Tangy Glazed Pork Chops with a Pomegranate Reduction

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Here in the Midwest, we’re in this weird weather state. Kind of an un-season. My spring allergies are in full force, but I’m wearing sweaters. The next day is sundress weather, which turns to rain, which freezes and turns to snow. You can’t put away your winter clothes or get out your summer clothes.

Pork-Chop

What to wear from one hour to the next isn’t the only issue. We’re stuck between hearty, winter-y meals and light, fresh spring and summer foods. So, in all this chaos and confusion that is my state of being, I’ve got one thing that really works for this un-season.  I give you these pork chops. The best of a hearty, warm, winter meal in pork chops jazzed up with sweet, tangy fruit and a kick of spice. Finally, a reason to like the un-season.

SpicedChops

This meal is so easy and hits all sorts of notes. The pomegranate juice is both tart and sweet and is bold enough to counter the heavy nature of a pork chop. The red pepper flakes add heat and green onions balance it out with earthy freshness. I served this over an almond rice pilaf, to soak up all those extra juices. Yum. You better get this cooking before the un-season is over! It will really be a bright spot, I swear.

GreenOnions

For the pork chops, you’ll need:

3 medium to large or 4 small pork chops
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup pomegranate juice
4 tsp. sugar
8 sliced green onions

Reduction:
1/4 c. pomegranate juice
2 tsp. sugar

SearedChops

Coat pork chops with about. 1 T olive oil. in In small bowl combine salt, pepper, cinnamon and red pepper flakes. Rub on both sides of pork chops.

PomegranateReduction

Add remaining olive oil to a medium-sized skillet on medium heat. Once skillet is hot, add pork chops and sear until browned (but not cooked through) on both sides— about 6 minutes total. Once seared, remove from skillet and set aside under foil, to keep warm. While searing pork chops, chop green onions.

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Using the same skillet, combine pomegranate juice and sugar. Bring to boil. Boil, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture is reduced to about half. Return pork chops to skillet. Cook, uncovered, 5-10 more minutes until the pork chops are cooked through. Meanwhile, add pomegranate juice and sugar for the reduction to a small skillet and boil for about 5 minutes, until the consistency is thick and syrupy. Once pork chops are done, serve over rice or another starch, sprinkle with onions and drizzle with reduction.

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This is only only one quick remedy. But, if you’re in the same boat, best of luck with the rest of your (hopefully short) un-season!


Not Your Grandma’s Ham and Beans

Beans edit
Every time I visit my parents, I seem to come home with edible goodies of all sorts. Be it freshly laid chicken eggs, cookies, interesting cheeses or any assortment of jerky. I have a feeling this may continue to happen no matter how old and self-sustaining I become. And, I must admit, I don’t mind it one little bit. A couple of weeks ago, I surprised my dad and went to stay with my family for the week. The prize I came home with this time? A ham. A really, really large ham.

DryBeans

My husband has mentioned before that the only time he’s had ham and beans was when he was young at a Veteran’s Hall, and they were white, tasteless and made “ham and beans” not sound like an appetizing dish for the rest of his life. I was determined to change his view. Not that he even had to like them, just not continue to have that stigma. So, we set to work, using a little basic ham and beans recipe, a little Food Network’s recipe and a little our own twist. He had a second full bowl, so I’m considering it a success.

Ham-and-bean-pot

These beans are a little spicy, a little soupy and a  top-notch choice if you’re looking for comfort food. The carrots and caramelized onions give it a rich sweet hint, which balances perfectly with the heat. And it’s ideal weather for this dish since it’s so hearty and filling, without being too heavy.

Ham-and-beans-with-cornbread2

Ingredients:

1 lb dried Great Northern beans
3 cups of cubed ham (1/4- 1/2 inch cubes)
1 Onion, diced
3/4 c. Sliced carrots
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 T. Butter
1 T. Extra virgin olive oil
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Thyme
1/2 tsp. Red pepper flakes
1 tsp. Paprika
1 can San Marzano tomatoes
Salt and pepper

First things first: soaking the beans. Give the beans a good rinse. Then, sort them and place them in a pot. You can either choose to soak them in the pot overnight and then rinse and drain or do a “quick soak.” To quick soak the beans, add 6 cups of hot water to the pot with the beans and bring to a rolling boil. Let boil for two minutes, cover, remove from heat and let sit for one hour. Then rinse and drain again. While beans are soaking, heat butter and olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat. When hot, add the onions and carrots and salt and pepper them. Once the onions begin to become translucent (10 minutes or so), add the cubed ham and garlic.

Ham-and-beans

Cook for another 15-20 minutes until the onions and carrots are very tender and nearly caramelized. Once the beans are ready, add 5 cups of water to the beans and stir in onion and ham mixture. Add all remaining ingredients except tomatoes. Simmer on low partially covered for 1 hour 45 mins- 2 hours, stirring about every half hour. In a bowl, crush tomatoes by hand. Add the tomatoes and juice to the beans after an hour of cooking. At this point, you can also add more water if you would like it to be soup-ier.

Serve hot with bread. I couldn’t resist making cornbread muffins to accompany it. Mmmm. Oh, and the flavor is even more developed after it’s refrigerated overnight, which works well since this makes a good-sized batch.

Ham-and-beans-with-cornbread

I think even your grandma would approve!


Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

It’s a squash. No, it’s a bowl. No, it’s a squash bowl! And a mighty delicious one at that. Really, who doesn’t like to eat things out of edible bowls? Bread bowls, waffle bowls, and now, behold the acorn squash bowl.

I picked up an acorn squash knowing that I wanted to make it into a bowl for a cute little one-dish-meal. However, I didn’t find any recipes that: a.) were savory dinner recipes; b.) sounded wonderful; and c.) I had all the ingredients for on hand. The saga of my life. And thus, this delicious flavor-packed baby was born. It is so moist and savory and complex, I can’t get over it. I may just make it again next week.

And as if the incredible developed flavors and healthiness were not enough for me to talk you into making these, I would like to emphasize how quick and easy they are to make as well. I got home from work, prepped the squash and was putting it in the oven when my husband got home and I explained to him what my plan was. I wanted to get in a quick 30-minute workout, so he decided to take over chopping and sauteing and by the time I was done, I walked in the kitchen as he was stirring the veggies into the quinoa and loading up the bowls. (He’s quite the cook anyway, I’m just emphasizing the speed element here.) So, let’s get to it.

You’ll need:

one acorn squash
1 lb Italian seasoned ground turkey
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 large carrot, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (1/4 tsp. if using dried)
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup Monterrey Jack or other mild white cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
1 T butter
salt
pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice the acorn squash long ways (stem up). For ease of cutting, microwave for 30 seconds first. Scoop out pulp and seeds. Lightly oil, salt and pepper the inside of the squash and place on a baking sheet flesh side up. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until tender.

While the squash is baking, brown the turkey in a skillet with a little oil. In another pan, saute vegetables, garlic and thyme in butter until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, start cooking quinoa according to directions on box.

Once quinoa, vegetables and meat are cooked, stir vegetables, meat and both cheeses into quinoa, reserving 1/4 cup of Monterrey Jack for topping. Evenly mix the ingredients, then scoop and press spoonfuls of the quinoa mixture into the acorn squash.

Top bowls with remaining cheese and place under broiler for 2-3 minutes, until brown and bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

I must warn you: quinoa makes for a very filling dish. Neither Andy or I could get through more than half of a serving. This ended up feeding us for six meals, which was just fine by both of us since it was so delicious. And this is one of those dishes that is honestly just as good leftover. A bonus is that the quinoa mixture can easily stand alone, too. Now, go throw together this dish in the amount of time it took you to read this. Enjoy!


Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Oh, squash season, how I love thee. I take any chance I can get to squeeze squash into dishes this time of year. And this was opening day for the butternut squash in our home. I am honestly somewhat shocked I didn’t eat the entire thing straight off of the roasting pan and there was some left to make this. Ah, willpower not to inhale a multi-pound vegetable all at once.

Though I love the mix of sweet and savory dishes, Andy doesn’t quite as much, so I did my best to minimize the inherent sweetness of the butternut squash by also adding its much less sweet cousin, the pumpkin. I threw in onions and bacon too (because when should you NOT use them, really?), which have sweet undertones that don’t clash with the squash, but make the dish heartier and more savory. And, if I do say so myself, (and I do) I really knocked this one out of the park. Holy squashcheesygoodness.


This is so creamy and cheesy, you don’t even realize all the vitamins it’s packed with. Vegetables are tricky like that. And, a bonus with really creamy sauces is that you can pair it whole grain pasta and you can’t tell a difference. Now, I’m not a hater on the whole grain pasta, but it is always noticeably slightly weird (for lack of a better term) with light tomato sauces. Or maybe it’s just me.

In my experience, shells hold onto hearty sauces better than macaroni, which why the title is “mac and cheese” not the full “macaroni and cheese.” Like when fast food places use “beef-y” or “chick-n” so as not to mislead you into thinking it’s real beef or chicken. This is “mac,” not actual macaroni and now you can’t turn me in for misleading you.

You’ll need:

1 small butternut squash
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
6 strips bacon (I used turkey bacon)
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese*
1/3 cup grated Mozzarella cheese*
1/3 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese*
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese*
2 2/3 cup milk (2% or whole)
2 T butter
3 T flour
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 15-oz box whole wheat pasta shells
Extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper

*Any cheese you may have on hand would work, as long as you end up with 2 cups total, but it would be best with a mix of mild and sharp cheeses.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice butternut squash vertically with a large knife. A good trick for ease of cutting is to microwave the squash for 30 seconds before slicing. Spoon out seeds and pulp and discard. Lightly coat with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Place skin side up on a large baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the center is tender. Once it has cooled enough to handle, scoop out squash and mash to a puree with a spoon. Set aside 2 cups of puree for recipe (if any remains, eat as a side dish with another meal: “mashed squash”—yum!) Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

While squash is roasting, prepare pasta according to directions on box and set aside. Cook bacon in a small pan, crumble and set aside. Then, in the same pan, saute onions over medium-low heat with a sprinkle of salt and pepper using 1 T of the bacon grease to cook them in. Set aside.

Then, it’s time to get the sauce going! Heat butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Slowly whisk in flour. Once it is mixed, slowly stir in the milk. Once all milk is added, turn heat to high and continue to whisk for about two more minutes until sauce thickens. Add all cheeses, reserving 1/2 cup cheese mixture for the top. Once cheese is melted, stir in both pumpkin and squash puree, onions and bacon. Salt and pepper to taste, then pour over cooked pasta and stir to combine. Transfer into 9X13 baking dish and top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and center is very warm.

Now enjoy the amazingly creamy, cheesy, vibrantly-colored mess of deliciousness that also happens to be good for you. Which, of course, is always justification for an extra helping.


Eggplant Caprese and Chicken Mediterranean Pizzas

Well, our basil is growing like wild and we needed a good way to use up bunches of it. Pizza with homemade pesto sauce and basil on top was just the thing.

We used this recipe for a chickpea and carrot pizza crust for something fun and unconventional and it was mighty delicious. We loved the texture. It made two large pizzas and we opted for two totally different flavor profiles.

Each pizza began with a good layer of this homemade pesto for the sauce. The first pizza was an eggplant caprese with tomato slices, grilled eggplant, buffalo mozzarella and basil tucked into the layers. Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses topped it off.

The grilled eggplant gave the caprese pizza a wonderfully rich, meaty flavor. It was so simple yet so flavorful.

The second was topped with grilled chicken, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and a bit of shredded cheddar. This really packed a punch. The sweet onions balanced the pungent sun-dried tomatoes and sharp feta. It was a seriously magical combination.

Do you have any awesome unconventional pizza crust recipes or ridiculously good pizza topping combinations?