Easy, Impressive Winter Meal

We’ve had some friends in from Chicago the other evening who are total foodies.  We love to eat, drink and be merry with these guys and their visit was coming mid-week, so going out and about didn’t seem like the preferred option.  While I consider myself a good cook, there was the added pressure of coming up with something delectable and special for these two.  Also, cooking mid-week doesn’t lend itself to anything too elaborate.  It seemed like an impossible challenge–find some quick to prepare, easy to execute recipes that are impressive AND delicious.

Ina Garten and Ree Drummond to the rescue!

I must say I love each and every cookbook I own that these two have published.  They are my go-tos and my fall backs.  Here is the menu I ended up making:

From “The Pioneer Woman Cooks:  Food from my Frontier”:  Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cornmeal Cakes and Roasted Vegetables.  For the vegetables I roasted chopped carrots, parsnips and butternut squash. I used fig preserves for the sauce and while I did use the 1 cup of water called for in the recipe to make the sauce, I then needed to boil it WAY down to get the consistency I wanted.  In the future I will start with 1/2 c and see how it goes.

I also made her Crash Hot Potatoes, from the same book.


My friend commented that the cornmeal cakes reminded her of her grandmother’s mush she used to make her for breakfast with maple syrup!  I only made half of the recipe called for, but what we didn’t eat on our plates, got gobbled up just by dipping them in the sauce!  Any leftovers would have made a great breakfast treat, but we had none!  I will make the entire recipe next time.

For dessert, one of my all time favorites is Ina Garten’s Brownie Pudding, found in “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics.”  The recipe garners 5 out of 5 stars on the Food Network web site.  Need I say more?

 The intense chocolate dessert has the best consistency–the top forms a somewhat crunchy crust that yields to an amazing gooey delicious mess of chocolate.   My husband and son rose to the occasion and plated the desserts with fresh raspberries and drizzled chocolate syrup on the plates. I wish I would have thought to take a picture of them, but we gobbled them up so quickly that their artistic efforts weren’t memorialized.  Still, it was a perfect end to another memorable evening of friends and laughter.