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My Very Best Pulled Pork

  

When it comes to pulled pork, I’m a full blown snob! I love it so much, that my bucket list includes a trip through the small towns of the south, sampling pulled pork and ribs from the well kept secret spots and smoky hole-in-the-wall kinds of joints, where the craft of bar-b-que is practiced from ancient family recipes.

Now, while I’d love to slow cook my own pork over a sampling of hardwoods, and allow the natural flavors to develop over hours of heat, the reality is that I’m a mom of three busy kids, who works full time. Carpools, laundry, bickering daughters, and work would not wait for me to monitor a roasting hunk of meat and the demands of an open flame in my small, suburban back yard.

So, I do what any other sensible cook would do, I pull out my slow cooker. I know it is not comparable to an open flame, but, oh well!

Here is my recipe. It is an awesome blend of a Carolina style vinegar pulled pork, and its bar-b-que based counterpart. I think of it as the best of both worlds. Smoky and savory, tangy and sweet all collide in this recipe that will leave you craving more!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large (8-10 lb.) pork shoulder/picnic or Boston Butt roast
  • 1 head of garlic peeled
  • 1 med. Yellow onion
  • 1 of each—Red pepper, yellow pepper, & orange pepper
  • ½ to 1 cup of ketchup
  • 4 cups of apple cider vinegar
  • 3-4 tbsp. of  brown sugar
  • Bar-b-Que seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Sprinkle roast with seasoning.
  2. Chop peppers and onions into large chunks
  3. Place roast, peppers, onions, and garlic into a slow cooker.
  4. Pour in vinegar
  5. Cook 8-10 hours on medium to high until the meat is tender and falls apart easily.
  6. Remove meat and set aside to cool.
  7. Strain juice from the slow cooker into a medium sauce pan on the stove.
  8. Boil liquid until reduced to half
  9. Add ½ cup of ketchup and 3 tbsp of brown sugar and continue to boil until you have a thin sauce. You may need to add small amounts of brown sugar or ketchup to adjust taste.
  10. Use two forks or your stand mixer to shred meat and add it to the sauce.

Serve on a roll of your choice, or open faced on a slab of Texas Toast garlic bread!

Tips:

  • The longer the meat sits in the sauce, the better it tastes
  • This can be frozen in smaller amounts and used as needed.
  • Make it at least one day in advance to allow the meat to soak up the sauce.
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Crazy Good Cranberry Sauce

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IT IS NOT TOO LATE!! I promise you, there is enough time to make homemade cranberry sauce, and you really need to do it this year!

The other day, I was curled up on the couch with my cup of coffee watching Good Morning America, and I saw a segment about nutritional traps at the holidays. They showed a plate of jellied cranberry sauce, you know, the kind from the can with the ridges on it. I have to admit that I love this stuff. Not only do I eat it plain, but also in a warm dish mixed with baked apples…mmmm.

Well, to my horror, the expert then whipped out a tray of chocolate eclairs and proclaimed that my beloved canned cranberry sauce had as much sugar as the WHOLE TRAY OF ECLAIRS! Holy cow!! It was then and there that I decided I would make my own.

Once I finished my coffee, I headed right to the store to get some ingredients. This was my next mission, to make the best damn cranberry sauce, ever.

Well, the trip to the store was successful. In fact, my creative juices were so abundant, that I made three different varieties to ensure that I could make a sauce that was a worthy replacement of the traditional can. (In case you did not read my last post, my family is a bit possessive of their “traditions”, even if they come in the form of a gelatinous cylinder with decorative ridges in the center.)

Luckily, my efforts were not in vain. I had two good recipes and a third that was a bit of a puzzle. So, I did what any sane human being would do, I took all three varieties to work and made my colleagues taste test them in between parent teacher conferences. One was immediately ruled out for being just plain gross. This was actually a Pinterest find, not a creation of my own. The pictures were so pretty; I was sure the recipe would be just as great. No such luck. It could only be described as “earthy”. UCK! It tasted like I mixed it in a tree stump out back. Not a winner. But the other two were so AWESOME, I am including them below.

Now that the truth is out, and you know what I know about canned cranberry sauce, I am empowering you with the necessary plan to make your own, please. It is so freakin’ easy. If you can boil water, you can make this recipe. I promise!

You are welcome, happy Thanksgiving, eat well, & enjoy your family 🙂

Grand Orange Cherry Cranberry Sauce

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Ingredients:

1 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries

3/4 cup of dried cherries

1/4 cup of water

1 cup of orange juice

2 Tbsp. of light brown sugar (you can add a little more if you like your sauce sweet)

2 Tbsp. of orange zest (1 orange worth)

1 Tbsp. of Grand Marnier Liqueur

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Preparation:

Mix all ingredients except for the Grand Marnier in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the cranberries split open and the liquid starts to thicken (about 10-15 minutes) Stir it often. Remove from the heat, and mix in the Grand Marnier, stirring well and smashing any whole cranberries with the back of your spoon. Transfer to a dish and cool before serving.

Simply Scrumptious Cranberry Sauce

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Ingredients:

1 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries

1 cup of cranberry juice

1/2 cup of palm sugar (use a little less if you prefer it to be more tart)

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Preparation:

Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the cranberries split open and the liquid starts to thicken (about 10-15 minutes) Stir it often. Remove from the heat, stir it well, smashing any whole cranberries with the back of your spoon. Transfer to a dish and cool before serving.

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Apple Cider Doughnut Bread Pudding With a Salted Caramel Sauce: Dethroning My Old Favorite Breakfast Monarch

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I did not discover bread pudding until about nine or ten years ago, most likely because the younger me would have heard the name and thought it sounded disgusting (I am a closet picky eater). One morning I was watching Good Morning America, and a woman had won a recipe contest sponsored by the show, I knew at that instant that I had to make it, and since then, it has become a fixture on holiday mornings in my house. It was our favorite!

Until today.

Last week, I chaperoned my daughter’s kindergarten field trip to our local orchard, Highland Orchards. They have the BEST apple cider doughnuts EVER! As I sat on the hayride with my friend Tara, the idea struck me. Why not make bread pudding with the doughnuts? I had all intentions of getting to it that weekend, but time slipped away and I never made it back to grab some doughnuts.

Let’s fast forward to this weekend. My sister just happened to mention that they were taking their kids to the orchard on Saturday. I asked her if she could please pick up a dozen doughnuts for me. Who knew this would be the text that would change my family traditions!

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Late last night, as I headed to bed, I assembled the ingredients, covered them in foil, and put them in the fridge, hoping to God that I didn’t just ruin a dozen fabulous rings of cinnamon awesomeness. It was the first thing I thought about this morning when I woke up. I popped downstairs and got it into the oven. It was bubbly, and golden, and the house smelled amazing. But then I had a momentary panic attack.

What should I top it with?

I looked up recipes for a vanilla sauce, but the ingredients gave me heart failure just imagining the calorie count. Then I thought of a salted caramel sauce. As I scoured the internet, my hopes started to sink. I was out of heavy cream, and I didn’t have any condensed milk, but then, as if a gift from above, I stumbled upon a recipe by Ree Drummond on Food Network. I was in business. I grabbed a pot from the cabinet and in about eight minutes, I had the best caramel sauce to top my absolutely beautiful casserole.

The result was out of this world. My husband, who can be my biggest critic, was enamored. He asked me what I planned to call it. I told him I wasn’t sure, to which he replied “Ridiculousness”. According to him, it’s the perfect name because it’s so ridiculously good!

So there you have it. My old favorite bread pudding has been dethroned as the reigning monarch of breakfast casseroles. This new outsider has come in, with overnight success, and has pushed out the queen of my recipe box.

 

Apple Cider Doughnut Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

1 dozen of apple cider doughnuts

3 eggs

1 cup of heavy cream

1 cup of half & half

¼ cup of cinnamon sugar (prepared)

 

Preparation:

The night before (or at least an hour before you bake):

Grease a medium sized casserole dish.
Break up doughnuts into large pieces and place in the dish.
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Whisk together the eggs, cream, and half & half.

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Pour over the doughnuts, the pat them down with a large spoon making sure each piece gets dunked.

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Cover with foil and leave in the refrigerator to soak.

The next morning (or hour depending how on the ball you are):

Remove the foil and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top of the bread pudding.
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Set oven to 350˚, and place the dish into the cold oven.
Bake for about 35 minutes covered, then remove the foil and bake for about 10 minutes longer. (You may need to adjust these times based on the depth of the dish)
At this point the top should be browned and bubbly at the edges. The cinnamon sugar should have created a crispy crust on top.

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Remove from the oven and set aside for about 10 minutes.

The Sauce:

Recipe Courtesy of the Food Network

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/easy-caramel-sauce-recipe/index.html

Ingredients:
1 cup of light brown sugar
1/2 cup half & half
4 tablespoons of salted butter
A pinch of course salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preparation:

Combine the brown sugar, half & half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium heat.
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Stir while cooking for about 5 to 7 minutes, allowing it to thicken.

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Add the vanilla and cook another minute stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and spoon it over each serving of bread pudding, allowing it to drizzle down the sides.

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Be prepared. This will dethrone your family favorites too!

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My Crazy is Showing, but I’ll Tuck it in Later

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My husband says that I have a tomato problem.

  I don’t.

He uses words like “addiction”, “compulsion”, “obsession”.

I respond with words like “whatever”, “nu-uh”, “ugh” (yes, they are words in my vocabulary)

My kids say things like “Stop saucing, Mommy!” “Can’t we just go to the pool, like other kids?” “Why are you making mooorrrreee???”

My responses… “I just have a few more to do.” “You love Mommy’s sauce.” “Can I just have one hobby?”

Why can’t my loved ones embrace my annual hobby of stalking my favorite secret farm stand until the Romas are ready, then packing my car full of red, juicy little friends, and crafting some of the finest homemade sauce (or “gravy” as my Italian friend, Lisa, corrects)? No one else we know has a basement stockpile of tomatoey awesomeness!! My family is lucky, damn it!

I’m a pretty simple girl. I do not like shopping. The mall is not my happy place, and the outlets, which are right down the road from my farm stand oasis, make my heart palpitate with anxiety! I prefer to cook, and grow, and relax. In an ideal world, I’d live on a small farm, next to the beach, and I’d have enough money to stay home with my kids and cook fabulous meals. It’s not a lot to ask.

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But now, the season of saucing is upon us. The Romas are ready; this is shopping that brings me joy! I woke up this morning, recruited my sister, Rori, who is crazy enough to join my adventures, and off we went. The sun was out, the breeze was warm, the top was down, and the doors were off. It was heavenly.

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Our morning was awesome. Kid & husband free, we popped into several farm stands snatching up peppers, pickling cucumbers, cheese, blackberries, and the coveted Roma tomatoes. I have a super secret special spot that grows them to perfection. Here we bought SIX BUSHELS. As I transferred them from the baskets to cardboard boxes, a calm washed over me. This is my happy place, this is my happy place, THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE!!   After we loaded them into the car, I stood to ponder our stash. No buyer’s remorse. I had buyer’s delight!

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After a happy drive home, I pulled into the driveway and fought the urge to yell, in the spirit of Maurice Sendak, “LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN!”

It is time to sauce.

So, as I pull the first tomatoes from the box, and my family watches and waits for my crazy to show, I do consider the stages of addiction…

  • Admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion:
    • I totally admit that I cannot control my compulsion to make & can homemade pasta sauce
  • Recognizing a higher power that can give strength;
    • I totally thank God often that I live in such a beautiful place on Earth, with fertile soil, and Amish neighbors who grow the BEST ROMA TOMATOES EVER!!!!
  • Examining past errors with the help of a sponsor;
    • I will totally own my errors. Two years ago I didn’t make enough and we ran out in January. Last year, I made a little too much, and I still have 8 jars left.
  • Making amends for these errors;
    • I bought less this year.
  • Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
    • I will live with less canned sauce, and embrace my passion for making sun pickles too 🙂
  • Helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions;
    • I assisted my sister in securing a few cases for herself, and I am willing to help you all as well.

There you have it. I may be a little obsessed, addicted, or compulsive, but Hell, it’s a lot of fun, and so, so good!

If you need to know how I make my sauce/gravy, check out my Positively Perfect Pasta Sauce!

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Rockin’ Rose Romano’s [SPONSORED]

1-IMG_2229Recently, the kind people at Rose Romano’s Italian Peppers sent me a few jars of their tasty sauce. Wow, am I a lucky girl. I was amazed by the beautiful presentation of the box I received, and I was intrigued by the recipes suggested in the insert. What I learned is that Rose Romano’s is actually more like a condiment, rather than a pasta sauce. As a coveted family recipe, owner, Dr. Marshall Angotti, created this gluten-free, low calorie, goodness as the perfect complement to your simple homemade dishes. Rose Romano’s Italian Peppers comes in two flavors, red pepper and green pepper, and the recipe possibilities are endless.

My biggest challenge was to figure out how I was going to use the red pepper sauce that I received, because the cookbook and menu created by Dr. Angotti is substantial! I decided on making a simple bow tie pasta tossed with garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, and salt & pepper. Once the pasta was seasoned, I spooned it onto a plate, topped it with the red pepper sauce, and served it with a side of crusty garlic bread. What a great, easy weeknight meal, even my girls loved it! We all went to bed with well nourished, happy bellies.

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The next challenge came with how to serve the green pepper sauce. I immediately thought of my nephew’s upcoming graduation party. I knew that my sister was making 100 pounds of Freakin’ Fabulous Roasted Pork for sandwiches, and a sandwich bar was the perfect stage for Rose Romano’s green pepper sauce. Along with traditional bar-b-que sauce, we offered a bowl of warm Rose Romano’s. The green pepper sauce was a sweet compliment to the savory garlic roasted pork.

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After my initial successes, I am excited to try some of the recipes suggested by Dr. Angotti. His recipes suggest topping almost anything with this unique food accessory, from hamburgers, to grilled chicken, to eggs. The ideas are creative as well as simple and healthy.

If you are looking for a new way to dress up a boring dish, or need a quick and easy gift idea, consider Rose Romano’s Peppers. You can order online or locate them at a store near you by visiting http://www.roseromanos.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Roma Heaven

Let the saucing begin!!!

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30 lbs. down…90lbs. to go.

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Positively Perfect Pasta Sauce

Positively Perfect Pasta Sauce

Italian I’m not
But the garden, I love
Here is a recipe that stands all above
So roll up your sleeves
And get a big pot
For a perfect red sauce
That is savory and HOT!!!

Ingredients:
• 15-20 Red Roma Tomatoes (enough to cover the bottom of a large roasting pan)
• Large pot of boiling water
• Large pot of ice water
• 3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
• 1 head of garlic, peeled
1 medium onion chopped
• 10-15 fresh basil leaves chopped
• 2-3 pinches of fresh oregano chopped
2 bay leaves (remove before serving)
• 1-2 Tbsp. of sugar
• Salt & pepper to taste
Preparation:
1. Wash tomatoes, remove the core, and slice a shallow “X” on the bottom of each tomato.
2. Drop tomatoes into boiling water until the skin splits. (about 2 min)
3. Remove with tongs and drop in ice bath.
4. Pull tomatoes out of the ice bath and slip the skin off. Discard skin and place tomato into the roasting pan.
5. Once the tomatoes are skinned, add olive oil, onion, and garlic to the pan and mix.
6. Place in the oven at 425 degrees and roast for about 30 minutes. Tomatoes will start to break down and get browned on the bottom. Garlic should also be soft and browned.
7. Add basil, bay leaves, oregano, salt, pepper, and sugar. Roast for 10-15 more minutes.
8. Remove from the oven and puree with a hand blender.
9. Serve over pasta or with fresh garlic bread.
Alternatives:
• This recipe can be made with whole cherry or grape tomatoes (skip the blanching process–just wash and skip to step 5)
• You can also add cheese, such a parmesan or Romano, or meat to individualize the flavor.

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