Empty chairs, full stomachs: Smoked pork chops, Riced cauliflower pilaf

Last Sunday, a somewhat diminished group assembled for our annual Return to the Light soirée. In keeping with this year’s theme, “We Do Trendy”, ever-popular flu and cutting edge cold showed up, robbing our dinner table of three participants. The remaining flu-free eaters carried on, however, and had a fine time.

On the glass is half full side, dinner for five instead of eight meant that a trip to the garage storage room to dig out the card table and three folding chairs was not necessary. But, on the half empty side, those three chairs would have been filled with a kind, generous downhill skier with travel adventures to share, a witty professor with a linguist’s flair for words and stories, and an elegant horticulturist with whom to discuss quilting projects. Anyways, the healthy remainders carried on, exchanged family updates and discussed political intrigue, wigglies, retirement options, nature vs. nurture, romantic indiscretions, vacation plans, death and dying, the Family Circus cartoon, new cars, old chairs and past lives.

We started off with a few trendy snacks, dunked avocado toast in bone broth, sauced our way through poke burritos and kale salad, then took a short break to gear up for smoked pork chops with bacon jam. As the winter daylight faded, we finished off some Sea Salt Chocolate Caramel Mousse cups from Costco, then three friends bundled up for the drive home and two hosts put away the matching napkins until next year.


Poke burrito, served with Sriracha mayonnaise, goma sauce, teriyaki sauce, and wasabi

Smoked pork chops with maple glaze

Riced cauliflower pilaf

Smoked pork chops

Dry Rub: equal parts dry mustard, thyme, paprika, onion powder and 1/2 part black pepper.


  • 1/4 cup combination agave and maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. Ketchup
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes
  • Few drops of Liquid Smoke

Combine ingredients until sugar is melted.

Rub pork chops with dry rub. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, turn over and repeat on other side. Bring to room temperature.

Add oil to a pan, and heat it on medium-high. Sear the pork chops on one side until golden brown—two  to three minutes. Remove pork chops from the pan.

Turn down the heat, then add the agave, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes glaze, stirring and scraping the pan until mixture is syrupy—1-2 minutes.

Place the pork chops back in the glaze, turning the chops until they are covered. Cook them for 2-3 minute longer or until they are heated through. You can also finish in a 350° oven.

Remove chops from pan, swirl in 2 Tbsp. cold, cubed butter, stirring constantly. Pour over chops or serve on the side.

Riced Cauliflower Pilaf

  • 3 parts toasted cauliflower rice
  • 1 part cooked basmati rice
  • equal parts coconut oil and butter
  • grated fresh turmeric
  • dry turmeric
  • ground cumin
  • Lemon juice
  • Toasted almonds

To rice cauliflower: grate raw cauliflower florets on large hole of hand-held grater or in Cuisinart; buy in fresh vegetable or freezer section of Trader Joe’s. Toss riced cauliflower with coconut oil, season lightly with salt, spread on a sheet pan and toast in 400° oven for 5-8 minutes

Sauté onion, garlic, ground cumin, fresh turmeric, dry turmeric in coconut oil until onions are soft.

Combine 3 parts hot riced cauliflower, 1 part hot basmati rice, onion mixture, juice of one lemon, zest of one lemon.

Season with salt and another squeeze of lemon

Garnish with toasted almonds

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