I feel like for the past few weeks, (even months!) have had something planned almost every night. And it's not like these activities are necessarily bad things, they just weren't things that involved all three of us together. This isn't a "brag because I'm so busy" party - trust me.
My husband comes home in the early evening, we eat a quick dinner (usually whatever I've photographed at lunch), and then one of us flies out the door to do something. Neither of us really got a break. I was getting agitated over really small things, and it was beginning to affect that once-peaceful feeling in our home.
This week, we decided to try something completely different. We noticed it was our first free-evening week (miracle!). We had zero plans. Instead of taking advantage of that rare opportunity to schedule all kinds of extra things in our lives, we made the conscious decision to not plan anything. Something amazing happened in the process...
We went to the park as a family and had a relaxing picnic on Monday. The breeze was warm in that almost-secluded park. There were rolling hills and trails around us. The boys played catch with a football, watched the nearby helicopters practice their flight training, and chased each other around the playground. The warm dinner and fresh fruit hit the spot. I was able to just lay down, look up at the sky, and breathe in slowly. How often to we get to just lie down on the fresh green grass on a soft blanket, and just sit and watch the clouds? For me, it had been a very long time. It was pretty therapeutic. It was exactly what I needed.
Tuesday, Ryan came home a little early and we enjoyed dinner together (carne asada tacos - yum!). It was pretty gross outside, so we just played inside. I put our little man through his bedtime routine while Ryan had a dear friend over to continue their guitar lessons (bro time, really). When I was done, they were done, and Ryan and I were able to pop some popcorn and continue our Netflix season splurge together. It was so relaxing! I felt completely recharged and relaxed.
Last night, we drove to a park right when Ryan came home from work. We took turns taking a run while the other person played with our son. The park was so green with beautiful soft grass, and there were sidewalks for miles to run on. The sound of parents cheering on their children (some were so little, it was so darling!) in the surrounding soccer games, the smell of in-n-out across the street, and the wonder of the toddler watching his kite fly through the air were all just what we needed. It was yet again, another relaxing evening.
Revelation: sure, some weeks are crazy busy, and there's sometimes nothing you can really do about it. But on those precious days when you don't have anything planned, leave it that way. Cut yourself a break. Recharge those batteries, friends. Let the evenings happen in the most relaxed way possible. Spend some serious quality time with your dear family. Those are the times you, and they, will remember and cherish the most.
This dinner was completely effortless, wasn't horrible in the "heavy butter and sugar" department, and included some really beautiful ingredients I wouldn't have normally thrown together. The ease of the dish is something I always strive for in my weeknight cooking.
Pork chops can easily dry out like a Washingtonian in Utah. They need a little extra love. A quick brine, in the pork chop's case anyway, not overcooking, and a little rest after hitting the pan can go a long way. Meat needs time to rest after cooking. That's a given. With chicken, pork, and especially beef, this is a must. It brings those juices right back into the meat, and makes what I've often called a meat starburst - it's just that juicy and mouthwatering!
The brine is simple - soaking the poked pork in a bit of salty/sugary water and vinegar really intensifies the flavor, and creates such a lovely almost crust on the outside of the pork.
The salad, at first, seemed pretty random. But trust me, it works! Beans, corn, and more beans? What the heck?! But like I said. It works. This recipe has an amazing trick to making those veggies sing right off the plate: you boil the beans and corn in salt water, rinse them afterwards in cold water to stop the cooking, and douse the veggies in a simple & light sauce. It's magic.
And at first, I was nervous to use the Dijon mustard at the end. I HATE mustard with a passion, but for some reason, it was really beautiful with the bright veggies, and added just the right amount of flavor. Maybe it's not as bad after all. I'm not going to go all hot-dog with the mustard, but incorporating it in my cooking might make a more welcomed appearance in my kitchen :) Enjoy!
Simple Pork Chops with Fresh Bean Salad
makes 4 servings
3T white wine vinegar
1 1/2 t sugar
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
4 boneless pork loin chops, trimmed
1/2 lb green beans
3/4 C can corn, drained
1 15oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 T EVOO
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
2 t dijon mustard
1. Whisk 2 cups cold water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon each sugar and salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Prick the pork a few times with a sharp fork over the surface, and then soak in the vinegar mixture (brine) for 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry. Prepare bean salad while the pork is soaking.
2. To make the salad: bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender. Add the corn and cook 1 minute. Drain the veggies, rinse under cold water, and pat dry. Transfer to a large salad bowl and toss in the kidney beans.
3. Season the brined pork with salt and pepper. In a skillet over medium heat, warm up 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the pork and cook until golden (but not overcooked), about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate to rest.
4. Wipe out the same skillet carefully, and heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and cook 3 minutes, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of vinegar and cook until onion absorbs liquid. Whisk in 1/2 C water, half the parsley, mustard, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Salt to taste. Simmer 3 minutes, then pour sauce over cooked veggies. Gently toss. Add remaining parsley to veggies and season with salt and pepper.
recipe adapted from: Food Network