Cooking can be so much fun! Watching raw items become something beautiful and savory is so fulfilling for me. Making them become so is my love language, my way of pouring out love on those around me.
It’s been a long week. Work, birthday, work, Valentine’s Day, work, getting a dental crown, more work. Okay, it’s been overwhelming! But knowing we were going to share some yummy goodness this weekend gave me a lot of purpose for getting through it! Flora and I had decided we would make a few more dishes from Ree Drummond’s book, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks Food from My Frontier.” We had settled on Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin (which also included recipes for roasted vegetables and polenta), and Citrus Butter Cookies. Friends, we chose well!
As always, we end up having to make little changes to the recipes due to availability of ingredients in our stores. For example, it appears every family in America cooked pork tenderloins this weekend, because I could only find one of them. That simply would not do for our families, so I chose to cook pork loin roasts instead. These are bigger, usually have a bit more fat on them, and take a longer to cook through. We adjusted the cooking time accordingly. We got a little creative in the vegetables we chose to roast with the root vegetables; however, the selection was left up to the cook anyway.
We chose to follow the recipe in order, so we roasted veggies, cooked polenta, and started the roasts last.
The recipe called for root vegetables, so we used turnips, onions, potatoes. We also had carrots but totally forgot to add them! To the root veggies we added butternut squash (which adds a sweet surprise), acorn squash and zucchini, and a full stalk of celery. Next time I might omit the celery. It was delicious but unnecessary. Oh, yes – we threw in some mushrooms, just because.
The veggies were tossed with olive oil and pepper. It was an incredibly beautiful dish! The Pioneer Woman recommends also adding salt at the beginning, but we chose to add it later. If you add salt to vegetables as you are starting to cook them it actually causes moisture to sweat out, hindering the lovely caramelization we wanted from the root veggies. I would have added it after the caramelization started, but I totally forgot! If anyone wanted salt they were welcome to add it to their own.
As the veggies were roasting, we started simmering cornmeal in chicken broth to make polenta. It cooked about 25 minutes until it was smooth and there wasn’t any liquid left. At that point we spread it out on parchment paper in a cookie sheet to cool. Once it was cooled enough, we cut it into triangles and fried it in some vegetable oil. The recipe called for olive oil, but I didn’t want the olive oil flavor to overwhelm the corn. Plus, I am cheap; that would have been a lot of olive oil.
Next Up: Herb-Roasted Pork Loin
As mentioned earlier, the recipe called for pork tenderloins, but I could not find enough to feed us all, so I picked up four pork loin roasts instead. I dressed the outside with salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence, as per the recipe. I enjoyed the flavor of the herb blend so much I may use it on roasted vegetables next time! The pork loins were roasted at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes, just long enough to allow it to finish cooking thoroughly as it rested 15 minutes after coming out of the oven, at which point it was sliced..
Did You Know:
Any time you are going to use dried herbs, rub them between your hands or fingers before putting them in or on your dish. This releases the fragrant oils from inside the dried leaves and greatly enhances the effect of the herbs in your food!
Oh, Yeah! Spinach!
While I was shopping for ingredients for these recipes, I had a sudden hankering for spinach with garlic and lemon, my favorite way to eat spinach. I remembered seeing a similar spinach recipe in this Pioneer Woman cookbook, so I picked up three bunches of fresh spinach. The recipe is easy, you tailor the amount of olive oil and garlic to your particular tastes. As for me, I LOVE garlic! Since no one objected I used three small bulbs of garlic, chopped into large pieces. The garlic was cooked in olive oil just until it became fragrant, then in went the spinach. This recipe did not call for lemon juice, so I left it out. Totally delicious!!!
The dinner was lovely to both look at and to taste. I was surprised how much my husband loved the polenta! I guess we shall be having that a little more often.
For Dessert: Citrus Butter Cookies
So do you think they were good? My husband certainly thought so! Everybody who tried one expressed how absolutel7y amazing they were. Yes, were. None left.
Let Me Sum It Up for You
This meal was amazing on so many levels. Very simple instructions. Very delicious. Relatively inexpensive to cook for an army. Delicious as leftovers. Pioneer Woman, my hat’s off to ya!!!