Make healthy meals a core part of your day
The nutrient-dense apple is a tasty partner to maple-glazed pork chops. | Melissa Elsmo~For Sun-Times Media
Maple Glazed Pork Chops with Apples and Thyme
Serve these back-to-school inspired chops with steamed green vegetables and boiled red potatoes.
4 boneless 1-inch thick pork chops (about 4 oz each)
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon grape seed or canola oil
Salt and pepper
4 thyme sprigs
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon orange zest
1 Tablespoon butter
2 medium apples, halved and cut into thin wedges
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons orange juice
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
Heat 2 tablespoons of grape seed oil in a medium skillet until nearly smoking. Meanwhile season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the pork chops into the hot oil and allow to sear on one side without disturbing for 5 minutes. Scatter the thyme sprigs around the searing pork (take care the leaves may cause a small spatter). Flip the pork and allow to sear for 3 minutes before reducing heat to medium. Mix the maple syrup and the orange zest and brush liberally on the pork chops and allow then to continue cooking for 2 minutes until just cooked through. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.
While the pork chops are cooking prepare the sautéed apples. Heat the remaining teaspoon of grape seed oil and the butter over medium heat until melted and bubbling. Add the apple wedges and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until apples are slightly golden and quite tender. Mix in the thyme leaves and orange juice. Serve the sautéed apples over the pork chops garnished with applesauce.
Updated: October 9, 2012 5:08PM
Homespun images of pinafore-clad prairie girls offering shiny red apples to their teachers conjure up all sorts of nostalgic back-to-school feelings.
It’s funny how thoughts of a simple fruit give way to visions of newly sharpened pencils, paper bag covered text books and clanging school bells. Apples were historically given to hardworking teachers by over-eager students, sometimes known as “apple polishers” as means to curry favor or show appreciation.
Today’s Apple iPhone toting kids have let this little tradition fall by the wayside. Consequently, I don’t know anyone who has actually sent their child out the door on the first day of school with a bright red apple in hand, but apples remain synonymous with education and learning.
Rather than suggest resurrecting the time honored “apple for the teacher” tradition, I’d like to encourage parents and caregivers to view the humble apple as a symbol of the essential role wholesome meals play in the lives of young students. As much as dedicated teachers would likely enjoy a nutrient dense snack during a busy work day, feeding children apples as part of a well-balanced diet at home is the best possible gift parents could give a teacher.
My grandma taught first grade for the better part of her life and she would often speak about the easily identifiable characteristics of underfed or malnourished students in her diverse classroom. In a time before researchers connected nutrition and academics, she would speak with concern about students who spent their days trying not to fall asleep in class; boys and girls who seemed distant, distracted, and even excitable were ever present in her classroom. Each day, my grandma would interview her students about what they had eaten since the previous day’s lunch and would frequently receive mumbled and murky responses. Like so many generous teachers, she began keeping a supply of healthy snacks in her classroom to make up for the deficits at home. Her hungriest students would perk up upon seeing oranges, yogurt and bananas waiting for them in the morning.
Food insecurity in the United States remains a national concern with the USDA reporting that 16 million children live in food insecure households. Hunger is a reality in our communities and studies show that both classroom behavior and overall academic performance are directly linked to the quality and quantity of foods included in the diets of growing children. A study published in the 2008 Journal of School Heath suggests that students with healthy and well balanced diets will enjoy more academic success than children consuming unhealthy food items.
As children head back to school, it is time for families to reprioritize healthy family dining and set the tone for a successful school year; weather that means sticking to a budget, taking advantage of school meal programs, or making a donation to a local food pantry it is crucial to provide nutritious meals and snacks at home. Trust me — teachers will appreciate the fruits of your labor.
Melissa Elsmo is an Oak Park mom, wife and chef/foodie. She speaks regularly about reclaiming the family dinner hour with nutritious meals. Check out her food blog at www.outofmelskitchen.blogspot.com.