Friday, June 28, 2013

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Happy Friday everyone! We made it through another week! If you checked out my "Day in the Life" post over at The Domestic Wannabe on Wednesday, you saw that I made Slow Cooker Pulled Pork for dinner. I had my first taste of this version at my friend Michelle's and asked her for the recipe before JJ's 1st birthday party (I will post on that before he's in college, I swear). I was surprised that it was actually a Spark People recipe! I pinned it a couple weeks ago to make sure I never lose it:


Source: SLCOLEMAN on  Spark People
It's a great option for weeknights - I just prepare the sauce the night before and throw everything in the pot in the morning before work. When I get home, all I need to do (most of the time, see below) is shred the pork and make some sides.


It looks gross, but I swear its delicious!

When I got home from work, I took a look in the cooker and saw that the sauce was really really watery, which is unusual. I double checked the recipe and realized I forgot to add the brown sugar. To try and save it, I added a couple teaspoons of brown sugar and some cornstarch to thicken it back up. I set it on high and stirred it every once in awhile while the rice was cooking. After I shredded the pork, I threw it back in the sauce to soak up a little more flavor. 




Overall, my save was pretty successful. It definitely tastes a little better when prepared right from the beginning, but it was still really good.




The Verdict: I've made this a bunch of times so its obvious I like it. It's sweet and juicy and makes great leftovers.

Things to Consider: Double check you included all the necessary ingredients! Also, the recipe makes a lot and is freezer friendly - so you can make it once and have it multiple times!


Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
by SLCOLEMAN posted on Spark People
Ingredients:
    1 cup chopped celery 
    1 cup chopped onions 
    1 cup ketchup 

    1 cup barbecue sauce 

    1 cup water 
    2 tbsp vinegar 
    2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
    2 tbsp brown sugar 
    1 tsp chili powder 
    1 tsp salt 
    1/2 tsp pepper 

    1/2 tsp garlic powder 
    3 lbs boneless pork roast 

Directions:
Combine all ingredients except roast in the slow cooker. 
When well mixed, add roast. 
Cover, cook on high for 6-7 hours. 
Remove roast. 
Shred the meat and return it to the sauce. 
Note - You may want to thicken the sauce some.
Great for making sandwiches or using in other recipes. The sauce is good on rice too.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Day in My Life

Good Morning everyone! If you have ever had any desire to see what a typical day in my life looks like, check out The Domestic Wannabe today. I joined Ashley's "Day in the Life" series and my post is scheduled for today!

I featured a fairly typical work day, but as I told Shannon, I didn't realize how boring my life is until I typed it all out, haha. Spoiler alert: my day starts at 4:58am:

Check out scenes from my day at The Domestic Wannabe Blog

If you are interested in the dinner I posted about, check back here Friday for the recipe. 

Have a great day!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Shannon’s 2013 Goals- 2nd Quarter Update

With June quickly coming to a close, I figured it was a good time to do a quick check-in with my 2013 goals.  Click here to see my original goals. Click here to see how I did in the 1st Quarter.

Personal Goals

Exercise More: This was a complete fail in the 2nd quarter. In the beginning of the year I did really well and then it just fell to the wayside. My elliptical has become just a dust collector. I started using it again last week so hopefully I’ll do better the rest of the year.

Eat Well: Still continuing to be a fail. Whomp whomp

Read More: Success! I started working in the city a few days a week so I have some extra time on the train to read. Since April I’ve read: The Great Gatsby (I read it in high school but couldn’t remember any of it. Now I know why- I thought it was so boring), The Lady of the Rivers (I love Philippa Gregory! I liked this book but it wasn’t my favorite from her), The Fault in Our Stars (loved it but do not read it in public – you will weep), and I’m currently 85% done with A Dance of Dragons (I love it but it's taking me forever). I've a long list of books that I want to read next so I'll keep you posted on how they are.

The Fault in Our Stars

Blog Goals

Post Once a Week: So far, so good. I think I’ve only missed one week which isn’t bad- especially since many weeks I have two posts.

Remember to Take Finished Product Pictures: Most of my posts the past few months were projects I did last year so I wasn’t able to really improve in this area. Hopefully I’ll get better going forward.

Home (Apartment) Related

Work on D├ęcor: I haven’t done too much in the category except get my new rug.


Get Organized: Fail!


All in all, this wasn’t my best quarter but hopefully I’ll be able to improve the rest of the year. Either way, I’ll be sure to keep you updated! How are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions? Any one still going strong?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Father's Day 2013

Happy Belated Father's Day to any dad-readers out there! I hope you had a wonderful day full of time with your kids, barbecue, and beer (isn't that what all Dads want?). We spent the afternoon at my brother and sister-in-law's house enjoying family, food, and some gorgeous weather. 

One night last week before Joe got home from work I took some updated pics for his "DAD" frame. Look how big my baby has gotten!

7 Months in 2012 and 19 months in 2013
Not my best photography work but I was on borrowed time and it is much harder getting decent shots of a very active 19 month old than it was with a not-yet-crawling 7 month old. 

I also put together a little beer-themed gift to give to the boys at my brothers. I found "Beer Cheese Dip Mix" from the Beer Bread Company at a local store and ran with the idea. While picking up the ingredients for the dip I brought (see below), I also found "Backyard Brew" marinade mix from McCormick Grill Mates and "Cheddar and Ale" pretzel nuggets by Pretzel Pete


I packaged them together and gifted them with a 6-pack of some seasonal summer beer. I have no pic with the actual beer because (as usual) I neglected to be prepared and pick the beer up ahead of time, but you get the idea.

Anyway, on to the food...back in December I had the opportunity to snack on a delicious Loaded Baked Potato Dip at a Christmas party my friend Michelle hosted. It was delicious and I have been thinking about it ever since. I knew this would be the perfect chance to attempt it. I googled around, found one that seemed simple, and pinned it last week:

Source: Comfy in the Kitchen, credited to Hormel
It was super easy to make - just gather your ingredients, mix, and bake!





I saved a little bit of the cheese, bacon, and onions to garnish the top. 



The Verdict: Delicious! I don't think it was quite the same version as what I had last year, but still tasty. It can definitely be addicting (especially when paired with salty chips) and its not healthy so you might want to avoid this if you are trying to watch what you eat.

Things to Consider: Not much to say - just that it takes about 45 minutes in the oven so give yourself time for that. And its best served a couple minutes out of the oven.


Loaded Baked Potato Chip Dip
Author: 
Prep time:  
Cook time:  
Total time:  
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (16 oz) container sour cream
  • 1 (3 oz) jar Hormel REAL Bacon bits
  • 2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Mix all ingredients well with mixer.
  3. Place in an oven safe casserole dish.
  4. Bake for 30 mins covered, then an additional 15 mins uncovered.
  5. Serve with potato chips!
Notes
Make sure to use REAL bacon bits/crumbles, or you may also make your own bacon bits. Do not use imitation.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dreamy Oreo Brownies

You guys, I think we need to have an intervention. I have an addiction .... and it’s to the combination of Oreos and brownies. It seems that’s all I ever bake up these days. I've made: OreoTruffle Brownies, Brownie Hearts, Brownie Cookie Candy Goodness, and BrownieCovered Oreos. I guess I won’t stop until I've tried all the combinations possible!

Last week, my friend was having a bunch of us over for snacks and wine. I decided to try out these Dreamy Oreo Brownies from Cookies & Cups. They are very similar to the Oreo Truffle Brownies, just with the addition of cool whip and powdered sugar.

Cookies & Cups
Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures. I made them the night prior and wasn't able to start making them until 8:30pm. I was exhausted so I apologize for the lack of quality in the photos.

I started by whipping up my boxed brownies with some chopped Oreos mixed in.


While the brownies were cooling, I put the cream cheese/cool whip layer together. It’s basically powdered sugar, cream cheese, & cool whip mixed together. Then I spread it over the brownies.


Here’s where I ran into some issues. I thought I had plenty of chocolate chips at home, but I only had less then half a bag. I measured it out and I had exactly what the recipe suggests (1 & ½ cups). Unfortunately that was not enough chocolate to cover the entire pan. I just spread it out as much as I could and topped it with my remaining crushed Oreos.


The final step is to let the brownies cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Since it was already 10 pm, I let them cool overnight. The next morning I tried one for breakfast –it was delish! Sadly, all my end product photos came out blurry- probably because it was 6am when I was taking them.


The Verdict: These were tasty but very rich. Honestly, I think I like the Oreo Truffle Brownies just a tad better but I would still make these again.

Things to Note/Consider: One and ½ cups of chocolate was not enough to cover my 9x13 pan -so definitely plan ahead for that. Other then that, I wouldn't change a thing.

Dreamy Oreo Brownies
adapted from Cookies & Cups

1 box of brownie mix with ingredients to prepare them
1 package of coarsely chopped Oreos divided equally into thirds
1 (8oz) tub of Cool Whip thawed in the fridge
1 (8oz) block of cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp vegetable oil


  • Prepare brownie batter according to package direction, folding in 1/3 of the chopped Oreos.
  • Bake according to package directions
  • Allow brownies to cool completely
  • Beat cream cheese & powdered sugar until combined and smooth
  • Fold in Cool Whip and another 1/3 of the chopped Oreos
  • Spread the mixture on top of the cooled brownies
  • Melt the chocolate and vegetable oil in the microwave
  • Spread melted chocolate evenly over cream cheese layer.
  • Sprinkle the remaining Oreos on top.
  • Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Creamy Ranch Chicken Pockets

I don't know why its taken me so long to post about these - they are a favorite in this house. I am always looking for an easy-to-put-together but tasty dinner recipe for during the week - and even more so now. Joe started a new job that has him commuting to the city. This means that I am now on pick up and drop off duty for JJ and we are getting home later. I am able to prep the filling for these ahead of time, and just stuff them and pop them in the oven when I get home. I am getting ahead of myself though - the inspiration for these Chicken Pockets came from this pin:

Source: Jenna Blogs
I must have repinned it during a random Pinterest browsing session because of the caption, "Chicken Rollups - chicken, cheese, cream cheese, and a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch powder - Amazing!" And who doesn't love those things? Unfortunately, when I went to make it the first time and clicked through, the recipe didn't match the caption. While Jenna's rollups did sound tasty, I really wanted the ranch version so I sort of just adapted her recipe and made some stuff up (and added bacon - yum!). I have made these multiple times now, so I am pretty comfortable with the recipe at this point.

Just like with the chicken and cheese lasagna rollups and biscuit topped chicken pot pie, I used rotisserie chicken to make life a little easier on myself. After my weekly grocery shopping one Sunday, I mixed up the filling and popped it into the fridge:


When I got home from work the next day, while the oven was preheating, I pulled out the crescent roll dough and started filling them. I make them big - so I use two crescent "triangles" to make a rectangle. Just sort of pinch the seam together. Once filled, I wrap up the corners together.


Then I melt a little butter, brush it on top, and sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top, because we are fancy over here when we eat crescents.


Pop them into the oven for a little longer than the crescent directions instruct (I think I had them in there 20 minutes, maybe 25). And here they are - all browned up.

 


 


The Verdict: These are a favorite in this house. An easy and tasty weeknight meal that I can prep ahead of time. Even easier when you use rotisserie chicken and pre-cooked bacon. They are sort of the dinner version of crack dip.

Things to Consider: There is a lot of bad for you stuff in this recipe (cream cheese, bacon, etc) so if you are looking for healthy, clean, paleo, vegan, etc - this isn't the recipe for you. That being said, the recipe makes 8 pockets, and they are pretty filling. Thursday nights are leftover nights so we usually finish most of them. If you are looking to stretch the recipe, however, I think the assembled but uncooked pockets would freeze well.


Creamy Ranch Chicken Pockets
adapted from this pin and this recipe

Ingredients:
1.5 cups cooked and chopped/shredded chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup precooked and crumbled bacon
8oz brick of cream cheese, softened
1 envelope of ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup chopped onions or chives
2 cans Crescent rolls
1 tbsp melted butter
breadcrumbs

Directions:
Mix together chicken, cheese, bacon, cream cheese, dressing mix, and onions. Unroll crescent rolls and create rectangles out of two triangles each (see above). Gently press seams together to form the rectangles (each can will give you 4 rectangles). Scoop 1/8th of filling mixture into the center of each rectangle. Press corners together to close up pocket. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake following crescent roll directions adding more time as needed so crescents are brown on top and no longer "doughy" (totaling  about 20-25 minutes). Enjoy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Olive Oil as Stainless Steel Cleaner

This past weekend I tried another quick cleaning tip I found on Pinterest. I decided to try out olive oil as a stainless steel cleaner on my very dirty looking toaster. The idea originally comes from Real Simple.

Real Simple
Here’s some before shots of my toaster:


All I did was pour some olive oil on a rag and rubbed the toaster. Then I took a paper towel to wipe it down. So simple!

Here’s some afters:


And some side by side comparisons:


I will definitely continue to use this trick. It was so easy!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pretzel Crusted Brownies

Way back in March, my mom invited my cousins, sister-in-law, aunts, a couple of her friends, and me to a Tricky Tray fundraiser a coworker of hers was involved with. While it was a fun night, not one of us won a single thing. We made up for the losses by enjoying some wine and lots of bad-for-you snacks. I decided to give these Pretzel Crusted Brownies a try for the event:

Source: The Avid Appetite
I love the combination of salty and sweet and the added crunch of the pretzels intrigued me. I have never made brownies from scratch before and Shannon warned me that she has never had any luck with them so I was a little nervous about how they would taste. 

I started by making the pretzel crust: crushing up a bunch of pretzels (I used the plastic bag/meat tenderizer method), mixing with melted butter and sugar and baking it in a foil lined pan.


After about 10 minutes in the oven, I was left with this delicious looking (and smelling!) crust:


As per Rachel's instructions, I put it in the fridge to cool (resting on a towel). Then I mixed up the brownies using the same recipe she used (adapted from BAKERS One Bowl Brownies:


I have never been good at melting chocolate in the microwave. That's why my cake pops always come out horribly and anything I try to dip looks awful. I followed the instructions and let the butter melt using 10 second intervals, but it never really got the chocolate to melt completely. I kept mixing and mixing but eventually gave up and just completed the recipe.

You can't really tell, but there's chunks of unmelted chocolate in there.

Right before they went in the oven. 
Once I had the all the ingredients in though, the batter seemed to set up nicely. Here they are fresh out of the oven:


And after I let them cool and started cutting them up:


See that delicious layer of pretzels?

I halved the butter cream recipe knowing that I always wind up with extra frosting in my fridge and because I wanted to leave some un-iced in case anyone wanted them plain. 



The Verdict: They were alright. The crust was delicious and I slightly under-cooked them (which is how I prefer brownies) but they almost didn't seem chocolatey enough. I am not sure if that was my fault for not getting the chocolate to melt completely, or if I am just not a fan of homemade brownies. Now, that's not to say I didn't eat them. I did. They didn't really get touched at the Tricky Tray because there were so many other goodies there so I brought them home. And proceeded to eat the majority of them over the weekend until I finally had to throw them out so I wouldn't gain 100 lbs. 

Things to Consider: I would probably get the food processor out to crunch up the pretzels next time. Doing it by hand took forever and I think it would have been a little nicer if I got them a little smaller. I also would like to give this idea another try using a box mix and seeing if I like it any better. As I said above, they weren't bad, just not "worth" the calories to me - I would rather a nice thick, gooey, chocolatey brownie. I did love the foil method though - it made getting the brownies out really easy and cleanup was much easier too.

Anyone have a better brownie recipe for me to try? I have read that once you master making brownies from scratch you can't go back to eating them from a box-mix, but so far Shannon and I haven't found the right recipe!


Pretzel Crusted Brownies with Fluffy Buttercream Frosting
from The Avid Appetitefor the crust:
4 C pretzels
¾ C unsalted butter (1.5 sticks)
½ C sugar

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 13x9” baking pan with foil, letting some hang over the edges. Spray with cooking spray or grease with butter and flour.
  • Process pretzels in a food processor until chopped small, but not too finely. Meanwhile melt the butter in the microwave. 
  • Transfer the pretzels to a mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar.
  • Mix in the melted butter. Press into a the baking pan and bake for 10 minutes or until the crust has set.
  • Cool in the refrigerator while you make the batter (note: I put the pan on a towel in the fridge so as not to break any glass shelves).


for the brownies:
*Adapted from BAKER’S One Bowl Brownies
4 oz BAKER’S unsweetened chocolate (4 squares)
¾ C unsalted butter (1.5 sticks)
2 C sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 C all purpose flour

  • Change oven temperature to 350 degrees. 
  • Combine the butter and chocolate squares in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 10 second intervals until the butter is melted.
  • Transfer the butter/chocolate mixture to a mixing bowl or the bowl in your stand mixer. 
  • With a rubber spatula, mix the chocolate pieces in the butter until they are completely melted.
  • Mix in the sugar (I used the paddle attachment on my mixer, but by hand will probably work too!)
  • Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  • Mix in the flour.
  • Pour over the cooled pretzel crust and carefully smooth the edges so as not to pick up any pretzels.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out almost clean, but with a few fudgy crumbs. BUT, make sure that the middle has set!
  • Once the bars have completely (!) cooled, remove from the pan by carefully lifting out the bars from the pan using the foil overhang.


for the frosting:
½ C unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3 C confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk

  • In the stand of an electric mixer fitted w/paddle (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar, one cup at a time until completely combined.
  • Mix in the vanilla and milk (if the frosting is too thick, add more). 
  • Once completely combined, carefully spread over the cooled brownies.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Erasing Hard Water Stains

I finally got around to trying out the lemon try to erase hard water stains from the fixtures in my bath tub.


I found this idea from the36thavenue.com. They have a whole list of great cleaning tips and I’ll be trying a few more in the coming weeks.

Source
Here’s some before pictures:



All I did was cut a lemon in half and rubbed it on the fixtures. It took about 2 minutes.


I definitely saw a difference in the handle.


But I don’t think it worked so well on the faucet.



Next I’m going to try the baby oil as Chrome Polish.
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