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Monday, November 17, 2014

Pulled Barbecue and Pumpkin Pork

It took a chance encounter at the check-out line in Wegman's supermarket to bring me back to blogging.  I've been not into posting lately, stress, depression, lost my mojo...the usual.  It's hard to post and create stuff after all these years that feels fresh and tasty.  I'm in that mood of who wants to hear/read what I have to say/write?  Anyway, I've been enjoying doing Instagram Posts and a few sparse Facebook posts these days.  I'm thinking the days of blogging as we've known it may be numbered.  Without instant feedback on who's reading these musings it doesn't feel like a lot of fun to write.  Must be my job stress talking...

As I said, a chance encounter with a woman behind me in the check out line at Wegman's encouraged me to do a fuller post today.  I've done a few versions of this dish over the years with postings but this one will be the twitter/facebook/instagram scaled down version.  Sort of Thug Kitchen meets FancyCookingMoFo meshed in with my egotistical voice. Thank you Wegman's Lady!

The recipe conversation started because I had picked up an organic pork shoulder.  It was on the conveyor belt, and the lady behind me asked me how I was planning to cook it. 
Easy I said, throw it all into a Dutch Oven pot, like a Le Creuset, with:
  • 2 large chopped onions
  • 5-6 Medium/Large Carrots chopped or cut into large slices
  • Lots of garlic- crushed
  • Pour in a bottle of Pumpkin beer/lager or ale or use a good soda if you don't drink beer (like Coke, rootbeer or Dr. Pepper)
  • A bottle of good bbq sauce - I used Wegman's original
  • 1/2 can pumpkin (about 1 cup)
  • 1 bottle of water (use the bbq bottle, then you get all the dregs of sauce out of it!) 
  • Mix it all together 

  1. Put everything into the pot and cover the pot and roast in the oven at 375 degrees for 3 or 4 hours.
  2. For the last 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, take the lid off so the liquid reduces. 
  3. When the pork is done, you can shred it. 
  4. We'll have this for dinner tomorrow night, w/black beans, sauteed peppers and I'll served with corn tortillas.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

White Pumpkin Chili 2 Ways

UPDATE! I'm happy to say that I contributed this chili, the turkey version, to a chili contest at my church on Sunday, 10/12/14, and won for most unusual ingredient entry!  The second batch of this came out just was well, if not better than the 1st!  If you have a salt-free Mexican Seasoning mixture, use it! And again, do use the Goya Cilantro cooking base - it makes such a wonderful "sauce" for this white chili version.

As soon as the Autumnal chill comes whipping through our house, I want to pull out the Dutch Oven and Slow Cookers.  I also want to start cooking with beers and PUMPKIN - in just about everything!  I was in the mood for chili, but I'm tired of my usual version, with a tomato base and tons of ingredients.  It may be cooling off around here, but it's not yet time for a heavy hearty chili.  Instead I made a batch of white chili, using a Goya Cilantro as my base, along with posole, two kinds of white beans, and a lot of vegetables.  I made a portion of this totally vegan/vegetarian, so I could have it for work.  The rest I added browned, lean ground turkey.  Both versions were fantastic, and truly, the meat wasn't necessary, I just wanted it.  I served this with a quick doctored batch of box corn muffin mix, to which I added pumpkin.  Pumpkin really is the flavor of the season! Actually, pumpkin has very little flavor, it's the nutmeg/cinnamon/clove/ginger mixture that is the flavor we all think of as pumpkin spices.

Onward with our recipe. Use low-sodium, high quality canned beans if you are using canned beans.  Drain and rinse them - to remove more of the salt.  I love the Goya Recaito Cilantro base - it's super low in sodium and adds a nice base of flavor quickly.  Made from a puree of onions, garlic and cilantro.  A bottle of a nice pumpkin style ale if you desire. We had Sam Adams on hand, but any pumpkin ale that you enjoy drinking is what you need to use.  Saute the vegetables in batches so things cook evenly and develop their flavors and caramelize.  There's a reason to the order of cooking the vegetables - some cook faster than others.  
I used a vegetarian version of  Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (which means it had no lard in it!) and added 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree to the mixture.  It made the muffins very moist and kept them tender and fresh tasting for days!

 Cut the vegetables into even sizes - about the size of the beans - so that would be on the small-medium dice size.  This chili doesn't need to cook all day - about 2 hours max.  Note that it will taste much better the next day once it has a chance for all the flavors to marry together.  Most ingredients can be found in the Mexican Foods aisle of your supermarket.

 White Chili Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Onion (about 2-3 cups) - peeled and medium dice
  • 5 Medium Carrots - (about 2 cups) -  peeled and medium dice
  • 6 Garlic Cloves (about 1/4 cup) - finely minced
  • 1 Large Red Bell Pepper (about 1 cup) - medium dice
  • 1 Large Green Bell Pepper - (about 1 cup) - medium dice
  • 1 Medium Zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups) - small/medium dice
  • 1 Medium Yellow Squash (about 1 1/2 cups) - small/medium dice
  •  2 Tablespoons Cumin
  • 1/4 Cup Ancho Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Chipotle Chili Powder (optional, for additional heat and kick!)
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
  •  2 Cans Beans: (Low Sodium) Light Kidney, or White Beans or Pinto Beans (15-16 oz each) – drained and rinsed
  • 1 - 14/16 ounce can of Hominy or Pozole - drained and rinsed well
  • 1 Bottle of Recaito Cilantro Base by Goya
  • 1- 4 ounce can of Fire Roasted Diced Chilies
  • 1 Cup Pure Pumpkin Puree
  • 1-12 ounce bottle of a good quality Pumpkin Ale or Lager
  • 1 Cup of water
  • 2 Cups Frozen Corn
  • 1/2 Cup Packed Cilantro– minced - for serving/finishing
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper—to taste
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lime (about 1 teaspoon of zest and 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice)
  1. Use a stock pot, Dutch oven or other large and heavy bottomed pot. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until it shimmers over medium-high heat.
  2. Add in the onions and the carrots; saute and sweat them about 8 minutes, or until they begin to take on a hint of color.
  3. Add in the garlic, stir and cook another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the peppers, the squash and zucchini and saute for 5 to 8 minutes minutes.
  5. Next add in all of the dry seasonings, cumin through thyme and stir to combine and toast.
  6. Add in the beans, pozole, frozen corn, cilantro base, diced chilies, pumpkin puree and beer and water.  Stir to combine.
  7. Bring the mixture just to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, 1 to 2 hours.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed; adjust as needed additional cumin, chili powder or oregano  Stir in the lime zest and juice last, to brighten the flavors and stir in the freshly chopped cilantro.
  9. Makes about 1 gallon of chili or enough to last several meals and freeze some.  Frozen, it will last for up to 4 months.  Serve hot with cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips or with brown rice, if desired.
  10. ADDING MEATS: If making this with the ground turkey, or any ground meat of choice, brown the meat in a separate pan, and season lightly with pepper and and some of the Mexican seasonings so that the meat has a layer of flavor. Don't add any salt, there will be enough in the final dish.  Drain off any fat and water, and then add to the chili pot along with the the liquid ingredients.
Notes: If you want to add bulgar wheat to this to bulk up the chili, add 1 cup of bulgar wheat  it when you add in the liquid ingredients, along with an additional cup of water. As the bulgar wheat cooks, it will absorb the liquid and more than double in size.  If the mixture is too dry, add in additional water, by 1/2 cup at a time.  Remember to stir the mixture to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. 

This recipe does use a few canned products, beans, pumpkin, cilantro base, diced chilies.  You can make things from scratch, but in all my years of massive cooking, it really is okay to use canned products so long as you know the salt/sugar/fat contents of each and realize how quickly it will add up in the final product. Posole, is a lime and salt soaked dried corn product.  It's a very Mexican ingredient and adds a quirky and wonderful texture to the chili.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Collingswood Food Swappers: Beer Booze or Grub Swap October 11th

October 4, 2014: Event was cancelled due to poor responses, rsvps.   Stay tuned for swap updates for November.

Late in getting around to this, but the next installment of Collingswood Food Swappers will be on Saturday, October 11, 2014, at The Factory, in Collingswood.  6 to 8 pm.  The plan is to hold it at The Factory, on 2nd Saturday.  The folks at The Factory will be holding a Halloween event, with 2 bands.  We'll be doing a Beer, Booze or Grub swap.  Our first one was so popular, I thought we ought to do it again.

Registration is at EventBrite, which is free.  I need a somewhat accurate head count, so I know whether or not this event can be held.  Register soon!  Here's the link:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Food Memories

Food memories are more powerful than we give them credit.  I recently saw a bag of circus peanuts in a grocery store and was instantly transported back in time to my childhood.  Eating a bag of oddly colored orange and banana flavored  peanut shaped and vaguely marshmallowy candies. The memory made me happy.

In sharing my guilty pleasure food, I started to think about other peculiar foods and memories that I have; eating a McDonald's hamburger and drinking an orangeade at my Catholic School's monthly "Hamburger Day" school luncheon.  The time after I had my tonsils out when I was 30 years old, and I couldn't eat for over a week. My first sold food was a hamburger from Nifty Fifty's. It was a simple, thin patty hamburger. I had it with a vanilla milkshake.  Bliss! 

 I remember dipping my French fries into a McDonald's chocolate shake.  My favorite meal when I was really young was my Bobci's (Polish for  grandmother) Sunday supper of roast beef, creamed corn, smooth buttery mashed potatoes; cucumbers and sour cream.  In high school, I spent a lot of time at my friend Marie's house.  Her mom, Jean used to make wonderful chocolate chip cookies - basically Toll House cookies but she made very thin and crisp.  After school at my Nana Rhoad's house I ate Lender's Bagels, toasted and topped with cream cheese and grape jelly.  Safe, comforting food and memories.

The life I had growing up was chaotic and violent.  The happy memories that I retain are what got me through my childhood and adolescence.  I think it's also what has propelled me into an adult life filled with cooking and food writing.  Food is memories, food is comfort, food is sustenance, and food can be a love substitute, for good and for bad.  I often think that when I throw a party or attend a party, the mark of how well the event went is by how good the food was. 

There is a Chinese practice to feed one's guests until they are full.  Many Asian cultures do this, preparing elaborate feasts that are over the top, with way more food than one should/could consume.  I attended one such banquet many years ago.  Towards the end of a multi-course meal, bowls of rice were given to the diners.  Many of us were so stuffed we couldn't even stand to look at the fortune cookies on the tables, let alone think about eating a chopstick's worth of rice.  We didn't know the protocol, so we ate the rice.  I think it was in bad form.  The rice was to signify that we were all full. By eating the rice it signaled to our hosts that we hadn't had enough to eat! 

Within the meals we've had, the ones we attended, cooked, shared, we cull through our life's history.   To be able to share in that with others is, for me, one of the most rewarding endeavors I can accomplish.  Food is more than nourishment. Food is memories.  What food memories do you have that make you smile?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Food and Film: The Hundred-Foot Journey

A few weeks ago, I had the rare opportunity to go to the movies, in a real movie theater! It's a big deal for me because I've seen about 3 movies in a theater since our son was born nearly five years ago.  In my foot-loose and fancy-free days, I used to go to the movies weekly and I would often go to film festivals, seeing two movies in one sitting.  I remember days of doing a double feature, back when you could - but it wasn't so far back that the double feature cost a nickle or a dime! I"m old, but not that old! 

Planning a trip to the movies is an ordeal and an expense.  Tickets cost a fortune, then there's paying a baby sitter.  And DON'T even get me started on the rudeness of movie-going patrons. Talking. Texting. Cellphone lights. Ugh.  I prefer the comforts of my own home, knowing what's in my popcorn and not having gross sticky floors to walk upon; unless Nate spilled juice...

My friend, LeAnne, of the blog,, mentioned on Facebook that she had the chance to see and review two films on the same day - The Hundred-Foot Journey and Get on Up, the James Brown bio-pic.  She wanted to see both because the former film speaks to the blog's brand; the later film speaks to her heart!  I offered to see The Hundred Foot Journey in her place. A food movie, set in France, with interesting cultural clashes and cuisines.  A movie custom cut for me.

My thoughts and review of the movie, along with a recap of the panel discussion that took place after the movie are all on LeAnne's blog.  I hope you'll all wander over there to read it. You can find the link right here! Leanne's blog is a fantastic place to land.  she has the most unique voice and honest approach to her reviews.  Plus she's witty and engaging.  LeAnne and I go back over 20 years now - I wrote about her in a post last November, as part of a group of blogger friends' Follow Friday series. 

Go read my review.  I'm saving the choicest parts for you at! FoodieFilm: The Hundred-Foot Journey

UPDATE!: 8/13/14 - Leanne submitted eh post to BlogHer, a blog website for women bloggers, with all sorts of ranging topics and blogs.  We were the guest post blog on today's site!