Pulled Pork-a-palooza

 Pulled pork is probably one of my favorite foods. Ever. BBQ pulled pork, kalua pig, carnitas. All variations on shredded bits of piggy deliciousness.

We recently bought a Traeger smoker for my husband’s birthday. He’d been wanting a smoker for a really long time and when the Traeger guys were at Costco, we couldn’t resist. I had some reservations at first, because these puppies aren’t cheap, but it has turned out to be one of the best purchases ever. We use it all the time! It is seriously so easy to use and the food has come out perfect every time.

OK, moving on because this is not a Traeger infomercial and they aren’t paying me, so name dropping is done!

Anyway, back to the pork. I was walking through Pavilions the other day and noticed they had pork shoulder on sale for .99 a pound. Come on? For real? .99?? I am not one to pass up a great bargain, so despite the fact that I had already meal planned for the week (and pork shoulder was not on it), I bought the last one in the case and took home a 7.34 pound bone-in pork shoulder. I figured we could always freeze it and use it later.

  
Wrong. As soon as I got home and told my husband I picked up the pork shoulder (for $7!!) his eyes glazed over and he started imagining the pork smoking. So we looked at our schedule and figured Tuesday would be the best day to do it because it takes 9 hours and my husband could be home most of the time that day to tend to it.

I am so glad we didn’t wait. It was so yummy! It was perfectly cooked and the flavor was ridiculous.  

We will definitely be making this again!

  

*note: the measurements in the rub are rough guesses. I didn’t use any measuring utensils. Go with what you like.

1 bone-in pork shoulder (5-7 pounds is good)

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix the ingredients together then rub all over the pork shoulder. A thick coating is good, just make sure it’s really worked in on all side.

Cover and let it sit for at least an hour up to overnight. (We did overnight)

If you’re using a smoker, set it to 225 degrees, put the shoulder on the grill for 3 hours. Then put the pork in an aluminum foil pan and put the pan in the smoker for 5-6 hours. After the first hour, spray the pork with apple juice every hour.

Don’t have a smoker? That’s ok! Use your slow cooker!!

Follow the same instructions for the rub. Put the pork in the slow cooker and add apple juice (about 2 cups or so). Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

After the pork is done (on either the smoker or slow-cooker), set it on a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Then take two forks and shred it apart.

Pour some of the juices over the meat and mix it around.

  

I didn’t add any sauce to the meat. This way I could use the meat for other things. I just added as much bbq sauce as I needed for each individual sandwich.

 

 But Abby, you had 7 pounds of meat. What in God’s name are you planning on doing with 7 pounds of meat?? Well, dear reader, I’m glad you asked. We, of course, made sandwiches, but we also put it to use in other ways:

  

1. Pork fried rice: saute onions, garlic and whatever veggies you want in coconut oil. Add a beaten egg and mix well until scrambled. Remove from the pan. Add the pork and warm through, crisping up the edges a bit. Add in a little bit of hoisin or teriyaki sauce, just enough to coat the meat. Remove from the pan. Add cooked rice and about a tablespoon of sesame oil. Stir around until warmed through (if using leftover rice) and a bit crispy. Add all the other ingredients back into the pan and mix together. So yummy!
 

2. Pulled pork pizza: This one was my favorite of the leftovers. I just used store-bought pizza dough (my favorite, the one that always turns out the best, is the Pilsbury one in the pop can). Roll out the dough on a greased baking sheet and top with BBQ sauce, mozzarella cheese, the pulled pork and maple caramelized leeks (thinly sliced both white and light green parts, put a little butter or oil in a pan and let the leeks caramelize for a few minutes. Then add about a 1 tablespoon of real maple syrup, not the fake pancake syrup. Stir together and let simmer until the liquid is mostly evaporated). Bake in the oven according to the directions on the pizza dough package.

 

3. Sweet potato pork hash: In a skillet with some coconut oil, add a diced onion and cook until soft and just starting to brown. Add a diced sweet potato (smallish pieces) and mix around to coat with the coconut oil. Cover the skillet and let cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. Let the sweet potato get a little browned on the bottom—the caramelization is yummy. Remove from the pan and add the pulled pork, no need to add extra oil. Warm the pork through and let the edges crisp up a bit. Add the potato back in the pan and toss it all together. Make four little wells in the hash and crack an egg into each one. Put in a 400 degree oven for about 5 or so minutes, until the egg is set and yolk is still runny. Or you can be like me and forget about it until the egg is pretty much hard-boiled and then your husband can cook up a couple new eggs on the stove top so you can enjoy the runny yolk complementing the delicious hash. You know, whatever works for you.

 

4. Pork and apple quesadilla: In a skillet, warm up some pulled pork. Remove from the pan and coat with BBQ sauce. To assemble: thinly slice an apple and lay pieces in a single layer on a tortilla. Next, layer grated cheese (I used cheddar, I’m sure you could use others) and the BBQ pulled pork. Top with the 2nd tortilla. Add a little butter to the skillet so the quesadilla doesn’t stick and cook over medium heat until the tortilla is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Flip and do the same. Should only take a few minutes per side. Serve with extra BBQ sauce. The hubby said this was “stupid delicious” but preferred it without the apples.

There was still about a pound and a half of meat leftover and I needed to take a break, so I froze the rest in ½ pound batches to use later.

Oh boy! This was a long post, so thanks for sticking with me! This was a pretty tasty lesson in pork though, I must say!

Mickey Waffles

I love Saturdays. So much. I’m a working mom (meaning I work out of the home. Of course all moms are working moms) and my day starts at 5:00 (well, my day starts at 3:30 am, but my work day starts at 5:00). That means my husband has morning duty to get the kids ready for school/day care. Saturdays I like to ease into my morning with coffee and the DVR before everyone else gets up, then the kids usually start getting up around 7 or 7:30 and then our loud, chaotic day ensues! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Weekday mornings, the kids eat oatmeal or Lucky Charms for breakfast. I like to try to make weekend morning breakfasts a bit more special. Most of the time, they request Mickey waffles.

My mom bought this waffle maker from a 1989 trip to Disney World when I was 5 and it still works like a charm! After my son was born, my mom passed it on to me and we’ve definitely put it to use.

The recipe? Just check the back of the Bisquick box for this one. I do add a touch of vanilla extract though. 
  

These two are growing right before my eyes. So fast I can’t believe it sometimes. Didn’t I just bring them home from the hospital? Seems like it. Babies definitely don’t keep.

  

Our schedules are so busy so anytime I can spend just sitting and enjoying each other’s company is a chance I will jump at. If it takes a few minutes to make the waffles so they can be Mickey shaped, I’ll do it to see the smiles on their cute little faces. 

I don’t believe in the adage “cherish every moment” that everyone likes to tell young parents, because I don’t believe you have to. But these moments? Yes, these I will cherish. 

Dish #14 Chile Relleno (Mexico)

Oh, it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of my global dishes. Guess I should have known I’d get side-tracked! Anyway…

If you’ve ever been to a Mexican restaurant (and living in Southern California, I’ve definitely been to my fair share!), you’ve probably seen chile relleno on the menu. Chile relleno (“stuffed chile”) is a traditional Mexican dish that originates from the city of Puebla in Eastern-Central Mexico.

Fun fact: In the store, you will find Poblano peppers. This is what you want for this recipe. Sometimes they are mislabeled as “Pasillo” peppers. This is not an accurate name (since they are named for the city of Puebla), but the pepper is the same. Also, these are NOT hot or spicy peppers. They have a really mild flavor.

Initially, they were stuffed with meat and cheese, though current versions are mostly cheese. Although, you can find them stuffed with pork, raisins, and nuts as well. The ones I made, were all cheese, but I could see where adding, say carnitas, would be really delicious. Which, incidentally, is how they can be found in Guatemala.

This seemed to be one of those authentic dishes, where I’m sure every Mexican grandma makes her own version, and since I’d never had chile relleno before, I was left guessing on how to make mine. There were hundreds of recipes to go through! I finally came up with this one.  It was good. I think the batter needed more salt/flavor. That part was pretty bland. But mixed with the tomato sauce and the cheese, then it was so delicious! I will definitely make this again.

If anyone has a tried and true recipe, I’d love to try it! Or if you happen to know Marcela Valladolid and she wants to personally teach me her way, I’d be ok with that too!

First, start with a handful of cherry tomatoes and 1/2 a diced onion. Drizzle with olive oil (I highly recommend this garlic olive oil from Trader Joe’s if you can get it. I use it all the time). Sprinkle with salt and put in the oven at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

After the tomatoes are roasted, add them to a blender or food processor. Add a bit more oil and 1/2 tablespoon oregano, and some garlic. Blend well.

For the batter:
With a whisk, mix together 1-1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup corn meal, 1/2 tablespoon baking powder, 4 eggs, and 1 cup milk. Add a hefty pinch of salt and pepper. It should be pretty thick, like pancake batter. Set aside.

Char the outsides of the peppers. Just put them straight over the flame. They will make a crackling sound, but that’s ok. You want the skins to blister and blacken.

After you blacken the skins, put the hot peppers in a plastic zip lock bag for a few minutes. This will create steam which will make it much easier to peel the peppers.

After about 5 minutes in the steamy bag, you can take the peppers out and just rub the skin off with a paper towel.  It’s OK if you leave some of the skin on; the char will add to the flavor.

Next, take a small knife and cut through the top layer only, down the middle.

Remove the seeds and you will have just the empty pepper vessels, waiting to be filled up!

I think you can put a wide variety of cheese in here. I slathered a nice layer of cream cheese (about a spoonful on each pepper and then spread out) and a mexican cheese mix (preshredded. You can find this at the grocery store).  Fill ’em up!

Now, surgery time. Take some toothpick and seal them back up. DON’T FORGET THESE ARE IN THERE WHEN YOU GO TO EAT IT!!! SERIOUSLY! DANGER AHEAD!! WARN YOUR GUESTS!

Dip the stuffed peppers in the batter and then add to hot vegetable oil to fry up. About 5 minutes on each side. I don’t know if they should be this messy or not, but I’ll chalk it up to being my first time!

.

 Serve with the sauce and enjoy! Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect but it was yummy! Maybe I’ll order one at a restaurant so I know what it should taste like and make mine a bit better!

What do you think?

Perfect Chocolate Brownies 

I have been having so much fun making up recipes for this blog! It feel creative and I love the idea of a recipe being my own. I’ve found that creating cooking recipes isn’t as difficult because most dishes are very forgiving as long as you know what flavors go well together and what flavors will or will not overpower the others.
Baking is a totally different story. Baking is very precise. Baking requires an exact amount of each ingredient in order for the whole thing to turn out right. I’ve always followed baking recipes to the letter (of course some additions like nuts to cookies and brownies are fine).
Recently, I’ve been trying to teach myself Ratio Baking which is pretty much just how it sounds. There are basic ratios of fat to flour to liquid for most baking recipes. For example, the ratio for a basic muffin batter is 2 parts flour, 2 parts liquid, 1 part egg, and 1 part fat. Obviously, there are other components to the recipe, but that if you start with this base, you can theoretically create many different kinds of muffins.  By ratio, this means a measurement. At first I thought it was 2 cups flour to 1 egg, but it is actually equal weight. So, 1 cup of flour is 5 ounces, so you are looking for 2-1/2 ounces of egg.
I’m not the best at math, by a long shot. The ratios do require some maneuvering (for example, the approximate size of one large egg is .625 ounces so the math doesn’t always add up exactly), but so far, I’ve discovered that this really does work.
For my first recipe that I created for baking, I decided to make brownies. Who doesn’t love a good, gooey, fudgey brownie? And oh boy, these are gooey!
Fun fact: The brownie was invented in Chicago in 1893 at the Palmer House Hotel. Bertha Palmer, who’s husband owned the hotel, asked the pastry chef to create a dessert for ladies attending the Chicago World’s Fair that year. She wanted something that remained cake-like, but was smaller than a piece of cake, something that could easily be eaten out of a lunch box. The original recipe had an apricot glaze and walnuts, which is still how they are made at the hotel today.
Fun fact, cont’d: The earliest known recipe for the modern-style chocolate brownie was published in a few cookbooks dating back to 1904, including Fannie Farmer‘s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1906 edition). These recipes were for a cake-like brownie. In 1907, Lowney’s Cook Book by Maria Willet Howard adapted Fannie Farmer’s recipe by adding an extra egg and an extra square of chocolate, making the brownie fudgier. At the time, they were referred to as “Bangor Brownies” in homage to the hometown of Maria Willet Howard.
This recipe and type of baking took awhile to figure out, but hopefully it will get easier and I will be able to make up some more. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these. But make sure to have a glass of milk handy. They are pretty chocolatey!
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 jar chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella) *This is my secret ingredient for these brownies. I couldn’t really taste the hazelnut, but it gave the brownies a great texture and flavor that really made them so decadent.
In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well combined. I supposed you could use an electric mixer, but I found the whisk worked just as well for this recipe and that’s one less gadget you have to get out. 🙂


To the butter mix, add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Mix well, but carefully, puffs of cocoa powder will go flying!

Pour the mix into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.

Yummy! Just give me a spoon… I could dig into this right now!

Plop the chocolate hazelnut spread into dollops on top of the batter.

Using a butter knife, swirl the dollops throughout the batter.
  

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  

I cut mine out of the pan too soon, so they were a bit messy, but they were OH SO GOOD!!!

This is my first baking recipe. Let me know how you like it!

Jalapeño Creamed Corn

Today is the first Sunday of football season and to say we are excited in this house is an understatement.  I’m pretty sure some may say we take football too seriously, but to those people I say, step away. We don’t need that kind of negativity in our lives.

Sundays around become a day for family and friends surrounded by football games and fantasy football competition.  It is a lot of fun and of course fun, family, friends, and football NEED food too!

Today we have a tri-tip on the smoker, homemade rolls going in the bread machine, and this lovely creamy, corn dish as a perfect side dish.

When I asked my husband what he wanted for a side dish, he said he liked creamed corn. I took this as the perfect opportunity to get creative and I’m so glad I did. It turned out really yummy! The only thing that could have made it better would be to add cheese. Maybe next time!

Jalapeno Creamed Corn

6 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped small
1/4 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 slices of bacon, chopped and cooked
1-2 jalapenos sliced in rings
1 cup half and half (you could use heavy cream if you wanted to make it extra creamy)
1 stick of butter

Cut the corn off the cob with a knife. Then take the back of your knife and scrape it down the sides of the cob to get all the corn milk out of the cob. It adds a lot of yummy, sweet corn flavor to your dish. I suppose this could be an optional step, but I wouldn’t skip it.

You can just cut the corn directly into the baking dish you are using. After all the corn is cut, I like to break it up and spread it into an even layer.

Saute the red peppers, onions, and garlic in a little bit of olive oil until just soft. Add to the corn.

Slice the jalapenos into rings and use your thumb to push out the seeds and veins. That’s where the real spice is, so you’ll want to get rid of that. You just want a slight jalapeno flavor.

Saute the bacon. Get rid of most of the grease, but keep some of it to add to the corn.

Add everything to the corn and drizzle 1 cup of half and half over the whole thing. Stir to combine everything together.

Top with a stick of butter cut into pieces.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and enjoy!

   
 Football and food are a big deal for us. What do you like to eat while watching games?

Lemon Shrimp Orzo Salad

Some days just call for a easy refreshing lunch and lately here in SoCal, those days are upon us.

It’s usually still a bit warm in September around here, but definitely cooling down in preparation for the Fall. Not this year. The past week has been getting warmer and warmer and hit highs of about 100 or more.

Ugh. Gross.

When it’s that hot, you don’t really want a heavy meal so that’s where this yummy concoction came from.

I pretty much just through everything together and hoped for the best. The verdict? My hubby said “This is fantastic!” So I guess it’s a winner!

Lemon Shrimp Orzo Salad

1 cup orzo, cooked to package directions
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook the corn in a skillet  for a few minutes. If using frozen, make sure it is completely thawed 

Season shrimp with garlic powder and lemon pepper

Cut the tomatoes in half. I used a big handful. Just eyeball how much you want.

Chop fresh basil

Combine the corn, orzo, and tomatoes in a bowl and put in the fridge to cool.

Sauté the shrimp in a little olive oil. Until cooked through, just a few minutes on each side.

Since the shrimp doesn’t take long to cook, do this very last.

Add the shrimp to the bowl and stir. Add the olive oil, zest of the lemon and the juice of the lemon. Add the basil and stir to combine everything.

This salad was so yummy! We ate it at room temperature and the leftovers were delicious cold.

I feel like I could have added lots of other types of veggies to this and it would be so good.

Bucket list: Cooking in Italy 

I’ve mentioned before that my husband and I went to Italy on our honeymoon 7 years ago. I absolutely fell in love with the country and have been counting down the days until we can go back. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m counting down nonetheless!

   
 I’ve already decided for our next trip to Italy, we are going to spend the entire time in the Tuscany region. Rome was great. Venice was beautiful, but Florence was just magical. Taking the train through the Tuscan countryside on the way to Venice was breathtaking. I want… No. I need to spend as much time there as possible.    

    
 The food in Italy is so pure and unpretentious. They use the freshest ingredients and create dishes that let the ingredients shine through and speak for themselves. I want to experience that. I want to do a foodie tour of Tuscany. That has been on my bucket list for awhile now.

  
   
I’ve been watching Giada DiLaurentis’ new cooking show on Food Network where she cooks in Italy. That has inspired my new bucket list item of staying in a place with a kitchen so I can go out and buy all the amazing fresh local ingredients and cook them up into yummy dishes. 

    
 I don’t know when this will happen but it definitely will happen!