Roast Pork Loin with Apples

The flavorful aroma of apples, pork, spices and fennel truly is the perfect combination for any cold night. I recently attended a cooking class where the focus was apples and how their flavor added bright and tangy notes to simple dishes. Like adding Granny Smith apple into oatmeal as it cooks or searing sliced Gala apples then adding it to butternut squash soup. From the original varieties to todays amazing creations I was fascinated that an Envy apple can be cut, exposed to air and not brown for up to 6 hours with out the traditional lemon juice bath! Scouts honor, I’m telling the truth.

The bright and vibrant green of a Granny Smith apple (circa 1868), that tart lemon like firm flesh is perfect for an apple pie, apple chutney, and salads. I learned a surprising fact; the Honeycrisp apple has a different cell structure to its wall than all the other apple varieties it has unique honeycomb walls. Which, once broken by either a bite or a slice of a knife JUICE and lots of it is released. Hence the sweet taste and flood of juice is why they named that apple the Honeycrisp.

Choosing the correct apple.

When I’m at the grocery store or farmers market looking at all the apple varieties I get a bit tripped up at times. Which apple is best for baking? What about an apple I can grill? Which variety holds its shape while cooking and just the opposite what type breaks down? If you are like me and have similar questions, no fear I have the answers for you.

Top 5 Eating Apples

Honeycrisp, Sweetango, Piñta, Pink Lady, Fuji

Best Apples For Cooking & Sauces

Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Pink Lady, McIntosh

Best Apples for Salads

Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Gala, Envy, Fuji

Best Apples for Baking

Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome, Pink Lady, Envy

Best Apples for Grilling

Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Fuji, Envy, Piñata

Best Apples Paired with Cheese

Rave; sharp cheddar cheeses, brie, soft creamy cheeses  

Honeycrisp; smoked cheese, creamy cheese and cheddar

Piñata; Goat cheese, blue cheese, creamy cheeses

I could fill this post with amazing facts I learned but for now I will leave you with a recipe that will not only bring out the rich flavor of pork but it will also celebrate the sweet and delicious flavors of my new favorite apple, the Envy apple. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6 Servings

Apples and Pork

This rich, flavorful roasted pork loin has the sweet-floral scent of fennel seeds, apples and onions. Then the bright spice of red chili flakes comfort you with every warming bite.

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  • Brine
  • 10 cups cold water
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup Kosher salt
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 head garlic halved
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 4 pound pork loin
  • Fennel Spice Rub
  • 2 tablespoons whole fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons red chili flake
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Apples & Onions
  • 2 Envy apples, cored and cut into ½ inch slices
  • 2 medium sweet onions, cut in half then cut into thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup apple cider


  1. Brine; in a large container with a lid all the ingredients and mix well until salt and sugar dissolve.
  2. Place the pork loin in the container, make sure it is completely covered in the brine, if not add in water until it is.
  3. Place in refrigerator for 8-24 hours.
  4. Remove pork from the brine, rinse with cool water and pat dry, set on a baking sheet.
  5. Rub: place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms.
  6. If you do not have a blender a spice grinder or mortar and pestle will work. Remove 1 tablespoon of the rub and set aside, take remaining rub and spread over all sides of the pork loin.
  7. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and place back in the refrigerator.
  8. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  9. Place sliced apples and onions in a bowl and add remaining ingredients, except the apple cider, toss well.
  10. Add in the reserved 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture and stir well, set aside.
  11. Heat a cast iron pan for 15 minutes over medium heat, make sure it is large enough of fit the pork lion.
  12. In a deep baking pan add the apple mixture to it, spread evenly, set aside.
  13. When your cast iron pan is hot, remove the pork from the fridge, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sear the pork loin, fat side down for 8 minutes.
  14. Turn off the flame, carefully take the pork out of the pan and place on top of the apples and onions.
  15. Pour apple cider in the hot pan to deglaze, scrape up any bits left from the pork. Carefully pour the hot cider over the pork loin.
  16. Place pork in the hot oven and roast for about 1 hour or until the center is 140 degrees.
  17. Remove pork from oven once cooked and transfer it to a cutting board, tint with foil for 20 minutes.
  18. Return the apples and onions to the hot oven and cook for an additional 12 minutes to brown them.
  19. Slice the pork and serve the roasted apples and onions on the side.

Top 5 Must Have Kitchen Tools

I have been asked time and time again, Kate what are your top 5 kitchen must haves although it seems to change every once in a while I have a solid list of items I always get for wedding shower gifts, new home gifts or what I use in our camping trailers. Enjoy!

1. Cuisinart Precision chef Digital Kitchen Food Scale Stainless Steel

2. Farberware 3pc Essential Poly Cutting Boards White 

3. KRUPS Electric Coffee Grinder, Spice Grinder, Stainless Steel

4. Stainless-Steel Restaurant Mixing Bowls, Set of 5 

5. KitchenAid KHB2561 Architect 5 Speed Hand Blender

I hope these 5 must have kitchen tools help you outfit your kitchen or give you a fantastic idea for a wedding gift. Out of all the items above, that KitchenAid hand blender is my personal favorite. I have one in our trailer and one in our home, food prep is effortless. I can puree soups, chop tomatoes, onions and jalapeños for salsa, whip fresh whip cream for a cobbler or pie. Another fantastic feature is the measuring cup, I can simply measure out ingredients in the chopping bowl or the pitcher.

Food prep should be simple and easy, thats where these 5 items come in, a scale for weighing your baked items, cutting boards to keep your raw protein in a safe place, multiple size mixing bowls for food prep a spice grinder to always have fresh ground spices for your next meal. Then my favorite, the hand blender, for its countless food prep options.

If you are looking for recipes to go along with all those tools, then my cookbook The Campground Gourmet is exactly what you need. Enjoy!

What a Dream…

A Dream Come True.

I have an announcement, something that I have been holding in and protecting for some time now. It started with a dream then it moved over to a wish and then it turned into something real, something I have been able to shape, contour and cultivate for months now. Yesterday morning November 12,2018 it all changed for me, that wish connected me ever so slightly to chef’s and cooks I have looked up to and learned from for years.

Julia Child the Master of French Cooking, Edna Lewis and her soul feeding food, Ina Garten and her flawless simply elegant meals, Ree Drummond and her lifestyle nourishment. Samin Nosrat and her explosion of the four food flavors. Gordon Ramsay and his Military perfection in the kitchen, Rachael Ray and her ease of preparation, Martha Stewart and her determination of home cooking perfection. Bernard Clayton and his layered pastry, Alice Waters and her dedicated seasonal movement, Americas Test Kitchen and their persistence to find the perfect recipe, Rick Bayless and his flavorful pallet of spice. Ruth Reichel and her passion with food, Jack Gilmore and his dedication to the Texas farmer, Steven Raichlen and his ability to tame smoke and fire. All the above names and countless others have one thing in common they are cookbook authors and as of yesterday I joined that list too.  I am a published cook book author!

I give you, The Campground Gourmet, Simple, Delicious Recipes for Dining in the Great Outdoors. Available now on Amazon.



I can not begin to tell you the amount of work that went into this project however, I can tell you about all the amazing and dedicated individuals that have helped me put all the pieces together. Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi creators of RV Family Travel Atlas, they are my editors, they have spend countless hours editing, creating and guiding me along this adventure. I am truly grateful to the both of you and your belief in me, this cookbook and our friendship, thank you so much.

Steven Dunbar, my love and champion. You have always, always encouraged me to take adventures and just go for it. I can not think of a single time in our 12 years of marriage (13 on Friday 11/16) where you have asked me not to do something, you have never said no. But, I’m certain when I am in the thick of it you wish you had. I love you husband, thank you so much for all your help, encouragement and the strongest shoulder I could ever rest my head on when I was too tired to go any further. Oh, and for cleaning up when that raccoon destroyed my photo set on the patio, you are a saint.

To my children, you were my first true recipe taste testers, I made all your baby food when you could eat solids. I found out by trial and error what all your favorite cookies, meals, smells and tastes are. I have watched all three of you grow up and develop new tastes and favorite food memories. I love when you ask me to make your favorite meals, even if it is a box a macaroni (Paige) or a beurre blanc sauce (Andrew) or a perfect pan seared steak with a fried egg (Sean).

My friends and family who have been in the loop and truly kept my project safe and protected until yesterday when it was out there for everyone to see. Your encouragement, help and cyber cocktail time truly made this experience a magical gift. You helped me choose recipes, look at images and you also told me that when I made it big I owed all of you an Airstream or one heck of a vacation…I love each one of you and I appreciate your loyalty and friendship more than you could ever know.

I have always felt at home or in my comfort place at a campground, sitting in front the fire watching the golden coals smolder and send tiny shooting stars into the sky. The fire at a campground not only warms you up at the end of a long day of hiking or swimming in a lake, it feeds you. You can place a piece of cast iron over the coals and slip a fresh caught trout in that pan with onions, herbs some olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and you have one of the best over the fire flavor meals anyone can create. It’s the fire, smoke and quiet, the total concentration of keeping the temperature there in just the right zone. It’s the laughter while watching a marshmallow swell with the heat of the fire only to spontaneously catch on fire and smolder away. It’s that crisp morning air and a rich hot cup of coffee in your favorite camp mug- it’s the great outdoors. There is so much my cookbook is about, the recipes are perfect for at home, at a park, sharing with your family at a celebration or sitting in Jackson, Wyoming under the peaks of the Grand Teton and all her beauty.

I’m Kate Dunbar, The Campground Gourmet, I tell stories through food and help individuals create culinary adventures with my recipes.

Kate's Curious Kitchen

Cheese Please!

It’s All About the Presentation

I love a beautiful cheese plate, I love it a bit more when I make it for my friends. In the camping group I belong to, Sisters on the Fly I am know for being the Sister who introduces many to the glorious flavors of  Mt Tam, Humboldt Fog, Triple Creme, Chèvre and many more. My key ingredients: soft cheese, hard cheese, dried fruits, fresh fruits, nuts, fresh herbs and good tasting crackers. Below I have everything broken down for you to successfully create a stunning cheese platter. Pictured is a bottle of Qupe Viognier wine, it has a light floral note along with a delicate peach and apricot taste which is perfect for all the flavors I have presented in this image.

Top Cheese Picks

Soft Cheese; Brie, Camembert, Chèvre (goat), Mozzarella, Cream Cheese. They are very soft, creamy and buttery in flavor.

Semi-Soft; Havarti, Munster, Fontina, Dorset. These cheeses have a soft earthy flavor they go very well with dried fruits and jams.

Medium-Hard; Gruyère, Gouda, Edam, Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Pecorino. These cheeses are sharp in flavor, low in moisture and have aged for a period of time.

Strong Flavor Soft Cheese; Blue, Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton. These cheeses are salty, strong in flavor and tend to have a distinct musky odor.

Dried Fruits

I love dried fruit especially in the winter when everything is just about out of season. Turkish apricots, golden raisins, cranberries, dates and figs. If I have time I will take the dates, remove the pit and place a good dime size piece of gorgonzola cheese in them. That strong salty cheese is perfect for the sugary sweet date. If I really have some time I will wrap a piece of bacon around it and broil for about 15 min then drizzle with a good aged honey & fig balsamic vinegar.

Fresh Fruit

Sliced apples like Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp and Gala, are perfect for your cheese platter but make certain to follow this tip so they don’t turn brown when sliced. After you slice your apples place them in a bowl of cool honey water (2 c water & 1 Tbls of honey mixed well) for about 10 min then pat dry, they will not brown. Berries; raspberries, blueberries, strawberries. Grapes, my personal favorite are the Champagne grape, small and tiny clusters of very sweet grapes the size of a pea. Witches fingers taste amazing and look very much like a witches finger (kids love them). Figs; Brown Turkey, Celestial, Honey Fig, Desert King, White King and Red Italian. Melon; Cantaloupe, watermelon. Pears; Bosc, Asian, D’Anjou, Bartlett and Comice


Pistachios from the Santa Barbara Pistachio Farm (we have them here in Texas!), seasoned pecans, almonds and if I can get them whole and walnuts. I place the walnuts in a bowl with some chopped rosemary, sea salt, cracked black pepper and I drizzle a bit of honey mix well and serve in a olive bowl.


Water crackers, unflavored is my choice and they are the best serves with Brie cheese or your Blue cheeses. Herb toasts are perfect with Chèvre, multigrain are amazing with well aged cheddar and the crackers with dried fruits and nuts pair very well with Camembert.


Sometimes you need to fill in some space or make the plate look a bit dressed up, fresh herbs over flowers are my go to every time. I like rosemary, dill, parsley, thyme, chives and sage leaves.


A Lemon a Day

All right, its seriously grey here in Central Texas. Its like Eeyore has just decided to bring his gloomy attitude here and sit a spell. I sat there looking out the windows at the leafless trees, the dead plants from our two great freezes and I had to do something. I had a few lemons and right away I knew no matter what I was going to get the sun to come out. So I’m doing a 30 day lemon challenge! That’s right, every day I will make something to eat or drink that has lemon in it. I will be posting on my Instagram page “Kate’s Curious Kitchen”. Please join in and share your lemon creations too. The more folks/people/followers participating the faster winter might finally be chased away.

I long for Spring time here in Texas. It is magical, from the wildflowers, to the new tree buds, the birds and the precious longhorn calves. If you have never visited the Hill Country of Texas the area I am talking about is roughly 25 counties, which spans from San Antonio north to just above Lampasas, then Austin on the east side to Junction on the West. This area screams winter is over when the blue skies touch the ground here with one small cobalt to periwinkle blue and bright white tipped flower, the Texas bluebonnet. You can not drive down a road with out stopping. They say no Texas family photo album is complete until there is a baby picture with that little one sitting in the sea of bright bluebonnets.


So my challenge is simple. I need to use a lemon everyday for 30 days either by creating a new recipe or finding one in my over 500 cookbooks then cook! I’m going to call the sun out of its slumber with dishes like lemon ricotta pasta and grilled salmon with a white peppercorn and lemon sauce. I might possibly sip a lemon drop martini or make my smashed blackberry and bourbon cocktail with a lemon twist. Then I will coax that beautiful sun with my famous lemon bars (I was in Sunset Magazine for them) or my precious cafés signature lemon cake. Matter of fact that is where I’m starting! So join along with me in this bright, cheery and fun food challenge!


Petite Revé Cafés Lemon Cake



1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 lemons zested and juiced, place zest in a separate bowl

3 1/2 cups cake flour, Swans Down is the best

4 teaspoons of baking powder, *recipe is below

1/2 teaspoon  kosher salt

6 large egg whites, room temperature

1 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature


1. Grease three 9-inch by 2-inch pans with butter or cooking spray, just not butter flavored spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the top of the parchment. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together, two minutes, scrape bowl down and add almond extract. Mix again for 30 seconds.

3. Add egg whites and milk together, mix with a fork until combined. Add lemon zest in and mix again. Set aside.

4. In a clean bowl add cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.

5. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix in until no traces of flour remain. Add in half of the milk mixture and mix until smooth. Add in another 1/3 of the dry ingredients until no flour traces remain followed by the remainder of the milk mixture. Add in the last of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, using a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl to make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in.

6. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes for about 35 minutes or until an inserted cake tester come out clean. Once done, let pans sit on a cooling rack for 10 minutes then turn out and cool completely before icing.


*Baking Powder-single acting

2 Tablespoons Cream of tartar

1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1 Tablespoon baking soda.

Mix will and keep in a tightly sealed jar for up to 1 month.


Lemon Cream Cheese icing

2- 8oz bricks softened cream cheese

1 Cup unsalted butter, softened

3 Cups sifted powder sugar

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth.

2. Add in the powdered sugar and mix on low speed at first, then increase to medium speed and continue mixing for another 1-2 minutes until the mixture starts to come together.

3. Add lemon juice and lemon zest, mix well

4. Ice cake and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

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