Braided Pork Tenderloin w/ Pineapple Stuffing

EASTER GREETINGS!

Easter is synonymous with spring, it represents a time of renewal. The winter months are now in our rear view mirrors and we can look forward to those wonderful summer days. Fresh new buds are on the trees, just waiting to burst out as the season unfolds. Everything speaks of new life and fresh hope. Spring is so unique (even if we still have snow on the ground in our part of the country).

Though ham is traditional in many homes, there are just as many people who would prefer something different for dinner on Easter Sunday. Holiday cooking is all about making a meal that feels more special than what you would cook on a regular basis.

Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite meats due to its tenderness and versatility. This meal started out with an idea to stuff a tenderloin and developed into so much more. I must say, I was even more pleased with the final results when we both enjoyed it.

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Braided Pork Tenderloin w/ Pineapple Stuffing
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Tenderloin Rub
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Tenderloin Rub
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Instructions
Pineapple Stuffing
  1. Drain pineapple; reserving 1/3 cup juice. In a large saucepan, melt margarine. Add walnuts, celery & sage; cook stirring until celery is tender-crisp. Stir in green onions, pineapple & reserved juice. Remove from heat; toss in cornbread stuffing mix & set aside.
Tenderloin
  1. Using a sharp knife starting 3-inches from end, slice tenderloin lengthwise twice; making 3 equal strips. Carefully take the knife & cut pockets lengthwise every 3-inches in the center of each of the tenderloin strips. Spread the combined rub ingredients over meat & allow to stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before continuing with preparation.
  2. When meat is marinated, stuff each pocket with pineapple stuffing. Place a strip of bacon along each tenderloin strip. Braid the stuffed tenderloin/bacon by crossing the right section over the middle section then the left section over the new middle section. Continue until you run out of tenderloin.
  3. Insert a wooden or metal skewer into the end of braided tenderloin to keep it together. Tuck in the remaining stuffing mixture in the folds of the braid.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake, uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 F. Remove from oven & loosely cover with foil. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes before slicing. Serve with pineapple salsa.
Pineapple Salsa
  1. In a large skillet, combine pineapple, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, red onion, cumin, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil & cook over medium-high heat until thickened, 7-10 minutes. If there is still a lot of liquid left, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pineapple to a bowl & continue to cook the liquid over high heat for 5 minutes more, then pour the liquid over the pineapple. Mix in the onions & cilantro. Season with salt to taste.

Swedish Meatball & Potato Casserole

No doubt, since we have just finished the 2019 Christmas season, you enjoyed some Swedish meatball hors de ouvers. Personally, I love the little morsels so I thought it would be interesting to turn them into a main course casserole.

I have heard the question asked as to what the difference between Italian and Swedish meatballs is. First of all, the meat blend of ground beef, veal and pork are the main players in both styles. The difference comes in the ratio of each meat being used. While both varieties include ingredients such as minced onion and milk soaked bread or crumbs, the seasoning in these two iconic meatballs differs greatly. Swedish meatballs traditionally use spices such as allspice, nutmeg, white pepper and ginger while Italian calls for grated Parmesan, garlic, parsley, fennel seed and oregano.

Another ingredient that is most always used in Swedish meatballs is mashed potatoes. Size is important … Italian meatballs (other than in soup) are quite large whereas Swedish are generally like a hearty teaspoon full.

When it comes to sauce, this is a big part of the flavoring component that sets them apart. Swedish meatballs are cooked in a cream gravy made with beef broth whereas Italian meatballs are served in a tangy, bright red tomato sauce.

All that being said, it brings me back to my casserole. It combines all the ingredients of the Swedish meatballs put uniquely together in a casserole and topped with a mozzarella cheese. Perfect January meal!

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Swedish Meatball & Potato Casserole
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
White Sauce
Potatoes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
White Sauce
Potatoes
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Instructions
White Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, cook margarine & flour until bubbly then slowly add broth & cream. Gently boil for a few minutes; add soya sauce, salt & pepper. Remove from heat & set aside.
Potatoes
  1. Boil potatoes in salted water until tender but not overcooked; cut into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange them on the bottom & sides of a 8-inch round baking dish.
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine all meatball ingredients & form into balls. Arrange them over the slices of the potatoes on the bottom of baking dish. Use the remaining potato slices to create 'walls' between each meatball.
  2. Pour white sauce into each meatball 'pocket'. Sprinkle entire dish with grated mozzarella cheese. Bake 45 minutes or until meatballs are cooked & cheese is golden.
Recipe Notes
  • You can definitely use whatever ratio of meat combo you prefer or just use one one type, your choice.

Rosca de Reyes

The tradition of a New Year’s Cake is one that spans countless cultures and is meant to symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. The cake or bread usually contains symbolic items baked inside which is believed to give good luck to the receiver.

Most of the cakes are consumed at midnight on new year’s eve … though some cultures cut their cake on Christmas or the Epiphany on January 6th.

In January of 2019, Brion and I spent some vacation time in Merida, Mexico. We stayed at a wonderful boutique hotel called Hotel Del Peregrino. On the morning of January 6th we were served some Rosca de Reyes (cake/bread) at breakfast. This was the first time either of us had tasted this traditional bread. It was absolutely delicious and yes, you might have known, I would not only have to make some, but learn the history behind it.

January the 6th is a special day in Mexico, known as ‘Three Kings Day’, which represents the height of the Christmas season. This date marks the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas and commemorates the three wise men who traveled from afar, bearing gifts for the infant baby Jesus. The day when the wise men found the baby Jesus is known as Epiphany which is the event represented by the Rosca de Reyes.

The circular form of the rosca represents God’s eternal love which has no beginning or end. The dried candied fruits that adorn the bread symbolize the King’s crown, while the traditional figurines placed inside the bread represent the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is obligated to host an upcoming party on the occasion of ‘Candlemas Day’, a Christian holiday which occurs each year on February 2nd. The traditional menu for this event would be tamales and hot chocolate.

In researching the internet for a traditional recipe for the cake/bread it seems orange and vanilla were usually in the actual dough but as for the decorations, there were a lot of fruit and nut choices. Apart from the circular shape it looked like personal preference dictated your decoration design. Here’s my best interpretation of Rosca de Reyes!

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Rosca de Reyes
Instructions
Bread Dough
  1. In a small bowl, combine lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir with a fork until dissolved. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes in a warm place until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, salt, anise seed & cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the flour & add eggs, yolk, cooled butter, orange zest & vanilla. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry; using a wooden spoon, mix until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
  3. Place on a lightly floured work surface & start kneading until you have a smooth dough. It will take about 10 minutes to get good results. Be careful not to add to much flour to your work area, the texture should be soft, smooth & holds a ball shape.
  4. Place in an buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to proof in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 -2 hours.
Bread Decoration
  1. In a bowl, cream butter with sugar; add egg yolk & mix until combined. Add flour & continue to mix until a soft dough forms. Refrigerate if your not quite ready to use it yet.
Assembly
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When dough has doubled in size, turn onto a lightly floured surface & knead a few times. Shape the dough into a large ring & place it on the prepared baking sheet. Seal the ends to close the ring. Loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or more until almost doubled in volume.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small dish, whisk together egg wash. Divide the 'decoration dough' into 4-6 equal sections. Roll each with your hands until you get a strip long enough to decorate the ring. Brush dough with egg wash.
  3. Place the 'decoration dough' strips around the ring, try to place them facing one another, then decorate the ring with candied or dry fruit such as mango, pineapple, cherries, figs, citron, orange or lemon peel or quince paste strips or any personal choice you wish. Once the ring is decorated, sprinkle it with sugar & sliced almonds.
  4. Bake the bread for 20 minutes or until the bread is a nice golden brown color. Ovens vary so it may take a bit longer. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool. After bread has cooled insert the plastic baby dolls from the bottom of bread. Some times the plastic dolls are inserted into the bread before baking, personally I think inserting them afterwards works just fine.

Apple Chickpea Flan w/ Raspberry Sauce

There’s a whole chickpea world out there beyond hummus. From crunchy, spicy snacks to main ingredients in baking and cooking. This is a wonderful ingredient that can adapt extremely well with herbs and spices.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, grow in hot parts of the world so they are naturally a key ingredient in the cuisine of countries such as India, Mexico, Egypt and the southern part of Italy. Despite their origins, chickpeas are available everywhere, usually in either canned or dried form. There is very little difference in nutritional value between precooked, canned chickpeas and the dried variety you cook yourself.

In our part of the country, I remember these peas/beans first appearing in the restaurant salad bars. Chickpeas were one of several choices set out in bowls to add to salad greens. Then a few years later they became better known when ‘Mediterranean hummus’ became trendy. Then the notion came up to use them in baking. Legumes in cake? Remember the big debate when ‘someone’ decided to put carrots and zucchini in cakes etc. (not to mention tomato soup).

Chocolate chickpea cake has been a success for quite a while now so I decided to try a different take on the idea of the flourless cake.

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Apple Chickpea Flan w/ Raspberry Sauce
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 4 custard baking cups or a 9 X 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a food processor, place applesauce, rinsed chickpeas & eggs; blend until almost smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Place in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture & stir to combine. Pour into baking dishes & bake for about 50 minutes OR until it tests done with an inserted toothpick.
  4. To make raspberry sauce: In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Add water & raspberries; cook until clear & bubbling. Remove from heat & add margarine & lemon juice & zest. Cool & serve over chickpea flan.
Recipe Notes
  • In place of one of the eggs I used 1 Tbsp ground flax seed plus 3 Tbsp water. 

Wild Red Salmon & Mushroom Quiche

Eggs are one refrigerator staple that most households are rarely out of. While they have many uses, one of my personal favorites is always quiche. Another staple in my pantry is canned wild red salmon.

The idea for this quiche today came from an old appetizer recipe. It was for salmon tartlets with a cream cheese pastry. This type of pastry is one that seems to go either way —tender or tough. What I’ve come to find through trial and error, is that a 1:1 ratio by weight, of butter to cream cheese, ensures a flaky, tender crust. Cream cheese pastry is nice because it is so versatile. It can be used for both sweet and savory applications.

Since I am in ‘gourmet mode’ today, I decided to kick it up a notch and use a little exotic medley of fresh mushrooms. My choice is enoki, crimini, oyster, portabellini and button. For cheese, I’m going with Gorgonzola dolce. If I were to describe the end result, it would be, a tender, cream cheese pastry filled with an earthy mushrooms, red salmon and tangy Gorgonzola cheese. Hard to beat that flavor combination, but of course, only if you like those ingredients.


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Wild Red Salmon & Mushroom Quiche

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Servings


Ingredients
Cream Cheese Pastry

Servings


Ingredients
Cream Cheese Pastry

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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a bowl, beat butter & cream cheese; blend in flour to form pastry consistency. Press into a deep dish 8-inch quiche pan. Set aside in refrigerator until filling is prepared.

Quiche Filling
  1. In a skillet, saute sliced green onions, mushrooms & garlic in margarine until moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 400 F.

  2. Grate cheese. In a container, whisk together eggs, milk & seasonings. Sprinkle about 1/2 of the Gorgonzola cheese in the bottom of the quiche shell. Top with mushroom mixture & salmon chunks then with remaining cheese.

  3. Bake at 400 F. for 10 minutes, adjust heat to 350 F. & continue baking for another 30 minutes. When filling is set, remove from oven & cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. It tastes great just out of the oven, but even better the next day.

Chicken Avocado Flax Crepe Stacks

Flax is a flavor that has always appealed to me. I like it both in the ground or seed form. Flax is sown and harvested much like a spring cereal crop and matures at the same time as wheat. Although its place of origin is unknown, it seems likely it it would be southwest Asia. Flax is one of the oldest textile fibers used by humans.  Evidence of its use have been found in Switzerland’s prehistoric lake dwellings as well as fine linen fabrics being discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs.

Here in Canada, flax is produced as an oil seed crop. Superior oil quality and higher oil content have long been major features of Canadian flax seed, attributed to Canada’s climate. I remember my father growing flax as a trial crop one year in southern Alberta. The thing that made a lasting memory for me was its pretty azure blue flowers and interesting little seed pods. Thinking about that, it must have been in the late fifties or early sixties.

Today, I’m making some crepe stacks using flax-meal in the crepes. It should give a nice nutty flavor to compliment the chicken-avocado filling.

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Chicken Avocado Flax Crepe Stacks
Instructions
Flax Crepes
  1. In a blender, combine crepe ingredients & blend for 1 minute at high speed. Scrape down sides; whirl for another 15 seconds. Cover & refrigerate for at least 1 hour or longer. Heat a non-stick griddle (or use a crepe pan). Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour batter on griddle using a circular motion to create the right size of crepe needed. Cook about 2- 3 minutes on each side. When cooked, cool on a wire rack until needed. This batter makes about 10 crepes.
Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt margarine; add flour to make a roux & cook for a few seconds. Slowly add milk/broth combo, stirring to combine well. Add spices & continue cooking for about 5 minutes or so. Set aside
Crepe Filling
  1. Mash avocados & add yogurt, spices, lemon juice, onion & sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside. Slice mushrooms & if you prefer, saute for a few minutes otherwise you can leave them raw. Prepare fresh tomatoes, red & green onions. Grate cheese.
Assembly
  1. On a work surface, lay out 3 crepes per person (for 2 people). Spread all but 2 crepes with avocado mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border on each. Place two of the avocado 'spread' crepes on serving plates. Top each with some chicken, corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, 'sauce' & cheese. Lay another avocado 'spread' crepe on top of each plate & repeat with fillings, sauce & cheese. Now, top each stack with an un-spread crepe. Spread any remaining sauce in a small circle in the center. Top with the remaining filling ingredients & sprinkle with last bit of cheese. When you are ready to serve just give them a few minutes in the microwave & your done! Any remaining crepes can be frozen.
Recipe Notes

Flax can replace fat or eggs in a recipe:

  • 3 Tbsp  ground flax = 1 Tbsp butter, margarine, shortening or veg oil
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water = 1 egg  (combine & allow to sit 1-2 minutes before using)

Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes with Cream Cheese Glaze

With doughnuts, its all about the ‘hole’. No hole, no doughnut. That little circle means everything. The idea of frying a piece of dough is ancient. The Romans, Dutch, Spanish and Germans all did it. While we know who introduced the doughnut, the story behind the doughnut hole is a little less clear. The most likely explanation was that at some point, bakers started adding egg yolks to their recipes, which produced a richer dough. Of course, this meant the middle of the doughnut no longer cooked at the same rate as its edges, resulting in doughy, raw centers. They came to the conclusion, that if they removed the thick center, the doughnut would cook evenly throughout. It was also believed that the hole was formed to make it easy to ‘dunk’ the doughnut in coffee. However, as in all food history stories you will find various other versions that are more entertaining and whimsical.

In Canada, doughnut holes that are sold by the Tim Horton franchise, have become known as ‘Tim bits’. The name is a play on the word ‘tidbit’ (a delicate bit of food). They were introduced in April 1976 and are available in at least 20 flavors that differ from store to store.

I’m not big on deep fried things whether they are sweet or savory. These carrot cake doughnut holes are baked — no frying necessary. Dip them in a bit of cream cheese ‘glaze’, sprinkle with remaining chopped walnuts and enjoy!

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Carrot Cake Doughnut Holes with Cream Cheese Glaze
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Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cream Cheese Glaze
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cream Cheese Glaze
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Doughnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, finely grate carrots. Sift in flour then add brown sugar, soda & spices. Add egg & oil & beat until mixture is smooth. Fold in half of the chopped walnuts.
  2. Butter & flour a cake pop pan. Divide batter between 14 holes. Secure top pan in place with rubber clamps. Bake for 10-12 minutes, testing with a toothpick at about 8 minutes. When baked, remove from oven & allow to cool before removing top pan.
Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, margarine & milk. Gradually add sugar & vanilla beating to a glaze consistency.
  2. Once doughnut holes are removed from pan & thoroughly cooled, dip in glaze, sprinkle with remaining walnuts. Allow to firm up in refrigerator before serving with forks.
Recipe Notes
  • Self-Rising Flour is made with 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt & enough all-purpose flour to measure 1 cup.

Savory Pork Chops with Rice

Rice is one of those never fail staples that can be used in countless ways. Quick and easy, fancy and intricate, creamy, spicy, crispy or sweet — endless versatility.

This type of recipe became popular during the late 1930’s. Preparing one dish suppers and attending ‘pot lucks’ were how people during the Great Depression  were able to have fun and share food.

I remember my mother preparing such a meal when I was growing up. Basic recipes that didn’t need a long list of groceries, or a lot of time to make, but they were such delicious comfort food. Before we get right into summer mode with barbecuing and such, I wanted to make this super easy meal for today’s supper.

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Savory Pork Chops with Rice
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large skillet, melt margarine & add rice, celery & onion. Stir & cook until rice begins to brown & vegetables soften slightly. Place mixture in a baking dish. Combine beef broth with spices. Pour over rice mixture.
  2. Using the same skillet, add oil; season both sides of pork chops with salt & pepper. Brown chops for a couple of minutes on each side then place on top of rice in baking dish. Cover with foil & bake 35-40 minutes until rice is tender & chops are cooked through. If more liquid is needed add a bit more beef broth. Be sure not to over salt your meat as the broth will have salt in it as well.
Recipe Notes
  • If you don't care for the spices listed, change them for choices to suit your own tastes.

No-Yolk Noodles with Chia Chicken Meatballs

Although rice takes top priority at our house, noodles (pasta) are always a staple nevertheless. Some years ago, we started using the ‘no yolks’ version of egg noodles. 

Like many old world pasta products, there is a history. In 1976, Robert Strom created  NO YOLKS. They would become the world’s first                          no-cholesterol egg noodle. They are made with Durum wheat semolina, corn flour, egg whites and have no problem cooking up firm and fluffy.

In Canada, they are the top selling noodle and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. In this recipe, I have paired them with my favorite Chia Chicken Meatballs. Does it get more healthy than that?!

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No-Yolk Noodles with Chia Chicken Meatballs
Votes: 1
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Meatballs
Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Meatballs
Sauce
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. In a small bowl, mix together chia seeds & water; let stand for about 20 minutes. In a large bowl, combine remaining meatball ingredients. When chia gel is ready, add to meat mixture. Using your hands, combine ingredients well. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & lightly coat with baking spray. Scoop into 50 meatballs; place on baking sheet & bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, cool completely if you are choosing to freeze half for a later meal. Set aside the amount you are using for this meal.
Sauce / Noodles
  1. In a saucepan, melt margarine; saute zucchini & green onion until tender. Sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Add milk/broth & cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Meanwhile, cook no-yolk noodles as directed on package in salted boiling water to which 1 Tbsp of olive oil has been added. Drain.
Assembly
  1. In the pot you cooked the noodles, combine noodles with sauce & meatballs. Fold together & serve topped with some parmigano-reggiano if you wish.

Seafood Avocado Omelette

I had no idea when I completed my studies in the commercial food industry that there would be some food items I would make so many times. One such item was an omelette. 

In the early years of my career, my first position was a short order chef. It all sounded pretty easy until it came to the weekends. On Sunday morning alone, you could use anywhere from 90-120 DOZEN eggs. A large percentage of them were made into omelettes with various fillings. All this would be made and served in the course of 4-5 hours as individual breakfasts in the hotel restaurant. That job definitely taught you the perseverance you would need to survive in the industry. 

Omelettes have a long history dating back to 16th century France. Most are made with just simple egg and dairy ingredients. The fluffiest omelettes use whole eggs or all egg whites, which are beaten with a small measure of cream, milk or water. I even recall adding just a tiny bit of pancake batter to give them more body.

Legend has it that when Napoleon and his army were travelling through the south of France, they spent one night near Bessieres. Napoleon ate an omelette prepared by a local cook and enjoyed it so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all the eggs in the village and prepare a gigantic omelette for his army the next day.  Since 1973, every year on the Monday following Easter, people in Bessieres, France make a giant omelette, using 15,000 fresh eggs.

I have added some pictures of this huge omelette as well as one of a cook dumping egg shells in a pile.

The recipe I am including is an adaptation of an omelette I enjoyed at a restaurant called Mariah’s sometime in the eighties. At the time it was located in the seaside town of Carlsbad, California, USA.

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Seafood Avocado Omelette
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Course Brunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Course Brunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Guacamole
  1. In a small dish, combine all guacamole ingredients; set aside.
Omelettes
  1. Preheat an electric flat griddle to 325 F. Saute mushrooms, green onions & shrimp in margarine keeping each separate from each other. Remove from griddle. Carefully pour beaten eggs onto griddle forming two large circles. Divide guacamole, mushrooms, cheese, crab meat & shrimp between the two omelettes.
  2. Cover with a large sheet pan for a few minutes until all is cooked, being careful not to over or under cook. Fold each omelette over & place on serving plates. Top with sauteed green onions. Add some fruit for a garnish if you prefer.