Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta Dinner Is ServedWhile I love each and every recipe that I post, I must say that the ones I create entirely in my mind, with ingredients grown in my garden are my most favorite. When I can incorporate some personal pieces into the photos, even better! In this post,  the ceramic dishes in the photos are pieces my son made in class last year and the weathered wood is a picnic table my husband made years ago.

Featured in this recipe are tomatoes, cucumbers, mint and parsley..all from my garden which has had a pretty terrific late season surge in productivity.Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta 2

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & FetaI have been making versions of this salad all summer long, but with the tomatoes and cucumbers in abundance, that seemed like a winning combination. Chickpeas add a nice texture a healthy dose of fiber:Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta 6And yes there must always be cheese! With cucumbers and mint in the dish, that says “Greek” to me, so feta was the logical choice.

The one ingredient that may throw you a bit is the farro. Trader Joe's FarroThis very ancient grain has enjoyed a renaissance here in the U.S. thanks to the focus on whole grains. It’s deliciously nutty and has a nice bite to it.  While it may not have the same kind of name recognition as “quinoa,” it’s made its way to Trader Joe’s lineup which means fame and fortune are not far behind. Note that TJ’s farro is a “quick cook” variety (ready in just 15 minutes!)  Other brands and types of farro grains may take longer.

The final element of this dish is a very simple sherry vinaigrette dressing.  If you don’t have sherry vinegar on hand, apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar are good substitutes.Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta 3

As with most grain salads, this can be made ahead and held at room temperature (without the cheese) for up to two hours.  Just toss the cheese in before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for several days and make a wonderful lunch or side dish.  Finally, if you’re craving more protein than just the cheese, feel free to toss in some grilled chicken strips or shrimp or whatever you have on hand.

This one has Dinner Is Served’s name written all over it. Enjoy!

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta Dinner Is Served Cover

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta

  • 1 cup quick cooking faro
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes (seeded)
  • 1 cup diced fresh cucumber (peeled and seeded)
  • 1 cup drained chick peas (aka garbanzo beans)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 TBS chopped fresh mint
  • 2 TBS sherry vinegar
  • 6 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper

Cook farro according to package directions (for Trader Joe’s brand, simmer in 2 cups lightly salted water, covered, for ten minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Drain excess water).

After farro has cooked, place on a sheet pan or in a large bowl to cool down to room temperature.  While farro is cooling, make sherry vinaigrette by whisking sherry vinegar and olive oil in a bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine the farro with the tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, chick peas, fresh herbs and feta cheese (if serving right away). Toss gently.  Drizzle just enough of the dressing to flavor the salad but not drown it.  Add additional salt and pepper if desired.

Yields: About 3 people as a meatless main, 4-5 as a side dish

Creamy Buttermilk Dressing with Lime and Cilantro

Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing with Lime and Cilantro1With one child already starting school, and another starting in a week, I’m beginning to feel the emotional let down of summer’s end.  Then Labor Day up in Wisconsin and the quiet rite of summer passage: swim rafts being towed ashore for their winter storage.

Some years I beg for fall to come. Those years when Chicago bakes under the hot August sun and sucks every last bit of energy out of me.  Then, there are summers like this: a bit of a rocky start in June, but July and August, oh my. Only a handful of days in the 90+ range. Cool nights spent on the patio. Just enough rain to keep my garden lush.

Please can we just make it last a bit longer?

Or perhaps, I’ll just continue to cook like it’s summer. And fresh salads certainly bring summer into the kitchen and are deserving of the most refreshing dressing (SOMETHING NOT IN A BOTTLE!).  Which brings me to this cool buttermilk ranch dressing that I could literally eat with a spoon (not ashamed).

It begins with the simplest of ingredients, most of which you probably already have on hand:IMAG1892

What takes this dressing to the next level though, is the lime/cilantro combination. Oh so good:IMAG1895

By the way, if you don’t have one of these fancy lime juicers  ^^, you’re missing out on one of the greatest kitchen gadgets that ever lived! Also note the custom Dinner Is Served cutting board (available online at Personalizationmall.Com  A birthday gift from my sister.

It all comes together so quickly and so easily. Just throw everything into the blender or food processor (my Ninja blender does a fantastic job).  The result is a cool, tangy dressing that can serve as a salad dressing or as a dip for fresh vegetables, chicken tenders or wings, poached shrimp. I know the phrase “the possibilities are endless” is overused but in this case it really does apply!Creamy Buttermilk Dressing with Lime and CilantroSo yes summer, I’m talking to YOU!  Even if you’re heading out of town soon, I can still imagine your presence in my kitchen each and every day.

Creamy Buttermilk Dressing with Lime and Cilantro

3/4 cups mayonnaise (either light or regular)

3/4 cup Greek-style yogurt

2 TBS fresh lime juice

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 TBS olive oil

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

2 TBS coarsely chopped fresh chives

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Keep refrigerated until serving.

Yields: About 2 cups of dressing

500+ Likes Celebration & Weber Grill Pan Giveaway!

Five Hundred LikesLast week my little food blog not only hit 500 *likes* on Facebook, it exceeded it. Big time!

Who knew my Farmers Market Pasta with Grilled Vegetables, Blue Cheese & Basil would be so popular?  Or that word would spread so quickly after mentioning my blog page on a local Facebook “Mom’s” page?

So in honor of this recent accomplishment, I think a GIVEAWAY is in order!  And since we are still at the height of grill season, I would love to give away to one of my very favorite grill accessories: this Weber Professional Grade Stainless Steel Grill Pan


I only recently discovered the wonders of this grill pan after America’s Test Kitchen gave the pan a “Highly Recommended” in a review.  A year ago, I featured this pan in my fantastic Grilled Potato & Zucchini Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Grilled Potato & Zucchini Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette | Dinner Is Served

The other night I used it to grill some shrimp seasoned with Savory Spice Shop’s Cherry Creek Seafood Seasoning (LOVE this seasoning btw) and fresh asparagus.  Perfectly even cooking and no slipping through the grill grates.  This is definitely my GO TO pan for veggies and seafood on the grill!

To enter for a chance to win, just leave a comment here or on my Facebook page and let me know what kind of recipes you would like me to feature in the future. Seafood? Salads? Chicken? Slow cooker dinners?  Desserts (I add reluctantly)?

I will select a winner at random a week from today. And once again THANK YOU ALL for your support and for giving me the opportunity to share my love of food. One recipe at a time.

Ann Baker

Dinner Is Served

Farmers Market Penne Pasta with Grilled Vegetables, Blue Cheese & Basil

Farmers Market Penne Pasta with Grilled Vegetables, Blue Cheese & Basil| Dinner Is Served

Ahhh sweet corn season is upon us. FINALLY!  And the little cherry tomatoes in my garden are just coming ripe.  The basil is flourishing.  Those of us who suffer through long winters with tasteless produce flown in from far away lands, well we LIVE for the summer bounty.

I am forever looking for creative ways to combine my farm finds.  Many of my meals this time of year consist of an  impromptu combination of vegetables, fruits and fresh herbs.  Often grilled. Sometimes roasted or raw.  Combined with grains or various cheeses and herbs. Salads become crazy concoctions of fruit and greens.  Toss out the measuring cups and recipes kind of cooking.

This pasta dish started with some of the sweet corn we brought home from Wisconsin last weekend.
Farmers Market Grilled Vegetable Pasta 1Farners Market Grilled Vegetable Pasta 2Freshly shucked. A blank slate as it were. With nothing immediate coming to mind, I decided to rummage around the fridge.   Ah ha!  Some cute little sweet peppers. Both perfect for the grill. Now I was getting somewhere.  A few little cherry tomatoes from my garden would add some color and freshness. Some blue cheese the spouse picked up from our local French Market.  Well yeah, I think that would work!  The dish was coming together nicely. Just needed to add a bit of carb and finish it off with fresh basil from my garden.Farmers Pasta 5

The prep here is so easy.  Just brush the peppers and corn with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Medium heat works well for veggies on the grill but careful monitoring and frequent turning and checking for hot spots is always a good plan.Farmers Market Grilled Vegetable Pasta 3

Once the vegetables are nicely charred. Let them rest a bit to cool, then chop the peppers and cut the kernels off the corn. The rest is a piece of cake except that cake baking is hard and this is not!  Just toss with some cooked pasta, fresh tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese (or another cheese of your choice) and slivered basil.  I like to finish my pasta with a simple drizzle of olive oil and serve warm or at room temp. If you happen to have some basil-infused olive oil on hand, all the better.

As for substitutions?  You bet!  You can substitute or add almost any fresh summer vegetable to this dish.  Summer squashes, eggplant and onions would be great additions/substitutions.  Larger tomatoes can also be charred on the grill and added.  If you want to go the meat route, some sliced grilled chicken goes well with this pasta. As does a nice glass of chardonnay.Farmers Pasta 3

Enjoy summer in all its glory.  Even if your meals end up a little crazy :pFarmers Market Pasta with Grilled Vegetables Cover 2

Farmers Market Penne Pasta with Grilled Vegetables Blue Cheese & Basil

  • 8 oz. dried penne pasta (regular or whole wheat)
  • 4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
  • 2 cups of mini sweet peppers
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup slivered fresh basil
  • Extra virgin olive oil (or basil-infused olive oil)
  • Kosher salt and coarse ground pepper to taste

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium.  Lightly brush all sides of corn and peppers with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on grill and cook until charred, checking frequently and turning as necessary.  Remove from grill and let cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with a few drops of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Cut the stems off of the peppers and chop (no need to seed the mini peppers).  Using a chef knife, carefully cut the kernels away from the corn.  Combine with the pasta then add the tomatoes.

Add the blue cheese, then swirl in a little olive oil just to coat and flavor the ingredients.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with slivered basil.  May be served warm or at room temperature.  Refrigerate leftovers for a wonderful pasta salad the next day!

Serves 2-3 as a meal or about 4 as a side dish.

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Honey Lemon Dressing

Strawerry Arugula Salad with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette | Dinner Is ServedI have always had a weird love/dislike thing going on with fruit. When it’s fresh and in season, I can’t get enough of it.  When it’s not, I don’t even bother. This is especially true with berries and ESPECIALLY true with strawberries. They’re such a tease in the off season, too, aren’t they?  Always vibrant red and beautifully formed, flown in “fresh” from somewhere in South America.  Yet the taste is forever a disappointment and unless they’re drenched in sugar, you might as well be eating a cereal box.

My summer salvation?  Turners Fresh Market in Waupaca, Wisconsin.

Turners Farm Waupaca, Wisconsin

Located just about ten minutes from my family’s cottage on the beautiful Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes.  My childhood summers were spent going to Turners for fresh, locally grown berries, corn and melons. I can’t say that I loved or appreciated the fresh strawberries as a child but now as an adult, I treasure them.

Strawberry Arugula Salad Dinner Is Served 2

This year, they were the inspiration for this wonderfully fresh salad I made last night with ingredients I happened to have on hand in the fridge: organic arugula and crumbled goat cheese from Trader Joes.  Just needed a simple little lemon vinaigrette with a touch of honey for added sweetness, to finish. Lemon Honey Vinaigrette Dressing | Dinner Is ServedLemon Honey Vinaigrette Dressing | Dinner Is Served

In my morning after “post game” analysis, I decided that some slivered almonds would be a nice addition. I also think any kind of berries could be substituted for the strawberries as long as they’re fresh and sweet.  And of course the dislikers of arugula can substitute baby spinach or the tried and true “spring mix.”

Bottom line is that with fruit season up and running across the country, now is THE perfect time to visit your local farmers markets and add fruit to your salads!Strawberry Arugula Salad | Dinner Is Served

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Honey Lemon Dressing


  • 4-5 ounces arugula (preferably organic)
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, halved (or quartered if large) (see Note>)
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 TBS slivered almonds toasted (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine ingredients for dressing in a glass jar and shake to combine. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

For salad, place all ingredients in a bowl.  Drizzle some of the dressing over and very lightly toss.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Note> This salad works best with very sweet, farm fresh strawberries.  If preparing in the off season, toss berries with a little bit of sugar and let stand for about 30 minutes before adding to salad.

Smash Roasted New Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter Sauce

Smash Roasted Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter Sauce | Dinner Is ServedI grew up in what I like to refer to as the “Tang era.”   That powdery orange drink was all the rage in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It went to the moon so what’s not to love about it, right?  Unfortunately, Tang was the tip of the convenience food iceberg that consisted of over processed, industrialized food with colors not found in nature. Why enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice when you could be drinking….Tang!

Convenience food was IN, but on the whole, the food landscape during my childhood was pretty bleak.

Those dark days of cooking were eventually salvaged by the likes of Julia Child and Alice Waters who taught us that cooking could not only be fun, but cooking with natural/real ingredients and a handful of solid techniques could be even better.  Thank heavens my mom (who of course gave in to our constant clamoring for Pop Tarts, Snack Pack Pudding and the “Holy Grail” of convenience food: Swanson’s Frozen TV Dinners), regularly prepared dishes from scratch. And her buttery, new potatoes with dill were one of my absolute favorites.New Potatoes

In praise of mom’s Dill Potatoes, I’ve created my own *updated* version here using my latest most favorite smashed and roasted technique for the potatoes and finished with a lemony fresh sauce with honest to goodness real fresh dill and also some chives.  Actually the roasted potatoes are outstanding all on their own.  Just parboiled for about 20 minutes, then gently pressed (perhaps “smashed” is too violent a term here?), brushed with a little olive oil and finished in a 425° oven for about 30 more minutes:

Smash Roasted New Potatoes | Dinner Is Served

Tempted as I was to just stop with the plain roasted potatoes, I felt the need to take it to the next level with some of the herbs that were popping up in my spring garden.

Smash Roasted New Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter | Dinner Is Served

With some butter of course, and fresh lemon, all gently melted together just to blend

Lemony Herb Butter Sauce | Dinner Is Served

This simple little sauce can be used on just about anything:  Vegetables, chicken, fish, grilled shrimp and pasta.  You can also vary the herbs based on what you have available.  Any delicate herb, like parsley, basil, tarragon, chervil, etc will add a uniqueness to the sauce.

As the French say “master a good butter sauce and you’ve conquered the culinary world.”

Well ok actually the French may not have said exactly that but the point remains that fresh is always best and my mom’s dill potatoes ruled the day.  In total gratitude, I salute you:Smash Roasted Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter Sauce |  Dinner Is Served

Smash Roasted New Potatoes with Lemony Herb Butter Sauce

  • 2 # red skinned potatoes, scrubbed and left whole
  • 1/8 cup + 1 TBS olive oil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Chopped fresh dill and chives (about 1/4 cup in total)
  • 1/4 tsp. flour ** (for Gluten Free – substitute rice flour)
  • 3 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 lemon, zest of
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425°

Place potatoes in a large saucepan with cold water to cover and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Drain well.

Spray a sheet pan with non-stick spray or line with non-stick foil.  Place potatoes onto pan and using a glass or jar gently press down on each potato so it is slightly flattened and a little cracked. Using the 1/8 cup olive oil, lightly brush the tops of the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for an additional 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting, melt the butter with the remaining 1 TBS olive in a skillet over very low heat until just melted.  Add remaining ingredients until just blended then take off heat.

Spoon sauce over roasted potatoes and sprinkle with some additional fresh herbs just before serving.

Serves 4-6

Perfect Little Lemon Blueberry Tartlets

Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets - Dinner Is ServedThings I am willing to fuss over for many hours or days: cassoulet; demi glace, a perfectly smoked pork shoulder. Things I can barely stand to spend more than 30 minutes preparing…. dessert.

Which is why these little tartlets are nothing short of perfect. Light and lemony and bite sized. Best of all, they fall well under my 30-limit prep time requirement.  In fact, thanks to two special “short cut” ingredients, they can be prepared in about 15 minutes, which alone makes me jump for joy.

The first special ingredient is store-bought lemon curd:

Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets - Lemon Curd

If you’re ambitious and a stickler for doing everything from scratch, homemade lemon curd is pretty wonderful (Ina Garten’s Lemon Curd recipe works well).  But of course then you’ll most certainly blow my “30 minute dessert” rule. For me, I am more than happy to go with whatever I can find in the store!

The second secret ingredient: frozen phyllo cups: Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets | Dinner Is Served

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love these shells. Just crisp them up in an oven or toaster oven, for five minutes and they’re ready to fill!  Having been brought to tears once in my pre-culinary school days after doing battle with some uncooperative phyllo dough, I am more than happy to take advantage of this convenience.

Armed with these two incredibly time-saving ingredients, preparation is very simple.  Just whip some heavy cream with a little bit of powdered sugar and vanilla, stir in the lemon curd, fill the cups and top with your favorite berries, a dash of lemon zest and a final sprinkle of sugar:Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets - Lemon Curd 2

Of course the fun is just begininning this recipe. You can substitute any kind of fresh berry, add a dollop of sour cream, a sprig of fresh mint. The lemon cream is also a very versatile ingredient. Spoon it over angel food or pound cake then top with mixed berries.  Spoon it over sweet biscuits and strawberries for an instant shortcake. Or layer it with cake and fruit in glasses and top with slivered almonds for a quick trifle.

The tartlets can be made several hours in advance and the lemon cream will hold for several days in the fridge. And if my family’s response to these last night is any indication: MAKE EXTRA!  They may take 15 minutes to make but trust me, they’ll disappear in a fraction of that time! Perfect Mini Lemon Blueberry Tartlets - COVER

Perfect Little Lemon Blueberry Tartlets

1 package (15 count) frozen Phyllo shells (I use Athens® brand Mini Fillo Shells)

1/2 cup chilled whipping cream

1 1/2 tsp powdered sugar (plus more for dusting)

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup lemon curd (I use Dickenson’s® Lemon Curd)

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 tsp fresh lemon zest

Pre-bake frozen phyllo shells according to package directions and set aside

Place a medium-sized metal bowl and beaters in the freezer for about ten minutes. Then remove.  Add heavy cream to bowl along with 1 1/2 tsp powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Beat until medium peaks form. Place lemon curd in a separate bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add curd to whipped cream.  Beat until well combined and smooth.

Spoon lemon cream into shells.  Top with fresh blueberries and lemon zest.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve*

Serves 5-7

*I think these benefit from chilling in the fridge about 30 minutes prior to serving. Can be made up to 8 hours in advance.  Cover loosely and refrigerate. Leftover lemon cream will keep for several days in the fridge.

Sauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives

Sauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives | Dinner Is ServedFor me, Spring does not officially start until the chives appear in my little backyard garden. I can’t even remember how long ago I planted them, but it has to be at least 15 years ago by now. Through every harsh winter, rain soaking spring and blistering hot summer, they not only survive, they flourish.  Some years they flourish too much, and I find myself late summer, yanking rogue plants that pop up everywhere, while uttering some choice words.

But for now, they’re precious and welcome. As is this dish, which celebrates the best of spring with new potatoes, crispy green sugar snap peas, a touch of bright lemon and of course chives.

Sauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives | Dinner Is ServedIn fact, these sugar snap peas are so beautiful, I think they deserve a moment all to themselvesSugar Snap PeasPreparation is fast and incredibly simple. Just simmer some new potatoes in lightly salted waterSauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas and Chives| Dinner Is ServedA last minute saute brings everything togetherSauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives | Dinner Is ServedCan you imagine this served with your Easter ham? It’s also the perfect accompaniment to my Sautéed Lemony Pepper Chicken.  Or if you’re in a seafood state of mind, try it alongside my Broiled Scotch Salmon.

Spring has officially sprung here in Chicagoland my friends, and I am looking forward to many months of grilling, farmers markets and sunshine.  And a final word of advice on the chives: seriously, snip off those purple flowers and add them to your salads. They’re beautiful AND you won’t have 10,000 seedlings to pull in August.


Sautéed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives

1 1/2 # red new potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed

10 oz. fresh sugar snap peas

2 TBS olive oil

1/4 cup fresh chopped chives

1 tsp lemon zest

Fresh coarse ground pepper and Kosher salt

  • Cut the potatoes into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a medium pan and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat slightly and simmer for about 15 minutes or until just barely tender. Drain and set aside.
  • While potatoes are cooking, remove strings from sugar snap peas (if necessary).
  • Heat a large non-stick skillet for about 1 minutes over medium heat. Add olive oil and sugar snap peas. Add a pinch or two of salt and saute over medium heat until just crisp tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Add potatoes to skillet and saute until just heated through, about 1 minute longer.
  • Season to taste with additional Kosher salt and several grinds of pepper.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle with lemon zest.

Serves 4 as a side dish

Pork Medallions with Balsamic, Rosemary & Honey Glaze


Pork Medallions with Balsamic, Rosemary & Honey Glaze | Dinner Is ServedThis recipe dates back to the very infant stages of my food writing in the early 2000’s before blogging was a thing. In fact, it was the very first recipe I shared with my friends and personal chef clients via a monthly e-newsletter and remains one of  my favorite ways to prepare pork tenderloin. It’s an under 30 minute meal and I am not fudging with that number one bit. In fact, if this takes you longer than 30 minutes to prepare, drop me a line and I’ll personally come to your home and make it for you!

Other reasons to love this recipe: it’s low in fat, gluten free, budget friendly, and dinner-party-worthy.

The fragrant honey balsamic glaze is the key to this dish, starting with a culinary match made in heaven: garlic and rosemary Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 1

And here is more rosemary that has been chopped (ok I just really wanted to show off this adorable measuring spoon)Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 2

I like to use aged balsamic vinegar for this recipe and some of my favorite  Gentle Breeze Honey from just across the border in Wisconsin. You can also substitute agave nectar if you prefer.

Gentle Breeze Honey

Now it’s simply a matter of combining the glaze ingredients, pouring them over some nicely seared pork tenderloin medallions and dinner is ready in about 10 minutes!

Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 3

I like to serve this with creamy polenta (Try Colavita’s Instant Polenta cooked according to package directions, with a little Parmesan and mascarpone cheese mixed in at the end for extra creaminess), and a simple green bean saute or cooked carrots for color.  One of those rare dishes that is perfect for a hectic weeknight and yet elegant enough to serve to company. So the next time a friend pops by unannounced  OR it’s 4:00 pm and you’ve just remembered that your spouse’s boss is coming over for dinner at 5:00, this is your go to meal.

Until we meet again, happy cooking!

 Pork Medallions with Balsamic, Rosemary & Honey Glaze

For the glaze:

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 TBS. chopped fresh rosemary

½ C. balsamic vinegar, preferably aged

3 TBS honey or agave nectar

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pork:

1 ¾ to 2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed (see Note>)

Canola or vegetable oil for searing

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Place all ingredients for glaze into a small, non-reactive bowl or jar and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt & pepper. (Glaze can be made up to one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate, then bring back to room temperature before using).

For the pork, slice the tenderloin(s) into 1-inch thick medallions (rounds). Season both  sides with salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with a light film of oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot (a splatter screen and good ventilation are very helpful when searing any kind of meat).   Add the pork slices in one layer and sear for about 1 -2 minutes. Turn and sear for 1 more minute or so, until lightly browned. Transfer the slices in 1 layer to a shallow baking dish (or if your skillet is oven proof you may just keep the pork in the skillet, pour the glaze over and bake).

Pour the glaze over the slices and turn them to coat.

Roast for 8-12 minutes, or until cooked through and just barely pink in the middle. Remove from the oven and keep warm, loosely covered until ready to serve. To serve, place medallions on a platter and spoon some of the glaze over them. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Serves: 3-4

Note> Be sure your tenderloin has been properly trimmed and all excess fat and silver skin removed. For instructions on how to do this at home, check out this video: “Cooking Tips: How to Trim Fat from Pork Tenderloin


Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 1Wasn’t it just last week that I was commenting to someone how mild our winter has been thus far in the Chicago area? Well apparently I neglected to knock on wood because today we are MORE than making up for our snowfall deficit with the “Superbowl of Snowstorms.”  I have officially declared it an “all pajama day” at our house, along with getting the fireplace going and of course the game later on.

Days like this also call for hearty and comforting soups, like this Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup, a recipe passed on to me a few years back by my sister. I actually made this soup earlier last week and it’s the perfect thing to make for a crazy busy work week.  Just prep some onions/carrots/celery the night before: Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 3

The next morning, into the slow cooker it goes with some chicken stock (I use my Smitten Kitchen Slow Cooker “Uncluttered Chicken Stock” which I always have on hand in the freezer). For a true vegetarian version simply substitute vegetable stock. Add a can of tomatoes:

IMAG0973Some beans of your choice (I used Great Northern Beans this time around) And of course the secret ingredient for any minestrone soup: a Parmesan rind.  Low and behold, look what they carry at my most awesome grocery store, Mariano’s: Parmesan rinds!


Into the slow cooker it all goes and simmers away for a good 8 hours (on low)

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup| Dinner Is ServedThen about thirty minutes prior to serving, stir in some chopped zucchini, spinach and al dente ditalini pasta.Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 2

As for my snow day today, I’ll be cooking up a big batch of my favorite Andouille Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya, enjoying the winter wonderland, some football and later, a glass or two of red wine by the fire.

Winter Wonderland 2015

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

5-6 cups homemade chicken stock (or reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth)

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can beans (either Great Northern, Cannellini, Kidney or Chick Peas), drained and rinsed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 Parmesan cheese rind

Salt and ground black pepper

2 cups slightly undercooked (al dente)  ditalini pasta

1 medium zucchini, chopped

2 cups fresh baby spinach

Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving

  •  In a slow cooker, combine 5 cups broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, oregano, basil, thyme, Parmesan rind, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Add additional cup of chicken stock if soup is too thick. Remove bay leaves and Parmesan rind and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top.

Serves 6-8

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 4