October 27, 2010

Cinnamon-Spice Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Root Vegetables

I swear there is pork under there!

I had really high hopes for this recipe. I love roasted root vegetables and I love pork tenderloin. Unfortunately, this recipe didn't quite live up to my expectations, but I think I know how to tweak it for next time.

It is part of the Washington Post's food section's Nourish column, which has specific nutrition guidelines for the recipes. I can't remember exactly what they are and a quick search on the Post's website hasn't found anything, but I am sure it has something to do with amount of fat, calories and nutrients.

I will start with the good: this pork was the most tender pork I have ever tasted. It practically melted in your mouth. You almost did not have to chew. But, where was the spice? I expected it to taste like the warm, autumn flavors in the spice mix. So, when I make this again, the first thing I will do differently is make more of the spice mix. I didn't even end up having enough for the two tenderloins I had, which were only about 1 1/2 pounds total (recipe calls for two pounds).

The second problem was that my vegetables did not fully cook in the time frame suggested by the recipe. I could have left them in the oven longer, but the pork had already been resting for 15 minutes and I didn't want to eat freezing cold pork. (Yes, we had to turn the air conditioner back on last night. It was so hot and humid in our house! It is the end of October! Get yourself together, DC weather!) So, next time, I will crank up the oven after I remove the pork; I think vegetables should be roasted at a temperature higher than 375 anyway.

Lastly, I think I might make a quick sauce for the dish. It certainly isn't necessary as the pork was moist and tender, but I just like having a sauce to mop up. Maybe maple syrup and cinnamon reduction? Yum!

October 26, 2010

Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon and Pancetta

Are those wagon wheels?

That was MM's first question to me when I served this dish. I paused, frantically searching my brain for the Italian word for wheels, and nothing. So, I said, yes, they are wagon wheels. I felt so defeated. Luckily, in the light of day, the good ole internet informs me that they are called "rotelle." I am so glad that mystery is solved.

This is the second or third time I have made this recipe (first one is here), and we will keep going back to it. It is quick, balanced and flavorful.

The original recipe calls for fettuccine, but long pastas bug me. I hate it when they stick together in the pasta water; I hate all that twirling; I hate when you can't get one bite on the fork, so you have to bite off the pasta and it either hits your face or makes a mess in some other way; and I hate that it is close to impossible to get a forkful of all of the dish's components (it's either the pasta or the toppings; take your pick). So I decided fettuccine wasn't the right pasta shape for us.

I had a box of Barilla piccolini mini wheels in the back of the pantry for over a year now (could even be two) and I decided it was high time that I used them for something. You will be shocked to know that a) I bought them because I had a coupon and they are cute (I end up with lots of things because they are cute: exhibit 1, my husband, exhibit 2, Gaby, exhibit 3, Patton, and the list goes on) and b) since buying them, I have not seen a recipe that actually calls for rotelle! Please try to control your shock and horror. Anyway, they were the perfect vehicle for this sauce! Easy to stab with the fork and easy to stack up with lemony broccoli, crisp salty pancetta and the sweet caramelized onions.

Yes, that's right, I added onions to this dish. I just couldn't stand letting the pancetta drippings go to waste, so I sliced up a half an onion that had been chilling in the fridge (haha get it?) since last week and threw it into the pan post-pancetta. Delicious! I wouldn't think of making this recipe in the future without an onion.

October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Please excuse the classy plastic dish... 

My friends, Jaime and Jon, bought a townhome a couple months ago and had their housewarming party this past weekend. Jaime likes all things pumpkin, so I decided to try these cookies. Boy am I glad I did! They are like mini pumpkin cakes: soft, fluffy, with a hint of pumpkin flavor and warm spices.

I wasn't sure how the chocolate would pair with the pumpkin (it just didn't seem like a good match in my brain), but it complements the pumpkin well and adds an appropriate burst of sweetness.

If you are looking for something to fill your home with the aroma of fall and whet your appetite for Thanksgiving's pumpkin pie, try these cookies!

UPDATE: These cookies will last over a week in an airtight container or Ziplock bag!

October 22, 2010

Herbed Chicken with Roasted Root Vegetables

With this dish I discovered that I do not like turnip root. It is bitter! Even roasted, which usually makes veggies so sweet. Although, after a quick search on the good ole internet, I realize that I chose at least one turnip that was too large (you should pick smaller ones that feel heavy for their size) and I should have tried the turnips with their greens still attached, instead of the turnip root by itself. Ok, so maybe I will give them a second chance. (Although, I have given brussels sprouts somewhere close to 10 chances and I still don't like them!)

Regardless of my current hate relationship with turnips, this dish is a great fall/winter standby. Tasty, satisfying and easy. And you can throw in whatever vegetables you like (or hope to like). Additionally, you can pair the roasted vegetables with any protein you'd like. This particular technique (it isn't really a recipe) is one of my go-to ways to cook chicken.

Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves 3

A couple pounds of assorted vegetables (in this particular dish I used 2 medium sweet potatoes, 1 large fennel bulb, and 3 turnip roots), chopped. You can chop the vegetables in whatever size you'd like, just keep them all the same size. And remember, the smaller the dice, the faster it will cook.
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons Italian dried herb mixture (I used Giada's Tuscan Herb Mix)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss all the ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer to a large baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes - 1 hour (depending on the size of your vegetables and desired crispiness of the vegetables), stirring 2 or 3 times during cooking.

Herbed Chicken Breasts
Serves 3

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used the thinly sliced breasts)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian dried herb mixture
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the olive oil and herbs together in a small bowl. Using a brush (I really like the silicon ones because they are easier to clean), spread the mixture on both sides of the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken over medium heat (you can get away with medium high heat if you have thinly sliced breasts, or if you pound regular breasts so they are thin) in a saute pan for a couple minutes on each side, until the chicken is cooked through.

October 21, 2010

Dirty Risotto

The other night was dark and chilly (fall is thankfully upon us) and I was craving risotto. I wanted a recipe that was full of "stuff" so it would be hearty and found this recipe of Giada's on Food Network. (I am embarrassed to say that it took me a couple of hours to realize that Dirty Risotto is a play on Dirty Rice. Although, having never had dirty rice, maybe I shouldn't be too embarrassed.)

The dish turned out fairly well. The guy at the supermarket cut my pancetta a little too thin and I think it would be better if it was about 1/4 inch thick. Also, Harris Teeter was out of pork sausage, so I bought chicken sausage. I bet the pork sausage would have made the risotto a little more flavorful. (Although chicken is healthier.) And as you can see from the picture, I did not cut up the red bell pepper small enough; I think a small dice would have been appropriate. And lastly, we omitted the mushrooms, because MM does not like them.

When it was all said and done, I discovered that I like the taste of vegetarian risotto better than ones with meat in them. And on another risotto note, I am determined to make red wine risotto this winter! Stay tuned!

October 13, 2010

Avocado Hummus

No picture, because we all know what hummus looks like and we all know that avocados turn everything green. 
Ergo, avocado hummus looks like green hummus!

This recipe from the Washington Post is truly fantastic. It comes together in about 5 minutes and is super flavorful. I have had it with homemade spiced toasted pita triangles or store bought pita chips and both are delicious. The hardest part of this recipe is cleaning the food processor afterwards! MM, I think I have a project for you!

October 12, 2010

Heirloom Bakery and Cafe's Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Image from latimes.com, because mine looked so boring you would fall asleep while reading

I love coffee cake and have tried many different recipes for it over the years, but none has ever really wowed me. This one was no exception.

First of all, this recipe calls for a 9-inch square pan; I think coffee cakes should be round. Second, it did not make nearly enough of the topping. And once it was done cooking, the topping that you put in the middle sunk to the bottom and stuck to the pan.

The cake was pretty light, which I appreciate (there is nothing worse than dense cake!), but it didn't have much flavor. I did enjoy the addition of cinnamon to the topping mixture, so I would be tempted to apply that to future coffee cake recipes that I try, but I don't think I will make this recipe again.

October 11, 2010

Reese's Pieces and Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

Peanut Buttery Goodness!

Although I had to use every ounce of patience I possess to place the Reese's Pieces in rows, I am glad I did because they look so cute!

Of course this is a Martha Stewart recipe - would we expect anything less festive from her? She only called for Reese's Pieces, and while I prefer them over peanut butter cups, I know someone who loves the peanut butter cups, so I decided to do half and half.

This recipe was really easy to make and turned out delicious. I definitely recommend it for any upcoming Halloween festivities!

October 1, 2010

Wide Noodles with Broccolini, Feta, Lemon and Pine Nuts

Photo from Washingtonpost.com

This recipe was featured in the Washington Post's "Dinner in 20 minutes" column (although on their website, it says "Dinner in 25 minutes"), and for the first time in my life, I was able to make dinner in the time it took for the water to boil and the noodles to cook. Such an accomplishment!

This dish was pretty good. It didn't wow us. The recipe only calls for lemon zest and I didn't get any lemon flavor from the finished product. If I make it again, I will certainly use some juice too. One thing I did learn from this dish is that Trader Joe's block of feta cheese is super delicious! Not too salty and harsh as a lot of brands of feta can be. It was creamy and actually made me want to eat feta plain!