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Christmas is when we gather up everything good in our life, all the warmth and the light and all the good memories, and draw it close and enjoy it as much as we are able to.  We gather up our children, make food, light the lights, sing the songs. We come as close as possible for as long as possible.  – Garrison Keillor, Now it is Christmas Again

I went grocery shopping Saturday morning at Winco. Normally it’s chaotic, loud, crowded. Saturday morning, it was subdued. But what I saw was this: people with their children, and they weren’t yelling at them. They were paying attention to them, talking with them instead of at them. A father helped his daughter – about seven years old – pick through a stack of jigsaw puzzles to help her find one with puppies. A mother wheeled her cart around with her small son riding in it, and they talked about what kind of cheese to buy. If there’s a good side to the horrors of Friday, maybe this was it.


Anyway. Recipes. Times like this call for comfort foods. No one turns to aspics and caviar when they’re experiencing the kinds of grief that we’ve had. What we want to eat: It has to be good, and filling, and you have to want it.

Here, then are two recipes that are variations on the same theme. They’re easy to make, budget-friendly, warming, filling, and can be varied according to what you have on hand. Nothing ground-breaking or earth-shattering here, but something just slightly out of the ordinary.

Pork chops are very often bargain-priced.  Recipes for Stuffed Pork Chops usually call for extra-thick-cut chops, but those are expensive! Instead, look for large “family-pack” trays of chops – those are usually thin-cut – and boneless, if possible (otherwise, just remove the bone at home with a sharp knife).

Stuffed Pork Chops

For each person you need two pork chops. Lay one chop in a baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then cover that chop with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup stuffing. Lay the other chop on top of the stuffing. Toothpick the two chops together (or use wooden skewers, broken into smaller lengths). Sprinkle more salt and pepper on top. When you have as many stuffed chops as needed, pour a little liquid into the baking dish, cover the dish, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Stuffing suggestions:

  • Dried fruit (apricots, raisins, dates, prunes, mangoes, etc.) chopped with some minced onion and diced cheese, and some bread cubes if you want
  • Canned green chiles and cheese
  • Cubed bread, chopped onion & celery, mixed with thyme & sage
  • Whole-berry cranberry sauce mixed with cheese cubes
  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Chopped pears or apples mixed with cornbread cubes, chopped celery, chopped onion
  • Pineapple slices brushed with soy sauce
  • Sauteed & drained spinach with golden raisins

Vary the liquid added: broth, apple juice or other fruit juice, leftover gravy, tomato sauce, teriyaki sauce, etc.

This dish goes very well with baked cheesy cauliflower or broccoli, greens such as spinach, or baked sweet potatoes.

Stuffed Hamburgers

Same idea as the pork chops.  Ground beef is much cheaper if you can buy a large package, and you don’t need to buy the extra-lean.

Make two very thin patties for each person, seasoning each patty. Spread some delicious filling in the center of one patty, top with the other patty and crimp the edges. Broil or pan-fry (these tend to be a little delicate, so be careful transferring them in and out of the cooking vessel).

Suggested fillings:

  • Cheese, especially blue or feta
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Sauteed mushrooms and onions
  • Sauteed bell pepper strips
  • Cooked and drained spinach
  • Green chiles and cheese
  • Sour cream & green chiles
  • Cream cheese and chopped olives
  • Diced avocado & chiles
  • Salsa (drained a little)

These are very good with the same accompaniments as for the stuffed pork chops.


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