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No soup casserole — it can be done!


When I started this clean eating project, I made a few solemn vows to myself. First, I vowed that no matter if I strayed and accidentally ate a bag of Doritos, I would come back and recover. In Weight Watchers, they used to use a car analogy: if you wake up to a flat tire, you don't shoot out the other three, right? Same applies to food. Just because you slip up at one meal, or eat a whole bag of Doritos at midnight doesn't mean you have to throw away all your efforts and say, "Well, I ate the Doritos, so I might as well go ahead and eat four donuts and wash it down with a Coke." So I vowed that I wouldn't let a misstep derail me.

I also vowed to eliminate the "low-hanging fruit" as it were. And no, I don't mean fruit. I eat a lot of fruit. I mean that I was going to eliminate the stuff that is easy to eliminate. Instead of trying all at once to eliminate every single thing I love and every guilty pleasure, I'd eliminate the stuff that I didn't feel that strongly about anyway, and go from there. For example, I promised myself I'd never open another can of soup, either to eat or to cook with. I cut canned vegetables from my life and use only fresh or frozen. I eliminated fruit juice, bottled salad dressings and white bread. All of those are easy enough things for me to avoid, and I had to wonder why I was ever doing it in the first place. Oh, right, because my family loves that stuff. White bread and ranch dressing and tuna noodle casserole with a can of cream of mushroom soup in it are among their delicacies. Sorry, family. Those days are gone.

I still like to whip of a weeknight casserole here and there, so I have had to find ways to do them without processed food. It has been, surprisingly, easier than I would have thought.

For example, I recently had a pack of nice, thick, boneless pork chops burning a hole in my refrigerator drawer, and it was a rainy evening and thus unappealing for grilling. I decided to do pork chop and rice casserole, but I did it without the creamy factor. Instead, I did an Asian twist on it, and dang if it wasn't fantastic. And FAST. Love all of this so far.


Asian Pork Chops and Rice
4 or 5 pork chops
1/4 cup sweet and spicy mustard 1 1/2 cups rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 bag frozen stir-fry vegetable mix
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 cup water

Cover the chops in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1/4 cup mustard. In a hot skillet, sear them in a little bit of olive oil on both sides until they are really nice and brown.

Meanwhile, start rice cooking in a saucepan. You don't have to cook it all the way through, but I find that rice in the oven takes forever and never gets quite done, so this is a great way to speed up the process and get a much nicer result. Cook the rice in the chicken broth for about 10 minutes.

Transfer the rice to a 9 x 13 casserole dish, add in the juices, soy sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and frozen vegetables. Stir to thoroughly combine. Add a cup of water, and lay the chops on top of everything.

Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked and all the liquid has been absorbed.

Looky there, a weeknight casserole and not a can of soup in sight. Healthy and delicious, all in less than an hour. Plenty of time for painting toenails and watching housewives fight on the TV.


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