Friday, December 19, 2014

December 19, 2014

It's been a few weeks - we've tried a lot of recipes, found some keepers, tried some duds, and been busy getting ready for Christmas and the New Year.  Thanksgiving was fabulous and it is hard to believe in a week Christmas will already be behind us.  2014 certainly is racing to close. 

2015 is going to bring big changes in our household.  I've just finished all my coursework and am ready to begin student teaching in January.  I've been working on my masters over the past few years and I am truly amazed that in just a few short weeks I'll be in the classroom full time; this is going to  bring a lot (and I mean A LOT) of changes for my family.  Needless to say, I don't think we'll be trying so many new recipes all the time, so I don't expect to be blogging every Friday.  Taco Tuesday will probably be brought back in full force, and we'll be relying on soups we know and love already on soup night.  But I love to cook and create in the kitchen, so I hope to be able to continue to post a few times a month to share new keeper recipes.  We'll just have to see how it goes!!!

To prepare for the next couple of months I've been marking easy recipes, slow cooker recipes, recipes that take 30 minutes or less from prep to table. We found a slow cooker pasta recipe (Easy Meaty Ziti)  that was an overwhelming hit and easily earned keeper status, and we've made it twice since I last posted.  We made a pork tenderloin recipe that everyone loved and was fast.  And my favorite recipe that earned keeper status this week?  Shredded Sweet Potatoes and Spinach.  I have always claimed to dislike sweet potatoes, but this recipe changed my mind!  I made it as the side dish for the pork, but then made it again today to eat for lunch!  (Truth be told, I want to see how it reheats to see if I can bring it with me to work for lunch - we'll see how it tastes tomorrow reheated.) 

Making anything good this week?  Any suggestions for dinner recipes as I head back into the workforce full-time?  Let me know (and wish me luck)!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Shredded Sweet Potatoes and Spinach
Chili and Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Easy Meaty Ziti

Shredded Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

* 1 large or 2 medium sized shallots, minced
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded (about 1 lb)
* 4-5 oz fresh spinach, rough chopped
* salt and pepper, to taste

1. Saute the shallots in the oil over medium to medium-high heat for 3 minutes.  Add the shredded sweet potatoes and stir occasionally.  Cook the potatoes for 9 minutes.
2. Just prior to adding the spinach, season the potatoes with salt and pepper.  Add in the spinach.  Cook and stir until the spinach has wilted and fully heated through. Serve and enjoy!

If you feel like there isn't enough oil in the pan after sauteing the shallots add another tsp or so prior to adding the potatoes.  And feel free to scrape up the yummy brown bits from the pan when you stir; they are flavorful and delicious!  It will seem like a lot of potatoes and spinach, but both cook down and you will be surprised at the amount you will have when you are done.  And believe me...if you are all intrigued by this recipe I would absolutely suggest you give it a try.  It is neither expensive or time consuming to make, so you really have nothing to lose.  I anticipated not enjoying this dish at all and was so caught off guard at how much I loved it!  I made it not only as a side dish when we first tried it, but later in the week made it for lunch!   I only lightly seasoned this dish with salt and pepper while cooking, but then had the salt and pepper out on the table for everyone to add as suited them.

Chili and Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin

* 1 pork tenderloin
* 1 tsp olive oil
* 1 tsp chili powder
* kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 2 tbsp pure maple syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
2. Trim the pork, then place it on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet.
3. Combine the oil, chili powder and salt and pepper.  Rub this all over the pork.  Cook the pork for 20-25 minutes.  Every 5-8 minutes brush the pork with the maple syrup.
4. Let the pork rest for 5 minutes and then slice and enjoy!

This was the right amount of time for my pork which was a little over one and a quarter lbs.  You may need to adjust the time if your tenderloin is larger or smaller.  Everyone loved this pork, it was very easy and quick to make.  Pork, for my family, is a nice alternative to chicken every now and then!

Easy Meaty Ziti

* 8 oz ground pork
* 8 oz ground beef
* 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
*  1 jar (25 oz) marinara sauce (or 3 cups if using homemade)
*  2 tbsp tomato paste
* salt & pepper
* 8-10 oz ziti
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 1 1/2 cups boiling water
* additional hot water, if needed

1. Microwave the two meats together with the Italian seasoning in a bowl, stirring every minute.  It will take about 5 minutes to make sure the meat is no longer pink.  Break up the meat and then drain off the fat.
2. Mix the meat with two cups of the marinara sauce, tomato paste, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
3. Line the slow cooker with an aluminum foil collar and spray with cooking spray.
4. Microwave the ziti and oil in a bowl at 50% power for 3-5 minutes, stirring every 90 seconds.  Some pasta will look toasted and blistered when it is ready.  Transfer the pasta to the slow cooker and immediately stir in the boiling water.  Then stir in the meat and sauce mixture.  Cover, cook on high for 2 hours (or until pasta is tender).
5. Remove the foil collar and discard.  Gently stir in the last cup of sauce and adjust the consistency with hot water if needed.   Serve and enjoy!

If you are using jarred sauce I recommend Bertolli Tomato and Basil (that's what I've used each time I made it).  Apparently the reason a foil collar (which in this case is really only a half collar since it is only used on the back) is needed is because many slow cookers are hotter in the back (near the plug) then in the front, and you don't want to overcook the pasta.  To make the foil collar, fold aluminum foil until it is about 6 layers thick and a rectangle the size of the back of your slow cooker.  Press the foil into the backside of the slow cooker.I think I would prepare the meat and sauce in the morning or night before, then when I get home from work I could prep the pasta and get it going!  Only two hours to cook, but hands off if the prep is done ahead of time - sounds good to me!