Today is a red-letter day. After three weeks of being on the fritz, my oven is finally fixed! As a rather obsessive home baker, the last three weeks have been pretty painful (especially since my nutrition internship required me to provide baked goods for 40 kitchen employees last week). Mentally, I’ve been running through hypothetical would-you-rather scenarios involving my oven, like, “Would I rather have a working oven or a working microwave?” “Would I rather have a working oven or indoor plumbing?” (Speaking of which, did you ever read about the British study where people reported they’d rather give up indoor plumbing than Facebook?) I think I’d choose the oven over Facebook…but the plumbing over the oven.
At any rate, it’s been a challenge these last few weeks to get dinner on the table, considering the dead oven situation. The good news is that I’ve been making these Pork Chops with Pan-Fried Apples for years and knew it would serve as one hearty stovetop-only meal that’s perfect for fall.
Except for one little snag…
As written, this recipe is a Sodium B-O-M-B. Checking the nutrition info on realsimple.com revealed that the original recipe contains 2,045 milligrams of sodium per serving–right around the recommended amount for an entire day. Holy Saltshaker, that’s a lot of sodium! Time for a recipe makeover!
For my version, I’ve cut back the salt in the pork chops’ breading, limited the salt on the pan-fried apples to just a sprinkle, and used low-sodium chicken broth for the pan sauce. With these changes, this recipe is still a fairly high-sodium one (just so you’re aware) but is more in the reasonable range. This way you can enjoy your dinner without feeling like you overdid it and have to eat flavorless salt-free mush the entire rest of the day. Even with the sodium reduced, the flavors of the savory pork and caramelized exterior of the apples join for a classic fall combination that doesn’t need anything extra. I served it over mashed potatoes to complete the comfort food feel.
And now that that’s all squared away, I think I’ll go bake something!
Pork Chops with Pan-Fried Apples
(Adapted from Real Simple)
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. canola oil
3 small to medium apples, sliced in half
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cumin
scant 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. thin-sliced boneless pork chops
1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
Fresh or dried parsley
- Heat butter and canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle apple halves lightly with salt and pepper, to taste. Place cut-side down in the skillet and cook 3-5 until golden brown. Remove and set aside, covered.
- Meanwhile, mix flour, cumin, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge pork chops in flour mixture to coat on both sides. When apples have finished cooking, add more butter or oil to the pan if necessary and cook the pork 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Set aside, covered, with the apples.
- Add broth and vinegar to the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 4-5 minutes until slightly reduced. Pour over pork chops and top with parsley. Serve with apples.
Serves 4-5, depending on appetites.
Lasagna is like Superman. It’s a superhero of deliciousness with one fatal flaw: it’s so dang much work to make. Granted, I still make it pretty often because, hey, who can resist noodles, cheese, and sauce baked into bubbly layers of Italian indulgence? Not I! But sometimes wouldn’t it be nice to get the end result with a little less prep time pre-cooking filling and pre-boiling noodles?
Fortunately, there is a way!
This easy prosciutto lasagna makes use of no-boil noodles, ready-to-use cured meat, and cheesy filling whipped together in a food processor so that the stovetop stays off and the oven gets used only for baking the assembled product. It’s as no-cook as lasagna gets…which leaves me with no excuse not to make it, especially since it reheats well for leftovers and also happens to be majorly tasty. (I mentioned the red pepper-infused cheese filling that perfectly complements the salty prosciutto, right?) For a comfort food classic that comes together faster than you can say “kryptonite”–or at least faster than most other lasagnas–this one’s a real superhero.
Easy Prosciutto Lasagna
(Adapted from Cooking Light)
5 garlic cloves
16 oz. cottage cheese
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, divided
2 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 26-oz. bottle tomato-basil pasta sauce
No-boil lasagna noodles (the number will depend on the type of noodles you use; I use 12 of Barilla’s flat sheets)
4 oz. thinly-sliced prosciutto
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Process garlic in the bowl of a food processor until minced. Add cottage cheese and process until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, 2Tbsp. Parmesan, basil, red pepper, and egg and process until well blended.
- In the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/2 c. pasta sauce. Arrange lasagna noodles to cover sauce (number of noodles will depend on brand and size). Top with 1 cup of cheese mixture, then 1/3 of the prosciutto, then 3/4 c. pasta sauce. Repeat layers two additional times (noodles, cheese, prosciutto, pasta sauce). Top with one last layer of noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. Parmesan and the mozzarella.
- Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and continue baking another 15 minutes. Let lasagna stand at least 5 minutes before slicing.
Easter has come and gone, and for us Catholics, Lent is over–bring on the alcohol! the sweets! the whatever you gave up that you have been longing for for six weeks! And bring on the HAM! I hope that however you observed Easter (if you observe Easter), it was a lovely celebration…
…and that it included a spectacularly large spiral-sliced ham like mine did. I was a little late to the ham-buying game this year, as I was stranded in Denver in the midst of a blizzard (more on that in a future post on the 2016 Nutrition and Health Conference) and didn’t get home until Good Friday. So when I went to the store to purchase a smallish ham for the six people who would be eating Easter dinner at our house, there were in fact no smallish hams to be found. All that was left were mountainous hunks of ham, like, half-a-pig-sized, fill-your-entire-cart-sized hams. I ended up hauling home the smallest ham I could find, which was the size of a human toddler (okay, it was just shy of ten pounds). Still, calculate out ten pounds of ham for six people and you get waaaay more than anyone should be eating at one sitting. So we are now sitting on several good-sized Ziploc bags of frozen ham. I am definitely not complaining. In my experience, bags of pre-cooked meat in the freezer are a total boon to meal planning, especially on the quick. There are so many meals that beg for pre-cooked meat to eliminate one step in the dinner prep process. Over the years of hosting holiday meals and having leftovers, I’ve tried to get creative and have found there are so many ways to incorporate cooked ham into lunches, dinners, breakfasts, and appetizers.
So if you, too, are harboring leftover ham, allow me to offer you ten delicious options for using it up!
1. Hawaiian Pizza
You know the drill: crust, marinara, mozzarella, pineapple, and ham. Easy peasy!
2. Ham Mac & Cheese
Mix 1 cup ham into your favorite mac and cheese recipe for a protein boost.
3. Ham and Potato Soup
A classic. Right here on A Love Letter to Food.
4. Ham quiche or strata
Also here on the blog!
5. Spinach salad with ham, cheddar, apple, and pecans
We had this last night with a raspberry vinaigrette–super simple weeknight dinner.
6. Try a unique sandwich of ham, goat cheese, and mango chutney
I had this combo at a restaurant on Bainbridge Island near Seattle and have been dreaming of making it ever since.
7. Make a quick appetizer of ham, brie, and asparagus on skewers
Skewers make everything better.
8. Breakfast burrito
Toss some cubed ham in with eggs and cheese in a tortilla for a satisfying breakfast.
9. Ham Scalloped Potatoes
Try this recipe, adding ham and peas for a one-dish meal .
10. Ham Risotto
Mmmmm, risotto! Or should I say hammm risotto? This one with sweet potatoes is on my list.
Here’s to a hammy several weeks ahead!
Being married to a New York Italian, I have slowly become familiar with the unique vocabulary this special culture uses to describe its food. When we first met, I had no idea that when Anthony’s mom said “mutzadel,” she was referring to what I would call “mozzarella,” or that “gabagool” meant “capicola.” (Not that I knew what capicola was, anyway. It wasn’t exactly a staple in my German-Swiss upbringing.) For years I thought my husband’s family simply had their own strange ways of pronouncing these Italian foods, but apparently, it transcends just his family. I eventually found out that ALL New York Italians use these words. This satirical video of a Brooklyn spelling bee pretty well sums it up:
I can only assume it’s one of those linguistic phenomena where words from a mother language get altered in trickling down the generations and become almost unrecognizable, like a game of Telephone.
Now that we’ve been married almost 12 years and I’ve figured out the lingo, every time I make the appetizer pictured here, I can’t help but think of it as calling for “brahjzoot,” the New York Italian pronunciation of “prosciutto.” This must be some kind of rite of passage–if we ever go to Brooklyn, I’ll fit right in! (Ha.)
Even if it’s pretty unlikely I’ll ever pass for a New York Italian, at least I have this delightful recipe for a variation on a classic Italian appetizer: prosciutto-wrapped melon. I especially love this version for its tangy vinaigrette that combines fresh mint and golden balsamic vinegar. (Another food I never knew about until recently! The “golden” aspect of this balsamic allows the melon to keep its own attractive color.) With warmer weather upon us, this 5-ingredient, light and refreshing starter would work well for an outdoor gathering, paired with a Chardonnay….
…and perhaps (why not?) some “mutzadel” to go with it.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon with Mint Vinaigrette
(Adapted from Fine Cooking)
1 ripe cantaloupe
2 Tbsp. thinly-sliced fresh mint leaves
1/4 c. Tbsp. golden balsamic vinegar, depending on sweetness of melon (the sweeter the melon, the more vinegar you can use)
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
6 oz. thinly-sliced prosciutto
- Slice the cantaloupe into chunks or thin wedges, removing the rind.
- In a medium bowl, stir together golden balsamic vinegar, mint leaves, and black pepper. Toss cantaloupe slices in this mixture until coated.
- Slice or tear the prosciutto into 1 to 2-inch wide strips and wrap around each melon slice. Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.
Serves about 6-8 as an appetizer.
I know people come to Arizona, especially in the winter, for all the sunshine. And yes, sunshine is great–good for your mood, you can do fun stuff outdoors, Vitamin D and all that jazz–and generally, I enjoy living in a place that boasts 300 days of sunshine a year. But having lived in the Phoenix area my whole life, I have a confession to make: sometimes I get sick of sunshine. Sometimes I feel like the Marvelous Mad Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone:
…minus the red splotches and the purple hair. I can remember one particular summer as a teenager opening my blinds every morning hoping for foul weather and going, “Oh. Sunshine again.” with the extreme contempt only a teenager can muster. I know, I know, people from the East Coast are coming for me with their torches and pitchforks right now. We all need a little variety in our lives, though, right? ….right?
So when a rainy day like today comes around like a magical weather unicorn, I try to savor it. (BTW, am I the only one who’s starting to get a little freaked out by that Madam Mim gif on endless repeat? Feel free to scroll it out of your screen.) This morning I had planned to finally go out and get myself a membership at a local yoga studio like a good new year’s resolver, but instead I found myself curled up on the couch wondering which kind of herbal tea to brew. It’s just that kind of stay-at-home rainy day.
A quick aside: truth be told, my guilt over not going to yoga got the better of me and I ended up doing this crazy 20-minute high intensity interval training Youtube video:
All I have to say is it left me like…
Anyway, if a rainy day doesn’t call for signing up for a yoga membership (or torturing yourself with cheerful bikini body Youtube workout instructors), it DOES call for soup. That we can all agree on. There’s a reason that old Campbell’s commercial where the snowman melting into a kid when he eats soup was such a classic:
Because soup is cozy and comforting, warming you up from the inside out–the gastronomical equivalent of a fleece blanket. If you don’t love soup on a chilly, rainy day, you may be a robot. So I have for you today one of our family’s favorite “fleece blanket” soups (no actual fleece involved). We have enjoyed this with crusty bread as a light dinner on more than one Christmas Eve, as well as numerous other chilly-day occasions. I suppose you could call it a chowder, with its creamy texture punctuated by chunks of ham and potato, dotted with pops of yellow corn. My 8-year-old, who typically turns up his nose at leftovers, literally jumped up and down with excitement when I offered him leftovers of this. The kid’s no dummy. This is an awesome soup.
And with that, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the rain a little bit longer and ponder what soup to make tonight.
Ham and Potato Soup
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
3 1/2 c. peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 c. celery, chopped
1/3 c. onion, diced
1 c. cooked ham, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
3 1/4 c. chicken broth
salt to taste
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 c. frozen corn
5 Tbsp. butter
5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 c. milk
Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish, if desired
- In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, combine potatoes, celery, onion, ham, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (The amount of salt will vary depending on how salty your broth is. I say err on the side of caution with the salt.) Add frozen corn and cook until heated through, another 3 minutes or so.
- In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Slowly add milk, stirring to prevent lumps from forming. Continue to cook and stir another 4-5 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick enough for a fork to leave a defined trail.
- Add milk mixture to broth mixture and cook until completely heated through. Garnish with shredded cheddar, if desired.
Serves 6 as a main dish, 8 as a first course.