I cooked one of the best meals I've had in a long time tonight – Giada's Pork Chops with Fennel and Caper Sauce.  I don't remember this meal being so good the last time I made it, but tonight, it was spectacular!

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I stayed home from work today.  I felt worse than I did yesterday when I woke up, so I figured it would be best if I just stayed put rather than contaminate my co-workers.  I tried my best to sit still and relax all day.  I don't do well sitting still.  I get fidgety and want to start doing something (anything!) like organizing or picking up.  Today, I was so tired and my body so achy, it was much easier than normal to relax. 

As for dinner, even though I was super tired tonight, I knew I had to cook those pork chops I bought this weekend before they went bad.  I actually had all the ingredients last night, but was so tired, I just had  egg drop soup.

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So, I willed myself into getting dinner ready and gathered my ingredients, and there were many fresh ingredients in this dish, indeed.  Just look at em!

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I wasn't sure exactly which parts of the fennel to use (exactly what are the "fronds" anyways?), so I checked my DVR and luckily, I had the episode where Giada cooks this dish on file.  After watching the entire segment earlier today whilst sipping some hot tea and, yes, actually sitting still, I figured out to grab the main part of the bulb (minus the hard exterior layer) and some of the green dill-looking tops (the "fronds").

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We also cracked open our Two Buck Chuck.  Have you heard of it before?  It's a pretty decent wine available at Trader Joe's.  Apparently, it got its name due to its $2 price tag, although now it costs $2.99 (and in some places, $4).  It's still a great deal, especially when you're watching your bottom line like I am (and it probably helps that I'm no wine connoisseur, though the wine has won some awards, apparently).  Either way, wine is typically a pricey ingredient I avoid when I'm on a budget, but I'm going to plan more meals for later this week around this ingredient to make good use of it.

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For all the flavor you get, this meal was surprisingly simple and only used 2 pots/pans.  Ok, one pot, one pan, if you want to be precise.  I used one pot to cook the pasta and one pan to cook the pork chops and sauce.  Well, I guess I also used a baking sheet to make a couple of those Pillsbury Oven Baked Dinner Rolls, so that makes 3.  Either way, I had a good stress-free time cooking tonight.  For the side, I made some Colavita Angel Hair Nests.  I love these things because they keep well in my pantry, cook in only 3 minutes, and are already ball-shaped, so they are easy to plate.

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For all the flavor of this dish, it was also pretty affordable.  I think I (read – hubby) got all the ingredients for less than $15, including the wine!  Not too shabby, eh?

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Looking for a fast, fresh, and flavorful pork dinner?  Give this one a try…it's delicious!

Pork Chops with Fennel and Caper Sauce
by Giada deLaurentis (via foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients

    * 1/4 cup olive oil
    * 4 boneless (2-inch-thick) pork chops (about 2 pounds total)
    * 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning meat
    * 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning meat
    * 2 fennel bulbs with fronds, thinly sliced (about 8 ounces or 2 cups)
    * 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
    * 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/3 cup
    * 1/2 cup white wine
    * 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
    * 1/2 lemon, zested
    * 2 tablespoons capers

Directions

In a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add the pork to the pan and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes each side. Remove the pork from the pan, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.

Add the fennel, shallots, and 1/3 cup parsley to the pan and cook over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and stir. Add the pork back into the pan, nestling the chops between the fennel and tomatoes so they are mostly submerged in the pan juices. Cook until the fennel is tender and the pork is done, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Place the pork on a serving dish. To finish the sauce, add the lemon zest, remaining 1/3 cup parsley, capers, and 3/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Spoon over the pork chops and serve immediately.