Bacon wrapped Pork Roast with Tangy Apple Salad

My husband and I have been “dating” for 10 years. 10 years ago, I had an awful day at my crummy job. I got off work, and called the guy I was talking to and complained all about it. He lived 7 hours away, and jokingly said “You should just come see me!!” and I replied “OKAY!”. He was shocked- “wait? what?! Are you serious?!?” And I replied “Hell yes! Screw that job. I’m calling out.” Terribly irresponsible decision. But thats what 19 year olds are good at right!! So I did. I called out and drove 7 hours in the middle of night all the way to Fort Campbell Army Base where he was stationed, and we had a magical weekend, which would then become our official “started dating” anniversary. Well that was 10 years ago, and we’ve been married for 9, and have an 8 year old. Wow, what a whirlwind of a startup that was!

After you get married, you tend to stop celebrating the little anniversaries. And its a crime. Tomorrow is never promised, and I love to think back to the days when I was 19 and he was 21 and we were madly in love, so much that I quit my crummy job, left my entire life and hometown behind, just to be with him. And as I was reflecting on all the small miracles that had led us to the life we now have together, it occurred to me that the least I could do was cook a spectacular dinner for us. And when I think of decadence beyond measure.. I think of PORK. Not steak, not shrimp, a good tender piece of pork can out do the fanciest of meals. And the best way I know how to fix it, is like this.

I started with a cheap pork roast. Thats right. The bottom shelf, in the nylon net mystery pile of pork roast. This cut of meat isn’t pretty, but its tender, and a good fat ratio to ensure the tastiest of dishes. I choose to cover its uglyness and contain is irregular shape by wrapping it in more pork. But pork that is salty, seasoned, and adds texture: BACON.

After wrapping the pork into a bacon log, I then chop the potatoes, onions and mushrooms and line them down the sides of my roast. I also take WHOLE CLOVES of peeled garlic and tuck them in under the bacon. No seasoning required to this pork. I let the bacon and garlic just surround it with love and let its own flavor really shine. I only lightly salt the vegetables, and also don’t add any oil to them!! The grease from the meat will cook the bottom of them until they are tender and savory and the tops will have the perfect bite texture.

I cook this low and slow. I put it in at 350ºF for around 4 hours. I also make an aluminum foil little tent for my roast. NOT tight around the sides, just a barely over the top in a triangle up, so that way the bacon doesn’t burn on top, but its gets plenty of air. Nobody likes soggy bacon, and tightening down the aluminum foil around the sides will give you just that.

I measured the temperature of the very center of the roast to be sure it was up to temp, and it quickly jumped to 180ºF on my meat thermometer, telling me that my roast was beyond a shadow of a doubt, cooked all the way through. I then let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. This gives the meat time to shrink after being exposed to room temperature, and taking all its delicious juices with it. Cutting it without letting it rest results in a lot of wasted juice running through the bottom of your pan, and that stuff is liquid gold!

Apples are a natural compliment to pork, and this dish was so rich already, I wanted something clean and bright to go on the side. I decided on a tangy apple salad. Basically greens salad mix, apples and a quick and EASY homemade vinaigrette dressing.

I just put all the ingredients into a jar shook it well for a few minutes and BAM. Instant amazing tangy dressing. I lightly tossed the diced apples, granny smith preferred, but any apples will work and salad greens, and it complimented this dish perfectly.

Ingredients for Bacon Wrapped Pork Roast:

  • 1-2lb pork roast in net (taken out of net)
  • 1 16oz package of non flavored bacon (smoked is fine, I just wouldn’t use maple)
  • 2-3 potatoes chopped large
  • large yellow onion chopped large
  • 1 container mushrooms sliced or whole
  • 4 cloves garlic whole
  • 1-2 tsp salt on vegetables
  • glass pan, foil lined to put all this in, EASY clean up:)

Ingredients for Tangy Apple Salad Dressing: Add to a jar and shake!

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1tsp garlic powder or minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

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Chicken Noodle Vegetable Soup..Cure for what ails you!

So Irma is making it rain here non-stop. My husband is sick, and overall everyone in this house could use some healing magic, AKA Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup. This is one of my familys favorites, and an instant request anytime that anyone in our family is feeling crummy. I don’t mind at all its stupid easy, healthy and hearty.

I start with my large soup pot. I can cook this quickly or slowly or even in the crock pot. But my favorite is in the big soup pot, on a low simmer all day, so its heavenly smell can fill the house.

In the big pot on a med-low I put olive oil and butter and garlic, and a heaping pile or garlic. You can use fresh or I like the jarred minced kind for convenience. I then place 4 frozen chicken breasts and cover them with the chopped vegetables and herbs and when the oil starts to sound poppy, I add the chicken broth until its all covered. I cook the noodles separately and add them together at the last minute. This keeps them from completely disintegrating while the vegetables and chicken reach their tender delicious destination.

The vegetables I choose are the classics: onion, potato, celery, and carrots. The herbs I choose are finely chopped, and come in a convenient poultry herb pack : sage, thyme and rosemary. What did I tell you? EASY.

The noodles I choose are extra wide egg noodles. They cook quickly, are packed with protein and I love the flavor of these noodles in chicken soup. I cook and add  them to the soup just before serving, storing, or freezing. 

Add salt and pepper to taste and this soup will cure anything that ails you! Especially hunger for something that tastes like home.

Ingredients: Makes 2-3 quarts of soup

  • 4 Frozen/Raw Chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3-4 white potatoes chopped skin on
  • 3-4 carrots chopped skin on
  • 3-4 stalks of celery chopped
  • 1 big yellow onion chopped
  • 1 container of poultry herbs (fresh) or 1tsp rosemary, 1tsp sage, 1tsp thyme
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 3/4 large pkg of wide egg noodles boiled until aldente
  • 2-3 quarts chicken broth (if you leave it slow all day you should only need 2. But sometimes if you boil the soup on too high of heat, the liquid will disappear, and you may need more broth. If your out of broth:: add water and chicken bullion cubes. Great broth solution in a pinch!

What are your favorite simmer all day soups?? I would love to try them!!

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Farmers Market Finds: Beets and Greens.

This weekend my mom, and my daughter and I all took a trip to the farmers market. We had coffee, cinnamon buns, and picked up some delicious vegetables. The day was cool and it was a perfect morning to be in good ole Floyd County, VA.

I scored some beets, swiss chard, sweet peppers, and heirloom tomatoes. So my next focus was how exactly I was going to prepare my delicious treasures. And I settled on roasting. It was a cooler day, and I guess I am looking forward to fall so I thought a good herb chicken and roasted vegetables sounded splendid.

I began by peeling and chopping my beets and all their friends : white potatoes, carrots, onions sweet peppers, and herbs. I chose a poultry blend for the chicken and vegetables: Thyme, Rosemary and Sage. I arranged them all on a baking sheet, coated with olive oil salt and pepper. I roasted these with the chicken at 375°F for about an hour.

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I took thawed chicken breasts on a baking sheet as well,  coated with salt, pepper, olive oil, the herbs, and garlic powder. And baked them at the same time and temp as the vegetables.

While they were roasting their way to “flavor town”- thanks Guy. I cooled my heels until about 8 mins was left to go on my timer. I rough chopped the beet greens and Swiss chard down to the stems and placed the heaping pile of leaves in a deep saucepan with a half cup of water in the bottom over low to med heat. I added salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne pepper, drizzle of olive oil and white vinegar (if you like them tangy). I babysat these greens until they had wilted town to a very dark green.

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This meal was not only healthy and easily made vegan with the omission of the chicken, BUT my 8 year old loved it. The vegetables were tender, and all complemented each other so well.  Roasting the beets made them tender and let their subtle sweetness shine. The greens were also tender and mild and with a tangy kick from the vinegar. The chicken was juicy and savory with the herbs piled right on top. It was truly a excellent Sunday dinner.

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Ingredients:

Roasted Beets and Vegetables

  • 4-5 small beets peeled and chopped
  • 4-5 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 white potatoes chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion chopped
  • 1 large sweet pepper chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme, sage and rosemary
  • 1 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper

Tangy Greens

  • 4-5 cups of chopped greens (I used swiss chard and the tops of the beets) rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Herb Roasted Chicken

  • 4-5 thawed chicken breasts
  • 4-5 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs (thyme, sage, and rosemary)
  • 4-5 tsps olive oil
  • salt and pepper sprinkled on all of them
  • garlic powder sprinkled on all of them

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I was so pleased with our farmers market finds this week. What are some of your fresh recipes? I would love to try them!

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Elotes Locos.. sort of.

I will be the first one to say that I am not a huge fan of corn on the cob. Ever since I was a tin grin with a lisp in middle school I have not been a fan. And its not something we ate a lot of in my household growing up. My dad had dentures and my mom thought it was a real pain in the butt to have to cut it off for him, and then of course for me because I would want it “just like daddy’s”.

However, when I was introduced to Elotes Locos.. corn with mayonnaise? Lime? Spicy? Oh heck ya, I want a piece of that!!

This is my version, 1st attempt, and it was sour, creamy, salty and sweet. It was awesome.

I took corn, had my 8 year old shuck it on the back porch, and boiled it in salty water for about 7 minutes.

I removed them from the pot, and lightly coated them with mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, pepper, tajin, cilantro and lime juice.

And then I got my grub on!

Whats your favorite corn recipe? I’d love to try it!!

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Fried Chicken and Spaghetti

So its Monday, and I had a long weekend, and needed comfort food. Mondays are one of the few nights I don’t have to go anywhere, and don’t have to rush to slam dinner on the table. At least until Girl Scouts starts again.. oy vey.

Tonight I really wanted Chicken Parmesan. But I didn’t have any Parmesan and I had already put on my sweat pants. So I made it without! And it was delicious.

I started out by defrosting 3 large chicken breasts in the microwave. Once thawed, I laid them on a plastic cutting board, and butterflied them down the middle. Making two thin breasts out of each. I then covered the thin breasts with plastic wrap, placed a sandwich bag over the end of my hammer, and gently pounded them until tender and extremely flat. I do this because when frying chicken, I am always worried the outside will burn before the inside is cooked all the way. And I happen to like thin crispy chicken, with anything, and especially spaghetti.

I dredged the chicken in a seasoned flour mix , I was out of bread crumbs too – #thestruggle. For this I just mixed the flour and seasonings listed below in a bowl, and dipped the wet chicken into the mix. I did not use any egg or milk, just the natural wetness of the chicken allowed the flour mix to stick well and make a light crispy coating.

I then fried them in bubbling vegetable shortening in a large skillet. I did 1 tbsp shortening to each breast. TIP: When you flick tiny drops of water off your fingers into hot oil and it sizzles but does not pop – the oil is perfect. I cooked them about 5-7 minutes per side, until golden and dark brown. Then I removed them from the pan and put them on a paper towel bed until the spaghetti was ready.

Then I  simply cooked whole wheat noodles al dente, topped them with my spaghetti sauce and placed the chicken on the side with some spinach for texture. It hit the spot, and I even had a few thin breasts left over, which will make an amazing sandwich tomorrow! Stay tuned 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 3 thawed chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 2 tsp powered garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3-4 tbsp vegetable shortening in a med heated pan

What are your favorite comfort foods?? I would love to try them!!

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Crockpot Mexican Qunioa with Butternut Squash

Sunday Crockpot Day!! I had a lazy morning followed by a busy afternoon and evening.. Hello Crockpot! I have never done Quinoa in the crockpot before, but this turned out fantastic! And the extra veggies makes it super healthy!
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I start with 1 cup dry quinoa in the bottom of the crock pot. I then but 1lb of raw ground turkey on top. You could easily replace this with soy crumbles or omit it all together to make this Vegan. I then added cubed raw butternut squash. Butternut squash is a little easier than spaghetti squash, it has hardly any insides to scrape out. I simply chop off the ends, stand it up and peel it down the sides.

I then added 1 can of black beans – DRAINED AND RINSED, 1 can of diced tomatoes with jalapenos – UN-DRAINED, 1 can white corn – UN-DRAINED, 1/2 bag of frozen diced onions, 1/2 bag of frozen diced green peppers. You could do these fresh as well, I just always have the frozen ones on hand, saves time and money. I then topped the whole thing with my taco seasoning: Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, LOTS of Cumin, Paprika, Small Red Cayenne Pepper, and Tajin. I then poured 2 cups of water over the top, closed the lid and cooked it on high for around 5 hours.

It was perfection!!!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried quiona
  • 1 lb ground turkey or vegetable protein (optional)
  • 1/2 butternut squash roughly chopped
  • 1 can drained black beans, rinsed well
  • 1 can corn with liquid
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with jalapenos with liquid
  • 1 cup frozen diced onions or fresh diced onions
  • 1 cup frozen diced green peppers or fresh diced green peppers
  • taco seasoning packet or the mix listed above – go nuts! its always going to be good!
  • 2 cups of water

Add chips and any other toppings you like, put it on a salad, wrap it in a tortilla, freeze it for later!!! Its a hearty and healthy dish. ENJOY!

What are your healthy crockpot go to recipes?? I would love to try them!!

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Coco’s Paradise! An adventure in Honduras Cuisine.

My husband took our daughter out for a date, so I was left with a Friday evening alone. JACKPOT!! So I took myself out to dinner to a little place around the corner I have been dying to try, Cocos Paradise. The exterior is lovely, island themed and inside I found beautiful wooden floors with red and white table cloths and charming decorations.

A hostess greeted me with a smile, and seated me at a charming table by the window.

The menu was diverse including seafood, chicken, pork beef, appetizers, lunch specials, kids meals, and desserts. Everything sounded really delicious and I was impressed that a traditonal paella was one of the options. I asked the server what was some of the most Authentic Honduran dishes they had, she directed me to the lunch menu, and told me I could order them anytime of day. Score! I asked her which was her favorite and she immediately said the SOPA DE MARISCOS. The description was simple: seafood soup. I told her I would have that. She then offered me a seasonal coconut, I could drink the water and then they would cut it open for me to eat the fresh meat. I gladly accepted.

She promptly grabbed a large power drill from behind the bar and headed to the kitchen. Drilling noises were followed by her returning to my table with a large green coconut pierced by a straw. Announcement! : I do not like coconut water! At least not the kind at the store,  and I do not like coconut flavored anything. But this was the most refreshing delicious water I have ever had. I was so delighted in the simple cool sweet water. She was cracking up at how surprised and pleased I was with this coconut. After tipping it all different ways and holding it up to my ear several times to shake it and check that I had gotten it all, she took it back to the kitchen to crack it open. The loud banging coming from the back gave me comical mental images of a large Samoan man beating the coconut against the stainless steel counter. What she brought back was a halved coconut, and a small scraping tool.

Like I said, I don’t like coconut. But I have never had the meat fresh either. The texture was unique. It was not at all dry, nor was it mushy. It was very dense and creamy, yet it carved away like clay. The tool she gave me was a close resemblance to something from high school ceramics class. I loved it. It was so mild in flavor compared to anything “coconut” I had ever had before. This was a great appetizer and something to keep me busy while I waited on my entree.

It wasn’t long before my Sopa was ready. It arrived piping hot and absolutely beautiful. It came with a side of rice and home made from scratch corn tortillas. First, the soup. This soup was so full of flavor, and freshness, yet something was so comforting. The broth was creamy, but not thick. Buttery, but not too rich. It was spicy but not overpowering. It was perfect. I literally burnt my tongue over and over again because I couldn’t stop myself from trying to eat it before it was cool. It was a enormous portion, that I will enjoy the rest of later tonight, something this good won’t last in my house until tomorrow. It was filled with crab, mussels, jumbo shrimp, firm white fish, potatoes, carrots, minced celery, onions, scallions, bay leaves, and parsley. It was heaven. I am not usually the person who orders seafood. I don’t usually enjoy scraping out mussels. I devoured this.

The rice it was paired with was possibly jasmine rice, it was white, slightly sticky, not sweet, and cooked perfectly. It paired beautifully with the soup, but was also delicious all on its own.

I had been so engrossed in the soup that I had forgotten about the tortillas. I saw them and was a little perplexed, usually tortillas are just the holder or vehicle for the good stuff. This was not the case with these tortillas. They were a little fluffier and thicker than typical store bough tortillas, almost like a thin pancake. The were warm, and obviously very freshly made. I didn’t know what else to do but eat them plain. They were so good. I don’t like corn tortillas, but the flavor was so different than usual corn tortillas, and the slight saltiness with fluffy texture went together well with the hearty soup. I told the server I could eat those everyday for breakfast.

I was completely stuffed about halfway through the soup and rice, but I was curious about the yuka I had seen through out the menu. I asked her what it was like and she offered to get me a sample! A SAMPLE!! Who was this goddess server from heaven? She brought me a sample of not only the yuka, but the cabbage and plantains!! I was beyond impressed. How sweet of her to indulge in my culinary curiosity. The cabbage was crisp with a tangy, but not vinegary, more sweet and sour type sauce. I really liked that. The Yukas were more like potatoes that had been dredged, and not at all dry on the inside like potatoes. Lastly the plantains: So, I don’t like bananas, like at all. So here was one more thing I was stepping out of my comfort zone on and they weren’t bad! I didn’t love the them, but they were tasty! They had a banana feel but a completely different flavor, and the char really helped them stand out from your common banana.

I was so impressed with this tiny restaurant. The service, the food, the vibe its incredible. A hidden gem in my small town that is begging for some variety and culture. I can’t wait to back and next time bring my whole family.

Thank you Cocos Paradise!