Winter wonder loin

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Christmas, and the entire season surrounding Christmas, is my favorite time of the year. I love the Advent season as many people prepare for the birth of Jesus, then it is Christmas Eve and the day so many plan and wait for. Then the 12 days of Christmas start as the calendar moves forward to Epiphany on January 6.

This entire season is dear to me. We do not take down any decorations and certainly do not stop listening to and singing Christmas music until far after Epiphany is over. I think now is the time to celebrate Christmas and the birth, for it is the time to rejoice in the gift given to us that provides us with salvation and eternal life. Isn't that worth celebrating for at least a few days?

During this time, I think of the Gift of the Magi Bread and other great foods that could draw us closer to the real meaning of Christmas. Since I have written about these dishes in several years past, I will not bore you with them again, but hope you pause for at least a while to rejoice and celebrate in your own heart.

As the winter days are short and dark so early, I decided to pull out some recipes that are especially good during the winter months and maybe even especially around the Christmas season.

Fruited Pork Loin

1/2 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, crushed

2 tablespoons molasses, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 (2-pound) boneless pork loin roast

2/3 cup apple juice

2/3 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup light cream

Blend together dates, apricots, pecans, garlic, thyme, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; set aside. To cut pork roast in a double-butterfly, begin at one end of the roast and cut horizontally almost all the way through. Lay roast flat, like an open book. Starting at the center of the open loin, cut horizontally again on the left portion; begin at the center again and repeat with the right portion. You should now have a long, flat roast. Spread date mixture evenly over open roast and starting with the short end, roll up stuffed roast jelly-roll style. Tie roast securely every 2 to 3 inches with kitchen string and lay roast in a shallow roasting pan; set aside. Blend together apple juice, chicken broth and remaining molasses in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil and pour over roast. Roast pork at 350 degrees for one hour, basting occasionally. Remove roast from roasting pan, reserve drippings and set aside. Stir together cream and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Blend in reserved drippings. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Slice roast and serve with cream sauce.

Orange Pecan Chicken

1/2 cup butter, melted and divided

4 Cornish game hens

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup orange marmalade

1/4 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Spread one tablespoon butter equally over hens, season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until juices run clear when skin is pierced. Blend together remaining butter, orange marmalade and orange juice. Bring to a boil. Blend together a small amount of cornstarch and water; slowly add cornstarch mixture to marmalade, stirring constantly. Fold in pecans. Place hens in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour glaze over hens and bake an additional 12 to 15 minutes or until glaze begins to brown. Serve with hot cooked wild rice.

Spiced Cherry Spareribs

8 pounds pork spareribs

1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup chopped onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

Cut ribs into sections of 3 ribs each. Place in a Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside. Using a food processor or blender, puree pie filling and blend with soy sauce, mustard, ginger and Worcestershire sauce. Saute onion in olive oil until transparent and add soy sauce mixture. Pour mixture into a saucepan and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Place spareribs in a large shallow roasting pan and cover with cherry sauce. Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake another 30 to 40 minutes. Makes eight servings.

Maple Roast Chicken and Veggies

1 winter squash, peeled and chopped

3 to 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 sweet potato, chopped

1 6- to 7-pound chicken

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 cup maple syrup

Spread vegetables evenly in a lightly oiled roasting pan; place chicken on top. Brush chicken with butter; sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Place on lowest rack in oven and bake at 400 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until juices run clear. Baste about every 10 minutes with maple syrup and pan juices. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before carving. Makes four to six servings.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu

2 eggs

2 cups milk, divided

1 tablespoon dried, minced onion

8 slices bread, cubed and crusts removed

12 thin slices cooked ham, rolled up

8 ounces shredded Swiss cheese

2 1/2 cups chicken, cooked and cubed

1 can cream of chicken soup

Beat eggs and 1 1/2 cups milk together. Stir in onion and bread cubes. Place half of the mixture in a 3 1/2 quart slow cooker. Top with half of the rolled up ham, cheese and chicken. Combine soup and remaining milk and pour half over chicken. Repeat layers again, topping with remaining soup mixture. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the bread mixture reads 160 degrees. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

I am all out of room for this week, but as we start a new year together, I hope you will take a few minutes to jot down a few of your favorite recipes, whatever they may be, and I will pass them along to other readers.

Have a great week and until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at smcclanahan@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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