Corn and Poblano Summer Salad

I was not going to post about this. It was supposed to be an afterthought to the amazing ribs my husband and I were smoking all day. We just needed a quick side dish. No big deal. 

It was a big deal. It turned out so good I just had to make a post about it! This salad will no doubt become my go-to summer side dish. It can be served cold or at room temp. Also, since it isn’t a mayonnaise-based salad, it lends itself really well to BBQ buffets because it can sit out for longer periods of time.

And the best part? It is SO EASY! 

Corn and Poblano Summer Salad 

1 bag frozen corn

2 Poblano peppers 

1 medium avocado 

Handful of cherry tomatoes 

1 lime

3 T olive oil 

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the corn according to package directions, usually in the microwave. You can use fresh corn too if you want, just grill them and cut it off the cob. I just find the frozen much easier and the taste is still great.

After the corn is cooked, add it to a dry skillet over high heat. The goal here is to just char it up a little bit. Set aside to cool. I put it in the fridge to bring the temperature down to warm/room temp. I prepped the rest of the salad in the meantime.

Put the Poblanos over the flame on your stove, turning until charred on all sides.


When done, put the peppers in a plastic bag and seal. Let them steam for about 10-15 minutes. 


Remove from the bag and the skin will just wipe off with a paper towel. Open up the peppers and remove the stem and the seeds. Dice the pepper.

In a bowl, add diced avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, diced pepper, and cooled corn.

In a small bowl, mix your dressing which is just the zest and juice of 1 lime, olive oil, a dash of pepper and 1t salt. Whisk together with a fork and pour over the veggies. Careful toss the veggies to coat. Add a little more salt if necessary.


That’s it! So easy and so much flavor! It was the perfect side!

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Rita’s Tricolor Pasta Salad

Don’t you just love hand-me-down recipes? Whether it’s from a friend or family member, there’s always something so special about a recipe that someone else has shared with you. This pasta salad is one of those. I got it from my mom who got it from her friend Rita, and it is always a big hit at any party or BBQ.

This salad is great for a few reasons: 1. It is super easy to put together. We are talking very minimal effort here, you guys; 2. It is really pretty to look at. Look at those colors!; 3. It is very customizable to your particular likings. Rita’s version called for raw purple onions and black olives. I don’t like either one, so I leave them out; and 4. It is great for outdoor gatherings because it isn’t a mayo-based dressing. Those tend to get a little sketchy in the sun, right?

I also like to pretend it’s healthy because you use veggies and veggie pasta. 😊

This salad is best when you make it the day before because all the flavors get a chance to party together and get all yummy. But it is also so easy that if you decide, say, a couple hours before that you want to make this dish, that isn’t a problem at all.

Rita’s Tricolor Pasta Salad

1 pound package of tricolor rotini

½ pound of sliced dry salami

1 medium tomato

1 medium cucumber

Shredded parmesan cheese (however much you want. I used about a cup.)

1 bottle of Italian dressing

Cook the pasta according to package directions. When finished, drain and put into a big bowl. Set in the fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, dice the tomato, cucumber, and salami. Set aside.

When the pasta is cooled, add in the salami, tomato, cucumber and cheese. Top with the Italian dressing. I always start with about half the bottle and then taste it to see if I want more or not. I usually end up using almost ¾ of the bottle.

Mix everything together. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

It’s May. Memorial Day is coming up and everyone knows what that means: Summer Kickoff!! 

I’ve found that as I’ve grown older, summer doesn’t have that same feeling to it like it did when I was in school. Don’t get me wrong, I still love summer with the pool parties and BBQs and warm weather. But there was something about getting out of school for 3 months that made it extra special. I still have to get up and go to work every day, and stare out the windows at the beautiful weather and the beach. So, yeah, not quite the same. 

When we first bought our house back in 2008, the backyard was, to put it nicely, horrendous. I couldn’t even go back there, it was so bad. I really wanted to be able to entertain and have a place for my eventual kids to play. It wasn’t long before we started to rip out everything. And by “we” I mean my husband. I helped a little with the bricks, but it was a lot of sweat equity on his part. We finally got everything all cleared out and called in a company to level it all out and put in pavers and grass. We added a BBQ and, most recently, a smoker. Some patio furniture rounded it all out and we now have ourselves a really nice space for entertaining. 

There are some more things we want to do with the space (like update the furniture, get something to replace our gazebo because the top keeps getting ripped to shreds whenever it gets really windy, and find space for a garden), but we are pretty happy with what we’ve created and like to entertain during the summer and other warm months (which we get often here). 

My husband tends to man the grill and smoker while I’m in charge of sides. This recipe I’m about to share was born out of necessity. OK, that may be dramatic, but I stand by it. I needed a good baked beans recipe. I love baked beans but I just couldn’t get a recipe just right. I like the Bush’s beans in a can, but I would prefer to make them from scratch. 

After playing around with ingredients for a while, I think I’ve finally got a winner on my hands. My husband even said they were the best baked beans he’s ever had! They are sweet and soft and perfectly compliment any BBQ. And you know what’s even better? You make them in the slow cooker!! And do most of the prep work the day before!! So while the hubby is out over the hot grill, my beans can be cooking away without me even being there! 

Slow-Cooker Baked Beans 

1 pound dry white beans (or navy beans)

6-8 slices of bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, diced finely

3 cups of water (plus more for soaking the beans)

½ cup of ketchup

¼ cup molasses

½ – ¾ cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it. I erred on the side of more.)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons whisky or bourbon *optional

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon salt

½ tablespoon black pepper

Pinch of cloves

1/8 -1/4 cup cornstarch 

Day before prep work:

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Add the beans to a big bowl and cover completely in water. Let them soak overnight. *Don’t skip this step or your beans will not be soft enough*

In a skillet, crisp up your bacon pieces, set aside. Saute your onions, set aside.

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Mix together your sauce: Ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, whisky (if adding), mustard, salt, pepper, cloves. Set aside. 

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The next morning, drain the beans and add them to the slow cooker. Discard the “bean water.” Add the bacon, onion, and sauce. Top with 3 cups of water. 

Set it on low for about 10-12 hours. 

When they are just about done (about 30 minutes or so left), skim out a little bit of the liquid and whisk in some cornstarch to make a slurry. I say between 1/8 and ¼ cup because it all depends on how thick you want the sauce to be and how much water had already evaporated during the cooking process. Just use your best judgement for how you want it to be. 

Add the slurry back into the slow cooker and stir it around. Put the lid back on and let it finish cooking and thickening up. 

These are my new go-to bean recipe for any BBQ. I am so happy with the way they turned out!

   

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!