Slow Cooker Apricot Pork Roast

This recipe is a little fluid…  I make it a little differently every time.  Feel free to experiment!  This started out as a recipe from my mom, but I’ve added to it over the years.  The roast turns out extremely moist with a sweet glaze.  Adding root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes to the roast creates a complete meal.  I don’t have a picture here, but sliced tenderloin on a platter surrounded by carrots and potatoes presents beautifully.

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Ingredients:

  • Hormel Original Pork Tenderloin
  • Approximately 8 small red potatoes
  • Approximately 16 baby carrots
  • Dijon mustard
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Approximately 4 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar
  • Approximately half a jar of Smuckers Appricot Preserves
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • Olive oil

Instructions:

  • Unwrap pork tenderloin and place in slow cooker
  • Salt and pepper tenderloin to taste
  • Squeeze dijon mustard onto tenderloin
  • Drizzle tenderloin with balsamic vinegar
  • Cut butter into single tablespoons and arrange evenly around tenderloin

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  • Spoon half a jar of apricot preserves on tenderloin

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  • Cook tenderloin on low for four hours
  • While tenderloin is cooking, wash and quarter the potatoes
  • Add potatoes and carrots to a ziplock bag and drizzle with olive oil
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Shake bag to coat carrots and potatoes

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  • After the tenderloin has been cooking for about four hours, add the carrots and potatoes and allow to cook for an additional two hours (a total of six hours of cook time)

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Grandma Sula’s Peanut Butter Cake

I made my great-grandma’s peanut butter cake for work today.  Something is a little off in the recipe I was given, and I always end up improvising.  I decided to actually record what I think I did last night so I can repeat it!  The cake turned out delicious.  It was mostly gone before 9:30 this morning.  The powdered sugar heart was added at the last minute to make it holiday appropriate.

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Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Icing Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 6 tablespoons of coffee
  • 1/4 cup of peanut butter

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Grease a 9 by 13 inch pan
  • Cream white sugar, 1/2 cup of butter, and 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • Beat in eggs
  • Sift flour and baking soda in another bowl
  • Mix the milk and apple cider vinegar in a liquid measuring cup
  • Add the flour mixture to the first mixture alternating with milk
  • Pour batter into pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center of the cake clean; the cake should be a dark golden brown
  • Allow the cake to cool
  • Using an electric mixer, mix the powdered sugar, remaining butter (melted), peanut butter, and coffee.  You may want to adjust the ingredients for taste or consistency.  Adding more sugar will make the icing thicker.  Adding more butter and coffee will turn the icing into more of a glaze.
  • Ice the cake

Eyeball Cake Pops and Punch

Since it’s Halloween, we interrupt all of the wedding posts for…well…a Halloween post.

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My engineering firm has an annual Halloween dessert contest.  After seeing the outcome of last year’s competition, I realized that the vote goes to aesthetics rather than flavor.  I bake a lot, but do very little dessert decorating.  (I do no dessert decorating.)  After an extensive Pinterest search, I chose to make eyeball cake pops.  I actually get to bake something rather than just putting together pieces of candy.  I had also been wanting to try cake pops for quite some time.  To add to the dessert, I also made eyeball punch.

This process turned out to be an exercise on how NOT to make cake pops.  They turned out cute/creepy in the end.  I didn’t even come close to placing in the competition.  I probably need to work on my decorating skills.

Materials/Ingredients:

Cake Pop Instructions:

  • Make the cake as indicated on your cake mix.  (My red cake was really creepy.)

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  • Allow to cool fully.  (I made mine the night before.)
  • Crumble the cake using a fork and place crumbs in large bowl.
  • Mix the crumbs and 1/2 to 3/4 of a container of store bought frosting.  Mix until the frosting is completely absorbed.  My mixture was the consistency of Play-doh.  Since this was my first attempt at cake pops, I’m not sure that was correct.
  • Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to create balls of the mixture.  I used an ice cream scoop and rounded the balls with my hands.
  • (After this point lots of things started going wrong.  So as to not confuse, I’ll continue with the steps that seemed to work.  See carnage below.)

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  • Place balls in small containers and put into FREEZER.  (Multiple containers are good because you can rotate the containers and only take a few balls out of the freezer at a time.  I used small baking dishes.)
  • While the balls are cooling, use a double boiler (or put water in a pot and put a glass bowl over it as I did) and bring your water to a boil.  Turn the heat down so the water is simmering.  Melt the almond bark in the upper compartment of the double boiler or in the bowl.  Add a few drops of vegetable oil if you wish your almond bark to have a smoother consistency.
  • Remove a container of balls from the freezer.  Dip the end of one stick and push it into the center of the ball. ( Don’t push the stick too far or you will see balls sliding down your sticks later as the ends of the sticks push through the tops of the balls.)  Repeat the process for the rest of the balls in the container.  Put the container back into the freezer and remove a different container.  Repeat until all of the balls have sticks.  Leave the balls in the freezer until the almond bark on the sticks has hardened.

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  • After the almond bark has hardened for the first container of balls, remove it from the freezer.  Dip the entire ball in the almond bark.  You may need to spoon almond bark over the ball near the stick.  Remove the ball from the bowl of almond bark and spin the ball to remove access almond bark.  I found a wire whisk to be a useful tool for removing access almond bark.  Place the coated ball in the cake pop holder or place on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper.  Repeat until all of the balls are covered in almond bark.
  • Paint the eye design onto the balls using food coloring.  (I tried to use the food coloring markers first.  They did not work.  I would not suggest purchasing them.)  Mixing one drop of red with one drop of green made an almost black.  I painted the pupils first.  After letting the dry, I painted the iris region.  I started out painting the entire iris region a solid color, but the food color pigments were so dark that it looked like a giant, dark dot.  It looked much better when I painted the outer border of the iris and then painted lines going towards but not touching the pupil.  See below.

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The balls turned out OK.  I had lots of problems and trial and error.  I had several pops break apart in my almond bark, causing the almond bark to have cake in it.  This resulted in a much less smooth almond bark.  I also didn’t like the design on the early pops.  They were really creepy when you tried to eat them.

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Eyeball Punch Instructions:

  • Draw eye designs on ping pong balls using Sharpies
  • (I thoroughly tested them to make sure they wouldn’t bleed in my punch.  After drawing on them, I washed them.  I then left them in a small bowl of water for two days to make sure they wouldn’t bleed.)

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  • Make punch using equal parts Hawaiian Punch and Sprite in the pitcher.  Place the ping pong balls on top for a creepy touch.

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Easy Baked Ranch Chicken Fingers

This is so easy and lacks real ingredient quantities, so I don’t know if I can really even call it a recipe!

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Time Required:  About 45 minutes

Yields:  5-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • About 2 pounds of chicken tenders
  • Ranch salad dressing (enough to coat the tenders)
  • Pregresso Italian bread crumbs (enough to coat the tenders)
  • Vegetable oil (enough to coat a cookie sheet)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Wash the chicken and cut off any unwanted parts such as tendons
  • Put some ranch dressing in the bottom of a small bowl and coat the tenders in dressing

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  • Optional step:  Allow tenders to marinate in the dressing in the refridgerator
  • Grease a cookie sheet with vegetable oil
  • Put the bread crumbs in another small bowl and coat the tenders in bread crumbs
  • Place the breaded tenders on the greased cookie sheet

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  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink when sliced through the thickest part

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World’s Best Cinnamon Raisin Bread

As I posted last week, I got a KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday!  I was working like crazy to finish my dissertation and didn’t really have time to play with it until this weekend.  I decided to using the kneading tool and attempt to make bread.  I had never made yeast bread by myself.  The last time I “made” any type of yeast bread, I think I was in second grade and “helping” my great-grandmother.  Spending that whole day baking is one of the best memories I have of her.

I’ve been slightly addicted to the Sun-Maid raisin bread lately, so I decided to try to find a homemade version online.  A quick Google search led me to a recipe titled “World’s Best Cinnamon Raisin Bread.”  That sounded promising.  Since I am not an experienced bread maker, I left the bread part of the recipe mostly alone, but I played with the filling that creates the cinnamon swirl.  I really felt like the bread needed some brown sugar and more raisins.

The bread turned out delicious.  I had one mishap in the baking process.  Several of the reviewers said that they used less flour than was specified to create a slightly sticky dough that made the bread more moist in the end.  I put all of recommended flour in and my dough was still quite sticky.  The sticky dough was OK until the point that I needed to roll the dough into a cylinder.  It was very difficult to roll.  My roll wasn’t symmetric, so my loaf ended up asymmetric.  I would suggest adding more flour initially, so I added some flour in the recipe below.

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Time Required:  About 3 hours

Yields:  1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup and 1/2 tablespoon of milk
  • 1/3 cup of warm water (must be between 110-115 F)
  • 1 (1/4 oz) package of yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 2/3 cups of raisins
  • 2-2/3 cups of flour

Directions:

  1. Warm 1/2 cup of  milk in a small saucepan until it starts to bubble, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Let cool until approximately 120 F.
  2. Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Set aside until yeast is frothy, about 10 minutes.
  3. Mix together yeast/water mixture, 1/4 cup white sugar, egg, salt, 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/3 cup of raisins.
  4. Knead dough on lightly floured surface until smooth.  (Or use your KitchanAid mixer!)
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and coat the bottom of a large mixing bowl.  Place the dough inside the bowl.  Tilt the bowl so that the access butter coats the dough.  Put a warm, damp cloth over the bowl and place in oven with the light on.  Allow to rise until the dough doubles in size (about one hour).
  6. Roll the dough to 1/2 inch thickness on lightly floured surface.  Moisten the dough with about 1 tablespoon of milk using your hands.
  7. Mix the 1/4 cup white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup raisins in a small bowl.  Sprinkle over rolled dough.
  8. Grease a 9 in by 5 in loaf pan with 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter.
  9. Roll the dough tightly.  Pinch ends together.  Place dough in loaf pan.  Coat the top of the dough with 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter.
  10. Let rise uncovered in oven with light on for one hour.
  11. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped.
  12. Remove from oven.  Pour 1 tablespoon of melted butter on top of loaf.
  13. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in pan.  After 20 minutes put loaf on wire rack.

Here are some pictures of my process:

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Cinnamon Toast

Cinnamon toast was probably my favorite breakfast as a kid.  It’s delicious and not even a little bit healthy.

Ingredients:

  • Slices of bread of your choice
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Butter

Directions:

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  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Butter each slice of bread and place on cookie sheet.
  3. Top each slice of bread with 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar.  Spread the sugar over the bread with the back of your spoon.
  4. Lightly sprinkle cinnamon over brown sugar.
  5. Bake for about 7 minutes.  The crust of the bead should be firm.  The butter should have melted and mixed with the cinnamon and sugar to form a delicious goo-like substance.

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