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. 😀

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lunch break.

You know what I love about lunch?

It gives me the chance to break away from the day’s routine.  No matter how dull, unorganized, crazy busy, boring, exciting, routine, ________ (fill in the blank) the day is, lunch is that pivotal point that can instantly turn the day around.

It takes just one hunk of dark chocolate.  Or a yogurt parfait.  Or a hunk of your favorite bread.

And there you go.  You’ve just turned the day around.

Just like a day old bologna sandwich with half melted cheese can ruin a perfectly fine day…

…a bowl of vegetable soup, a hunk of whole grain bread smeared in avocado, and freshly cracked black pepper (here, there, everywhere) can instantly put a smile on your face.

(FYI, I still have nightmares of that bologna sandwich from long ago…true story.)

I like to make lunch all about the vegetables.

So that at the end of the day, if there’s a sudden shift in plans (to the pizza barn we go!) or I randomly don’t feel like cooking (cold cereal!), I already have a nice big bundle of fiber-rich vegetables under my belt.  Already consumed.  Fueling me through the afternoon.  Filling me up with all kinds of nutrients.

It just feels good.

Sometimes (most times) that means a really large salad.  Never made the same way twice because there are so many options to be had!

Some days, this means a nice big bowl of leftover vegetable soup.

Or an open faced sandwich with hummus and plenty of shredded veggies on top.

Really.  However you look at it.  Lunch has the full potential to completely turn your day around.

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Garden Minestrone Soup–slightly modified from the original version seen previously on The Flying Onion.

(serves 8)

Serve hot in the winter and chilled in the summer!

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, garlic (or plain)
  • 3 (14 oz) cans vegetable broth
  • 2 (15.5 oz) can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (12oz) package frozen spinach
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion to pan; saute 3 minutes or until softened.  Add oregano and garlic, saute 1 minute.  Stir in squash, zucchini, carrot and corn; saute 5 minutes or until veggies are tender.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and broth; bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Add beans and spinach to pan.  Season with pepper and salt to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

 QUESTION: What are your favorite lunches for work/school or when you’re at home?

dressed up pollock.

I went for a nice long walk around the nearby lake today, and I experienced this vivid flashback of when I used to go fishing with my dad.

Floating on trusty ol’ Rita–our big green canoe–we would paddle our way to the middle of some lake and then we’d just sit there.  We’d sit there for hours and hours with our fishing rods, waiting patiently until we felt the gentle tug of a fish.

(or a floating piece of seaweedoops!)

We’d spend the day swatting at pesky mosquitoes and talking about nothing and everything all at once.  We’d watch dragon flies skim above the mirrored sheets of water, the sun reflecting colorful sparkles off of their shimmery wings.

As a 10 year old girl hanging out with her dad, I was convinced that each delicious moment was just a tiny speck of what heaven would someday feel like.  The perfect time of day.  Feeling nothing but happiness.  And, probably, spending time talking to God about nothing and everything all at once.

Heaven.

And really, at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter if dad and I went home with trout or without.  

It was the experience.

It was delicious.

And it had (absolutely) nothing to do with the fish.

Fast forward 14 years.  I became a dietitian, promoting fish and all of its health benefits and how delicious it can be and so on and so forth.

But, well, here’s the clinker…

I don’t really like fish very much.

Wild caught salmon, yes.  I could eat that every single day of my life and never grow tired of it.*

*this is not at all an exaggeration

But all the other fish, like halibut and haddock and cod and pollock?

Meh…

(unless it’s fried, but what *doesn’t* taste good when it’s been batter dipped and deep fried?  Honestly?)

Maybe you’re like me.  You could take fish or leave it, but you’d still like to make it a bigger part of your diet.

Or maybe you love all fish.  Any fish.

Whatever the case may be, let’s all admit that salsa makes everything better. 😉

You could just douse your fish in butter and breadcrumbs, but that sort of negates the whole “heart healthy” point of eating more fish.  Better saved for those special occasions, “once in a whiles,” or eating out.

Salsa and avocado, however, add flavor AND health benefits.  An easy way to sneak in that extra dose of veggies and some heart healthy fats.

I really do find most white fish to be lacking in flavor, which is just one of the reasons why I lean more towards cooking with salmon.

Add a zing of fresh salsa and avocado (and maybe a splash of lime!), however, and tada! 

Dinner becomes delicious.

Most grocery stores carry the fresh salsas like this one in the refrigerated cases of the produce department.  Nestled deep somewhere between the tofu and the alfalfa sprouts, and sometimes near the refrigerated salad dressings.

And since you can recreate almost any meal with nothing but a scoop of fresh salsa, I’d say it’s worth seeking out.

Salsa and Avocado 
(Serves 2) 

Pollock fillets were on sale this past week, and it just so happens that I had a tub of salsa to use up.  Perfecto!

This super simple salsa, however, also goes well on marinated tofu steaks, grilled chicken breasts and thin slices of lean steak.  Or, you could just serve it with some black beans and tortilla chips for a tasty afternoon snack.  Enjoy!

  • 1/3 cup fresh salsa
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • fresh lemon juice
  • black pepper
  • cilantro (optional)
  1. Combine ingredients together.  Serve immediately.
QUESTION: Do you eat much fish on a regular basis?  What are you favorite kinds/recipes?  I’m not a big fish person, but I do love fish tacos, wild caught salmon and manhattan styled fish chowders. 😀

Fitness Friday

I always tell people that I’m not competitive.

At all.

In fact, if someone is racing me up a hill (even in an actual race,) I simply let them pass.  There is absolutely no rise in my inner, deep-down, somewhere-hiding competitive spirit.

But then again.

This isn’t entirely true.

I am  competitive.

Just not with other people.

I’m competitive with me.  I want my fitness to continuously grow stronger each year.  I want to increase my strength.  Increase my endurance.

Last year, I ran my first half marathon.

I was practicing yoga twice a week, running on average 20 miles a week.

I was on.top.of.the.world.

Now?

Now I’m just getting back into the groove after a lay off due to injuries.

And honestly, it’s not easy seeing a weaker version of myself out on the roads.  My speed has dropped.  I’m heaving on hills.  During yoga, I enter child’s pose more often than I care to admit.

(I imagine this must be what the competitive person feels when their arch nemesis beats them by a mile. 😉 )

Fast forward to this morning.

I was out for a testy 6-mile run, something I haven’t done before achilles tendonitis flared its ugly head.

I started to warm up.

I felt slow but I felt good.  And mile after mile, none of that other seemingly silly self-competitive stuff seemed to matter.

My shoulders relaxed.

Tension escaped with one strong, windy breeze.

The sand crunched like glass beneath my feet.

I could almost taste the fragrant smells of pine and dirt and rainy day puddles.

The world appeared to be asleep.

But I wasn’t.  Not today.

It was one step.  One step at a time.

I was becoming the very best of me.

Polenta Casserole with Winter Squash and Greens–modified from a Moosewood Restaurant’s Cooking For Health Cookbook

After a run or a tough workout, it’s nice to fill up with something warm, satisfying, and deeply nutritious.

I have been completely sold on the casserole bandwagon lately.  I like that once all the prep work is done, I have time to clean up, do dishes and set the table while dinner just cooks itself.  The prep work takes some time, but the recipe is worth the effort now and then.

I used kabocha squash for this recipe, but feel free to use butternut, acorn or another form of winter squash.  Also feel free to use whatever green you have on hand in place of the kale and/or another favorite type of cheese in place of cheddar.  Enjoy!

Polenta Layer

  • 2-1/3 cups water
  • 2/3 cup whole grain cornmeal (not instant polenta)
  • 2 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Greens Layer
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium/large bunches of stemmed and chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup water
Squash Layer
  • 1-1/2 cups mashed winter squash (about 6 cups of cubed squash that has been steamed will create this)
  • 1 egg
  • pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  1. For the polenta layer: Bring the water to a boil in a heavy saucepan and whisk in cornmeal.  Add tomatoes, thyme, basil and salt to taste.  Cook on low heat, stirring frequently until the polenta is thick and creamy, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cheese.  Pour into an 8-inch square baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. For the greens layer: In a medium pot, cook garlic in oil over medium heat for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add greens and water.  Cover, cook, stirring occasionally until greens are tender, about 10 minutes.  Salt to taste.  Spread greens over polenta.
  3. For the squash layer: In a bowl, stir together the squash, egg, pepper and half the cheese.  Spread the squash mixture over the greens and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
  4. In a preheated 350 oven, bake covered for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.  Enjoy!!

QUESTION: Are you a competitive person?  In what ways? 

lentil edamame stew.

This is Part 30 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

If there was one food group that I wish I could sneak onto every single American’s dinner plate, it would be, quite simply, the legume.

Yes.  The legume.

(And not just because I love rolling the word “legume” off the tip of my tongue with an over-the-top, horrendous French accent, either.)

Any legume will do, really.

Black beans.  Split peas.  Kidney beans.  The lovely garbanzo.

Legumes are chock full of fiber, protein, iron and the really good-for-you complex carbohydrates.

Yep.  Legumes are worth getting to know.  They’ve got lots to offer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My favorite legume happens to be the lentil.

They don’t require the soaking time of most beans.  They’re ready in under 20 minutes.  They’re $0.99 a pound.  What’s not to love about that?

Tonight I made a nice ‘n’ spicy lentil edamame stew.

 

Well.

Spicy from my standpoint, anyways.  I’m the girl who could do without the taste of chili powder or tabasco sauce on my tongue.

(Of course, if you like to live on the spicy side of life, go all out with a heavy hand of crushed red pepper!)

Oh.
And if you’re still on the fence about eating a big bowl of lentils for dinner, serve this as a side dish with your main meal or eat a smaller sized bowl as an afternoon snack.
Incorporating more legumes on a daily/weekly basis is a smart move for each and every one of us.

From a health, economic and taste standpoint, legumes are really and truly a wonderful thing.

After finding your favorites, I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before they become a regular in your house.  Right next to those other pantry essentials.

Enjoy!

Lentil Edamame Stew–as seen in Cooking Light Magazine
(Serves 4-6 as a main)

  • 2 cup dried lentils
  • 1-1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups minced red onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cloves
  1. Place lentils in a large saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above lentils. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, and set aside.
  2. Place edamame in a small saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above edamame. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until edamame are tender. Remove from heat; drain well.
  3. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and tomatoes to pan; sauté 6-10 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring often. Stir in lentils, edamame, juice, and remaining ingredients. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring often.
QUESTION: What is one of your favorite (affordable!!) healthy foods that you consume on a regular basis?  Lentils and oatmeal are two of my favorite cheap-o health foods!  They’re very versatile in the kitchen.

happy soup day.

This is Part 25 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

Wednesday may as well be the “official soup day” of the week.

I shop for groceries on a weekly basis.  Every Thursday.

So by the time Wednesday rolls around, the fridge is looking a little haphazard.  Like it’s faced some sort of major demolition project, with no hopes of recovering any time soon.

As luck would have it, there are usually still some vegetables that have gone untouched (or, at least, partially so.)

That’s why Wednesday is soup day.

Because I have lots of vegetables that need to be used.

Because I hate throwing things away.

Because simmering vegetables in big pots of steamy broth makes me happy like nothing else can.

Happy Soup Day!

The Easiest Vegetable Soup

This recipe isn’t really a recipe.  It’s more of a guideline.

Use whatever veggies you have on hand and follow this cooking method.  As long as you have a tasty vegetable stock and a variety of vegetables (the root veggies are especially nice!) you can’t go wrong.  Keep in mind that if you use a different green than spinach like kale or chard, you’ll need to prolong the cooking time just a bit.

Happy simmering!

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Combination of various vegetables, chopped (i.e., rutabaga, daikon, sweet potato, celery, carrot, parsnip, zucchini, etc.)
  • 5-8 cups unsalted vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • baby spinach
  • various canned beans, drained and rinsed (i.e., pinto, garbanzo, kidney, etc.)
  1. In a large pot, sautee onion in olive oil until translucent.  Add all of the chopped vegetables and enough broth to cover them with.  Dilute with a little water if you’d like.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add in several large handfuls of chopped spinach and beans.  Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes or until spinach is wilted and soup is heated thorough.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: How often do you make trips to the grocery store?  I have one BIG weekly trip, and little things like fruit or eggs or milk require a couple more stops.

Pineapple-Cashew-Quinoa Stir-Fry.

This is Part 23 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

I don’t know about you, but I get a little nauseous whenever I think of diet books.

But when a family friend recently told me about this increasingly popular book “Eat To Live” (and then let me borrow it,) I decided to read it with an open (albeit critical) mind.

My thoughts…

First, I really like the principles behind Fuhrman’s diet plan.  It’s closely tied to Michael Pollan’s idea of eating lots (and I do mean LOTS and LOTS) of fresh fruits and vegetables instead of worrying about the nitty gritty details of portion sizes, calorie counting or what have you.

Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables.  That’s the book in a nutshell.

Along with fruit, they’re the main part of the diet plan, with the scientific backup of having the power to decrease cancer risks, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc.  When nutrient dense foods increase, our health and mood improve, and it leaves less room for other junky stuff.

The principles make sense and they are strongly backed up by science, which is important for any reliable diet plan.

That being said, I don’t think the book would be a good choice for obsessive or restrictive type personalities.  Nor do I think the diet plan is necessarily realistic for everyone.  And while I liked the points that he made throughout the book, I don’t like the idea of following a diet plan, per say.  It just takes the fun out of food!  

But the points he makes are good ones, and I think most of us could benefit from the guidelines that he so strongly encourages.

And.  Well.  I wasn’t planning on having tonight’s dinner meet so many of the “Fuhrman” standards, but it just so happened that it did.

Pineapple.

Cashews.

Red bell peppers.

“Diet plan” or not, there’s nothing nauseous about that. 😉

Pineapple Cashew Quinoa Stir Fry—slightly modified from the original Veganomicon recipe

Don’t let the length of this recipe scare you!  The quinoa can be made ahead of time and there really isn’t much chopping work involved.

I like to serve this with a dish of sauteed greens on the side, like swiss chard with grated carrots and raisins.   It makes for a very satisfying dinner or lunch the following day.  Enjoy! 😀

Quinoa:
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

Stir-fry:
4 ounces cashews, raw and unsalted
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 scallions, sliced thinly
1 hot red chile, sliced into very thin rounds
1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup frozen, cooked edamame (or peas)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, rolled and sliced in thin shreds
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
10 ounces fresh pineapple, cut into bite sized chunks
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable stock

PREPARE THE QUINOA FIRST:

  1. Combine the quinoa, juice, water, and soy sauce in a medium-sized pot.
  2. Cover, place over high heat,and bring to a boil.
  3. Stir a few times, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 12 to 14 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa appears plumped and slightly translucent.
  4. Uncover, fluff, and let cool.
  5. For best results,place the quinoa in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.  If you’re in a hurry, chill the covered quinoa for at least an hour.

PREPARE THE STIR-FRY

  1. Use the largest nonstick skillet you have (at least 11 inches in diameter) or a wok.  Have ALL of your ingredients chopped and easily within reach.
  2. Place the cashews in the dry pan and heat over low heat, stirring them, until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes.
  3. Remove the cashews from the pan, raise the heat to medium, and add the peanut oil, scallions, and garlic.  When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the sliced chile pepper and ginger.  Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, then add the red bell pepper and edamame.  Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until the bell pepper is softened and edamame is bright green.
  4. Add the basil and mint, and stir for another minute before adding the pineapple and quinoa.
  5. In a measuring cup, combine the soy sauce and vegetable stock.  Pour over the quinoa mixture.  Stir to incorporate completely and coat the quinoa.  Continue to stir-fry for 10 to 14 minutes, until the quinoa is very hot (it helps to use two spoons/ spatulas to scoop the quinoa around).

QUESTION: Have you read Eat To Live (or another popular “diet” book)?  Thoughts?