion of the skin off, I started to pull it up so I had a better view underneath it.  Amazingly, I didn’t cut myself at all, the whole time. And I didn’t even butcher them too badly. (I SWEAR, no pun intended. I literally thought this last night when I stood back and surveyed my work.)
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So! Now for the cooking. Heat your grill pan over medium high heat. Spray with a non-stick cooking spray. **One thing I’ve learned from watching cooking show after cooking show is when you are using a grill pan, MAKE SURE IT’S PIPING HOT before you put anything on it, otherwise your stuff will stick. You’ve been warned.**  Place your fish on the grill and cook for “approximately 4 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.” That’s what the recipe said that I based this on. It worked, the fish was SO DELICIOUS. My 5 year old daughter even said, “MOM! You’re right. I DO like this fish! The inside… it’s so moist … and juicy!”
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COCONUT RICE
2 cups dry brown Minute rice
1 1/4 cup lite coconut milk
1 1/2 cup water

Soak your rice in water to remove some of the starchiness, if desired. (Again, this is what the recipe told me to do – but she was using long grain rice and I was using minute rice. I did do it, and I think it did actually help remove some of the dry starchiness, especially since I was using brown rice.) Put the coconut milk and water in your pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook according to package directions. Actually, the package said to bring back to boil, simmer for 5 minutes, and let stand for 5 minutes. I probably let it cook more like 7-10, let it stand, and then reheated it a teensy bit before I plated it. One thing: KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THIS! Any time I’m boiling milk I pay extra attention, but last night was one of those times that couldn’t be helped… Some of the kids were arguing, or someone got hurt, and I swear even though I only walked away for 90 seconds, my pot was suddenly boiling over. Anyway just watch it, because I had to keep removing the lid to release some steam so it wouldn’t boil over again. (And that’s even using my awesome “sure simmer” function on my electric oven. Yes I love it.)

Guess what? I had the coconut milk, corn, and rice in my OHI, so all I paid for this dinner was probably $10-11. Score!

Now! Spoon some rice onto your plate, top it with a piece of Mahi, and spoon some salsa on top. Done! Now go feed your family some surprisingly easy, joyfully affordable, shockingly healthy, tantalizingly delicious and fresh food!
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Crepes!

Where do I begin?? Once I tried them, crepes quickly became one of my favorite meals.  Good for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. Great any time of year, but there’s something about hot crepes when it’s cold and grey out. Plus they go GREAT with a morning cup of tea (and you know how I love my tea). These are a favorite with my kids too. They’re too young to do this now, but I have this mental image of bowls of different fillings and they’re choosing which ones they want. Make your own Crepe, instead of Make your Own Sundae. I think what makes me really drawn to a recipe is when you can start with a base of understanding and adjust for many different uses or flavors. Muffins for example. Or pasta. Or soup. Even cookies. Maybe that’s why I really like Alton Brown’s show, “Good eats”. He teaches you the science and the reasoning behind things. It’s the whole, “teach them to fish” concept. Because once you understand a technique, you can begin to come up with and combine your own ideas instead of relying on other people’s.

When I searched recipes for crepes Alton Brown’s was one of the ones that came up. He had a genius idea of mixing everything in a blender, instead of in a mixing bowl. Not only do you dirty like dishes, but you can pour directly out of the blender into the frying pan instead of having to use a ladle or some other device to scoop the batter and put it into the pan. So efficient! Most of the time when I make these, I make them for breakfast or lunch, and they are sweet, using fruit and chocolate, etc. However I have done a savory version and they’re great for dinner too.

Here we go! (Link to recipe at bottom)
I always add the eggs first, so they are closest to the blades of the blender.
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Then I’ll add vanilla.
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I don’t always use cinnamon, but since we were making apple cinnamon today, I did. And sugar.
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Then I alternate between wet and dry ingredients; if you put all the liquid on bottom and dry on top, it takes a long time (not to mention makes a bigger mess!) to combine, and if you put dry on bottom and wet on top, it’s hard to combine unless you stir first.
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As for the melted butter: I always melt it in a Pyrex cup and melt it in the microwave. The ‘beverage’ button works well for this. Or if you have a ‘milk’ button – or some microwaves even have a ‘butter’ button! Nice!
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And after the first batch of flour I’ll add the butter.
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Here’s the awesome part: I’ll reuse that Pyrex (Yep, less dishes!) to measure the milk. AND, whatever butter is left in the Pyrex will come out when I pour the milk. And that’s why I do the water last. It too pulls the rest of the milk out. Alton Brown’s recipe says you can add 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur. Well, mine have to be kid friendly. So I add a couple splashes of OJ.
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Pulse for about 10 seconds or until everything is combined. You might need a spatula to get anything un-stuck from the sides of the blender.

Now the fun… choose your filling!

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Be sure to give them a stir to combine all ingredients!

I always put the filling in bowls because these cook so fast that you won’t have time to cut or cook things while the crepes cook. (In fancy cooking terms, this is called your ‘mise en place’) This will be the filling for the apple cinnamon crepes:
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I use butter flavored cooking spray, BEING SURE TO COAT THE SIDES OF THE PAN. Then pour the batter in a circular motion around the outside of the pan and into the middle until it covers the bottom of the pan:
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Then tilt the pan and swirl the batter in a circular motion around the edges of the pan until, well, there’s nothing left to swirl!
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When it starts to bubble in the middle, like the picture above, and the sides pull away easily from the pan, it’s ready to flip! Go around the outside with your spatula first, to make sure all the sides come away easy. Then slide the spatula under the crepe, and FLIP!
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I used this same pan to cook the apples in, so it had some buttery-cinnamon-y goodness still on the bottom, which you can see here. Yeah. Yum.
Immediately put your filling in a straight line down the middle of your crepe (think a diameter line!) For these I first used the flat spatula to spread some apple butter all over, then added the apples, then a sprinkling of cinnamon/sugar.
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Next fold the sides in over the filling, first one, then the other. Press down gently on the folds with the flat end of your spatula to seal it a little. At this point you don’t need to cook it too much more. A minute maybe, if you want to make sure everything is heated through, or your chocolate chips are melted 😉
Then slide it out of the pan onto a plate, sprinkle with some powdered sugar and, VOILA! A beautiful delicious crepe waiting for your enjoyment.

Delicious Crepes!

Delicious Crepes!

I always have at least 2 filling options, sometimes 3. Today the other filling we did was bananas and chocolate chips:
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Aubrey’s crepes (the kids like a drizzle of syrup or sometimes honey)

Due to the nature of these scrumptious treats, they are sometimes difficult to cut or for the kids to eat. However, I have mastered the art of cutting these for kids, and will now share this essential and TOP SECRET information with you:

How to cut crepes for kids

How to cut crepes for kids

The trick is to hold the crepe STILL with the fork while you cut with a sharp knife. I cut the ‘hamburger’ cuts first, then do one cut lengthwise (‘hot dog’!) down the middle. The best way to eat these is to slide your fork underneath each cut and bring to your mouth. YUM!

My favorite filling for these is probably strawberries and chocolate chips. But here’s a list of possibilities:
*strawberries & chocolate chips
*strawberries, bananas & chocolate chips
*bananas & chocolate chips
*bananas, cinnamon/sugar, & chocolate chips (Aubrey’s idea!)
*peanut butter & jelly (also Aubrey’s idea!)
*apple cinnamon
*bananas and blueberries
*blueberry compote (made by sautéing blueberries with a little cranberry juice, OJ & sugar!)

SAVORY crepes can be seasoned with herbs IN the batter, and putting veggies and/or a cream or cheese sauce. Great for dinner!

Here’s the link to Alton Brown’s original recipe. (For me and my kids, I take 1 1/2 recipe otherwise we don’t have enough)
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/crepes-recipe/index.html

Now go make some. For yourself. Or family! Or impress your friends at your next get-together with these babies that seem hard to make… but are really quite easy 😉