pulled pork bbq (slow cooker style)

Can you ever get enough pulled pork?  I think not.

A friend gave  me this recipe a while back and I hadn’t made it for fear of being accused of being on some strange shredded meat binge.  Finally, the temptation was too great and I gave in, even though I had made shredded something-or-other fairly recently.  But it’s about the easiest recipe ever written and I was in an “I don’t want feel like lingering over dinner” kind of mood.  Four ingredients, people.  Four ingredients and that’s about all the lingering over dinner you’ll need to do.  I always feel like there’s some kitchen fairy magic going on with these meals.  Ingredients in, lid on, twelve hours later, dinner is served.

I’ve seen various recipes like this one calling for the addition of a carbonated beverage.  Does anyone know why?  Honestly, I’m not sure what the added benefit might be, because I think the meat really gets it flavor from the onions and whatever spectacular bbq sauce you choose.  So, if anyone can offer any hints as to why soda of any kind is frequently seen in slow cooker recipes like this, I’d love to know.  The finished product had absolutely no Ginger Ale overtones, whatsoever.

We always top our shredded meat with coleslaw.  We’re quirky that way.  Feel free to do the same, or just slather in more saucy deliciousness.  Enjoy!

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Pulled Pork BBQ

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs pork roast (shoulder or butt)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • 1 (18 ounce) bottle favorite barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s) barbecue sauce, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  • Slice one onion and place in crock pot.
  • Put in the roast and cover with the other onion, sliced. Pour over the ginger ale. Cover and cook on LOW for about 12 hours.
  • Remove the meat, strain and save the onions, discard all liquid. With two forks, shred the meat, discarding any remaining fat, bones or skin.
  • Return the shredded meat and the onions to the crock pot and stir in the barbecue sauce. Continue to cook for about another 2 hours on LOW.
  • Serve with hardy rolls and additional barbecue sauce. Any leftovers freeze very well.

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Cook’s Notes:  Shoulder or butt are recommended because the meat shreds very well.  It is a fattier cut, but the fat pretty much falls away after cooking and is easily removed from the crock pot before shredding.  Also,  the original recipe cooked for 12 hours the first round, and another 4 to 6 after straining, shredding, and adding the sauce.  I think mine would have been cooked to mush by that point.  Another 2 hours to let the flavors develop was plenty for us.  Also, the original recipe gave a tip on how to freeze ready-made sandwiches.  Personally, that just sounds disgusting.  I can only envision a soggy pile of goo coming out of the microwave upon re-heating.  My preference is to keep the meat and bread separate until I’m ready to eat.  Most importantly (as with any shredded meat sandwich where sauce or coleslaw is involved), make sure your sandwich buns can stand up to all that moisture.  I noted to serve with “hardy rolls” in the directions above, and I can’t emphasize that enough.  Unless you don’t mind eating your pulled pork with a fork.  In which case you can simply call this recipe pork-on-a-fork!

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slow cooker steel cut oatmeal

The forecast has a day close to 90° in it, which means the season for comfort foods is quickly coming to an end here in the Arizona desert.  We all know what happens after the scale tips in that direction:  90s, 100s, 110s.  Yeah, it’s not pretty.  Comfort food will be the last thing on my mind.  Bring on the salads, please and thank you.

But for now I managed to squeak one in just before the mercury inches toward the 90° mark.  We actually had the perfect weekend for it with what was probably our last winter rain.

This is one of my favorite slow cooker oatmeals.  It’s thick and hearty and I love the flavor play between the sweetness of the apples and the tartness of the dried cherries.  I’d call it healthy, but it’s got a fair amount of brown sugar in it which sends the health-o-meter swinging in the other direction.  You could remedy that by exchanging the brown sugar for an agave/molasses concoction, but…well, I like brown sugar, and my diet is pretty low in processed sugar, anyway.  So, I splurge.

While I love the flavor of this oatmeal, I should forewarn that after it’s refrigerated it’s not nearly as pretty.  It’s really, really thick and needs to be thinned out substantially with additional water or milk when you re-heat it.  My husband even went so far as to call it, “gelatinous,” which has very negative connotations in an 8th grade science sort of way.  But it’s delicious!  Top with more fruit or nuts, a sprinkle of brown sugar or swirl of honey and it’s all good.   Enjoy!

2013-03-01

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Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 2 c steel cut oats (not rolled or quick cooking)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced (I used Gala)
  • 1 c dried tart cherries

Directions:

  • Spray inside of slow cooker with a non-stick cooking spray, i.e., Pam. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
  • Serve and top with sliced banana, walnuts, a smidgen more brown sugar, honey, or whatever your heart’s desire.

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slow-cooker pulled beef and beer sliders

The Super Bowl!  Ahhhh, yes.  There’s only one reason I agree to attend gatherings centered around professional sports and that’s the food.  I can only stomach the antics and machismo of a bunch of overpaid prima donnas if my own stomach is full of good grub.  Oh, and if there’s beer!  Because what you’ll need to pair with this recipe is not wine (sorry, my dear Carolyn), it’s beer.  We paired it with Bell’s Amber (a craft brew from my native Michigan) and the combo was delicious.

Serving the beef as a “slider” sandwich is perfect for a party where there’s going to be a lot of other food, too.  Our friends had laid out a nacho/taco bar and pork carnitas, so we added the sliders with toppings of cole slaw, pickles, peperoncinis, and some sharp Vermont cheddar cheese.  The meat was incredibly tender and flavorful, and the mini sandwiches were a hit with the kids, too.  This recipe is definitely a keeper – lots of flavor with pretty minimal work, and would be yummy any time of year when you’re feeding a crowd.  Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Pulled Beef and Beer Sliders
(recipe courtesy Jersey Girl Cooks)
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 Ingredients:
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 lb beef roast (chuck, bottom round or shoulder roast works)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 12 ounces beer
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays Sweet & Tangy)
  • 12 to 16 mini slider rolls or potato rolls
  • optional: serve with extra BBQ sauce, cheese, pickles, peperoncinis or crispy onions
Directions:
  1. Place the chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Season roast with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then place roast in the slow cooker.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the beer and BBQ sauce. Pour over the roast.
  4. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  5. When meat is cooked, shred and serve on slider rolls with any of the suggested extras…or, anything else you prefer.

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***Cook’s Notes:  I used a round roast which cooked up beautifully in about 10 hours.  I strained the juice and saved it for re-heating leftovers.  Next time I might tinker with the quantities of beer and BBQ sauce called for during cooking.  I would have liked a little more BBQ flavor, but the meat was still delicious when prepared per the recipe.

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slow cooker shredded beef sandwiches

The other day I was flipping through a stack of recipes, lamenting the heat and begrudging having to cook dinner for the next string of 110+ degree days.  It was also one of those days I was particularly missing my mom – grief is such a long, strange process.  About a third of the way through the pile of recipe cards, this one fell out and fluttered to the floor.  My mom had handwritten it for me when she visited the last time before she died.  It was a staple in her repertoire when I was growing up.  I took it as something of a sign:  Mom’s recipe, no slaving over a hot oven required.  Thanks, Mom.  I needed that.

These sandwiches are perfect no matter what the weather.  They’re savory and comforting in the cold, and easy-peasy in the heat.  They’re also great for a pot-luck when you’re feeding a crowd.  Best ever cole slaw recipe to follow.  Enjoy!

Shredded Beef Sandwiches 

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs beef chuck pot roast, trimmed
  • 1/3 c vinegar
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

Trim fat from roast and place in 3 to 4 quart slow cooker.  Combine vinegar, onion, bay leaves, salt, cloves, and garlic powder; pour over meat.  Cover and cook on low heat for 11 to 12 hours or until meat is very tender.  Remove meat and use forks to shred, discarding any bones or fat.  If desired line hearty rolls with spinach or lettuce leaf of your choice, or top with cole slaw.  Strain meat juices, skim fat.  Serve juices with sandwiches for dipping.  Serves 8 to 10.

black bean soup with sausage

Healthy, delicious, comforting, filling.  Not to mention, it’s one of the handful of days our temps have fallen below 60 degrees all winter.  Generally, we’ve hovered in the low 70s.  Not exactly soup weather.  So, as soon as I saw the forecast, I threw some black beans in the pot to soak !
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Now, let’s get back to the healthy part. This recipe makes about 8 cups, or 6 main course servings.  The nutrition stats break out like this per serving: 178 cal, 4 g fat ( 1 g saturated fat), 24 mg cholesterol, 689 mg sodium, 22 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 15 g protein. It’s low-fat, heart-healthy, and full of muscle-building protein.  It’s also pretty quick to put together and there’s even a slow-cooker option posted beneath the recipe.
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I serve it with some hunks of hearty, crusty bread, and it’s a wonderfully satisfying meal.  Make this a day ahead, if you can, and let the flavors blend overnight. Like a lot of soups, stews, etc., it tastes even better the next day.  Enjoy!
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BLACK BEAN SOUP w/SAUSAGE
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Ingredients:
1 cup dry black beans
6 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 large)
1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground red pepper
8 oz fully cooked smoked turkey sausage or Polish sausage, chopped
3 Tbsp dry sherry (optional)
Low-fat sour cream or shredded Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
Snipped fresh parsley (optional)
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Preparation:
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1. Rinse beans. In a large saucepan or pot combine beans and the 6 cups water. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans.
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2.  In the same pan combine beans, chicken broth, the 2 cups water, onion, celery, garlic, coriander, salt, and ground red pepper. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.
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3.  Stir in sausage and, if desired, dry sherry. Cook 2 to 3 minutes more or until heated through. If desired, garnish with sour cream or shredded cheese and parsley. Makes about 8 cups (6 main dish servings).
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Kitchen Notes: I used 1/8 tsp of ground red pepper and that was plenty for me.  There was definitely some heat, but not overpowering.  If you’re a fan of crock pot cooking, you can adapt the recipe this way:
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Prepare as directed above in step one. In a 4 qt crock pot combine chicken broth, 2 cups water, onion, celery, coriander, garlic, salt, and ground red pepper.  Stir in beans.  Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.  Stir in sausage and dry sherry, if desired. Cover and cook on high-heat for about 30 minute more or until cooked through.