Feasting on Fall Flavors

Tonight called for a dinner that would warm us from the crisp and cool temps in the air. I figured now was a good time as any to prepare a fall dinner to highlight the season’s flavors. With apples, thyme, maple syrup, and sweet potatoes on hand, we thoroughly enjoyed the bounty that graced our table. I didn’t use any particular recipe but rather, used the ingredients in my pantry to come up with a meal. Bare with me as I share what I did to create our dinner…

Roasted Maple Sugar Pork Tenderloin

This past Sunday I visited my favorite spice shop, The Spice House, and picked up a new seasoning to try. Their “Gateway to the North Maple Sugar Seasoning” was perfect with pork with hints a sweet and savory flavor. To prepare my pork tenderloin, I generously coated them with this seasoning… and roasted them on top of a bed of chopped apples, onions, a few garlic cloves and added a couple bay leaves and springs of thyme. After baking covered in a 350 degree oven for an hour, remove the pork from the apple/onion mixture and pace on a separate baking sheet.

Savory Applesauce

With a roasting pan of apples, onions, garlic, bay leaves and thyme left to play with, I thought a savory spin on the traditional applesauce would serve as a nice accompaniment with the pork. With this in mind, I removed the bay leaves and thyme from the pan and used a potato masher to get a finer texture on the apples, onions & garlic. What’s wonderful about this mixture is that it doesn’t need to be seasoned since the juices and maple sugar seasoning that coated the pork have filtered down into them. Once you’ve mashed it to your preferred texture for applesauce, you’re set! Place the savory applesauce in a serving dish or individual ramekin and garnish with a fresh thyme stem.

Maple Pecan Sweet Potatoes

We love sweet potatoes at our house, even more than the russet, white or Yukon gold variety. While we’re on a fall flavor kick, I roasted some sweet potatoes and scooped out the soft flesh into a casserole dish. To add some additional sweetness, I stirred in about 1/4 cup of real maple syrup and salt to taste. Top it with chopped pecans and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.

To round out our meal, I added some steamed broccoli for color and to add to our daily veggies for the day.

My Flashback Lunch With Salmon

I failed to blog about the amazing birthday dinner my husband took me to a couple weeks ago. He took me to Roy’s Restaurant, which was focused on Hawaiian fusion cuisine. It was a wonderful restaurant that impressed me with their various preparation of fish. We indulged in:

  • Two appetizers including Coconut Crusted Tiger Shrimp with hawaiian pineapple sweet chili sauce and the Maine Lobster Dim Sum white truffle emulsion & lobster cream sauce
  • My main entree: Roy’s Classic Roasted Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with marine lobster butter sauce
  • My husband’s main entree: Roy’s Classic Trio which included hibachi grilled salmon, Roy’s original blackened island ahi & hawaiian style misoyaki butterfish citrus ponzu sauce, spicy soy mustard butter, wasabi ginger cilantro
  • My cocktail: The Original Hawaiian Martini nothing says martini like shaken, not stirred, and Roy’s put this delectable creation on the map. in classic Hawaiian fashion, our Maui pineapples are infused in Skyy vodka, Stoli vanil vodka and Malibu coconut rum. shaken and served with fresh pineapple
  • For dessert: the Molten Chocolate Lava cake and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake… both amazing!

But I digress. Today’s post is really about the lunch I prepared today that reminded me of that fabulous dinner at Roy’s. I found this recipe for Maple Soy Glazed Salmon in the 2005 America’s Test Kitchen Live! cookbook (pages 152 – 155) and it was perfection. The original recipe is for the grill, but I adapted it by cooking it indoors on a grill pan.What we wanted: To avoid the burnt, stuck to the grill crust and flavorless interior that plague most glazed salmon. We also hoped to create a sweet, crisp and flavorful salmon dish.

What we learned: Marinate the flesh side of the fish in a mixture of soy sauce and maple syrup. Grill the fish, flesh-side down, then flip, glaze twice, and flip again. When the fish comes off the grill, glaze it again. Needless to say, a well-oiled grill is a must…

I opted not to glaze quite as often as the recipe calls for since I was preparing my salmon on a grill pan. Perhaps if I did use an outdoor grill, I would have glazed more often to ensure the flavors are locked in. Either way, the glaze was a perfect balance of sweet and salty, with a wonderful consistency. Here is my adapted recipe for Maple Soy Glazed Salmon (indoor on grill pan):

1/3 cup good quality soy sauce
1/3 cup real maple syrup
4 salmon fillets (about 8 oz each), each about 1 1/2 inches at the thickest part
Ground black pepper
Vegetable or olive oil
Sesame seeds for garnish

1. Whisk the soy sauce and maple syrup in a baking dish until combined. Carefully place the fillets flesh-side down in a single layer in the marinade (do not coat the salmon skin with the marinade). Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in your grill pan over medium high heat until hot. Remove the salmon from the marinade and sprinkle the flesh liberally with freshly ground pepper. Place the fillets flesh-side down on the hot grill pan and cook until grill-marked, a deeply browned crust has formed and the salmon is opaque. Using tongs, flip the fillets skin-side down. Cook until skin is nicely browned, careful to not overcook the salmon. Remove from heat and allow salmon to rest.

3. In a small non-stick pan, place remaining marinade and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Brush the salmon with the glaze and use to dress plate.

I served the salmon over a bed of steamed brown rice with a bit of sliced scallions. For a nice side, I also steamed some sugar snap peas that I lightly tossed in 1/2 tablespoon of butter. To garnish, I sprinkled some sesame seeds over the dish.

Sweet As Honey…

Tonight’s dinner was an easy one – honey mustard pork with roasted potatoes & garlic spinach. I marinated the pork for a few hours, chopped up & seasoned my potatoes then baked both in the oven. As that baked, I sauteed some spinach on the stovetop with some minced garlic & olive oil. Voila! Dinner is ready….Here is my recipe for the honey mustard marinade:

1 part honey
1 part yellow prepared mustard
1 part praline mustard glaze

Combine equal parts of the above ingredients and whisk together well. If you cannot find praline mustard glaze, you can substitute it with pure maple syrup. I added it in for an extra depth of sweetness. This is great on pork and chicken!

Autumn in my Kitchen

I love the fall weather! To celebrate the first weekend of fall-like weather here in Chicago, I prepared maple braised pork ribs which I served with a butternut squash risotto.

Here is my recipe for the maple braised pork ribs, which is versatile enough for making in both a crockpot or conventional oven:

1-2 lbs pork ribs
maple rub (recipe below)

Maple Rub
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
splash of worchestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Combine above ingredients in a bowl.
Consistency will slightly clumpy and paste like.
Coat pork ribs with this paste using your hands – a basting brush isn’t as effective.
Place coated pork in a dutch oven or shallow baking pan.
Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees for 3-4 hours OR
Place coated pork in your crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours.

I served this with a butternut squash risotto, using a jarred butternut squash puree which I got from Wiliams Sonoma.

When I made my basic risotto recipe, I used chicken broth and about 1/2 cup of the puree I stirred in while my risotto cooked. I also added 2 cloves of minced garlic, finely chopped small onion and a few springs of fresh thyme leaves.

Ribs out of the Pantry

Tonights dinner was another successful attempt in using pantry leftovers. It’s wonderful to be able to use what you have on hand to make a pretty tasty meal with little effort! So for dinner, we had maple pork ribs with black bean & tomato rice.
The production of maple syrup, or ‘sugarin’, hasn’t changed much since the time of the Indians. Maple syrup comes from the boiled down sap of the sugar maple tree.

A sugar maple tree must be at least 10 inches in diameter for the tree to be tapped. When a tree is ‘tapped,’ a hole is made in the tree and a spout is placed in the hole for the sap to flow. This sap is caught by a bucket. The buckets are then gathered and put in a large cooker. It takes 40 gallons of sap to boil down to one gallon of maple syrup.

After the syrup has been boiled, it must be strained, cooled, and boiled again. It is first graded, and then ready for containers.
Here’s my recipe for maple pork ribs:

1 bottle prepared BBQ sauce (or homemade sauce)
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon onion powder

Combine the above ingredient to form marinade/sauce.
Marinate pork ribs (bone in or boneless) overnight in marinade.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or grill until done.

I served this with brown rice combined with
diced tomatoes, black beans & seasonings.

Pulling & Stretching

Cranberry sauce is not just for Thanksgiving. In fact, I used a jar of whole cranberry relish to make pulled pork tonight. With the leftover mac & cheese I still had from the other day, I stretched the remaining cheesy goodness to make fried mac & cheese nuggets.
The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America. As documented by the Pilgrims, cranberries were found in abundance in Massachusetts in 1620 and rumor has it that they may have been served at the first Thanksgiving dinner, although we have no way of knowing for sure. Written recipes using cranberries date back to the 1700s and the first recorded cranberry crop in history dates back to 1816 in Dennis, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. Cranberries soon cemented their place in New England life by serving as a vital source of vitamin C for whalers and a valuable natural resource to residents.
Tonight, cranberry sauce and a touch of maple syrup sweetened my pork ribs in the crockpot, which was then shredded and served in a toasted bun. Here is my recipe for Cranberry Maple Shredded Pork:

2lbs country pork ribs
salt & pepper
1 1/2 cups whole cranberry sauce
1/2 cup french salad dressing
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 onion, sliced

Season pork ribs with salt & pepper.
Place ribs in crockpot; top with onions.
Combine remaining ingredients and pour over pork.
Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 4-6 hours.

I served this on a toasted bun, ceasar salad and
fried mac & cheese nuggets.

Here is my recipe for fried mac & cheese nuggets – a great way to use up leftover mac & cheese:

Prepared mac & cheese, chilled
Egg scrambled
Panko Japanese Breadcrumbs
Cooking oil

Heat pan with oil.
Cut chilled mac & cheese in cubes.
Dredge cubes in flour to coat.
Dip cubes in egg wash.
Roll cubes in panko.
Fry up until golden brown.
Drain and let it cool.

Dreaming of the Southern Skies…

It’s no wonder the birds fly south for the winter. The snow and cold is ridiculous! Well, here is my ode to the southern skies and their tasty food.

Southern cuisine varies widely by region. In Southern Louisiana, there is Cajun & Creole cuisine. South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas are popular for their barbeque. Virginia is known for its Smithfield hams and its major supply of apples. Florida is home of Key lime pies and oranges. Georgia is more famous for its peaches & peanuts. Kentucky is famous for burgoo.

Fried chicken has a dual origin in the rural American South and is extremely popular. It’s not exactly the healthiest dish, but is quite the comfort food. Tonight I made a healthier version using chicken breast and the sweet flavors of southern pecans. This recipe was found on CookingLight.com.

Here is the altered recipe I made for Maple (Honey) Pecan Crusted Chicken:

salt & pepper to season
2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup, which I used instead)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cups finely crushed cornflakes (or bran flakes, which I used instead)
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Cooking spray

— Preheat oven to 400
— Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over pounded chicken breast; set aside.
— Combine honey, mustard, paprika, and garlic powder in a small bowl; stir well.
— Combine cornflakes and pecans in a shallow dish; stir well.
— Brush both sides of chicken with honey mixture; dredge in cornflake mixture.
— Place chicken pieces on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
— Lightly coat chicken with cooking spray
— Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes or until done.

I served this with steamed broccoli and garlic mashed potatoes.