Slow Cooked Pork Loin with Jalapeno-Cherry Sauce

I still have a ton of cherries left and am trying to find new and creative recipes for them.  By looking at the amount of cherries I still have, you would never know that I have already used a bunch for both the cherry-chocolate brownie cookies AND for this recipe as well.  But I will definitely find fun, delicious ways of using the rest of them before too long.  If I can’t use them all up I will freeze whatever is left, which will give me a bit more time to do my homework and find more cherry recipes.  But, I love a challenge, and it is a bit of challenge to use them all without making the same things twice in a row in a short period of time.  So I say, bring it on!  I WILL rise to the challenge!

Again, our temperatures are soaring, so I want to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, or at least make things that will not heat up the kitchen too much.  With that in mind, I brought out the slow cooker for this recipe, which helped reduce the kitchen heat considerably.  I can thank my friend Rose for the inspiration for this delicious recipe.  We will definitely be doing this one again; probably in the very near future too.

This is before cooking it nice and slow for about 4 1/2 hours, on a medium heat.

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All my ingredients.

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Before cooking, I patted the meat dry with a paper towel, then added salt and pepper to both sides and seared it in a HOT skillet with hot oil until it was browned on all sides.  It took about 4 minutes per side.

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Once the meat was browned, I added it to the slow cooker, on top of sliced onions.  Then I added ginger and garlic all around.

To make my sauce, I halved and pitted my cherries and mixed them with jalapeno jelly, one jalapeno, diced fine,  salt and pepper and honey, and added it on top of my pork.  I also added some cilantro and about 1 cup of water to the mixture, to make sure there was enough liquid in the pan.  I closed the lid and forgot about it for about 4 1/2 hours, until it was all done.  Once everything had finished cooking, I added about 3 TBSP of cornstarch, mixed with some of the juice to thicken the sauce up.  I brought it all to a boil, then reduced the heat and cooked it down for about 7 minutes.  You can vary the cooking time depending on how thick you like your sauce.

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I served the jalapeno-cherry pork loin with some of my leftover Southwestern potato salad, corn on the cob and cheese bread.  Next time I will serve this over wild rice.  The jalapeno-cherry sauce will go nicely with wild rice, but we had just had rice, and I still had quite a bit of potato salad I need to use.  My wine choice was a cool crisp chardonnay, but a pinot noir or a lighter red would accompany the meal very well too.

 

Slow Cooked Jalapeno-Cherry Pork Loin

3-4 lbs pork loin, seared until brown on all sides

salt and pepper to taste

red or white onions or a combination of both, sliced to a medium thickness

2 TBSP garlic

2 TBSP ginger

2-3 cups of cherries, halved and pitted

1 small jar of jalapeno jelly

1 jalapeno, diced fine

1/2 cup honey

1 TBSP black pepper

cilantro

3 TBSP cornstarch mixed with some of the hot liquid

 

Sear your pork in a HOT skillet in hot oil.  Then add on top of the onions, garlic and ginger.  Mix all the wet ingredients together, then toss in the cherries.  Cover with the sauce, and add a little water.  Cook in the slow cooker at a medium temperature for about 4 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender.

Once the meat is cooked, take some of the juice from the pan and add it to the cornstarch.  Mix well, until all the lumps are dissolved and you have a milky liquid.  Add this to the rest of the sauce and bring to a boil.  Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and stir constantly until it reaches your desired thickness.  I poured all the sauce into a saucepan and heated it up on the stove rather than try to reheat it in the slow cooker.

This sauce would also go well with ham or duck too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms

Enchiladas are a Mexican staple and are found everywhere Mexican or Tex-Mex foods are found.  We have all seen and enjoyed them, but most of us don’t know the history of the enchilada.  Enchiladas originated in what was known as the Valley of Mexico in Mayan times, and is now known as the Yucatan region of Mexico.  They were a staple of the Mayans.  The poorer people ate corn tortillas or flattened bread, wrapped around small fish.  But the enchiladas, or papadzules as the Mayans called them, were originally served to the nobles on special occasions.  They were corn tortillas, known as tlaxcalli to the Mayans, and were dipped in pumpkin seed and rolled around boiled eggs, smothered in tomato sauce.  When the Spanish conquistadors came to Mexico, they transformed the enchiladas more to how we know them today.  The word “enchilada” came from the Spanish word “enchilar”, meaning to add pepper to or to season or decorate with chile.  The recipe for enchiladas was written in the first Mexican cookbook, El Cocinar Mexicano, published in 1831.  Today, enchiladas are found everywhere, with many different versions and styles.  You can roll them, as they were done traditionally, or you can layer them.  They can be served with many different sauces and fillings.  They are mostly a savory dish, however, you can make sweet enchiladas as well, using bananas or other fruits or other sweet concoctions that can also be used as fillings.

I make enchiladas both ways, but I tend to layer them more often than rolling them.  I think the main reason I tend to layer them is because I like “lots of stuff in my stuff” as my husband would say, and I am able to get more filling in by layering them rather than by rolling them.  You can also use the traditional corn tortillas, or flour tortillas.  I prefer flour tortillas because I like the taste better.  But there is no right or wrong way to make enchiladas.  Use your imagination and be creative.

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Today, I made chicken enchiladas with spinach, mushrooms, and roasted peppers.

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Sauteing the spinach, mushrooms, garlic, onions and roasted hatch peppers.

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After spraying your baking dish with cooking spray, add a little sauce to the bottom of the pan before adding your tortillas.   I used two kinds of cheese.  Today, I used shredded cheddar and shredded mozzarella.  Sometimes I use jalapeno jack.  It depends on what I have on hand at the time.  You can use whatever type(s) of cheese you like.

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Layering my enchiladas.  1) Sauce on the bottom of the pan; 2) tortillas; 3) cheese; 4) chicken; 5) spinach and mushroom filling; 6) repeat until pan is filled then top with cheese, cover with aluminum foil and bake.

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The end result, topped with sour cream, avocados and salsa, served with arroz verde and a cool, refreshing margarita especial, dining al fresco.

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Chicken Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms

cooked chicken, shredded

tortillas, either corn or flour

tomatilla sauce or salsa verde

3 cups fresh spinach, stems removed and chopped

5-6 medium mushrooms, sliced

1/3 medium onion, chopped fine

1-2 TBSP garlic

4-6 roasted hatch chilies, or to taste, chopped fine

1-2 tsp oregano

1-2 tsp cumin

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil for cooking

cheese

options for topping – tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, olives

 

Preheat oven to 350*F

Spray your baking pan with cooking spray

 

Saute all the vegetables together then set aside.   Add a little sauce to you baking dish.  If layering, start with your tortillas, then cheese, chicken, vegetables, and repeat until the pan is full, finishing with cheese on top.  If you are rolling the tortillas, warm your tortillas in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds, then add your filling and tightly roll, placing the rolled tortillas side by side until the pan is filled and top with sauce and cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 30-40 minutes, covered.  Remove the foil and top with your toppings and continue to bake uncovered until all the cheese is melted and the toppings are set, about 5-10 minutes.  Defruitas con una margarita (o dos) frio y fresco.

 

 

Pizza and Beer

Sometimes, we all need a break from the routine and a break from the kitchen.  Sometimes, it’s fun to see what’s going on in other people’s kitchens, even if those kitchens are in a restaurant.  And sometimes it’s fun just to go out and be with other people who are having a good time too.  I went out with my friends Janet and Bob the other night, and we did just that.  Things got really chaotic and hectic at the house, and I ran out of time to cook.  Bob had been helping us with some home projects, so as a way of saying “thank you” I told them I would treat them for dinner, and the restaurant was their choice.  We went to Lucky Pie, which is a cool, trendy restaurant in Downtown Lousiville, CO, about 15 or so minutes from out house.

Lucky Pie is a family owned and operated restaurant, famous for it’s original pizzas.  It has it’s own garden where they grow most of their own produce, a fun patio with picnic benches where everyone eats family style, and a bar that offers 21 different cold brews on tap, most of which are local beers.  Bob was very excited about that part.    We ordered a couple of unique pizzas, and enjoyed them with our cold, delicious libations and good conversations.  We ordered two different kinds of pizzas.  One was a BLTP or a bacon, lettuce, tomato pizza, that used a bold and spicy bacon on top.  The other pizza was a spicy salami pizza with mozzarella.  Both pizzas were very tasty, and truly unique.  It was a fun, impromptu night out with good friends.  Life is pretty darn good!

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Walter, our server and bartender, showing off some of the tap beer selection.

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Chocolate Cherry Brownie Cookies

My friends Janet and Bob gave me some more cherries from their tree, and I had to find some delicious cherry recipes that would do them justice.  These cherries are a bit more tart than I would normally use, but have no fear, I still made them very tasty.  They gave me a lot of cherries, so I will be coming up with some more cherry recipes in the near future.  Maybe I need to make something savory next time.   Hmmmmmm.  We’ll just have to wait and see, and I will just have to keep you all guessing a little longer.  🙂

For those of you who know me, or are beginning to learn about me through my posts, you should know by now that when I am cooking, I have a difficult time following a recipe exactly how it is written, except for baking.   And I made cookies, which is baking, therefore, I followed this particular cookie recipe exactly.  The irony in this, however, is that had I continued to follow this recipe exactly how it was written, I would have ended up with a big, ooey, gooey mess and not delicious cookies.   It was only by tweaking the recipe that I was actually able to save it and did not have to throw everything into the trash.   Yes, believe it or not, even Jeanne, from “A Jeanne in the Kitchen” has those days too.  Fortunately, I can almost always save things before they get to the point of no return though, as I did with these cookies.  They are soft cookies, and are a combination of both cookies and brownies.  Once again, I started off with a recipe I was following, yet creatively made it my own, although this time it was more out of necessity than by choice.  These delicious cookies have the delectable and desirable qualities of both brownies and cookies.   It’s hard to stop at just one …. or two, or three.

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Jeanne’s Chocolate Cherry Brownie Cookies

2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

2/3 cup cherries, pitted and chopped

4 TBSP chocolate chips

 

Preheat oven to 350*F

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Mix the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the egg and mix well.  Add the vanilla and about 1/2 the flour mixture.  Mix well, then repeat until all the flour is mixed well into the egg, butter and sugar mixture.  Then fold in the cherries and the chocolate chips.  Once everything is well incorporated, drop about 1 TBSP of dough onto the parchment paper for each cookie.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until they are firm.  Cool the cookies completely then dust with powdered sugar for decoration, if using.

 

I actually used two types of cherries.  I used the tart cherries from my friends’ tree as well as some leftover bing cherries I had bought earlier.

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Before putting the cookies in the oven.

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Please feel free to tweak them however they need it, and please let me know how they turned out.

 

 

 

 

A Flair for the Southwest

As I have said many times, I love all kinds of food, but I have to admit, if I had to choose a favorite type of food, I would have to say it is most probably Southwestern.  I love the bold spices and heartiness of the foods from the Southwest.  We had some friends visiting from Arizona, and I made a Southwestern lunch to make them feel a bit more at home.  Although it was another scorcher, we sat out on our deck, a little more in the shade than we usually do, and it was very pleasant.  The cool margaritas we had with lunch also seemed to help lower the temperature a bit, or at least they made it so we weren’t as bothered by the heat as we might have been otherwise.

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We had Southwestern grilled chicken burgers complete with roasted peppers, Monterrey Jack cheese, sauteed mushrooms, onions and bacon, and a spicy salsa-mayonnaise on the bun.  I served it with a Southwestern potato salad and some leftover barley-spinach salad.  It was a simple meal, but it had just the right amount of kick to it to leave everyone feeling very happy and satisfied.

Southwestern Potato Salad

cooked red potatoes, cubed

1 can black beans, drained

1 quarter red onion, diced fine

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1/3 cup green onion, chopped fine

2 jalapenos, diced fine

cilantro, chopped fine

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1/2 cup salsa

2 tsp cumin

1-2 tsp ground ajo chili (from Savory Spice)

red pepper flakes to taste

 

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Place the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil.  Once the water boils, let it continue to boil for about 12 minutes or until the potatoes slide off a fork or knife with ease.  Then drain and let cool.  Mix all the vegetables together and set aside.  Mix the mayonnaise, salsa, cumin, red pepper flakes and ground ajo chili together and set aside.  Add the vegetables to the potatoes and mix well, then add as much of the mayonnaise-salsa mixture as needed and incorporate well.   Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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Once you are ready to eat, sit back with a cold, refreshing margarita and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Cool Barley and Spinach Salad

Barley is one of those coveted cooking gems that not a lot of people are familiar with or know much about, although it is one of the most widely consumed grains today, only most people don’t realize this.  Barley is used a lot in beer, and we all know how much people love their beer.  It is a whole grain and can be found either hulled or pearled, which are the two most widely used processes for preparing barley for consumption.  Barley was one of the first ever cultivated grains.  It has a nutty flavor and a chewy pasta-like consistency.   It is a whole grain that is filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals that all have numerous health benefits.  Eating a diet rich in whole grains helps prevent the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, as well as a host of other health problems.  Diets rich in fiber are widely recognized as important for weight loss and weight control because fiber acts as a “bulking agent” in the digestive system which helps increase the satiety level; meaning you feel fuller for longer and therefore eat less.  Although when increasing your fiber intake, make sure to also increase your fluid intake as well, to help prevent digestive problems.  Barely contains gluten, so if you are gluten intolerant, this may not be the choice for you, but there are plenty of other whole grains available that do not contain gluten.

Still trying to beat the heat and be creative at the same time, I came across a delicious sounding recipe, but me being me, I tweaked it and then I tweaked it some more until I made it my own recipe.  I served my salad with warmed pita bread and hummus and a cool, crisp chardonnay.

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Pickling my shallots in red wine vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt.  After the shallots have soaked in the mixture for at least 30 minutes, drain them and discard the liquid.  This makes the shallots really flavorful and adds some zip and zest to the salad.

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My salad components.  I have everything in a bowl ready to toss, the dressing, chicken to put on top, shaved Parmagiano cheese and chopped pistachios to top it off.

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I had some left over chicken that I was going to use, however, I had a sneaky chicken thief who decided to help himself to the chicken while I was temporarily distracted, so I had to go out and buy a roasted chicken.  My chicken thief Vinnie is laying down, looking very guilty and completely satisfied with himself for his coup.  His sister Lucie tried to get in on the theft as well, but I got to the chicken before she could help herself to what Vinnie had left behind, which was not much at all.

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Barley Spinach Salad

2 cups cooked barley

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 TBSP sugar

pinch of salt

2 shallots, sliced very thin

3/4 cup mustard vinaigrette (if you do not have a mustard vinaigrette, add 3 TBSP lemon juice, 3 TBSP olive oil, 1 TBSP Dijon mustard, 1 TBSP honey, and black pepper to taste)

1 tsp red pepper flakes

4 cups fresh spinach, stemmed and chopped

2 tsp fresh mint, chopped

2 tsp lemon verbena, chopped (optional)

1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted

3 oz shaved Parmagiano cheese

1/2 cup olives, cut in half

1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

cooked chicken

 

To cook the barley, use 3 cups of water to 1 cup of barley, and cook like coking rice, only let it simmer for about 45 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed into the barley.

Bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil, then remove from the heat and add the shallots.  Just let the shallots seep in the liquid for at least 30 minutes.  Discard the liquid when done.

Toss the barley, spinach, some of the pistachios, pickled shallots and peas together.  Then add your mustard vinaigrette, red pepper flakes and herbs and toss together with the barley, spinach mixture.  Plate this up and add your chicken or protein of choice (if using).  Top with the shaved Parmigiano cheese and the rest of the chopped pistachios.  You can prepared this ahead of time, and chill in the refrigerator before serving too.  You can also serve the salad as a side dish, without the chicken.  The mint and the lemon verbena make this salad really come to life.

 

 

 

 

Italian Sausage Sub

This current heat wave we are experiencing has completely zapped my creative energies.  I want to cook and be creative, but it is so hot that it is almost impossible to be in the kitchen for very long.  So, we have been cooking up a lot of simple, easy-peasy meals that don’t require much time in the kitchen, and very little effort.  This Italian sausage sub, served with a cool pasta primavera seemed like the perfect solution for this super hot day.  We grilled some spicy Italian sausage and the bun, heated up some marinara sauce and topped it with mozzarella cheese.    I also made a pasta primavera, that I  served as a cold pasta salad along side the sub.  We dined on our cool and refreshing deck after the sun went down, while enjoying a cold glass of viognier.  This was a very good, tasty way to help us beat the heat.  I know this is not a fancy meal, but sometimes, simple is best.

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All I need to make pasta primavera.  I love vegetables, and cook with them a lot.  When I make vegetable medleys, I tend to put in a wide variety of vegetables; usually it is a little bit of this and a little bit of that and before I know it, I have made a ton.  There is no right or wrong way to make this dish.  Use whatever vegetables you like.  I love lots of color and textures, so I use everything, plus there are hardly any vegetables I do not like.  There is no real recipe to this one.  This is up to you, your imagination, and your likes and dislikes.

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No matter what vegetables you decide to use, cook your heartier veggies first.  Here, I am sauteing zucchini, red onions, asparagus, mushrooms and peas in olive oil.  Cook them for about 3-5 minutes, or until they are cooked, yet still have a bit of a crunch to them.  Then add your softer vegetables.

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Before cooking my heartier vegetables, I marinated grape tomatoes with garlic, about 3 TBSP of  lemon juice,  about 1/2 cup olive oil, fresh basil, lemon verbena, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.  Once my other vegetables had cooked, I added this to my sauteed veggies and cooked it all down for about 2-3 more minutes.  Adjust the seasoning to how you like them if needed.

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After all my vegetables were cooked, I added cooked pasta and tossed everything together.  You can serve this dish cold, hot or at room temperature, depending on your mood and what your are serving it with.  I used spaghetti here, but you can use any kind of larger pasta you want.  I think next time, to keep it even lighter, I will use angel hair pasta instead of spaghetti.

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Stay cool and manga!