Monday, August 31, 2009

The second attempt: ice cream Ben and Jerry's style

I finally got my official ice cream making book. This cute and witty paperback book was in many of the reviews I read in preparation of buying the ice cream maker. All raved that this was by far the best book to use for recipes; its easy and delicious. The only downfall is that most have raw egg as an ingredient. Although this grosses me out somewhat, I also consumed a lot of raw cookie dough as a child. I am still alive. Thus, I hate to be hypocritical all of a sudden and deny a certain recipe simply due to raw egg usage.
Saturday I experimented with the basic, most popular sweet cream base. This essentially is used in most of the other recipes just with flavorings and sweet candy added in. To be as scientific as possible I wanted to just do the base.

Sweet cream base:
Has anyone ever heard of the five ingredient rule? It is that you can eat anything as long as it only has five ingredients. The theory is with only five ingredients you cannot be eating chemicals and non-natural ingredients. Well, as you can see the sweet cream base has only four. Yes! It is fitting as Ben and Jerry's promotes the use of only the most natural and best ingredients in their ice cream. Well the result was fantastic. (much more solid then the first attempt in 90 degree humid weather). It was thick, smooth, and oh so sweet. I tried it plain and then with a few pieces of heath bar crunch on top. Next time I shall try actually putting more ingredients in for flavor.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gourmet meal doesn't take too much

I forget some times how easy it is to throw together a nice meal of restaurant quality. To me it seems the weather has not been cooperating with my cooking and kitchen fun at all this summer. For the last few weeks it has been incredibly hot, then it recently got beautiful. Sadly, however, life then got in the way. August 1st starts the busy period of my job or more to the point the main travel season. Each week I have been "out of the office" for the majority of days. This is a problem for three reasons. The first being if I am out of town then I have no kitchen in the hotel. Thus, no cooking. Two, when I finally get home I am exhausted and don't really feel like cooking or doing much of anything for a few days. Finally, and this may just be a weird thing for me, is that when I get in the habit of going out to eat for every meal it is hard to stop going out to eat. What I actually have to buy and prepare my own meal?

So to be completely honest with you, I haven't been cooking because it was too hot, then I wasn't home, and now I just am simply use to eating out all of the time (more truthfully I am lazy). Yesterday however, it was much cooler and somewhat rainy. And I was home much of last week so I was fully adjusted to regular life schedule. I could no longer use the above reasoning for my culinary neglect. I thought it was perfect time to reacquaint myself with the kitchen and the grocery store.

My first suggestion for a really good dinner is a bottle of wine. Pair this with a chuck of any type of cheese you enjoy and some type of artisan bread and you have a great start. I have also been known to stop right here and eat the cheese as a main course - highly recommended after a long, busy day.

Next, my favorite go-to meal is roasted chicken. If you don't have time for a whole chicken, quarters taste the same and take much less time. I gently lift up the skin from the meat and rub with fresh rosemary and minced garlic. A little salt, pepper and olive oil on the outside and you are good to go. If you are doing quarters you can sear the skin side in a oven safe skillet before transferring to oven. Heat about 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

Finally pick a favorite green veggie, such as string beans or broccoli. I like to get fresh string beans. I trim the edges and throw them into a pot with about tsp of olive oil, juice of one lemon, two cloves of garlic cut in half, and about 2 tbsp of whole peppercorns. Cover with lid and turn on medium to medium low heat. Shake gently holding lid shut.

Its simple and easy as well as quite delicious. You even have time to enjoy the wine, cheese, and bread while you wait for the chicken to be done. Its the perfect meal.

Monday, August 24, 2009

There's a bite: Spicy tomato, shrimp pasta

I have this somewhat weird habit of watching the food network while I am at the gym. Saturday mornings I go in for my daily workout and flip on the food network. While running I can watch Giada, Tyler Florence, and Ellie Krieger. I really don't get hunger any more by this habit. It does somewhat ruin my grocery budget though since I tend to pick up groceries after the gym. The shows fill me with all kinds of extravagant ideas for dinner. I then go through the store picking up the unplanned ingredients for said extravagant dinners.

This happened to me this past weekend as I combined an Ellie Krieger salmon dish. With an Everyday food recipe for shrimp. I had shrimp and the Hannaford salmon looked dreadful. A note to stores: if the piece of fish looks like it has been stepped on I don't recommend putting it on display.

Spicy tomato, shrimp pasta

1 lb cooked shrimp
1/2 box fettuccine noodles
1 can diced tomatoes, with chilies
1 -14 oz canned crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed peppers
1 tbsp olive oil

1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta as directed on packaging for al dente pasta, approximately 10 minutes once water boils.

2. In separate saute pan, heat olive oil and cook onion and garlic till translucent. Add diced and crushed tomatoes. Simmer on medium low heat for 10 to 15 minutes to thicken.

3. Add crushed peppers and shrimp. Cook for about 3 more minutes, enough to heat the shrimp.

4. Drain pasta and combine with shrimp sauce.

5. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve with French or Italian bread.

It really does have a bite. As Julia Child closes, Bon Appetite!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A good time at the grocery store.

In need of distressing some people find solace at the gym, some go to the spa. While I fully agree with these methods of relaxation I also fully adopt the practice of going to the grocery store. No these are not the trips to grab the two missing ingredients for tonight's dinner at 5:30pm on a weekday. My mini vacations to the grocery store are well planned out and are merely for browsing, unless I come up with something irresistible which to be honesty happens more often than not.

I do not usually go to the Joe Schmoe grocery store either, local family owned markets and Whole Foods are a favorite. I truly believe the artistically laid out produce is a release for my endorphins like running is for some. Thus this weekend in the midst of many rain down pours I took a tour around rather unique grocery store experience. Stew Leonard's all sorts of fun entertainment as you meander down the maize like path to the check out lines. It has, I believe, about 4 stores scattered between New York and Connecticut. Its mostly known for its own dairy products: yogurt, milk, cheese, and ice cream.

As you can see from the pictures there is a wide variety of animated figures throughout the store that sing and dance advertising the different Stew Leonard brand products. For a 25 year old, I thought they were a hoot. For those of you actually trying to shop they carry a full store of traditional brands and products. I will warn you that on this particular Saturday there were plenty of people doing their weekly grocery shopping and the place was quite crowded. I know I know you are saying that this cannot possibly be relaxing but if you take a deep breath and take one step at a time this really is a great place.

As you walk in you are met to the right with a dairy stand complete with ice cream, sundaes and gelato to munch on as you walk through the store. On your left is the coffee roasting section. The smell of roasting beans is to die for and again you have option of grabbing a coffee to soothe your caffeine fix. Immediately following the coffee is the bakery, one of my favorite sections. There are tons and tons of different cookies, cakes, cupcakes, breads, muffins, and bagels. Basically anything you can think of, plus and this is the best part, lots of samples. Samples of all sorts of tasting are spread around Stew's but the bakery tends to be a big stopping point. So if you didn't already grab an ice cream, be ready for a treat. Lucky for me, Jordan and I grabbed a coffee and then took off for a sampling feast. This particular day led to apple cider donuts, bread with rosemary dipping oil, and cinnamon bun pieces, all warms and freshly made.

Next came the deli and cheese departments where Parmesan cheese was sampled. At certain times you can watch mozzarella being pulled as it cools. And so goes the rest of the store set-up a new department with new samples. As you can see in the picture to the right Stew Leonard really knows how to treat customers. The last portion of the store is ready-made meals and dishes ranging from BBQ to Chinese cuisine to homemade soups. If you are not full from all of the samples I would highly recommend grabbing some quick bite to eat here. I had a great time on a rainy day for about an hour. If I had children I would probably routinely bring them as an entertainment trip. The food is good and there is just an overall nice feeling about these stores.
Its not the spa and it certainly has a different impact than a gym but its effect is the same for me.
Go to the website for more information, sales, and locations. Stew Leonard's

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The first try on the ice cream maker

The first attempt at the ice cream maker went off well, no major issues and lots of lessons learned.
As I mentioned in the last posting New York and much of New England has been in the midst of a heat wave. Not only has the temperature been hovering above 90 degrees the past few days the humid has been off the charts. Sadly air quality warnings in my area have been advising people to stay in doors from 10am-10pm. I don't know about anyone else but warnings like that just make me feel dirty, but I digress.

Ice cream seems like the perfect remedy for beating the heat. I would tend to agree with this statement and decided it was a perfect weekend to test out my new ice cream maker. A friend of mine, who also loves to play in the kitchen, was going to visit on Saturday. This was going to be a perfect occasion to try it out and I wanted everything to go smoothly. In my pre-purchase research on ice cream makers I read it was key to make sure everything (equipment, ingredients) were super cold before you start. Thus, Thursday I diligently remembered to put the freeze bowl container in the coldest part of my freezer. The directions require at least 15 hours in the freeze. I figured 72 hours would be super good.

After looking as several varying recipes online ( I have yet to get a real ice cream cookbook). I settled on a Giada recipe. I was a bit nervous in the whole process because for one all of the recipes were fairly different. Normally you can find a trend to mix and match recipes and create something of your own. I didn’t see the ice cream trend yet. Two, the Giada recipe had ricotta cheese, kind of gross for ice cream, but if you think about it cheese is comes from milk so its cannot be that different, right?

From Everyday Italian, Giada de Laurentis

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup whole milk
1 cup simple syrup, recipe below
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips ( I used the mini chips)
For the Ricotta and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream: In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese and milk until smooth. Add the simple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Pour the ricotta mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. Add the chocolate chips 10 minutes before the end of freezing.

Simple syrup:
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
In a saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Take the pan off the heat and allow the syrup to cool.
Yield: 1 cup
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

The first step needed in this recipe is the simple syrup mixture. This is very easy to make and I use it for all sorts of other recipes for smoothies and iced coffee. However, this "simple" syrup caused me a bit of a hassle due to my lack of foresight. To make simple syrup you need to boil the water/sugar mixture. I made the syrup ready to dump immediately into the ricotta mixture. Unfortunately this goes again the whole make sure everything is super cold philosophy of ice cream making, thus I had to dump the mixture into a bowl and put in the fridge. Not being a very patient person, after about 20 minutes the mixture (still being very hot) was dumped into a new glass and put in the freezer. Another 20 minutes later, the liquid was somewhat warm and I decided against my better judgment that it was usable. This simple syrup does keep so I recommend making a batch a day or two before you want to make the ice cream.

The rest of the recipe is very straightforward. Blend the milk and ricotta cheese together. Add vanilla and simple syrup. At this point I then put the mixture into the fridge for about 10 minutes to make sure it was all chilled up again. Once cold you take the freeze bowl from freezer and attach to the Kitchen aid, dump the cheese mixture in, and turn on the machine to low for 15-20 minutes. Once again you have to wait patiently. This was not an easy recipe for me to handle being how excited I was to try it out. At about 17 minutes the thickness was close to the consistency of soft service ice cream - at this point I threw in the mini chocolate chips and let it run for about 1 more minutes.

I took a regular Tupperware and dumped this mixture into and the problems began. My friend and I scraped the freeze bowl religiously to not waste any of the yummy ice cream. Paying more attention to the scraping we didn't realize the mixture in the Tupperware was quickly turning to liquid. The ice cream was now sweet liquid soup. I topped the container with the lid and threw it into the freezer. The waiting game began again.

The taste was quite good, more like a cannoli filling than a normal ice cream flavor. I love cannolis so this was not an issue at all. After about 30 minutes in the freezer the sides of the Tupperware had solidified enough for a tasting. The picture above is after 48 hours in the freezer - just like hard serve ice cream.
If I had to do it again, I would probably not pick a day that was 90 some degrees outside, I would not have the oven on during the freeze process, and I would freeze the airtight container for a bit before transferring the ice cream mixture over.

I hope the above antics did not make it simple complicated. Each step was very easy and simple, with a bit of practice and better planning I guarantee the next attempt will be better.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nachos: the ultimate quick dinner

As I mentioned in a previous post, I really like avocados. One of my favorite ways to eat this glorious fruit is as guacamole. New York has been unbearably hot the last few days making the act of cooking dinner almost torture. Thus, last night I had one of my go to quick dinners that requires little use of the oven: Nachos. It seems pretty simple, more like a happy hour special than a real meal but a few simple additions like guacamole can really spice up this dish.

One bag tortilla chips - blue or white corn
3/4 block of pepper jack or habanera cheese (if you really want to cheese buy pre-shredded bag cheese
1-15oz canned black beans
1-4oz canned corn niblets
1/2 onion diced
1 clove minced garlic
Cumin, chili power, crushed red peppers
1/2 lb ground turkey or beef (optional)

1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
2. Shred cheese block and set aside.
3. Sauté onion on medium heat until just softened. Add garlic, and spices. I use about 1 tsp of each by feel free to use more or less to taste. Continue cooking for one more minute.
Add rinsed black beans and corn. If using meat precook before beginning onions and add in at this point as well.
4. On a lined cookie sheet (tin foil makes for easy clean up) lay out a single layer of chips. Cover with 3/4 of bean mixture. Sprinkle with 3/4 shredded cheese.
5. Add another layer of chips and repeat step above with remaining bean and cheese.
6. Put in the oven for about 10 minutes on lower rack - vary the time based on how well-done you like the cheese.

The whole process takes no more than 15 minutes to put together and 10 minutes in the oven is barely enough time to heat up the kitchen for those trying to avoid the heat.

Now what makes this more of a meal then appetizer are the toppings. I always have on hand spinach or mixed greens chopped in small pieces as well as diced tomatoes to add veggies into the mix. Some good quality salsa as well as sour cream and guacamole finish off the dish.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fresh fruit pizza

For some insane reason when I was about 8 years old I went through a phase of not really liking pizza. I wouldn't not eat it but I wouldn't get very excited about it either. And forget about toppings, cheese was all I would go for. Things have since changed and pizza is one of my favorite go to dinners. Kashi, and Newman's own make very good frozen thin crust pizza available at most grocery stores, New York has Italian deli's everywhere making homemade pizza pies, and I myself whip up some quick Margarita pizza now and then. Pizza is good.

This weekend I had something from the past that made me forget about ever not liking pizza. This is the perfect summer pick-me-up snack or dessert. The recipe below using premade sugar cookie dough. Of course if you have the time and want to do it from scratch that is also allowed.

Fresh fruit pizza
Adapted from a family recipe

1 pkg premade sugar cookie dough
1 4oz can crushed pineapple
1 8oz pkg bar cream cheese (room temperature)
Any variety fresh fruit (peaches, kiwi, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
1/2 cup Apricot preserves

1.Roll out cookie dough to cover a normal size pizza pan. Cook dough according to package directions. You will probably need to add about 10 minutes to the baking time since the dough will be rather thick. It should look golden all the way to center. Remove from heat and cool.

2.Beat cream cheese and crushed pineapples together until soft and easily spreadable. Cover cookie crust pizza.

3. Cut fruit and decorate pizza with artsy design. Try to cover all open surface.
Heat Apricot preserves in microwave until runny. Brush on pizza to cover all fruit. This will prevent browning of fruit.

4.Refrigerate to set for at least an hour.

It should last about 3 days but I am telling you this is good and will not last that long. Long live the pizza, savory or sweet.

On different note, I will be posting recipes that are more than just dessert I promise.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eat, Love, Pray

For those of you who read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Love, Pray novel, I have good news. Its becoming a movie in what seems to be the year of fiction being translated to film. Julia Robert's is set to portray Gilbert. Filming is going on right now in NYC.

As with all things I look forward to the first section set in Italy which focuses on eating. Go to the Moviefone website for more details - very few exist currently.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I finally bit the big one!

I finally did it. For about the last two months I have been trying to decide whether or not I should buy an ice cream maker.

But a few weekends ago I watched an episode of Sex in the City where the girls discuss how long it takes for you to get over an ex - boyfriend. Charlotte allotted 1/2 the length of the relationship for mourning before officially moving on. This reminded me of a article I read once long ago in a health magazine that you should not have dessert more than once a month. Really, who can abide by this rule? Not me. No one can tell you how long it takes to get over a relationship and I think the same goes for dessert. I am a big fan of ice cream, especially in the summer. I figured why not do it at home? For years I have seen marvelous recipes about making ice cream but all required an ice cream maker. Why should I be left out of this genre of cooking just because I didn't posses this specific piece of equipment?

So, I finally got the Kitchen Aid attachment above for making ice cream. It may be bad for my health but it will be fun experimenting. I will report soon on the first attempts.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Julie and Julia

I have been waiting for this movie for a long time. I read My Life in France, the Julia Child's portion of the book about a year after studying abroad in France. I read Julie and Julia this past spring, right before the previews for the movie were to come out. The movie left many of the same impressions I had of the books. Please give me more Julia Child and less Julie Powell. This is not meant to be a movie critique by any means; I actually was very entertained throughout the whole film regardless of the era being shown. I think some of my obsession shows a bit of a biased opinion on this one though. I will say the Meryl Streep is ridiculously good as an actress. She completely captures Julia Child's voice, gestures, flares, and love of food and her husband.

People in the audience laughed and cheered at some of Julia's parts. I couldn't help but think though that no one laughing possibly understood the passion of the food or the joy from truly tasting a meal. Julia loved food, but she also loved life and wanted to live it to the fullest extent possible. People today are all rush rush rush. You don't have to eat a lot to have good meal. You simple have to savor what you have in front of you. The movie did try to portray this but Streep did such a fine job with Child's eccentric ways it was lost.

It's fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day. That's what human life is all about-enjoying things. - Julia Child

Finally before I can end this post I must tell all what really made this evening memorable. Can you imagine someone getting sick in a movie theater? I can honestly say there are about a handful of places I would not want to be when some stranger throws up. Well low and behold last night about 3 minutes into the movie someone a few seats away lets it go. Being that the movie had already started there were not many empty seats left. I managed to get a bit further way from the incident scene but the thought of what was left behind never left my mind for much of the movie. I had been waiting so long to see this movie I was not about to get up and go home. Awww, my only comment is that if you don't feel well, stay home!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The anything and everything cookie

Adapted from the Hershey's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup quick cooking oats or bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) HERSHEY'S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips
1 cup chopped nuts(optional)

1. Heat oven to 375°F.

2. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add eggs; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 5 dozen cookies.

The addition of whole wheat flour, bran and oats cannot be tasted. The cookies come out much thicker than the normal version which is how I prefer my cookies. I also prefer the taste of dark chocolate to the traditional milk chocolate chips.

Now my favorite part of the recipe is the creative add anything extra in the pantry part. Once you have the base dough complete you can really change this recipe up 100 times over. Some of my go to additions are white chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, dried cranberries, coconut or all of the above - simply use your judgment for quantities. I try not to add more than 1 1/2 cups of additional ingredients - about 1/2 a cup per item. If the pieces start falling out of the dough as you combine the mixture you have too much.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ommegang Brewery Belgium-style Beer and CIA dinner

I really cannot get enough of the Culinary Institute of America. I simply get on Route 9 and 25 minutes later I am at one of the most renown cooking schools in the world. I see no reason not to take advantage of this location. Besides the 4 restaurants on campus the school puts on random special dinners and events throughout the year. Last night was one such occasion. There is a Belgium born chef instructors on staff. Wednesday night he took the opportunity to teach about Belgium beer pairings with food with an hour long lecture or at least that was how it as advertised. Of course as things seem to go at the CIA not all everything turns out the way it was led on. However, it was a most enjoyable night and here is what really happened...

The Brew master, Phil, from Ommegang brewery came to chat about the beer making process and the brewery. They are currently undergoing major expansions. Ommegang Brewery is a small micro-brewery in Cooperstown, NY. I learned that a lot goes into making beer. Their beers each have a unique blend of spices something particular to Belgium-style beers. I encourage you to check out their website. They have beautiful pictures.

My favorite part of the night and really the reason for my attendance was the tasting that followed the lecture, a four-course meal with sampling of Belgium beer at each.

The Ommegang Dinner Menu

First Course
Rabbit Terrine
Stewed Prunes and Foie Gras

I have never really been a fan of terrine. To me its like glorified bologna. At this point I could go into a more vivid description of what exactly a terrine is but I find the whole thing a bit repulsive. For a better idea of what this is go here: What is a terrine? The presentation on the plate was very lovely though.

Second Course
Dover Sole Filets en Paupiette
Blanche de Bruges and Watercress Mousse

I also don't really enjoy white fish. Ever since a long trip to London where for a week I only consumed fish and chips I have been a little put off by it. I did manage to seat the whole serving which is say a lot. The people who like Dover sole I am sure would have loved it.

Kriek (Cherry) Sorbet
Peppered Local Strawberries

The Intermezzo is always something to look forward to, a little brightener mid-meal. This sorbet was divine, light and fresh; perfect for a hot summer night. Of course they only give you a melon ball size scoop but I could have had a normal size bowl and called it a night.

Entrée Selection
Oven Roasted Guinea Fowl St. Hubert
Braised Belgian Endive and Fingerling Potatoes with
Monk Ale Scented Natural Pan Drippings

The main course was super delicious. Each person was served 1/2 a guinea fowl on a long rectangular plate. Underneath the bird lay the braised endives. Although I never cook them on my own I have been a fan of endives since my time in Paris. You should definitely try them at some point if you haven't already. On the other half of was a small mound of fingerling potatoes on a bed of corn. They just kind of melted in your mouth along with the butter sauce that accompanied them.

Nutella Ice Cream
Assorted Sweets
Coffee – Tea – Decaf

My favorite course was dessert. I mean, nutella ice cream, who could not enjoy that. Another small scoop, the nutella ice cream was set on a light chocolate cake. It as served with caramelized hazelnuts that were amazing.

Each course was served with a glass of a different type of Belgium-styled beer from Ommegang. Sorry beer fans, I am not going to go into descriptions of these. I will say they each had a very distinct different taste. I only finished two of the 5 glasses I was served this evening. I even enjoyed one. Sadly the Chocolate indulgence was not something I particularly cared for.

The evening lasted a good 4 hours and needless to say by the time dessert came around I was exhausted. Serving 50 odd some people a 4 course meal all simultaneously is quite a feat. It was almost as entertaining as the food.

On side note: I finally came prepared with my camera only to have the batteries completely die off after the Rabbit terrine. The rest come from a cell phone and didn't turn out as good.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Recipe for hot weather: Pulled pork

Its August in New York and after a cold and wet June summer has finally arrived. I hate to complain since it is summertime but it is hot, hot and humid to be exact. I have had no ambition to cook. The days I have ended in regret. My little apartment kitchen 30 degrees hotter than the rest of the space from the oven or me sweating above the stove top. The ceiling fan only seems to blow the hot air around, not really cooling things off. I turn miserable. Thus the solution of the crock pot.

I kind of think of this as fake cooking. I gave my mom one a few years ago as a Christmas present. After hearing of some of the delicious meals you could make with little more effort than throwing in a bunch of ingredients and turning a nob, I wanted in too. This past year I asked for and received a crock pot.

This is one of my most used recipes and a perfect meal to have on a hot summer night. It require little effort but must be planned in advance. The recipe as two parts and takes at least two days to prepare completely.

Pulled Pork
4-5 lbs pork roast (salt and peppered)
1 onion halved and sliced
1Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 bottle of BBQ sauce 14.5 oz(KC masterpiece)
Juice of one lemon

Approximately 48 hours before you want to have some pulled pork…put roast in crock pot then cover with water. Turn on low and let cook for 10-12 hours. I do this overnight. Its no fuss and the next morning its all done.

Take roast out of crock pot. It should be fairly tender and fall apart easily. Shred the meat and store in Tupperware container in fridge till ready to use.

When ready to make add the shredded meat, BBQ sauce, onions, sugar and lemon juice to crock pot. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or on high for 1 1/2 -2 hours depending on how fast you want to eat it. At some point I do stir the mixture up a bit but this is absolutely not necessary. Trust me the smell of BBQ fills the house so you will be hungry once it gets going. That's all there is to it. I like to have hamburger buns on hand for sandwiches but I also it is plain with a salad if I feel like going the low-carb route. I find this freezes well in an airtight container for about 2 weeks. Simply put it in the fridge the night before you want to use it again.

For those of you who do not want 4-5 lbs of pork at once just pick a small roast and vary the amount of BBQ sauce accordingly. This is not rocket science. I actually don't know if I have ever used a roast this big. The pictures are from a one about 1.5lbs. I will still have plenty of meals from this. I also vary on the variety of cut. Obviously the fatter the roast the more fat you will have on the meat. This can be taken care of after the first step of boiling the roast, remove the large pieces as you shred. I find this quite disgusting though and just opt for a lean cut.

I also never add the extra sugar. For those of you who ever look at ingredients lists, BBQ sauce is not the healthiest condiment. For a 1.5 lbs roast I use about 1/2 to 3/4 of a regular 15oz bottle.

And finally for the original recipe you should sauté the onions to soften a bit before adding them to the crock pot. My thoughts are why dirty another dish? Yes, the onions don't melt in your mouth in my method but they are softened. The longer you have the mixture heating for on the second step the softer they will be, an extra 30 minutes in the pot can make a huge difference.

You can make multiple variations of this by varying the variety or flavor of the sauce. I have been known to throw in chopped garlic as well as celery.

So there you go, the next time you see the forecast for hot and humid weather think of the crock pot. The heat stays right in the pot. Its simple, easy, and one stop clean up.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pizza @ the gym?

Planet Fitness has this weird customer appreciation days where you get food at the gym for free. The first Monday of every month is pizza night and the second Tuesday of every month is bagels and coffee in the morning. I used to think this was very counter intuitive. You go to the gym to work out and for most people the end goal is to lose weight. Advertising food at a place people go to lose weight is not the best marketing ploy; however, at Planet fitness it seems to work. It certainly got Jordan in the door once a month.

The first Monday night of the month the gym is a chaotic mess. People flood in the doors; you can barely find an open machine. What is funny though is that people come in from work in street clothes, go right to the food and sit down to eat. At times I would hate these Monday nights. It would be hard to start exercising of any sort with the smell of pizza waifing through the air. The people who come and actually make it on a cardio machine actually annoy me more than the eater only people. Regular goers like myself had certain favs for machines, the pizza eaters simply get in the way. This used to be my mindset. Every once and a while these thoughts linger back into the fore front of my mind but for the most part I really appreciate the pizza nights now. Planet fitness won over my appreciation.

The Planet Fitness I am currently a member gets all sorts of strange and unusual pizzas. Normally they are one topping but you can find just about any one topping variety - sausage, pepperoni, BBQ chicken, meatball, chicken cutlet, broccoli, tomato, onion, olive, mushroom, and eggplant. Tonight however there were two new choices, salad and green olive and garlic. Salad I would assume to be some type of Mexican pizza with lecttuce scattered over the top. This I have yet to try; however, the second option was quite yummy. For anyone who loves garlic this is the pizza to try. The appearance was a bit off - pale colors never really turned me on. Once again I apologize for the lack of a picture.

Anyhow, the point of this is never turn your back on a free food opportunity. You never know what you may find...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Visuals: Why blogging is harder than originally planned

I thought this would be easy. Find time once or twice a week and comment on food things that I eat or made during the week. I certainly always had plenty to comment on before. My mistake was that one of the parts of food blogging that I enjoy the most is the pictures. One of the best things about going to restaurants is the appearance of my plate. The prettier the food the more delicious I think it will be (not always the case in reality).

One of the best things about food blogs are the pictures that go along the recipes or restaurant descriptions. I haven't quite got the knack for the picture part of this blogging thing. Normally as the week progresses I can list about 4 or 5 things as possible topics to write about; however, I always forget the pictures. Whether it is not taking any pictures till the end product as you will see in a post later this week about the cookies I made or completely forgetting the camera till I already arrive at the restaurant, pictures are the hard part. I promise to be more diligent in the future but please forgive my lack of photos in the upcoming posts.

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