Friday, March 23, 2012

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

If you don’t have a crock pot, we can’t be friends. Actually, we can still be friends but let me know if you don’t have one so I can buy you one for your birthday. You need one.

Crock-potting has changed my life. Working from home is great, but believe it or not I STILL don’t have time to prepare a fabulous meal every night. I love my crock pot and use it for literally anything possible. One step cooking and one step cleaning! Could it be any better?

I’m typically not very adventurous when it comes to pulled pork. I buy a pork butt, I put it in the crock pot with some water and a few spices, and when it’s done I shred it and smother it in Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. My husband likes it, and I tolerate it. It’s nothing special but it works.

WELL, last week I got an AWESOME deal on a 4lb pork butt so I decided to play around with my recipe a bit and spice things up (both literally and figuratively). What resulted was the most delicious pulled pork I have EVER had. Spicy, vinegary and just divine. You have to try this. Either tonight, or after your birthday when I buy you a crock pot.

**Disclaimer: Only make this recipe if you want a few days of leftovers or if you're feeding a crowd. We ate pulled pork for 8 days...... We had it on salads at lunch, in tacos AND with fried eggs. It was delicious on everything, but figured I'd warn you anyway :)

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Adapted from Williams & Sonoma PP recipe
Serves Way Too Many

4 lb. boneless pork shoulder (or pork butt), cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup tomato ketchup
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp red pepper flakes (only 1 1/2 tsp if you're worried about spice)
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Soft sandwich rolls for serving

Place all 4 pieces of pork in the bottom of your slow cooker.
Then, make your sauce! Heat vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt & pepper in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir frequently. The mixture will begin to bubble and thicken slightly.

Pour the sauce over the pork. Cover and cook your pork on low for 8-10 hours (or on high for 4-5 hours). Check on it every few hours and spoon sauce over the pork to keep in nice & moist.

Transfer the pork pieces from the crock pot to a plate or bowl. Using two forks, shred each piece of pork, and make sure to remove and throw away any large pieces of fat. Skim the excess fat off the top of the sauce in your crock pot, and then return the pulled pork to the crock pot and stir to combine. Let the pork sit in the sauce for a half hour to soak up all of the deliciousness. Serve the pork on sandwich rolls. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pico De Gallo

I’m one of those people who buys the same brand name products every week. I’m very particular with what brand of cottage cheese I like, or what frozen vegetables are best…. HECK, even what shredded cheese is best. I think this brand obsession comes from years of watching my mom and Rob's mom buy the same thing every single week. BUT, for some reason when Rob requests salsa I buy a different brand every.single.time.

We’ve tried so many salsas.. but none of them were great. You know the salsa you get in an awesome Mexican restaurant? It turns out you can’t buy those in the grocery store. And only recently did I think about actually trying to make one myself..

After trying 1,000 (exaggeration) salsas we have a pretty good idea of what we like. We like chunky salsa. Spicy.. but not too spicy. We like vinegar based salsas (who knew?). I’ve combined all of our must haves and I think I have a HIT. And it was so, so, SO easy.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Meghan’s Pico De Gallo
Makes 3 cups of salsa (approximately)

6 ripe roma** tomatoes, diced
2 BIG jalepenos or 3 regular sized ones, diced (most seeds removed)
3 cloves of garlic, minced finely
½ of a big white onion, or one whole small onion, diced small
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

**I prefer roma tomatoes (the long, skinny kind) because they have less seeds and make for a heartier salsa in my opinon. Feel free to use whatever tomato you like instead.

Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Taste before serving.. you might find you want more cayenne (more heat) or more vinegar depending on how you like your salsa. If you’re sensitive and you DON’T like hot salsa, I would suggest leaving out the cayenne and slowly sprinkling it in until it meets your taste. Enjoy!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Quinoa Salad

I have a confession. I love macaroni salad. Actually, I love basically any cold summer salad – potato, macaroni, slaw.. etc. Something about the creamy, onion-y bites of summer salads just BELONG with a BBQ’d meal.
It’s basically always summer here in SC so we’re ALWAYS grilling and I feel like I’m constantly hunting for that perfect summer salad recipe to compliment our BBQd main dish. But, my husband is a mayo-hater (GASP) and I have 5lbs of quinoa to use.. so you won’t be finding any pasta or potato salads in our house any time soon. Boo.

In an attempt to satisfy my cold summer salad craving AND use few more cups of quinoa from my 5lb bag, I came up with this little gem: Quinoa salad. Mmmmm it is GOOD. The flavors are light, but you can add literally anything you want to this blank canvas salad and I’m sure it would be delicious. Change it to your liking, you’ll thank me later.


Quinoa Salad
Serves (approximately) 6

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup diced English cucumber (remove the seeds to keep the salad from getting too soggy)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/4 cup finely diced red onion** 
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrot
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or fresh mint (optional)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

**shock your red onion in an ice water bath if you’re afraid of a strong onion flavor.

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Cook your quinoa according to package instructions (but the pre-rinsed stuff if you can). Allow your quinoa to cool before preparing the salad. Chop up the salad additions. Feel free to add any other vegetables you might like.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar and sugar. Then, whisk in the olive oil until your dressing is smooth. Add salt and pepper to your liking, and pour the mixture over the cooked (cooled) quinoa. Stir in the chopped vegetables. After the vegetables, dressing and quinoa are well combined, gently fold in the feta. Enjoy!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why I decided to share my blog with the WORLD

This blog started almost a year ago in an attempt to stay connected to our close friends and family as we set out on a adventure as newlyweds and young military family. As the first BIG MOVE approached (Boston-Charleston), my self-created "civilian bubble" POPPED and I found myself scrambling to retain any sense of normalcy we once knew. I was panicking and wondering how the hell I would be able to keep in touch with everyone after moving 1000+ miles away, and felt like I really needed a place to track our adjustment to military life. 

Moving away from everything we've ever know has been the hardest and BEST thing we've ever done, and every entry in this blog is proof of that.

Over the past few months I've received requests from many, many people to read our blog, some people I NEVER expected. I was flattered, and obliged, but didn't make our blog address public on purpose.. I still wanted it to be our own private thing. However, as I found myself adding entry after entry, it became overwhelming to alert all of my readers individually that I had updated the blog. People lost the web address, and honestly, I was probably the only one reading it. While I wasn't blogging, I WAS cooking.. and I received many requests to create a food blog of my recent culinary adventures (as seen on FB). I found myself wondering if I should just go ahead and share this with the world. 

I've gone back and forth for MONTHS deciding if I wanted to make this public. Allowing the world to read about my life makes me very, very nervous. But, I think I'm ready. 

My amazing husband spent many, many hours helping me perfect this new layout and personalized banner. How awesome is it? I'm just so excited to share it with you all. You'll see that I HAVE added a Culinary Adventures tab, where you'll find all of my food blogging entries. The Navy Life blog will continue to detail the ups & downs and every day life of our little Navy family. 

Whether you're a friend, family member, fellow Navy wife, or some creeper from Facebook (yes, YOU), I hope that you enjoy reading. Please leave comments, I'd love to know who you are.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Quinoa Cakes

Have you discovered Quinoa yet, people? No? Get in your car. Right now. Go buy some. Actually, maybe you should wait till this weekend when you have time to go to Costco to get the 5lb bag. It's THAT GOOD.

Quinoa, (pronounced keen-wah) is a gluten-free seed that originates from South America and in my opinion, is a gift from the culinary GODS. It's incredibly healthy (LOADS of protein, dietary fiber, iron & B vitamins) and incredibly versatile, and is most often used as a substitute for rice or pasta. You know the joke I made about the 5lb bag? Yeah, I actually have one. And I plan to use every last seed in that bag.

If you're a vegetarian & looking for some extra protein, quinoa is for you.
If you're not a vegetarian and you just don't eat a ton of meat, quinoa is for you.
If you love meat and you hate vegetables, quinoa is for you.
If you're cutting carbs, but can't give up that starchy must-have at dinner, quinoa is for you.

Essentially, if you like food, quinoa is for you.

I'm not kidding.

In my quest to use this huge bag of quinoa I've tried a few recipes.. here's my first success.

Makes about 8 big burgers
(Adapted from EatingWellLivingThin)

2 cups cooked quinoa (buy the pre-soaked quinoa if you can -- it speeds up the process)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 large carrot, finely grated with a cheese grater or microplane
3 eggs
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 green onions, including white parts
1 /2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Olive oil for frying

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well and make sure the spices are incorporated evenly. The mixture will be quite sticky and you'll probably wonder how the cakes will stay together when you fry them. Don't worry, they will.

Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your frying pan and heat it on medium-low heat.

When the pan is hot, use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to portion our your cakes and add them to your pan. Flatten the cakes to about 1/2 inch thick and do your best to round the edges (if you're anal like me and care about that kind of stuff).

Fry on low heat for 5 minutes per side or until golden brown. A big frying pan will probably be able to fit 4-5 cakes at a time. Be careful not to break the cakes when you flip them.