Pulled Pork

Measurements are approximate because that’s how I cook, almost all of the time…haha!

You will need a “pork butt” cut of meat, it may also be called pork shoulder or Boston Butt. It can be bone-in or boneless and they come in a great range of sizes which will affect your cooking time in the end so just make note of that.

Make a rub or use a BBQ pork rub seasoning that is pre-bottled. Here is what goes into mine:

  • Kosher Salt (1.5 tbsp)
  • Brown Sugar (1.5 tbsp)
  • Black Pepper (1 tsp)
  • Garlic Granules (.5 tsp)
  • Paprika (1 tsp)
  • Chili Powder (1 tsp)

The proportions can vary and it should be enough in volume to generously season the outside of the meat, so increase total volume if necessary.

Rub the spice mix all over the meat and put it into a covered roasting pan (if you don’t have a lid you can use foil) and roast in the oven at 300 degrees. Check on it periodically and turn the roast over each time. Initially the meat will release juices and it will almost braise, but then it will slowly evaporate and the fat will render out of the meat. Allowing the meat to roast in the residual fat will give it nice caramelization on the outside. The meat is done when it is fork tender and will shred easily. If the meat feels tight, it is not ready yet. This can take anywhere from 3-6 hours depending on the size of the roast. The other thing you will need to watch is that the sugar doesn’t burn, it will turn dark for sure, but if it burns it will give a bitter taste. You can add ½  cup of liquid (like water, beer or chicken broth) if it looks like it is darkening before the meat has started to get tender.

When the meat is easily shred-able, remove it to a plate and let it cool a bit before shredding it up into small pieces. I also take care to remove any fat blobs or anything else I don’t want on my fork.

Then toss it with your favorite BBQ sauce and enjoy! (Side note: I tend to doctor up bottled sauces because they often feel too sweet and out of balance to me, so I add a little yellow mustard, vinegar, hot sauce and olive oil.)

———End of Recipe———-

More info: This method of cooking pork roasts is something I do a lot. If you change up the seasoning mix to be a little more generic (i.e. salt, pepper, garlic, paprika), you can treat it like carnitas and have tacos or burritos, or just eat awesome tender pork roast meat. The other cool thing is that it usually makes a lot of meat. I shred the whole roast then split of extra portions and freezer bag them for later meals. Enchiladas anyone? 🙂

Tomato Soup

Here is my recipe for tomato soup, which started out as someone else’s recipe for tomato bisque, which I love, but I found it didn’t need quite that much cream, especially if you are serving with grilled cheese, yum!

Here goes:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 smashed garlic
  • 1/2 of a white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions and garlic in the pot with the melted butter until they are translucent, then add the rice and stir it around for a minute or two until it is coated in the in the butter. Then add the tomatoes, water and BTB. I slosh the water around in the tomato can to get out all the leftovers and then melt the BTB in the water before adding. (Here I will note that you can use broth instead of BTB and water, I just find it gives a nice rich flavor to the soup). Let it simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender. Then blend with an immersion blender or transfer in batches to a regular blender, remembering to take out the center piece of the lid and cover with a towel (hold the lid on too). Once all blended, do a final seasoning with salt and pepper to taste and mix in the cream. It is fairly thick so you can add water or broth to thin it out, if you like a lighter consistency.

For the grilled cheese, I recommend gruyere. 🙂

Perfect for a rainy day.

Un-scotti

I am sure you’ve heard of biscotti, which means “twice baked”. We call these Un-scotti, since you only bake them once and get a cross between a soft cookie/muffin-y thing. They are delish. Thanks to Diane for this wonderful recipe.

Mix together:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 veg oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp extract (can use anise, almond, vanilla…we favor almond)

Then add:

  • 2 cups flour
  • Chocolate chips
  • Nuts (we use sliced almonds)

Mix together quickly and form 2 long loaves on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 21 minutes (yes, that is really what it says). Take them off the cookie sheet and slice into separate cookies to cool. Once cooled, make a simple powdered sugar and water icing and drizzle over the cookies.

 

Breaking Bad Color Analysis

In my previous life as a college graphic design teacher, I taught several “Color Theory” classes. One of the exercises I would do in class is to watch movies and tell my students to study the color in the films and apply it to the theories we were learning. This was always one of my favorite tools for teaching this subject, because the students always seemed to think that it was ridiculous that someone would go through that much trouble to use the theories of color associations, emotional effects and symbolic representations in something as simple as what a character was wearing in a 2 minute scene of a TV show…but they do! After a few of these exercises, my students would often come up to me and say, “I can’t watch a movie or a TV show any more without seeing all of the color theories at work.”

My friend Sean, having chatted with me in the past about color theories, sent me this infographic: http://tdylf.com/2013/08/11/infographic-colorizing-walter-whites-decay/
Mind you, I did not visit the page or read the article, he only sent me a screenshot and asked what I thought of it. Here is what I wrote back to him:

I know of Breaking Bad and a little about the storyline; however, I find it a bit too intense for my own viewing 🙂 This chart is very interesting! With my limited knowledge of the many many story points throughout the series, I think I can make a few assertions; however as interesting as it is to look at these character arcs on their own, there is probably a great deal more revealed by looking at some screenshots of the more pivotal scenes. Looking at the play of color between the characters, how the scene is lit and how moods and colors change from one scene to the next.

So here is what I see (keeping in mind that because I know so little of the show that I may be waaaay off 🙂

  • Walter – He seems to have the most variance over the course of the show, which would make sense since he is the focus of the show. Season 1 has a lot of cool colors, grey, green and punctuated with some spots of yellow which could be illness, very little blue which represents calm. Season 2 is much darker overall and toward the end has a lot of black. Warmer colors are creeping in, this may mean the character is coming alive more and having more intense emotions, but all of the black still makes it seem like he is deeply troubled. Season 3 has more lightness to it. Some blue peace coming in and some purples which can represent healing. There is a lot of conflict in season 4, the sharp contrast and a lot of reds make me think that this season held a lot of rage for the character. Season 5 has an interesting balance, an equilibrium not seen before. Some colors from season 1 are repeated, but there are larger groups of a single color, less jumpy changes.
  • Skyler – This character’s main color is blue, which could be calmness or a lack of warmth in her personality. It looks as though there is only one time she wears a very warm bright color, so that scene must have great significance to the plot or her character arc. Over the course of the show the character becomes much darker (almost overwhelmingly so) which could be depression, or a decent in to darker themes (evil, wrongdoing, sadness). She has the greatest change in contrast over the course of the show, a long slow change.
  • Jesse – Extreme contrast and very bright vibrant color. This character has a lot of energy, unpredictability, and all of the red leads me to think he has a lot of rage and is violent. Very few cool colors, so it seems that he is rarely in control.
  • Hank – Earthtones, greys and browns throughout. This character appears to be the most grounded in the whole show. Seems very stable, and serious, nothing wild about him. Not a lot of variance in color, so he seems very even keeled.
  • Marie – A ton of purple, which makes me think she is either a very healing personality or a mystical one. She, like most of the other characters has her moments of darkness, but seems to stay fairly warm throughout the show.
  • Walter Jr. – Very light colors overall, which means there are changes, but he is not an intense personality. Interestingly, his character arc seems an almost perfect gradient from cool to warm colors. This could mean an overall change from emotionally distant to more emotionally available, or it could be a change from sad to happy. It also seems to somewhat mirror Walter Sr, but not nearly with the same intensity. Very very little black at all, so I would say this character did not spend a lot of time at “rock-bottom”. He also has some of Hank’s browns so maybe that character is a stable influence on him.

Kudos to the maker of this color chart and the makers of Breaking Bad for creating a very rich visual context for their story.

Final disclaimer: I have never watched one episode of the show and have only seen a handful of clips. I do not claim to know exactly what I am talking about, I am only using general color theories to extrapolate some meaning.

Nate says…

Hotdogter – Helicopter
Upright side down – Upside down
Dockadockadoo – Cockadoodledoo
Winnie Hoo – Winnie the Pooh
Pup cake – Cupcake
Disweesand – Disneyland
Nocoyo – Pinnochio
Nember – Remember
Van Wyke – Dick Van Dyke
Juicery – Juicy
Saucery – Saucy

Goodbye Scarlett

Yesterday we said goodbye to my sweet little dog. She had the best little personality and was loved by most everyone.

We had some great times with that pup and she has been around since just before Christopher and I got engaged. We felt like our own little family from day one. She survived cancer and a spinal defect that slowly immobilized her over the years, she was a spunky little fighter. It was fairly often that a total stranger would exclaim, “That’s the cutest dog I’ve ever seen!” In fact, it happened at the drive thru just about a month ago.

She used to burrow into the laundry basket full of warm clothes from the dryer. She would get the hiccups if you yelled at her. She loved babies and would whimper and shake with excitement when they were around. She loved the beach.

My little girl has gone on. I will miss her deeply.

Homemade Cornbread

I love making cornbread in my cast iron skillet. I favor this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/grandmothers-buttermilk-cornbread/ But I heat the skillet up in the oven, melt the butter in the pan and add it to the bowl of ingredients so the skillet is well greased, then you pour the batter in the hot skillet. Only takes about 20 minutes to cook.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Homemade Chili

Tonight I decided to try my hand at homemade chili. I’ve made veggie chili before but not really a meaty one and that was the craving today. So I started with the Basic Chili recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (it’s in my cookbook, but I can’t find it on the website), and then added my own twist. Here’s how it went together:

  • 1.5 pounds of lean ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 Anaheim chile
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can of diced tomato
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 2 Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce
  • 2 tbs of maple syrup
First I chopped the onion and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil. (I seasoned with salt and pepper after every major ingredient went in.) Then I added all of the peppers and seasonings to toast in the oil. Then I added the garlic and tomato paste to concentrate the flavors. Next I added half of the ground meat and cooked until it started to brown, then I added the second half. After the meat was no longer pink, I stirred in the tomatoes and the rinsed kidney beans. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low and simmer with the lid on for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Then remove the lid and cook for another hour, add liquid if it starts to stick to the bottom of the pot. Toward the end I started to feel like the flavors needed to deepen and be a bit smokier, so I added the minced chipotles in Adobo and the maple syrup, which really seemed to round out the chili nicely and helped kick up the spice a bit. I will also note that you need to add quite a bit of chili powder, probably near 1/4 of a cup, but I added it throughout the cooking process and kept tasting along the way.
Christopher thinks that this would be a good recipe for leftover brisket. I’ll have to remember that.

Nate’s Birth Story

I had gone a few days past my due date and while I wasn’t growing anxious about the situation, I was beginning to wonder if things would start happening soon. I kept the house tidy, went walking with my husband each morning and evening, and basically tried to relax as I waited for my life to change forever.

April 19th, 2011 – Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, on one of my many trips to the bathroom, I noticed a little more fluid than usual. I was instantly sure that my water had started leaking, but I went back to bed without waking Christopher because (as all of the birth class instructors will tell you) if you can sleep, sleep. In the morning, Christopher and I went for a nice long walk to see if things would start moving along. I hadn’t had any contractions yet.

Half way through the walk my water really, really broke, really. So we hurried home and I showered up. We called the midwife, Simona and she told us to come in so she could check things out. I called my parents at this point to let them know that they should get on the road, since there was no turning back now.

The midwives confirmed the water breakage (duh), and said they didn’t want to check to see if I was dilated because it could introduce infection. Since I wasn’t having contractions yet, they told me to head home and walk around until things started happening. Simona also told me that if I didn’t start having contractions by the evening to take some Castor Oil, gag.

We took care of a few things at the office, and then headed to the mall to walk. My parents arrived and we headed to dinner. Still no contractions. During dinner, a small twinge, maybe a contraction? After dinner we walked around Target, still no contractions. Before bed, I took the dreaded Castor Oil, disgusting.

Everyone was in bed and I was just dozing off to sleep and I felt a cramp. Ugh. Ok, well that was nothing, I can get some sleep before it gets worse. About 12 minutes later another cramp. Oof. That’s cool, I can catnap in 10 minute bursts. Then they started coming 8 minutes apart and lasting about a minute long. I started timing them with my contraction timing app on my phone. After about 10 contractions, the app told me that I needed to upgrade to the paid version…HELLO?? Is this not the worst time in the freaking world to try to upsell me??? Let me just say that after everything was over I wrote a scathing review of that app.

By this point, I had woken Christopher with my moaning, so he got up to help me. The next 10 hours are something of a blur so here is what I do remember (in no particular order): The contractions were about 6 minutes apart and a minute long for most of my labor. While the contractions began in my abdomen, at some point I started to have back labor. I tried to several positions to get comfortable for my contractions, but what worked the best for me was standing and swaying, or leaning forward on the bed or table. My hypnobabies techniques actually did work very well for about an hour sometime in the middle that I was able to concentrate on my relaxation. I wished I would have practiced a lot more. I think my mom and Christopher took shifts caring for me. We called Simona and she told me to come in at 9 a.m. I ran down the water heater twice in the glorious shower, which was the best part of labor. At some point, I ended up in the back yard. I basically wandered around moaning and breathing deeply for what seemed like days. I think they put on the movie “Up” while we were getting ready to go to the birth center in the morning.

In the car, I surrounded myself with pillows, put the seat back and tried to relax. Time enters another dimension when you are in labor. Sometimes the seconds drag on, other times you look up and hours have passed. Simona was wonderfully supportive, she coached me through a few contractions and told me how well I was doing. When she checked me for dilation, I was still at one centimeter. One. 10 hours of labor and I hadn’t dilated any more than I had been the week before. I was quite disappointed. This was exactly what I had feared would happen.

Simona told me to go relax in the birthing suite, but to try to stay active and she would check me again in an hour. This was when I really started to notice the back pain. I couldn’t get comfortable sitting. So I wandered around the birthing suite for an hour and a half and she checked me again. No change. She told us to go home and come back at 4 in the afternoon.

We went home, I tried to rest in between contractions, but it was really no use, they were still 6 minutes apart and 1 minute long. I was really getting tired. At 4pm, we headed back to the birth center and Simona checked me again. No change. I asked her what we should do. She said since I wasn’t progressing and it had been more than 24 hours since my water broke, we should probably go to the hospital and try a little Pitocin. I asked her if she thought that was the best thing to do. She said (you have to imagine her awesome Romanian accent), “You have been laboring for a while and not dilating and this is not a small baby.” I was shocked by that last part. She smiled and pointed to my belly, “No more water in there, that’s all baby.” So off we went to the hospital.

Simona met us in the E.R. and we quickly went back to a desk where I signed my name just once and then I was in a room. Everyone seemed to know the drill with Simona and they all sprang into action when we got there. Since they were starting the Pitocin, I had to be on a monitor, which meant I had to lay down. On my back. My contracting back. Oi. I took one look at the bed and knew that I was not going to be able to manage the contractions laying down. I had been standing for nearly every contraction for the past 20 hours. At that point, I understood the true challenge of labor was not the pain but the ability to endure through the exhaustion that overtakes a long labor. I asked for some pain relief.

Simona suggested a shot of Nubain, which took the edge off enough that I could lay in the bed, but it made me very dizzy. Once I got the meds, she told me she was going to go home to eat dinner and come back in a couple of hours and that she would be there for the night.

I kept my eyes closed most of the time and tried to relax. Christopher and my Mom took turns feeding me ice chips, which I wanted endlessly. There were not enough ice chips in the world. I also kept asking Christopher to put chapstick on my lips. After a couple of hours, the Nubain started to wear off and I noticed that the contractions were stronger, longer and much closer together. They were upping the Pitocin every half hour and things were getting intense.

I reached a crisis point when I realized the contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes and were the strongest I had experienced yet. “That was another one, wasn’t’ it?? That was 2 within 5 minutes!!” Pitocin was not my friend. I began to question the nurses.

“Can I have another shot of Nubain?”

“No, we don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“Can we turn the Pitocin down?”

“No, that would make you lose any progress we’ve made.”

“Can you check me and see if we’ve made any progress?”

“No, we need to wait for Simona.”

“When is Simona coming back?”

“We’ll find out.”

After some very intense waiting, Simona showed up and checked me for progress. Two centimeters. Two. Two? “Maybe two and a half”, she conceded. I told her that the Pitocin was too much and I couldn’t handle the contractions so close together when I still had so long to go. I asked if I could have an epidural and was told the anesthesiologist was in a crash C-section and wouldn’t be out for at least half an hour, and I knew it would take at least another half an hour to start getting relief. I knew I was going to have to make a key decision about how to go forward, but with so little time between contractions and my mounting exhaustion, I could barely come up with two brain cells to rub together. I asked Simona, “Can we please stop the Pitocin??” She reiterated that we might lose the progress we had made. But I was adamant, “Look, I need you to turn it off so I can think and talk to you about what we are going to do.” They obliged and my contractions quickly spaced back out to 6 minutes apart, what a relief!

Simona laid out my options. I could continue to labor on the Pitocin, but since my water had been broken for nearly 40 hours, they would start getting concerned about infection and fetal distress. Or I could have a c-section. I really didn’t want a c-section, but Simona pointed out that right now the baby was still doing fine and it might be better to do it now before we put the baby through additional stress of augmented labor. I also knew that refusing a c-section now might mean that I just had one later and possibly an emergency c-section. I talked it all through aloud, just to make sure what I was thinking made sense. My mom was nodding vigorously, I know she knew exactly what I was going through. I took a few minutes to make sure this was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to ever look back on this moment and think I was pressured into it. And then I said yes. I labored, I did well, I wanted to see my baby.

At that moment, 3 nurses swarmed on me to get me prepped for surgery in record time. This was the worst. I was flat on my back getting poked and prodded very which way and they made me drink something really nasty. Finally, I was being wheeled along to the O.R.  I was still contracting, but it was much better without the Pitocin.

They took Christopher to get into scrubs and took me in to get prepped. I sat on the table leaning forward onto Simona’s shoulder and another little scrub nurse. They held onto me and patted my shoulders while the anesthesiologist poked around giving me my spinal. He missed once, twice, he apologized and said if he missed again, he could call someone else to try. I reassured him that I was fine. I was the most comfortable I had been since I had gotten to the hospital, sitting upright was wonderful after spending so much time on my back. Third time was the charm and my legs instantly began to tingle. They laid me down and that’s when Christopher showed up again. He sat by my head, camera in hand ready for the big moment. I was quickly numb and quite happy about it. I had trouble staying awake through the whole thing. Finally, on April 20th, 2011 at 11:55pm, my little boy was born. Christopher followed the baby and took some photos. He showed me some on the camera while they were closing me back up. “Aww” I said, “He looks like me.” We laughed. They brought him over to me and I fell in love. Our baby. Our little family. I haven’t stopped falling yet.

Choosing Natural Childbirth

Well, here is the part where I explain why I chose to try and have a natural childbirth. First of all, let me say that this is a very personal decision and I don’t for a moment think that everyone should do what I did. As was explained in my childbirth options class, you need to decide what you are comfortable with and whether that means you want to have your baby in your own bathtub with only candle light or whether you want the epidural in the parking lot of the hospital you should be able to have the birth experience you want.

I have been fascinated by childbirth for years, and even continue to be now. I love (LOVE) reading birth stories, reading birth books, watching birth videos, etc. It is a truly miraculous happening and I am enthralled with the whole process. I found that over the years, I was drawn to the stories of natural childbirth. I loved learning about women’s experiences when they let nature take over. I also enjoyed “The Business of Being Born” and it made a lot of sense to me, even though it is slanted toward a certain perspective.

So once we found out we were expecting, I made an appointment with an OB to check things out. Through the first half of my pregnancy, I started researching my options while still seeing the OB. I knew from the start that I would not stay with this practice since they had stated before I even made my first appointment, “There are several partners in this group and regardless of who you see for your prenatal care, whoever is on duty is who will deliver your baby.” This made no sense to me. Why see one doctor throughout your pregnancy only to roll the dice when it came time to deliver? I may as well walk into an emergency room and tell them I am in labor. No. I wanted someone who had gone through this experience with me to know my preferences even before my first contraction hit. I wanted to know the person advising me through the biggest challenge I would face as a woman.

So I began asking around and researching online to find a new practitioner. I was open to the idea of a doctor or a midwife, as long as I felt this person could respect my preferences and advise me. That didn’t seem like too tall an order, but I suppose I was wrong. At this point, I still wasn’t dead set on a natural childbirth, but I was considering it heavily.

I researched and took the recommendations and basically came down to 2 possibilities an OB and a midwife. Then I gathered some questions from some of my favorite pregnancy/childbirth books and set up “Meet and Greet” interviews. Both were extremely friendly and knowledgeable. When I told the OB I wanted to have a natural childbirth, she sort of chuckled and said, “Well, I think that’s a little crazy. Everyone thinks they want a natural childbirth, even I did, but it hurts more than you think.” While I appreciated her honesty, I was a little disappointed that if this was the path I chose she wouldn’t encourage me. The meeting with the midwife was at her birth center and I just fell in love with her and the facility. Afterward, I did a lot of thinking and came to my decision based on the following:

  • I’ve always wondered if I could have a natural childbirth.
  • We are only planning on having one child, so this could be my only chance.
  • If I wanted to try to have a natural childbirth, it only made sense to go where I would be supported in that decison.
  • I don’t like hopsitals, so if I could have my baby without going to one, that would be great.
  • Natural childbirth was going to be enough of a challenge without having to try to go against the hospital system.
  • I loved the midwife and her experience was considerable.
  • I loved the birth center.
  • There was a hospital right across the street from the birth center in case of emergency.
  • My husband and parents understood where I was coming from and supported whatever decision I made.
  • Childbirth was a natural process that my body was capable of going through without IV’s and medical intervention.

Again, this was my process, everyone has to decide what is best for them.