Pork and Sauerkraut

This is one of those dishes that many people react to with “I don’t like sauerkraut!”, but often they completely change their mind if they get brave enough to try it.  It is more of a winter dish since it calls for an extended cooking time, but it works in the summer if you use a slow cooker.  
I made it yesterday, starting it early in the morning in the slow cooker.  It was perfectly cooked when I got home from church.  I serve it with mashed potatoes, and usually put the sauerkraut on top of the potatoes.  This time I didn’t bother to mash the potatoes, just smashed them up with a fork before topping them with the kraut.  I usually use pork ribs, but you can also use other cuts of pork such as pork chops.  

Pork and Sauerkraut

  • 2 lbs. pork
  • 1 large jar or can of sauerkraut
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
If using a rack of ribs, cut into individual rib portions.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder, and then brown on each side.  (It is not necessary to brown, but it definitely adds more flavor and makes the meat more visually appealing.) Add water, cover and cook for about an hour (not necessary if using pork chops). Add sauerkraut, layering it around and between the pieces of meat. Cook for another half an hour or longer.  If using a crockpot, layer meat and sauerkraut without precooking the meat.  Cook on high for about 3 hours, or on low for about 6 hours.  The meat should be falling apart tender when done.  The flavors of the meat and the kraut meld to make a delicious combination. 

#TBT – White Bean Chicken Chili

Another Throwback Thursday to one of our most popular posts.  This is an easy meal to serve a crowd and always gets rave reviews.  It is especially economical if you make your own chicken broth and cook dried beans from scratch (and it really enhances the flavor). Although it may be thought of more as a winter-time dish, it works well in the summer when made in a slow cooker. Click here to go to the post.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

If you were to talk to my husband, he would probably tell you that I am not a pork person. I’d probably agree, but in all honesty, we eat pork on a pretty regular basis. We LOVE crock pot pulled pork in this house, and this dish tops them all: baked sweet potato stuffed with BBQ pork.

A baked sweet potato stuffed with pork covered in bbq sauce,
caramelized red onions, and melted colby jack cheese

This was really easy to make. It was inspired by Jim N Nicks pig in the potato patch. According to their menu it’s a potato “loaded with smoked bacon, butter, sour cream, cheddar, bbq sauce, and a choice of pork or chicken”. It’s one hell-of-a-way to eat a potato. We’ve made our own versions before, but this was the first time we made it with a sweet potato. Not only is a sweet potato a much healthier choice, it adds an incredible level of flavor.
A few weeks ago our local Kroger had a bone-in pork shoulder on sale. Pulled pork is actually quite a versatile meat and is pretty regularly on sale. We purchased two 8+lb roast for only $12 each. That is less than $2 per pound. I froze one, and popped the other roast into the slow cooker (recipe here).  I shredded the roast with my kitchen aid and split it into gallon size bags. For reference, a roast this size made 3 gallon bags of 3.5 cups and one container approximately 3 cups. (See more pulled pork recipes)

On the day I made dinner, I threw my potatoes in the pressure cooker and caramelized some onions. Once cooked, I cut the potatoes opened and topped in the following order: BBQ sauce, pork, sauce, caramelized onions, sauce, cheese. I baked them in the oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. We served the loaded potatoes with some sour cream.

Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin, Veggie loaded macaroni & cheese, Salad

My baby just hit the 12 week mark. I have been planning since the first week he was home to write a fabulous post about bringing home baby, and how glad I was that I had stocked up food, and had a full freezer and pantry, and even had a vague meal plan. Well, between holidays and sickness and general lack of sleep – I never made it to that post. It seems a little late to be writing that post now, so all I will say is that we probably wouldn’t have eaten if it hadn’t been for all the meals in my freezer. We were able to either dump things in the crockpot, pressure cooker, or place in the oven, and pull it out hot and ready.

The only way I can cook

While my freezer was stuffed to the brim, it wasn’t all premade meals. I had also taken the opportunity before baby to stock up on meat. I figured that sale shopping post baby wasn’t something I would really be able to manage – one of the meats I was thrilled to get my hands on was a huge package of pork tenderloin. Honestly, I can’t remember the cost now – but it was a steal. I froze 3 of them raw, and we had one when I purchased them. We pulled out one of them and made this “slow cooker” Balsamic Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin from slender kitchen just the other night. It is delicious and healthy! Only 5 WW points if you’re counting.

Dry rub & Balsamic Marinade

The tenderloin is rubbed down in brown sugar, cumin, garlic powder and (optional) chile powder. It’s cooked in a balsamic vinegar marinade. It’s written to be a slowcooker recipe, but I didn’t pull out my frozen pork till the afternoon. I threw it in a pot of cool water for about 45 minutes, then put in my pressure cooker for 25 minutes. It was tender, moist, and delicious. Check it out!

yummmmyyyyyyy



Stuffed Bell Peppers

This is a family favorite and I am happy to say a (somewhat) toddler approved meal. I started making this at least five years ago, and have lost the original recipe. Regardless, I’ve made many changes over the years. The current version has to be the most satisfying, and its very busy-mom/OAMC/freezer friendly!
When I first started making this recipe, I cut the bell peppers length wise, and made little boats. I baked them in a casserole dish. Later I begun doubling our recipe, and freezing a second tray. More recently I discovered that it was possible to make these in the crock pot! Not only does this require significantly less active cooking time, it requires quite a bit less prep. The recipe below makes approximately 10 peppers. I cooked 5 the other day (enough for dinner and left overs) and then froze the remaining peppers. As they are individually freezable, you can choose how many you want to freeze and/or cook in the future. Lastly, I included some suggestions, these are quite customizable to your taste.

Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans*
  • 1 can pinto beans*
  • 2 packages taco seasoning**
  • 1/2 cup water (per taco seasoning directions)
  • 10 bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup salsa (or Rotel)
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican/taco cheese
Optional ingredients & toppings
  • additional shredded Mexican/taco cheese
  • sour cream
  • hot sauce
  • crushed tortilla chips
  • Jalapenos
*You can substitute cooked dry beans, I just didn’t know how to make them until recently. Check out Mary’s post for more info. 

**I purchase this ingredient in bulk at Costco. I know some people make their own. (Another project for the future!). Use enough seasoning for 2-2.5 lbs worth of meat.

Directions:

  1. Drain and rinse beans. Set aside.
  2. Brown the ground beef.
  3. Add onions, beans, taco seasoning, and water to the pan.
  4. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until onions begin to soften (approx 5 minutes)
  5. This is a good time to cut the tops off the bell peppers, and clean out the seeds/insides. Set aside for later.
  6. Stir in 1/4 C salsa or Rotel
  7. Add in cream cheese – I slice mine up into chunks to make it easier to blend
  8. Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded cheese based on your preferences
  9. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  10. Scoop the mixture into the bell peppers. Top with shredded cheese
To Freeze: Place peppers upright on a pan or plate. Freeze over night. Wrap individually or put in bag or container.
To Cook (in slow cooker) Place peppers in slow cooker with 1/4 C salsa + 1/4 C water. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. You can also use taco sauce in the slow cooker instead of salsa and water.
To cook (in oven): This requires an additional step. Before stuffing, boil bell peppers for approximately 5 minutes to soften and start the cooking process. Then follow the steps listed above. When complete, cover the bottom of a casserole dish with salsa, or taco sauce, place peppers and bake covered for 20 minutes at 350. When cooking this way, I slice the tops of the peppers, then length wise to make boats, so a cover can fit on my dish. You can fit 4 upright peppers in a square casserole dish, or 4 pepper boats (2 whole peppers). They could be frozen this way as well. 
To Serve: Eat each pepper as is or topped with crushed tortilla chips, hot sauce, jalapenos, or whatever other topping you may enjoy.  

Variations & notes: 
  • While it was not part of the first recipe I used, many versions of this include cooked rice. I’ve never made it with rice, but you could add it. In addition to onions, you can add bell pepper (I was left with an entire bowl of diced bell pepper from the tops), mushrooms, or other veggies (like corn).
  • We used salsa since my toddler cannot eat spicy foods, but prior we usually used Rotel. I’d probably add some chipotle peppers in adobo if we could eat spicy now. 
  • I like this combo of beans and meat, but you could double the meat, or use only one type of beans, or do all beans or beans and rice for a vegetarian version. I’ve never tried it, but I bet this would taste good with chicken or pork also. 
  • I’ve seen versions of this made with raw meat. As 6 hours on low in a slow cooker is more than enough time to cook raw ground beef, this would cut way down on prep time, but I’m not sure how mixing all the ingredients (spices) together raw would work. 
  • Finally, we’ve used pretty much this same filling with some additional taco sauce to make taco stuffed pasta shells…. another recipe which is delicious as well as easily prepared and frozen. 

Rotisserie Chicken & Chicken Broth

Toddler approved chicken quesadilla

If there is one thing we eat in this house more often than pulled pork, its Costco’s rotisserie chicken. For $4.99 + tax, you can walk home with a fully cooked 3.0lb bird. Deal of the century! Personally, I find the meat pretty delicious on its own, and often the first night home that is what we eat…. But, what makes the rotisserie chicken so amazing is that its cooked chicken to use as you like! Talk about easy, cheap and convenient. There are plenty of you tube videos showing how to cut one up if they intimidate you (check out this one). I will be posting some real recipes but here are some ideas to get you started….

  • Chicken Salad
  • Chicken Quesadillas
  • Fajitas
  • Chicken Tacos
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
  • Chicken Alfredo
Crockpot Dinner on Left, Chicken Stock on Right

But wait! Even the left overs can be used! Once you’ve used all the meat you’re going to use, throw the bones into a bag and into the freezer. Once you’ve got 2-3 chickens worth you can use them to make some delicious broth!

It’s easy, delicious, and cheap. Ok – I know chicken broth isn’t really all that pricey, but if you can make it with ingredients you had on hand – why not? All you need is your left over chicken scraps and bones, some veggies (celery, onion, garlic, carrot), water and a pressure cooker or crock pot.

First, brown the chicken bones in the oven. Broil for 15-20 minutes. Then throw them in your crockpot/pressure cooker. Throw in some veggies. Put in just enough water to cover all the bones.  Add a splash of vinegar (optional) to help pull the calcium out of the bones and into the stock. Cook on low for 12 (or more) hours in slow cooker, or for one hour in pressure cooker. My last batch made close to 8 cups.

Afterwards I allowed mine to cool, then cooled over night in the fridge. I poured mine into ice cup trays and froze, then transferred to a bag, for easy access (Trays are about 2/$2 at Bed Bath and Beyond. Four cubes is a 1/2 cup). Now I pretty much always always have chicken broth available!

Another Take on Crockpot Pulled Pork

I’ve had so many ideas about what I wanted to post, I’ve been struggling with what to post first. The dinner we ate last night sealed the deal for me.

I made pulled pork in my crockpot for the first time about five years ago. Since then it’s pretty much become a staple in our house hold. Before I post all the details though, I have a confession… Generally when I tell someone I make pulled pork they assume it’s BBQ. I’m really not much of a BBQ person. This pork is delicious and can be used a dozen different ways, only one of which is BBQ! 

The original recipe I used came from Budget Bytes, a budget friendly food blog, but I’ve modified it quite a bit since to make it my own. The original recipe estimates $8.34/recipe or $0.93 a serving, but mine uses a few different ingredients, but I have never recalculated the cost. Typically I purchase pork from Costco, its ~$2.30/lb, but you have to buy 17 lbs. I split this into 4 roasts (you could do more) and pull them out of the freezer when we are in the mood. I think you could get it cheaper on sale, but I think this is a pretty good price. 


Crock Pot Pulled Pork
(Adapted from Budget Bytes)

Ingredients:

  • Boneless Pork Roast (Shoulder roast, Boston Butt, Picnic Roast)
  • 5 Cloves Fresh garlic 
  • 2 Tbl Paprika
  • 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 3 Cups water
  • 1/4 Cup liquid smoke

Directions:

  1. Mix spices. Rub them all over the roast.
  2. Put the roast in the crock pot. Add garlic, water and liquid smoke.
  3. Cook on low for 12 hours. 
  4. Use fork, tongs, or mixer to shred pork. 

Yeah it is that easy. I love easy.

So now that you’ve made all this pork. What do you do with it? The obvious choice is to pour some BBQ sauce on it, and eat it or put it on a sandwich, but other options range from quesadillas and burritos to omelettes and eggs Benedict to pasta and a baked potato topping.  It’s also delicious in a salad or wrap. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to post some more recipes, on how to use this – so check back! 

Pulled Pork on a Chipotle Southwestern Salad