World’s Easiest Pulled Pork

Lately, I’ve been lamenting that we ran out of our favorite barbecue sauce. It’s from a wing joint in Pittsburgh, Sidelines, that we became aware of after it placed second in a local “best wings in Pittsburgh” contest. (It was robbed, they have the first best wings in Pittsburgh. And everywhere.)

The hot garlic barbecue sauce they make is ah-mah-zing. (My husband also likes the hot, but it’s too hot for me.) And they make like a bazillion other flavors, some of which we’ve tried during trips back to Pittsburgh, so far, all good.

As a wedding gift, a friend gave us two GROWLERS full of my favorite sauce (and two smaller bottles of the hot). And it has finally run out. We tried to get more the last time we were in Pittsburgh, but we forgot to bring our empties and they were out of bottles. Enter sadness. And inability to eat barbecue sauce-requiring foods.

Until Christmas, when we were gifted a bottle of local craft sauce. Barbecue back on the menu. My husband also got his new kegerator set up, so we now are the beer-on-tap-at-home family.

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It’s a little over the top, but not all bad. (Plus the husband promised to take care of all cleaning and whatnot, so win-win for me!)

If that wasn’t enough, the local Harris Teeter decided to give away pork shoulder earlier this month. Such a sale they practically paid me to take it off their hands. YESPLEASE!

So, pulled pork it would be.

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To add to my delight, pulled pork is super easy to make. At least the way I make it.

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Rub it down with some spices.

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Cover the whole thing in beer and cook it low and slow – 8 hours later, you will have delicious pork.

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Nothing wrong with that!

I used my roast lifters (this is really what they are called, I checked) to get it out of the crock pot since it’s a. hot, b. heavy, c. FALLING apart at the slightest touch.

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It is so easy to pull (or in my case chop) at this point. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but the bone was CLEAN.

Then toss it with your favorite barbecue sauce (or in my case, the new sauce I was cheating on my favorite with) and serve however you like!

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Don’t tell my Sidelines sauce… but this was good too. It has a nice mustard-y flavor to it, which made it really unique.

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For the first night (since this makes approximately 12,098 servings of pulled pork), I served it on sesame seed buns with pickle slices and cheddar cheese. And it was delish. The next night, I made a pizza… recipe to come.

I still have enough leftover to feed the entire cast of Newsies. And I assume those tween/teen boys were hungry after all that singing and dancing.

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Crispy (!) Oven Baked Fries

You know what I love? (Other than bacon and goat cheese and puppies, obviously.) Potatoes.

I didn’t always. I still have flashbacks to the day my Mom first took us to Boston Market (which at the time was called Boston Chicken). First off, we thought it was in Boston. Despite the fact that we lived in Pittsburgh and it was already dinner time. So why we thought Mom was driving us to Boston… kid logic.

We got our rotisserie chicken and a whole smorgasbord  of sides and went home to dig in. I was offered mashed potatoes, which I happily accepted. The first bite was lumpy. I refused additional bites.

Texture, my friends, is important. Especially to weirdos like me. Lumpy mashed potatoes were just inedible to my youthful palette (I like to think that I’ve grown since then, but I still don’t eat Jello or bananas for textural reasons).

Knowing my parents, I’m sure I finished them. Otherwise, no dessert. And dessert was probably those BM cinnamon sugar apples. And no one doesn’t like those cinnamon sugar apples. Right?

So, I was a bit scarred from the lumpy mashed potato experience. Even today, my mashed potatoes are nice and smooth – though I can and do enjoy lumpy ones (without complaint) if offered. (Sometimes I actually like them, much to the chagrin of 7-year-old me.)

But I digress. This post isn’t about mashed potatoes, just the starchy veggie in general. Perhaps best known for the french fried variety. Of course, french fried potatoes are not particularly healthy (taking something not that good for you in the first place and dipping it in hot oil a few times doesn’t create a health food?!). So, to the oven we go.

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Now. I’ve made A LOT of different oven baked fry recipes over the years. And they all have the same problem. Mush city. Part of the appeal of french fries is the crunch you get while eating them (and the salt, of course). My oven baked version was just never as good until I learned the secret.

Soak those bad boys in water first!

You can soak them for an hour or two, or way less, like I do. Usually, I soak them for about as long as it takes the oven to heat up to 475 (mine takes a few minutes). When you’re ready to bake, drain the water, dry them off, and you’ll be in crispy fry heaven.

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These little wedges can’t wait to become fries.

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Olive oil, salt and pepper in the pan. Salt and pepper on top. Plus more salt for luck.

The baking process is a bit time consuming. I start them in the oven covered for 5 minutes or so, then reduce the heat by 50 degrees, remove the cover and bake for about 15 minutes.

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The wedges should be starting to get opaque (see my attempt at capturing this effect above) and the bottoms should be starting to brown. Flip em over and give them another 10-15 minutes.

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They taste as crispy as they look.

Serve these HOT with whatever toppings you like. Pro tip: don’t pile them all in a bowl, or they will quickly get soggy (the evil mush returns). I like to drain mine in one layer on a paper towel-lined plate and then serve each individual.

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Goat Cheese Red Pepper Turkey Burgers

I woke up at 6:45 this morning. And went running. It might be a New Year after all.

I type this fully realizing that 6:45 a.m. is NOT that early, and that many people wake up then or much earlier every day to go to work, or to exercise or to whatever. But I do not. Ever. Wake up before I absolutely have to.

And running isn’t an absolute need. I suppose until today.

So the healthyish thing is continuing, hence the continued running (we also have a half marathon coming up, and don’t want to embarrass ourselves).

Which brings me to today, and to the turkey burger. The sad little cousin of the beef burger, younger sister to the world’s greatest burger, the lamb burger (in my HUMBLE opinion). I will order a lamb burger on basically any menu I see it on. I will not order a turkey burger on basically any menu I see it on. Turkey burgers usually end up so dry and boring tasting.

Time to change that. With one of the greatest foods ever, goat cheese. My newest obsession to cook with since I seem to have moved on from bacon. Though, full disclosure, I did make myself bacon and a goat cheese omelette for dinner last night. Oops.

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You know what goes great with goat cheese? Roasted red peppers. Which I mixed into the ground turkey with an egg, some spices and some breadcrumbs to help moisten the whole thing up a bit.

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Mixed meat is just about the least appetizing looking thing ever, right?

IMG_0543.JPGUntil it becomes these gorgeous patties.

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And yes, it’s January, so I used my cast iron grill pan instead of the actual grill. These might have even been slightly better on the charcoal grill, but it was cold outside. Indoor options called.

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Grill marks make everything better.

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While the burgers were grilling, I slathered some softened goat cheese on each bun. Added some spinach… so good. Tomato would have been good on this also, but I only had cherry tomatoes and that didn’t seem like a great option for topping a burger.

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I served these with a SALAD (not pictured) and oven-baked fries (pictured). I can only go without potatoes for so long. I’m still human, after all.

The leftover patties were also yummy leftover the next day with some quinoa and asparagus!

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Dijon Maple Chicken + Brussels Sprouts Salad

Welcome to January, month of the New Year’s Resolution. Followed quickly by February, month of abandoning the New Year’s Resolution. I don’t have a specific resolution this year, but after two months of holiday indulgences (a nice way to say “eating and drinking my way from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day”), I definitely needed a bit of a detox.

Now, my idea of detoxing does not involve juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice or any other vaguely gross and really unhealthy suggestions found on Pinterest. I just figured I should eat some more veggies. Other than potatoes.

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Enter brussels sprouts.

In related news, I recently learned that it’s brusselS sprouts not brussel sprouts and it kind of blew my mind. Like when Lorelai Gilmore found out that the correct plural pronunciation of cul-de-sac is culs-de-sac. (It just sounds wrong!)

Anywho, it seemed like brussels sprouts and chicken would be a great antidote to weeks of cookies and carbs, so I decided to try a play on the salad I made for Thanksgiving.

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The absolute worst part of brussels sprouts… cleaning and cutting them. First tear off all the outside leaves, then shred each sprout down to the nub. Toss the nub. Repeat. For an entire bag of sprouts. This was by far the most time consuming part of this otherwise really easy salad.

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Once the sprouts were shredded, I started on the chicken. I used thighs, it’s what I had on hand. I’m sure breasts would be good as well. I just trimmed a little fat and sprinkled each side with salt and pepper before tossing in my nice, hot, olive oil-coated cast iron skillet. Once in the skilled I brushed each piece with my chicken sauce. It would have been good as a marinade too, if I had started earlier and wasn’t too hungry to wait for marinade at this point.

IMG_0485.JPGWhile those bad boys cooked, back to the salad I went. Shredded brussels sprouts, meet pears and a dijon vinaigrette.

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I tossed everything together with my (clean) hands and topped with some goat cheese, cinnamon sugar pecans and the chicken.

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I enjoyed this so much, I’ve actually made it twice since the New Year. Delicious.

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