Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crockpot Pulled Pork

flickr: Tri
This was the result of combining several ideas in my head.  First of all, Jill had someone tell her she cooks her pork shoulder in a crock-pot in Dr. Pepper.  This was intriguing, but not all that unusual to me as I have heard of people using soda (pop for you mid-westerners) for all sorts of recipes.  I had also read about a shortcut method for seasoning pulled pork in the crock-pot which used an envelope of generic onion soup mix.  I combined these two ideas into the following concoction that was a HUGE hit with everyone that tried it.

  • 1  8 to 12 pound pork picnic shoulder. (I de-skinned, and de-boned mine, along with removing as much fat as possible)
  • 1  envelope (any brand) onion soup mix. The same kind you use for quick onion dip
  • 1 1/2 cups Coca Cola, Pepsi, C&C, etc cola

Place the pork in the crock-pot.  Sprinkle the contents of the onion soup mix on top, and slowly pour the cola over it.  I cooked mine on high for 4 hours, and low for 4 hours, and then let it cool in the crock.  Once cooled, shred with a couple of forks and add barbecue sauce.  We used the following homemade sauce:

flickr:  jimgskoop

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • optional: a couple shakes of hot sauce

Combine the above in a small saucepan, on low, until smooth, and pour over the shredded pork.  Return to the crockpot and re-heat at least an hour before serving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hen of the Woods

The maitake mushroom, or hen-of-the-woods is a great beginner's mushroom.  Mostly because it's hard to mistake anything else for these monsters.  It is also quite easy to find (sometimes by tripping over them).  The one you see here was growing at the base of a large sliver maple in my front yard, along with three others.  You will notice a quarter in the upper-left of the photo for size reference.  This example weighed around 8 pounds.

Pull the whole thing out of the ground, and then get to work cleaning.  A small sharp knife and a little running water is all you will need.  Cut any dirt or grass out and work your knife around the toughest parts.  These things grow at such an alarming rate that they surround whatever is in their way as they grow, so you may find embedded twigs, grass, or pine needles in them.  After creating a pile of cleaned cut-up maitake you can use them like ordinary mushrooms.  They are a little tougher than regular mushrooms, but I actually like the texture.  I like to brown them with onions in butter first before using.

I have read all sorts of methods for preserving these, but I found a site that said to simply freeze them immediately after cleaning and drying in plastic freezer bags.  I have done this, and I can verify it works just fine.  If you find more than one try to leave one to seed the area for next season, or if there is only one, leave a portion to mature so you can enjoy these year after year.  I'm sure you will agree that the maitake is an excellent mushroom.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Almonds and Almond Meal

In the endless quest to substitute the carbohydrates I love, almonds have become a much bigger part of my diet, mostly in the form of almond meal. I also find myself snacking on roasted almonds during the week. 1 ounce of almonds has about 3 grams net carbs (net carbs = total carbs less fiber) which makes it one of the best nuts for carb sensitive people.

Almond meal can be used in place of flour in a lot of recipes. The trick is to make things that do not utilize the gluten component in flour much. So, pancakes, cookies, biscuits, cakes, quickbreads, all work ok with some adjustments to the leavening components. I tend to use slightly more baking powder, and beat the egg whites separately. Sometimes substituting seltzer for some of the liquid as the last added ingredient helps too. If you want to make something more bread like, gluten may be added back in as long as you're not gluten-sensitive. I've read that xantham gum is a good substitute, but have yet to try it.

I also use almond meal in place of breadcrumbs. Tossing it in a plastic bag with some seasonings and parmesan makes a great breading, or topping for casseroles and veggies. With some egg for binding it seems to stand up well to frying too.

So far, the best place to buy it has been Trader Joe's. They sell it by the one-pound bag for $3.99. For cakes, and quickbreads I like to sift it a bit, but a word of warning: Do not attempt to sift with a modern sifter (the type with the rotating discs on multi-level screens). You will quickly ruin the sifter. Use an antique hoop-style sifter, or a mill.

Some searching online will yield a bounty of almond-meal recipes for cookies, cakes, etc. For sweetener I usually use Splenda, but I'm trying stevia now. So far so good. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


If you look at some of the other posts here, and the description of my blog in some of the links to it, you'll see the term "edible wild plants". That was the main goal when I first started writing for Slashfood a couple of years ago, but quickly moved into a couple of other areas: Frugal Food, and Low-Carb Food. With spring around the corner I wanted to mention that I hope to be getting back into wild edibles again. It's still a little too early for good foraging, but I'll be heading south later this month, and might be able to dig up a few things to write about there. Then, with May just around the corner, spring should be bringing forth a bounty of edibles.

We have a new habitat to forage in that I didn't have in my last two locations. The beach! I've already found a few places where there are abundant rose hips, prickly pear, glasswort, and sea rocket. See you on the trail!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Low Carb Crepes

I whipped this up using Bob's Red Mill low carb baking mix, and almond meal from Trader Joes. The baking mix alone has too much soy flavor for me. I whisked together about a half cup each of these, along with one egg, a little baking powder and enough water to make a thin pancake batter.

For this version, I used steamed asparagus, strips of lean ham, and finished with a cheese sauce (made from Velveeta in this example). The results were excellent, and definitely worthy of the Hercules plate you see it on!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Welcome to visitors from Slashfood

I recently became a regular contributor over at Slashfood. Feel free to go check out my posts (many of which are already here, but not all of them).  This has been a great adventure.  I can't wait to see where it's all going.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Home Made Yogurt: Easier (and more delicious) Than You Think!

I can remember trying yogurt for the first time as a kid. Most of the brands had a distinctive sour taste, and fruit on the bottom. They came in 8-ounce containers, and sold for anywhere from 25 to 50 cents a cup. Now, with prices double that or more, and the cups shrinking to 6 or even 4 ounces (who can eat 4 ounces of yogurt and call it a satisfying experience?), I decided to re-visit the old fashioned way of getting yogurt. MAKING IT YOURSELF! This isn't just for frugality. I really enjoy making things at home that most people buy prepared. Some of the things we purchase without questioning whether or not they could be created right in our kitchens are actually quite easy to make. Yogurt is one of them, and requires very little in the way of equipment.

There are yogurt makers that you can purchase. I have to tell you though that they are really not necessary. The only piece of equipment you might need to buy is a kitchen thermometer. You will need a thermometer that can read as high as 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) and as low as 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). For your first batch only, you need starter. A tablespoon of good plain yogurt works fine as long as it has active cultures (check the label). After your first batch you just need to conserve some yogurt each time to use as starter for your next batch.

Take a quart of fresh milk. This can be any kind of regular milk from fat-free, to 2 percent, to whole. Whole milk will produce a thicker result than skim. I have been using 1 percent in my *brew*. Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat slowly to the boiling point (100 degrees C) while stirring to avoid burning. As soon as the milk reaches 100 degrees Celsius, remove it from the heat and let cool. Now watch the temperature carefully and get a clean 1 quart container with a tight-fitting lid to use for the culturing process. I used a 1-quart plastic soup container for the batch pictured here. When the milk has cooled to 50 degrees Celsius, place a tablespoon of your starter yogurt in the bottom of the empty container and pour a small amount of the warm milk in. Mix until smooth, and immediately pour the rest of the milk in to the container, stirring constantly while pouring. Now put the lid on, and put in a warm place, or at least a place free from drafts. You will want to insulate your container to try to keep the temperature between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius. I wrapped mine in three dishtowels, and placed it in a soft-sided picnic cooler with a small bottle of warm water to keep it company, and keep the temperature up. Leave your yogurt undisturbed for 4 to 8 hours, and then refrigerate to stop the culturing process. The amount of time to leave it varies with conditions, and personal preference. I prefer to make it late at night, and put it in the refrigerator in the morning for a total of about 7 hours.

The end product has a very clean taste. Most people who have tried my homemade yogurt say that they could just eat it plain. I do use it plain at times in any recipe that requires sour cream, but for just eating, I like to mix in some fruit or preserves. This time of year it goes very well with fresh-picked wild strawberries. Homemade yogurt is thinner than the commercial variety. The yogurt from the supermarket contains thickeners like pectin, starch, or gelatin. I prefer the taste of it without any thickeners and I am sure that once you try it, you will too. If you really need a thicker texture though, try adding some nonfat dry milk during the initial heating stage. I have read that you can also make soy yogurt this way by using soy milk, as long as it is plain, regular soy milk (no lite ,fat-free, or flavored).

Make sure you use clean containers and utensils, and fresh milk. A good piece of advice is to take a little of your finished yogurt and set it aside in a small jar or cup with a lid. Take this and HIDE it somewhere in the fridge. I learned the hard way that once your family gets a taste of this cultured delicacy, you won't have time to reserve the tablespoon or two needed to make the next batch! Happy culturing!