Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Terrific on the very first bite: Chinese Orange Beef

I love when I try a recipe for the first time, and on the very first bite of the resulting dish I know I’m going to make it again and again.
   Such is the case with Chinese Orange Beef, an America’s Test Kitchen recipe that my husband and I tried for the first time recently.
   The orange taste, the result of grated zest and fresh juice, blends perfectly into the light sauce that coats strips of beef.
   It’s a terrific weeknight recipe that the whole family will like.
   Be sure to serve it over a bed of sticky rice (our favorite is jasmine.)
   The recipe calls for a flank steak. Since we couldn’t find one when we were making this, we used ready-cut stir-fry beef, which many supermarkets have in stock in their fresh meat section. (It saved us some time, too!)
   The recipe I linked to above is nearly exactly the same as the America’s Test Kitchen recipe we used. It is only missing one thing: two scallions (green onions), which are thinly sliced and sprinkled over the beef when it is served.
   Chinese Orange Beef is easy to make.
   A flank steak is cut into thin strips (or use beef that’s already cut), and the pieces are browned in a skillet.
   Orange zest, orange juice, dark brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, fresh ginger, and cornstarch are mixed together in a bowl, then added to the skillet and cooked until thickened.
   The beef is stirred in and coated with the sauce.
   Serve sprinkled with sliced scallions (green onions.)

Another great skillet recipe: Pork Medallions with Chili-Maple Sauce

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More recipe ideas for fall

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall for Maple and Chocolate Chip Shortbread

I used to have two favorite shortbread recipes.
   Now I have three after making Maple and Chocolate Chip Shortbread from the October 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.
   With its maple taste, this shortbread is more suited to fall than other types, which scream the holidays and winter.
   It’s so lovely to look at – with the chocolate chips dotting the golden surface and crust of sugar on top, people will eat it for its looks alone.
   But they’ll stay for the great taste, which I found improved the next day.
   The recipe calls for maple sugar, which I was unable to find.
   I found a suggestion online to substitute a combination of regular white sugar and maple extract, and I did that. Imitation or artificial maple extract, which Bon Appetit says it prefers over pure, can be found in the baking aisle of many supermarket.
   For the sugar used in the shortbread, I combined six tablespoons of sugar with ½ tsp of artificial maple extract.
   For the one tablespoon of sugar scattered over the top of the shortbread before baking, I didn’t bother adding any extract.
   You’ll need a nine-inch diameter tart pan with a removable bottom for this recipe.
   It’s very easy to make!
   Butter, maple sugar (or a substitute), salt, and flour are beaten together and the resulting dough patted onto the bottom of the tart pan.
   Bittersweet chocolate chips are pressed into the dough in a random pattern, and the dough is then brushed with pure maple syrup and sprinkled with sugar.
   After baking, the shortbread is cooled slightly then cut into pieces. It is cooled completely before serving.
   You may be wondering what my other two fave shortbread recipes are. Stay tuned to Recipes That Worked for the others!

Another great fall dessert: Cappuccino Cheesecake Bars

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A list of more fall recipes on Recipes That Worked

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Math comes in handy to make
Cappuccino Cheesecake Bars

Sometimes junior high school math comes in handy, such as it did when I made Cappuccino Cheesecake Bars from the October 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.
   The recipe calls for an 11x7x1 ½ inch metal baking pan.
   I didn’t notice this when I went out to buy ingredients for the recipe, and didn’t have this size of pan around. (It sounds a little unusual, doesn’t it?)
   I got out a 13 x 9 inch pan and a kitchen calculator, and using ratios and cross multiplication learned in Grade 8 math, I figured out the ingredient amounts I would need with a larger surface area.

   Update: I've written about the conversions I made and the ingredient amounts I used. Click here to see them!

   At this point, unfortunately, I realized I needed more cream cheese, and had to run out for it.
   Luckily, the trip was worth it – this was a delicious dessert.
   Most people over the age of 12 will probably like it, and coffee and Coffee Crisp chocolate bar admirers will love it.
   The recipe calls for instant espresso powder. The only supermarket around I’ve ever found this in is Safeway, and the brand is Nescafe.
   The end of the recipe instructs to beat whipping cream, then put dollops of it on the cheesecake after it has been cut into pieces.
   Rather, I beat the cream, spread it over the chilled cheesecake, sprinkled over reserved crumb mixture and then I cut it and served it.
   That way, I could cut the rest of the bars up and store them, and not have to re-dollop them with whipped cream every time I served it.
   Make sure to keep these babies in the fridge if they're not all going to be served at the same time.
   Graham crackers, sugar, butter and espresso powder are blended together in a food processor until moist crumbs are formed. Some of the crumbs are transferred to a pie plate; the rest are pressed into the bottom of the buttered baking pan. Both are baked for 10 minutes.
   More espresso powder, whipping cream and vanilla are stirred together. Cream cheese is beaten until smooth, then sugar, the coffee mixture and egg is added and beaten in.
   The filling is spread evenly over the crust, and the cheesecake is baked for 25 minutes. After a chilling time of at least two hours, there are two options: My method, which is to spread whipping cream over the entire cheesecake, sprinkle the baked crumbs over, then cut; or the cut cheesecake into pieces, then serve with a dollop of whipped cream or crumb mixture over (the way to go if you’re going to serve all the bars at once).

Another good treat recipe: Chocolate Chewies

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More reviews of terrific recipes for fall

Friday, September 24, 2010

The best pasta we've ever made -- so far

Orecchiette with Fennel, Sausage & Tomatoes from Fine Cooking magazine is so amazingly delicious, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
   At the time of writing, this pasta recipe is officially the best my husband and I have ever made.
   The sweet sausage and its oils blend beautifully with the fennel, tomatoes, basil and orecchiette pasta.
   Orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian. I haven’t been able to find this type of pasta around here, and so use any disc- or seashell-shaped pasta as a substitute. It works fine.
   The recipe calls for sweet Italian sausage, casings removed. You can find sausage without casings (it looks like ground chicken or turkey) in the meat sections of many supermarkets.
   Make sure to buy “sweet” or “mild.”
   You can use fresh or canned diced tomatoes. We often used canned diced in order to shorten things up just a bit.
   This recipe is quite easy to make.
   The sausage is browned, then transferred to a paper towel-lined plate.
   Finely-chopped fennel is cooked in the same pan. White wine, sausage, tomatoes, fresh basil and red pepper flakes are added and the sauce is cooked.
   Meanwhile, the orecchiette is boiled.
   After the pasta is drained, it’s returned to the pot, the sauce is added, and the mixture is cooked briefly. Freshly-grated Pecorino Romano cheese is stirred in.
   The pasta is served with more fresh basil and cheese sprinkled on top.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chile and Cheese Tart: Ideal for those
who say they can't cook

Chile and Cheese Tart from Bon Appetit magazine is so unbelievably easy to make, I’m officially recommending it to anyone who says they can’t cook.
   Whip this baby up, and the person to whom you serve it will think you’ve been taking cooking lessons. (However, you won’t be able to use “I can’t cook” as an excuse anymore!)
   If you can crack an egg (actually, two for this recipe), fry something in a skillet and put something in the oven, you’ll have dinner – and a fantastically delicious one, too.
   The recipe calls for one seven-ounce can of diced mild green chiles, and three-quarters of a teaspoon of hot pepper sauce.
   You can use all of both those ingredients and the dish won’t be hot, I promise. My husband and I hate overly hot or spicy dishes, and we didn’t find the taste at all overwhelming.
   Zesty would be a better adjective for this tart.
   Here’s what a snap it is:
   A red onion is cooked in a skillet.
   Whipping cream, eggs, kosher salt, hot pepper sauce, pepper, a package of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, green chiles and the cooked onion are mixed together and poured into a nine-inch diameter purchased deep-dish pie crust.
   The tart is baked at 400 F for 40 minutes.
   Didn’t I tell you?

Reviews of more great fall recipes

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Absolutely amazing Cincinnati Chili:
Uses cinnamon and allspice!

When some people think of chili, they have flashbacks to their uncle’s blazing hot concoction.
   It may be a fond flashback, but if it’s not, I’ve got a chili recipe you’ve got to try.
   Cincinnati Chili is mild and almost sweet, and incredibly delicious.
   Cinnamon and allspice, both key ingredients, may seem much more suited to gingerbread, but they are essential to the chili’s exceptional taste.
   This Cook’s Country magazine recipe has been featured in a couple of America’s Test Kitchen “best-of” recipe collections, and I can see (or taste!) why.
   The whole family will dig into it with vigor.
   Make sure to serve the chili over spaghetti, and in turn, some shredded cheddar cheese on top – it makes for very satisfying dish.
   The recipe I linked to above is an exact reprint of the Cook’s Country recipe.
   The chili is made by cooking onions in a Dutch oven, then adding garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, dried oregano, ground cinnamon, allspice, chicken broth, tomato sauce, cider vinegar (we use apple cider vinegar) and dark brown sugar.
   Ground beef is added to the sauce, then it is simmered until slightly thickened.
   Serve over cooked spaghetti and watch your family react with delighted surprise!

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Monday, September 20, 2010

A perennial favorite: Pork Medallions
with Chili-Maple Sauce

Pork Medallions with Chili-Maple Sauce from Bon Appetit magazine is a perennial favorite recipe in our house. My husband and I have made it dozens of times since we first tried it more than three years ago.
   The medallions are quick for a weeknight, and very satisfying. You’ll be amazed at how delicious they are for the little work required to make them.
   It may seem strange to have Chinese five-spice powder, chili-garlic sauce and maple syrup in the same dish, but let me tell you, the combination works.
   Make sure to make rice to serve with the medallions, as the recipe suggests, to soak up the resulting sweet and spicy sauce.
   And don’t forget to sprinkle chopped green onion on top – this adds a perfect little bit of zing to the dish.
   To make the medallions, a pork tenderloin is cut into six pieces. Using a meat mallet, the pieces are pounded to a ½-inch thickness, then sprinkled with salt, pepper and five-spice powder.
   The pork medallions are browned, then transferred to a platter. Chicken broth, pure maple syrup and chili-garlic sauce are added to skillet and boiled down.
   At this point, we put the medallions on a bed of rice, pour the sauce over, and sprinkle with green onions.

More great recipes from the skillet:
Crispy Garlic Chicken Cutlets
Skillet Macaroni with Zesty Meat Sauce

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Zucchini-Basil Soup: Simple yet amazing

I love recipes that are bare-to-the-bones simple but yield amazing results.
   Such is the case with Zucchini-Basil Soup from Gourmet magazine.
   It’s a creamy soup, but it’s made without cream! And there are no complicated tricks to make it so – it’s just the richness of the zucchini that does it.
   However, my husband and I have altered the recipe slightly over the dozens and dozens of times we’ve made the soup.
   The recipe calls for a large amount of water. On a whim one day, my husband decided to use up some vegetable broth that was hanging around in the fridge in place of some of the water.
   It was a good change – the taste improved (although it was good before). Since that time, we’ve used about two cups of vegetable broth (the ready-made kind you buy in the soup section of the supermarket) and one cup of water in the soup instead of three cups of water.
   Also, we long ago dropped the julienning of zucchini to put on top of the soup.
   It’s extra work that doesn’t add anything to the final product.
   We entirely skip the step of peeling half the zucchini and blancing it.
   So, instead of two pounds of zucchini as the recipe calls for, we only use one.
   We only follow the parts of the recipe that pertain to making the soup itself. I’ve paraphrased them below.
   Three-quarters of a cup of chopped onion and two chopped garlic cloves are cooked. The recipe says to do this in a heavy saucepan; we use a tall soup pot because of the steps that are coming up.
   One pound of chopped zucchini and one teaspoon of salt are added and cooked. Then three cups of water (here’s where we use two cups of vegetable broth and one cup of water instead) are added and the mixture simmered for about 15 minutes.
   Add 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, then puree the soup. You can do this in two batches in a blender (as the recipe says, use caution with hot liquids), or with a hand blender (this is what we use.)
   Serve and revel in the joy of simplicity.

Other great recipes using zucchini:
Penne with Zucchini, Fresh Herbs and Lemon Zest
Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan and Pine Nuts

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Zucchini and Feta Fritters - a close
relative of the potato pancake

Zucchini and Feta Fritters got an instant thumbs-up when I prepared them for the first time recently while guests were over.
   “Delicious,” my husband muttered while digging into them, echoing the general sentiment around the table.
   Calling this dish fritters, however, seem to be a bit of a misnomer. I found a few definitions online saying a fritter is any food coated in batter and fried, but this dish is simply zucchini mixed with feta cheese and herbs and cooked in a bit of oil in a skillet.
   They resembled potato pancakes.
   The fritters go superbly alongside meat – my husband and I served them with pork tenderloin.
   The recipe says you should be able to make about six fritters at a time, but to me, that’s only the case if you have a skillet big enough to cook pancakes for Paul Bunyan.
   I was only able to cook three at a time comfortably, and the recipe yielded six nicely-sized fritters.
   The recipe I used is contained in the fall 2010 issue of America’s Test Kitchen 30-Minute Recipes.
   When looking for it online, however, I was only able to find a recipe called “Zucchini Fritters,” from Cook’s Illustrated, also owned by America’s Test Kitchen.
   This online recipe, which requires a Cook’s Illustrated log-in to completely access, has a couple of differences from the one I used.
   The online recipe calls for one pound of zucchini, while the recipe I used called for 1 ½ pounds.
   The online recipe calls for heating three tablespoons of olive oil at a time to cook the fritters; the recipe I used called for one tablespoon of olive oil at a time, and it was plenty.

More great recipes from the skillet:
Crispy Garlic Chicken Cutlets
Skillet Macaroni with Zesty Meat Sauce

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our favorite pizza topping combinations

Over the years, my husband and I have come to rely on pizza as a quick way to enjoy a delicious treat on a weeknight.
   We take the easy way out, using pre-purchased pizza crusts (whole wheat) and putting on great topping combinations.
   Here are three of our favorite topping combos:

- Italian sausage, spinach and Gruyere cheese. Cook un-cased sweet Italian sausage (or crumble up cased Italian sausage as it cooks). Place pieces of spinach over the pizza shell, and then the bits of Italian sausage. Sprinkle with Gruyere cheese and bake.

- Plum, goat cheese and prosciutto. This is a pizza that works well in spring or fall: spring, when goat cheese is in season, or fall, when plums are in season. Slice a plum into slim wedges and scatter over a pizza shell. Place thin strips of prosciutto around the plums, and sprinkle crumbled goat cheese over. Bake in the oven.

- Mushrooms, fresh thyme and mozzarella cheese. This is a great combination for fall, when some types of mushrooms and fresh thyme are hitting their stride.
   Slice mushrooms and put them in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Drain and scatter over a pizza shell.
   Sprinkle fresh thyme leaves over the mushrooms.
   Cut rounds of mozzarella from a round hunk of cheese, and in turn cut the rounds into half-moons. Place over the mushrooms.
   Bake in the oven until cheese has melted.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A dish worthy of a place on Bubba Blue's list: Shrimp Salad Rolls with Tarragon & Chives

In the part of the movie Forrest Gump when Tom Hanks’s army buddy, Bubba Blue, takes a few days to list off every kind of shrimp dish in existence, I think he left this one off the list.
   Shrimp Salad Rolls with Tarragon and Chives from Fine Cooking magazine, however, is deserving of being included in a list of great shrimp dishes.
   It’s a terrific twist on the beloved lobster roll. In fact, the recipe suggests you can substitute cooked lobster meat for the cooked shrimp.
   Although the recipe has just a few ingredients and is relatively simple to make, part of it is rather labor intensive.
   The first step of the recipe is boiling shelled, unpeeled shrimp, then peeling and deveining them and cutting them into ½- to ¾-inch pieces.
   This is quite a chore for two pounds of large shrimp! It will go a lot faster if two people work on the peeling, deveining and cutting.
   The recipe does say you can use precooked shrimp to make things easier, but I liked the idea of boiling them as the recipe directs.
   The shrimp is mixed with finely-chopped celery, mayonnaise, fresh chives, fresh tarragon, fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper.
   Hot dog rolls are toasted under the broiler, then the shrimp mixture is spooned into them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mighty delicious mud with a marshmallow topping

Cook’s Country magazine says Mississippi Mud Brownies are so named because of their “dense gooeyness that approximates the texture of the silt that settles in the Mississippi River delta.”
   I can see that. These brownies are dense and gooey, and do look a little like cakes of mud.
   Mighty delicious mud, that is, with a marshmallow topping.
   This treat would be great for a family gathering. The recipe yields quite a few brownies, and both young and old will love them.
   The brownies were quite easy to make.
   You will need a Cook’s Country log-in to fully access the recipe above.
   Chopped unsweetened chocolate and butter are melted in a bowl over simmering water, then left to cool. Sugar and eggs are whisked in.
   Flour, Dutch-process cocoa powder and salt are combined and stirred into the chocolate mixture. Pecans are added, and the batter is spread evenly into a 13-by-9 inch baking pan that has been lined with aluminum foil.
   After 35 minutes of baking, marshmallow crème is spooned over the hot brownies and left to sit until softened, about one minute.
   Semisweet chocolate chips and vegetable oil are melted in the microwave.
   The softened marshmallow crème is spread evenly over the brownies, then drizzled with the melted chocolate.
   The brownies are cooled for at least two hours, then sliced for serving.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chocolate Chewies will do a vanishing act

On Sunday afternoon, I whipped up a batch of Chocolate Chewies for the first time, and I will certainly be making them again.
   They are a definite crowd-pleaser. Put them out for the family, and the cookies will disappear.
   Luckily, they are a snap to make.
   The Chocolate Chewies recipe I used is from Cook’s Country magazine, but I couldn’t find it anywhere on the mag’s website. I suspect that’s because it was a reader-submitted recipe.
   However, I was able to find nearly exactly the same recipe on a blog called MurrayHill5 – In My Kitchen. He adapted the recipe from a cookbook called The All American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett.
   There are just a couple of slight differences between the blog recipe and the one I found in Cook’s Country.
   The CC recipe gives no direction on how to toast the pecans, but the blog recipe does. The blog recipe says to toast the pecans in the oven, but I simply toasted them in a skillet on the stovetop.
   The blog recipe says to add the vanilla and beat the mixture for 1 ½ minutes, while the CC recipe says three minutes. I used the three-minute option.
   Otherwise, everything else is the same.
   Powdered sugar, cocoa powder, flour and salt are blended together. Three egg whites are beaten in one at a time, then the vanilla.    Toasted pecans and an ounce of grated bittersweet chocolate are stirred in.
   The cookies are baked, one pan at a time, in a 325 F oven for 15 to 18 minutes (I opted for 15 minutes).

More great fall dessert recipes

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A treat for the picky eater:
Crispy Garlic Chicken Cutlets

If you’ve got a picky eater, a.k.a. meat and potatoes person, in your household, I’ve got a recipe he or she is going to love.
   Crispy Garlic Chicken Cutlets from Cook’s Country magazine is a simple, home-style dish.
   It reminded me of food a person might order at a roadside diner. I felt like dinging a bell when the cutlets were ready to serve.
   Though the dish is chicken, it seems a bit like breaded pork chops.
   Despite the fact garlic is added in a couple of forms (minced garlic and garlic powder), the garlic taste is not overwhelming.
   My husband is great at cooking meat, so these cutlets were lovely and tender. Stick to the suggested cooking time of a couple minutes per side for thin cutlets and you should have the same success.
   You will need a Cook’s Country magazine log-in to completely access the recipe above.
   The recipe is also in the most recent issue of America’s Test Kitchen’s Best Recipes, on newsstands now. Turtle brownies are on the cover.
   If you can’t find chicken cutlets, you can make your own by slicing boneless, skinless chicken breasts in half horizontally.
   Vegetable oil, minced garlic and the cutlets are refrigerated while the rest of the recipe is prepared.
   Three slices of white sandwich bread are pulsed in a food processor until coarsely ground, then baked on baking sheet until dry, about 20 minutes.
   An assembly line is formed: Flour in one dish, whisked egg whites in the next, and the bread crumbs, garlic powder and cornstarch in the third. One at the time, the cutlets are dipped in each dish, then placed on a wire rack to let dry, about five minutes.
   Three smashed garlic cloves are heated in oil in a skillet, then the garlic is discarded and the cutlets fried until crisp and golden.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cinnamon Buckwheat Pancakes with Cherries:
A welcome breakfast treat

Cinnamon Buckwheat Pancakes with Cherries, a recipe I tried for the first time during a recent visit of my in-laws, instantly became part of my breakfast dish rotation the moment we dug in.
   I loved the fact there is buckwheat flour in these pancakes -- extra fiber in food is always welcome. I found the buckwheat flour in a local health food store.
   Fresh cherries were already unavailable in the supermarket when I first made this recipe at the end of August, so I used canned Bing cherries.
   They seemed to work just as well as fresh, especially considering the recipe calls for the cherries to be left to rest in sugar for a few minutes while the pancakes are prepared. Since I used cherries in syrup, I skipped this step and simply drained the syrup off the cherries.
   The recipe, from BBC GoodFood magazine, has a hilarious direction: 500 g cherries, stoned and halved. Really, this means 500 g of cherries, pitted and halved.
   The recipe calls for golden caster sugar; I used white berry sugar instead, sometimes labelled superfine or extra fine granulated sugar.
   Sugar, buckwheat flour, self-raising flour, (self-rising flour), cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) are combined, and eggs and butter are mixed in to make a batter.
   The pancakes are made in skillets or frying pans, then served with the cherries and maple syrup on top.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A comfort food with zest: Skillet Macaroni with Zesty Meat Sauce

I like good comfort foods as much as the next person.
   Give me a plate of perogies and a bowl of borscht, and I’m in heaven.
   When I see a recipe that looks like it will take away the stresses of the day, I jump at it.
   Skillet Macaroni with Zesty Meat Sauce from the June 2010 issue of Cook’s Country magazine is guaranteed to make for a cozy suppertime.
   Although it says the meat sauce is zesty, it’s not overwhelmingly spicy. I think it will be all right for children (check it first before serving, though), and teenagers will definitely take to it.
   The zestiness comes from jarred banana peppers, so you could ease back on those if you are concerned about heat.
   You will need a Cook’s Country magazine website log-in to fully access the recipe linked to above.
   Lean ground beef and minced garlic cloves are cooked, and a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, water, dry elbow macaroni (we used whole wheat) and chopped banana peppers from a jar are added and simmered.
   Shredded Italian cheese blend is added and melted, and fresh basil finishes off the dish.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Take out the heat in Orange-Glazed Pork Medallions

It’s an extremely rare occurrence that I recommend leaving an ingredient out of a recipe.
   It drives me bonkers when I read a negative review of a recipe, but the reviewer admits to changing everything around by adding, substituting and taking away ingredients.
   No wonder the recipe didn’t work!
   The recipe has been tested and re-tested by the developer and a magazine or cookbook’s test kitchen.
   However, this time, I’m going to recommend it.
   Orange-Glazed Pork Medallions from the June 2010 issue of Cook’s Country magazine are excellent, but there’s one problem.
   They’re mouth-burningly hot, thanks to a tablespoon of hot sauce!
   Unless you can tolerate very hot foods, this isn’t going to be any fun to eat.
   I recommend taking out the hot sauce entirely, or just using one or two drops.
   The recipe is a snap to make.
   To access the recipe fully, you’ll need to register for a Cook’s Country website log-in.
   Marmalade and orange juice (skip the hot sauce) are whisked together in a small bowl.
   Two pork tenderloins are cut into medallions and cooked in a skillet. The marmalade mixture is added.
   The pork is transferred to a platter and sprinkled with fresh chives.