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Monday, August 29, 2011

this week's craving: grilling!

Hey folks!  I've got some good recipes coming up for you, and I'm excited to share them!  I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be back to 2 posts a week here soon.  For now, though, it's time for This Week's Cravings, and the theme is grilling!!!

Ironically, we don't own a grill...lol.  That won't stop me from sharing with you one of my favorite Labor Day recipes! Instead of smoking or grilling a pork roast, I like to simmer it for 10 hours in a delicious homemade BBQ marinade.

Good?  Yes, yes it is.  And, I get to enjoy air conditioning while I do it. :)



I used a pork roast that was about 3 pounds (give or take).  Place your roast right into your slow cooker.


Chop up a few stalks of celery and a couple of jalapenos.  Throw these right on top of the roast.


For the marinade, mix together one can of reduced-sodium chicken broth, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup soy sauce (I used a gluten-free version), 4 teaspoons of ground mustard, 4 teaspoons of paprika, and a few dashes of liquid smoke.


Stir the marinade until the sugar has dissolved, and then pour over your roast.  Plop the lid on and plug it in! Cook the roast on high for 1 hour and then on low for 7 hours.


When your meat is done cooking, pull it out of the slow cooker.  It should be so tender that it just pulls apart without any effort on your part. 


Remove any large bits of gristle and fat, and then shred the meat with two forks.


Place the shredded meat into a large saucepan and then pour in the liquid from the slow cooker.  Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Simmer for about an hour and a half uncovered so that the liquid will reduce.


By this time your house should smell fabulous!  And your pork should look something like this...


You can continue simmering longer if you like, but I suggest keeping a little liquid in there...it helps keep it juicy when you reheat it.  This is also great recipe to make and freeze - we like to keep half of the meat for immediate eating and freeze the other half for later.

Top with some onions, jalapenos, and a little bit of BBQ sauce (can't ever have too much!), and eat up! 

I love Plan B.


Sweet and Savory Pulled Pork
1 boneless pork shoulder roast (about 3 pounds)
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 t. ground mustard
4 t. paprika
a few shakes of liquid smoke

Place the pork into a slow cooker.  Top with celery and peppers.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over top.  Cook on high for 1 hour and then low for 7 hours.  Remove meat from slow cooker; remove any pieces of fat and then shred with two forks.  Place shredded meat and all liquid from slow cooker into a large saucepan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours.


Grilling!

Link up your favorite grilling recipes below!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

101 hearty recipes: we have a winner!

 
We have a winner!!!

Congrats to Melissa Elgin!  You've won your own copy of Gooseberry Patch's 101 Hearty Reciphttp://www.gooseberrypatch.com/gooseberry/products.nsf/v.weball/M223es!  Here's what Melissa said - "Definately the Texas Hominy. The 4 layer cookies will be on the list for the next mom and son cooking day I have with my son. Looking forward to either winning or purchasing the cookbook to add to my collection."
 
To everyone else, be sure to reserve your own copy of this fabulous cookbook or look for it in bookstores soon!
 
And, the winning recipe was by far the Cornmeal-Cheddar Biscuits.  It was my personal favorite, so you all made an excellent choice!  Enjoy!


Cornmeal-Cheddar Biscuits
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 t. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup milk

In a bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in cheese and milk just until moistened.  Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden.  Makes one dozen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

this week's craving: special diets!

First things first...have you entered to win Gooseberry Patch's 101 Hearty Recipes?  Giveaway goes until Friday!

This Week's Cravings is devoted to those who have to follow a special diet.  Whether it's gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, egg-free, etc., following a special diet is HARD!  I know...I had to do it for several years.

I think the roughest thing about being on a special diet was losing the freedom to socialize with friends because my needs wouldn't be met at their dinner table.  I couldn't just go out to eat with them because often the restaurant wouldn't have any choices for me.  I ended up either cancelling social engagements or (more awkward) bringing my own food with me wherever I went.

If you have a friend on a special diet, show them some love in the next few weeks by attempting to make a dish that they can enjoy with you!  It's often not as difficult as you might think. :)

A great gluten-free option might be enchiladas made with corn tortillas and homemade sauce.  These spinach mushroom enchiladas are some of my favorites.


Also, if you are going wheat or gluten-free, you can't go wrong with just a plain old meat and potatoes kind of meal.  My husband created these saucy steak strips and twice-baked potatoes for me to enjoy while I was eating wheat-free.  They were delicious!
 
A hearty gluten-free and non-dairy option is this meat 'n' potatoes skillet meal.  It's a favorite at our home when we are looking for something easy, filling, healthy, and delicious.

These are just a few suggestions - the possibilities are endless!  If you are new to dairy-free cooking, I suggest a website called Go Dairy Free.  It can help you figure out how to substitute dairy-free products for dairy products in your favorite recipes.  For those looking to cook gluten-free, resources are even more abundant.  Here's a gluten-free cheat sheet to get you started.
I'm curious - are you following a special diet or do you know someone who is?  What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to cooking for that diet?

Special Diets!

Link up your favorite special-diet recipes below!





getables? Be sure to link up below!

Summer Vegetables!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

perseverance

A few weeks ago, I planted some pumpkin seeds in three containers on my patio.  I watered them faithfully and every day looked at my little pots of dirt hoping to see signs of life.  Finally, little green buds sprouted up in two of the pots.  I love these small green leaves.  There's something so exciting about caring for a tiny leaf, knowing that soon it will be a vine large enough to overtake your patio area. :)

Every day I checked on my pots and watered them.  I watched the plants in the two pots grow healthier every day.  Meanwhile, I watered my pot of dirt, still hopeful.

I've been watering that pot of dirt for over 3 weeks now.

Today, when I walked outside, I was delighted to see the progress of my pumpkins...



...but I was even more excited to see this!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

101 hearty recipes: review and giveaway


Guess what!!!

It's time for another review and giveaway!

101 Hearty Recipes is another Gooseberry cookbook that's soon to be one of our favorites!  It's got 101 of the best Gooseberry recipes to date.  How did they pick them?  They turned to their readers' favorites!  One thing I particularly love is that each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful color photo to tempt your taste buds and help you visualize your menu.  The cookbook is also spiral-bound so that it can lie flat, no fancy cookbook stand required.  These recipes are gorgeous, easy-to-make, and absolutely delicious.  You MUST check it out!

Once again, we picked a recipe from each chapter to try out and share with you.  Here they are, each given its own "reward"!

Richest and Boldest Side Dish
Texas Hominy from the chapter "Casual & Comforting"
 

We've always liked hominy, so we had to try this dish.  Man is it BOLD!  Filled with bacon and cheese, this dish has tons of flavor all on its own.  I think we had to split the amount shown on the plate.  It was definitely a fun new way to eat hominy and an easy way to dress up a plain entree like grilled chicken.  Don't count on it to help you shrink your waistline! :)

Spiciest Kick
Texas Two-Step in a Jar from the chapter "Speedy & Satisfying"
 

This soup recipe is originally intended to be packaged dry as a gift, but we went ahead and made the full thing.  For such a small meal, it's got a lot of spice.  I found the spices a bit overwhelming and would probably cut them in half next time.  Cookie Bandit, however, slurped it right up!  It's a fun soup and would make a great gift-in-a-jar once the weather cools.

Most Restaurant Worthy
Cornmeal-Cheddar Biscuits from the chapter "Baked & Buttery"

We just loved, loved, loved these biscuits.  They remind me of something you would expect to get in a restaurant, and yet they were so easy!  This was one recipe that we couldn't get enough of.  Light and flaky, tons of butter flavor, and ribboned with melted cheese, these biscuits were winners!

Most Structurally Unsound Delight
4-Layer Cookie Bars from the chapter "Fun & Filling"

Lol...Cookie Bandit picked this award.  As an engineer, it bugged him that these 4-layer cookies kept wanting to separate.  However, just like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the lack of structural integrity didn't ruin their coolness factor.  These cookies were delicious!  We took the entire pan to our Bible study and ended up with just these two pieces left.  Overwhelmingly, everyone loved them.  Some even suggested adding cinnamon or cinnamon graham crackers to the cookie for an even more fun flavor combo.

My husband gets to pick which one of the above recipes I share with you.  It didn't take long for him to decide on his overall favorite...of course he picked the dessert!  4-Layer Cookie Bars!!!


Making these no-bake cookies was easy-peasy!  First, we combined the peanut butter, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips in a saucepan and got those melting over low heat.  You need to stir occasionally until everything is smooth and creamy.


In another saucepan, melt margarine and combine with sugar, brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, and milk.


Heat the sugar mixture over medium-high heat until sugars dissolve, stirring constantly.


To assemble, line the bottom of a buttered baking pan with crackers...


Spread the sugar mixture over the top of the crackers...


Place another layer of crackers over the sugar mixture...


And then pour the chocolate mixture over the top!  Set it aside until the cookies are firm before cutting them into bars.


Hope you like them as much as we did!


4-Layer Cookie Bars
16-oz. package rectangular buttery crackers
1/2 cup margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup milk
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Line the bottom of a buttered 13"x9" baking pan with a single layer of crackers; set aside.  Melt margarine in a heavy saucepan; add sugars, graham cracker crumbs and milk.  Heat over medium-high heat until sugars dissolve, stirring often; spread over crackers in pan.  Arrange another single layer of crackers on top; set aside.  Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; heat over low heat until melted, stirring until smooth and creamy.  Spread over crackers; set aside until firm.  Cut into bars to serve.  Makes 2 dozen.

So...how can YOU win a free copy of 101 Hearty Recipes?  Just leave me a comment answering the following question - which of the other recipes featured above would you like me to share?  I'll tally up the answers and share that recipe when I announce the winner!  (Please also make sure I have access to a valid e-mail so that I can contact you if you win.  No contact info, no entry!)  Giveaway ends next Friday at midnight (Pacific time).  Winner announced Saturday, August 20.

PS - Gooseberry Patch gave me a free book to review as well as another to give away, but the views and opinions (and pictures!) presented in this post are entirely my own!   Disclosure...check!

Monday, August 8, 2011

summer vegetable pasta


 One of the things I've always loved about summer is the bountiful fresh produce available at our local farmer's market and produce stands.  There's just something so delicious about fresh fruits and vegetables over canned or frozen - the flavors, the textures, and the colors are rich and wonderful!

That's why This Weeks Craving is summer vegetables.  And my recipe features three of my favorites - carrots, broccoli, and eggplant.  Roasting vegetables brings out their slightly sweet side while giving them an amazing texture, and this pasta dish is the perfect way to highlight their flavors.


Start by "sweating your eggplant."  Cut the eggplant into slices and sprinkle each slice generously with salt.


Wait about 30 minutes to an hour - your eggplant will start "sweating."  See the little water droplets?


This is an essential step to reducing bitterness, so you don't want to skip it!

Rinse off the eggplant and then chop into smaller pieces.  Combine the eggplant with chopped broccoli florets and baby carrots in a large roasting pan.  Toss in a generous amount of olive oil and then season liberally with salt and basil.


Roast your veggies in the oven at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until they reach desired tenderness.  You'll want to toss them every once in a while to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When the vegetables are done, toss them with some freshly cooked pasta.  Serve with a garnish of freshly grated hard cheese (like Parmesan) and enjoy the flavors of summer!


What's your favorite way to serve summer vegetables?  Be sure to link up below!
Summer Vegetables!

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