Pork Loin with Thyme, Orange & Prune Sauce

Hello December! The month that is waited for earnestly, with great excitement. It’s the happiest month of the year, usually full of cheer and merriment. And chances are, you’ll have a party, to spread the cheer. Which sometimes, can be more stressful, than not. But here is a nice idea for a dish that has lots of flavor that isn’t too demanding of time but tastes like it is. A succulent juicy pork loin gently flavored with thyme, oranges and sweetened with prunes. And a touch of Grand Marnier, makes it extra special. The secret to the pork being so juicy and flavorful is letting it sit overnight in the juices and when your pork is done, making a nice sauce out of the pan juices. Mmmm…go send out those invites! ;)

  • 5 pound boneless pork loin
  • 6 springs of thyme
  • 1 cup tightly packed prunes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (about 4 oranges)
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, divided
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Generously salt and pepper your pork loin. And place 5 of the springs of thyme diagonally, over the pork. In 2 inch intervals, tie off your pork. (I used 7, 14-inch pieces of kitchen twine to tie off the pork, trimming the excess.) In a heavy bottomed 13×9 pan, drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of the pan. Place your pork down, fat side up. Sprinkle the prunes around the pork and pour the orange, apple, 1 tablespoon of the Grand Marnier over the loin. Add in the leaves of the remaining spring of thyme. Cover with foil and let sit in your refrigerator overnight. Once you are ready to bake your pork, bring it to room temperature, or slightly under. Dot your pork with the butter and place in the oven, tightly covered. Bake for and hour and a half at 325 degrees, averaging 20 minutes per pound. Half way through, baste your pork. Once your pork is done, carefully move it to a cutting board and cover with the foil, allowing it to rest. Take your pan juices and prunes. Set up a strainer over a bowl and drain your prunes, squeezing the prunes, to get out all of the liquids. Using a hand immersion blender, puree your prunes and set aside. Ladle your pan juices into a gravy separator and pour the defatted juices into a pot, continuing until all of the liquid is defatted and add in the prune puree and the remaining tablespoon of Grand Marnier. Bring to a boil and season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Whisk in the heavy cream, simmering for about 3 minutes, until thickened. Remove the twine and discard. Cut into thin or thick slices and serve with the sauce on the side. Serves a party of 6.

Cranberry Vanilla Ice Cream

I can never get enough cranberries on Thanksgiving day. When I was little, one of my favorite memories was getting together with my cousin on the Wednesday before and we would make apple pies, one classic and one studded with cranberries. The next day, I couldn’t wait for a slice of my favorite pie, the apple-cranberry. The best part was finding those tart berries among the cinnamon-sweet apples. Last year, I put dried cranberries into the stuffing (it would have been helpful if I written down the recipe, lol, it was so good) and this year it’s cranberry vanilla ice cream for dessert. Mmm…creamy and tart. A perfect ending to a Thanksgiving day feast. Enjoy!

Recipe for cranberry vanilla ice cream: makes four 1/2 cup servings.

  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1 teaspoon Frangelico liqueur
  • 1 cup prepared whole berry cranberry sauce

Bring your ice cream into the refrigerator and let it sit for 1 hour and then combine with the cranberry sauce and the Frangelico liqueur. Scoop into a freeze proof container and freeze overnight. It’s nice to top your apple pie with or to have by itself. Top it with a crushed snicker doodle cookie, crushed hazelnuts or dried cranberries to make it extra special. Below you’ll find a recipe for whole berry cranberry sauce, if you need it.

Recipe for whole berry cranberry sauce: makes a little under 2 cups.                                   

  • 12 oz. cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar (plus 2 tablespoons if you want your ice cream sweeter)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • generous pinch pumpkin pie spice

Combine everything in a heavy bottomed pot and cover. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once it comes to a boil and your cranberries start popping, lower the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring, especially towards the end. Allow to cool. You can use 1 cup for the ice cream and reserve the rest for the table for dinner or double the ice cream recipe if needed and use it all.

Baked Turkey Wings Basted with Apple, Fig & Rosemary

A couple of years back, I found myself single on Thanksgiving Day with slippery sleet keeping me from family and friends. It was a time of uncertainty and I used a lot of Kleenex, to wipe away the tears. Now I laugh at the thought of Daisy (my dog) and I cuddling in bed, while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, as crumpled up balls of tissue collected around us, forming a snowy terrain. It was kind of like a replay of The Holiday, where Iris cried and felt sorry for herself in the kitchen. I feel you girl! That was me but it wasn’t Christmas time but Thanksgiving Day. I then decided to make the best of it, before the sleet really started sticking, I went to the gym, then got a delicious cup of pumpkin spice coffee and went to do some last minute food shopping. Standing in line at the grocery store with turkey wings, hot sausage (pretty much all that’s left at the meat counter on Thanksgiving day, lol) and more Kleenex in hand, I vowed to make the best of the day. And it was the most memorable Thanksgiving day, for many reasons, with one of them being the turkey wings and spicy stuffing for dinner. If you were ever to find yourself with that package of turkey wings and not quite sure what to do with it, here is a great recipe! Hope you enjoy!

  • 2 turkey wings
  • 6 tablespoons hard apple cider, divided*
  • 4 tablespoons fig marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Frangelico liqueur
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or more
  • generous pinch of cinnamon
  • ground black pepper
  • sea salt

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the turkey wings and half of the hard apple cider and adjust the seasoning as needed. Place your turkey wings, in a heavy bottomed 13×9 baking pan. Pour half of the hard apple cider in the bottom of the pan. Baste 2 tablespoons of the apple mixture on the wings and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the wings over and baste with another 2 tablespoons of the apple mixture, return to the oven, covered and bake for another 45 minutes. Remove from the oven once again, baste with the remaining apple mixture and bake uncovered for 25 minutes, until the wings get nice and brown. Serves 4.

*You can substitute non-alcoholic apple cider or apple juice instead of the hard apple cider. If the apple cider or juice is too sweet, you can make a mixture of apple cider and water to dilute it a bit to make the 6 tablespoons needed.

Roasted Chicken Breast with Hard Pumpkin Cider Sauce

Time is just flying by, I can’t believe it’s election day, once again! So I predict like many election nights of the past, it’s going to be a long one. So take some time, relax and make a nice dinner, before the counting takes place. I’ve been really enjoying hard apple cider lately. There is a local winery/distillery that makes great hard cider, I can’t get enough of the stuff and feel like I need to take note from the squirrel in the yard, stock-piling those acorns, lol. Check them out at wvwinery.com/cider. And I thought while I sipped away the other night, why not add it to roasted chicken? And it came out so flavorful and juicy! You can go as heavy or light with the pumpkin pie spice. I think it’s a great addition to savory dishes, why let pumpkin pie have all the fun? ;) So, if you haven’t voted yet, get out and VOTE and may the best man win! Happy Election Day!

  • 2 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • 1/2 cup Hard Pumpkin Apple Cider or any flavor Hard Apple Cider
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • pinch pumpkin pie spice, or more
  • 1 Swedish-style gingersnap cookie, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons light cream
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken and rub pumpkin pie spice into the chicken. Place in a heavy bottomed baking pan. Pour the hard pumpkin apple cider over the chicken. Dot with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, broken up into small pieces. Place into a 375 degree pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. Take your chicken out of the oven and add the gingersnap cookie to the pan and baste the chicken with the cider, in the pan. Place back into the oven and roast for another 20 minutes, longer if you would like your chicken darker. Carefully remove your chicken from the pan and pour the liquid into a small saucepan. Place the chicken back into the pan and cover the chicken and let it rest, while you make the sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil on high heat, add in 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter and light cream, whisking it into the sauce. Let it boil for a minute or so, until you have a light sauce. Serve with your chicken and steamed green beans on the side. Serves 2. Enjoy!

Chicken back in the pan, resting, while the sauce is bubbling away…

Slow Roasted Pork Loin with a Pear & Rosemary Sauce

Autumn means dropping temperatures, cozy blankets, apples, leaves in the yard and roasts in the oven. They create that warmth in the house, that only a slow cooked meal creates. This slow roasted pork loin is so juicy. It’s perfect for a weekend, where you make it early on in the day and let it sit on the stove, while you go rake some leaves, coming in and out, sneaking in a bite or two, with its’ luscious sauce. Its’ intoxicating scent, still lingering in the air, making coming into the house, all the better. This is a nice roast to make for your family and it’s great for company. Serve with a nice savory pear salad with blue cheese and serve the pork with buttered green beans on the side and end the meal with a pear crisp. Happy weekend!

  • 2 pound boneless pork loin
  • 1 ripe Bartlett pear, peeled and cored & chopped
  • 10 red seedless grapes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup Chardonnay wine
  • 2 tablespoons fig marmalade
  • 1 oz. balsamic vinegar
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 juniper berries
  • 2 oz. light cream
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

In a sauce pan, melt the unsalted butter on medium heat and add the grapes and pear, let it saute for a few minutes. Add in the wine, vinegar and fig marmalade, combining everything well and heat until bubbling. It doesn’t take long, about 5 minutes. Add in the rosemary and juniper berries, combine well. Drizzle a little olive oil into a heavy bottomed baking pan. Salt and pepper your pork loin and place into the pan, fat side up. Spoon the fruit around the pork and pour the liquid over the it. Place in a 325 degree pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes, uncovered, until cooked though. Average about 20 minutes per pound, until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. (If making a larger piece of loin, just extend the cooking time, averaging the 20-minute-per-pound-rule.) Remove your loin to a smaller warmed baking pan and cover, while you make the sauce. Let your pork sit for 15 minutes, so the juices stay in the meat. Remove the juniper berries from the sauce and discard. Into a blender, or using a hand-held immersion blender, blend your sauce away, adding in the cream. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve alongside the pork and enjoy! Serves 4.

Apple Mint Roasted Chicken

This roasted chicken is so juicy. The meat is so tender and succulent, more so when you cut up the chicken and let it sit in the pan juices before serving it. I almost hesitate calling it a roasted chicken because the skin is so soft but if you want more of a crispy skin, just don’t baste it as much. This is a nice meal to share among four people, pair the chicken with a good multi-grain bread, to dunk in the buttery sweet pan juices. A wild rice dish served on the side, along with a Waldorf salad to start and an apple pie for dessert would complete this meal. Enjoy!

  • 1 4-pound chicken
  • 1 small apple, like a Gala, cut in half
  • about 10 mint leaves, 2 left whole, the rest roughly chopped
  • 6 oz. apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto *optional
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter,cut into small pieces
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp knife, cut your chicken down the breast side, along the back. Please be careful when doing this and using a sharp knife makes it easier, along with slightly pressing down on the knife. You can cut down the other side and remove the back bone and save it for stock or just include it in the baking pan. I’m sure you can always ask the butcher to do it for you, if you’re hesitant. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken and place 2 mint leaves inside the chicken cavity, around the breast area works best. Take your apple halves and place them cut side down in the roasting pan, eyeing where they will fit easily inside the chicken once you place the chicken over them. Or as I did, I fit the apples, round side in, and cut side out, in the chicken and then placed it in the pan. It sounds more complicated than it really is. You basically want the apple halves to roast inside the open chicken. One of my favorite ways to roast chicken is to put an apple inside but at the same time, I  enjoy roasting the chicken with it cut open because all of the skin gets to caramelize and brown. In a small bowl whisk the apple juice, honey and amaretto. Pour over the chicken. Into the apple juice mixture sprinkle half the mint leaves. Season your chicken with sea salt and ground pepper and top with the unsalted butter. Roast your chicken for an hour and fifteen minutes and up to an hour and a half. After about 30 minutes, baste your chicken with the juices about every 15 minutes. Try not to let any mint leaves on the skin when done basting because they will just burn. Once your chicken is done, let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. If you are using the pan juices, remove the apple and serve along side the chicken, it’s really good. Strain the juices with a fine mesh sieve and pour them back into the pan and put your chicken back in or serve the juices on the side. Sprinkle with mint leaves and serve.

Enoki Mushroom Risotto

The two things you need, besides the ingredient list when making risotto is a wooden spoon and a glass of nice white wine. The two are essential to really enjoy the risotto making process. The wooden spoon, because I can’t imagine, in Italy, they would use anything else to stir the risotto with and the wine to help ease the pain of your shoulders as you stir, stir and stir and to get you in a risotto making mood. I was transported to Italy, while making my risotto, wearing an apron, singing out a few words in Italian. But it got old fast, as my accent was terrible but it did give me a good laugh! You gotta try it, it will naturally come, after the glass of wine. ;)

  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 cup chopped enoki mushroom, about 3oz will be enough to make a cupful, *you can use any other kind of mushroom that you would like, just cut them fine and fully cook before putting it into the risotto.
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus a pat
  • 2 porcini mushroom bouillon cubes
  • 2 cups water, boiled
  • 3/4 cup Moscato wine
  • a pinch of ground sage

In a pan, melt a pat of butter and add in the chopped enoki mushrooms, I chopped them to be about the size of a grain of rice. Saute for a minute of two until lightly browned, they cook quickly and set aside. Make your porcini broth by dissolving the bouillon cubes in the water. Use a bouillon brand that is so fragrant that when you smell the box, all you get is a beautiful perfume of  porcini mushrooms. This recipe used 1 3/4 cups of the broth, you can save the remaining 1/4 cup to add to a soup, to cook vegetables in or to add to a stew. In a heavy pot, like a Dutch oven, combine one tablespoon unsalted butter and the shallot on low heat. Saute until the shallot is softened, add in the arborio rice and let it ever so lightly brown. This is where the beauty of making risotto comes in adding in the liquids a little at a time and stirring constantly, coaxing the rice to absorb the liquid, while it releases the starches to a thick and creamy rice dish, that is so satisfying you can just eat it with a spoon and be content. Little by little, add in the porcini broth, about an 1/8th of a cup, stirring constantly until the broth is absorbed and then add in more as it gets absorbed. Add in the Moscato wine in the same manner until absorbed. The whole process takes about 45 minutes. Once your risotto is almost done, add in your last bit of liquid, the enoki mushroom, sage and the last tablespoon of unsalted butter and stir until the absorbed. This makes 2 servings, just double the recipe as needed. Serve nice and hot and if you want, you can serve this with grilled asparagus and portabella mushrooms. Enjoy!

Nutella & Mascarpone Cheese Dessert Platter

I’m not much of a dessert person but I do love Nutella! And if you are having company over, this is such a quick platter to put together to satisfy that sweet tooth! Enjoy!

  • 1 8oz. container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of Kahlua or more
  • 4 graham crackers broken up
  • a few thin slices multi-grain bread, grilled (try to get one with nuts & seeds)
  • 3/4 cup Nutlella or more
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnuts
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced
  • 1 pat unsalted butter 
  • sprinkling of cinnamon
  • a few pieces of dark chocolate 

Combine the mascarpone cheese and the Kahlua and spread on the platter. Spread your Nutella down and grate some dark chocolate over a corner of the mascarpone cheese. Break up the chocolate into little bite size pieces. It’s nice to have that little touch of bitterness. In a separate bowl, combine the hazelnuts with honey. Add to the platter. This is a great platter because you can really do what you like with it. If you aren’t a honey fan, you can leave the hazelnuts plain, on the side or omit them altogether. For the banana mixture, melt the butter and add the banana sauteing until they brown and the bananas begin to break down. They don’t take long, about 5 minutes, stirring often, stir in the cinnamon and add to the platter. (The bananas are in the corner above the multi-grain bread, sorry not too much exposure but if you are a banana lover, add this to the platter!) Surround with the graham crackers and the multi-grain bread. I like adding the multi-grain bread because it gives the sweetness of all of the spreads a little bit of a break, almost like the crust on a sweet fruit pie. On second thought, if you are a fan of  peanut butter, it would be great with the Nutella and mascarpone cheese and maybe a little sea salt on the side! The combinations are endless, have fun! This platter serves about 4.

Raspberry Wine Truffles

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, a day to celebrate the moms in our lives, and make them feel extra special. And the one thing that comes to mind, when making someone feel special besides lots of hugs and kisses are truffles. Truffles are just decadent little balls of pure bliss, I love a good truffle. This recipe makes about 2 dozen. Enough for mom and you. ;)

  • 1 pound of dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 oz. of heavy cream
  • 2 oz. of raspberry wine, I used Tomasello
  • 3 pinches of ground cinnamon *optional
  • 10 grinds of the black pepper mill *optional
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

In a double-boiler, melt your chocolate, mixing with a spatula occasionally, on high heat. Once melted, slowly add your heavy cream, incorporating it into the melted chocolate, (still over high heat). Add your wine in and mix it in thoroughly. At this point, you can mix in your cinnamon and ground pepper. Take it off the heat slowly, and pour it into a bowl, cover it and put it into the fridge to set. (I left it in overnight). Keep in mind, once you are ready to make your truffles, you want to bring the chocolate up to room temperature (an hour or two is good). And set up a little station for yourself, the bowl of chocolate, a plate with your unsweetened cocoa, and a plate for the ready made ones. I used a 1-1/4 inch cookie dough scoop to form the truffles, forming them and setting them aside. You get a little arm work-out in, lol  Then between your hands, roll your scooped chocolate into a tight ball, it’s a messy process, but a delicious one. Then roll your truffles, a few at a time into the unsweetened cocoa, shaking off the excess cocoa powder. And now the most important step, enjoying them…

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Raspberry Mushroom Sauce

I love raspberry wine and combining it with chicken is delicious! Great for a romantic dinner. This recipe takes an hour, so save this recipe for a night you get home early, or save it for a weekend dinner. Light a candle, and enjoy the rest of the bottle of wine with dinner…

For this recipe you will need…

  • 2 bone in, skin on, chicken breasts
  • 6 button mushrooms + a few dried ones, if you have on hand
  • 1/2 cup of red raspberry wine, I’ve tried Tomasello and it’s delicious
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry spreadable fruit spread, all fruit sweetened with fruit juice, I used Polaner
  • 1/4 red onion finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Salt and pepper your chicken breasts, and place in a small roasting pan. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of butter till just melted, add your red onion cook till soft, then add your mushrooms, (make sure they are dry). Cook your mushrooms until soft and then add your wine and jam, whisk until the jam is blended into the mixture. Bring it all to a boil, cook for a minute or two, and then add this raspberry and mushroom mixture to your pan of chicken breasts. Bake uncovered for 50 minutes, so the skin browns nicely. When the timer rings, carefully remove the chicken breasts and strain the liquid, setting aside the mushrooms and onions. In a separate pan, you can make your roux. (On next try making this, I’m going try thickening it with cream, and see how that comes out, keep you posted!)  Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and add your flour to it, cook until light brown. Add the reserved cooking liquid to the roux and bring to a boil, it will thicken and then you can add your mushrooms and onions. Heat through and top your chicken breasts with the sauce and freshly ground black pepper. A light side dish that went really well with this, is sauteed sliced seedless cucumbers and dill. Hope you enjoy! :)