Balsamic Cherry Pork Tenderloin

We’ve never been parents that crammed a million things into summer break.  Quite honestly the school year is busy enough and we are all craving the break during June and July.  Sure we might go swimming, take a short vacation, and for a while they all attended a week of Bible camp, but summer “break” is called a break or vacation for a reason!

One of the most relaxing things about summer are the lazy afternoons and evenings that have allowed us to slow down. I suppose I will have to adjust to this year round with the children all grown (wow that seems odd to say), but there is something very enjoyable about taking time to cook supper each night. No deadlines, no running in from practices, no where to be; it’s a wife and mom’s dream!

Cherry Balsamic Pork

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Balsamic Cherry Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Yesterday morning I planned to prepare a pork tenderloin for our evening meal. Most of the day was spent wondering how to prepare it. There was the grilling option, but a ferocious band of thunderstorms was headed our way and fighting to keep charcoal lit around rain was not my idea of fun. The crockpot option is always a good one, but when you’re carefully eating only at mealtimes, smelling supper cook all day makes one want to eat all day. There are at least a thousand ways to roast a tenderloin, but my tastebuds were screaming for something seasonal and unique.

This particular pork tenderloin was purchased locally and not in the grocery store, so after looking through the refrigerator I found just the flavors needed! Taking fresh cherries, yummy Georgia Vidalia onions, fresh garlic and balsamic vinegar I went to work preparing supper.

cherries and sweet onions

Searing the tenderloin in olive oil after tucking a few fresh cloves of garlic inside, it went straight from the stovetop to the oven thanks to using a cast iron skillet. With the tenderloin being long and thin, it doesn’t take long to cook. Dry pork is horrible, so pay attention when cooking it. Internal temperature should be around 145° and then allow to rest a few minutes.

Once the pork was cooked and removed from the pan, the pan and juices went on the stove top on medium heat. I added an entire sliced onion, cherries that had been pitted and a little fresh rosemary from the back porch. After a few minutes of sautéing the two together to soften balsamic vinegar was added to the mix. Stirring often, this mixture was allowed to reduce and thicken for a sweet and textured sauce for the pork tenderloin.

Click Balsamic Cherry Pork Tenderloin to print off the full and very easy recipe.

Balsamic Cherry Tenderloin summer supper

Serve with fresh green beans and a salad for a completely seasonal supper everyone will enjoy!

Summer supper alfresco

Tell me dear readers, what do you enjoy most about these summer days?

Velvety White Chocolate Cake

Despite all the baking going on in the house this summer I’ve actually lost 10 pounds and several inches since Bradley left for boot camp last month. The patriotic cupcakes shared earlier this week were delivered to the local police department so that they didn’t stay in the house after Audley, Madeline and my niece ate a couple.  But, when you whip up something like this cake we carried to South Carolina as we visited two of our kiddos over the weekend, it’s really hard to say “no” to sweets!

WhiteChocolate Cake

 

Making a cake from scratch is not that difficult. A little more time consuming maybe, but really not as hard as people would have you think. My problem with taking the time to bake is there are actually people out there who will complain about the dense layers of homemade flavor, and say they prefer a box mix!

Really?!

You have got to be kidding me!

Nonetheless, I will continue to scratch bake when time allows, and if someone doesn’t like it, it’s their loss. They should probably have their taste buds checked and shop the outer rims of the grocery stores for real food more often!

Velvety White Chocolate Cake

For my white chocolate cake you need a good quality cake flour (I love King Arthur’s brand), sugar, baking powder & salt for your dry ingredients. For your wet ingredients you will need egg whites ( separate your own, don’t use prepackaged liquid eggs), vanilla; grass-fed, fat-filled, real butter, and whole milk. You will also need 8 ounces of quality white chocolate …. I prefer Ghirardelli brand.

Scratch Cake Ingredients

The better quality products you use, the better tasting your cake will be!

You also want to have a flour sifter on hand to use when measuring your flour. You will be able to tell a difference in the density of your cake if you do (or don’t) sift the flour.

If you’ve never used one, it’s not difficult; promise! You just place flour into the gadget and shake or sift into a measuring bowl the amount your recipe calls for.

You’ll also need two bowls (one for wet ingredients; one for dry), measuring spoons and of course a mixer. You will need a bowl to melt your white chocolate in as well.

Prepare to 8-inch cake pans by spraying with Bakers Joy or another cake release product and preheat your oven to 350°.

White Velvet cake

After you have baked your layers, allow them to cool on a cooling rack,  The edges may be crispy (my favorite part to eat), but carefully level each layer with a cake leveler.  You can find a good one at Hobby Lobby for under $10.  Its worth keeping on hand if you like to bake.

The cream cheese icing recipe I shared earlier this week would be perfect to frost this cake, but since this cake was traveling I used a decorators buttercream that would hold.  Click here for the full and printable Velvety White Chocolate Cake recipe and here for the Cream Cheese Icing recipe.

 

White Chocolate Cake with Sprinkles

An easy way to decorate your cake would be to add a colorful holiday sprinkle mix over the top.  Fresh summer berries would also be a delightful addition!  Strawberries especially compliment the flavor of a white chocolate cake!

Sliced White Chocolate Cake

 So tell me, which do you prefer… A box cake or a fresh baked scratch cake?

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Simple Cream Cheese Icing

Usually when the summer heats up I bow out of the kitchen or take a lot of shortcuts, but this season has been quite the opposite. From cakes and cupcakes to jams, jellies, and pickles, as well as many a lovely supper our kitchen has been quite busy!

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One of the most delicious things to leave my kitchen was cupcakes frosted with cream cheese icing. While quite tasty, I will admit they were a challenge with all this Southern heat!  Cream cheese is not a fan of heat at all.

I actually cheated when making the cupcakes by using a box mix. When I resort to box mixes Duncan Hines Butter recipe is my favorite. I use a full stick of butter for each box and it makes for deliciously light cupcakes that are normally devoured. Top with cream cheese icing and you have an easy summer delight everyone will love!

Ingredients for the icing include cream cheese (use the full fat stuff for best results), a stick of real butter, vanilla extract, powdered sugar. I’m a firm believer in using quality products to maximize flavor, so go for the grass fed butter and a reputable brand of vanilla!

The icing is quite simple to whip up. First, I blend the butter and cream cheese together until smooth, then add the vanilla and combine. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until all ingredients are blended well. Due to the heat, I usually refrigerate my icing about 30 minutes before putting it into a bag to pipe.

You can grab the entire recipe and instructions for the Cream Cheese Icing here.

Since one box of Duncan Hines cake mix generally makes 24-30 cupcakes, I double this easy cream cheese icing in order to make decorative swirls on top.

After your cupcakes are iced, dress them up with fresh berries or colorful sprinkles that fit your special occasion.

I love simple, and these cupcakes combine both the ease of a boxed cake mix and the flavor of homemade cream cheese icing will have your guests thinking you’ve spent HOURS on dessert!

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Georgia Backroads: Watson Mill Bridge State Park

Audley and I have been making plans for weekend adventures this summer since it’s mostly just the two of us.  Unfortunately there are people who were not blessed with the gift of common sense who insist on bending the rules, so Audley doesn’t always get the days off he is expecting.  The plus side to this is he always has a job when it comes to construction safety which has now run into most of our weekends.

Being ever the spontaneous people that we are, we turned our recent two days of plans into just one as we threw our empty picnic basket and a blanket into the car, made a stop at The Fresh Market, and continued with a road trip heading up Hwy 78 through Athens, Georgia to a sweet little state park.

Now, when most people think of Georgia, the traffic bogged city of Atlanta filled with people that do not know how to savor the simple things, who would rather run over you than accommodate you, mostly ignore you rather than speak, where people seem so angry and bitter and a town that seems to have forgotten its southern graces immediately comes to mind.

Y’all, I spent most of my youth here, and Southern charm and hospitality are not what comes to mind when I think of Atlanta these days!

Truth is, there is so much more to Georgia than Atlanta and it’s metro counties, and you don’t have to venture too far away to discover it! Just hit those Georgia backroads and start exploring!

Just two hours northeast of the city are beautiful farms and quaint little towns.  This is Georgia.  It is here you can escape the hustle and bustle of Atlanta and where you will find Watson Mill Bridge State Park; a 1018 acre park in Comer, Georgia.

Watson-Mill-Bridge-State-Park-Entrance

Watson-Mill-Bridge-State-Park-Historic-Marker

When Audley and I arrived at the park it was so peaceful and quiet, a true break from the craziness of metro-Atlanta!  The park attendant was probably one of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered and was eager to share this historic and picturesque piece of Georgia with us.

{Small towns y’all; that’s where that Southern hospitality thrives!}

Watson-Mill-Bridge-Falls

Watson-Mill-Covered-Bridge

Watson Mill Bridge State Park is home the longest covered bridge in the state of Georgia, a bridge that spans 229 feet across the South Fork of the Broad River in 1885.  It’s one of twenty covered bridges left in Georgia, but unlike the majority of the remainder, this one sits in its original location.  The bridge is well maintained and you can walk or drive across it.  It is truly a beautiful setting!

Watson-Mill-Bridge-established 1885

According to the Georgia State Parks website the bridge was built in 1885 by Washington (W.W.) King, the son of freed slave and famous covered-bridge builder Horace King.  It is supported by a “town lattice truss system held firmly together with wooden pins.”  Originally there was a mill in the area, but there are no signs of it remaining.

Watson-Mill Bridge-2

Although the park is small there is plenty to do for a relaxing day away from the city.  If you are into camping, there are sites available for both tent and RV camping.  Hiking is relatively easy as you can walk down to the old power house built in 1905, but long since abandoned.   There are also trails for riding bikes and horseback riding as well.  There is a stable for boarding, but you have to bring your own horses though.

Watson-Mill-Falls

We watched families and adults alike play on the rocks and in the water of the falls.  We even witnessed a baptism!  For the kiddos there is a nice playground, but we stayed away from those areas since the focus of the day was on us without kids. While there are plenty of tables and shelters to picnic,  Audley and I were more than content to throw our blanket down under the trees and enjoy the beauty of the falls and the covered bridge away from the small crowds that were arriving as the morning turned into afternoon.

empty-nesters

Picnic-Basket

Romantic-Picnic

picnicking

There is also the option to rent kayaks and canoes, or you can bring your own and put in above the covered bridge.  Rental for the park owned canoes and kayaks is just $10 for an hour and they do provide life jackets.

canoes-watson-mill-bridge-state-park

Audley and I rented one of the canoes and had the upper branch of the river to ourselves for paddling.  It was quite lovely, peaceful, and quiet enough to hear so many different sounds of nature the city tends to mask!

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paddling-south-fork-broad-river

Paddling-Watson-Mill-Bridge-State-Park

south-fork-broad-river

We truly enjoyed this piece of Georgia and Audley has already decided a weekend camping here is just what we need …. when this heat and humidity lay off!

Oh my it’s hot down here y’all!

river-life

Sometimes you just have to sit back and let someone else do the paddling!

If you are looking to escape the city or just want to discover some of Georgia’s backroads definitely add Watson Mill Bridge State Park to your agenda.

Watson Mill Bridge State Park

650 Watson Mill Rd, Comer, GA 30629

706-783-5349

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