Apple & Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY! 

It seems as we get older, reminiscing becomes a part of our lives. It is an that important psychological process called ‘life cycle review’.

Father’s Day,  for Brion and I, is a day that brings back many fond memories. My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. There is never a week that goes by that we don’t reminisce about something we remember about one or the other. Both of our Dad’s loved to talk and tell you stories from their lives. I think back to when I was just a kid and my Dad would recount the same story more than once. At the time, it all seemed a bit boring but now I realize how the benefits of storytelling and review are greatly underestimated. I would give anything to retrace those years once again.

A father’s love and influence is never fully appreciated until he is no longer with you. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.

My father’s day blog recipe features some pork chops with a nice apple-apricot stuffing. Hope you get a chance to try it sometime.

Apple & Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Apple & Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Cut a deep, horizontal pocket in each chop.
  2. In a skillet, saute onion & celery in oil until tender crisp. Add bread crumbs, oatmeal, diced apricots, apple, raisins, brown sugar, ginger & 2 Tbsp apricot preserve; mix well. Divide stuffing between pork chops. Place in an ungreased baking dish & cover.
  3. Bake for about 45 minutes; uncover & spread remaining 2 Tbsp preserves on top of chops. Bake uncovered for about 15-20 minutes more or until chops are tender.
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Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra

Okra, that seasonal summer vegetable that many love to hate. But, cooked properly it is definitely worth eating. While the origin of okra is often disputed, it grows well in a wide variety of warm climates. It is adaptable to both humid & dry conditions and is largely unaffected by pests and disease.

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus and hollyhocks. An upright plant with hibiscus-like flowers gives okra an ornamental value as well.

Probably the most unusual feature that this vegetable has is the gummy, gelatinous substance released from its pods when cooked. The thickening agent makes it a popular ingredient in gumbos and soups. But, there’s much more to okra than soups and stews. Roasting at a high temperature will turn it into crispy, flavorful okra fries.

Since it pairs well with most any meat or seafood, I decided to make some braised beef short ribs with stir-fried okra and Jasmine rice.

Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra
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Servings
3-4
Servings
3-4
Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra
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Servings
3-4
Servings
3-4
Ingredients
Short Rib Marinade
Servings:
Instructions
Short Ribs
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F. In a Dutch oven, place all short rib ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover & place in oven for at least 1 1/2 hours or until meat is VERY tender. Stir periodically, adding more water if needed. If preferred, skim off excess oil before serving.
Okra
  1. In a large saucepan, add oil; when oil is hot add okra & stir-fry for about 8-10 minutes. Okra should be tender but NOT mushy.
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Persimmon Pork Tenderloin

Persimmons are definitely an underrated fall and winter fruit deserving of the same hype as pumpkins and squash. Mildly sweet and juicy with a slight crunch reminiscent of a cross between a peach and a pear. Persimmons work well in both sweet and savory applications.

The two most commonly available varieties are Fuyu and Hachiyas. Fuyus are squat and round where as Hachiyas are acorn shaped and have a pointed bottom. When buying persimmons, look for unblemished skin with the green leaves and top still attached. The texture should be like a tomato —firm but with a bit of give without being too soft. Persimmons are usually sold unripe, so leave them on the counter for a day or two until the skin deepens to a rich sunset orange. Aside from eating them fresh, persimmons can also be cooked. They make good jams, puree, tarts and cakes as well as used in baking, being poached or caramelized.

If your following my blog, you are well aware of my love for stuffing pork tenderloin. It’s a meal that never disappoints. Today I am using persimmon and Gorgonzola cheese for stuffing and topping it off with caramelized onions and persimmon wedges. The taste is just wonderful!

Persimmon Pork Tenderloin
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Persimmon Pork Tenderloin
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. & adjust rack to center. In a small bowl, combine rosemary, 1 tsp of thyme, garlic & 1 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside. Slice about 1/2-inch off stem end of each persimmon & about 1/4-inch off bottoms then peel them. Cut one of them into slices, as thinly as possible. Set aside. Cut the second one into approximately 1/2-inch wedges & set aside.
  2. 'Butterfly' tenderloin & gently pound meat, to make it all the same thickness. Spread both sides with oil mixture. On a large piece of plastic wrap, lay the bacon slices on it, layering them by about 1/8-inch along their edges, lengthwise. It should be about the length of the tenderloin.
  3. Cover the butterflied tenderloin with persimmon slices, overlapping to fit. Sprinkle the crumbled Gorgonzola evenly over the slices. Staring with the end closest to you, roll up the pork, as tightly as possible. Once the pork is tightly rolled, with the seam side down, use the plastic wrap to help you wrap the bacon around the outside of it.
  4. Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay a piece of foil on top creating sides for it. Lightly oil center of foil; place tenderloin on it & roast for about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160 F. & a hint of pink remains.
  5. While meat is roasting, caramelize sliced onion. In a saucepan, heat oil & add onion. Sprinkle with salt; cook & stir about 10 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Add persimmon wedges. Gently stir until heated through.
  6. Remove meat from oven. Allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Slice tenderloin about 1-inch thickness; place on serving dish & top with caramelized onions & persimmons.
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Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble

Crumble, a dish of British origin, can be sweet or savory. The sweet variety generally contains stewed fruit with a crumbly topping of butter, flour and sugar. A savory version uses meat, vegetables and sauce for the filling, with cheese replacing sugar in the crumble mix.

Crumbles and crisps are very similar. They both contain fresh fruit with a streusal-like topping. The original difference between the two was in the  topping: crisps would contain oats and crumbles would not. Overtime the lines have blurred and the names crumble and crisp are now used interchangeably.

Oatmeal ‘anything’ is very nostalgic for me. I can’t remember one thing my mother made using oatmeal that I didn’t like, including ‘porridge’. Oatmeal is still as much a staple in our pantry as it was in my mothers.

For this dessert, I thought it would be unique to add a little caramelized twist to an old classic crumble. Caramelization is a chemical change that makes naturally occurring sugars in fruit, when gently sauteed in butter, turn brown and quite flavorful. The combination of caramelized bananas, fresh mango and lemon juice topped with a spicy crumble is wonderful (and easy).

Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Ingredients
Crumble
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a parchment lined baking sheet, slice bananas into discs. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar & bake for about 10 minutes or until caramelized. Remove from oven. In a medium bowl, place mango, 1 Tbsp sugar & lemon juice. Mix until combined; add Caramelized bananas & toss gently. Spoon fruit mixture equally into 2 or 4 ramekins.
  2. In a small dish, toss together all of the crumble ingredients, using your fingers to combine. Divide crumble between ramekins. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with either ice cream or whipped cream.
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Fresh Mango Hand Pies

Much of the world refers to ‘hand pies’ as meat pies or pasties  which trace their origins back to at least 19th century England. At that time they were a convenient lunch for the Cornish tin miners. The pastry casing was a good way to keep the filling warm and free from dirt. The miners would hold the edges, eat the filling and discard the dough when they were done.

Various countries tend to differ in their crusts for hand pies. Some are lighter and flakier, like a puff pastry or yeasted almost like bread. Others use margarine rather than butter, which will give a different texture and flavor. We live in a world of portable food so what could be more versatile than a hand pie. Once you have the pastry made, fillings can be any number of choices be it sweet or savory. Make a large batch and freeze them unbaked so you can bake when needed. Here are a few things I have learned over the years that make the process fail proof:

  • Fillings should be soft and moist but not wet otherwise you end up with a soggy crust.
  • Chop veggies and other ingredients into small dice so they cook evenly and quickly.
  • Always par-cook veggies and other filling ingredients so both pastry and filling are finished baking at the same time.
  • Allow filling to cool slightly to room temperature to prevent softening the dough.
  • Don’t be tempted to overfill hand pies and risk bursting at the seams.
  • To strengthen the seal, brush with water or one egg white mixed with one tablespoon of water.
  • For best results, freeze the unbaked hand pies for 20 minutes before baking.
  • You can freeze the unbaked pies for up to three months, then bake right from the freezer giving them 5-10 minutes extra time in the oven.

I never pass up a chance to enjoy mangoes in any form. Hopefully you will get a chance to try these.

Fresh Mango Hand Pies
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Fresh Mango Hand Pies
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a saucepan, combine mango cubes, brown sugar, cornstarch, cardamom & lemon juice. Heat for a few minutes just to thicken slightly; remove from heat & cool. Roll out pastry & cut 8 -6" circles. Lay pastry circles on parchment lined baking sheet & divide filling between them. Try to keep the filling piled in the center , away from the outer edges. Use a fork to press the pastry layers together around the outside forming a seal. With a sharp knife cut 3 vents in each hand pie.
  3. Whisk together egg yolk & milk; brush over the tops. Sprinkle with pearl sugar & bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, you can substitute store bought refrigerated pie dough or frozen puff pastry; allow puff pastry to thaw in refrigerator for 2-3 hours before using.
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Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole

Stuffed cabbage rolls are a unique blend of various flavors. The art of seasoning is about far more than adding a few grinds of salt and pepper. It’s more about sorting out the sweet, sour, savory and bitterness balance.

Food history tells us cabbage rolls have their roots in the ancient Middle East and spread to Eastern Europe as trade routes flourished with various ethnic groups migrating. Many countries lay claim to their origin, which accounts for the several interesting versions on the traditional recipe. For example:

Ukrainian holubtsi  are typically vegetarian, filling pickled cabbage leaves with either buckwheat and wild mushrooms or a mixture of whole grains and root vegetables, braised in tomato juice or vegetable stock served with perogies.

Poland’s golabki, translating to ‘little pigeon feet'(named after the French dish that wrapped cabbage around cooked pigeon), stuffs the leaves with pork, beef, rice or barley, accompanied by sour cream and sweet paprika.

Romanian sarmale combines ground pork, caramelized onions and rice nested in a pickled sauerkraut leaf, then smothered in dill and tomato sauce. It is often topped with bacon or smoked sausage.

The Asian variation wraps Chinese cabbage around seafood blends, tofu and shiitake mushrooms.

Egyptian mahshi kromb are simmered in an aromatic tomato-based sauce with mint, cumin and other Middle Eastern herbs and spices.

Jewish holishkls are a combination of ground beef, rice and raisins enveloped in cabbage leaves and simmered in a sauce of brown sugar, lemon and tomatoes.

Today’s blog recipe gives you some of those same traditional flavors without the fuss of rolling the cabbage and meat. Brion and I really enjoy this particular version. Of course, it’s a given that most recipes will always need tweaking to account for the different cooking conditions and personal tastes.

Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Remove 5 large leaves from a head of cabbage; steam until tender. When cool enough to handle, roll up & cut into 1/2" slices; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine beef, cooked rice, minced garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper & 2 Tbsp parsley.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil. Cook onion & chopped garlic for a couple of minutes until fragrant but not brown.
  4. Add sugar, lemon juice, tomatoes & pineapple juice; bring to a boil. Add 2 Tbsp parsley & cook for 15 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with spoon. Season with salt & pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 2 L casserole with 1/3 of the cabbage slices. Spread with half of the meat mixture & 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat with cabbage, meat & sauce. Top with remaining cabbage & sauce.
  6. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours until a meat thermometer reads at least 160 F. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp parsley & allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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Avocado Oatmeal Scones

Most all muffin, scone and cake recipes will work just as well using mashed avocado as a substitute for butter. When they are pureed, avocados take on the texture of softened butter, which makes them easy to incorporate into the batter.

It’s hard not to love using avocados since they are the ‘good kind of fat’. To work out how much avocado you need in a recipe, simply halve the amount of butter  that is called for in the recipe. The calorie difference is huge. For example, 250 grams of butter contains 1750 calories (or more), where as 125 grams of avocado ‘butter’ only adds 200 calories.

Avocados have a mild, fresh, slightly sweet flavor which allows them to pair well with other ingredients. The combination of avocado, oatmeal, cinnamon, dates & walnuts give these scones a unique flavor that gets only better after a day or two.

A while back I noticed that you can buy frozen avocado chunks at the grocery store. They come in a 400 gram bag. What a great idea instead of having to buy them and wait until they ripen. Ready when you need them!

Avocado Oatmeal Scones
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Servings
40
Servings
40
Avocado Oatmeal Scones
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Servings
40
Servings
40
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a large bowl, cream together oil, avocado & brown sugar; stir in yogurt & eggs. Add oat mixture to avocado mixture & stir until combine. Fold in dates & walnuts.
  3. Using a scoop, transfer the mixture onto lined baking sheet, spacing scones 2 inches apart. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
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Oven Roasted Squash with Apples & Onions

Being one who appreciates both roasted vegetables and the origins of things, I was curious as to when roasting vegetables became a ‘thing’

The presence of a platter of blistered carrots and parsnips on our dinner table is happily commonplace these days. However, this was not always the case.

Restaurant chefs have forever roasted vegetables for certain preparations, especially classics like roasted plum tomato sauce and charred red peppers for antipasto.

Dry-heat cooking in an oven has traditionally been associated with meat, poultry and game. Roasting other foods like fish, vegetables and fruit seals in and intensifies flavors, imparts an attractive burnish and often uses less ‘fat’ than other cooking methods. The use of ‘professional’ quality sheet pans, roasting pans and ovenproof skillets is best for such roasting.

This roasting technique came into vogue in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Clearly, roasting is the only way to treat vegetables. The taste is legitimately superior to older techniques in almost all cases as it concentrates and enhances via caramelization. So, it begs the question, why did it take so long to become the default vegetable cooking technique? A lingering preference for boiled, steamed and sauteed veggies seems to be the main reason. Although technology has not changed that much in several decades, sensibilities regarding how certain foods should be prepared have shifted greatly. The days of limp, tasteless, boiled vegetables are gone!

This simple recipe is one Brion and I enjoy often.

Oven Roasted Squash with Apples & Onions
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Oven Roasted Squash with Apples & Onions
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix dressing, sugar & rosemary. Toss apples, squash & onions in dressing mixture. Spread on baking sheet. Bake about 20-30 minutes until tender & caramelized.
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Stuffed Pork Rolls with Cornbread & Caramelized Onions

Pork tenderloin can be stuffed with anything, imagination is the limit. What’s not to like — easy to prepare, boneless and fork tender. The pairing of pork with cornbread seems perfect, add caramelized onions and you got it!

Cornbread is one of those nostalgic foods for me. It always brings me back to my mother’s kitchen. I remember very clearly that wonderful smell of fresh cornbread coming out of the oven and that small Pyrex, rectangle baking pan she always baked it in. Those special memories came to mind today as I was trying to come up with a supper ‘idea’.

I love stuffing or dressing, whatever you prefer to call it. Of course, my ultimate favorite is the one I grew up with. On the other hand when you just need a very small amount, I see nothing wrong with using a box of ‘Stovetop Stuffing’. Of course I can’t resist telling you just a bit of the history about the product itself —

 In 1972, General Foods  which is now known as Kraft Foods  introduced ‘Stovetop Stuffing’. It was quick, convenient, tasty and therefore was an instant hit. 

The secret lies in the crumb size. If the dried crumb is too small, adding water to it makes a soggy mass; too large, and the result is gravel. The nature of the cell structure and overall texture of the dried bread crumb used in this invention is of great importance if a stuffing which will hydrate in a matter of minutes to the proper texture and mouthfeel is to be prepared.

Ruth Siems, a home economist that spent more than three decades on the staff of General Foods was instrumental in arriving at the precise crumb dimensions — about the size of a pencil eraser.

That being said, here is my idea for this great little combination. We really enjoyed it!

Stuffed Pork Rolls with Cornbread & Caramelized Onions
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Stuffed Pork Rolls with Cornbread & Caramelized Onions
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Caramelized Onions
Cornbread Stuffing
Red Wine Gravy
Servings:
Instructions
Caramelized Onions
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Sprinkle with brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown color.
Cornbread Stuffing
  1. Prepare as directed on package.
Pork
  1. Slice tenderloin into 4 pieces. Using a meat mallet, pound into thin slices. Divide caramelized onions between them and spread over meat. Top with a layer of prepared cornmeal stuffing. Roll tightly encasing the filling inside & tie with kitchen twine. Roll pork rolls in the 1/4 cup flour that has been seasoned with salt & pepper to coat lightly.
  2. In a large skillet, heat butter & oil; brown pork rolls well on each side. Remove rolls to a platter,
Red Wine Gravy
  1. Stir 'brown bits' remaining from frying rolls, with garlic, thyme & red wine. Simmer about 5 minutes. In a small dish, combine cornstarch with chicken broth; add to wine mixture, season to taste. Return pork rolls to the pan. Cover, simmer gently for another 8-10 minutes.
  2. Place pork rolls on serving platter & stir fresh parsley into gravy. Spoon gravy over pork rolls & serve immediately.
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Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie or Tarts

Rhubarb was originally cultivated for its medicinal properties and was not used in European cooking until the late 18th century. The history of rhubarb is very complicated but simply put there are only two broad categories, medicinal and culinary.

Thought of by many as an old fashioned ‘vegetable’, it never has really fallen out of favor. In Germany, rhubarb season is from April until June. There are countless recipes using rhubarb as the German people are very passionate about eating produce they have grown themselves.

I have an inherited love of rhubarb — the way it tastes, its huge beautiful foliage, its hardiness, productiveness …….

RHUBARB SOUR CREAM PIE  (German Rhabarber Sauerrahn Kuchen) has been in my pie ‘go to’ file forever. The combination of these two ingredients works magic. Just for something different, I decided to use the same recipe but make it into tarts today.

Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie / Tarts
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie / Tarts
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Topping
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, brown sugar, margarine, flour & citrus zest. Cut in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & nutmeg; beat in sour cream & egg. Gently fold in rhubarb. Pour into pastry shell. Sprinkle topping mixture over the filling.
  3. Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for 35-40 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Recipe Notes
  • In order to obtain nice slices, refrigerate pie until cold then slice & heat a bit in the microwave if preferred.
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