apple smothered pork chops.

The simplest pork chop begins with a couple of apples, a dash of cinnamon, a bit of brown sugar, and one onion.

Cooked, cooked, cooked.

Until you spot that fine balance, where the apples are forced into a decision of either holding together or falling delicately apart.  All smokey and steamy and oozing with spicy-sweet aroma.

Meanwhile.

In another pan.

The pork chops are browning.

Just as they are.  With just a drizzle of oil to prevent any unwanted sticking.

And before you know it...voila!

You just scoop the apples on top and pretend that you slaved away all day.

When really?

All you did was stand in the kitchen, watching a few apples and pork chops cook.

And that, my friends, is the simplest pork chop.

Apple Smothered Pork Chops
(Serves 4) 

  • 4 bone-in, center-cut pork loin chops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 large tart apples, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  1. In a large skillet, brown pork chops in oil.  Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 145°.
  2. Meanwhile, in small non-stick skillet, cook the apples, onion, cinnamon and brown sugar over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until apples are softened. Smother pork chops with apples and serve. 
QUESTION: What is your “simplest” tried and true, no-fail recipe?  Baked beans!  Aside from the waiting time, they’re ridiculously easy to whip together.  A sure crowd pleaser. 😀

a taste of spring.

This is Part 21 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

Well.

It’s still snowing outside.

And aside from walking around the craft store with my sister and a grande mocha au lait, I really didn’t do much today.

I didn’t feel like doing much either.

This included cooking (gasp!)

So instead I just bought some rice wrappers, bundled them all up–nice and tight–, threw on some comfy clothes and called it a day.

Just like sushi, spring rolls can serve up whatever flavors you fancy.

Shrimp?  Bean sprouts?  Steamed asparagus?  Tofu?

Really.

Whatever your heart so desires.

It makes for a quick, nutritious dinner when you’d rather be lounging around the house in your pj’s because it’s storming outside. 😉

(It also makes for a fun addition to a snacking plate…

…super bowl app’s, anyone?)

Shrimp Spring Rolls
(serves 2)

I’ve made countless variations on the spring roll over the years, but this is one of my most favorite.  It really doesn’t get much simpler than this.

I also like to ask people ahead of time what they want stuffed into their spring roll.  Variety is everything, and people like getting creative and personal.  Honey roasted peanuts, spinach and avocado was an exceptionally delicious choice from last time.  Have fun with putting these together!!

  • 6 spring roll wrappers (most often found in the international section)
  • mixed greens
  • 18 small shrimp
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • cilantro or mint
  • soy sauce or peanut sauce for dipping
  1. In a shallow dish, pour about an inch of hot water.  One at a time, place spring roll wrapper in hot water for 20-30 seconds until it is soft and pliable.  Carefully remove from water and place on damp paper towel.  Blot with another paper towel and precede to stuff it.
  2. Layer each wrapper with lettuce, 3 shrimp, 1 slice of avocado, bell pepper strips, carrot strips and a handful of cilantro or mint.  Tightly roll up ends towards middle and then roll from bottom to top, holding firmly.  Continue this with each wrap.
  3. ENJOY!

QUESTION: Do you like sushi and spring/summer rolls?  What are your favorite flavor combinations?

stuff a squash.

This is Part X IX of the “31 Days of Healthy Living Series.”

I went to Whole Foods.

I searched through the produce department.

I bypassed the spaghetti squash.

I overlooked the butternut.

And then.

I bought myself a kabocha squash.

source

One cup of kabocha squash, also known as “Japanese Pumpkin”, offers you 70% of your daily vitamin A intake, a good dose of potassium and plenty of fiber (with or without the peel, which is edible and delicious!)  It’s very similar in taste to a butternut squash…only sweeter.  

And the texture is equally nice, with a dense, firm bite (think sweet potato meets pumpkin!), making it the perfect option for soups and sautes.

Or.

Really.

You could just stuff it.

Tonight, I pulled some lentil taco filling out of the freezer, rewarmed it, stuffed it right into half of a roasted squash, tossed up a side salad, and called it dinner.

Such a ridiculously convenient dinner to throw together, while I ran around putting the groceries away.

Oh.  And it’s vegan.  And gluten free.  And deeply nutritious.

My new go-to convenience food.

Stuffed Kabocha Squash
(serves 2)

You don’t need to stuff this with the lentil taco filling.  Try leftover chili with a bit of cheese melted on top.  Or yesterday’s stir fry.  Or anything really.  Have fun it!

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place kabocha squash cut side down on baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour, completely depending on size of squash (mine took 30 minutes, as it was “personal sized.”)  Squash is ready when knife slides easily into skin.
  3. Remove from oven and stuff it silly…ENJOY! 😀

QUESTION: What is your favorite squash?

Special Edition: “Breakfast Week”

“Join me as I eat my way through a week of new breakfasts.  Thanksgiving marks the finale, which means I have one full week to try a new breakfast each and every morning.  It could be delicious (it could be outrageous!)  But the whole idea is to just have fun.”

Granola makes me happy.

My cupboard always has at least 1 mason jar filled with the chewy bits of oats and nuts and dried fruit.  When it gets below half a mason jar, I suddenly develop separation anxiety and quickly make another batch.

It’s a good thing granola is easy to throw together.

Aside from eating this granola by the handful (and spoonfuls and bowlfuls!) I also like to use it as part of my breakfast.

This morning, it became a granola parfait.  Super simple to make, even simpler to eat.

If you make the granola ahead of time, this breakfast can become part of you busy week’s breakfast repertoire.  Delicious.

Your Basic Granola

I call this my basic granola for one reason: you can tweak it any which way you want, thereby making a completely different recipe out of it.  Add some chopped dried mango and ginger.  Add chocolate chips (after it’s cooled) and pistachios.  Try it with molasses or honey or agave for the sweetener.  Consider this your basic granola…just the starting point for many new and wonderful possibilities.

  • 2 cups regular oats
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup crushed flax seed
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash of sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Combine oats, nuts, coconut, flax, cinnamon, sea salt, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  3. Combine maple syrup and olive oil.  Add to dry mixture and stir well until combined.  Spread evenly on a sprayed cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping and stirring every 10 minutes.  Granola is ready once it’s browned lightly (beware of overcooking!)  Add cranberries after granola is cooked.
  4. Cool and store in containers.  Last 1-2 weeks.

QUESTION: Do you have a favorite brand of granola?  Favorite recipe?

red, white and blue (in a bowl)

It’s strange.  I haven’t had oatmeal within (at least!) the past week or so.  I have, however, been very into cereal these past couple of days.

Very.

I’ve also been very into the whole red, white, and blue theme!!

Cereal used to feel like air food to me.  One bite and it was gone.

Now I bulk it up with all kinds of goodies, just as I bulk up my salads!

  • 1.5 cups Kashi Go Lean
  • 1/2 banana
  • frozen blueberries
  • frozen raspberries
  • almonds
  • milk

So many textures, so much flavor!

Let the day begin!

HAPPY 4th of JULY!  Have fun, Be safe! 😀

And thank you to all the men and women who continue to make our country free.

QUESTION: What have you been munching on for breakfast lately?

Notable Nutrition Notes: Vegetarians & Iron

If you’re eating red meat on a pretty regular basis, you probably haven’t given the thought of getting enough iron in your diet a second thought.

However, if you eat primarily a plant based diet, or if you consider yourself to be a vegetarian or vegan, iron is something worth mentioning.  This is especially true if you’re female, as your needs are more than twice that of a man’s (finally, we get to eat more of something! 😉 )

First, some basic info.  There are two types of iron.

Heme Iron: the more absorbable kind, found in meat products (liver, beef, dark meat from turkey, etc.)

Non-Heme Iron: the less absorbable kind found in plant-based products (i.e., black beans, dark leafy greens, iron enriched cereals, fortified tofu, lentils, raisins, etc.)

The Non-Heme iron has its issues.  While 15-35% of the heme iron is absorbed in our bodies, only 2-20% of the non-heme iron is absorbed.  This can be problematic if a vegetarian (or a non-red meat eating individual) isn’t eating a whole lot of iron containing foods in the first place.

What to do??!!??

Well.  There are some strategies.

  • Eat Vitamin C with your meals.  Adding some cantaloupe or diced bell peppers or kiwi & strawberries or broccoli or potatoes (the list goes on and on) to your meal will help to enhance the amount of iron that is absorbed, giving you the optimum amount possible.
  • Sip tea and coffee between meals, not during.  They contain tannins and polyphenols which can actually interfere with the absorption of iron.  Not a good thing!
  • Add meat, fish or poultry to your meal.  If you’re not a vegetarian, adding even a small amount of these foods can really amp up how much iron you absorb.  If you ARE vegetarian, focus primarily on including some vitamin C rich foods with each meal.

How you turn all of this information into a tasty meal is up to you…just have fun with it!

Lately, I’ve been really into adding fruit to my salads.  Cantaloupe snuggled in between some greens and then drizzled with balsamic vinegar and sea salt is out of this world.

  • mixed greens
  • black beans (iron rich!)
  • avocado
  • walnuts
  • tomato and cantaloupe (vitamin C rich!)
  • cucumber

The Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Chips?  That piece of dark chocolate for dessert?  The scoop of honey roasted peanut butter eaten straight from the jar?

Well.  That was just because.  Just because.

QUESTION: Do you eat mostly heme or non-heme iron sources?  What are some of your favorite food-based iron sources?

June’s Leftovers.

Do you know what I love about fresh new months?

Fresh new ideas and resolutions.  New vegetables and farmers markets.  New places to see, new plans to be made.  New, new, NEW!

However, yesterday was still June.  There were still some loose ends that needed tying before I could kiss the month goodbye, so long.  Leftovers to be finished before any brand new things could arrive.

Yes.  And vegetables to be stir fried.  Leftover quinoa to be eaten.

Quinoa, just like rice, can be frozen quite nicely.  Which is why I most always double the batch and pop one in the freezer.  It takes about 3 minutes to reheat it in the microwave, which is perfect for late nights, crazy days, or for that last dinner in June.

This was the easiest meal of the week (not counting, of course, that bowl of cereal which impostered itself as dinner a couple of nights ago.)

I simply heated a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, added the last of the veggie drawer—carrots, asparagus, zucchini, peppers and onions, and topped it all off with one of my most favorite sauce recipes.

The sunflower seeds added just a touch of fun.  Just a touch of crunch.

There.  The veggie drawer is empty.  The remaining quinoa has been eaten.

Goodbye, June and Hello, July!

(p.s. The kitties are doing well!  Today is the last day I’ll be spending with them, as their ‘parents’ are coming home tonight.  I think Stitch knows something about this, because he’s been nothing short of Mr. LoveBug lately, with his head butting and meowing and acting all silly with excitement.)

(Highstreet, on the other hand, continues to act all regal and sophisticated.  Until a rope passes in front of him, which is when he unleashes his inner jaguar.)

Off for a run.  And then off to fit some studying time in!  It’s always nice a feeling, to start a new month off on the right foot.

Hot And Sour Sauce

Combine: 6 Tbsp. vinegar, 1/4 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, 1/4 cup water, 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. Asian chili sauce, 2 tsp sugar, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1 tsp sesame oil.

QUESTION: What are you most looking forward to in July?