Thursday, October 6, 2011

"PORK, Mother!"

Anyone who is a fan of Jane Austen might recognize the above quote from the movie "Emma," starring Gwyneth Paltrow. In one scene, Miss Bates is gushing out her thanks to Mr. Woodhouse for sending the gift of "that lovely hindquarter of pork...PORK, MOTHER!" she loudly enunciates so that her hard of hearing (and likely suffering from Alzheimer's) mother can hear and participate in the conversation.

For inexplicable reasons, this quote has become a favorite of my family. I'm sure that happens with every family--where you find a random phrase from a movie that isn't very significant or pertinent to the movie on the whole which is mostly forgotten by the world at large, but that becomes a favorite for you and your kith and kin. So, it only seemed appropriate to reference this quote for our post on pork recipes.

Regarding pork, it is somewhat difficult to get a really tender pork chop. You have to watch carefully to avoid overcooking--otherwise it can get the point of being hard to chew. It's a fine line--you don't want to overcook the pork because it can become as tough as cardboard...but you don't want to undercook the pork either because it is dangerous. Pork needs to be cooked to a certain temperature in order to be safe to eat. So, erring on the side of safety, many a poor pork chop has been overcooked.

But pork tenderloin on the other hand? It's almost impossible to ruin pork tenderloin. It is a very tender and juicy cut of meat. So, today I'm going to share three pork tenderloin recipes and one slow cooker pork chop recipe (slow cookers are basically the best way to avoid tough meat).

I'm also including some side dish possibilities. The pork recipe with the cherries, pictured above, had suggested side dishes in the cookbook it was featured in. As for the maple pork tenderloin, I decided to pair it with some maple flavored sweet potatoes. I usually pair that pork dish with herb flavored mashed potatoes. I think I actually prefer the mashed potatoes with that pork recipe. Not because the maple roasted sweet potatoes weren't good (they tasted fantastic), but because it was just too much maple for one dinner! But it was a good way to use more of the pure maple syrup I bought for the main course! Just save the maple syrup and make the sweet potatoes another day.

But in any case, these are fantastic pork dinners and delicious side dishes as well.

I hope you like them!

Maple Mustard Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Apples


2 (1/2 pound) pork tenderloins
Cooking spray
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons maple syrup, divided (see notes)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 medium Granny Smith apples, each peeled and cut into 16 wedges (about 2 1/2 pounds)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Trim fat from pork. Place pork on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Combine mustard, 2 tablespoons syrup, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a small bowl; brush over pork. Insert meat thermometer into thickest part of pork. Bake at 424 degrees for 25 minutes or until thermometer registers 160 degrees (slightly pink). (see notes)

While pork is baking, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add apples, and saute 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Reduce heat to low, and add 4 tablespoons maple syrup. Simmer 10 minutes or until apples are tender, stirring occasionally. Cut pork crosswise into slices; spoon cooked apples over pork.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces pork and 1/2 cup apples--301 calories)

Source: I found this recipe on It is a Cooking Light recipe.

Notes: Each time I have made this, I have found that it takes substantially longer to cook the pork than the recipe calls for. The first time I made it, the meat thermometer registered the correct temperature and the outside of the pork looked fantastic. When I sliced it, the inside of the pork was completely raw (a BIG no no for pork. It's alright to serve beef medium rare, but NEVER pork). So, I returned the sliced pieces to the oven to finish cooking the pork.

You can either 1) roast the pork whole for a longer amount of time than the recipe calls for, 2) roast the pork, slice it, and return it to the oven to complete the cooking, or 3) slice the raw pork, brush it with the Dijon, maple, rosemary mixture and cook the pork slices, turning each slice over once during the cooking time. This method doesn't yield the nicely browned exterior, but it takes the shortest amount of time.

Also, for this recipe, you have to splurge and get high quality ACTUAL maple syrup. You'll notice that most of the "maple" syrup you use to top your pancakes and waffles isn't really maple syrup at all. It's "pancake" syrup--which means that it's a syrup made from sugar, sometimes corn syrup, and maple flavoring--not the actual maple syrup that comes from a tree.

You don't need to only use Granny Smith apples either. The first time I made this, I used fresh apples from the apple tree that grew in the yard of the house that we lived in at the time. They were red apples and it tasted fantastic. Oh, and I must strongly suggest that you take your bites with both pork and apple at the same time. The pork and apples are delicious on their own, but together it is pure awesomeness. As my brother in law described it "Sarah, this pork is insane!" He meant it in a good way too. My pork was not mentally unhinged in any way!

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes


2 lbs. small sweet potatoes (about 5), peeled and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wedges
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Sea salt and freshly grated nutmeg, to taste, for garnish


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the sweet potatoes on a large foil-lined rimmed baking sheet with the oil; season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and toss the potatoes with the syrup.

Place the pan back in the oven, roast, tossing twice, until the potatoes are beginning to brown and are tender, about 15 minutes more. To serve, sprinkle warm potatoes with freshly grated lemon zest, sea salt, and nutmeg, to taste.

Source: Food Network website.

Nutrition information: 159 calories, 2 g fat, 2 g protein, 33 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium.

Notes: It may seem like I'm a lazy cook sometimes, but I'm really just a busy mom. I put the sweet potato wedges into a zip top bag and tossed it with the vegetable oil, salt and pepper, maple syrup, and a splash of lemon juice (in place of lemon zest because I didn't have any fresh lemons on hand). When I turned the potatoes mid-way through the cooking time, I added more salt and pepper and maple syrup to taste.

Pork Medallions with Cherry Sauce (Dinner for Two)


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces pork tenderloin, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple jelly
Olive oil-flavored cooking spray
2 tablespoons minced green onions


Combine first 3 ingredients in a heavy-duty, zip-top plastic bag. Add pork slices. Seal bag; shake well. Remove pork from bag; shake off excess flour.

Combine apple juice and next 4 ingredients in a 2 cup glass measure; set aside.

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add pork; cook 1 minute on each side or until browned. Remove pork from pan.

Add apple juice mixture to pan, bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits (see notes). Cook 5 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Return pork to pan; reduce heat and cook 1 minute. Sprinkle with green onions. Yield: 2 servings.

Source: Cooking Light "Light and Easy Menus" cookbook, published 2001. ISBN #0-8487-2383-X

Nutrition information: 374 calories, 3.8 g fat, 25.9 g protein, 55.9 g carbohydrate, 2.6 g fiber, 7 mg cholesterol, 731 mg sodium.

Notes: The only change we made was to add a little cornstarch to thicken the sauce at the very end. Mix 1-2 teaspoons in 1 tablespoon of water or additional apple juice. Then add to apple juice mixture in the pan and bring to a boil.

We tripled the recipe since we were feeding six people instead of two.

The cookbook included side dish suggestions: sauteed spinach and herb-roasted new potatoes. The pork is fantastic served with these side dishes, so I am going to include them here.

Sauteed Spinach (for two)


2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 (10 ounce) package fresh spinach
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add spinach. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes or until spinach is wilted, stirring one. Cook, uncovered, 1 minute or until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Yield: 2 (3/4 cup) servings.

Nutrition information: 73 calories, 5.0 g fat, 4.1 g protein, 5.6 g carbohydrate, 5.8 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 405 mg sodium.

Source: Cooking Light "Light and Easy Menus" cookbook, published 2001. ISBN #0-8487-2383-X

Herb-Roasted New Potatoes (for two)


1 pound small red potatoes
Olive oil-flavored cooking spray
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut potatoes into 1 inch pieces; spread on a 15x10 inch jelly-roll pan. Coat with cooking spray; sprinkle with thyme, garlic salt, and pepper. Toss well; spread in a single layer. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden (tender on the inside and crispy on the outside).

Yield: 2 (1 cup) servings.

Nutrition information: 174 calories, 0.6 g fat, 5.1 g protein, 38.3 g carbohydrate, 4.3 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 539 mg sodium.

Source: Cooking Light "Light and Easy Menus" cookbook, published 2001. ISBN #0-8487-2383-X

Sweet-Hot Pork Medallions


1 pound pork tenderloin
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Vegetable cooking spray
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar


Trim fat from pork. Cut pork into 1-inch thick slices. Place slices between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/2-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin (see notes). Sprinkle with pepper and garlic powder.

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; add oil. Place skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add half of pork medallions, and cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove pork from skillet; set aside, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining half of pork medallions.

Add water, soy sauce, and brown sugar to skillet. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until bubbly. Spoon sauce over pork.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information: 160 calories, 5.1 g carbohydrate, 4.1 g fat, 0.0g fiber, 24.2 g protein, 74 mg cholesterol, 299 mg sodium, 13 mg calcium, 1.7 mg iron.

Source: Weight Watchers "15 Minute Cookbook" published in 1998. ISBN #0-8487-1822-4.

Notes: I doubled the recipe and tripled the sauce. I like a lot of sauce!

Slow Cooker Pizza Pork Chops


6 pork loin chops, 1 inch thick (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cups tomato pasta sauce
4 cups cooked orzo pasta
1 cup (4 0z) shredded mozzarella cheese


Remove excess fat from pork. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork, cook about 5 minutes, turning once until brown. (see notes)

Place pork in 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker. Sprinkle onion over pork. Add pasta sauce.

Cover. Cook on low heat setting for 4-6 hours. Place orzo on platter. Top with pork and sauce. Sprinkle with cheese.

Nutrition information: 510 calories, 19 g fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 880 mg sodium, 46 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 38 g protein.

Source: Betty Crocker website. You can find it here.

Notes: Browning the meat is an optional step. It makes the pork a little prettier and adds a caramelized taste to the meat, but if you are short on time (as I usually am), you can skip this step and it will still taste great.

Also, since this is one of my sister's favorite recipes, I must note that she always omits the onions since she hates onions. How anyone can hate onions, is beyond me...but she still loves it without the onions. So, if you hate onions too, don't pass up on this recipe...just omit the onions!


  1. Ah, that last is a real favorite of Emily's. I had forgotten how good that pork recipe with the cherry sauce was. It's an easy dinner that appears so elegant. It would really work for company but is pretty quick and easy. Loved it!

  2. Funny, you should state that phrase, because my daughter and I are Jane Austen fans, and totally do the same thing. Just out of the blue if we are grilling or cooking for the holidays, we love to say "Pork Mother!" and laugh our tushes off. There are so many lines from movies that she and I always refer to in different settings. One of my other favs is in Splash with Tom Hanks & John Candy. When Tom is dancing with the mango on his shoulder. Freddies (John Candy) says, "not in front of the teamsters" Or another fav. from the same movie. "Just me and the moron twins...we're not twins." :) Thanks for sharing your pork recipes.

    1. I'm sorry it took me so long to respond! Yes, Emma is one of our favorites, and very quotable. I also love Splash. It was one of my favorite movies while I was growing up. I constantly quote the line, "What a WEEK I'm having!" and "The LITTLE boat!?" Maybe I need to do a seafood post...something with lobster, perhaps, and quote something from Splash. :)