Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pineapple Pulled Pork Tacos

I've mentioned this many times but my slow cooker and I do not get along. Thankfully, I work from home so I can still make delicious, slow-cooked meals like these Pineapple Pulled Pork Tacos. You prepare the recipe like you would in a slow cooker, but the meal cooks low and slow in the oven. The results are just as delicious, although perhaps not as convenient.

Pork pineapple tacos

The one downside to cooking dinner all day was the smell. Holy moly, did my house smell AMAZING. I was positively ravenous imagining how good these would taste. What drew me to the recipe in the first place was how totally different it was from regular tacos. We all love these flavors and the end result did not disappoint.

Pork pineapple tacos

The only change I'm suggesting below is to use a piece of pork with more fat. Steve was questioning why I'd cook a lean piece of meat like a tenderloin all day. I thought the pork was still tender, but it was a little dry. Otherwise we all loved these tacos. The subtle pineapple and soy flavor in the pork, the delicious BBQ sauce, the tangy, creamy goat cheese and the bright flavor of the cilantro and scallions. It all works.

The good news is, this makes a ton of food so leftovers are a given. I squirreled away the leftover pork and I'm planning to turn it into a pizza sometime soon - dough, pork and mozzarella cheese baked until golden, topped with scallions, cilantro and goat cheese. I. Can't. Wait!

{Slow Cooker} Pineapple Pulled Pork Tacos
As seen on PreventionRD

3 lbs pork loin/shoulder/butt
1 28-oz can pineapple chunks with juice
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Pineapple BBQ Sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
3/4 cup reserved pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
juice of 1 lime

To serve:
6-inch taco size tortillas
cilantro, chopped
goat cheese, crumbled
scallions, chopped

If using a slow cooker, place the pork in the slow cooker. If using the oven, preheat to 225 degrees and place the pork in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the juice from the canned pineapple, the soy sauce, apricot preserves, garlic powder, and black pepper. Whisk to combine and pour over the pork. Reserve 3/4 cup of the pineapple chunks to use in the BBQ sauce. You can place the rest in the slow cooker/Dutch oven with the pork or save in the fridge to serve with the tacos. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Remove pork from the oven and shred the meat. Discard all the liquid and return pork to the crock pot/Dutch oven. Cover until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the BBQ sauce in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Pour over the pork and gently mix to coat.

Serve the pork with the tortillas. Top with cilantro, goat cheese, and scallions.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Warm Mexican Corn Salad {Esquites}

This is probably the fourth or fifth time I've made this Warm Mexican Corn Salad {Esquites} this summer, but I'm only just sharing it now because I never remembered to take a photo. Oops.


This is my new go-to side dish whenever I make tacos and for good reason - it's a very simple recipe to make. The hardest part is getting all that darn silk off the corn cobs (I HATE that stuff - so annoying). I've been using fresh corn, but I imagine frozen would work, too. We're getting to the tail end of corn season here in PA, so I'm sure I'll find out soon enough.

I made quite a few changes and omissions to the original recipe to fit our preferences and to use what I had on hand the first time made this. This is one of those side dishes we can't stop eating and always end up fighting over the leftovers. This is enough for the three of us, which means if I ever decide to share I'll need to double or even triple the recipe.

Warm Mexican Corn Salad {Esquites}
Adapted from The Barbee Housewife

2 tablespoons butter
3 cups corn, cut from the cob {about 4 ears}
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons minced red onion
handful of cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Chili powder, to taste
1 avocado, removed from the peel and diced
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn. Let it sit, without stirring, so the corn starts to brown. Stir every so often until the corn is brown in spots, about 6-10 minutes.

Let the corn cool slightly, then add it to a bowl along with the mayonnaise, red onion, cilantro, lemon juice, and chili powder. Gently stir in the avocado, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve warm or keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Crazy (but delicious) Pasta Salad

I'll warn you now - the ingredients in this pasta salad are WEIRD.

Pasta salad

I'm always up for trying new things, but when I ran this one by Steve he looked at me like I had three heads. I suggested we try it out for Sunday dinner with my parents (they're such troopers, always being my tasters for new recipes). And then I remembered I had an appointment early Sunday morning so he'd be the one actually making it. I figured it was easy - the only cooking you have to do is boiling the pasta - and it would be a chance for Katie to help out in the kitchen. They were just getting started mixing up the sauce when I left and by the time I got home the salad was done and chilling in the fridge. And Steve admitted it was delicious.

Pasta salad

Later, when we served it to my parents, we all kept going back for another spoonful. I won't pretend to know why but trust me, it works. And it couldn't be simpler. This is definitely one of those side dishes I'm going to make again and again.

Allison's Best Pasta Salad
As seen on Taste and Tell

2 cups dry farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups diced, cooked ham
1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1/2 cup sliced green onions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve.

While the pasta is cooking, stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream/Greek yogurt, cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, pepper, dill and salt in a small bowl.

Once the pasta is finished cooking, combine the drained pasta, ham, grapes, cheese and green onions. Pour the dressing over the top and stir to coat. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks

A few months ago I came to the realization that I only like fried eggplant. Well, that's partially true because I also like Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce. Anyway, I've tried cooking eggplant in pasta sauces or grilling it, but I'm just not a fan.

Recently I was thinking about a recipe I'd seen years ago for fried eggplant stacked together with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese. I got it in my head to try recreating it, preparing the eggplant the same way I do my eggplant rollatini.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

The results were outstanding. Despite being fried, the eggplant is light without being greasy. The prosciutto crisps up nicely in the oven and the melty mozzarella is perfection. Steve (and Katie, for that matter, but she was away when I made this meal) like everything I cook. But it's rare for Steve to actually rave about a meal. But this one he could not stop talking about. I texted him the next day to ask whether the eggplant stacks reheated well and he said they did and that he was in love with them.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

As you saw in yesterday's post, I served this alongside spaghetti in a light, flavorful sauce made simply with butter, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers. It was the perfect side dish for this meal. I had two small-ish eggplants and they yielded 14 stacks, which was the perfect amount for me and Steve. If Katie had been home we'd have been in trouble, so keep that in mind if you're cooking for a larger crowd.

And speaking of crowds, these were great warm or room temperature, making them perfect for a party. I ate mine with my hands when cutting into the prosciutto proved challenging. So, so good.

Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks

1 large or 2 small eggplants
3 eggs
1 cup flour
vegetable oil, for frying
extra virgin olive oil
1 slice prosciutto per stack (approximately 14 slices)
1-lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Pecorino cheese, grated

Cut both ends off the eggplant, the peel the skin. Slice each eggplant into thin rounds (make sure you have an even number of slices). Place a clean kitchen towel on a baking sheet. Lay the eggplant slices on top, then sprinkle with salt. Flip over and salt the other side. Top with another clean kitchen towel and let sit for at least an hour. When ready to cook, pat the eggplant slices dry with the top towel.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1/2" of vegetable oil into a medium skillet and heat over medium-high heat.

While the oil is heating, whisk the eggs in a wide, shallow bowl or pie plate. Spread the flour in an even layer in a separate wide, shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour, shaking the excess off. Dip the floured eggplant into the egg mixture, turning well to coat both sides evenly.

Add as many of the coated eggplant slices to the pan as will fit without touching. Cook, turning once, until golden on both sides. Drain on a rack set over the same baking sheet you used to salt the eggplant. Repeat the process until all the eggplant is cooked.

Remove the rack from the baking sheet. Lightly oil the baking sheet with the extra virgin olive oil. Place half the eggplant slices on the sheet. Top each slice with one piece of prosciutto and one slice of mozzarella. Top with another eggplant slice.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Top with some grated cheese. These can be served warm or at room temperature.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Pasta with Garlic Butter Caper Sauce

Sometimes I feel like this guy:

I really haven't been doing a good job as a blogger lately and I'm sorry for that. But like the meme promises, if you DO see a post from me it means I've made something so delicious I simply have to dust off my computer and type up a post.

Take this meal for instance. Today I'm sharing the side dish - Pasta with Garlic Butter Caper Sauce. Tomorrow you get the real star - Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks. But don't think for one second that the pasta isn't delicious in its own right.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

I was a little sad that I only made 6oz of pasta because I could have eaten a whole pound myself. It's light yet flavorful and so, so simple. I simplified it even further by cooking everything in one pot. And I left out the wine because all I had was Riesling. We didn't miss it so I probably won't bother with it next time. And there will most certainly be a next time since this is now Steve's favorite meal of all time.

And hey, don't forget to come back tomorrow for those delicious eggplant stacks.

Pasta with Garlic Butter Caper Sauce
As seen on Iowa Girls Eats

6oz spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
juice of 1 small lemon

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain well and set aside.

In the now-empty pot, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until just starting to brown. Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and capers then turn heat up to high. Simmer until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Taste and add salt, only if necessary.

Turn off the heat and add the cooked pasta to the pot. Toss to combine, then let sit for 3-4 minutes so the pasta can absorb some of the sauce.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pasta with Shrimp, Brie and Tomatoes

I love when my friends post on Facebook about the meals they make, especially when they include a recipe. As much as I love reading food blogs, many of the ones I follow simply don't cook the way I do. They post all sorts of fancy, trendy meals that I just know in my heart I'm never going to make for my family. So when I see posts from friends about food they're actually cooking, I pay attention.

Take this recipe for Pasta with Shrimp, Brie and Tomatoes. I was hooked as soon as I saw my friend's photo. This recipe has it all - pasta, one of my favorite cheeses, fresh tomatoes and shrimp. And, bonus, it's a one-pot meal. What's not to love?

Pasta with shrimp, Brie and tomatoes

The original recipe calls for sundried tomatoes and Kalamata olives, both of which I left out, opting instead for all fresh tomatoes, and no olives simply to save Steve from going to the olive bar at Wegmans. This really couldn't be simpler - mix the Brie with the tomatoes and seasoning, cook the pasta and, in the last few minutes of cooking, add in the shrimp. When the pasta is done, toss everything together and serve. I can't wait to make this one again.

Pasta with Shrimp, Brie and Tomatoes
Recipe adapted from Coastal Living

8 ounces Brie
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Remove the rind from the Brie, if desired. Cut the Brie into pieces and add it to a bowl along with the tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt and pepper and olive oil. Toss to combine, then cover and let stand at least one hour.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Add the shrimp two minutes before the pasta is done. Finish cooking, then drain well. Immediately toss the pasta and shrimp with the Brie mixture. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan.
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Monday, August 01, 2016

One Pot Taco Spaghetti

You know you've been a terrible blogger when people start calling you out for your lack of posts. Ooops! A friend asked me to post some a new recipes and since today is her birthday, I figured I'd oblige (hi, Tara!) Unfortunately, the only recipe I photographed recently was this One Pot Taco Spaghetti, so I didn't have much of a choice. The good news is, this was delicious. And a one-pot meal, which is always a good thing to have in your repertoire.

One pot taco spaghetti

The recipe might look long, but it's mostly spices. See, the original recipe calls for a packet of store-bought taco seasoning, but I prefer to make my own. I always have all these spices on my spice rack and, this way, I control the sodium content. Otherwise this is basically meat and pasta, with a little cheese and tomato on top. Delish!

One Pot Taco Spaghetti
As seen on Damn Delicious

1 pound ground beef*
1 medium/large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 (10-ounce can) Ro*Tel® Mild Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 ounces spaghetti
3 cups water
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Roma tomato, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef just starts to brown. Add the onion and cook for another 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks, until the beef is completely cooked.

If there's excess fat in the pot, turn off the heat and move the beef/onion mixture over to one side. Tilt the pot so all the fat is at the other end. Use crumpled up paper towels to soak up the excess fat. I like to keep the trash can right by the stove when I do this so I can easily throw the paper towels away. Make sure to leave a little bit of fat in the pan. Turn the heat back on and add the dried spices (chili powder through ground pepper). Stir to combine.

Stir in the Ro*Tel®, tomato paste, spaghetti and water. Bring to a boil, then cover. Reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 13-16 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pot from the heat. Add both the cheeses. Put the cover back on so the cheeses can melt. To serve, place some of the pasta and meat on a plate and top with chopped tomato and cilantro.

*You can also use ground chicken, turkey or pork. If you do, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan before browning the meat.
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