Easy Crock Pot Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork for a Hungry Bunch!

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Today I brought lunch to a bunch of hungry men, including two of my sons, who took a Saturday to pull their considerable talents and muscle together to build a very special tree house for a sweet little 5 year old girl, recovering from major surgery.

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One of the easiest, most economical, filling,  and yummy things to Make & Take to feed a crowd is bar-b-que pulled pork sandwiches!  The sauce is so good, you really don’t need any condiments, but a spoonful of my Easy, Spicy Crunchy Asian Slaw on top adds extra  deliciousness!

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I like to use an even mixture of pork loin (which is the lean white meat cut of pork) and pork butt (which is darker, a little fattier and more tender).  This recipe will easily feed 10 people, but I doubled the recipe today, and was able to cook the whole thing in my extra big crockpot — which yielded enough for 20.   Just turn on your crock pot the night before and it will be ready to pull it apart in the morning;  or start it in the morning and have dinner ready when you come home.

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Easy Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork in a Crock Pot

2 – 3 lbs. pork loin

2 -3 lbs pork butt (with or without bone)

1 full head of fresh garlic, peeled, and rough chopped

2 t.  Tony’s Chachere’s Seasoning (or your favorite Cajun Seasoning with Salt)

2 t.  Grill Seasoning (or 1 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t pepper)

2 T. Worcestershire Sauce

1 1/2 cups your favorite bottled  B-B-Q Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays)

1/2 cup ready-made Italian Dressing, any kind

1 t. Tabasco sauce

1 envelope dry Lipton Onion Soup mix

1 cup water

2 T. brown sugar (if you prefer your sauce a little sweet)

 

Directions:

Cut the pieces of pork into about 6 big pieces.  Whisk the rest of the ingredients for the sauce into a big bowl.  Pour half the sauce into the crock pot, add the cut pieces of pork arranging evenly, pour the rest of the sauce on top of the meat. Cook on high for 5 to 7 hours or until tender enough that when you pull at the meat with two forks it comes apart easily. When pork is tender, lift out the meat with tongs or two big spoons,  and place in a big rectangle pan.  Using two forks tear the meat into shreds.  Pour the sauce from the crock pot over the meat and mix evening so that the light and dark meats are evenly combined.  Taste and check seasonings, adjust to your taste.  At this point you can serve it  right away, or cover and refrigerate, then reheat in the oven (covered with foil) at 350 for about 20 minutes when you are ready to serve.  Serve on your favorite buns or potato rolls with slaw, extra bottled BBQ sauce, sliced pickles and jalapenos.

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Easy, Crunchy, Spicy, Asian Slaw

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(Becky, the Mama)
It was only four years ago that I discovered  that I am, in fact, a wee bit Irish! My great-grandmother,  who died when my paternal grandfather was just sixteen years old , was named Mary Kathryn McNally.  My grandfather loved her fiercely and my Aunt Ann told me that  his mother’s passing would remain, for most of his years, the saddest day of his life.  Saint Patrick’s Day took on new meaning once I realized I was part of the Irish clan.
Of course, like most Americans I am my own walking Melting Pot:  a Dash of Irish, a Sprinkle of  Spanish, a dollop of English  and who knows what other ingredients are mixing around in my gene pool?
To celebrate diversity, I decided to share my recipe for an Irish-Asian-Cajun fusion slaw today.   How’s that for eclectic?  It’s base is shredded cabbage and carrots — a nod to the Irish.  But it’s quickly marinated in an Asian-sesame dressing with hints of Cajun red pepper spice for added kick.
My son popped in the other day, found a large bowl of this slaw in my fridge and ate nearly the whole thing!  He loved it and asked for the recipe, a high compliment since he is a talented cook and foodie. This crunchy, refreshing slaw is a perfect Spring and Summer side-dish, a nice alternative to a lettuce salad and even easier to throw together.
Some of you may be stumped on how to decorate your table for tonight’s meal or event.  So I wanted to suggest this green themed table decoration for your Saint Patrick Day’s Party:
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(If you’ve not already heard us shout it from the mountain tops:  our newest book, Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep is out and available everywhere books are sold, in stores and online!)
And now, an Irish blessin’ for all our beloved readers!
May your hearth be warm, your holidays grand, and the Good Lord hold you in the palm of his hand. 
Crunchy, Spicy, St. Patty’s Day Slaw 
1 lb ready-shredded cabbage slaw (green and purple cabbage and carrots)
1/3 cup rice vinegar (or any mild white vinegar)
3 T. sugar
1 T. water
1 t. salt 
1/2 t. Cajun seasoned salt (I like Tony’s Cajun Seasoning)
1 /2 t. pepper 
1/2 t. celery seed (optional)
2 T. sesame oil
1 T. black sesame seeds
2 T. sliced almonds or sunflower seeds 
Optional for added heat: few shakes of Tabasco or other pepper sauce
Directions:
Whisk all the ingredients above, except for the coleslaw and almonds (or sunflower seeds).  Pour over coleslaw in a big roomy bowl, and toss with tongs, turning until the dressing has coated the slaw.  (The slaw will absorb the dressing and get a bit softer and juicier as it sits a few minutes).  Just before serving,  toss in the almonds or sunflower seeds. Check seasonings and add a few shakes of Tabasco if you want more heat.
Store leftovers in an air tight container.
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Christmas Wreath Salad with Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette

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(Mama Becky)

I’ve been mulling over this year’s Christmas Dinner Menu for our big blended family.  My goal is always to use recipes that are delicious, tasty, and pretty — but are no-brainers to make and serve.

For the main dishes, I  decided on my never0fail, always juicy slices of Tri-Tip roast in au jus; and a nice center cut of grilled Norwegian salmon from Whole Foods, our favorite cut of fish.  This should please the beef eaters and the fish eaters alike.

I recently discovered some delicate, amazing-tasting fresh “pasta purses” stuffed with cheeses and truffles at, of all places, Sam’s Club.   After cooking them in boiling water, I gently ladled  them into a quick rich sauce made of cream, a little garlic, Parmesan cheese and basil. To. Die. For.  And silly easy.  I now have my perfect fancy-but-simple Christmas side dish to put on the menu.

Finally, to add some freshness and crunch to round out the meal,  I thought I’d make a salad.  But I didn’t want an old boring salad.  Then –  faster than a speeding reindeer it came to me! I’d make a Christmas Wreath Salad.  I’d arrange the greens on a plate like a wreath, dot it with red berries, both fresh and dried, sprinkle with nuts and top with  feta cheese “snow” and tuck a bow at the bottom of the plate.  Then, what could be more festive to drizzle on this pretty salad than a vinaigrette inspired by my favorite cranberry-orange relish?

As I write this, it seems the whole country is blanketed with snow and ice. Here in Denver  it is a balmly… 1 degree.  Our front yard proved to be the perfect place to chill the salad and snap some photos.  Let me assure, I didn’t dawdle with the camera outside for long. In fact this was probably the fastest — and coldest – food photography session I’ve ever done.  Greg and I sampled this trial-run salad as a one bowl supper tonight by topping it with some warm, sliced deli roast chicken.  Big, Holly Jolly win.

By the way, if you are looking for an uplifting, fun gift for teachers, girlfriends, moms, grandmas or cooks in your family … may we suggest copies of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook?

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook - Gift Wrapped

Our memoir is truly one of those perfect, generic, happy gifts that anyone on your list will enjoy.  The recipes at the end of each chapter add extra value.  The book is available online everywhere, and in most bookstores; but if you would like an autographed, wrapped copy check out Rachel’s last blog post with instructions on how to contact us.

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Christmas Wreath Salad with Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette

 Ingredients:

About 4 to 5 cups of salad greens (I used chopped romaine and arranged spinach leaves on top of the “wreath mounds)

½ cup of whole nuts (I used pecans and pistachios)

¼ cup of dried red berries – cherries or cranberries

½ cup of fresh red  berries – slice strawberries or pitted fresh cherries

1/3 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (or if you prefer, grated white cheddar, parmesan, swiss or other white cheese)

Directions:

On a large round plate, put a small bowl for the salad dressing in the middle.  Arrange salad greens around the bowl to make a “wreath”, then dot the wreath with nuts, dried berries and fresh betters.  Finally sprinkle with feta “snow”.    Fill the bowl in the middle with the following vinaigrette and serve chilled.

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Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette

1 cup fresh  cranberries
1 medium navel orange or 2-3 clementines, peeled and broken apart
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon grated onion  or dried minced onion

½ t. garlic powder
2/3  cup olive oil

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, and turns a gorgeous raspberry red.  Keep in fridge until ready to serve.

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Cheesy Garlic, Fresh Tomato Bread with Oil & Balsamic Drizzle

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Cheesy Hot Garlic Bread with Tomatoes, Drizzled with Olive OIl and Vinegar

(Becky, the Mama.)

What fun  Rachel and I are having hearing back from readers enjoying We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook. Here’s one I got a kick out of today from Linda: “Becky I’m only on page 18 and I’m laughing out loud like a nutcase. You really have made a career out of telling on yourself! OMG, too funny and you’re not exaggerating, not even a little? Starting with misplacing your car keys in Nashville, your suitcase exploding at the airport, you can’t find your car once you arrive in Fort Worth, then when you do, the battery is dead? I’m dying over here.”

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People often ask my daughter (now co-author), my friends, my husband, “Come on, tell the truth. Is Becky making this stuff up?” All they can say, with a slow head shake is, “We only wish she were.”

As I read the fun note above, I was in the middle of posting this episode on Facebook:
Leaving hotel room today. Close door, get 4 big suitcases in hall.
Me: “Uh I took my glasses off again.”
Greg: “Did you leave them in the room?”
Me: “I might have.”
All four  of our keys are behind locked doors so Greg goes to get new ones. Upon his return, I say, “I also can’t seem to find my cell phone.” He enters the room and turns it upside down. I look on the carpet, I’ve been sitting on the phone in the hall. I find my glasses, in the case where I put them in my suitcase. I don’t remember doing that AT ALL. We close the door pick up our things and go on. Greg never gets mad, not even testy. No matter how many times we exit a hotel room this way.

Life has been so busy lately with the book’s release and travel and finding things I have lost,  that when I do cook I want it to be fast and easy and delicious. One of the things I enjoy the most at some of the great Italian restaurants we’ve visited on our trip to Oregon this week, is fresh homemade bread dipped in a little plate of olive oil, good aged balsamic vinegar and a little garlic. Heaven.

Recently I found a way to turn Heaven into a quick snacky meal or a wonderfully easy appetizer for a bunch. Cutting a nice fresh loaf of French bread lengthwise, I sprinkled it with cheese, then layered sliced fresh garden tomatoes, followed  tiny pinches of salt, pepper, basil or oregano (fresh or dried, whatever you have on hand), a little fresh grated garlic. Pop this in the oven until the cheese melts and tomatoes are sizzling. Then, here’s the fun part: drizzle it all with good olive oil and balsamic, cut in slices and serve with plenty of napkins.

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Cheesy, Garlic, Fresh Tomato Bread with Oil & Balsamic

1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise

1 cup grated cheese (I used mozzarella, some white cheddar and feta. Use any combination you like.)

2-3 tomatoes (my baguette was small so Roma tomatoes were perfect size), sliced

Pinch fresh salt

Several turns of fresh pepper

1 t. dried oregano, or 2 t. minced fresh basil

1 clove fresh garlic, grated

¼ cup olive oil, approximate

2 T. good aged balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat Oven to  400 degrees

Put both baguette halves on a baking sheet, cut side up.  Sprinkle about ½ cup grated cheese on each side.  Slice tomatoes and place atop both pieces of bread, overlapping slightly as shown.  Sprinkle each half with a little fresh salt, some turns of fresh pepper, the herbs and garlic.

Place in oven for about 5 minutes or until baguettes are hot, cheese is melted and tomatoes are sizzling.

Drizzle the baguettes with oil and vinegar, slice in 3 inch pieces and serve hot.  (With plenty of napkins.)

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Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

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(Becky, the Mama.)

In my home state of Texas zucchini grows in backyard gardens with such profusion that almost everyone I knew had a steady pile of it sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be washed, diced, sliced, grated, grilled baked, steamed, frozen — or ignored until it grew mildew and could finally be thrown away without guilt. My mother remembers having to remove a bunch of zucchini from my kitchen sink in order to make room to give one of my newborn babies their first bath. During Texas summers it is almost impossible to walk to or from your car without at least one neighbor strong-arming you into accepting a bag or bucket of ever present green squash. Everywhere you turn, zucchini lurks.

To get my children to eat their share of it, I invented Skillet Italian Squash Casserole. By cooking the squash until just crisp tender, then topping it with an Italian style tomato sauce, gooey cheese, and buttery crackers, I had a winner! It was a family favorite for many years.

Soon after we married, nine years ago,  my husband Greg let me know, “I’m not really a squash kind of guy.” So I avoided serving him squash in any form. But the other day, I threw caution to the wind and made this casserole anyway, since I liked it so much. He graciously agreed to try it. To my surprise, he loved it, too.  Ate every bite. I made it again tonight, and there was not a speck of squash left on his plate,

One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke …” Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

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Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

5 smallish to medium squash, yellow or zucchini or a mixture of both
Salt & Pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 large clove grated garlic
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes (preferably the kind with basil)
½ t. oregano
2 t. brown sugar
1 c. grated cheese (I like mozzarella but really, any cheese you like & have on hand will be yummy)
3 T. butter
20 buttery crackers, such Ritz or Townhouse (I used Ritz wheat crackers)
2 T. grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Heat oven to 400 degrees

Slice squash about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an 10-12 inch iron skillet on high flame until very hot. Put squash and garlic into pan and saute until many of the pieces are golden on the outside and cooked until just crisp-tender.

Remove from stove top and pour crushed tomatoes evenly over the top of the squash. Sprinkle the tomatoes with oregano and brown sugar. Top with grated cheese. Melt butter in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave. Crumble crackers into the melted butter, add Parmesan and mix. Pour this crumb mixture on top of the cheese, then place the skillet in hot oven. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender, cheese melted, and cracker crumb topping is golden.

Veganize This: Substitute vegan ‘Mozzarella” and “Parmesan” cheese and dairy-free butter and you are good to go on this one.  Simple to do!

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Kale “Popcorn” (or Leprechaun Food)

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(Becky the Mama)

As Kermit the Frog would say, “It’s not easy being green.” Only around here, the saying goes, “It is not easy to get my family to eat green things.” If, God forbid, a stray piece of “green stuff” – from chopped basil to green onions or kale – should land on my husband’s plate, he looks at me as though I’ve betrayed him…. with malice and forethought.

Thankfully children are more easily tricked… er… uh… persuaded. I told my grandson George that, together, we were going to make Green Popcorn. He was all in, as he loves to participate in any kind of “cooking with Nonny.” I had him tear the leaves off a bunch of kale into bite-sized pieces, then we rinsed them lightly and I let him spin the salad spinner, which one of his favorite kitchen tools. We then tossed the leaves in a bowl of olive oil and melted butter (butter helps give it the popcorn-taste) spread them on cookie sheets, sprinklee them with just a tiny bit of sea salt and baked until they were light as a feather. In fact, kale will almost fly off the cookie sheet after baking.

For extra fun I put them in popcorn bags, and sure enough, George LOVED them and asked for more. He ate almost a whole bunch of kale in one sitting. With this success behind me, I went after my husband in Sam-I-Am style. “You know that a lie I cannot tell, you will SO love green popcorn kale… “ He was willing to sample them and before he knew it he’d eaten the whole bowl.

“What do you think?”

“It really does taste like popcorn. I could eat this as a snack now and again quite happily.”

Eureka! Dr. Furhman, author of many books and PBS health guru, lists kale as the #1 food to help boost immunity and fight cancer.  It’s got more iron than beef, lots of Vitamin C and K, is high in fiber and full of antioxidants.  I’m posting this blog on St. Patty’s day, so you could tell you children that you are going to make some Leprechaun treats! Hey, whatever it takes to get your family to eat their greens and come back to report that they were “magically delicious”.
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P.S.  As long as we are nourishing our body with green things,  here’s another lovely green thing you can acquire to nourish your heart, mind and soul! 

 

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Kale “Popcorn” (or “Leprechaun Food”)

1 bunch fresh kale, leaves torn off of stem into chip-sized pieces
1 T. olive oil
1 t. butter, melted
Sea Salt

Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees
Rinse the torn up kale leaves then dry them very well in a salad spinner or blotting them on with clean tea towel. Toss them with clean hands in a bowl with the olive oil and butter. Spread the leaves out on a big flat cookie sheet, so they are just barely touching. Use two cookie sheets if needed.

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Sprinkle VERY LIGHTLY with sea salt. (Just a pinch for the whole pan. Because the kale shrinks up it is easy to over-salt them.) Bake about 8 -10 minutes. Stay near the oven and check them often. When they are light as a feather and starting to brown and get crispy, remove them and let them cool to the touch. We like them still warm and fragrant, served in popcorn bowls or bags as a snack. They also make nice crispy toppings for soups or pasta dishes.

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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Kale “Popcorn”
The URL:http://wp.me/p1UwM9-VL


Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes in Maple-Mustard-Balsamic Glaze

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(Becky, the Mama.)

So what do you call someone who makes vegetables the “Star of the Show,”  and doesn’t eat meat — but also doesn’t get nervous if a ham hock touches her pinto beans,or shrink back when a spoonful of beef gravy is ladled over her mashed potatoes, and sometimes considers “bacon” to be in a food group all its own?

I thought I might be alone in the sea of food-preference categories until, that is, I stumbled on the term “flexitarian.”

If this is a new term to you, as it was to me,  here’s the basic  scoop:  A flexitarian diet is one that is plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat products.[In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian as the year’s most useful word and defined it as “a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat” in 2012, the term was listed for the first time in the mainstream Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

I still enjoy cooking for the meat-eaters in my family, so I will continue to post recipes now and again that include beef, chicken or seafood and fish.  However, my Daughter The Beautiful Healthy Vegan, has apparently influenced my food preferences over the year we’ve been writing this blog and our book together.   It all began when I noticed that after experimenting with eating “Rachel’s way” when I visited her or she came to our home,  my stomach would feel so nice and flat, even after eating a good-sized plate full of delicious food.

I made the decision to  go  95% vegetarian for a month, after having been served two really horrible, dry, meat-based meals while on vacation.  The thought of meat, at that time, began to nauseate me and it was freeing to just do away with it altogether.  Turns out this was the easiest dietary change I’ve ever made.   I found I was actually relieved to have an excuse to double up on the veggies and by-pass meat (or have just a bite or two if it really looks and sounds good).

One benefit of being a vegetarian is that you start to look at veggies in a whole new way.  Since they will make up the bulk of your meal, you really want them to taste incredible, to come out of their former dull side-kick status and tap-dance into their own spotlight.

This dish, made of roasted Brussels Sprouts, sweet potatoes and almonds, then drizzled with a butter, maple, mustard and balsamic glaze,  will steal the show away from just about any hunk of cow or chicken..   You could serve it as is, or over some pasta, gnocchi, brown rice or quinoa.   The almonds can be left whole for extra crunch or chopped or slivered.. your preference.  Toasted walnuts are be delicious. It is also yummy and a bit more filling  with some  sliced and browned Field Roast apple sage sausage (my favorite vegan meat substitute).  To easily  extend it to the meat eaters in your home,  add a little crumbled brown Italian turkey sausage.

Most people are convinced by the growing research about cancer and heart-disease prevention, that they should eat more plant-based foods.   What Rachel and I will try to do is make this “good-for-your-health edict”  sound less like a punishment and more like a privilege by continuing to  offer easy, mouth-watering recipes that you will be excited about making, serving, and eating!  Just look at these veggies showing off as they take center stage:

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes in Maple Mustard Balsamic Glaze

1 – 2 T. olive oil

1 lb fresh Brussels Sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cute in bite-size cubes

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1/2 t. sea salt  and 1/2 t. pepper

5 T. maple syrup

1 T. brown or Dijon mustard

1 T. butter

2 t. balsamic or red wine vinegar

1/3 cup almonds, toasted  (May use whole almonds, chopped or sliced.  May also substitute walnuts.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Squiggle olive oil over large baking pan or cookie sheet.  Lay Brussels sprouts and sweet potato on the pain, along with garlic cloves. Toss all of this gently in the oil with your two clean hands, coating all sides of veggies.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Let roast for 20-30 minutes, turning once during the middle of cooking, until the veggies are starting to turn brown in places, and caramelize.

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Mash the roasted garlic with a fork and then gently toss it with the roasted veggies in a heat-proof serving bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat syrup, mustard and butter together and let boil and simmer until thickened a bit, like a glaze.  Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Pour over veggies and gently stir.  Add more salt and pepper if needed, to taste.  Garnish with toasted almonds.

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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes in Maple Mustard Balsamic Glaze
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Vl