Category Archives: cooking

Recipe: Pork Chops with Apple Cider Sauce

pork chops with apple cider sauce

Some days you cook simple stuff (spaghetti with jarred pasta sauce, for example). But sometimes you really just want to cook, if you know what I mean. And as we move into the cooler months, those times seem to be more and more. It’s easy to “phone in” dinner in the summer when it’s hot and all anyone wants is salad anyway, but we crave warmer, heavier foods in the winter. Today I have a recipe for you that gives you that warm, real-cooked feel, but isn’t actually too heavy. I found the base recipe at AllRecipes, but I’ve modified it to make it my own.

Pork Chops with Apple Cider Sauce

  • Pork chops – enough to feed your family (any cut you like)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Small amount of oil, for frying
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider (not juice), divided
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (eyeballing it is fine)
  • 1/4 cup cooking sherry
  • 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch
  1. Season the pork chops and fry them in oil for 5-10 minutes per side, until done. The amount of time it takes will depend on how thick the chops are.
  2. Remove the chops to a plate and add apples and onion to the pan. Cook until they start to soften and the onions are turning translucent, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup of apple cider, the Worcestershire, and the cooking sherry. Cook for 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat, until the sauce begins to reduce.
  4. Meanwhile, combine remaining cider with cornstarch. Add this to the sauce in the pan. Cook and stir until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Add pork chops back into the pan with the sauce and heat through.

This is such a yummy dish; I hope you try it, especially as a nice alternative to all the leftover turkey you’re likely to be eating over the coming week! You can serve it with pretty much anything you like: mashed potatoes using the apple sauce as gravy; salad and bread; vegetables and sliced apples. We typically eat it with (boxed) Scalloped potatoes and applesauce. It’s definitely become one of our favorites, and I hope it will be one of yours too!

I won’t have a post up tomorrow, so I’m going to wish all my fellow Americans a very Happy Thanksgiving today. Enjoy your families and all the wonderful food you’re likely to be enjoying. And remember to thank the One who gives it all to us.

Blessings,

Wendy

P.S. Remember those “big changes” I mentioned earlier in the week? Well, they’re still coming, so keep your eyes peeled. And just to give you a quick heads up on what these plans are, my blog will be getting a new name and location, so I’d love it if you all followed me to the new site when I get it up and running, which should be before Christmas. I’ll let you know when it’s ready to start accepting followers. (Right now, it’s just a notification from my domain/hosting company stating that the domain has been purchased, so it’s not worth sharing the new URL…) Thanks in advance!

 

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Simplicity: Lessons from Macaroni Salad

simplicity copyWhen I first started this series, one of the things I talked about was how “Simplicity is NOT taking the easy way out.” I want to share with you a lesson I learned this past week based on that theme, and then I’ll share a recipe at the end.

Have you seen those boxed “Simply Pasta Salad” kits in the grocery store? I’d seen them lots of times over the years, but never tried one. One night recently, we were having grilled burgers for dinner, and I wanted a quick, easy, won’t-heat-up-the-kitchen side. Pasta salad seemed like just the ticket. Unfortunately, it was already nearing time to start cooking, so I didn’t have time to make a macaroni salad from scratch and none of my family likes the Reser’s stuff that the deli carries. So I decided to try the box kit. They were on sale for $.99 that day, so I picked up four of them – some for now, some for later.

The concept is simple. Inside the box, you’ll find a packet of dressing powder which you mix with oil and water, and a bag of pasta, which you need to cook. Mix the two items together, and voila! Pasta salad. It was really quick to put together, but it wasn’t great in the flavor department. The dressing was really oily and honestly, pretty bland. The pasta was fine; it was just corkscrew pasta, not unlike what I would be likely to use for my from-scratch pasta salad (my grandma’s recipe). There were no add-ins. I suppose that could be considered my fault – there’s nothing on the instructions that says “don’t add anything to this, it’s perfect as-is.”

As we were eating the second batch of it (with my in-laws over for dinner), I was thinking about how “ho-hum” this salad was, and how I should have just made macaroni salad from “scratch.” It takes more work, but the result is so far superior that it’s worth it. And to me, that’s what simplicity is all about. It’s not about taking shortcuts so you can have more down time. It’s about making the thing you do worth the time and energy so that they’re more enjoyable.

My Grandmother’s Macaroni Salad

(I don’t have the exact proportions anymore, so I’m doing this out of my head. My grandma passed away in 2001, so I can’t just get a new copy of the recipe from her, but I’ve made this enough over the years to know it.)

3 8-oz bags of small pasta – your choice on the shape
You can find these on the Mexican food aisle of the grocery store; you could just use 24 ounces of pasta from “traditional” means, but I like the small bags for this recipe.
1 cucumber, diced

1 bell pepper, diced
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
4-6 sweet or dill pickles, chopped
8 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes

Dressing:
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise – store bought or homemade, whichever you prefer

2-4 tablespoons mustard
1-2 tablespoons white vinegar
Relish, optional

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

When pasta is cooked, drain the water and rinse with cold water until you can work with it with your hands. Combine pasta, vegetables, eggs, and cheese in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to combine. I find that my hands are the best tools for this job. It’s messy, but effective.

Eat immediately or chill before eating. (It should be pretty cold already since you rinsed the pasta.) Refrigerate leftovers.

I think my favorite part about this recipe is that it’s so incredibly versatile. Don’t like cucumbers or bell peppers? Use carrots and celery instead. Don’t like vegetables at all? Add more eggs and cheese. Not in the mood for macaroni salad? Substitute potatoes for the pasta, and now you have potato salad. The cheese cubes add a little something special, too, in the midst of the soft pasta and crunchy vegetables. It’s a texture right in the middle. Yum.

I’ll never buy “Simply Pasta Salad” kits again!

Blessings,

Wendy

Around the World: Italian Chicken Cacciatore (Recipe)

chicken cacciatore collageBuongiorno! Benvenuti in Italia! (Good morning! Welcome to Italy!)

This is the final recipe I have for you this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed the series and that you’ll try out some of these delicious recipes! They’re way cheaper than a plane ticket to all these exotic locations :).

One day a few weeks ago, Will wanted Italian food, but “not pasta.” So I went in search of something that fit the bill, and Chicken Cacciatore was what I came up with. All of the recipes seemed complex and/or took hours and hours to cook, so I adapted this one from Giada De Laurentiis to fit our needs. Enjoy your trip!

(Oh, also, I forgot to take a picture of the final dish, that’s why I’ve made a collage to showcase the sauce and chicken separately today.)

Ingredients

Chicken thighs – enough for your family

Salt and Pepper

Flour, for dredging

Oil, for frying

1 bell pepper, any color, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (28 oz) or 2 (14 oz) can(s) diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Italian seasonings of your choice (oregano, basil, thyme, etc)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. While you’re doing this, heat the oil in a large skillet. Sear the chicken, skin side down first, until brown and crispy. Move to a baking dish. Do this in two stages if you have to.

In the same skillet, saute the onion, garlic, and bell pepper until they start to soften. Add in the tomatoes, broth, vinegar, and spices. Simmer for just a few minutes to combine the flavors. Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 45-55 minutes to finish cooking the chicken through. Serve over egg noodles and/or with a nice loaf of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.

Yum!

Thank you for joining me on my trip around the world this week! It’s been fabulous. And please, if you try any (or all) of these recipes, let me know. I’d love to hear how they turned out for you.

Blessings,

Wendy

Make sure to visit my friends and their five day series, too! And for even more five-day fun, click the banner at the end of the post.

Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren’s Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources

April Blog Hop

Around the World: U.S. Chicken Fried Steak (Recipe)

Happy Thursday, friends! We’re over halfway through the week :). I hope you’ve enjoyed these recipes as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you.

Today, we’re in my home country, the United States, and making one of my all-time favorite meals (who am I kidding? All of the meals this week are high on my list!): Chicken Fried Steak!

This one’s quite a bit more complex than the others have been up to now, but totally worth the effort.

Here we go!

cfs final
For the steak, you’ll need:

Steak (any kind will do, even a cheap cut)

2 eggs, beaten

1-2 packets of Shake-n-Bake for chicken

Oil for frying

Cut the steak into smallish pieces. You don’t want nuggets, but you want each piece to have plenty of breading, so you don’t want them as big as if you’d be grilling the steak.

Crack the eggs into a dish and beat. Pour the shake-n-bake into another dish.

While you’re dipping the steak, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat.

Dip the steak first into the egg, then into the shake-n-bake. Fry in the hot oil until cooked to your preferences. It doesn’t take more than 5 minutes a side or so for medium-well.

Once you’ve cooked all the steak, pour off all but a couple of tablespoons of the oil. Add in enough flour to make a roux, then stir in milk and/or chicken broth to make a gravy. For 2 tablespoons of milk/flour, you’ll want about a cup and a half of liquid.

Serve with mashed potatoes and the gravy and some corn for a truly American meal!

Blessings,

Wendy

Don’t forget to hit these other great blogs for fabulous five-day series!

Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren’s Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources

April Blog Hop

Around the World: Moroccan Rice Pilaf (Recipe)

Good morning, everyone! I have a super simple recipe for you today – even easier than the Bulgogi from Monday, if that’s even possible.

I don’t know for absolutely certain that this is an authentic Moroccan dish, but I recall years and years ago reading a recipe somewhere that was something very similar to this that claimed to be Moroccan, so it’s close enough! And good golly, this is amazingly delicious! Even Munchkin, who is my pickiest eater BY FAR, had seconds of this dish, so you know it’s good!

Morroccan rice pilafIngredients:

1 box Rice-a-Roni Rice Pilaf flavor (or your favorite from-scratch rice pilaf) – for our family, I need one of the double size boxes or two regular size ones

1 pound ground beef

2 cans garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas)

a sprinkle of cumin

Directions:

Brown the ground beef and drain the fat off (use a colander). Leave the beef in the colander while you cook the rice according to the package directions in the same skillet. When it’s time to add the seasoning packet and water, add the beef back in, as well as the beans and cumin. Cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes. The exact amount of time you need will depend on how much rice you’ve cooked.

I love this meal because it practically cooks itself once the beef and rice are browned. 7-10 minutes of hands on time, 20 minutes of hands off. Perfect for busy moms!

Blessings,

Wendy

P.S. As always, make sure to visit these other great blog series this week!

Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren’s Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources

April Blog Hop

Around the World: Jamaican Jerk Chicken (Recipe)

Hello again! I hope you enjoyed the recipe for Bulgogi yesterday. Before I dive into today’s recipe, allow me to explain what’s going on this week here on the blog. I should’ve done that yesterday, but I forgot.

This is a five-day series, called a “blog hop,” and the full title of my series is Around the World in Five Evenings: A Week of International Meals. That’s just too long to include in the title of every post. I’ll be exploring cuisines from Asia, Africa, North America, and the Caribbean. I only wish there were more than five days! Maybe I’ll have to make this a recurring feature; I do love international meals. Because cooking is its own kind of simplicity, I won’t be doing an official Simplicity post this week.

Now that that’s out of the way, I bring you Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Enjoy.

I have another one of my very favorite dishes for you today: Jamaican Jerk chicken with Caribbean Rice and Peas.

This recipe was shared with me by a dear friend, and a friend of hers actually invented this particular version. He was kind enough to grant me permission to share it here with you today.

jamaicaJerk Chicken:

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or however many you need to feed your family – just adjust the amount of sauce you make accordingly)

2 teaspoons, up to 2 tablespoons, Jamaican Jerk seasoning, depending on how hot you like it. 2 teaspoons is a nice flavor without scorching your mouth, and it just gets hotter from there.

1 tablespoon each soy sauce, honey, and vegetable oil

3 tablespoons tomato ketchup

Mix everything except the chicken in a small bowl. Start with a small amount of Jerk seasoning and add more until you get a flavor you like. If you accidentally add too much, you can cut the spice with extra honey and/or ketchup.

Cut slits in the chicken breasts. Spoon half of the sauce over the chicken, making sure to get it into the slits you cut.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Don’t try to cut corners by putting all the sauce on in the beginning. I did that once, and the flavor was definitely not as good as if you double sauce on your meat all at once.

Caribbean Rice and Peas:

1 cup rice (just regular old, long grain white rice will do, but brown is yummy in this as well – adjust the cooking time if you use brown rice)

1 (14-15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh)

1 cup each chicken broth and coconut milk

In a bit of oil, saute the onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Add in the rice, thyme, and chili powder and stir to combine and coat in oil. Add coconut milk and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer, covered, for 15 minutes (do NOT remove the lid during this time). After 15 minutes, remove the lid, stir in the kidney beans, and re-cover. Cook for five more minutes until the beans are heated through, the liquid is absorbed, and the rice is thoroughly cooked.

There are lots of ways you can vary this dish. First off, you can use a fresh pepper instead of chili powder. If you do that, you want to chop it finely and cook it with the onion and garlic. Use whatever spiciness of a pepper you like.

Second, you can use whatever beans you have on hand. Any of them will work beautifully in this dish.

Third, you can add in half a cup of UNsweetened grated coconut or creamed coconut. If you do this, use two full cups of chicken broth and no coconut milk.

Enjoy!

Wendy

P.S. Don’t forget to check out all these other great blogs this week!

Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren’s Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources

 

April Blog Hop

Around the World: Korean Bulgogi Beef (Recipe)

Good morning everyone! I have a super yummy recipe to share with you today. It comes from Korea and is called Bulgogi Beef.

First I want to share a little bit about the origin of the meal with you. Literally translated, it means “fire meat,” and this dish was named #23 on CNN’s “World’s Most Delicious Dishes” list in 2011. It was first described to Will and me as “Korean BBQ” by a local restaurant owner in our hometown who happens to be … wait for it … Korean! We’ve been eating this meal in his restaurant for years, and I only recently learned how to make it at home. I’m excited to share my version of this delicious meal with you today.

bulgogi finalLoosely based on the recipe found on One Good Thing by Jillee.

What you’ll need: 

Beef. Whatever you normally use for stir fry is perfect.

Vegetables. Again, your favorite stir fry veggies.

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

Optional: Corn starch mixed with water

Cooked rice – enough for your family

What to do:

Cook your beef using your favorite stir fry method. Add your vegetables and cook until tender. Stir in the brown sugar and soy sauce until it all melts together and starts to coat your foods. If you find the sauce is too runny (mine almost always is), mix in some cornstarch that you’ve dissolved in water. Heat to boiling, stir until the sauce is thickened – PAY ATTENTION TO IT! – and promptly remove from the heat.

Serve over rice.

Alternately, serve in toasted hoagie rolls with a side of fries. That’s one of the lunch options at the Korean restaurant, and it’s equally delicious.

That’s it. It really couldn’t get any easier … Perfect for a Monday night, wouldn’t you say? 😉

Blessings,

Wendy

P.S. This series is part of The Schoolhouse Review Crew’s Spring Blog Hop. Lots of other bloggers are sharing a five-day series on topics near and dear to their hearts. Here are just a few that I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out:

Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren’s Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources

In addition to these eight, there are nearly a hundred others doing various series. If you’re interested in those, the following banner will take you to the master list 🙂

April Blog Hop