When I moved back to Warren in 2004, I ended up sharing a room with my youngest sister, Chrissy, in the home where we grew up. It was an "Odd Couple" arrangement - my side of the room was kept tidy, but I had to climb over piles of clothes, books and other debris on Chrissy's side of the room if I wanted to get to the door. Nevertheless, we got along pretty well for the most part.
Our time as roommates ended when I got married in October 2007. Coincidentally, Chrissy got married two months later in December. Our marriages started out very differently, however. My husband Jim and I honeymooned in Savannah, Ga., and settled into a townhouse in downtown Warren. Chrissy said goodbye to her husband Ian only days after their wedding as he was deployed to Iraq. She remained in the room we'd shared at my mom's house.
A year and a half later, Ian is home, and he and Chrissy have their own apartment that they're readying for daughter Brenna, who's due to arrive in July.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Mary Beth Wyko
Dinner is served. I prepared Mexican Pork Chops and Broccoli with Lemon Sauce and a side of white rice for a dinner with my sister Chrissy.
My husband Jim frequently works nights, and Ian's job requires him to travel from time to time, so Chrissy recently proposed an alternative to us eating lonely dinners without our husbands. We take turns cooking for each other instead. This gives us company for dinner as well as a chance to practice our cooking skills.
For my most recent turn to cook, I consulted the Taste of Home cookbook for inspiration. I was looking for something quick and simple, and found what I was looking for in the "Meals in Minutes" section. I decided to prepare a "South of the Border" supper of Mexican Pork Chops and Broccoli with Lemon Sauce. Best of all, they required no modifications to accommodate my celiac disease, though it's always wise for celiacs to check the labels of any products they use.
Chrissy expressed reservations about the pork chops - they're not her favorite, but she agreed to give them a shot for the purpose of this story. She noted that pork chops often turn out to be dry and tough. Not so with this recipe. We were both pleasantly surprised with the moistness and the flavor of the pork chops, which cooked in its spicy sauce.
Mexican Pork Chops
Prep/cook time: 25 minutes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 boneless pork loin chops (4 ounces each and 1/2 inch thick)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-1/4 cups salsa
1 teaspoon baking cocoa
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 green onion, chopped
Combine cumin and chili powder; rub over both sides of pork. In a large skillet, brown pork chops in oil on both sides over medium heat.
In a small bowl, combine the salsa, cocoa and cinnamon; pour over pork. Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until meat is tender, turning chops once and stirring sauce occasionally. Sprinkle with cilantro and green onion. Yield: 4 servings.
Broccoli with Lemon Sauce
Prep/cook time: 20 minutes
1 bunch broccoli, cut into spears
1/2 cup sour cream
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Place broccoli in a steamer basket; place in a large saucepan over 1 in. of water. Bring to a boil; cover and steam for 5-7 minutes or until crisp-tender.
Meanwhile, in a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the sour cream, milk, lemon juice and peel. Microwave, uncovered, at 50 percent power for 1-1/2 minutes or until heated through, stirring every 30 seconds. Serve with broccoli. Yield: 4 servings.
Though I'd heard about using cocoa as a savory spice in Mexican food, I'd never tried it before - I found I liked the results. As the recipe suggested, I made white rice to go along with the meal, and we spooned the sauce over the rice as well. Chrissy and I decided that this recipe is a keeper.
For the broccoli, I picked up a bag of the frozen kind you steam in the microwave. (As an aside, I love those steam bag frozen vegetables. So quick and convenient!) The sauce came together quickly, but I wasn't too impressed with it. The recipe made far more sauce than we needed and didn't add much flavor to the broccoli. I probably won't make it again, but Chrissy enjoyed it and wanted the recipe for it and for the pork chops. Look to the right of this story, Chrissy.
One final note - since my fellow Tribune Cooks produced such great looking photos of their meals as well as some tasty dishes since we started this feature in March, I took more time with the presentation of my meal this time, getting out placemats and cloth napkins as well as a centerpiece. The centerpiece, which is a metal watering can in the shape of a pig, was a gift from Chrissy, who delights in finding absurd and generally useless gifts for me for birthdays and Christmas.