Growing up, pork chops were one of my least favorite family dinners. Coated in Shake n Bake and cooked, and cooked until they were so firm a steak knife would bow as you sawed through them, it was one of the few meals I wouldn’t fight my brother for seconds on. They ranked only slightly higher than hobo dinners, yet, just like those horrid foil packets of sliced kielbasa and mushy vegetables I dreaded, the chops required a vat of Ranch dressing to make them swallowable. Of course, this was before the USDA revised the temperature guidelines for cooking pork. The new rule-of-thumb is 145 degrees and 3 minutes resting time, which results in one juicy, tender chop. Voilà:
Speaking of revisions, did you know pork cuts recently underwent a renaming process? I had no idea, until I started searching for this month’s North Carolina Pork Council Blog Network featured cut of pork: the Porterhouse Chop, formerly known as the pork loin chop. I found this handy reference image on the Pork Be Inspired website:
For these chops, I was shooting for big, bold flavors and juicy meat — something a wee bit crazy to put the chops of my childhood to shame.
Back in Ohio, I had a lot of things. A house. A yard. Shrubbery. The whole kit and kaboodle. Sure, most people save downsizing til they’re empty-nesters, but me? Oh, no. I cut ties with three-quarters of my belongings at age 26, leaving behind my beloved hedging shears, lawn gnomes, and my beautiful propane grill (complete with double burners), and headed south. Since then, I’ve dreamed of the day I’d once again cook over an open flame, just me, my meat, and the great outdoors.
I spent the Memorial Day weekend at home in Ohio, and one morning I convinced my dad to teach me how to light a charcoal grill. As a soon-to-be-thirty, self-declared independent woman, I’m ashamed to publicly announce my ineptitude in this area. But standing in the backyard, listening to him explain the mechanics of the offset smoker while the flames licked at the mound of coals put a fire in my belly.
And when I returned home to Charlotte, this:
Even before I’d taken the grill out of the box, I invited a few friends over for sausage party. I stocked my fridge full of Johnsonville brats, opened up a bottle of wine, and got to assembling my new grill.
In retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea to give the ole grill a trial run. Nothing like going at it green with a crowd full of hungry bystanders. Though my dad had showed me how easy it was to light a charcoal grill using a charcoal chimney, I was overcome with a sudden confidence in the grilling aisle at Lowes, and when I picked up the chimney to put it in my cart, I thought, “oh, no, I got this,” and put the chimney right back on the shelf. Flash forward a few hours later, with the aforementioned starving bystanders, and me with nary a chimney, shred of newspaper, or drop of lighter fluid in sight.
An hour and one burnt thumb later, there was ash-covered charcoal… sort of.
Several mistakes were made this day, but I did do one thing right. Friends, ALWAYS have snacks on hand. The simple Johnsonville Andouille smoked sausage and caramelized onion pizza I threw together kept my friends from rioting while we faltered with the grill. This is sausage and onions done right. Classy, even.
And after two hours of “grilling” we FINALLY sat down and enjoyed some Johnsonville original brats plus some brat-stuffed jalapeno peppers. And you know what? It was fantastic. Even with all the flubs, as long as you don’t pierce the brat with a fork and leach it of its juices, that thing is sure to be delicious.
(As soon as everyone left, I logged onto Amazon and ordered a charcoal chimney.)Read More
Back in 2010, I made a personal vow to focus on healthy eating (read all about it here). This was a challenge for me, the girl who considers bread, brie, and wine a square meal, so I started with small things, like packing a homemade lunch each day, instead of relying on Lean Cuisines and fast food. Slowly, I established a routine of making healthy choices whenever I was the one in control of the preparation (well, MOST of the time, anyway), which lets me enjoy eating at restaurants without worrying quite so much about all the salt and the butter and delightful carbohydrates I’m consuming.
One of my healthy eating goals for 2014 is to incorporate more kale into my diet, as part of the Kale Up campaign. Kale is a green I’ve shied away from in the past, other than occasionally tossing a few handfuls into a nice bean soup. Kale is a very hearty green — you don’t have to worry about it going limp or getting soggy. I often find kale salads are even better when the kale has a bit of time to “marinate” in the dressing.Read More
Ohhhh pork. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Wait. Did I mention barbecue?
Seriously, though. Pork tenderloin is a super simple, oober delicious and versatile cut of meat. My all-time favorite tenderloin recipe is my Sweet Chili Pork Tenderloin. Roasting the pork in the oven is so simple (arguably fool-proof), I decided to use the same approach for this recipe, which utilizes some of those sweet summer tomatoes starting to pop up in the markets.
This is the first of five pork recipes I’ll be creating for the North Carolina Pork Council Blogging Network in 2014. Did you even know there was such a thing? Admittedly, I did not, but when the Pork Council comes a knockin on your inbox, you say YES, PLEASE.Read More
My passion for barbecue was discovered late in life, at the ripe age of 26, at the very same time and the very same instant I discovered my soulmate of the meat variety. PORK. Thank you Charlotte, for introducing this Ohio girl to your precious piggy bounty, abundant sauces, and deep-rooted opinions on all things ‘cue.
Though it greatly annoys me when a recipes calls for two cups of “your favorite barbecue sauce,” I’ve never attempted to make my own before now. It’s something I’ve left to the professionals (aka Midwood Smokehouse, my favorite barbecue joint in town). I favor BBQ sauces that are heavy on the vinegar (that’s eastern NC style for you BBQ neophytes), but I’m also coming around to the sweeter, ketchup-based sauces. So this recipe, my first ever BBQ sauce, is a mash-up of the two, a combo that’s united with a heavy hand of Four Roses Bourbon. Bourbon and barbecue? Puh-lease.Read More
So, kale. It gets lots of buzz in the health food world, and it should. It’s loaded with calcium, vitamins A, C, and K, anti-cancer carotenoids and flavonoids, and it’s been shown to help lower cholesterol. But, uh, it’s kale, and people aren’t always sure what the heck to do with it. The good news is the options are vast: make a salad with a warm vinaigrette, add a bagful to soup or stew, wilt it down with garlic and serve it as a side , throw it in your frittata or fruit smoothie (seriously!), add it to pasta, or make a kale and caramelized onion grilled cheese, if you please.
A few weeks back, I got an email asking me to make my 2014 the year to KALE UP. I’m down for healthy food challenges, so I checked out the KALE UP site, to see what this campaign was all about. Their first blog post introduces kale as your “new friend with benefits” and explains the year to “kale up” means finding easy ways to get kale in your daily life.
I suggest we all start with these 120 calorie savory cheddar-kale scones–they’re a tasty way to score some kale points for the day.Read More