Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Easiest Ever Pulled Pork

Here's another crockpot recipe that is EASY.  I mean, really easy.  And there's only 3 ingredients.  I've made this 4 times since Theresa was born, because a big hunk of pork can feed us for a week.  This time, I divided the meal...half went to a friend who just had a baby, and half was for us. 

Of course, when I went to the store to get the pork butt, I asked the butcher for the biggest one.  He promptly wrapped up a 10 beast for! 

I didn't take as many pictures as I usually do.  I meant to start the pork right before I went to bed, forgot about it, and realized my oversight at midnight.  Yeah...midnight!  So there are no "before" pictures because I was yawning too hard to take pics at midnight.  I know y'all will forgive me. ;-)

Easiest Ever Pulled Pork

One Boston pork butt, about 6-8 pounds (bigger is fine too!)
BBQ spice blend
1 cup apple juice

The day before you want to cook the pork, remove it from the wrappings and trim off some of the fat.  It's really up to you how much you want to take off, but don't take off ALL of it.  You have to leave some on.  Fat = flavor, and you want some fat to flavor the meat while it's cooking.  There should be a large cap of fat on one side...I probably took off about 2/3rds of it. 

Take your favorite BBQ spice blend and rub it generously all over the meat.  Don't be shy, you want to use at least 4 tablespoons.  Honestly, I didn't even measure, I just sprinkled it on, all over, and made sure to rub it in really good.  I love, love, love Penzeys' BBQ 3000

Return the pork butt to the fridge and let it hang out for 12 hours or overnight. 

The next day (or that night, whatever floats your boat), set up your crockpot.  Pour in 1 cup of apple juice.  Lay the meat, fat side up in the slow cooker. 

Set your crock pot on "Low" for 8-10 hours.  And that's don't even need to turn it over...I didn't. 

By the way, if you don't want to wake up to the smell of pork in the morning, don't do this the night before.  Rebecca told me she woke up in the middle of  the night, and could smell it all the way upstairs.  She didn't mind. ;-)  Some people prefer the smell of coffee...I can understand that!

After 10 hours, here's the finished product...I let mine go 10 hours because it was so big.

Doesn't that look DIVINE?  Porkalicious baby!

At this point you can leave it until dinnertime, or you can go ahead and remove the meat from the pot.  I use a really big cutting board and shredded it all should be so tender, you barely have to touch it to break it up.

Oh, and don't forget to take out the big bone...nobody wants that. ;-)  The kids were impressed by the size of this one!

If I have time, I try to degrease the cooking juices with my degreaser cup.  I don't take off every drop of fat gotta leave some it, because that's where most of the flavor is. 

We love to eat the shredded pork on little wheat rolls...I get 'em at Walmart.   Don't forget to pass around the BBQ sauce too.  I made some cucumber salad and baked beans on the side.  I've served the sandwiches with coleslaw too, (which is REALLY good if you put it in the sandwich) but nobody really cares for coleslaw in our house except me...hence the reason for the cucumber salad. 

This is always a sure thing meal at our house...everyone eats it.  Best of all, now that Theresa is eating some solid food, she can have the pork, baked beans, and a bit of the roll, no problem.  She is really a good feeder. :-)

I hope you can make this on a busy night and have an easy meal all ready to go for your family.  God bless your table tonight!  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Crockpot Ravioli

So now that school is back in session, we're all looking for quick, easy, meals to get on the table, right?  Well, look no further.  A good friend of mine emailed this recipe to me...and I knew I had to try it.  Best of all, I could use jarred pasta sauce and frozen ravioli...yeah!  Okay, I admit, I wasn't going to take the time to make my own pasta sauce, let alone homemade ravioli anyway.  

Here's the link to the original recipe, feel free to tweak it the way your family likes it.  As you'll see, I didn't have any red peppers, so I used a few, chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  I doubled the recipe, and had only one and a half jars of pasta worked just fine.  I have an Italian seasoning spice blend, but I decided to use Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle, because I just love it.  I didn't' add the one cup of water...I find most crock-pot meals don't need a lot of added liquid.  And I sprinkled some freshly grated Pecorio-Romano cheese over the top of the finished dish...because you can never have enough cheese if you're serving kids. :-)

Crockpot Ravioli
adapted from

One bag (25 ounces) frozen beef or cheese ravioli
1 jar (24 ounces) prepared pasta sauce
1 (8 ounces) can tomato sauce
2-3 tablespoons chopped red pepper
Italian seasoning blend
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 

Pour half of the pasta sauce in the bottom of your crockpot.  (If you're doubling the recipe, you will definitely need a large, 5 quart slow-cooker). I used a tomato-basil marinara sauce.  

Arrange the ravioli over the sauce.  

Pour the rest of the pasta sauce over the top, and sprinkle with the spice blend...about 2 teaspoons. 

Add the tomato sauce, and sprinkle on a bit more spice blend ( wanted some herbal flavor in between the layers).  Top with the chopped peppers (I used sun-dried tomatoes).  

Sprinkle the cheese over everything and cover.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours, or until the ravioli is heated through. 

Here's what my pot looked like after 4.5 hours.  

Voila!  And I didn't have to do any cooking at all!  :-)

Garnish with a little freshly chopped basil and some grated parmesan cheese if desired.  

The pickiest eater in our house (Christina) LOVED this, and get this...she asked for seconds.  I'm telling you, that never, ever, happens, so I was thrilled!  

Enjoy, and God bless your table tonight!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

It is hotter than blazes here.  So hot, that I am cooking in spurts.  I'll go a whole week without really having cooked anything worthwhile, and then I'll go crazy for a couple of days, making enchiladas, chicken spaghetti, and these summer rolls.  No, these are not rainy day makings either...we're way behind the rainfall we normally get in a year.  It's finally cooled down a little bit, but I made these a while back when it was just so hot, turning on the stove or oven was the last thing I wanted to do. 

In between praying for rain and cooking spurts, I've been trying to make things for David to take to work.  He started a new job a few weeks ago.  The headquarters for the company is way out in the middle of nowhere, about a 45 minute commute.  The good news is it's a nice, pretty drive down country roads.  The bad news is there are no restaurants of any kind for miles around.  It's not such a bad thing...I'm secretly happy I get to cook for him more often instead of him eating out nearly every day like he was previously.

I made these summer rolls years ago, and it was fun, but really too fussy for my level of patience at the time.  Fast forward about 8 years, 5 kids later, and throw in a fabulous garden...well, it's still fussy, but the kids can occupy themselves, someone is always around to hold the baby, and the herbs I need are conveniently right outside the back door.  Not so bad, right?  Plus, I don't have to heat up the house, and the 2 ingredients that do require the stovetop take mere minutes to cook.

I found everything I needed at my local grocery store.  Hopefully you can as well, and have something cool and refreshing to eat on a hot summer day. 

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

8 rice paper wrappers (look for them in the Asian section of your grocery store)
12 medium shrimp (unpeeled)
4 ounces rice vermicelli noodles (make sure you get rice, not wheat vermicelli)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned
3 scallions, julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1 teaspoon salt
Handful of fresh mint leaves
8 large (or 16 small/medium) fresh basil leaves
Handful of fresh cilantro
8 lettuce leaves (green leaf, Boston, or romaine works fine)

Poach the shrimp briefly in a pot of simmering water for 2-3 minutes...don't overcook them.  As soon as they are pink and opaque, drain and run under cool water.  Cut in half lengthwise, and set aside.

Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions.  It should only take 3-4 minutes.  Drain and set aside to cool.

Toss the cucumber and scallions with the salt to help them soften slightly, but still retain some crispness.  Set aside for a few minutes. 

Have all the herbs washed, spun dry in a salad spinner (or patted dry with paper towels) and ready to go.  I was lucky to have some nice mint and basil from the garden.  Alas, my cilantro had already gone to seed. 
Leave the lettuce leaves whole if they are smaller, larger ones can be simply torn in half.  They should also be washed and dried.  

Soak a rice paper wrapper in water for about 20 seconds.  Lay out on a work surface covered with a clean kitchen towel.  The towel will absorb any excess water. 

Lay 3 shrimp halves across the middle of the wrapper.  Top with the noodles, cumcumber and onion mixture, carrots, cilantro, mint, and basil.  Place on lettuce leaf over everything.

Fold the bottom half of the wrapper carefully over the filling.  Don't feels delicate, but it's quite strong.  Fold in the sides, and then roll into a tight bundle. 

You can cut them in half on the diagonal to serve 'em if you want to be fancy. :-).  David doesn't go for looks when he's eating, he just opens his mouth, lol.  Serve with some peanut sauce on the side (you can find that in the Asian section of the store too). 

I doubled this recipe and made about 18 rolls (it just depends how much filling you put in).  They are best the day you make them, but will keep for one day in the fridge, in a lightly covered container, with a paper towel at the bottom to absorb any excess moisture and additional paper towels in between the layers. 

I'm not going to lie.  It took me a good part of the day to make these.  I prepped the vegetables, herbs, and shrimp in the morning, and cooked the noodles and assembled the rolls in the afternoon.  They may take some work, but it's worth it, trust me.  They are WAY better than anything store-bought.  You know you've always wanted to make these, right?  Don't be can do it!  Just remember I have to manhandle 4 kids and nurse a baby too. ;-)  It probably won't take as long for you. 

Stay cool everyone, and I hope you make these summer rolls while you're trying to beat the heat! 

 God bless your table tonight! 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Anyone Out There?

Just wondering...does anyone read my blog these days?  I get very few comments...and that's okay.  But it would be nice if someone (well, anyone) gave me a shout out.  Please do if you've got just a second. I love cooking just as much as ever, even though my time to post recipes is getting tighter.  Thanks y'all!