Friday, December 12, 2014

Mustard Pork Chops

Perfect Pairing:  Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Pecans

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When I ran across Nigella Lawson’s Mustard Pork Chops recipe I knew I needed to make it pronto.  It is a great cold weather dish with few ingredients that comes together in minutes.  

I made just a few changes to the original recipe.  I used three pork chops instead of two, and seasoned them with salt and pepper before searing in the pan.  Before deglazing the pan I added one sliced onion and cooked until soft and caramelized, then added the sauce ingredients (hard cider, mustard, and a touch of cream).  I bumped up the amounts of mustard and cider to make a little more sauce.

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Nigella recommended serving the chops with gnocchi.  Of course you could keep the prep super simple and use store-bought gnocchi, or you could make your own!  I had always wanted to make gnocchi so this seemed like the perfect time.  I used this sweet potato gnocchi recipe from Richard Blais (Top Chef and Food Network fame).  I followed the gnocchi prep only and used the pork chop sauce to top it off.  I will definitely make these again and use the full recipe with the brown butter sauce because that sounds fantastic. 

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They ended up being pretty easy to make and kind of fun!  I found that a bench scraper was the best tool for the job.

To round out the meal I roasted brussels sprouts (using this method, minus the vinegar) and tossed in handfuls of pecans and dried cranberries for the last few minutes in the oven.  Pretty and yummy.

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It was a pretty fantastic meal!

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wheat Berry Chicken Salad

Perfect Pairing:  Diet and Leftover Sage

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If your Thanksgiving was as delicious as mine was you might be looking to detox a bit.  This salad is the perfect way to jump start that healthy kick!

Last year I wrote a post for Trail Mix Wheat Berry Salad with Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Orange Vinaigrette where I talked about my first introduction to wheat berries. 


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My mom had a wheat berry salad at a friend’s house and later made it for me.  This Wheat Berry Chicken Salad is that original recipe.  It is simple, healthy, filling, and delicious.  I think it is the mix of textures that make it special, chewy berries are mixed with crunchy celery and apples. 


Wheat berries are combined with rotisserie chicken, dried cranberries, fresh herbs, veggies, and tossed in a light dressing.  This calls for fresh sage which might just be in your refrigerator after making that Thanksgiving stuffing!

If you are new to wheat berries you can usually find them in the organic aisle or with the other grains.


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If you are on a diet this is a great “go-to” meal/snack.  One serving of this salad (recipe makes 14 servings) is four points.  If you know much about diets, you know which one uses points!  

Wheat berries are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Totes diet food!  My mom will make a batch and keep it in the fridge to have on hand for a quick and satisfying meal.  It keeps really well for over a week.


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Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Menu


I can hardly believe it has already been a month since I got engaged!  The month has been full of fun wedding planning.  We have our date, church, reception venue, band, photographer, rehearsal dinner venue, my dress, and my bridesmaid dresses.  I call that a success!  Next up is the food.  You KNOW I am looking forward to that part!

Now let’s focus on the ultimate food holiday, Thanksgiving.  Last year I shared a few of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.  They absolutely must be on our table every single year.  If you are looking for some new recipes for your Thanksgiving table, look no further!


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This is my favorite part of the meal. You will never want to make another stuffing.  The tart cherries and savory sausage make it the most delicious stuffing ever.  We always make it outside of the bird so the top has a little crunch.


No marshmallows here!  Instead it is topped with a pecan streusel.  The best.


This shows up at every major family meal.  It will be the easiest thing you make at Thanksgiving and probably the most popular.  Always a crowd pleaser!

Those three are our staples.  Every year we change up the other dishes.  Here are some great options!



This is a great recipe for a small group since it is not an entire bird.  Using the rotisserie on the grill is a great way to free up the oven for the all-important side dishes!


Love the combination of sherry and citrus.


I might like these more than traditional pecan pie.  Amazing.


A fun alternative for your dessert table!

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It combines the traditional pumpkin pie and pecan pie in one tasty bite!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I know I am personally overwhelmed with blessings and I can't wait to celebrate with my loved ones.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pumpkin Cranberry Petite Scones with Orange Glaze

Perfect Pairing: Tea and coffee


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My love of scones came from having high tea with my mom on girls trips to Chicago.  We would wind down from our shopping/sightseeing weekends with a truly luxurious and relaxing high tea at a fancy hotel.  I was thrilled to have my very own teapot and delicate china.  Everything felt so feminine and grown up.  Tea always included dainty sandwiches, like these cucumber sandwiches, pastries, and of course, scones with clotted cream and jam. 


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I have tried a few different scone recipes through the years.  These Pumpkin Cranberry Petite Scones with Orange Glaze are one of my favorites.  


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The pumpkin is not overpowering and the cranberries add a little tang.  I also used a small amount of cinnamon chips.  If you cannot find cinnamon chips it would be ok without them.  The sweet orange glaze is the proverbial icing on the cake.  Don’t skip that!


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Often scones are quite large so I took a cue from Starbucks and made these “petite”.  


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One is perfect as an afternoon snack with tea and two are perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee.   


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sloppy Joe Dip

Perfect Pairing:  Potato chips


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Thank you to everyone for the sweet comments, messages, calls, texts, etc. on our engagement!  I am so so excited!  We have been busy with wedding planning and already have a date, church, and venue!  The next 6 months are going to be so much fun.  

I am sure balancing my job, wedding planning, teaching zumba, spending time with friends and family, and of course spending non-wedding planning time with Chris will be interesting but I definitely still want to be on Perfecting the Pairing!  

Growing up we always had a can of Manwich in our pantry.  I think it was there “in case of emergencies”.  I had never purchased a can of it as an adult.  I have made sloppy joes, but they were always made with a homemade sauce.  I am sure you could make this awesome dip with a homemade sauce, but man, that can is just so easy.  It is mixed with ground turkey (trying to keep it at least a little healthy), sautĂ©ed veggies, cream cheese (light is fine), and shredded cheddar cheese.


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Soooo sloppy joe dip is not beautiful.  Unfortunately, it is quite hard to get a shot that accurately portrays how yummy it is.  I cook all the time for my fiance (I love writing that!!) and he is always so sweet and appreciative about everything I make.  People ask him what his favorite dish is that I make, and he always says, “it is too hard to choose, I love everything!”.  Ah, so sweet.  If I had to guess his favorite it wouldn’t be a fancy dessert, or expensive cut of meat, it would be this dip.  It is up there with the other man-pleasing favorite, Buffalo Chicken Dip.


You could serve this with crackers or veggies, but I think it is best with potato chips.  I have always used the reduced fat variety and they were perfect with it.   


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One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Pork Chops and Apples

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MY Perfect Pairing!



I’M ENGAGED!


Where do I even begin?

First of all, I am completely head over heels in love with my man, Chris.  I have known he was “the one” all along.  He is the most wonderful, kind, loving, tender, happy,  handsome/gorgeous, smart, faithful, funny, perfect man.  I am so incredibly blessed.  God is SO good.  I have been praying for someone half this wonderful for so many years.  Even as I am writing this he is watching football but leaned over and covered my toes with the blanket.  That is just the kind of guy he is.


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He planned one heck of an engagement surprise!  For weeks we had last weekend reserved to go to the lake (my favorite place on earth) for a fall weekend.  Chris was going to do some farming with my dad and I was going to give him a tour of my hometown.  I was so excited for a relaxing weekend with Chris and my parents.  Chris ran the Chicago Marathon the previous weekend, and started a new job, so I knew he was in need of some downtime!  I was excited because I thought this might be the weekend he would ask my dad for my hand.  I had NO idea that I would be getting engaged!

Saturday morning we headed to my hometown, Geneseo, IL.   I gave Chris the $2 tour and then dropped him off to harvest corn with my dad.  As I drove away I was giddy thinking about the conversation that might happen that day.  My mom and I spent the day cooking and getting ready for a wienie roast with our neighbors.  Little did I know I was actually cooking for my surprise engagement party!  **I apologize for the many, many, many exclamation points in this post.

Earlier in the week my mom told me she wanted to get pictures for our family Christmas card, so I should bring a cute outfit and we would take the pictures outside on Saturday afternoon.  When Chris and I were both ready we headed outside.  I thought my parents were right behind us.

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We chatted all the way down to the dock.  I know now that my man’s heart was going crazy and it was anything but “small talk” for him! 


Once we were on the dock he hugged me to keep me warm and asked, Do you remember what we were doing nine months ago today?  I told him of course, we were going on our very first date!  He asked if I was nervous that night and I said, definitely, but I had a pretty good feeling about you.  You see we met on eHarmony and had been emailing for a few weeks before our first date.


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He said, well I was nervous that night.... I am actually a little nervous right now and then he asked if I was nervous.  I said, should I be?  THEN, my friends, he pulled out his phone and turned on Mean to Me by Brett Eldredge (which has all sorts of meaning to us and is now officially, OUR song) and got on one knee.

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I think it is safe to say this was the moment I realized what was going on!

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Chris said some amazingly sweet things (I wish I had a transcript because it is all a blur) while I dissolved into joyous tears.  Then he pulled out the ring and asked those words I have been waiting my entire life to hear, “Lindsay Wentworth Rodgers, will you marry me?”

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How amazing is this picture?  It is so perfect. Of course I was a puddle of joy and happiness.  We both were. 

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Then he told me that there were people hiding in the trees taking pictures of us.

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It turns out my parents’ neighbors, Mark and Denise, were wearing camouflage and truly were hiding in the trees!!


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It is because of them I have these priceless photos and videos. I will be forever grateful to them and to Chris and my mom for arranging this amazing surprise.  Then my parents came down to celebrate with us.  Of course I couldn’t WAIT to show my mom my new ring!

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THEN I hear yelling and see my aunt, uncle, cousin and her husband running towards us!

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We had a celebration on the dock with lots of tears and laughing and joy.

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Once we were back inside we had lots of good food, champagne toasts and blessings.



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My mom even had an incredible engagement gift for us.  It was filled with bridal magazines, photo frames, a bedazzled FeyoncĂ© workout shirt, journal,and books.  Now remember, she pretty much had one full day to pull that off.  She is amazing!



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Now, the ring.  THE RING!  It is so stunning and perfect.  It is so gorgeous. I find myself staring at it constantly.  My two favorite things to stare at are officially Chris and the ring.


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The days since our engagement have been full of so many good wishes, calls, texts, Facebook messages, etc.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone!  

We were able to FaceTime with Chris’ family the next day and even had a precious personalized song written for us by his niece.  One of my favorite moments was when Chris’ niece asked if she could call me Aunt Lindsay.  Melt my heart!  I am so excited to be joining that incredible family.


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Chris and I had the most amazing examples of loving marriages and I can’t wait to marry that man.  Let the wedding planning begin!!



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