Martha’s Sage Pork Chops in 15 Minutes

Today’s recipe came from Martha Stewart – the queen of modern recipes. (Sorry, Martha – but Julia Child shall always remain reining queen in my book). I love the title of Martha’s recipe – Sage  Pork Chops in 15 Minutes. Any time I can have a home cooked meal on the table in 15 minutes I’m there. Now in fairness to Martha, my chops are a bit larger than what the recipe calls for, so cooking time needed to be increased. Still, if my math skills are working 8 minutes to cook the chops, 2 minutes for the shallots and 3 minutes to reduce the sauce comes to 13 minutes. I guess the other 2 minutes are to season chops and chop shallots, although the shallots can be chopped while the chops are cooking, so that shouldn’t be a factor. Given that my chops are thicker, I’m still looking at dinner on the table in about 25 minutes – and that’s a win for busy cooks, right?

When trying out a new recipe for the first time that promises a short cooking time, there are too many variables to risk cooking a pot of rice. Which means I’ll be serving these chops with something easy from Uncle Ben’s. His variety of Ready Rices are perfect when there’s an uncertainty of timing or when time doesn’t allow rice to be cooked any other way. Have you tried any of these microwave rice dishes? If I’m walking through the door at 5:30, and dinner must be served at 6:00 to fit into other plans for the evening, I don’t have a minute to spare. It’s times like this that I reach into the pantry for some Uncle Ben’s. Vent the bag, pop it into a microwave and 90 seconds later you’ve got Wild Rice or Spanish Rice or any number of other rice dishes. I’m thinking Butter and Garlic sound about right with Sage Pork Chops. I’ve still got a jar of Dad’s home-canned Green Beans, so it will be an all-around delicious supper in no time flat.

The flavor of these chops is incredible – the sage compliments the wonderful flavor of pork, bringing it to new heights. The delicate yet distinct flavor of the finely minced shallots only pays further homage to the sage in the sauce. Finally, the pan dripping give a light, slightly smokey flavor to the finished dish. Everything comes together to delight the senses.

On a final note; the choice to go with Butter and Garlic rice was the perfect pairing. With my hungry guys, I typically serve two packages of rice – these take 90 seconds each. In the time it took to “zap” the rice, the sauce was finished and dinner served. This is definitely a scrumptious supper worth repeating.

Salt CellarThis recipe called for Coarse Salt. While Martha may have had fresh ground or Kosher Salt, I chose to go with an Atlantic Sea Salt from my collection. My romantic Hubby gave me the world for Christmas – as in a collection of salts from around the world. Such lovely salts deserved a equally lovely way to utilize them in my kitchen. Recently at one of our weekend antiquing excursions; I found the most exquisite vintage cut-crystal cellar rimmed in silver with a charming little sterling spoon. Now I wonder how I ever got along in the kitchen without these. So many salts to choose from, and a fun way to season.

Sage Pork Chops in 15 Minutes
Ingredients – Pork Chops
4 boneless pork loin chops (6 ounces each)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Season pork generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium; add pork. Cook until browned and opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Transfer to a plate, and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. (A better way to keep warm is to transfer pork chops to a plate and cover by inverting a metal mixing bowl over plate. This will create a “dome” which will keep the chops warm while collecting steam to infuse chops in their own juices).

Ingredients – Sage Sauce
1 medium shallot, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage or 1/4 teaspoon sage rub
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine

Add shallot to the now empty skillet; cook over medium, stirring until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.

Measure wine in a 1-cup measuring cup. Add sage, thyme, and wine, whisk to blend. Pour herb-wine mixture into the pan. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is reduced to about 1/3 cup, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in any accumulated juices from plate with chops. Generously spoon pan sauce over pork chops and serve.

When plating pork chops, drizzle with sauce, and serve with rice.

Honey and Spice-Glazed Pork Chops

You know how it goes with best laid plans and all. It had been a very long week, and I was bushed. As Hubby and I sat at the light, we could smell the wonderful onions from a nearby In-N-Out Burger joint, and our mouths got to watering. While homemade In-N-Out Style Double-Double Burger were on this week’s planned meals, they were scheduled for Saturday. The Honey and Spiced-Glazed Pork Chops were planned for Friday. Hubby glanced over at the long line of cars circling the parking lot asked if we could maybe switch those around. The ingredients for both were sitting in the fridge – what the heck. In reality, I’m glad we decided to make the switch. Saturday was the day before the big game – with all the yummy finger foods to make, bake and otherwise create. Something simple and quick was just the right ticket. Switch we did.

I love pork chops. For the most part, they cook up quickly and easily. A little of this, a little of that and you’ve got a meal that is delicious in no time at all. Although not the fastest among my pork chop recipes, one of our favorites is Mexican Pork Chops with Ancho Chile Cornbread Stuffing. I thought the Mexican Pork Chops were going to remain Hubby’s all-time favorites until recently, when Hubby, Kiddo and I got together and cook up to-die-for Hunter’s Pork Chops. I’m always on the lookout for a new recipe to try. When Kiddo was a little Kiddo, we were big on the Book Fairs. He would tell me “you can’t have too many books”, which is exactly the way I feel about new recipes. There’s no such thing as too many. This little ditty is a recipe I picked up at Everyday Tastes.com – the recipe seemed very straight forward, and the photo on their website showed beautiful, glistening chops. Food needs to be appealing to the senses – the look and the aromas are the first things that greet you long before that first bite. If it looks bad and stinks, it’s hard to get that fork to your lips, although I must admit I’ve sampled some mighty tasty dishes over the years that at a glance were down right ugly!

While cooking up these chops, I learned a few things and needed to adapt quickly. The original recipe had the pork chops brushed with the glaze immediately after browning. While I started to follow those instructions, a little of the glaze dripped from the brush and the sugar in the honey began to brown quickly. It was necessary to turn down the heat more to the low of medium-low. Fearful that the chops would dry out, I added the chicken stock, let them “steam/simmer” in a covered pan. Once I was sure the chops were cooked through, I brushed on the glaze. Adding a little butter at the end gave a nice finish to the pan drippings. A little drizzle over the finished chops gave everything a deep, beautiful color.

Honey & Spice-Glazed Pork Chops
1/4  cup  honey
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2  teaspoon  ground ginger
1/4  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
1/8  teaspoon  ground cloves
4  (4-ounce) boneless center-cut pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
2 Tablespoons Butter

In a small bowl, combine honey, mustard and spices. Set aside until ready to use

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.

Reduce heat to medium-low and chicken stock. Cover and cook for 10 minutes longer, or until pork is cooked through, turning once.

Brush pork chops with honey-spice mixture. Cook 3 minutes more. Turn, brush with remaining mixture. Add butter to pan and cook another 3 minutes.

Remove from pan and serve immediately.

If desired, serve on a bed of rice such as butter and garlic or a rice pilaf. You can also drizzle a little of the pan drippings over the chops.

Cookin’ up a Big Pot of Ham Bone and Beans

Seems like I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing lately. Dad’s not a spring chicken anymore. While I want to have him near and dear forever – his age is beginning to catch up to him.  Dad is in his eighties now, and he’s not getting around with the same spunk he once did. The cows at the family farm are all gone – at his age caring for them got to be too much. We were concerned – Dad is Dr. Doolittle of sorts – his cows were like giant dogs that came running when he whistled. (Don’t get me wrong – these were NOT pets. He birthed them, raised them, gave them all cute names and then we ate them). Caring for things, be it the cows or the garden, kept him busy and spry. Last year Dad took to goats – much easier than cows (and those we don’t eat). He has one in particular, his name is George and he walks on a leach up and down the country roads. Lambs have been added to the farm – I’ve threatened to make lamb chops out of them, but I’ve been out voted. I’ve also suggested we milk them, (love goat and sheep cheese – yum!) but again I’ve been out voted. Dad got a bunch of Billy Goats – a lot of good those will do! The biggest reason for the sheep and goats is that they will eat anything – including all that pasture grass, so Dad doesn’t need to keep up with caring for the fields.

I know it’s a Southern thing to have Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day. Dad grew up on Black Eyed Peas. It’s a taste I’ve never quite adapted to – preferring the flavor and texture of Pinto or Pink Beans. Every year, Dad saved the ham bone from Christmas and would make a big pot of Ham Bone and Beans for New Year’s Day. When I left home, I continued the tradition. Kiddo grew up on Ham Bone and Beans with a big slice of cornbread. These days, I don’t bake the ham, so I don’t get the bone. We make a big pot of Chili Beans with a side of cornbread. Up until recently, it was completely done from scratch (sorting through the beans, giving them an overnight soak, then slow cooking all of the following day). Recently, I’ve taken to a short cut that is almost as good – Cheater’s Chili To Rocks in the New Year. Still, sometimes I miss the Ham Bone and Beans of my childhood. This year, after the holidays, I picked up a ham on sale. Naturally, we saved the bone. It’s in the freezer now. I’m not sure just when I will get around to cooking up a pot of Ham Bone and Beans. Maybe some time after the Super Bowl. I didn’t want to wait that long to share this childhood recipe – just in case you have a ham bone in your freezer. Smoked ham works best; imparting a wonderful flavor to the beans and broth.

Ham Bone and Beans
1/2 Cup Pinto Beans
1/2 Cup Pink Beans
1 Medium onion, cut into large chunks
1 Ham Bone, with plenty of meat still attached (save your Christmas Ham)
3 Cups Water
Salt to taste (add at end)
Pepper to taste (add at end)

Pick through beans, rinse with cold water to remove any dirt. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Let beans soak overnight.

Drain water from pot and rinse beans. Return to pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, add onion and let simmer until beans are tender but firm, about 3 hours, adding more water as necessary.

Add ham bone and any additional ham left over from Christmas. Simmer for 1 hour. Allow sauce to thicken during final hour of cooking time.

Remove bone from pot. Pick off any ham remaining on bone to add to the pot.

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with warm cornbread and a simple salad if desired.

Suggested Cornbread recipes:

Good Ol’ Boy Southern Style Cornbread

Northern-Style Sweet Corn Bread

Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin

During the weeks and final days leading up to the holidays, I like to make several large meals – recently I cooked up a lovely Cracked Peppercorn and Herb Rubbed Garlic Roast Beef. Later in the week, I’ve planned a ham for Sunday Supper. Why? For our little family of three (although two of the three are grown men with healthy appetites), these wonderful recipes feed us well, with plenty of deliciously prepared meats leftover. The leftover meats are carefully wrapped in foil, then sealed in freezer bags for added protection. Once frozen, I can save and use the hunks of meat later in to create a variety of finger sandwiches or other appetizers – be it for a New Year’s Eve Party or as part of a Super Bowl Spread. At $8.00 per pound on average for deli roasted meats, using leftovers saves big time on the pocket book without sacrificing quality.

I have several recipes for Canapes that call for Roasted Pork Tenderloin. So why not try a new “main” pork recipe and save the rest for holiday canapes? Works for me. What about you?

The Brown Sugar and Pecan mixture will slowly become a wonderful, candy caramelized glaze. It’s sweet and salty and oh so delicious. Perfect pairing with the moist, tender pork roast.

Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin
3 1/2 pound pork loin roast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup roughly chopped raw pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Trim the fat from the roast, leaving only a quarter inch of fat on top that will melt away, creating a nice golden under crust while basting the meat in its flavorful goodness.

Season the pork loin with salt and pepper. Place pork on a roasting rack over a shallow foil-lined rimmed baking pan. (Easy clean up). Roast pork in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. (It doesn’t hurt to brush the rack with a little olive oil to prevent pork from sticking and to help with the clean up there as well).

While the pork is cooking, combine the brown sugar and Dijon mustard into a paste. Fold the chopped pecans into the paste and set aside until ready to use. (To chop pecans, work in small batches. Lay pecans in a single layer on a chopping board. Chop with a hand-held food chopper – about 5 or 6 “wacks” should give you nicely chopped pecans. My food chopper is from Pampered Chef – had it for years and love it!)

After pork loin has roasted in the oven for 30 minutes, remove the loin from oven. Reduce heat to 375 degrees. Spread prepared baste evenly over the of the top of the pork loin and return to oven.

Baste the roast about every 15 minutes, scooping up the glaze and nuts that fall off back over the top of the roast.

Continue to roast pork loin until the internal temperature reaches between 145 to 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. (That’s about 20 to 25 minutes per pound). The pork will still have a little pink at 145 degrees, which is safe to eat. At 160 degrees, the pork is well-done.

If the glaze starts to burn, simply cover loosely with foil and continue to cook.

Remove pork from oven, tent and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

This wonderful pork tenderloin goes particularly well with steamed Green Beans, Rice Pilaf and if you are feeling rather ambitious, home baked dinner rolls. Yum!

Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ-Coca-Cola Pulled Pork

In flipping through the recipes I’ve collected over the years since “discovering” the vastness of the internet, I’ve noticed that a growing number of Barbecue-Sauce based recipes call for Sweet Baby Ray’s. Even Burger King featured Sweet Baby Ray’s in their “Angry Whopper” concoction. Curiosity got the better of me – what’s the story behind this popular Barbecue Sauce? It’s gotta be southern, right? And old, a well-guarded secret recipe handed down from generation to generation. As it turns out, the recipe is a “family” recipe. Just how old the original recipe is, Chef Larry Raymond isn’t saying. Back in 1985 he entered his family recipe in a rib cook-off in Chicago. And not just any rib cook-off, it was the Mike Royko Rib-off, one of the largest in the country. Chef Larry named his sauce Sweet Baby Ray’s, after his younger brother, Dave, who earned the name on the basketball court. Sweet Baby Ray’s took second place, which is a huge accomplishment from a then unheard of entry. It is now America’s leading bottled barbecue sauce. All I know is that when a recipe calls for Sweet Baby Ray’s, I don’t mess around with it. Sweet Baby Ray’s it is all the way. Now I might play around with the other ingredients, but not the barbecue sauce.

This dish would be great in the summer when fresh corn is at the peak of it’s season. There’s something about barbecue and cob corn that just naturally go hand-in-hand. (And sorry folks, but when it comes to corn on the cob, fresh-picked has no substitute. I grew up with corn growing in the yard – it doesn’t get any fresher or better than that.) I feel the same way about Country Fried Potatoes when it comes to barbecue sides. So much so that I realized I needed to share my recipe for Country Style Seasoned Fried Potatoes before I could finish this post. Yep, I feel that strongly about skillet fried potatoes. And while I felt the need to “share” – unfortunately we won’t be having fried potatoes tonight. I’ve got a bit of a bug, so crock pot cooking and some canned sides are just what the doctor ordered.

In the south, Barbecue is more than just a style of slow-cooking meats over a fire pit, it’s a social gathering. Southerners don’t go someplace (be it a neighboring farm) for a barbecue dinner, they gather at the barbecue. It’s an event. And just because the weather is gloomy doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy slow-cooked meats with all the trimmings. Which is why a good, smokey barbecue sauce is so important to the flavor of a crock-pot barbecue.

Our house is a Pepsi-Produce household. No offense to Coke, but we prefer Pepsi. When dining out, if Pepsi is not no the menu, Hubby has a Root Beer and I order an iced tea. Kiddo doesn’t have a preference, soda is soda to him. When I read this recipe for Pulled-Pork that called for Coke, I knew we would need to break down and bring a single glass bottle of the stuff into the house. Let’s face it, Coke and Pepsi are NOT even close in flavors. Both bubble from carbonation, both have that deep brown color, but that’s where the similarities end. Pepsi is sweeter than Coke, and when it comes to cooking, the flavors of the ingredients are key to bringing it all together. So coke it was. The only change I’ve made from the original recipe from The Frugal Girl (http://thefrugalgirls.com/2014/06/crockpot-bbq-coca-cola-pulled-pork.html) was to increase the onion. Her recipe called for 1/2 a white onion, optional. I’ve increased it to an entire onion, no option about it.

Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ-Coca-Cola Pulled Pork
3 lbs. Pork Tenderloin
1 bottle (18 oz) Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce
1 (12 oz) can Coca-Cola
1 white onion, sliced semi-thick

Peel and slice onions into semi-thick round, enough to cover the bottom of your slow cooker. Place onions in a single layer on the bottom pot and place pork tenderloin on top of the onions.

Pour the can of Coke into a mixing bowl. Add barbecue sauce to the bowl with the Coke and stir gently to mix well. (You will definitely want the Coke in the bowl FIRST, otherwise the Coke will fizz up and make a mess).

Pour mixture over and around the pork. Cover pot and set on LOW for about 8 to 10 hours. (The longer “cooking” time is for straight from the freezer pork tenderloin, which is great because you don’t have to remember to thaw the meat out the day before. You can cook it up whenever you feel the need for awesome pulled pork without having to plan ahead).

Remove pork from pot and place on a warmed serving platter. Remove onions from the pot, place on top. Shred pork and onions together, moistening meat with a little of the sauce from the pot as you pull.

Drizzle with more sauce and toss to blend. To serve, pile the pulled pork onto your plate, or sandwich it nicely on a toasted hamburger bun. We like to eat it “as is” the first time around, then take the leftovers to work for a second meal of awesome pulled pork sandwiches later in the week.

Tips and other thoughts: This down-home Texas goodness goes well with buttery corn (on the cob in the summer is best, but canned is will do in the dead of winter), and rick Texas Style Ranch Beans. If you are feeling exceptionally ambitious, buttermilk biscuits  or Good Ol’ Boy Southern Style Cornbread are also welcome sides. When I can’t get fresh corn, I’ll buy the vacuum packed canned corn, rinse the heck out of it, then warm the corn slowly in a sauce pan with plenty of butter. Never, ever boil canned corn – it’s already been cooked once, there’s no need to cook the life out of it a second time. Just warm the corn – and the buttery goodness is almost as good as slathering a fresh-cooked ear of corn just to watch the butter melt into all the little corn rows.

Wishing you a wonderful week . . .

Crock Pot Pulled Pork (1)

Slice onion and place in the bottom of your crock pot. Place pork tenderloin pork on top of onion. This will allow onions to flavor the finished sauce and keep the pork from drowning in too much sauce while it cooks up fork-tender.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork (2)

Into a mixing bowl, pour Coca-Cola. Let it sit a minute or so, then pour Sweet Baby Ra’s Barbecue sauce into the bowl. Gently blend to create one smooth liquid. You don’t want to whisk or otherwise cause the Coke to loose it’s “fizz”.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork (3)

Pour barbecue sauce mixture around and over the pork tenderloin. Cover pot, set to LOW and let it all cook until fork-tender. It’s okay to use pork that is still frozen. Cook frozen meat about 10 hours, thawed about 8.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork (4)

Remove pork from crock pot. Fish out onions and lay over pork so that the two can be pulled and shredded together. The onions are a wonderful addition, lending another layer of texture and sweet flavor to the dish.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork (5)

Use two large forks to “pull” the pork apart. If you are serving the meat alone (as in NOT on a bun) you’ll want to have large chunks of meat. Drizzle on more sauce for added flavor and moisture.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork (6)

Pulled pork goes well with the usual “barbecue” sides such as buttery corn and Texas-Style Ranch Beans.

Roasted Pork Loin with Red Potatoes and Leeks

Pork – the “other” white meat, and my latest love. I’ve always adored pork chops, pork tacos and barbecued rips, lately I’ve developed an unquenchable appetite for pork roasts as well. I like the way the pork roast develops that beautiful, flavorful crust, especially when pan-seared. While I look for a roast that has been trimmed, a little fat is a good thing, adding flavor to both the finished roast and the pan drippings.

Pulled pork – love it! Smoked pork – love it! Stuffed pork roast (as in Genoa Style Stuffed Pork Loin Roast) – what’s not to love? Looking back over the last fourteen months, I’ve shared a number of pork recipes along the way. I don’t think I could pick an all-time favorite. It just seems that you can’t go wrong with pork. The only word of caution – pork can and will dry out if not property attended to – or generously moist and tender with a little TLC.

The recipe for Roast Pork Loin that follows is one I picked up at William-Sonoma. Generally speaking, you can’t go wrong with any recipe from William-Sonoma. That said, I feared my own skills. I get nervous anytime I make a pork roast – and to quiet my own fears I almost always add liquid to the pan to promote moisture. This recipe did not call for chicken stock in its original form. However; the pan I used just didn’t seem deep enough, the roast itself (in my opinion) sat up too high, exposing the meat to the dry heat of the oven. Also, the potatoes below were going to compete for the meat’s natural juices. Another fear set in. Deep breaths – listen to your inner voice. Add the chicken stock to prime the pot, keep an eye on the meat and seal with foil if necessary to promote moisture to naturally gather. Trust your instincts. That’s what my inner voice whispered.

The results were marvelous – simply marvelous. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much – all I  know with any certainty is that the roast was tender, moist and my guys were raving about dinner. Raving – it doesn’t get any better, does it?

Roasted Pork Loin with Red Potatoes and Leeks
2 lbs. Red potatoes, cut into chunks
2 leeks, white and light green portions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
2 fresh bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 1/2 lb boneless pork loin roast, tied with
2 tablespoons garlic powder, divided
butcher twine at 1/2-inch intervals
1/3 Cup Chicken Stock

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

Cut ends from leeks, cut length-wise into quarters. In a bowl, stir together the potatoes, leeks, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the pork roast with the garlic powder (about 1 tablespoons per side), rub, then season generously with kosher salt and fresh pepper. (Two or three twists of the mill).

In a large, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil until just smoking. Add the pork and sear until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer to a foil lined plate. Draw up foil and wrap pork to keep warm.

Add the potatoes and leeks to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Place the pork on top of the potato mixture, add chicken stock and transfer to the oven.

Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 145°F and the pork is barely pink in the center, about 45 minutes. Check pork after about 35 minutes. If pork appears to be drying out, turn roast over, cover with foil and continue to cook.

Transfer the pork to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Remove leeks and bay leaves from pan, discard bay leaves, lay leaks on warm serving platter lengthwise.

Carve the pork, arrange on a warmed platter over the leeks and sprinkle with oregano. Surround pork with the red potatoes. Pour any remaining juices from cooking pan over the roast and potatoes. Serve immediately.

Apricot Brown Sugar Glazed Ham – Serving up Sunday Supper on a Saturday Night

Easter is coming. Okay, so it’s a little more than a month away, but it is coming none the less. Time to test a few new recipes for the Easter Table. One thing I know for sure – Easter will include a ham. It simply would not be Easter without a ham.

It seems to me that more often than not, when I’m serving up a ham I tend to stick to the”traditional” glazed ham I know so well. You know the one – with pineapple ring and cherries held into place with whole cloves – such a delicious throw-back to childhood memories. I can almost smell my parent’s kitchen at Easter – the distinct aroma of cloves was undeniable. Our house was always bursting at the seams with cousins, uncles, aunts and assorted “adopted” family for the holiday meals. On average, there were at least ten to twelve children – little staggered stepping-stones – twice as many children as adults.

The grownups naturally gravitated to the kitchen, cup of coffee in hand, taking up their respective places at the holiday table. For whatever reason, to my ears they all seemed to be chattering at once – the men in English, the women in a mixture of Spanish, English and Tagalog. Everyone was dressed up in their Easter best, having just come from Mass. It was the one time when the ladies (and girls) wore hats to cover their heads rather than the usual veils. Easter always meant two “new” additions everyone’s wardrobe – shoes and hats. For the children, it also meant a new dress or suit.

Upon our return from Mass Dad, with a kitchen towel draped over his left shoulder, heads straight for the oven to check on his ham. The ham always seemed to take forever to reach perfect doneness – when the meat was cooked through, all smokey and flavorful, and the fat curled up nice and crisp. Just when Dad popped the ham into a slow oven is beyond me. All I knew with any certainty is that it made its way into the oven sometime between the Easter Bunny’s visit and our departure for Saint Paul’s.  Satisfied that all is well, Dad would pour himself a cup of coffee and joins the others at the table.

As for the children, we gathered in the living room, seated in a circle on the floor with our baskets of goodies before us. It was time for the annual inspection and negotiation – comparing “loot” and trading candies. Naturally, none of us would part with our hollow chocolate bunnies, no matter how many jelly beans may be offered in the trade. No, it was more a matter of jelly bean color that was up for grabs. Before long Mom or one of the Aunts would come into the room to remind us all “no more candy before dinner.”

Easter Dinner – one of three “special” occasions when real butter would be at the table, along with hot dinner rolls and a big bowl of black olives – perfect for sticking onto the ends of our fingers. (Is there any other way to eat black olives?)

Yeah, we’ll be having ham for Easter – some traditions will never die. These days it’s not a matter of “if” a ham will be served but more a question of how the ham is prepared. Recipes need to be tested – and in my book that’s as good an excuse as any to serve up a Sunday Ham Supper on a Saturday evening . . .

 

Apricot Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
1 (8-10 pound) smoked picnic ham (bone-in)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup apricot jam
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Place the ham cut side down onto a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side up. With a sharp knife, score the ham to allow glaze to seep into the meat.

Mix together the brown sugar, apricot jam and mustard powder in a small bowl. Pop mixture into the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften and make it more spreadable.

Brush onto the ham using a pastry or barbecue brush. Be sure to brush cut side as well. The ham should be well-coated with about half the glaze mixture. Reserve remaining glaze for later. Enclose the foil around the ham and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

Roast in a preheated oven for about 14 minutes per pound.

About 20 minutes before the ham is done, apply all the remaining glaze. Roll foil down, exposing the ham so that glaze with thicken, and any skin or fat will brown nicely. (Note: If glaze has thickened simply zap in microwave for about 30 seconds).

************

Hold the presses! Dinner was unbelievable! This recipe produced the most tender, flavorful, moist ham I have ever eaten. I don’t know if cooking the ham in my roasting oven rather than the big oven made any difference. I know I have a few more recipes to try . . . yet I have to admit, this was delicious!

Ham Dinner (2)

Busy Day Pork Chops

The name says it all – perfect for a busy-day. Not only are these pork chops yummy, the prep work is minimal and they don’t require much attention, aside from a quick flip about 15 minutes into the baking time. I’d even be willing to bet you’ve got all the ingredients in your kitchen right now.

I found this recipe on Taste of Home while searching for diabetic friendly main dishes. (Doctor was concerned about blood sugar levels, and I went on a health kick – didn’t last long). When I told the family we were going to try a pork chop recipe that was healthy and diabetic friendly, they didn’t look happy. But those looks of skepticism turned into smiles with the very first bite.  It’s now popular in our house – simply because these chops taste good. The fact that they are diabetic friendly is just a nice bonus.

Busy-Day Pork Chops
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 boneless pork loin chops (4 ounces each)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking pan lightly with cooking spray, set aside.

Pour milk into a pie plate or a shallow bowl, set aside.

On a sheet of waxed paper, combine the cheese, bread crumbs, salt, garlic powder and pepper.

Dip pork chops in milk, then coat with crumb mixture.

Place pork chops on baking pan; spritz chops with cooking spray. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning mid-way through.

Enjoy!

Serving suggestions: A simple tossed salad or Summer Squash Medley Sautéed with Garlic-Dill Weed

Savory Mushroom Pork Chops with Asparagus Stalks

Years ago, I bought a Campbell Soup Cookbook. It is packed with all sorts of yummy recipes using Campbell Soup as the base for the sauce. Over the years, I’ve played around with the recipes. This dish is no exception. The addition of fresh mushrooms, white wine and fresh rosemary makes all the difference in the world. After all, fresh ingredients bring color and flavor to any dish.

Savory Mushroom Pork Chops with Asparagus
2 Tablespoons Butter
4 Pork Chops, about ¾-inch thick
1 ½ Cups Mushrooms (4 oz) Sliced
2 Tablespoons White Wine
1 Sprig Fresh Rosemary leaves, chopped
1 Can condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ Lb Fresh Asparagus Stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons Water

In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. When hot, cook the chops for about 12 minutes (about 6-8 minutes per side), or until nicely browned on both sides; Remove and set aside.

While the pork chops are browning, prepare the asparagus. Remove the tip (where the “blossom” begins) and snap off the woody end. Cut the remaining stalk into 2-inch pieces. Set aside until ready to use. Clean mushrooms, remove the stem and slice. Set aside until ready to use.

Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. When hot, add mushrooms rosemary and white wine. Deglaze pan and cook until mushrooms are tender and liquid has evaporated, stirring often.

Stir in soup, asparagus stalks and water. Heat to boiling. Return chops to skillet. Reduce heat to low. Cover; cook 10-15 minutes or until chops are no longer pink and asparagus are tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer pork chops to individual plates or serving platter and top the savory sauce.

Suggested sides: Buttery Egg Noodles with Poppy Seeds and Smokey Pan Seared Asparagus

Lightening Quick Balsamic Dijon Pork Chops

On the menu for tonight was a recipe I picked up over at barefeetinthekitchen.com. Mary promised a recipe that was quick and delicious. I’ve seen a lot of recipes that claim to be “quick”, but by the time all the chopping and preheating is done, not to mention the additional cooking time it seems to take, quick might not be as quick as they claim. My hat’s off to Mary – this truly was quick!  I did cook the chops a little longer than the 15 minutes called for, but not by much. From unlocking the front door to sitting down to dinner, we’re talking under 30 minutes for a delicious dinner. Wow!

I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for several months, but kept putting it off. To me, it sounded absolutely fabulous – yet the title made me a bit apprehensive. Kiddo and I love to cook with Dijon. However; too much Dijon (as it even a hint), and Hubby complains. He’s also not wild about Balsamic Vinegar. So you can imagine my hesitation to offer up a Balsamic Dijon Pork Chop. If that’s the case in your house, don’t let the name fool you. These are moist, delicious pork chops. No one flavor dominates the other but rather complement one another resulting in a sweet sauce that is out of this world. I served the chops with rice pilaf and green beans for the side. The family loved them! You know you’ve got a hit on your hands when there are no left overs.

I will confess, I did make a few (very minor) changes to the original recipe. You can view Mary’s recipe at http://www.barefeetinthekitchen.com/2014/02/balsamic-dijon-pork-chops-recipe.html

My minor changes were that Mary made her pork chops with thick, bone-in chops. When shopping for the chops, I wasn’t thrilled with the selection of bone-in chops in the meat counter, so I went for thick boneless pork tenderloin chops. I doubled the amount of butter since my cast iron skillet was fairly large and I wanted to give the pan ample coverage. The only other deviation from Mary’s original recipe was that I deglazed the skillet with just a splash (and I do mean a splash) of red wine to scrape up all those wonderful browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

On a final note, I’ve whipped up a number of recipes from Barefeet In The Kitchen – none have failed me yet. Her Balsamic Dijon Pork Chops did not disappoint me – all she had promised and more.

Balsamic Dijon Pork Chops
4 Boneless, 1″ thick Pork Chops
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Splash Red Wine, to deglaze the pan

Heat the butter over medium heat in a large well seasoned cast iron skillet. Allow the butter to foam and brown slightly. Swirl the butter to coat the pan.

Stir together the flour, garlic, salt and pepper in a pie plate. Dredge each pork chop through the flour mixture on all sides. Place the chops in the hot skillet. Let them cook undisturbed for about 4 minutes.

While chops are browning, stir together the brown sugar, balsamic and mustard in a small bowl (this will make about 1/4 cup sauce).

Flip the chops over. Immediately pour half the balsamic sauce over them. Continue to cook over medium heat for an additional 3 minutes. Flip once more and pour the remaining sauce on the pork chops. Cover with lid and cook on low for about 6 more minutes.

Remove chops to a warm plate or serving platter.

Add a splash of wine to the pan to deglaze. Allow sauce to cook about a few minutes longer, then spoon pan juices over the meat. Let rest 5 minutes to soak in the pan drippings, then serve.

Still looking for Pork Chop Recipes? Might I suggest Potato Pork Chops with Tarragon – they might not be lightening fast, but they sure are tasty!