Pork

Baked Croque Monsieur Sliders

The internet has given us a great, great many gifts.

Cats. And not the happy ones. Although I’m in the camp that believes that there is no such thing as a happy cat. (And if the lighting is right and you worked hard enough, you might have seen the scar on my hip to back up my claim.)

Keep Calm and Beer Me

Keep Calm And [Do Everything!]. Keeping calm, I’m not so good at. It requires a lot of effort, much more than over-reacting and waving my hands around and yelling does. Plus, if I’m freaking out, I’m occupied and therefore not quietly scheming a way to hide your body. We all win, here.

Message boards. For EVERYTHING. You dig tractors? Royal wardrobes? Mountain biking? Or are you a 30-something woman with possibly a borderline-unhealthy and definitely weird The Little Mermaid fascination? (OMG, guys! The 3D/Blu-Ray has finally been released!!!!) You have a virtual home where you won’t be judged. (Openly, by people using their real name.)

Baked Croque Monsieur Sliders

But better than all of that – and almost even better than ProFootballMock’s QBs on Facebook – are those baked ham & cheese sliders. You know the ones, made out of those popular sweet dinner rolls and doused with a stick of melted butter.

Guys. An entire stick of butter. There are days when that’s appropriate because butter fixes feelings, just like duct tape fixes anything that isn’t feelings. Or food.

Baked Croque Monsieur Sliders

But on days when a stick of butter isn’t required, or really wanted (it sometimes happens), we add a spoonful of strawberry jam to those sliders before drowning those little miniature bites of internet wonderful in a garlicky cheese sauce.

And just like that, those little “Green Eggs & Ham” Sliders from your kid’s Cat in the Hat birthday party are suddenly uber-fancy miniature Croque Monsieurs.

The internet. It’s a beautiful thing. (Usually.)

Croque Monsieur Sliders

A garlicky cheese sauce converts the popular baked ham & cheese slider into a miniature croque monsieur.

Calories: 200.2 | Fat: 7.2g | Fiber 1.0g | Protein 11.6g | Carbs 20.9g

Ingredients

  • For the sauce:
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 2 tsp dijon or brown mustard (I use creole)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use 1%)
  • Salt
  • 1 oz grated swiss (or ~1 slice, diced)
  • For the sliders:
  • 1 dozen dinner rolls (I use King Hawaiian Honey Wheat)
  • 12 slices of ham
  • 3 slices of swiss, quartered
  • ~4 Tbsp strawberry jam
  • Grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking dish with foil.
  2. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter, add the garlic and stir, letting it cook for ~1 minute.
  3. Stir in the flour and black pepper until smooth, let cook an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the mustard and slowly stream in half of the milk, whisking to keep the sauce smooth.
  5. Add the cheese in two parts, whisking until smooth after additions.
  6. Finish with the rest of the milk and let cook for another 2-3 minutes until bubbly around the edges and thick enough to generously coat the spoon (you're going to spoon this over the sandwiches and want it to be thick enough to mostly stay in place).
  7. Slice the rolls in half horizontally (if you break the rolls into 2 halves of 6, you can do this with 2 cuts and not squish the bread).
  8. To build the sliders, spread 1 tsp of strawberry jam on the bottom roll, top with a slice of ham (folded to fit), a quartered piece of cheese, a spoonful of the sauce, and the top roll.
  9. Place rolls close enough on the pan that they're nearly touching.
  10. After all rolls are assembled, spoon all of the sauce over top. If you find the sauce too thin, reheat it for a couple of minutes over medium heat.
  11. Sprinkle grated parmesan over top and bake for ~15 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.
  12. Serve hot. Or warm. Or straight out of the fridge the next morning for breakfast. Seriously, they're that good.
  13. And most importantly, thank the internet for being so fabulous.

Notes

Yields: 12 sliders

Source: A smash-up of this and this.

Estimated time: 40 minutes

Nutritional Information
Calories: 200.2 | Fat: 7.2g | Fiber 1.0g | Protein 11.6g | Carbs 20.9g

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Pork Loin with Madeira-Fig Sauce

Backyard fig season. It is over.

Supermarket fig season. Hasn’t started yet.

What’s a girl to do? Eat caprese-everything and roast never-ending jalapenos? I guess, but it’s no where near as fun.

Pork Loin with Madeira-Fig Sauce

I’ve had my eye on this beauty of a recipe from Tide & Thyme for ages but after 2 parts poor planning and 1 part just not caring, I found myself with fewer figs and a different cut of meat than the recipe called for. But I didn’t let that stop me.

And with more madeira than we’d ever care to drink and no more figs to pair it with, I went all in and started the meat off in a madeira brine the night before to make the pork loin extra juicy.

It turned out to be one of those cook-once-and-eat-all-week meals. And not a single person complained. Especially when leftovers were served up with some brie in the form of a quesadilla.

If you absolutely must eat this for dinner tonight, skip the brine and go with the 1-hour marinade. There are no losers here.

Pork Loin with Madeira-Fig Sauce

An overnight rest in a madeira brine makes for an extra flavorful, juicy pork loin topped with a fresh fig and madeira sauce.

Ingredients

  • For the brine:
  • 1 cup madeira
  • 2 minced cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • Black pepper
  • ~3 lb pork loin
  • Cold water
  • For the sauce:
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 shallots, finely diced (~1/3 cup)
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1 lb figs, trimmed and quartered*
  • 1 cup madeira
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • *I didn't have a full pound. We all survived. Also, I reserved a few quarters for tossing with the cooked sauce at the end.

Instructions

  1. The night before, dissolve the salt in 4 cups of water in a deep dish (I used my dutch oven).
  2. Add the madiera, garlic, and a generous amount of pepper.
  3. Add the pork loin and then add enough water to just cover the meat, if necessary.
  4. Cover and refrigerate until the next evening.
  5. Preheat oven to 425.
  6. Discard the brine and transfer the pork to a place, patting them dry with a paper towel.
  7. Brush the meat with oil and season with black pepper and 1 tsp of salt.
  8. In a large pot or dutch oven (bonus points of it's oven-safe, it will cut down on a dirty dish - consider cutting the pork loin in half if size is a problem - I did), heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  9. Sear the meat, turning every 2 minutes or so, until nicely browned all over.
  10. Transfer the meat to a plate and add butter and shallots to the pan.
  11. Stir in the remaining salt and flour and cook until the shallots have softened, ~3 minutes.
  12. Add the figs, madeira, red wine vinegar, and garlic to the pan, bringing to a simmer.
  13. Return the pork loin to the pot and transfer to the oven (or transfer everything to a large baking dish if you didn't have an oven-safe pot large enough).
  14. Bake to an internal temperature of 140 degrees, remove from the oven, and loosely tent with foil, letting the pork loin rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the pan sauce.

Notes

Yields: 8 servings

Adapted from the Lees Brothers via Tide & Thyme

Estimated time: 24 hours

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Maple Bacon Biscuits

by Shawnda on December 30, 2012

in Bread,Breakfast,Freezer Friendly,Pork

Maple Bacon Biscuits

I’m ready for 2013. Like ready ready. I stepped onto the bathroom scale this morning and it said “error.” It’s such a jerk sometimes. Like when it randomly tells me I weigh 10lbs less than I did the day before… and then 6lbs more 8 seconds later. But it does have a point.

So all of those wonderful Trade Joe’s goodies that Santa left in our stocking have an “Eat before Monday or get hidden on the top shelf that you can’t reach without getting a chair from the dining room – and we both know you’re far too lazy to go get a chair from the dining room” label on them and the pages of my new Cooking Light Cookbook are littered with post it tab bookmarks.

Our post-holiday detox starts Tuesday. But until then, there’s bacon. And biscuits.

And Trader Joe’s Sweet-Salty-Nutty Trek Mix that is like crack. Certifiable crack.

On a quiet Saturday morning when the not-so-little-anymore one is at Gia & PaPaw’s house for the weekend, we sat down to a quick & simple breakfast of peppery Maple Bacon Biscuits, eggs, and some grapefruit juice.

Crumbly, airy biscuits made with bacon grease and sweetened with maple syrup. And it was the first recipe I made from my new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Flipping through it for the first time, I spotted them on page 28. And then I ran to the kitchen to make them immediately.

And then I immediately ate two straight out of the oven, mostly in celebration that the first recipe from a new cookbook turned out to be such a huge homerun. And partly because it was 4:30pm and that’s when I kick myself every single day for not having a snack an hour earlier.

I added a healthy dose of black pepper to help balance the sweet & savory just enough to almost make them a meal in itself. (“Almost,” like eating 2 biscuits wasn’t all of the calories I had left for dinner the other day.) I also made a double batch to be able to make the biscuits bigger than the 2-inch originals. And just a note – the dough was softer than expected for the double batch and I ended up kneading in a bit more flour after cutting the first few biscuits and realizing that they would spread quite a bit (and they did). The “extra flour” biscuits baked up nicely.

Maple Bacon Biscuits

Make breakfast really count with these sweet, crumbly biscuits studded with crispy bacon and black pepper.

Ingredients

  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3 1/4 cups flour, plus more for work surface
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ~8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter (see note below)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I whisked 1/4 cup 2% milk with 1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt)
  • You want 12 Tbsp total between the butter and the grease reserved from cooking the bacon. If you end up with more bacon grease than 4 Tbsp, you can reduce the butter accordingly. And if you end up with less bacon grease, you can use more butter. Make sense? Good. Let's get started.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Fry the bacon until crisp and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
  3. Turn off the heat and add several generous dashes/grinds of black pepper to the pan and stir, letting the pepper cook for ~10 seconds.
  4. Pour the rendered bacon grease and pepper (scrape the peppery bits out if necessary) into a heat-safe measuring cup and stick it in the freezer to solidify.
  5. Chop the bacon into chunks and transfer to a small bowl, pouring the maple syrup over top.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and add the butter chunks and the bacon grease (use a spoon to scrape out the measuring cup).
  7. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut the butter and bacon grease into the dry ingredients until well mixed (no large chunks) and the mixture is mealy.
  8. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk and maple-bacon mixture and stir/fold until your dough forms.
  9. Turn your dough onto a generously floured surfaced and give it a few kneads to come together and then pat it to 1-inch thick .
  10. Using a floured round cutter, cut as many rounds as you can and then pat the dough back together and repeat until the dough is gone - I got 10 biscuits using a 2.75-inch cutter.
  11. Place biscuits on a lined baking sheet (sides just barely touching) and bake 12-14 minutes or until the tops are golden.
  12. Serve warm. Leftovers reheated nicely for the 2-3 days they stuck around.

Notes

Yields: 10 biscuits

Slightly adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Estimated time: 35 minutes

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Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese

It’s the day before Christmas Eve. And like just about everyone else, I have a ginormous to-do list.

I’m supposed to be bagging up the biscotti and wrapping caramels.

Instead, I’m watching a disappointing football game (spoil it and tell me it gets better – I’m an entire half behind), trying to relax after hitting 6 or 7 stores in what will forever be known as the Great Cranberry Clusterdebacle of 2012, and wearing a shirt that smells like I burned 4 pieces of bacon at breakfast.

And that’s because I burned the bacon at breakfast.

Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese

But I didn’t burn the bacon at lunch. And that was important because it was the last of the bacon in the house and there’s no way I’m stepping foot into another grocery store until December 26th. At least.

Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese

Dress up homemade macaroni and cheese with crispy bacon and green peas.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz penne or macaroni pasta (I use Dreamfields)
  • 8 oz frozen peas
  • 4 thick slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use fat-free Greek)
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • 4 oz cheddar, shredded
  • 4 oz fontina, shredded (or other melt-friendly cheese - not more cheddar)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. In a medium saute pan, cook the bacon to a crisp and then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
  2. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions, until al dente.
  3. Add the peas to the pasta water in the last minute of cooking.
  4. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining the pasta and peas.
  5. Return the pasta and peas to pot.
  6. Add 1/4 cup pasta water (it must be hot), the yogurt, a few dashes of hot sauce, and 1/3 of the grated cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.
  7. Stir in remaining cheese, one small handful at a time to prevent clumping.
  8. Add additional pasta water as necessary to thin and melt the cheese sauce.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Add the bacon, mix well, and serve.

Notes

Yields: 4 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Nutritional Information*
Calories: 425.3 | Fat: 15.5g | Fiber 12.4g | Protein 23.8g | Carbs 14.5g
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 7

*Your nutritional count may vary based on the brands you’ve used. I use Dreamfields Pasta (because my dad is diabetic and can eat it without too much of a noticeable spike) and it has reduced impact on digestible carbs and might account for larger discrepancies in fiber and carbs per serving.

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