Saturday Small Talk

It’s Saturday! What are you up to? We had a campfire with friends last night to plan a summer backpacking trip. Yay summer! Yay backpacking! And tonight, we’re celebrating our adorable niece’s first birthday. What a great weekend.

IMG_20140509_192834In case you missed it, this week on Balance and Blueberries we chatted about the most delicious and easy to make summer salsa, as well as 3 islands worth the boat trip.

Other interesting things I found on the internet:

Gorgeous “sheds” for your work-from-home business. Yes, please.

How to make a great cup of coffee at home.

Home decorating ideas to steal from the Scandinavians.

Does your “flexible schedule” at work mean you need to be available 24/7?

10 things successful people don’t do.

You could buy a 94 acre, private island in Ireland for less than the average home price in the UK. Shall we crowd source this, friends?

Take a mental health day.

11 interesting things about Type A people.

If it’s chilly where you are, this Creamy Tomato and Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons looks delicious.

Bloggers and writers, this fun tool from CoSchedule will analyze your headline for you and tell you if it’s any good.

Enjoy your weekend!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Not to be dramatic, but….this recipe will rock your world. The pork is tender and juicy, and the barbecue sauce has just the right amount of tang. Combine their powers and you won’t know what happened to your taste buds. Try this pork once, and you will never again frequent your local barbeque joint. Think I’m kidding? Give it a try.

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This is a great dish to make on a weekend. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the scent emanating from your kitchen as the pork cooks. Alternatively, it’s a crock pot meal, so assuming you make the BBQ sauce ahead, this is totally a weekday dinner option.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Adapted from Food Network

Serves: 6

You’ll need:

  • 3 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3-4 lb. boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup vinegar (any kind will work)
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 Ciabatta buns, toasted
  • Barbecue sauce (see below)

1. Combine brown sugar, paprika, ground mustard, cumin, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

2. Rub the pork with the sugar and spices mixture.

3. In a heavy frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the pork on each side for 2 or 3 minutes to sear in the spices.

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4. Combine the vinegar, 2 Tbs. brown sugar, tomato paste, and water in your slow cooker. Add the pork, cover, and cook on low for 8 hours.

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5. While the pork is doing its thing, make your barbecue sauce.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Based on Chow

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 brown sugar, packed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbs. vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 cup water

1. Add all ingredients to a pot, and cook over medium heat, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes, or so, until desired consistency is reached.

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3. Remove from heat and cool. Once cooled, sauce can be refrigerated and stored until you need it.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, cont.

6. Once the pork is done, remove to a cutting board. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a pot. Rough chop the pork, and return it to the slow cooker (either off or on a warm setting) to keep warm.

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7. Bring the liquid to a boil, and allow it to reduce for roughly 10 minutes. Once reduced by about half, add 1 cup to the pulled pork. Stir.

8. Toast your ciabatta buns, and serve.

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Enjoy!

If you’re interested…another slow cooker recipe and a delicious cheesecake.

Swiss Steak

It was Bob’s birthday yesterday. (Happy birthday, love!) For dinner, he requested Swiss Steak. Never one to deny someone their birthday request, I called his mom to get the recipe. Before I met Bob, I had no idea what Swiss Steak was. None whatsoever. Turns out, it isn’t too difficult and is quite tasty. In short: take a roast, cut it into slices, tenderize it, cook it in a gravy, and slide it into the oven. The cooking takes awhile, but your hands-on time requirement isn’t bad. Give it a try!

20150406_200804Swiss Steak

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 2 lbs bottom round roast, fat trimmed off
  • Flour, for dredging
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 2- 6 oz. cans Dawn Fresh Mushroom Steak Sauce (I found it at my local grocery, kind of by the gravy)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Slice your meat into 1/2 inch slabs, cutting with the grain. Dredge in flour, then pound with a meat tenderizer until 1/4 inch thick (or so). Dredge in flour again, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside.

20150406_1712263. In a frying pan, add 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Fry 4-5 pieces at a time, about 2 minutes on each side. After it’s browned, transfer to a 9×13 baking dish–glass or ceramic will work best. Repeat until all of the meat has been browned. If you have to double layer in your dish, go for it.

20150406_1722414. In the same frying pan, add diced onion, and saute until translucent. Add garlic and Worcestershire sauce. After a minute or two, add the mushroom steak sauce, cream of mushroom soup, and water. Stir until combined.

5. Pour sauce over meat and turn each piece so it is fully coated in sauce.

6. Cover baking dish with tinfoil. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 275 degrees, and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours longer. It’s done when the meat is tender.

7. Serve with a side of mashed potatoes, pasta, or rice.

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Enjoy!

Saturday Small Talk

It’s Saturday morning. I hope that you have a cup of coffee or tea in your hand, and that you’re looking forward to a day full of joy, in whatever manner joy might decide share her presence.

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I relish my weekends at home. They seem far and few between these days, and for good reasons. Mainly, my family and my guy. Like I said, really good reasons. While I look forward to (and often count down the days to) my weekends with the people that mean oh so much to me, I delight in the simplicity of staying home. Of not having plans. Of being a little bit productive and a lot bit frivolous. Having the chance to catch up on things…to putter around the kitchen…to listen to a podcast…to go for a run…to curl up with a book…to light a candle or two. Drink that cup of coffee. Breathe deeply. Find space. Seek peace. Evaluate. Reflect.

Darcy discovered a new blog that I’ve spent some time pouring over. The beauty of her words and the deliciousness of her recipes are captivating. Stop by for a visit; you won’t regret it. Start with this post.

I’ve bookmarked some yummy recipes from the blog roll this week:

I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and make them. Stay tuned.

I wanna know: What are you looking forward to this weekend?

The Chicken Cacciatore That Wasn’t

True confession: I started dinner way too late. I didn’t have all of the (crucial) ingredients on hand that make my chicken cacciatore a dish that an Italian would be proud of. And I didn’t want to go to the store. My first offense: no wine. Second offense: no pasta. When you’re attempting to cook like an Italian, those two simple ingredients are a really big deal.

Consider yourself warned. And please don’t judge me, my dinner was still tasty. Recipes are over rated sometimes. That said, here’s the recipe 🙂

The Chicken Cacciatore That Wasn’t

  • Hands on time: 15 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Gather:

  • 1 piece of chicken (breast or thigh) with skin on
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1/4 Green Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 of 15 oz can of tomatoes
  • Thyme, turmeric, salt, pepper

Get to work:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan. Brown each side of the chicken for a minute or two. Remove, and place in a small oven safe dish.

3. Chop your veggies: bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, and garlic

4. Add all of the above to the pan you cooked the chicken in. Stir it around for a couple of minutes, and then add a dash of thyme, turmeric, salt, and pepper.

5. Once it’s sufficiently combined, add tomatoes. Stir to combine. Pour on chicken.

6. Bake covered (tin foil works great!) at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, and uncovered for another 15 minutes.

7. Optional: put sauce back in the pot on the stove to reduce it further if you want a thicker sauce. Once it is to your liking, add it to the chicken and serve.

Clearly, if you’re cooking for a crowd, this is not the recipe for you. However, it is easily adaptable to however many pieces of chicken you’d like to make. Just multiply and go!

101 Recipes Challege Update

Way back in the day, Emily and I decided that we needed a challenge. We wanted to learn how to cook basic foods. You know. Meals and dishes and desserts that everyone should know how to cook. And so, the 101 in 1001 recipes challenge was born.

The 1001st day: August 13, 2013. I have a little over a year and a half. And 77 more recipes to make. I’m behind!

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Never fear, a little fast math, and I figured out that I only need to make one new thing a week. That’s totally doable.

The problem: I have 96 recipes on my list. This is 101 in 1001. Not 96 in 1001. Just doesn’t have the same ring.

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Where you come in: Help! I need 5 more ideas for quintessential recipes that everyone should have available in their back pocket. Feel free to link up to your blog or another person’s blog, if that’s easier, or just shout it out! I need 5 more ideas. This is what I have so far. What am I missing?

I wanna know: Your recipe ideas! Share in the comments.