Last Sunday marked my 27th birthday. That’s right! For the past 27 years this world has been graced with my precious presence walking its plush green grasses and cracked, rigid pavements… I’ll let you take a moment to marinate in the essence that is me.
Now that we’ve gotten my self-absorbed glory moment out of the way, allow me to share with you how I decided to commemorate this non-historical year. Of course, as a former fatty, the first thing I want to do to celebrate ANY occasion is EAT! I love food! I love the way food makes me feel! I love its warmth and its comfort and I love how happy I am when I eat a meal that pleases me! With that being said, the first thing that came to mind was my favorite soul food joint here in Chicago, MacArthur’s. Every time I go there, I get the smothered pork chops, a double side of mac & cheese, a corn muffin and an Arizona sweet tea; sometimes, if I really want to spoil myself, I’ll get either a banana pudding or a peach cobbler for dessert, too. However, being that I had just started trying to get back on track with my healthy eating, I decided that Mac’s would just have to wait until something more important to celebrate came around… Or until the next time I was in the area alone with no witnesses!
While at work one day, I began to browse the handful of cookbooks that my girlfriend and I share with each other, as she is constantly conjuring up healthy meals, herself, and she hit me with it: “Have you tried Rococo’s smothered chops yet?” (‘Rococo’ is the loving name we use to refer to Rocco DiSpirito, whose cookbooks we absolutely love!) What a brilliant idea Danielle had had! I could make a healthy meal for my boyfriend and I, while still feeling “bad” for eating something I can never get enough of.
Upon further review of the Smothered Pork Chops w/ Apples & Cheddar Cheese recipe that he offers in his “Now Eat This!” cookbook, I deiced that making this recipe for my birthday would be the only way I’d ever make it, as I would be liable to dirty every dish and appliance in my kitchen in the process. Ok, so that is a little overboard but, during the week, I like to make a meal that uses the least amount of cookware possible; who really has the time or energy to tear up a kitchen, creating masterpieces, after a long shift at work? But I digress… I then had to ponder what delicious side would accompany my protein and, while skimming through one of Weight Watcher’s cookbooks, I came up with Sweet Potato Casserole. I had just hit the mother-load; talk about traditional comfort food without the suffering waistline!
I was so excited to cook all kinds of new recipes so, when I woke up early Sunday morning, I washed any dish that was still sitting by the sink from the day before, scrubbed my entire kitchen from top to bottom and proceeded to prepare my lunches for the week (Jerk Turkey Soup & Black Bean Salad). I then ran around the house exclaiming “It’s My Birthday!” to my boyfriend until he obliged to take me to my favorite breakfast spot, Blue Max Coffee, for a plate of fresh food and a delicious latte to go. Once home again, I spent the next 4 hours trying to find something to do before I could reenter my kitchen to prepare my highly anticipated meal.
Once in progress, I was certain that I was going to love both dishes but, the true test would be feeding them to two men who weren’t real crazy about the idea of a healthy meal. Drew, being more acquainted with my “remakes”, wouldn’t be as tricky as his younger brother who is much more accustomed to high fat, high calorie, delicious, flavorful, good old fashioned home cooked soul food. When I originally asked him if he wished to share a plate with us, he politely declined but, after smelling the aromas that wafted into the living room from the kitchen, he quickly changed his mind. “Good Sign!”, I thought to myself. After 2.5 hours of measuring, chopping, layering, baking, marinating, sauteing, pureeing and plating, the results were in.
*** DRUM ROLL PLEASE ***
“WUNDERBAR!” My boyfriend ate his plate in silence, making sure that every drop of gravy was used on every bite of pork, and his brother went back for seconds on the sweet potato casserole, claiming it “kinda tastes like apple pie”. The only disappointment in the entire house was that there wasn’t more to go around!
In typical fat-girl fashion, I concluded my birthday with a full fat but thin half-slice of Oreo cheesecake that Drew had made for me, by special request; hey, it can’t all be healthy, right?