Chipoltle Pulled Pork

It's crock pot season!  I thought I would share one of the easiest crock pot recipes ever, chipoltle pulled pork.

There are three ingredients, pork shoulder, kosher salt and chipoltle powder, that's it!


When I make this I make a big batch and freeze it.  It's a great, easy dinner during a busy week.

I love these Reynolds slow cooker liners.  Even after cooking all day on high, the crock pot is clean!


I trim most of the fat from the pork.  I try to get any big areas of fat off, the rest can be removed after it's cooked.


Next I rub the meat with a mixture of Kosher salt and chipoltle powder.  I use a proportion of two tablespoons salt to one tablespoon of chipoltle powder.  How much of this you will need depends on how much meat you are cooking.  I like Kosher salt over regular table salt for this because I think it makes a better rub because of the larger crystals.


Then the meat is put in the lined crock pot.  That's it.  No additional liquid is required!  The salt will pull moisture out of the pork but since it's in a crock pot, the liquid doesn't evaporate and the meat stays very moist.  I cook it on high all day, 8-10 hours depending on how much I am cooking.



The final step is to shred the pork.  I remove any remaining chunks of fat as well.  Some people put the pork back into the liquid but I find that too salty for my taste so I discard the liquid.

I pull the liner out and there is no scrubbing of the crock pot required!




Dave and I will add BBQ sauce (we like Madd Joe's) and serve this as sandwiches, or make burritos out of it.  It's also really good with some sauteed peppers and onions, a little guac and sour cream on a tortilla!

Pumpkin Lasagna by Chef Robert Irvine

This is the first Robert Irvine recipe I've tried.  It's pumpkin time of year and this sounded good.

I scanned the recipe, printed it out and made a list of what I would need at the grocery store.  Earlier this evening I wanted to read the recipe again and rather than finding the printed copy I just looked it up online again, read through it, thought I knew what I needed to do.


Well, apparently there are two versions of this recipe, both Robert Irvine, both with nearly the same ingredients, but fairly different preparations.  And of course the one I read right before starting dinner, wasn't the one I printed.  The one I printed was on my recipe stand in the kitchen waiting to be made.  The one I read was in my head when I started prepping.  I didn't realize there were two recipes until I went to check the printed one only to find out in that recipe the zucchini is cubed.  In the other recipe it's thinly sliced.  I'd thinly sliced the zucchini!

Both recipes start with sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil until they are translucent.  The sausage is added and browned then the zucchini.


I brought up the second recipe and found that even though the ingredients were close, the preparation was quite different.  While the sausage and zucchini were cooking I started the sauce.  In the version I printed, it wasn't specifically stated to use herbs in the sauce, it was suggested in the text of the recipe, but not in the ingredient list.  The second one specifically stated to use fresh basil, fresh parsley and dried oregano.  Of course, no fresh basil in the house!

In the version I had printed and already started, you simmer tomato sauce with red wine (and it suggested to add herbs if you like).  I had that simmering when I found the second recipe.  While the red wine and tomato mixture smelled wonderful, the sauce, I thought, over powered the subtlety of the pumpkin.  In the alternate version, the wine is added to the sauteed onion and sausage mixture until reduced by half, which sounds much better to me!


The pumpkin is strained in one version, in the other it isn't.  The pumpkin isn't mixed with the cheese in one version, it is in the other and the layering was a bit different as well.  Here's how I did it.  First a layer of sauce.


Next a layer of noodles.  I made fresh noodles yesterday so I used those.


Next a layer of the sausage mixture is added.


The pumpkin and cheese mixture is layered on top of that.


This is then repeated with the remaining ingredients with the final layer being just sauce and cheese.


Bottom line, I think the second version sounds much better than the one I made.  That being said, the lasagna wasn't bad.  It wasn't fabulous, but it wasn't bad.  I didn't get a lot of pumpkin flavor but I think some of that might have been because the wine flavor was so overpowering in the tomato sauce.

Would I make it again?  Maybe.  Definitely differently!

Beer and Food 101 at the Nova

Dave and I attended Beer and Food 101 at the Nova in Hudson, WI last night.  Let me start with I don't like beer.  I can count on one finger the number of beers I've had in the last two or three years.  Part of it is, well, I don't like beer.  As Dave can attest, I "make a face" when I drink it.  The other part is my allergy to barley.  One beer and I'm completely congested!

But, Dave loves beer and I knew the food at the Nova would be amazing so we went! And this time I remembered my camera!

We got there early enough to snag one of the great tables with the big chairs.  They are so cool.



All of the beers served were craft brews.  The rep said they were all the "New Glarus" beers of their region.  Dave likes New Glarus!



Each beer was paired with a different food, and as expected they were all fabulous.  The first beer was a Victory Prima Pils.  It was ok.  I don't like beer, remember, and Dave prefers a darker more robust beer.  It was paired with Crostini with Wild rice Gouda and Pickled Mustard Seed.



The second beer was a Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale.  This was a really fruity beer!  It was paired with Spicy Pork Kabob with Pineapple, Onion and Peppers.  This was delicious!  My second favorite dish of the night.  Trust me... it was pretty too!  We were hungry, I forgot the picture!




Next was Founder's Harvest Ale.  Now we were getting into more of Dave's type of beer.  This one was served with Pizza with Parsnip Dijon Puree, Lamb Sausage and Raclette Cheese.  I am totally going to add dijon mustard to my parsnip purees now!  It was delicious.  Neither of us really cared for the lamb sausage, and to be honest, I had to look up Raclette Cheese when I got home.  Raclette cheese is a Swiss semi-firm cows-milk cheese. It is like an Emmentaler or Jarlsberg cheese.




Now the next beer, well, I liked it!  It was Oskar Blues Old Chub.  It was a darker beer but didn't have any of that bitterness that I usually associate with a dark beer.  It has a nice, toasty flavor.  I even drank the whole sample!  It was served with a Caramelized Shallot, Bacon and Roaring 40's Blue Cheese Tart, again delicious.






An Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout was the next pouring.  This one really tasted like coffee!  It was served with my absolute favorite dish of the night, Gnocchi with Chorizo, Fig and Parmesan Cheese.  This was the best gnocchi I've ever had.  Had there not been other people in the room I would have licked the bowl clean!




The final beer of the evening was Southern Tier Pumpking Imperial Pumpkin Ale.  Yes, you could smell and taste the pumpkin in the beer!  It was served with Pumpkin Chevre Bread Pudding which was also delicious but I was still drooling over the gnocchi!




Thanks to the Nova and their amazing staff for a great evening!  The hosts were great, service impeccable and the food amazing!  We can't wait to go back for the next one.

My New Gadget... I can make potato chips in my microwave!

I'll have to admit I was pretty skeptical when I saw this gadget in the Pampered Chef catalog.  I asked the person having the party if she'd ever had potato chips made in the microwave and were they good.

She'd had them at the party she went to (you know how Pampered Chef works, you go to a party, so you have a party, so you go to a party, so you have a party and on and on) and said they were good so I took the risk and bought the gadget!

Why, you ask, would I want to make potato chips in the microwave?  Well, see chips are my downfall.  If they are in the house I will eat them, all of them, even the crumbs at the bottom of the bag!  This is a perfect portion control mechanism for me.  I only make what I want to eat and they're gone.  Making more will require getting out the mandoline again, washing it (pain) and washing up the little silicone disks.  A second serving will not be worth the effort!

So what is the gadget?  It's just a couple of silicone circles with some holes poked in them.  The holes are different sizes, I'm not sure if that's relevant or not!


They are really easy to make, just slice the potatoes into thin chips.  I have a mandoline and I'm not sure of the exact thickness of my chips but they aren't see-through thin.  Place the chips on paper towels and lightly salt both sides.  Lightly salt them.  The first batch I made were way too salty!  Blot off the excess moisture and stick them in the microwave.  The directions say they should take 2 minutes.  They must have much thinner slices!  They took about 5 minutes in my microwave.

The other tip I have is not to let the salted chips sit too long before you put them in the microwave.  I had to do a couple batches and the salt brings out more and more of the moisture of the potatoes while they sit.  The second batch didn't come out any more brown, but definitely had a bit more of a scorched flavor.

The verdict?  They're good!  I've made them with both red and russet potatoes and they are a good, toasty potato chip.  I was really surprised they browned!


I can't wait to try sweet potatoes.  Apples are also supposed to be very good.  I'm also going to play with flavoring them.  I love "hint of lime" chips.  There must be a way to make these taste like that!

Want a gadget of your own?  Luckily for you I will be having another Pampered Chef Breast Cancer 3-Day Fundraiser starting November 1!  Contact me for a catalog and I'll hook you up!

We had them with burgers and roasted veggies tonight!

Skinny Meatloaf with Sweet and Sour Ketchup

Fall has most definitely arrived!  It has me craving warm comfort food like meatloaf!

I bought a copy of Cuisine at Home's Cuisine Light cookbook a few weeks ago.  I love their cookbooks not only because there are so many pictures of the preparations and final products, but because their recipes are easy and I've not found one that I didn't like.  Last week I made the Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Cauliflower and we really liked it!

I like meatloaf, my husband loves meatloaf.  If I make meatloaf with mashed potatoes, well, he's in heaven!  Tonight, well, he got meatloaf with lemon potatoes so he's only just happy!

I really like this meatloaf.  It still tastes like meatloaf but has less fat and calories.  I especially liked the mixture of ketchup, mustard and brown sugar on top.  It was a nice change from plain old ketchup.  I used a spicy brown mustard to give it a little extra kick.

The recipe called for grated onion.  I can honestly say I've never grated an onion before.  According to the folks at Cuisine, grated onion provides more flavor than diced, so I grated!


I couldn't find my broiler pan (family, excellent Christmas or birthday idea!) so I baked the meatloaf in my meatloaf pan.  It has an insert with holes in the bottom so the fat drips though so it performs the same function as the broiler pan, just doesn't look quite so pretty when it comes out.  I had exactly enough meat left over from the two packages to make exactly half a loaf.  That one will go in the freezer for a night I don't have the time or energy to cook.  I could find my little broiler pan so I baked that one on it.  You can see from the pictures, it is prettier!



I served the meatloaf with Cook's Illustrated Lemon Potatoes and some roasted carrots and brussels sprouts.  It hit the spot on this blustery fall day!


Here's the recipe!

Skinny Meatloaf with Sweet and Sour Ketchup

Serving Size: 6    (approx. 5 1/2 ounces each)

NOTES : Grated onion gives the meatloaf more flavor than diced.  Be sure to add any juices from the board!  Using a broiler pan allows the fat to drip through the slats, away from the meat.
       
7 Weight Watchers Points Plus points per serving

Ingredients:

3/4 pound ground sirloin
3/4 pound turkey breast, boneless and skinless -- ground
1 cup panko -- or fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup grated onion
2 large egg whites
3 tablespoons skim milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; coat a broiler pan with nonstick spray.

Combine ground sirloin, ground turkey breast, bread crumbs, parsley, onion, egg whites, milk, Worcestershire, salt and pepper in a bowl, using your hands to mix.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, shaping it into a 9x5 inch loaf.

Stir together the ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar in a bowl, then spoon on top of the meatloaf.

Bake meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer reaches 160 degrees, about 1 hour.  Let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 267 Calories; 11g Fat (36.5% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 511mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

Barefoot Contessa Crab Cakes

I tried another recipe out of the Barefoot Contessa cookbook tonight, crab cakes!  Dave and I love crab cakes and these didn't disappoint!

Here's a LINK to the recipe.

Ina makes these as an appetizer and says the recipe makes 26 crab cakes.  I made a half batch and made them "dinner" sized so I only got 10 out of a half batch.

If you like to chop, you'll love this recipe.  You start by chopping onion, red pepper, yellow pepper, parsley and celery!  The diced veggies along with some capers, Old Bay Seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (I used Sriracha sauce because I didn't have any Tabasco in the house, Ina recommends Tabasco), salt and pepper are sauteed until they are soft then cooled to room temperature.


The vegetable mixture is then added to a mixture of lump crab (no Mary, I didn't go catch the crab!), bread crumbs, mustard and mayonnaise.



The whole mixture is then chilled for half an hour before being made into patties and fried.  I was a little lazy and didn't leave the mixture in the refrigerator for the full 30 minutes, more like 20.  Maybe they would have been easier to patty after another 10 minutes, I don't know.  To make it easier for me I coated them in some bread crumbs to help keep them from sticking to my hands.

Ina suggests frying them in butter and a quarter cup of olive oil.  I didn't think that much oil was really necessary!  I put a couple of tablespoons at most in the pan and the crab cakes browned up very nicely!


I served them with two yummy aiolis we picked up from San Pedro Cafe today.  One is my favorite habanero aioli.  The other is a new one, pistachio lime aioli.  Both were delish!

For our side I made salad of baby spinach, Roma tomatoes, blue cheese and toasted pecans (I didn't have walnuts in the house).  I topped this with a vinaigrette made from some very yummy apple balsamic vinegar and roasted french walnut olive oil from The Olive Grove.  So good!


The Human Services Inc. (HSI) Valley Vine Harvest Throwdown!

Last night Dave and I went to he Human Services Inc. Valley Vine Harvest Throwdown.  The Throwdown was at the Lake Elmo Event Center.  Each year, Chef John Schiltz of the Lake Elmo Inn challenges other area chefs to bring their best dishes to compete for the prize of “Top Chef of the Valley.”  Our good friends at San Pedro Cafe were competing so we just had to go!

There were 7 restaurants competing for the title of Top Chef of the Valley.

As we entered the event we were greeted by this incredible table of desserts!  We were strong, we started with real food!


Of course we had to start with San Pedro Cafe!  They were serving vanilla smoked baby back ribs with a cranberry and chipoltle barbecue sauce along with a great spicy slaw and caramelized onion and rosemary cornbread pudding.


I have to admit that I don't really care for ribs.  But these ribs were really good!  The vanilla came through and they weren't all fat!  The slaw was delicious with just enough heat to compliment the sweet in the ribs.

The ribs were paired with a 2008 Mazzoco Sonoma County Zinfandel.  This was a perfect pairing.  We really liked this Zin and will admit we went back for a second tasting!

Next we tried the dishes presented by Domacin Wine Bar.  They were serving butter poached scallops with a pumpkin puree and bacon, and a vanilla bean emulsion.  San Pedro didn't have to worry about this dish in our mind.  We both prefer our scallops seared rather than poached.  We thought this dish was fairly bland.

It was paired with a 2008 Ramey Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.  It was a nice Chardonnay, but nothing special.

Our next sampling was from Marx Fusion Bistro.  They prepared carrot, parmesan and potato gnocchi with garlic marinara and roasted lamb.  I had my hopes up!  I love gnocchi!  Well, they were good but not quite as good as Tratoria Da Vinci!  The lamb was falling off the bone and was good, and I don't like lamb!


This dish was paired with a 2008 Yalumba Shiraz/Voignier.  We thought this was a good pairing with the lamb and was our third favorite wine of the night!

We took a break for some yummy chocolate covered strawberries, carrot cake and mini key lime pie before we headed over to Phil's Tara Hideaway for some duck confit and Roquefort in phyllo with dried cherries, duck prosciutto, butternut squash and maple glaze. 

Ok, San Pedro had competition now!  Nothing of what was in this sounded good to me.  I'm not a fan of duck confit and anyone who knows me knows I don't like maple anything, but this dish was delicious!
This was paired with a 2009 Cedre Heritage Malbec. Neither Dave or I cared for this wine at all.

They had a "wall of wine" to help raise more money.  You bought a cork for $10 and got the bottle that matched the number on your cork.  What the heck?  We were very lucky the last time we tried something like this and it was for a good cause.  We ended up winning a 2009 Stemmari Nero d'Avola.  We have no idea what this is.  We'll let you know if we like it!

Next on the list of places to try was Minnesota raised beef Wellington with Bearnaise sauce and roasted mini vegetables from Lake Elmo Inn.  Chef John Schultz was in the spirit in his cowboy hat!  This was also very good!  We didn't think it was as unique as the duck confit dish from Phil's though.

The Wellington was paired with a 2008 Terra Valentine Estate Cabernet.  This was delicious!  It was our favorite wine of the evening!

Luna Rossa Trattoria and Wine Bar was the next place we visited.  They were serving pork tenderloin with kalamata olives, mushrooms and feta cheese in a red wine reduction with local vegetables.  It was good, but after the amazing pork tenderloin I had had the night before at The Nova, well, still not in competition with San Pedro or Phil's.
The pork was paired with a 2010 Luccarelli Salice Salentino.  It was a nice red wine but after the Terra Valentine it was hard to find something better!

Our final dish of the evening was from Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque, chicken with thyme, foie gras cotton candy and balsamic gastrique with rum and cherries.  Again, this was good but not great.  I am really not a fan of foie gras but when made into cotton candy it's not half bad!

Smalley's was in the Viking spirit, high on the first win of the season!

The chicken was paired with a 2010 Saracina Atrea The Choir.  This was a nice white wine but I can honestly say that after several reds, I'm not sure I could really taste a white and really tell you what it tastes like!

The evening ended with a live auction of some amazing things!  Baskets full of 14 bottles of great wine, 5 course dinners for 8 at Luna Rossa, an afternoon of sailing on Lake Superior, planked salmon dinner for 8 with wine at the home of Chris and Vicky Griese of Haskell's, and it went on and on.  The bidding was way out of our price range so we picked up our wine and headed out.  Of course, leaving early we never did hear who won.  We're guessing it wasn't San Pedro or they would have shouted out on their Facebook page.


It was a fun night for a good cause and we found another restaurant we have to try, Phil's Tara Hideaway!

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