Monday, February 24, 2014

New Family Fave...SO Easy!

Thanks to Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwiches  posted on Six Sisters' Stuff, we have a new addition to the list of favorite meals around here.  The family has requested it be a weekly dinner-- with plenty of leftovers for impromptu meals and snacks at other times.

With prior fails, I am still wary of Crock-Pot recipes.  But recent successes have made me braver at trying new ones.  

No Crock-Pot?  No worries.  See note at the end of this post.
This recipe was just too intriguing --with "Root Beer" in the title (yum!)-- and too easy --with only 3 ingredients and relatively no prep-- to pass up.

I threw 2 pork sirloin tip roasts (from Costco @ $1.99/pound), totaling just over 4 pounds, into my Crock-Pot.  I then poured in 12 ounces of root beer, and turned the crockpot to low for 7 or 8 hours.

After that time, following the directions given by Six Sisters, I removed the pork (for the most part, in pieces, because it was so well cooked and tender), and discarded the root beer.  

I shredded the pork and returned it to the now empty Crock-Pot  then stirred in 18 ounces of our favorite (**no-high-fructose-corn-syrup) barbecue sauceStubb's Sweet Heat Bar-B-Q Sauce.   It seemed a little drier than I wanted, so I changed the original recipe here, by adding approximately 1/2 cup of water to the empty bottle to swirl out any remaining sauce, and adding all to the pork mixture.

Inspired by the new Beef Brisket Sandwich at Costco, I served this on a toasted (homemade) bun spread with mayo, plus shredded cabbage and carrot mixture. (Prepared cole slaw, as served on the Beef Brisket Sandwich, would work, too.)  This adds a fresh and crisp element to the sandwich, as well as being a good way to sneak in some healthy veggies.

I am not a huge pork fan, nor a big fan of barbecue sauce. I figured it would be OK for my barbecue-sauce-loving family, even if I chose to make it only for nights I wasn't going to be able to be home for dinner.  As it turns out, I don't have to save this for nights I'm away.  I love it, too!!  --Better yet, it makes for a decent meal to take my dad, and he, who rarely comments about what I serve him, said, "You sure make a dandy burger!"  :-D

If you don't have a Crock-Pot, you can still make this recipe.  I had 4 roasts I needed to cook in one day, and wanted some pork mixture to freeze for quick meals when needed by athletes and those who work during dinner hours.  So I put 2 of the roasts in the Crock-Pot  and the remaining 2, with root beer, into my 6-quart porcelain lined cast iron pot, put on the lid, and did the slow cooking in the oven at 275 degrees for the same 7 to 8 hour span.  (Same method I used for Beer-Onion Soup Mix Pot Roast.)  At the 5 to 6-hour point, the roasts looked a little dry on top, so I turned them over.  After cooking, I discarded the root beer, shred the meat, and added the barbecue sauce, as above.

**Note to myself and to others concerned with this issue: 
I made the effort to find a barbecue sauce without high fructose corn syrup, but the root beer I used, and also, the ketchup I've always used to make my homemade barbecue sauce both have high fructose corn syrup.  Time to find new brands for both.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pizza Steel, Round 2

I tried everything at once!  

I know that's not very scientific, because now I don't know which ingredient or method got me which result.  But I just wanted some great pizza... and I wanted it NOW.

1) A few hours ahead of pizza-baking time, I added a couple teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon yeast, dissolved in a minimal amount of water to my dough bucket, and left it sit at room temperature.

2) When I turned on the oven to preheat, I didn't wait to form my pizzas, but did it right away, so they could rest and rise while the oven and Baking Steel heated for 45 minutes to an hour.

3) Just before putting in the first pizza, I turned the oven to Broil for several minutes.  

4) When I put in the pizza, I returned the oven mode to Bake.  But after several minutes of baking, when the bottom crust seemed brown enough, I turned it back to Broil to finish the top.

5) I left it on Broil when I took out Pizza #1 to repeat the method for the next pizza.


GREAT "pop" of the crust... Quick rise and some bubbles formed just after putting the pizzas in the oven....and a browned bottom crust!

But, alas.... sigh... even though the pizza was browned, it was on the soft and bready side, instead of lightly crispy-crusty like we wanted.

That's the advantage of our weekly Pizza Night... It's not too long before we try again and hope to do better.  So... More later!

You might also be interested in Pizza Steeling, First Try

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pizza Steeling, First Try

You may remember that I mentioned wanting to try the Baking Steel in my most recent pizza baking post.  Well, last week, I was honored and blessed to receive it as a "because-I-want-to" gift from a friend!

She'd told me it was coming, and the whole family was intrigued and excited.  I got a text from Princess Sassy while visiting my dad:  "Something came for you today.  It's not very big, but it's HEAVY.  Maybe your pizza steel?!  :-)"

Yep!  So, last Friday was its maiden voyage.

It didn't arrive looking like this... It was beautiful and clean.
I just forgot to take its picture!

I'd read and received a few tips about using the steel, but figured I'd start with the directions that came in the box:  Preheat the oven and steel to 500 degrees for at least 45 minutes, placing the steel on a rack in the 2nd from the top position in the oven.

Since the blogs I'd read, praising the stone, mentioned baking times like 5 minutes to a slightly charred pizza and a very noticeable "Pop" or quick rise of the dough, I was disappointed that our first pizza took over 12 minutes, and was still looking pretty white, and not at all puffy.  

The crust was very delicately crispy on the outside, though, and the family was declaring the Baking Steel a winner.

For pizza #2 I tried one of the tips I'd read most often... Turn the oven to broil for a few minutes, then back to bake, just before putting the pizza on the stone.  That, however, also didn't seem to improve browning, rising, or timing.

My crust was just not browning, especially evident around the edges on top.  I wondered if it may be the recipe.  Sugar in the dough might help it brown, but I haven't had to do that before.  Even though the dough rises nicely in the bucket through the week, boosting the dough with a bit of yeast might help?  Or maybe making sure to bring the dough to room temperature before baking?  I'm not sure.  

More testing to be done!!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Passing the Cue

For a recent post, Katie at Domestiphobia took a cue from a post by The Bloggess who took her cue from a Facebook meme...

So I thought I'd 'play' for a fun little diversion.

The original meme said this:

Pick up the nearest book to you, and turn it to page 45. The first sentence explains your love life.

The nearest book to me, sitting on my computer desk, is Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier.

The first sentence on page 45 is:

"The Plan is the generator."

Upon reading this, and not seeing much romance or depth in it, Katie suggested we all rule out non-fiction and kids' books, and search out a fiction book instead.  Trying to mess with fate by changing the rules, however, is not always a wise idea... My nearest fiction book was The Rosie Project, and the first sentence on its page 45 is

"A small crowd gathered and it occurred to me that another thug might arrive, so I needed to work out a way of freeing up a hand without releasing the original two thugs."

Although, this just might describe how dealing with life's happenings feels sometimes, with bills, illnesses, and overlapping schedules as the 'thugs,' I'm sticking with

"The Plan is the generator."

I'm not sure this pertains at all to my love life, though.  Unless it indicates that the plan for the garage generated an unimaginable lot of work and mess, thus making my love life practically non-existent.  LOL... and a slightly sad sigh.  ;-)

As with nearly everything, in no time, I over-thought this, and found a connection in this statement for the rest of my life.  This, I realize, again alters the original rules, but since I am a Christian, who believes that God governs my life instead of fate, I am OK with that.  I know that looking too far into any random statement can come dangerously similar to allowing horoscopes or fortune cookies to alter my outlook, so I should tread with care.  But I also think that any reminder I can use to stay on the right track is a good thing.  

-- Ack! You now have witnessed a bit of the overthinking thing in action... And maybe a bit of my ability to find depth where, perhaps, none was intended, and to basically suck the fun out of a simple activity.


First of all, with all the building that goes on around here, we deal with a lot of plans.  I am the one who drafts the plans, and Hubby is usually the one to make it happen.  So that's definitely a connection to our everyday lives, and also, how our relationship works.

More importantly, though, the first thing that struck me in the sentence, is that Plan is capitalized, where it seems that, grammatically, it shouldn't be?  But for me, that points toward the Lord's plan, which deserves a big P.  --Both His grand Plan for all of humanity, and His special part for me.  I am thankful He cares enough about me to have one, and have been focusing a lot lately on doing the tasks that will help me accomplish His priorities on a daily basis.  

I have been thinking, especially, about exactly what my job and calling are, since I wrote Interpreting my Dream way back in May.  I came to a partial conclusion about what my life's dream, or calling is...are they the same?... but recently realized I have more coming.  Which also means I'll have more to say about it later.

Meanwhile, if you want to play, too...Grab the book nearest you and reply to this post with the first sentence from page 45.  Does it apply to you at all?

Monday, February 3, 2014


Thought I'd better share the recipes to go with our Super Bowl feast pic...  You know, what we ate while the 

I promised the dip recipe and photos, anyway, a couple of weeks ago in Chicken Slop, Crockpot Style.

Hot Shrimp Dip

* I was out of sour cream this weekend,
so I used my mom's economical & healthy substitute:
2 c. cottage cheese, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, blended.

2 lbs (4  8-oz pkgs) cream cheese (Neufchatel is OK), sliced for quicker melting
16 oz sour cream (*see photo caption)
1 - 2 lbs precooked shrimp - tiny, salad shrimp, whole, or larger shrimp cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 to 6 Roma tomatoes, seeds and juice removed, chopped coarse
1/2 sweet onion, or 2 - 3 bunches green onion, diced
8 -16 oz jar Peperoncini or Banana Pepper slices, chopped to 1/2 inch pieces
Garlic powder and cayenne pepper to taste, optional

Put all ingredients into a crockpot.  Stir occasionally over the next hour or two, until the cream cheese is melted and all is mixed evenly and heated through.  It's best to keep it warm (keep the crockpot on 'warm' and plugged in) when you serve it.  Serve with your choice of dippers: crackers, pita pieces, sliced French bread, celery, etc.

When my sister first shared this recipe, it had definite amounts of each ingredient.  But I've found this to be a very forgiving recipe.  --A little more or a little less, according to taste or what you have on hand, will be fine.  Remember when cutting the ingredients, that you'll want it to fit nicely on a cracker or slice of baguette, and also fit easily into a bite.

If you are in a hurry to have this melted and ready to serve, start it in the microwave and heat until the cream cheese is melted and can stir in, then transfer to a crockpot or other heated dish to keep warm.

I have never yet served this to people who haven't had it before without someone asking for the recipe.  We LOVE it.

Spicy Barbecue Chicken Legs

I don't mess with wings.  --So much waste, so little meat!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3+/- pounds of chicken legs, dried with a paper towel

Place the legs on a rack in a broiler pan, sprayed with Pam, for easier cleaning later.  

Spray the chicken with Pam, or brush with olive oil. Salt and pepper, to taste.

Roast for 15 minutes, turn, baste or spray with Pam, and salt and pepper the new upper side.

Roast 10 minutes, then baste generously with *barbecue sauce.

Cook an additional 5 to 8 minutes, turn and baste the other side with the barbecue sauce.  Return to the oven for 5 minutes.  The internal temperature of the thickest part of each leg should be 165 degrees.

Barbecue Sauce

I am not averse to buying barbecue sauce, although it's easy to make my own.  Like always, I carefully read the label, preferring real molasses, honey, and/or brown sugar to corn syrup, and sticking to as many ingredients I'd use at home as possible.  This week, Stubb's Sweet Heat Bar-B-Q Sauce was the my choice.  It was a good one... With just the perfect amount of heat for me.

In case you want to make your own...

1 1/2 cups ketchup (I now buy Simply Heinz or other option without high fructose corn syrup)
2 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1/2 - 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
dash or two cayenne pepper
dash Liquid Smoke or other smokey flavoring, optional

This, again, is a forgiving recipe, and I've given you estimations here.  You can adjust according to your own taste.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Phew. Just in Time!

We don't go fancy, but we're ready for the game.  

I truly love the classy Peyton Manning, but have to root for our 'Hawks.  :-)


Enjoy the game!  I hope it's a good one...

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Roast: You Choose the Pot

I have been trying to drive down to visit my dad 2 days a week.  The dining room has mediocre menus, at best, so one day I bring lunch, and one day I bring lunch and dinner, and we just enjoy a family meal in his little apartment.

This seems simple enough, but I really stress over it.  He has a limited diet for many reasons, including diabetes, heart and blood pressure concerns, and plain and simple pickiness.  ;-)  He doesn't like casseroles, salad as a main dish is difficult for him to maneuver and chew, and very few veggies meet his "acceptable list."  Now add that in his new digs he has only a microwave for cooking, and it gets even more difficult.

Meatloaf and meatballs work very well to meet his preferences, and keeps its texture reasonably when reheated in the microwave.  I have also taken the meatloaf raw, formed it into a doughnut shape inside a casserole dish, and cooked it in the microwave for 15 minutes with good results.  I don't know, though, if he was getting sick of meatloaf and meatballs, but I was.

I recently picked up a beef brisket sandwich, a new menu item at the Costco food court, which he really liked.  This reminded me that I might make a pot roast.  We bought half a beef last spring, and had roasts that should work.  I got out 2 arm roasts to defrost, and set out to find a recipe.  

I found Super Simple Crock Pot Roast, while my kitchen forum friend, JC, found me Slow-Cooked Beer-Braised Beef, which gave instructions for 2 options: putting the beef, raw, into the crockpot, or browning it on the stove in a Dutch oven, and then putting in pan and all, and slow roasting in the oven.  

I decided to use the oven method, and do my own combination of the 2 recipes.

Beer-Onion Soup Mix Pot Roast

Preheat oven to 275 degrees

Arm or other chuck roast, approx 3 lbs 
thoroughly with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.

Heat heavy, oven-safe pot that has a tight-fitting lid (just barely the size of the roast) over medium-high heat, add:
1-2 Tablespoons oil
the roast
and brown well on both/all sides.  -The roast will lift easily off the pan (not stick) when its properly seared. 

Put on top of roast:
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
12 oz beer (next time I'll double the beer or add at least a cup of water)
Pepper, Garlic powder, or your choice of spices

Put lid on pot, and place in oven for 6 to 8 hours.  Peek in during the latter hours of cooking to make sure there is still enough liquid.  

I put mine the oven at midnight, so it would be ready in the morning... Part to take to Dad, and the rest to leave for the family's dinner at home.  When I checked at 7 AM, the larger, red pot was almost dry and the roast was very dry on top.  I added more liquid and, thankfully, neither had burned.  But this is why I'll add more liquid and be more careful about pan size next time.

Coarsely chopped or chunked veggies of your choice:  potatoes, onion, carrots, turnips, beets...
and cook for an additional 45 minutes.

I wasn't sure that would be enough time for the veggies to cook through at such a low temperature, but they were perfect.  Tender, but not mushy.  

Also, I thought I'd need to remove the roast and veggies to make gravy, but the amount of liquid was minimal... Just enough to keep everything moist, and not require thickening.

For crockpot (I haven't tried this yet, so am basing this on the recipes linked above):  Browning the roast is optional.  Put the roast, onion soup mix, and beer or beer/water mixture, in the crockpot all at once.  Cook on low for 7 hours, or on high for an hour, and low for 4 hours.  Add veggies 45 minutes before serving, and continue cooking on low.

I've been having a little trouble with the family not finishing leftovers lately.  I didn't have that problem with this pot roast!  It's a winner... for ease and for taste.

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