It's the challenge all working families face: trying to come up with something relatively quick, easy and tasty for dinner after a full day on the job.
And now that we have two kids in college, saying "Why don't we just go out / get carry out?" can't be the default answer too often.
For all of the food page stories that give the impression of an adventurous, always-cooking locavore, let's just say there are pizza places, Chinese carryout spots, Mexican restaurants, etc., that greet me like Norm from "Cheers" because they see my face so often.
Tribune Chronicle / Andy Gray
Spicy Lemon Pork Tenderloin can marinade all day while you are at work, and it’s ready to cook when you get home.
But I'm trying to do better, so I was scrolling through recent Food & Wine magazine emails, and one had recipes for "Juicy Pork Roasts."
I knew we had a two-pound end of a pork loin in the freezer, and as I paged through the recipes I found one for spicy lemon pork tenderloin. For once, we had every single ingredient in the house. Granted, a tenderloin is smaller than a pork loin, but adjusting the cooking time could fix that.
It took about 5 to 10 minutes to get the marinade together in the morning, just a matter of juicing a few lemons, coarsely chopping a few cloves of garlic and picking a stalk of rosemary from the garden (since I only was using about half as much pork as the recipe called for, I cut the marinade in half too).
Then, while I was at work, the marinade worked its magic, permeating the meat with its herby, citrus blend.
Once I got home, it took just a few minutes to brown each side in a hot skillet and then I popped it in the oven and listened to music while it cooked (broke out the vinyl and played some Creedence Clearwater Revival).
For a tenderloin, the recipe calls for cooking the meat for about 14 minutes in the oven until a meat thermometer reads 130 degrees.
For the larger, thicker pork loin, it took about 35 to 40 minutes for the meat thermometer to reach 140 degrees.
I realize American cooking standards have recommended keeping pork in the oven until it's overcooked and dry for too long, but 130 seemed a little low, even with the meat continuing to cook some as it rests out of the oven.
Cooking the meat to 140 degrees, there still was a hint of pink with plenty of juice, and I was able to cut it without a knife. If pink and pork freak you out, leave it in a little longer. If you're more adventurous than me, feel free to pull it at 130 degrees.
We served it with Yukon gold potatoes cut in a large dice tossed with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper and roasted in the oven about the same amount of time as the pork.
I also made a spinach salad with toasted walnuts, bleu cheese and quartered mushrooms that were sauteed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Using smaller tenderloins would make this work even better as an after-work dinner, but it made for a satisfying weekday meal with pork left over for both of our lunches the next day.
A few more simple recipes like this, and those restaurants may put up "Missing" posters, wondering where we've gone.