Slow-Roasted Pork with Apple Relish

Most meals, I can count on at least one thing that Miss H will like and eat without complaint. Cheese will always get eaten (unless it’s mozzarella). Bread and noodles will also be devoured without complaint. Certain vegetables like carrots and edamame. Sweet potato fries (or any fries, really). Greek yogurt. Any kind of fruit.

We ask her to try everything, within reason. When we had kale and artichokes with salmon on Monday, we encouraged her to try the vegetables, but we didn’t push it. They were a little weird, and I’m not sure she would have liked them anyway (although who knows – Miss H loves kale chips and marinated anything so one would think they were right up her alley). We did, however, encourage her to try the capers, because she has really liked them in the past, and all she needed was a reminder of that.

And then there are some nights when she eats everything on her plate without complaint. Usually those are leftover nights, because she gets a sandwich or noodles or something totally benign. Every once in a while, though, there is a meal that takes a little coaxing but ends with a clean plate.

Like this one.

The sure things on this plate were the egg noodles and the roasted parsnips. The pork was iffy, because Miss H does not always trust proteins. And the apple relish was a wild card. On paper, she should like it: fruit, lemon juice, fun to pick up and eat. In reality, you never can tell, especially with little specks of green (dried parsley) all over the apple pieces.

Then you go and get proved wrong, because Miss H took one taste of those apples and ate them all up. She went through the noodles and parsnips first and then agreed to eat a couple bites of pork. She wasn’t sure about the apples at first, but once she realized the green on the apples was parsley, she decided to give them a try. The husband and I were kind of surprised but also kind of not. The apple relish was quite sour because of the lemon juice, which accompanied the pork quite well but wasn’t fantastic by itself. Since I know Miss H likes sour, I figured the real challenge would be getting her to try it.

She eventually cleaned her plate, with help from daddy, who is always willing to eat leftover meat.

We liked this meal, obviously. The relish and the meat made a nice combination, although I’d serve the meat with more of the juice from the slow cooker, which was sweetened by apple cider. The parsnips made a nice accompaniment. If I were to make the meal again, I’d go with mashed potatoes (to catch all that delicious juice) rather than noodles, but it was still fine as it was.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. I could see adding this to our rotation, especially in the winter. A juice, flavorful pork shoulder is always welcome at our table. The apple relish, though a little odd at first, went nicely with the pork and added some freshness to the meal. Easy to make and very tasty.

Recipe from “Real Simple: Dinner Made Easy.”

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Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Appetizers for dinner, why not? It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with dinner, so sometimes it’s good to break it up with something unexpected. Like breakfast for dinner or dip and chips for dinner or empty the fridge dinner or appetizers for dinner. We don’t do it often, but it shakes things up. In this case, an appetizer in the form of a dip came to the table and made a simple, easy dinner.

Even better, this is a spinach and artichoke dip that’s made in the slow cooker. It takes about 15-20 minutes of prep (depending on how trimmed you want your spinach), but then it’s two hours of throw it in the Crockpot and make sure it doesn’t burn. The recipe says to cook it on high for 2 hours, but I think my slow cooker runs hot. I did it on high for 30 minutes to get the cream cheese melted and the spinach wilted, and then turned it over to low to finish for 90 minutes. At the end of two hours, we had a creamy, cheesy dip that smelled delicious.

And it was delicious. I served it with pita chips and carrots, and then a couple days later, I found water crackers in the pantry that went wonderfully with the dip leftovers. It was a fairly light meal in terms of amount of food eaten, but sometimes that’s just what you need after a warm winter day.

The only catch was that Miss H refused to touch it, likely because of the prominent ribbons of unidentifiable green (spinach, ahem) that ran through the creamy cheese. I don’t think she’s ever had artichoke in her three years of life, and I’m not sure how much she’d like them if she tried them. Also, if you’ve never seen a spinach and artichoke dip before and it suddenly appeared on your plate, you might think twice about eating it too. I know I did the first time around, and I wasn’t even a toddler. No amount of explanation of its cream cheesy goodness would convince her to try it, but that’s okay. Maybe next time.

Rating: 4 out of 5. Nice change from the usual dinner fare, and super easy to make. Also, it was very tasty, and I’d definitely double it up (or even triple it) for a party. It kept as leftovers really well, so that’s a bonus. Will make again. This might end up being my spinach & artichoke dip go-to.

Guinness Beef Stew

Source: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures (Guinness Beef Stew)

Every so often, usually when summer in our area lasts twice as long as it should and it’s still 90 degrees in October, I think wistfully about how nice it would be to live someplace where seasons actually exist. And then the first cold night of the season arrives, and I think, nope, I’m good. I make some cold weather comfort food, which is really one of the only reasons I like cold weather.

I find it nearly impossible to enjoy pot pies and stews before October and after March. These are meals that are meant for cozy evenings, enjoying the warmth of home when it’s too cold to think about going outside. Which is too bad, because I love cold weather meals. I love autumn and winter vegetables. I look forward to October every year because I’m so sick of salads and dishes that aren’t uncomfortable to make when it’s 100 degrees outside. Nobody wants to have the oven going for three hours when the AC unit is rumbling all day long in an attempt to keep the house at a livable temperature.

And this stew takes about three hours in the oven. It actually could have stayed in for a bit longer, but the meat was still fall-apart tender, the potatoes were cooked through but not mushy, and the carrots added a bit of crunch.

Everything blended together so well in this one-pot dish. The Guinness didn’t overwhelm any of the other flavors, though my husband did comment that the gravy tasted “like root vegetables,” so maybe a little more Guinness was called for. But my husband will always say yes to more beer, so I’d be surprised if he didn’t approve of that idea.

About three-quarters of the way through making the stew, I was a bit concerned about the thickness of the gravy. Beef stew needs a nice, thick gravy, otherwise you’re just eating soup, right? I resisted the urge to do any doctoring, placing my trust in the ingredients and the wonderful magic that happens to them by adding heat. Good thing too, because the stew came together beautifully with a lovely thick gravy that tasted amazing.

Rating: 5 stars. Yes, this was a very tasty meal. I don’t like pot roasts, but I do like stews. There are a couple of daubes in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table that are absolutely terrific and should be made at least once a year. But this was an excellent meal in its own right and should certainly be considered a fine example of the humble (but delicious) beef stew.

Will I make it again? You bet. I would make a couple of minor changes. I’d cut the carrots smaller to allow them to cook a bit more. I’d serve it with a nice, soft roll to help soak up all the tasty Guinness-rich gravy. I’d even consider leaving out the potatoes and serving the stew over mashed potatoes instead, because seriously, the gravy is pretty awesome.

This one is going into my “saved” recipes file, and I’ll be happy to make it again in the future.