Monday, April 27, 2009

Pulled Pork

For inquiring minds who want to know how to make the pulled pork that inspired my easy barbecue menu - it's true that pulled pork in the crock pot couldn't be easier. It won't have that truly smokey flavor that traditional pulled pork gets from being smoked over low heat for several hours, but it will still be moist, tender, and delicious, and the barbecue sauce adds plenty of flavor.

You can use pork shoulder or pork butt to make pulled pork, and I would look for a small size (about 2-3 pounds) for dinner for two with leftovers, or on the larger side (4-6 pounds) for a party. If it's frozen, make sure to defrost it before cooking.

Chop an onion into long, thin slices. Lay half the onions on the bottom of the crock pot. Brush the pork in barbecue sauce on all sides. (If you can't find good storebought barbecue sauce, you can make your own). Place the pork in the crock pot with few more dollops of barbecue sauce, salt, and pepper and scatter the remaining onions over and around it. Add water to the crock pot up to about a quarter of the height of the pork. Cook on low for eight to ten hours.

The cooking time will depend on the size of your roast. If it's not looking close to done after six or seven hours, and I don't have a lot more time till I need to serve it, I will sometimes turn up the heat for an hour or two and that usually does the trick. It's done when the meat is no longer pink and shreds at the touch of your fork. If the meat has not already fallen apart in the crock pot, use two forks to shred it for serving purposes. Serve pulled pork with hamburger buns and extra barbecue sauce.

PS. I highly recommend getting a slow cooker (aka crock pot) if you don't already have one. It's great for making soups, stews, beans, and roasts because it does all the cooking for you while you are out at work or having fun.

It's Hot

But it's not THAT hot. It's around 80 degrees on my office floor today and it's all anyone can talk about is to complain about the heat. Come on people, suck it up. I'll take this anyday over AC blasting so hard that all I can think about is wanting to wear my warm fuzzy socks and our damage to the environment. Don't get me started. Rarrrrrr! I for one am happy that winter is finally over and we can enjoy warm weather now!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Baby Steps

I'm skipping work today and am off for a long weekend with to middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania for a baby shower, with this pink and blue confection in tow.

I had a fun time shopping for the baby gifts at a few stores in Brooklyn. My favorite store was an independent baby boutique with organic and handmade goods in Park Slope, which makes sense since that neighborhood is the baby mecca of Brooklyn.

I've never remotely thought about baby stuff before, but I'm pretty happy with what I ended up with:

rattle from here

organic onesie from here

sweatshirt from american aparel

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Self Catering a Southern BBQ

I went out for barbecue at Blue Smoke last night with friends, and was reminded how much I love making pulled pork for parties because it's so easy to just throw a pork shoulder in a crock pot with some bbq sauce and onions for a day and let it do its thing. Same thing goes for chili. Which led me to the idea of how easy it would be to self-cater a big barbecue with a menu like this:

A crock pot or two of pulled pork
A crock pot or two of vegetarian chili
A crock pot or two of grilled shredded chicken breast
(to accommodate all the health nuts I know who think pork is too fatty - i'd grill chicken, shred it, and warm it with some honey mustard sauce in the crock pot)
Fluffy whole wheat rolls (ok i can make bread but it's so time consuming and finicky that i would wimp out here and just buy it from a bakery)
An array of homemade mustards, ketchups, and barbecue sauce
(I do want to learn how to make my own condiments)
An array of homemade cucumber, carrot, and pepper pickles
Trays of lite mac 'n veg 'n cheese
(again, my family would think typical mac n cheese is too unhealthy, so I'd go light on the cheese and incorporate finely chopped broccoli)
Corn on the cob
Some sort of light tomato salad

The great thing is that you can make most of this a day or two or week ahead, and the flavors will only improve with time. I could totally pull this menu off with the help of a few friends and borrowed crockpots, and I don't think it would be too expensive either. Perfect for a summer get-together, graduation party, or casual wedding.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A New Red Hook Ritual

Once or twice a month I delight in taking a shopping trip to Fairway in Red Hook, where I can stock up on bulk goods for cheap, like organic coffee, beans, rice, and so on.

Now I may have found a new ritual to tack onto my Red Hook trips: A stop at Rocky Sullivan's for beer and a snack outside. I'd been to this bar on an assuming corner before and hadn't thought much of it, just a normal working class neighborhood bar. Then I found out about its roof deck, but I wasn't able to take advantage of it until the first nice weather hit this weekend. Now I have truly seen the light.

The bar neighbors Sixpoint Brewery, so I was able to get two of my favorite Sixpoint beers, Bengali IPA and Righteous Rye. And ogle all the Sixpoint kegs lying around. Rocky Sullivan's has a bar menu, but I'm guessing their best food is their brick oven pizza, made fresh to order. I had the margarita pizza, complete with homemade pesto sauce, and it was delish. The crust had a slight buttery flakiness to it, a little like pastry crust, but not too much.

I enjoyed my afternoon snack on their roof deck. We were the only ones up there, and I can't imagine it ever gets too full, so it certainly lives up to its reputation as "serene" I highly recommend checking it out if you're in the hood, although don't tell all your friends because hidden gems are always better when they remain that way!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Breakfast Pizza for Dinner!

It's ramp season folks. And what do ramps go with better than bacon and eggs? Nothing!

After reading about Motorino's amazing breakfast pizza which "delivers a beautiful pool of gooey cheese, runny yolk, pancetta drippings, and fruity olive oil", I was inspired to make my own version. The original plan called for goat cheese ricotta, bacon, ramps, and sunnyside eggs, but my sister Lisa did the shopping and some of the cooking, so she also added in broccoli raabe for a contrasting bitter bite.

First, you need to make the dough. I really prefer my recipe for pizza with a puffier crust, but out of laziness I went for the thin crust recipe that just requires a whizz in the food processor and a wait in plastic bags in the fridge overnight. It makes six dough balls, so I stuck three in the freezer, to leave us with three personal pies for the three people in my household. About two hours before I wanted to cook dinner, I took the dough out of the fridge to let it warm up.

Next, Lisa fried up a few pieces of bacon and let them drain on paper towels. She poured out most of the bacon fat (to reserve for future use), while leaving enough fat in the pan to sautee the greens.

After preheating the oven as hot as it will go (520 in our case), Lisa finely chopped ramps and broccoli raabe. She sauteed them in bacon fat until softened and then continued to cook covered for another ten minutes until wilted.

Next I assemble the pizzas on cornmeal-dusted baking sheets, slowly building them with crumbles of goat cheese ricotta, bacon bits, wilted greens, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Finally, I broke an egg into the middle and put them into the oven for about 10 minutes until the crust browned on the bottom and the eggs firmed.

Unfortunately, the crust took longer to cook than the eggs, so the yolks had already firmed by the time the pizza was done and alas, there was no runny yolk to coat the pizza in golden flavor when biting into it. But it was still f*in good.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


So I've been using deodorant less and less. This may sound radical but hear me out. First off, I am not a product person. Even before I went green I didn't wear makeup or lotions or powders or perfumes often. Then a a couple years ago when I started to think about how to lessen my carbon footprint, I tried to cut out products as much as possible or use ones with more natural ingredients. Because I suddenly realized I wasn't comfortable with applying dozens of unrecognizable ingredients, chemicals, and preservatives to my body. I stopped wearing make up entirely (except for special occasions like work galas and halloween). I started using natural soaps and shampoos and so on. I switched to Tom's of Maine deodorant. But then I read this post which says that even Tom's of Maine may have parabens in it. I also don't like the idea of using products I don't actually need.

So sometime in the past year I stopped wearing deodorant on the weekends, when I'm not out to impress anyone (nor did I get any complaints of being smelly), but still wore it to work out of propriety. Then I realized that when I go to the gym at lunch and forget to bring deodorant to apply afterward, I've always been fine for the rest of the workday.

I've now decided to try to go totally deodorant free. I'm curious to see how long this lasts. I imagine I will have to bring it back out when New York City's sweltering humid summer hits and I'm sweating a lot more. Although, come to think of it, I actually spend most of my summer in an air-conditioned office so cold I wish I could wrap myself in blankets galore, so I likely won't need it a lot this summer either.

I'm kind of surprised because I think of myself as a person who sweats easily, especially when exercising. Maybe weaning myself off of it slowly helped my pores adapt and be less stinky? I think as long as I always shower right after exercise I'll be ok. Plus, you know what? I just don't care. The only person who is gonna get close enough to smell me is my boyfriend and he certainly doesn't care.

Even the New York Times agrees that the feeling of needing deodorant is mostly in your head. Anyway, if you're not ready to go full dirty hippie like me, some other options out there include green deodorant brands that have fewer scary ingredients, a crystal rock, coconut oil, or baking soda. I'm kinda intrigued by the coconut oil and will have to keep my eye out for it since I don't know where I could buy it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Comes Slowly

Spring comes slowly this year
like the crocus just beginning to peer
from the dead earth
as gray as the sky
and the branches waving high
and barren.
In disbelief, sunlight lingers later
and buds begin to unfurl
while our hope swirls
and stutters with the cruel wishy-washy weather.
It all takes time
but change is inevitable.
Or is it? Because in a year
we'll find ourselves in the same place

one week later from my window

photos by me

The Year of Cabbage

If last winter was the year of kale, then I'd say this winter was the year of cabbage.

It's because last year Garden of Eve kept me stocked with kale all throughout the winter when no one else at the farmers markets had green vegetables. Then this year, I couldn't even find kale regularly. But I could still find cabbage.

Plus this year I first realized how delicious cabbage is when sauteed. Much nicer than in bland braised dishes. Slice it thinly, like you would to make slaw, but then sautee it in olive oil with onions, salt, and pepper, letting the onion and cabbage strips brown a bit over medium heat. Then leave it on low heat covered for about 10 minutes until it wilts a bit. The result is perfectly flavored, tender, but with a nice bite. A great side dish.

Or add it to cooked beans and brown rice with some grated cheese and salsa for flavor, as another version of my "healthy rice and beans", an easy dish that is a pleaser.

Now that the weather is warming up, hopefully I'll be eating things besides cabbage soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scallops with Israeli Couscous and Kale

I sauteed finely chopped kale and onion with onions and garlic, and combined it with simmered Israeli couscous, using the Kitchn's method for cooking this pasta-cum-grain with leafy greens. Then I sauteed scallops in olive oil and herbs de Provence to top it off. Here's what we said about it to a friend who gave me the herbs a few months ago:

I used the last of the herbs de Provence you gave me to make seared scallops with Israeli cous cous and kale and may I humbly say that it was the closest thing to culinary perfection that I have ever
experienced - in the words of Dr. Seuss "If you never have you should. These things are fun and fun is good."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Uncorking a Bachelorette Party Plan

A friend of mine, Elaine is getting married in the Finger Lakes this summer, and we have just started planning her bachelorette party.

So far the idea is to have a girls-weekend-only in Ithaca, just for our group of four friends that was so close all through high school. We'd like to go wine tasting in the area and then out to dinner and bars in Ithaca at night. I've only been to Ithaca years ago for college visits, so I'd love to hear if any upstaters out there have advice for wineries and cool spots there!

I'm also wondering if we should incorporate some silly bachelorette accoutrements? I've never been to a bachelorette party before, so the only idea I've come up with is to make E wear a shirt saying "The Future Mrs. [E's Fiance's last name]. But is that obnoxious? The bride-to-be and co. are not big party people so I don't think we're going to do anything involving shots or strippers.

What have you liked and not liked about bachelorette parties you've been to?

map via uncork new york

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Late March in Photos

Now that March is over and April isn't feeling all that better yet:

I've always thought of March as that disgusting month with brown slushed snow and gray trees that isn't beautiful like other months but something you accept and live with because that's life too. I think of the urban landscape in the same way - the concrete and angles and dinginess aren't particularly beautiful, they just are. So what could be worse than the city in March? I swear it was overcast almost the whole month.

Not actually Long Island, but Long Island City.

The doggie's golden throne

How I keep warm when it's not quite winter but not quite spring. The ugly Gowanus is behind me.

Amen to that.

all photos mine

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Eco Tip: Refurbished electronics

It's cool to buy used clothing and thrifted plates and so on. But electronics are another area where we can find ways to buy them used instead of new. For example, did you know that Apple sells refurbished versions of its products on its website? They work just as well as the the brand new products and they're cheaper! Save the earth and some green at the same time! Obviously I think this is genius so I've been trying to spread the word. I got a refurbished iPod for xmas - I'd never had one before, I was trying to hold out as a eco-techno-sacrificer, but finally I got one in hopes of rekindling my connection to music. Ebay and craiglist are other good sources for finding used electronics.

Last week my boyfriend announced he wanted to get an iPhone, and normally I would have been all, Why do you always need to have the newest technology? That is what has gotten the human race into this mess! But once he explained his plan, it makes sense. He currently has both a Blackberry (holdover from old job) and an iTouch, and the iPhone will give him two for one - plus the web interface on apple is infinitely better than blackberry. He's selling the bbery to Gazelle, a company that fixes up and resells phones. He's giving the iTouch away to someone who was planning to get one anyway. He's getting a refurbished iPhone for $99 (not bad considering what the new ones cost), and he put a bunch of his books for sale on Amazon to try to make back the money he's spending to buy the phone. He's finally taking on some green thrifty values!