Friday, October 28, 2011

Pork and Apple Skillet Meal

I love this meal in the fall, when apples are in prime season and mushrooms and onions go on sale.  The best thing about it is that it can all be made in one skillet, and the last 15 minutes are totally hands-off - the perfect time to empty the dishwasher, wash the cutting board, wipe down the counter, and still have a moment to read the kids a story... or check your e-mail.

  • 4 pork chops, about 3/4 inches thick (there is so much of the rice/apple mixture left at the end that I think it would be totally fine to throw a couple more chops in if your family is a bit hungrier)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced*
  • 1 8 oz container of sliced mushrooms (or slice them yourself if the whole ones are on sale)
  • 2 Tbs of balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • 2 apples, sliced*
  • 1 10 1/2 oz can of condensed chicken broth
  • 1 broth can of water
  • 1-1/2 c of instant rice
  • dried thyme (about 1 tsp)
  1. Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray.
  2. Brown pork chops in skillet on med-high for about 3 minutes on each side. (*I slice the apples and onions while the chops are browning.)
  3. Add mushrooms, onions, and dressing to the pan and cook about 4 minutes longer.
  4. Add apples, thyme, broth, water, and rice.  Mix around until everything is moistened.
  5. Turn heat down to medium, cover skillet, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Difficulty: Pretty easy; there are only two things to cut and the rest you just measure and toss in the skillet.
Time: about 30 minutes
Source: adapted from Kraft Food and Family magazine

Pumpkin Dip

This recipe is quick and very kid-friendly. It is great to set out at parties as an appetizer or dessert.

  • 1 tub of whipped topping (8 oz)
  • 1 large package vanilla instant pudding
  • 3 cups cold milk
  • 1 T pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 can pure pumpkin (15 oz)
  • Cinnamon graham cracker sticks

  1. Mix pudding and milk with wire whisk for 1 minute.
  2. Add pumpkin, whipped topping, and pumpkin pie spice.
  3. Stir until smooth.
  4. Chill and serve with cinnamon graham cracker sticks.
Difficulty: Super Easy
Time: less than 5 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes to chill
Source: Erika S.

Postpartuum Paranoia Plunge

Some people cry; some people glow; some people thrive. I get paranoid. After the birth of my first child, I refused to answer my door for weeks and made my husband take down celebratory balloons. I was convinced someone would take my baby. I worked through this by walking and running more and more streets in the neighborhood with baby and dog. Three years later, I became obsessed about crashing my car on a bridge and ending up in the river. My best Christmas present ever, the Life Hammer, helped me through that fear.

After welcoming Baby #3, my paranoia centers around disasters; a recent issue of Parent's Magazine (and a much older edition of Popular Mechanics) encouraged families to create a disaster kit. As I started working on this, I started wondering what I would do if I lost everything I had in a fire. If I had to run out of my house, the last thing I would ever think to take is my cute Longaberger recipe basket. All of the recipes I've collected from magazines, websites, friends, and family LOST. My recent recipes are on scribbled pieces of paper with Halloween stickers; I can't even find them twice in the same day.

The only person I ever talk kitchen-shop with is Joyce. Because I don't think she judges how I cook or how little I know about cooking. We are in survival mode-busy working moms who try to have something of our own. So through a series of emails and texts, we decided to try this as a way to share our successful kitchen triumphs. And work me through my third bout of paranoia.

Here we go!

There are some people in life that you become friends with because they are so totally different than you…they are the yin to your yang, and it just works.  Then there are other people that you become friends with because you just completely relate to each other.  Kelly and I are two moms who are constantly striving for balance between working, running, spending quality time with our kids and husbands, maintaining friendships, and maintaining our sanity.  Throw cleaning, meal planning, coupon clipping, grocery shopping, and cooking in the mix with our type-A personalities, and it can get a bit interesting.  Kelly and I are on the same page with most things, including our desire to cook healthy meals that our families will enjoy.  And neither of us is willing to trade much coveted family time for hours spent slaving away in the kitchen. 

Perhaps the key component to the lasting friendship that Kelly and I share is this:  Neither of us judges the other.  If the floor isn’t vacuumed, if the counter is cluttered, if the blinds haven’t been dusted for a year, if the lettuce is slightly wilted, if the play date is less than organized or goes completely awry…we understand.  It happens.  We also understand that sometimes you have to have pizza for dinner, or chicken nuggets, or hot dogs.  And when it comes to making that home cooked meal, there is nothing wrong with simple, or fast, or “not from scratch.”  In fact, those deliciously simple recipes are exactly the ones we are after.  And when we find a recipe that works, we share it.  Because we are busy moms, and adding “find new tried and true recipes that are healthy and easy to make and the family will enjoy” to the to-do list might just put at least one of us over the edge. 

So here we are, sharing our recipes with each other, trying to make things a little bit easier for one another, bit by tasty bit.  Only recipes that we have tried multiple times will make it from the scribbled on scraps of paper to the electronic recipe box, and being able to find the recipe later without spending precious minutes searching through books and papers torn out of magazines is key.  So, from one busy mom to another (and to another), enjoy!