clean eating

Applejack-Braised Pork

It’s harvest time across America. My favorite childhood memories of the farm involved riding in a combine during corn harvest. It’s mesmerizing. I hit the jackpot last week at work, accompanying a journalist on a harvest ride-along.

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When you grow up in an ag family, fall is just as synonymous with harvest as picking apples or watching football. And when the weather turns chilly, I turn to slow cooking.

This pork goes great with so many things — sauteed apples, root vegetables, roasted cauliflower, or polenta, to name a few.

Happy harvest!

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Applejack-Braised Pork Loin
Serves about 5

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pound boneless pork loin
Salt and pepper
2 shallots, chopped
1/3 cup Applejack or other apple brandy
1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth (or try apple cider)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a 1.5 quart Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add oil. Season pork with salt and pepper. Sear pork on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. (If necessary, cut meat into 3-4 pieces and work in batches.) Place meat on a platter.

Add shallots to pan; cook 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Remove from heat. Deglaze the pan by pouring in brandy and scraping up the browned bits. Return pan to heat. Add pork and stock. The meat will not be completely submerged. Heat to a simmer.

Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Cook until fork-tender, about 2 hours, turning meat halfway through. Place meat on a platter. Let sit for 10 minutes. Shred with a fork. Spoon pan sauce over meat.

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Shrimp and Zucchini Tacos

I started a new job today. I’m really excited for an entirely new challenge, meeting new colleagues, and using my brain in new ways. More to come on that front.

Anyway, they say you should take time off between jobs. I didn’t really follow that advice. I took a couple of days, and I played catch-up on errands, sleeping, and mostly boring things. (I would have included quality time at the pool, but Mother Nature had other plans.) But, I did get to use some of that extra time for berry picking, making and canning salsa, and doing some prep cooking for the week ahead.

Here’s a quick weeknight dinner I whipped up to take advantage of zucchini season, utilize other ingredients I had on hand or was purchasing, and to create a no-leftover meal (between welcome events, navigating a new commute, and various social outings, leftovers would otherwise go uneaten).

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Shrimp and Zucchini Tacos

Inspired by Bon Appetit

Per person:
2 teaspoons oil or fat of your choice
1 small zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon diced onion, if desired
4 oz. cooked shrimp, cut in half if large
Salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, other seasonings, to taste
2 or 4 small corn tortillas, 2 flour tortillas, or 2 leaves Boston Bib lettuce

For serving, as desired: diced avocado, salsa, cilantro, lime wedges, etc

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, peppers, and onions; sauté until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add shrimp to pan; heat through. Season to taste with salt, pepper, chili powder, and/or cumin.
Meanwhile, heat tortillas (if using). Spoon filling into tortillas or lettuce leaves; serve with desired toppings.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese

I’m not big on resolutions, but I do like goals. One of mine for 2014: eat more vegetables, more consistently. This recipe was borne out of a desire to do just that, especially during lunch, when salads leave me feeling unsatisfied and searching for sugar two hours later.

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I first made this easy bolognese with family over the holidays, and loved that it was hearty and filling on a cold day. Even my crunchy-vegetable-hating brother seemed to like it. At home, I took the recipe a step further by substituting spaghetti squash for traditional pasta. I had never cooked spaghetti squash myself, and it was surprisingly easy.

I divided the mixture into 6 portions and froze half for easy lunches down the road. Great with a green salad or even a cup of soup!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese

Serves about 6

1 medium spaghetti squash
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 cup diced mushrooms (I used half a package)
1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey)
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1/3 cup (or more) shredded Parmesan cheese (Omit if observing a Paleo diet)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash spaghetti squash rind, halve lengthwise, and scoop out seeds and pulp. Place rind side up on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until fork-tender. When cool enough to touch, shred the squash with a fork, working the width of the squash. Place shredded squash in a colander; drain and discard excess liquid. (Make ahead: can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.) 

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and garlic and saute until onions are translucent and vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up meat, until meat is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and basil; reduce to a simmer.

Toss squash, sauce and cheese in a large bowl. Season to taste.