Taco Carnitas

In preparation for the week, I decided to make meat that I could mix with different things all week – carnitas (or pork).The recipe I picked out made enough pork to last for days worth of leftovers, which is great since I haven’t had time to cook much this week. Also, this recipe requires more than just using the crockpot, upping the level of difficulty.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 (3.5 lb.) lean boneless pork roast, excess fat trimmed, cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 8 oz. beer
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

First thing first. The original recipe calls for 1 Tbsp. of chipotle powder, but apparently I didn’t have it, so I made my own. What I didn’t realize at the time was that chipotle powder comes from chili’s, dried out, crunched up chili peppers, so instead what I really made was more chili powder, not chipotle powder. Whoopsies!

I cut up the pork into 3 inch pieces then browned the pork. Using the 1 tbsp of oil, I browned the pork for about 3 – 4 minutes on each side. While the pork was browning, I cut up the onion into diced pieces and minced the 4 big pieces of garlic. I put all of this into the crockpot. To be honest, there was a lot of pork in my crockpot. I am not sure I could have fit anymore, even though the original recipe called for 4 – 5 pounds of meat.

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Before 6 hrs in the crockpot.

Next came all of the spices, including the blend I made myself. Then I let the pork sit for 6 hrs on low after mixing in the spices, garlic and onion.

Once the pork was ready, I pulled about 1/4th of it out, pulled it a part with fork (it fell apart without even trying), and then put it on an aluminum covered baking sheet. After putting some juice on it, I put it under the broiler in the oven for about 5 minutes. The original recipe called for it go through it twice, but after the first time through the boiler, the pork was really crispy and ready to eat. I ended up making about 1/4th of the pork this way, and left the rest in the juice to eat for the rest of week, letting the pork soak in all of the juice for the rest of the week.

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After 6 hrs in the crockpot and broiled to a crisp.

Review:

Really good, and makes enough pork for the week. The pork has a really nice kick to it, but I do wonder what the kick would have been like had it been chipotle powder instead of a mix of paprika and cayenne pepper. I would make this again! Everyone liked the dish who had it!

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Total Cost: $24.00 – the pork was the most expensive
  • Total time: 25 minutes for prep, 6 hrs for the crockpot, 10 minutes for after prep – 6 hrs and 35 minutes total
  • Serving Size: 10 – 14 people
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Homemade Doughnuts

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The final product (with a pretty filter).

Since my life is about to get busier than now, I thought I would challenge myself on my last day off – I made doughnuts. That’s right, homemade, from scratch doughnuts. I decided that in this year, when I cook outside of the crockpot realm I cook things I can fry. I really need to begin to re-think this idea, because this recipe was more complicated than I thought.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 cups of Buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup of melted butter
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 cups gluten- free rice flour (more as needed when rolling out the dough)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp Chia seeds (replaced the xanthan gum)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 beaten egg (set aside for later uses)
  • Enough sugar to cover a small plate top
  • Blackberry Jam

Let’s begin this journey into doughnut making with me shopping at the grocery store. Most of these ingredients were really easy to find, except for the xanthan gum. I have been looking for this ingredient to help with my non-gluten baking experiments, but since moving to Ohio I have not been able to find it. In my research for alternatives I discovered that instead of xanthan gum one can use chia seeds or flax seeds. I was doubtful at first chia seeds would be successful, but honestly they worked extremely well as a binding agent and the doughnut dough stayed together very nicely.

Now on to the cooking/making. The first step of the recipe called for all wet ingredients (2 beaten eggs, 2 cups of buttermilk, and 1/4 cup of melted butter) into one big bowl. Then mix the dry ingredients (5 cups of white rice flour, 1 cup of sugar, 2 tsp of baking soda, 1 tsp of baking powder, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of chia seeds, 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon) in a different bowl. Slowly add the dry mix into the wet mix. How I accomplished this, was that I didn’t. I tried to add in the dry mixture slowly, “layering” it in, but really I would just stir it all together slowly. After I added the last cup of dry mix, I used my hands to make sure the mixture adhered together. Then I let the dough sit for 15 minutes.

While the dough was “rising” for 15 minutes, I set up the vegetable oil (about 2 inches in a frying pan), and the “stations” I would use. Station one: the cutting board covered with rice flour to “roll” out the dough into 1/4 inch thickness and use a cup to make circles. Station 2: the plate to put the circles of dough on. Station 3: The extra beaten egg and brush used to brush the outer edge of the circle of dough. Station 4: Putting jelly in the center of the dough. Station 5: Deep frying. Station 6: Paper towels to put the doughnut on after it has been fried. Station 7: Sugar time! Put sugar on both sides of the doughnut and lastly, put in a container to bring to work tomorrow.

The stations sound confusing, but in the end it made it easier for me to do all of the steps. So once the dough was ready, I took a chunk out and “rolled” it out to 1/4-inch thickness. The truth is, I do not own a roller, so I used my palms and my fingers and eyeballed about 1/4-inch thickness of dough. Then I used a cup to cut a circle into the dough (these would later be used as the top and bottom of the doughnut). The dough proved to be very sticky, so I ended up using about 1/2 – 3/4 cups of rice flour to make sure the dough didn’t stick to the cutting board. I made about 14 circles with the dough.

Next, I took one circle of dough, and then using a brush, paint the outer edges of dough with the egg (this apparently acts as a way for the dough to stick together). Then I put about a spoonful of blackberry jam in the middle. The original recipe calls for only 1/2 of teaspoon of jam for each doughnut, but I didn’t think that was enough, so I just put a spoonful in. Then I put another dough circle on top and pinch the edges together so the jelly didn’t come out of the doughnut.

Now comes the fun part of deep-frying the doughnut. Using a spatula, I put the doughnut in the oil. Again, I struggled with timing when it came to deep-frying the doughnut. The first couple of ones were a little burnt, but I got better as the time kept going and realized my timing. Also, I only managed to burn myself 5 times because I was able to jump out of the way of the oil coming out of the pan. I seem to forget that when you put an object in oil, there will be a splash. It took me about 3 times to remember this fact when I flipped the doughnuts, but it helped me get in my routine to prevent me from burning the doughnuts. After making one doughnut, I would flip the one already in the oil and remove the one on to the paper towels, and then make the other doughnut in a continuous circle. After I had made all the doughnuts, I then sugar on both sides. When all the doughnuts were done, I made doughnuts holes with the left over dough in the oil.

Review:

I don’t think that I had the thickness of the dough around 1/4-inches, so the doughnuts were a little bit “bready”. But, these were pretty good! I would totally make them again so I could have a good gluten free doughnut. I would also add even more jelly into the center, keeping it more moist/rich. Very good and very filling.

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Total Cost: $40.00 – I had two buy two bags of rice flour, 2 new spices, and butter milk which proved to be more expensive than I thought.
  • Total time: Prep – 20 minutes, 15 minutes rising, 30 minutes cooking – 1 hr 5 minutes
  • Serving Size: 8 doughnuts

Honey Garlic Chicken

I have slowly but surely been working my way down this list from the Huffington Post. Now, this dish is something I threw together in a short amount time. Instead of giving it the full day to cook, I made this dish in 2 hours and as my friend told me, it was still amazing. We are literally obsessed with this Honey Garlic Chicken and trying to think of when we can make it again since we both liked it so much and found it very filling.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 large bone-in, skinless chicken breasts (2 1/2 to 3 pounds total)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup low sodium gluten-free soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup blackberry jam
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon of corn starch
  • 3 Tablespoons of cold water

This whole recipe began with the grocery shopping. Finding bone in skinless chicken breast turned out to be an adventure in and of itself. I was able to found the bone-in chicken breasts with skin, so that’s what I bought. Next came finding hoisin sauce. I had no idea what that was, so I began my search in the salad dressing aisle, before using my Google machine to learn that it is a spice used in Asian food which made my search much easier in the store. Then came the blackberry jam. Here is one thing that I have never fully understood: what is the difference between jam and jelly? On the shelf in the store, jam was more expensive than the jelly, and because the recipe called for jam I bought the blackberry jam. However, is there any difference?

The cooking/making the meal part was very easy. After removing the skin from the chicken breasts, I placed them in the bottom of the crockpot and put it on high. Then I whisked together the honey, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, olive oil and garlic and put it on top of the chicken.

After two hours on high (the original recipe calls for 4 – 5 hours on low), the chicken was moist and had cooked all the way through. At this point, the only mistake I made at this point, was that I didn’t think to separate the chicken breasts to allow for the sauce to get in between the breasts and to really soak the meat. Looking back at the original recipe, I realize that the author stated that the chicken breasts should not be touching. There was simply not enough room in my crockpot for that to happen, so next time I will simply lift up a breast to let the sauce reach all parts of the chicken. In the end, the lack of the evenness of the sauce really did not matter because I poured the thickened sauce over the chicken.

After removing the chicken from the sauce, came the shredding of the chicken. The easiest method I found to do this was to use two forks and to pull the chicken apart. This took more time than I anticipated, so I kept the sauce in the crockpot on high for longer than anticipated. The sauce remained very soupy throughout the whole crockpot/cooking process, so after removing the chicken I combined the sauce with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water in a saucepan at medium heat. Once the sauce had thickened (after about 10 minutes of stirring it in the saucepan), I poured it over the shredded chicken and the quinoa (what we, my friend and I, had decided to serve it over). The original recipe called for green onions and sesame seeds, and honestly I forgot those, but the dish was still delicious.

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The finished product!

Review:

AMAZING! That was all my friend could say. We have been texting non-stop about when we can make it again and who else we can make it for. Yes, it is that good. Everyone make it now! A real crowd pleaser!

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Total Cost: $20.00
  • Total Time: 30 minutes prep, 2 hrs in the crock pot, 30 minutes to shred the chicken/thicken the sauce – so 3 hours total
  • Serving Size: 4 people
    1/2 cup diced onion
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
    1 Tablespoon cornstarch

Vanilla and Brown Sugar Granola

I had only heard of granola being made by cooking it in the oven on cookie sheets, but then I came across this recipe and I knew I had to attempt to make it. My only reference for granola is the kind of granola you put on greek yogurt, so a little but more clumpy than not. Before beginning the recipe, I read through the recipe and realized there was a disclosure: the granola didn’t really clump unless there were loads of honey and butter aka loads of sugar. So knowing that, I did not expecting this granola to be very “clumpy.”

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 5 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 3 tablespoons of vanilla
  • 1/8 cup of brown sugar

Making the granola proved to be a very simple task. Fist I mixed the oats, flax seeds, slivered almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds and raisins in the crockpot. Then I added the honey, and then the microwaved melted 1/2 cup of butter. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut, but I do not like coconut, so instead I put in about 3 tablespoons of vanilla and 1/8 cup of brown sugar. Then I stirred it all together, making sure that all of the oats and ingredients were fully mixed.

I had been warned previously that granola can burn easily in the crockpot, so for the 3.5 hours I had the crockpot on high, I would stir every 30 minutes. This tip was a great one, because the original recipe said to stir the crockpot occasionally, but had I done it any less the granola would have been really badly burnt. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, I actually wished I had stirred the crockpot every 15 minutes because at the end of 30 the granola was a bit burnt.

Next, I put the granola on two cookies sheets with paper towels. The original recipe called for parchment paper, but we didn’t have anything like that in my house, so I just assumed paper towels would be the same. Not true. The paper towels acted a bit as an adhesive, so some (not a lot) granola ended up sticking to the paper towels. I lost some granola this way. I also kept the granola out over night, when I think you were only suppose to let the granola cool, so about an hour or two, but I do not believe that this affected the finish product.

Review:

This recipe makes a lot of granola. I have one box/Tupperware container of granola and 4 sandwich Ziploc bags I ended up giving to friends. Even though some of the granola burned at the end, I still liked the recipe but I do wish it clumped more. Instead, this batch is much more like a cereal then clumpy granola. I will for sure be make this again as granola is a great snack option.

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Total Cost: $15.00
  • Total Time: 15 minutes to prep, 3.5 hrs to cook, 2 hrs to cool so 5.75 hrs in total
  • Serving Size: A lot! I’m not sure how to measure this as I didn’t measure how many cups/have a set serving size.

Croquettes (A Non-Crockpot Adventure)

Since it is the New Year, I decided to branch out from just using the crockpot. I have done some non-crockpot dishes before, but this is the first one that I have done which required refrigeration, molding and frying. This recipe for croquettes (which I had never heard about before, but who doesn’t love fried cheese) proved to be one that perhaps I should have saved until I had a few non-crockpot recipes under my belt.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1/4 skim milk
  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt (this replaced the sour cream)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp gluten free flour
  • pepper for taste
  • 1/2 cup of corn starch
  • 5 slices of gluten free bread
  • 5 oz of gruyere
  • Canola Oil (enough to deep fry in)

To begin, I washed, peeled and cut up the potatoes and then put them into a steamer. I am back in California right now, and to be honest I had no idea how to steam my potatoes until my mother brought out a steamer device. This device is not the device that you use to steam clothing (that was what I first thought of), but a metal piece that you put into a pot so that the item needing steaming sits right above boiling water.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/ab5/63708718/files/2015/01/img_1197.jpgThis contraption blew my mind/ I know that if I tried to make this in my own kitchen I would be lacking this very important kitchen utensil.

While the potatoes became soft from steaming, I combined the milk, Greek yogurt, butter, salt, flour, pepper, and gluten free flour in a bowl. Once the potatoes were soft, I mashed them up with the other ingredients and then put the bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes. The whole thought process behind this move was that the recipe called for the bowl to sit for an hour in the fridge, but we were short on time, so 30 minutes in the freezer should work. Wrong. Faulty logic at work here. After 30 minutes the dough had not congealed at all. So after 15 more minutes, I took out the mixture and added about 1/2 cup of cornstarch. The addition of the cornstarch proved to be somewhat helpful but the mixture was not combining in a way that would make it easy to work with, so back in the fridge it went for 15 minutes.

While the “dough” was back in the fridge, I cut up the cheese into 1/2 oz pieces/small rectangles that I could form the dough around to make into cylinder croquettes. Then I made my own version of breadcrumbs by putting pieces of gluten free bread through the food processor. The food processor still provides me with some difficulty, but luckily this one only has three settings – on, off, pulse, so I just kept it on and let the food processor do its job.

I brought the dough back out, and it was still not in a solid enough form. I think there were many reasons for this fail. Gluten helps to keep mixtures together and this croquette was gluten free, so lacking the necessary elements to make the dough more solid. Secondly, I don’t think I mashed the potatoes enough, so there were chunks of potato that also made it so difficult to thinks to bond together. Thirdly, I should have put the mixture in the fridge not the freezer like the recipe actually said – so much for trying to take short cuts.

Because the dough was not really dough, but more a mess of a mixture making the croquettes into cylinders just did not happen. I was able to put dough around pieces of cheese and then I put them back in the freezer for 15 minutes to help form more of a croquette shape. Because my mixture was so sticky, I placed the “croquettes” on wax paper before putting them back in the freezer. This was the smartest move of the whole cooking process for this recipe, because when it came to dunking the croquettes in eggs and then breadcrumbs before deep-frying them, the croquettes came right off the wax paper.

To deep fry the croquettes, I brought oil to a boil on our stove and then would dunk in the croquettes. This aspect seemed very straight forward, but somehow I managed to not have enough oil so I had to flip my croquettes halfway through the deep-frying process. Because I have never attempted to deep-fry anything before, let me tell you that when you drop something into oil, it likes to retaliate and jump back at you. Many times when I put the croquettes into the oil or tried to flip them, I was doing so from an arms length away as to not get burned or what I have no deemed as “hot oil’s fire spits” on me. Many of my croquettes came out burned because I was trying so hard to not get burned and because I had no idea how little time an item needs in oil to deep-fry. In case one was wondering how long that is – it is not long at all. But as I made more, they became less and less burned because I understood that each croquette did not need much time. The solution to this problem of the burnt croquettes – more oil so the whole croquette is submerged, not just one side.

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Review:

The recipe suggested that you serve these with a dip, but I served these with my mother’s dinner of Teriyaki salmon, broccoli and a salad and the croquettes paired well with the salmon because it had a flavor to it while the croquettes did not. Next time I serve this, I will be sure to include a dip or a topping to make it more interesting.

Overall, I would not make this recipe again, because of the fact that the dough never hardened enough to really work with. When I read the recipe the first time (and yes I said read the recipe before doing it), the author made it sound sooo simple. Lies. This was not easy. This was a war in the kitchen with hot oil fire spits, dough that just didn’t want to harden up, and the outcome was a bland deep fried concoction.  I will probably try this again because it was such a challenge, but this is not one for beginners.

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Total Cost: I have no idea, my mother bought everything. You’ve got to love the Holidays!
  • Total Time: 15 minutes steaming, 2 hours in the freezer/prep, 15 minutes deep frying – 2.5 hrs
  • Serving Size: 18 croquettes