Saturday, December 31, 2011

Parmesan Pork Roast

Happy New Year! I'm not a fan of the pork & sauerkraut dish that is traditionally eaten on New Year's Day in my area. So I opted for this meal instead. I love this recipe because it's so flavorful, it's VERY easy (made in the crockpot), and it looks beautiful. It's perfect to serve when you have guests. This recipe comes from an old Simple & Delicious (Taste of Home) magazine - March/April, 2010.

My only caveat about this recipe is that it can be easy to overcook pork in the slow-cooker. I've overcooked this roast more times than I care to admit. You get busy with making your side dishes or dessert, and you forget to check on it.  I highly suggest inserting a digital meat thermometer into the roast right from the start and watching it closely after a few hours of cooking. When it gets to 160 degrees, it's done. The upside to this recipe is that if you do accidently overcook it, you have lots of wonderful sauce to pour over it. It won't be perfect, but it will still be delicious, and probably no one will complain. : )

Here's what you need:

  • 1 lovely, boneless whole pork loin roast as pictured above (approximately 4 lbs.)
  • 2/3 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 Cup honey
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 Cup cold water
Cut the roast in half or in thirds so it fits into your slow-cooker. Spray the inside of your crockpot with cooking spray and transfer the roast pieces to it.  In a small bowl, combine the cheese, honey, soy sauce, basil, garlic, and olive oil.......

Pour this deliciousness over the pork, cover, and cook on low for approximately 5-1/2 to 6 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. Remove meat to a serving platter, cover with foil, let it rest and keep warm.

Meanwhile, strain the lumps from the cooking liquid and transfer to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Gradually add the wet cornstarch to the saucepan. Bring to a boil again; cook and stir for about 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice the roast, and serve with the sauce. It's perfect served with mashed potatoes and your favorite veggie.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Gingerbread Pancakes

I found this wonderful recipe on the Taste of Home website ( and just had to try it. We all loved it! The pancakes were light and fluffy and had just the right amount of gingerbread flavor. They are perfect for breakfast on a snow day!

  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • pinch of ground cloves (small pinch - cloves can be over-powering)
  • 1 Cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

In a bowl, combine the first eight ingredients, set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg, molasses, and oil; then add to the dry ingredients. Use a whisk to mix just until the ingredients are combined. Do NOT overmix.... (That's a mistake a lot of people make when they cook home-made pancakes. Lumps in the batter are good - if you try to beat out every lump, you will have tough, flat pancakes. So, go ahead and whisk until the dry ingredients are combined with the wet, then put the whisk down! : )

Use a ladle to pour the batter by 1/4 cupfuls (approximately) onto a lightly greased hot griddle. (I set mine for 400 degrees and sprayed it lightly with cooking spray.) Use the back of your ladle to gently swirl the batter into a small circle.

Now is the part when things sometimes go wrong for inexperienced pancake makers. When to flip? Recipes will often say flip once you see bubbles starting to form, but you really need to wait a bit. Don't flip until you see lots of bubbles AND the edges of the pancake should look rounded and partially cooked. When they look like this:

Go ahead and flip! And this is what you should get:

Let the second side cook for a few minutes - check the underside, and when it's golden brown, the pancake is done. This recipe should give you between 8 - 10 medium-sized pancakes. I doubled this recipe with no adjustments and it worked just fine. With doubling, I got 18 pancakes and fed my two kids, one of their friends, and myself with leftovers. Enjoy!!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Favorite Mac & Cheese

I got this recipe many years ago from a Taste of Home magazine, but can now be found on I haven't changed it much. The only thing I've done is occasionally experimented with different grades of cheddar cheese. But if all you have on hand is a regular bag of shredded cheddar cheese, it will still taste delicious and creamy. It's very filling, so I don't normally serve it with a protein... just a salad. (A spicy salad goes nicely with the creaminess of the mac.) This is also a great dish to take along to a potluck or church dinner.

Here's what you need:

  • 7 Oz. elbow macaroni (this equates to about 2-1/3 dry measuring cups).
  • 3 Tablespoons flour 
  • 8 Oz. cream cheese, cubed (I use 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese, aka: Neufchatel cheese.)
  • 8 Oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I use reduced fat & it's still very rich and filling.)
  • 2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 Cups milk (I use 1%.)
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 Cup dry, seasoned bread crumbs
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, you're going to make a white sauce: melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan. Stir in flour until smooth and let cook for a minute over medium heat. Gradually and very slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. The white sauce, so far, should look like this:

Bring the white sauce to a boil, cooking and stirring for about 1 - 2 minutes or until it's thickened. Once it's thickened, it's ready for the cheeses and flavorings. Reduce the heat to low; add cheeses, mustard, salt, and pepper. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth:

Drain the macaroni and add to the cheese sauce, stirring to coat. Pour into a greased, shallow 3-quart baking dish. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and toss with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the macaroni. Bake, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Serves 8.

Use leftover mac and cheese the next day to make Nachos - just spread the mac and cheese onto tortilla chips. Reheat in the microwave for a few minutes, then top with salsa or taco sauce, jalepenos, olives, shredded lettuce, sour cream, etc.