a balancing act.

This week had some serious ups and downs.  I mean, all weeks do, but this one had heavy parts, and moments of wonder.  A dear friend’s father passed away, reminding me how short our time is here on Earth.  We celebrated John’s vibrant life with loads of friends and family members sharing food, drinks, and music.  Laughing and crying alternately and then simultaneously.

On both Friday and Saturday evening, I found myself close to home, in front of a beautiful fire, looking up at the stars.  I was surrounded by good-hearted people, listening to excellent live music- mostly blue grass and old time- embracing the Earth and life itself.  Soaking up life the way that John did, with rock star panache, food, friends, music, and fun.

Also on the upside of this week…two friends flew to Vegas and got married after several happy years together.  YAY!  And we even got to watch online- what will they think of next?!  On a sweet note- I was asked to cook side dishes for another friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner which will take place alongside a river in North Georgia, and I am totally excited to contribute to that nuptial extravaganza.  Also, I consulted with a few new clients who found me through The Green Half, and discovered an opportunity to act as a cooking coach for a novice, or rather, a non-cook with big aspirations. Sounds to me like a perfect pairing of my past and my present merging together before my eyes.  I am thrilled!!

Despite life’s crazy roller coaster ride, or maybe because of it, Adam and I created some new culinary concoctions in our kitchen that were good enough to write home about.  I made homemade granola that was outta this world.  French onion soup warmed us during the brief revisiting of the cold, and I enjoyed a beautiful salmon pasta with a light dill cream sauce to satisfy one client’s hankering for a healthy version of the super-bad-for-you-but-oh-so-delicious alfredo sauce.

Today’s featured dish was a star of the week.  Y’all know I love spicy foods, and I’m no stranger to chile peppers.  But this time around, we put on our Bobby Flay hats and started out with dried chipotle and ancho chile peppers.

The reconstitution process is simple.  All you have to do is pour boiling water over the peppers and let them hang out for about fifteen minutes.

The stage was set for our Chile Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Stuffed Zucchini and Homemade Cornbread.  And the key here, as in life, was finding balance.  Harmony between spicy and sweet, tangy and sour, hard and soft.

Once the chiles were out of the water, we combined them with agave nectar, lime juice, and salt.

Looks devilish, doesn’t it?  In just moments, we had a sticky glaze prepared.  So, we seasoned our pork with salt and pepper and seared it in a hot pan.

Then we glazed the top side and set it in the oven to finish cooking through.

Meanwhile, we worked on our yumalicious side dishes.

Stuffing zucchini is a cinch of a process which can be adapted to suit any number of flavor profiles.  First, we cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and roasted them in the oven, cut side down.

And my Southern husband made quick work of the cornbread construction.

Cornmeal flour, all purpose flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

Then, the wet ingredients joined the dry mixture.

Eggs, milk, and melted butter.  Then we just mixed it all together and let it sit awhile.  In the oven was our little cast iron skillet getting super duper hot.  This is a great trick for executing a crispy golden crust to cornbread.

Once the pan was hot, we lightly oiled it, and poured the batter straight in, creating a delightful sizzling sound.

Then, it went into the oven to bake.

The next step for the zucchini was hollowing out the skins.

The purpose here is twofold- one: the shells act as the vehicle to cradle and transport the deliciousness.  And two: the flesh became part of the stuffing itself, which we added to a pan of onions and peppers.

To that mixture, I added homemade breadcrumbs- just enough to make it all stick together, and this wonderful chipotle cheddar cheese that I found at the Farmer’s Market.

And to finish the stuffing, I chopped up one of the zucchini shells.  This method reminds me of stuffed mushrooms, where I combine the stems with garlic, butter, and other goodies to make a hearty mixture to fill up each shroom.

As far as seasoning, I only added lime juice, cilantro, and salt and pepper, because I knew that the cheese would offer lots of flavor by itself.

Next, we stuffed the zucchini shells

and baked them off at 350 for about 15 – 20 minutes.  The heat did its magic, and the final product was fabulous.

The cornbread had baked to perfection.

And we glazed the pork all over once it came out of the oven.

Woohoo!  Time to plate!

Deliciousness abounds!!!   The pork had such a lovely crust on the outside, and the glaze was flavor forward, smoky, but not overpowering.  So tender, juicy, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture.  Every single bite of that stuffed zucchini made me smile.  The flavors melted so beautifully, and the chipotle cheddar just sang out, tying it all together.  Without too many spices or too much fussing, I could eat stuffed zucchini any day of the week.  The corn bread boasted a little bit of sweetness that worked well against the spicy components of the dish.  All in all, it was a great success of a meal.  Well-balanced and harmonious.

So, dried chiles are not scary at all!  Easy to use and bold in their flavor. I see dressings, sauce, marinades and many other dried pepper applications in my future.  Chipotle peach roasted chicken is definitely on the docket.

I hope you are hungry and inspired to try something new in your kitchen this week.  Live life to its fullest.  Hug your people a lot.  Share the love and the goodness of food with those around you.  I wish you strength as you strive to find balance in your kitchen and in your every day life.

Happy cooking and eating,



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