Main Dishes, Pork, Recipes

Blackberry Mustard Marinade

porkEven though I’m not a big meat-lover like my husband, I still enjoy it. Before we were married, my main staple meat dishes were lasagna, meatloaf, tacos, and grilled chicken or chicken cooked with ranch dressing and BBQ sauce. Tasty, right? Umm… no, not so much anymore. Since getting married, I have come to embrace more diverse meat dishes, and have become more experimental in cooking [instead of just with baking, as before]. One of these “more diverse meat dishes” is what I affectionately call, the big hunk of meat. Pork or beef, it doesn’t matter. To me, a big hunk of meat is the same amount of work [and I’m sure this is blasphemous to some–tastes the same], no matter what type it is. So, in order to flavor up the meat, I’ve taken to some experimental marinades, using what we have in the pantry and fridge, instead of buying a pre-mixed marinade or a lot of complex ingredients. Fruit and mustard sauces are a classic counterpart to pork, since they play off each other so well. This blackberry mustard marinade is really simple and really tasty. Feel free to mix up the type of preserves or mustard used, but try to stay with good quality ingredients because that’s what really adds the depth of flavor.

Blackberry Mustard Marinade

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup good quality, all-natural blackberry preserves
  • 1/4 cup good quality, grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary

Directions:

Whisk together all ingredients and rub on a 1 1/2-2 pound pork roast, and prepare as desired. Here’s what I did.

  1. I chopped two apples into slices and laid them out in the bottom of a crock pot, and covered them with 1 cup of water.
  2. I rubbed the marinade on the pork roast and seasoned the whole thing with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Then, I cooked the whole pork roast on low for about 8 hours until it was so tender it fell to pieces! Delicious! You could also use the marinade to cook the pork in the oven in a roaster.

Click here for the printable version: Blackberry Mustard Marinade

Question of the Day: How do you feel about ‘big hunks of meat’? [sorry, vegetarians!]

Main Dishes, Recipes, Soups

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

I’m not entirely sure what is wrong with me. My tastes are a-changin’. I didn’t used to like peas, but now I made a dish and purposely bought peas to put in it. I didn’t used to really like soup, and since beginning this blog in July, have made soup at least twice [and that’s a LOT for me!]. I usually just tolerated it when it was on the menu, with the rare exception of a few varieties, but now I’m saving recipes for soup left and right!

Crcokpot Chicken Tortilla Soup... a hearty soup with tons of flavor!My latest soup creation was Chicken Tortilla Soup in the crock pot. It was so easy and I bet you even have most of the ingredients in your pantry/fridge already! You can just put everything in the crock pot in the morning and presto! Dinner is served. There’s just something really satisfying about getting home and having a ready-made, tasty dinner.

Rich in flavor and in spicy goodness, a steaming bowl of this Chicken Tortilla Soup is the perfect end to a blustery fall day. In each delicious bite the spices that absorbed into the broth and chicken during the hours of simmering can be tasted and savored. The soup is spicy with just enough zest and zing for the spice lover of your family [Benjamin!], but mild enough for a more delicate palate [me!]. Even the kitty wanted some too! You should probably make this over the weekend… it’s supposed to be on the chilly side!

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 15 ounce can diced tomatoes w/ green chilis
  • 12 ounces frozen corn
  • 2 cups black beans [drained and rinsed if from a can; I cooked some dried black beans up the night before but you can use either.]
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • couple dashes red pepper flakes
  • couple dashes cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sour cream
  • broken tortilla chips

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips in a crock pot and stir several times to combine. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove bay leaf and enjoy! Serves 8-10.

Note:

To make this without a crock pot, combine all the ingredients in a large stock pot and simmer, covered, for at least an hour to get the same effect.

Question of the Day: How have your tastes changed over the years?

Main Dishes, Pork, Recipes

Sweet and Spicy Blueberry Pork

Boy, am I loving the crock pot lately. School has been busy lately, and I’m trying to clean out the freezer, which means that big hunk ‘o pork shoulder needed to be eaten. Pronto. Since I don’t like to leave the crock pot on during the day when we were gone, I made this up on a Sunday after we got home from church. It cooked away all afternoon until dinnertime, and then we had a delicious, no-work dinner waiting for us at our leisure. I didn’t use to like the crock pot because it felt like cheater cooking, but for some things, like hunks ‘o meat, it’s just way easier than slaving over a hot oven. 🙂

Sweet and Spicy Blueberry Pork via thepajamachef.com

This pork literally fell apart on it’s own; it was so tender. The flavors were sweet and a little spicy because of the cumin and the sweet chili sauce, with a hint of blueberry in each bite. A little bit of summer, a little bit of fall. A lot of flavor. And it’s really easy too.

Oh hey… I got a new hair cut, p.s. That’s all.

Sarah!
Cookin’ away!

Sweet and Spicy Blueberry Pork

  • Servings: 6-8
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by me 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup blueberries [I used frozen blueberries from the freezer that we picked earlier in the summer.]
  • 1/3 cup sweet chili sauce [I got mine from Trader Joe’s and it contains red chili, sugar, water, garlic, and salt if you need ingredients as a reference.]
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2-2 pound pork shoulder roast

Directions:

Place pork shoulder in a crock pot, then add all ingredients.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8.  Shred pork shoulder with two forks, then serve over brown rice or in a tortilla.

Are you a crock pot fan? Why or why not?

Fruit, Recipes, Sides

Crock Pot Chunky Applesauce

Happy First Day of Fall!

In my opinion, fall couldn’t come soon enough. This summer was HOT, which made running pretty miserable at times and made other outdoor activities sound not-so-attractive.  Drenched in sweat after a stroll in the neighborhood? No thanks. Though I love the bounty of summer’s produce, my favorite seasonal flavors are from the fall. Pumpkin. Apple. Squash. Cranberry. Yum.

Even though I’ve been graduated for three years now (!), fall takes me back to my alma mater, with pretty leaves on the trees, homecoming festivities, and cross country races. Oh, how I miss Wittenberg, dear Wittenberg!

I’m learning to love fall on my new campus, Indiana University. I love walking in the midst of these grand old limestone-and-brick buildings with a chill in the air and leaves crunching beneath my feet.  Fall weather, whether it comes in the first week of the semester or the sixth, just screams academics to me. Does this resonate with anyone else? I just love the line in You’ve Got Mail about this:

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has it’s charm.”

 

Pencil and sharpener
one aspect of fall…

 

Last fall, Ben and I even got to partake in a classic fall ritual–apple picking! It was really fun, and we came back with dozens of apples–a whole peck, I do believe.

 

Sarah and Ben, apple picking.
Apple picking last fall.

 

We made many an apple recipe last fall, and since I wasn’t blogging then, I haven’t shared them yet!

In honor of the first day of fall, I made this applesauce last night to celebrate.  Since it’s a crock pot recipe, made is a loose term.  After getting home, I quickly enlisted Ben’s sous-chef skills and hopped to it!

Crock Pot Chunky Applesauce - easy, homemade, healthy, & delicious

Crock Pot Chunky Applesauce

Ingredients:

  • 8 apples, cored, peeled, chopped [I used 3 Gala apples and 5 Granny Smiths, but feel free to use whatever you like/have on hand.] — about 8-9 cups
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

Prepare apples, and don’t feel like you have to peel all the skin off–we like a little left on for texture! Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Stir well, then cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Resist the temptation to open the lid! It adds cooking time if you do that because the air escapes. [Ask me how I know… :)] When it has finished cooking, use a potato masher to mash apples to desired texture. Eat and enjoy!

Notes:

If you don’t have a crock pot, I’m sure you can make this recipe on the stove, too, but I haven’t tried that. If you do, let me know how it goes! Also, this recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled, depending on the size of your crock pot. Feel free to adjust the amount of sugar based on the sweetness of your apples too. Or the seasonings too. Or add pears. That’s yummy also. Basically, this is a very versatile recipe. Do with it what you like!

Chicken, Main Dishes, Recipes

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

As I have said before on this blog, Mexican food is the best. [See here, here, and here if you don’t believe me! Or even if you do. :)] I could eat it for days on end, I think. I’m always on the lookout for new recipes, because a girl can only have tacos so many times! When I saw this recipe on Iowa Girl Eats, I was instantly intrigued because it looked so easy and so tasty. I knew I had to make it, and so I did on a recent weekend day. [I have this fear of fire, and it just makes me nervous to leave a crock pot on all day while we’re away, especially with our low kitchen cabinets (no counterspace without cabinets over it) and our kitty who enjoys hanging out on the kitchen counters when we don’t chase her off… so crock pot recipes are reserved for days when we’ll be home.]

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken - a guaranteed family favorite! via thepajamachef.com

We found this dish to be so flavorful! I love how Ben put it when he said that the zest of the seasonings combined with the taste of each individual ingredient gave it a distinct Southwestern or Tex-Mex feel. I really enjoyed how the toppings of cheese, sour cream, green onions, lettuce, and cilantro blended with the rice and chicken to bring everything together and make every bite different and unique. Don’t skimp on the fresh cilantro or green onions–you’ll regret it if you do! 🙂

This chicken is also really versatile. Initially, we ate it on a bed of rice [brown for me, white for him] and scooped up more with tortilla chips. Then… I made oven-baked burritos–just roll up tortillas stuffed with the chicken filling and a slab of cream cheese [sounds weird, but tastes amazingly creamy] and place in an oven-safe baking dish in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until crispy. Top with shredded cheese the last few minutes of baking and with other toppings after it comes out of the oven and before it enters your mouth. Finally, I made nachos. No matter how you serve it, you will find it yum-a-licious!

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken - a guaranteed family favorite! via thepajamachef.com
easy as pie–deliciousness right before your very eyes!

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

  • Servings: 10+
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from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients:

  • 15 ounces chicken broth
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes with green chili peppers
  • 15 ounces canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8-10 ounces frozen corn
  • 3 green onions, chopped + more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon dried cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro [also called coriander]
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper [or more if you like a lot more kick]
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, thawed
  • fresh cilantro, chopped for serving
  • cheese for serving
  • sour cream for serving
  • lettuce for serving

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a crock pot with the exception of the fresh cilantro and the additional green onion for serving [but do put in the 3 chopped green onion… pieces? stalks? stems? What are they called? Anyone??!]. Cook on low for 7 hours. If you’re in a rush, you could probably cook it on high for 3-4 hours but I haven’t tested that out.

Remove the chicken breasts and shred with 2 forks or a combination of fork and fingers if you’re like me. 🙂 Return to crock pot, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve over cooked rice or tortilla chips, or in tortilla shells. The possibilities are endless! Top with any combination of green onions, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and lettuce.

Notes:

This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd or feed two people many times. I think we’ve each had about 5 servings and we still have plenty more waiting in the freezer for a busy day. So have your tupperware on the ready!