French Toast Bread Pudding

So, a few days ago, we had a nice Italian dinner with home-made garlic bread. You know, the kind where you buy the uncut loaf from the store and slice it yourself and coat it in garlic and Parmesan goodness and then bake it. We had so much bread left in the loaf that we had French toast the next morning for breakfast.

And then there was STILL some leftover…

I didn’t want to have boring old French toast again, but the bread really needed to be used up, as it’s really only good for a couple of days, so I got to thinking, what if I made a hybrid of French toast… and bread pudding? I mean, are they really all that different?

And thus, this dish was born.

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Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Take three 1 inch slices of Italian bread and cube them into 1-inch cubes. (It should end up being about 2 cups of bread.) Then, dice up 1/2 a granny smith apple and slice 1 banana into 1/4 inch slices.

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In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp cinnamon. (If you like, you can also add 1/2 tsp of almond extract, and/or use almond milk instead of regular milk.)

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To this, add your bread cubes and gently fold them into the egg mixture until they are all coated, then fold in the apples and bananas.

Split 2 tbsp of melted butter between two ramekins and brush it over the bottom and sides, then spoon the bread pudding into each ramekin. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar.

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Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and apples have softened. Serve immediately!

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Full Recipe:

French Toast Bread Pudding

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

Three 1-inch slices of Italian bread, cubed (about 2 cups)
1/2 granny smith apple, diced
1 medium-large banana, sliced

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (or almond milk)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

2 tbsp melted butter
Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and extracts.

3) Fold in the cubed bread to the egg mixture first, then fold in the apples and bananas.

4) Split the melted butter between two ramekins and brush to coat the bottom and sides of each.

5) Spoon the bread pudding into each ramekin and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and apples have softened. Serve immediately.

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Four Super Simple Portable Breakfast Ideas

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I work from home. Therefore, breakfast for me should be pretty simple – just get up and cook whatever is on hand, and voila, I have a nutritious, filling breakfast every day!

This is great in theory, but I also happen to be a full-time college student, and I make sure to register for 8am classes so that I can beat rush hour and then be out of classes by noon. So, on those days of the week when I have to leave the house at 6:30 in the morning for an hour long commute, I definitely need a breakfast that is quick, simple, and won’t leave my stomach rumbling only an hour or two later!

This blog post is dedicated to some of my favorite simple breakfast ideas that are not only really easy, but also very portable, so you can eat them on the go!

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BONUS: They are all pretty good for you, too! Each one has a variety of elements that help to keep the meal balanced and keep you feeling full!

Whole Wheat Bagel with Mascarpone & Apples

This one is probably my favorite. The combination of flavors really has a lot of depth and they blend well together. I also think this one is the most filling!

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All you do is take a whole wheat bagel, spread each half with mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese, if you prefer), drizzle with honey, and lay apple slices on top! Sandwich it together and you’re done! I make this one the night before, wrap it tightly in foil, and leave it in the fridge overnight. That way, in the morning, I just grab it and go!

Finished Bagel

Bagel-Apple-Sandwich

Yield: 1 sandwich

Ingredients:

1 whole wheat bagel
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1 tsp honey
1/4 apple, sliced thin

Process:

Spread each bagel half with mascarpone cheese. Drizzle honey, top with apple slices, and sandwich together. Can be stored overnight in refrigerator if necessary.

Good for you stuff:

Calories: 440
Fiber: 5.85g (24% DV)
Protein: 11g
Iron: 21% DV
Vitamin A: 8% DV
Vitamin C: 5% DV

Whole Wheat Banana & Nutella Sandwich

This one has all the sweetness of dessert without being horribly bad for you! I absolutely love Nutella because it is so versatile and goes with so many things – if it’s not a staple in your house, it will be soon!

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Toast two slices of whole wheat bread and spread each slide with Nutella. Slice about half of a banana (9 slices should be perfect) and lay them on one piece of the bread. Put it together and enjoy! This one should be eaten right away.

Finished Sandwich

Banana & Nutella Breakfast Sandwich

Yield: 1 Sandwich

Ingredients:

2 slices whole wheat bread
2 tbsp Nutella
1/2 banana, sliced

Process:

Toast both slices of bread. Spread with Nutella. Top one piece with banana slices, then sandwich together.

Good for you stuff:

Calories: 390
Fiber: 6.5g
Protein: 10g
Iron: 10% DV
Calcium: 10% DV
Potassium: 6% DV
Vitamin C: 9% DV

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

There are a whole lot of really complicated smoothie recipes out there that use a dozen and a half different ingredients to pack every possible ounce of nutrition into them. These have some merit, to be sure, but a lot of that stuff isn’t in the typical household (from what I’ve found) and it means it takes longer to put it together. This smoothie has only 4 ingredients, so it’s really quick and simple.

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In a blender, blend 1 banana, 3/4 cup strawberries (I buy the frozen sliced kind), 3/4 cup orange juice, and 1 container Yoplait Light Strawberry & Banana yogurt until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy! You can get some pretty awesome plastic re-usable travel cups from just about anywhere that are great for on-the-go smoothies.

Finished Smoothie

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:

1 container Yoplait Light strawberry-banana yogurt
3/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup strawberry slices
1 banana, sliced

Process:

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Good for you stuff:

Calories: 315
Fiber: 5g
Protein: 9.5g
Iron: 3% DV
Calcium: 24% DV
Potassium: 12% DV
Vitamin A: 15% DV
Vitamin C: 212% DV

Apple Pecan Muffins

These do take a little bit of work the day before, but they stay fresh for a couple of days, so you can take a couple to work/school for a few days in a row! They didn’t even last 24 hours in my house, though!

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees and line a cupcake baking sheet with paper baking cups. In a small dish, melt 4 tbsp (half a stick) of butter in the microwave. (45 seconds should do.) Set the butter aside to cool, and then dice a small-medium granny smith apple and roughly chop 1/2 cup pecans. Put the pecans on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven while it’s preheating. (5 minutes or so.)

Continue by combining 1 cup flour, 1/2 tbsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt in a small bowl. Set this aside, and then beat together 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/4 cup apple butter in a stand mixer. Keep the mixer on and slowly pour in your melted butter until everything is incorporated.

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Add your flour mixture to the liquid mixture and combine on the STIR setting for only a few seconds. You should still have flour visible:

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Add in your apples and pecans and then combine on STIR setting again for another few seconds until everything is mixed.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: You should have no more than 10 seconds or so of mixing time once you’ve added the flour to the bowl, and it is imperative you use the lowest possible setting on the mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, do this all by hand. Over-mixing the batter causes the muffins to be tough and dry instead of soft and moist!

Once your batter is combined, spoon it into your prepared baking pan. I found that it makes about 8-10 muffins if you fill each one almost to the top.

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Bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve immediately, or place in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

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I think two of these muffins in an appropriate serving size that compares to the nutrition levels found in the other 3 recipes in this post.

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Apple Pecan Muffins

Yield: 8-10 muffins

Ingredients:

1 small to medium granny smith apple
1/2 cup pecans

1 cup flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

4 tbsp butter
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup apple butter

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper baking cups.

2) Melt 4 tbsp butter in the microwave for 45 seconds. Set aside to cool.

3) Dice apple into 1/2 inch or smaller chunks and roughly chop pecans. Put pecans on a baking sheet and toast them in the preheating oven for about 5 minutes.

4) Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

5) In a stand mixer, beat together egg, sugar, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and apple butter. Slowly pour in melted butter while the mixer is still on.

6) Once everything is combined, stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then add your flour mixture. Combine on stir setting for a few seconds, then add apples and pecans. Combine on stir for another few seconds until mixture is combined. (No more than 10 seconds total mixing time after flour is added!)

7) Pour into prepared baking cups and bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

*Super Bowl Week* AFC/NFC Champion Cocktails

The big day is almost here, and we all know it’s not a Super Bowl party without some good old fashioned alcohol. Feel free to supplement these cocktails with a 12-pack of your favorite beer, but these two team-color-themed drinks are sure to get your head a-buzzing no matter which team you’re rooting for!

Unfortunately, my team didn’t make it this year, so I’m not really rooting for either one of these teams to win – I’m mainly watching the game for the commercials and won’t care who wins one way or the other – but I know plenty of folks out there are ready to see their team hoist that trophy, so I’ve put together drinks for either team’s supporters!

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As I said, I really don’t have a preference for who wins, so no judging me based on which recipe comes first! I decided that since my preferred team is in the AFC with the Broncos, I’ll start with the Bronco’s cocktail, which is a great spin on the tried-and-true tropical Rum Punch.

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In a large pitcher, combine 2 cups Barcardi rum, 1 cup triple sec, and 1/4 cup grenadine syrup. Stir to combine, then add 5 cups of orange juice. Chill until ready to serve, and then pour over ice in punch cups or sangria glasses.

If you’re looking to only make one:

Fill a glass with ice. Add 2 oz Bacardi rum, 1 oz triple sec, and 1/4 ounce grenadine syrup. Allow the grenadine to settle, and then fill the glass with orange juice. Stir and enjoy!

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If you’re a fan of tropical drinks, you’ll definitely love the Bronco’s cocktail!

If you’re more of a vodka lover and like a drink with a bite, then the Seahawks drink is definitely your speed! This cocktail is a spin off of an apple-tini.

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Begin by combining in a pitcher: 2 cups vodka, 2 cups sour apple schnapps, and 1/2 cup blue curaçao. Stir this to combine and chill until ready to serve. When serving, pour into ice-filled glasses until half full, and then fill the rest with Sprite or another clear, citrus-based soda. Don’t stir too much so you don’t make all the carbonation disappear!

If you’re only making one:

Fill a glass with ice. Add 2 oz vodka, 2 oz sour apple schnapps, and 1/2 oz blue curaçao. Fill the rest of the glass with Sprite, stir lightly, and enjoy!

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Full Recipes:

Broncos Bacardi Punch

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups Barcardi
1 cup triple sec
1/4 cup grenadine syrup
5 cups orange juice

Process:

1) In a large pitcher, add Barcardi, triple sec, and grenadine. Stir to combine.

2) Add 5 cups of orange juice, then chill until ready to serve.

Seahawks Sparkling Martini

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups vodka
2 cups sour apple schnapps
1/2 cup blue curaçao
4 cups Sprite or other clear soda

Process:

1) In a pitcher, add vodka, apple schnapps, and blue curaçao. Stir to combine.

2) When ready to serve, fill glasses with ice and pour liquor mixture until glass is half full. Fill the rest of each glass with Sprite and serve!

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Okay, so I’m kind of on an apple kick here lately, but I think I’m moving on to something else after this one! Apples are just so versatile and definitely one of my favorite fruits, so I just always have some on hand.

If you’re looking for something a little different and wonderfully delicious for breakfast this weekend, look no farther. These pancakes are absolutely divine and way better than the traditional, boring ones you’d make with (horror of horrors) the pre-made just-add-water-and/or-eggs-and-milk mixes.

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That’s right, these are made totally from scratch. No mystery white flour-like substance full of who knows what in these. More than likely, you have everything you need right in your house already. If not, it’s all just a quick trip to the grocery store away. This recipe makes about 6 pancakes, but it’s very easy to double or triple if you’re serving more people!

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Pancakes sit in this wonderful hybrid area between “baking” and “cooking,” but they start off like most other baking recipes: mix the dry ingredients first, and then add the wet.

So, in a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.

Dry Ingredients

To this, add your first wet ingredients: a scant 1/2 cup of milk and 1 egg. Whisk to combine.

Wet ingredients

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Don’t over-whisk! The key to light, melt-in-your-mouth pancakes is to not beat the mix to death. Whisk it until your ingredients are just combined, and then STOP!

Now comes the flavor ingredients: 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup apple butter (or apple sauce, but I prefer the denser, sweeter flavor of apple butter; if you’re using apple sauce, you may need to add more of it to give a comparable flavor), 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Again, whisk until just combined.

Flavor Ingredients

** For those who are unfamiliar with apple butter, it’s sort of like a very fine, sweet apple jelly. It’s called apple “butter” because there’s no chunks of fruit in it like there is in jelly. Imagine a really finely processed apple sauce, with more flavor and sweetness. It’s dark brown, unlike the golden color of apple sauce.

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and melt about a tablespoon of butter on it. Not only does the butter help the pancakes not to stick, it also adds a flavor element.

Butter

Use a spatula to ensure the entire cooking surface is covered in butter, and then pour the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the skillet. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan – you don’t want the pancakes touching each other.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Wait until the pancakes are bubbling and there is a darker edge around the pancakes before attempting to flip them. Trust me, they aren’t ready to be flipped until there’s bubbles. I promise.

Bubbles

It’s usually a couple of minutes for the first side and only about a minute or so for the other side. You should never have to flip them more than once! They will be a little darker than what you’re probably used to seeing, simply because the batter is darker due to the apple butter.

Once they’re done, stack them up on a plate and garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sugar! Top with your favorite pancake syrup.

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I also tried these topped with banana slices and powdered sugar – hoo boy was that delicious, too! But the apple slices complement it best, I think. The crispness and tartness of the apples gives a nice balance to the sweet pancakes.

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I also have a great banana pancake variation – perhaps I’ll tweak that a little and post it someday soon. 😉

Full Recipe:

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Yield: About 6 Pancakes

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Scant 1/2 cup milk
1 egg

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp butter

Apple slices and cinnamon sugar, for garnish.

Process:

1) Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium size bowl.

2) Whisk in milk and 1 egg until just combined.

3) Whisk in sugar, apple butter, vanilla, and cinnamon until just combined.

4) Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and melt 1 tablespoon butter on it, ensuring entire skillet is covered.

5) Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes or until pancakes are bubbling and the edges are darkening, then flip. Cook 1 additional minute after flipping, or until pancakes are cooked through.

6) Remove from heat, garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sugar, and serve!

Handheld Apple Pies

Believe it or not, I grew up hating apple pie. Yes, I know, I was a horrible child and clearly not a natural born American. After all, there’s nothing more American than apple pie, right?

Eventually, I had a slice of my grandmother’s apple pie with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream. And let me tell you, that was a tiny little piece of heaven, right there on a plate. I’ve been an apple pie lover ever since, but quite frankly, pie is pretty difficult to make from scratch, particularly the crust. I mean pie crust is like an art in itself.

The other night I really was feeling like having some apple pie. It was too much work to do myself, going to the store and buying the frozen kind and baking it would take too long (plus not be as good as grandma’s!), and I certainly wasn’t going to call my grandma into the kitchen to make me one. And then I got this brilliant idea to make small, hand-held apple pies… with crust that was already pre-made.

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I’m a huge fan of any kind of pre-made dough products – mainly because it means I have to do a lot less work, but also because they are so versatile. Puff pasty, pizza dough, biscuits, but especially: crescent rolls. You can roll those babies up to make just about anything. In this case, I repurposed them entirely and didn’t roll them up at all, but made them into little pockets of deliciousness.

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So, if the idea of apple pie is daunting but you just can’t shake that sweet apple-y craving, give these a try!

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with nonstick foil. Dice up a medium sized apple (granny smith is best for apple pie!) and set it aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt two tablespoons of butter, add in vanilla (1 tsp) and then add the apples to it, stirring to coat.

Apples in pan

To this, add brown sugar (1/2 cup), cinnamon (1 tsp), and salt (maybe 1/4 tsp or so). Stir until all the apples are coated and it has started to bubble.

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Leave that alone for a little bit and get to work on your crust.

Open the package of crescent dough and flatten out the rectangles. Don’t separate them into the triangles that make crescents!

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Use your fingers to pinch together the diagonal gap so that the dough doesn’t separate in the oven.

Once the apples have started to become soft, maybe 5-8 minutes or so, remove them from the heat and spoon them onto one half of each of your rectangles, leaving room around the edges to seal it shut. A small to medium apple should be just enough for four, but use your judgement to make sure they aren’t overfull.

Apples on dough

Fold the dough over and use your fingers to seal up the edges by pinching them together.

Folded dough

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: To give them that true, golden, fresh-from-the-bakery look, brush them lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle white sugar on top just before putting them in the oven.

Egg wash

Bake for 12 minutes or until they are golden brown!

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It’s like making hot pockets at home, except they are sweet, and don’t have nearly as many preservatives, and are far more satisfying!

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Full Recipe:

Handheld Apple Pies

Yield: 4 Mini Pies

Ingredients:

1 package pre-made crescent dough
1 small/medium granny smith apple
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten, for eggwash
White sugar, for sprinkling

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with nonstick foil.

2) Dice apple; set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, add vanilla, and then stir in apples.

3) Once apples are coated with butter/vanilla, stir in sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to coat and let simmer for 5-8 minutes.

4) Unroll the crescent dough, leaving it in rectangles, and flatten them out on prepared baking sheet. Pinch the diagonal gap closed to avoid separation when baking.

5) Spoon cooked apples onto one half of each dough rectangle, leaving room to fold it over and seat shut.

6) Fold over the empty half of each rectangle onto the apples and use your fingers to pinch the edges shut.

7) Brush each pie lightly with beaten egg and then sprinkle with white sugar.

8) Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker Apple Pulled Pork

Here it is. Finally. The fabulous, knock your socks off entree you’ve been promised for a couple of days now.

Pulled pork is probably one of my favorite “barbeque” dishes. Contrary to popular belief, “barbecue” and “grilling” are not interchangeable terms. Grilling involves putting your food directly on the heat source and allowing the heat source to cook it quickly. Barbecue, on the other hand, is allowing a heat source to heat the air around your food, and the heat in the air cooks your food slowly. This is the essential process behind how ovens work, and on a much smaller scale, how slow cookers (or “crock-pots”) work. Because of this, they make the perfect barbecue cooking vessels – especially in the dead of winter!

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Aside from its general deliciousness, pulled pork is also great because it’s so versatile. You can eat it by itself, on a sandwich, even in tacos. (I’m definitely trying that out with my leftovers – pulled pork tacos just sounds awesome!)

So, buckle up and hang on, because this one takes a bit of work and time, but I assure you, it is very, VERY worth it! (And it’s not difficult!) Don’t be afraid, just try it! You’ll be surprised at how easy it is!

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Start by making your spice rub. I used 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp garlic, 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp celery salt (or celery seed), 2 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Mix this all together in a bowl until it’s combined.

Dry Rub

Set this aside and prepare your meat. You’ll need to use bone-in pork shoulder for this (also called a “butt” in stores, but it comes from the shoulder of the pig). I used a four and a half pound cut, which fit pretty nicely into my slow cooker. If you’re flexible on when you can make this, just keep an eye on your meat department sales. Try to buy it when it’s gone on sale and resolve to make it within a day or two. I only paid $6.44 for my 4.32 pound shoulder because I tend to buy meat when they’ve put it on a severe sale because the “use or freeze by” date is in a couple of days. (And trust me, when you see how much this makes, you’ll realize that $6.44 is unbelievable considering the amount of people it will feed. Hint, it comes out to less than a dollar per person.) It should look like this.

Skin Side Down

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Once you’ve got it out of the packaging, put it on a platter, skin side up, and use a very sharp knife to cut a crosshatch pattern through the skin and the fat cap. You want to leave this fat on the pork because it cooks down into the meat which is what makes it tender and juicy.

Crosshatch

Now comes the fun part! Using your hands, take the spice rub you made a few minutes ago and rub it over every last available surface of the pork, starting with the fat cap and rotating all the way around. You want to get the spices into all the crevices and use ALL of that spice rub! When you’re done, chances are your hands will look like this:

Hands

And the pork should look like this:

Spiced Pork

Set this aside and let all those spices sink in for a bit. WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY, and then dice up 1 granny smith apple and 1/2 a large red onion. (Hint, use the other half of the red onion from the other day’s coleslaw recipe!)

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Put this in the bottom of your slow cooker, and then carefully set the pork shoulder on top, skin side up.

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If any of the spice rub is left on your platter, scrape it right off onto the top of the shoulder.

Now comes the secret weapon. A lot of barbecue cooking is done with alcohol, especially beer. This recipe is no different, but this is an apple pulled pork, so I decided to kick things up a bit and used an apple ale.

Apple Ale

I prefer Angry Orchard, because that’s just always on hand in my house, but any apple ale would work! Pour this right overtop of your onion and apple bed, around the pork.

Ready to Cook

That’s it! Put the lid on, turn it on low, and WALK AWAY. I actually did mine for 3 hours on high and then 3 hours on low, but that’s because I work from home and knew I would be around to make that switch. If you’re going to be out of the house all day, doing it on low for 8 hours should do the trick.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: No matter how good it looks, no matter how divine it smells, no matter how badly you want to “check on it,” DO NOT take that lid off until the cooking time is up! Any time you take the lid off, you have to add an extra HALF HOUR of cooking time. Not kidding. Don’t do it!

If you’re like me and you’re home all day, you can spend some of your waiting time by making the coleslaw and barbecue sauce to go with it. If you’re going to be out of the house all day, you can actually make the coleslaw, barbecue sauce, and spice rub the night before. (You could even dice the onion and apple beforehand, too!) If you rub the spices into the pork the night before, just cover it and stick it in the fridge overnight. This will give the spices a chance to really soak into the meat even more!

When it’s time to take the pork out, do so carefully and put it on a large plate. If you’ve done your job right and left it in there all day without messing with it, the meat should literally fall apart. This means that gigantic bone right in the middle should easily separate from the meat, so get that out of there and throw it away. You should also easily be able to scrape off the excess fat from the fat cap and throw that away, as well. When you’re done all that, you should have a large hunk of meat falling apart on your plate:

Ready to Pull

Using two forks, shred the meat until it’s all pulled apart.

Pulled

Go ahead, eat a piece or two. You know you want to. 🙂

Once its all pulled, return the meat to the slow cooker to combine it with the juices and apples and onions. Leave it in there until you’re ready to serve it, and then use a slotted spoon to dish it out of the slow cooker. Put a big hunk on a toasted bun, top it with barbecue sauce and coleslaw, and serve with the roasted potato wedges that I posted yesterday.

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If you were planning on serving four people, like me, chances are you’ll have plenty of leftover pork. (I can’t speak for your potato wedges or the coleslaw – those pretty much disappeared off my table before I knew what happened, but there’s enough pork there to feed 10-12 people!) Maybe sometime later this week I’ll give the pulled pork taco idea a try…

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Oh, and make sure to have plenty of napkins on hand. This sandwich gets pretty messy!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my little fantasy trip to summer in the dead of winter! Keep coming back for more deliciousness!!

Full Recipe:

Slow Cooker Apple Pulled Pork

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients:

One 4 to 5 pound bone-in pork shoulder
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp garlic
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp celery salt (or celery seed)
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 medium granny smith apple
1/2 large red onion
1 bottle apple ale

Process:

1) Combine brown sugar, garlic, cayenne, celery salt, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

2) Place pork shoulder on a large platter, skin side up, and score a crosshatch pattern through the skin and fat cap.

3) Use your hands to rub the spice rub into the pork, starting with the fat cap and rotating to all the sides of the shoulder. Make sure to get in all the crevices!

4) Set aside the pork and dice up the apple and onion. Put these in the bottom of the slow-cooker to create a bed for the pork, and then put the pork, skin side up, on top of the apples and onions.

5) Pour the apple ale onto the onions and apples, around the pork.

6) Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 3 hours and then low for 3 more hours.

7) Once the pork is finished cooking, remove the shoulder from the slow cooker and remove the bone and fat cap.

8) Using two forks, shred the meat and then return it to the slow cooker to combine with the juices, apples, and onions. Leave in the cooker for a half an hour, or until you’re ready to serve.

9) Dish the pork out of the cooker using a slotted spoon and serve as desired. Any leftovers should be covered and put in the refrigerator within an hour of serving.

Not Your Momma’s Coleslaw

I hate winter. Everything about it. The cold, the snow, the ice, the dry skin… About the only redeeming things of winter to me are the holidays (from Thanksgiving all the way through Valentine’s Day) and the extreme dip in the bug and spider population. (Especially this year, since at least around here, we’ve had far colder temps than normal!)

So, naturally, I spend every last frigid winter minute wishing for summer. And while I can’t replicate the hot, humid weather that demands the necessity for shorts and flip flops, I CAN still cook like it’s summer – even when it’s far too cold outside to even think about turning out the grill.

This post, and the two following it, are going to be a trifecta of summer lovin’. And by trifecta, I mean this one and the next one are going to be delicious, and the last one will be KNOCK your socks off AMAZING.

A summertime staple that seems to be an either-you-love-it-or-hate-it sort of dish is coleslaw. I grew up with an affinity to liking coleslaw, but I was always very picky about it. It was either REALLY GOOD, or not at all acceptable. Everyone’s opinion on what makes “really good” coleslaw seems to differ, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this coleslaw will change whatever your opinion is of how the stringy, cabbage-y dish should taste. Forever. If this slaw doesn’t at least sort of tickle your taste buds, well… Color me shocked.

Final Dish 1

Any slaw is essentially comprised of a bunch of thinly cut or shredded vegetation, dressed in some sort of sauce. The choice of the vegetation and the base of the sauce are what really make a slaw into its final tasty creation. Personally, I’m a big fan of slaw with a crunch. If it feels mushy before I even chew it, well… To me that sort of sounds like baby food. Not particularly appetizing.

Most traditional coleslaw starts with cabbage. Though there are some variants that don’t use cabbage or lettuce at all, we’re staying traditional here (at least for now) and starting with cabbage. I used about 1/3 of a head and shredded it with a knife. This is fairly simple to do; just cut each wedge of the cabbage into thin strips with a large, sharp kitchen knife.

Next comes the crunchy bits! I used 2 carrots, half a large red onion, and a medium sized granny smith apple. (Yes, really, an apple. I swear, it makes it so delicious and makes all the difference in the world!) Each of these needs to be julienned to approximately equal sizes. A super easy way to do this is to use a mandolin to help you out:

Mandolin

The onion should end up being able to be pulled apart into fine enough strings after being sliced on the mandolin. For the apples and carrots, use the mandolin to make thin slices, and then use a kitchen knife to cut these slices into thin strips.

Just for fun, I also added in about 8 gherkin pickles (diced).

Toss the cabbage, pickles, and julienned carrots, apples, and onions into a large bowl and mix it up gently.

Vegetables

Set this aside and then make your dressing. I’m still staying somewhat traditional here and using a mayonnaise based sauce… I used 3/4 cup mayo, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Put everything in a small bowl and stir until smooth.

Dressing

Pour this right overtop of your veggies and use tongs to toss it all together. Serve immediately, or keep refrigerated until it’s time to eat!

Finished Dish 2

This is fabulous all by itself, of course, but stay tuned for an even more delicious way to enjoy it… 🙂

Full Recipe:

Not Your Momma’s Coleslaw

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

Slaw:
1/3 head cabbage
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 granny smith apple, cored and julienned
1/2 large red onion, peeled and julienned
8 Gherkin pickles, diced

Dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Process:

1) Combine cabbage, carrots, apples, onions, and pickles in a large bowl.

2) In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until well blended.

3) Pour dressing over slaw and toss to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.