It’s marathon week! Not that anyone’s counting, but less than 4 days! I’m sooo excited, despite getting increasingly nervous by the day. In the past week I’ve been asked if I’m ready/how I feel/how I expect to do, so many times that I’ve lost count. I really have no idea. I do know that I’m ready though! For the most part I feel really confident, but being that it’s my first marathon I’m not totally sure what to expect and what I’m capable of. I’m also getting towards the end of my taper (for non-runners, this is the time before the race when you reduce your mileage and recharge your legs), and it’s playing with my mind & making me second guess everything.
I have a handful of goals for the week…. I’ve been resting my legs as much as possible (with the exception of a couple short, easy runs), I’ve been going to bed early (and luckily sleeping really, really well), all of my high heels have been tucked neatly in the back of my closet and I’ve been eating good, wholesome and of course, tasty meals. The past couple weeks I fell into a little blip of eating completely unhealthy and overindulging a little. By the end of last week I started feeling kind of gross. Now that I’m back to eating lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean meat I notice a big difference, and I’m feeling a lot better.
Not only is this a great fall dinner, but it’s seriously the best meal I’ve had in quite some time. It’s hearty and cozy, and homey, without being a heavy, rib-sticking meal. These are also some of the best pork chops I’ve ever had. The meat is tender and full of flavor, and the cranberry-pecan stuffing is a great compliment to the pork.
The original recipe used an apricot-almond stuffing, which I think would also be quite delicious. I just happen to be more of a cranberry gal, than an apricot gal…I was also out of apricots, so that may have had a little something to do with it. I also think dried cherries or dried pomegranate would work well.
I don’t think I can say enough good things about this Apple-Parsnip Mash. It’s so delicious! I’m talking lick the pot clean delicious. Yes, it’s that good! And, I may or may not have actually licked the pot. I’m not telling.
I may be getting a little ahead of myself here, but this would make a great addition to your Thanksgiving dinner! Maybe as a substitute for mashed potatoes or turnips. Or, maybe you fall in the same camp as me, where you can never have too many sides on Thanksgiving. Either way, you should make it…your guests will love it.
Apples and parsnips are a really great match up; their flavors pair really well together, without one overpowering the other. I pureed the mash to the point it was smooth, yet still had tiny chunks of parsnip and apple. I recommend adding milk while you puree, although you don’t have to, and the original recipe doesn’t call for it. Adding milk (I used skim, but any variety will do….or if you want to get a little crazy, maybe some heavy cream) will make the mash creamier, smoother and a little more velvety.
1 pound parsnips, peeled & cut into 1/2-inch rounds
2 apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon dried thyme
sea salt & ground pepper
1/4-1/2 cup milk (optional)
For the Pork Chops:
In a small bowl mix together cranberries, pecans, thyme and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Using a paring knife, cut a 2-inch slit into the side of each pork chop, cutting through to the bone to form a pocket. Fill each pocket with cranberry-pecan mixture, and press to flatten. Season pork chops with salt & pepper.
Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sear pork chops until browned, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Add 1/2 cup of stock. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until pork chops are cooked through, about 6-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. Remove pork chops from the pan.
Add remaining stock, cider and vinegar to skillet, raise heat to medium-high. Simmer, scraping up brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
For the Parsnip Mash:
In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Cook parsnips in a single layer until golden on the bottom, about 8-10 minutes. Flip, and add apples, water, cider, thyme and salt & pepper. Raise heat to medium-high and simmer, covered, until parsnips and apples are very soft, about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, and let stand (covered to retain moisture) 5 minutes. Add mixture to a large pot and puree with a hand mixer, or puree in a food processor. Add remaining tablespoon of butter & milk as you puree the mixture. A bit of milk will slightly thin the mash, and make it creamier.