Pork loin dinner (sorry, no pics!)

Dinners with mom, for real

I’m finally settled in at Mom’s. Well, for now. We moved here in October, and we’re here for good, because it was becoming hard to be of any help from five hundred miles away. We are staying in her guest room, which we renovated first, while our apartment is being renovated. It is SO nice to be near her, both to offer some help, and just to be closer and hang out with her.

I’ve been doing most of the cooking for the four of us: me, Mom, James, and my Uncle Ed, who moved in a couple years ago when my aunt died. I’m trying to make dinners that are homey, interesting, and diverse, so that everyone enjoys them and I have lots of veggies to eat. Tonight’s was a big hit with everyone: Very juicy roasted pork loin, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, steamed carrots/squash, and a salad. Even better than the food was the feeling I was nurturing my family and having a good time doing it.

The roast was super-easy. Just rubbed it with olive oil and spices, then put it into a pan in a preheated 450F oven until my probe thermometer said 135F. Pulled it and let it rest a few minutes until it reached a safe 140F before slicing. Very good.

The gravy was also very easy:

1) Slice onions and mushrooms (however many you want) and take out a saute pan that will hold them all — but it doesn’t have to be a saute pan; you can use a big stockpot, even, if you have to
2) Put some butter (anywhere from a tablespoon to several) into the saute pan and heat the pan on medium until the butter melts
3) Add the onions and mushrooms to the butter, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the top. If you have it, now’s the time to add a teaspoon of garlic granules or a chopped garlic clove.
4) Let them cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid cooks away, then add just enough chicken stock or water or heavy cream to barely cover, and let it come back to the simmer. If you used chicken stock or water, you’ll have to do step 5. If heavy cream, just continue to heat until it thickens a bit and you’re done.
5) In a little bowl, mix a tablespoon or two of cornstarch with a tablespoon or two of cold water. Add to the simmering gravy and stir constantly until it returns to the boil. As thick as it is now is as thick as it will be, so if you need to do it again (to make it thicker) or add water/stock (to make it thinner), do that now.

Homemade dips

Just a quick round-up of our standard home-made dips.

I just posted this to my cooking group on Facebook and I wanted to save it here. May do posts about these later, and please feel free to point me to your own dip recipes.

 

I hate store-bought pre-made dips because they have some chemical in them that tastes off/sour to me. I used to do the Lipton onion soup dip thing, but no more. In general, we don’t use packets to make dip any more. We either eat salsa (store-bought or homemade) or I make the dip. They’re easier than I thought they would be before I started doing them. My go-to dips:

French onion: sour cream, dried onions, and something salty/umami: sometimes beef Better Than Buillon, but if we don’t have that, then oyster sauce, or failing that, just a bunch of salt and maybe a pinch of MSG (we’re not sensitive to it).

Green onion: Sour cream, sliced scallions, salt (or seasoned salt), LOTS of black pepper, and something acidic (some combination of lemon juice, vinegar, mayo).

Sour-cream salsa dip: Exactly what it sounds like

Nacho sauce: Make cheese sauce; best to use a screaming orange cheese so it looks right, but any cheese sauce will do. Add some pickled jalapenos that have been diced, along with some of the liquid from the jar.

Bean dip: Fry up some onions in oil/butter/water/whatever. Add refried beans (canned or homemade, pinto/black/whatever) and whatever salsa is on hand, along with whatever cheese is on hand. Heat through and serve.

Spinach dip: 1 cup sour cream; 1 cup mayo; 10 ounces spinach, cooked and drained well; 1 bunch green onions, chopped; 2-4 tablespoons dried onions or dried soup vegetables; salt and pepper to taste; 1 small can water chestnuts, chopped (optional).

Pantry Cooking Project, Day 6

Buttermilk pancakes and a brief report on day 6.

Just a quicky today.

Breakfast was my basic buttermilk pancakes (recipe below) and a ham-and-green-onion frittata.

breakfast

Lunch was the leftover rice from the day before and some of our farmer’s market bounty: strawberries and donut peaches.

lunch

Dinner was a fancy restaurant with a friend, so basically, I’m not doing all that well in my resolve not to spend much in restaurants this month. Oh, well.

Money spent on groceries: $16.25 (project total $55.86)
Money spent in restaurants: $55 (project total $92.76)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, hamburger patties, pork chops

Simple buttermilk pancakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
 
Ingredients
Dry ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1-3 Tbsp sugar
Wet ingredients
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I use the thick Bulgarian kind; it makes a difference)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter, plus more for the pan
Instructions
  1. Combine the dry ingredients with a fork in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl and add all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is smooth.
  3. Stir in the melted butter.
  4. Fry the pancakes in melted butter. If you're unsure how to cook pancakes, leave me a comment, and I'll be more specific.

 

Ah, bliss. (Pantry Cooking Project, Day 5)

First weekend post-graduation. So nice to just putter around my house and relax!

It’s my first weekend as a college graduate, and it’s off to a wonderful start. Slept in a little bit (until 8am! yay!) and then delighted in a gorgeous breakfast James made us: morel omelettes, potatoes, V-8, and tea. Later, scarfed an entire pint of raspberries all by myself. Life is good.

Today’s food:

The aforementioned breakfast.

breakfast

Lunch was veggie burgers with homemade mayo (you may recall we ran out of store-bought pretty early) and oven fries. James made lunch, as well. He’s a really useful guy to have around.

lunch

(I made the mayo from this recipe from the Frugal Farm Wife, Elise New.)

mayo

For dinner, I thought I’d try my hand at making flour tortillas using my friend Koko’s instructions, but I ended up feeling less ambitious than that, so I just made “Spanish rice” instead, and served it with refried beans and a tomato-and-avocado salad.

dinner

(I haven’t been mentioning snacks. Today’s snacks were the aforementioned raspberries, some milk and cookies, and a couple of white peaches. Ah, summer!)

Money spent on groceries today: $0 (project total $39.61)
Money spent in restaurants today: $0 (project total $37.76)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, hamburger patties, pork chops

Easy Spanish rice
Author: 
Recipe type: Side dish
Cuisine: Pseudo-Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small bell pepper (any color), finely diced
  • 1½ cups medium- or long-grained white rice
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 2½ cups stock or water (I used a knorr beef tub in hot water)
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes with the liquid)
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for a couple of minutes, until softened. Add pepper and rice and cook and stir 5-8 minutes, until rice starts to turn light brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  2. Add in broth and tomatoes. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer 20 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.

 

Pantry Cooking Project, Day 3

What to drink when you don’t want to buy drinks at work.

Growing up, our beverage choice at dinner was usually water or water. We drank a lot of water in our house. Sometimes there was juice or milk at breakfast or lunch, and in the summer, Country Time lemonade or instant Nestea iced tea (you do know to boycott Nestlé, right?), but usually, it was water, and it’s still my favorite beverage. Preferably cold with no ice, but I’m pretty flexible. Am I the only one who sees people using a garden hose and wants to go over and get a quick drink? Yeah, probably the only one over the age of seven.

Anyway.

These days, I still mostly drink water, but I’ve gotten in the habit at The Best Job Ever of buying a drink in the afternoon: usually sweet, usually caffeinated, usually cold. Today, it’s jasmine and honey iced tea with lychee jelly. Delicious. But I want to see about moving to homemade drinks for my afternoon treat. One of the main reasons I don’t do that is that I don’t want to deal with washing out a container, but maybe I can find one that’s wide enough that I can just wash it the way I would a drinking glass. I’ll be on the lookout.

Possible afternoon bring-along drinks:

ice water (feels like more of a treat than just water from the tap)
sekanjabin
sweet iced tea
chia lemonade or other chia drink
V-8, tomato juice, Clamato (all faves, but in hot weather, they don’t tend to satisfy thirst as well for me)
[your suggestion here]

Food today:

Breakfast was delicious. Frozen O’Brien potatoes fried in oil; eggs over easy; a little sriracha; a cup of V-8; some yellow pepper strips.

breakfast

Lunch was an embarrassment of food in packets. I had taken some ham out of the freezer to make sandwiches with, but it wasn’t thawed yet when I went to make my lunch in the morning, so I just grabbed some stuff to take.

lunch

Dinner was some really amazing cheeseburgers, with those awesome homemade buns. Mom often thinks we’re not eating enough meat, so she sends us boxes of meat from Omaha Steaks. These are their burgers, topped with melted Swiss cheese and caramelized onions. Usually, I eat half my burger and give James the other half, because I’m just not all that into big chunks of meat, but this time, I ate the whooooooole thing, and it was just. so. good.

dinner

Money spent on groceries today: $0
Money spent in restaurants today: $2.99 (project total $11.52)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, milk, hamburger patties