Thursday, October 19, 2017

How Can This Easy Be This Good?


It has been a while since I tried a new recipe. (Did you think I had stopped cooking? Daddy-O was beginning to wonder.) I bought a Boston butt roast—also known as pork shoulder blade roast—a couple of days ago thinking this would be an easy dinner. But for reasons I can't explain, I didn't want to do the usual method that involves bottled barbecue sauce. It's really good that way. I mean like "really good." I still wanted to use the slow cooker, but this time I didn't want it sweet and coated with sauce. There's a lot of Whole 30 talk going on in our family at the moment. I guess I'm more sugar conscious right now.

Nearly every recipe I saw online was a variation of the pulled pork BBQ that I usually make, with onions on the bottom and a bottle of sauce poured over the cooked meat after it's shredded. I've done that a zillion times. Surely there was another way. So I kept looking. Persistence pays off. I came across an even easier recipe.


Two ingredients, in addition to the pork roast. No measuring. No extra liquid. That's it. Not one other thing needed. 


For the record, I also put a chuck roast in the larger crockpot yesterday. It's the 3-Packet Pot Roast that we all like. I'm headed to the big city this weekend to do wedding things with Jessica. So I'm making sure that Daddy-O won't starve while I'm gone.


Last night when I came in from handbell practice about 7:00 PM, I was in a hurry to get supper on the table and I totally forgot to make a photo of the cooked pork. Trust me. It was beautiful. It was falling apart tender. It was moist inside. And it was just as tasty as can be. Most of it was bagged, along with a little cooking liquid, to go into the freezer. (We tasted the pork, but ate the beef roast for supper.) 

I poured the cooking liquid into a measuring cup designed to separate the fat from the broth—the fat rises to the top and the spout pours from the bottom. Remember, liquid added to the bag helps keep the meat moist when frozen,

Delicious. Simple. Oh, happy day! What else could I ask for? 

SLOW COOKED PORK ROAST

Boston butt pork roast 
Worcestershire sauce
McCormick Grill Mates Barbecue dry rub (or dry rub of your choice)

Pat the roast dry. Pour a little Worcestershire sauce all over the roast. Pat the dry rub into the meat, coating all sides. Place in slow cooker. (No liquid needed.) Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours, until roast is fork tender.

That's it. I used a small bone-in roast, about 2-1/2 lbs.  That fit nicely into my 3-1/2 qt. slow cooker. The grocery store also had a nice selection of larger roasts that were about 5 lbs. Those would go in a 5 or 6 qt. cooker. 


Late this afternoon I'll get together in town with my knitter friends for a couple of hours to find out what's happened since last week. To hear about what books they've read. To see if anyone has finished a knitting project. To spend time with ladies who have become dear friends. And I'll be one happy knitter when I walk in the door just before supper time because there is beef roast and pork roast, both ready to be heated. No big cooking required tonight. We love leftovers around here. How 'bout you?


PS...These directions are for a Boston butt, which is not as lean as a pork loin or tenderloin. If you use a lean cut of pork like the tenderloin, you might need a little liquid and a shorter cooking time.





Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Let's Celebrate!


This past weekend was just lovely. Jessica and her soon-to-be mother-in-law came to the farm on Friday so that on Saturday we could all attend a luncheon given to honor Jessica.


I have such good friends. Friends who know how to entertain in style. Most of the ladies attending had known Jessica since she was a child. It was fun for them to spend time with the "grownup Jessica." It was just the happiest afternoon.


As the guests arrived, they were welcomed with a cranberry spritzer and the most delicious cheese wafers with cranberries and pecans. (I'll track down the recipe and share later.) 


There were beautifully set tables were in several rooms of this most welcoming home. It was so special. I totally understand why people often entertain in restaurants now. All celebrations are worthy. But it was nice to be invited into someone's home.


Except for these few photos that were quickly and discreetly made, cameras and phones were put away. And people visited. And lingered. Conversation. Laughter. Hugs. Smiles. It was the kind of afternoon that you tuck away in your memory to be enjoyed again and again.

Yes, people. Southern hospitality is real. It was good for the new mother-in-law to see where Jessica grew up and to meet the people who knew her then. She's Southern, too. In the South, we want to know "where you're from."

So. What did we eat? That would be what I'd want to know if I were a blog reader. First course was a green salad with sugared pecans and cranberries with a ginger dressing. Next came a shrimp-wild rice dish, spiced pears, broccoli and homemade rolls. Yes, homemade. And the dessert? Oh. My. Goodness. It was the best chocolate pie ever. The ladies who put this all together are famous in our town for their cooking and their hospitality. I am so happy they are my friends. 






Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dinner In An Instant—Instant Pot, That Is



I have been "missing in action" in the kitchen lately. We have tried the couple of new restaurants in town. We've eaten sandwiches because it was easy. Two nights ago it was pizza from town. By yesterday I felt a little guilty. I didn't want to drive to the grocery store, so I wanted a supper that I could make from what was here. I had a pack of chicken breasts thawing (without a plan for cooking) in the refrigerator. It was 4:00 PM when the wave of guilt hit me, so I searched the web for Instant Pot chicken recipes. I usually keep frozen broccoli on hand, which isn't as good as fresh, but it's better than no vegetable. Brown rice—the cook-in-the-bag-kind—is another good pantry staple. That was enough to make a dinner.

Before I was ready to cook, I put the chicken under cool running water for a few minutes. After that, it was about half thawed. I have read that one advantage of using an Instant Pot is that you can use frozen chicken. So I didn't bother to thaw it any more. Yep. It worked fine.

If I understand it correctly, you do not have to add more cooking time to a recipe when cooking from frozen. It will just take longer for the pot to come up to pressure. That's where the extra cooking takes place. BUT should you decide your chicken or meat needs to be cooked longer after it's "done," then put the lid back on and cook it more This whole Instant Pot thing is not an exact science. Use your common sense cooking skills. I think if you had large pieces of frozen chicken or your three pieces were frozen together in a lump, then you might need extra minutes added to the pressure time. It's a judgement call and that gets better with practice. I'm still learning.

Just so you know...it took longer to write this blog post than it did to get supper on the table. The meal was really quick. Here is the recipe for chicken teriyaki that I found on my search. I made some minor adjustments. Here's what I did:

GINGER TERIYAKI CHICKEN

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise (package was 1.36 lbs)  
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice vinegar (mine was seasoned rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic (I used the kind from a jar)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

In a cup, whisk together honey, vinegar, ginger, garlic, black pepper and olive oil. Add chicken to Instant Pot. Put onion on top of chicken. Pour the honey/vinegar mix over chicken.

Place lid on pot and seal valve. Set to Manual for 5 minutes. Use a Quick Release. (Chicken should have reached temp of 165º.) Using two forks, shred chicken in the pot. Mix cornstarch and water and pour into chicken mixture. Cook on Sauté setting until sauce has thickened a little.


Delicious! I served it over brown rice with broccoli on the side. I only had one issue. It wasn't with the recipe. It was with my chicken. It was a tough old bird! It was truly done after 5 minutes of cooking, but it was not easy to shred. I put the lid back on and set it to cook 1 minute under pressure. And it still wasn't as tender as usual. I really think it was the chicken. Nothing to do with how I cooked it.

This was the easiest and the fastest of the Instant Pot recipes I've made. I mixed the sauce ingredients up before I was ready to cook. That took less than 5 minutes. And then when it was close to dinner time, I chopped the onion and split the chicken. Put it all in the pot and set it for 5 minutes. Actual time, from coming to pressure and doing a quick release, was less than 20 minutes, I think. I forgot to time it. During that hands-off cooking time, I made the rice and the broccoli and stuck all the dirty utensils in the dishwasher.

I'm still not going to say the Instant Pot has "changed my life." (Yes, I read that all the time from other IP users.) And I don't feel the need to cook in it every day. Nor do I want to cook every kind of food in it. But this recipe that makes me happy I have an Instant Pot.







Sunday, October 8, 2017

Is It Enough Or Too Much?

Pattern:  Rune, by Helen Stewart (Curious Handmade)
Yarn: Lollipop Yarn Sweetpea Sock MCN, in Dirty Pewter & Wild Hare
Needle: size 6

I'll never catch up. Just as I was coming to the end of this knitting project, Helen Stewart released another shawl design I'd love to make. There are so many—too many—wonderful designs that I want to make. I need to figure out a way to sort them out and decide what I can realistically make. Life does require other activities besides knitting. But somehow in my mind, if I own the yarn and print out the pattern, I think the shawl or scarf will magically appear in my wardrobe. Nope. Doesn't work that way.


And yarn! There is so much gorgeous yarn. I know I've bought too much. (Much of the excess was bought several years ago when I first discovered the "good yarn." Newbie excitement.) There was a plan in my mind (most of the time) for how to use it when I made a purchase. But then, as it waits its turn in line, I forget why I bought the yarn. I forget what I wanted to knit. I forget why I liked the pattern I chose. So the yarn accumulates.

I'm making an effort to do better. This shawl is made with yarn I bought at the Carolina Fiber Frolic last November. And here I've used the yarn before that retreat happens again in several weeks. Good for me! That's how it should work. Use up the yarn before you go back to the place you bought it. I don't always follow my own advice. But I'm trying.

Detail on center of the Rune Shawl

"Knit down the stash." "Stash diving." These are the phrases that knitters use to talk about this issue. Some knitters even talk about SABLE. That's "Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy." Assuming I live to be as old as my grandmother, and assuming I keep knitting at my current rate, I don't have that much yarn. That's a lot of assuming.


So as I wrestle with curbing my yarn/pattern wishes, these boxes arrived in my mail yesterday. Before you judge me, let me say I won this yarn in a give away! It's a gift from KnitCrate, a monthly yarn subscription. I won a box for me and a box for Jessica. The yarn just comes to me now. Maybe I'm fighting a lost cause in working down my stash. Maybe I'm supposed to have extra yarn around the house. I can think of worse problems. 😊






Thursday, October 5, 2017

Keeping It Easy

Lemon Grilled Chicken

This week has been a "recovery" week for me. Recovery from a very busy September. Recovery from driving by myself on two long trips last week. Recovery from sinus problems. Recovery from watching too much news, It's times like these that I don't particularly want to cook. But our eating out options are limited.

We do have one very good barbecue restaurant in the closest town. We popped in there for lunch last Saturday after I got home from my trip. In addition to eating there, I brought home some of their smoky chicken salad and their Brunswick stew for us to enjoy later. That's one way for us to "eat out" without driving back into town.

But I've searched through the recipes here (check out the Recipe Index at the top of this post) for easy recipes I may have forgotten about. This lemon marinated chicken is super quick and always a hit.

The chicken does not need to be marinated all day. The original recipe said not to leave it in the lemon marinade for longer than an hour or the chicken will get mushy, but this time things happened and it was an hour and a half before it hit the grill. It was fine. Now that gives me even more flexibility. I put the extra grilled cutlets in the freezer* for later. They are great sliced on a salad. Or, chopped up and added to soup. The lemon flavor is not overwhelming. It just makes flavorful chicken.

LEMON GRILLED CHICKEN

1 cup lemon juice (I used bottled juice for ease)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
6-8 boneless skinless chicken cutlets 

Whisk marinade ingredients together. Put chicken in a gallon ziplock bag. Pour marinade over chicken and let it marinate for 1 to 1-1/2 hour  in the refrigerator. (Not longer.) Remove chicken from marinade. Grill until chicken is done. Outdoor grill or grill pan—they both work.


The last time I posted this recipe, I wrote about using chicken breasts—which is fine—and pounding them to make them thinner. Using the cutlets just eliminates that step. That's my choice when I can find them. Right now I'm all about making things easier.


*Meats frozen "dry," without a sauce or gravy or broth, will not keep as long as those protected by lots of liquid in the bag with the meat. Note to self: Use this sooner rather than later.







Monday, October 2, 2017

What Do We Say? What Do We Do?

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

We used to turn on the television news first thing when we got up. But lately we have not done that every day. Because I had not watched in several days, I decided I should see what was going on this morning. I flipped on the TV while I was making coffee. You can imagine my horror and sorrow at what I saw before 7:00 AM. Breaking news coverage of the shooting in Las Vegas.

It was hard to stop watching the tragedy unfold. Then I realized I needed to turn it off and go find something else to do. Do laundry. Clean. Pull weeds. Do something. Do anything. But not stay glued to the news.

This afternoon I read these words from a pastor friend. She offers a positive, helpful way to deal with a horrific situation. I thank her for these words that are both positive and practical:
Some thoughts for today: 
  • Watch only enough media to be informed.
  • Pray for the living and the dead, first responders, medical teams, and caregivers.
  • Reach out in a way that brings peace to someone you come in contact with today.
  • Ask (and answer) the question, "How can I help build bridges of hope?"
  • Find a moment of beauty and thank God for that gift.
 









Monday, September 25, 2017

White Wine Cake

White Wine Cake

"What's in a name? ...a rose by any other name will smell as sweet." Even Shakespeare thought about the importance of names. I am not a fan of "crack" recipes—crack pie, crack chicken, crack cookies, crack burritos, Christmas crack, etc. Really I'm not a fan of the recipe names. And, yes, I'm probably the only one with this hangup. Call me old fashioned. Yes. I am a bit of a prude. I'll even claim the stick-in-the-mud label. Using the "crack" label is supposed to mean the food is so good that it's addictive. But it bothers me when a recipe is named–even as a joke–after an illegal drug that has caused families much heartbreak. Thankfully, recipes can be easily renamed.

Having said that, and getting down off my soap box now, here is a recipe that I saw on Facebook a few weeks ago called "The Best Crack Cake." (That means there are other crack cakes out there?) I was intrigued with the recipe. I had all the ingredients on hand, so I baked the cake, thinking I'd call it something else. And then the very next day, totally by accident, I stumbled across a nearly identical recipe called White Wine Cake. It's a more accurate, for sure, so I'm going with that name.

I love homemade cake best, but there are days when a cake mix is in order. A day when I want quick and easy. This was one of those days. We were staying inside hiding from the storm that one of the hurricanes brought. And we needed a rainy afternoon treat. Daddy-O made the mid-afternoon coffee to go with a warm slice of cake, wonderfully moist and flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar. You can taste only the faintest hint of wine, but it makes for an incredibly moist cake.



Now, it's confession time. I really did read the recipe carefully. Really I did. And I knew the sauce poured over the top called for one cup of sugar. But by the time I got to that part of the process, I just grabbed the same little measuring cup I had used for the sugar added to the cake batter.

So my sauce was made with a teensy one-fourth cup of sugar. And it was perfectly yummy. I might use the full cup next time I make this (and I will make it again) but know that you can surely use less. Good to know if you find you are running out of sugar after the cake is in the oven. Or, maybe you can talk yourself into thinking it's a healthier cake if you cut back on the sugar. It is entirely possible that after I make it with more sugar, I'll decide I like it with much less. I've written this recipe with the lesser sugar amount. You can add more if you want it sweeter.

WHITE WINE CAKE

1 box yellow cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 small box instant vanilla pudding mix
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 eggs
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup white wine (I used pinot grigio)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Pour into a well-greased Bundt pan. (I used a baking spray.)

Bake for 55-60 minutes, until golden brown and top springs back when lightly pressed. Take cake out of oven and immediately pour sauce over the hot cake. Let cool in pan until just warm. Turn out onto serving plate.

Butter Sauce for Cake
    1 stick butter
    1/4 cup sugar (or, up to 1 cup–to taste) 
    1/4 cup white wine

Melt butter and stir in sugar and wine. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour over hot cake. It will soak in as the cake cools.

~~~~~~~~~~~

I used a little bottle of pinot grigio, the kind that come in a carton of four. These are good to have on hand for recipes. 

The cake is perfectly moist and delicious just as it is. If you want to dress it up for serving, a little powdered sugar sifted over the top would be all you need. 



I'm taking the rest of the week off to have a little beach time with the granddaughters while they are on fall break. I froze half of this white wine cake when I made it. Before I leave today, I'll set it out to thaw so that Daddy-O will have a treat while I'l away for a few days. See you back here soon.