Pork Chops Jimmy

In which I want to know “Who wants to know?”

The recipe opens with the line “Son Jimmy’s favorite pork dish.” It’s things like this that prick my imagination.  Who was Jimmy?

He probably wasn’t Jimmy Ray.


I can’t quite imagine Jimmy Ray eating a pork chop topped with apples, maraschino cherries, and brown sugar.  But I have a feeling that the Jimmy that these pork chops were named after was a Groovy Teen.  How could he not be?

I originally made this recipe in the fall when my apples were ripe.  If you don’t know about my apple trees, you can find out more about them here and here.  I made so many apple recipes at the time, but figured that you may not want to read about nothing but apples, so backlogged this one.  Pork chops Jimmy Stacked

The pork for this recipe came from the sale bin.  I love seeing what is in the reduced meat section of the grocery store.  Sometimes there are things like beef shanks or pork neck bones.  I love to get those cuts of meat and slowly cook them until they fall off the bone and have made magical gravy to serve over mashed potatoes.  Usually I’ll throw some garlic in there to roast.  That either gets incorporated into the sauce or spread on homemade bread.

None of which is relevant to this recipe.  I only brought it up because I did not have 3/4 inch pork chops.  I had tiny little thin cut pork chops because they were on sale.  Pork Chops Jimmy framed

That part is important because thin pork chops cook much quicker than thick cut pork chops.  Which means that they can overcook quickly if you aren’t watching them.  Nobody likes a dry pork chop.  To try to mimic the effect of the thicker pork chops, I sandwiched an apple slice between layers of pork.  I feel like they were still a little dry, but not too bad.  It wasn’t quite that experience of biting into a nicely marbled pork chop on the bone where the fatty edge is just sort of melting into the rest of the meat.  (And all the vegetarians that are accidentally reading this are cringing).

This is a solid meat and potatoes sort of dish.  It’s sweeter than I like an entree to be, but not so sweet you feel like you need insulin.Pork chops Jimmy up close

Speaking of potatoes…I ran into Target while my husband stayed in the car with the kids (one of whom needed a nap like you wouldn’t believe).  While he waited he read an article of genius facts or something like that.  When I got back in, he attempted to impress me with the fact that everything in the world could be labelled as a potato or not a potato.  Of course I started brilliantly discussing how not everything we label as a potato is actually a potato and yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing.  Then I asked “Would it be a better classification if we labelled everything as “tuber or not tuber?”  To which my clever husband replied “That is the question.”  I retorted that that wasn’t funny, as I laughed and he snort-laughed next to me.  We never fail to amuse ourselves.  (If you don’t get why this was not funny, review Hamlet).

And don’t serve sweet potatoes as a side dish for this meat.  It’s just too much sweetness. Pork Chops Jimmy

Weeknight Dinner Chicken Tetrazzini

I have major spring fever.  As frequent readers know, I have a new house with quite a lot of yard that we are unaccustomed to.  Last year, we were moving in and settling at the time planting was supposed to happen and I ended up with a small, haphazard garden that was eaten by my stupid groundhogs (woodchucks). This year I have plans in mind.  I have ideas to make it better. Chicken Tetrazzini pan Last year we converted an old dog kennel into a raised bed garden.  All the viney things on one side and all the other stuff on the other.  I made some mistakes.  I didn’t put down enough weed blocker or mulch or compost.  I didn’t really think about where things were supposed to be planted or garden design.  I just wanted to get things into the ground.   One of my lovely friends took an afternoon and helped me.  Because of the lateness of getting things into the ground, I bought most of my plants from the greenhouse instead of planting things from seeds.  All of that is about to change.  My husband knows to be wary of me when I get these ideas in my head.

I have this plan…Chicken Tetrazzini CloseI have this obnoxiously large jetted tub in my bathroom.  We don’t use the tub unless we put all the kids in swimsuits and let them swim for a while.  It is too much water for one person to bathe in.  With people in Capetown, South Africa on the verge of lining up for water and one of my colleagues telling me about places in India where they can only get non-river water every other day, I feel terribly guilty having a tub large enough to let 3 children “swim”.  Plus the tub is hard to get in and out of and my water heater isn’t large enough to fill the tub with hot water.  I haven’t even mentioned the part where the tub is located underneath 2 windows on the front of the house (on a busy street) and 2 windows on the side of the house all of which are very look-inable from the wrap around porch.  (This whole thing sounds obnoxious now.) I’m not in a place to remove the tub at the moment.  It’s time I just don’t have.

Ok, so let’s tie all this together because if you’ve gotten this far with me already, I know you are in for the long haul and are probably reading this for the content anyway and not just for the recipe.

I have this plan…

There is absolutely no reason in the world that this tub would not make the best ever place for starting seeds.  In seed trays, not just filling the tub with dirt.  And I need you think about this with me because I might be completely crazy.  It’s in a place in my house where there is natural light, but could also support a grow light.  It could be covered with a clear shower curtain or something like that to create a “greenhouse” and keep the moisture in.  And it has the added bonus of having a water source and drain right there.  Is this nuts?  Chicken Tetrazzini Plate

Ok, so how does the recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini relate to any of this?

I’ve got a lot going on lately.  I’ve got a lot of ideas and plans and lots of things that I want to do.  I’m a working mom and don’t have the time I used to have to prepare the exact meals I want for my family.  It’s a lot harder than when I worked at home.  Being done at 4 PM these days (if I’m lucky) doesn’t mean that I get to leave my desk, go to the kitchen, and start making supper.  Which means meal planning and figuring out how to make leftovers last through the week and planning ahead and all of that fun stuff.  And it all has to be done at a reasonable time because people have things to do and kids have bed times and the kitchen still needs to be cleaned.  Are you exhausted reading this?

With the spring coming (in another 4 weeks according to the groundhog’s prediction), I want to be able to do projects and play around in the yard when the sun is out.   Which means I need dinners that can be prepped in 30 minutes or less.  With a little pre-prep this one can be.  (Actually, with some extra liquid, a rotisserie chicken, and some aluminum foil, I bet you could do this whole recipe in the oven while you did something else.)  Chicken Tetrazzini log

I have a friend that goes to Italy frequently.  He has a favorite restaurant in Rome that he visits on each trip.  As Italian as this dish sounds, I doubt they make it this way in Italy (or probably much of anywhere else).  If he’s reading this recipe, he’s thinking of ways he could make it better.  Truth be told, I am too.  Which is not to say this is not something to make.  It’s good.  It’s comfortable.  It’s like yoga pants and bare feet at the end of the day.  Chicken Tetrazzini

If you want other good weeknight supper ideas Sausage Bean Casserole, Hot Chicken SaladSupper In a Bread Loaf,  but if at this point you are just overwhelmed, perhaps a nice Whiskey Slush is more your speed.

Rough Day: Egg Dumplings

In which I get lucky.

Let’s talk comfort.  The past week and a half or so have been incredibly difficult for lot of little reasons.DSCN3194Lately I’ve been finding pennies on the ground.  Lots of pennies.  Not all at once, just one here and there.  I know everyone finds pennies on the ground, it’s not an unusual thing.  It’s the frequency that has made this noteworthy.

A few weeks ago, while cleaning the bathroom, I was sweeping under the vanity.  I have done this at least weekly since we moved into the house.  You’d figure that by this time I would’ve swept up anything that was under it.  On this particular day, however, a penny appeared.  Not just any penny.  But a penny that must’ve been from some sort of experiment.  It was silver around the edges and still copper in the middle.  “Pennies from Heaven,” I thought tucking it into my jeans pocket.

Last fall while doing some last minute planting, I dug up a penny that was barely recognizable as a penny.  I showed the boys and tucked that one into my pocket.



In the last few weeks, I have been picking up pennies all over.  Right by my foot as I’m getting into the car in a parking lot.  Right by my coworker’s foot in the work kitchen.  Under my desk.  On the side of the road.  Pennies that didn’t exist that suddenly appear while I’m cleaning.  They always end up in the pocket of my jeans.

There is a certain comfort in these pennies.  It’s not a comfort of financial security, because all told, I’m probably about 50 cents richer for the experience.  Pennies aren’t worth what they used to be.  I’m probably finding them because other people don’t care that they are losing them.  So why am I looking for a sign or meaning in it?  Why do I find such pleasure in something that the previous owner thought nothing of?  I have read stories where people find pennies and know that loved ones are communicating to them from beyond the grave.  “Maybe it’s a sign,” I think.  “As long as I keep finding pennies, I’m on the right track in life.”  Or maybe not, regardless, I feel a little more cozy and secure every time I find one.

It’s like chicken soup.  I mean, they even wrote a series of books about the sort of comfort chicken soup provides.  I was not a chicken soup fan as a child.  I was the worst sort of ungrateful brat that turned my nose up at homemade chicken soup with homemade noodles. I would only eat creamy soups or stews or pretentious things like French Onion soup with melted Gruyere over the top, but only if the cheese was slightly browned.  I clearly had no idea how good I had it that I even had those options.  Thank goodness I grew up and learned to appreciate the gift my mom gave me with that soup. DSCN3198

I had my oldest help me make chicken broth a while back.  He was proud of himself for accomplishing something so great.  I was proud of him for having the confidence to approach fundamental cooking. As soon as the stock was finished and strained, I made him some soup and put the rest of the stock into the freezer. I debated breaking out a recipe for homemade noodles, but the idea of rolling out noodles even with the help of my pasta maker seemed intimidating for that day.  Dumplings seemed more accessible. Normally, I make my chicken and dumplings traditionally with a creamy broth, but this felt like a clear soup sort of day.

Before you wonder too much, the thing that looks like a bug floating in the broth is a piece of thyme.  I am not going to edit it out. (My husband suggested that I insert a joke here about not having enough “thyme” to edit it out, but I’m seasoned enough to know that peppering this post with ridiculous puns will make some of you salty.)

DSCN3196There is something about the addition of eggs to a basic dumpling recipe that elevates it.  I am betting these dumplings would make a can of soup better.  I have a dear friend that told me she fails when she makes dumplings.  I’m going to gently encourage her to try this recipe.  Keep the soup hot, keep the lid on and just let them cook.  You should end up with a fully cooked slightly moist biscuity dumpling.  It’s perfect comfort for those really rough days.Egg Dumplings

Swedish Ham Balls

In which I recommend a podcast.

There is something about ham balls.  Most people I know have no idea what ham balls are.  My mom waxes poetically about how one of her aunts made the best ham balls.  One year at Christmas, my mom brought me a huge pan of ham balls.  It took us nearly a week to eat them all.  I always laughed about the sheer Iowan-ness of ham balls.  One day while waiting in line to pick up small children, I heard this amazing Moth Podcast about Ham Balls.  DSCN3005



I have a bunch of ham ball recipes.  So be prepared.  This will not be the last one.  But for my brother who just grilled a ham today, if you decide not to make the Ham Loaf with Cheese Crust, this is a decent recipe to try with your leftovers.  (The kids complained, but mostly about the texture.)DSCN3008Swedish Ham Balls

When “Best” is Subjective (A Mac and Cheese comparison)

In which I travel north.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I am in Canada for work and objected to my family thinking they could get away with eating nothing but boxed macaroni and cheese and pizza for the time I am gone.  I don’t object to macaroni and cheese.  But there are better things out there than Kraft Dinner (did you catch the Canadian reference?)  I mean, if I had a million dollars, I would still eat Kraft dinner (Hey, it’s a Barenaked Ladies reference and I’m in Canada. Isn’t it ironic?  (whoa, sub-shout out to Alanis)).  So while I am dining on poutine and sipping my Tim Horton’s (Sorry (with a long O sound) for all of you that aren’t), you can try out these mac and cheese recipes to see if “Best” is really better than that which is not labeled “best”.

In the macaroni and cheese world (and in the subsection of the world that is my household) there are a lot of opinions about what makes good macaroni and cheese.  Some people prefer a baked macaroni and cheese and some people prefer a stovetop one.  The creaminess of processed cheese is a crowd pleaser among certain people, while others tend toward a more sophisticated palate.  There are macaroni and cheese restaurants opening up across America because people can’t get enough of this classic comfort food (especially these days…).

I tried out two of my vintage recipes for macaroni and cheese.  One is called simply “Macaroni and Cheese” and the other is “Best Macaroni and Cheese”.

I made the Best Macaroni and Cheese first.  It’s a custard based (meaning the recipe calls for an egg and milk mixture) macaroni and cheese.  It calls for baking in a waterbath.  There is no crunchy topping. I did not add the MSG in the recipe because not only does no one need that kind of headache, I don’t keep any in the house (can you even buy it any more?)  I also doubled the recipe because we had guests for dinner.  One of our young friends thoroughly enjoyed the dish until he found out there were eggs in it.  He doesn’t like eggs.  I thought it was ok. Not the best recipe I’ve ever had, but not the worst.  I think it might’ve been better if I’d used a smaller pan to cook it in.  It allows the custard and cheese to melt together better.  This dish also didn’t call for any butter.  Butter makes things better. Best Macaroni and CheeseBy contrast, the simpler named, simpler prepared Macaroni and Cheese was an overall more satisfying dish.  While also custard based, it did not require a water bath to cook.  There were few ingredients, but the addition of bread crumbs created a more interesting dish. Macaroni and Cheese

My older son didn’t prefer any of these dishes because he doesn’t like baked macaroni and cheese.  He’s wrong.  The girl just wanted bacon and croutons on hers.  (I don’t know…this is the same kid that had the ideas about Shrimp and Olive pie).  The middle one ate plenty of each and would eat either again.  But the lesson to be learned here is that best isn’t always better (even when it comes to words).

Obvious ways to change this up are changing the type of cheese used, put in additives like bacon or broccoli.  Create fun and crunchy toppings out of cornflakes, bread crumbs, potato chips, or whatever.

And before anyone asks, yes, that’s Grandma’s dish that the macaroni and cheese is in.  I love it.  Every time I use it for food, it makes me happy.