When you’ve spent your whole summer on a loose and open schedule like ours, it can be hard to get back into the groove of things when the school year comes along. We definitely felt this more this year than ever. Summer was long and blissful. I smile whenever I think of the long bike rides, days at the beach and evenings reading on the sun porch. Even with the start of school being delayed by a week (thank you, Irene), we just weren’t ready for the order and strict scheduling that comes with school starting.
And boy, did it start. This year, our schedule is more hectic than ever between the kids’ activities, my work and juggling a confusing schedule of school pick-ups. With Will in the first grade this year, there is also a constant stream of homework and studying (he averages 2-3 tests and quizzes per week). Even Paige, who is still in preschool, has had homework this year, thanks to a new and enhanced school curriculum.
Talk about going from zero to sixty, right?
Tonight it occurred to me that we’ve finally hit our stride in this whole school year business. The kids have their after school routine down. Homework gets done with minimal resistance, dinners are back to being eaten in the kitchen at our table and bedtime happens faster and easier. Sure, there are times when the kids want just a little more time to play before bed (and I have to say no). But overall, things are flowing now.
Even dinner prep, which was a challenge for me in post-summertime, is happening on time and without so much stress. I’m back in the routine of cooking earlier so that we eat earlier. In summer, a 6:30 or 7 p.m. dinner was fine for us. But during the school year, dinner needs to happen at 5:30 or 6 p.m. The key to making this happen was relying on easy, minimal prep dinners.
Of course, it hasn’t been without challenge. Earlier this week, I mentioned that I’ve been in a bit of a protein-rut lately and was hoping that an assignment I’ve been working on with Costco and the National Pork Board might help me break out of it. Thank goodness, it did.
This pork dish — Apricot-Glazed Sage and Garlic Pork Tenderloin — may sound complicated, but it’s actually really simple: Cut slits into tenderloin and stuff them with sage and garlic. Bake for 30 minutes. Glaze with apricot and bake a little more. (Ok, there are a few little steps I left out, but you have the idea.) It takes maybe 5 minutes to prep. Now, granted, it does take about an hour total — from prep to plate — to get on the table.
But it’s so hands-off that it’s a-ok. And the leftovers? Perfect for another night’s dinner … or packing for lunch.
But what about the flavor? The sage and garlic subtly flavors the pork, without being overwhelming. (Note: you will want to carefully fork out the garlic and sage leaves before eating.) And the apricot preserves gives the meat a pleasant sweet coating all over — and no, it’s not in-your-face apricot flavored. In fact, Will likened the flavor to a sweet barbecue sauce.
Worth. Every. Bite.
If you want to learn more about pork and how to cook the many cuts of it, check out the Pork, Be Inspired website.
Also, you should know that back in May, the USDA lowered the temperature guideline for pork loins, chops and roasts from 160 degrees F to 145 degrees F with a three-minute rest. It will be pinker than you grew up with — but it will also be juicier and so tender. Trust me, you’ll like it. Ground pork should still be cooked to 160 degrees F.
For best results, use a meat thermometer to ensure that your meat is cooked to the right temperature.
- 2 lbs pork tenderloin (roughly 2 tenderloins)
- 8 sage leaves, rinsed
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced into 3 slices each (6 total)
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. The oven rack should be in the center of the oven.
- Rinse the tenderloins under cool water. Then, cut 7 slices half-way through each tenderloin at even intervals. Fill the 7 slices in each tenderloin with alternating sage and garlic (in this order: sage-garlic-sage-garlic-sage-garlic-sage). Salt and pepper liberally.
- Place the tenderloins side by side (but not touching) in a shallow oven-safe pan (I used a glass 9x13-inch pan). Bake for 15 minutes. Gently turn the tenderloins over and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
- Brush the tenderloins liberally with apricot preserves, all over. Make sure to use all of it (it's okay to pile it on a bit as the heat will make it run down the sides). Bake for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove the tenderloins from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Slice into thin slices and serve.
- For an added treat, spoon some of the pan juices over each plate. It's delicious like that.
Disclosure: I was contracted by The Motherhood to create a pork recipe for Costco and the National Pork Board and am being compensated for my time and materials. Nonetheless, all opinions expressed are my own.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.