Recipe Review: Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grapes

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Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grapes

Want the Recipe?: It’s in this cookbook

What do you cook when company’s coming for dinner on Saturday night and you know you aren’t going to have a lot of time or energy to fix something complicated? That was my dilemma last weekend. I was scheduled to spend the morning judging a voice competition an hour away from home.  Meanwhile, Daniel, Chris’s cousin, had planned to spend the evening with us hanging out and watching basketball. I wanted to make a decent dinner for the three of us but it needed to be simple and stress free. I also wanted to avoid my usual, overdone “dinner for company” meals (aka pasta and chicken) and try to make something new.

Tchai, wanting to go out side to sit with daddy and Daniel

Tchai, wanting to go outside to sit with daddy and Daniel

Sounds like a challenge, right? Actually it ended up being a cinch due to Jessica Merchant’s fabulous cookbook, Seriously Delish (Side Note: Her blog, “How Sweet It Is”, is one of my regular weekly reads). In the book there’s a recipe for honey glazed pork tenderloin with roasted grapes that looked like it would fit my needs perfectly. I was a little hesitant at first (I had never cooked pork tenderloin before), but Chris seemed excited by it and Jessica’s recipe called itself foolproof, so I thought I could handle it.

The ingredients for the pork

The ingredients for the pork

One of the things that drew me to this recipe was the roasted grapes. I first had them a little over a year ago in a cooking class and I was blown away by how delicious this underrated fruit can be with a little time in the oven. Once they’re roasted the grapes take on a deep sweetness that makes me think of really great homemade jam. You can put them with anything; desserts, toasts, or chicken, but they are really perfect in this recipe with the honey glazed pork.

Searing the tenderloins

Searing the tenderloins

I know I say it all the time (possibly in every blog post) but this dish is incredibly quick to throw together. Searing the pork, glazing it, and combining all the remaining ingredients in the skillet took only 5 minutes.  From there, the recipe just goes into the oven for 35-50 minutes. The pork was done so quick it actually had to wait on me and the poorly timed mashed potatoes before it hit the table.

All the roasted yumminess

All the roasted yumminess

Even though the pork was a little cooler than I would have liked, it was amazing. It was sweet from the honey and the black pepper gave just the right amount of spice. The acidity from the soft red onion and the sweetness from the grapes played so well off of each other and gave the whole dish a much needed balance. To me though, the pan sauce with the red wine (we used a Bordeaux), stock, onions and grapes was the best thing on the table. I think I covered everything on my plate in the sauce!

The roasted pork and grapes along with broccoli and mashed potatoes

The roasted pork and grapes along with broccoli and mashed potatoes

Daniel plate, devoid of Pork

Daniel’s plate, devoid of Pork

The boys were super happy with dinner. Chris said he liked the tenderloin a lot, though I’m not sure he really had any of the grapes and onions. Much to my surprise, Daniel really loved the whole thing. He cleaned his plate in less than ten minutes and then went back for seconds, then thirds! He even took half of a tenderloin home the next morning. Throughout the meal and anytime afterwards when the pork was mentioned, Daniel said it was the best tenderloin he’s ever eaten. I think he should he should come for dinner every weekend so that my cooking is regularly praised and my ego boosted. 🙂

Roz, trying to figure out a way to steal a piece of pork without getting caught

Roz, trying to figure out a way to steal a piece of pork without getting caught

Keely’s Hot Cocoa: A 2 Cats Recipe

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Keely’s Hot Cocoa

My blanket babies

My blanket babies

 Lately it’s been really cold outside; like “I don’t want to leave bed because I’m under 4 fleece blankets with my 2 purring space heaters on top” cold. But alas, I must go to work, teach students, and attempt to be a productive member of society while Tchai and Roz stay snuggled in bed.  Sometimes during the winter, I wish I could trade places with the kitties…though I’m not sure I’d like the same kibble for breakfast every morning or not being able to open doors…

blanketbabies

They are just so cute!

Anyway, when it’s this frigid outside I crave something warm and chocolatey, like hot cocoa. Cocoa is so simple, satisfying, and a cinch to make from scratch (you can be sure there are no Swiss miss packets in this house). Instead of having a whole container of dry mix hanging around in the pantry, I make this drink by the cup. I don’t feel like cocoa is arduous enough to warrant pre-mixing and really there’s not enough storage space for such things in my kitchen.

The cocoa and sugar mixture.

The cocoa and sugar mixture.

The ingredients for cocoa couldn’t be easier; just some sort of dairy, sugar, and cocoa powder. For the dairy I use a combination of whole milk and heavy cream. I love the extra weight and richness the cream brings; it makes the whole thing more filling and more like a dessert.  A quick reminder: never let your milk and cream come to a full boil, it will develop an unappetizing skin. Just look for little bubbles to appear around the wall of your saucepan to know you’re cocoa is ready.

Mixing the cocoa into the scalded milk

Mixing the cocoa into the scalded milk

I tried a few different flavor pairings when putting together my hot cocoa recipe. The traditional vanilla extract was nice but it didn’t knock my socks off. I thought bourbon would be the way to go, but it was a little too boozy for my taste. Finally, I found perfection when I added a splash of Cointreau to my mug of molten chocolate. The citrusy orange liqueur adds a depth of flavor that plays beautifully off the cocoa, making the whole thing even more decadent. I’d suggest using a really good orange liqueur as some of the cheaper ones end up being too sugary.

A splash of the good stuff

A splash of the good stuff

Cocoa topped with tiny pillows of heaven

Cocoa topped with tiny pillows of heaven

Once the chocolatey brew has made it into a mug, top it with whatever you like and serve immediately. Some orange zest speckled whipped cream would be lovely, or you could try a few chocolate shavings.  My inner 8 year requires that my cup of hot cocoa be completely covered in mini marshmallows, and should I really deny that inner child? Once you’ve topped your cocoa, the only thing left to do is find a cozy spot (maybe with a few blankets) and drink in the deliciousness.

cocoasetup

Keely’s Hot Cocoa

(makes 1- 12 ounce cup….or you could share)

1 Cup Whole Milk

1/2 Cup Heavy Cream

2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar

2 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1/2 Tablespoon Good Orange Liqueur (I used Cointreau)

Mix together the milk and heavy cream in a small sauce pan and place on the stove on medium heat. Once the milk is scaled (little bubbles form around the wall of the pot and the mixture is steaming) whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Once everything is thoroughly mixed, removed the pot from the heat and stir in the orange liqueur. Pour the cocoa into your favorite mug and enjoy!

Snug as a Tchai in a blanket (I know that's not the way it goes, but when the shoe fits...)

Snug as a Tchai in a blanket (I know that’s not the way it goes, but when the shoe fits…)

Homemade Sausage Gravy: A 2 Cats Recipe

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Sausage Gravy

Pride, Prejudice and Zombies...an instant classic?

Pride, Prejudice and Zombies…an                       instant classic?

Valentine’s Day is this coming Sunday, so I thought I’d talk about the things Chris and I do for love and eachother. Last weekend my fiancée went with me and a few friends to see the movie “Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies”. Now as you can imagine Chris had absolutely zero interest in the film, but he went without protesting or complaining after the movie was over (Side Note: The movie is super fun and Matt Smith as Mr. Collins is the highlight).  Since Chris did something just for me, I thought it was only fair that I reciprocate. I decided that I would make a very special breakfast for dinner that night.

..Yep, they came from a can...don't judge me...

..Yep, they came from a can…don’t judge me…

 I don’t know about you, but I love breakfast for dinner. Scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, toast, and cheese grits… why only eat it one specific time of day? My love of breakfast for dinner began when I was a kid and my parents would cook bacon and eggs at night every few months. Once I got into college and started cooking for myself, quiche and cheese grits became part of the regular dinner rotation. And finally when Chris and I began living together, we indulged in breakfast for dinner every few weeks. Eventually, we started eating less and less breakfast at night, but every once and a while for a treat we still break out the frying pan for scrambled eggs in the evening.

The cooked breakfast sausage, mmm porky

The cooked breakfast sausage, mmm porky

In my opinion, sitting through a Regency era zombie movie deserved an extra special meal so I decided to try making my own sausage gravy from scratch.  One of Chris’s favorite things to order when we go out for breakfast is biscuits and gravy and to be honest, I’d never eaten it until I made it myself! I don’t know why, but the idea of making gravy was intimidating. I think it’s because Chris likes is so much and I don’t want to screw it up.  After a little online research I realized that making gravy is just like making a béchamel or white sauce. Once armed with this knowledge, I felt confident I could cook a delicious gravy.

The gravy roux, cooked and waiting for the milk

The gravy roux, cooked and waiting for the milk

The gravy bubbling away, getting thick and delicious

The gravy bubbling away, getting thick and delicious

My recipe for sausage gravy takes only a handful of ingredients and no time at all. Seriously, in the minutes it takes to bake off some canned biscuits (homemade biscuits are intimidating too!) the gravy is waiting in my cast iron skillet for something to smother. The gravy is creamy, thick, salty from the pork, and super delicious.  I actually really enjoyed it and would probably not mind having it once a month for Sunday breakfast.

sausageandgravy

The true test for the gravy was my sweetheart, and he seemed super pleased. He commented that it was a little bit too thick, but an additional tablespoon of milk would easily fix the issue (or not letting it cool so much before serving).  Chris liked it so much that he had the leftovers for breakfast the next morning, which in regards to cooking, is the highest compliment I can achieve.

This breakfast is great for Valentines morning and breakfast in bed. If it’s like my house though, you’ll have two little faces waiting for the gravy leftovers!  And on that note, I hope everyone has a lovely Valentines weekend!

sausagegravysetup

 

Homemade Sausage Gravy

(Serves 3-4)

3/4 Pound Mild Breakfast Sausage

1/4 – 1/3 Cup Flour

2 Cups Milk (I used whole, but whatever you have)

2 Big Pinches Kosher Salt

30 – 40 Turns fresh Black Pepper

1 Pinch Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Brown the sausage in a skillet, breaking it up into chunks. Once cooked, remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and transfer to drain on a paper towel. Remove a few spoonfuls of the cooking fat until about 1/4 cup remains. Add flour and whisk for 2-3 minutes until the flour is slightly cooked but not browned. Add in the milk and whisk for 3-5 minutes until the gravy is thickened to your liking and bubbly. Remove skillet from the heat and add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and sausage. Mix to combine and serve over biscuits while still warm.  

Recipe Review: Black Tea and Honey Pound Cake

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Black Tea and Honey Pound Cake

Wanna try it yourself? Here’s the Recipe

 Last week the kitties and I had the house all to ourselves.  Chris was out of town on a business trip and though I miss my fiancée when he’s away, I do enjoy the quiet of being home (mostly) alone. I get to put on PJ’s at 7pm, watch all the British period drama my little heart desires, and the house magically stays much tidier. However, the best thing about being home alone is getting to cook and eat recipes I love without worrying about pleasing my picky eater.

The Tea Cake ingredients

The Tea Cake ingredients

This time my self indulgent recipe was a black tea and honey pound cake from the fabulous blog “The Lady and Pups”.  I love pound cake, it’s uncomplicated, buttery, and satisfies my sweet tooth. This particular recipe is no exception.  The honey in the cake makes it sweet and slightly floral and the black tea gives the cake such a wonderful caramel-y aroma. Speaking of tea, I used a combination of Earl and Lady Grey tea, my favorite winter afternoon brews. They add a slight citrus note to the cake which I really like.  If you wanted a stronger tea flavor, try using an English or Irish breakfast.

mmmm tea milk, smell so good.

mmmm tea milk, smell so good.

 I start the cake by setting out the butter and eggs and steeping the tea milk. The milk takes about an hour to fully steep and cool, but luckily it synchronizes perfectly with the butter coming up to room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, feel free to stick the milk/tea mixture into the fridge and put your butter on the pre-heating oven to soften. Just be careful, you don’t want melted butter for your cake!

The Creamed butter and eggs

The creamed butter and eggs

Tea speckled batter

Light, Fluffy Tea Speckled Batter

In my many years of baking I’ve learned two things that almost always ensure success; whether its cookies, brownies, or cakes. The first is to make sure the eggs and butter are always at room temperature. It makes it much easier to get the ingredients mixed together and a more consistent batter. My other tip is to make sure to take the time (usually 3-5 minutes) to really cream the butter, sugar, and eggs together. It makes the batter light and fluffy and makes a huge difference in the final texture of the cake.

Ready to be baked

Ready to be baked

This tea and honey pound cake is good as dessert with whipped cream, but also a midday snack with fruit preserves, or (my favorite) toasted with cream cheese for breakfast. I actually ate it 3 mornings in a row like that! It’s also great as a hostess gift or as the final course of a dinner party. I’ve taken it to my students a few times, and all I come home with is crumbs!

a slice of supreme yumminess

A slice of supreme yumminess

You know what? An itty bitty part of me is looking forward to Chris’s next business trip and my next self-indulgence! 🙂