Monday, August 21, 2017

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork & Avocado Wraps

This slow cooker pulled pork and avocado wrap recipe is a fresh, yet spicy, alternative to a pulled pork sandwich.  Pair the pulled pork wraps with the chili-lime flavored grilled corn and you have a knock your socks off dinner!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and Avocado Wrap

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Pulled pork and avocado wrap
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and Avocado Wraps

Pulled pork is high on the list of favorites with the men in my family so I like to make it for them a few times during the year.  The pork shoulder butts were on sale at my local grocery store recently, making this a good time to put pulled pork on the menu.
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and Avocado Wraps
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and avocado wraps

While at the grocery store buying the pulled pork ingredients I spied a brand of wraps I hadn't noticed before.  With only 90 calories 13 grams of fiber each, they immediately got me to thinking about how I could serve the pulled pork in a healthier version than is traditional.  I decided to start with healthier wraps. There are many healthier versions of tortillas and wraps readily available and no one will know the difference once the wraps are assembled. Another healthy alternative is using lettuce leaves as the wrap.

My slow cooker of choice these days is my Ninja Cooking System.  I've had it for several years and recommend it highly.  I love the multiple settings on it.  I love, love, love that I can sear meats using the stove top setting before slow cooking for added color and flavor.  I use the same setting to reheat leftovers by steaming them using rack and a cup or two of water.  I could go on and on, but I won't. The fact that I own three Ninja Cooking Systems says enough!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and Avocado Wraps
Print Recipe

  • Slow CookerPulled Pork, recipe below
  • one jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, or your favorite BBQ sauce brand
  • Sliced avocado
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 small head of red cabbage, shredded
  • black olives, sliced or chopped
  • Wraps, of your choice

Pulled Pork
Printer Friendly Recipe
  • 1 pork shoulder butt
  • 2 bottles flavorful beer, like Guinness
Pulled Pork Directions
Place the pork shoulder butt in your slow cooker.  Add the two bottles of beer.  Cover and cook on high for 8 to 10 hours.  You'll know the pork is done when it falls apart very easily and the center bone can be removed with no effort.  Don't rush it.  As a matter of fact, you can let it go longer.

Remove the meat from the slow cooker to a  bowl or platter.  Pull the pork apart using two forks, discarding any fat.  Add the barbecue sauce and toss to well combine.

Shredded Pulled Pork
The Pork Shreds Easily

Wrap Directions
Place the wraps on a plate and spread with a thin layer of barbecue sauce.  Slice the avocado and squeeze the juice of a half of a lime over the slices to keep them from turning brown and to add a little zippy flavor.

A quick squeeze of lime
A Quick Squeeze of Lime Keeps the Avocado Green
Place a few slices of avocado on the prepared wrap.  Add shredded cabbage and olives.  Top the vegetables with a generous helping of the pulled pork. Begin rolling the wrap, burrito style, folding in the two short sides before completing the roll, to make a package.

Serve each wrap whole or sliced in half with your favorite sides and a pile of napkins.  You'll find this wrap to be deliciously messy.  I suggest you serve the wrap with grilled corn on the cob, topped with Chili-lime butter.  Yum!

The pulled pork wrap with salad and corn on the cob.
Pulled Pork and Avocado Wraps
Get the recipes for the ingredients to make these wraps by clicking the links below:
Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Grilled Corn with Chili-Lime Butter

Essential Kitchen Tools

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Favorite Brownie Recipe

I'm a brownie lover. There's a continual battle between brownies and chocolate chip cookies for the top spot on my favorite sweet treat list. I've been testing brownie recipes for years to find the one that is my ultimate brownie.  This is the recipe that I go to time and time again.

Best Ever Fudge Brownie Recipe 

Best Ever Fudge Brownies
My Fudge Brownies
Now, I'm not talking about wanting a glammed up brownie recipe.  I want a brownie that is thick, chocolatey, and fudgy and has a crisp, shiny top.  I want a brownie that can stand on its own in its simplicity. If this sounds like a brownie you would like, too, you'll want to keep reading.
Best Ever Fudge Brownies

My recipe uses half butter and half vegetable oil in the batter.  I have found that butter makes a dry crumb in baked goods.  The addition of oil to this recipe results in a brownie that is very moist.   A mixture of light brown sugar and granulated sugar creates greater depth of flavor.  Finally, to eliminate the chocolate chunks I don't like in my brownies, I chopped some chocolate chips.  This also ensures a deep chocolate flavor.

The recipe makes a large batch of brownies.  I cut my 13x9-inch pan of brownies into twenty four substantial portions.  That makes this recipe perfect for a potluck or a large party.  They freeze well when wrapped individually in plastic wrap so you may want to make a batch and freeze the extras for another day.

This recipe satisfies the brownie lover in me. They are moist and tender with a crisp, shiny top.  That's just the way I like them.  I hope you'll like them, too.

Donna's Best Ever Fudge Brownies

Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes 24 large brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon if using unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (12 oz. chocolate chips), chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan. Line the pan with parchment paper overhanging the sides to make it easier to remove the brownies from the pan. Use metal binder clips to hold the paper in place. Lightly grease the parchment paper.

Metal Binder Clips are Useful in the Kitchen
Metal Binder Clips in the Kitchen

In a medium, microwave safe bowl, melt the butter, then add the oil and sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the microwave and heat briefly (1 ½ minutes), just till the mixture is hot, but not bubbling. The batter will become shiny looking while you stir it. Heating the butter and sugar a second time will dissolve more sugar and create a shiny top crust on your brownies. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl.
How to Get a Shiny Brownie Crust
Heat the Sugar Twice

Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Add the eggs, beating until smooth. Next, add the flour and chocolate chips, beating until well combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Brownies Ready for the Oven
Brownies Ready for the Oven

Bake the brownies for 35 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost dry (with a few crumbs clinging). The brownies should feel set on the edges and in the center. After five minutes, loosen the edges with a knife or small spatula to help prevent the brownies from sinking in the center as they cool. Cool completely before cutting.

Yummy Fudge Brownies
Yummy Fudge Brownies

Are you in search of a perfect brownie recipe like me?  I know that my favorite brownie won't necessarily be your favorite brownie.  Give these brownies a try and let me know what you think.

Thank you for sharing this recipe on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Yummly. 


Monday, August 14, 2017

Kicked Up Pimento Cheese

As a Northerner who has been visiting the South with some frequency, I have been introduced to pimento cheese.   Also known as Southern caviar, pimento cheese is available at every Southern grocery store deli counter I have frequented.  Of course, I had to sample some...over and over again!

Jalapeno Pimento Cheese Spread

Jalapeno Pimento Cheese
Pimento Cheese
If you are unfamiliar with pimento cheese, you might be surprised to know that it is a simple mixture of shredded cheese, usually cheddar, mixed together with diced pimentos and mayonnaise.  This simple mixture is a staple across the South, but recipes differ from one family to another.  I've been told that one major debate from person to person is which mayonnaise to use.  Hellman's, Dukes, or Blue Plate, your ears will be on fire listening to the virtues of the favorite mayonnaise versus the shortcomings of all the others.  You won't find me engaging in the mayonnaise debate here. Use your favorite mayonnaise and make this recipe your own.
Kicked Up Pimento Cheese with Jalapeno Pepper

Do an Internet search and you'll get a feel for just how varied pimento cheese recipes are.  Some add cream cheese and others add onion.  My recipe includes jalapeno pepper for a little heat and color but otherwise sticks with the basic cheddar cheese, pimento, and mayonnaise ingredients.  If you'd like your pimento cheese to be a little hotter just add a bit of your favorite hot sauce.  If you want a more traditional pimento cheese, just leave the jalapeno pepper out of your mix.

Pimento cheese makes a perfect spread to keep on hand in your refrigerator.   Melt some between two slices of your favorite bread for a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.  Friends drop in unexpectedly?  Top some crackers with a little pimento cheese for a tasty snack.

I've now adopted this little bit of the South.  I love the versatility of pimento cheese!

Kicked Up Pimento Cheese

Printer Friendly Recipe
Jalapeno Pimento Cheese Ingredients
Pimento Cheese Ingredients
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined, minced
  • 4 ounces chopped pimentos, drained
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, your favorite

Mix the cheese, jalapeno, and pimentos together in a medium bowl with a spoon until the ingredients are well distributed.  Add the mayonnaise, mixing well.  Serve with your favorite crackers or as a sandwich spread.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tips to Conquer Your Messy Kitchen Junk Drawer

We all have them.  Yes, I'm talking about a kitchen junk drawer.  Have you looked in your kitchen junk drawer lately?  How do you feel every time you open that drawer?  Does it frustrate you?  Can you find what you are looking for?  If you are disgusted by your kitchen junk drawer it is time to declutter and I can help.

How to Declutter Your Kitchen Junk Drawer

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My Organized Kitchen Junk Drawer
My Organized Kitchen Junk Drawer
This is a tip I applied two years ago when I remodeled my kitchen and it has helped  me to keep my kitchen drawers organized.  It does help that I have two large drawers that function as my catch all drawers.
How to Declutter Your Kitchen Junk Drawer

My Kitchen Junk Drawer
Kitchen Drawer #2

Steps to Declutter Your Kitchen Junk Drawer

Choose a day to declutter your kitchen drawer when you are in the mood. Don't start your kitchen drawer decluttering when you are frustrated.  

Purchase a drawer organizer like this in a size that fits your drawer.

Get a trash can and a box.  Take everything out of your drawer and make a pile on your counter.

Wash and dry the inside of your drawer.  Fit the new drawer organizer into the drawer.

Sort the items on your counter.  The items will either go into the trash or the box.  Place the things in the box one item at a time so you will make a note in your head of what you put in the box.

Now, store the box in a place that is accessible, out of sight. and preferably not in the kitchen.

Admire your empty drawer.

You are done.  Yay!  Yes, I know nothing is in the drawer.  You are going to restock and organize that drawer one item as a time as you need something.  Over the next days and weeks, retrieve items from the box only when they are needed in your kitchen.

After three months the contents of your box will have decreased and your kitchen drawer will neatly contain your most essential kitchen items.  Now it is time to consider whether to discard, donate or keep the remaining items.  If you are unsure about letting go of an item, return it to the box until later. I still have a few items from completing this exercise two years ago.  Here are the things still in my box.
My Remaining Kitchen Junk

It's time for me to get rid of the items from my box. I went through the box this morning and there in nothing in here I will need. That should be clear to me after two years. Time to donate!

This process helped me to successfully get the upper hand on my kitchen junk. It was easy to do and helped me to be more mindful of the stuff in my kitchen. I'm using this technique with other drawers and closets in my home, too.

Here's my video where I explain this process:

Essential Tool

Expandable Drawer Organizer

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Happy decluttering!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Flavorful Bread Machine Focaccia Bread

In general, I'm not a fan of having too many kitchen gadgets.  I like to have kitchen tools that serve multiple purposes,  One of the exceptions is my bread machine. I love making fresh bread and I want the bread-making process to be as easy as I can make.  That's why I won't be without a bread machine in my kitchen.  My Italian Focaccia Bread is one of the recipes I make most frequently with my bread machine.

Making Italian Focaccia Bread In a Bread Machine 

(This post contains affiliate links.  The compensation I receive when you purchase using these links helps support the costs to maintain this blog.)

Italian Focaccia Bread

When I tell you this focaccia bread is a favorite I may be understating how much we love this bread. We might be obsessed.  The texture and flavors in this bread will make your mouth water.  I'm getting excited about the bread just writing about it.
Bread Machine Focaccia Bread

The ingredients are simple, but together they make a delicious treat.  We like to have the bread as an appetizer, served with pesto, but you'll enjoy it with a pasta dinner or sliced for sandwiches. We love it served fresh from the oven.  Mmmmm, good!

Don't skimp with the garlic and herbs when you make the bread.  They are the key to this breads lovely aroma and yumminess.  I'm sharing the recipe for how I make the focaccia bread most often, but you should experiment with the combination of herbs that you like best.

You don't need a fancy bread machine to make this focaccia bread or any of the bread recipes I share on the blog.  This is the bread machine I use.  You can see it is a very reasonably priced model.  Quite frankly, I only use it for the dough cycle and it does the job.  It is easy to use and easy to clean.  Yes, the operative word here is easy.

My Italian Focaccia Bread

Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes One 13x9-inch Focaccia Bread
Focaccia Bread Ready for Baking
Focaccia Bread Fresh from the Oven

Bread Ingredients
  • 1 c water, 80°F
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herb mix
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Add the ingredients, except rosemary and Italian herb mix, to the bread machine.  Set the machine on the dough setting. At the first pause in the cycle add chopped the herbs.  Continue through dough cycle.

While the dough cycle finishes, make the topping.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil  in a small pan over medium heat.  When hot add the chopped garlic.  You'll hear it sizzle. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped rosemary.  Set aside to cool.

When the dough cycle completes, press the dough into a well-oiled 9x13-inch pan.  Make indentations in the dough with your fingers.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for thirty minutes, or until it is nearly double in size. 

The Focaccia Bread Dough

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Once again press indentations in the dough with your fingers.  Spoon the olive oil topping evenly over the dough.  Some of the oil and herbs will settle into the indentations. That will make your bread yummy.  Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese. Be generous with your cheese.

Focaccia Bread Ready to Bake
Focaccia Bread Ready to Bake

Bake the focaccia bread for 20 minutes, or until done.  Let the baked focaccia bread sit for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Focaccia Bread
Focaccia Bread

I like to cut the focaccia into squares using a pizza cutter.  I use the OXO 4" pizza wheel that works perfectly every time.  To serve the focaccia bread as an appetizer, I will turn it out onto a large wooden cutting board. I use the pizza wheel to cut the focaccia bread into serving pieces and add a small bowl of pesto to the board.  Everyone will serve themselves. Add some sprigs of fresh herbs for color and a bowl of seasoned olives.  Yum!

Essential Kitchen Tools

My Bread Machine
Pizza Cutter
Large Wooden Cutting Board

Shared on Meal Plan Monday.

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