Crockpot Char Siu Pork

Asian Pulled Pork

“It’s in the ‘Freezes Beautifully’ section of my cookbook, and I want to make something that freezes beautifully.”  – Annelle, Steel Magnolias

The Mistah and I have only recently begun to seriously budget.  Until now, budgeting meant making sure we had enough money in savings to cover our over spending from checking.  I know  that’s not the best approach…I knew it as we were in the midst of it.  But it was easier than having the conversation about getting things under control.  Now that our family has grown, the money talk can’t be avoided.  I guess I should consider this practice for the other “talks” that wait for us down the parental road.

Have you ever tried to convince someone to do something the way you think it should be done?  Then you know that if you and the other person don’t think alike, that can be a hard sell.  Not to mention seriously frustrating for you both.  That’s how all of our previous attempts at having the money talk went.  It was my way or your way, but not our way.

Something had to change.  So we took a page from organizational management tools and formed a committee.  We meet monthly.  We keep minutes.  We look for ways to meet our goals and objectives without having to be right.

The reason I’m oversharing this with you is because at our last Finance Committee Meeting, one of the ideas presented for consideration was to buy a separate freezer.  The thought behind this is that our refrigerator/freezer can’t accommodate a gallon of ice cream without a fight.  Trying to buy frozen foods in bulk, or heaven forbid actually cooking and freezing individual portions of meals is completely out of the question without additional cold storage.

We haven’t fully committed to this plan.  Do you know how much an upright freezer costs?  They ain’t cheap.  So I’ve been trolling Craigslist.  Until I either land my white whale used or suck it up and drop some serious cash for a new one, my “freezes beautifully” selections are done on a small scale…and our Frigidaire is an ice cream free zone.

Crockpot Char Siu Pork (Asian Pulled Pork)

Adapted from Cooking Light: The New Way to Cook Light

BAH Note:  I scored a deal on a 4 pound pork roast and doubled the recipe.  If you scale it up, be prepared for a longer cooking time.  My 4 pound roast took nearly 12 hours to fall off the bone.

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (lower sodium recommended)
  • 1/4 hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 pounds Boston butt pork roast, trimmed of extra fat
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

Combine the soy sauce, hoisin, ketchup, honey, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and five spice powder in a small bowl.  Stir to fully combine and then transfer to a large zip top plastic bag.  Add the pork roast and refrigerate at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

Place the pork and the marinade from the bag in a crockpot.  Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until the meat falls apart.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board or sheet pan and let it cool before you shred it with two forks.

Meanwhile, carefully ladle the liquid from the crockpot into a saucepan.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the sauce reduces a bit.  Taste for seasoning and spoon the sauce over the shredded pork.  Stir to let the sauce get reacquainted with the pork before shoving it in your face.

{printable recipe}

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Chilled Avocado Soup

Chilled Avocado Soup

Lately I feel like I’m on the verge of becoming the stereotypical crotchety old lady.  The one who mutters under my breath about “kids these days” and “hell in a handbasket” and then wonders why people avoid making eye contact with me as they pass by.  All I need to complete the transformation is a housecoat, hair rollers, and a coffee mug full of gin as I sweep my porch.  Ok, maybe that is a bit of a stretch.  Because anyone who knows me knows that my coffee mug would be hiding vodka or wine….never gin.

Who knew that I would feel so old and tired at 42?  But when you’re young and daydream about what the future holds, you totally gloss over the unglamorous parts of being an adult.  Things like pulling weeds, taking out the trash, paying bills, and navigating the tough patches in relationships.  What you think about is the freedom of being an adult when you get to call the shots.

You certainly don’t imagine what it will feel like to work a full day, slog through rush hour traffic with a cranky toddler as your backseat driver, and arrive home to discover hair balls and cat vomit deposited throughout your house.  Or as I like to call it, Wednesday.

Oh, and when you do finally get in the door, clean up the vomit, change a diaper, and set the toddler up with enough toys to stock an aisle at Target, you are expected to make dinner magically appear.  After dinner there are dishes to wash, clothes to fold, emails to return, bed time for the toddler, lunches to make, and deep breaths to take.  Glamorous, right?

Some days I handle this with more grace than others.  And on my best days, I have dinner mostly prepped and ready to go in the fridge.  Because let’s be real, if I didn’t we would have cereal for dinner as often as we have cereal for breakfast.  And as glamorous as that may sound when you’re young, at 42 I can tell you that it’s really not.

Chilled Avocado Soup with Shrimp
Adapted from Cooking Light Good Mood Food

BAH Note:  Cooking Light calls for low fat sour cream.  I got feisty and used regular. Let your conscience (and your waistline) be your guide.  Yes, this dish has several components.  But they can all be made ahead of time.  When you’re ready to serve, just put all the pieces together.

Soup:

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1⁄2 cups diced peeled avocado (about 2)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

Lime Cream:

  • 3⁄4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Shrimp:

  • 1 pound shrimp, unpeeled
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup corn kernels (about 2 ears if using fresh)
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped red onion

To prepare soup, place chicken broth, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Cover and chill.

For lime cream, combine sour cream, cilantro (if using), lime juice and zest, and salt in a bowl.  Stir until combined and add additional lime juice to get the consistency you like.

To prepare shrimp, heat oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Spread the shrimp into a single layer on the sheet pan, coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  Roast for 8 to 10 minutes or until the shrimp is firm and cooked through.  Allow to cool thoroughly before peeling.

While the shrimp roasts and cools, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions begins to soften.  Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally to allow the mixture to brown and char a bit.

Serve the chilled avocado soup garnished with the shrimp, lime cream, and corn mixture.

{printable recipe}

Flashback Friday – Undecided

The following post originally appeared on BAH on 2 September 2009.

I can’t decide if I like this recipe or not. Maybe it needs a different cheese because the smoked Gouda seemed to overwhelm everything else. Other than a cheese substitution, would you make any other changes?

Ziti Baked with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Smoked Gouda

Cooking Light Pasta

  • 8 ounces uncooked ziti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, with juices
  • 10 ounces canned Italian seasoned diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda, divided

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add spinach to pan and cook 30 seconds or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Add pasta and 3/4 cup cheese to tomato mixture.  Toss well to combine.

Spoon pasta mixture in 5 individual, or 1 large, casserole dish lightly coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

{Printable Recipe}

Flashback Friday – From the Files

The following post originally appeared on BAH on 31 August 2009.

Orange Roughy

I’ve been making an effort to go through my old recipes, the ones that I’ve already tried out and decided are keepers, and post them. My goal is to turn my home files into a printed record of what you see here at BAH. Today’s tidbit is from the pages of Cooking Light.

Sauteed Tilapia with Lemon Peppercorn Pan Sauce

Cooking Light

BAH Note: I didn’t have Tilapia on hand that last time I made this so I used Orange Roughy. Any firm, white fish would probably work. Just make sure that it’s a thin fillet. I find that the pan sauce is a little piquant even with rinsing the capers, which I used instead of brined peppercorns. When you add the butter into the pan sauce, remember that even softened solids going into liquids will cause a splash. I didn’t, and ended up with sauce everywhere.

  • 3/4 cup chicken broth (I like the low sodium version)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons drained, brine packed green peppercorns, lightly crushed (I used rinsed capers)
  • 3 teaspoons butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 Tilapia fillets (I used Orange Roughy)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour

Combine broth, lemon juice, and peppercorns (or capers) in a small bowl.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter with vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. While butter melts, sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Dredge fillets in flour and shake off excess.

Increase heat to medium-high until butter begins to turn golden brown. Add fillets to pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove fish from the pan and cover to keep warm.

Add broth mixture to pan, scraping up any loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil cook about 3 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in last 2 teaspoons butter with a whisk.

Spoon sauce over fillets and garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

{Printable Recipe}

Bruce and Mark’s Honey Chicken

Bruce and Mark’s Honey Chicken

Adapted from Cooking Light The Complete Quick Cook

  • 6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Heat the oven to 475 degrees and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

While the oven heats, combine the chili powder, cumin, paprika, and salt in a small bowl.  Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl and coat completely with the spice mixture.  Transfer the thighs to the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 10 minutes then carefully turn the thighs over and cook on the other side for another to 10 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, combine the honey and vinegar in a small bowl.  After the chicken has cooked on both sides, baste with the honey mixture.  Cook for 5 minutes before turning the chicken over, basting with the remaining honey mixture and cooking for another 5 minutes

Cranberry Orange Muffins

In my daily life, I try to be a good person.  I hope that each day I am able to find compassion, empathy, and patience for myself and those around me.  I’ll be honest, some days that is hard to do.  And being even more honest, some days I know it is hard for others to find compassion, empathy, or patience for me…especially those that spend the workday with me.  Because I’ve become the person in the office who avoids changing the bottle in the water cooler.

Not that this excuses my offense but why can’t companies make smaller cooler bottles?  I’m no featherweight but hoisting a 5 gallon bottle of water from the floor to the counter and then tipping it into the cooler is a workout.  Water weighs a lot…just ask the Google.  You’ll see that a gallon of water weighs just over 8 pounds.  Fractions bother me so I’m going to just round down to 8 pounds per gallon.  That means the standard 5 gallon bottle of water that comes off the truck at our office every month has a water weight of 40 pounds right off the bat.  The plastic bottle itself is nearly 2 pounds.  And I know this because I just ran upstairs with the office postal scale and weighed an empty water bottle.

So, 42 pounds.  Even if I remember to lift with my legs and not my back, that’s a lot of pounds to lift, move, maneuver, and pray the whole time that I don’t end up soaking wet.  Would it really be so difficult to roll out a line of 2.5 or 3 gallon cooler bottles?  We can send people into outer space.  We have technology that allows us to talk on wireless phones.  We have fiber optic lines thinner than strands of human hair.  But we have antiquated water cooler bottles.

Is it possible that I use baked goods to atone for my water cooler sins?  Could be.  Maybe if I bring in a batch of cranberry orange muffins I can buy another few weeks of my coworkers turning a blind eye to my water cooler crimes.

Cranberry Orange Muffin

Adapted from Cooking Light

BAH Note:  CL said to bake for 15 minutes at 400.  I don’t know what kind of crazy nuclear oven they have but after 15 minutes at 380 degrees (convection) in my Advantium oven, the muffins were nowhere near done.  I gave them another 7 minutes before my tester came out clean.  I used a combination of all purpose and white whole wheat flour, along with some wheat bran but you can easily use only all purpose flour…you’ll want two cups total.  Oh, and you can also sprinkle a wee bit more sugar on the tops of the muffins right before you slide them into the oven.  And while you’re at it, go ahead and zest the orange(s) that you juiced and mix that into the batter.  I thought it needed an extra bit of zip.

  • 1 ounce wheat bran (optional)
  • 3.5 ounces white wheat flour (if omitting the wheat bran, increase to 4.5 ounces, or roughly one cup)
  • 4.5 ounces all purpose flour (one cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 400 degrees and line 18 muffin cups with liners.

Combine the flour(s), wheat bran (if using), sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl.

In a second bowl, or large measuring cup, add the oil, juice, and egg and stir to combine.

Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until the liquid is just incorporated into a lumpy batter.  Fold in the cranberries and spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins.

Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the tops of the muffins spring back when you press them lightly and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before turning the muffins out to cool completely.

{printable recipe}

Flashback Friday – Cooking Light

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 3/11/09 at Exit 51.

Cooking Light

As I’ve mentioned, I used to subscribe to Cooking Light.  But the sheer volume of recipes they fit into a single magazine overwhelmed me.  Instead of tackling the challenge head on, I ignored it and hoped it would go away.  But it didn’t.  That is why, years later, I’m still pulling pages torn from CL out of my test recipe folder.  I only wish they printed the date or the issue on the pages so I could know exactly how long these things have been waiting to see the light of day.

Saucy

Because to be honest, some of these deserve not only the light of day, but a spot light.  Like the Tilapia in Mustard Cream Sauce.  This was a recipe sent in by a reader.  Kudos to Alix McLearen of Wesley Chapel, Florida because I think your recipe may have just nudged the Barefoot Contessa’s Mustard Roasted Fish out of my binder.  As much as I like Ina’s Mustard Fish, I like this one even better.  The sauce has a more balanced flavor without relying so heavily on the dairy portion of the food pyramid. And the addition of the mushrooms brings a bit of earthiness to the dish.

It’s funny that I ended up pairing this fish with the same side as I used with Ina’s.  Either fish and asparagus really do go together or I’m incredibly predictable. Either way, I think you should definitely put this recipe on your to-do list.  And we can discuss my predictability over a plate of Tilapia in Mustard Cream Sauce.

Tilapia in Mustard Cream Sauce

Cooking Light Magazine, Courtesy of Alix McLearen

According to the author’s notes, orange roughy or chicken can be substituted for the tilapia, and tomatoes or spinach can be subbed for the mushrooms.  I wanted a slightly thicker sauce so I let the chicken broth reduce a bit after the fish was removed, as well as kept the sauce on the heat longer after the mustard and cream were added.  I recommend adding the fish back to the pan for a few moments before serving.

  • 4 tilapia filets (6 oz. each) (I used orange roughy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (I used dried, probably about half as much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 chicken broth
  • 1 ounce portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream (I used half and half)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sprinkle fish with thyme, pepper, and salt.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add fish; cook 1 minute on each side.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook, uncovered, 1 minute until mushrooms are tender.  Remove fish from pan; keep warm.

Add cream and mustard to pan.  Stir with a whisk until combined.  Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.  Serve sauce over fish.