Spring is here, and that means I’m craving lighter, brighter-tasting meals. Cod is the perfect fish to pair with this piquant sauce; it’s meaty but mild and doesn’t taste overly fishy or compete with the sauce’s flavor.
Cod with tangy mustard sauce
Ingredients for cod
- 1 tbsp whole-grain mustard
- 1 tbsp capers, chopped if large
- 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 2 6 oz. pieces of cod
Ingredients for salad
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Salt & pepper
- 1/3 English cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce
- In a small bowl, combine the mustard, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tbsp water. Add more water if needed to adjust consistency to spoonable.
- Pat cod dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Cook cod until opaque throughout, about 5 minutes per side. Remove fish and drizzle with mustard sauce.
- In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, and about 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Add cucumber, onion, and lettuce and toss to coat. Serve with fish.
If you’re unable to find cod, haddock and tilapia are good substitutes.
Sloppy joes are a perfect comfort food: they’re hearty and can be eaten with your hands. What more could you want? These sloppy joes are made with lentils, making them perfect for vegetarians and vegans. They’re high in protein, low in fat, and are extremely filling. If you aren’t ready for a totally meatless experience, reduce the amount of lentils by half and add a quarter pound of ground beef.
Lentil Sloppy Joes
- 1/2 c. uncooked lentils
- 2 c. water
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste*
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. yellow mustard
- Put lentils in a small pot and add water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain.
- Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic until onions are soft. Add cooked lentils, chili powder, oregano, salt, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Mix well, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add brown sugar and mustard and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes so flavors can blend. Serve on hamburger buns or your favorite roll.
*Tomato paste can be found in resealable tubes at most grocery stores. (If it’s in Oklahoma, surely it’s everywhere.) You can also find it online at Amazon: Amore Tomato Paste.
This time of year, tomatoes are widely available and at their peak. When roasted or baked, they become soft and their flavor intensifies. Tomatoes also have a host of health benefits: they have outstanding antioxidant content, can help lower cholesterol, and may help prevent certain types of cancer.
In this easy breakfast, eggs are baked in tomatoes and seasoned with fresh basil. The silky egg yolks mingle perfectly with the tomatoes’ rich flavor and produce a meal that’s delicious and filling.
Eggs Baked in Tomatoes
- 4 large eggs
- 4 medium to large tomatoes
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 4 leaves of fresh basil, torn
- salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While oven is heating, slice tops off tomatoes and scoop out most of the innards with a spoon. Discard. Place tomatoes in a small (8″x8″) baking dish.
- Drizzle the inside of each tomato with about 1/2 tsp. of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Carefully crack eggs into the tomatoes, being careful not to break the yolks. Bake tomatoes for 20-25 minutes, or until eggs are set. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil.
Pork is one of those meats that always seems to be on sale. Moderately priced to begin with, you can find real bargains on pork chops; it’s also relatively easy to find a package of just two, making it perfect for those who are cooking for a couple.
This recipe uses canned coconut milk to create a rich, hearty sauce without thickeners like flour and without dairy. Leftover coconut milk can be stored in your refrigerator and used for a variety of purposes. Try it in your coffee, or in a smoothie. Curries, creamy soups, and sauces can also benefit from the addition of a little coconut milk!
I sauteed some fresh green beans to accompany this, but you may consider serving mashed potatoes to soak up some of the delicious gravy.
Pork Chops in Mushroom Onion Gravy
- 2 boneless pork loin chops, about 1/2″ thick
- 2 tsp. coconut oil, divided
- 1/2 small onion, sliced
- 4 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 c. vegetable stock
- 1/2 c. coconut milk
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- salt & pepper
- Heat 1 tsp. of coconut oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper, and add to the hot skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes per side, or until golden. Remove chops from pan and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Add the remaining teaspoon of coconut oil to the skillet. When melted, add onions and mushrooms and saute until both are soft.
- Add vegetable stock and coconut milk to skillet, along with oregano and thyme. Stir well, and allow liquid to come to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce has reduced by half. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Pour sauce over chops and serve.
With temperatures nearing 100 degrees, I’ve been reluctant to turn on my stove or oven for fear of making the house hotter than it already is. The solution? Grilling.
These pork chops are brined for 4-6 hours in a solution of water, salt, brown sugar, rosemary, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Brining meat makes it juicier and more flavorful. (This article from Fine Cooking details the hows and whys of brining.) The vegetables are marinated in an olive oil and herb mixture for about an hour before they’re grilled, which makes them extra delicious.
Grilled Rosemary Pork and Vegetables
For the pork:
- 4 boneless pork chops, ~4 oz. each, 1/2″ thick
- 2 tbsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. dried rosemary, or 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 c. hot water
- 2 c. cold water
For the vegetables:
- 1 zucchini, halved crosswise, then halved lengthwise
- 2 yellow squashes, halved crosswise, then halved lengthwise
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp. salt
- 1/2 tbsp. pepper
- 1 tbsp. dried herbs (use whatever you have on hand- marjoram, basil, savory, thyme, etc.)
- For pork: In a medium bowl, combine salt and brown sugar. Pour 1 c. hot water over the salt and sugar, and whisk until both are dissolved. Add 2 c. cold water, followed by rosemary, olive oil, and vinegar. Whisk vigorously to combine. Place pork chops in resealable plastic bag; pour brine into bag, press out excess air, and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
- For vegetables: Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and herbs in a large bowl or dish; stir well. Place zucchini and yellow squash in bowl or dish and let marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- When ready to grill, remove pork chops from brine and pat well with paper towels to dry. Discard brine. Let chops come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before grilling. Brush chops on both sides with olive oil to prevent sticking. Grill pork chops and vegetables over direct medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side (8-10 minutes total). Remove, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Spring is a time to shake off winter’s grasp and enjoy warmer weather by grilling and dining al fresco. Sometimes, though, a spring shower can ruin those plans and make a whole day feel dreary and dull. On rainy spring days, I like to turn on my oven and put in an easy, minimally-intensive meal. The aroma of roasting chicken and vegetables will perk up any grey day!
Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
- 2 bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts
- 3 medium sized zucchini, sliced to 1/2″ thickness
- 8 oz. mushrooms, halved
- 1 red onion, sliced into 8 wedges
- 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Coarse salt & freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tbsp. dried rosemary, crushed
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large (9″x13″) baking dish or roasting pan, combine zucchini, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and olive oil. Toss well to combine and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, combine 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, and all of the rosemary in a small bowl. Using your fingers, gently loose the skin from the chicken meat on each breast. Spread the rosemary mixture evenly on each chicken breast under the skin. Replace the skin, and sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt.
- After 15 minutes, place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables. Continue cooking for 35 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving
Dessert is a meal that can be exceptionally difficult when you’re cooking for two people. Measurements get tricky, baking times must be adjusted, and it’s usually more trouble than it’s worth. Happily, these individual blueberry cobblers are easy to make and require no special ramekins or dessert vessels. They’re baked in 2-cup Pyrex storage containers. The Pyrex storage containers are a good investment- they make excellent prep bowls, baking dishes, and storage containers. You could also bake these in similarly sized Mason jars.
Individual Blueberry Cobblers
- 6 oz. blueberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter (3/4 of a stick), melted
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine flour, sugar, and butter in a medium bowl and mix until a soft dough forms. The dough may be a little crumbly, but should still hold together well when you press it.
- Distribute blueberries equally in two Pyrex bowls, and top each with equal amounts of dough, pressing the dough gently onto the blueberries.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until crust is golden and blueberries bubbly. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve. (They’re extra delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!)
Broccoli salad is a cool, refreshing side dish that complements just about any grilled meat. It’s easy to make, and best of all, nearly any vegetables you have in the refrigerator can go in it. If you don’t have some of the vegetables listed, skip them or substitute something you have on hand. You can even include chopped nuts (like pecans or almonds) or raisins. This recipe makes two large side dish servings that won’t leave you hungry!
- 1/3 c. mayonnaise
- 1/2 tbsp. white wine or rice vinegar
- 4 strips bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces
- 1 lb. broccoli, trimmed and broken into small florets
- 1/2 c. red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 c. red onion, chopped
- 1 c. red cabbage, sliced
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Blanch the broccoli: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add broccoli, and boil for about 3 minutes or until bright green but still firm. Immediately remove the broccoli using tongs or a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice water. (This stops the cooking process and preserves the color and texture of the broccoli.)
- Fry bacon: place pieces in a cold skillet and place over medium heat. When bacon pieces release their fat and move easily, stir and flip until all pieces are cooked. The sizzling noise will subside and the bacon will no longer be pink, white, or translucent (except for the very fatty pieces). Remove the bacon pieces to a plate covered with a paper towel and allow to cool. (I recommend reserving the bacon drippings from the pan for a future use.)
- Whisk mayonnaise and vinegar together in a medium bowl. Add cooked broccoli, bell pepper, onion, cabbage, celery, and bacon. Stir with a large spoon or spatula until vegetables are well coated with mayonnaise and vinegar mixture. Add bacon pieces, salt and pepper to taste, and stir again.
- Broccoli salad can be prepared and refrigerated for 2-3 hours or served immediately.
Spring is a great time to grill: the weather is warm and mild without any of the humid, oppressive heat of summer. It’s a leisurely weekend activity for those with charcoal grills; propane grills are more weeknight-friendly.
These chicken breasts are marinated for a few hours in a delicious mixture of honey, mustard, and spices. They’re juicy and flavorful. Serve them with fresh grilled vegetables, a potato salad, or slaw, and you’ll have a perfect warm-weather meal.
Honey Mustard Marinated Chicken
- 1/2 c. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 c. honey
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt (or any type with large, coarse flakes)
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- To make the marinade, whisk together all ingredients except chicken in a medium bowl until smooth.
- Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in about 2/3 of the marinade, reserving the other 1/3. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag several times to coat the chicken, then refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard bag. Grill chicken over direct medium heat* for about 8 minutes, or until chicken is firm to the touch, turning once. Brush chicken with reserved marinade while grilling. Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
*Direct medium heat means cooking the food directly over the heat source at medium heat, between 350-450 degrees F.
In this easy-to-prepare dish, chicken is lightly coated in flour and pan-fried. The pecans add a rich flavor to the sauce. Roasted summer squash and zucchini round out the meal (and soak up extra sauce!).
Chicken with Pecan Sauce
- 1/4 cup pecan halves
- 2 tbsp. butter, divided
- 1 chicken breast, halved and pounded to 1/2″ thickness
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 3 tbsp. all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1.5 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 c. chicken broth
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
- Melt 1 tbsp. of butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add pecans, stirring often, until toasted and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan.
- Sprinkle chicken breast halves with salt and pepper; dredge in flour.
- Add oil to skillet, and cook chicken 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove chicken to serving plates and top with pecans.
- Add chicken broth to skillet and simmer for 2 minutes, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add sugar, vinegar, and thyme; cook for 3-4 minutes or until sugar is melted and sauce has thickened slightly. Whisk in 1 tbsp. butter. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.