Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Grilling hamburgers in winter!

It's roughly 60 degrees out tonight, which is ridiculous as it's Jan. 30. However, who am I to argue?

DH wanted to grill out, and that sounded like a great idea to me, so he brought home ground beef, and I made hamburgers. I do the prep, and he does the grilling. I also made homemade french fries.

We started adding seasoning to our hamburgers early on in our time together, but it wasn't until we had these burgers my dad bought, that we got serious about our additions. Bacon, cheese, onion, garlic -- everything was up for grabs. This recipe is a mild one, but it tasted great on hamburger buns toasted in a skillet.

Burgers

2 lbs. ground chuck
2 T. Italian seasoning
1 T. Greek seasoning
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Mix all this together and make about 6 to 7 patties. Grill over charcoal. We are a charcoal grill family. Although, if the state of the grill is any indication, that could change depending on home store sales. Tune in.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Barbecue Chicken drumsticks

We're a wing couple. We could probably recommend a local restaurant based on wings alone. My husband is a wing connoisseur, of sorts, (he says not, but I'm the author here) and technically prefers the drumsticks to the actual wing part of the chicken. Thus, we make drumsticks here.

Every so often we do an appetizer night, and this time, we made almost all new recipes. We had little smokies with cheese, wrapped in croissant dough, spinach dip with French bread, and pineapple wrapped in bacon, brushed with maple syrup, baked to perfection.

And carrots or salad or something. Not really, but if you're searching for the healthy aspect, imagine away. :)

Anyway, checked a number of recipes online, and ended up with a mixture of what we had on hand. Here you go!

(I should mention I write this while sitting next to DH, Jules the dog on one side, Charlie the cat on the other. It's cozy!)

Chicken Drumsticks

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup ketchup
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. molasses
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. Dijon mustard
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 T. Old World seasoning from The Spice House, or seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 lbs. chicken drumsticks
2 T. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large gallon ziploc bag into a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix all ingredients except oil and chicken in the ziploc-lined bowl, and whisk to blend. Add in chicken, and marinate 15-20 minutes. Line a jelly roll pan with foil, and coat with olive oil. Place chicken on pan, and drizzle with remaining marinade. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tilapia tacos

So simple, yet tasty. I splurged for the tilapia at the meat counter, and I'm glad I did! I also have hubby to thank, as he picked up the tortillas for dinner.

Have I mentioned this green chile seasoning powder yet? It made the dish. As well as the black beans I simmered and mashed as a side.

Tilapia

1 T. olive oil
1 lb. tilapia filets
1 lime
1 T. cumin
1 T. green chile seasoning
6 medium flour tortillas
Toppings as needed

Heat nonstick skillet to medium low, and toss in olive oil. Douse filets in lime juice, and sprinkle seasoning on both sides. Place in pan, but don't crowd. Heat for three to four minutes on each side. Serve with flour tortillas, broccoli slaw mix, chopped avocado, salsa, sour cream and shredded cheese. Yum!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Quick eats: Potato and chicken casserole, or Thanksgiving on a plate

A lot of times when I get home from working out, it's 7 p.m. or later. So, I have about a half hour until I'm starving. Or less. Usually what that means is a pound of cooked meat, a cup or two of vegetables, a can of cream soup, maybe a cup of whole wheat pasta, and a topping -- potatoes, pie crust or bread crumbs with grated cheese, in a baking dish.

Say what you want about cream soup, but it's a useful ingredient, and a Midwest staple. I buy mine at Aldi, and splurge for the reduced fat kind. Yes it has hydrolyzed whatever, and probably some other unhealthy stuff in it, and if I figure out how to make a quick homemade version of this without it taking an hour, I will let you know. Until then, long live cream soup!!

(It's paragraphs like these that let you know this is not a professional cooking blog, am I right? Who says "long live cream soup" ?? Probably not even Paula Deen...)

Back to the point, it's a fairly quick casserole, and we usually have a salad or steamed vegetable with it. It's not exciting, but it is filling and fairly healthy.

Last night it turned out to be what hubby described as Thanksgiving on a plate. I used some frozen cooked chicken, and also some Irish cheddar I had in the fridge. As for steaming, I use a Pampered Chef micro cooker, and it only takes about 2 minutes to steam the carrots with that. So, here is the recipe, such as it is.

1 lb. cooked, cubed chicken
1 cup sliced carrots, slightly steamed
1 can mushrooms, drained
1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup
1/2 t. Bicentennial or poultry seasoning
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-in. pie plate. Mix first six ingredients, and place in pie plate. Top with mashed potatoes and cheddar. Bake for 25 minutes.

Serve immediately with steamed vegetables or a salad. Follow that up with the brownie bites that you conveniently keep forgetting to take to work. Tell yourself you worked out, so it's okay to eat two... or four... :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Words... I got 'em



Thank you to everyone who participated in my personal branding exercise! :)
Courtesy of wordle.net.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mashed potatoes

It seems like a travesty, to give up my potatoes. We think they are pretty good, but who knows. Anyway, having passed on the short ribs, it seems like a shame not to put down the recipe they went with. But it's kind of hard. My hands are hesitating to type this.

Arrrghhhh.

See, this was kind of my first recipe I made up myself. Is it original? Hell no. But I didn't actually read the recipe before making it and at the time, that was huge.

It's not now, I guess, and that's where it shouldn't be hard to write this down. But it is. So, enjoy and forget the gravy!

Mashed potatoes

3 lbs. potatoes, russet, peeled and diced into 1 inch pieces
1/2 stick butter
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup buttermilk ranch dressing
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Pretty straightforward -- cut up potatoes, place in a stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil about 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain, add butter and garlic, and mash. Add ranch and milk and stir. Add in Parmesan, salt and pepper. Give it a final stir. Serve immediately. Save about a cup for yourself, so when you want leftovers, you don't have to fight for them. Or get upset when they disappear from your fridge... :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Meal: Braised bone-in short ribs

You know how there are recipes you make, and then there are the Recipes in Magazines. The kind you read about, but don't cook on your own? Recipes that include words like "ganache" and "saffron" or "duck fat". You know the kind. My personal list includes the words like "galette" or "lemongrass" or "bone-in short ribs".

Until recently.

I've been salivating over bone-in short rib recipes for some time. Maybe two years or so, give or take a month. I saw the recipe first in Bon Appetit, which I subscribed for after some misguided publishing company gave me a "professional rate" of $10 per year. Professional rate must be code for "gets too many damn cooking magazines."

In any case, I looked for bone-in short ribs at the local grocery. None to be had. That was an easy give-up on my part. The recipe called for something like four hours of my precious time I could spend polishing my nails or reading the latest Twilight. No skin off my nose.

Until a month ago, when in the queue at the local meat case, I saw them. Bone-in short ribs. Had to even ask the guy if that's what they were for sure. "Yep. We get 'em in seasonally." Well, I thought to myself, you're screwed now.

I took the Christmas/NY vacay (read: flu-ridden trip) to think it over, and ended up presenting the idea to my step father in law. I described the dream: Bone-in short ribs, braised, slow-roasted, over mashed potatoes. He practically fainted with hunger. I took it as a sign.

So, a week ago, I took the plunge. I asked my meat guy for the usual -- two pounds of ground chuck, some pork chops -- and threw in the bomb: 2 pounds of bone-in short ribs. I got an eyebrow raise and a brown paper-wrapped package. I think I might have earned some kind of cred.

I brought it home, and sort of eyed it. Being the chicken I am, I put them in the freezer.

Come Friday, I saw a weekend looming. A free weekend, with plenty of time to braise, etc. I put them in the fridge to thaw.

Saturday dawned. Ribs are thawed. I went to get groceries, tossing some shallots and a cheap bottle of shiraz just in case.

Then, about 4 p.m., I was bored with TV. I even turned it off in the middle of BBC's Pride and Prejudice. It was time.
The ingredients
I ended up using an amalgamation of recipes -- are you surprised? But mostly it was from The Pioneer Woman. Can that chick make a bad meal? Clearly not. It turned out great. I'd make two changes, which I included in the recipe below. 1. More liquid. There wasn't hardly anything left at the end. 2. More concentrated broth. It needed just a touch of salt. 3. Garlic. What was I thinking??

You'll notice I threw out the onion and pancetta. For one thing, the shallots made me cry, so an onion was out of the question. Two, I'm not paying a million bucks for pancetta when there is a jar of bacon grease in my fridge.

So here you go. The Meal. Braised bone-in short ribs.

1 T. bacon grease
1 T. butter
2 lbs. bone-in short ribs. This translated into four for us.
3 T. flour
1 t. salt
1/2 t. cracked black pepper
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 carrots, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. rosemary
1 t. thyme
Coarse salt
Cracked black pepper
2 c. red wine
1.5 cups water
2 beef boullion cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the grease and butter in a dutch oven on medium high. Whisk up the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.  Pat the ribs dry with paper towel. Dredge them in the flour, tapping off excess. Place in the dutch oven. Brown on each side not quite a minute or so. Set aside on a plate.

Melt butter and olive oil in dutch oven. Throw in shallots, carrots and garlic. Saute for a few minutes. Then pour in the wine and stir, scraping browned bits off the bottom. Let this boil for a few minutes. While that's cooking, grind up your rosemary and thyme. Microwave your water, and blend in your boullion cubes.

Ribs should be submerged in liquid prior to putting in the oven.

Once your wine is done, add the broth, a bit of salt and pepper and your ribs, pouring in the extra juices that have collected on the plate. Then sprinkle over the rosemary and thyme. Put the whole thing in the oven for two hours. 2 hours! Then turn it down to 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

Take it out and let rest for a bit. Serve over mashed potatoes, with juices.*


There's some bit about taking out the fat from the juices on every recipe I read. I didn't have enough juice to worry about it, and chances are, once you taste this, you won't care either!
The finished product

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday night casserole: Sour Cream Noodle Bake. And TV.

Okay, so I made Sour Cream Noodle Bake tonight. Just follow the directions exactly, minus the green onions. Pair that with a salad.

And then I watched The Layover: London. Which made me want to drink.

And that's why it's good we're making beer. Soon, anyway.

Sometimes cooking is about not making it complicated. 

Stuffed pork chops

The meat counter is such an interesting place. You never can tell what will be on sale and it really can determine what your menu might look like for the week ahead.

This time around it was ground chuck, and pork chops. I found I could either get a bone-in Iowa chop for $4, or two boneless for the same price. Guess what I chose.

So, as the guy is wrapping up my stuff, I notice they sell stuffed pork chops. And I'm thinking to myself, I bet I could do that. I got home, and looked up a few recipes, and ended up making my own, although this recipe on Tasty Kitchen was a great help. I used stuffing mix, and didn't have corn, so I tweaked the whole thing.

This point really can not be made enough: Just because you don't have all the ingredients, doesn't mean you can't make a tasty meal. If you go back to the store, you're sure to break your grocery budget!

Here you go -- next time you see stuffed pork chops in your meat case, remember you can make them yourself!

Stuffed pork chops

2 Iowa boneless pork chops, about 1 1/4 inches thick
3 T. butter
1 cup stuffing mix
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 onion, diced
2 T. milk
paprika
seasoning salt
1 beef boullion cube
1 cup water
1 T. cornstarch
2 T. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 T. butter in a skillet. Saute celery and onion in butter. Mix sauteed onion and celery, stuffing mix, milk and paprika in a small bowl. Pat pork chops dry, and cut a pocket into each. Stuff pork chops with stuffing mixture. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter in skillet. Put stuffed pork chops in skillet, and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Brown on each side.

Heat water and add boullion cube. Transfer pork chops to 9 in. square pan. Add broth. Place in 350-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. In the meantime, mix cornstarch and water in small jelly jar.

When pork chops are done baking, transfer to a plate. Put juices into small saucepan and add cornstarch mixture. Turn heat to low and stir until thickened. Serve pork chops with sauce.

I made extra stuffing, because we really like stuffing around here, and also steamed some broccoli to go with this dish, which was pronounced "really good" by the hubby here. So, I'd recommend it!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Brownie bites by accident

I made this recipe off of Orangette for salted chocolate cookies, and then ended up changing the recipe for the ingredients I actually had on hand, and what I ended up making were brownie bites, rather than cookies. Which is just how things go in my kitchen, the eternal science lab. Sigh. But, they are actually pretty good!

Brownie bites

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 T. cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp.
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat about a cup of water in a small saucepan to simmering and put a metal bowl on top of that. Put your chocolate chips in the bowl, and let that melt, stirring occasionally. Once melted, set aside to cool.


In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Set aside.


In a large bowl, whip butter until creamy. Add sugar, and mix until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Add salt and vanilla.

Add cooled, melted chocolate and mix well. Add buttermilk. Add in flour mixture.


Grease a mini muffin pan. Drop batter by teaspoons into the muffin wells. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.



This makes about 2 1/2 dozen brownie bites. These are not super sweet, so if you want to frost them, that would work well, I think.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Roasted vegetables

It didn't occur to me to create this as a recipe until I saw my sister referencing one such item from a cooking magazine. I do this so often that I don't use a recipe anymore, I guess. Weird!

So, here's what I like to do. You will need roughly 6-7 cups diced root vegetables. This can come in the form of:

1 sweet potato
2 potatoes
1/2 butternut squash (peeled)

6 large russet potatoes

1 sweet potato
4 potatoes

3 potatoes
5 large carrots

You get the idea - run with it! Mix it up!

Anyway, cut all that up, and then...

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a jelly roll pan with 2 T. of olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Pour vegetables on the pan, and mix them up to coat with olive oil, adding another tablespoon of olive oil, and another teaspoon salt as needed.

You can also add 1 t. rosemary, crushed, if you like. Rosemary goes very well with roasted vegetables, but a little goes a long way. Also, crushing it not only brings out the flavor, but also prevents the dreaded sliver of rosemary in the teeth move. :)

Okay, now that your veggies are chopped, oiled, salted and peppered, toss them into your 400-degree oven for 45 minutes. You may be saying, "I don't have 45 minutes!" and really, who does? Crank it up to 425 and you can shave about 5-10 minutes off the cooking time. Keep an eye on it -- you are looking for crispy veggies. You can also stir the vegetables half-way through for more even browning.

This is a great dish for company, by the way. Very simple, but always a hit. Serve this with a steak, and that's a date!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Words... I need 'em

If you received an email from me, feel free to post your words here anonymously! :) I moderate comments, so it won't show up unless I want it to. Speak freely!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Queso: Breakfast of Champions

Technically, this should be Queso con Carne. And yep, had it for breakfast. Tracy J. brought it in to work to celebrate her three-year anniversary, and graciously offered it up for us.

It uses Velveeta, an underrated ingredient, and Fiesta Nacho cheese soup, which I'm pretty sure was created for recipes only. In true Hawkeye fashion, she paired it with yellow and black paper plates and napkins, and frankly, it just makes it more fun. (Am I at work? Maybe. But... this yellow-and-black theme suggests I might be at a tailgate party? Where's the beer??)

I should mention this filled a massive crockpot, not my 3-lb. roast crockpot. So, if you have a smaller crockpot, like me, you may want to halve the recipe, or make and store half in the fridge until your vultures consume the lot.

So, if you need some queso to kick off your day, or if you're looking for a vat of appetizer goodness for your next social gathering, whip it up and chip it up.

1.5 blocks of Velveeta
2 cans Fiesta Nacho Cheese Soup
2 cans Ro-Tel
1.5 lbs. ground beef
1-2 packets taco seasoning

Brown ground beef and drain. Add seasoning. Place meat mixture in crockpot and add Ro-Tel, soup and velveeta. Heat on low for an hour to melt. Switch to warm setting, and serve with a huge bag of tortilla chips. Decor optional.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Potato soup with sausage and kale

Of the many bits of wisdom my family has given me, I probably use this one the most. My sister passed on this tip some years back:

"Buy the Knorr yellow packet of Leek recipe mix. Follow the directions on the back for the classic potato leek soup."

This ranks right up there with Nonnie's advice: "Don't leave home without mascara."

The soup tip was good advice, but I still tweaked it. I have a tweaking addiction. The first step is admitting the problem. The second step is blogging about it.

I made this tonight because it doesn't take long -- maybe a half hour. Here's the adapted recipe. It doesn't do much in this oddball 46-degree January weather, but when that mercury drops, it should be your next move to getting warm.

Potato (leek) soup with sausage and kale

1 yellow Knorr packet of Leek recipe mix
4 cups water
4 chicken boullion cubes
1/2 cup chardonnay
2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup heavy cream, low-fat buttermilk or evaporated milk
3 large leaves kale
1/2 lb. ground sausage, browned and drained

Get yourself a large Dutch oven, and add peeled, cubed potatoes. Top with the Knorr packet, the water, the wine and the boullion cubes. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down to low, to simmer for 20 minutes.

Brown and drain the sausage. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to soak up the grease. Add  1 T. of olive oil to the pan, and turn to low. Wash and finely chop the kale. Add to the pan, and stir, wilting the kale and seasoning it with the remainder of the sausage bits.

Once the potatoes are tender, remove the soup from heat. Break out your stick blender/immersion blender* and blend the potato soup. Then add the cream, kale and sausage, and stir.

Top with shredded cheddar and serve. Feel warm and cozy. :)

*If you don't have one of these, you need to get one, stat. Fairly cheap when you consider what all it can do. Soup is just one immersion blender specialty. If you are using a regular blender, please remember to blend in batches and be careful of hot soup splatters!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Risotto - butternut squash

So we're in the car on lunch break, escaping from work, and we're talking about risotto, and she asks for the recipe. I said, no problem, I'll blog it and send you the link. Because having this blog thing rocks@ And here it is.

This recipe is a version of one I got from Darla when she had a food blog, then called Messy Cucina. I tweaked it, and added the squash. It's been received well, and one time I drove through the snow to supper club with a skillet of it, and then had to walk with the skillet uphill three blocks in the snow because my car decided not to drive that far. In short, it's a recipe that's been places. Enjoy.

1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed in a 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup chardonnay, or dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet to medium. Prep ingredients, especially the squash, as you'll have to add each in quick succession. Melt butter in olive oil in the skillet. Add garlic and onion and saute a few minutes. Add rice and coat well. Add butternut squash and additional olive oil, if needed, to coat. Add wine and reduce. Add broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring regularly, allowing the broth to be absorbed each time. This part is pretty important, and unfortunately, it takes awhile. If you need to leave the skillet unsupervised for any reason, pour some broth in there, and keep it short. Stirring releases the starch in the grains of arborio rice, and gives the dish it's creamy factor. Once all the broth has been mixed in, take the pan off the heat, and stir in the cheese.

I usually serve this with chicken and salad. Yum!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Book club cookin': Stage 3 - Knock You Up brownies

These are actually the "Knock You Naked" brownies from ThePioneerWoman.com, but seeing as how we had one baby at book club (so cute!), and one in the oven (I'm sure it'll be cute too), Knock You Up seemed more appropriate. Besides, we don't get naked at book club. We're just not that kind of club. We can read you under the table, though.

Anyway, back to the brownies. Here's where to find the recipe. I should mention that this calls for walnuts, but as we have allergies in this here club, I substituted 1 cup of rolled oats instead. Worked just fine.

I can't emphasize the importance of chilling the brownies in the fridge overnight. This MADE the dessert. I know you want to eat it right out of the oven, but hold up, okay? Also, she's right on about the powdered sugar. Seems like just a pita when you're staring down the pan, but it's worth the extra two minutes to dig it out of the pantry.

So, there you go. A full dinner for your book club and a bag of chips. And you didn't even have to read the book! Just like me! LOL.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book club cookin': Stage 2 - cornbread and slaw

Book club always presents this dilemma for me -- clean the house and cook or read the book? So I blew off the book this time -- as did several others -- and decided to rid the living room of the post-Christmas clutter. I also made a few faves from the dilapidated pile of paper I call a recipe collection.

First up is cornbread. I used to make a different kind that was just as moist but less sweet. I think I've officially replaced that kind with my new favorite. I think this is a combination of a few recipes I found on allrecipes.com, but the biggest change I made was buttermilk -- Must. Have. Buttermilk!

Cornbread

1 1/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Generously butter a 9 in. square pan. In large bowl, melt butter and cool. In separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. Mix in buttermilk and egg with melted butter. Whisk dry ingredients into buttermilk mixture. Pour into greased pan. Bake for 20 min. Serve warm, with butter.

The other thing I made was slaw. You might call it coleslaw, but not me. Not after my experience with 'slaw.

I was probably 13, and my sister and I were in charge of making coleslaw for my confirmation party. So, we go to the store, and instead of buying cabbage, we find these bags of coleslaw mix. Awesome, we thought. We'll just get those. Only, it turns out that we can't do math at night. At least not that night. Somehow we figured that there were 3 cups in each bag, when in reality, it was more like 6 cups or even 8 cups per bag.

We drag our pile of coleslaw mix home, and start mixing it up. And that's when the cabbage shreds started to multiply. How can there be THIS MUCH? We could not figure it out. We made coleslaw for hours. For some reason, it never occurred to us to just put it in the back of the fridge, lie about what we did, or feed it to the cattle... in hindsight, all good options. So, the next day, we had every kind of coleslaw you can imagine -- vinaigrette, creamy, etc. It was Slaw Fest. We were eating 'slaw for days. And ever since then, it's been slaw.

As you can imagine, I was anti-slaw for some time. Last summer, I found a recipe for homemade dressing, and simultaneously discovered broccoli slaw mix. Eureka! Slaw Returns in Broccoli Slaw: A Homemade Miracle.

Broccoli Slaw

12 oz. package of Broccoli slaw mix, found in your local HyVee or grocery store, by the salad mix.

The dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk
6 T. mayo
3 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. sugar or Splenda
Fresh cracked black pepper

Whisk together and add slaw mix. Heaven!

Ideally, you'll make the pork from yesterday, put it on the cornbread from today, and top it with this 'slaw. I should admit that this combo is a take-off of Blue Cat Brew Pub's dixieland special. What can I say?

Dessert to follow!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book club cookin': Stage 1 - Puerco pibil

Remember in the movie, "Once Upon a Time in Mexico", when Johnny Depp's character shoots the cook because the pork dish he makes is too good? Yeah, that's this recipe. Now, if you put "puerco pibil" in the Internet, you'll come up with a few different versions. I use a crockpot version of this recipe from The Spice House.

Quick note about The Spice House: Never been? Go! Such a neat place -- they have locations in Chicago, Evanston and Geneva, Ill., and two locations in Milwaukee, Wis., one on 3rd Street and one in the public market. Great prices, great gifts. Don't leave without the Old World Seasoning. Put it on every piece of meat you can find, except the hottie at Starbucks. I digress -- back to the pork.

Okay, so I took the Spice House version and tweaked it for the crockpot, because I'm just not going to go look for banana leaves in Iowa and stand by the stove for 3 hours. Also, because my sister made this before I ever heard of it, made it in the crockpot and told me it worked. I should mention that when I make this, I use 2-3 lbs. of pork, use half the seasoning and all the liquids. It's juicy, but I like it that way. The original recipe calls for 5 lbs. of pork, so you could do that, too. Your call!

The spices


5 T. annatto seeds (should be able to find these in your local Mexican market. Get two packets.)
1 T. black peppercorns
2 t. cumin seeds
1/2 t. whole cloves
8 whole allspice

Put this in a spice or coffee grinder. Blend and set aside. I use half of this for the pork, and save the rest.

The juices


1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. kosher salt
juice of 4 limes
1 shot of tequila
2 hot peppers, diced

Mix this all together and set aside.

The meat

2-3 lbs. of pork butt. I get the kind tied in a net. Makes it easier to shred later.

Spray your crockpot with cooking spray. Put in pork. Top with spices. Pour juices over. Cook for 8-9 hours on low. Shred meat with fork. Actually, it will just fall apart with goodness. So awesome.

I served this over cornbread, with broccoli slaw and salad, and super-awesome brownies for dessert. Recipes for those to follow!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

We just arrived home from Indiana, where my mother-in-law made us breakfast every day, and sometimes lunch and dinner! It is so awesome. She's such a great cook. We also did a little antiquing, and I finally found my elusive pie bird! She sent us home with little smokies in sauce, nacho dip and fudge. We also got really stupendous presents this year -- books, a photo album, a handmade Colts blanket, a circular saw (yes!) and -- wait for it -- The Sauce Master. This nifty gadget processes fruit and tomatoes for canning like magic, apparently. My sister-in-law has one and loves it. Now, I just have to wait for canning season to begin. I also got this neat milk bottle measuring cup set from my sister-in-law, which is fulfilling my wish for some kind of Nigella Lawson-like measuring cup system... so cool. Bling-y Silpada earrings, a Celtic trivet, more books and a Lowe's card rounded out the Christmas, as did spending time with my family, watching my nieces and nephews open their presents, and getting ready for Santa to arrive. It's been odd not cooking for awhile, so I'm jumping back in this week. Hope you had a great Christmas and a happy new year!