morning glory…

cow-halloween-costume-toy-car_13199802684

It was simply stunning outside this morning.  If you were awake early enough, I am sure you saw the amazing sunrise, too.  Truly breathtaking.  The sun shone the most spetacular hue of orange and pink, with that hint of purple, colors only nature can create.  Trees, just turning their gorgeous fall colors, were illuminated, like Mother Nature was performing a light show.  It was hands down the nicest drive to school we have had, the serenity of nature touched the kids too, there was not one cross word between them.

A pretty good start to this day, this day of tricks and treats, costumes and candy.  Such fun traditions being remembered, and being made.  Life, being lived, being celebrated, and how lucky we are to be in it.  Now it’s time for the fun, and I wanted to share some goofy things I have been collecting for you.  So, as you scurry around today, or answer your door tonight, just soak it all in and enjoy!

“What do the skeletons say before eating?”   “Bone appetite.”

“Why was the mummy so tense?”   “Because he was all wound up.”

“I’d dress up as Siri for Halloween if my life didn’t already entail being asked stupid questions all day.”

“What do you call two spiders that just got married?”  “Newly webbed.”

“Halloween is huge in my house and we really get into the ‘spirits’ of things.” 

Dee Snyder

“Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death, but to inspire yourself to life.”  Adele Brookman

Morning, in all its glory, is always all around us.  Enjoy the best of food and life, and eat, drink, and be scary!

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“A Few of my Favorite Things”…

Favorite Things

It’s true, just as Julie Andrews sang one time, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens are pretty awesome!  But there are some other things that are my favorites I wanted to share with you on this crisp Fall morning!  Obviously anything related to food and cooking is among my favorites, but there is so much more than that.  I think of this stuff so often, and just the thought alone makes you feel thankful, so I decided to blog about this list I have been compiling mentally for weeks.  What are some of your favorite things?

…fleece jackets, jeans, and boots…tailgates…homemade soups…fires…a dog happy to see you come home, if it has been 30 minutes or thirty days, they love you the same…spiced apple cider…Halloween decorations…planning the Thanksgiving menu…a girls weekends away…tried and true “vintage” Patagonia’s…crispy chicken and mashed potatoes…genuine hugs from a friend…seeing my kids smile as they run off the bus…a nice glass of red wine…family movie night snuggles under blankets…another glass of red wine…the maple tree’s changing colors on Reynolda Road…farmers markets…the smell of Halloween night when Jack o’ Lanterns are burning…sweet potato biscuits with ham…Harvest Moons…the smell of toasting pumpkin seeds after carving a pumpkin…anticipating Christmas…the Dixie Classic Fair in October…walking into my kitchen at work first thing in the morning…a well set dinner table…cold rains…cooking outdoors with my husband on our smoker…lazy morning breakfast on the weekends…and the list goes on and on and on, but I know you have things to do!

…enjoy your favorite things, and the best of food and life, this weekend!

Lake Lure Corn stalks

Come ‘n’ get it…

I’m not sure who blew the whistle during the last week of August and said “On your mark, get set, go!”, but this Fall has been off to a running start!  As many of you know, it can be tough juggling work, family, home, and all of our obligations, but the rewards in all departments make it so worth it.   It just can’t be avoided, we all live busy lives.  Whether you are running carpools, in and out of school, volunteering, playing bridge, or working and wondering how to juggle dinner each night, you stay busy.  I’m sure many of you get to 6:00 pm and are thinking, “what do I do for dinner?”

It’s then that it dawns on you that you have only had time to go to the bathroom once and have only had two out of your eight glasses of water for the day.  I hope you feel better by knowing there are days that stump me too, when I am not sure how to feed the other mouths in my family even though we are surrounded by food.  Yes, really, all I want to do is have a glass of wine and sit down.

When I have one of those days that I know will be busy, and I don’t have time to make dinner until we walk in the door entirely too late to start cooking, one of my favorite go to meals is Pork Carnita’s.  I don’t use the slow cooker very often, but this yummy dinner is a family pleaser and can be ready with just a little thinking ahead.  It makes a lot, so it is a great meal to freeze for a couple of other busy nights, and it is also a fabulous meal to serve for casual entertaining.  So, invite a few friends and families over, whip up some great sides like cilantro lime cole slaw, kicked up pinto beans, fresh fruit salad, add a great selection of hot sauces, and you have a fun, easy, and inexpensive dinner!

Below are the recipes and instructions you’ll need, it can be made as is or “foodied up” a bit.  The recipe for roasted tomatillo salsa is delicious and has become one of my often used recipes for other menu’s, too. I hope it helps you out on one of those “pull your hair out kind of days” when you don’t have time to cook but still need a good dinner to enjoy together.  Enjoy the best of food and life, especially when you don’t think you have time to!

In case you're wondering, these are tomatillo's!

In case you’re wondering, these are tomatillo’s!

pork carnita’s

One Boston Butt pork shoulder (I prefer bone in but boneless is fine)

One large white or sweet onion, ends removed and cut into thick chunks

One bay leaf

sprinkle of salt and pepper

*1 avocado, halved, pitted and sliced; fresh cilantro sprigs; sliced red bell peppers; lime wedges… all optional for serving, see directions below.

To Prepare:  Scatter onions in the bottom of slow cooker, place pork shoulder on top.  Season to taste.  Cover, set on low until meat is tender and falling apart, about 8 hours.

With slotted spoons, transfer pork to cutting board.  Using fingers, shred pork (removing fat), and place in onto a platter with the pork in the center.  Place avocado slices, cilantro, red bell peppers and lime wedges around the meat decoratively.  Serve with warm tortilla’s of your choice.

Some fun variations: If you like spicy, add a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce half way through cooking; before cooking and preferably overnight, rub pork shoulder with your favorite rub or blackening seasonings; or using a BBQ injector season your meat with mojo or a lime vinaigrette.

roasted tomatillo salsa

1 pound tomatillos (about 6 large)

1/ large onion, cut into thirds

2 Serrano chiles, halved, seed removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 375.  Toss first 5 ingredients in a 8x8x2 inch baking dish.  Roast in oven until tomatillos and onions are soft, about 1 hour.  Transfer contents of dish to food processor, add cilantro.  Puree until almost smooth.  *One avocado may be added pit removed, with cilantro.  Transfer to bowl serve chilled or at room temperature.

This skinny pepper is the Serrano, it is smaller than a jalapeno.

This skinny pepper is the Serrano, it is smaller than a jalapeno.

“This little piggy went to tailgate…”

 Last week I felt like I went to Asia and Latin America, without my passport or even leaving Winston-Salem!  Our city has some great resources for those of you looking for a little culinary adventure, so I thought I would share my food adventures from the past week, ending on Saturday with a great tailgate.

It all began on Monday with a trip to Oriental Oasis.  I have been a customer of this store, located on Lockland Avenue near Silas Creek, for at least 14 years or more.  It is my go to place for real soy sauce (yes there is a difference in what you buy there and Kikkoman in the grocery store), and items I needed for my Asian dinner pick up last week; such as Kaffir lime leaves, great Napa cabbage, lemongrass, nam pla, and more.  Nam pla is not a typo, it is authentic Thai fish sauce that is a must have ingredient in preparing Thai and other Asian foods.  Along with lettuce wraps, crunchy Asian salad, and marinated cucumbers I also made a delicious infused coconut chicken soup… it was a morning of fun.  I decided I was going to rename my kitchen the “playground” on Tuesday!

Oriental Oasis

Oriental Oasis

With the Wednesday pick up out of the way, it was time to get ready for the weekend and the exciting arrival of my La Caja China.  La Caja China is this amazing “roasting box” I have been wanting for a couple of years and finally decided to purchase for work.  I have no idea why I waited so long as this cooker is totally amazing, but more on the details of that later.  First, I had to get some real Latin ingredients, which is best found with a trip to Compare Foods.

Compare Foods

Compare Foods

Now, I will just go ahead and say that I am willing to bet most of you have never been to Compare Foods, and think it is a discount store.  Not entirely true, although the prices are really good I would say it is more of huge ethnic market.  Words can’t really adequately describe it, but the pictures below will give you an idea.  It is FUN, capital F-U-N, and you should go there and check it out the next time you’re having “Taco Tuesday” and spice up your ingredients a bit!  If you’re a little intimidated that would be normal, I would be happy to meet you there, with the disclaimer that there is tons of stuff there I don’t even know how to use!

Limes Compare Foods cinnamon

With bitter orange juice in hand, limes, cilantro, real tortillas and tostadas, and more, I was off to the kitchen to play with my food!  For those of you wondering, bitter orange juice is a crucial ingredient in mojo criollo, a delicious marinade for Cuban and other Latin American foods, it can be made by mixing orange juice and lemon if you don’t have bitter orange.  And mojo criollo was exactly what I was marinating and injecting the hog I was planning for thevSaturday WFU/NCSU tailgate.  In case you have never ordered a whole pig before, I ordered mine through Ogburn Meat Station, located out past the airport on Liberty Street.  The owner, Hermin, is about the nicest man and was tickled about how excited I was about this hog.  The smallest pig he could get came in about 90 pounds, which was entirely too big, so we ended up using half which worked out perfect!

Ogburn Meat Station

Ogburn Meat Station

There she is!

There she is!

With a little hiccup on the way home, (I was rear ended at a traffic light!  I mean really, who else has a wreck with a pig in the back of their car but me???) I set off to get ready for the premier voyage of La Caja China and the fun began with setting this thing up!  It is at this point I have to mention and thank my sweet husband.  I am so lucky that he enjoys the crazy ideas I get, too, despite a little eye rolling when they’re first mentioned.  I always remind him he knew this about me when he married me, and typically it ends up being a lot of fun for both of us together.  Please note the critical elements of set up below, as in the cold beer!  Cold beer, flip flops and assembling a cooker….that’s right!

critical elments of set up Setting up Caja China

Actually, set up was very smooth and probably took thirty minutes total for this, proud to say, made in the USA item.

The hard part was waiting until the morning to set up and use it!

ready to go! cooker at work

Pictured above, the hog marinated and ready to go on cooker, and the Caja China at work!

After about 3 hours we flipped the pig over, skin side up now, so the skin would crisp, and had to painfully wait about 45 minutes and she was done!

Finally, she was well worth the wait!  It was served with salsa verde, guacamole, tortillas and tostada’s, red pepper cole slaw, black bean salad, and yummy pumpkin cupcakes to finish off.  Throw in the champagne enjoyed while she cooked and it was a fabulous foodie day!

gorgeous! table spread

This little piggy sure did go to the tailgate in style, and it was a week full of enjoying the best of food and life.  I hope you’ll try some of our area stores and challenge yourself to step outside of the box a little!  (pun intended, caja is box in Spanish!)  Enjoy…