Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Chops

Some nights ….

Some nights when I get home from work, dinner is that last thing on my mind.  An actual, honest to goodness, dinner.  One with a main protein and two sides.  Served on an actual dinner plate.  All prepared and ready to be enjoyed at the same time ( I am terrible at timing!)  Eaten at the table, while seated.

Some nights the only thing that makes it into my mouth is a bowl of popcorn and a glass of red wine.  Totally dinner.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  Or how about a cup of cereal with a splash of cold milk…because cereal eaten out of a coffee cup tastes better at night.  I don’t know why, it just does.  Or hard-boiled eggs, that were meant for breakfast, but it is dinnertime and you are hungry now…you can figure out breakfast in the morning.

Then there are nights where you actually make it home and throw together a meal that would be considered dinner according to anyone’s standards.  These are the nights where you actually think that you might be a grown up.  That you might be a responsible 29-year-old.  High -five to self!

Last night…this happened.  Brown sugar glazed pork chops with roasted green beans were served at my dinner table.  I made enough for two nights…I am having an adult moment.  It is sure to pass.  At least I hope…I kinda like popcorn and wine for dinner. 

 

Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Chops

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients

  • 2 Pork Chops, bone in
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Sweet Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Pinch of Crushed Red Peppers
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, paprika, and salt in a shallow dish ( a pie plate works great).  Pat dry the pork chops with paper towel.  Dredge pork chops in the flour mixture, coating both sides, shake off excess.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Place pork chops in skillet and cook on each side for about 4-5 minutes until they are well browned.  Remove from skillet and place in a casserole dish.  Pour lemon juice into skillet and with a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, deglazing the pan.  Pour over the pork chops in casserole dish.  Sprinkle the top of the pork chops with brown sugar and place in oven for about 20 minutes until the internal temperature reaches at least 145°F.

Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

p.s.  no lemon juice?  how about apple juice or apple cider?  I am thinking, yes!!!

 

Blackberry Mojito

I believe.

I believe the best naps are taken on the couch, in your work clothes.  With your shoes still on.

I believe that beer tastes better from the tap  and worst from a bottle.

I believe chocolate should always be close at hand, in the purse, in the cupboard, in the desk, or in your locker.

I believe an afternoon of watching Dirty Dancing will make the world right again.  Same is said for The Sound of Music.

I believe that lip gloss and mascara is all a girl really needs…less is totally more.

I believe comfortable silence between two people says more than chatty conversation.

I believe in loud music and singing along, so I can’t hear myself and the wrong lyrics that escape my lips.

I believe shoes make an outfit.

I believe green beans will make my hair grow longer, faster.

I believe God is good.  And people are crazy.

I believe in laughter.

I believe that bbq isn’t properly eaten unless you have sauce from ear to ear.

I believe that Diet Coke is liquid crack and popcorn is air popped crack, lightly salted.

I believe ants and spiders should live outside and let me live inside.  Alone.

I believe drinks taste better when slurped through a bendy straw.

I believe berries taste like summer.  And summer taste like berries.

I believe in celebrating the little things in life, along with the big stuff.  Milestone birthdays and Friday evenings.  New jobs and new shoes.  First steps and first dates.

I believe Friday’s should be celebrated.  With cake at work and cocktails at home.

Blackberry Mojitos

Makes 1 Cocktail

Ingredients

- 6 to 8 Blackberries

- 8 Mint Leaves

- 1 ounce Rum

( I used coconut rum, gotta use what ya got!)

- 1 Tablespoon Sugar

- Juice of half a lime

- A few ice cubes

- 2 to 3 ounces Club Soda

In a glass, combine the sugar and mint leaves.  Using a muddler or a pestle, break down the mint into the sugar, releasing its oils and aroma.  Add blackberries, rum, and lime juice and continue to muddle the ingredients together.  ( I used the back of a spoon to smash the blackberries).  Add a few ice cubes and top off with club soda.  Garnish with extra blackberries and mint sprigs.

Enjoy!

 

 

Baked Mini Shells w/ Pork Sugo

Is it really Friday already?  The Friday before Memorial Day weekend…seriously?!?  The unofficial start to summer.  Really?

While I try to wrap my mind around the speed at which this year is unfolding, let’s do a week round-up.  Because I am sure you are all intrigued at what has been happening around here these past few days.

My week included many moments of wincing, especially when going down stairs and sitting.  I was pretty close to installing a safety bar in the bathroom, you know the ones for the elderly or handicap or marathon finishers.  I know I am not alone on this…I had a few good laughs over this topic this week.

I had a birthday.  It was great.  It fell on our first monthly potluck at work and happy birthday was sang and maybe even a bit of dancing was done.  And the potluck…it was delicious.  Next month?  An ice cream social.  I love this place!

I went to yoga.  We did a million chaturangas.  My arms are sore.  In a good, that was a kick-butt workout, kinda way.  And the stretching, oh the stretching felt wonderful.

American Idol came to an end…it was my guilty pleasure this winter/spring.  I am currently looking for another guilty pleasure…Maybe Duets…but that Robin Thicke character kinda weirds me out.  He sounds like his father, but every now and then he doesn’t and that throws me for a loop.  And his hair?  It is tall.  And his pants?  They are tight…Garth Brooks tight.  But he can rock a blazer.  But I like Jennifer Nettles.

In baseball news, the Indians swept the Tigers…kind of a big deal in this house!  #windians.

In the kitchen, it was a slow week.  I baked carrot cake cupcakes, roasted green beans (recipe soon), tested out a cocktail, and whipped up some pulled pork (my potluck contribution).  And while I made baked mini shells with pork sugo last weekend, I finished off the left overs this week…So this recipe totally falls into this week’s round up.

When I started marathon training back in January…I instantly started thinking about carb loading in May.  I kinda love pasta.  And so when the time came, I was prepared – I did have 4 months to research.  The great thing about this dish is that I was able to prepare the pork the day before and when the time came for dinner, I only had to boil the pasta, sprinkle with cheese, and toss in the oven.  This is perfect, when you are feeding a small crowd, with who you would rather visit with than spend that time slaving over a hot stove.  Or spend time with instead of taking photos of your food..thankfully I snapped a few as it was being dished out and eaten!

 

Baked Mini Shells w/ Pork Sugo

Adapted from Food and Wine 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2-3lb Pork Butt, cut into cubes (about 1 inch)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Yellow Onion, finely diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
3-4 Medium Carrots, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
2 Cups Diced Tomatoes (14 ounce can)
1 + 1/2 to 2 Cups Dry Red Wine
4-6 Cups Chicken Stock/broth
1 Bay Leaf
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 + 1/2 lbs. Mini Shells ( I used whole wheat!)
2 Cups Parmesan Cheese, shredded (or a mix of Italian cheeses)

Pork can be made up to 1 to 2 days before and stored in airtight container in fridge.

Heat olive oil in large dutch oven over medium-hight heat.  Season pork cubes with salt and pepper and toss into the dutch oven – keep pork in a single layer.  Cook pork until golden browned on all sides, this should take about 12 to 15 minutes.  You want the pork to be browned, because browned means flavor!  Add garlic, onion, celery, and carrots.  Continue to cook over medium-high heat until vegetables begin o brown and become tender (about 8-10 minutes).  Stir in tomato paste and cook for about one minute.

Add wine and with a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan, releasing all the browned bits.  Add diced tomatoes, bay leaf, and dried thyme.  Cook over medium-high heat until liquid is reduced by 1/2, stirring occasionally.  Add stock, enough to completely cover pork.  Bring to boil, and then reduce to simmer.  Cover and let simmer for about 2 hours, until pork is tender and can be shredded with a fork.  If the liquid level drops, add stock as needed.  Keep pork covered.

Once pork is tender, using a slotted spoon, transfer pork and vegetables to a food processor, discard the bay leaf.  Pulse several times until pork is shredded.  This can also be done with two forks, but is quicker and more uniform in a food processor.  Transfer pork and vegetables back into the original pot and stir in oregano and crushed red pepper.  At this point in time, you can store pork in fridge until ready to use.  Otherwise, continue onto the next step.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook for 5 minutes, drain well.   (it will continue to cook in the oven.)  Toss together pasta and shredded pork in a casserole pan (or dutch oven that can go from stove top to oven), cover with Parmesan cheese and place in preheated oven.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until heated through and cheese is browned and bubbly.

Enjoy!

If you are making the pork sugo beforehand, reheat it on the stovetop before tossing it with the cooked pasta. 

 

Carrot Cake Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

Today I turn 29.

29!  Wowza.

28 was a pretty good year.  I started this blog.  Vacations were spent ocean side.  There was a new job.  26.2 was accomplished. There were more moments of joy than moments of sorrow.  Laughter was abundant.  Crying was sparse.  Opportunities were seized.  Leaps of faith were taken.  Old friends remained constant and new friendships were forged.

What to expect for 29?  I haven’t a clue, but today it begins.  Honestly, I was all prepared to create a list of 29 things to do before 30.  All with the hopes of getting me doing things I have always wanted to do.  Be a do-er!  All things to make 29 interesting and fun and adventurous.  So while I don’t have 29 things yet, here is what I have so far…

Visit 12 new restaurants that are Cleveland based.  Go to an Ikea ( I never said they were earth shattering or life changing!).  Run Marathon #2.  Read at least one book a month (hopefully more).  Throw a dinner party.  Attend a food bloggers conference.  Take one picture a day that isn’t of food.  Fry doughnuts in my kitchen.  View a surgery.  Sky dive.  Attend a play.  Try my hand at French.  Visit a flea market.  Learn to use my grandmothers sewing machine.  Visit a new city.  Decorate one room in my house.  Go to Niagara Falls.  A single pull-up.

Nothing crazy or off the wall.  All things that I can accomplish.  No flying to the moon or a flight with the Blue Angels.  Simple things that would make me happy.  So, I guess, now that I put this list out there…I better get moving!

But until I cross that first thing off my list…I have cupcakes to tell ya about.

 

Carrot cake slathered with cream cheese frosting.  A classic cake that come to find out, is a favorite of many.  But ya wanna know why I think so many people enjoy this cake?  The cream cheese frosting.

The cake is simply a vehicle to get cream cheese frosting from the mixing bowl into your mouth in the most tactful way.  Because apparently eating frosting by the spoonful isn’t proper.  Or at least shouldn’t be done in public.  In the safety of your own home…I say go for it.  But at work, just eat a cupcake.  Your co-workers won’t think you weirder than what they already do.

 

 Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

24 Cupcakes

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1 + 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil (canola oil)
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Cups Peeled and Grated Carrots
  • 1 Cup Walnut, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 Cup Raisins

Frosting

  • 1 Stick Butter, room temperature
  • 16 ounces Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 3 + 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line muffin tin with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together white sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Mixing well between each addition.  (scrape the sides and bottom of bowl too.)  With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Fold in carrots, walnuts, and raisins.

Fill lined muffin tins about 3/4 of the way full (about 1/4 cup of the batter) and bake in preheated oven for 14-16 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes and then carefully remove cupcakes from tin and place on wire rack to completely cool before icing.

While cooling, prepare frosting.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, salt, and vanilla.  With mixer on low, slowly add powdered sugar.  Place frosting in fridge for about 15 to 20 minutes before frosting cupcakes.

I store iced cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge.  This keeps the cream cheese frosting set and well refrigerated.

 

Because 26.3 Would Be Crazy…

 

Dear Cleveland Marathon,

Just a quick Thank You note.  Thank you for being my first marathon.  We were awesome today.  My feet and your pavement…we rocked it.  Cleveland, while you are not my first home, you have become my home, and I think we are now forever friends, no matter where life leads us.

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for cheering me on today and for believing in me from Day 1 of training.  Thank you Mom and Allie for getting up at 4:30am and traipsing downtown to watch us start and finish.  Thank you James, Megan, and Dad for watching Carter, allowing Jeff and Andrea to run the half and for cheering us on from home.  Thanks to the whole family for driving the three hours to spend the weekend up here…best family a girl could ask for.  Thank you Andrea, for running the last bit with me…we killed it.  Thank you Mel, Todd, Jacki, Hazel, and Bo for showing up at mile 4…Jackie sorry for the sweaty hug, I was way excited!  You guys are the best!

 

Dear Volunteers, Police, and EMS,

Bless you!  Thank you for handing out water, Powerade, and gel packs every few miles.  Thank you for spraying me with a hose … it was delightful and made me feel like a 8-year-old running through sprinklers.  Thank you for shouting encouragement as we grabbed water from your giving hands.  Thank you for cleaning up our mess as we littered the streets of Cleveland with paper cups and empty gel packs.  Without you….this wouldn’t have been possible.  And your high-fives, they were the best.

Police and EMS…thank you for closing streets and highways so we could plod down them.  Thank you for directing traffic so we crazy runners wouldn’t become road kill.  Thank you too for shouting encouragement as we ran by you as you held cars at bay.  EMS…today was hot and you were there to help those negatively affected.  While I didn’t need your services, you eased my mind knowing you were there.  Thanks.

Dear Hill @ Mile Something or Other,

While I can’t remember the exact mile and there were a few random hills out there…so this is to all of you.  You were tough.  I charged (steadily ran at a constant pace and pumped my arms) up you and you didn’t ease up on me.  Thank you.  You allowed me to push myself to the limit.  Thanks!  Thank you for making the flatter course segments seem less difficult, at least for a few steps.  Oh hills, we have a love hate relationship going on here.

Random Strangers Handing out High-Fives,

Those were some of the best high fives…ever.  You too are awesome.  And those with funny signs…thanks for the smiles.

And last but not least, Mother Nature,

Seriously!?!  While I thank you for not providing us with snow or thunder…you were pretty harsh with that sun of yours.  You could have eased up a bit, I mean it was my first marathon and all!  Geez oh petes.  Because of you, I have a few more freckles after today and because of Coppertone…I am not burnt…thank goodness!  You raised the height to the already huge hurdle that is the marathon … Mother Nature, next time we need to talk beforehand.

Oh and one more, just for kicks…Dear Progressive Field Hat circa 2008,

Thanks for shielding my face and eyes from the scorching sun.  Thanks for directing the sweat away from my eyes and face…for a free hat, you are pretty stellar.  If only the hat said Jacob’s Field.

Marathon…I will see you again.  You were too much fun to just complete once.

Until Next Time,

Mal