Apple Butter Braised Pork Chops — The Weekender

by in Holidays, Recipes, December 18th, 2014

Apple Butter Braised Pork ChopsI’m not sure if it’s just in my social circles, but I find that the number of potluck parties I’m invited to skyrockets this time of year. So many invitations are issued with the request that we bring a dish to share. And while I don’t mind traveling to various gatherings with my casserole dish or slow cooker in tow, I do sometimes find myself stumped for ideas as to what to bring.

Salads are often good, but they rarely keep their crunch as long as I’d like. Desserts are always welcome, but I prefer to bring something savory, on the chance that everyone else made something for the sweet table. And that leaves me forever on the search for a portable main dish.

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Easy Chicken Mole — The Weekender

by in Recipes, December 11th, 2014

Easy Chicken MoleFor the last few weeks, we’ve been using the Weekender column to talk about things you can do on Saturday or Sunday to make it easier to eat well throughout a busy week. There was this tasty meatloaf (double it and freeze one!), these suggestions for salad packing and this dead-easy one-pot pasta.

This week, I want to take a moment to advocate for a weekend batch of homemade sauce. Now, when I said the word “sauce,” I’m sure that most of you mentally inserted the word “tomato” before it. However, there is a world of sauces and pastes you can make on Sunday afternoon and use all week in your dinner prep that are faster, easier and just as delicious as your grandmother’s red “gravy.”

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Calabrian Chile Pasta — The Weekender

by in Recipes, December 4th, 2014

Calabrian Chile PastaI believe that everyone should know how to make a simple but delicious one-pot pasta dish. It needs to taste good, use only pantry and fridge basics, and dirty a minimal number of tools and utensils. Think boxed mac and cheese, only without the lurid orange powdered cheese.

The beauty of these one-pot pasta dishes is that that you use a minimal amount of water when cooking the pasta. You retain all the starch from the pasta in the pan, which makes for a luscious sauce, and you don’t have to wait 45 minutes for a gallon of water to come to a boil. Once the pasta is cooked, you add just a few ingredients, give it a good stir, and serve.

Currently, I’m most fond of Giada De Laurentiis’ approach to the one-pot pasta meal. Her Calabrian Chile Pasta cooks in no time and tastes amazing. You start with an inch of water in a high-sided saute pan. Once it boils, you add a pound of pasta and cook until it’s al dente (stirring regularly to determine whether it needs an additional splash of water).

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Sunny’s Italian Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash — The Weekender

by in Recipes, November 27th, 2014

Sausage-Stuffed Acorn SquashI don’t know if it was trendy in the 1980s or if it was a particular quirk of my mother’s, but we ate many a meal of stuffed vegetables during my childhood. No hollow or overgrown vegetable was safe. Peppers of all colors, giant zucchini, tomatoes and even, occasionally, avocados were filled with a medley of rice, protein and onion, then draped with shredded cheese and run under the broiler.

I’m fairly convinced that the reason my mom liked this particular style of dinner prep so much was that it gave her the opportunity to stretch a pound of meat across several meals and use up all manner of odds and ends from the crisper. I also suspect that she tucked more vegetables into the filling than I was aware of as a small child.

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Honey-Pear Icebox Trifle with Soft-and-Easy Gingersnaps — The Weekender

by in Recipes, November 20th, 2014

Honey-Pear Icebox Trifle with Soft-and-Easy Ginger SnapsWhen it comes to Thanksgiving dessert, I come from a family of traditionalists. Pies are required, and they typically come in both pumpkin and apple (though when the gluten-free gather with us, I’ll often make an apple crisp with GF oats instead).

As I was plotting out my contributions to the two Thanksgiving meals I’m attending this year, however, I started to ponder options beyond the classic. Part of the reason I feel so free to monkey with the tried and true is that I’m attending two collaborative dinners (really, that’s just a fancy term for a potluck). I know others will bring the requisite pies, and so I am free to explore a little.

For my husband’s family, I’m taking vanilla pound cake with runny raspberry jam for topping. We’re traveling several hours for that meal and I know those cakes will survive even the most-arduous journey over the river, through the woods and up the New Jersey Turnpike. I made the jam with fresh fruit this summer, but a similar batch could easily be made by combining 2 pounds of frozen berries, 2 cups of sugar and a little lemon juice, then simmering until thick.

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Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops with Sorghum BBQ Sauce — The Weekender

by in Recipes, November 13th, 2014

Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops with Sorghum BBQ SauceWinter is coming, and that means that it’s time to put the outdoor furniture away, insulate the spigots for the garden hose and make sure the house is ready for the coming chill. You may also be considering putting your grill away for the season, but I think you should hold off on that one and remember how your grill can serve you all year round.

Sure, it’s great for cookouts in the summer and fall, but it’s also an amazing workhorse for making big batches of grilled vegetables (you haven’t lived until you’ve had grilled delicata squash), for roasting chickens and turkeys, and even for prepping a week’s worth of ingredients for lunches and dinners.

This weekend, consider firing up the grill. Roast off a mess of squash. Grill up a couple of batches of Bobby Flay’s Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops. Finally, spatchcock a chicken, rub it with a little salt and pepper, and let it cook over the embers. You can get at least three meals from just a couple of hours of work, and the cleanup will be minimal.

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Deconstructed Falafel Salad — The Weekender

by in Recipes, November 6th, 2014

Deconstructed Falafel SaladLet’s talk lunch. There is no better time to think about packing a few weekday lunches than over the weekend. If you wait until Monday, the battle is already lost. But if you devote even just half an hour on Saturday or Sunday to prep some lettuce and a couple of interesting toppings, the entire week is just better.

It means that instead of snacking aimlessly throughout the day or spending way too much money on a takeout meal, you have a solid lunch to look forward to.

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Hazelnut Brittle — The Weekender

by in Holidays, Recipes, October 30th, 2014

Hazelnut BrittleAs we approach Halloween, mediocre candy is everywhere. It lines the shelves at local drug stores and is available for free if you’re even just a little bit nice to your local bank teller.

As someone who tries to keep her sugar intake on the low-to-moderate side of things, I can easily go over my personal daily quota with just a couple of mindlessly consumed fun size candy bars.

I find that one of the best ways to pass on the smorgasbord of seasonal offerings is to have a small stash of homemade candy at home. I know that the treats I make will taste better and be more to my liking than anything I might pick up while out running errands.

Right at the moment, my personal candy jar contains small fragments of Hazelnut Brittle. It’s a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis that requires just sugar, water and well-toasted hazelnuts.

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Pie Baked Apples — The Weekender

by in Recipes, October 23rd, 2014

Pie Baked ApplesThis time of year, many of us make the trek out to our closest U-Pick farms to load up on sweet, crisp apples. It’s easy to get carried away by the fresh air and autumnal abundance, and what looked like a reasonable amount of fruit in the orchard becomes an overwhelming volume once you cart it into your kitchen.

So, you start cooking. You make a big batch of applesauce for the freezer. You bake up a pan of apple crisp for dessert (or breakfast, topped with a scoop of plain yogurt). You slice the apples and stack them with peanut butter. You take a sackful to work, hoping your co-workers will help you out. And still, there are more apples.

If this sounds like a familiar story, may I suggest a fun little dessert that comes together quickly, tastes like a treat and still manages to put the focus on the whole fruit? A cross between traditional pie and baked apples, these Pie Baked Apples have you scoop out the interior apple flesh, toss it with a little sugar and spices, and pack it back into the empty apples. You top them with some store-bought pie crust, then bake them until they’re tender and brown.

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Turkey Meatloaf — The Weekender

by in Recipes, October 16th, 2014

Turkey MeatloafI am of the firm belief that one of the best things you can do for yourself is spend an extra hour or two in the kitchen over the weekend. You can use that time cooking up a meal to have on hand for a busy weeknight, or stir together a treat to make your family feel a little extra special.

Sometimes, that weekend kitchen time isn’t even about cooking. Often, it’s simply a moment to clear out the fridge of anything past its prime and sketch out a plan for how to best use what remains.

And that’s what The Weekender is about: doing yourself the kindness of investing a little bit of your weekend in the kitchen with an eye on the coming week. There will be tasty dishes, tricks for getting your kitchen in order and little things you can do to make meals during the workweek as painless as possible.

This weekend, consider the humble meatloaf. It’s a great make-ahead meal, because it reheats beautifully (consider making two and stashing one in the freezer), works just as well in a sandwich as on a dinner plate and, for picky eaters, goes down easy with a generous dollop of ketchup.

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