Recipe: Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Whether it was you or your neighbor who planted too much zucchini this year, here are a few recipes for using up that infamous garden bounty. (Summer squash is its yellow cousin; no significant difference in taste.)
(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.
|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
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!
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!
When I was a kid, dessert was not a forbidden thing. We almost always had some ice cream in the freezer, and/or a frozen chocolate cream pie or lemon icebox pie. I loved the lemon pie, and would sneak small slivers off of it every now and then. I suspect that the reason I never got caught was that I wasn’t the only one in the house doing it, and s0 my mom probably assumed my dad was the culprit!
These mini-pies are quick and easy to whip up at home, and they have that same sweet-and-tangy appeal as the freezer pie in my memory! But these are sugar-free, gluten-free, corn syrup-free, and you control whether there’s food coloring, and what kind of sweetener goes in!
Recipe for:Individual lemon icebox pies
makes 6-8, depending on serving sizes
1/2 c. pecan pieces
8 oz. cream cheese
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon (or 1/2 or 3/4, depending on how sour you like things)
4 pkts. Splenda (or sweetener of your choice, equiv. to 8 teasp. sugar)
1/2 t. vanilla
2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1/4 c. cream
1/2 c. cream
1 pkt. Splenda
1/2 t. vanilla
See my recipe for No-bake lime cheesecake shooters for the crust-making and assembly method, using 4-oz. Mason jars as the serving dishes.
Once the jars are filled and topped with whipped cream, attach the lids and place in the freezer for at least three hours. I haven’t tested them for longevity, but I’m pretty sure you could keep them frozen for up to several days at least with no problem.
Remove from the freezer 45 minutes before serving time and let thaw at room temp. Remove lids, garnish if you like, and serve!
Also, this recipe is fantastic turned into cheesecake-stuffed strawberries! No freezing, for that option.
Recipe: Summer squash topped with sausage and cheese
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.