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.
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!
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.
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)
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.
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?
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.
Christmas Wreath Salad with Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette
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)
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.)
(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:
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.
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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