Browsing Category: main dish

Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin

pw-s-roasted-pork-tenderloin

(Plus a recipe for Emergency Herbs de Provence)

It was one of those days when 4:30 was here before I knew it, and I didn’t have dinner planned. I have no good excuse. Not even a lousy one.

What to do? Same as usual, when “the usual” doesn’t sound good… Hit a recipe website I trust and search for “quick.” After a couple other stand-by’s (All Recipes, Simply Recipes), I landed on Pioneer Woman and came up with her Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Preserves. Which sounds and look very elegant, but is super, super simple, and comes together in 30 minutes or less.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry Sauce
photo by Pioneer Woman

Basically, you salt and pepper a pork tenderloin, then coat it generously in Herbs de Provence before roasting. Top it off with a simple fruit-preserves-based sauce.

Not having any Herbs de Provence on hand, I googled for a recipe. I came up with several, but ended up using (as a starting point) this one by Emeril. (Yeah, we’re on a first-name basis.)

Herbs de Provence often contains lavender, but I didn’t have any on hand.  :/

Why this one? Well, because all the herbs have the same proportion, and I like simple! From what I understand, Herbs de Provence has some standard ingredients that are almost always in the mix, but the mix has evolved over time and also, every cook has his or her own variation. Which is great, because there were several ingredients I didn’t have on hand. So here’s my variation:

Recipe: (Emergency) Herbs de Provence

for one 1.35 lb. tenderloin; multiply as needed
 

1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried rosemary
1 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. dried ground sage

PW’s original recipe called for 8 tablespoons of H.d.P. That’s half a cup – yikes! She was cooking up two whole tenderloins; I was just fixing one tenderloin, slightly over one pound. So I just used all of the above mix, and I still thought it was plenty potently ‘picy!

A note on cooking pork… Rather than cooking by time, use a meat thermometer. Pull the roast from the oven when the temp hits 140-145 F. Then tent lightly with foil and let rest at room temp, till the internal temp hits about 160. Slice and serve. Mmm… perfectly tender and juicy!

For the sauce, PW recommends fig, peach, plum, or whatever preserves you wish. I used blackberry. It adds a lovely sweetness that mellows the pungent herb crust. Perfect for a quick dinner for just me and the hubs — but impressive and foolproof enough to serve special guests!

Easy roasted chicken breasts

roasted-chicken-plated
make-ahead roasted chicken breasts

One of the best things you can do to make quick, healthy dinners more doable is to have some already-cooked chicken on hand. The stuff you buy ready-cooked at the grocery is loaded with salt, probably has corn syrup in it, and doesn’t taste all that great. Here is the simplest, lowest-hassle, and most delicious method I’ve found for make-ahead roasted chicken breasts.

If you want to be super efficient, make enough to stash for future use, plus enough for dinner tonight, and serve it straight out of the oven — it’s great on its own, too!

Recipe (really, just a method):

Roasted chicken breasts, to use in recipes

Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
Olive oil (about 1 teasp. per breast)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray or oil it. Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, in the pan with an inch more more between them. Brush the tops liberally with olive oil, then lightly with salt and pepper, according to your taste. Place a meat thermometer 2″ into the fleshy part of the largest piece, trying not to hit bone. (Which would make the temperature misread.) Here’s my favorite brand of thermometer.

Bake uncovered until the internal temperature hits 165 F. If you don’t have an accurate thermometer, the skin should be a light golden-brown…

…but the juices should also run clear. To clearly see the color of the juices, slip a white dish under the edge of one breast and poke a hole just above it. Let some juice run into the dish, and look at it in good light. This test looked a little pink, so I stuck the chicken back in for about five minutes.

But also be careful not to overcook it! That’s what makes chicken tough and dry. If in doubt, pull it out a little on the underdone side. The outer and smaller parts of the chicken will probably be cooked through, with a little more pinkness in the center. Save the more-done pieces for salads and sandwiches; use the slightly underdone pieces for dishes that will get cooked some more, like soups, casseroles, and enchiladas.

If you’re serving the chicken right away, though, make sure that everything you serve is cooked through.

To store for future use, let chicken sit at room temp or in the fridge till it’s cool enough to handle. Pull off and discard the skin. Pull the chicken meat off the bone. Discard the bones. You can bag the meat and store as is, or cut into bite size pieces, or shred — whatever works for your use. Store in tightly covered containers or plastic bags.

The FDA says that cooked chicken can be kept three to four days in the fridge, or up to four months in the freezer.

Tomorrow I’ll post a round-up of six of my salad recipes that use chicken!

Asian lettuce wraps

asian-lettuce-wraps-oh-468
Asian lettuce wraps

This is another one of those dishes that you can prep early in the day, and throw together in minutes come dinner time. Also low carb and low fat! Easy to make Paleo and Whole30 compliant, with a couple minor tweaks.

Recipe: Asian lettuce wraps

Makes 4 servings

about 1.3 lbs. ground turkey
1/2 large onion, sliced thin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 T. lower sodium soy sauce (for Whole30, sub coconut aminos)
1 pkt. Splenda or equivalent sweetener (just omit for Paleo/Whole3)
1/4 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (less for mild; more for hot)
1 T. fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 cups coleslaw mix with carrots, (or more)
butter lettuce or romaine lettuce leaves, for wraps
fresh cilantro and chopped cashews, for garnish, optional

This is the slaw mix I use:

Brown the turkey and onions in a large skillet; when the turkey is mostly browned but still showing some pink, drain the fat. Meanwhile, combine the sesame oil through the crushed pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the ginger, garlic and coriander to the pan; stir-fry for a couple minutes.

If you’re prepping ahead of time, you can stop here and refrigerate the meat and sauce. When ready to serve, just reheat and proceed. Also, since I was just cooking for two of us, I pulled out half the meat and put it in the fridge for lunch the next day. Be sure to only add half the sauce and cole slaw to the pan if you do this.

Add the cole slaw and the soy sauce mixture. Cook and stir constantly for one or two minutes.

(I’m warming up leftovers the next day in the photo above; that’s why the skillet’s smaller.)

Serve the meat mixture with lettuce leaves to fill, and roll up to eat. Offer cilantro and cashews for topping, if desired.

 

Quick chipotle pork tacos

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quick pork tacos
This is slightly adapted from Chipotle Pork Tacos by Our Best Bites. It’s a great dish to prep earlier in the day — or the night before — then throw together just before dinner. Even the prep is pretty easy, but once everything’s ready to go in the skillet, it cooks in minutes.
The original recipe calls for lime zest, lime juice and brown sugar. But to eliminate the sugar and still keep things tangy and sweet, I substituted orange for the lime. I think it tastes great, and it even got an enthusiastic thumbs up from the hubs, who usually isn’t too fond of citrus in meat dishes.
Recipe: Quick Chipotle Pork Tacos
Serves 4.
3 boneless pork loin chops, about 3/4 to 1″ thick (about 1 lb.)
1 ½ tsp grated orange zest
1 T. fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1 – 2 tsp chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp kosher salt
2 T. olive oil, divided
1 c. thinly sliced onions
4 large whole wheat tortillas (or alternate of your choice)
sour cream for topping (optional)
chopped red or green onion and chopped cilantro for garnish, optional
Zest the orange with a fine grater, so that you get just the orange zest, not the white pith.
Combine orange zest and juice, oregano, chipotles, garlic, and salt. Set aside.
Trim the excess fat from the pork chops, then slice into strips about 1/2″ wide. Cut the longer strips in half.
Toss the pork strips with the orange juice mixture. At this point you can cover the pork and the onions with plastic wrap, and stick them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 T olive oil. Add onions and sauté for four minutes or until tender.  Remove from pan and set aside. Add 1 T of olive oil to pan and add pork strips. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until no longer pink. I like to just leave them on one side until you see white creeping around the edges…
 
…and the first side is nicely browned, them flip them over. Be careful, though; you really don’t want to cook them a total of more than about four minutes, or they get too tough and chewy. It might help to take the pan off the heat while you turn them over, then return to heat for a minute or two to finish the second side.
Add pork to onions if you’ll serve from the table. At our house, everything goes back into the skillet, and we serve ourselves from there.
Warm tortillas up with the method of your choice, and fill with pork mixture. Top with sour cream and the garnish of your choice. A great side dish or topper: slightly spicy slaw.
quick pork tacos

Salmon with fresh tomato-avocado salsa

Salmon with fresh tomato avocado - Paleo, Whole30
(Update, 5/2015: I first posted this recipe in April, 2012, and it’s still in our regular summer menu rotation. The true test of a good recipe! Salmon, avocado, tomato – such a great combination! I’ve updated it now to make it Whole30 compliant and Paleo friendly. All it took was subbing out pine nuts for the sweet corn. Also recommended: use the larger the avocado amount.)
This is so simple, and so yummy, it’s gonna knock your socks off!
The star of this dish is the salsa. It’s so delicious! My husband took leftovers of just the salsa to work for lunch today (I made extra) and when he came home, he said, “If you would make some more of that I’d be very, very happy.”
I had a bit of leftover salmon with the salsa on it for lunch, too; cold — straight out of the fridge. It was still good!
This is based on a recipe from All Recipes, but I prefer butterflying and broiling the salmon, to the nuke-and-serve-cold method in the original recipe. Alternatively, you could grill the salmon; that would be fab, too!
I used white corn because it’s got a little better carb-to-protein ratio, but I think yellow corn makes a prettier dish. NOTE: To make this dish Paleo/Whole30 compliant, just omit the corn, or sub 2 T. pine nuts. (My husband actually preferred this change.) And use the larger amount of avocado.

Recipe: Salmon with fresh tomato-avocado salsa   

Servings: 3-4
1 cup chopped fresh tomato, chopped into about 1/4″ pieces for salsa; 1/2″ or larger for salad
1/4 cup minced red onion (a fine dice, or slivers)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/2 to 1 whole Hass avocado, chopped into about 1/4″ pieces for salsa; 1/2″ for salad
1/2 cup corn (OR 2 T. pine nuts, for Whole30/Paleo compliance)
1.25 lbs. salmon fillets
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil for drizzling
Chop up the tomato, avocado, garlic, onion, and cilantro. (Note: If you’re prepping this ahead of time, save the avocado cutting until right before serving.) To dice the avocado, you cut through it like this, leaving the skin intact, then scoop it out with a spoon.
If you want more detail, see Simply Recipes’ walk-through. (I do NOT recommend the pit removal method they show in step 2b; a woman I know cut some tendons in her hand trying that trick.)
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients from tomato through vinegar. (This photo shows the avocado added already, but now I always put it in at the very end, to avoid browning. When using pine nuts rather than corn, I also add them at the last, to keep them crunchy.)
avocado, tomato salsa
Refrigerate at least two hours.
Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

How to butterfly salmon

If your salmon is already a fairly consistent thickness, you don’t need to butterfly it. The purpose of butterflying salmon is to make it all about the same thickness, so that it cooks more evenly. It also cuts down on oven time.
Put your salmon on a cutting board, skin side down. (Mine is already in the baking pan in these pics, but it will be easier to work on a cutting board; you don’t have to maneuver around the rim of the pan.) Start by making a guide mark: in the thickest point of the fillet, use the tip of your knife to mark the spot exactly halfway from top to bottom.
The black line in the pic below shows where your knife edge will enter; the white dashed line shows where you will cut. The cut should run right through your halfway mark.
On the thinnest end of the salmon, slide your knife in parallel to the cutting board, and at the same height as your halfway mark. Continue to cut, keeping your knife parallel to the cutting board. Stop about 3/4″ away from the opposite edge; do NOT cut all the way through.
If you have been working on the cutting board, move your salmon to the foil-lined pan now. Next, open the sliced salmon up like it’s a book, folding the top piece out so it lays former-top-side down.
Repeat with the other fillet(s), season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
Broil 4-6″ from the heat. Now is the time to dice your avocado and add it (and the pine nuts) to the salsa.
The salmon is done when it flakes easily w/ a fork, about 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness. (That is, the thickness after you butterflied it.)
Remove the salmon from the skin; plate in serving-sized pieces. Add the avocado and pine nuts to the salsa and spoon it onto the salmon.
Salmon, avocado, tomato - yum!
Here’s what the Paleo version looks like:
paleo whole30 salmon with avocado salsa

Try it — I think you’ll love it! 🙂

Herb-crusted salmon

herb-crusted-salmon-cookbook
Herb-crusted salmon - the original recipe

This recipe evolved from a similar dish in one of my favorite cookbooks, Weber’s Art of the Grill. (Which is now out of print, but you can still find used copies on Amazon.) You can grill it if you like, or broil it in the oven. The herbs get nice and crispy as they cook, and marry together in a wonderful, savory complement to the flavor of the salmon. Over the years, I’ve come to just throw it together by memory, and I tend to put in quite a bit more herbs than the original called for. (The recipe that follows is my version.)

It involves a little bit of herb chopping, but if you want, you can let your food processor do that. Then, it’s just stir, spread, and broil or grill. So easy!

Recipe: Herb-crusted salmon

Serves 2.

1 lb. salmon fillet
1 handful of fresh cilantro, rough chopped
1 handful of fresh parsley, ditto
1 handful of fresh basil, ditto (or about a tablespoon of dried)
2 T. olive oil
1 t. soy sauce
1/2 t. chili powder (or ancho chili powder)
1/4 t. kosher salt
pepper to taste

Preheat your grill or broiler (whichever you’re using). If using the oven, place the top rack about 6″ from the heat.

If using a broiler, coat a 9 x 13″ pan with cooking spray, a generous brushing of canola oil, or line the bottom with foil.

Chop all of the herbs coarsely and put them in a small bowl. They don’t need to be finely minced, because they will shrink some and get crispy as they cook. Here’s the cilantro, before and after.

chopped cilantro

Add in the 2 T. olive oil, the soy sauce, and chili powder, and stir till everything is well combined.

Lay your salmon skin side down in the baking pan (or on whatever surface you’ll use to transfer it to the grill). Scoop the herb mixture on top of the salmon, and spread it around into a thick, fairly consistent layer. There will be bits of salmon showing through here and there; that’s okay.

Herb-crusted salmon, in the making

Once the herb mixture is on, sprinkle it lightly with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to your liking. You don’t need much salt, because the chunks are big and will be the first thing to hit your tongue. (I highly recommend kosher salt, but if you’re using regular salt, use half as much.)

Herb-crusted salmon close-up

For the grill: Place the fish herb side down on the grate. I know, it seems wrong! You think all the herbs will fall off, but trust me. A few may fall off, but most of them don’t! Our propane grill instructions say to turn the three burners to medium/off/medium. Do what works best on your particular grill. Close grill and cook that side for half the total cooking time. When it’s half through, flip it herb side up, and cook until it’s done.

For the broiler: Place the baking pan — with the fish herb side up — in the oven. Bake it there for five minutes, then move the rack down one row to complete cooking.

Herb-crusted salmon

Your total cooking time should be 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured at the thickest part.

When is it done? I’ll repeat an earlier posting… “A minute or two before the recommended time, check your fish. Just poke a fork gently into the side at a thick place, and pull it up a bit to see if it flakes easily. You can also pull up just enough to see the interior of the fish, and see if it’s done to your liking. Some people like their salmon a bit rare, so that it’s orangey-er on the inside. Not me: I like it just done all the way through, but just so — not overdone and dry.”

Then remove from the heat, slide a spatula between the skin and the fish, and slip it onto your serving plate, herb side up.

Once you’ve tried this, feel free to experiment with your choice of herbs and spices. Let me know how it comes out!

You might also like:
Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema
Slightly spicy slaw
Green beans and pine nuts

Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema

chili-rubbed-salmon-be-500

This dish is delish — I mean, truly restaurant-worthy — but it’s also super easy and totally healthy.

I have to give the hubs partial credit for this one.

I had made this spice-rubbed salmon for dinner one night, but hadn’t really figured out a vegetable to go with it, and Eric was doing Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet (which is NO carbs), so I served the salmon with some romaine spears alongside and some ready-made guacamole to dip them in.

But instead of using the guacamole as dip, he put it on top of his salmon — and loved the combination!

Since then, I’ve evolved the recipe a bit. I started out with a recipe called “Broiled BBQ-spiced Rubbed Salmon,” from The Sonoma Diet Cookbook, but I’ve tweaked the spice combo each time I’ve made it, and I was really happy with the way it came out this last time I made it.

For the guacamole, I use Wholly Guacamole brand, and it comes in these boxes that contain individual-use packets. Which is just brilliant! If you just need a bit for a recipe, or you just want a quick easy snack, these are the perfect size, without the risk of the rest of batch turning brown before you can use it. I use the “Classic,” but they also make a “Spicy” version.

Recipe: Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema

2 8-oz. salmon fillets, about 1″ thick
1/2 T. ancho chili powder
1/2 T. paprika or smoked paprika
1/2 t. kosher salt (or 1/4 t. table salt)
1/2 t. granulated garlic
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. ground cumin
2 T. olive oil
1 2-oz. packet of guacamole (that’s one two-ounce packet, not a 12-ounce packet)
2 oz. Greek yogurt (or sour cream, or dairy-free yogurt)
optional, for garnish: diced red onion

You will preheat the broiler later in the recipe.

If the salmon still has its skin, remove it. (Here’s a short video that shows how. Here’s a more detailed one. The directions for the filet start at about 3:00 in this video.)

Measure the thickness of the salmon at its thickest point. You want to be accurate to within 1/4″. To do this, I push a toothpick into the thickest point of the salmon, then pinch the toothpick so my thumb and finger just touch the top of the fish. Then, keeping my fingers in the same place on the toothpick, I remove it from the fish and move it to a measuring stick. Make a mental note of the measurement. (Or a written note, if you have a short memory.)

Drizzle the olive oil in the pan, then spread it around. This recipe is for two servings, and for that I use a 6 x 8″ baking pan, but for more servings, you’ll need a larger pan. This photo is post-drizzled, but pre-spread:

Mix together all of the spices in a small dish. Before you begin to season the salmon, fold any super-thin edges under (or over) so that the thin part is doubled, and the fillet is a fairly uniform thickness across, like this.

Just press it down a little with your fingers; the fish is a bit sticky, so it will sort of adhere to itself.

Next, sprinkle half of the seasoning mix over the top side of both fillets. Pat the spices gently onto the fish.

Then turn them over and season the other side, using the rest of the spice mix.

Move your top oven rack to 4 to 6″ below the broiler, and preheat broiler. Let the spiced salmon sit at room temp while the broiler heats up. Then place them in the oiled pan, folded side down, and put the pan in the oven.

Remember your fish thickness in inches? Now’s when it matters! Cook your salmon for 10 minutes for every inch of thickness. So if your salmon is 3/4″ thick, cook it for 7.5 minutes. 1″ thick: 10 minutes. 1.25″ thick, 12.5 minutes. And, turn it over once, half way through baking.

While the salmon is cooking, mix together the guacamole and the yogurt. I don’t bother to measure the yogurt; I put the guac in first, then just “eyeball” the yogurt so that it looks like about the same amount.

Stir till well combined, and set aside.
Have you turned the salmon over halfway through the baking time? Don’t forget!
If you’re using diced onion for garnish, now would be a good time to dice it.
A minute or two before the recommended time, check your fish. Just poke a fork gently into the side at a thick place, and pull it up a bit to see if it flakes easily. You can also pull up just enough to see the interior of the fish, and see if it’s done to your liking. Some people like their salmon a bit rare, so that it’s orangier on the inside. Not me: I like it just done all the way through, but just so — not overdone and dry. (If you or someone in your house doesn’t like salmon, it’s possible they’ve only had it when it was overcooked, dry and mealy. Yuck! Who wouldn’t hate that?!)
So when the salmon is done to your liking, pull it from the oven, put it on serving plates, and top with the guacamole mixture. Sprinkle diced onion on top, add your side dish, and serve.
Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema
This time, I did plan for my side dish: French-cut green beans (from frozen), steamed, and topped with sauteed onions and crispy bacon. The smokey note in the spice crust of the salmon played nicely with the slightly-smokey bacon. There’s a dish dressed to impress!

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Zoodles with peanut sauce (Paleo-friendly options)

zucchini noodles with peanut sauce
The great thing about this Asian-inspired peanut sauce is that everything you need to make it is stuff you usually have in the pantry. And you can, of course, use it on your favorite pasta — either traditional wheat, or your favorite gluten-free brand.

(Did you know cooking wheat pasta ahead of time, cooling it in the fridge, then reheating it lowers the glycemic effect on your blood sugar?)

But for a more nutrient-dense and grain-free option, consider zucchini noodles.

I use zucchini and summer squash as a low-carb, real-food alternative to pasta any time I’m craving spaghetti, or want something noodle-y in my soup. (And as an alternative to pizza crust.)

Like most Americans, I’m accustomed to and usually prefer pasta that’s been cooked till it’s uniformly soft. But al dente means “to the tooth,” and requires pulling the pasta out when the outside is soft but the inside still has a bit of resistance when you bite into it. And if you throw the zucchini noodles in the pasta sauce to heat through for just the last two or three minutes, you get a texture very much like al dente pasta.

You can also make this sauce Paleo-friendly by using almond butter, sunflower seed butter, or another nut or seed butter in place of the peanut butter.

The original recipe is from Kitchen Confidante. Here’s my variation:

Asian-inspired peanut sauce

1 serving; scale up as necessary

 

a drizzle of coconut oil

1 T. finely diced onion

1/2 cup peanut butter OR other nut or seed butter

1 Tblsp soy sauce OR tamari sauce OR coconut aminos

3 Tblsp rice vinegar OR lime juice

2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp minced garlic (or more)

1/2 tsp honey

pinch of ground ginger

At least 1/4 cup chicken stock, add 1-2 more Tablespoons depending on texture

optional: Sriracha or red pepper flakes to taste

optional: 2 – 4 oz. cooked meat of your choice; chicken, pork, or shrimp

 

Heat the coconut oil in a small saucepan or frying pan. Saute the onions till translucent. Add all the other ingredients except for meat, using just the first 1/4 cup of stock. Stir till well combined and heated through. Add stock a tablespoon at a time till you get the desired consistency. Add the meat and cook till heated through.

Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir in the noodles till heated through.

(This dish could easily be made vegetarian by using tofu or some type of pea or bean for the protein, and using vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.)

Try this soon: it’s quick, easy and delish!

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Image by Kitchen Confidante