Spring Pork Loin with Citrus Garlic Ginger Crust and Apple Onion ‘Salsa’

You know what’s great about trying new cuisine or ingredients? You can try them in new ways – or, I suppose, OLD ways with a new twist.

Are you confused? Sorry. Let me explain in detail:
This week I attempted Indian food for the first time – Tandoori Salmon. It was actually AMAZING. I bought fresh ginger for the recipe. I’ve used ginger before, but not very often. The combination of the extra ginger sitting there and the marinade I made for the salmon gave me an idea. I scrapped the recipe I was going to try for my Thursday meal and made up my own instead!

And now I’ll share it with you! I’m calling it “Spring Pork Loin” because I suppose I’m wishful thinking. It is mid-March after all, and the weather has topped 50º more than once this week! (But then again, in Chicago that means nothing. Reluctant prediction: we will get another snow storm in April.)

Pay attention to the captions on the photos – they include instructions!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Not pictured: 1 orange, cinnamon, soy sauce

Not pictured: cinnamon, soy sauce, 1 orange

I started with a 4 lb. pork loin which I patted dry with paper towels. Next I made the marinade, which also serves as our liquid for the crock pot.

1/8 cup soy sauce

1/8 cup soy sauce

Enough red wine to come to almost 3/4 cup - then add the juice of one orange

Enough red wine to come to almost 3/4 cup – then add the juice of half an orange

Now brush that marinade onto the pork.

I always use a pastry brush. I've never used it for pastry. ;)

I always use a pastry brush – which I’ve actually never used for pastry. 😉

I let that sit while I made the “crust”:

Start with about a 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Start with about a 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Add 1 Tblspn diced garlic and the zest from your orange

Add 1 Tblspn diced garlic and the zest from your orange

Stir in the Dijon mustard, then brush that ‘crust’ onto the pork:
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Be sure to get all sides and cover thoroughly. (More crust = more flavor!)

Put that baby in the crock pot!

Put that baby in the crock pot! (Fat side down)

Pour the remaining marinade into the pot. Just be careful not to wash away the crust. I poured mine in that little space you see above the pork.

Make the apple onion salsa by slicing an apple (I used Gala and a quarter of a Golden Delicious we had in the fridge. You see, I really do save and use everything. – almost -) and putting it in a bowl. Cut up half of a white onion by slicing vertically through the bulb 3 times, cutting in half crosswise, and then cutting a few times crosswise again to get big chunks. Put in bowl with apple. Add the applesauce, orange juice, and cinnamon, and toss.
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Now (gently) dump that ‘salsa’ on top of the pork! (I’m calling it a salsa because it’s the only word that comes close to a chunky kind of sauce. It’s not a slaw. It’s not a chutney. So it’s a salsa!)
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Cover any bit of the pork that is showing by moving the chunks around.

Now put on the lid and cook for 8 – 9 hours on LOW. I originally cooked mine for 8 on low, but had to cook it for an additional 30 mins on HIGH because it wasn’t as tender as I wanted.
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Here’s the finished product, ready to eat!
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Look at how caramelized the apples and onions were. They not only got soft but also soaked up the juice. The ginger and orange juice are bright against the deep, traditional ‘au jus’ flavors of the marinade, which is further balanced by the sweet apples. And the crust just melted right into the pork. So, maybe it was more of a ‘rub’ than a ‘crust’, since a crust implies crunchy, and crunchy it was not. It did however impart that nice spring flavor and extra layer of texture. All the pork has this great ginger scent. It’s just a hint, not too spicy or overwhelming. The meat was falling apart into shreds – just perfect to make a Second Meal of pork tacos or pork sandwiches!
I served it with a slightly modified version of these 
roasted sweet potatoes (yes, I jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon!).

If you’re craving spring, give this a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredient List:
1 4lb Pork Loin
Marinade:
1/8 C soy sauce
–up to 3/4C red wine
Juice from 1 orange
Crust:
2 Tblspn Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 Tblspn diced garlic
Zest from 1 orange
Apple Salsa:
1 Apple, sliced
Half large white onion, chopped
1/3 C Applesauce
Juice from 1/2 an orange
Few dashes of cinnamon (I used 5)

Garlic & Onion Crusted Pork Loin with Red Wine Jus

Every Thursday my eldest has dance class from 4-5. It is at least a 15 minute drive, more if we get stuck in rush hour traffic. I knew when I signed her up that I’d have to be strategic about dinners on these days. I figured it was a perfect opportunity to try new slow cooker meals!
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Most times my meal planning is influenced by the sales that week. This particular week, pork loin was on sale, so I searched for pork loin crock pot recipes. I came up with this: Amazing Pork Tenderloin in the Slow Cooker. However, since Kelly’s Honest Mom interview, I’ve been following her tips to read labels, and trying to do better in choosing products with more natural ingredients. One of the ingredients in this recipe was Onion Soup Mix. I checked the label at the store, and it had dehydrated onions, salt, onion powder, and some paprika – and a bunch of things I couldn’t pronounce. I decided to skip the mix and replicate the spices myself. I also adjusted the recipe because I bought a 4.8lb pork loin, and the recipe only calls for 2lbs. (I’m planning on making a Second Meal with the leftovers!)

Here’s what you’ll need:
Pork Loin (again, mine was 4.8lbs)
1/2 c chopped onion
4 Tbspn minced garlic
3 Tbspn Soy Sauce
3/4 c Red Wine
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp Garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp Onion Salt
1 c Water
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First I trimmed the pork loin of some of the fat, since the hubs and I are eating healthier. But don’t remove it all – you’ve got to leave some for flavor and tenderness!
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Then I cut it in half (it was big! too big to fit in my crock pot otherwise) and layered the chunks in the crock pot.
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Next I sprinkled the seasonings over top (onion salt & garlic powder) and added the liquids: wine, water, and soy sauce. Be sure to pour some of the soy sauce directly on the meat – it will sink in and make for a delicious bite!
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Next I placed the onion and garlic over top of the meat and cracked the pepper over top.
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Replace the lid and cook on low for 8 hours.

When it’s about half-way through the cooking time, splash 4 more dashes soy sauce and about 1-2 more tablespoons red wine directly on the meat.

Good luck resisting the amazing garlic smell coming from the crock pot all day. It’s worth the wait though, with a distinct saltiness and tender pork that pulls apart with no effort at all. The onions and garlic almost form a crust on top. So good!
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Save that juice and pour some over your meat and whatever side you choose; I served it with egg noodles and homemade creamed spinach.
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Save the leftovers for a Second Meal – pulled pork sandwiches, wraps (they’d be great with avocado, lime, and a little cheese!) or pork soup!

Honey Garlic Pork Loin (First Meal)

If you aren’t aware, I plan my meals based on the grocery sales each week. Sometimes that means stepping out of my comfort zone and trying a new cut of meat or cooking it a different way. Lots of times it involves Google, and lately, Pinterest! So when pork roast went on sale last week, I picked one up after searching and coming up with this recipe: Honey Garlic & Onion Pork Loin. The author actually is a Word Press user: http://myworldasamom.wordpress.com/

I followed the recipe except that I didn’t have dried dill so I omitted that ingredient.
I love that the glaze is sweet but the seasonings add a nice herbal flavor to it.

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So enjoy trying out this recipe and use the leftovers as a Second Meal in my “Minezole Soup”!!

Healthy Stuffed Chicken (Second Meal)

The Hubs has been doing an awesome job lately of consistently exercising and especially eating foods that are out of his comfort zone (raw veggies! gasp!). I am super proud of him! I know he will reach his weight loss goal if he continues down this road.

On the other side of that is: if he wants to continue down this road, I need to be on board to help him. Genesis 2:18 says “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (emphasis mine) I love this verse, because it’s very practical when it comes to being a wife. I am created to be my husband’s helper. I read a book by a Christian author that gave me this awesome filter to ask of everything I do: Am I helping or hindering my husband? (Always good for a gut check!) So, in his weight loss goals, I am coming alongside him to be his HELPER. Which means making healthy (well, health-IER) meals! I’m so excited that he’s motivated enough to try new things.

A Second Meal using tomatoes, onion, and spinach is stuffed chicken. (See here for a First Meal.) The first time I made this was before work one night, when I was prepping dinner before I had to leave for work. The hubs had requested something healthier than the chicken nuggets and Mac n Cheese I was making for the kids. I got a family pack of chicken breast when it was on sale, and some of the breasts were really large and thick. I cut them into smaller tenderloins and was thinking about butterflying some too. I was going to just grill a chicken breast for him, but then this idea came to me. I recently used it again for my brother-in-law’s birthday dinner at our house. Modifications for a larger group are in red

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
Chicken Breast
Bell peppers – red, yellow, and orange
Onion (any kind will do – red, Spanish, or white)
Tomatoes (Roma work best because they’re firm)
Spinach
Italian dressing (click here for homemade recipe)
Butter or cooking oil
*Optional: shredded cheese like Parmesan, Mozzarella, or Italian Blend
*As always, adjust ingredients or recipe to your tastes!

1. Butterfly a thick chicken breast, leaving enough connective protein to keep it shut after you stuff it (I’d say it’s in between a butterfly cut and cutting a pocket in your meat – more open than a pocket, but not completely cut through either.) Drizzle with some Italian Dressing, spread with a pastry brush all over and let it marinate on your raw meats cutting board while you cook vegetables. When I made this for the whole family, I made a homemade Italian dressing for the marinade, adding 3 extra garlic cloves for more flavor. I put them in a glass baking dish and poured the dressing over top.

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2. Heat a small pat of butter or drizzle of oil in a small skillet. For a large group, I used my large skillet. Add chopped onions, tomatoes, bell peppers (I used yellow and orange and red), and spinach. Saute very gently and sprinkle a little S&P.  Remove from heat. You can stir in cheese to the filling as well; I added about 1- 1 1/2 Tblspn Italian blendFor the large group, I used a handful of shredded parmesan cheese, about a quarter of each color pepper, half a Spanish onion, 5 Roma tomatoes, and a whole bag of spinach (remember it shrinks!), then put the stuffing in a bowl until I needed it. *Be careful with this though – you might have to drain the veggies of liquid before you stuff your chicken!

3. Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile add the vegetables to the chicken – inside the ‘pocket’ – and fold the other part of the chicken over to close. When grill pan is hot enough that water sizzles loudly when flicked onto surface, lift chicken with tongs & spatula and set on grill pan. (Use tongs on open side holding it closed and spatula underneath closed side.) Cook for approximately 7 minutes or until chicken no longer sticks to pan and there are nice grill marks on bottom. Then flip and cook the same on the other side (using tongs again to keep pocket from falling open).

4. Move chicken to a sheet pan with edges. I line with aluminum foil for easy clean up. I had a lot of extra filling, so I spooned more over top before baking. Finish in a 350º oven for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. (If you want to know if it’s cooked or not without cutting into it, ‘feel’ it with the tongs. It should no longer be soft, but springy and almost firm. If it’s too firm and hard, it’s overcooked and will be dry and chewy.)

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That first time I made this, I wished I had made two so I could have devoured one before work. He loved it and even though he’s never been a big spinach or tomato fan, he ate the WHOLE thing and said the stuffing was awesome. At my brother-in-law’s birthday dinner, all the plates came back empty. I hope you enjoy this healthy, quick and delicious entrée!

Quick Tip of the Day: No more tears (when cutting onions)

There was a time when I dreaded every time I had to cut an onion.
1, I didn’t know how to do it properly
2, I knew I was going to have the oh-so-common sob fest every time I attempted it.

Thanks to an online demo and a tip I picked up somewhere along the way, that time was gratefully short- because onions are awesome in almost everything!

So how DO you keep the waterworks off while chopping this most basic ingredient?

Light a candle my friend!

Really. If you cut onion by an open flame, the fumes somehow absorb those annoying gasses that leak out of the onion and PRESTO! No more tears 🙂

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