Crock Pot Pork Chops & Barley

Crock Pot Pork Chops & BarleyWith the cooler weather today in Michigan I had the urge to get out my crock-pot and cook comfort food. Maybe it was a nesting impulse in preparation for the fall season. All I know is the aroma throughout the house was intoxicating as pork chops simmered in the crock.

Potatoes were eliminated as a starch dish due to the over-abundance of potato soup I made last week (enough for an army). Instead, I opted for barley and I’m glad it did. It was Brown chops in olive oila perfect pairing with the au jus used for the pork.

You don’t necessarily need to cook these chops in a crock-pot; you could simmer covered on a stove top. I was working outdoors and didn’t want to concern myself with stove top cooking.

Here’s what you need:

  • 6 thin sliced boneless pork loin chops (you can use 4 thick cut boneless pork chops, but you will need to bump up the cooking time to 4 hours on low or 6 hours on high)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I used organic). You can also use chicken broth.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Original blend (found in the spice section)Whick together oil, broth & oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Quick cook barley


In a large skillet, brown chops in olive oil. Remove from heat and transfer to crock-pot. If you are using thick cut chops, be sure to cut a couple of thin slits in each chop with a knife. This will help them cook evenly throughout. Set aside.

Pork chops cooking in au jus

Pork chops cooking in au jus

In a large whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over chops in the slow cooker. Cover and slow cook on medium for one hour (thin cut).

Once chops are done, turn off slow cooker. Drain off the au jus into the pan used to brown pork chops. Thicken with a roux to a medium consistency.

Prepare barley per package directions. Use an ice cream scoop to plate the barley. Arrange chops and barley on plate. Drizzle both with the roux mixture. Garnish with sprigs of basil or parsley.

Optional: serve a side of au jus for dipping

Two thin cut chops with two scoops of barley and 1/3 cup au jus is in the neighborhood of 345 calories. Serve with a mixed green salad.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Mediterranean Couscous SaladI prepared this summer salad for a high school class reunion picnic. It was a bit of a challenge to quadruple-plus the recipe, but I think the end result was a success. It’s a an easy salad that can be prepared in less than an hour; unless you over toast the couscous, like I did, and have to meticulously remove the burnt pieces. Lesson learned!

I opted to use Israeli couscous because of it’s pearl-like shape and included a couple of containers that were colored. It made a nice contrast.

This recipe is courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, one of my Italian favorites on the TV cooking network. I have provided the recipe for a serving of six. My upgraded recipe served 100 people; hence, the large disposable aluminum pan you see pictured.Cook the couscous as directed in the recipe.


  • 3 TBLS, plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound box Israeli couscous
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 zested lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt  & 1/2 tsp. pepper (season to taste)IMG_9005
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh spearmint leaves
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or cranraisins
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted is optional




1)   In a medium saucepan, heat 3 TBLS olive oil over medium heat. Add couscous, cook for 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Stir often prevent scorching.

2)   Add chicken stock and juice of 1 lemon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes. You want the couscous tender, but still firm to the bite. Stir


occasionally while cooking.

3)   Drain cooked couscous and place in a large bowl. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and seasonings. Cool couscous to room temperature. This is VERY important. You don’t want the fresh herbs to wilt when they are added to the couscous.

   Once cooled, add fresh herbs, dried cranberries and almonds. Combine and toss to evenly distribute ingredients.

Serves 6

TIP: If making larger quantities, toss all ingredients in an unused kitchen trash bag. Once mixed, empty contents of bag into the serving container.

Honey Mustard Chicken with Apples

IMG_1698I am trying to use up food before our trip to Italy. I had a couple of chicken breasts that I had thawed a few days earlier but never used. With the grand-kids coming for the night, this was a perfect opportunity to cook them.

There were a couple of apples that were in need of rescue, so I nabbed one to use with the chicken. This is the final results of my food rescue mission. Needless to say, the grand-kids weren’t big fans because of the cooked apples. That’s craziness to me since they like apple pie.

Personally, I would have used rice rather than noodles, but since the kids don’t like rice, I added pasta. The honey mustard sauce gives offers tang and the apples a sweetness which is a perfect blend when paired with the chicken.


  • 3/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons honey mustard
  • 2 large skinless chicken breasts, about 1 pound, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive  oil
  • 2/3 flour for coating chicken pieces
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 large apple, cut into cubes (leave on skin)
  • 1 small zucchini, peeled and shredded
  • Parsley to garnish (optional)
  • 2 cups uncooked pasta or rice


  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add flour-coated cubed chicken and saute until lightly browned, then add the cubed apples and shredded zucchini.
  2. While the chicken mixture continues to cook, combine apple juice, cornstarch, honey mustard, honey and salt/pepper in a bowl. Add to the skillet.
  3. Let simmer for about one minute before adding the chicken broth.
  4. Turn heat to low, cover the skillet and simmer for 15 minutes. Additional chicken broth can be added if the sauce seems too thick.
  5. While chicken simmers, cook the rice.
  6. Serve the chicken and apple sauce over rice and garnish with fresh parsley.
IMG_1690 This dish generously serves four. If served with 1/2 cup rice it is in the neighborhood of 461 calories.Suggested side dishes include steamed broccoli, grilled asparagus or garden fresh steamed green beans.Suggested wine selections: Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir

Pork Pot Roast in a Crock

Pork Pot Roast in Crock Pot

With the record breaking snow in Michigan this winter, comfort food in a crock pot remain tops on my list. I toss everything in the crock pot before I start my work day and it is ready by dinner time. Convenient, easy and there is little clean-up.

Prep time is around 20 minutes. You will want to use a 5-6 quart crock.


  • 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup frozen cranberries
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large pear, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 large apple, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • Center cut pork roast (2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (I use the broth in the box)
  • 6 ounces Brie cheese, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Crock Pot Pork Roast


Place fruit, celery and onion in the bottom of crock pot. Cover with thyme, sugar and 1 tsp. salt.

Place pork roast on top and pour chicken broth over top. Sprinkle remaining salt over the roast.

Center Cut Pork Roast

Place cover on crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours. Drop cubed Brie cheese on roast. Cover and cook for an additional hour.

Remove meat to platter and arrange fruit and vegetables around the pork.


TIP: You can brown the pork roast before placing in the crock pot. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a skillet and brown both sides of the meat for about 2 minutes.

Any liquid left in the crock pot can be thickened and served as sauce.


Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs


One of the top foods on my ten year old grandson’s list is BBQ ribs. He isn’t a fan of dry-rubbed ribs, but that is what the wine guy prefers. So, I did a combination of a dry rub and tangy sauce to suit both tastes.

Lately, my lifestyle has become way more complex and I have little time to prepare meals. Crock pots have become a life-saver for meat dishes. Sides dishes are easy enough to prepare at the last minute. Meat dishes, however, especially ribs and roasts take considerable more time.

Prep time for the ribs was minimal (around 15 minutes). Plan on 3 hours of crock- pot cook time. Here is what you need to make these fall-off-the-bone ribs.


Dry rub:

1/4 cup paprika
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

The Rest:

2 1/2 pounds pork baby back ribs
2 cans of beer (24 ounces), or unsalted beef brothIMG_8195
18 ounces BBQ sauce
1/3 cup honey
5 quart crock pot
1/4 cup olive oil
Large skillet


Add olive oil to skillet and heat over medium heat. While it heats, generously rub the ribs with the dry rub. Place them in the skillet and brown for 3 minutes on each side.

Cut ribs into sections (3-4 ribs per section). Place in crock pot and coat with beer. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. NOTE: Shave139 calories per serving by using unsalted beef broth instead of beer.

Blend BBQ sauce and honey and pour over ribs. Place cover on crock pot and cook ribs for an additional 1 1/2 hours on high heat. Remove ribs to a serving platter. Thicken leftover crock pot juices and serve as sauce on the side.

IMG_8204This recipe serves four. A five ounce serving (about 4 ribs) is in the neighborhood of 505 calories.

To keep the calorie count to a minimum, it is best served with a salad or green vegetable. If you feel the need to add a starch, consider a 1/2 cup scoop of wild rice (150 added calories).


Beef Pot Pie

Homemade Beef Pot Pie

I don’t know what possessed me, but last night I was in a cooking mood. Maybe it was the cool, crisp air of autumn or the eminent presence of winter. Whatever inspired my spontaneous cooking spree, the end result was tasty. I made a beef pot pie.

There was leftover beef lunch meat in the fridge (from Costco),  a lone potato and carrot and half of an onion. That’s all I needed to get started. I shredded an almost expired zucchini and threw it in for good measure.

The only other critical ingredients was broth (I used vegetable broth), red wine and seasonings. There is certainly no shortage of red wine in our house and what I didn’t have in broth, I made up the difference in wine.

IMG_6665Ingredients for Filling

  • 10 ounces of thinly slice beef, cubed
  • 2 T vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small medium zucchini, shredded
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 T cornstarch

IMG_6670Pour off the olive oil into a deep skillet or soup pot. Add the onion, diced veggies and seasonings. Sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer covered over low heat for 20 minutes.


As the filling is simmering on the stove, prepare the pie crust as follows:

  •  2 cups white flour
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup ice water

In a large mixing bowl cut the butter into the flour. Add the salt and baking soda. Gradually incorporate the ice water and form dough into a ball. Sprinkle with flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.


Roll out the dough onto a clean surface generously dusted with flour. Reserve enough dough to cover the top of the pie pan.

IMG_6679Place a layer of dough into a pie pan. Pierce the dough with the prongs of a fork. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes.

Remove the pie crust from the oven and fill with the beef filling. Roll out the remaining dough and cover the top. Using a knife, place slits in the top of the dough.

IMG_6686Bake beef pie at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. If you want the crust to brown, brush with an egg white.

Remove from oven and let cool. I suggest covering the pie with Saran or aluminum wrap and allow to set in fridge overnight before cutting.

Cut pie into eight slices and serve with beef gravy.








Leg of Lamb Bites

Leg of Lamb Bites

I can’t begin to count the number of friends and family member that shy away from cooking lamb. Leg of lamb is one of the easiest and tastiest meats you can cook. The secret is to trim away all the fat and cube into bite size pieces. At least that’s how we like to serve it at our house.

Lamb has a light gamey taste that is not overpowering. Don’t get this dish confused with the fast food gyro sandwiches you may have tasted. This dish can’t be compared to the often dry, sometimes grizzly lamb you may have experienced at a take-out place.

This dish is easy-peasy and will knock the socks off dinner guests who have never enjoyed lamb.


  • 1 leg of lamb (about 5-6 pounds; trim away fat and cut into cubes (Costco has great lamb)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry garden mint
  • 1 teaspoon dry rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 4 cups beef broth consommé
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix spices and herbs into the flour. Toss cubed lamb in flour mixture and pan sear in olive oil until browned. Remove meat from pan. Add onion and cook until softened. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Add the beef consommé. Mix well and then return meat to pan. Simmer covered for one hour.

Remove from heat and serve over white rice. Generously serves 8-10 people.


Easy Black Beans & Rice Enchiladas


There are a few family members that are not fond of meat dishes. Whenever asked to bring a dish to family functions, I try to pick a dish that will fit the bill for both meat and meatless foodies.

These bean and rice enchiladas are always a hit. Best served hot out of the oven, but can be reheated in the microwave in short increments until heated through.


  • Zatarain’s boxed red beans and rice (family size)
  • Cheddar or white cheese, 2 1/2 to cups
  • 1 can prepared enchilada sauce
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup finely chopped lettuce
  • 1 cup chunky salsa
  • 9-inch flour tortillas, 12 count


Prepare Zatarain’s red beans and rice according to package directions. Set aside.

Spread a thin layer of the red beans and rice in the bottom of an 9 x 12 baking dish. Fill each flour tortilla with approximately 1/2 cup of red beans and rice and 1 tablespoon of chunky salsa. Sprinkle with cheese and roll into tortilla shape.


Once all enchiladas are rolled, sprinkle the tops with cheese, diced onion, tomatoes and drizzle with enchilada. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 27 minutes.



Remove from oven and allow to cool. With a spatula, cut each enchilada in half. You will have 24 servings which pair well with a taco or two.


OK. Let’s talk calories. Each 1/2 section of the enchilada is in the neighborhood of 190 calories fully loaded. You can dump plenty of calories by foregoing the melted cheese and using low fat sour cream instead (about 52 calories).


Mexican Pizza that Rocks


I am a sucker for Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza. That is now history. MY MEXICAN PIZZA rocks and I’m booting Taco Bell out the door.

Not only is this an easy dish to make (and filling), it is rather low in calories. The biggest calorie binge is the cheese, but even that can be purchased low-fat. The other thing I love-love about this meal is the portion size. You can make it a meal or make it an appetizer.

Mexican PizzaIngredients

  • (2) nine-inch flour tortillas
  • 2 cups Mexican mixed low-fat shredded cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped calamari olives
  • 1/2 cup refried beans in can
  • (1) medium tomato chopped
  • 1 cup heated crumbled Boco burger meat
  • 1/2 packet dried taco seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cup chunky salsa
  • 1/2 cup minced sweet onion (add to the Boco burger)
  • Salt & pepper to taste


How To

Place two tortillas onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray. Spread each tortilla with a layer of refried beans, burger and salsa.

Place a second flour tortilla on top and bake in the oven for 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 350 degrees.


Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then add a layer of salsa, cheese, green onion, black olives and tomatoes.

Return to oven and cook for another 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing into quarter sections.



Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Chicken Pesto Pasta SaladMy assistant, Jenni, shared this awesome pasta salad recipe with me. It is delish and so easy to make. In this ungodly heat wave we are experiencing in Michigan, no one wants to spend time in a hot kitchen. This one dish meal is perfect for hot weather and has minimal prep time.


  • 1-2 packets of pesto sauce (I use the jar pesto sauce from Costco)
  • 2-3 boneless chicken breasts, chopped and cooked
  • 1 box of Rotini noodles
  • 1 bag steamable frozen vegetables

Prepare the pesto sauce and the noodles as directed on the package. Chop chicken breasts into bite size pieces and pan sear on stove top.

Cook the vegetables as directed. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and serve. This dish can be served hot or cold. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the salad when reheating.