Thursday, May 19, 2016

Asian Pork and Veggies (Slow Cooker)

I have sort of been on an Asian food kick these days, and when I was looking for something new to make for my Sunday Slow Cooker meal a while back, this recipe caught my attention.  I did modify the original recipe a bit - not all intentionally, but we loved the results.  In fact, my husband said "This is the best slow cooker meal you have made in a long time!  It is really, really good."  Not one to hold back what he thinks, I will take that as a true compliment. It has made its way into the permanent rotation.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 11-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces soba noodles (alternatives: somen noodles, rice)
  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 2/3 of a bag of frozen sugar snap peas (or use fresh, or use snow peas)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, stir together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, oil, ginger, and crushed red pepper. Add the pork and toss to combine. Cover and cook until the pork is tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total cooking time).  (If using frozen sugar snap peas, put in fridge to thaw at this time.)
  2. With 15 minutes to 1 hour left in the cooking, add red peppers and peas to the slow cooker.  (My family likes our veggies soft, so I added them 1 hour prior to the meal being done when cooking on low.  If you like your veggies more crisp, see the alternative in step 3.)
  3. Fifteen minutes before serving, cook the soba noodles (or alternative) according to the package directions.  (If you prefer crisp veggies and haven't added them to the slow cooker, add the bell peppers and snow peas to the water during the last minute of cooking the noodles.)
  4. Mix together 1 tsp cornstarch and 1 tsp water in a small bowl.  Stir mixture into slow cooker and cook on high for 5 minutes to thicken sauce slightly.

Difficulty: easy
Time: 10 minutes prep, 4-8 hours cooking (slow cooker)
Source:  Based on a recipe found at www.realsimple.com

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cake

The faculty room is a place of gathering in our building.  Our staff enjoys monthly thematic potluck days; this month, we had a baked potato bar in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. I signed up for salsa.  Early morning baking doesn't really agree with me.  One of our amazing staff signed up to make this chocolate chip cake.   When I carried on about how good it was, she replied, "I whipped it up in 5 minutes; it's one of my mom's recipes."  The next day, I found the recipe on my chair (if you are trying to give something to a teacher, put it on the chair; the desk usually is covered in piles of stuff).

After reading the book Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, I started following her suggestion of celebrating holidays with a fun breakfast.  Her suggestions included buying colorful paper plates and something simple like coloring the peanut butter.  I have enjoyed making a special occasion and breakfast for my family.  But this year, the time change hit me hard. I went to bed on 3/16 thinking, "Well, we can use the green polka dotted plates.  And there will be a few chocolate coins."  At 4:00 AM, the dog decided he needed to go out. As I stumbled around the kitchen, I figured I'd make something for breakfast since I was up.  I could find nothing.  Then I remembered Jill mentioning that there were few ingredients and the cake was fast.  So...I needed to find the recipe.  In my teacher bag. Pre-coffee, it took me more than 5 minutes; I still wouldn't say early morning baking agrees with me.  But the kids loved it!

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Grease 9 x 13 dish.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add sour cream, vanilla, and eggs. Mix well.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon. 
  5. Pour half of batter into the dish. Sprinkle half the sugar mixture and 1/2 bag of chocolate chips.
  6. Pour remaining batter on top.  Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and sugar.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.



DIFFICULTY: Easy!
TIME: 10 minutes prep; 30 minutes baking
SOURCE: Jill, my awesome coworker