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Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

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pittsburgh food blog

a bit on spiritual eating… and one spicy and spectacular sausage and lentil stew.

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ok… I know what you’re thinking… sausage and lentil stew?  how good could it be?  TRUST me… it is beyond good. Tis amazing.  absolutely bursting with flavor in every bite, super duper healthy and full of vitamin rich ingredients!  best of all… very easy to prepare, so that most anyone can whip this up on a weeknight, no problemo.   this freezes wonderfully in small 16oz containers… making for stellar lunches at any given time, or a quick little dinner for a willing friend.   I love feeding others.  it’s my thing.  I love to hear what they say about the dish… how much they enjoyed it… and it makes me smile knowing I was able to nourish another, physically… but possibly mentally as well.  allow me to spill on that a bit.  people are busy.  we all have jobs, maybe kids, pets, homes, bills, cars,  the list goes on.  when you make time to see and connect with friends and family in your life… you’re saying something.  you’re letting that person know that they are important.  they are a priority.  their presence in your life, hopefully, brings you comfort and joy.  it’s why you make time, right?  do me a favor.  think back to the last noteworthy home cooked meal you may have had with say, your mom… or your sibling… or a significant other… that food, more than likely, was prepared with love.   when you cook with love and compassion and your soul is happy… all of that shows up in your dish.  ie: the people who eat it can feel that shit.  it is a mindful practice… where the cook is thinking fondly on those who will consume their dish… and they long to nourish that person inside and out… it becomes almost a spiritual culinary experience.  taste goes beyond flavor.  it involves all of the senses… sight, smells, sounds, touch and texture… the company for the meal…  your head space as you nosh… right??  all of it plays a role in your food experience.  are you sad? are you content? are you rushed? are you relaxed??  all of these affect the taste.   I love this… and it’s why I love feeding others.  it is also… why I love foods that require one utensil.  soups, stews, shallow bowls full of rice or pasta swimming in deliciously flavorful sauces.  things that can be eaten with one spoon, or one fork.  things that can be carried to a favorite chair or couch or beside a fire… and enjoyed with both hands… one holding the vessel, and the other doing the work to bring food to mouth.  easy.  comforting. simple, but memorable.  these are the types of foods I enjoy sharing with others.   experiment with your dining experiences, and notice the way food tastes differently in various settings.  I can be by a bonfire on a crisp cool night with a few friends and a few beers… and the hot dog I roast over the flame can taste better than a fancy steak almost every damn time.  it’s the setting.  the vibe.  pizza on a rooftop patio with Edison lights strung about vs. inside the sterile pizza shop in a tomato red booth with fluorescent lighting.  food on vacation vs. food after a stressful work meeting…  we know the answer to that.  don’t even get me started on music…. haaha!   food is love.  feel the love yo.  anyway…. enjoy this stew.

 

WHAT YOU NEED:

a little  over a pound of bulk (loose) hot sausage

cup of dried lentils (cooked according to package directions)

half of a butternut squash, peeled and diced (or buy it pre packaged and already prepped)

two large carrots (peeled and diced)

two large stalks of celery (leaves included: diced)

three cloves of garlic, chopped or minced

one large onion, diced

one bell pepper (red, yellow or orange)

one 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

one 14oz can chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1 heaped tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

pinch of turmeric

Prepare all vegetables.  Wash, peel, chop and set aside in a large bowl.  You will be adding them all at once, so don’t worry about keeping them separate.  This way, once your stew gets rolling and you brown your sausage, you’ll be ready to add them.  if you’ve never prepped a BN squash, lop off the top and bottom with a sharp, sturdy knife and stand it on it’s bottom.  Carefully cut it straight down the middle top to bottom.  Spoon out seeds and discard.  with a vegetable peeler, carefully peel off the outer layer of skin.  you are now ready to chop it up into bite sized chunks.  you could also buy pre peeled and chopped “ready to cook” if you are feeling lazy.

cook lentils as per package. drain and set aside.

add a generous swirl of olive oil in your favorite dutch oven.  turn on your flame and begin to brown you sausage, careful not to burn.  break it up with your spatula and stir frequently.  once you are sure it is browned and cooked through, remove it onto a place with a slotted spoon, keeping juice and grease in the dutch oven.  you will be cooking your veggies in this grease. set aside.  add your vegetables and cook over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  add a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of chicken broth and all of your spices.  stir together to combine. bring up to a boil.  add your sausage back in and stir to combine.  turn heat down to medium low and cover it, letting it simmer for about ten minutes. uncover, stir, and check your carrots and celery for doneness. cook few mins longer if necessary.  once these are cooked to your liking, cut the heat and add in the cooked lentils. stir once more and serve it up! I like to add a large handful of chopped fresh parsley.  fine without though. Enjoy! you will enjoy this stew for days… I’ve even been known to eat it for a late breakfast.   for the most part… pretty easy… and very very comforting…  the way life SHOULD be, if we’re doing it right.

peace and love.  spags.

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Slow and Low Chicken wings!

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three years ago, almost to the day, funny enough… I stumbled upon these here chicken wings while cruising recipes online.  I love looking at food blogs, and I definitely have my favorites, however this one came from a site I hadn’t visited before.  the dude’s blog was/is called Macheesmo, and I got to clicking around on it back then when trying to locate some great chicken wing recipes for my son, Eli, who is a wing aficionado!  the way he described them being almost effortless struck a cord (i’m all about the path of least resistance in certain instances!) and I decided to give them a go.  well guess what… they were AWESOME, and we’ve been enjoying them ever since!  I take them to parties, and they are usually the first thing to go.  I typically serve them with ranch, mostly out of habit, but honest to pete they are absolutely fabulous right as they are with zero sauce.   you need three pounds of wings.  now this recipe is for the split wing, not the whole wing.   I have always used fresh… (see pic below)- but I am assuming one could thaw a bag of frozen wings and use those just as easily! just pat dry before starting.  ALLOW FOUR HOURS COOK TIME FOR THESE WINGS! that being said, this IS something you have to time out.  the prep is like fifteen mins- and then once they’re in the oven you’re golden- you just have to flip every hour.

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WHAT YOU NEED:

3 pounds of wingettes

1 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp black pepper

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Ranch or favorite dipping sauce

EQUIPMENT:  WIRE RACK AND FOIL LINED BAKING TRAY

 

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

combine all of  the spices into a large bowl.  stir to combine.  take your chicken wings and toss to coat, working one package at a time.  once coated, place them on a wire baking rack that you have placed on top of a foil lined baking sheet for easy clean up.

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place wings into a preheated 275* oven and set timer for 4 hours.   flip them every hour.   they will come out falling off the bone juicy and delicious.  you will love these, and seriously… how easy was that!?  enjoy!

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Healthy Hippie Stew

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SWEET MAGNOLIA  it has been almost two years since i have blogged.  this makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. cry because i love love love writing and blogging and collecting thoughts in print… and smile because this just shows that my life, this beautiful life, is consuming me and filling me right the hell up so that blogging has slipped my mind entirely!  that being said, my new years resolution was to blog more, so giddy up on that.  also, i plan to buy a go pro with some of our income tax money- so i will likely be sneaking in a few cooking videos on here. i know for a fact i have said such things in the past and never followed through, but i think i’m feeling it this time.   i have shut down both of my ETSY shops, just not feeling it anymore, and the fees- albeit small, do add up when you have lots of listings.  the nice thing is, they leave the shop intact, so that when you want to come back- all is as you left it.  sooooo, yeah- recent events:  March in Pittsburgh means more snow just when you become sick of snow.  it also means 60’s one day and 25 degrees the next.  it’s bananas.  i looked out the window this morning and the roads were clear.  i heard my dog barking like a loon an hour later, and the roads were covered and a car had wrecked and flipped over across the street!  i’m telling you, Pittsburgh weather is bananas.  we just got back from an amazing ten day tropical vacation on a small island forty minutes off the coast of Belize.  it was called Caye Caulker… and it was amazing.  i booked our little cottage on Airbnb and then secured some flights.  the exchange rate was fantastic, 2 to 1!  i highly recommend visiting that island if you are looking for something off the beaten path and free of huge resorts, huge hotels and large shopping malls- etc.  this place is tiny.  you can bike one end to the other in under fifteen mins, but it lacks nothing.  there are bars, restaurants, little markets, a bank, two cemeteries- but no hospitals- lol.   it is super authentic Caribbean, with a hippie vibe and lots of smiling happy faces.  which brings me to my dish i created.  HIPPIE STEW.  when in caye caulker, we ate a lot of what they called- “stew chicken” which was traditionally served with red beans and rice as well as coleslaw.  it was beyond delicious, yet so simple.  it inspired me to create a dish that i could enjoy eating for many days, and even freeze portions for quick lunches.  i wanted to be able to make it in under an hour- and have this large return for my time.  i succeeded!  this is also quite inexpensive to make- and actually gives you a whole extra chicken breast to create another meal with!  i made my husband a tomato based sauce with capers and sauteed onions and spices and added the chicken and served it to him in a bowl over linguine! (he loves pasta!)  i was happy with my healthy hippie stew and he was happy with his pasta!  win-win.

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:

one package of bone in, skin on split chicken breasts (two breasts in pack- usually around five bucks total- maybe less)

1 cup of lentils (green or red- whatever)

1/2 cup white rice (not minute rice people… real rice)

1/3 cup orzo pasta (or pastini if that’s all you have)

1 tsp of curry powder

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of pepper

1 large onion diced

1 large carrot diced (2 if smaller)

2 celery stalks diced

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1 small zucchini diced

large handful of fresh bagged spinach (chopped)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

few squirts of hot sauce

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: 

fill a large dutch oven halfway full with water. mine is a 6 quart pot.  adjust accordingly.

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bring water to a boil and add your TWO skin on/bone in chicken breasts.  turn heat to medium and let these go for about a half hour uncovered.  prep all of your vegetables at this time.  slice/ dice your heart out.  put them into nice little organized cereal bowls so you’re ready to add to stew at given time.

this recipe is crazy versatile.  if you don’t like zucchini, don’t add it.  wanna use kale in place of spinach? DO IT!  hate chick peas?  Add black beans! celery turn your stomach? double up on carrots! you feelin’ me?

OK so after about a half hour, remove cooked chicken to a large plate and set aside to let it cool down.  turn heat up to high again and add the ONIONS, LENTILS, RICE AND ORZO.  cook these over high heat,  stirring occasionally for about five or six minutes.   Then add the carrots, celery, spices/herbs/salt/pepper/hot sauce,  and chick peas.  return to boil.   once this comes back to a boil, turn heat down to a low simmer, cover and let cook for 15 mins.  stir it once during cooking.  water should be starting to be absorbed by the grains a bit.

while it is cooking, take and prepare your chicken.  you are only using ONE of the breasts here folks.  we used TWO in order to properly flavor the broth- but all of that chicken would be waaay too much in this, so do as i said and utilize it for another meal.  ((shred for chicken salad, use it for chicken and waffles, make the kids chicken quesadillas with cheese,  whatever you can dream up.))   OK- slice or chop or shred or however you choose to create bite sized pieces of chicken to add back into the stew.  set it aside and be ready.

uncover the pot after the 15 mins and add in your zucchini, chopped spinach and prepared chicken.  stir well and cover again.  let cook a few mins more over medium heat and then turn off heat, leaving lid intact.   at this point i like to tidy up the kitchen and get ready to enjoy some hippie stew!  ladle yourself a small portion, allow to cool a bit and then taste.  tweak accordingly with salt/pepper or maybe some hot sauce.  take a picture and attach this blog post!!  let me know how it turned out.  i love to hear from people who have cooked from my blog.  food is love.  enjoy!!

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“life is either a daring adventure… or nothing at all.”  ~helen keller

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Allow your soul to rest,  stop and be amazed by the sea.   

Don’t listen to what i say… go and SEE !!

embrace the pace yo.  spags.

 

Fabulous Fall Stew! ~Chicken, butternut squash and quinoa! Oh my!!

Go on get happy!
Go on get happy!

Yes-sir-ee bobbo…. Fall is in full swing. The pumpkins are carved, the mums are lining my front stairs leading to the house, we’ve had our first frost, the leaves are falling by the second, pumpkin spice lattes are being consumed mid-day as i put off moving wood down the side of the house…. it is here and i am THRILLED!  Fall is my favorite season, hands down.  i welcome its chill after the long hot summer months… i love the smell it brings… the air is crisp, almost spicy smelling… the risk of colder nights gives full permission to go ahead and start that first fire of the season in the fireplace… switching out all the sundresses and skirts for those lovely corduroy pants in varying earthy fall hues… sipping hot apple cider at night after you put the kiddos to bed…. sweet magnolia there are SOO many good reasons to wrap your arms around Fall and love it with all you’ve got.  However, all of that goodiness being said… i haven’t even begun to speak of warm soups and stews being back in the weekday rotations -and the pure joy that brings to my foodie soul!  this stew i am about to blog for you is a winner.  a friend asked me last week if i had a recipe on my blog for quinoa**, as she had some she wanted to use up.  i was shocked to see that i did NOT- and set out to remedy the hell out of that ASAP! i got to researching quinoa stews… and stumbled upon one that used butternut squash- another of my fall faves.  giddy up i said… let’s do this.  i took some things i didn’t like out of the recipe (olives) and added some things i felt would lend heartiness and healthy benefits.  i tweaked it. i always do.

**let me first tell you about QUINOA – if you are not familiar with this superstar grain.  Quinoa is considered a high nourishment food source, because it is essentially a ‘complete protein source.’  (super important words if you are a vegetarian or vegan).  you’ve all heard the buzz words ‘SUPER FOOD’ … well this guy is one fo sho.   quinoa is also gluten free, in fact it is not even in the same family as wheat or barley or rye.  it has origins in South America around 1200AD- and most of the quinoa we consume today in the US comes from Peru, the largest commercial producer of it to date.  this little guy packs some punch- it is a valuable source of heart healthy supportive fats (ALA and oleic acid) … and making it a part of your regular diet greatly lowers your risk of inflammation related diseases.  eat some.

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED: 

  • a butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into half inch pieces (or if lazy- buy it recipe ready and packaged in your produce section) you need around a pound.
  • 3 cans chicken broth
  • some boneless skinless chicken (i cooked a bone in breast in the oven and then let it cool and chopped it) you could also cheat and get a rotisserie chicken and use the breasts of that- and then reserve the rest for making a pot of soup later in the week.  or cook up some tenderloins however you like- and cool and chop into bite sized pieces.  (see pic below for how much chicken)
  • olive oil
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • one large onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper
  • 1 and a 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz can)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh spinach leaves, chopped

OK HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: 

place your diced butternut squash into a pyrex dish and add a little water (maybe 1/2 cup) and pop it into a 350* oven for about 15 mins. check it. if you can get your fork into it fairly easily and it seems to be getting tender, take and remove HALF of it onto a plate.  set aside. put the other half back in the oven and keep it steaming for maybe 10 mins more.  at this point you should be able to mash it with ease. (if not cook longer and keep checking)  see visual.

mash it mash it.
mash it mash it.

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set this aside, you will be adding it to the stew in a bit.   to a heavy pot, add some olive oil. maybe a generous Tbsp? i never measure.  get it on md/high. if you like some spice, give a shake of red pepper flakes into the oil. i literally start SO many recipes this way- i can’t even tell you.  to me, it is background flavor.  ok- add in your chopped onion.  saute until becoming soft. add in your garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, stir for a minute to heat up the oregano and release the oils.  then add in your broth (3 cans), your tomatoes, your beans, your mashed butternut squash (not cubes yet), and your quinoa. stir to combine. bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. cover and cook about 15 mins.  Add in the chicken, the spinach and the cubed/cooked butternut squash. stir gently, cover again and cook a few more minutes to warm through the last three additions.  SERVE IT UP YO!  ultra good for you and chocked full of vitamins to keep you healthy for flu season!  make some this weekend!

i used THIS much chicken. (i never measure)
i used THIS much chicken. (i never measure) (one whole bone in breast)
everybody in the pot!
everybody in the pot!
finito!  simple pure flavors shine through.
finito! simple pure flavors shine through.

ENJOY!! Happy Fall ya’ll.

7 ingredient Watermelon Cucumber Feta Salad

an unlikely combination... sure to wow.
an unlikely combination… sure to wow.

the first time I tasted this salad, a doctor friend of mine brought it to work to share with all of us.  I was smitten. somehow, the saltiness of the feta was the perfect, albeit unlikely compliment to the sweetness of the juicy watermelon.  Add in crunchy seedless cucumber chunks and fresh basil… and you’re about to board the happy train. I wanted to keep this very simple, but still chocked full of flavor- so I added as few things as possible to the mix.  technically, you could leave out the cucumber if you didn’t have it, and it would be just as yummy.  I do enjoy the crunch of the cukes though – and they bulk it up a bit more as well.  I added shallot, one small one, as I thought the red onion would be a bit overpowering.  the recipes I viewed on the internet called for mint.  I prefer basil in mine, so I went with it.  I like the taste of fresh squeezed lime, so I used some of that as well.  ok enough talk… HERE IS WHAT YOU DO.  

purchase: need

a bit of watermelon

a block of feta cheese (costs more than crumbled, but looks OH SO much prettier here)

a small shallot

a juicy lime

a small handful of basil (maybe 7 leaves) chopped

a seedless cucumber (or a few of those cute baby cucumbers Aldi carries)

two tablespoons of either red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar

TO PREPARE THIS:

decide what bowl you want to serve this in, and then make only that much.

carefully dice up some of your watermelon  **(I write this assuming everyone knows how to cut a watermelon… but if not here goes. Cut watermelon in half, lay one half cut side down on your cutting board and begin to carefully slice this into slices going from right to left or left to right. if you want to chunk it- carefully cut rind off and cube it nicely into a container. otherwise cut slices in half and place in airtight container if you are that person who likes to eat it off of the rind. I am NOT that person. I like my watermelon chunked and in a pretty container ready for me to scoop out a bowlful at any given moment.  my husband and my daughter are the rind types. I just don’t get it.)

cut your feta into pretty chunks.

slice/chunk your cucumbers.

wash and cut your basil

cut your shallot into thin slices.

in a small bowl, squeeze all of the juice from one lime.  to this, add a bit of vinegar. mix them and set aside.

in a large bowl (big enough to toss this with clean hands…) add all ingredients. pour the lime and vinegar juices on top.  toss together with clean hands.  transfer to your serving bowl.  if extra, store in airtight container for up to four days.  it won’t last that long, trust me.  Enjoy!!

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grilled chicken bacon poppers ~ whoa good!

everyone is entitled to an opinion... except those who don't like BACON.
everyone is entitled to an opinion… except those who don’t like BACON.

ok people… I have said it before, and i’ll say it again… I DON’T trust people who don’t like bacon!  I like it in the morning, I like it at lunch on a BLT or on a big fat beefy burger when out indulging with friends.  I like it wrapped around fat juicy scallops… there isn’t an end here people, so I will just stop.  I recently discovered this FUN new trick with bacon so I thought I’d share it with ya’ll.  Chicken tenderloin bites wrapped in a half a piece of bacon, and secured on skewers for ease of grilling.  Pop them off the skewers once cool enough, and serve them as the main squeeze, as an appetizer with friends (we dipped in BBQ sauce… but think ranch, think a Sriracha/Maple syrup dip, anything goes here) or a couple of them alongside a juicy burger as an over the top addition!  however you serve them… you’re gonna like them.

WHAT YOU NEED:

CHICKEN TENDERLOINS (CUT INTO BITE SIZED CHUNKS)

BACON (CUT IN HALF)

SKEWERS

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wrap them as shown and skewer them to secure.

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ADD FRESH BLACK PEPPER  IF DESIRED

GRILL THESE OVER MEDIUM HEAT AND CHECK OFTEN. they will be dripping a lot so the flames will be dancing upward. Careful not to burn the bacon.  if needed, place over indirect heat. You will work it out.  Once chicken is cooked, you are golden.  allow to cool for a few mins and then remove to a platter.  Enjoy!!

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these are great with freshly sautéed asparagus as well.
these are great with freshly sautéed asparagus as well.
or as I mentioned... alongside this big fat son of a gun.  YUMMO.
or as I mentioned… alongside this big fat son of a gun. YUMMO.

FOODIE FANTASIES

many a night i spent dreaming up ways i could make a food delivery service come to fruition.  i’d turn over scenarios in my head… catchy names, food truck artwork,  meals that would be eaten easily while standing or sitting in the grass, visions of hipsters noshing on a paper lined boat of my fabulous ‘something or other’ and posting about it on twitter or the FB.   i imagined rolling through Larryville in my converted mail truck throwing peace signs out the open door/window here and there.  rocking out to death cab for cutie… wearing an apron with the words ‘SHARE GOOD VIBES’  on it.  i could finally get that cute little spoon tattoo on my hand at the base of my thumb!   and then maybe later a santoku knife on my other wrist (cause you know you’re always thinking about your NEXT tat the minute you leave the parlor)…   this is literally how i would fall asleep more nights than i can remember.  i still do sometimes… even though i have done the homework and know how hard it is to turn even a meager profit while manning a food truck biz.  it is a labor of love, as a brick and mortar restaurant would be as well.  be prepared to be married to it they say.  fourteen hour days are the minimum, with sixteen hour days being more realistic, after preparation, clean up, book keeping, and maintenance woes on a daily.  not to mention finding a co-owner, helping hand or hired staff you can trust and rely on always.  not a good look for a wife and mother of two.  life is hard sometimes.  you know what you enjoy doing… you know you are good at it… you know people would LIKE what you sling… but you meet roadblock after roadblock when thinking of how you can get there.  more often than not, it’s money.  things cost money. A LOT of money.  to get a food truck up and running and stocked with equipment, etc etc- you’re looking at at least 30G’s start up cost… rockstar trucks decked out with bells and whistles… 70 G.  but hot damn are they beautiful.   if i was rich/ aka a trust funder or one of those lucky SOB’s who hit a powerball ticket with a group for 4 mill a piece… Hell to the Yezzesss i’d be all over this.  i’d service private picnics or corporate events…  do festivals and fairs… have FUN with it.   but for now, i am a nurse.  i make a fine and comfortable living doing it.  make no mistake in thinking me ungrateful for said career.  i worked hard to become a nurse, and it was not easy.  i feel proud of this accomplishment in my life- especially deciding to do it late, as i was about to turn 30 and already working as a social worker after college.   nursing has been good to me.  to us.  but this post is about passion.  about the Foodie world that exists in my mind.  so i do what anyone in this situation would do.  i think small.  what can i do that would simulate being a part of the food service industry while allowing me to harness some of my entrepreneurial spirit???  i seek out small groups of people that would like me to cook for them.  ie: a pediatrics office full of busy, hungry medical professionals who get an hour lunch break each day;  a group of hungry policemen who are notorious for working up appetites  while out fighting crime.  the latter had me cooking for them a week before Christmas this year… and they were pleased as punch with the whole foodie event!   prior to this i cooked for my co-workers, who also found the whole delivery yummy and satisfying!   so i am having fun with it… but on a small scale.  my food truck is my silver Subaru… and i am finally using up some of the hundreds of containers i bought online late one night when i was feeling extra ‘ready’ to make this REAL.   after all, a girl’s gotta dream.  if you never CHASE you dreams you will never CATCH them.

micro side salads
micro side salads
chicken parmesan over penne with red sauce
chicken parmesan over penne with red sauce
small batch homemade vinaigrette
small batch homemade vinaigrette
slow cooked sausages sliced over cavatappi with red sauce
slow cooked sausages sliced over cavatappi with red sauce

 

garlic bread - lined up like little soldiers
garlic bread – lined up like little soldiers
hot soup, ready for 16 oz containers.
hot soup, ready for 16 oz containers.

Here piggy piggy….. melt in your mouth pork roast…

soooo… i just have to be honest here. i have never met a pig i didn’t like.  i mean let’s be honest. they are adorable to look at when they are little, they are fun to watch when they are MASSIVE… and when my hubby worked part time on a local farm to help pay the bills last winter, the stories of the big pigs were always my faves!  at one point he had to fight one of them off with a broom handle to avoid getting knocked over and trampled in the mud! they can be brutal and mean! but they are so funny and somehow still cute even at 600 pounds!  it was hard to keep a straight face when he told me that story.  when there are farm animals around, the first thing my kiddos run to are the pigs. they love feeding them with baby bottles, and listening to their oinky cute sounds.

piggy pic

however…….  (and i know i’m gonna get flack for this next statement)  i have never met a more tasty animal.  i mean come ON…. bacon?? enough said.   a big succulent slice of ham at Christmas time??? shut the front door.  crispy sausage links dripping in maple syrup alongside your cinnamon french toast??  hold the phone Ma.   sweet italian sausages slow cooked in red sauce all day long and sliced over a bowl of pasta??  That’s Amore.  shall i go on??  crispy yet melt in your mouth pork belly tacos with mole sauce and cilantro??   just yes.   carnivores… you’re feelin’ me?    but the one piggy dish i love preparing most is a slow roasted pork butt with a nice spice rub… dotted with garlic cloves… and served atop a nice sturdy bun with a drizzle of BBQ sauce, a heap of coleslaw and some spicy bread and butter pickle chips.  smack my ass and call me Sally.  this meal is sure to please, and with ease.

so here’s what it looks like before going into the oven.  (get about a 3.5-4 lb pork butt roast- boneless or bone in- either way) whatever looks good to you. try to pick one that has a nice layer of thick fat on the top.

rub it down yo
rub it down yo

this rub, i just make it up in a small bowl with all flavors i envision imparting good flavor.  it goes something like this.   take your 1/4 tsp spoon, and pull out some garlic powder, some chili powder, some cumin, some dried parsley, some dried mustard, paprika, onion powder (if you have it, i never do), dried thyme and black pepper- you’re lookin to add even amounts of all of these.   a pinch of cayenne, add a whole tsp of salt, and add a whole Tablespoon of brown sugar.  mix it all up in the bowl, and rub that sucker down good on all sides.  i always do this inside my foil- so that it catches all the ‘crumbs’ in the vessel i’m gonna bake it in.  stab it a few times to create little slots for the garlic and jab some peeled cloves in those slots.  hit it with a drizzle of olive oil all over the top.  flip it to FAT layer side up.   so yeah, the Foil… lay out a big sheet, then put another sheet going the other way, etc- unless you have that lovely Heavy duty, extra large foil… in which case you’re golden.  the goal here is to wrap this up so well and tight, so that the juices are trapped in the foil.  ya’ll are crafty.  fold and pinch this foil like it is your job.   place this foil in a pyrex dish, just to catch any juices that will inevitably escape.  see visual below:

ready for oven
ready for oven

i always start this out at 425* for like 25 minutes, and then i turn heat to 270* and let her go for five hours at least. i’ve done six before when i had to leave and didn’t get to do the pre-game 425* part.   still perfect.  never, under any circumstances unwrap this during the cooking.  when it is done, remove from oven and let it sit for ten mins or so.  unwrap, drool, and then let it sit for ten mins more.  perfect time to pluck off the corners and stand around taking pictures and sipping a cold beer if you’re anything like me.   See below for the big reveal:

022

drooling on my camera
drooling on my camera

SHRED THE PORK now in the baking dish you cooked it in… allowing all the juices created to run into the pan as you gingerly remove the foil from around the meat.  use two forks, or however you like to do this. i like some big chunks coupled with small shreds- i feel that makes a good sandwich.  Add BBQ sauce if you have a favorite, honestly it is tasty enough to stand alone on the bun or plate.  i like mine as i described above- with a healthy serving of tater tots or crispy crowns-  and an ice cold craft beer.  Life doesn’t get much better than that folks.   Enjoy!!

Stellar.
Stellar.

 

 

Spag balls 2.0

it was Christmas eve morning, and i sat, making a mental checklist of all that still had to be done… trying to remain ‘jolly’ all the while.  i am sure every other mama in the world felt the way i felt  – and at times it is just that very fact that puts things into perspective for me.  you are not alone woman… suck it up buttercup.   one of the ticks on the tick list was to make meatballs.  enough meatballs for Christmas EVE, and Christmas DAY.  that’s a lot of balls.  i call my meatballs Spag balls… as my friends call me Spags.   as i sat cringing at the thought of pan searing all of those balls in olive oil, and the mess that comes with, i thought to myself… there has GOT to be an easier way.  THE OVEN!!  flash bake them at high heat for a snap, and then transfer them to the sauce bath in the pans to finish cooking in the oven.  YESS!!  i’m gonna try it.  so i created the balls, and as i rolled them out, i placed them about an inch apart on Silpat lined baking sheets.  (parchment works here too, PS)  set the oven to 425*, and bake them, one tray at a time for about 10 minutes or so… you will see them start to get a bit brown.  this browning bit helps them hold the ‘ball’ shape, and allows an easy-peasy transfer with a large fork right into the tray of sauce you will have waiting patiently.  Bake the next pan same way- once they are all par-browned and in in the sauce bath,  BAKE, uncovered, for about an hour at 325*.   top with freshly shaved Parmesan cheese when they come out, (if you like) and you are DONE!  could it get any easier??    here is the original recipe for my Spag balls.

ready to be flash baked.
ready to be flash baked.
mouth watering meatballs
mouth watering meatballs

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