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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spinach, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Stuffed Pork Loin

After the catastrophic dinner we had for our anniversary last weekend, I wanted to make something we would enjoy for our Sunday dinner. I have butterflied a roast before, but this time I wanted to see if I could roll-cut it so you get that spiral effect once the meat is sliced. I think it just looks prettier don't you? (See video below for examples of each). It was very easy, just go slow and you MUST use a sharp knife or you'll have a mess. I also opted to make a paste out of my ingredients instead of leaving them whole. I found it was easier to cover the meat and then roll it afterwards. This roast was phenomenal! I didn't make a gravy (I didn't want to cover up the flavors) so I just used the au jus, but if you are a meat/gravy type of person, by all means take the juices and thicken it up with either some flour/water or cornstarch/water. 

Spinach, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Stuffed Pork Loin
4-5 lb. Boneless Center Cut Pork Loin
9 oz. Fresh Baby Spinach Leaves, washed
1 c. White Button Mushrooms, sliced and packed
1 Clove Garlic, chopped
1 c. Crumbled Goat Cheese
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Garlic Powder
1/2 c. White Wine
1/2 c. Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
Kitchen String

Add the spinach, mushrooms and garlic to a food processor and pulse until it forms a paste. Remove and add to a bowl and gently fold in the goat cheese. Trim any excess fat from your roast then "roll cut" your pork loin so that it lays flat. Using a meat tenderizer, gently pound the meat to ensure even thickness.

Next, evenly spread the mixture over your meat. 
Roll up the pork loin, tie with kitchen string and place in an oven safe baking dish. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder then add the wine and chicken broth to the bottom of the pan. 
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 75-90 minutes (depending on the total weight) or until the proper internal temperature is reached; basting every 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Remove the string and slice into 1" thick slices. Makes approximately 12 slices. 

Nutrition Facts Per Serving

Calories 289, Carbs 9g, Fat 14.4g, Protein 34g, Fiber .4g, Sugar .2g
*Calculations based on ingredients entered into Calorie Count and may not be 100% accurate. 

For a visual instruction on how to Butterfly or Roll Cut a pork loin, I've located this video from the National Pork Board that shows you how. 

Points+=7pts. per slice/8pts. per slice with the au jus


Shared on Amee's Savory Dish Fit and Fabulous Friday's 4/5/12

Friday, March 30, 2012

Week 12: Seafood Frenzy Friday

Welcome to Week 12 of Seafood Frenzy Friday where I select seafood recipes around 'foodie land' to showcase for all of you since I don't eat any fish myself.  Today I have ten new recipes for you to try. Simply click on the name of the recipe underneath the picture to be taken to the author's original post. 

I've also created a board on Pinterest called CEK's Seafood Frenzy Friday's and have posted each week separately...all in one place for you to access (you do have to follow my board in order to access it)! Now you can pin it, share it, comment, whatever you'd like. The link takes you back to my original post where you can click on each recipe individually and be taken to the original author. Happy Pinning!  


Zagats just released their Best Seafood Restaurants. Take a peek where they are in the tri-state area! (every time I say this now I think of Phineas and Ferb's Professor Doofenshmirtz...I need a life! P.S. If you don't have younger children in your life in some way, shape or form it's ok if you have NO idea what I'm talking about :)

Rock Recipes

A Bachelor & His Grill


The Truffled Pig

Tracey's Culinary Adventures

The Saucy Gourmet

The Culinary Chronicles


Food 4 Tots

Just One Cookbook

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blueberry & Pistachio Brie en Croute

Brie is a pale yellow, creamy cheese with a white rind. For best flavor, it is best to buy it uncut in round wheels. I've said this before, but I don't like to eat the white rind as it has an earthy taste to it and also makes it harder to peel off when baking a brie like this one, so I opt to gently scrape it off. 
The white brie rind is mold formed from penicillium candidum or penicillium camemberti and is harmless, unless you are very allergic to mold. A brie's rind should feel firm and silky, not hard and crusty. Brie bought or sold in the U.S, including imported brie, is made with pasteurized milk and does not have quite the same taste as brie made the traditional way in France, thus it has a milder flavor. The rind protects brie from the air and delays drying and loss of flavor. If you remove the rind, you should eat the creamy center within a day or so.

I just love brie and my sister in-law usually leaves it whole and tops it with a delicious blueberry spread she found at a local market. I didn't want to drive 1/2 hour away to get some and I had some blueberries and a handful of pistachios and thought it might be nice baked instead. This brie was delicious and made a wonderful, flavorful appetizer. Simply serve it with crackers or fresh fruit.
Blueberry & Pistachio Brie en Croute
1 19oz. Brie
1/3 c. Pistachios, shelled
1 pt. Organic Blueberries (you can use regular or frozen, this is just what I happened to have)
1 tbsp. Honey
1 pkg. Crescent Roll Dough

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a mini chopper or a knife, finely chop your pistachio nuts. Add the nuts, blueberries and honey together in a bowl and mix well.  Using a small knife, scrape off the white coating on all sides of the Brie. Add the blueberry mixture to the top of the Brie. Open the crescent roll dough and using a rolling pin, roll it out so that it will cover the entire Brie. (It's ok if you have to piece it together). Cover Brie with the dough and place on a baking sheet with the seam side down. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers. Serves 10-12.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hot Creamed Spinach Dip

Now that the warmer weather is approaching, we like to sit on the deck (Sangria in hand) and have some light snacks on a weekend afternoon, so I'm always looking for something new to make. Here is a quick, appetizer idea I came up with recently after I wasn't sure how the stuffed figs would go over and wanted to have a Plan B. I just started throwing everything into a bowl until it looked like a 'dip' consistency, then baked it. This was perfect and makes a great, last minute dip idea that was cheesy and delicious! 

Hot Creamed Spinach Dip
16oz. Seabrook Farms® Creamed Spinach
1 pkg. Knorr ® Vegetable Mix
1 c. Sour Cream
1/4 c. Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
1/4 c. Low Fat Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

Cook spinach according to package directions and add to a bowl. Allow to cool slightly so the sour cream doesn't curdle, then add in the vegetable mix, sour cream, and cheeses and mix well. Place in an oven safe baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips. Serves 6. 


*I was not compensated in any way by Seabrook Farms or Knorr for this post. The opinion of these products is simply my own. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Asiago & Basil Red Bliss Baked Potato Croquettes

It never fails. I ALWAYS make too many mashed potatoes! So, instead of letting them sit in my refrigerator until I throw them away (I don't like leftovers), I recycle them into another side dish like these potato croquettes. It's best to use day old mashed potatoes as they are usually too soft when prepared the first day. This time around I had made red bliss mashed potatoes and thought some fresh basil and Asiago cheese would give these a nice flavor. By baking instead of deep frying, these potatoes made an excellent, quick side dish that was light and tasty. 

Did you know?
The red potato was first cultivated in Peru. Of the more than 5000 varieties of potatoes in the world, one of the most common varieties in the United States is the red potato. Because of red potatoes’ flavor and texture, it’s best to boil or roast them. They absorb accompanying flavors well and offer a textural element in a variety of dishes both cold and hot. 
How to Select Red Potatoes
Look for firm, well-shaped and fairly smooth potatoes. Avoid potatoes that have wrinkles.
How to Store Red Potatoes
Store potatoes in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place for use within 3-5 weeks.
Nutrition Benefits of Red Potatoes
Fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, and an excellent source of vitamin C

Asiago & Basil Red Bliss Baked Potato Croquettes
3 c. Mashed Red Bliss Potatoes
1/2 c. Asiago Cheese, shredded
1/4 c. Fresh Basil, chopped
1/2 c. All-Purpose Flour
3 Eggs
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 c. Italian Bread Crumbs
Cooking Spray

Prepare your mashed potatoes, place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Add the cheese, basil, flour, 1 egg, garlic powder, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix well; then separate into nine portions. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining 2 eggs. In another bowl, add the bread crumbs. Shape a portion of potatoes into a flattened log. Then dip the potato mixture into the egg, and then into the breadcrumbs. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, spray tops with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes until lightly browned. Makes 9 croquettes. 

Points+=5pts per croquette


Monday, March 26, 2012

Zesty Buttermilk Baked Chicken & Local Restaurant Review

I had a little buttermilk left after making my Irish Soda Bread so I decided that I wanted buttermilk fried chicken (without the frying, greasy part!). You can purchase your chicken whole and cut it yourself, or buy it already cut up. Whichever way works best for you and is more economical. By adding in the Italian dressing mix, it really gave it a nice, zesty flavor and this chicken was extremely moist. You can't get any easier than this and the taste was superb! 

*Tip: If you don't have buttermilk, simply mix together 1 cup of milk +1 tbsp. lemon juice and let it rest for about 5 minutes. It won't be exact, but it should be close and get thick upon standing. 

Zesty Buttermilk Baked Chicken1 Whole Roaster Chicken, cut up
1 c. Low Fat Buttermilk
1 package Good Seasons® Zesty Italian Dressing Mix
1 1/2 c. Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
Cooking Spray

Prepare two bowls. In one bowl, add the buttermilk and Italian dressing mix and combine. In another bowl, add the bread crumbs. Dip the chicken first into the buttermilk mixture, then into the bread crumbs. Place on an oven safe baking pan, spray with cooking spray, then bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until proper internal temperature is reached. Serves 6. 


And now for the restaurant review...Amore Cucina in Wayne, NJ

This past weekend, my husband and I had the opportunity to go out to dinner alone (sans children). We had to bring our oldest daughter to a party and needed 4 hours to kill so we figured we'd go to this local restaurant for a leisurely dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We had received a gift certificate for Christmas and heard good things about it since it had changed hands within the last year. Here is how our dinner went...

Once seated, we could not even hear ourselves think, let alone speak. Though there are still two separate rooms for dining, there is no rhyme or reason to how people are seated. Hence, noisy all over. We had an entire fiasco regarding the wine selection, but I wound up with a good one and pressed on. 

I reviewed the menu and there weren't many items that caught my eye so I was hoping that the specials were good. Nope. 90% seafood, one beef selection (a steak) and one veal selection(I don't eat veal either). So back to the menu. I decide on Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms as an appetizer (after making sure they didn't have any seafood stuffing) and Chicken Giambotta for my meal. While we're waiting, the waiter brings over bread. I couldn't tell if it was stale or they just put it in the oven too long to heat it. In any event, we didn't have any oil, butter, salt or pepper on our table so we had to wait for him to come back to bring them. The comical part of the evening was when the table next to us had oil but no butter and the the table behind them had butter but no salt and pepper, so we all started swapping the items we needed because the waiter was taking too long. 

Next, the appetizer comes, and on the plate are two portobello mushrooms (the size of large white button mushrooms) on top a HEAPING mound of broccoli rabe (which I don't like). Odd for a garnish I thought but ok, I'll give these mushrooms a try. The stuffing was supposed to be sausage, but it was ground up so fine, it resembled baby food and keep oozing out on the plate making it very difficult to eat with the mushroom cap itself. They also just threw a slice of cheese over the top so that it was melted. (I wish I would have taken a picture of this!)

Photo courtesy of We Can Eat
Patience wearing thinner now, I wait for my main meal to come. In my mind, I'm envisioning chicken and sausage, mixed with potatoes, peppers and onions in a white wine broth (similar to this image I found online). It is my go-to menu item when there is nothing else I like on the menu because it's usually consistent no matter where you go.

It finally comes and THIS is what I'm served (looks like slop on a plate right?!). Not even any garnish, I think my kids school cafeteria could make this look more appetizing! I tried it and I could barely chew it. The chicken and sausage were so over cooked it was like eating shoe leather (if I could have spit it out I would have). I still don't know where the peppers and potatoes where but you can see some onions. At this point, I didn't even want to send it back because I just couldn't wait to get out of there. The waiter never came back over to see how our food was and when  the busboy came to clear our plates, he asked if I wanted it wrapped three times. "Do you want it wrapped?" Me: "No thank you." BB: "Really, there is a lot left". Me: "I know, but no thank you." BB: "Are you sure?" Me: "No thank you, it really wasn't very good." BB: "Oh", then left with our plates. Then, we didn't see our waiter for another 10+ minutes, where we finally just asked him for the check. 
My meal

So, overall, this was probably one of the worst dining experiences I've ever had and I don't recommend this restaurant if you're looking for a nice quiet evening alone with your sweetie. I was very disappointed as the previous owner made sure that you were catered to as his guest and no matter how crowded it was, it always seemed quiet. It reminded me of a diner with higher priced menu items for the same quality of food. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Happy 17th Anniversary!

Well, no recipes posted here today because 17 years ago, I married Mr. CEK (let's see if he notices this..heehee). Sure, it hasn't been an easy road. Marriage, or any commitment for that matter, takes work and patience. And for those of you that know our family, we've had many highs and even more lows... Cancer, Troubled pregnancies, Surgeries (my goodness, I could pay for an entire hospital wing with the amount of surgeries we've had combined alone!). But, we've persevered, have two beautiful children, and a great support system with our sometimes crazy but wonderful family and amazing friends. Who could ask for anything more?

So today, I'll leave you with these lyrics from a song that came out several years ago by Kelly Clarkson. To me, this is what marriage is all about. I love you Don~here's to many more years to come! xo 

P.S..Gotta love the 90's! Look at all that 'poof' and those goodness! :)

"Thankful" by Kelly Clarkson
You know my soul
you know everything about me there's to know
you know my heart
how to make me stop & how to make me go
you should know i love everything
about you don't you know

that i'm thankful
for the blessing
and the lessons that i've learned w/you
by my side
that i'm thankful so thankful for the love
that you keep bringing in my life
in my life
Thankful so thankful

You know my thoughts
before i open up my mouth & try to speak
you know my dreams
must be listening when i'm talking in my sleep
i hope you know
i love having you around me don't you know

that i'm thankful for the blessing
and the lessons that i've learned w/you
by my side
that i'm thankful so thankful for the love
that you keep bringing in my life in my life

Don't you know that i'm thankful for the moment
when i'm down you always know how to make me smile
thankful for the joy that your bringing in my life

for the lessons that i've learned
for the trouble i've known
for the heartache & pain
that you've thrown my way
when i didn't think i could go on
but you made me feel strong
with you I am never alone

thankful so thankful

thankful for the blessing
and the lessons that i've learned w/you
by my side
that i'm thankful so thankful for the love
that you keep bringing in my life in my life
thankful so thankful

when i'm down you always know how to make me smile
thankful for the joy that your bringing in my life
thankful so thankful

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thyme & Butter Roasted Carrots

I recently received the newest copy of Cooking Light magazine and in it, they had a recipe for Roasted Carrots. Their recipe included butter and olive oil but I wanted to add some fresh herbs to mine, hence the thyme. I also omitted the olive oil as I thought the butter would be enough and it was. These carrots were extremely tasty and I've said it before, there's nothing like roasting your vegetables! The only key is to make sure you don't peel the carrots while the kids are nearby. I had to pry them away from their little hands as they were imitating Bugs Bunny running around the house with them yelling "What's up Doc?!" Yup, never dull around here. :)

Thyme & Butter Roasted Carrots
Adapted from Cooking Light
2 lb. Carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally into 1/4"
1 tbsp. Fresh Thyme
2 tbsp. Butter, melted
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper

Steam carrots over a double boiler until they start to soften; approximately 10 minutes. Next, add them to a bowl and add in the thyme, butter, salt and pepper. Coat well then place on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Serves 6. 



Friday, March 23, 2012

Week 11: Seafood Frenzy Friday

Welcome to Week 11 of Seafood Frenzy Friday where I select seafood recipes around 'foodie land' to showcase for all of you since I don't eat any fish myself.  Today I have ten new recipes for you to try. Simply click on the name of the recipe underneath the picture to be taken to the author's original post. 

I've also created a board on Pinterest called CEK's Seafood Frenzy Friday's and have posted each week separately...all in one place for you to access (you do have to follow my board in order to access it)! Now you can pin it, share it, comment, whatever you'd like. The link takes you back to my original post where you can click on each recipe individually and be taken to the original author. Happy Pinning!  

Shrimp Tips: 
Click on this link from The Huffington Post on How to Prepare and Devein Shrimp, including a 5 Step tutorial.  

Buying Tips
When you buy your fresh shrimp, get it home as soon as possible and keep it over a bowl of ice in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook with it.
For Frozen Shrimp
If you're using frozen shrimp in the bulk bag, then remove the amount of shrimp you need a day beforehand to allow it to defrost in the refrigerator overnight. For a quicker method, you can place the frozen shrimp in a resealable bag and submerge it in a cold water bath until it's defrosted (it takes about one hour for one pound of shrimp to defrost).
Cleaning Tips
Most shrimp sold in the supermarket is already cleaned and possibly deveined. But now and then you may find shrimp sold uncleaned -- it's also cheaper. Or, if you're making a great seafood soup, you may want to buy the shrimp with the shells and heads still attached, so you can use it for the stock.
Handling Tips
When you're working with shrimp, make sure to keep them cold and put them back in the refrigerator if you're not using them immediately. When deveining, be sure to use your knife carefully or use a deveining tool.

Sumptuous Spoonfuls

Mia's Domain

The Bite Sized Blog

Rich and Sweet

Katie's Cucina

The Pioneer Woman

Sunday at the Giacometti's



Jo Cooks

Speaking of shrimp, I thought I'd share one of my own recipes that I created several months ago for a Chopped Challenge held at Baking Bad's website(for all of you new people that probably didn't see it yet!). I personally didn't eat this (and the sauce I made wasn't that great, BUT the shrimp itself got RAVE reviews from my family, including my Mom and her husband who were in visiting at the time. 
Carrie's Experimental Kitchen

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs with a Lemon Basil White Wine Sauce

Recently, my husband's uncle passed away after several years of being ill.  All of our immediate family attended the wake, then decided to stay overnight since it was almost a 2 hour drive home. We looked online and found a restaurant in the area (we were in Forked River, NJ) called Il Giordano Sul Mare and since it wasn't far from the funeral home, we decided to try out this sit down restaurant. It was impeccable and had wonderful items on the menu. Some, unique and some classic Italian favorites. That night, they were offering a special appetizer for Stuffed Figs. I can't remember exactly what they put in theirs, but they were incredible! I had never eaten a fig that way before, so my phone came out and in it went into my Notes section so I could create something similar on my own. Since I was hosting St. Patrick's Day dinner this past Saturday, I figured I'd try to make these stuffed figs as an appetizer. It was a little bit of a challenge finding them, and after several stores had some luck finding them in the aisle where they kept the raisins. Anyway, I thought the combination of goat cheese would go well with the figs and a nice lemon basil sauce would offset the sharpness. This appetizer was SO easy to make and tasted FANTASTIC! A definite even got a "Good" from my father in-law, which means I can make it again. You just never want an "OK", which means "I'll eat it, but don't make it again". :)

Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs with a Lemon Basil White Wine Sauce
14 Dried Figs
1/2 c. Crumbled Goat Cheese
Lemon Basil White Wine Sauce
2 tbsp. Butter
1 tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped
1 tsp. Lemon Zest
1 tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
1/4 c. White Wine, I used Pinot Grigio
1/4 c. Low-Sodium Chicken Broth (you can also substitute chicken or vegetable stock)
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Cut the top off of the fig and scoop out the inside seeds/pulp and place on a baking dish, then stuff each fig with the goat cheese. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the basil and lemon zest. Stir for about 1 minute, then add the flour to form a roux. Next, whisk in the wine, chicken broth, salt and pepper and it has a smooth consistency. Pour over the figs and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Transfer figs to a serving platter and spoon sauce over the top. Makes 14 figs.

Points+=2pts per fig