Pulled Pork – Easy Slow-Cooked method

Pulled Pork – Easy Slow-Cooked method

Pulled pork is perfect when you need a “no-fuss” or “feed a crowd meal.” It’s a versatile dish that you can serve on top of nachos, alongside cornbread, or in a sandwich or slider. I tend to make it more often when the weather turns chilly and it’s football season.

Pulled pork is perfect when you need a “no-fuss” or “feed a crowd meal.”

Pulled pork is perfect when you need a “no-fuss” or “feed a crowd meal.”

Pulled pork is a method of cooking pork slowly at low temperatures, allowing the meat to become tender enough so that it can be literally “pulled” apart, or easily broken up into shredded pieces. Pulled pork is usually made with pork shoulder, but I’ve found it best to be made with pork tenderloins as it yields a lower-fat dish.

Pulled pork is usually made with pork shoulder, but I’ve found it best to be made with pork tenderloins as it yields a lower-fat dish.

Pulled pork is usually made with pork shoulder, but I’ve found it best to be made with pork tenderloins as it yields a lower-fat dish.

Pulled pork’s preparation differs from region to region in the United States. In some areas, the pork is made with a tomato-based barbeque sauce in a slow cooker, as I do. While other regions in the United States use a dry spice rub to flavor the meats and a smoking method to cook it.

Best of all, slow-cooked pulled is an easy dinner to make. In my opinion, the whole point of using a slow cooker is to place all the ingredients into the cooker quickly and then walk away and let the slow cooker do all the work! This recipe follows that exact technique. It’s a great weekend or weekday meal, because it’s very hands-off preparation and looks like you’ve spent hours making dinner. It only requires use of the slow cooker, and if you line it with a plastic liner, you will save lots of cleanup time!

 

Slow-cooked Pulled Pork

2 pork tenderloins

1 large yellow onion, chopped coarsely

1, 18 oz bottle of barbeque sauce (I typically use the honey barbeque flavor, but you can use whichever flavor you prefer)

Salt & pepper to taste

(I double the ingredients for a larger batch of pulled pork.)

 

Line the slow cooker with a plastic liner. Place the coarsely chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Place the coarsely chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Place the coarsely chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Lay the pork tenderloins on top of the onions.

Lay the pork tenderloins on top of the onions.

Lay the pork tenderloins on top of the onions.

Pour the barbeque sauce over the pork and onions.

Pour the barbeque sauce over the pork and onions.

Pour the barbeque sauce over the pork and onions.

Cover and cook in the slow cooker (4-6 hours on high temperature, or 6-8 hours on low temperature).

At the end of the cooking time, take two forks and shred the pork tenderloins. The meat should be so tender that it pulls apart very easily.

The pulled pork is so tender it shreds easily.

The pulled pork is so tender it shreds easily.

If you are pairing the pulled pork with cornbread, make the cornbread while the pork is cooking.

Cornbread pairs perfectly with pulled-pork!

Cornbread pairs perfectly with pulled-pork!

I tend to serve pulled pork with cornbread and freshly made coleslaw. Enjoy!

I tend to serve pulled pork with cornbread and freshly made coleslaw.  Enjoy!

I tend to serve pulled pork with cornbread and freshly made coleslaw. Enjoy!

Yields 6-8 generous servings.

 

Do you like pulled pork?

How have you ever made pulled pork?

Do you prefer your pulled pork cooked with barbeque sauce or with a dry spice rub?

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

Chicken piccata is one of our family’s all-time favorite dinners. In fact, I think it’s my son’s favorite meal. He often requests I make it before he heads back to college — “his last good meal.”

Best of all, chicken piccata is an easy dinner to make. So you don’t need to wait until the weekend to make it! It’s a great weekday meal, because it’s quick to whip up and looks like you’ve spent hours slaving to make this dinner. It only requires one pan, so it’s an easy cleanup too!

Chicken piccata is a dish that originated in Italy and was primarily made with veal. The word piccata refers to a way of preparing the meat, which involves slicing it very thin, coating and sautéing it, and then serving it with a sauce made from the pan drippings.

Chicken piccata is one of my family’s all-time favorite dinners!

Chicken piccata is one of my family’s all-time favorite dinners!

Chicken Piccata

¾ cup all-purpose flour

4 – 6 thin boneless, skinless chicken cutlets

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. capers, drained from their brine

1 ½ c low sodium chicken broth

1 c lemon juice

1 lemon, sliced

4 tbsp. unsalted butter (divided)

Salt & pepper to taste

Rinse the chicken cutlets off in water and dry on paper towels.

Pour the flour into a quart-sized plastic bag. Place two of the cutlets in the plastic bag at a time, shaking with the flour to coat on both sides. Once coated, place on a plate and repeat with the remaining cutlets.

In a large and deep skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil and 2 tbsp. of the butter over medium-high heat until the butter has melted and it’s simmering.

Lay the cutlets down into the hot pan and allow to cook (about 3-4 minutes) until golden brown. Flip the cutlets over and continue to cook (about another 3-4 minutes) until golden brown and the meat is no longer pink. Remove the browned cutlets to a clean plate.

Lower the heat to medium. To the warm skillet, add in the remaining butter, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers. Use a whisk to scrape up any the browned bits for additional flavor into the sauce. Once the sauce has come to a simmer, gently add back into the sauce the cooked chicken cutlets and lay the lemon slices on top of the chicken cutlets. Cover and continue to simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes.

The chicken piccata is simmering in the delicious sauce!!

The chicken piccata is simmering in the delicious sauce!!

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Spoon the sauce generously over the chicken and top with the sliced lemon.

Chicken piccata hot from the stove.

Chicken piccata hot from the stove.

Serve warm. Pair it with angel-hair thin pasta or rice and a vegetable. Enjoy!

I like to pair the chicken piccata with angel-hair thin pasta.

I like to pair the chicken piccata with angel-hair thin pasta.

Yields 4-6 servings, depending on the number of chicken cutlets.

 

Do you like chicken piccata?

How have you ever made chicken piccata?

What’s your favorite chicken recipe?

Grilled honey Dijon salmon

Grilled honey Dijon salmon

I’ve recently become a lover of salmon. I’ve heard for years the health benefits of salmon. Salmon is an excellent source of protein and a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which has received lots of attention. Omega-3 has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and depression – and it’s important for healthy brain functions.

I enjoy salmon grilled with a flavorful marinade. I’ve developed this recipe that is light but packed with amazing flavors, complimenting the fish.

Grilled honey dijon salmon with black-bean quinoa and  zucchini ratatouille

Grilled honey dijon salmon with black-bean quinoa and zucchini ratatouille

Grilled honey Dijon salmon

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp fresh dill (if you don’t have fresh, dried dill weed will work too)

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

2, 6oz salmon filets

Whisk together the honey, mustard, dill, lemon juice and lemon zest in a 9” square baking dish. Place the salmon filets into the honey mustard mixture and allow marinating for 2-3 hours, occasionally flipping the filets and spooning some of the marinade over the filets.

When ready to grill, heat the grill to medium heat. I use the Cuisinart inside griddle and it works very well. Be sure to spray the grill plate with non-stick spray. Place each salmon filet on the grill opposite of the direction of the grill plate so you will get good grill marks. Discard the marinade. Cook the salmon for 6-8 minutes per side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

I pair the grilled salmon with black-bean quinoa and either zucchini ratatouille (my recipe) or an Ina Garten recipe for middle-eastern vegetable salad.

Grilled honey dijon salmon with black-bean quinoa and an Ina Garten recipe for middle-eastern vegetable salad

Grilled honey dijon salmon with black-bean quinoa and an Ina Garten recipe for middle-eastern vegetable salad

 

Do you like salmon?

How have you cooked salmon? Do you have any good recipes to share?

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

It’s amazing the memories your favorite food can arouse with one smell or taste.

When I was a kid, my uncle Mario would pick blueberries in late July/ early August from a few bushes he had in his yard – unless the birds ate them first. Some years there were barely enough berries for one small pie. But when the crop was large, the berries would be shared for both families to enjoy. My mother would make blueberry muffins. I remember the smell coming from the oven.  We ate them hot, with butter melting upon its touch.

A few years back, I asked my mom for her blueberry muffin recipe.  She pulled out an old Crisco cookbook – the kind you sent away for with several product labels. The cookbook’s pages are yellowed and tattered, and the binding is fragile but several recipes continue to be family favorites.

Last week, my daughter and I visited Kuras Berry Farm in West Suffield, CT.  If you haven’t discovered it, I highly recommend adding it on your “summer bucket list.”  They have a farm stand with fresh-picked berries, or you can do what we did — pick your own.

Kuras Berry Farm is located at 1901 Mountain Road, West Suffield, CT

Kuras Berry Farm is located at 1901 Mountain Road, West Suffield, CT

The blueberry bushes were loaded with ripe berries.

The blueberry bushes were loaded with ripe berries!

The blueberry bushes were loaded with ripe berries!

The farm provides pickers with baskets that have a thick rope attached on either side.  You tie the rope around your waist with the basket in front of you.  Off you go into the field to pick your berries!

Here I am in the berry field with half my basket filled.

Here I am in the berry field with half my basket filled.

In 30 minutes, we picked 5.15 lbs. of berries.  They were plump and sweet.  We enjoyed eating them and shared some with family and friends.

In 30 minutes, we picked 5.15 lbs. of berries

In 30 minutes, we picked 5.15 lbs. of berries

Fun facts about Blueberries:

  • Blueberries grow on bushes, making them easy to pick.
  • While small in size, they are full of Antioxidants, Vitamin C and Fiber.
  • Cover and store them in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, washing just before use.
  • To freeze:  Spread berries on a baking sheet and freeze until frozen. Transfer them to an air-tight container or plastic bag.

 

With so many berries, I reached for the blueberry muffin recipe and made it. They were delicious! But no matter how hard I try to recreate them, I can’t get mine to taste exactly as I remember my mom’s.  Why is that?  Maybe my taste buds have changed since I was a kid, or maybe it’s the secret ingredient that mom’s add – love.

 

Blueberry Muffins Recipe (from the 1949 Crisco Cookbook)

2 cups sifted flour

3 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. sugar

1 cup milk

1 egg slightly beaten

3 tbsp. melted Crisco, cooled to room temperature

1 cup blueberries, plus a few more

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine the milk with the egg and Crisco. Stir the liquid and dry ingredients together.  Add the blueberries and fold lightly, until all ingredients are just moistened.  Spray/grease the muffin tins.  Fill each cup two thirds full with batter.  I added a few extra berries to the top of each muffin.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Makes 12 medium-size muffins.

The muffins are hot out of the oven, bursting with the fresh blueberries. Yum!

The muffins are hot out of the oven, bursting with the fresh blueberries. Yum!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my quick trip down memory lane and that you have a chance to stir up some of your sweet memories.

 

Have you ever been blueberry picking?

What’s your favorite blueberry recipe?

What favorite food takes you on a trip down memory lane?

Pesto Sauce

Pesto Sauce

If all the sudden your summer garden or patio planters have been exploding with fresh herbs as mine have, you might be thinking, as I was, what can I do with all this basil?  After all, you only need a few leaves to season the spaghetti sauce or create a tomato, basil caprese salad.

Basil picked fresh from my patio plants

Basil picked fresh from my patio plants

Fun facts about Basil:

  • A culinary herb originally from tropical regions of Asia and mainly used in Italian cuisine.
  • It’s an herb plant that belongs to the mint family.
  • Contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, Vitamin A (for healthy eyes) and Vitamin K (vital for clotting your blood).
  • Picking the “cream of the crop:” Look for bright green leaves with no insect damage or brown spots.
  • Trim the basil stem bottoms and place in a glass of water (like flowers in a vase). They will last about a week.

 

Making pesto sauce is one of the best ways to extend the basil harvest:

When your plant begins to burst with a bounty of basil, a great way to preserve and extend the harvest is by making pesto.

Pesto sauce originated from northern Italy.  It was traditionally made in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.  Lucky for us, we have quicker methods using modern kitchen appliances that allow us to make the sauce in minutes!

Not only is the sauce easy to make and delicious, but it’s extremely versatile.  You can put pesto on pasta, spread it on a sandwich as a condiment, use is as a sauce on pizza, or season meats, chicken or seafood with it!

Here’s my recipe for Pesto Sauce:

Homemade pesto sauce - ready for the pasta!

Homemade pesto sauce – ready for the pasta!

Pesto

4 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)

10 leaves of flat-leafed (Italian) parsley (just the leaves, not the stems)

½ c chopped walnuts or pine nuts (if anyone has nut allergies, you can omit the nuts and the pesto will still taste great)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

½ c grated Parmesan cheese

¼ c grated Romano cheese

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

In a food processor, blender or chopper, pulse together the basil leaves, nuts, garlic and cheeses.  Slowly stream in the oil slowly while it is blending.  Check the consistency and if needed add in another ¼ cup of olive oil.  Stir in the salt and pepper to taste.

You can make homemade pesto in a few minutes with a food processor, blender or chopper

You can make homemade pesto in a few minutes with a food processor, blender or chopper

 

The homemade pesto will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.  A thin layer of olive oil on the top of the sauce will keep it from discoloring.

Making pesto sauce is one of the best ways to extend the basil harvest!

Making pesto sauce is one of the best ways to extend the basil harvest!

 

Do you like pesto sauce?

Have you ever made homemade pesto?    

Cookbook book club – Bobby Flay’s “Boy Meets Grill” cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Bobby Flay’s “Boy Meets Grill” cookbook

We had our second meeting of the “Food for Thought” cookbook book club.  This gathering focused on Bobby Flay’s “Boy Meets Grill” cookbook and show recipes.

While I’ve heard Bobby speak twice – and I think his story is quite inspiring – and seen his television cooking shows many times, I don’t own any of his cookbooks or think I’ve made many, if any of his recipes.  But this is the purpose of the cookbook club – to get all of us to try new recipes and broaden our cooking skills and experiences.

Pat hosted this gathering.  We began our evening with a glass – or two, three – of Bobby’s Peach Sangria that Susan made.

Peach Sangria

Peach Sangria

It looked beautiful and tasted refreshing.  We all thought it would be perfect for any upcoming summer party.  Susan described the process of assembling the drink and quantified it as “easy” to make.

To accompany our cocktail, Terri made Hot Blue Cheese sauce for dipping potato chips.  I read online that this is a favorite appetizer found at Bobby’s “Bar Americain” restaurant.

Hot Blue Cheese sauce for dipping potato chips

Hot Blue Cheese sauce for dipping potato chips

The sauce was amazing.  The blue cheese did not overpower it.  It became very addicting and personally I couldn’t stop eating it.  Terri quantified the recipe as “easy” to make and said it made a good portion – plenty for a party appetizer.

Pat began grilling the main entrée for our dinner:  pork chops marinated in orange, ginger and toasted paprika.

Pork chops marinated in orange, ginger and toasted paprika

Pork chops marinated in orange, ginger and toasted paprika

The pork was juicy and extremely flavorful!  In typical Bobby fashion, the marinade, which is made ahead of time and the chops were soaked in overnight, includes onion, garlic, paprika, orange juice and ginger root that come together in an amazing combination.  Pat quantified the recipe as “easy” to make and commented that she would make it again.  We also thought the marinade would be great on pork tenderloin.

Accompanying the pork were three sides.  I made a Greek orzo and grilled shrimp salad with mustard dill vinaigrette.  Fresh dill is a must for this recipe – dried will not do.

Greek orzo and grilled shrimp salad with mustard dill vinaigrette

Greek orzo and grilled shrimp salad with mustard dill vinaigrette

Because we have a few who are seafood sensitive, I served the shrimp on the side of the orzo salad.

Grilled Shrimp

Grilled Shrimp

To be honest, the salad is so wonderful on its own you could make it with or without the shrimp.  Another tip:  if making it ahead of serving, reserve some of the vinaigrette or make extra to moisten before serving.  This recipe was very easy to make.  It makes plenty and I would definitely make it again!

Sharon made whipped potatoes with cilantro pesto.  The recipe commented that it’s a great side for pork – and it was!

Whipped potatoes with cilantro pesto

Whipped potatoes with cilantro pesto

The whipped potato dish was smooth and creamy with wonderful flavor coming from the cilantro pesto.  Sharon quantified the recipe as easy to make.  She also noted that it was important to fold not mix in the pesto so that you create the marbled ribbon effect with the pesto.

To cap off our main meal, our final side was a tomato-avocado salad with lime toasted cumin cilantro vinaigrette that Terri made.

Tomato-avocado salad with lime toasted cumin cilantro vinaigrette

Tomato-avocado salad with lime toasted cumin cilantro vinaigrette

The salad was very fresh tasting with wonderful flavor from the dressing.  It’s a perfect salad for summer, especially when local tomatoes are in season.  She said the recipe was very easy to make and also commented that it would be on her table this summer.

With all that wonderful food it’s amazing any of us had room for dessert, but we did!  I had peaked at Val’s dessert beforehand, so I was sure to leave room – and I’m glad I did!

Val made a gingerbread and lemon curd trifle with blackberry sauce that was not only moist and delicious, but also beautiful!

 

Gingerbread and lemon curd trifle with blackberry sauce

Gingerbread and lemon curd trifle with blackberry sauce

The trifle dessert was very tasty.  The combination of rich gingerbread with the lemon curd, whipped cream and blackberry sauce was awesome.  Everyone commented that this would be a wonderful dessert for the winter holidays.  Val quantified the dessert of intermediate difficulty.

For our “take-home treat,” I made Bobby’s blondies.

Blondies

Blondies

They were featured in an episode of his “Throw-down” challenge television show.  His recipe competed against Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweets from Columbus, OH.  While his recipe didn’t win on the television show competition, I thought it was a winner – easy to make, delicious tasting and would make them again.  I packaged them up for everyone to share with their families – or not and eat them themselves.

"Throw-down" Blondies - our take-home treat!

“Throw-down” Blondies – our take-home treat!

In total, eight dishes were made from Bobby Flay’s recipe collection.  Every dish was delicious and an amazing collection of flavors.  It was a beautiful meal and another fun gathering.

Eight dishes were made from Bobby Flay’s recipe collection

Eight dishes were made from Bobby Flay’s recipe collection

Our next meeting is scheduled for mid June.  Susan is hosting.  We’ve selected Ree Drummond – The Pioneer Woman for our next celebrity chef focus.  We all look forward to the delicious dishes everyone creates!

 

Have you made any of these recipes? – or will you in the future?

What’s your favorite Bobby Flay recipe?

Pasta with sausage, tomato and cream sauce

Pasta with sausage, tomato and cream sauce

When I was a kid, I always knew what was for dinner by the day of the week.  Mondays were always soup and a chicken dish.  Tuesdays and Thursdays were a meat, potato and vegetable meal.  Fridays were always fish – even if it wasn’t lent.  And, Wednesdays were always pasta with homemade marinara sauce, meatballs and sausage.

I’m not sure how the correlation between Wednesdays and spaghetti began.  Maybe it was from the 1969 Prince spaghetti slogan, “Wednesday is Prince spaghetti Day.”  Generations of Americans still recall the company’s memorable slogan and little Anthony running through the streets of Boston’s north end to be home for his momma’s spaghetti dinner. Take a trip down memory lane by watching that commercial at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlNAYCcxgUw

While I do make my own homemade traditional marinara sauce, I’ve also come to love several variations of the time-honored sauce recipe.

Here’s my recipe for pasta with a sausage, tomato and light cream sauce.  It’s a hearty sauce with a delicate flavor from the turkey sausage and light cream.  Try it for a variation from your traditional spaghetti sauce.

Pasta with sausage, tomato and cream sauce

Pasta with sausage, tomato and cream sauce

Pasta with sausage, tomato and cream sauce

Ingredients:

1 lb. sweet turkey sausage, casing removed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 c. chopped yellow onion

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1, 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

1, 8oz cans of tomato sauce

2/3 c. light cream (measure it out and set it aside so it’s not too cold.  Otherwise it may curdle when adding into the warm sauce)

¼ c chopped Italian parsley

¼ c chopped fresh basil

1 lb. pasta

Directions:

In a large sized skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and sauté until the onion is tender.  Add the garlic and continue sautéing for 3 minutes.  Be careful not to let the garlic burn.  Add the sausage and cook until it is no longer pink, breaking it up into small pieces with a potato masher hand kitchen utensil.  Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley and cream.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.  Just before adding the sauce to the hot pasta, add in the fresh basil.

Mmm!  The sauce is simmering.

Mmm! The sauce is simmering.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to the package instructions. While I’ve used farfalle pasta for this recipe, I recently found this Colavita brand of fettuccini pasta at Walmart’s grocery store.  I think it tastes like homemade pasta.

Colavita brand fettuccini pasta nests

Colavita brand fettuccini pasta nests

Drain the pasta.  Add the sausage sauce to the hot pasta and toss until the sauce coats the pasta.

Makes 4-6 servings, depending on portion size.  I pair it with a simple garden salad and garlic bread.

 

What’s your favorite kind of pasta sauce?

Do you make homemade spaghetti sauce?