Food – back to basics

40 days and 40 nightsthat’s how much time I spent eating in restaurants while away over the holidays and beyond.

Maple Dijon Pork Chops seved over rice with side of crispy oven-baked kale. Photo: d. king
Maple Dijon Pork Chops served over rice with a side of crispy oven-baked kale.  Photo: d. king

That’s a lot of eating out, and more than I’m used to because I normally prefer to cook at home and eat out only on occasion.

A relatively small fridge in a hotel room can only hold so much.  It’s great for juice, coffee cream, breakfast stuff like yogurt and snacky items but since there was nothing to cook on I got to try out all sorts of restaurants.  So if anyone is going to Palm Springs or Las Vegas I have a whack load of recommendations.

What’s funny about all of this is that when I told my friends, I found out that most of them thought it was great.  Turns out they’d  prefer to eat out in restaurants rather than have to cook.  At first it was fun but then it felt a bit strange not having to do anything.  No shopping, no preparation, no cleanup, no nothing.  I started to miss it.   I ended up going to grocery stores, buying what I could that would be easy to assemble in a hotel room which was mostly salad items.   And picking up ready made stuff for picnics – which is another way of eating outside.

It was a good test.  I got to try a lot of good restaurants and miraculously ended up gaining only a few pounds which could have been a lot worse but I’m reversing the damage – I’m just about back to where I was.  Luckily I did a lot of walking, swimming and some running while away.

So when I got home 3 weeks ago I decided to cook all meals at home (except for when a friend took me out for a belated birthday celebration and vice versa).  I decided to stick with simple, wholesome feel-good, healthy (mostly) comfort meals.  A lot of steamed or oven roasted vegetables, fish, chicken, lasagna, soup and I brought my slow-cooker (crock-pot) out of hiding.  I’ve been making a whole lot of stuff in that.

Here’s a recipe which is easy to make, rich in flavour and simply delicious.

Slow Cooked Maple Dijon Pork Chops

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

4  bone-in (preferably) pork chops

1 large yellow onion, chopped

6 tbsp pure maple syrup

4 tbsp dijon mustard

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:

Heat up the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When hot, add the pork chops and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Sear both sides of chops over high heat (about 2 minutes per side) then transfer to your Crock Pot.

Lower the heat to medium low and add the onions. Cook until onions are just starting to soften then add the cider vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 more minutes and then pour sauce over chops in the slow cooker.

Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Serve chops drizzled generously with sauce.

Time:

active time ~ 10 minutes

total time ~ 7 hours

ENJOY!

 

 

 

Food: SLOW cooked COMFORT food

It’s that time.  I’m In the MOOD for COMFORT FOOD

Sweet 'n Spicy Chicken
SLOW COOKED Sweet ‘n Spicy Chicken 

But I didn’t really have a choice. When my freezer had a meltdown last week I had to do some quick thinking as to what would be the best ways to use up lots of chicken, ribs, pork and fish within a short time span.  I baked, steamed and grilled but I also put a few things in the slow cooker.  Here are two recipes I tried for the first time that turned out extremely well.  I forgot how easy & convenient it is to use my slow-cooker. The only thing is that I took it one tiny step further –  instead of throwing everything into the pot (which most people tend to do) I advise first browning the meat in another pot.  It only takes a few extra minutes, one extra pot to clean and it will give you so much extra flavour.  Trust me – it’s worthwhile!

Recipe #1: SWEET & SPICY CHICKEN (slightly adapted from a Martha Stewart Recipe)

You can serve it Moroccan style in a tagine over cous cous (or on the side) and add cilantro or green onion.
TIP: You can serve it Moroccan style in a tagine over cous cous (or cous cous on the side) and add cilantro or green onion for an exotic spin.

INGREDIENTS – serves 4

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 chicken leg quarters (2 1/2 pounds total)  *I used boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges (root end left intact)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, sliced into rounds
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup raisins

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large zip-top bag, combine cumin, cimmamon, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; add chicken and toss to coat. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Cook chicken, skin side down, until golden, about 4 minutes each side.
  2. In a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker, place onion, garlic, and ginger. Add chicken, skin side up, 20151202_123330then top with tomatoes and their liquid and raisins. Cover and cook on high until chicken is tender, 3 1/2 hours (or 6 hours on low).

    Leftovers are always better the very next day
    Leftovers are always better the very next day

 

 

Recipe #2:

MAPLE DIJON PORK CHOPS 

mapledijonpork1serves 2

INGREDIENTS

2-3 large bone-in pork chops *(I used boneless but next time I’ll use bone-in as I think they have more flavour)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

5 tbsp pure maple syrup

4 tbsp dijon mustard

½  cup cider vinegar

1/2 tsp course salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tbsp vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS

Heat up the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When hot, add the pork chops and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Sear both sides of chops over high heat (about 2 minutes per side) then transfer to your slow cooker.

Lower the heat to medium low and add the onions. Cook until onions are just starting to soften then add the cider vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 more minutes and then pour sauce over chops in the slow cooker.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours (but check after 3 hours – depending on your slow cooker they could cook faster). Serve chops drizzled generously with sauce.

Tip: Try serving it with a side of egg noodles to help soak up the juice. It’s delicious.   The only thing is that there was not enough – no leftovers to enjoy next day!

Source: adapted from eat.live.run.com

What kind of food do you take comfort in at this time of year?