Monday, November 28, 2011

Honey-Mustard Pork

Be warned: this is a long post.  It's almost two posts in one, so I'd recommend taking some time to read it when you want to procrastinate.

It's been a long time since I updated, but I'm finally back and will be trying my best to update once a week from now on.  I took my exams on the very last day of October and am very happy that I can move on to my dissertation research... you know, the stuff I came here to study in the first place!  After that, we were in California for a wedding and then I presented at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Francisco, so was at the conference for a few days.  It was great to see some old friends from undergrad there (shout out to Steve and Andy!).  Then came, Thanksgiving--thanks so much to our friends Bodhi and Sophia for hosting us for the holiday!  Sophia made a perfect turkey (in the oven, not in a crock pot) and the meal was amazing.  To sum up, I've been very busy since I last posted!

You may also notice that I took some time to make some changes to the format of the blog--changed around the main picture that I use and the style.  Let me know what you think of the new look in the comments!  I also want to point out a couple of the new features of the blog:
  1. On the right side of the web page, under my "Why Slow Cooking in Graduate School?" section, you'll find a "Follow by Email" box in which I assume you can put your email address to get updates every time I update the blog.  I honestly have no idea if it works, so if someone wants to try it out and let me know, that would be really awesome.
  2. Underneath that, you'll find some new links.  The first one is to my Big Blog of Crock store, a store I created on Amazon to bring together in one place all of the books and slow cookers that I recommend on this blog to make it easier for readers to find them.  The second is to the Gourmet PhD blog of one of my close friends who is also trying to cook and eat well while doing her PhD.  As she explains in her "Who's Who" section, we "have been making mischief since we first met, many moons ago, as wayward Catholic school teachers. In the intervening years, we both became graduate students and would-be food bloggers, so it’s no surprise we’re still close friends."  The final link (unless I add more later) is to the Nutrition Action Health Letter, put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  My mother gets me and my siblings a subscription to this every year and they give you information about the latest studies on food and nutrition and make recommendations about how to eat healthier.  My favorite part, however, is the three recipes that are included in each issue.  In fact, the Chicken Tagine that I posted about in October 2010 was from one issue.
  3. Finally, underneath that you'll see the top five, all time, most popular posts of my blog.  If you have a favorite post that's not appearing on the list... uh... I guess you need to click on it more.
So, those are the new features of the blog.  Check them out and let me know what you think in the comments.


So, on to my actual post.  Since I've been away from blogging for so long, but have still been cooking with my crock pot, I have a huge backlog of posts to make.  Some are from so long ago that I've almost completely forgotten about how it went, which is unfortunate.  So, for today's post, I'll bring you the recipe that I made today: "Honey-Mustard Pork".  This is from a book that we just recently got as a gift from a friend, 101 More Things to Do With a Slow Cooker.  He also gave us 101 Things to Do With a Slow Cooker, but I just haven't used that yet.  (The author, Stephanie Ashcraft, has a whole series of the 101 Things to Do books.)

I was drawn to this particular recipe for two reasons: first, boneless pork chops were on sale at my local grocery store and, second, this recipe couldn't be any easier.  There's no chopping and the absolute minimum of prep work.  (Though I will note that this is not a complete meal by itself, so you'll have to add something to what you make in the crock pot.)  You start by greasing your crock pot.  I used some cooking spray that I have on hand to do that quickly, but obviously whatever way you normally grease things for cooking is what you should do here.  Then you dip the pork chops in flour and place them in the greased crock pot before sprinkling them with black pepper.

In a separate bowl you make the sauce that these are going to cook in.  The only ingredients are condensed chicken with rice soup, water, and mustard.  You mix these together and them pour them over the crock pot.

This is what it looked like before I turned it on.

Quick sidebar: Toward the end of September we received a wedding gift from one of my husband's rock climbing friends and his wife, the slow cooker with a timer that I've wanted for a long time!  It is awesome and has truly revolutionized how I use the slow cooker.  No longer do I have to select the day that I cook on based on when I can be home to turn the crock pot to warm!  I can make a recipe that only needs to cook for 6 hours on days when I go to the gym in the morning and am at school until the late afternoon!

If you follow the link above you'll see that this model also has a probe so you can set the slow cooker by time or by the final cooking temperature that you want the food to end up at!  Obviously, the latter setting is especially good for roasts, which I haven't made recently, but of course I'll share how it goes when I do make one!

Anyway, this is what it looked like after it cooked on low for 8 hours.

When the pork chops are done cooking, you take them out, leaving the liquid behind.  Taking them out can be difficult because the meat after slow cooking is so tender that it just falls apart.  The cookbook says then to puree the liquid in a blender to make gravy, but I used the immersion blender to get it done with less mess and fewer dishes (and with the amount of dishes this entire meal made, my husband--who washed them tonight--is probably very happy that I didn't also use the blender).  You serve the pork chop with some gravy on top.

Now, since the book recommends that you serve this dish with mashed potatoes, I decided to make mashed sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli to go with it.  And, of course, a salad--my mother should be proud how I add a salad to every single meal I post about.  Overall, this dinner was good.  Nothing super special that I would rave about, but a good, solid, and really easy meal to make.  The only complaint I have is that there is nothing in the dish that makes it "honey-mustard."  As the recipe is written, there is too little mustard to make a difference and, weirdly, the recipe doesn't specify that you have to use honey mustard, so there is nothing to make it "honey."  I used Dijon mustard because that is what we already had.  My recommendation?  If you want to make pork chops this way, add more mustard, maybe 1-2 tbsp... at least.  The gravy was good and all, but I think it would be better if it had more "kick" to it from the mustard.

Now, in this recipe makes it a little difficult to calculate the calories because the amount of flour the recipe calls for is more than gets added to the actual dish and you definitely don't use all of the gravy just putting it on top of the pork chops!  The number of servings in this dish also depends on the number of pork chops used.  The recipe actually calls for 4-5 pork chops, but I used 6 because the larger packs were the ones on sale.  So, as I made the recipe, if you go by the measurements in the cookbook, you get just over 190 calories per serving.  In actuality, I'd estimate the calories per serving (for the pork chops with gravy only) at about 175 calories.  In fact, the pork chop with the mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli is probably only about 335 calories.  Really small if you're watching your weight because you spend more time in the library than you do at the gym!  (And guys, you can be like my husband and have an extra pork chop and still only be at about 510 calories.)  Budget-wise, you can't beat this.  What's awesome about this recipe is that so many of the ingredients are things that many people will have on hand as staples: flour, pepper, and mustard.  The only two items I had to purchase were the pork chops and the condensed chicken with rice soup, a total of $6.00 for $1.00 per serving.  Of course, you do have to buy the side dishes, but the broccoli was only $1.99 and sweet potatoes at my store are about $0.99 each for the big ones (I actually had them already because we got them in the organic produce delivery we get each week, but if you had to get them, that'd be how much they are).  Overall, not bad and you'll get at least 2-3 meals out of this if you're married or cooking/eating with a roommate and a whole week's worth if you're on your own!  Though if you were going to eat these pork chops for a whole week, I'd recommend switching up your side dishes to make it interesting.  What sides would you put with honey-mustard pork chops?