Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries

I can not get enough of sweet, roasted chunks of butternut squash in the fall. I like to keep a whole cooked squash in the fridge to use in salads where the bright orange squash chunks take the place of tomatoes, or for use in warm, hearty grain salads made with onions, peppers, kale, and farro. Recently, I picked up a few butternut squashes and Brussels sprouts at a farmstand and roasted them with olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper.  When they came out of the oven, I sprinkled them with dried cranberries and a drizzle of sorghum syrup. The result was as colorful as it was yummy.
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Prepping butternut squash can be a challenge. The shell is hard to peel, and it feels like you are risking life and limb when you try to cut into one. I make a shudder/squirm movement everytime I make that first cut as I try to shake off the image of me lopping off one of my fingers. Here is a cooking tip, so none of us will ever have to face that scenario, microwave the squash for a few minutes to soften the shell and then peel and slice it. To do this, cut the tips off of each end of the squash, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, pierce the squash up and down its length with a fork, and microwave for three to five minutes depending on whether the squash is cold or at room temperature.
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The Recipe
Yield: makes 8-9 cups

Ingredients:
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2 pounds Brussels sprouts, stem trimmed and quartered
4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon McCormick’s Garlic Pepper
⅔ cup dried cranberries
2 heaping tablespoons sorghum syrup or honey

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400º

Prep Brussels sprouts: wash, dry, trim the stem, and quarter lengthwise.
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Prep butternut squash. Microwave to soften shell and then peel, slice into discs, and dice into bite-sized pieces.
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Toss butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper in a bowl. Spread into two parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheets.
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Roast for 20 minutes and then rotate pans on oven racks. Cook until done, about 20 minutes more. Remove pans from oven and immediately add about a third of a cup of cranberries and a heaping tablespoon of sorghum (or honey) to each pan. Stir together in a bowl and serve.
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Here it is served with Brooks’s recipe for Pork Tenderloin and Perfect Rice Every Time!

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Favorite Fall Desserts
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
Mom’s Apple Pie with a Cheddar Streusel Topping
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe.

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Brooks’ Pork Tenderloin with her Amazing Marinade

The first time I tasted my friend Brooks’s kickass grilled pork tenderloin was at a funeral reception. Good friend that Brooks is to so many, she showed up at the reception with a platterful of sliced, perfectly cooked, and beautifully seasoned grilled pork tenderloins. A few days later, I called her for the recipe. I wrote the list of ingredients down on a piece of paper and then promptly misplaced it. That was ten years ago, 1/18/06. I know this because I wrote the date on the recipe. You would think someone meticulous enough to date scrap paper would have a decent method for saving it.

I thought of Brooks’s juicy and flavorful recipe every time I cooked pork using my pathetic but quick get-some-food-on-the-table-after-driving-boys-around- town- all-afternoon method of throwing two pork tenderloins into a bag with a salty steak marinade and roasting them at 400º until they were very well-done. In fact, the pork was so salty and dry; I quit making pork tenderloins all together. That was until Brooks’s recipe resurfaced a few weeks ago, and I learned how to cook pork to the right temperature.

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Let’s talk about how pork came to be the dry, well-done, other white meat and not the juicy, tender pink meat we enjoy now.

Trichinosis; It’s no longer a health epidemic 

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. My mother and her mother before her cooked pork until it was well-done. They did so because of the prevailing fear of an illness known as Trichinellosis, aka Trichinosis, which came from the ingestion of parasitic roundworms known as Trichinella spiralis. Trichinae were found most commonly in the muscle tissue of pigs and wild game. The U.S. Public Health Service started counting Trichinellosis incidents in the mid-1940s, around the time my mother was coming of age. At the time, 400-500 cases were reported each year. Because of my mother and grandmother’s respect for and fear of this malady, I knew the word Trichinosis as a ten-year-old. It translated into a disease that could surely kill you dead if you did not cook pork until it was well-done.

This all begs the question, Where were pigs picking up this parasite?  The answer was garbage. In the old days, many pigs were fed raw garbage on pig farms. In the 50s and 60s, food laws changed, and the government said the garbage needed to be cooked, and BTW, no more feeding raw animal carcasses to pigs, either. New farm hygiene protocols were established, and rodents, like rats and raccoons, were no longer allowed to access the pigpen.

Along with tighter control over farm hygiene, the government embarked on a massive publicity campaign instructing Americans to cook pork until it was well-done. The message stuck. In 1987, another ad campaign came along this time from the National Pork Board. It pitched pork as a white meat alternative to chicken and turkey. “Pork, the other white meat,” became the slogan. That slogan served to reinforce the concept of cooking pork until it was white and well-done.

Technique Time: Heat Transfer

So, if you don’t need to overcook pork anymore, to what internal temperature should you cook it to get a moist, light-pink center? The U.S.D.A says a minimum of 145º for all pork roasts and 160º for ground pork and patties. When using a meat thermometer, it should be inserted into the loin’s thickest part without touching any bones. Finally, let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. During this time, the meat’s internal temperature will rise by about five degrees and finish cooking the meat to 150º. Theoretically, you could cook the meat to 140º and let it finish off to 145º, but I tried that, and it was too pink and chewy for me.

This five-degree temperature increase that happens when cooked meat rests is due to the rules of heat transfer. The temperature on the surface of the meat when you pull it out of the oven is the same as the inside of the oven, in this case, 400º. If the room temperature is 70º, the heat on the pork’s surface has to go somewhere for the meat’s temperature to equilibrate with room temperature. Some of that heat is released into the room, and some goes back into the center of the meat, raising its internal temperature to 150º.

Back to the recipe

When I finally got the chance to make Brooks’s marinade, a full ten years later, it wasn’t as kick-assy as I remembered. I think I had mismeasured on the side of timidity when it came to gauging how much was a glug or dollop of this and that (Brooks’s measurement terms!). I called Brooks for clarification and to ask if I could blog the recipe. The conversation started like this, “Brooks, do you remember making pork tenderloins for Buck’s mother’s funeral TEN years ago? [Yes.] Are you still making them the same way?” [Yes.] To my surprise and amusement, she told me her newlywed son Alex had just called for the same recipe, so the ingredients were fresh on her mind. That, Dear Reader, is what keeper-recipes and motherful moments in cooking are all about.

Yield: 1¼ cups marinade (for 2-3 pounds of meat or two logs)

Ingredients:

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¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup bourbon or rye
1 tablespoon “Tamari” Soy Sauce (a refined, more delicate, gluten-free soy)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 slightly heaping tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Beau Monde Seasoning (a salt and spice blend made by Spice Islands)
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
10 peppercorns
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5-8 large garlic cloves, sliced (or a heaping tablespoon of jarred, minced)
5-6 stems fresh thyme, coarsely chopped (I use lemon thyme)
Zest and juice of one lemon
A dollop of cognac (optional)
2-3 pounds (2 logs from one package) pork tenderloin, rinsed and patted dry

Instructions:

Remove pork tenderloins from the package. Rinse under cold water and pat dry.

Into a two-cup liquid measure, add olive oil to the ¼ cup mark, then add bourbon to the ½ cup mark, and then all the other ingredients: Tamari, Worcestershire, Dijon, Beau Monde, red and black peppers, peppercorns, brown sugar, garlic, the zest and juice of one lemon, and the thyme. Do not add salt. There is plenty of salt in the Tamari, Worcestershire, Dijon, and Beau Monde. Stir marinade with a fork, being sure to mix in the brown sugar that settles to the bottom.

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Mix pork and marinade together and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for eight hours or overnight. Turn it over and massage it every few hours.

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Cook in a preheated 400º oven or on the grill at the same temperature. Cook ten minutes on one side and turn over. Cook for another ten minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers at least 145º. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Our favorite degree of doneness was 148º, with a rise to 154º on the meat thermometer.

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Even at 154º, the meat is still pink.

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If the meat is too salty, decrease the Tamari and Worcestershire Sauce to two teaspoons of each.

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Related Posts
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
Mom’s Marinated and Grilled Lamb
Mom’s Roasted Lamb with Herb and Goat Cheese Topping
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Brooks’s Pork Tenderloin Marinade

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© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Tortillas with Vegetable and Egg Filling

The star of today’s post is the tortilla. The uncooked tortilla. When freshly cooked on the stovetop, tortillas are light, moist, tender, and infinitely tastier than the premade, dry and inflexible ones that come stacked in a bag at the grocery store. Doesn’t this look appetizing?!

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Had these been around when my children were young, they would have been in my weekly dinner rotation for those days when my afternoons were swamped with afterschool activities. And, for picky-eaters, let the children pick the fillings!

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There are no preservatives in these tortillas, only wheat flour or cornmeal, depending on which variety you purchase, water, canola oil, and salt. They cook in under a minute, and you can buy them in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, or in bulk at Costco.

How To Cook a Tortilla

Preheat a non-stick, ungreased sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is good and hot, add the tortilla.

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The tortilla should start to puff up and bubble within a few seconds, but only if your pan is preheated. If it puffs too high, pop the bubble with the edge of a spatula.

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After about 30 seconds, use tongs to flip it over. Either fill the tortilla immediately with toppings of choice or, if you plan to make a few tortillas, go ahead and cook five or six and keep them warm in a towel.

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The Fillings:

There are so many ways to fill a hot tortilla, or not. You could just brush them with olive oil or butter. They can also be eaten for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.

Zucchini and Onion Filling (my fave!)

My favorite way to make tortillas is with this zucchini and onion filling. This recipe makes a lot (4 cups) but can easily be halved. It stores well in the fridge to keep available to make tortillas or bruschetta with melted cheese on top.

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil
4 cups unpeeled, shredded zucchini (1¼ pounds)
4 cups chopped tomatoes (2 pounds)
1 cup diced onion (6 ounces)
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper
Shredded cheese such as a Mexican style blend

Mise en Place

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Instructions:

Saute olive oil, garlic, and onion together for two minutes on medium heat. Do not brown the garlic (ever!). Add veggies and sauté for ten minutes on medium-high heat.

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The high heat helps cook down the liquid in the pan.

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Next, spread the filling on half of a cooked tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, fold the other half over and enjoy!

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Scrambled Egg Filling

Here are the tortillas filled with eggs — soft taco or quesadilla style.

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The mise en place of making scrambled egg-filled tortillas.

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I scrambled the eggs in olive oil first. Next, I added the zucchini and onion mixture, but you could just as easily use jarred salsa, or skip both and add bacon or sausage.

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Next, I added chopped rotisserie chicken and shredded cheese and topped it with another tortilla to make a quesadilla.

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You could just as easily fold a single tortilla in half or roll it up as a wrap.  With children, it’s always nice when you can give them this kind of unimpactful choice that doesn’t create extra work for Mom.

Other Tried and True Recipes Children Love
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
The Biscuit King

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Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

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Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts

When I wake up in the morning a little panic-stricken thinking about what I’m going to prepare for a large crowd coming in for a holiday weekend, I approach the menu by considering my entrée options first. My go-to’s are grilled Premio Sweet Italian Sausage from Costco, Brooks’s Marinated Pork Tenderloin, and marinated chicken breasts.

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Next, I consider my sides, which I prepare depending on what is in season. Often, though, I delegate the sides to guests. The beauty of this approach is you get to try other people’s specialties, and that is always a fun and tasty option. Desserts are my favorite food to cook, and for a large crowd, I like to make a hotel-sized pan of the ever crowd-pleasing Pumpkin Bread Pudding only made with seasonal fruit instead of pumpkin, and either Italian Sesame Seed Cookies.

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or Ricotta and Lemon Cookies.

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I was never a fan of grilled chicken breasts until I saw my friend from Tiverton, R.I., Sheila, a master at feeding huge crowds, carry Ziploc bags full of pounded-flat marinated chicken breasts out to the grill. By pounding the breasts flat Sheila could ensure the chicken would cook quickly and evenly throughout. I’ve been pounding chicken breasts ever since.

Ingredients:

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Whole chicken breasts (for these photos, I made 24 breasts equalling 8 pounds)
@JudysChickens Everyday Salad Dressing
1-2 lemons, sliced thinly (depends on how much chicken you are preparing)
10 stems of thyme, rough chopped
a couple shakes of white balsamic vinegar, if you have it.

Instructions:

Rinse chicken breasts and trim fat.

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Pat dry with paper towels.

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Place each chicken breast in a thick bag and pound flat with the smooth side of a meat mallet.

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Marinate pounded breasts in @JudysChickens Salad Dressing along with lots of sliced lemons and sprigs of thyme. You could add a little white balsamic vinegar and Grey Poupon for even more flavor if desired. Allow to marinate for a few hours to up to two days.

Grill for no longer than ten minutes.

Favorite Flavor-Enhancers: The Acids!

My mother always kept a bottle each of white and red balsamic vinegar in the fridge. She especially loved the white. Add a few shakes of white to the marinade for an extra burst of flavor.
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Other Foods That Are Good To Serve At A Cookout
Sliced Beet Salad
String Bean Salad
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Marlin’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
The Classic Pimiento Cheese Sandwich

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Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.