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Tag Archives: dinner

Brown Sugar Crock Pot Pork

13 Dec

Brown Sugar Crock Pot Pork The Tasty Fork

I only post recipes I love. And in this case I really really LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this pork recipe. There isn’t much to it. Excluding the pork, all of the ingredients I had on hand and you should too.

I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love using my crock pot. It makes my life so much easier. I like to put the meal together the night before so it hangs out in the fridge over night. In the morning after I walk the dog and make my coffee, it’s time to grab the crock pot and turn it on. I’m out of the house for the day but dinner will be ready when I get home.

crock pot brown sugar pork via The Tasty Fork

The first thing I do when I come home from work is take a deep breath — the smell coming from the crock pot fills the whole house. When I walked in on Tuesday, I was happily overwhelmed by the smell of brown sugar pork. I ran to the kitchen and took a little bite. I seriously almost melted. The pork was so tender! And the sauce, oh my… it’s a combination of brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. All pantry items and it made the most divine tasting sauce. It’s sweet with a touch of acidity. Perfection!

To round out the meal, I whipped up some sweet potato mash. It’s super easy — peel and dice a couple sweet potatoes, boil for 15 minutes and drain, add some butter and brown sugar and skim milk, mash until you get the right consistency. This was an easy week night meal, but I’d make this any day of the week! It’s a great recipe to use if you have guests coming over for the holidays. It makes a lot and leftovers taste better the next day.

I really wanted to name this recipe “OMG Pork.” It’s all I could say when I was eating it. I hope you’ll love love love it as much as me.

Brown Sugar Crock Pot Pork

Brown Sugar Crock Pot Pork

  • 4 lb pork loin (or your favorite cut of pork for a crock pot)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Equal part cornstarch and cold water (slurry)

Directions

  1. Remove excess fat from pork. Using a fork, stab/make holes through out the pork. Season with salt & pepper. Spray crock pot with cooking spray and add onions. Place pork on top.
  2. In a bowl, combine garlic, brown sugar, mustard and vinegar. It will be a paste like consistency. Spread all over pork. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. When the pork is done cooking, take out of the slow cooker and let it rest for 10 minutes. (cover pork with foil) Strain the liquid in the slow cooker into a sauce pan. Save onions. On a medium heat, cook and stir in slurry. The slurry will thicken up the sauce. You may need to repeat this step a few times to get the consistency you want.
  4. Place onions on top of pork and cut into pieces. Serve with sauce drizzled on pork pieces.
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BBQ Meatball Sliders

5 Dec

BBQ Meatball Slider The Tasty Fork

I may have a slight obsession with meatballs…but can you blame me? I have yet to meet a meatball I didn’t like.

Meatballs are easy to make. You can mix & match ingredients and know it’s always gonna taste good. My favorite part about making home-made meatballs — they bake fast and clean up is easy as long as you remember to line your baking sheet with tin foil. (please don’t forget this step!)

BBQ Meatball Sliders @ The Tasty Fork

I made BBQ Meatball Sliders for dinner the other night, but sliders are the perfect party sized snack! All of the prep work can be done before guests arrive and the meatballs go under the broiler for just 12 minutes.. so they’re super quick to pass around when guests are getting hungry. Not to mention, I’m sure you’ll get a lot of enthusiastic “oohs and aahs” when offering this slider to party goers. Let’s give two scenarios – The Everyday Slider vs. BBQ Meatball Slider.

Scenario #1

You – “Hi Uncle Bob. Would you like to try this slider?”

Uncle Bob – “Oh sure. Thanks.”

Scenario #2

You – “Hi Uncle Bob. Would you like to try a BBQ Meatball Slider.”

Uncle Bob – “BBQ Meatball Slider??!! I love meatballs! Ooohh my!”

Obviously, scenario #2 will generate the praise every party host wants and you can be happy you’ve made an amazing party snack people will talk about for years. Ok, “for year”s might be slightly over exaggerated but I’m sure you’ll get requests to make BBQ Meatball Sliders again.

Or you can be like me and eat BBQ Meatball Sliders on a random Monday just because they taste good. 🙂

BBQ Slider The Tasty Fork

BBQ Meatball Sliders, makes 12 meatballs

For the meatballs:

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & Pepper

Coleslaw Recipe:

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage mix
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp celery seed
  • Salt & Pepper

Additional Ingredients:

  • Cooking Spray
  • You favorite BBQ Sauce
  • 12 dinner rolls or slider buns (I used Hawaiian Bread Dinner Rolls. Perfect size for a slider!)

Directions:

For the Meatballs: 

  1. Combine the bread, onion, parsley, and garlic in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the milk and Worcestershire, and let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the beef, eggs, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and gently combine. Form into 12 meatballs (about 1.5  tablespoons each)
  3. To cook immediately: Place the meatballs on foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Broil for 10-12 minutes, or until no longer pink.

For the Coleslaw:

  1. Toss the cabbage and scallions with the mayonnaise, cider vinegar, and celery seed; season with ÂĽ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside.

When you’re ready to assemble the slider, place meatball on the slider bun and top with BBQ sauce & coleslaw.

Inspired by Real Simple

Whole Wheat Penne with Triple Tomato Sauce

29 Nov

Every morning I ask my husband, “What do you want for dinner?” (Yes, I’m thinking about dinner at 7am. It’s a problem.) His response is always the same, “Something healthy.” I usually give him a face that says, “Gee, thanks for the imput,” as I rack my brain for meal options. Luckily, I have 11 hours to come up with something.

Yesterday’s recipe post was all about time-saving and short cuts. If a product tastes good and can save me sometime (meaning I get to drink wine and watch TV sooner), I’ll buy it. However, there is one item in a grocery I’ll never buy. Store Bought Pasta Sauce. It never tastes good. I’ve tried different brands but there isn’t one that can trick my taste buds. Making my own pasta sauce is the only way to go.

When I get a craving for pasta, I just go with it. I always buy whole wheat pasta but the sauce creations are endless. Taking into consideration my hubby’s healthy request, I thought a marina sauce would be our best bet. But instead of just using some tomatoes, garlic and basil as a sauce — I wanted to kick it up a bit. I knew we had some sun-dried tomatoes and tomato paste in our pantry. 3 different tomato flavors in one sauce. This was gonna be good.

Just because I’m making my own pasta sauce doesn’t mean I’m going to spend a lot of time in my kitchen. This meal was ready in 20 minutes. Honestly, the pasta sauce was ready by the time the pot of water for the pasta started to boil.

So if you’re like me and not a fan of store-bought pasta sauce, give this recipe a try. I think you’ll love all of the rich tomato flavor and you’ll be impressed by how easy it comes together!

Triple Tomato Pasta Sauce with Whole Wheat Penne

  • 1lb whole wheat penne 
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, drained and diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 6 basil leaves, torn
  • Basil for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook penne until al dente. Save 1/2 cup of pasta water when draining cooked pasta. You may need it to thin out the sauce.
  2. In a sauce pan with olive oil, add onions and garlic. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add sun dried tomatoes and tomato paste. Continue stirring to incorporate paste. Add Salt & Pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes.
  3. In a blender, add canned tomatoes, basil and onion mixture. Blend until smooth. Wipe/wash clean the sauce pan if there is a lot of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. You don’t want a oily sauce. Add sauce back to the pan and keep warm until pasta is cooked. (If you have a Vitamix, just keep the sauce in the blender. The blades will warm it, so you can skip this step.) If the sauce is too thick, add a some of the pasta water to thin it out.
  4. When the pasta is cooked and drained, add sauce and garnish with basil.

Inspired by Food & Wine

{Trader Joe’s Inspired} Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions & Bacon Pizza

28 Nov

I must admit, sometimes I’m all about the easy route. After working all day, the last thing I want to do is cook a time-consuming meal.  By the time I get home, I’m really wishing I planned ahead and made a meal in my slow cooker so I wouldn’t have to do anything….but most days include me going to the store to get ingredients so I can feed myself that evening. For bad planners like me, I’m happy Trader Joe’s exists.

Trader Joe’s has a lot of things to make my busy life a lot easier! One of those items being premade whole wheat pizza dough. I know what you’re going to say, “Meghan, making pizza dough is super easy.” I know this buuuut I’m going for convenience. Since they make the dough, you still have the fun of rolling out the dough to the desired thickness (which I love) and their crust cooks up great! It tastes so good! (People will think you made it yourself, so we can keep this secret between friends.)

Another great item from Trader Joe’s is butternut squash cut into cubes. I hate hate hate peeling and cutting up butternut squash. Paying a little more for a bag like this is totally worth it for me.

As you can see from the title of this post, I made myself a pizza. The pizza – Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions and Bacon – was inspired by ingredients bought at Trader Joe’s.

The first thing you need to do is set out the pizza dough for about 20 minutes. While you’re waiting for the dough, work on the prep steps for the pizza. Sprinkle the pre-cut butternut squash with brown sugar, salt, pepper and a little olive oil. Bake squash in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. While the squash is roasting, fry bacon pieces in a skillet. When the bacon is browned, remove bacon from the skillet but save the bacon fat. Put the onions in the skillet and cook in the bacon fat. Cook until caramelized.

If you time this right, all of your pizza prep work should be done within 20 minutes. Roll out your pizza dough and top with squash, onions, bacon, goat cheese crumbles and spinach. Pop pizza in the oven and 20-25 minutes later, you’ve got dinner!

Thanks to the time saver ingredients from Trader Joe’s, I spent little time in my kitchen and more time enjoying my evening! Do you have any time saver meals you love to make? If you do, share them in the comments section.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions & Bacon Pizza

  • Pre-made pizza dough
  • 2 1/2 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 strips of bacon, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles
  • Baby Spinach
  • 1 tsp chives, chopped (garnish)

Directions:

  1. Pizza dough needs to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Set oven to 350 degrees. On a roasting pan lined with foil, mix butternut squash, brown sugar, salt & pepper and olive oil. Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  2. In a skillet, cook bacon pieces. Once bacon has browned, remove from skillet and set on a plate lined with a paper towel. In the same skillet, cook onions in the bacon fat for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Roll out pizza dough on a floured surface. On a pizza stone or vented pizza pan, place pizza dough and top with butternut squash, bacon, onions, goat cheese and spinach. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Garnish with chives. Slice & serve!

Smoked Almond & Rosemary Chicken Tenders

15 Nov

Chicken Tenders. Chicken Fingers. Whatever you wanna call it, I LOVE them.

I created this recipe to find a healthier option. Most chicken tenders are breaded & fried. I’ve seen recipes which are oven baked, but the crust of the tender is covered in breadcrumbs, eggs and cheese. No thanks.

I’ve been eating a lot of hickory smoked almonds lately. It’s the perfect combo of smokey & salty. Did you know if you’ve got a food processor or a good blender, you can grind nuts so they have a consistency of breadcrumbs? It’s true!

I made these chicken tenders for dinner, but I think they would be a great appetizer for a holiday party! I threw in some fresh rosemary, which is a perfect herb for the holiday season. Have some dipper options, like bbq sauce or honey mustard, and you’ll be all set!

I added about 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs, but if you can’t find panko or wanting a gluten-free recipe, just cut them from the recipe.

Smoked Almond & Rosemary Chicken Tenders

  • 1 cup smoked almonds
  • 1/4 panko bread crumbs (optional)
  • 2 tbsp rosemary, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 8 chicken tenders
  • Cooking Spray

Directions:

  1. In a food processor (or strong blender), put in almonds. Grind until the texture is very fine, like breadcrumbs. Heat skillet to medium heat and toast panko until it’s slighty brown. In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, almonds and rosemary. Mix well.
  2. In a bowl, stir buttermilk, Dijon mustard, salt & pepper. Dip chicken one by one into the butter milk and then into the almond coating.  Arrange a wire rack on a large baking sheet; coat rack with cooking spray. Arrange chicken on rack; coat chicken with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Garnish with rosemary leaves, if desired.

Pork Banh Mi Inspired Sliders

8 Nov

One of the things I love most about living in Chicago is the food. Always a new restaurant to try, creative food concepts and lots of diversity. Strangely enough, I never had a banh mi sandwich until this weekend… in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

My husband and I were out running errands on Saturday afternoon. I saw a wine tasting going on in a parking lot. My husband noticed a food truck. We both went to our areas of interest. I finished my wine by the time he had a duck banh mi sandwich.

At first, I wasn’t interested in his little sandwich…but I watched him take a couple bites and he looked so darn happy. He noticed I was staring at meal and offered me a couple bites. I wasted no time and went in for a huuuge bite. I could hardly believe how delicious this sandwich tasted and I was floored it came from Fort Wayne!

So in the spirit of my “inspiring others to stop ordering carry out” blog, I decided to recreate this sandwich at home. I can’t say this is completely traditional but it was very good! I did a quick pickling of veggies and made a spicy BBQ sauce. The pork patties are a mixture of ground pork and pork sausage. I made sliders, but I can totally see myself having this as a big ol’ burger.

I’m happy I tried something new and even more thrilled I re-created the sandwich at home. Whats your favorite restaurant inspired food you like to make at home? If you’re a blogger and you’ve got a recipe posted on your site, share it in the comments. I’d love to see it!

Pork Banh Mi Inspired Sliders, makes 10 patties

  • 4 medium carrots, sliced into matchsticks
  • 1  cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 4-5 large radishes, sliced into matchsticks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1 scant teaspoon sea salt
  • A handful of cilantro
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 8 oz pork sausage
  • 1/2 red onion, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 inch ginger root, grated
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha
  • 1-2 long french bread baguettes, split

Directions:

  1. Combine the carrots, cucumber, onion and radishes in a shallow dish. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup water, sugar, vinegar and salt until dissolved. Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables, then let cool until ready to serve. Combine with the cilantro.
  2. Make the pork patties – Combine the ground pork and sausage in a large bowl. Grate onion and ginger over the bowl. Add garlic cloves and Salt & Pepper. Mix with your hand and create 2 oz patties. (about 1/4 cup size) At medium heat, warm up skillet with vegetable oil. Cook patties 5 minutes per side.
  3. While patties are cooking, make the spicy BBQ sauce. In a saucepan, combine honey, soy sauce and sriracha. Once it reaches a boil. Turn off the heat.
  4. When the patties are almost done cooking, drizzle bbq sauce over each patty.
  5. To make sliders, slice bread according to the size of the pork patties. Put BBQ sauce on both pieces of bread. Place veggies mixture on one side of the bread,top with pork patty add the top piece of bread. Enjoy!

Cheesy Meatball Lasagna

29 Oct

Sometimes I think of a recipe and it won’t leave my mind. It’s in my mind all day. While I’m driving to work, I’m thinking about my grocery list. During lunch, I’m dreaming of dinner.  At the gym, I’m trying to burn extra calories because I know what I’ll be eating later. Seriously, I think I have a one track mind for food.

I’m not sure what the weather temperatures are like in other cities, but in Chicago, last Thursday night it dropped 20 degrees in less than 2 hours. I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the last of 70 degree days until 2013. Kind of sad, but I think I’ll get over it. I’m ready for comfort food which warms me up and hugs me from the inside… things like this Cheesy Meatball Lasagna.

This is probably the 2nd time in my life I’ve made a lasagna…but I knew I wanted to do something a little different. Enter Smoked Gouda Cheese. I put it in the meatballs and layered shreds of it throughout the lasagna. I think it gave the lasagna such a O.M.G. quality. I’m thinking I might need to add Smoked Gouda to everything I make. It truly has the effect of making everything that’s already awesome even better.

My only complaint is it took sometime to put together and cook to cheesy perfection in the oven. One of my favorite things to say is, “Drink some wine to kill the time.”  Trust me, I had a big pour…but I was still checking the timer every 10 minutes to see how much longer I had to wait. It was total torture.

But I was rewarded with this delicious dinner. Oh so totally worth it.

This lasagna was meaty, extra cheesy, smoky and has a deliciously easy tomato sauce with fresh basil. I’d make this dish for anyone. Well, anyone who loves meat and isn’t lactose intolerant.

So go ahead, day-dream about this lasagna and drink some wine while time stands still.. I mean while it’s cooking in the oven. 🙂

Cheesy Meatball Lasagna, inspired by Family Circle

MEATBALLS

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup smoked gouda cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

LASAGNA

  • 12 traditional lasagna noodles
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (28 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 bag (8 oz) shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup smoked gouda cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make Meatballs. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, sausage, bread crumbs, egg, milk, and cheese.  I used a medium-sized cookie/ice cream scooper to shape meatballs. You can also use your hands. Size of the meatball should be around 1 tablespoon.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and cook for 5 minutes, shaking pan to turn meatballs while maintaining their shape. Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining meatballs. Reserve drippings in pan. (FYI – Meatballs don’t need to be cooked all the way through.)
  3. Meanwhile, to make Lasagna, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling. Add noodles, 1 at a time, and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.
  4. Place skillet from meatballs over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in both crushed and diced tomatoes. Simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in half the chopped basil. Set aside 3/4 cup of the sauce.
  5. In a medium bowl, blend ricotta, remaining basil, the egg and 2 tbsp of the Parmesan.
  6. Begin layering: Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9 2 inch baking dish. Top with 4 noodles, overlapping. Scatter half the meatballs over noodles. Pour half the remaining tomato sauce over meatballs. Top with 4 more noodles and spread with ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella and smoked gouda cheese. Add remaining meatballs. Pour remaining tomato sauce over meatballs. Top with final 4 noodles. Spread with reserved 3/4 cup sauce. Top with remaining mozzarella, smoked gouda and remaining 2 tbsp Parmesan.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.