Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pork BBQ... the Lazy Way, and some Big News!

Long time, no posting... sorry about that!


Life has gotten a bit crazy here in the Bean Town.


Some big news! I got a teaching job for the 2010/2011 school year! I am teaching Geometry and Algebra 2 at a high school that is only about 3 miles from our apartment. I'm very excited, and also very thankful for being given an opportunity so close to home. My Business Man is excited as well.


So the past week or two has been spent scurrying around, trying to get all the paperwork complete, attending a staff retreat, and frantically trying to pull together lessons for the first couple weeks of the year. As the school year progresses, I hope to do a few posts on my experiences of my 1st year teaching, and the school I'm teaching in. It's a little different than a traditional high school. :-)


I am also helping out with cross country at my new school, and have gone to practice the past two days. The team is on the small side, but the girls (who I will mostly be working with) seem really enthusiastic. I am looking forward to getting to know them throughout the season, and also having some running buddies!


As the school year starts, life is going to get even crazier so my posting on this blog might be sporadic. I apologize in advance.


I have been trying to make large meals, now, while I have the time to cook. That way I can throw half of it in a tupperware and into the freezer. Voila! Instant dinner once school starts and I have no time to cook. Today I made Pork BBQ in the crockpot.


Yummy yummy.
It's super-simple.


[Side note: One time, in college, my roommate and I planned a picnic for a group of friends to St. Louis before seeing Disney on Ice. Don't ask about the Disney on Ice... 


I only had a baby crockpot with me at college, and had bought a 6-lb. pork butt roast. Yea right, like that will fit into a 3-qt. crockpot.


So, the remedy to the situation: make it in 2 batches!


Slight problem: One of the batches had to be made overnight.


So, Talen (roommate and BFF) and I began the batch of Pork BBQ at about 9pm. We set our alarms for 2:30am. And we got up and shredded pork at 2:30 in the morning. It is actually one of my fondest memories with Tal-Tal.]


Pork BBQ
3-4lb. pork shoulder or butt roast
16-oz. bottle BBQ sauce
1 red onion, diced (optional)


Basically, plop the pork along with the onion into a crockpot. Let it cook on low about 6-7 hours, until it is falling apart.


Then, take it out, shred it. Get rid of all the bones and fat. Then dump the juices out of the crockpot. Put the meat back in, and pour the BBQ sauce in.


I like to use Sweet Baby Ray's. I use it for everything, not just Pork BBQ. Sweet Potato Fries dipped in this sweet sauce. On turkey sandwiches. On burgers, especially ones with bacon. As pizza sauce. As a glaze for salmon. The list could go on forever.


What's that? Sweet Baby Ray's?
Let it cook 2-3 hours more on low. Then, switch the setting to "keep warm." That way you don't scorch your pork. 


You can serve the pork on buns... or alongside cornbread.





P.S. My favorite cornbread mix is this:


Question: What's your favorite part of back-to-school season?

Mine is back-to-school shopping! I definitely indulged in a few new pieces of clothing... for teaching, of course. Maybe I will do a post of my new fashions.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Running across the border

To Michigan, that is.


One of my good friends from college lives in Michigan about 130 miles from the Bean Town in Ohio. I've always wanted to tour her stomping grounds, and went up last Friday night! There's a 5km race that she's raved about for several years, and that happened to be on Saturday, so double bonus! See a friend and run a race, in the same weekend!


When I arrived, we did a practice run-through of the race course. The race is called Run Clark Lake, and it goes along the coast of Clark Lake. (If you couldn't gather that from the name of the race... :-P)

The lake... don't you want to live here?
After that, we chilled at her bf's house. (He lives just about a 1/2-mile from the picture above.) We ordered lunch from the Beach Bar. Which had the best tomato soup ever. Why were we eating tomato soup in the middle of hot, sweaty August? Because it was that good.


Later that night, we decided to pull out our GC traditions and make spaghetti. You gotta carb-load the night before a race, right?!?
We started out rockin' to some Kesha on Youtube.
Dance party in the kitchen!
And a pre-race meal of spaghetti would not be complete without garlic bread!
We go for the good stuff.
Not quite sure what this was about.
Then we had a small dilemma. We were using the stove, oven, microwave, computer, and laundry machines all at the same time. Apparently, that is enough to blow a fuse. Lovely!


Oh, no! We're stuck in the dark!
We had to wait a few minutes for the power to come back on, so we entertained ourselves by preparing "Appetizers". Also known as melba toasts topped with butter and parmesan cheese.
Michelle's a hottie. That's all I can say.
Mmmm... this tastes so good! Can't you tell?
At this point, we noticed parmesan cheese was moldy. Maybe that's why it didn't taste too great?

Finally, we got the power up and running again and we were able to enjoy our spaghetti!
Carb-licious!
The next morning, we got up bright and early for the race. We all love mornings!
Yay for running!
Yay for running early in the morning! This is Michelle's bf Alex, by the way. He's a pretty cool guy.
Yay for having someone to run with for once!
It was a great morning for a race. The weather was actually cool. I could have used a long-sleeve warming up! We did the usual 13-minute jog warm-up, and then all the drills from GC. It was actually pretty nostalgic. I was a little sad that I'm not running any cross country races with the team this fall! 

Before we knew it, it was time for the race to start! Now, I have been running all summer, (minus about a week after the wedding), but not doing any real speed work-outs. I didn't really know what to expect.

But, I finished in 20:28! I was quite happy. My 5km PR is 19:08, so that's pretty far off, but to be able to run sub-21:00 without much speed training was satisfiable for me.

Michelle, the running beast that she is, ran 19:03, a 30-second PR from last year's Run Clark Lake! Way to go Shelly-Bug!

After about a 4-mile cool-down, we decided to pose for some fun pictures while we waited for the awards ceremony.

We're so BA...


Friends for life! 50% of the Fab 4. One day soon we will re-unite!


We were pretending to be running here. Michelle looks like a leprechaun, and I look like I'm about to face-plant.
Then, we wandered over to the Beach Bar for the awards ceremony. We had our choice of pop or beer after the race, and we both went with pop. Not sure if I could stomach a beer after running 8 miles. Not sure if I could stomach a beer ever.
Where the fun and festivities took place.
Michelle ended up getting 2nd in our age group! (ages 18-24) The girl who won ran a 18:06. She was a runner for Michigan State, so go figure.
Posing with her award. 
After the race, we pretty much headed back to Alex's house to get cleaned up. I then drove back to the Bean Town because my Business Man was missing me very much! (Or, maybe I was missing him... :-O)

Beautiful view near Alex's house.
Thanks for a great weekend Michelle! Had a great time!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...

As you can see, I got a new blog lay-out! I absolutely love it. I'm carrying over my wedding colors into the blog. :-)


It's from Simply Yours Designs. The creator (Hil) has a ton of super-cute pre-made layouts that you can purchase for a pretty reasonable price. Go check it out if you think your blog needs to be spruced up a bit.


In other funny news, I made chocolate chip banana bread today. And made a complete mess.



Looks like I need a bigger loaf pan...

I guess I will get to figure out how the oven self-cleaning cycle works!

Question: What types of  mishaps have you encountered in the kitchen? Do share!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tex-Mex is the Best!

Not too much has been going on in the Bean Town lately... it's been so stinkin' hot and humid that doing anything outside is completely out of the question.

It doesn't help that I choose to go running everyday around 11am or so. It's just so hard to roll out of bed and run first thing! Live with Regis & Kelly and the Today Show always suck me in, and before I know it I've had 2 cups of coffee and my breakfast. Gotta wait around a bit to let that digest. Then I think, "I should go for a run right now. Even though is scorchingly sunny and a real feel temp of 95*F." 

Smart. Real smart.

Oh well, I haven't suffered death from heat exhaustion yet. And soon we will have cooler temps so I won't have to worry about it. 

Today I bring you a recipe for Tex-Mex Tortilla Pie. Since I've trapped myself inside to avoid the heat, I have spent some time browsing through many of my cookbooks. Especially my beloved ones that I just brought back from my parents' house.

I was feelin' a lil spunky and in the mood for Mexican, so I found a recipe for Tex-Mex Lasagna in Take This Dish and Twist It by George Duran. This cookbook takes comfort food recipes and tweaks them a bit, to make them even more delicious. (And usually more unhealthy...)

Think... Granny Smith Guacamole, Cheeseburger Frittata, BLT Hot Dogs, Apricot & Brie Grilled Cheese to name a few.

For this Tex-Mex Tortilla Pie, here's what you will need:

Flour tortillas, cream of mushroom soup, salsa, Doritos, fresh cilantro, onion, rotisserie chicken, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses. Oh, and taco seasoning which managed to escape the picture.

Start off by shredding the chicken. Yes, you could definitely buy raw chicken pieces, boil them until cooked, and then shred the meat. But this guy was only $5, and the uncooked chicken would have been around $4... so I saved myself some prep time and went with the already cooked.



You want to get only the meat, not the skin or the bones. You might inconspicuously sneak a few bites of crispy skin into your mouth... but no worries I won't judge. 

You will be left with a pile of shredded chicken.


Next, you are going to dice up your onion. Add it to a saucepan with a tablespoon or so of oil and let it caramelize on medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes.


After the onions have been going awhile, add 1 tablespoon of your favorite taco seasoning. I used this Adobo Blend, which we purchased at the Spice Merchants shop in Saugatuck, MI on our honeymoon. But good ole' El Paso taco seasoning should work just fine.


Also, add in a 1/2 cup of water so it has some juice to moisten it up. We don't want dry onions here.



Once you get all that in, you need to add your shredded chicken.


Into this pan will also go the salsa, cream of mushroom soup, cheese, and cilantro.

And at this point, you will realize you need a larger pan. Ooops.

Much better.

For the cheese, I grated up 1 cup of cheddar and 1 cup of pepper jack. This is supposed to be a spicy dish, after all. That pepper jack will give it a little kick.

No, that is not a bug in my cheese. It's one of the peppers... I promise!
And then take a BIG handful of cilantro, and just cut it up over the pot.

Please excuse my blinding white hand.
It will look something like this. Then, stir it all together and let it simmer a few minutes, to let the cheese get nice and gooey.


And now, the fun begins.

Yes, the cheese-dust covered tortilla chips.
Take a small-ish bag of Doritos. (I think this was 2-oz.) 
And crush them all with your hands! It can be very fun.
Don't you just feel the Dorito-crushing joy?


Combine the crushed Doritos with another cup of grated cheddar for the topping.


My Business Man enjoyed snacking on this mixture out of the bowl. Who needs fancy schmancy appetizers? Just serve crushed Doritos mixed with cheese.


And now it is time for assembly.


Line the bottom of your casserole dish with tortillas. You will have to rip them to make them fit. I used about 2.5 tortillas for each layer, but it really depends on how big your tortillas are.


And then I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the layering process. Basically, it goes like this: tortillas, chicken mixture, tortillas, chicken mixture, tortillas, chicken mixture, tortillas. And then the Dorito-cheese goodness!


Bake it at 350*F for about 25 minutes until heated through. Everything is already cooked, so you just want to warm everything through and crisp up the topping.




Let it set for about 10 minutes before trying to cut into it. Otherwise, you will end up with a hot gooey mess.




Yum, cheesy-licious!




Now, if you don't like cheese, this dish is definitely not for you. My Business Man and I enjoyed its cheesy flavor very much. The filling had a kick, and the tortilla layers really soaked up the southwest flavor. If you are the person always scraping for the crunchy bits and burnt corners of casseroles, then you will absolutely love the topping.


Garnished with a dollop of sour cream, chopped tomato, and more fresh cilantro.

Now I'm off to watch the Next Food Network Star! I missed Sunday's episode; thank goodness they replay it on Wednesday evenings... :-P


Here's the recipe in a more user-friendly format.





Tex-Mex Tortilla Pie



 Ingredients
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning
  • 1 deli-roasted chicken, skin and bones removed and shredded
  • 16 oz. salsa
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 10 small flour tortillas
  • 1 cup crushed Doritos


 Method
Place oil in large saucepan. Saute the chopped onion in the oil. Cook 5-6 minutes over medium-high heat, until caramelized. Add taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water. Let simmer a few minutes.

Add the chicken, salsa, cream of mushroom soup, 1 cup cheddar cheese, and 1 cup pepper jack cheese. Using kitchen shears, snip cilantro into small pieces into pan. Stir everything together and simmer until cheese melts.

In 2-quart casserole dish, layer tortillas, chicken mixture, tortillas, chicken mixture, tortillas, chicken mixture, and tortillas. You may have to rip the tortillas to make them fit. In small bowl, combine remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese and crushed Doritos. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake at 350*F for about 25 minutes until heated through and top is crispy. Let stand about 10 minutes before cutting.

Garnish with sour cream, chopped tomato, and additional cilantro.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Cheeseburgers in paradise... (If you can call the Bean Town paradise)

My Business Man and I had a good visit home. We spent a lot of time with my mom, had breakfast with a good friend, had lunch with my extended family, and of course, we met the new addition to my parents' household!

Meet Maggie, short for Sugar Magnolia. (Yes, a Grateful Dead tribute.)

She is just the cutest most adorable little ball of fur! She's about 3 months old right now, so a little squirrelly, too, but that makes it fun! We got to cuddle and go for walks and all the other fun things you do with new puppies. My Business Man even seemed to like her pretty well, and he's not the biggest dog fan. (Maybe there's still hope for a golden retriever pup someday...)
The three of us.
For not a big dog lover, that's a pretty big smile.
While we were home, we went to Target and cashed in on a few gift cards we had from the wedding. Of all the things the Bean Town has, it does not have a Target! What a shame.

We ended up purchasing a bitty baby grill and some patio furniture. Now that we have something to sit on outside, we might actually use the patio!

We've been missing out on grilling season all summer, so we made sure to fire it up tonight.

Isn't it cute?
It requires its own table, so we can reach it without sitting on the ground. Haha...

Mmmm... don't they look good?


While the burgers cooked, we each par-took in our own "waiting for the burgers to be done" activity.

Taking care of some weeds.

Practicing my handstand.


Which activity do you think was more productive? Handstand, definitely handstand...


Finally, the burgers were finished and enjoyed by all. And by all, I mean my Business Man and myself. It was still a little hot for us to eat outside, so that will have to wait for another day...


Burger time!

 
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