Stuffed Pork Tenderloin w/ Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onions & Bacon

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Father’s Day is celebrated on many different dates around the world. It gives us the opportunity to thank or reflect on, that special person we call ‘Dad’.

The imprint of a father remains forever on the lives of his children. For daughters, he is the standard against which she will judge all men. To a son, he is his first hero.

Father’s are some of the most unsung, unpraised and unnoticed valuable assets of our society. Growing up, I recall that wonderful feeling of being very protected by our father.

Both of our dad’s are no longer with us but we will always hold dear fond memories of them. It seems a father’s love and influence is never fully appreciated until they are no longer with you.

Today, I’m making a stuffed tenderloin meal which I think they both would have enjoyed.

Pork tenderloin is definitely one of my ‘go to’ sources of protein. It is a very lean cut with virtually no fat at all and can be flavored and cooked in a variety of ways.

Pork can be as easy or involved as you choose to make it. Since sweet potatoes make the perfect compliment to pork, combining them with caramelized onion and bacon tastes amazing.

Slicing into this tenderloin reveals the wonderful colors of the stuffing, making it a feast for both eyes and taste buds.

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Stuffed Pork Tenderloin w/ Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onions & Bacon
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon until cooked but not crisp. Remove bacon from skillet; blot on paper towel.
  2. Dice onion in about a 1/4-inch size. Add to bacon drippings in skillet & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture has evaporated & onion is soft.
  3. Reduce heat; sprinkle with apple cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Add brown sugar; cook & stir until golden. Cook sweet potato, peel & mash.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Remove any 'silver-skin' from pork tenderloin. Butterfly tenderloin & pound carefully to make it an even thickness. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Spread cut side evenly with mashed sweet potato & top with caramelized onion & crumbled bacon .
  6. Starting on the short end, roll tenderloin & place seam side down on a lightly greased piece of foil. Place on a baking sheet & cup foil corners to resemble a dish. Brush tenderloin with Fig Balsamic Olive Oil Vinaigrette (or just use oil).
  7. Roast about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160 F. If you prefer you can roast the tenderloin 8-10 minutes more.

Bacon Wrapped, Cauliflower Stuffed Meatballs

It seems the cauliflower craze has managed to last longer than just about any other that’s come before it. A total superstar when it comes to all the popular diets currently on everyone’s radar, including keto, paleo & whole 30. All signs point to cauliflower becoming the longest lasting food trend of all time.

Cauliflower ….. a naturally gluten-free food that just requires heavy seasoning, is healthy, versatile and ‘tasteless’. Its an entirely blank canvas for all your cooking needs because you can make it taste like ‘anything’ you want.

Last summer, Brion & I stopped for lunch at a popular take-out restaurant. He decided to try their much advertised ‘plant-based burger’. He was not impressed. Let’s say … it was not as advertised!!

In a previous blog, a while back, I had made cauliflower pizza crust and we had really enjoyed it. So today I am making meatballs stuffed with cauliflower in a cauliflower cheese sauce. I guess, this is my version of a ‘plant-based meatball’. Hopefully that works out better.

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Bacon Wrapped, Cauliflower Stuffed Meatballs
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. In a large pot, cook head of cauliflower in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Remove the stem & cut off florets. Set STEM aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, with eggs, onion, garlic, mustard & spices. Mix well. Divide meat mixture into 7 equal amounts & flatten each piece in your hand (one at a time). Place a cauliflower floret in the middle of each, then seal the meat around it forming a meatball.
  3. Wrap a slice of bacon around each cauliflower meatball. In a saucepan, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat & cook the meatballs on all sides.
Cheese Sauce
  1. Chop the reserved cauliflower stem. Shred cheese & place in a food processor with milk, seasonings & chopped cauliflower stem. Puree mixture until smooth.
  2. Pour the cauliflower cheese sauce over the meatballs in the pan & allow to simmer about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted & smooth. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Savory Layered Puff Pie

That expression, ‘what’s old is new again’, definitely can be applied to so many things in today’s world. Very often, when you think you have come up with a new idea its really just a modernized version of an old one.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, Brion & I really enjoy casseroles. I happened to recall a casserole that was published in Good Housekeeping in 1958. My mother made a version of it at that time. Being mostly vegetables, it had such a nice flavor. It was called Seven Layer Casserole consisting of vegetables, rice, tomato soup and sausage or ground meat.

With that ‘taste of a memory’ in mind, my recipe development turned into a savory layered casserole. I used vegetables, rice, cheese and ground pork with a layer of puff pastry. When you prepare it, the sheet of puff pastry is on top so it gets crispy, but when it is baked, you flip it over and it becomes a bottom crust.

Of course, we are talking about frozen puff pastry here. It seems it has become a supermarket staple, delivering all the glories of puff pastry without all the hard hours of work. This is a convenience food that’s perfectly useful for cooks of all skill and commitment levels.

All this talk of frozen puff pastry probably seems odd coming from someone who has made a living in the food industry. But lets face, to make it from scratch is either a labor of love or a sign of madness depending on who you are. So here’s my remake of that vintage 7-layer casserole.

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Savory Layered Puff Pie
Instructions
  1. Cook rice. In a skillet, saute onion in 1 Tbsp butter for a few minutes. Add ground pork, water & seasonings; scramble-fry until cooked. Drain well & remove from skillet. Add another Tbsp of butter to skillet & saute drained mushrooms then blot on paper towel.
  2. Grate cheese combo of choice. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line casserole baking dish with foil & butter.
  3. Start layering with mushrooms, cheeses, rice, meat/onion combo & frozen green beans. Top with puff pastry. Cut a few slits in the pastry for vents. Brush with egg wash.
  4. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to stand for about 15-20 minutes then invert on a serving plate. Remove foil paper & cut into serving pieces. If you wish, serve the casserole with a brown gravy.

Pork & Smoked Oyster Pot Pies

Perhaps one of the ultimate ‘retro’ cocktail party snacks, smoked oysters are something people either love or hate.

Here in our province of Alberta, Canada fresh seafood and fish are definitely not always available. Brion and I enjoy pretty much ‘anything seafood’, so I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate it into our meals. Of course, this means using canned or frozen for most part, so thinking ‘outside the box’ is important.

You can do almost anything with smoked oysters that you do with any seafood. They’re at their freshest when packaged. Canned smoked oysters are usually steamed when they are fresh, smoked for extra flavor and finally packaged in oil.

Over the years, I’ve used them in pate, stew, soup and stuffing, so why wouldn’t they work in pot pie?! Doing a little of my favorite ‘recipe development’ cooking, this is what materialized. We had two for supper and I froze the other two ….. bonus for a later date.

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Pork & Smoked Oyster Pot Pies
Instructions
  1. Prepare pastry for Pot Pies. Preheat oven to 425 F. Dice tenderloin into 1/2-inch cubes & roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven & set aside. Turn oven off, if you wish until ready to bake pot pies.
  2. In a large saucepan, fry bacon until crisp; remove & drain on paper towel. Saute onion, mushrooms & garlic in bacon drippings for a few minutes. Add carrots, celery & potatoes & continue to saute until soft; add flour & seasoning.
  3. Saute for another minute, making sure to coat everything with the flour. Add clam nectar & chicken broth, stirring well to dissolve the flour; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add oysters, roasted tenderloin, crumbled bacon, cream & salt & pepper to taste; stir to combine.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove filling from heat & allow to cool for a few minutes then divide between individual pot pie pastry shells. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until pastry is baked & golden.
Recipe Notes
  • Another pastry that would go real well with this filling would be the one with cornmeal in it.

Roasted Veggie Bread Bowls with Smoked Oyster Stew

Edible bread bowls were a huge hit in the 80’s and 90’s, but the idea fizzled at the start of the 21st century. Bread has always been a main stay of any meal, from toast at breakfast to sandwiches at lunch and rolls for supper. Many restaurants used the bread bowl idea as a way to justify charging more for soup. They are an extremely versatile way to hold thick, creamy soups, spicy chili or stews as well as dips and warm melted cheese.

While its not that difficult to make a bread bowl, the kind of bread you make determines your success. Some examples would be a hearty bread like pumpernickel or a chewy, crusty sourdough. Rye, crusty white or wholewheat will work fine as well.

It’s always a good idea to match the flavor of your bread bowl to the filling used if possible. These roasted vegetable bread bowls were just perfect with the oyster stew.

Bread bowls will always hold a special memory for Brion and I. Over the course of probably the last sixteen years we have made many trips to the California coast. We always stayed in the Carmel/Monterey area and walked the coastline with our destination being Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a special treat having clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at a wharf restaurant.

I used roasted potatoes and parsnips in my dough today, which added an amazing flavor to these bread bowls. The stew is made with smoked oysters which adds a unique smoky flavor. The whole meal came together beautifully and was super good!


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Roasted Veggie Bread Bowls with Oyster Stew


Instructions
Roasted Veggies
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a small baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Peel potato & parsnip & cut in uniform pieces. Place veggies in a bowl; add olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper & toss to combine. Spread veggies evenly on baking sheet; bake for 45 minutes, until roasted & soft enough to mash. Remove from oven, mash & cool.

Bread Bowl Dough
  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast with warm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & cooled, mashed veggies; mix well. Add bacon & chives; mix until just combined.

  2. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down dough & divide into 2-3 pieces. Form each piece into a ball as if you were making a large bun. Place 'buns' on baking sheet allowing enough space in between each for rising. Cover with plastic; allow to rise for about 15 minutes while preheating oven to 350 F. Brush bread bowls with egg wash; bake 25-30 minutes until golden. Remove from oven to a wire rack.

Smoked Oyster Stew
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp; remove to paper towel, blot off grease & crumble. Set aside. To bacon drippings, add carrot, onion, celery & potatoes. Saute, seasoning lightly with salt & pepper; add garlic, seafood seasoning & flour. Saute 1 minute more, making sure to coat everything with flour.

  2. Add clam nectar & chicken stock, stir well to dissolve the flour & bring to a boil. Cook until veggies are cooked through. Turn heat to low & add the chopped smoked oysters, bacon & 1/2 & 1/2 cream. Stir until heated through; remove from heat.

Assembly
  1. Using a serrated knife, carve a deep wedge out of the top of bread bowls. After the initial cut, use your fingers to pull the soft bread out to make a big enough soup bowl. Fill with oyster stew, serving the top piece on the side.

Ham & Olive Bread with ‘Spanish’ Omelettes

About six years ago, I tasted this popular French cake au jambon et aux olives for the first time.  The word ‘cake’ in France refers to a baked savory cake made with ham, olives and cheese. They are exclusively rectangular in shape and made in a bread pan. The texture is between a bread and a cake, making it it good for picnics, cubed as an appetizer with drinks or served with a soup or salad.

This savory cake/bread has endless possibilities when it comes to ingredients. Apart from the original ham, olives and cheese, you can use cooked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, sweet corn kernels, spinach or really any personal choice you have. Well wrapped, it will keep for a few days in the fridge, reheating it or just enjoying it cold.

In this recipe I used  a mix of black and green olives, ham, bacon and a Gruyere/mozzarella cheese combo. I decided to pair it with a Spanish omelette which complimented the savory bread well. The ‘cake’ I had the opportunity of trying the first time was made by a ‘very’ French lady. It set the bar high for my own to turn out as good. We loved it so I guess this recipe is a ‘keeper’.

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Ham & Olive Bread with Spanish Omelette
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Instructions
Olive Bread
  1. In a skillet, saute finely chopped onion with bacon until slightly cooked. Drain on paper towels to avoid soggy dough. Slice olives & chop parsley & ham.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together wine, oil, eggs & salt. In another bowl, sift flour & baking powder. Stir into liquid mixture along with rest of the ingredients. Pour into prepared loaf pan & bake about 1 hour or until bread tests done.
Omelette Topping Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, heat olive oil & saute onion for 3-4 minutes. Add green pepper & garlic; continue to cook another 3-4 minutes. Add tomato sauce, salt & pepper; reduce heat & simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover & set aside to keep warm.
Omelettes for Two
  1. Grate cheese; set aside. Slice onions, zucchini & mushrooms, On a medium-hot griddle, saute vegetables just until tender crisp in 1 tsp of butter. Remove to a dish until ready to use. In a small bowl, whisk eggs with salt & pepper. Make 2 circles of beaten eggs on griddle. Top each with 1/2 of refried beans, veggies & grated cheese. Carefully fold each omelette in half enclosing filling; add a tiny bit of water to the griddle (in between the omelettes) & cover with a large lid. When omelettes are cooked remove to serving plates & top with the tomato sauce. Serve with warm olive bread.

Potato Pancakes w/ Pork Filling

Potato pancake variations are present in National cuisines all over the world and considered by many to be pure comfort food. The nice thing is, you can create this great meal by using leftover mashed potatoes. It can be kept simple or you can amp up the flavor with cheese, onion, bacon or a variety of spices. I recall my mother making them. I think she just added some eggs, onion, a bit of flour and some salt & pepper to the leftover, mashed potatoes. They were made into patties and pan fried as you would a pancake.

Depending on which part of Eastern Europe you come from, the name varies — Kolduny, Zrazy, Kartoffelpuffer are just a few. Regardless of the name you call them, they are just simply delicious. The Russian version takes it a bit further. The potato pancake is stuffed with a filling and then fried to a golden brown.

After reading through numerous recipes, I decided to ‘meld’ some of them into my own creation. These are what developed — nothing pretty but really good flavor. Yes, truly comfort food.

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Potato Pancakes w/ Pork Filling
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Course Main Dish
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Ingredients
Potato Pancakes
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Potato Pancakes
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Instructions
Pork Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine pork filling ingredients; divide into 8 portions & form each into a patty shape. Refrigerate until potato pancake 'batter' is prepared .
Potato Pancakes
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon until crispy; drain on a paper towel until cool. In skillet with remaining bacon grease, saute onion & garlic until translucent.
  2. In a large bowl, crumble bacon into small bits. Add cold mashed potatoes, onion, garlic, beaten egg, cheddar (if using), flour, salt & pepper. Combine well. Using a large piece of waxed paper, form 16 patties. On top of each one, place one of the pork patties & then top each with the remaining potato patties. With a pair of scissors, cut waxed paper to separate filled potato pancakes so it will be easy for you to place them on a griddle for frying.
  3. Lightly oil a frying pan or griddle. Using the waxed paper remaining under each pancake, carefully flip each filled pancake onto the griddle. Flatten a bit & press edges to enclose filling better. Fry first side to a nice golden brown then carefully flip with a spatula & brown second side a few minutes. Cover with a lid (or foil) for remaining cooking time to ensure pork is cooked through.
  4. Once cooked, remove from griddle & serve with sour cream or Ranch dressing.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to make the pancakes the size that works best for you.

Pork & Pepper Quiche Cups w/ Onion Mushroom Twists

When I think of stuffed peppers, quiche never ever came to mind. I have always enjoyed quiche anytime of day, with or without crust. The idea of using a pepper as your ‘crust’ certainly puts a new twist on the traditional quiche.

I wanted to make these pepper cups for a supper meal and since there was no pastry involved here, bread sticks seemed like a good accompaniment.

Quiche is like making pizza– there are no limits to what the filling can consist of. For our meal today, I just put together a variety of items I had on hand for both the quiche and bread stick twists. It turned out to be real enjoyable and so easy.

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Pork & Pepper Quiche Cups w/ Onion Mushroom Twists
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
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Instructions
Onion-Mushroom Twists
  1. In a skillet, saute mushrooms & onion in butter until tender. Add thyme & salt; cook 1 minute longer or until blended. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Roll pizza dough into a 16 X 8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle cheese on half of the dough, then top cheese with HALF of the mushroom/onion mixture. Fold un-topped half of dough over topped side; slice into 8 strips to form twists.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully lift & twist each strip before placing on baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic powder & salt to taste. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Pepper Quiche Cups
  1. In a skillet, place ground pork, water, salt, rubbed sage, black pepper, red pepper flakes & ground ginger. Stir-fry until no longer pink. Remove from heat & drain on paper towel. Chop sun-dried tomato pieces & shred cheese.
  2. In a large measuring cup with a spout, place 1/2 & 1/2 milk, salt & pepper. Add eggs & beat well. Remove stems, seeds & membrane from peppers & stand in a roasting dish that will hold them upright & level. Divide cooked pork, remaining mushroom/onion mixture & sun-dried tomatoes.
  3. Top each pepper with some grated cheddar, then carefully pour in the milk/egg mixture. Bake until eggs are set. If you prefer, 'float' a piece of foil over peppers for the first part of the baking time. It will help the cheese not to over bake.