A Facebook friend of mine just posted a pic consisting fresh charred pita bread, chunks of feta, diced grilled chicken, olives, and a tray with cut up red onions, cucumbers and tomatoes along side a pitcher of just made yogurt sauce with this caption:
Monday Eats. Homemade pitas, Greek salad, chicken, tzatziki and wine. Duh. Because…Monday.
I just feel like this girl and I are, on some level, soul sisters. I had popped on FB for just a sec in between my own Monday night dinner prep:
roasted maple, rosemary and balsamic pork loin that I’ll top with a sumptuous cranberry sauce, served alongside roasted sweet potato, carrot and red onions. And I’m thinking a juicy Pinot Noir will do just perfectly.
And sure, it’s not always like this, but a lot of the time? Yes, yes it is.
I make sauces and dressings and breads and marinades from scratch. I save chicken carcasses and simmer them in water with onion, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley, black peppercorns and a splash of apple cider vinegar to make homemade chicken stock that I store and freeze for use whatever I may need it for. This woman who posted on Facebook– I happen to know she wakes up extra early some mornings (school mornings!) just to make her kids homemade donuts. And I’m not talking the baked donut pan kind, which would be remarkable on on their own, but I mean, donuts that are kneeded with yeast and go in the fryer, before being slathered in vanilla glaze and served hot, kind of donuts.
My other friend, Kel, makes elaborate lunches for herself. Taking time to slice red pepper, cucumbers, sharp cheese, and red onion, then mixing up a batch of quinoa tabbouleh flavored with red wine vinegar, before prepping the collard green leaves that she’ll slather in hummus and roll all the rest of the ingredients up in. Then she’ll slice some fruit, brew some hot herbal tea and sit to feast.
That’s what we are setting the tone for. We don’t just eat. We feast.
I’ve always had a healthy dose of hedonism running through my veins. Never have I thought this was a bad thing. My Grandma was Danish and I feel I must have inherited a couple extra genes from her, because the idea of Hygge is strong in me. Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a nordic word that translates to a feeling of coziness, kinship, and conviviality. It’s about taking pleasure within the simple things in life. It’s not about overly gratuitous indulgence. Hygge, and the right to practice it, are almost always earned. Not in a slaving-away-in-the-gym sort of way, but in a moving-our-bodies- and engaging our minds in ways-that-feed-the-soul (a walk in the woods, anyone?), and other things that keep us strong and sharp. It’s the work hard/play hard payoff, except in a way that makes the working meaningful as well. It’s about finding the good life and celebrating simple things. Hygge is about feeling good and extending that to others.
Eating with integrity, and hosting and celebrating, are the quintessential ways that I practice hygge and cultivate community. Life is too short to not light the candles, sip the wine, and gobble the cheese or balsamic roasted veggies, or whatever it might be.
Here’s the warning though: I pay a price for practicing this kind of thing. Or, at least my husband does when he runs out of clean underwear because laundry doesn’t quite bring the same kind of zen-like passion to my life that cooking and entertaining do. #sorrynotsorry?
There is also a certain ebb and flow to this kind of cooking. I go through seasons where this appeals to, and I have more creativity for, this kind of cooking regularly. And there times where it is a fewer and further between thing. But it always has a place. It’s always present in my life. And the rewards are plenty…like the food.
Maple, Rosemary, and Balsamic Pork Loin with Maple-Cranberry Sauce
I’m going to shoot straight. I never measure this marinade. A little more or a little less of something is fine. Live a little.
2 1lb pork loins
5 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons maple syrup
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (sometimes I use 1/2 apple cider vinegar 1/2 balsamic)
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh rosemary (or thyme)
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 cups frozen cranberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
sprig of rosemary (optional)
Combine all ingredients for the marinade and whist to combine. Place pork loins in a ziplock gallon bag and pour marinade over top. Refrigerate and let pork marinate for 1-8 hours.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
(* To make this a meal, I recommend roasting root veggies at this point. See note below). Take pork loins out of the bag and if you are feeling fancy, use baking twine to fold the skinny end of the pork under itself to create and even thickness for even cooking. If you are so not interested in doing that, don’t. Pour remaining marinade over the pork (and veggies if using) and sprinkle pork with salt and pepper, then roast for 20 minutes (assuming you are using 1 lb pork loins. If you are not, see the third *note below.)
Make the cranberry sauce. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Turn flame to medium low and simmer until cranberries and soft and can be crushed with the back of a spoon easily, about 8-10 minutes. Take sauce off heat, remove the rosemary sprig if using and set aside. It will thicken as it sits.
When pork is done, cover in aluminum foil and don;t touch it for five minutes.
Once pork has rested int he foil, slice and serve.
*to make this a meal, cut root veggies (sweet potato, red onions, brussel sprouts or carrots) and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast veggies on a sheet pan for 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Move the veggies over, and add the pork loin and continue roasting for as long as directed.
*Please. Please. Slightly pink pork, or red juices when cut, especially in a pork loin is just fine. EVERYBODY CALM DOWN. I have asked so many chefs about this. I have eaten so many pieces of pork that are pink like this. Dry pork is no bueno, and the only way to ensure a cut like this stays juicy and moist is to undercook it just a little. Just a tad, you guys. I promise this is no big deal.
*Here’s a handy dandy guide for how long to roast different pounds of pork loin:
1 lb will be done in 20 min with 5 minutes resting time covered in foil
1.10 lb will be done in 22 minutes w/ 5 minutes resting time covered in foil
.90 lb will be done in 18 min w/ 5 minutes resting time covered in foil.