Pork Loin with Sauerkraut and Apples

Cooking with meat now is a much different affair than it was before the baby. I always liked simple recipes where meat was roasted or braised and didn't require much supervision, but I still cooked more involved dishes too: chicken thighs stuffed with ricotta and baked, thin pork schnitzels, chicken and vegetable stew - all easy, but all requiring some degree of preparation and time. Time is luxury now. Uninterrupted time is a unicorn. 

This recipe is really simple, hearty, flavourful, delicious and quick to prepare before the pot goes in the oven to finish cooking. It's inspired by the famous Alsatian dish called Choucroute garnie - various kinds of pork sausages, pork chops and bacon cooked together with sauerkraut, onion, garlic, juniper berries and often served with potatoes. Just like with Russian borscht there's no set recipe for Choucroute garnie. I had it a few times at restaurants and even made it myself many years ago. 

I have a soft spot for sauerkraut, although Russian version is quite different as it is lacto-fermented. My husband, being of Dutch descent, also loves sauerkraut, potatoes  and sausage combo. So, when I saw a package of two jars of sauerkraut at an incredible price at Costco a few months ago I grabbed it right away (in case if you haven't noticed, I'm a Costco addict). Those jars were waiting in my pantry for a while and then I had a pork loin leftover from a package of four (also curtesy of Costco) in my fridge as well as a couple of apples (leftover from these Apple Pie Rolls) and all these ingredients melded beautifully. This recipe just came together easily and turned out absolutely delicious. It is a tiny bit more involved then a few of my previous posts, but not much, preparation time is about 10-15 minutes only and then a few minutes cleanup. The one step that I don't like that takes extra time but I recommend not skipping is searing the pork loin. It really adds a nice flavour and texture to the meat, but in a pinch it could technically be skipped. While the loin is sizzling in the pan you need to slice an onion and a few apples, no need to be precise there as they will melt into the sauerkraut while cooking in the oven. Once the pork is golden on all sides, transfer it to a plate, add the onions and apples to the pan and cook for a few minutes until softened. Splash some vermouth to deglaze the pan then add drained sauerkraut, a few cloves of garlic and a handful of juniper berries; rest the pork loin on top and transfer the whole pan to the oven where sauerkraut and apples will mingle together with the pork juices.

My oven is really weird and it always takes much longer to cook and bake, so please adjust cooking time to your oven. It took a little bit over 1.5 hours for my 3 pound pork loin to cook. Depending on your oven and the size of the pork loin it could take less time, so I'd start checking after an hour. Internal temperature should be  between 145 to 160F. I always err on the side of caution and cook to 160F.

This Pork Loin with Sauerkraut and Apples is a great fall dish and easy to prepare after work | Imagelicious

Pork Loin with Sauerkraut and Apples

serves 4-6

Olive oil - 2 tablespoons
Pork Loin - 1 (between 2 to 3 pounds)
Sweet onion - 1/2 large
Apples - 2 medium (or more)
Garlic - half a head
Juniper berries - 1 tablespoon
Vermouth - 1/4 cup
Sauerkraut - 1 jar (720 ml)
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Season pork with salt and pepper if using (I only used pepper as sauerkraut is salty enough for me).
  • In a large ovenproof pan (I used cast iron) heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add pork loin and sear in all sides for about 3-5 minutes.
  • Transfer pork to a plate.
  • While pork is searing, slice an onion, core apples and slice in wedges, peel garlic and drain sauerkraut.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add onions and apples. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes until softened and onions are slightly browned.
  • Add vermouth to deglaze the pan and cook for a minute.
  • Add drained sauerkraut, garlic and juniper berries to the pan and mix.
  • Place seared pork loin on top and transfer the pan to the oven.
  • Cook for 1- 1.5 hours until pork is cooked through to 145-160F.
  • Serve with boiled potatoes.
This Pork Loin with Sauerkraut and Apples is a great fall dish and easy to prepare after work | Imagelicious

I really like combination of savoury and sweet, so I love apples in this recipe. I find they add a nice touch of sweetness to briny sauerkraut. To be honest, I would use more apples, maybe about 4 small apples in this recipe instead of 2 listed above, but my husband isn't a fan of salty and sweet together, so I used fewer apples that I would like. 

Juniper berries add a slight peppery tang to the recipe as well. They are traditional addition to Chacroute Garnie, so I added them here too. If you don't have Juniper berries, I wouldn't go crazy trying to find them, I'd use a few peppercorns instead. 

You don't have to use vermouth to deglaze the pan. White wine or even chicken stock are a good substitute. You can even use just water too. I love using vermouth in savoury dishes, it adds a little depth of flavour and rounds up the food nicely with its earthy and grassy tones. I rarely have a bottle of wine opened just waiting for the deglazing and I wouldn't open a bottle if I only needed a quarter cup, but vermouth is perfect for it as it keeps for a long time and frankly has more flavour than white wine.

This Pork Loin with Sauerkraut and Apples is a great fall dish and easy to prepare after work | Imagelicious
Posted on October 24, 2016 and filed under Recipe.
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Apple Pie Rolls

October is all about pumpkin. I see cakes and muffins and pies and cookies and pastas and lasagnas and meatballs all made with pumpkin all over the Internet. I too like cooking with it but I feel that apples also deserve their chance this season. Back in Russia pumpkin wasn't popular (at least not in my family). I guess I tried it at some point but I can't actually remember. The only pumpkin recipe that I heard when I was little was millet porridge with pumpkin and I'm pretty sure I never even tasted it. 

Apples on the other hand were always popular in Russia and they embody autumn season for me. Traditional apple pie with flakey crust and gooey filling wasn't popular in Russia either. What we called pies were actually quick breads or single layer cakes. We made many of them in the fall. This quick and easy cake was a staple in my childhood. And apple pancakes

Apple Pie Rolls taste like apple pie but without all the effort | Imagelicious

I don't eat apples often and if I make that quick and easy cake it's more often with peaches or nectarines, but fall still conjures my longing for apples and cinnamon. I imagine long chilly evenings spent with a cup of tea and a slice of apple pie playing solitaire (with real cards instead of computer) by a candlelight...Is it just my imagination  or is it my memory? Memory of staying at our cottage with grandparents when I was little with no worries in sight. Memory of warmth and care. Memory of belonging and apples and candles.

The smell of these Apple Pie Rolls brought that memory, that feeling back to me. My kitchen smelled wonderfully spicy from cinnamon and deliciously sweet from apples. The batter comes together in a matter of minutes (like most recipes I make now), only mix yogurt, some sugar, egg, apples, cinnamon, flour and baking powder. There's no oil, no need for butter to come to room temperature, no whisking or whipping required. The longest step is to chop apples and measure the ingredients, but even that shouldn't take long. It takes only five minutes to mix these rolls up and then another 30-40 to wait for them to bake while your kitchen fills with the wonderful smells of apple pie and fall.

If you don't believe how easy this recipe is, check out my video below.

Apple Pie Rolls taste like apple pie but without all the effort | Imagelicious

I made these twice in three days I liked them so much. But I still have to warn you. My husband said that they are "doughy" which made no sense to me since well, they are rolls, so they are supposed to be like a bread sort of. The batter is very similar to a pancake batter, but I'm letting it rise and bake and puff up in the oven. There are more apples than the "bread" part and I like it this way. Also, the actual bread part isn't too sweet, I put very little sugar on purpose as my apples were very sweet. For a sweeter version of these rolls add another quarter cup of sugar. The batter is very sticky. I used spoons to form the rolls once and then the other time I formed the rolls with oiled hands. Hand shaped rolls are prettier, but they take longer to make and are quite messy. 

Apple Pie Rolls taste like apple pie but without all the effort | Imagelicious

Apple Pie Rolls

6 rolls

Plain yogurt - 1 cup
Egg - 1 large
Brown sugar - 1/4 cup
Cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
Apples, chopped - 2 small
Flour - 1 1/2 cup
Baking powder - 1 1/5 teaspoon
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a large bowl combine yogurt, egg, sugar, cinnamon and mix well.
  • Add chopped apples and mix.
  • Add flour and baking powder and mix until flour disappears.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper and either shape six rolls with oiled hands or use two spoons to shape the rolls.
  • Bake for about 35-40 minutes.

Note: I used sweet and small McIntosh apples chopped in about 1/2 inch pieces. I suspect you can use other apples too, but if they are not sweet then you may want to increase the amount of sugar.

As I wrote above the bread part of the rolls isn't too sweet, so depending on how sweet you like your rolls you may want to add more sugar anyway.

Apple Pie Rolls taste like apple pie but without all the effort | Imagelicious
Posted on October 18, 2016 and filed under Mom recipe, Recipe.
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Caramelized Bananas and Granola Yogurt Parfait

I received the product in this post for a review from OatBox. I geniunly enjoyed the product and I provide my honest opinion. If you sign up using my affiliate link, I'll receive a small compensation.

Do you have those moments in life that you go back to over and over again? Those seemingly insignificant and random memories that suddenly pop into your mind and you wonder why? I have a few like that. Memories that are so random that I can barely understand why I conjure them. They invoke feelings of longing and nostalgia.

Strawberry baby food in a glass jar. I remember playing one of those silly baby shower games a few years ago where you are supposed to try baby food and guess the ingredients. I tried the strawberry kind and for a moment I went back to my childhood. I am sure I didn't have that food as a baby back in Russia. The flavour reminded me of something well forgotten from when I was already older. But what? And every time I eat that strawberry purée (it's delicious, I buy it as a treat for myself) I go back to that sense of safety and belonging and innocence.

Last November we went to the Azores islands. It was an amazing trip. Almost a year later and we still talk about it. I have one memory, one moment from the Azores that keeps popping up in my head over and over again. It's not one of the beautiful ocean views nor gnarly trees; not numerous cows and cats; not succulent fresh clams or strong fragrant coffee. It's one small stretch of the road between our hotel and the downtown. We walked on that road a few times a day for a week. That particular piece of about three hundred meters wasn't exciting. Only a few minutes later there would be brightly coloured shop windows and cheery music and aromatic wafts of frying sausages. Yet I remember that road - bleak and devoid of tourists with one or two cafes where locals sat and watched sports on old battered television sets. I don't know why I keep thinking of that road. Maybe it's because I felt safe waking there with my husband even if it was dark and empty and a little bit scary. I felt safe knowing that with him nothing could and would happen to me?

Caramelized Bananas and Granola Yogurt Parfaits are super quick, easy and delicious. They only take a few minutes to make and are perfect breakfast, snack or even dessert | Imagelicious

I have a few memories like that. Small and strange. Memories that shouldn't be popping into my head as they aren't even memories and more feelings - random and unexpected.

There's also one from three years ago. It was the end of December, holiday season. I was sitting in the living room in my big cozy chair.  My husband was upstairs. I remember the fireplace blazing and our Christmas tree standing all sparkly and festive. I sat on the chair with my laptop and browsed the internet. I don't know why I remember that moment so vividly. I sat on that chair with a notebook on my lap hundreds of times before and after but I keep going back to that memory. There was nothing particular special - no Christmas music playing, no funny movie on tv. Maybe it was complete satisfaction that I experienced then. I didn't have to go to work the next day and there were no chores needed to be done. I felt content that day. I go back to that moment in time over and over again and feel cozy and warm and happy.

That day during holidays, that moment was when I discovered subscription boxes. I spent hours looking for them online and reading reviews. A few days later I ordered my first. I got a little bit addicted to those boxes and at some point I had 5 or 6 boxes delivered to me monthly. What not to like? It's like Christmas every month and you get a present in the mail never knowing what will be inside. Most of the boxes that I subscribed to were makeup and lifestyle. But I had a few food boxes as well filled with delicious goodness.

Caramelized Bananas and Granola Yogurt Parfaits are super quick, easy and delicious. They only take a few minutes to make and are perfect breakfast, snack or even dessert | Imagelicious
So, when I got an opportunity to try out another subscription box I jumped at that chance. OatBox delivers two bags of freshly made granola monthly. Their granola flavours are unique and all natural. Bags list all the ingredients which are natural and most of them organic. I tried two flavours: banana-pecan-walnut and kiwi-coconut-almonds. Banana granola had intense banana flavour - imagine eating banana bread with all the crunch of pecans and walnuts but without all the guilt. Banana purée is used to sweeten the oats, but also dry banana chips are added to the mix. Unique, healthy, and delicious.

After trying the granola on its own I knew I wanted to elevate it a bit further and highlight the banana flavour. Do you remember my story about the impossible bananas? Well, as you know I adore caramelized bananas, so I quickly made some and added to yogurt with the granola. The result was scrumptious! Cold creamy and tangy yogurt, hot and sticky bananas, and crunchy granola. Mixed together they provide the most satisfying breakfast or dessert. Caramelizing bananas is really simple and takes about three, maybe five minutes. Melt some coconut oil and add cinnamon to it. While the pan is heating slice the bananas. Cook on medium heat flipping once. Don't worry about banana slices losing their shape - they will, they are not as firm as plantains. While bananas are cooking spoon some yogurt into a bowl and generously sprinkle with banana granola. Add cooked and sticky bananas right from the pan scraping all the delicious coconut-cinnamon syrup. Enjoy! It really is a perfect mom-recipe. I made it a few times already - for breakfast, snack and even dessert once.

Caramelized Bananas and Granola Yogurt Parfaits are super quick, easy and delicious. They only take a few minutes to make and are perfect breakfast, snack or even dessert | Imagelicious

Caramelized Bananas and Granola Yogurt Parfait

2 servings

Banana - 1 large or two small cup
Coconut oil - 2-3 teaspoons
Cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
Yogurt - about 1 cup
Granola - to taste, about 1/2 cup
  • Heat coconut oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat, add cinnamon to it.
  • While oil is melting, slice bananas into 1/4 inch circles, add bananas to the pan and cook on medium or medium/high for about 2-3 minutes, flipping once. Don't worry if the bananas lose shape as they cook.
  • Meanwhile spoon some yogurt into small bowls and sprinkle with granola. I recommend OatBox as described earlier in the post.
  • Add sticky warm caramelized bananas and enjoy,

Note: I used regular plain yogurt and I strained it a little bit to achieve the layered look that you see in the photos. However, when I ate this parfait as a dessert I just used yogurt without straining. You can also use greek yogurt as well. I wouldn't recommend using flavoured yogurt as there's enough natural sugars in banana and some in granola as well.

Caramelized Bananas and Granola Yogurt Parfaits are super quick, easy and delicious. They only take a few minutes to make and are perfect breakfast, snack or even dessert | Imagelicious
Caramelized Bananas and Granola Yogurt Parfaits are super quick, easy and delicious. They only take a few minutes to make and are perfect breakfast, snack or even dessert | Imagelicious
Posted on October 14, 2016 and filed under Mom recipe, Quick Recipe, Recipe.
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