Tag Archives: comfort food

Four Ingredients? I’m in! Crock-pot Cranberry Pork

Sometimes you come across a recipe so simple and it turns out so well that you immediately add it to your list of family favorites; Crock-pot Cranberry Pork is one of them.

First of all, it is cooked in a crock-pot, that wonderful invention from the 70’s which millions of busy people embraced. For whatever reason, the crock-pot is often looked upon with disdain. Bah, sez I! The crock-pot is an efficient tool that can produce a meal with little effort on the cook’s part, freeing up time for things like blogging, walking the dog and perhaps even working…

Here are the ingredients for Crock-Pot Cranberry Pork:

  • 1 (16 oz) can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 c. French dressing
  • 1 onion sliced (I used 1/2 onion which was plenty)
  • 1 (3 lb.) boneless pork loin roast

Combine the cranberries, French dressing and onion in a medium bowl. Place the meat in the crock-pot and pour the sauce over the roast. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Pork is done when internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

One additional thing I did was to thicken the sauce after the meat was done cooking. I removed the pork and

Crock-Pot Cranberry Pork

kept it warm, cranking up the crock-pot to its highest setting. I mixed 1 tbl. corn starch with 2 tbl. cold water and stirred it into the hot liquid to make gravy. I let it cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

THAT’S IT!! Seriously – could it be any easier? I served it with mashed potatoes, steamed zucchini and a chewy loaf of bread. Delish!

PS I forgot to take a picture before we ate – this one is the leftovers from the fridge. Still gorgeous!

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Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Recipe


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Chicken Basics: Roasting a Chicken

The wonderful aroma of a roasting chicken is a “comfort smell,” I believe, and is such a simple dinner that I blush to say that I don’t do it very often. All it takes is a little planning because it does take one and a half to two and a half hours to roast. Plus, there are usually leftovers that can be used for other dinners – such as Rice Bowls or Mediterranean Chicken (to be posted later – watch this space!)

I like to get about a 4 lb. whole fryer – preferably locally provided and/or free-range – and these can cost anywhere from .88/lb. to 1.99/lb., depending on specials and availability. I use a lot of rosemary when roasting my chicken – it adds to the flavor of the meat and it is one of my favorite “aroma-therapy” fragrances. I have a large rosemary bush in my yard that thrives on the benign neglect that I lavish upon it. I cut several branches to use as a “rack” to keep it off the bottom of my roasting dish and a few extra to stuff here and there in the chicken.

A small rant to begin: Why do they no longer put the nasty giblets and neck in a little bag? I hate trying to get those gooey things out!

The Pan: You will need a pan or dish with high sides that will fit your entire chicken – bits that hang over the edge will drip into your oven and could cause a fire. This equals “Not Good.” I have a nice oval-shaped Pyrex dish that is about 3 inches deep – 1.8 liters (almost 2 quarts). I always spray the dish with non-stick spray – we don’t have a dishwasher and it just makes for an easier clean-up.

Chicken Prep: Remove the chicken from it’s wrappings; remove and discard the giblets/neck (see rant above). Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water. Drain and pat dry the skin. Place in the pan, breast side up. As I said, I use rosemary branches as a rack to keep the chicken off the bottom of the pan, but you could use thyme branches (although it would take a lot!), celery ribs or carrot sticks instead. It keeps the chicken from swimming in the fat while it roasts (the backstroke, I believe). Using actual stuffing in a chicken is kind of an exercise in futility because you won’t have enough stuffing in the chicken to make more than 2 servings and it will be pretty greasy, so I usually shove a couple of rosemary branches in the cavity. I also loosen the breast skin, using “foo d scissors” to cut the membrane in the center so there is a nice “pocket” to stick a little more of the he rbs. I a lso use those handy “food scissors” to cut off the tail and fat flaps at the tail end of the chicken – every little bit h elps, right? Here are the “food scissors” that Pampered Chef carries (we have an earlier version that we use daily!) I drizzle a little olive oil over the bird and rub it around – an oil massage! – and then a little fresh-ground sea salt and pepper.

Betty Crocker Cookbook c.1980

Roasting : I use my ancient Betty Crocker Cookbook’s roasting guide to determine oven temperature and total cooking time, but here is a link to an online guide that is exactly the same. The 4 lb. (or so) chicken I usually get takes about 2 hours at 375 degrees. Preheat your oven and have one of your racks centered. I don’t often tie the legs together – if I have the right kind of string, I will, but as long as the bird fits in the roasting dish, it’ll be fine. Check on your bird after an hour to make sure it isn’t over-browning – put some foil over it, if need be, and remove for the last 10 minutes. Can you smell that?!!? Is your mouth watering yet?!!? At the end of your cook time, you can check the internal temperature by inserting a meat thermometer into a thigh or breast – don’t let it hit bone – and seeing if it is 180 degrees or more. If the legs are all splayed out and real loose looking, you should be safe without checking the temperature. Let it rest outside of the oven for about 10 minutes before yelling, “Come for to eat!” Refrigerate left-overs.

My family descends like locusts on roast chicken, so I don’t have any photos of a chicken that I actually have touched, but I found this nice photo in Microsoft Clip Art – and it is surrounded by rosemary, so I figure it’s close enough!


Roast Chicken courtesy of MS Clipart!


Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Information, Recipe


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What is your Favorite Comfort Food?

I started a survey on Facebook asking my friends what their favorite comfort foods were. I’m looking for more input before I do any kind of article, but so far many of the favorites involve cheese. If you would like to add your favorites to the survey, please post them as a comment on this blog post or – if we are FB Friends – look for that post on my profile page and post there. Sometimes the weather just has to be ugly to send me on a comfort food kick, but lately illness and bereavement have had me on that path. Anything can set off the need for real comfort food!

One of my favorites is Macaroni & Cheese – and I’m not talking about that orange processed “cheese food” stuff! I mean real, homemade, macaroni and cheese! This is a recipe I recently developed to rave reviews: Macaroni & Cheese with Pears (click for printable pdf) So I don’t bore you with repetition, I’m just going to discuss specific ingredient choices instead of how to make the recipe.

Macaroni & Cheese with Pears - also sausages!

Cheese: In researching the iconic dish, I found an article – could have been by Martha Stewart – that recommended using the sharpest cheddar you could find because the sauce dilutes the cheesiness and sharper cheese will preserve the cheesy flavor you are craving. I’m pretty sure those aren’t the exact words, but you get the idea! The first time I made this recipe, I used Cougar Gold Sharp Cheddar from Washington State University and, I have to say, it was really very good for this dish. I have since used Tillimook Extra Sharp Cheddar, but still find that Cougar Gold is the best! This recipe also calls for Parmesan cheese – and by that I don’t mean the powdered stuff in the green can. Select shaved or grated Parmesan from your grocer’s deli or dairy department or I will find you. You know I will.

Pears: I chose a lovely, large red pear and went all fancy by taking several slices out of the center of the fruit to de-core and arrange on top in a pretty pattern. The rest was peeled and diced into the mac & cheese. As you can see from the photo, there are no pear slices on top of this particular dish. Fancy is a state of mind and sometimes I just don’t go there! The important part is having the pear in the dish for the sweet-sharp flavor contrast in the dish.

Sausages: Our family loves Aidell’s Sausages and the one I chose for this casserole is their Roasted Garlic and Gruyere Cheese Chicken Sausage. It has a peppery flavor that goes well with all the ingredients. There are many varieties of these sausages and you may find your family prefers another. I have also made this dish “sausage-less” as a side dish for a ham dinner. That’s what I like in my recipes – flexibility!

Noodles: For your macaroni & cheese, you want a sturdy noodle that will hold onto the cheese sauce. I fell in love with the galletti noodle because it looks like a prehistoric elbow macaroni. It has the same shape as elbow, but has a ruffle along the curve – like a dinosaur! Here is an article describing the noodle (they use less colorful words…) with a photo of what they look like. And you can probably see the noodle in my photo, above. Believe it or not, I get mine under the Albertson’s Supermarket brand-name, Culinary Circle.

Bread Crumbs: Often, a casserole recipe will call for bread crumbs mixed with melted butter spread across the top. I rarely have bread crumbs (or bread that can be made into crumbs) in the house, but have taken to keeping low-fat croutons for salads in my pantry. I can take a handful of these, put them into a freezer zip-shut bag (sturdier bag = less crumb leakage) and use my rolling pin to crush them to crumbs for the recipe. To tell you the truth, the bread crumb step is probably not all that necessary except for presentation. Do not tell the pre-packaged crouton industry that I told you this!

I will be posting other comfort food selections along the way, so be sure to participate in my informal survey to have your favorites included!

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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Recipe


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