Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Apple Pork

IMG_2416eI’ll totally admit it, this may not be the prettiest dish but it is the most wonderfully delicious pulled pork I have ever had!  I have made this recipe dozens and dozens of times but because it’s not pretty I just never took a picture but I have had so many requests for the recipe and I’m tired of it being my responsibility to remember to email the recipe, I’ve relented and I’m putting it here on the blog, unattractive pictures and all. 

I love that I can easily scale this recipe up or down depending on how many people I need to feed, it cooks just as well in a slow cooker or the oven and best of all, it freezes wonderfully and because it’s so delicious I always try to keep some in the freezer for when the craving strikes.  I implore you, make this pork and you’ll be licking your bowl and your dinner guests will think you’re the best cook ever.

IMG_2408e Sweet & Spicy Apple Pork

(It is best to make this a day ahead if possible so to skim the fat)

2 - 12 oz cans frozen apple juice concentrate
1 cup ketchup 
1 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I like K.C. Masterpiece Original)
1 TBS cumin 
1 TBS sweet paprika 
1 head of garlic, peeled & minced
1 tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Ground cayenne pepper  (I use 2 tsp which gives it a good bit of spice but I'd suggest the first time you only use 1 tsp.)
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 whole medium onions, diced
5-6 pounds boneless pork shoulder butt roast, cut into big chunks

    Oven Method: Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Add everything but the pork to a large roaster and stir to mix well.  Add the pork and mix well. Cover tightly and cook for 4-6 hours or until the pork is very tender.  Once cooked allow to cool a little and then remove the pork to a platter fat side up and remove as much of the fat as possible (it will very easily scrape off.)  With two forks you can either pull the pork into some serving size big chunks or "shred" it for pulled pork sandwiches.   Put all the cooked liquids into a large bowl and then add the pork back to the liquid and push it down to submerge completely.  Cover tightly and chill overnight.  Skim the fat from the top and then just reheat.  I serve this various ways, over wide egg noodles, over rice or as pulled pork sandwiches on buns. 

    Slow cooker Method:  Follow the directions above but cook on high for 8-10 hours or until pork is very tender.  After the pork is cooked and you do all the fat removal as above, if you have a slow cooker with a removable crock, chill overnight covered right in the crock, remove the fat layer and reheat right in your slow cooker.


    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Giveaway!! A Ponderous Ponderosa

    IMG_2966e2 If you missed it before, that is not a grapefruit, it’s a Ponderosa Lemon that Maisie is holding and it weighed in at just shy of 2 1/2 pounds!! 

    IMG_3006e2 I got two cups of juice from that baby and used some of it to make this gorgeous Ponderosa Lemon & Sour Cream Tart which was beyond delicious.

    Well now you too have a chance to get your hands on one gorgeous, ponderous Ponderosa Lemon as my bloggy pals Alyson & Ford who so kindly surprised me with a package containing one will send one right to your door if you are the winning entry on their blog.  Click here for all the details and to enter the drawing.


    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Pork Dumplings with Rice Wrappers

    Happy Chinese New Year ~~ Year of the Dragon ~~ Gung Hay Fat Choy!!! 新年快樂

    IMG_2437eMaisie is my dumpling loving girl and how could I have her celebrate Chinese New Year without her beloved dumplings.  But now with her food allergies to wheat, egg whites and milk, I’ve had to find new ways of making her favorite foods so enter, dumplings made with rice paper wrappers.  I didn’t have to make any changes to my filling recipe, it was only replacing the traditional wheat based dumpling wrapper with the rice paper wrapper.  I couldn’t make traditional shaped dumplings so I tried cigar and rectangular shaped and both worked out well as far as wrapping went.  I then tried steaming the dumplings and though they were wonderful, the wrapper just didn’t want to stay on so I tried pan frying and it was a success.  The dumplings were absolutely delicious and we all love them so these are the dumplings which the Cook Lisa Cook household will be enjoying from now on.  I made a huge tray of dumplings, fried them all up and then on a Silpat lined baking sheet I froze them (don’t allow them to touch one another.)  I then was able to transfer the fully cooked individually frozen dumplings to FoodSaver zipper bags and then I vacuumed out all the air using my FoodSaver .  This way whenever Maisie wants some dumplings I can easily pull out as many as she wants and heat them up and then easily seal up the rest so to keep them fresh and freezer burn-free.     

    IMG_2438e Pork Dumplings with Rice Wrappers

    2.3 pounds ground pork
    1.5 pounds Napa cabbage, shredded
    3 TBS fresh grated ginger
    6 large scallions, whites & greens sliced
    12 TBS soy sauce 
    3 TBS Shaoxing wine
    3 TBS sesame oil 
    1 package rice paper wrappers, round 16 cm

    In a large bowl combine the ground pork, shredded cabbage, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and sesame oil and mix well.  To make the dumplings, one by one quickly soak a rice paper round in some warm water until pliable.  Lay the wrapper on a work surface and place some of the pork mixture in the center of the round.  Fold the rice paper around the pork as you would for an egg roll or wrap sandwich.  Lay the wrapped dumpling on a Silpat or oiled parchment paper lined baking sheet.  When ready to fry, heat a very thin layer of peanut oil (or oil of your choice) in a large fry pan.  Fry up both sides of the dumpling until the pork is cooked through and the wrapper is golden brown. 

    Serve with Dumpling Dipping Sauce

    Dumpling Dipping Sauce

    2 tsp sesame oil
    1/4 cup seasoned soy sauce for seafood (bottle will say "ideal for steamed fish")
    3 TBS Shaoxing wine or rice wine
    1 TBS rock sugar
    2  teaspoons grated peeled ginger root
    1 clove garlic, minced finely 
    1 small chili pepper, thinly sliced into "coins"
    4 TBS cilantro, medium chopped
    1 scallion thinly sliced, mostly into rings and then some longer thin strips from the green end

    In a pot over medium heat stir everything but the scallion together until the sugar melts and then allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in scallion.  Allow to cool.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  I have kept this for a month and it's still great.  (I usually double this one as it keeps for so long)


    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Ponderosa Lemon & Sour Cream Tart

    IMG_3008eThis is month four of the Improv Cooking Challenge which is hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.  This month I was super excited to participate as we were tasked to use two of my favorite ingredients, lemon and sour cream.  How the challenge works is, each month the participating bloggers are given two ingredients and asked to make any recipe of their choosing which contains those two ingredients.  Well I have been looking forward to this month because not only are lemon & sour cream personal favorites but for almost a year I’ve been itching to make this tart from Mary’s blog, One Perfect Bite and this was the perfect opportunity.  I have previously cooked from Mary’s blog with great success, when I made Stir-Fried Asparagus with Water Chestnuts, Ginger & Cashews so had high hopes for this recipe.  This tart not only lived up to my expectations but it far exceeded them.  This tart was absolutely delicious and both Eammon and I couldn’t stop eating it and the entire tart barely lasted a day.  Okay I did share a couple of slices with some friends, who also loved it but Eammon and I managed to polish off the lion’s share.

    IMG_2966eQuite fortuitously this ponderous Ponderosa lemon magically appeared on my doorstep just a couple of days before I made my tart.

    IMG_2977eThis gorgeous almost 2 1/2 pound Ponderosa lemon was a surprise gift from fellow bloggers Alyson & Ford.  It was a great treat as I’ve never heard of nor tried this lemon before and not only did it have wonderful flavor but this baby gave me two full cups of juice!

    IMG_2980eMary said in her post “The crust is as negotiable as your standards. It need not be homemade and a really good commercial crust or puff pastry will work just fine.”   I debated on the crust for a while, undecided on whether to go with a graham cracker, shortbread or just a pie crust…until I remembered that I had some homemade pie crust dough in the freezer so easy-peasy I went that route.

    IMG_2985eThis tart was super simple to make and oh-so delicious. The lemon & sour cream together were gorgeous and the tart was tangy, creamy and silky smooth, just pure perfection. This tart will be made again and again as this was a winning recipe.

    My previous Improv Cooking Challenge entries:
    October 2011 Caramel & Apples:  Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies
    November 2011 Pumpkin & Cream Cheese:  Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake
    December 2011 Eggnog & Cranberries:  Eggnog Popovers with Cranberry Butter

    IMG_3006ePonderosa Lemon & Sour Cream Tart  (from here) 

    1 9-inch pie or tart crust
    1/4 cup cornstarch
    1 cup sugar
    1 TBS finely grated lemon zest
    1/2 cup lemon juice
    3 egg yolks, beaten
    1 cup milk
    4 TBS butter
    1 cup sour cream

    Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a tart pan with pastry and trim edges.  Prick the bottom & sides with a fork.  Bake until light golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

    In a saucier combine the cornstarch, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolks and milk.  Cook on medium heat until thick, stirring constantly.  Stir in the butter until fully combined and let the mixture cool to room temperature.  Stir in sour cream and pour filling into the tart shell.

    Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  The tart can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.  Top with fresh lemon zest, berries or whipped cream.


    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Maisie “safe” No Bake Cookies

    IMG_3034e Maisie and I switched up her Math Book and Nutella No Bake Cookies so to make them “safe” for Maisie and her allergies and to also add some extra healthy calories to them because with Maisie’s intense workout schedule at the gym she needs all the calories I can get into her.  The cookies in this recipe are gluten-free and vegan so safe for my girl and according to her, absolutely delicious!! 

    IMG_3033eMaisie “safe” No Bake Cookies 

    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1/4 cup cocoa
    1/2 cup chocolate soy milk or “milk” of your choice
    1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread or non-dairy margarine of your choice
    1 tsp vanilla
    pinch of salt
    1/2 cup smooth peanut butter or nut or seed butter of your choice
    1 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional, added for extra healthy calories)
    3 cup Old Fashioned oats

    In a microwave safe bowl combine the sugar, cocoa, chocolate soy milk and buttery spread.  Heat in one minute intervals stirring after each minute until the butter is melted and all the ingredients are combined.  Once the ingredients are all melted and combined, microwave on high for two minutes.  Remove from the microwave and add the vanilla, salt & peanut butter.  Stir to combine until smooth.  Stir in the walnuts & oats until combined.  Drop by teaspoon or medium cookie scoop onto a Silpat or wax paper.  Refrigerate until they are set.


    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Chang-Style Brussels Sprouts

    IMG_2785eIt wasn’t until recently that I discovered that I really enjoy Brussels sprouts.  In the past I always found them stinky and well, cabbage-y tasting but when cooked up right as in this recipe with the addition of bacon, Sriracha and a bit of lime, well they’re absolutely delicious.  I’ve made this recipe a couple of times and because Eammon always requests Brussels sprouts as part of Christmas dinner, I served them Christmas Eve, much to everyone’s delight.

    IMG_2789e Chang-Style Brussels Sprouts (from here)
    serves 4

    1lb fresh Brussels sprouts
    1/4lb thick-cut bacon
    Butter (optional)
    Sriracha hot sauce 
    juice of one lime
    Salt and pepper

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Trim stem-ends from sprouts. Half sprouts lengthwise, through core. Cut bacon into chunks. Cook in a large-ish oven-proof skillet over medium heat until crispy, about five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Raise heat to medium-high. Add sprouts to skillet, cut side down, in a single layer. Sear until they start to sizzle. Transfer to the oven and roast until they are browning on the cut side, about 8 minutes. Flip sprouts over in skillet and return to oven. Remove from oven they are bright green and tender (taste check), about 10 minutes. Return pan to the stove top over medium heat. Put a pot holder on the skillet handle so you don't accidentally sear your palm. Stir in bacon and an optional tablespoon of butter. Toss until mixed through. Dump sprouts and bacon in a bowl, add a few squirts of Sriracha depending on how hot you like it (we like it hot). Squeeze in juice of one lime. Salt and pepper if necessary.


    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Glazed Lemon Squares

    IMG_0471eLemon Bars, when made well, are one of my favorite cookies and I thought that there could be none better than the tried and true buttery and tangy delicious Lemon Squares that I have been making for years because they are the bomb.  But then somewhere I saw a recipe for glazed lemon bars and I realized that I could improve on my favorite Lemon Squares by doing away with the powdered sugar topping and replacing it with a sweet lemony glaze.  Oh JOY!!!  I loved the extra tang of lemon in the sweet glaze and didn’t miss the powdered sugar mess down the front of my shirt and everywhere else.  NOW I make a the most perfect and delicious Glazed Lemon Squares ever!!

    IMG_0474eGlazed Lemon Squares

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup confections sugar
    1 cup butter

    Preheat oven to 350F. Mix sugar and flour then cut in butter until particles are the size of small peas. Work dough with hands and press in the bottom and 1 1/2-inches up the sides of a lightly greased 13x9-inch glass pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm to the touch.

    1/4 cup flour
    1 tsp. baking powder
    4 large eggs
    2 cups granulated sugar
    1 1/2 TBS grated lemon peel
    5 TBS fresh lemon juice

    While crust is baking, mix flour & baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Stir in sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice and flour mixture. Pour mixture onto hot crust. Bake 25 minutes or until set and top is slightly browned. Cool completely before topping with the glaze.

    1 cup powdered sugar
    3 TBS fresh lemon juice

    Whisk together the powdered sugar & lemon juice until smooth and then gently spread over the bars. Refrigerate for at least two hours and then cut into squares before serving. Makes about 36 bars.


    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

    IMG_2855eIt’s Crazy Cooking Challenge time again!  Each month our hostess, Tina of Moms Crazy Cooking challenges the participating bloggers to search non-celebrity blogs looking for the ultimate recipe of the month.  We are then to make and feature that recipe and the blog where we found it.  This month the challenge was to find the ultimate chicken noodle soup recipe.  I almost passed on participating this month because my mind wasn’t thinking past traditional chicken noodle soup which isn’t a favorite for me as I generally strain the noodle out so to just enjoy the soup.  As a rule noodles in soup isn’t a favorite and now with Maisie’s food allergies, well I just wasn’t feeling the challenge.  Then I saw a recipe for Thai Chicken Noodle Soup on Lesa’s blog Edesia's Notebook and I knew I had found the ultimate chicken noodle soup recipe and I just had to make it.  Lesa’s soup looked delicious and simple to make and with a few little changes I knew that it could be made “Maisie safe,” delicious and perfect for us…and it was.  Maisie loved the soup as I made it and Eammon and I enjoyed it spiced up a bit with a squirt of Sriracha.  Mild or spiced up, this IS the ultimate chicken noodle soup.

    My previous Crazy Cooking Challenge entries:
    Mac & Cheese Challenge: Velvety Mac & Cheese
    Chocolate Chip Cookie Challenge: Chocolate Chip Gingersnaps
    Mashed Potato Challenge: Aloo Tikki
    Fudge Challenge: Biscoff Fudge 

    IMG_2851eThai Chicken Noodle Soup (Adapted from here)

    1 TBS peanut oil
    2 carrots, julienned
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1 TBS fresh grated ginger
    1 tsp dried lemon grass powder 
    1/2 tsp turmeric 
    1/2 tsp red pepper powder 
    4 cups Cheaters Chicken Soup 
    3/4 cup lite coconut milk 
    1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 
    1 lb cooked chicken meat (I used the meat from when I made my “Rotisserie” Chicken and Cheaters Chicken Soup)
    3 oz dry vermicelli rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
    1 TBS sugar
    2 TBS fresh chopped cilantro
    2 TBS fish sauce
    Salt and pepper to taste

    In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the carrots and cook until slightly softened.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute until it is fragrant.  Add the lemon grass powder, turmeric and red pepper powder and stir fry it for 1 minute.  Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, peanut butter, chicken meat and cooked noodles.  Bring to a low boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in the sugar, cilantro and fish sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve and add Sriracha to taste.



    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Seared Scallops with Creamy Pesto & Lemon Pepper Pasta

    IMG_2959eLast night I raided my freezer and pantry to come up with something for dinner and what I created was pure delight.  I just sort of made things up as I went along but both Eammon and I loved the results so I’ll be making this again.  I also loved that it was quick and not a lot of clean up for such a delicious meal.

    IMG_2963eSeared Scallops with Creamy Pesto & Lemon Pepper Pasta

    12 oz. large sea scallops
    2 servings Lemon Pepper Fettuccini
    peanut oil
    Wondra (could also use potato starch or corn starch)
    2 shallots, minced
    1/2 cup julienned sweet red bell pepper
    1/2 cup prepared basil pesto (I use the last of my homemade mixed with Cibo Naturals brand which I had purchased at Costco)
    1 1/2 cups half & half (I used fat-free because that’s what I always have in the house)

    In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to package directions.  Mix together some Wondra with salt & pepper to taste.  Make sure the scallops are dry and then lightly coat with the Wondra mix.  While the past is cooking heat a heavy (I used my cast iron skillet) pan until searing hot.  Add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.   Add the scallops.  Sear one side and then turning just once, sear the other being careful not to over cook.  Once the scallops are cooked remove to a plate.  To the pan add the shallots and cook quickly until tender, about 1 minute.  Add the red pepper and cook for an additional minute.  Add the pesto and half & half, stirring to combine and cook for 1 minute or until thickened and coats the back of a spoon.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Add in the fettuccini and toss to coat.  Serve the pasta with the scallops.


    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Texas Chicken Sandwich

    Back in early December I posted my Secret Recipe Club entry of Texas Chicken with Lime Butter and I raved about the recipe.  We enjoyed that recipe so much that I made it again…twice.  First I made it just as written and then I decided that the marinade and lime butter sauce would be awesome on pork so I used the same recipe on a pork loin which I served on Christmas Eve to rave reviews.  If you haven’t yet tried this Texas Chicken recipe, you’re missing out and you need to do it!

    With some of our leftover chicken I made delicious sandwiches.

    IMG_2390eSuch a wonderful and delicious way to enjoy leftovers from our great dinner of Texas Chicken with Lime Butter.

    IMG_2368eSpread the lime butter on a roll and grill until golden.

    IMG_2377eAdd some spring mix greens.

    IMG_2380eTop the greens with warm sliced Texas Chicken.

    IMG_2392e Followed by slices of cool creamy avocado.  Deliciousness on a toasty bun, YUM!


    Monday, January 2, 2012

    Oatmeal, Cashew & Chocolate Granola Bars

    IMG_2585eI mentioned in my Crunchy Oat, Almond, Cashew & Pebbles Granola Bars post just how important it is for us to have granola bars that are “Maisie safe” as they are her go-to snack for school and gymnastics and her breakfast when we’re running late.  Though she liked the previous bars Maisie wasn’t in love with them so I asked her what would make them better.  Maisie said that they were too crisp and that she wanted chocolate bits in her granola bars.  So I changed up the recipe a bit and the end result was a big success with my sweetie girl.

    IMG_2548eI mixed all the ingredients in one bowl and then poured it all into a foil lined Slice Solutions Pan.

    IMG_2551eI then pressed in the divider and popped everything into the oven.

    IMG_2554eAfter 20 minutes in the oven the granola bars were all toasty and delicious smelling.

      IMG_2558eWe removed the divider to find 18 perfectly “cut” granola bars.

    IMG_2588eMaisie loves these Oatmeal, Cashew & Chocolate Granola Bars and couldn’t stop smiling as she enjoyed her food allergy “safe” Granola bars.  I’m smiling too because now we have a grab-and-go snack that is healthy, safe and Maisie approved.

    IMG_2586eOatmeal, Cashew & Chocolate Granola Bars

    2 cups old fashioned oats
    1/2 cup Cocoa Pebbles
    1 cup Rice Krispies 
    1/2 cup Brown Sugar
    1/3 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread, melted
    1/2 cup chocolate bits 
    1/2 cup salted cashews
    1/3 cup honey
    1/2 tsp. Vanilla

    Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together until combined. Press into a 9x13-inch pan lined with foil and then press divider insert through the mixture and leave in place.   Bake 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately remove the divider insert or if not using a divider, cool for 10 minutes and score into bars. Let it set completely and then cut into bars.  Peel the foil from the bars and then wrap the bars individually so that they’re an easy to grab snack on the go.


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