Monday, April 22, 2013

Italian Tomato Pork Loin

I love it when pork loin goes on sale!  It is a lean versatile meat.  I always buy the biggest one I can find in the store so that I can plan ahead to cut it in half for two meals.  Kroger had it on sale for $1.66 lb.  I was tempted to get two, but I settled for one this time. 

Sometimes I'll roast a Brown Sugar Pork Loin.  Other times I'll cut it in cubes and make Pork Teriyaki.  On days when I don't want to do a lot of prep work, I'll make Italian Tomato Pork Loin.  This is one of those recipes that just "came together" on it's own one day when I decided to "wing it" for dinner.  It works really well in the crockpot as well.  You can cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

I start by cutting a larger (5-6 lb.) pork loin into 2 halves.  I use one half for this recipe and save the rest for future recipe.  In this case, I cut one half into boneless pork loin chops that I plan to marinade for another meal.  I spent about $9.50 for the whole pork loin.  My ingredients for this recipe are things I have on hand and inexpensive.  So, my cost for dinner tonight was around $5 for the main course.  It fed 5 of us with plenty leftover!

Ingredients for Italian Tomato Pork Loin

I slice in half first

Half goes in my casserole dish.  The other half slices into pork loin chops.

3 lb. pork loin
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon sugar
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 F

Place pork loin in 2-3 quart covered casserole dish.  Sprinkle with Kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, and sugar.  Pour entire can of tomatoes over pork loin.  Cover and bake in preheated oven for about 2 hours.  (Until internal temperature reaches 165 F.)  Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.  Enjoy!

Sprinkle with seasonings and sugar

Cover with can of diced tomato

Bake until 165 F and no longer pink in middle

 I hope you enjoy this meal!  These pork chops below.... they will be another meal.  And, possibly a future blog post!  Aren't they beautiful?
Boneless pork loin chops for later use

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Buying in Bulk (Chicken)

While this post is not a recipe, I recently purchased some boneless skinless chicken breast from Zaycon Foods at $1.69 per pound.  I thought the price was remarkable, but I admit I was nervous about purchasing at first.  Since many of you may have wondered how the process works, I thought I'd share with you my experience.  I also took some pictures of chicken and some pictures of how I prepared it for my freezer.

Step 1
Register at Zaycon Foods so that you will get an email alert when they have an event in your area.  (Don't worry if they don't have your city/state listed on locations.  They are adding new locations all the time based on where the need is.)
Step 2
They have a reward program that lets you earn points to use for gift cards, etc.  I haven't cashed in any reward points yet, so I can't give you my complete experience there.  But, keep checking their website often.  You'll get 10 points just for logging in each day.
Step 3
Once an "event" is scheduled for your area, you will get an email alerting you.  (What is an event?  Basically it works like this... Zaycon brings the meat directly from the processing plant to your event location.  So the chicken I received at their "chicken event" was fresh and had never been frozen.  This is MUCH fresher than anything you will get at the grocery store.)
Step 4
Log in and purchase for the event that matches your schedule/location.  Be sure to mark your calendar for the event.
Step 5
Drive to the location and pick up your purchase at the event location.

NOTE:  I had the unique opportunity to volunteer at the event location to help load cars with the purchased items.  So, I can share with you some insights of what I saw at the location with the employees that were involved.....  Both of the events I volunteered at were in church parking lots.  Zaycon donated a case of chicken to each of the churches that hosted the events.  Upon my arrival at the location, I was greeted by the driver.  He enthusiastically shared with me what I would be doing to assist.  I could tell right away that customer satisfaction was key. 

What to expect at the event:
The event will last 1-2 hours total.  You can arrive any time within that window of time.  You will NOT have to get out of your car.  Have your receipt printed out (or the email confirmation ready to show someone in line on your smartphone).  It will likely take you less than 10 minutes to make it through the line depending on how busy it is.

Once your car is near the refrigerated truck in the parking lot, someone will approach your car and ask you for your name, etc.  A volunteer will ask you to open your trunk and will lay plastic down to place the box on top of.  If you'd like to have your box placed in the back seat of the car, etc. just tell the volunteer that.  If you don't have a preference, go with the trunk.  It is much easier on the volunteers and helps keep the line moving.  But, either way is fine.  Once the plastic is laid down, a volunteer will load your box in the car while the Zaycon representative checks your name off his/her list in the book.

What to do with all that chicken you may wonder?  In anticipation of the event, I used recipes from The Big Cook cookbook to mix up some marinades, etc. and stuff them away in my freezer.  Each night after dinner, I mixed up a different recipe for 4 meal sized portions and poured the ingredents into a gallon sized ziploc bag.  Then I loaded up the dishes in the dishwasher with the dinner dishes.  This only took me about 10-15 minutes of time each night.  And on the day of the event, I had 18 bags ready to go.  I added 2 pounds of chicken to each bag.  Then the final 4 pounds of chicken, I put in bags with some Italian dressing, soy sauce, lime juice and cayenne pepper to use for chicken fajitas.

Above is the box of chicken from Zaycon and my frozen marinades ready for adding 2 lbs. chicken each.
The left are the bits of skin I trimmed.  I supposed I could make home-made stock with these... but I didn't.  I cut the breasts into serving sizes.

After finishing trimming the first 10 lb. inner bag of chicken, I added the pieces to 5 of the awaiting bags of marinades.

Here is my finished product, ready for the freezer!

Everything is snug and tucked away in my freezer waiting for its turn in the menu rotation.

You may decide that 40 lbs. of chicken is too much for you to get at one time.  That's ok!  Get what makes sense to you and what you know you will make time to prepare.  But, buy it on sale!  I found that having the marinades already in the freezer ready to go made it very easy to just add the chicken and tuck back into the freezer.   The concept will work with any meat.  If you can't wait for a sale, try a warehouse club like Sam's Club or Costco.  You can usually get the value packages of meat there at a reasonable price as well.