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!

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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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spiced slow-cooker applesauce

Fall is a very tenuous season here in the desert.  Mostly it feels like an extension of summer.  Please note we were still in the triple digits even two weeks ago, and high 90s all last week.  This is the first week since, oh, February probably, where we’ve had a day that didn’t even make it into the 80s.  Halleluia!!!

So I can’t let what little fall we actually have slip by without making applesauce.  I love this recipe.  It’s a complete no-brainer: toss it in the crockpot and let it go.  The house smells amazing while the apples stew and I can go about my day without a care in the world.  Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean.  Enjoy!

Spiced Slow Cooker Applesauce
Ingredients:
  • 8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used a combination of Gala and Fuji, but use what you like)
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
Preparation:
Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker, set to low, cover and cook for 4 to 6 hours.  If necessary, mash apples to desired consistency.  Let cool and serve.
Kitchen Notes: The original recipe called for twice the brown sugar.  I found that way too sweet.  I knocked it in half and, honestly, you could probably do away with the sugar altogether depending on what kind of apples you’re using.

stay-in-bed stew

When I was a kid and my mom made stew, I remember her cubing and dredging and browning the stew meat before she could add her veggies and stock.  I loved the stew.  I always thought the cubing and dedging and browning was A LOT of work.  I don’t generally mind the prep work of stew; the slicing of veggies and crushing of garlic.  Chopping is theraputic in a way.  But standing over a pan of spitting hot oil on top of all that??  Never mind.

A good friend of  mine is a retired Naval Commander.  The guy can seriously cook.  But even he has his limits and sometimes there are days when spending even part of the day in the kitchen is off limits.  He shared this stew with me a while back.  He calls it Stay-in-Bed Stew because, feasibly, you could load up your dutch oven with ingredients and just go back to bed.  Or to the gym, or shopping, or to the zoo.  That’s why I just call it “easy-peasy.”  No trimming, dredging, browning, hot oil spatter, mess to clean up.  Just dump it all in the crockpot or a 3 quart dutch oven and let it simmer.

Stay-in-Bed Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2lbs stewing beef
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 chopped potatoes
  • 1 chopped parsnip
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 whole allspice kernels
  • 1 can beef bullion
  • 1 15oz. can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 275F.   Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven, cover, and cook for 4 1/2 hours.  If you’re using a crockpot, cook on high for 4 1/2 hours.  Serve with a hearty cabernet and crusty bread.  Enjoy!

***Cook’s Notes:  Parsnips are such a wonderful root veggie and are in season this time of year.  Although the original recipes has all the ingredients cooking for the same amount of time, I throw the parsnips in late to retain their lovely, nutty flavor.  You can add them in the last 30 minutes of cooking if you’d like.  Also, like all stews, this thickens up when refrigerated.  Thin with more beef stock or a little water when reheating.