Category Archives: Gluten Free

Pulled Pork and Carnitas- Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

My husband and I work. We have two kids that like to do stuff. Our weeknight schedules are crazy and I have to tape (how old am I that I still use the word “tape”!!)  DVR The Daily Show and The Colbert Report because the thought of being awake at 11 o’clock is beyond hysterical.  I’m laughing right now, just imagining trying to stay up that late.  I really belong in the central time zone.  If it wasn’t for my DVR, I would not see any shows with a 10 o’clock start time.

More importantly, getting dinner on the table before 7 pm is a herculean effort.  Between arguing about doing homework, arguing about correcting homework, and actually making the meal, the night flies by really fast!  So, any shortcut I can find is greatly appreciated.

I was in a large warehouse store the other day picking up my month supply of paper towels and toilet paper and decided to pick up a Boston Butt, also known as pork shoulder.  At $1.69 a pound, it’s a hard bargain to pass up.  I realize that it’s not pastured or otherwise “green”, but as we eat that way most of the time, once in a while being cheap isn’t awful.  Being a warehouse club, I ended up with 14 pounds of the stuff.  No mean feat to cook this hunk of pork.

Now, I’m pretty reluctant to pull out my slow cooker due to less than optimal results and the fact that my daughter hates anything “saucy”.   I find pot roasts and chicken either turn out “dry” or mushy.   Let’s face it, once you remove “sauce” as an option for a dish made in a slow cooker, you pretty much remove the slow cooker as an option.  Except for this recipe.  You can really cook this pork rather plain in the slow cooker, and the pork stands up pretty well to a long cook time.  I put half the package (about 7 pounds) in the slow cooker.  The first night, we had “pulled pork”- my husband asked that I put the quotation marks, as the pork was not smoked.  Then two nights later, I repurposed the leftovers into carnitas.   Cook one piece of meat in the slow cooker, get two awesome meals on the table before 7 pm!!

I pulled no punches with the meat.  I made it pretty much as you would any piece of pork that you would put in the smoker.   I start with a light glaze of mustard and then heavily season with traditional barbecue spices, but I did add some spices that had been smoked- like smoked paprika.  I would normally leave that out of any seasoning mix to go on the smoker.  Here, to give it a more smokey feel, the meat needs, well, smoke.

For my second night, I placed all the meat on a cookie sheet and baked it in a fairly hot oven to make the meat a little more dry and the end bits a touch crispy.   In a few minutes, I had the perfect pork carnitas meat and I served the carnitas with the traditional toppings.  I can’t stress how easy this made dinner time for the week, especially in a week when my husband was working late most nights!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

5-7 Pound Boston Butt or Pork Shoulder Roast
1/4 cup yellow mustard (enough to cover meat)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons dry mustard (love Coleman’s)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy!)
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup water

Cover the Boston Butt with a thin layer of yellow mustard. In a small bowl, combine all the spices and rub over the pork. Add the onion and the water to the slow cooker. Add the pork. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours.

Remove pork from slow cooker and pull apart with a couple of forks. Serve with Cole Slaw and barbecue sauce.  Seriously easy stuff!

Pork Carnitas

Pork Carnitas

Left over pulled pork
1/4 cup olive oil
Onions, cut into strips
Green peppers, cut into strips
Round tortillas, slightly warmed
Avocado, chopped
Salsa
Queso Fresca

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat oil over medium heat in a sauté pan.

While the oil is heating, spread pork in an even layer over a cookie sheet. Place in oven and cook until less moist with some crispy bits, about 15-20 minutes.

Sauté onions and peppers until slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and Carnitas

My best Jackson Pollock inspired work!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

When I came home, the house smelled amazing!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

So moist and ready to be pulled!!

Slightly dried and ready to go!

Slightly dried and ready to go!

Pulled Pork

Smoker Chimney

Of all of the meats involved in barbecue, pulled pork is by far my favorite.   When done right, it’s moist, tender and sweet.   When done wrong, it’s dry and stringy. On the plus side, it’s pretty hard to do wrong.  Unless you are some large, BBQ chain restaurants.  I don’t know how, but some of them manage to turn this perfect meat into a mass of dry strings with sauce.

My husband was practicing his pulled pork when he indulged me in my blogging venture.  He’s a very patient hand model, so I want to profusely thank him for his participation in my blog this week.

The meat involved in pulled pork is a pork shoulder roast, or “Boston Butt”.  Now, you could skip the smoking, place the butt (hee hee) in a crock pot with a bit of water and a chopped onion, slow cook on low for 8 hours and presto, tender pulled pork.  Drain and add a smoky barbecue sauce and it’s pretty awesome.   Is it the same?  No.  But, it’s pretty darn good for doing pretty much nothing more than dumping a few ingredients in a container and flipping a switch.

But, smoking the Boston Butt brings the pork to a whole different level.  First, there’s the injection, piercing flavors deep within the meat.  Then there’s the lovely rub and smoke infusing the meat with even more flavor.  Top it with barbecue sauce and you have pork nirvana.  Truly, the pork is just so amazing.

You can make an ugly drum smoker (google that!) or use a weber bullet (we have both) for an affordable smoker.  They are an endless source of entertainment and amazing food for us.  Top with an amazing Barbecue Sauce and serve with Cole Slaw.

Pulled Pork

1/2 Boston Butt, trimmed

Pork Butt Rub
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons dry mustard (love Coleman’s)
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy!)
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Pork Injection
1 quart apple juice
1/2 pint distilled white vinegar
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup table salt (not iodized)

Directions for the rub: Thoroughly combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.

Directions for the pork injection: In a 4 quart saucepan, combine the juice and the vinegar over medium heat. Once the juice is warm, add the sugar and the salt and stir constantly. Without bringing the juice to a boil, stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.

Bring the smoker to 275 degrees. How you smoke the meat depends on your smoker, so I won’t give you directions as each one is slightly different. While the smoker is heating, thoroughly inject the butt with the injection. Massage the rub into the meat, wrap in plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator until the smoker is at temperature. Smoke the meat until a nice bark is formed, the meat is thoroughly cooked, and tender enough to be pulled, about 6-8 hours. Longer, if you prefer to cook at a lower temperature.

Pork Butt Trimming

Trimmed Pork Butt

Pork Butt Injections

Pork Butt with Rub

Pork Butt on Smoker

Smoked Pork Butt

Not burnt, just bark!!

Pulled Pork Plate

Strawberry Lime Popsicles

Over the summer, I have the kids do “academic work” so that they stay sharp.  Yeah, I’m that mom.   In order to minimize the whining, I “incentivize” my children to complete these academic assignments.  Each assignment is worth a certain number of “points” and points can be cashed in for various and sundry items.  My daughter has been dying for a Zoku Quick Pop Maker.   She worked really hard this summer to earn enough points for one of them.  I spied a really easy recipe on Pinterest (http://www.theblackpeppercorn.com/2012/06/strawberry-paletas/) for a strawberry lime popsicle and a post was born, as my daughter LOVES strawberries.

Honestly, I was dreading this task.  The Zoku has to be frozen for 24 hours, so already there’s a delay, which is oh so popular with the elementary school set.  I then have to “blend” the ingredients together.  About 7 years ago, I broke the glass blender.  Never replaced it, and, as a bonus, have never heard the end of it.  My kids are 10 and 8, and somehow they know I busted the blender.  In my defense,  we really didn’t use it and I broke it moving it out of the way.    As a substitute, I would have to use the food processor, which can be a touch leaky.  Fun!

But, we persevered.  We blended the ingredients (no leaks!), chilled the mixture, used the Zoku and had popsicles in a fairly short amount of time!  It was really hot today, so they were definitely needed!

Strawberry Lime Popsicles
Total Time: about 1 hour and 20 minutes
Makes about 3 popsicles in a Zoku Pop Maker

1 cup halved strawberries
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water

Chill Zoku Pop Maker for 24 hours.

Place ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate mixture for about an hour. Pour mixture into Zoku Pop Maker and in about 7 minutes remove the popsicle from the pop maker. When repeating for the final two popsicles, you may have to leave the mixture in the Zoku for longer periods of time.

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Creole Seasoning

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I was making a Creole-inspired dish last weekend.  Instead of measuring out the tons of ingredients I need for the spices, I figure I’ll stop by the spice aisle and buy a Creole Spice mix.  I know, crazy lazy. I’m looking over the few options I have, because I guess “Creole” and “Cajun” are 80s artifacts that are no longer reliably stocked, and instead I find spice mixes labeled either “southwest”, some type of “rub”,  or “steak” seasoning. I managed to spy about three “Creole” or “Cajun” seasoning options, but all were lackluster. In every case, salt was the number one ingredient followed by “spices” and in some brands “MSG”, an anti-caking agent, and soy proteins made appearances on the ingredient lists. Um, no thanks.  I’ll make my own.  I want my spices to be spices and not cost me $5 for salt with a pinch of herbs and unknowns.

So, I consulted my Louisiana chefs (via their various cookbooks), Emeril and Paul Prudhomme, and came up with a fairly standard Creole Seasoning Mix. Creole mixes are a deft combination of spicy and savory. The harmony of the different ground peppers is the key. Each ground pepper hits a different spicy note. Also, the white pepper should not be underestimated or omitted. You can make a quite spicy dish with white and black pepper.  The white pepper adds a great depth to the spicy flavor.

Besides being awesome in any Creole or Cajun dish, this spice mix is a great grilling rub. You don’t have to say it’s a “Creole” rub if that gives you day glow and rubber bracelet flashbacks, maybe something like “rustic”, “bayou” or “southeast” rub would work as well.

Creole Seasoning

1/2 cup paprika
4 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons granulated garlic (or powdered garlic)
1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons white pepper
1 tablespoon crushed, dried thyme
1 tablespoon crushed, dried oregano

Combine ingredients and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

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Greek Chicken

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As I was walking through my local Whole Foods the other day, I marveled at all the amazing food and how really beautiful the produce section of a good grocery store can be.  From the beautiful Fennel fronds, to the orange carrots, yellow bananas, purple blueberries, and red cherries and tomatoes, you can truly find some amazing variety in nature.  Of course, my perusing of the produce section was more time waster than deep reflection.  How often does a working mom get to be alone, at her own pace, and just wander?

Obviously not often if my gold standard is wandering through the produce section unmolested by cries of “I want!”  So, I had to snap out of my blissful haze before I lost any more time.  Honestly, I think the samples must be filled with magical lotus leaves.  I lose all kind of time there and I can’t really tell you that I was doing anything particular.

I was there to get dinner.  It doesn’t make itself, you know.   I walked past the fish and meat counter and nothing really jumped out.  Then, in one of the open refrigerators a small sign:  chicken legs, $.69/pound.  Really?!?  Chicken rated a 2 on the animal welfare scale for less than a buck a pound?   Sure, it was just chicken legs, but who can beat that deal?  I picked up a super sized package and went on my way.    What would I do with a whole bunch of chicken legs?

Sure, I could fry them, but I did that already.  Coq Au Vin?  Done.  I’m not stripping the meat off of them for gumbo.    So, I did what any respectable blogger would do, I googled “chicken legs”.    And there, in my search result was a recipe from Goop, a website run by Gwyneth Paltrow.  At this point, I must confess to a guilty pleasure of reading gossip sites.  These sites generally don’t like Gwyneth Paltrow.  In fact, they love pointing out that she’s fairly unaware that “peasants” don’t live like her.  We don’t cleanse, have a nanny (or two), aren’t married to a rock star, can’t choose which city to live in this week (London or NYC, so hard, right?), and don’t spend $458,000 on a “Spring Essentials collection” of clothes for just this Spring.  To paraphrase from the many Goop-haters, when you are born on third base, don’t think you hit a triple in life or that scoring a run is hard from that beginning position.  An example of her being “out of touch” (if the Spring Essentials didn’t drive that point home) may be the $950 silver shot cup that is part, just part, of her barware.   So, as a working mom who’s clearly not in the 1% scrambling to make dinner with cheap chicken legs on a busy weeknight, it was with great trepidation I clicked on the Goop link http://www.goop.com/journal/make/215/one-pan-meals.

Ultimately, I’m very glad I took a chance with this recipe. It’s really quite good and so ridiculously simple. This is based on a traditional Greek dish called Kapama. However, it is a bit of a shocking recipe.  Cinnamon, chicken, tomatoes and garlic.  In one pot.  One of my sorority sisters has a website called http://thefamilymealproject.com/ that examines what meals her kids would eat.  Well, I felt this would be a perfect recipe for that experiment.  As the house filled with the scent of cinnamon and tomato, I started to fret a bit.  It was a wonderful smell, just not something you expect.  You know, for dinner.  However, I received nothing but absolute praise from both my son and daughter.  My very picky, I only eat salmon daughter actually ate this.  I know, shocking.  The hubs gave his equivalent of a rave review:  I’d ask you to make it again.  Sigh.  Small victory, I will take thee!!

Cinnamon Braised Chicken Legs

6-8 Chicken Legs (what will fit in your dutch oven, and you can use any chicken parts you have handy)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water or chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup romano cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken legs, set aside. Combine cinnamon, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture over the chicken liberally.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven (I used my trusty 5 quart) over medium high heat. Brown the chicken, in batches. About a minute or so on each side. Remove from pan and set aside. Reduce heat to medium. To the pan, add the onions and cook while stirring until translucent. Add the garlic and soften. Add the tomatoes and the water and deglaze the pan. Add the cinnamon stick and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover and place in the oven and cook for one to two hours until cooked through or all the way to “fall off the bone”. Serve with pasta or rice and sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Note: I only cooked this in the oven for an hour. “Fall off the bone” would have taken too much time for a weeknight meal. In the hour it was cooking, I made brown rice, a salad and checked homework. Two hours and we would have been eating well after the kids’ bedtime. So, it might be even better with more time!

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Italian Sausage and Peppers

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My husband comes from New York City. I’m from below the Mason-Dixon line (albeit just barely) and he’s a chap from Queens. Needless to say, we shared very little in common food-wise when we met over 15 years ago!  He eats a lot more seafood now, and I eat more charcuterie. Not a bad tradeoff!!

Some of his favorite food memories revolve around the Italian cooking of his friends’ very Italian moms. Sausage and peppers are a particular favorite. I have severe and substantial reflux issues and the thought of tomatoes, spicy Italian sausages, peppers, garlic and onions gives me agida. I can actually feel my esophagus burning just typing the words. It’s a low carb, easily made dish and should totally be “in the rotation”. It’s a very traditional Italian American dish, right up my “traditional and simple” alley. Stupid reflux. So, we haven’t eaten sausage and peppers often, if really at all.

However, one of my very lovely neighbors dropped off 3 pounds of Italian sausages from a  famous Italian shop around these parts. Spicy Italian sausages, of course! Awesome, right?  I am very lucky to have such great neighbors!   Knowing these are far superior than anything you can get in the grocery store, I wavered. So, I am putting my pantoprozole (my reflux medicine) to the test and seeing how I do with what has to be the biggest challenge known to the heartburn afflicted: Spicy Italian Sausage and Peppers.  I chased the peppers with some antacid pills.  No problems.  Yay!  Dodged a bullet there!

The dish is so easy. It’s made in one cooking vessel. Serve with a salad and you have an amazingly good, easy and quick weeknight meal.  If you love bread, pile this on some crusty French bread, top with mozzarella cheese, broil until the cheese is melted and have an awesome sausage and pepper sub!!

Sausage and Peppers
Serves 4-5
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Spicy Italian Sausage (mild works too!)
3 bell peppers (I used 2 green and one orange)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Heat oil in a sauté pan (I used a 4 quart). Place sausages in the pan and cook until slightly browned on both sides. Juices should run from the sausages, if not, prick a few so they do. Remove sausages from pan and add the peppers, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and oregano. Cook until the vegetables are soft or your desired firmness. Return sausages to the pan and just before they are cooked through, add the tomato paste and combine. Simmer for a few minutes until the sausages are done.

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Kebabs

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It’s 6 o’clock on a weekday evening.  Little ones are looking up at you like they haven’t eaten in days.  You have a couple of random vegetables (not enough for an entire side dish, of course!), an onion, and a meat.  What do you do?  What do you do?!?!

Kabab ’em.   Dinner is ready in a snap and there’s hardly any clean up.  Plus, who doesn’t like food on a spear?  Deadly weapon and food conduit?  Awesome.  Kebabs are super easy and fun. Extremely kid friendly. Except for the whole they could poke their eye out part. Take the food off the spear for children who are unable to handle sharp weapons, of course.

I could give you a huge marinade and tell you to boil it together and cool it off, then place your meat in it.  I could.  But I won’t.  I used a bottle of organic Italian dressing on my beef.  Any sirloin steak or “London Broil” will do.  The beef need not be fancy or expensive.  You could also do boneless chicken meat, or shrimp as well.

For the veg, just cut into rather substantial pieces, so that they stay on your kabob spear.

For grilling, the key is to heat the grill up before you start.  I have a propane grill (in addition to my charcoal smokers) that I use all summer.  Love it.  The lack of dishes to clean and the fact that the heat is located outside and not in the house is just so convenient.

To this simple dish, I’ve added a sauce.  The sauce is also simple, but really strong to pair with the beef, so it is purely a “dip” and not a pouring sauce, if that makes sense. In another life, the sauce could totally replace a certain steak sauce that begins with an “A” and ends with a “1”. The sauce was inspired by a recipe on the food network that looked way to vinegary to me: (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/porterhouse-with-balsamic-steak-sauce-recipe/index.html) You might ask why I used port. I’m part of a wine club and every Christmas I get a bottle of port. I have no idea what to do with the port, so I cook with it. If I think I can get away with it in a recipe, in it goes. It totally works here.

 

Beef and Vegetable Kebabs
Serves 4
Prep time: about 20 minutes
Cook time: about 20 minutes for sauce and kebabs

1 pound beef sirloin or “London Broil”, 1 inch cubes
1 cup Italian Dressing
1 zucchini, halved and thick sliced
1 red pepper, large dice (any color, really)
1 onion, large cut
4 ounces of mushrooms, halved
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Kebab Sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup port
2/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon allspice
salt, pepper and sugar, to taste

Marinate the beef in the Italian dressing for at least 8 hours.

Preheat Grill

Skewer the beef, zucchini, mushrooms and onions in an alternating pattern on a skewer. Combine the olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush on skewers.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the balsamic vinegar, port, ketchup, honey, onion, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and allspice. Stir until well combine. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust to your liking with salt, pepper and sugar.

Place the skewers on the grill for about 4 minutes. Turn over. Cook until the meat is at a food safe temperature, approximately 4-6 more minutes. This depends on the size of the steak cube and the temperature of the grill. Remove from grill and serve with sauce.

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