Oven baked pork loin

This is one of the easiest and most delicious meals I know how to cook.  I usually start with a small-medium sized pork loin, since I’m usually only cooking for 2, but the same procedure would work with larger pork loins or pork roast (except you may have to cook it longer.)  Image

Here are the other ingredients:

– Seasonings- you can use whatever you like- I use blue Tony’s Chachere’s, salt, seasoned pepper and garlic pepper

– Veggies- I don’t usually add veggies, but this time I put potatoes and carrots around the meat and they turned out delicious!

– Cooking oil

– Chicken broth and/or beef broth- I used 1 small can of each

– Cornstarch or flour (or a pre-made gravy thickener if you prefer)

– Oven-safe skillet or pan and lid (foil works if you don’t have a lid)

Step 1: Coat the meat with a healthy layer of seasoning.  This makes a nice crust on the meat as it cooks.  

Step 2: Coat the bottom of your skillet or pan with cooking oil.  I used a 15 inch black iron skillet.  This is ridiculously huge.  (We lost our smaller skillet and haven’t gotten another one.)  Use whatever size you need to fit your meat.  A rectangle roasting pan or dutch oven works well.  I’m from Louisiana so I think everything tastes better cooked in a black iron skillet, but really anything will do.  Arrange the meat in the center and the veggies around it.Image

Step 3: Cover with a lid or with foil and bake at 425° for 45 minutes.  Then uncover and bake at 450° for 15 minutes.  If you have a larger cut of meat check the internal temperature to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.

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Step 4: Remove the meat and veggies from the pan and set aside.  Leave the drippings in the pan.  In a separate bowl, mix equal parts gravy thickener (cornstarch, flour or pre-made thickener) and water.  I like to use cornstarch for pork gravy.  I think started with about 2 tbsp cornstarch and 2 tbsp water.  

Step 5: Add the chicken and/or beef broth to meat drippings and bring to a boil.  At this point I transferred the dripping to a smaller black iron skillet, but this is not necessary unless your cooking dish is also ridiculously huge.  If you used a large roasting pan to cook the meat, transferring the dripping might be a good idea if you don’t want an exorbitantly large amount of gravy.

Step 6: Once the broth is boiling, add your thickening mixture while stirring constantly.  The gravy should start to thicken up pretty quickly.  If it doesn’t thicken enough, mix up more thickener and add in the same manner.  

Step 7: Slice up the meat and add it back to the gravy (this lets all the seasonings from the crust on the meat mix in and season the gravy.)  

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Step 8: Serve over rice.  I leave the veggies separate, but if you can add them to the gravy if that’s your style.  Enjoy!

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Mom’s homemade biscuits

Homemade biscuits are a Saturday morning tradition at our house.  Actually, they used to be a Sunday morning tradition, until I had to start being at 8 a.m. rehearsals at church.  Now they’re for Saturday mornings.  This recipe relies on a process (i.e. a sequence of steps) as much as the ingredients.  The ingredients are actually really basic:

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Two cups of flour (plus 1/2 c. for cutting out biscuits), 1 Tbsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/3 c. shortening, and 1 c. milk.
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Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until the shortening is about the size of peas.  Make a well in center of flour mixture, and pour in the milk.
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Stir in the milk just until moistened.  Dough will be sticky and all the milk may not be absorbed right away.  That’s okay, just let it sit while you prepare the baking pan.
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Now, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  For the best biscuits, use a 10-inch black iron skillet.  (My husband taught me this shortly after we were married.)  Cut 2 tablespoons of butter until small cubes, and scatter them over the bottom of the pan.  (This is important for a nice crusty bottom.)
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Put the pan in the oven, to heat the pan and melt the butter.  Check occasionally to make sure the butter doesn’t burn.  Meanwhile, put the 1/2 c. additional flour on a pastry cloth or cutting board, and spread it out a little to make a spot for cutting out the biscuits.
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Turn out the biscuit dough onto the flour.  Flour your hands well and knead the dough a little, turning it only 5 or 6 times.  The secret to light, fluffy biscuits is handling the dough as little as possible.
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Pat the dough out to about 1/2-inch thickness, and cut out biscuits with a round cutter.  Biscuits rise better with a quickly-cut edge.
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My biscuit cutter is about three inches in diameter, and I make about eight biscuits.  Then gather up the scraps, and very carefully knead and shape them into one large round biscuit, and cut it in half cross-wise.  (This just how they I think they fit best in the pan, but there’s really no right or wrong way.)
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If you haven’t already taken the skillet out of the oven, do so now.  Carefully place the smaller round biscuits around the edge of the pan, and the two halves of the larger biscuit in the center.  It will look like a biscuit-dough daisy.
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Now let the biscuits sit in the hot pan for about 5 minutes.  This will start the rising process, and make them really light and fluffy.  (I discovered this quite by accident when I waited a while to put the biscuits in the oven.)  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until lightly browned.
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Now, serve hot, with plenty of butter and hopefully, homemade jam of some kind.  I have fig jam and satsuma marmalade here.  Hope you enjoy them!
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King Cake Knots

Besides being close (in proximity) to my family, the thing I miss the most about living in Louisiana is the food. (Really, does this surprise anyone about me?) This being Mardi Gras season, I especially miss King Cake.

These yummy little King Cake Knots are the perfect solution! All the cinnamon-y goodness of King Cake without the tiresome work of making the King Cake (they’re not so easy…if you want to do it right). This recipe from Plain Chicken uses prepared french bread dough (find it with the refrigerated crescent roll, biscuit and cinnamon roll dough in the tubes). So simple!

You will need:
1 loaf refrigerated french bread dough
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons milk
yellow, green and purple sanding sugar or sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a baking sheet with butter-flavored cooking spray. Find the seam in the french bread dough and unroll it into a rectangle. Shape until it is about 16 by 12 inches. Brush the dough with softened butter.

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and spinkle liberally over butter.

Cut the dough in half lengthwise.

Then cut crosswise into 8 strips (I was bringing these to a party, so I made 12 but they were smaller than I liked. 8 is enough. Hehe)

Stack two strips together, cinnamon sides facing each other. Twist the strips together.

Tie them loosely in a knot, stretching gently if necessary. Place on baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake 25 to 28 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, mix together powdered sugar and milk. Dip the top of each knot in the icing.

Sprinkle each with yellow, green and purple sanding sugar or sprinkles.

King Cake Knots

1 loaf refrigerated french bread dough
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons milk
yellow, green and purple sanding sugar or sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a baking sheet with butter-flavored cooking spray.

Find the seam in the french bread dough and unroll into a rectangle. Shape until it is about 16 by 12 inches. Brush the dough with softened butter. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle liberally over butter.

Cut the dough in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 8 strips. Stack two strips together, cinnamon sides facing each other. Twist the strips together. Tie them loosely in a knot, stretching gently if necessary. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 25-28 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, mix together powdered sugar and milk. Dip the top of each knot in the icing, then sprinkle each with yellow, green and purple sanding sugar or sprinkles.

Recipe Source: slightly adapted from Plain Chicken

Cookie Dough Dip

When I saw this recipe over at Sing for Your Supper, I knew immediately I had to make it. And it is some kinda good! I brought it to our Super Bowl Party and it was gone before I knew it.

Here’s how to make it:

You’ll need:
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat.

Whisk in the brown sugar until it dissolves completely and the mixture just begins to bubble. Stir in the vanilla extract and let cool. (The cooling really is important. The first time we made it wasn't stellar because the mixture was still hot and it melted our chocolate chips.)

Put the softened cream cheese and powdered sugar in a separate bowl.

Cream them together until well combined.

Turn mixer to low and add in brown sugar/butter mixturre and salt. Blend until well combined.

Mix in 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. Reserve the rest to sprinkle on top of the dip.

Yummy! Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.

Serve with Nilla Wafers, graham crackers, or your cookie of choice.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar until it dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble. Stir in vanilla and set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar together. With the mixer on low speed, add in brown sugar and butter mixture, then the salt. Mix until well combined. Stir in 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips. Serve with Nilla Wafers, graham crackers, or the cookie of your choice.

Recipe source: barely adapted from Sing for Your Supper

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

Here’s another delicious little treat we made to give away as Christmas cookie gifts. I love the cherry/almond flavor combination, so I chose these a little more for me than anyone else. 🙂

These were a little more involved, but the kids loved rolling the dough into balls. My daughter also helped dip the cookies in white chocolate. A little messy, but fun.

These were another Pinterest find. (Do you follow me on Pinterest?) The yummy recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens.

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

recipe from Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 teaspoons shortening
White nonpareils and/or red edible glitter (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.

3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

5. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60.

Birds Nest Necklaces

I fell in love with these adorable necklaces when I saw them on Etsy. Imagine my delight to find DIY instructions on Pinterest!

I bought the supplies on Black Friday with a Michael’s coupon. I didn’t have any needle-nose pliers or wire cutters, so I bought a set. I used waxed linen cord instead of the chain (because it was cheaper) I spent about $10 for the wire, beads, cord and findings.

The little nests only take 5 to 10 minutes to make. I made a few each night while watching TV with the hubby. It took me a couple of practice runs before I got the hang of wrapping the wire securely. Keep playing with it until you find a method that works well for your hands.

Follow the tutorial I used on SarahOrtega.com.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

We made these tasty little treats to give as Christmas cookie gifts. Hardly any made it out of the kitchen! They are exactly as the name describes: gooey, butter-y, chocolate-y.

And they’re from Paula Deen. Does it get any more decadently delicious?

(Sorry for the terrible photo. I snapped it from my cell phone before they all disappeared.)

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

(from Paula Deen)

Ingredients

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
1   (18 ounce) box moist chocolate cake mix
1   (8-ounce) brick cream cheese, room temperature
1   egg
1   stick of butter, room temperature

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the egg. Then beat in the vanilla extract. Beat in the cake mix. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up so that you can roll the batter into balls. Roll the chilled batter into tablespoon sized balls and then roll them in confectioner’s sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 12 minutes. The cookies will remain soft and gooey. Cool completely and sprinkle with more confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Dyeing Yarn with Kool-Aid and Food Coloring

I love dyeing my own yarn for knitting and crochet projects. Kool-Aid, food coloring and icing dyes are perfect mediums for dyeing yarn. Not only is this a fun project, but you get to customize your color scheme to your personal preferences. My daughter loves to help select colors and dye yarn (and get a little messy too!).

The yarn pictured above and below was dyed with Kool-Aid and food coloring. I intended the colors to be very soft and muted. I knit the yarn into an easy child-size Keyhole Scarf for my daughter. The scalloped pattern showed off the variegated yarn well.

 

Here are more pictures of yarn I’ve dyed. The darker colors were created with Wilton Icing Dyes or several packets of Kool-Aid. The higher the concentration of dye in the water, the more vibrant (or dark) the color will be.

   

Want to dye your own yarn? Here are a few tutorials:

Knitty: Dyed in the Wool — specifics on Kool-Aid dyeing

Kool-Aid Dyeing — step-by-step tutorial

Dyeing Protein Fibers with Kool-Aid — these are the instructions I followed

Free eBook: Organized Simplicity

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider

I would want to read this book even if it wasn’t free. The title sounds so wonderful: Organized Simplicity. Give me some of that.

…At the foundation of this book is the idea of redefining simplicity. You must understand simple living as something more than just a catch phrase, some pie-in-the-sky ambition, a trend. Only then will you find the motivation to create a simpler life that works for you, your family, and your home.
–Tsh Oxenreider, Organized Simplicity

Download the free eBook now.