Smoked Almonds

Beloved and I are leaving at noon today, heading to Wisconsin for his family reunion.  We’re looking forward to it, especially the drive, since we love to road trip and the weather is knock-your-eyes out gorgeous today.  However, I can’t be sure if I’ll have time or internet access while we’re gone, so I may not post again or get around to reading blogs until our return Sunday night.  Also, today is the last day of the month; my NaBloPoMo obligation is over and the thought of a break is rather welcome.

But we’ll see.

We’ll be stopping in Chicago overnight, and I made reservations at Roy Yamaguchi’s restaurant for dinner.  Why Roy’s?  Well, we love the place, for one.  For another, it won’t require us to A) dress as if we’re attending Princess Diana’s wedding and 2) take a second mortgage out on the house.  Seriously – Google “fine dining in Chicago”; the prices you’ll see will make your eyes hemorrhage.   You know me – I love good food and am willing to pay for it, but $200?  Per person? At those kinds of prices, I’ll worship it from afar, thank you very much.

Anyhoo.  Another easy recipe today, especially if you like to grill/smoke/barbecue (or, in Beloved’s case, all three).  The instructions for this require simple, indirect heat on your grill, but we put them in the smoker with the brisket this weekend and they were just fine.  In fact, we’ve had to restrain ourselves from eating them all so we’d have some road trip snack food for today (Chicago is a six hour drive from our house).

Have a lovely day, y’all.

Smoked Almonds

Smoked Almonds

makes..a lot

1 pound natural (raw) almonds

1 1/2 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce

2 teaspoons of your favorite barbecue rub

Set up the grill for indirect grilling.

Toss together all the ingredients until the nuts are well coated with the hot sauce and rub, then pour into a disposable aluminum pan (at least 9″ square) in an even layer.  Cover and smoke until the nuts are crisp, about 3 hours.

Cool completely.  Store in an airtight container if you have any leftover to store.

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Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

Here in the States, cherries are in season.  They aren’t something I cook with very often, and when I made this dish Friday night, I wondered why – it was really simple and absolutely delicious.

We had scored some really nice, bone-in pork chops at the little retail store of the people who butchered our half a cow (more about the marvelous Perkins family of White Feather Meats in a later post) and I was rather at a loss with what to do with them.  Then I spotted the inexpensive cherries I’d picked up earlier in the week and wondered if they could be used to sauce the chops.  The answer was a very happy “Yes!”

After an extensive search of my cookbooks and the internet, I found this recipe on the Serious Eats website and immediately thought, “This is it!”  Unlike most cherry sauces, this was low in sugar and didn’t use cornstarch to thicken it (a lot of the recipes I found online used canned cherry pie filling, which I have never liked).  The original recipe did call for a pinch of sugar on the pork chops themselves, as well as pan-frying in canola oil – both of which have been banned from my kitchen.  I simply seasoned the chops with a little salt and pepper and cooked them in a little beef tallow I’d rendered myself a few days earlier, and they came out just fine.  The recipe also called for placing the pork chops on a cold skillet and turning the heat on underneath – a sure-fire way to get them to stick.  Heat the skillet first, then add your fat and the meat, and you will greatly reduce any problems with it sticking to the pan.

And if you don’t eat pork, this would be just lovely on roasted or grilled chicken.

Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

serves 4

1 cup cherries, pitted

3 tablespoons water

1/4 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Pinch of salt

4 thick, bone-in loin pork chops

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of fat – oil, clarified butter, lard, etc.

Place the cherries into a small pot and pour in the water, red wine, red wine vinegar, honey, thyme, mustard, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes, smashing the cherries with a wooden spoon about half way through, or until the sauce becomes slightly syrupy.

In the meantime, heat a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat until quite hot.  Place your fat of choice in the pan, making sure to coat the bottom.  Season the pork chops lightly with salt and pepper, reduce the temperature slightly and pan fry them until they reach an internal temperature of 140º F, or are no longer pink in the center or close to the bone, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

Serve immediately with the cherry sauce.

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Pork Chops With Cherry Sauce on Foodista

Chicken Salad

Here’s an easy, warm weather and delicious dish for you – good ol’ chicken salad.

Since any salad that has chicken as its main ingredient is called chicken salad, and I have several readers outside the United States, I’m talking about American chicken salad, which is chopped chicken combined with a fat-based binder (usually mayonnaise or salad dressing) and often served as a creamy spread in sandwiches.  Any number of things can be added to the chicken and fat – commonly chopped raw vegetables, fruit or nuts.

Mine happens to use all three.

I make chicken salad nearly every time I roast a chicken, especially in warmer weather.  You can use canned chicken, of course, but I’ve never cared at all for the taste/texture of it (or the price – the stuff is stupidly expensive) and it’s just as easy to use chopped, leftover chicken.  I get at least two extra meals out of a roast chicken when I make chicken salad, even though I rarely eat it on bread – I usually put it on top of a bed of lettuce and eat it like a conventional salad.  The last time I made it, though, I just ate it alone.

For breakfast.

Anyhoo, this is my basic chicken salad recipe.  You can jazz it up any way you like it; I often put chopped apples or pears in it, and use toasted walnuts or pecans (once I even used diced mango and chopped macadamia nuts – Oh. My. Gawd.  It was wonderful!).

Note:  I used homemade mayo, apple cider vinegar and raw, unfiltered honey the last time I made this, and it was absolutely to die for.  You can, of course, use a commercially prepared mayo, plain white vinegar (a white wine or champagne vinegar would be good, too) and sugar or plain clover honey and it will be just fine.

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Serves 4

2 cups chopped, cooked chicken

1/2 small red onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon prepared, coarse-grained mustard

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar or honey

2 tablespoons sweet or dill pickle relish, depending on your preference (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar or honey and relish together.  Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to blend well.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

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Pico de Gallo

I am tired today – even Tech Guy here at the office mentioned how tired I look.  He’s a sweetheart, and as a Type II diabetic who struggles with his diet was quite sympathetic when I told him that although I’d tried very hard to eat right this weekend, we ate out so much that it knocked me all out of whack – Bob Evans and Cheesecake Factory don’t exactly do local and sustainable.  I further botched things up last night; we stopped on a whim at our absolute favorite restaurant in Ohio.  They do serve locally obtained, unprocessed food, but if you throw alcohol and dessert into the mix, well…

Cut me some slack – I’m paying for it this morning.  (It sure was tasty, though.)

At any rate, I’m back on track today and will remain there until I’m seduced once again by the siren song of a four-star restaurant.  Which doesn’t happen with any regularity, thank goodness.

So – pico de gallo.  There’s some debate about the origins of the name, but it’s basically a fresh, uncooked salsa often served with Mexican dishes.  It’s easy and delicious and has the added bonus of being extremely good for you, too.  I don’t care much for cooked tomatoes, but I love them raw and this is one of my two favorite ways to eat them (I’ll get to the other way later in the summer when my own tomatoes ripen).

Note: Seed the jalapeños unless you like it really spicy.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

makes 3 – 4 cups

2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced

2 jalapeño peppers, finely diced

Juice of one lime

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients except the salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl; taste and season.  Let it sit, covered, for an hour or so at room temperature, to allow the flavors to combine.

Can be served as a condiment, side dish or as a dip with good quality tortilla chips.

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Pico De Gallo (Salsa Fresca) on Foodista


I think that I mentioned here recently that I’m a wee bit tired of beef.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it but we’ve been eating quite a bit of it lately in our quest for some grass-fed, 100% pastured beef (which we found, but that’s a subject for another post).  So there’s been a lot of chicken and pork and not enough fish on my table lately.

I think I’ve also mentioned before that Podunk isn’t the best place in the world to get Mexican food (there are “Mexican” restaurants here that give you a hunk of bell pepper wrapped in ground beef and deep fried when you order a chile relleno).  Then there’s the fact that Mexican food isn’t exactly the best thing in the world if you’re reducing refined carbohydrates and grains in your diet.

However, there are Mexican dishes that are lovely and delicious and perfectly acceptable if you’re willing to bypass the rice and tortillas (or even if you’re not; if, unlike me, you can eat rice and tortillas without blowing up like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, go for it I say).  Carnitas is one of those dishes.

Carnitas literally means “little meats” in Spanish and is traditionally made from the rich, heavily marbled shoulder sections from the animal.  It’s usually braised or simmered, then roasted briefly at high heat until the outside is brown and crisped, then shredded or cut into bite-size chunks.  It’s usually served with lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and tomato, salsa, guacamole, refried beans and eaten with tortillas – and is absolutely delicious.

I made the process a little easier by putting a bone-in shoulder roast in the crock pot, then shredding and chopping it before roasting.  Not quite traditional, but still quite good, especially served with homemade guacamole and pico de gallo (recipe to follow this week).  The Young One ate his in tortillas, but Beloved wrapped his in lettuce leaves.  I simply layered mine on the plate and ate it with a fork.

Whichever way you choose to eat it, it is delicious.



serves 6 to 8

3 to 4 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast (it might be labeled “boston butt roast”)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

about 1 cup water

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup spicy salsa (any jarred variety is fine)

Rub the outside of the roast with the salt and pepper, then place in the crock pot.  Pour the water around, but not over, the roast – you want to surround it, not cover it.  Spread the onion and garlic over the top of the roast, then pour the salsa on top.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the pork is very tender.

Preheat the oven to 400º F.  Carefully remove the roast from the crock pot, and shred the meat with two forks or cut into bite sized cubes (or both).  Place the meat on a large, shallow baking pan and pour a little of the cooking liquid over it.  Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are brown and crispy.

Serve with lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and tomato, salsa, guacamole, refried beans and
tortillas, if desired.

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Carnitas on Foodista