Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Roasted pork tacos with two salsas

Leftover Roasted Pork: Day One


Tonight we used the leftover pork to make tacos. I couldn't decide which kind of salsa I wanted, so I made two. First I made a cooked tomato salsa. Usually fresh pico de gallo is my tomato salsa of choice, but I wanted to try a cooked salsa. Last year I tried roasting tomatoes, onions and jalapenos in the oven, then making them into salsa, but the results were just awful. This time I tried cooking it in a skillet, and it turned out somewhat better, but not fantastic. I used 4 tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 jalapeno and a handful of cilantro, plus salt and lime juice. I put it in a skillet, started cooking it down, then used an immersion blender to puree it. I continued cooking it until it turned from light pink to a bold red. This recipe needs more tweaking before I post it, but I'm looking forward to trying it again at some point.

The second salsa I made was a fresh mango salsa. It was absolutely delicious and refreshing, and the recipe is below.

To make the tacos, I sprayed corn tortillas with a quick blast of cooking spray, then heated them in the microwave for 30 seconds. The leftover pork was warmed in a skillet, then heaped on the tortillas. I topped them with some fresh, local romaine lettuce (thanks, CSA!) and generous helpings of salsa.

Fresh Mango Salsa

1 ripe mango
1 small red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced (take the seeds out if you don't like it hot. I leave them in)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp agave nectar (can substitute sugar or molasses)

Combine all ingredients and set aside for 15-20 minutes so flavors can meld.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Slow-roasted pork

We spent all day Saturday at the lake park just outside of town, with quite possibly two of the coolest people I've ever met, and their four kids. The mom is my girls' piano teacher, and I swear, I have not often met such a truly kind and friendly person in my life. She's one of those rare people you encounter, whom you connect with instantly and hit it off famously, and I adore her. She invited us to join them to the lake on Saturday, and we happily agreed. Making friends here in Syracuse has been a slow process. I'm an extreme extrovert, but have still had trouble connecting with kindred spirits. I think I've found them, at last. She and her husband and I talked nonstop for the five hours we were at the lake, about Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, Theology, and so much more. We discovered that we're strikingly similar in so many ways that it's almost unbelievable. It's been a long time since I've met a couple who enjoy deep thinking and deep discussion as much as Brad and I do, and it absolutely delighted me. I'm so happy to have met them!

We spent the day talking while the kids played in the lake and the sand, then we strolled over to a BBQ pit and built up a fire for grilling. I had slowly simmered some country style ribs all morning before we left, then drowned them in Dinosaur BBQ sauce -- from Dinosaur BBQ, an enchanting biker bar BBQ joint here in town, which incidentally was voted best BBQ in America last year -- and brought them along for lunch. I know that grilling purists scorn the parboiling of ribs, but I haven't found a better way to prepare ribs, so I use it. They were tender, succulent and absolutely falling apart after a quick jaunt on the grill.

All this is to say that Meg devoured an astonishing amount of ribs at the lake, then, in the spirit of BBQ, begged me to make a pork roast for pulled pork sandwiches on Monday. We swung by the grocery store on our way home from a AAA minor league baseball game Sunday evening, and to my surprise and delight, I found a 9.5 lb pork roast for just $11! Score! It was bone-in, and I was sure it would be mostly bone, but I still couldn't beat that price, so I paid for it and back home we went.

I put it in the oven at noon today. Now, I think pork is the perfect meat. I cringe when I see people doctoring pork up with all kinds of spices, rubs, marinades, fruits, and so forth. Pork is beautiful just the way it is, and needs little to no embellishment, in my humble opinion. So I heated my oven to 250, dumped the pork on a rack in a roasting pan, and stuck it in the oven. No salt, no spices, no rubs, no marinades...no nuthin'. And I walked away and left it there for six and a half hours. We even left and went shopping for two hours in the middle of the afternoon.

I pulled it out of the oven at 6:30 this evening, and I swooned all over the damn place. It was gorgeous. I wish I had taken a picture. I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture, but I couldn't wait to tear into it. Meg pulled up a foot stool and hovered next to me as I used a couple forks to tear it apart, and she snatched pieces whenever she could get away with it. I shredded that sucker to bits, and ended up with 12 cups of shredded pork. 12 cups! There was only one tiny bone in the entire thing, and virtually no fat. It was amazing!

I took about a cup and a half and tossed it in BBQ sauce, then served it on hamburger buns with fresh corn on the cob. Meg didn't want BBQ sauce, though, being a pork purist after my own heart, and just ate hers plain on a bun. Words can't describe how delicious this pork was. As I said, I didn't season it at all before roasting, and it needed nothing after roasting, either. No salt...nothing. It was pure, unadulterated heaven on a bun.

The remaining 12+ cups are in the fridge now. I've been mulling over what to do with all the leftovers, and so far have decided on pork tacos, cuban sandwiches, and pulled pork nachos.

What would you do with it?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Make-Your-Own-Pizza Night

I love make-your-own-pizza night! I love getting the kids involved in the preparation of their food, and what's more fun than shaping your own pizza crust and topping it to your specifications? We did this often when I was growing up, especially during slumber parties, and always had a blast with it.

Tonight was kind of a "clean out the fridge" theme, so it served dual purpose. Lydia chose the classic Hawaiian pizza, canadian bacon and pineapple, which oddly enough, few people here in Syracuse have ever heard of. Meg opted for a meat lover's pizza of sorts, with pepperoni, sausage, canadian bacon and bell pepper. I went with a more grown up palate. A few days ago my neighbor gave me a huge tray of greek olives, hummus, roasted red peppers, spicy marinated peppers and pita bread left over from her husband's law school grad party. I used a bunch of the olives and peppers on my pizza, as well as pepperoni, bell pepper, fresh spinach and goat cheese.



I used my go-to pizza dough recipe tonight. It's quick and easy and always turns out great. I'm getting better at stretching the dough in my hands instead of rolling it or patting it out, but still have to break out the rolling pin at times. I haven't quite graduated to tossing it up in the air yet. ;)

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

(gratuitous picture of my cute kid)


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Farfalle Pasta with Carrots, Broccoli and Ham in Parmesan Cream Sauce

Lydia came to me this morning and said that she wanted to cook dinner tonight. This was unexpected because she doesn't usually like to help out in the kitchen. I always give the kids the option of cooking with me, and while Meg always takes me up on it, Lydia rarely does, or loses interest quickly if she does. So imagine my surprise when she suggested it this morning!


She gave me an idea of what she wanted to make, and I came up with a recipe, wrote it out for her, and set her to work. I drained the pasta since she's a pretty tiny 11 year old and my Le Creuset pot is hella heavy, but she did everything else by herself. She peeled and sliced the carrots, chopped the broccoli and ham, and made her first ever white sauce. Once I drained the pasta, though, I skedaddled off to hang out on the front porch and enjoy the sunshine while she finished dinner.

It. Was. FABULOUS! She did a wonderful job, and all three of us gobbled it up with gusto. Way to go, Lydia!


Farfalle Pasta with Carrots, Broccoli and Ham in Parmesan Cream Sauce

12 oz mini farfalle pasta, or pasta of your choice
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4" rounds
1 medium head broccoli, cut into small florets
olive oil
1 ham steak, cut into 1/2" dice
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot with well-salted water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed. When 4 minutes of the cooking time remain, add carrots and broccoli. When pasta is done, drain. Add ham to the pasta mixture, toss with olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add flour and salt and stir until it forms a paste and just begins to bubble. Add milk, cook and stir constantly until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat, add parmesan cheese, and stir until cheese is melted.

Combine pasta mixture with sauce, and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I've posted about bibimbap before, a couple years ago. Back then I was still trying to make it in a fiery hot stone bowl (which I didn't have, so I used my Le Creuset saucier), and just couldn't ever get it quite right. Since then, I've taken to making the non-stone bowl version, which has much better results.

Once again, I apologize for the lack of pictures, but the kids snatched these up and started gobbling them down the second I slid the lightly fried egg on top, and -- in typical mom fashion -- they got all the good stuff and I got the dregs, so my bowl wasn't pretty enough to warrant photographing. And just maybe I was as eager to eat as they were, and didn't want to waste timing getting the camera. Just saying.

Tonight's bibimbap used jasmine rice as the base, topped with a rainbow array of lightly sauteed carrots, spinach, zucchini, bean sprouts, mushrooms, bean sprouts and ground chicken. The crowning glory was a lightly fried egg with runny yolk.

This dinner rocked! Meg begs me to make bibimbap all the time. Whenever I ask for their input in planning a weekly menu, it's the first thing she shouts out, every time without fail. I usually refuse, simply because there's a lot of prep work with this, sauteeing the meat and each vegetable individually, not to mention the time cutting everything into matchsticks. But whenever I do make it for her, I always wonder why I don't do it more often. It's worth the prep work a zillion times over. As Meg said this evening, who'd have thought that meat and veggies with a fried egg would taste so good? But there's something so intensely satisfying about bibimbap, and it never lets me down. If you've never had it before, give it a try!


freshly cooked jasmine rice
1 lb ground chicken or pork
1/2 tsp sesame oil (a little goes a long way)
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
2 medium carrots, cut into 2" matchsticks
1 medium zucchini, cut into 2" matchsticks
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, cut into matchsticks (do the best you can...totally chopped is fine)
1 1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 bunch spinach, stems removed
eggs, 1 per serving

Start rice cooking. Meanwhile, brown ground meat over medium-high heat. When fully cooked, drain grease and discard, then add sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar. Stir and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove chicken to a serving plate, leaving room for the rest of the toppings as you cook them.

Sautee carrots over medium-high heat until crisp tender; remove to serving plate.

Sautee zucchini over medium-high heat until it begins to brown and soften; remove to serving plate.

Sautee mushrooms over medium-high heat for a few minutes. You don't want them totally soft, but still with a bite to them. Remove to serving plate.

Sautee bean sprouts until crisp tender; remove to serving plate.

Sautee spinach until wilted but still bright green; remove to serving plate.

Scoop rice into individual wide, shallow bowls. Arrange toppings attractively on top of rice. You can arrange them in wedge shapes around the bowl, or in stripes. Alternatively, let each person put the toppings of their choice on their own serving.

Meanwhile, wipe out skillet with a paper towl, return to heat, grease pan with a little oil, and crack eggs into it. Fry just until whites are set, flipping once. You want the yolks runny. As soon as eggs are done, put one egg in the center of each bowl. Add Korean red chili paste, if desired. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Roasted Chicken and Mixed Vegetables



Tonight's recipe is inspired by photos a friend took of her dinner last night, and posted on facebook. I was all but drooling as I looked at them, and went out today to buy chicken so I could make it tonight!

I joined a CSA for the first time this year, and have loved getting weekly deliveries of fresh, organic and mostly local produce. Many of the items I've been getting are new to me, so it's been fun to be coaxed out of the rut it's so easy to settle into, and rise to the challenge of experimenting with new foods. Tonight's dish uses most of my usual staples, but it's exciting to know that every vegetable in the dish is supporting my local farming community. How cool is that?

This dinner is so easy, it's almost embarrassing. I used a huge, deep roasting pan and filled it with chunks of zucchini, summer squash, carrots, celery, onion, asparagus spears, whole garlic cloves and button mushrooms, all tossed together with olive oil, rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper. Then I laid pieces of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, legs and thighs on top, drizzled with a little more olive oil and herbs. It roasted, covered with foil, at 425 for 1 hour, another 20-30 minutes with the foil off, then a few minutes under the broiler to crisp up the chicken skin. You might be able to get by with less roasting time, but I'm kind of paranoid when it comes to undercooked chicken, so I cooked it longer just to be on the safe side. This really couldn't be easier, and my house smells incredible!

If I were to do this again, I'd roast the chicken for the first 45 minutes, then add the veggies at that point. The veggies were way overcooked and mushy. They still tasted incredible, but I'd prefer they have a little bite to them next time -- and believe me, there will be a next time. This dish is fantastic!

I also whipped up some lightly sauteed red chard and garlic scapes, also from this week's CSA delivery, cooked in sesame oil and seasoned with ginger, kimchee, salt and sugar. Weird combination of flavors, I know, and a totally different palate from the roasted chicken and veggies, but it's seriously yum! I'm sorry I don't have a picture of it, but I scarfed it down while I was waiting for the chicken to finish roasting. ;)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

I've been plagued with insomnia lately, much to my chagrin. I'm not a good sleeper to begin with, and have always woken up frequently throughout the night, then fallen right back to sleep. But these past few days I just lie there, desperately tired and desperately trying to fall asleep, to no avail. It's unspeakably frustrating.

Today, though, I decided to make the most of it, and get up and make blueberry muffins for breakfast before the kids leave for school. I love muffins because they only take a couple minutes to throw together, and only 20-25 minutes to bake. School here doesn't start until 9:00AM, so I don't even have to get up too early in order to have them ready for a hot, tasty breakfast before the kids dart off to school. Muffins rock!

I found this basic recipe on allrecipes.com, and modified it a bit to my liking. They hit the spot!

Blueberry Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup canned blueberries, drained and rinsed well

Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

Combine flour, cup sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, egg and milk. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don't overmix. Fold in blueberries. Distribute batter evenly among 12 muffin cups.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until done.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Breakfast Pizza

I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen awhile back, and have been dying to try it ever since. Pizza is one of those things I'm reluctant to make unless there's someone else to help me eat it, and with Brad gone...well, that just doesn't happen too often. On pizza night, I typically make a double batch of dough...enough to make one full-sized pizza and two or three mini pizzas for the kiddos, but when Brad's deployed, that's just too much pizza for the three of us. Perhaps I could solve that problem by not making a double batch, but I'm one of those people who tends to get stuck in the "this is the way we do it because it's the way we've always done it" kind of ruts, and this is what it gets me.

But lucky me! My friend Cheryl (yes, we have the same name) is visiting this week, and this gives me the perfect opportunity to have pizza tonight while still sticking to my double-the-recipe pizza night formula. The kiddos had one mini pizza with canadian bacon and pineapple and one with pepperoni, which left half the batch of dough for The Cheryls to try out Smitten Kitchen's breakfast pizza! Hooray!

I used my favorite go-to pizza dough recipe, then glazed it with olive oil, then topped it with mozzarella cheese, canadian bacon, mushroom, red bell pepper and 4 eggs. It baked at 420 for 30 minutes.

Were I to do this again, I would only bake it for the standard 20 minutes that I usually bake pizza, because the eggs didn't have runny yolks like I had hoped, they were more like hard boiled eggs. I checked it after 20 minutes, however, and was afraid that the eggs were still raw, but next time I think 20 minutes would have done it. 25 minutes, tops. I'll definitely try this recipe again, and give the whole single batch recipe thing a try. What can I say? I'm still learning to cook for 3, not 4. I'll get it right next time.

Breakfast Pizza

1 batch pizza dough
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
4 slices canadian bacon, coarsely diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
4 large eggs
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 420. Prepare pizza dough and pat onto pizza pan. Drizzle with olive oil and spread to coat evenly. Cover with cheese, and evenly distribute bacon, mushrooms and bell pepper, leaving room for 4 eggs. Crack eggs directly onto pizza, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 420 for 20-25 minutes, or until egg whites are just set and yolks are still slightly runny. Serve warm.

Yield: 1 large pizza

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekly Menu - week of April 26

Here's the plan for this week. I'm so happy to be back in the kitchen!

Sunday - dinner out

Monday - Clam Chowder, oyster crackers

Tuesday - leftover chowder

Wednesday - Tacos, fruit salad

Thursday - Spaghetti Pie, broccoli

Friday - Beef Stroganoff, green beans

Saturday - leftovers

Baking - sandwich bread, oatmeal raisin cookies, pumpkin bread, chewy granola bars

Clam Chowder

Well, folks, I'm finally back after a crazy long hiatus. This past year has been a roller coaster like none other. We moved to central New York for my husband's nuclear engineering job, bought our first home (an adorable 80-year old Arts & Crafts right in the heart of the city...a lifelong dream come true for me!), and it's been a whirlwind since then. My husband was working long hours, days, nights and weekends, and we didn't see much of him as a result. Then not three months ago we got the shock of our lives when he was called up in the Navy Reserves for a 14-month deployment to Djibouti, Africa. Due to a ridiculous lack of communication from his command, he received only 10 days' notice that he was leaving, so you can imagine the frantic rush of packing, paperwork, planning and running around like chickens with our heads cut off that ensued.

But all is well! The kids and I are happily settled in our cozy house with fabulous neighbors and friends, and we were surprised and delighted to find out a few weeks after Brad arrived in Djibouti that he will be spending his entire deployment working as a Naval Liaison Officer at the US Embassy in Mauritius, a tropical island near Madagascar. We can't believe his good luck! He arrived there this past weekend, has his own apartment and car for the duration, and let's just say that this is a far cry from the deployment he did in Afghanistan four years ago. It sucks that we have to live apart for over a year, but we couldn't be more pleased with how it's all playing out, and we've been tearing up the Skype lines for the past two months. I have great kids, and let me tell you that deployments are a hell of a lot easier when the kids are out of diapers and car seats. I was able to fly down and meet Brad one weekend during his training in South Carolina, and the kids and I drove down to spend a few days with him in Virginia before he departed for Djibouti.

All that being said, with as crazy as the past year has been, I haven't been doing much cooking, let alone blogging. We let our stress pull us down into a spiral of unhealthy, convenience food eating, and we have the waistlines to show for it. Ugh! I'm determined to turn that around starting now. We're cutting way back on all the restaurant food, prepackaged food and take-out. I'm going to start packing lunches for the kids instead of having them buy school lunches, and we're working on removing high-fructose corn syrup from our home. I'm excited to get back into the kitchen again, and the blogging that goes with it!

Another thing that has changed over the past year -- and I hope this won't lose me a ton of readers -- is that we're no longer vegetarian. We were hardcore while we were in Louisiana, but the combination of stress and relocating just threw us off track, and I'll be frank...I don't know if I have the dedication to go back to it again. So you'll see more recipes here featuring meat and dairy.

Hopefully a few of my readers will notice that I'm back, and if so, I thank you for being here! Now, let's kick things off with tonight's dinner: Clam Chowder!

Until this year, I had never made clam chowder at home. It's long been a favorite of mine at restaurants, but for some reason I was a little intimidated to try it at home. But no longer! It uses canned clams and bottled clam juice, and couldn't be easier. One of these days I'll try making my own stock with fresh clams, but for the time being, this works. And works well! The kids scarfed it down and asked for seconds, and we plan on eating the leftovers for the next few days. It's rich, creamy, decadent, comforting and filling. What's not to like about that?

In my recipe research, I learned that traditional New England Clam Chowder does not contain flour or any thickeners, so I followed that rule in my recipe.

Clam Chowder

1/2 lb uncured bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 quart chicken stock
1 8-oz bottle clam juice
2 cans minced clams with juice
2-3 cups water
2 cups fat-free half & half

Cook bacon in a large stock pot over medium heat until crispy. Drain all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease and discard or save for another use. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook until softened. Add potatoes, chicken stock, clam juice, clams and water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and gently stir in half & half. Serve hot with oyster crackers.