First I want to apologize for being technically challenged! Blogging is NOT as easy as it seems but I have found good support though my children! LOL Well, here it is, my second blog, this time with recipes. PLEASE try them and post your comments. I will help you if you get stuck. Promise…
A Reason to Celebrate
As we move through the month of May I realize just how much we enjoy celebrating things in our house. We start the month with a friend’s birthday and Cinco de Mayo which causes a whole new theme to appear in my kitchen. The bright and happy colors spark an instant desire to throw a party (we just look for excuses…don’t be fooled, we party even when the colors aren’t as bright). Next comes Mother’s day, another friends birthday, strawberry pickin’ season (we’re in the south so we’re a little ahead), my daughter’s wedding anniversary and we end the month with Memorial Day and the kick off of the summer season (new kitchen theme).
When my children were little I started the tradition of decorating the kitchen the night before their birthday after they went to bed. This always thrilled them to wake up to streamers and balloons. At times they liked it more than their gifts. Over time I started doing this for everyone in the family, myself included. As a matter of fact, there were a few occasions when we had someone staying with us that celebrated a birthday and the kids and I felt it necessary to include them in our family tradition.
My oldest daughter and her husband moved back home for a short period when their first house sold a few weeks before their new house was ready to move into. During that time my son-in-law had a birthday and the kids and I waited until he was asleep to let the birthday bandit enter the kitchen to complete the job. Jason smiled from ear to ear when he walked into the kitchen the next morning. My son-in-law gets it, the little things matter. This is what will make him a great father.
Next year on February 25 my Charly Girl (first Grandchild) will celebrate her first birthday….I will be dropping off the balloons and streamers on the evening of the 24th. Naturally, after she is sleeping.
Growing up birthdays were not the grand affairs they are nowadays with big blow up jump houses and face painting clowns. We got to pick our favorite foods for dinner and whatever type of cake Betty Crocker and my mother/siblings baked. Mmmm, dark chocolate cake with white icing (dyed purple of course). We also got to invite a friend to have dinner with us. Gifts were minimal, except on special birthday’s like turning double digits (10), becoming a teenager (13) or becoming a car wrecker (16). I remember around my 16th birthday falling in love with a coat at the “Marianne” shop in the mall. All of my siblings living at home and my mother chipped in to buy it for me. I loved them for that.
There is an old saying “teach by example”. I know I have handed off the torch to my kids. I woke in the middle of the night after hearing a strange noise coming from downstairs. I want to say it was after 2:00 a.m. when I startled the dimples out of my son’s cheeks as I entered the kitchen. It was like a scene from a comedy when he screamed and I immediately followed up with a bellow of my own and a few powerful arm flails that could have won me the gold medal in backstroke at the Olympics. That may have been followed with a hop, skip and a jump as well (although I’m not really sure as I was only half awake when it happened). Before I could complete the question “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I realized that my 15 year old son was blowing up balloons and decorating the kitchen for Mother’s Day…
I am blessed with children who honor me, my silly little traditions and my desire to celebrate all of life’s little events. Celebration always brings joy. If you don’t have an obvious reason to celebrate, make one up. We’re in the middle of strawberry season and for my northern friend’s its coming soon to you.
Gather your “Friday Night Family” and have a strawberry festival. I have visions of pork tenderloin with strawberry salsa, my friend Nita’s strawberry pie and of course some sort of Strawberry drink!
Find a reason and celebrate!
Making a Balsamic Reduction
This is best if you use a whole bottle of balsamic vinegar. Turn a kitchen vent or fan on since the vapors from boiling vinegar can irritate your eyes.
Pour the whole bottle in the saucepan.
Turn your stove to medium high and bring to a boil. Although most recipes call for stirring constantly I would say you can whisk it well a few times throughout (more so towards the end) just keep watching it closely.
Be very careful when you put the whisk back into your boiling mixture as it bubbles up high and can boil over. Although a very cool site to watch, not so much fun when you’re standing in the Emergency Room with blisters and an ice pack!
Continue to boil and whisk until you have reduced the mixture by at least half. Taste as you go and you be able to tell how it changes and gets a little sweeter. Towards the end I add a little honey to “take the pucker out”. Some people are purist’s and prefer no sweetener.
You will see it start to stick more to the sides of the pan. Dip your spoon into the vinegar, if it starts to adhere to the spoon you are good to go. It will thicken as it cools.
Pour your mixture into a squirt bottle or a vinegar bottle made for pouring. Trust me you’ll be pouring this on everything.
Some suggestions are salads, mozzarella and tomatoes, sandwiches, etc. Best part it looks good when you dress the food on your plate.
Refrigerate when not using.
Searing a Pork Tenderloin
Preparing the Tenderloin
Rinse the tenderloin and pat dry with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove the silverish skin that may be on the tenderloin by inserting a boning knife right under the silver skin and running it along the length of the tenderloin. Do this with the blade away from you.
Coat the tenderloin with 2 parts Herbs de Provence and 1 part Kosher salt. You can add pepper if you want.
Add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan, one that can be placed in an oven ( usually 100% stainless steel or cast iron) and heat on medium high. The oil will start to ripple. At that point add the meat. It should sizzle loudly.
Sear the meat on all sides by leaving on the pan for three to five minutes, every stove is different so watch it closely. Meat should brown nicely before you turn it. If it gets too dark to fast, turn to another side and lower the heat a little. Continue until all sides are brown.
Turn off heat and place the frying pan into the preheated oven. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Remove from the oven and tent the meat. The meat should continue cooking until it reaches 160 degrees. Every oven is different so roast for 15 minutes and start checking every 5 until you have reached 155 degrees. Buy yourself a thermometer, it’s so worth it!
Slice the meat into medallions about ¼ to ½ inch thick.
You are ready to plate. Top with Strawberry Salsa and drizzle on some balsamic reduction! Ahhhh, perfection…
A NOTE ABOUT TENTING MEAT
I know you have probably heard the term “tent the meat”. Meat continues to cook after you take it from the oven especially when you tent it. Most people loosely cover it with a piece of tin foil. The method I use is to place the meat on a round platter and place a large round bowl over top. It works great!
Dice all of the following items and toss in a bowl.
Dice = 1/8 inch or less
8 large strawberries
2 slices of a medium red onion
2 slices each of yellow pepper and orange pepper
4 stems of cilantro – strip the leaves off and mince them, throw away the stems
2-3 slices of fresh pineapple
1 tablespoon of orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste. (Onion salt is best)
“To Taste”= add a little of the ingredient at a time until you like the way it tastes. Interact with your cooking, have fun…let everyone taste it until you agree it’s perfect!
Nita River’s Strawberry Pie
My friend Nita made the best strawberry pie I have ever tasted. Every year during strawberry season I make several of these. It’s not uncommon in my house to find someone at any point in a 24 hour period sitting at the table (or firmly planted on the couch) with fork in hand and the whole pie plate in front of them. Yep, it’s just THAT good. No more gummy bags of strawberry goop from the grocery store or over baked berries. The best part?… It’s easy! Love you Nita!
3 tablespoons of strawberry Jello
3 tablespoons of corn starch
¾ cup of sugar (you can add up to a cup)
1 cup of water
1 quart of strawberries – buy smaller to medium size berries as its better to use them whole
1 – 9” baked pie crust – I have also used a pre made graham cracker crust and it’s just as good. So it’s all about preference here.
In a saucepan pour in the sugar
Add in the water and give it a stir. Turn the stove on medium high and stir constantly until it comes to a boil. You can see the mixture get darker it will turn from rosy pink to red. Once it has bubbled for about 2-3 minutes and the color is darker remove from the heat and cool for about 15 to 20 minutes.
While the mixture is cooling, wash and dry your berries. I personally dump them in a bowl and cover with water and stir with my hands. Then I rinse them well and place them on a paper towel. Gently roll them around on the towel and the will dry fairly quick.
Cut off the green tops and place in a large mixing bowl.
When your mixture is cool pour it over the strawberries and toss well coating all the berries.
Pour them into your pie crust and refrigerate the pie for 2-3 hours.
We made these mini pies with fillo crusts for our “Friday Night Family” celebration.
For an added twist those Philadelphia cream cheese people were nice enough to start making a cheesecake mixture so I wouldn’t have to! If you make a big pie you can put about a ½ inch to 1 inch layer of it in the crust before you pour in the strawberries.
To fill the small shells I put some cheesecake mixture in a baggie and cut off the corner to help control where it was going.
Topped with a single berry and voila!