Friday, November 15, 2013

Shredded BBQ Pork

I have been slaving, I tell you, slaving all day! Today was the first day in a good long while that I spend happily puttering in the kitchen without obligations breathing down my neck. It was about time too, I miss enjoying my cooking! So, tonight I bring you shredded bbq pork (courtesy of my slow cooker) and Oopsie bread with which to eat it, and lots of pictures to prove it.

Stage One: Porky Breakdown

Everyone should, on a semi-regular basis, have a giant hunk of carcass on their counter to break down themselves. I think it gives a greater appreciation for the food, plus it is just plain fun.

My pork butt was semi-frozen for ease of butchering and purchased in a two pack from Sam's Club. $1.68 is hard to beat for meat, so I am working on more ways to use this stuff. (Can you say tamales?)

Stage Two: Slow Cooker Love

My porkiness is now tucked neatly into bed and kept warm with its own personal heater and cumin and oregano aromatherapy. Its like a sauna for dead animal! A sauna that lasts 6-8 hours on low.

Stage Three: Photo Op, then Break for Lunch

Tada! This what completely relaxed pork looks like after the sauna. It feels so good it just wants to melt! So we loan it our buns (Oopsie bread in my case) to lounge in and escort it to the privacy of our stomachs.

(Oh, and I apologize for the wealth of contradicting fanatsys. I am high on pig.)

 Topped with some BBQ sauce and shredded cheddar, this was a truly delicious low carb dinner! The bread's flavor did not dominate the pork. It was JUST bland enough to complement without dragging it down, and it was strong enough to wrangle the filling, even better than a tortilla. I am looking forward to my stomach making some room so I can eat more!

I also made homemade baked beans (bacon, NOM!), and obviously Oopsie bread. I have pictures of that, eventually I will do a post on them!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Whole Foods on a Budget

I haven't been writing about it much, but I have been on a health kick. After the increased carbs of gluten alternatives piled extra pounds on my hips, I freaked. I have been trying to keep my carbs way down. The first few days I went too low, and couldn't get off the couch. For the sake of my productivity I am trying to balance it a little, but I can't say I have been very successful.

But wait! Life has been quiet, so obviously Murphy decided it was time to throw a wrench in the works! Honey Bear broke himself and lost his job, and slashed our income by, well, half. So now I am tasked with maintaining a gluten free, low carb, high fat diet with the budget of a half of a conventional one.

By the way, my eating style has been rather like Primal, with no grains, legumes, or added sugar. Can I freak out yet?

I ran to Pintrest for inspiration, and as usual it did not fail me!

It doesn't meet my requirements exactly, but I started here, with number 25:

"25. Make the most of “cheap” foods like broths, carrots, bananas and beans."

 Well, it doesn't sound like much, but its a plan that I can get behind. There has to be more items that I could put on this list. They had to be healthy, cheap, fatty, and most of versatile, since I would be eating a lot of it! So, I built on this list, and made some compromises in my own diet. (I want to note here that I am feeding my family mostly conventionally, with gluten free family meals. My budget slashing is centered around my own meals and snacks.) I decided in the interest of budget, I would reintroduce legumes and count on an extra workout to cover the extra carbs. I also tore through Pintrest looking for more cheap, fatty, versatile ingredients to line my fridge. 

With a touch of reflection on my current eating habits to round it out, here is my own personal list of budget friendly nutrient rich foods that should form the backbone of my diet:

Homemade Stocks and Broth
Cream Cheese
Sweet Potatoes
Canned Tuna
Heavy Cream
Peanut Butter
I know for a fact that there are excellent flourless muffins and breads based on some of these items, so I should not be wanting for variety! I will add veggies and round everything out with trappings from the family groceries. Basically your seasonal veggies and leftover meats and cold cuts. These are some of the things I am planning using my new list of go-tos for:
Lots of deviled eggs and egg salad
Yes, I have posted this Egg Drop Soup already, but I have no evidence of the Oopsie Bread yet!

The tuna cakes, oopsie bread, and of course the soup I have made before and were all well worth the placement into rotation. This is just the tip of the iceberg, too. I should have no problem keeping myself from getting bored and still staying on target.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nutty Green Beans and Lemon Rosemary Chicken

It has been a long couple of weeks at the Bear Den. Honey Bear broke a hand and lost his job as a thanks for it, so our budget just took a major turn for the tight. My quest to go grain free has moved to the back burner, and I am forced to reevaluate the pantry stores. I like to keep at least a month's food on hand, but I have been getting complacent about it lately. Luckily we are well stocked for about six weeks, save a half dozen inexpensive items.

Before I buckle down and start the minimum wage job hunt to tide us over till Honey Bear heals, I am taking a week or so to enjoy his company. Help with the daily chores gives me a bit more time to putter in the kitchen, too, and it shows with dinner tonight. Granted when the grocery bill drops, time in the kitchen usually doubles, but I made it count while we had fresh stuff on hand. I really slowed down and took my time with today's meal, and I actually enjoyed cooking for the first time in a long time!

Anyway, I took a page from the Pioneer Woman and made Lemon Rosemary Chicken. This bird has been absolutely smothered in compound butter, and it looks happy even before it is cooked. Seriously, if I had to be roasted and eaten by a being of superior intellect, I would want to be caked in this stuff, too. 

It brings new meaning to 'butterball'.

I paired it with pumpkin sage polenta, and green beans with walnuts. The polenta was a huge hit, but it is hard to go wrong with polenta in this house. This particular breed will probably be eaten every fall from now on.
This needs to be doubled next time.
Mr. Chicken, after the sauna.

I take no credit for the chicken or the polenta recipes, but I can almost claim the green beans! I threw it together as a cheaper take on green beans amandine a few years ago, and it has graced our table many times since.

Nutty Green Beans 

1/2 cup walnut pieces
2 tablespoons butter
16 oz green beans, fresh or frozen, thawed, and air dried
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 tsp lemon juice or 2 tbps chicken stock, optional

Toast the walnuts lightly over low heat in a cast iron skillet. Remove from pan when fragrant. Careful, they like to burn! Melt the butter in the same pan and toss in the beans, garlic, salt, and pepper. Saute over medium heat until everything nicely warmed and the garlic smells yummy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts. Viola!

Lemon juice adds a pleasant brightness that cuts through the walnuts richness. If you are using it, just stir it in with the nuts at the end. The chicken stock should be added about a minute after the beans and garlic. It will thicken slightly and provide a lovely rich glaze if you use it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Overnight Egg Drop Soup

My slow cooker has been working overtime this week, for the sole purpose of making my life easier. Chaos hit hard and fast and has not slowed down in weeks, so thank goodness for that little appliance! I have not been able to find a spare minute to blog or even meal plan in a while, and the crock has saved my sanity this week. That and having whole chicken in my freezer. When I have a hard day and I know the next is not going to be any easier, I take a whole chicken out and put it in the microwave to thaw overnight. I know, not the safest way to do it, but it keeps the dog away from it and it thaws a bit more than if I put it in the fridge. It is still half an ice block in the the morning, anyway.

Chicken-y Goodness

In the morning I put the half thawed bird in the crock, set it to high, and let it work its magic for 4 or 5 hours. After it has simmered in its own juices and gotten nice and delicious, I pull it out and debone, leaving all the juices in the cooker. That meat makes casserole or stirfry for that night and the next. The skin, bones, and fatty bits go back into the cooker with the juices, the lid is clamped on, and it gets to simmer on low overnight with some veggie scraps from the freezer. Boom, chicken stock ready in the morning!

I know the idea of chicken stock in the morning is not the most exciting for some people, but when you are trying to warm up and watch your carbs at the same time it is a godsend. It means I get to have egg drop soup all morning!

This picture. It makes me hungry.

It is fatty and rich and warm and in general delicious. Best of all it is easy, and there is always enough stock when using this method to make a big pot of another soup for dinner. It could go in the freezer, too, for later reinvention.

Egg Drop Soup - Single Mug

1 egg
1/2 tsp gluten free soy sauce (I like La Choy)
splash of sriracha (optional)
hot chicken stock

Beat in the egg, soy sauce, and sriracha together in a large coffee mug. Ladle chicken stock over the egg, straight from the pot or slow cooker. The egg will cook in the liquid, and you have a high protein meal ready in an instant!

Pardon me while I go make another mug...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Baking Hiatus!

I know I am not alone. I have been away, dealing with this thing called real life. Which, by the way, is really starting to cramp my style! Now that things have calmed down a bit (no small thanks to my wonderful Honey Bear), I have buoyed my spirit with baking and work.

Here is what I have been up to besides work:

Cookies! A batch of chocolate chip cookies is in the oven as we speak. After trying the Pillsbury gluten free premade cookie dough in my fridge and ready for late night baking, I decided I needed to make a batch myself. One pan is baking, the rest is in the fridge for cookies on demand! (The Pillsbury ones weren't half bad, by the way, but VERY delicate when warm!)

Tortillas! Thanks again to the Art of Gluten Free Baking, I made flour tortillas. I tweaked the recipe by adding unflavored gelatin with the water to make sure they were strong and flexible, and it worked BEEEEUTIFULLY! My only complaint is the distinct rice-y flavor to the final product. When it comes to biscuits and sweets it is easily ignorable, but it was quite prominent here. Tricky to roll out, but they performed admirably!

CONTAMINATION! Against my better judgement I have been testing the gluten waters again. I have discovered that one meal will have no side effects. Two will give me gas and mild nausea. Three within a week? Full blown bloat, distress, heartburn, the whole works, for days. And the most wretched flatulence you have ever smelled. My husband formally requested that for the health of the family I no longer go off diet. I can't say I disagree!

Recipes! The Girly Q and I finally sat down with all the gluten free magazines that I have gotten over the last six months and picked out the ones we want to try. We collected some good staples! Some cut out sugar cookies to decorate, a standard yellow cake for birthdays, and a doughnut that is very similar to the Yule applesauce doughnuts that Honey Bear used to make for the holidays every year. The fall weekends are going to be full of recipe practice as we all learn to cook again!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Breakfast Carnitas

So, I may have a problem with tacos. I like them, a lot. They are fast, easy to make and eat, cheap, and versatile. I know that if I need a quick dinner, I can thaw some ground meat in the microwave, throw together some cornbread, and pull taco shells out of the pantry for a 30 minute meal that EVERYONE will eat.

But they are also a perfect breakfast. Whatever leftover meat I have in the fridge gets turned into single serve tacos. Single serve because my family won't eat soft corn tortillas, and the crunchy ones are just for dinner, so I get them all to myself in the morning! I already mentioned my Spanish eggs, and my other go-to is breakfast carnitas.

About once a month I put a pork butt into the slow cooker with basic seasonings and let it fall apart into fatty deliciousness. We eat that night with barbeque sauce, either in a sandwich or on sweet potatoes, and there are always leftovers. More sandwiches! Or breakfast for Mom, because I will take chunks of it and pan fry it in bacon fat until it is crispy and throw it into a corn tortilla. It saves a lot of time over traditional carnitas, which are deep fried for hours in lard, and you get pretty much the same result.

Breakfast Carnitas

1 cup leftover pork butt, in chunks
bacon grease
sprinkling of cumin, oregano, and chili powder
cheddar cheese
2-3 corn tortillas

Heat the bacon grease in a small skillet over medium heat and add the pork. Season and stir. The meat will stick and shred, just keep scraping it up off the pan, because that is the tasty part! Meanwhile, warm the tortillas. Once the meat is warm and the fat has gotten melty again, pile it into the tortillas with the cheese and go to town!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Weekly Dinner List, Part 4

Ok, so a few things from last week's list didn't actually make it to the dinner table, so we are going to be recycling for the sake of simplicity. This mama's brain has been on over drive for a few days, so it is relaxing with familiar cooking, and new but easy recipes to try.

  • Beef Roast and Mushrooms, mashed potatoes, broccoli
  • Crockpot Roast Chicken (in progress), mashed potatoes, vegetables
  • Chicken Cheesesteak
  • Skillet Potatoes and Biscuits
  • Lentil Loaf
  • Hawaiian Pork

Line up subject to availability of energy and time :D