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In the Advent Kitchen -- December 12

In the Advent Kitchen -- December 12, Vegetables with Spinach-Artichoke Dip Rosemary-Apple Pork Roast Mashed Potato Casserole Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Chocolate Stout Cake

Vegetables with Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Rosemary-Apple Pork Roast

Mashed Potato Casserole

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Chocolate Stout Cake

Tonight’s dinner would be a wonderful meal to share with friends. It can be made ahead to save you time in the evening. You can clean and refrigerate the vegetables—any you like, such as carrots, celery, pea pods, and broccoli and cauliflower pieces—the night before or earlier in the day. You also can prepare ahead the dip, mashed potato casserole, and sweet and sour cabbage. The potatoes and cabbage can reheat while the pork finishes. The roast cooks in the slow cooker in four or five hours, sending out enticing aromas all afternoon. The chocolate stout cake actually improves in flavor if baked the day before. The hard part will be removing it from the oven and hiding it so no one finds and eats it before you want to serve it. It’s wonderful plain, with a dusting of powdered sugar on top for decoration. If you’re having guests and want to dress it up more, you could serve it topped with a bit of low-fat Greek yogurt or whipped topping and a few berries scattered around.

Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip – Serves 16

This dip is creamy and bubbling with cheese but is much lighter than the original version. Try it with vegetable dippers or bread or crackers. It’s a wonderful appetizer or party dish.

¼ cup of low-fat sour cream

1 package (12 ounces) of silken tofu

¼ teaspoon of salt

8 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (1/2 of a 16-ounce bag)

1 14-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

½ cup of low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded

¼ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat sour cream and tofu until smooth. Add rest of ingredients and mix well. Pour into a casserole dish coated with non-stick spray. Bake about 15 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve with fresh vegetables, sliced French bread, or crackers.

Rosemary-Apple Pork Loin – Serves 8+

This pork loin is too good to wait for a Sunday dinner. The roast is tender, full of herbs and apple flavor, and very easy to make. The sauce, or apple gravy, goes nicely over the sliced pork and over noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes. This recipe is one you’ll want to turn to often for its ease and taste appeal. One word of caution: use a meat thermometer. You don't want to over cook the roast.

4-5 pound pork loin

1 cup of apple cider

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

1 tablespoon of minced dried onion

¼ teaspoon of dried oregano

1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon of dried)

¼ teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

3 apples, cored and sliced

¼ cup of flour

½ cup of water

Coat the insert of a slow cooker with nonstick spray and scatter the apples on the bottom. Put the pork loin on top of the apples and pour the apple cider over top. Sprinkle on the garlic powder, dried onion, oregano, rosemary, pepper, and salt. Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the loin reads 140-145 degrees. Remove the pork from the cooker and cover the pork loosely with foil. Turn the slow cooker to high. Whisk the flour and water until smooth and then whisk the mixture into the liquid (and apples) in the slow cooker. Let the sauce cook until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When the sauce has thickened, slice the roast thinly and serve it with the sauce.

Mashed Potato Casserole – Serves 6-8

If you need an easy but excellent side dish that you can make ahead, this is it. Just prepare the potatoes to the point of baking. Cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the potatoes until you’re almost ready to cook them. Remove the dish from the refrigerator to warm a bit before popping it into the oven (or zap the casserole in the microwave a few minutes to warm it). Then bake the casserole as directed. You may need to add a few minutes to the cooking time. This is a really good casserole. It tastes like a loaded baked potato—but better.

6 medium russet potatoes (or Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 cup of low fat milk

½ cup of low fat sour cream

¼ teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of dried minced chives

2 tablespoons bacon crumbles

½ cup of low-fat cheddar cheese

¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese (from the round green can is fine)

¼ teaspoon of paprika

Place the potatoes in a saucepan with enough water to cover them and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, partly cover the pan, and cook the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they are soft. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain the potatoes. Mash them a bit, then add in the milk and sour cream, mashing everything well. Mix in the pepper, chives, bacon crumbles, cheddar cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Coat a 2-quart casserole dish with non-stick spray and pour in the potatoes, smoothing them out evenly. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered until hot and a bit browned, about 30-45 minutes.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage – Serves 4+

This cabbage dish will stand up to hearty main dishes and is full of nutrients as well as taste. The apple and brown sugar balance the vinegar nicely and highlight the beautiful red cabbage.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 thin-sliced onion

½ a medium head of red cabbage

¼ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

¼ cup of dark brown sugar

1/3 cup of cider vinegar

1 cored and chopped apple

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the cabbage and apple and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes to wilt the cabbage. Add the sugar and vinegar and stir to combine and dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook about 40 minutes or until the cabbage is deep purple and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Chocolate Stout Cake – Serves 12+

This is one of my son’s favorite cakes. It has a rich, malty chocolate taste with just a hint of cinnamon. Although “lightened” with canola oil and Greek yogurt rather than butter and sour cream, the cake remains moist and sweet. I think the cake is best unfrosted with just a dusting of powdered sugar. Nonetheless, a little low fat ice cream or whipped topping nestled alongside has been tried to good effect in my household. My husband, who has tested the concept repeatedly, insists the cake also works well for breakfast.

½ cup of canola oil

1 ½ cups of sugar

¼ cup of molasses

2 eggs

¾ cup of Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1 cup of chocolate stout (or Guinness)

1 cup of flour

1 cup of white whole-wheat flour

¾ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda

¼ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9 or 10-inch spring form pan with nonstick cooking spray. combine the canola oil, sugar, molasses, eggs, the Greek yogurt, and vanilla extract and whisk well until combined. Whisk in the stout. In another bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until just smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs and no wet batter clinging to it. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Run a knife along the inside of the pan to loosen the cake and remove the outer rim of the pan. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar if you’d like.

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