Tag Archives: pork

Sage & Pepper Pork Chops


Sage & Pepper Pork Chops | Paleo + LifeI am pleased to report that I am done with the bar exam, and my life has started to regain a bit of normalcy. As normal as it ever is, at any rate.

This means I get to focus a bit on fun things, like figuring out how to take pictures again. I am still very much a novice food photographer, and with the last two months being taken up with other things,  my beginning skills seem to have flown the coop. I really want to spend a lot more time playing around with my camera again.

These pictures were not taken when I had time to fiddle around with the camera, but just as we were sitting down to dinner. I served these with sides of butternut squash and sauteed peas, but really, they work with just about anything.
I love chops because they are so easy to customize to your own taste. Mild and meaty, pork chops take on flavors exceptionally well. I love to marinate them (or cook them in the sous vide), because they can be rather dry, but oiled chops, as they are here, stay pretty moist, too. This recipe is one of the simplest, but it works because the combination of earthy sage and sharp black pepper just sings on the palate.

Sage & Pepper Pork Chops


  • 6 pork chops
  • 3 tablespoons oil of choice (leftover bacon drippings are especially excellent)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-8 whole sage leaves


  1. Rinse the chops; pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Coat both sides of the chops with oil. Salt and pepper both sides, then place them on a baking sheet. Top each chop with one or two sage leaves.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, or until chops are lightly browned and tender. Serve immediately.



Playing in the Kitchen

finished soup

Today, I thought I’d dive in to recipe development in a bit more depth.
Recipe development: that sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? It’s not fancy in my head. Really, it’s just playing in the kitchen — usually because we’re starting to get hungry and need something fast. So here’s how a typical dinner happens around here.

raw veg

This one started, as they often do, with the realization that dinner needed to hit the table pretty darned soon, and I had no plan. Sigh. I spy some veggies in a wooden bowl, and think I should use that squash. The weather’s been cold and damp today; soup sounds good. I chop up the squash, and peel some carrots. Roasting is usually quick, and gives really good flavor. Roasting brings out the sweetness, so I’m pretty sure even the littles will like it.

Thinking I’d like something warm and Mexican-inspired, I pull out salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon, and sprinkle those on the veggies. I quickly melt a bit of coconut oil, and pour that over them as well. Pop the trays in a 425 degree oven, and that’s underway.

I send a text to the husband, trying to convince him to pick up a rotisserie chicken on his way home. Husband says nope, can’t do it. Another dramatic sigh. I’ll pull something out of the freezer.

pork jowl

A quick dig around in our small freezer brings me to this chunk of smoked pork jowl. I figure hey, that’s basically bacon. I’m going to slice it up and fry it to go with the soup.

While the meat is cooking, I start thinking about the final dish. Since I’m going to puree the veggies in the Vitamix, I know the soup will be super smooth and silky. Crisp pork will make a nice contrast to that, but I want a bit of crunch (and color) as well. How can I do that? I pull out the hand grater and shred some red cabbage.

Onions in Pork Fat | Paleo + Life

I think about adding some of the garlic I roasted last week to the soup, but am torn. Like the roasted veg, the garlic is sweet, but the flavor’s a bit stronger than I want. Instead, when the pork is done cooking, I slice an onion really thin, and cook the slices in the rendered fat. The onion slices start to caramelize as they cook, starting to develop a deep, sweet flavor, but also picking up a bit of the smoky flavor from the cooking fat. As I taste them, I think: Yup, that was the right choice.

When the onions are done, I pull them out of the pan and set them aside. By this time, the carrots and squash are fork tender, so I pull them out of the oven. I let them cool for a few minutes, but since we need to dish dinner up PDQ I’m handling them while they’re still hot. The carrots are already peeled, and just need slicing, but the squash needs the peel taken off as well. I toss the chunks into the Vitamix, and blend away.  Because of the quantity of veggies, I do this in two batches.

Once the soup is blended, dinner’s basically done. I scoop a hefty portion into a bowl for each of us, topping it with the red cabbage, bacon and fried onions.  No time for fancy plating: we’re starving, and it smells fantastic. We dig in.

Fennel Scented Pulled Pork

Fennel Scented Pork Loin | Paleo + Life

Some days I know are going to be ridiculously hectic before they even start. The baby wakes up on the wrong side of bed and won’t be put down, the youngest girl gets jealous at all the attention we’re paying to the baby and throws a fit, the teenagers thrust paperwork they forgot to have us sign in our faces, and oh by the way, it’s back-to-school night and we two parents need to be at three different schools all at once. These are the days when I need a miracle.

That miracle frequently comes in the form of pulled pork in the slow cooker. When I just can’t even think, I know this will work. Ten minutes of prep time — choose some herbs, slice the onion, and season the meat — yields a delicious main dish. When we finally make it home, it is easy peasy to put together the meal: shred the pork, zap some sweet potatoes in the microwave, quickly add a green salad, and dinner is ready to go.
Quick, fast and in a yesterday hurry, as my mama says.

Fennel Scented Pulled Pork | Paleo + Life

Fennel is a big favorite of mine; its licorice-y flavor goes beautifully with bacon and other fatty meats. While I used the greens from Italian-style bulb fennel, those from bronze fennel are equally tasty, if a bit milder. Of course, if you can’t stand the thought of fennel, try sage or rosemary instead.

Pork loin is a delicious, inexpensive cut of meat that stands up to prolonged cooking and is mild enough that it lets the herbs’ flavor shine. I love its versatility and affordability; with two hungry teens to feed, our food budget can use all the help it can get.
This recipe makes enough for plenty of leftovers. Pulled pork is great on its own the first day, but is even better the next day when the flavors have really settled. Use the meat in salads, lettuce or veggie wraps, and casseroles.

Pulled Pork with Fennel


  • 1 bulb fennel with greens attached
  • 1 medium onion
  • 5 pounds pork loin
  • 5-10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper, freshly ground


  1. Wash the fennel and shake it dry. Chop off the greens from one or two stalks (this is roughly two tablespoons of greens); lay them in the bottom of a slow cooker. Reserve remainder of fennel for another use.
  2. Peel onion; slice into rings. Place them atop the fennel greens.
  3. Rinse the pork loin and pat dry with a paper towel. Insert the garlic cloves into the pork loin (use more or fewer cloves according to your taste). Salt and pepper the meat until it is lightly coated with seasonings.
  4. Set the slow cooker to cook for 8-10 hours on low. The meat is done when it falls apart at a touch.
  5. Using two forks, gently separate the pieces of pork into small chunks. Plate and serve.

Salsa Smothered Pork Loin

Salsa Smothered Pork | Paleo + LifeBecause the kiddos are getting ready to head back to school, I have easy meals on the brain. Trying to keep track of who needs to be where, what papers must be signed and returned, and which after school activity has to be attended is pretty much a full-time job. I sometimes joke with my beloved that we need a wife to run our lives, so that I can outsource the boring tasks and just do the fun stuff. Until I find this miracle worker, however, it’s my job to get those things done and feed our crew. When we are busy, simple recipes that only need a few minutes’ effort are sometimes all I can manage. Of course, I want it to be tasty as well.

For this dinner, I needed to make the pork loin extremely mild — my youngest girl hates even the idea of spice — so a simple coating of salt and pepper was all it needed. Keeping the seasoning simple also makes it a cinch to use the leftovers in other dishes.
However, I also wanted some big flavor to accompany this mild meat.

As I have mentioned, I grew up in Chicago, and growing up in Chicago means eating classic Chicago-style foods, like Italian beef sandwiches with giardiniera (a mix of pickled veggies like cauliflower, carrots, celery and hot peppers). It’s full of hearty, tangy flavor and is the only condiment I am not ashamed to eat straight out of the jar. However, I only had a spare 30 minutes, and not the weeks of aging real giardiniera requires. So I took a virtual detour from Little Italy to Pilsen and created a big-flavored salsa instead.

For the salsa, I threw in slices of carrot in a nod to my favorite condiment, along with the more usual peppers, tomatoes, and the like; they stay pleasantly crisp even after days in the fridge. I deliberately left garlic out of this salsa, but if you miss it, just add in a finely minced clove or two.
Coating the cooked meat in the salsa before serving means the outer pieces soak up the spicy flavor, the inner slices stay mild, and everyone is happy. If only it were so easy the rest of the time.

Salsa Smothered Pork Loin


    Pork Loin
  • 5 lbs. pork loin
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • Salsa
  • 4 small carrots
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 hot peppers
  • 8 small scallions
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • Salt to taste


    Pork Loin
  1. Remove pork from package; rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper all sides of the meat thoroughly. Place in a slow cooker; cook for 6-8 hours on low.
  2. Salsa
  3. With a food processor set with the slicing blade, slice the carrots. (If you do not have a food processor, a mandoline or sharp knife will work just as well). Place in a medium bowl.
  4. Dice the tomatoes; add to the bowl.
  5. Slice peppers into rounds, and add to the carrot-tomato mixture. Repeat with scallions.
  6. Finely mince the cilantro; you should have roughly 3-4 tablespoons. Add to the mixture and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  7. 20 minutes before serving, remove pork from crock pot and place on platter. Cover with salsa and let sit to meld flavors.

Warm Fennel Salad with Bacon

Warm Fennel Salad with Bacon | Paleo + LifeMy friend S. mentioned that she currently has a bumper crop of lettuce, which got me thinking about warm salads. I have often wondered why Americans don’t usually cook salad greens; it is an easy way to increase one’s veggie intake. It’s also a handy way to use up the greens before they go bad — I’m sure we aren’t the only family who buy lettuce with good intentions but sometimes find it shriveled in the fridge several days later.

While I was thinking about salads, I found gigantic bulbs of Florence fennel at our local farmer’s market. I had my littles with me, so was not able to get a picture, but it was an impressive site: with the fronds attached, each fennel bulb was about two feet long. It was so strikingly beautiful, I just had to buy some. I remembered that my friend with all the lettuce also happens to be very fond of fennel, and that as a college student in Santa Barbara, she used to forage for wild fennel.

I brought these two ideas together to create a simple, paleo-friendly dish that is inexpensive enough for a college student budget, and substantial enough for a meal. I used spinach because that was what I had on hand, but another salad green like a red leaf or buttercrunch lettuce would be just as tasty and would take even less time.
The mild, licorice-like taste of fennel gets even milder here, with gentle cooking; the deeper flavors of garlic and bacon dominate. Dress this salad with a dash of oil and vinegar; add tomatoes and slices of avocado if you like, but it is quite tasty as is.

Fennel & Onion Salad with Bacon


  • 1 12 oz. package bacon
  • 4 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 medium bulb fennel
  • 1 purple onion
  • 1 lb. spinach
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Prepare bacon in the oven, following the package directions. Once the bacon is fully cooked, remove from the oven and set it aside, reserving the rendered fat.
  2. Meanwhile, mince garlic. Thinly slice fennel and onion. Wash the spinach; spin the leaves dry in a salad spinner. (If you do not own a salad spinner, just squeeze the moisture from the leaves as best you can and pat them dry with a paper towel.)
  3. Warm a large saute pan over medium heat for approximately two minutes. Pour the rendered bacon grease into the saute pan.
  4. Add minced garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns. Add onions and fennel to pan; saute them until they soften (6-8 minutes).
  5. Add spinach to the saute pan. Stirring continuously, cook until spinach is warmed through (4-5 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste. Crumble in the reserved bacon. Serve immediately.

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