Old Saws and New Ways

April 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

   There may be truth to the adage “there’s no accounting for tastes,” but I remain fascinated with the influences that lead people to their individual food preferences.  For example, my mother-in-law’s long history of allergies and sensitivities has left her understandably wary of many foods, and my husband’s juvenile-onset type I diabetes informed his logic early on:  Why waste your carbohydrate allowance on a half-cup of peas when you can have one-and-a-half cups of garden-fresh green beans instead? 

Among those attitudes I’ll never figure out fall my dog, who will reject a nice plate of kibble topped with meat drippings only to go crazy over some unknown bit of garbage she digs up out in the yard, and people who are resolutely convinced that “healthy diet” translates to “dreary, restrictive, pleasureless regimen.” 

I figure, high-end restaurants don’t serve my personal pre-teen favorite, battered, deep-fried onion rings and pork tenderloin sandwiches on gummy white buns, for a very good reason:  quality food is fresh and minimally processed, by definition.  I mean, isn’t a sweet, juicy slice of ice-cold watermelon one of life’s greater gastronomic delights? 

I would argue, then, that while eating shouldn’t be all about nutrition without regard for taste, neither should it be all about taste, with no regard for nutrition.  Tying into all of the above is a meal built around breaded pork chops – but these, my dear, are not your mother’s breaded pork chops. 

To start, Pretzel-Crusted Pork Chops, a platter of Roasted Root Vegetables, and a Spinach Salad with Avocado, Red Onion, Bleu Cheese, and Walnuts.  And to prove that dessert doesn’t have to be a choice between nutrition-free or bor-ing, my version of Pineapple Upside Down Gingerbread, inspired by the Reader’s Digest Live Longer Cookbook.©  

For the pork chops: 

6 thick-cut boneless loin chops, trimmed            1 C broken whole wheat pretzels

1 tsp garlic powder                                                2 TB soy sauce

2 TB Miracle Whip®                                     2 TB Dijon mustard 

Trim excess fat from chops.  Pulse pretzels in a food processor 10-12 times, until crumbly, with some larger chunks still evident.  Put pretzel crumbs in a shallow container large enough to dip the chops and sprinkle in garlic powder, mixing well.  In another shallow container, whisk together the soy sauce, Miracle Whip®, and Dijon. 

Preheat oven to 350°.  Place large skillet over medium heat and spray pan generously with canola oil.  Dip trimmed chops first into liquid mixture and then into crumb mixture, turning to coat all surfaces evenly.  Gently place dredged chops in heated pan and cook until golden on one side – four-to-five minutes.  Turn carefully with a spatula and brown on second side.  Carefully transfer to a small baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes longer. 

For the vegetable platter:

4 large beets                                                     4 large turnips

8 parsnips                                                         1-2 TB olive oil

salt and pepper                                     2 TB fresh tarragon 

Preheat oven to 350°.  Trim and peel beets, turnips, and parsnips.  Cut beet and turnips into wedges (eighths) and cut parsnips at an angle into 4-5 slices.  Line a baking sheet with foil, place cut vegetables on foil, drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and tarragon.  Bake 50-60 minutes, or until tender to a fork-poke.

 The salad is, so to speak, a piece of cake: 

6 C fresh spinach leaves                           1 small, ripe avocado

1/2 C thin-sliced red onion                                     1/4 C crumbled bleu cheese

1/3 C coarse-chopped walnuts             2 TB olive oil

1 TB lemon juice                                         1 TB red wine vinegar 

Wash spinach, trim stems, and dry well.  Peel, seed, and cube avocado.  In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.  Place spinach in a large (preferably glass, to show it off) bowl and toss in avocado, onion, bleu cheese, and walnuts.  Pour dressing over all and toss gently. 

The gingerbread cake starts with: 

1 TB melted butter                                       1/3 C packed brown sugar

1 TB lemon juice                                         9 rings water-packed pineapple

1 C all-purpose flour                                         3/4 C whole wheat flour

4 TB ground flaxseed                                                1/4 C finely ground corn meal

1 tsp ground cinnamon                                  1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp baking soda                                         1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt                                                        1/3 C molasses

1/3 C sugar*                                                    1/4 C canola oil

1 large egg                                                        1 C evaporated skim milk 

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a small bowl, stir together butter, brown sugar, and lemon juice and spread into a 9″ x  9″ x 2″ pan.  Carefully arrange pineapple rings in a single layer on top.  Whisk together the flours, flaxseed, cornmeal, spices, soda, powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the molasses, sugar, oil, and egg.  Stir flour mixture into wet mixture alternately with milk until just barely blended.  Spread batter evenly over pineapples in prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for five minutes on a rack, then invert onto a serving platter.  Serve warm. 

Now, with breaded pork chops and gingerbread on the menu, maybe we can entice a few of the “resolutely convinced” to bend a little – at least enough to pass the salad.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Just Desserts: Two Naughty and Too Nice Discovery of the Month

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