Friday, November 2, 2012

Pork Crock Pot Meals

(formatting is not working...sorry!) My son is in kindergarten and is totally uninterested in cooking (although he used to enjoy helping me a lot.) My daughter is now a toddler and into everything so I can't spend tons of time preparing meals and any time spent cooking involves dozens of interruptions. I have been forced to prepare simple things which has been kind of relaxing since I am always trying to figure out how to cook the myriad of vegetables we receive in our CSA box. In the summer I got into the habit of cooking the same basic pattern of a meal every night, substituting different things for the different elements of the meal. The basic meal pattern was meat/pasta/eggs/etc. + vegetable + bread. We never ate the same combo more than once in a week, but I didn't have to think too hard about what we were going to eat every night. We also got into the habit of eating Pizza every Friday night (usually Domino's) which is quite a divergence from my conviction to eat responsibly (eating food that is raised ethically which is more healthy for us and the environment and follows the Christian mandate to live out the kingdom of God on earth), but also a much needed rest from the mayhem. Now that our winter CSA boxes are arriving, dinner takes a bit more planning (we still eat pizza once a week!). I can't come to the kitchen 30 min before we're going to eat and fry sausages and steam romanesco when I have carrots (Micah hates cooked carrots), potatoes, onions, garlic, beets, winter squash, parsnips, etc. The last two Fridays I have taken to making a crockpot meal. As always I am trying to eat responsibly, but many crockpot cookbooks call for canned soup (yuck!) so how to do it? In Quebec, if a person had the time to go to several different stores in a week (which I used to do before Junia became a toddler) that person could buy meat from a butcher or local farm, produce from a little produce store or one of the year-round markets, bread from a little bakery, and visit the local organic mini-mart as well as the organic food co-op. However, I am currently limited to my CSA box and going to IGA once a week. The food in Quebec is VERY expensive. Many people actually drive to the U.S. to go grocery shopping, a habit that I refuse to do on general principal because it violates my conviction to eat locally and reduce green house gas emissions, but I must admit that I am tempted by the lower prices of gas and beer and am convinced that we would save money in the long run, but I still refuse... The cost of food is a serious issue, even in our family context, where we had already decided to spend more money on higher quality food, viewing the extra cost as an offering to God because we believe that factory farms are sinful and do not want to support those farming practices or the unhealthy food produced and sold by them. But, in Quebec, organic is simply out of reach. For the rest of the food, it is very difficult to find out what the actual farming practices are because a lot of the available information is in French. However, many of the traditional brands do not put high fructose corn syrup in their products (Hellman's Mayo, Heinz Ketchup, etc.). In terms of fresh meat, cheese, produce, here is what I know: - I have heard that the cows here are raised without hormones so we buy Quebec milk. And actually it is MUCH higher quality than U.S. milk from cows raised without hormones. If you leave it out by accident, it will curdle...gross, but more natural than remaining homogenous. I buy Quebec cheese and yogurt as well. In fact, the Yoplait Yogurt Tubes here do not have high fructose corn syrup and they are made in Quebec. I never thought I would buy such a thing, but I do. The favorite flavor in this house is persimmon-lemon. Compare that to cotton candy flavored Yoplait Yogurt Tubes in the U.S.. Actually don't, just take my word for it that cotton candy yogurt is disgusting and disgraceful on so many levels it would take another blog post to describe it and since I've already completely diverged on this one, I'm not going to go there. ;-) - I have also heard that the regulations regarding how many chickens can be raised per square foot on a farm are more strict here so I can actually eat the non-organic chicken from IGA without getting sick (regular grocery store chicken in the U.S. makes me physically sick...gross...). - Also, herbicides are banned in Quebec so when I do have to buy produce at the grocery store I try to buy aliments du Quebec (food from Quebec), which Quebecers are quite proud of so the signs indicating these items are large and numerous. In fact, you find the "Aliments du Quebec" signs all over IGA in every section, great for eating locally. - And for bread I always buy Kosher from the bakery section because it has the least number of ingredients and nothing I don't already have in my pantry. So! Pork Crock Pot Meals! I have gotten a pork roast from the butcher these last two Thursdays. The pork is raised in Quebec so I assume the regulations are better than in the U.S. for space, feed, etc., although I haven't asked. It's definitely a step down from the forest-fed pork we ate in Charlottesville and from a local Quebec farm here, but several steps up from the regular grocery story pork in the U.S.. The butcher will marinate for you if you ask (a super bonus since I hate touching raw meat!) so last week I got a maple rub and this week I got honey dijon. I let the roasts sit in the fridge overnight and put them in the crock pot on Friday morning with a bunch of veggies from our organic CSA. This is very simple. Besides chopping veggies there is no other prep. Then Junia and I play tea party in our pajamas until lunch! The recipes are simple and fabulous. Here they are! Maple Rub Pork Crock Pot Meal 1 pork roast with the IGA maple rub on it (the butchers will do it if you ask them) 2 medium onions 2 cloves garlic, minced 3-4 potatoes, chopped 1 winter squash, peeled and chopped 2 sprigs rosemary Put pork in crock pot. Cover with remaining ingredients, putting the rosemary sprigs on top. Cook on low 8 hours. Honey Dijon Rub Pork Crock Pot Meal 1 pork roast with the IGA honey dijon rub on it (the butchers will do it for you) 1.5 pounds of shredded cabbage 2 medium onions, sliced 2 garlic cloves minced 3 potatoes, chopped, 2 tart apples, peeled and chopped in big chunks 2/3 cup dry white wine Put pork in crock pot. Cover with remaining ingredients, pouring the white wine over everything. Cook on low 8 hours.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bacon Chocolate Chip Muffins

You might be thinking, "Bacon Chocolate Chip Muffins?!?!" Yes, it sounds strange, but this combination is DELICIOUS! We first had this combo at the Blue Grass Grill in Charlottesville, VA
We had both a bacon chocolate chip muffin and chocolate covered bacon. C'est magnifique! I've been wanting to try to make one of the two and I finally attempted the muffins this morning. I couldn't find a recipe online so I used the Best Ever Muffin with Bacon recipe from this site ( and added chocolate chips. In addition, when I woke up I realized that we used all the eggs for dinner two night before so I substituted a flax seed and water blended mix for the eggs ( The result? Delicious! Micah (my four-year-old) kept saying, "Yum, yum, yum!" He also said that the muffins could have used more bacon and more chocolate chips, so you can experiment. I thought they were great as is. Here's the recipe!

Bacon Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar (187.5 grams)
1 egg (or 1 heaping Tbsp flax seeds blended to a fine powder then blended with 1/4 cup water until consistency of an egg)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup crisp cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl or 2 cup measuring cup, beat egg with a fork. Stir in milk and oil. Pour all at once into the well in the flour mixture along with the bacon and chocolate chips. Mix quickly and lightly with a fork until moistened, but do not beat. The batter will be lumpy. Pour the batter into paper lined muffin pan cups.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Micah's Celebration Dessert

Tonight Micah wanted to eat more after dinner, but he had already had dessert. So, we made this special Celebration Dessert!

1) Crush 6 oz of fresh raspberries into a shallow bowl. We used the back of a Gerber Scoopin' Spoon and a regular fork for this.
2) Add organic strawberry yogurt: 1/2 of 113g.
3) Mix.
4) Add honey until desired sweetness is reached. We had to add it twice.
5) Add 1 pinch of salt.
6) Mix.
7) Add the rest of your yogurt (the other 1/2 of 113g) and mix well.
8) Eat it all the way up!


Micah would like to add something:
That's his big, big, big fire code. Actually, it's his fire instructions. ;-)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eating for 4 weeks in a Residence Inn

I'm back! Since my last post I have given birth to a healthy baby girl who is now 12 weeks old. I have also moved from Charlottesville, VA to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We don't move into our house until July 9th so we are living in a Residence Inn until then. We have a tiny kitchen with no oven that is equipped with a small amount of cooking pots and utensils. One nice perk of this apartment-hotel is that the staff will go grocery shopping for you without charging an extra fee. With a 3.5-year-old, a 2-month-old baby and the adjustments to a French-speaking city (we do not speak French) this is very nice. What to buy? What to cook? It must be simple and easy to clean up as we are staying in a one bedroom. Our 3.5-year-old sleeps in the second double bed in the bedroom while the baby sleeps on the floor in the living room. There is not a door between the living room and the kitchen so all dishes must be cleaned up before the baby goes to bed. The food must also be tasty, healthy, and as ecologically responsible as possible. Here are the bare essentials to buy:
- extra virgin italian olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- sea salt
- ground black pepper
- fresh basil
- garlic
- Vidalia onions (or any type of onion that you like)

With these essentials you have transformed your bare kitchen into a place with cuisine potential. Here are a few things we have done with these items.

Portobello Mushroom and Sweet Pepper OR Asparagus Stir Fry
4 Portobello mushroom caps (stems removed), chopped
1 Sweet pepper OR 1 pound of Asparagus, chopped
1 onion chopped
1-3 cloves of garlic chopped
some olive oil
some balsamic vinegar
some basil, chopped
sea salt

Pour olive oil into fry pan and fry onions until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until juices release. Add peppers or asparagus and balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Cook until tender. Serve over pasta, rice, or bread. (We ate this over bread because the hotel forgot to buy pasta for us! It was pretty good.)

Simple Spinach Salad
Rinse organic baby spinach
Put in bowl
Pour equal amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar over
Add salt to taste

This is a great easy salad to add to take out that has a paucity of vegetables.

Sausage, Potatoes, and Onions
Put 1.5 inches of water in the bottom of a large soup pot
Add new potatoes to cover the bottom, one chopped onion, and two large sausages on top
Boil/steam until potatoes are tender
Chop sausages, add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Simple Spinach Salad is a good addition to this. Also, you can add the spinach at the end and mash everything together. Just be sure to remove the water first.

Other things we have been eating are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Try to find peanut butter that is just peanuts and jelly without high fructose corn syrup or glucose/fructose. Bonne Maman is a good brand that we can find in Montreal. We also have been eating scrambled eggs and toast, lots of fruits for snacks and carrots as well. I have to admit that I have been buying baby carrots, a food I normally avoid. Once I have my peeler I will go back to buying whole carrots!

I hope you never find yourself in temporary housing for 4 weeks, but if you do, I hope these ideas are helpful! Bon apetite!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2 Days of Food Life - Why Eat Out?

You may be wondering what I have been doing? I have been cooking Indian food, baking bread, and reading up on local cow shares. The Indian food and bread have been from cookbooks so I haven't posted about them. Today, however, I altered a bread recipe enough to post it here. The inspiration for the bread recipe also inspired a new pasta sauce recipe as well, which in turn inspired a new leftover recipe. What's the inspiration? Homemade Ricotta cheese! The creator of Perfect Flavor, a local creamery, put me up to it. The woman who runs it is on leave because she just had a baby so they are closed, but she has been blogging in the meantime. This post served as my inspiration.

Here's what I did today:
- I made ricotta cheese.
- I used some of the whey to make bread (although, in all fairness, Brett did most of the work because I had to leave in the middle of making the dough).
- I gave the rest of the whey to my neighbor to feed to her dog and chickens.
- I made no-cook pasta sauce with the cheese and the tomatoes, onions, and basil we got in our CSA this week.
YUM!!! I was tired at the end of the day, but I attribute that more to the fact that I also went to the farmer's market, CVS, a local dairy farm, and the Polyface Farm buyer's club Charlottesville pick-up. Maybe when you do this you can just stay home. ;-)

Here is the process for making everything. I hope that you have as much fun as we did!

Ricotta Cheese
Milk for making cheese must be fresh, thus local. At a bare minimum, look for no hormones and simply pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized. If you buy this kind of milk (as opposed to raw, which is best, although I haven't tried it yet) I recommend making cheese the same day you buy it. I made this cheese from Shenandoah's Pride whole milk that comes in plastic jugs. The milk in the cartons is ultra-pasteurized and says nothing about hormones. The plastic jugs, however, have a little yellow area that says there are no hormones and are only pasteurized.
Refer to this post for making the Ricotta cheese.

The Bread
I think I can officially call the bread recipe mine. I altered one of my favorites in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, Sister Virginia's Daily Loaf. I think I'll call this:
Pastor Sarina's Weekly Loaf
[the whole recipe is's just long and I can't get up the motivation to type it out]
substitute whey for milk
butter for shortening
3 risings instead of two
It was very good. Maybe a little dry. Nothing that storing it in a plastic bag can't help. Next time I will try lard instead of butter since I just picked up 5 pounds of pork fat from Polyface farm for making lard. Woo!

The pasta I didn't make myself, but we bought it fresh from Mona Lisa Pasta.

Sarina's No Cook Pasta Sauce
2 pounds fresh tomatoes diced into 1/4 inch pieces (you could seed the tomatoes, but I didn't)
1 very small red onion finely sliced
1 clove fresh garlic minced
2-3 Tbs fresh basil minced
1 cup of fresh ricotta cheese (don't bother with store bought)
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix together in a large bowl.
Cook your pasta.
Serve hot pasta in individuals bowl and mix in sauce to taste. The heat from the pasta will cook the garlic just enough.
Add salt and pepper to taste.


We ate this for dinner with our bread, as well as for lunch the next day. We ended up with leftover sauce. It was Sunday and we normally don't cook on Sunday. We planned to make hamburgers for dinner and put the leftover sauce on them instead of ketchup (which would have been fabulous), but after lots of church we were almost too tired to move (I taught a class for an hour, then we worshipped until 1:30 at another church). Brett said, "If we cook, lets do something with one step." That made me think of Sloppy Joes. We had the thawed hamburger and the tomato sauce. Shouldn't it cook together into a nice leftover dish in almost one step? We could eat it on our bread. We tried it and it was delicious! Micah kept asking for more beef and once he said, "Can you make more beef, please?" at which point we gave him watermelon and he was fine. Brett kept scraping the last bits out of the pan, something he never does "because it's too much work." If you try this, just keep in mind that it won't look like any Sloppy Joe you've ever had. Ricotta cheese doesn't melt, and even though everything cooked, it didn't gel into a sauce. But who cares what it looked like as long as it tasted great and people kept asking for more? It's more like a gourmet Sloppy Joe; if ever L'Etoile made a Sloppy Joe it would look like this. Let's call it Sloppy Jacques. This recipe served 2 adults and one toddler. We at every last bite. We ate watermelon slices as our side dish.

Sloppy Jacques
Fry 1/2 pound of ground, grass-fed beef until brown. Drain if necessary (often with grass-fed beef it's not). Add salt and pepper once the meat has browned. Leave it in the pan.
While the beef is browning, scramble one egg and mix it into your leftover no-cook tomato sauce.
Once the beef has browned and you've added salt and pepper to it, pour in the no-cook tomato sauce and egg mixture. Mix well. Allow it to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, mixing intermittently.
Add salt and pepper just before you take it off the stove and mix well.
Serve over one (or between two) pieces of Pastor Sarina's Weekly Loaf.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Early Summer Coleslaw

Here's a nice coleslaw recipe that doesn't require carrots. For some reason we haven't been getting any carrots from our CSA so it's nice to have an alternative. We are getting green peppers and can still buy last year's apples from a local orchard. I find myself going to the farmer's market for onions and garlic lately because our CSA is also not providing those cooking staples either. My most recent purchase on that score were beautiful bunches of scallions with the most enormous and perfect greens. The greens were so tall that I actually had to use less than 1/4 of a bunch of greens in the recipe, but I think that this variety of scallion is unusual. ;-) Enjoy!

1/2 medium red cabbage, shredded
1 green pepper, chopped finely
1 apple, chopped finely
1 small onion or a bunch of scallion greens chopped finely
combine in a large bowl

1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp dill
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp corriander
Combine in sauce pan and bring to a soft boil
Pour over vegetables
Toss well
let sit 30 minutes before serving

We actually haven't eaten this yet, but I tasted the utensil I used to toss it before I stuck it in the fridge and it was good. It's always a good sign when you don't want to let your coleslaw sit for 30 minutes but would rather eat it right away. :-)

Two nice things about this slaw. 1) Red cabbage is full of anti-oxidants and is very good for you. 2) It's very colorful and unusual: purple, green, and pink (the apple gets stained by the cabbage and turns pinkish). Very appealing to the eye.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pork and Beans, 2 Ways

I LOVE pork and beans. It's a good thing Jesus said that it's not what goes in that defiles, but what comes out because I don't think I could give up pork. I make Mexican flavored pork and beans and I do it two ways: either as soup or as a main dish. Both recipes are cooked in the crock pot. In order to have a good pork and beans you have to have good pork. It must come from a "happy porker", as Miss Bates would say. ;-) If you live in the Charlottesville area I recommend getting your pork from Babes in the Woods or Polyface Farm.

My first try at this was making Chalupas from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. It was good, but called for Pinto beans. I prefer black beans so that's what I use. You can use either kind, but I wouldn't recommend trying anything other than those two kinds.

Here's the main dish recipe:

~ 1 pound pork (a roast of whatever cut). You can brown it if you want but you don't have to.
1-1.5 cups dry black beans soaked over night in 3 cups of water, or if you forget to soak them you can put them in a pot covered with about an inch of water, boil for 2 minutes, then cover and let sit for 1 hour.
The bean water
1 large onion or 1 bunch of spring onions with greens chopped.
2 garlic cloves or 4 garlic scapes minced or chopped finely
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt

1 tsp chile powder or 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and diced
1 small can of green chiles
Optional ingredients:
1 small green pepper chopped - I hardly ever have these anymore because they're only in season in the summer
tomatoes - any amount. I've use one 14 oz can or 1/2 a 14 oz can. You can add fresh, chopped ones. Whatever.
cilantro - you can add this dried while cooking or chop fresh and sprinkle it on top when serving.

Combine in crock pot and cook on low ~8 hours.
Before serving, remove pork and shred. Return to pot and mix.

You can serve this over rice or just on your plate with homemade bread. We recently had this with homemade bread and grilled asparagus and zucchini marinated in Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette. Yum! You might like cheese or sour cream, too.W


Here's how you do the soup.

You combine the necessary ingredients for the main dish as stated above. Then add the vegetables and water/broth called for in a minestrone soup recipe. You are not adding minestone soup spices or beans or barley or anything else...just the veggies.

For example, maybe you would add the following:
The bean water plus water or broth totaling 6 cups. I would wait until you add everything else to add the additional water or broth, just so that you don't accidentally overflow your pot.
2 carrots, chopped
1 additional onion, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
fresh greens, chopped (as many as you want: chard, kale, spinach, etc.)
28 oz can of diced tomatoes or ~7 fresh tomatoes chopped.

Combine with other ingredients and cook the same as above. Don't forget to shred the pork. You can serve this soup over rice or with fresh bread.

You can make substitutions depending on what you have in the house. For example, keep celery in the fridge in the winter (because it's a cheap vegetable), but not in the summer (because there's some much else available). You can substitute Swiss Chard stalks for the celery, then chop up the leaves and add them, too. I think sweet peppers would work in this soup, any color. You could leave out the carrots and add the peppers, or use both. I have a feeling that okra would be good in this soup, too. It will make it kind of slimy looking, but that's just what okra does. I also bet that you could add winter squash to this and it would be tasty (I might add some cinnamon with winter squash). Green beans would be fine, too. Hmmm...maybe eggplant, but I'm not sure. If you try that and it's bad, I'm sorry!

I would NOT add broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, peas, asparagus, radishes, cabbage... that's all the veggies I can think of.