This post is sponsored by ALDI as a part of the Healthier Holiday series. Check out my first post featuring healthy holiday appetizer ideas.
It’s the season of holiday parties, family feasts and indulgent meals. The good news is that indulgent doesn’t have to be synonymous with diet-breaking butter, cream and cheese. Indulgent can mean aesthetically pleasing food featuring delicious pairings of flavors and high-quality, healthy ingredients.
One of my favorite ways to dress up a main dish while keeping it relatively healthy is to stuff it with a flavorful filling. From chicken to peppers to squash to meatloaf…everything feels a little more special when stuffed. It makes for a beautiful presentation while giving the dish more depth.
It’s easy to turn to chicken breasts when you think about stuffing meats but I think that pork loins are a great alternative. They are not only festive for the holidays given their size and presentation but also a healthier option. Did you know that a four-ounce serving of boneless pork loin only contains somewhere around 150-175 calories and 5-7 grams of fat? Combine that with healthy stuffing ingredients like butternut squash, apples, onions and cranberries and you’ve got a pretty healthy but seemingly indulgent holiday meal.
I developed a cider brined pork loin stuffed with butternut squash, apples and cranberries and topped with a cider sauce using ingredients I found at my local ALDI store. This is not only a healthier way to feed a crowd but an economical one as well. Shopping at ALDI saves me so much money when entertaining and cooking for a crowd. I spent around $25 on the ingredients for this dish (including brine, pork, stuffing and sauce) and it produced 10-12 generous servings. That comes out to a little over $2 per serving which is pretty awesome for a holiday meal.
Brining is simply soaking meat in a mixture of water and salt. I made an apple cider brine of cider, water, brown sugar, salt and spices and let the pork loin sit in the brine overnight.
The benefit of brining is that it helps reduce moisture loss when meat is cooked and gives you juicier, more tender meat. Read all about the science behind brining in this article from Fine Cooking.
I butterflied the pork loin before placing it in the brine to prepare it for stuffing. This is super simple to do. You just place the pork loin on its side and slice down the middle without cutting all the way through. Then just open the pork like a book and it’s ready to go!
My stuffing mixture was a seasonal blend of sauteed butternut squash, apples, onions and cranberries.
After removing the pork from the brine and patting it dry, I seasoned it with salt and freshly ground pepper. I layered the stuffing mixture and some fresh chopped herbs over the pork.
And then rolled it up and secured it in six places with kitchen twine.
I basted the pork with pan juices a few times while it was cooking. After about an hour in the oven the result was a beautiful, golden brown pork loin.
I removed the pork loin from the pan and let it rest while I made a quick apple cider sauce out of the drippings. I sliced the pork, arranged it on a platter and drizzled it with the apple cider sauce. This dish looks beautiful on a platter and holds/reheats well. It would be great for a family dinner, holiday buffet or to take to gathering to share. I can assure you that it tastes as great as it looks. Thanks to the brine the pork wasn’t dry at all and had a great flavor. The stuffing and cider sauce only enhanced the deliciousness even more!
Here’s the recipe!