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  • Leigh

Supper to Share

Although this is a website/blog devoted in large part to preparing an Advent cookbook, any of the recipes you see here are fit to be eaten any time. Like tonight. Similarly, why wait until Advent to share a meal with others? People do get hungry during other times of the year, and almost certainly would be willing to partake of your culinary efforts, whether at a festively decorated table, a picnic table, or your kitchen counter. Or, if people can't come to you, why not take dinner to them? Some folks are experiencing incredible difficulties in their lives and would appreciate a warm, home-cooked supper delivered to their door. "Suppers to Share" needn't be costly or gourmet, just given in the spirit of care for and community with others.

So, how about a tasty supper that is nice enough for company but simple enough to make and share easily? Pork tenderloin with a fig and balsamic glaze goes well with inexpensive bulgur pilaf and a green vegetable--perhaps some butter beans, green beans, or broccoli? A spinach and blue (cheese and berries) salad can be readied quickly and is so much better than the stuff found in the plastic bags. Fresh hot rolls are a treat and a great accompaniment to the dinner. I use a secret recipe for the fluffy white rolls that cuts down on the kitchen fuss and makes the rolls doable with the remainder of the meal (okay, I use Bridgeford frozen roll dough, thawed, baked, and the bag stashed in the trash). And for dessert, how about a homemade chocolate cake that takes only a few minutes to mix up and 30 minutes to bake? Go ahead. Make and share the meal.

Pork Tenderloin With Fig and Balsamic Glaze and Fruity Bulgur Pilaf

Pork Tenderloin With Fig and Balsamic Glaze -- Serves 6+

2-3 tablespoons of canola oil

2 pork tenderloins, about 2 pounds, total

1/3 cup of flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

2 tablespoons of minced dried onions

1 3/4 cups of chicken broth (low sodium)

2-3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary (or 3-4 small sprigs)

1/2 - 3/4 cup of fig preserves

1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar

Heat a large nonstick skillet on the stove over medium heat and add a tablespoon of the oil. Pat the tenderloins dry with a paper towel and remove as much of the white silver skin as you easily can. Cut the tenderloins crosswise into slices about an inch thick. Toss the slices into a large plastic bag, add the flour, salt, and pepper, and shake the bag to coat the tenderloin slices with the flour. Put about a third of the slices in the pan with the oil and brown the slices on each side for 5-6 minutes, flipping the slices mid-way through. Remove the slices to a plate, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, and another third of the tenderloin slices, repeating the browning process and removing the slices when they've browned. Add the last tablespoon of oil, if necessary, and brown the remaining pork slices. Remove them to the plate with the rest of the pork. To the now empty pan, add the minced dried onions and chicken broth and stir to combine the ingredients and loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the broth mixture cook about 5 minutes over medium heat and then add the fig preserves, stirring gently to break up the preserves and combine them with the broth mixture. Add the rosemary and stir the mixture again. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, turn down the heat, and let the mixture simmer until it's reduced by about half and becomes syrupy. Add the pork back to the pan to finish cooking, spooning the sauce over the top of the pork slices to coat them. They won't need to cook long, probably only 5-6 minutes (or to 145 degrees). Serve the pork over rice, noodles, mashed potatoes, or the bulgur pilaf below.

Fruity Bulgur Pilaf -- Serves 6+

2 cups of chicken broth (low sodium)

2-3 tablespoons of minced dried onions

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of bulgur

2-3 tablespoons of chives

1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 cup of chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup of dried cranberries

Bring the broth, minced dried onions, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the bulgur, garlic powder, and cinnamon and turn down the heat to medium low. Let the bulgur cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring it periodically. The bulgur will absorb the water quickly, so watch the heat and turn it to low if the bulgur seems to be cooking too quickly. After turning off the heat, add the chives, dried apricots, and dried cranberries and fluff the bulgur with a fork. Let the bulgur pilaf sit, covered, for a few minutes to soften the apricots and cranberries, and fluff the bulgur again before serving it.

Spinach and Blue Salad -- Serves 6+

12 ounces of spinach, washed well, dried, and large stems removed, if necessary

1 cup of blueberries, washed

1/4 cup of shredded carrots

1/4 cup of chopped green onions

1/4 cup of crumbled blue cheese

1/4 cup of sliced almonds (preferably toasted)

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/4 cup of cider vinegar

1/4 cup of strawberry preserves

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

In a large salad bowl, layer the spinach, blueberries, carrots, green onions, blue cheese, and almonds. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, cider vinegar, preserves, salt, and pepper until everything is well combined. When you're ready to serve the salad, pour the dressing over top and mix the salad until everything is well coated with the dressing.

Simple Chocolate Cake

Simple Chocolate Cake -- Serves 9-12

This chocolate cake, made in a square pan, has been around in one form or another for decades and has been known by various names, including "whacky cake." This is the version I like, but feel free to adapt it to your taste. Simple additions might include chocolate chips, nuts, orange zest, crystallized ginger, peanut butter chips, toffee pieces--you get the idea! You can serve the cake plain or add a frosting of your choice, dust the cake with a little powdered sugar, top pieces of cake with whipped cream or topping, or, my preference, nestle a scoop of ice cream alongside warm pieces of the cake. Keep in mind as you look at the recipe that the cake does not require eggs. So, if you're low on eggs, this is the cake for you!

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of cocoa

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 tablespoon of cider vinegar

1/3 cup of canola oil

1 cup of low-fat milk

1 cup of dark chocolate chips (optional)

1/2 cup of chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9-inch square pan with flour-included non-stick cooking spray (or coat the pan with non-stick cooking spray and then dust the coated pan with a little flour, tapping out the excess). In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients--the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon--together. In another bowl, whisk the vanilla, vinegar, oil, and milk together. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients with a spoon until everything is combined and no streaks remain. Add the chocolate chips and nuts if you're using them. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake the cake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve the cake warm or let it cool first.

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