Thursday, September 19, 2019

What Does "Best" Mean?

NOTE TO READERS:  This post was written earlier this week right at supper time. I am posting it this morning before I leave for a travel adventure. The adventure is immediately followed by some family time. So I'm taking a little time off from the blog. Look for me back here in a few weeks. 

I may have mentioned once or twice that there are times I get tired of cooking. But NEVER EVER have we gotten tired of eating. And I think I may have agreed in our wedding vows to keep my husband fed. (Truthfully, he would NEVER complain if I announced I didn't feel like cooking. I'm just teasing.) So I am always on the lookout for quick, easy recipes. We both love pork tenderloin. And we love it marinated in bourbon soy mixture we've used for years. But there are times when I don't start the prep hours ahead of time. Like tonight.

Last week I saw a recipe online called BEST Baked Pork Tenderloin. Who am I to argue with the recipe developer? So it's in the oven right now. I had all the ingredients on hand except for oranges. There were lemons in the fridge but for whatever reason, orange juice sounded really good on this very hot evening. I needed a trip to the grocery store for a few items, so I tossed two oranges into my cart.

The fresh corn in the refrigerator needed to be cooked, too. Before I have to stop calling it "fresh" corn. Jessica fixed corn-on-the-cob while we were all at the lake over Labor Day weekend. She buttered each ear, salted and peppered it and wrapped each one in foil. So I did that, too. I put the pork in the oven for 30 minutes. The corn went in beside it at the 25 minute mark. She did hers at 350-375 for about 30 minutes. Fingers crossed that my adjustment of time and temp works out. It's nice to think it can all cook at the same tine. Another time I might roast cut up potatoes instead of corn. The goal is "cook it all at one time."

So at this very minute I am sitting down. The pork and the corn is cooking without needing any more attention from me. I have asparagus that I'll slide into the hot oven—I'll bump the temp up to 450º—when the pork comes out. The pork needs to rest before we slice it anyway.

And the very best part? The extra tenderloin will go into the freezer for one of those nights when I'm less inclined to cook that I was tonight. We have frozen cooked pork tenderloins many times. It's once of those foods that is delicious after being frozen and thawed.

So. Was this really the BEST? This recipe came from Creme de la Crumb, a website with wonderful recipes. I made it exactly like she did. The verdict—it is very, very good. But our first love is still the Bourbon Marinated Pork Tenderloin that we've made for years. Maybe I'll call this one "Next Best Baked Pork Tenderloin." I will agree that it is the best tenderloin I've made with a rub. 

The thing with calling any recipe "best," is that they are so personal. Even in our own household we don't always agree on what's "best." Rest assured this recipe is really good. Good enough to make again. I'm happy to have this recipe as another option for pork tenderloin. And it does get bonus points for being so quick to put together. Faster than our usual marinade. Check out her website for more good recipes that come with beautiful photographs. I have marked several other of her recipes to try. 

BEST BAKED PORK TENDERLOIN—that is not marinated in our fav mix 😂

2 to 2-1/2 lb pork tenderloin (my pkg was about this weight, 2 tenderloins to a pack)
1 tablespoon oil
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon, lime, or orange juice (or a mix of juices)
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional but highly recommended)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a large baking dish. (lined the pan with foil instead.) Pierce tenderloins all over with a fork. Rub oil onto all sides of the meat.

Stir together Italian seasoning, garlic powder, cumin, salt, chili powder, smoked paprika (if using) and black pepper. Sprinkle mixture over tenderloin(s), patting it onto the surface of the meat on all sides. Place in prepared baking dish and drizzle citrus juice over the top.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until outside is browned and crispy and centers are cooked through to desired doneness. (National Pork Board recommends an internal temp of 145º [medium rare] to 160º [medium] with a 3 minute rest before slicing.)

Spoon juices from the dish over the meat. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice into 1-inch pieces. Spoon any remaining juices from the pan over the slices.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Time In A Bottle

If you are anywhere near my age, you will remember Jim Croce's music. This past weekend his hauntingly beautiful song, Time In A Bottle,  streamed continuously in my mind as background music for my days together with family. A couple of days with all my girls. Both daughters. All the granddaughters. (The husbands were all busy elsewhere.) We played. We laughed. We shared meals. We made plans. These days are rare.

While we chatted upstairs, the little girls created their magical kingdom downstairs in the playroom. We could hear bits and pieces of stage direction from Little Sister. (She reminds me so much of her mother. Mommy loved putting on shows when she was little.) Baby Girl raced upstairs. In minutes she headed back down with her mermaid costume and a dress for "when the mermaid is human." 

There were books to read and crafts to work on. Piano to practice. Pictures to draw. Stories to tell. I know these days are precious. And they are limited. Big Sister breezed through, slowing down only long enough to say hello before she was out the door again. College students have more pressing matters to deal with. That's the natural course of events. 

Little Sister has just turned nine. I can tell she is growing up. Thankfully she and her little sister still rush to open the door, shrieking with excitement when I arrive. And I still get massive hugs when it is time for us to part, but not always the tears that marked the end of a visit. That is a good thing. (Grandmother confession: it did make me feel special to be loved and missed so much.) I've always read bedtime stories to them. This trip, when we crawled under the covers, they read to me. I am happy we are making this journey through time together. 

I want to burn these moments in my brain. I love hearing the little girl voices soon after I wake up. "Good morning, Mimi." I love hearing them sing Jolene at the top of their lungs while they worked a puzzle. I love watching them turn cartwheels in the den, showing me their new skills. I love it all.

And I am thrilled to think that as these little ones grow up, I'll get to do it again when the new baby girl arrives in the winter. I am blessed beyond measure.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Simple = Perfect

There are several projects on the needles right now, stashed in assorted project bags around my house. Nothing terribly difficult—a sock that is ready for a heel, a beautiful cowl that needs 96 Kitchener stitches to finish it, a swatch for a T-shirt that is telling me I need to try different needles. Nothing hard but all require thought and attention and focus.

And while I nearly always want to knit (I don't do well when my hands are still), I don't always want to think very much while I'm knitting. That's where these sweet hats come in. I keep one going at all times. As soon as I finish one, I cast on a new one and stash it until I need a mindless project. Once it's on the needles I can just knit and knit and knit. It's just right for TV watching, for chatting at my knitting group, and for travel knitting.

That's when this little rolled brim baby hat fits the bill. I've made other patterns, but this is still my favorite. And it's the easiest. 
Just a basic hat... 
With DK yarn and size 5 or 6 needles (16-inch circular and DPNs),
cast on 72. Join and place marker. Knit to about 5 inches. To decrease, K2tog, K6; then K2tog, K5; K2tog, K4, etc. When 5 stitches remain, work 6 rows I-cord.Then K2tog (x2). Run yarn tail thru 3 remaining stitches. Weave in ends.

There is no end of new babies to wear these hats. I've made them for family and grandbabies of my friends and babies at church. But I don't always know the babies who get these hats. They have gone all over the country to friends and neighbors and co-workers of my daughters and sons-in-law. I stopped counting baby hats when I passed 50. 

The newest baby to get one of these hats.

I hear newer knitters say, "I'm not very good yet. I only know how to knit a dishcloth and a hat." Knitting something "hard" does not make the knitted item (or the knitter) any more worthy. Sometimes the simple is the most perfect item. There isn't anything much more special than getting a photo of a new baby wearing one of my hand knits. 

As I was finishing the white hat this weekend, a box arrived in the mail. A gift for Grandparents Day! A storybook about knitting hats. My little girls know me well.  ❤️  One of my other most favorite things in the world is reading to my little girls. I can't wait to read this one to them.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Last Of The Summer Fun

Feeling the wind.
.Keeping watch.
Perfect weather.
"Aunt Jessica, we saved you a seat!"
Red boat, blue boat, three boat, four.
(Yes, I know they are kayaks.)
There's always knitting.
The cottage next door.
It's juice, folks.
Bumper boats.
All the words.
Appetizers al fresco.
Morning quiet.
Telling Mimi all the 5-year-old secrets.
Favorite lakeside spot, just a boat ride away.
Daddy-O's water taxi.

Glorious blue Labor Day sky.
Evidence of our fun.
And then it was over.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Finding Your Tribe

At our knitting retreat a couple of weeks ago, the most memorable moment came when one of the younger knitters (we call them our "baby knitters") stood up for show & tell. As she showed us her beautiful knitting, she also told us how knitting, more specifically knitters, had been the answer to her prayer. While going through a difficult life event she had asked God to send her a tribe. She said she had expected that this tribe she asked for would appear in the area where she lived.

But in God's way, He answered differently. She found her tribe in a group of knitters, many of whom were at the retreat. These knitters don't all live in the same town. Not even all in the same state. But they have truly become her "tribe." There were a lot of damp eyes as she told her story.

I love that word—tribe. She has a younger vocabulary than those of us old enough to be her mother, or even grandmother. But I get it. A definition of "tribe" from Urban Dictionary explains it...
Tribe:  A group of friends that becomes your family.
The people that will be there for you no matter what and who you're guaranteed to have a good time with. Although people may not understand how close they are and their relationships with each other, it doesn't matter because they all understand it and love each other. 
Close friends, group of people who are loyal to you, care for you like family.

My tribe includes the friends I would call if I needed help. They have shown up at my door with food even when I didn't call. They just knew. My tribe also includes those far-flung friends who I feel close to even though we don't see each other often. In today's digital world it's easy to stay in touch. Those friends are like cheerleaders whose encouraging or supportive words arrive with a *ping* when life hits a bumpy patch. They also know.

There have been times in my life when there was no tribe. I can thankfully say that today I have one. At my age, I know that circumstances change. And they can change in the blink of an eye. But today I am blessed with a group of friends that take care of each other. That care about each other. That are there for each other. Can't ask for much more than that.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Southern Snack—Boiled Peanuts

There has been much to write about in the last week. But not so much time to write it. We had our annual summer knitting retreat last weekend. And we had houseguests at the lake. The knitter wife, Bev, went to the retreat with me. The husbands entertained themselves. We had such a good time, both knitting and visiting.

The knitting retreat was fun as always. I'm zooming through the retreat project. Since it's a cotton knit, I'd love to wear it while the weather is still hot. I had an entire day yesterday home alone. Daddy-O is busy this weekend with the Youth  Livestock Show, so I've had the house to myself. I'll be close to the end of the shawl by the time the livestock show is over.

When he got home late last night he headed straight to the kitchen to find a snack. He was happy to find a bag of boiled peanuts in the refrigerator. It's a Southern thing. We love boiled peanuts. If you live in other places, you might not even know what I'm talking about. Here, where we live, boiled peanuts are often sold from stands on the roadside. Everyone has their favorite peanut stand and sometimes will drive for miles and miles to get the "best" ones.

Now, let's talk peanuts. We think the best boiled peanuts are made using green peanuts. Green peanuts are ones freshly pulled out of the ground. They are only available at harvest time, because the fresh ones won't keep long. It's a short season to enjoy those. Raw peanuts in the shell—more readily available—have been dried so that they have a long shelf life.

Our local meat market also has wonderful produce and I was happy to find green peanuts there a few days ago, already bagged in 2 lb packs. It's not unusual for them to be loose with a scoop in the bin. A quick Google search turned up directions for cooking the in the Instant Pot. If you only have access to RAW peanuts in the shell, you google for cooking times for them. It's a much, much longer cooking time. 


2 lbs green peanuts
1/2 cup salt (more or less, to taste)
water to cover the peanuts

Wash peanuts. Put peanuts, salt and water in IP. Do not add water past the maximum fill line. Because the peanuts float, put the trivet on top of peanuts and weight it down with a pyrex dish. I used the lid of a pyrex dish.
Use MANUAL and set time to 45 minutes. Then do a "natural pressure release" (NPR), which means let the IP sit after the time is up and the cooker turns off until the pressure pin drops. Pour up peanuts. Store in refrigerator—if you don't eat them all right now.

If you have never eaten boiled peanuts, let me tell you how. Pop the shell open and eat the peanuts. If you slurp them out of the shell, you'll get a little of the salty juice, too. You do not eat the shell. (People have asked.) The nuts are soft— more like cooked dried beans—rather than crunchy like a roasted nut.

We have also cooked boiled peanuts on the stovetop (or huge pot on a gas cooker outside) and in the slow cooker. And Jo, another knitter friend, told me yesterday that her husband has done them in the microwave. You can google all the ways to do it.

All of this peanut talk remind me of an experience Jessica and I had years ago. We went to a well known seafood restaurant in Charleston. A place where they bring you a basket of boiled peanuts as soon as you are seated. Like you get chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant. We dove into the peanuts immediately. And we were nearly done when we realized that we were the only ones eating them. The other dining patrons were either ignoring them or examining them as they wonder what to do with them. We decided we may have been the only Southerners in the place!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Knitting—Disappointment To Perfection

Pattern:  Summer Flies
Yarn:  Cascade Yarn Heritage
Needles:  size 7

Back in 2012, I was just getting serious about my knitting. And I knitted my first lace shawl. There were so many new techniques to learn. I wrote in my pattern notes, "Either I’m getting better or this is a really easy pattern!" I think it was both. Making this shawl marked a huge step in my knitting "career." There was still one problem that I didn't count on. My lovely large shawl was determined to be a tiny shawl. As one does with knitted lace, I soaked it, stretched it out while it was wet and pinned it out to dry. (That's called blocking.) Knitting will stretch out to a much larger size that shows off the open work of the lace. And it was perfect and beautiful. 

But some yarns won't stay stretched out. This was one of those shawls. I didn't know that could happen. I blocked it again, stretching it out even further. But this red shawl just didn't want to be a big shawl. When I unpinned it, it gradually—over several weeks—crept back to its original shape. It was determined to be a size better suited to a small child. So that's what I did with it. One weekend when the family was here, I gave it to Baby Girl to wear on a chilly morning. And I let her take it home.

Waiting for the doctor

Her mommy told me this past weekend that the red shawl has become a favorite possession. Last week it was her superhero cape. She wore it to the doctor's office for a round of allergy testing. She was much braver waiting on the doctor with her red cape wrapped around her shoulders. This knitting has magical powers.

This is Baby Girl's first year of full day school. She puts on the red shawl first thing when she wakes up and wears it while she eats breakfast. Besides keeping her warm, she might be recharging her "brave battery" before she dresses and heads to school. Maybe to her, it feels like a hug from Mimi every day. I would like to think that.

Summer Flies, 2012 photo

I was so disappointed all those years ago when the shawl didn't do what I wanted it do. But it ended up—years later—being an absolutely perfect knit. Just not the one I expected. It isn't just a shawl now. It's a superhero cape. It's a big hug from Mimi. It's a security blanket/shawl. It's love made from yarn. Knitting doesn't get much better than this.

Knitter's Note:  This was nothing wrong with this yarn. It is a good yarn—just maybe not the best choice for this pattern. I'm still learning more about fiber content and yarns and needle sizes and how all these factors affect the blocking size. Learning to knit is more than just knowing how to work the stitches.