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kalua pork sliders

I was having one of those days where I wanted to buy a whole pig, dig a pit in my backyard, and just roast the crap out of the damn thing Luau-style. But a couple of things stood in my way: 1) I don’t actually know where to get an entire pig at the drop of a hat. Head? Sure. Feet? No problem. But the whole beast? I think I’d have to order it. Or drive outside the city. Which I don’t like to do on the weekends (Seattle traffic is a bitch).

2) If I came home with a pig carcass my animal-loving 3 year-old would name it, put a leash on it, and try to walk it around the yard. Mommy, why are you burying Puffaluff? Over a bed of hot coals? Oh, Mommy whyyyyyy????!!!!!! I can’t afford the therapy. 3) I live adjacent to the fire department. Quite literally. And with my luck, the boys (and girl–there is one) would be lured over the fence by the smell of roasting swine and write me some sort of citation for, I don’t know, an illegal animal roast.

So I nixed the whole pig idea and settled for a 4-pound roast and this lovely recipe from La Fuji Mama. It has all the flavor of that slow-roasted Hawaiian pork, but you don’t have to locate a whole swine, scar your daughter for life, or burn your house down to get it.

Hawaiian red and black sea salts (available at better grocers or spice markets; I bought mine in bulk for about $1.25 total) lend an earthy flavor, while liquid smoke (usually on the aisle near the BBQ sauce) substitues for the pit and charcoal. I downsized to a 4-pound roast (the recipe calls for 5-6), and it fed six of us with lots of leftovers.

Prick the roast all over with the tip of a sharp knife…

…and rub with the red and black sea salts. It will look super attractive.

Cook on low for 10 hours with a dash of liquid smoke, and that’s it!

Shred.

Take a picture of Charlie, because she spies the camera and is saying “cheeeeeeeese!”

Take a better picture of Charlie.

For a casual dinner party we piled the pork on soft slider buns with good coleslaw. Everyone went back for seconds. And thirds. And the best part? The pork took no time at all to make, so I could sit back, relax, and plot where to dig my pig-roasting hole.

-RDG

 

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Kalua Pork Sliders quantities and times adjusted from La Fuji Mama’s fabulous recipe 

Serves 8

  •  4 lb pork shoulder (butt) roast
  • 1 tbsp red hawaiian sea salt
  • 1 tbsp black hawaiian sea salt
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke
  • slider buns (I like King’s Hawaiian)
  • good slaw, for topping
1. Rinse pork roast and pat dry. Prick all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Rub with salts.
2. Place roast in slow cooker , pour liquid smoke over the meat, cover and cook on low for 10 hours (you may be able to cook it longer, depending on how “low” your lowest setting is on your slow cooker).
3. Discard 1/3 to 1/2 the juices and shred the meat with two forks, tossing with the rest of the juices (if you later chill the shredded meat without discarding some of the fat, you’ll find the solidified fat hard to pick around).
4. Pile slider buns high with pork and top with slaw. Enjoy!

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summer grilled cheese

This post was going to be about the glory of summer produce; beautiful corn, fresh basil, tart limes. I was going to tell you how I created this sandwich on soft brioche with melted sharp cheddar, tangy lime mayo, crisp basil and crunchy corn and how it brings the classic comfort food to a whole new (summery) level.

But I haven’t had time to write that dreamy, descriptive post. I haven’t had a serene moment with a cup of coffee and the quiet click of the laptop keys. And I haven’t had it because of all the screaming. Hours of screaming. From two little girls. Two little girls with four big lungs.

The baby is getting teeth. Two teeth, to be exact, and the poor thing just wants to chew through the table. If you’re a parent you know that there’s nothing more feared than the word teething (other than maybe blow-out) and that the little babes just go through hell to pop those little pearly whites out of their gums. You also know that no matter how long your baby sleeps at night, during teething those rules don’t apply. Needless to say, I’m tired.

The non-baby has decided that waking up halfway through every nap and every night is totally fun, especially when it means she gets to scream for mom and dad. She seems scared but can’t tell us what of. We ask her if she had a bad dream and she nods and cries, although I don’t think she has the foggiest idea what a dream is (her standard answer when I ask what she dreamed about has always been “monkeys cutting pizza!” which actually sounds like a delightful dream to have). She wants to sleep in our bed and then she doesn’t. She wants to sleep on the couch and then she doesn’t. She wants to sleep in the guest room and then she doesn’t. She does want to yell like there’s no tomorrow, and not go back to sleep for hours, and not nap, and be a tired cranky-pants all the time. So I’m a tired cranky-pants all the time who only has time to cook grilled cheese and not to blog about it.

But I digress. I have this moment now, where both children are sleeping, and I have a can of Diet Crack and the sun coming through the windows. So now I have time to tell you that to make this heavenly sandwich you’ll need bread (I used brioche, which is pretty much as good as it gets), mayonnaise (I like the olive oil-based stuff), a wedge of lime, cheese (I used sharp cheddar, but any cheese that melts nicely will do), one clove of garlic, and a ton of fresh basil.

Begin by squeezing the lime into the mayo. You would think that all that citrus would curdle the dairy, but if you stir quickly, there’s nothing to worry about. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.

Mince the garlic…

…and slice the corn from the cob.

Saute the corn and garlic in a tablespoon of butter for just a few moments—sweet summer corn hardly needs any cooking at all.

Butter one side of 4 slices of bread…

…and spread the lime mayo on the other halves.

Layer on the basil…

…sauteed corn…

…and cheese.

Place sandwiches butter side down in a cold skillet with a tight fitting lid. Place skilled over medium heat. When first side is crisp, remove lid, flip sandwiches, and cook uncovered until crisp. This lid trick is great for allowing the cheese to melt (especially with thicker bread) while not burning the bread. Perfect grilled cheese, every time.

The melted cheddar wraps around those tender corn kernels creating tiny bites of sweet crunch. The basil adds brightness and the lime mayo creates a creamy tang.

Classic winter comfort food redesigned for summer. Whip up a batch of these crispy grilled cheese sandwiches, pour a glass of sauvingon blanc and sit out on the patio with your sweetie.

Ahhhhh. Summer.

And there goes the screaming again. At least I can dream of quiet moments.

Summer Grilled Cheese Sandwiches     printable recipe

This sunny version of the classic comfort food wouldn’t be complete without a cold beer or a glass of crisp white wine. Makes 2 sandwiches. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 5-10 minutes

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 wedge lime
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 ear sweet corn, shucked
  • 1 tbsp butter, plus more for bread
  • 4 slices bread (I like brioche)
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar (or whatever cheese you prefer)
  • several leaves fresh basil
1. Juice the lime wedge into the mayonaise. Stir and refrigerate.
2. Mince the garlic. Slice the corn kernels from the cob. Melt the butter in a skilled over medium heat. Add the garlic and corn and saute for 1-3 minutes, just until corn brightens in color. Remove from heat.
3. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Turn and spread lime mayonnaise on opposite side of bread. Layer on the basil, corn and cheese. Place sandwiches butter side down in a large, cold skillet covered with a tight fitting lid. Set over medium heat and cook until bread is crisp and lightly browned. Remove lid, flip sandwiches and cook uncovered until cheese is melted and bread is crisp. Slice and serve.

raspberry cheesecakesicles

Remember in high school when you were forced to take a career aptitude test? You had to fill in little bubbles with #2 pencil, answering questions like “Do you enjoy completing the same task repeatedly?” and “Do you put others’ needs before your own?”
A few weeks later you were handed a list of possible careers. While my friends ooohed and aaahed at the prospect of becoming doctors and legal aides, I stared down at my own results list.
Jenny Puckett
Score: 0
Possible Career Matches: none
Likelihood of living in a van down by the river: 100%
“Well, shit,” I thought. “I guess I’m not suited to do anything.”
Yes, it’s a crap test. No, it won’t actually tell you what you’re going to do with your life. Because if it had any powers of prediction it would have said:
Jenny Puckett
Score: Awesome
Possible Career Matches: One Billion and a Half
Likelihood of crafting fabulous desserts: 100% 
Take my newest creation, for example. It combines the creaminess of cheesecake with the chill of ice cream. It has a crunchy graham cracker crust, requires no baking, and is so easy to make a toddler could do it (mine did).
All you’ll need are a few waxed paper cups and popsicle sticks, along with sugar, whipped topping (Cool Whip), raspberries, cream cheese, butter and graham crackers.

Place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse several times until fine crumbs form.

Melt the butter, pour it over the crumbs and squish together with your fingers until the crumbs are thoroughly moistened.

Scoop one heaping tablespoon into the bottom of each cup (or have a tiny helper do this part. It got messy but she was in seventh heaven).

Press the crumbs down firmly into the bottom of each cup. The more compact, the better. Lucy’s tiny pink “wine glass” was perfect for this step (yes, I find it weird that my 2 year-old has pretend wine glasses, too. I have no idea where they came from).

Stick them in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or until the crust is set.

In the meantime put the cream cheese, raspberries and sugar in a large bowl.

Blend with an electric mixer until smooth.

Fold in the whipped topping…

…and use a large freezer bag with the tip cut off to squirt the filling into each cup.

Insert the popsicle sticks into the center of the filling, careful not to push too far and break the crust. This is such a fun dessert to make with kids. Lucy was so proud of herself.

Stick ‘em all in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.

When you’re ready to eat, simply tear away the cup and you’re good to go.

These are so creamy and light, with fresh raspberry flavor and great texture from the crust. They’re such a fun, easy dessert—we’ll be making batches for the rest of the summer with blackberries, peaches, cherries and nectarines. They would be so fun for a party, too, as an alternative to cupcakes or ice cream cake.

Take that, career crap-titude test. I’m a dessert genius.

Raspberry Cheesecakesicles        printable recipe

This is a fun, easy summer dessert that’s great for parties. Substitute your favorite fruit or combination of fruits to make your own flavor! Makes 8 popsicles. 

Prep Time: 15 minutes Freeze Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

  • 7 graham crackers to yield 1 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 8 waxed paper cups, 9 oz size
  • 8 popsicle sticks
  • 1 c raspberries
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 8 oz whipped topping (Cool Whip)

1. Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Using your fingers, mix crumbs with melted butter until thoroughly moistened. Pour one heaping tablespoon of crumb mixture into each cup and press down very firmly. Freeze cups for 15 minutes or until crusts are hardened.

2. In a large bowl beat together raspberries, cream cheese and sugar using an electric mixer. Fold in whipped topping. Pour mixture into large freezer bag, cut off tip, and squeeze filling into cups. Insert popsicle sticks into center of filling, being careful not to pierce crust. Freeze for at least one hour before serving. Carefully tear away paper cups and eat.

nutella brownies

We have a bit of a civil war going on in our house. It’s the Nutella lovers versus the Nutella haters. I, because I am awesome and always right, love Nutella. Lucy, because she is a mini-me and equally awesome, loves Nutella.

Dave, human garbage disposal, will eat pretty much anything EXCEPT Nutella (I blame his formative years being spent in Europe, where they use this stuff like butter). Charlie is the tie breaker. She’s a baby who can’t eat Nutella yet. So she defaults into Dave’s category (although I’m very optimistic that she’ll turn the tables once she is older) .

Two for, two against. They say a house divided against itself cannot stand. But since I am the baker, I dictate what sweets emerge from the oven. And this weekend, it was Nutella brownies.

If you don’t know what Nutella is, you’ve been living under a rock  let me explain: it’s a creamy, chocolatey spread made from hazelnuts and cocoa. Think of it as chocolate-flavored peanut butter with a slightly nutty taste. Most grocers carry it on the peanut butter aisle.

To make these brownies, you’ll also need some vanilla extract, sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, butter, eggs, hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

What is there not to love about Nutella? It’s creamy. It’s chocolatey. It can be spread on bread or swirled into yogurt, dolloped on ice cream or dipped with a graham cracker.

I found hazelnuts on my grocer’s bulk foods aisle and they were pretty inexpensive. We’ll use them later to top these gorgeous brownies. It gives them a nice crunch and makes them purdy.

Begin by melting together the butter and sugar together with a few tablespoons of water. Stir often.

Just as it begins to boil, remove from heat. We don’t want scorched butter on our hands.

Stir in the Nutella…

…and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla, too.

Whisk in the flour, baking soda and salt until smooth.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Have a tiny helper grease a baking pan for you. Sure, you have to wash butter hands afterwards, but look how much fun she’s having!

Spread the batter into the greased pan.

Chop the hazelnuts and sprinkle them on top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes in a 325F oven. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean (just make sure you’re poking the batter and not a melted chocolate chip—give the toothpick a little taste to make sure. Over-baking these puppies is not allowed).

Here’s the kicker: let cool completely before cutting. The chocolate chips will solidify and the brownies will become denser and more fudgy as they cool. Trust me, it’s worth it.

See? Told you.

The bittersweet chocolate chips add a perfect contrast to the richness of the batter, and the nuts on top give a nice crunch. These little squares disappear fast.

For the moment in our house it seems the Nutella lovers are winning. Poor Dave. He never stood a chance. But as they say, to the victor go the (nutty, chocolatey) spoils.

Nutella Brownies    printable deliciousness

It’s torture to let these brownies cool completely before eating, but you’ll be rewarded handsomely if you can stand it (as they cool, they become more fudgy and the chocolate chips solidify). Makes one 9″x9″ pan of brownies. 

  • 1/3 c butter
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3/4 c Nutella
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli 60% chips)
  • 1/3 c hazelnuts
1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9″x9″ baking pan with butter.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat melt butter, sugar, and water, stirring often. When mixture just begins to boil, remove from heat. Stir in Nutella. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared baking pan.
3. Chop hazelnuts and sprinkle over batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not over-bake. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.