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.

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Making Changes – Cooking at Home

My mother volunteered me to write a post about the benefits of cooking at home, and I admit, I feel like a bit of a fraud writing it. Mostly because I live with two devils (my husband and 10 year old son) who are infamous for such lines as, “Oh, let’s just order something” or, “I want Zia Taqueria!” To which my instant and mouthwatering mental response is, “Well crap, now I want a fish taco and nothing else will ever make me as happy as that fish taco and dear God in heaven turn the car around and drive to Zia or I will kill you all right now.” *Sigh* Thank goodness I have my (almost) 2 year old son to balance the other two’s unending temptation-filled mutterings by his sheer power to ruin any seated meal, let alone one had out in public. Dining out with Augustine? It just should not be done.
Augustine ~ 7 months old.

All that being said, I guess I should be proud that we eat at home roughly 6 nights per week. Eating at home entails consuming food prepared here, not just bringing Five Guys burgers and fries home and eating them at the dinner table, with or without actual dinnerware. Except for about four weeks last month when I was in the throes of first trimester nausea/exhaustion/crying misery. But we won’t count that, right? 

Could be a fetus, could be the fruits of too much Five Guys.
Things that I find make us drastically less likely to order a last minute pizza or something else I’ll regret are budgeting, menu planning, freezer cooking, and my pressure cooker. Budgeting keeps me aware and accountable to how much we spend on groceries vs. eating out. When I know takeout will cost us $35 and how many meals I could feed us on that same amount, takeout just doesn’t taste as good. Menu planning in advance allows me to have ingredients on hand, thus eliminating one excuse for not cooking. Freezer cooking gives me access to a freezer full of either ready-made meals, or things I can just throw in the oven while I sit on the couch and obsess about how much harder pregnancy is at 34 than it was at 23. Finally, my pressure cooker prevents us eating takeout due to not having enough time to bake/roast/boil (insert something obnoxiously time consuming here; i.e. boil brown rice).

   

Having a ready stock of easily prepared sides is also helpful. Sweet potatoes sitting on the kitchen counter in my fruit and vegetable rack, staring at me condescendingly day after day is usually sufficient for me to declare, “That’s it, you guys are going in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes…now let me fish something out of the freezer to eat with you.” Costco has a great selection of frozen vegetables (many organic), which are a simple and healthy side to any main dish. One of our favorites is stir fry veggies, which we saute tossed in garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
As you can probably infer from all of this, dining at home is an active struggle and something we tackle on a daily basis. But most days I win, and to reward myself we budget and meal plan with one day per week allotted to eating out. Really, the whole thing is absurd because more often than not my husband and I look at each other across the dinner table and agree that no restaurant can compare to my mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe, my meatloaf, or his Jalapeno Cilantro chicken (recipe coming soon!). And then Augustine screams and pegs one of us with his food-laden fork like a javelin from 6 feet away, Ayden starts gagging on an imaginary piece of chicken gristle, and we know that the four of us should not be allowed to dine in public anyway.

We are open to renting him out to food addicts as aversion therapy.

I am including some other links to previous posts that are also relevant and most of them also have recipes.  I apologize for having all the links, but it helps to keep the post from getting too long and rambling.
Check back on Friday for the last post in our series – “Making Changes – Choosing Healthy Food”.

Not your average cupcakes

Mini cupcakes
Do to holidays, exams, illness and the birth of babies, Modern Mother Cubbard has fallen a bit behind in our postings! To make up for this, I thought I’d share this gem… Sweet Potato Bourbon Cupcakes. That’s right cupcakes with booze! Normally, our post are geared towards easy food, healthy food, and freezer cooking, but it’s the holidays, and these are just fantastic. 
I will warn you, these cupcakes are a bit more labor intensive then the goods I usually bake, and may even have more steps than most of my meals, but they are worth it! The full recipe comes from one of my favorite baking blogs to follow: Bakerella. First you have to cook a sweet potato or two. Bakerella does not leave directions for this, from the pictures, its clear she chopped and boiled, but you can do it anyway. Go ahead and make extra, so you have mashed sweet potatoes for dinner. Then you mix and bake the cupcakes, and let cool. These cupcakes have TWO different icings: a simple glaze, followed by a bourbon glazed. They are topped with candied pecans. Bakerella does include directions to make the pecans via deep fryer – but I dont have one. Google produced some other options. 

OAMC Session #2- Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes, Wings, Fried Rice, and Fried Chicken

MaryP and I undertook our second Once A Month Cooking (OAMC) session this week, and chose my friend BethAnne from our waiting list of people who would like to join us. Her heartfelt pleading and willingness to drive 30+ minutes to join us the next evening after she got off work won me over in the end. Since my mom and I have easy access to Costco, we bought all the ingredients and just asked that BethAnne bring a large cutting board, good knife, and her own freezer bags. She has a REALLY nice knife, by the way, which is good because we soon learned that she should not be left unattended with a food processor. BethAnne only cooks for herself and her teenage son most nights, but opted to package her meals to feed a family of four, since they often have company and also enjoy leftovers. We made seven servings of the following: Fried Mustardy Chicken, Cinnamon Sweet Potato Bites, Chinese Wing Marinade, and Cauliflower Fried Rice. The cost per meal came to $4.85 (for 4 servings).

3 hrs = 35 individual meals + 9 side dishes

 Fried Mustardy Chicken

Maybe a weird family name for this dish, but my mother has been making it since I was a child and it never ceases to please. I don’t even particularly like mustard, but it adds a tangy flavor to this chicken that cannot be missed. We used pounded chicken thighs for this dish, despite a little reluctance from my mother to use anything but breasts. Personally, I find breast meat boring, dry, and expensive. They came out DELICIOUS. For lack of any good sales, we bought the frozen bags of chicken thighs from Costco, which came to $2.19/lb. The benefit of using this meat is that each piece barely needed pounding, which is a plus when you’re doing two whole Costco-sized bags!
When we first started experimenting with eating mostly Paleo, we discovered the versatility and joy the sweet potato provides. You can only eat them baked or as fries so many times, though. This is one of our favorite ways to eat them, but I abhor the peeling and chopping. Therefore my sweet potatoes often have a glorious and thriving afterlife in the back of my veggie rack, complete with purple sprouted arms reaching for the heavens in potato ecstasy. Having knife-happy guests over seemed like a perfect solution, especially when the three of us decimated 13 lbs of raw sweet potatoes in under 10 minutes, laughing and talking the whole time. This dish is obviously also vegetarian/vegan friendly, which is something we have been getting many requests for.

Beautiful BethAnne posing with her potato bounty.
We each bagged up our desired amount of roughly chopped sweet potato, and added a dollop of coconut oil, a hefty sprinkle of cinnamon, and a dash of salt, then shook the living daylights out of our bags before freezing. 
Sweet Potato, Cinnamon, Coconut Oil, Salt


Chinese Wing Marinade

I first saw this recipe on Food Network, and when Andrew Zimmermen mentioned the words “ancient Chinese recipe” I was sold. He spent almost 20 years trying to perfect this recipe, and swears that all ingredients must be precisely measured for the proper flavor. I’ll admit, it was a rather pricey undertaking the first time I made it, with a lot of time spent scouring our local Asian market (did you know you can purchase fresh pork uterus there?!). But many of the ingredients such as the chilis and star anise were practically a one-time investment for many batches of marinade. Sake is by far the most expensive ingredient, but can be purchased for $0.01 per mL. The flavor of this dish is unlike anything I have ever tasted, and completely worth the hassle. We put our marinade ingredients in gallon bags to be frozen, so that wings can be added later and allowed to marinate. I like to let mine sit for 24 hours after adding the wings, shaking and turning often. (You can also add the wings before freezing.) We just pour the wings and marinade onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 for 45 minutes, turning once. A word to the wise: do not attempt to eat the baked ginger slice, no matter how brown, gooey, and delicious it appears (ask me how I know). *full body shiver*

Even yummier than it is pretty.

Wings marinating and ready to cook.


Cauliflower Fried Rice

I swear you don’t miss the rice.

We love fried rice, and when I saw this recipe on one of my favorite sites, The Recipe Critic, I knew I had to try it adapted with cauliflower rice so we could eat it guilt-free. I get a lot of raised eyebrows when I go on and on (and on) about cauliflower rice, but 100% of people who have sampled my lunch at work (more than you would believe) are astounded at how delicious it is. I practically have to growl and eat hunched over my food to keep the vultures away, nurses are a curious and hungry lot. We used frozen organic mixed vegetables from Costco, and doubled the amount called for. We substituted a head of cauliflower (about 2 lbs) for the rice required in this recipe, and found that Costco had the best deal for 2.2 lbs of pre-cut (swoon!) cauliflower for only $3.79. With no swearing or cauliflower-destruction mess involved. You simply pulse the cauliflower florets 2-4 times in a food processor (or use a grater) until it is the size of grains of rice, and voila! Since these will be frozen and therefore will be soft when reheated, there is no need to cook. We also added chopped Costco rotisserie chicken and crumbled cooked bacon, because what isn’t better with bacon? Packaging this meal was a breeze, we simply added each ingredient as we prepared it, which made for a beautifully layered finished product. To prepare, one must simply defrost and heat in a large frying pan (we chose to add the soy sauce then). 

Cauliflower Fried Rice w/Chicken & Bacon

Cauliflower rice is great to have on hand for easy meal pairing.

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