Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crockpot Chile Verde

There's something comforting about coming home on a Sunday afternoon to the aroma of something hearty stewing in the slow cooker. The rich aroma  reminds me of going to my grandma's house as a little girl for  Sunday afternoon supper. I would love to go back in time and spend it with my grandma in the kitchen. We went for supper nearly every Sunday, and it's a tradition I miss dearly. I've never tasted another pot roast the way grandma made it. She always pulled out the best dishes and served us a big spread like it was a special occasion, even when it wasn't.
     Occasionally I take something out of the freezer and put it in the slow cooker on Sunday morning because even though we can't always eat together, its nice for my husband to have some leftovers to take to work on Sunday nights. Last weekend I made Slow Cooker Chili Verde. It's definitely not the traditional pot roast I was raised with, but this recipe has a nice balance of flavor and can be served with rice and beans. Leftovers can be transformed into dishes like tostadas, enchiladas, burritos, or tacos.
I'm sure that someday soon my boys will grow up and start eating real meat (instead of chicken nuggets and hot dogs), and appreciate the comforting smell of a Sunday Supper. I suppose that for now I will just keep practicing and wait for that day to arrive.

Slow Cooker Chile Verde
3 lbs of pork shoulder or lean pork roast cut into large cubes.
3 T. olive oil
1/2 c. onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
5 - 7 oz cans of salsa verde  (be sure to check that it's gluten free)
1 4 oz. can diced jalapeno pepper (or for milder taste use diced green chiles)
1 can of diced tomatoes

In a skillet heat olive oil and add onion, garlic, and cubed pork. Cook until pork is browned on the outside. Transfer mixture to a slow cooker and top with salsa verde, jalapeno peppers, diced tomatoes, and oregano.

Cover and cook on high for 3 hours and then turn to low heat setting and cook an additional 4-5 hours. Enjoy!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Bliss

Lately I've been thinking a lot about cupcakes. Maybe that's because Garrison's second birthday is just around the corner and I want to make something special. This week I experimented with chocolate and peanut butter. You can't go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter, especially when you swirl them on top of a pretty little peanut butter cupcake. The recipe comes from one of my favorite recipe blogs, "Our Best Bites." I added my own twist and decided made them miniature, which is how I prefer my cupcakes. The reason: when they're tiny they don't seem so terrible for you, and because I was taking them to a church dinner and I knew they would stretch a bit further this way.  I had to forgo putting a Reese's Miniatures  in the center since these were so small, but I quartered regular size Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and they made a perfect decoration for the top!

Peanut Butter Cup CupcakesRecipe adapted from Our Best Bites
1 white or yellow cake mix.
1 c. sour cream (full-fat or light, but not fat-free)
3 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/8 c. water
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
24 unwrapped mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (omit if making miniature cupcakes)

Chocolate Frosting:
1/4 cup  butter softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 pound powdered sugar
3 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons of evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine all the cupcake ingredients and beat with mixer on medium-low speed for 30 seconds and make sure to scrape the bowl. Adjust the speed to high and beat for another 3 minutes.
Fill each muffin cup about 1/2 full with batter. Top with an unwrapped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (omit this step if you're making miniatures), then fill the muffin cups with the remaining batter. Make sure the Peanut Butter Cups are covered and the cups are about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes (for regular size) or 12-14 minutes for miniature,  or until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

In the mean time, prepare the frosting. For both flavors combine all the ingredients for each  and whip until light and fluffy. You can add extra milk, a little at a time, if needed. Frost the cupcakes with the *swirled frosting.

*Here's a tip on swirling the frosting, if like me, all you have are basic supplies such as a frosting bag and a star tip. If you don't have even these you can improvise with a large Zip Lock baggie and cut a hole in the bottom, but your swirl may not look as pretty.
- Cut off the tip of the bag (about 3/4 inches, depending on the size of the tip you are using) and put in your tip.
- Hang your frosting bag in the inside of a large glass or tumbler and fold over the sides, this will make it easier to fill.
- Spoon in Peanut Butter frosting, pushing it over to one side of the bag, don't sweat imperfection! Spoon in the Chocolate Frosting to the remaining side of the bag.
- Remove bag from cup and lay on its side, push down the frosting into the base and roll the edge down to close. If only one color is in the very base you can pipe out a bit of the frosting until you begin to see it swirl.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Grilled Pork Loin Chops

Chances are, if you are watching your grocery budget at all, you've bought some pork loin chops (a very lean cut with very little fat) and cooked them, only to have them come out pretty dry. A few months ago I found this recipe from Alton Brown for a Pork Chop Brine and the days of dry pork chops got left behind.

Last night I grilled up a few of these chops and shared with my neighbor Jen, whose husband  doesn't like pork chops. He loved them and I hope you will too!

2 Hour Pork Chop Brine
Alton Brown, Food Network
this is enough brine to cover about 5 chops
1 c. kosher or coarse sea salt (not iodized salt)
1 c. brown sugar
1 T. black peppercorns
1 T. dry mustard
2 c. cider vinegar
4 c. ice cubes
In a sealable container combine salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, and mustard. Heat cider vinegar in a small pan until hot (not boiling).  Pour cider vinegar into container and stir to dissolve sugar/salt. Let mixture stand for about 20 minutes and then add ice cubes and dissolve.  Add pork chops, making sure they are completely covered with brine and store in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Remove from brine and season to your liking. I used a Stubs BBQ Dry Rub.
Preheat grill and cook until internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat reaches between 145 and 160 degrees. Don't overcook* or you'll be left with dry pork chops anyways!
 *The USDA lowered its recommended cooking temperature from 160 degrees to 145 degrees in May and added a 3 minute rest time.