Instant Pot Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy

M, age 4, has been refusing a higher percentage of dinners lately than I would like, so I’ve been trying something: she and I made a list of dinners that we agree that all the solid-food-eaters in the house like.  Then, I plotted the dinners out over the course of a couple of weeks — I used a blank calendar that I’d been given.  This means that I’ve got her buy-in, as we say in business jargon, for those meals, and then I can schedule new recipes as well, and she knows we’ll get back to something familiar the next night.

We’ve been following this new system for a couple of weeks now, and as it turns out, I’m enjoying it quite a bit, myself.  Due to last weekend’s days-long, storm-induced power outage, I had to throw out almost everything in the fridge.  (D and I agreed that I should err on the side of caution.  After all, eating, like, ketchup that had gone bad would be a particularly silly way to die.)  It was a cathartic, if wasteful, process that left us with this amazing situation:

Since then, I’ve gone to Stop & Shop and BJ’s once each, and have had groceries delivered (a spendy indulgence that we are embracing while the twins are so little) from Wegman’s once.  Thanks to the dinner planning, the groceries we’ve bought are much more directed.  I get specific ingredients for specific meals, plus stuff for M’s and D’s lunches, plus assorted breakfast items.  And a few staple-type snacks.  Our fridge now looks as close as it ever will to the kind of fridge that might belong to someone who is professionally healthy:

Look at the salad dressings in the middle of the left door!  Only three, and all brand-new!  Nothing is falling out of anywhere!  The celery is not rubbery and is destined for one of our favorite recipes (that D will make) this weekend.  I’m sure we’re not following any of the rules about where you should keep which produce in order to maximize freshness, etc., but one step at a time, folks.

Anyhoo, on the calendar for tonight was pork, but I wanted to try something more savory than sweet.  I settled on This Old Gal’s Pressure Cooker Pork Chops in Homemade Mushroom Gravy.  Here’s a before photo:

I didn’t think we had any sherry and didn’t feel like looking, so I substituted white cooking wine.  I also opted for cornstarch because it’s what I had.  For the seasoned salt, I used Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Salt because, say it with me now, it’s what I had.

Here’s a sort of mise-en-place stage, with two of the pork chops obscured by the head of the mysterious mustachioed man who showed up at our house tonight.

For sides, I did some sweet potato mash (trim tough ends off three sweet potatoes and prick them with a fork before microwaving them for 8 minutes.  Cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.  Mash with a masher or fork and a little (1 Tb?) butter and salt to taste).

Sweet potato carcasses and mash

I also roasted some cauliflower, which I bought in floret form from BJs.  I lined a pan with aluminum foil, sprayed on a little olive oil, laid out the florets in one layer, sprayed with a little more olive oil, salted, and roasted in our Breville mini oven thing at 425 degrees with convection for 11 minutes, or until a little brown at the edges.

Here’s a sample plate:

And here’s the one for M, who says she doesn’t like mushrooms, but who did end up asking to add some gravy — without mushrooms — to her pork:

We all liked the meal enough to add it to our regular rotation.  D thought the pork was a bit tough, but that might have been due somewhat to my impatience — I released the pressure directly after cooking instead of waiting for 10 minutes of natural pressure release.  Next time, I might try decreasing the pressure cook time from 8 to 7 minutes.

Back to work

I returned to work from maternity leave on February 28, and just today I discovered that someone there (hi, coworker H!  You rule!) had read at least one of these blog posts!  O frabjous day!  So here are a few cute kid photos to celebrate.

I can’t believe this photo happened. They’re (almost sort of) holding hands! They’re both looking at the camera!  And more or less smiling!  I also love that H’s outfit has been worn before by at least three of his older cousins (G, B, and L).
The best out of many attempts at a photo the other day. Hey — they’re not crying.
Big sister was happy to get in on the action.

Cork Strip Art Wall

Long before their small motor skills are minimally developed, kids in daycare bring home a lot of art.  A lot.  Of art.  And by art, I mean concoctions of construction paper, glitter, popsicle sticks, marker, glue, paint, yarn, crayon, rips, and tape that sometimes defy description by even the artists themselves.  (We could have a whole discussion, of course, about whether any artist is truly qualified to describe her own work, but that is BSTB – Beyond the Scope of This Blog.)

Art wall, take 1:

What does a loving parent do with all of this treasure?  Well, this one tried a few different strategies, and the second to last strategy was a kid art wall.  Husband D is a little twitchy about tape on the interior walls (as I discovered the first Holiday season during which we cohabited, when I scotch taped all the cards we received to a door frame and he had a verrry quiet conniption.  Now I use painter’s tape.  Much better.), so I surfed Pinterest (briefly — I am a bad Pinterester) and eventually settled for stringing wires on the wall and clipping the projects to them.  The available wall was mostly vertical, however, so I did something I hadn’t seen on Pinterest: I mounted the wires vertically (with Command hooks at the top and bottom).  It ended up looking like this.

Art Wall, take 1, with wire. Feb 2016.  I know, the Command hooks are out of frame.  If I could turn back time . . .

Cute, right?

I might have known, however, that craftier Pinteresters than I had rejected this system for a reason.  My smug sense of self-satisfaction faded over the subsequent months, when the wires occasionally but persistently failed to actually stay on the wall.  I came to realize that the Command adhesive (in the size hooks I used — no offense, adhesive monolith 3M) was insufficiently strong at the key points.  Sometimes the wall’s failure was exacerbated by the dog’s tail’s hitting the whole setup as she trotted by.  Thanks for nothing, dog.

I made this gif with GIPHY. Never did that before.

Art wall, take 2:

The next and final version of the art wall involved these cork strips and this Gorilla tape.  (Sorry, honey. I love you.)  I lined the cork strips up vertically end to end, trimmed the two at the bottom (This involved a cleaver. It wasn’t pretty. Did I mention that I am really not that crafty?), taped the ends of each strip to the wall et voila!  Art wall!  I then mounted the art on the cork with clear plastic push pins.

Et voila! That’s the sum total of my French.
Family Portrait by M, age 4. Crayon on paper.

EDIT:  M saw her family portrait on the wall and chided, “It’s upside down!”  Of course it is.  Sorry, M.  Here’s the corrected image, which does actually make more sense.

Right side up.


Santa, according to M

December 6 is apparently St. Nicholas Day.  Four-year-old daughter M and I went to a little event at our church with dinner, crafts, and story time about St. Nicholas.

M as Santa, sort of.

Near the end of story time with Pastor Hughes, she talked to the kids about similarities between St. Nicholas and Santa.

Pastor Hughes: Have you ever seen Santa at your house?
Kids: No.
PH: Why do you think that is?
Kid: Because he’s invisible!
PH: Well, I’m not sure he’s invisible. Can you think of another reason?
M (age 4): He’s nocturnal.

Vocab for the win, you guys.  Next up: crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk).

Santa and a skeptical-looking me. Circa 1980?