Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's time for a POLL!

... because I'm a Libra and can't make up my own mind.

So I have a silly cute little car. It's a vaguely obnoxious blue, which makes it super easy to find in a parking lot. It attracts small boys ("oooooooh Mommy, I want a blue car like THAT) and makes me think twice before flipping off people in town since everyone knows it's mine. I've had many people say that it's completely totally Me ... which does make me wonder why people identify me with a tiny startlingly blue station wagon.

My pretty car:

I stumbled on these COMPLETELY AWESOME car accessories on Amazon and bought them immediately. Don't they just beg, whimper and plead to be on my pretty car?
That's right. I bought an Easter bunny costume for my car. So much awesomeness.

Anyway, when do YOU think I can reasonably put these on my car? I'm one of those people who  seriously hates Christmas decorations showing up in the stores before Thanksgiving but I'm having trouble waiting here. So vote in the poll above and share it with your friends. I need all the help I can get.

**I am in no way connected or receive reimbursement/product/kickbacks/magic powers from any of the companies mentioned here. All products mentioned were purchased by me, generally using standard shipping which I immediately regretted as it takes too flipping long.**

Friday, February 10, 2012

Crockpot Pulled Barbecue Sandwiches with Homemade Sauce

Before I start, I just want to add the disclaimer that there is no accounting for taste ... and barbecue sauce is no exception. This sauce worked happily for us and was much better than bottled but is nothing like some of the regional sauces I've had in the south. While I prefer this to the vinegary or mustardy versions found in some areas, your mileage may vary.

This sauce recipe is based on the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Barbecue recipe. I altered it slightly based on our own tastes, the contents of my pantry and the fact that it was going to be dumped, for better or for worse, into my little 2.5 quart slowcooker. This meant reducing the liquid slightly initially in case the recipe was too watery. It's easier to add fluid to a crockpot than it is to reduce it down. This also mean eliminating a few steps in the recipe that were done on the stove top.

The other problem I wanted to conquer was how to avoid the floaty fat bits found scumming up the top of crockpot-cooked meat. If you don't know what I am talking about you are either a better cook than I or darn lucky. They tend to be worse if using cold meat (which I was) so I wanted to try to find a way to prevent the nasty stuff. Oh I know I can skim but it irks me. Notes on this after the recipe.

While this has chili powder, hot sauce and cayenne pepper in it, know that it is in relatively small amounts and we didn't notice any heat. Feel free to reduce amounts if needed but the sauce will lose some depth.

Pulled Barbecue Sandwiches
2lbs meat - I used 1 lb beef (I just used a random tough cut of meat I had in the freezer from a sale) and 1 lb boneless chicken breasts.

1 tbl coconut oil (use whatever)
1 onion minced
2 garlic cloves minced (more or less, as you like)
1 tsp chili powder (I used 1/2 tsp chili powder and 1/2tsp Penzey's Chili con Carne seasoning - it's salt and natural smoke flavor free without too much heat)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4c ketchup
3 tbl light or dark molasses
1 tbl apple cider vinegar
1 tbl tamari or soy sauce (original recipe calls for Worcestershire sauce but I hate it - the tamari was a good touch)
1 tsp hot sauce (original recipe calls for Tabasco, I used Cholula)
Optional Dijon mustard, salt & pepper (*See noted below)

1 bottle of beer or 1-2 cups additional liquid (water, stock etc)

Rolls as needed.

Turn slowcooker on high and add oil, onions, garlic, chili and cayenne pepper. Stir well to blend, cover and allow heat for until fragrant. Add all the remaining sauce ingredients except beer. Mix well. Dump in meat. Cook on high for 3 hrs. After 3 hrs, stir well and reduce to low. If sauce is too thick add 1/4c of liquid at a time. Leave on low at least one hour but longer if needed. Add more liquid as needed. To serve pull meat apart using two forks and spoon onto rolls. Nom nom nom.

* Um. Original recipe called for salt, pepper and Dijon Mustard ... I missed those. I think black pepper to taste would be ok. The soy sauce etc are already fairly salty so I can't see needing to add salt. If you want to add the Dijon, add 1tbl.

Defloatying the Meat
I think you've picked up on my distaste for the floaty bits. This process will dry out meat but for a recipe like this, that's a total non-issue. Trim any obvious fat off before starting this process. Again, your mileage may vary but I will definitely take time to do this again. I almost always have plenty of energy when I prepare the crockpot but very little when I am ready to serve.  It's really important to me to be able to serve whatever is in there without having to pretty it up.

While your slowcooker is heating the onions et al, preheated a large skillet (use whatever you would use for browning meat) to somewhere just shy of medium. Place your choice of meat in the pan, slowly warming it through, cooking the outside but not browning it. As the outside of the meat cooks, the floaty bits will ooze out. Scrape them off and make em go away. A good deal of liquid will come out but there will be plenty in the crock - let it cook off. Keep the heat low enough that the meat sizzles but not so high that it browns. Flip occasionally. As they stop releasing liquid, press pieces occasionally, continuing to scrape off any white fatty bits. When they have released most of their liquid, transfer to the crock pot. And you're good to go.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Baby Books

My mom has a box somewhere with a beautiful Baby Book she made for me. I've even scrap-booked myself, making an album for my sister as a maid-of-honor gift.

Yet my kiddos have nothing.

I have boxes of little saved things and for my eldest, a calender with notes on it about many special little things. And if you gave me a few days I could probably find them. I think. I know I have a whole mess of photos and a bunch of little videos ... I even have some blog posts (ahahahahaha). At least we all know my babywearing life is well documented. But they don't have baby books. I was busy with my home business, they were challenging little bundles of joy and life took us down a few years of bumpy roads that made just remembering to wear pants a victory.

I journalled through all of my adolescence and young adult years. Sometimes I did it with a fancy fountain pen ... I even used a dip pen and India ink for a time in college. Somewhere in our attic is a wooden wine box completely filled with pages and pages of angst. Oddly enough, when I met my husband I stopped journalling. I tried but, well, I was happy. There WAS no angst to document and I could only wax poetic on our blossoming romance for so many pages.

I was at Target this week with my mother and a very impatient five year old and I thought it would be fun to start keeping track of the goofy stuff they say/do by writing down little tidbits on index cards and storing them in a cute little box. Target had no boxes but they had really lovely journals ... and I realized I had something to write about again.

So tonight I started books for the girls and contentedly tucked them next to the computer. And I'm happy :)