07 March 2016

Cheap Eats: Grilled Pork Tenderloin/Pork & Mushroom Stew

Dear Lissy,

You've asked me to get all of my recipes onto your blog, so here goes...

Pork Tenderloins go on sale for $0.99 - $1.69/lb pretty regularly here in town.  Grilled pork tenderloin is easy enough for a weeknight dinner, and one of our family's favorite dishes.  During the winter, I pop it into a hearty stew and serve it with homemade bread.  In the summer, it pairs nicely with grilled veg or a green salad.

This picture from the Pork website shows how Pork Tenderloin looks when fully cooked.  We prefer ours a little more done than this:  the pink will only be in the very center of the meat following times and temps in this recipe.

Quick Brined Pork Tenderloins
adapted from CookSmart by Pamela Anderson

***The tenderness of the pork is directly related to the brining.  If you skip the brining, pork may be chewy or tough.***
  • 2# Pork Tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1# logs.
  • 1/2 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Quart Water
  • 1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. Coarsely Ground black pepper
  1. Mix salt and sugar into quart of warm water in medium bowl.
  2. Submerge tenderloin "logs" in water and let sit for 45 minutes.
  3. Rinse tenderloin and pat dry.  Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 8 hours.  Pat dry again when ready to use.
  4. Smear logs with Dijon Mustard, and sprinkle evenly with coarse black pepper.
  5. Preheat grill on high, and lightly oil rack.
  6. Place tenderloin logs on grill, and close the grill for 7 minutes.
  7. Turn the tenderloin, close the grill, and grill for additional 6 minutes.  
  8. Turn off heat under the tenderloins, leaving opposite burner running.  Close lid and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until thermometer registers 145-150 degrees F.  
  9. Remove from grill and let stand 5 minutes.  
  10. Slice and serve.  Interior should be very light pink just in center.
Mom's Notes:  
  1. Several variations of this recipe are in CookSmart: Curried Apple, Rosemary Orange, and Sweet chili.
  2. Grilled vegetables can be done during the last 5 minutes of cooking time and while the roast stands so the whole dinner comes together very easily.

Pork and Mushroom Stew

***The tenderness of the pork is directly related to the brining.  If you skip the brining, pork may be chewy or tough, no matter how long it simmers in the broth.***
  • Grilled Pork Tenderloin from above, chunked
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 small Ball Jar (12 oz size) or can green beans, drained
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced (Portabellas often show up on the out-of-date rack at our store and are delicious in this stew.)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups seasoned chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  1. Place carrots, mushrooms, and green beans into crock pot.  Turn pot to "high".
  2. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium high heat.  
  3. Whisk in flour when butter bubbles, and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add chicken broth, whisking until smooth.
  5. Add milk, whisking until smooth.
  6. Add 1-2 tsp. salt (or dry chicken bouillon) to taste.  Add Dijon and pepper to taste.  I generally use about 1 tsp pepper and 2-3 tsp. dijon.  Sauce shouldn't taste distinctly of either pepper or mustard.
  7. Pour bubbly-boiling sauce over veg in crockpot.  Cook for 90 minutes on high or 3 hours on low until the carrots are crisp/tender.  Stir occasionally.  Sauce will thin to soup consistency as mushrooms cook down.  While veg is cooking, prepare grilled pork tenderloins.
  8. Add pork chunks and stir to evenly combine ingredients.  Reduce heat to low, and cook for 30-45 minutes.  Carrots and pork should both be fork tender.
**Mom's note:  To make this stew super easy, substitute 1 family sized can of Cream of Mushroom soup and 2 cups boiling water for the sauce ingredients in the list.  Add directly to the crock pot and add about 15 minutes extra cooking time.



01 December 2015

Mom Review: Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

The holiday season is upon us, so I'll keep this short and sweet.  I was sent a free sleek black Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener to test, and we put it through its paces over the past three weeks.  What do we think?

Why?  I'm glad you asked...

  1. The CF Sharpener quietly sharpens #2 wood pencils to a long, perfect point every single time without removing any length from the pencil.   
    • EVERY pencil, from the Ticonderogas to the Michael's glitter pencils.  We sharpened hundreds of pencils without a single glitch.
    • EVERY time.  Perfect points.  No wood left on one side like our angsty electric sharpeners.  No  pencils nommed into nubs like our crank sharpener with the identity crisis (he thinks he's a beaver).  No ear protection required.
  2. The CF Sharpener comes fully supported with faq's, videos, a PDF poster, and replacement parts on their website.
  3. We purposely abused our sharpener but couldn't break it.
    • We dropped the CF Sharpener from waist height several times on a hardwood floor, allowing it to fall on the crank, the metal case, and even the plexi shavings drawer.  No dents, dings, or failures.  The portability of the sharpener is an important feature for us, and we knew it would get dropped from time to time.
    • We forced pencils into the hole without engaging the autofeed and turned the crank until the lead broke and jammed the mechanism.  This was a key test -- I knew one of my kids would do this at some point even though they understood how the autofeed functioned.  Following the video, I removed the crank, pulled out the burr mechanism, removed the broken piece of pencil, and had it back together and working well in under a minute.
    • We sharpened things that were never intended to be sharpened in a pencil sharpener:  drawing pencils, tortillon stumps, watercolor pencils, Prismacolor art pencils, ends of paint brushes.  Not everything sharpened, but we didn't break the sharpener.  
Notice the nice sharp points on a glitter pencil, a col-erase (my favorite for maps and Bible Marking), and even a 6B drawing pencil.

Ooooo....tell me more! 

  • The Classroom Friendly sharpener sharpens any wood-cased 8 mm graphite pencil flawlessly.  The lead was approximately 0.5mm thick when sharpened, and gradually wrote down to about an 0.9 mm.  No needle points, crumbly graphite (a personal pet peeve when using Japanese hand sharpeners), or rough/uneven wood grips.  The autofeed mechanism leaves behind a couple of small dents on the paint.  This is a huge money and timesaver for me.  I know I can buy or pick up a pencil anywhere and this sharpener will work.  As much as I like my little handheld German sharpeners, they are time consuming and make a mess.
  • The Classroom Friendly Sharpener is portable.  The package includes a clamp which worked marginally well.  We keep it on top of the bookcase without a clamp, or pop it in my Reisenthel basket for trips to the library or other groups.
  • The Sharpener is enameled metal and every part feels solid.  Even the little "ears" on the autofeed mechanism and the shavings drawer feel solid and work smoothly.  It's cute, too!
  • The autofeed mechanism is ingenious.  My teenagers figured it out quickly, and a random elementary child who tested it for us was able to run the mechanism with no problems after watching the video.  
  • The sharpener operates easily and quietly.  You'll have to find another way to get a workout...so sorry!
  • The shavings drawer is large:  we don't even empty it once a day.
  • Against manufacturer recommendations I ran over 200 colored and drawing pencils through the sharpener.  [From Classroom Friendly Supplies:  "Colored pencils are the kryptonite of most sharpeners! This sharpener works best with standard lead pencils. It does work on colored pencils but they do break off much easier and jamming can be an issue, as with most other sharpeners. It is best to tell students to only sharpen the colored pencils partially. This means only turning the crank 2-3 times. This allows for a partially sharpened tip and less jamming issues. This sharpener creates a very pointy tip and by only turning the crank 2-3 times will be sufficient. "]
    • Watercolor pencils sharpened flawlessly.
    • Verithin and Col-Erase pencils sharpened every time with no problems.  These two brands are what we use for all of our map and science work because we like transparent color for those purposes.
    • Crayola and Roseart pencils sharpened well.
    • With care (slowly, checking every 3 cranks or so), we were able to sharpen Prismacolor Premier pencils.  I had a couple of leads break, but that isn't a big deal to fix with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener. 
    • With care, I was able to sharpen 2 B- 8B pencils and Sepia and White clay pencils.  The softer pencils got shortened a couple of times, and leads broke off. 
  • The one pencil that absolutely cannot be sharpened in the Classroom Friendly Sharpener is the Wopex.  This pencil brand made from a PVC/wood byproduct extrusion process was a hot mess in a burr sharpener.  Several of my beloved Wopex were eaten down to 3" long and still weren't sharp.  The leads broke and crumbled.  The grip was rough and had sharp flakes of the PVC/wood casing left attached.  If you like and use Wopex pencils, stick to a hand-held blade sharpener.  

My momma recommendation...

Worth. every. penny.  I'll probably be buying another for upstairs. 

Update:  I am now an affiliate for Classroom Friendly Supplies.  A purchase of a sharpener through this link will help support Dear Lissy.  Click the ad below to go directly to Classroom Friendly Supplies.

The Classroom Friendly Pencil sharpener also makes an amazing gift.  It comes packaged in a frosted plastic box that would be pretty with just a ribbon.  I can't imagine a Sunday School teacher, Homeschool group coordinator or homeschool mom that wouldn't be thrilled to receive a Classroom Friendly sharpener.  Print out and laminate the poster, and pop it into a cute basket or bag with a bundle of pencils.  Don't be afraid of those Christmas themed pencils in the Dollar Tree or Oriental Trading Post catalog -- they'll sharpen just as beautifully as a Ticonderoga.

13 September 2015

A shiny new baby blog

If you've been following along on Dear Lissy, check out my new nature journaling blog, Thursday's Brush.  Thursday's Brush is a collection of techniques, products, tutorials, and links as I learn how to step up my drawing, pen and ink, and watercolor skills.  Hope to see you there!

12 September 2015

One Quick Tip: Basic Body Stewardship

Dear Lissy,

:Every 24 Hours

30 Minutes Brisk Walk 

12 Consecutive Hours Fasting 
(usually from after dinner to breakfast the following day)

        7-8 Hours Sleep       

= Basic Good Health

Nope, these habits won't undo a 6 hour a day screen habit, decaying teeth, or a 4000 calorie diet, BUT they will give you a shot of discipline that helps you tackle the underlying spiritual and emotional problems that caused the screen and sugar habit.

These three changes won't turn you into an athlete or reduce your age by 10 years, either.  They are BASIC MAINTENANCE.  At some point in your life you'll probably want to add in strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility exercises.  Optimal nutrition for your body can dramatically change your energy and immunity levels, too.  The hundreds of tweaks available to your health and fitness do add up, but they don't make much difference if you aren't taking care of the basics first.

As believers, we have a responsibility to steward our body.  God may ask more of us than these simple disciplines entail, but he will not ask less while we have the freedom to perform them.  If He chooses to place us where we cannot accomplish basic maintenance tasks for our bodies, He will also give the grace to accept the limitations.

 Love you to the moon and back,

P.S.  Some basic sources for the three parts of the equation.  Most Americans are woefully undereducated on fasting.  Because fasting doesn't create income for pharmas or food companies, it gets swept out of the way as hoo-hoo witchdoctor level medicine.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If I had to pick just one consistent health practice for the rest of my life it would be fasting.  I've successfully treated hypertension, fibroid tumors, sciatica and cubital tunnel syndrome, and even a systemic yeast infection with fasting.  Very few people would debate the benefits of a 30 minute daily walk, but most wouldn't think it was "enough."  Sleep -- well, we all pretty much know how much we need to function, but that doesn't mean we make it a priority ever night like we should.

12 Hour Eating/Fasting cycle, also referred to as intermittent fasting or eating window. Dozens of variations exist, from an 18/6 to a 12/5/5.  Extended  mutli-day fasts can heal issues that even our current pharmas and surgery cannot.  A 12 hour window is the minimum fast that had measurable results.  The No S diet we followed all through your adolescent years is a variation on the 12/5/5.
New York Times
Healthy Living

30 Minute Walk
Tesco: 10 Health Benefits of a Daily Walk
Mark's Daily Apple  Mark is known for extreme fitness, but still recommends walking (and fasting...)
Everyday Health
American Heart Association:  Walking briskly provides the same benefits as running.

7-8 Hours Sleep
Ironically, this was the most heavily debated of the basic maintenance tasks when I wrote this.  Every source agreed on at least a 12 hour fasting window and a minimum of 30 minutes of brisk walking, but sleep times varied greatly.  Best current advice?  Go to bed at a time that allows you to wake naturally without an alarm.  Newer research even indicates sleeping a split shift might be healthier.
Wall Street Journal