Post #667 Lifetime Favorites

August 25, 2019 at 10:43 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

I don’t spend the bulk of my time thinking about food although it would seem that way given my blog and my hobbies.  I typically only think about food just about the time my stomach reminds me it’s time.  And then, just like most people, I’m thinking about what I want, what sounds good, what sounds easy, and what sounds quick.  I have a few stand bys that never fail to work for me.

PBJ:  Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I’ve been eating them for as long as I’ve been alive.  I’ve even taken them on backpacking trips lasting several days.  My mom believed that as long as we were eating PBJ and playing in the sun, all us kids were going to be okay.  When I was a kid, any jelly would do, but I would only eat creamy peanut butter, never crunchy.  Still will only ever eat creamy and it’s been over sixty years.  For a long time, I would only eat grape jam and it had to be ice cold.  Nowadays, I’ll branch out into other jams and use raspberry and blueberry.  I’m a wild man.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich:  There are so many variations on this theme, but it all boils down to cheese melted between pieces of toasted bread.  My ex-wife was a master at making these.  Recently, I was home from work not feeling well.  I nursed my symptoms for a few hours then decided it was time to eat something.  I went directly to grilled cheese cuz that’s what I wanted.  So good.  Hot toasty bread, hot melty cheese.  It’s good for what ails you.  Quesadillas are just grilled cheese using flour tortillas and some extra spiciness.  Bruschetta is just an open faced grilled cheese with tomatoes.  Heck, even fondue is another form of it.

Messy’s Bacon Egg and Cheese on a Croissant:  When we lived in Rhode Island, just down the road from us was a diner called Messy’s.  It wasn’t messy at all, and it had the most glorious food.  My total favorite was their breakfast sandwich, and it was the only thing I’d order.  They had tons of other things, but I didn’t care.  They’d see me coming and start making one immediately.  They sliced a fresh croissant lengthways and grill it in butter.  While it was grilling, they cooked an egg so the yolk was hard, but didn’t scramble it so the yolk and whites were separate.  A slice of cheese was melted on top and two large strips of bacon were added.  The whole thing was set inside the grilled croissant and served hot.  I’ve found a place here in Vermont that makes something similar.  It is so GOOD!

Texas de Brazil:  This is a chain restaurant specializing in Brazilian churrascaria.  It’s a dining experience not be missed, and since I’ve blogged about it before, I won’t go into extreme detail.  But the method of cooking results in the most flavorful meats I’ve ever had.  The various cuts are skewered on thin swords and crushed salt is ground into the meat.  It’s then leaned over an open flame so the outside sears.  Once that’s done, the meat is brought out and sliced at the diner’s plate until they reach the raw part and the process is repeated.  I’ve managed to come close to the same thing on a gas grill with steak and kosher salt.  If you ever have a chance to try authentic churrascaria, take it.  It can be pricey, but you’ll never forget it.  The two major chains in the US is Fogo de Chao and Texas de Brazil.

Poutine:  This is one of my new favorites, but it boils down to crispy French fries smothered in savory beef gravy and cheese.  It’s a Canadian dish, and I’m told it’s only authentic in Canada.  But the samples I’ve had here taste pretty damn good.

Tacos:  Nuff said, right?  One of my coworkers and her family have taken Taco Tuesday to an art form.  Tuesday night is always, always tacos.  Nothing else.  They invite friends over to stuff themselves with tacos.  Their fillings vary with whatever is on hand.  Last week was venison.  We have tacos at least once a week.  One time while in Virginia, I had tacos three times one day.  In Tucson, near the University, there was a chain restaurant called Los Betos whose rolled tacos, or taquitos, were amazing.  We’d buy three dozen and take them to parties.  Corn tortillas filled with spicy beef and rolled tightly pencil thin then crisp fried and lightly salted.  Dunk one end into salsa and bite.  So good.  I’m drooling now.

Bone in Pork Chops:  My mom used to buy the thin cut chops and fry them till they were leather.  I must have been in my twenties before I tasted how pork chops were supposed to be cooked.  Fried till done, but still juicy, lightly salted and that’s all.  No apple sauce, no pepper, just tender juicy pork flavor filling your mouth.  I’ve never said no to a pork chop.  Years ago, my ex-wife and I would go to dinner with her parents to their favorite place and they had pork chops on the menu.  Her mom and I would nearly always order that.  The first time we did, her mom got to the bone-gnawing part before I did and apologized as she picked it up and started tearing the meat of the bone with her teeth.  Before anyone could admonish her, I followed suit and said, “I’m right with you.”

Brownies:  I can throw a pan of brownies together in next to no time.  One time I was at a friend’s house and she didn’t have dessert to serve for a dinner she hosting that night.  I popped a pan of brownies into her oven before she could say anything.  They got rave reviews.  They’re so chocolatey, gooey, and good.  One of the easiest chocolate desserts to make, and one of the tastiest.

Plain Buttered Toast:  I love toast with a slather of butter on top.

Caramel Creams:  This is a candy I used to eat as a kid, and got reintroduced to just recently.  I don’t know if it’s a regional thing or not, but I haven’t seen this particular one for a long time.  Soft caramel shaped into a roll around a soft vanilla cream center (not a swirl like I’m used to seeing) then sliced thin and wrapped.  When you bite into it that burnt sugar caramel flavor with the sweet vanilla cream is over the moon.

Spaghetti:  What’s not to like about pasta, meat, and tomato sauce?  Throw some parmesan cheese on top and eat it.

Pizza:  Pizza is so good, and can be so healthy if you do it right.  But the crust has to be right, the sauce has to be right, the cheese has to be right, and the cooking method has to be right.  Or it can be spectacularly wrong.

Burgers:  Yeah, I’m a sucker for a ground beef patty that’s been fried till done.  I like them in about a zillion different ways.  Maybe I’ll blog about ’em soon.

So, that’s my trip down memory lane and sharing my total favorites and stand bys with you.  What are yours?  Feel free to share the post far and wide.

As always,

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Post #666 How to Boil Water

August 21, 2019 at 5:07 PM | Posted in Basics | Leave a comment

About six hundred years ago, when I was about five and we lived in upstate New York, winters were particularly cold, but because we were young and hyperactive, the cold didn’t penetrate too much.  At least, I don’t remember it being too chilly.  Capitalizing on the frigidly cold weather, Lipton’s started a new ad campaign.  Kids about our age or so playing outside in snow as deep as the stuff we were playing in kept looking at a house and yelling “Is it soup yet?”  And the mom inside working at the stove would holler back ,”Not yet!” as she stirred a pan.  Eventually she would holler “It’s soup!” and everyone would rush inside to eat “home made” soup and a baloney sandwich.  It was the start of the instant soup mixes which gave more of a home made flavor than the canned variety.  In our neighborhood, every kid wanted the “home made” soup mixes so we could yell “Is it soup yet?”

All it took to make soup was boil water for five minutes with the soup mix in it.  What could be easier?

Well, I gotta say, making soup is just as easy, and in some cases, just as fast.  And the flavors can be absolutely amazing.  There’s a richness and earthiness to a slow simmered soup that takes hours, but there’s a brightness and freshness to a soup that’s simmered for few minutes with new ingredients that stands in a category by itself.

My two favorite soups I’ve blogged about a few times before so I won’t go too far into detail.  On a cold cold night, Senate Bean Soup is hard to beat.  My brother and I loved that stuff.  Mom made it once in a while and we called it “beengs and cornbread.”  Senate Bean Soup is so called because one of the earlier Presidents (I think it might have Jefferson or Adams senior) had it in the Senate cafeteria and signed an executive order that it had to be on the menu every day.  It’s also known as Yankee Bean Soup, so it seems to be a New England inspired soup.  It’s ham in one form or another, onion, garlic, and beans that have been soaked overnight simmered in water or stock until the beans are tender, then chopped tomatoes are added to bump up the flavor.  Mom never added the tomatoes, but the first time I did it turned one of my favorite dish into my favorite dish.  I don’t always have it with cornbread, but usually it’s there.  Putting the tomatoes in last is important because the acid in the tomatoes will make the beans go tough and not cook if they’re added to early.  Any acid will do this so be careful.

My other favorite soup is Beef and Onion Soup.  Another slow-simmered soup, this one takes time and attention, but is so worth it.  A chuck roast of beef, cut into small pieces, seared in three cups of sautéed onions, then simmered in water and herbs until the beef is falling apart and the onions have disappeared.  Once it’s done, there are so many things that can be done with it.  Add more liquid to make a real soup.  Simmer it so the broth becomes a thick sauce and serve over mashed potatoes.  I’ve also used home made bread and toasted thick slices and put this over it.  So good.

But these are long cooking soups, and I want to talk about the quick soups.  I’ve read some articles where they’re also called Pantry Soups because you make them out of things in your pantry.

Garlic soup is one.  I’ve mentioned this one in passing before, but it’s basically a full head of garlic, peeled and crushed, then added to four cups of chicken broth and simmered for about ten or fifteen minutes.  While it’s simmering, you can boil some rice or some pasta or toast some bread.  The soup is ready when the garlic loses its bite and mellows to a “golden” flavor.  It’s hard to describe but you’ll know it when you taste it.  Spoon some rice or pasta into a bowl, and ladle the garlic broth over it.  This soup is pretty versatile, too.  You can add cooked chicken to it, or thinly sliced veggies.  One person I know added a half cup of cream to it, but I don’t do that since I don’t like most dairy based soups or sauces.  I have added a dollop of sour cream to the bowl as a garnish because, well, it’s sour cream.  What’s not to like?

We were watching Lidia Bastianich on television last week and she made a quick soup that looked delicious.  She cut up a large onion into small pieces, then added celery and carrots cut into similar pieces and added the whole mess, about three cups worth, to a large pot with shimmering olive oil in it.  She stir fried the veggies until the celery and onion were clear then added six cups of chicken stock.  She cooked everything for about twenty minutes until the celery was crisp by easy to chew, stirring every few minutes.  Then she added a large can of cannelloni beans with the liquid and stirred it all together.  Once the beans were heated through, she served it with crusty bread slathered with butter.  It looked so good.

It started a conversation with us.  Partner/Spouse said he didn’t think the celery would add anything to it.  I disagreed.  To me, celery is very highly flavored and adds to whatever it’s in, whether cooked or raw.  I use the leaves in bean soup all the time.  But it reminded me of a soup my mom used to make.

She’d take chicken stock, home made or store bought, and simmer it for a few minutes.  She’d add fresh garlic and some dried herbs and simmer for a few minutes more.  Then she’d add celery leaves and either fresh or frozen spinach.  Once everything was hot, we’d all sit down to eat sandwiches and soup.  It was so good.

This isn’t really a soup, but mom made it periodically.  She’d boil up a big pot of pasta, whatever was on hand.  Then she’d fry up a pound of bacon that was cut up.  While that was frying, she’d drain the pasta and put it back into the hot pot.  She’d add a medium sized can of tomato juice and a large size can of chopped tomatoes, either plain or seasoned, whatever she was in the mood for.  While it heated, she’d finished off the bacon, then pour the entire contents of the pan, grease and all, into the pasta.  It made a horrendous noise, but once it settled down, and cooked a little bit more, it tasted wonderful!!  I’ve made this a few times since and it always tastes just like my memories.  And it never took too long.

So the title of the post is how to boil water.  Put it in a pan and turn the heat on.  Don’t start with cold water; it’ll take a long time.  But don’t start with hot water; it’ll waste energy and not save any time on the stove.  Just turn the tap on and fill the pot.  Put it on the stove and turn the heat on.  It’ll eventually boil.  There are various stages to the boiling.  When the bubbles first start to form and the top is showing some steam, it’s called a simmering boil.  When the bubbles break the surface consistently, it’s called a regular boil.  When the whole pot of water is moving and the bubbles are large, it’s a rolling boil or a roiling boil.  That’s what you want when making pasta.  Water boils faster when the pot is covered, but once the cover is off the heat will dissipate and the boil will stop.  Water that has once boiled, will boil faster the second time around.  Boiling water is not good for tea, coffee, or hot chocolate; you want simmering water.  Using anything else will burn the leaves, grounds, or chocolate.  Took me a long time to learn that one.  Steam will give you burns as quickly as the water so be careful.  Metal pan handles will heat up to boiling stage too, so again, be careful.  BTB means bring to boil; RTS means reduce to simmer.  Adding salt to water helps it boil a little bit faster, just be aware that it will transfer salt to the food you’re cooking.  Back in days before stoves and metal cooking pans, people boiled water by heating stones and putting them into the container of water.  When the stone cooled, they were removed and other hot stones were put in.  Eventually the water heated and boiled.  Steam saunas use heated stones to create the steam being used.  So do sweat lodges.  This I know.

So, tell us all about your favorite soups, and anything you know about boiling water.  Feel free to share the post far and wide.

As always,

Post #665 Old Fashioned Applesauce Cake

August 18, 2019 at 2:49 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I had a request to teach someone about old fashioned applesauce cake, and since it’s been a while since I’ve had any, or made any, or did a step-by-step post about making something, it all came together for today’s post.  But, before that fun part, I just gotta tell you all about my tomatoes.  They are coming in thick and furious, as I’ve reported before, but today, I pulled some ripe tomatoes that I bought with my own home-grown and whizzed them in the Ninja and made some super fresh tomato sauce.  It’s in the freezer right now with a little salt and olive oil added in.  We’ve got a guest coming in a couple of weeks who’s addicted to Bloody Mary’s so we might use the tomatoes for that.  We’ll see.  I’m grabbing a handful of cherry tomatoes every day now.  They are my mid morning snack at work.  So many tomatoes.

So, let’s talk applesauce cake.

Applesauce cake, in one form or another, has been around for centuries.  Almost as long as people have been baking, they’ve been making cakes that are sweetened or moistened with fruit, and apples have always been a popular fruit to use.  The first recipes to specifically reference applesauce date back to American colonial times.  The basic formula is applesauce, flour, and sugar.  More is added when the baker wants a tastier, firmer type cake.  During the Depression when many ingredients were not available, various “make-do” cakes sprang up using ingredients that were on hand.  Applesauce cake made a comeback and has never really been out of the public eye since.

The batter for the cake tends to be wet, but a dry version can be made using apple chunks along with the applesauce.  The batter can also be modified to make muffins and donuts.  Most applesauce cakes are made in small square baking dishes, but the one I made today is in a larger sheet cake pan.  I’ve also seen some that are in loaf pans like a banana bread, and in bundt pans or fluted pans.  I’ve even seen some that have been modified into layer cakes and filled with a cream cheese based frosting.  Any of the cakes can be frosted or filled, but I usually sprinkle powdered sugar on mine.  Since they’re already sweet and moist, any additional frosting just adds to that and can be too sweet.  I once saw one that had a sugar crumble on top that was good, but again, very sweet.

So the recipe I generally use is this one:

  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp mace or fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • This recipe also calls for rehydrated raisins, but I stopped using that years ago

Preheat your oven to 300.  In one medium sized bowl, mix the dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, salt, and spices) and whisk together well.

In a large bowl, cream together the Crisco and sugar until light and fluffy.  This will take a little time, but keep at it and it will work.  I start the blender on low, then move up to medium after a couple of minutes.  Then add the egg and vanilla and blend well.

Measure the applesauce into a measuring cup, then measure the water into another measuring cup.  In alternating stages, add the wet and dry ingredients to the creamed sugar.  Follow standard baking protocol for this by starting and ending with dry ingredients.

Once all the ingredients are blended, use a rubber spatula to fold in the walnuts.

Taste the batter at this stage to see if you want to add any other flavors.  The spice blends and nuts can vary based on personal likes and dislikes.  I would not suggest adding chocolate to this cake, but always use cinnamon.  Apples and cinnamon go together like no other flavor combo imaginable.  I use cinnamon and mace (the ground husk of the nutmeg) because the mace flavor is deeper and earthier than nutmeg.  I also think the flavor of walnut and apple do well together too, and it’s one of the few times where I think the nuts are essential to the cake.

This also tends to be a fairly light textured cake in the batter stage.  I could eat the batter all by itself until I’m full.  Throw some oats in there, and you got breakfast!  Prepare a pan, and I use a disposable aluminum sheet cake with a plastic lid.  The primary reason for this is I take cakes to work all the time and I don’t want to worry about keeping an eye on my good pans.  Prepare the pans by spraying with vegetable oil, or spreading shortening on the bottom and sides then sprinkling with flour.  I haven’t floured a pan since I learned about Pam.  When the batter is in the pan, spread it evenly.

Then bake at 300 for 50-70 minutes.  It depends on your oven and the wetness of the batter.  Check at 50 minutes by sticking a wooden toothpick into the center.  If any wet batter sticks to the toothpick, give it another ten minutes and check.  Keep checking at ten minute intervals until the toothpick comes out clean.  The cake should look like this.

And once it’s cooled, and sprinkled with powdered sugar, it should like this.

And once you cut it and eat it, it should look like this.

And it will taste even better.

This is a great cake to take to gatherings since it’s delicious and stays moist for quite a while.  It will impress anyone eating it.

So, I hope you enjoy the cake.  Share pics if you make it, and feel free to share the post far and wide.

As always,

Post #664 The Best of the Best

August 11, 2019 at 1:00 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s funny how things seem to come in threes, isn’t it?  In this situation, it was a case of several things happening coming together at nearly the same time leading to a funny ending.  At least, I thought it was funny.

It started a few days ago, maybe a week or so.  I was looking for a particular recipe and went to my hard drive.  I was running down the list of file names (each file name is the name of the recipe) and realized of the many dozens of recipes I’ve got on the computer, at least a third of them use the word Best.  I’ve got the best brownies, the best bread, the best yellow cake, the best butter cookies, and so on.  I got a chuckle out of it, found my recipe, and went on to cooking with a mental note to start naming the recipes with a little variety.

Then, this week at work, I flew solo.  The person I am replacing has retired and I was “on my own” so to speak.  Although since it’s a team effort, I wasn’t on my own really.  There’s an extra desk in my office/cubby that’s used by anyone who needs a space away from the mainstream to do work, usually to call patients.  Nearly everyone who came in during the week chatted cooking and baking with me.  All our conversations held the words, “I’ve got the best recipe for . . . ”  Usually, whatever that recipe was turned out to be a stand-out.  I learned some traditional Vermont and Canadian recipes, and I’ll likely learn more which I’ll share.  Ever heard of poutine?

But the capper came yesterday.  I was searching through some online cookbooks and found this one:

With the term “best of” ringing in my brain, I had to take a look at it.

I was searching on cooking basics because I was reminded that this blog started with the basics.  When this book popped, it almost seemed like fate.  I mean, the title is brilliant.  It’s designed to make you open the cover.  And the only quote about what’s inside is from a chef known for wanting perfection.  I’ve never heard of the guy, but the inside of the book is heavy with pictures, and “pro tips” to make the recipe more accessible for inexperienced cooks.  The only thing I don’t like about it is that the recipes are geared more towards “high class” cooking rather than home style cooking.  There are some basic recipes with good detailed instructions, but mostly it’s things like Chinese Noodle Bird Nest soup, and Cucumber Yogurt Gazpacho.  I can’t imagine any hungry four year old eating those.  But if you want to know how to make ’em, the details are there with tips to not screw it up.

Having said that, though, there are a ton of recipes that I’ve been looking for like authentic custard tarts, and roast belly of pork with apples and pistachios.  The real strength of this book is in the pro tips and keys to perfection sections.  These are lessons most people learn the hard way, but in this book they’re all spelled out in easy to understand (at least for me) language and steps.  And there are several recipes for building blocks; things like soup stock, and cookies, basic roasted chicken.

The search that found this fun book was looking for a basic cookbook to remind myself where cooking starts.  Since I want to bring the blog back to its roots, I figured I’d take a once-a-month approach and somewhere around the first of each month, I’d post a beginner’s style recipe and lesson.  So I was curious where cooking lessons start.  I remember as a kid, watching mom and absorbing information that way.  I knew what a stove was; I knew how to boil water for hot dogs and eggs; I knew how to make toast; I knew how to make popcorn.

What I didn’t know what how to plan a meal.  I didn’t know how to cook for small groups and large groups.  I didn’t know how to read a recipe.  I didn’t know how to blend flavors and textures.  I didn’t know how to think of a recipe as the first step.  I found a lot of advice, but no real lessons.  Even the above book is not a cooking lesson, per se.

Then I found this one:

And I thought, sure why not?  It’s a good cookbook and does the same thing as the one at the beginning of the post.  It gives a lot of tips, hints, and tricks to be successful.  I haven’t read all the way through it, but the bits I’ve read are good.

Over the years, I’ve read a LOT of cookbooks and “learning to cook” books.  They seem to follow a pattern and start with breakfast.  If they don’t start with breakfast, they start with the beginning of the meal.  So, I’ll likely follow that same pattern when I start.

For now, I’ll leave you with a favorite recipe.

When I was in high school, I did a lot of cooking, particularly in my senior year.  My home work and studying usually went pretty fast, and fixing and cleaning after dinner was normally done by 6 or 630.  My evenings were open, and unless the high school band had something going on that I needed to be at, I did a lot of reading and/or writing.  I started making cookies or fudge in the evening.  I made what was called Opera Fudge (I think) which consisted of cocoa, sugar, milk, vanilla, and butter.  The fudge was thin, shiny, and if it was made properly, it melted in your mouth.  But one thing I made only once in a while, even though it was my personal favorite – caramels.

I love caramel.   I love the ooey, gooey richness and flavor.  I love how it gets stuck to my teeth so I have to keep sucking at them to get all the candy off.  The first time I made them, I didn’t cook it long enough and it was more of a sauce than a candy.  It was wonderful on ice cream.  But over time, I got pretty good at it, and eventually started putting it on top of the fudge.  That never really worked exactly the way I wanted it to, but was pretty good overall.  Here’s the recipe I followed.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter in pieces
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup

You will need an accurate candy thermometer for this.  Line a 9×9 inch glass baking dish with aluminum foil with an overhang of about an inch on two opposite sides.  Grease the foil with butter.  Do not use any spray.

In a large, heavy sauce pan mix all ingredients until well combined, then heat over medium-low heat until boiling stirring constantly to avoid scorching.  Cook for 35-45 minutes until the thermometer reaches 245.  Carefully pour into prepared dish and allow to cool completely.  Do not put it in the freezer or the fridge to cool as it may crystallize.  Once the caramel has cooled, pressed your finger lightly in the center to test for firmness.  It should have a slight give, but hold its shape.  Lift the candy out of the pan using the foil overhangs.  Gently peel the foil off the candy and place on a cutting board.  Cut into one inch square pieces and wrap individually in plastic wrap.

These can be decorated with a sprinkling of sea salt during the cooling stage.  Melt some chocolate chips with a little vegetable oil and pour over the top during the cooling stage and sprinkle with sea salt, or colored sprinkles.

Feel free to share this post far and wide and to ask me any questions you may have.

As always,

 

Post #663 What To Do, What To Do?

August 4, 2019 at 2:42 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tomatoes are coming in fast and furious.  I’ve eaten a handful of cherry tomatoes just this weekend, and the plum tomatoes are turning more and more red with each passing minute.  I’ve got a feeling we’re going to be knee deep in them soon, so I’ve devised a plan to whiz the ripe fruit through the blender and freeze it with some garlic and basil to make a fresh sauce.  And the tomatillos are coming in too.  We’ve got a lot of the paper balls and waiting for the fruit to fill them.  So that’s the update on the farming front.

A few days ago Partner/Spouse brought home a huge pork roast that was on sale.  The price was too good not to buy it.  We wanted to cut it into pieces since we’d only be cooking it for two people, but there was a large bone running down the center of it making cutting it problematic.  So, what to do?

I cooked the whole thing, low and slow on Saturday.  Today, I will be shredding the meat off the bone.  The plan is to then separate into three or four equal portions large enough for the two of us.  Then we’ll have three or four different meals out of it.

Meal 1:  Pulled pork sandwiches.  We both love barbecue.  And we’ve had a lot of different varieties.  One time in North Carolina, I made pulled pork with the traditional North Carolina barbecue sauce.  We’d never had it before so I mixed some of the pan juices with the jar of sauce and dumped it over the pork and tossed it all around.  We fixed our standard meal and all took a big bite.  Totally inedible.  We didn’t know that North Carolina barbecue sauce is a vinegar based sauce.  Using a whole bottle wasn’t the right thing to do.  And we should have tried it before using it.  Rule one in cooking, right?  Another time, we made one from scratch and misread the amount of red pepper flakes was supposed to go in.  Blazingly hot, it was, but it was so good.  What we use now, when we can find it, is a sauce called Bone Sucking Sauce.  It’s so good you’ll suck the leftover barbecue sauce off the bones of the meat, and off your fingers, and even your plate.  When we can’t find that, we use Sweet Baby Ray’s Original.  Part of the reason we tend to use “Original” in anything is so we can add to it any flavors we want in any combination or strength.

Meal 2:  Pork Risotto.  We love rice here, in all its forms.  Risotto is one of our favorites, but it takes planning and work.  Planning because adding the ingredients at the right time and the right order is key to success; work because you have to stand at the stove stirring that pot for 30-40 minutes to get it right.  For this meal, I’m thinking of garlic and onion sautéed with the rice, and asparagus added at the end so it’s crisp-cooked.  Lemon and parmesan at the very end.  The whole meal in one pot and plenty to have for lunch the next day.  I recently made risotto with chicken and leeks.  The leeks we got at a farm stand and I thought I’d cleaned them well enough.  I didn’t.  There wasn’t a lot of sand, but there was some and it gritted in our teeth at the most awkward times.  But it was yummy.

Meal 3:  Pork Tacos.  So, the best way to do this is to take some of the shredded pork and cut it into bite sized pieces.  I mean, really small.  Then crisp it up in the oven with some lime juice to get that wonderful citrusy flavor all over it.  I’m a sucker for tacos Americanos (as it was called where I grew up) which is basically a cheeseburger in a corn tortilla.  I fry up the tortillas (four for me one way; four for him another way.  Only takes a few minutes) then for mine I put down shredded cheese on the hot tortilla so it melts a little, then meat on top of that, then dices tomatoes, then shredded lettuce, then salsa or pico de gallo to top it all off.  We love tacos at our house, and we like seeing all the variations.  We don’t DO the variations, but we like seeing them.

Meal 4:  So if the roast stretches this far, and I’m sure it will, the last meal I’m planning for this roast is pork and gravy over mashed potatoes.  There’s not too much more satisfying than hot meat and gravy over mash.  I grew up with it, and have been eating it my whole life.  Sometimes I throw corn niblets or peas into it too.  Another one pot meal.

Meal 4 (Alternate):  So if the roast stretches this far, and I’m sure it will, and if I don’t want mashed potatoes another meal I like to make is rice and roast.  One of my favorite rice mixes is Near Eastern Rice Pilaf.  I like the flavor and the ease of preparation.  On my own, I found that if I throw in leftover roast of any kind, and cook it per normal cooking directions, the meat comes out as tender as a marshmallow.  With a salad on the side, or frozen veggies cooked with the rice and meat, it’s another one of those one-pot meals that are amazingly easy to do.

So that’s “what to do” with our roast.

And we’re considering our diet options again.  We recently investigated the keto diet, but opted out of it because with our current health issues, the keto diet was too stringent.  But we do want to get into a lower carb higher protein diet.  We want to lose some weight and eat more nutritiously.  So now we’re considering the Atkins diet.  It’s an established plan that’s been around for decades; there are tons of online tools to track our progress; and it’s been modified several times to keep up with new findings and popular foods.  Plus, we like their snack bars.  So you’ll be hearing a little more about that in upcoming weeks.

So, that’s this weekend wrapped up.  Right now, we’re sitting on the front porch in the mid-afternoon enjoying the cool breeze and warm sun.  The dog is asleep at our feet (actually a squirrel wandered by so he’s now investigating it) and the neighborhood is quiet and relaxing.  Music is filtering out the front door from the TV/Stereo, some Irish/Celtic mix, and it all adds up to a relaxing and wonderful day.

Hope yours is shaping up the same.

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As always,

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