Pork, Provolone & Spinach Stromboli

A few months ago Matt and I discovered A Casa, a local “bake at home” pizza shop that sells amazing homemade strombolis. A Casa’s strombolis are frozen and available in wonderful flavors like sausage, pepper and onions, Philly cheesesteak, buffalo chicken, and – our favorite – pulled pork and long-hot peppers.  YUM!

1239 Assembling the stromboli 2

Today we planned to pick up some A Casa strombolis but unfortunately the local market didn’t have them in stock.  A Casa itself is only a few miles down the road from our house, but it’s closed on Sundays so we found ourselves looking for other options.  Then we realized that we had 6+ lbs. of freshly smoked pork shoulder* in the fridge… we could make OUR OWN pulled pork stromboli!

After a quick stop to Trader Joe’s to pick up some pizza dough, provolone and spinach we were ready to go. The stromboli itself was very easy to assemble… just spread out the dough, add the cheese and fillings, fold and bake. The finished stromboli was delicious. Fresher, cheesier and less greasy than our beloved A Casa equivalent and so much more satisfying because we made it ourselves!

*Matt just got a smoker and this pork shoulder was the second recipe he’s made in it. Matt smoked a 9 lb. pork butt for 14+ hours yesterday and we had BBQ pork sandwiches for dinner. Now we have lots of yummy pork left over for lunch and dinner all week, but after tonight’s meal we also plan on using some of the meat to make a second pork stromboli to freeze for a future dinner!

I’ll post the smoked pork recipe at some point, but we want to make some tweaks to it first before it’s blog-worthy. 😄 For this recipe, you can use any left over slow-cooked pork.  (Try making it in a slow-cooker if you don’t have a smoker!)1264 Pork Stromboli

Pork, Provolone & Spinach Stromboli

Ingredients:
1 – 6-8 oz. bag Baby Spinach
3-4 spoonfuls Semolina Flour or Cornmeal
1 – 16 oz. ball Raw Pizza Dough
4 slices Provolone Cheese
1 cup chopped Roasted Pork Shoulder
4-5 spoonfuls chopped Long-hot Peppers or hot salsa; we used Trader Joe’s Hatch Valley Salsa which has a fiery, long-hot-like kick
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Cooking Spray

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 475°F. If you have a pizza stone, put the stone in the oven while it preheats.

Heat 3-4 tablespoons of water in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the water begins to sizzle add the spinach and toss constantly for 1-3 minutes until wilted. Transfer the wilted spinach to a strainer and allow to cool for a few minutes. Once cool enough to work with, use a paper towel to press down on the spinach in the strainer and squeeze out as much water as you can. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and roughly chop.

Spread a few spoonfuls of semolina flour onto a dry cutting board or pizza peel, then drop the dough ball onto the flour. Knead and spread the dough ball into a rectangle approximately 20″ long by 10″ wide.

1233 Assembling the stromboli 1

Place four slices of overlapping Provolone cheese on the dough, then distribute the spinach and pork over the cheese. Spoon the long-hots or salsa over the pork. Sprinkle a thin layer of Mozzarella cheese over top of the pork and spinach filling. Fold the long sides of the dough over the filling, then stretch and pull the dough on the short ends over top of the folded sides to close up the stromboli.

Carefully remove the hot pizza stone from the oven and place it on a heat resistant surface. Flip the stromboli over and place it in the center of the hot pizza stone so that the folded sides are facing down. (If using a pan, position the stromboli on the pan this way, too.) Poke the top of the stromboli with a fork 3-4 times to vent and spray the top of the ‘boli with 3-4 quick shots of cooking spray.

Bake the stromboli in a 375° oven on the stone for 12-13 minutes or until the top of the dough is golden brown. Rotate the stone 180° about halfway through the cook time to make sure that the stromboli cooks evenly. Remove the cooked stromboli from the oven, transfer to a pizza peel or cutting board, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Cut the cooled stromboli, serve, and enjoy! 😄

1244 Finished Stromboli on the pizza stone

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Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage and White Beans

How do you prepare for a snow day?  Do you rush to the supermarket for bread, milk and eggs?  Or maybe turn up the heat so the house feels warm and toasty when you come in from shoveling?  In our house we try to take advantage of being snowed in by planning a big, slow-cooked meal that we normally wouldn’t have time to put together on a regular weeknight.

Flashback to Thursday, February 13th… A huge storm was dumping more than a foot of snow on our already snow-covered region, the local kids were all enjoying yet another snow day, and our office was closed.  Knowing that we’d have lots of time to cook, Matt and I decided to try a new stew recipe… something that required a little prep up front and that would be guaranteed to fill the house with the delicious aroma of slow-cooking meat and herbs as it simmered in the crockpot all afternoon.  I found the perfect candidate on MyRecipes.com… smoked sausage cassoulet!

616 Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a classic french dish that features slow-cooked white beans and meat.  White traditional versions of cassoulet call for duck confit, our snow day version of cassoulet kept things simple.  All of the ingredients were readily available at our local grocery store (on the eve of a snow storm, no less!) and, after being sauteed and slow-cooked all afternoon, they came together to make a delightfully hearty stew with smoky kielbasa, richly flavored white beans, and pork that was so tender you could cut it with a spoon.  Top that off with some freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley and we had the ultimate culinary reward for all of the shoveling we did on Thursday… and it was a LOT of shoveling: about 14 inches of heavy, wet snow!

February 13 Snow Collage

Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage, Pork and White Beans (adapted from MyRecipes.com; serves 5)

You will need…
2-3 slices Bacon, uncooked, cut into approx. 1″ x 1/2″ pieces
12 oz. Smoked Sausage,* halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ slices
2 cups Chopped Onion
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary
1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 – 14.5 oz. cans Diced Tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 – 15 oz. cans Great Northern Beans, drained and divided
1 lb. Pork Tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
Grated Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
Fresh Parsley, for garnish

*Choose a good quality smoked sausage as this will have a major impact on the overall flavor of the dish.  The first time we made this recipe we used Johnsonville Smoked Pork Kielbasa with great results.  The second time we also added in some spicy Andouille sausage (leftover from Jambalaya) and that added even more flavor.

621 Cassoulet

Directions:
Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the chopped bacon bits, stirring occasionally, until crispy.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a bowl and set aside.  Add the smoked sausage to the bacon fat and saute until just starting to brown.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to another bowl and set aside.  Add the onion, rosemary, thyme and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, approximately 4-5 minutes.  Add the bacon, tomatoes, salt and pepper to the pan, stir well, then bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place 1 can’s worth of drained Great Northern Beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until chunky.  (I found that doing this in a 3 qt pot worked well since the bottom of the pot is flat.)  Add in the remaining can of beans along with the browned sausage and pork and stir well.

Assemble your cassoulet in layers in a crockpot.  First, spread half of the bean mixture on the bottom of the crockpot.  Then, in layers, add half the tomato mixture, the remaining bean mixtue, and the remaining tomato mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW for 5 1/2 hours.  Stir the cassoulet before serving and top each individual bowl with grated Parmesan and parsley.  Enjoy!

597 Cassoulet

Do you have any go-to recipes that you love to make on snow days?
Tell me about them in the comments section!  🙂

Pork and Green Chile Stew

Hello there, blog world!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted but that’s because Matt and I have been in Las Vegas!  We were there all of last week and just got home late last night.  Being home after a long work trip is definitely nice but I do have to admit that I’m already missing Nevada’s weather.  Every afternoon the temps climbed into the mid-sixties and the sky was always perfectly clear and sunny.  Here in Pennsylvania, on the other hand, we’re about to get hit with another “Polar Vortex.”  Once that icy blast of cold air arrives tomorrow it’s going to stay below freezing for four days straight.  Brrr!

Pennsylvania’s winter weather does have its benefits, however.  Take for instance winter comfort food.  I’ll bet a hearty slow-cooked stew tastes WAY better in 20° Pennsylvania than it would in 60° Las Vegas, right? 😉  I could actually really go for a nice stew tonight for dinner.  We don’t have the ingredients on hand though so I’ll satisfy my craving by posting about this Pork and Green Chile Stew that I made last month.  Doesn’t it look yummy?

Pork and Green Chile Stew close up

I found this Slow Cooker Pork and Green Chile Stew recipe at Skinny Taste.  It was extremely easy to make – just cube and brown the pork and simmer all of the ingredients together in a crock pot for 4-5 hours – and the cooked pork was tender and moist.  Matt and I garnished our plates with cilantro, avocado and sour cream and these Mexican flavors added a really nice, bright finishing touch to the stew.  For anyone looking for a good Polar Vortex meal, I highly recommend this!

Pork and Green Chile Stew

Slow-Cooked Pork and Green Chile Stew (Recipe from Skinny Taste)

Stew Ingredients…
2 lbs. Pork Loin roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 2″ cubes
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
2 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour (or use a gluten-free flour for G-Free preparation)
1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
2 – 4 oz. cans Diced Green Chiles, drained
1-2 Jalapeño Peppers, diced with seeds and stems removed
1 – 10 oz. can Ro*Tel Tomatoes & Diced Green Chiles (not drained)
1/2 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 tablespoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Other Ingredients/Garnishes…
Cooked White or Brown Rice
Sour Cream (omit for Lactose-Free)
Sliced Avocado
Chopped Cilantro

Directions:
Season the cubed pork liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the cubed pork.  Cook the pork for approximately 4 minutes or until browned on all sides.  Gradually stir in the flour and allow the pork to continue browning for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer the browned pork to a crock pot.  Add in the remaining stew ingredients (onion thru garlic powder) and stir gently to combine.  Cover and cook on high power for 4-5 hours or on low power for 8 hours.  When done, stir the mixture and, if needed, add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve the stew over rice and garnish with sour cream, avocado and cilantro.

Pork and Green Chile Stew

Carnitas Tostadas

A few weeks ago we made delicious pork carnitas tacos during our Engagement Photo Session. To make those carnitas, we slow-cooked a bone-in 4 lb. pork butt for 8-10 hours and then shredded it and seasoned it once it was fully cooked. That recipe turned out great but we decided to try a (slightly) quicker version of these tasty pork bites just to see how they would differ. In this latest version, the pork is cut up into 1 1/2 inch cubes before cooking, then slow-cooked with an array of seasoning for just 6 hours.

Pork Carnitas Tostadas

The resulting pork was tender and juicy and quite different in flavor and texture than our first take on carnitas. I think that I maybe liked these a little better, but they also required more prep work so it’s really a toss up depending on how much time you have! We used our carnitas to build Mexican tostadas… towers of beans, pork, cheese, salsa, and sour cream atop crispy, fried corn tortillas. Yum!

Pork Carnitas Tostadas

Pork Carnitas Tostadas

Ingredients for the Pork Carnitas:
(Carnitas recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s The New Slow Cooker Cookbook)
2 lb. Boneless Pork Shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Dried Mexican Oregano
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar (we substituted in 2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar & 1 tsp Sherry)
Salt and Pepper
1 Yellow Onion, quartered
3 Bay Leaves
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Chile Powder

Ingredients for the Tostadas:
1 – 15 oz. can Refried Beans
1/2 Jalapeño Pepper, finely chopped
Peanut Oil
6 Corn Tortillas
Shredded Cheese (we used a mix of Mozzarella and Mexican blend)
Salsa
Sour Cream
Chopped Cilantro, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

Directions:
To make the pork carnitas, mix together the first six ingredients (pork thru salt & pepper) in a slow cooker. Add in the onion and bay leaves, then cover and cook the pork on low for 6 hours. When cooking is complete, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a plate or bowl. Skim the fat off of the cooking liquid and remove and discard the onion piece and bay leaves. Pull the pork apart using two forks, then season with the cayenne pepper and chile powder (to taste) and add in several spoonfuls of the cooking liquid until the pork reaches your desired level of juiciness.

To make the tostadas, start by combining the refried beans and chopped jalapeño in a microwaveable bowl. Heat the beans in the microwave on high for 2 minutes and stir well.

Meanwhile, coat the bottom of a small frying pan with peanut oil (enough to just allow a tortilla to float on the oil but not enough to submerge it completely). Heat the oil over high heat and then, using tongs, carefully place one tortilla in the oil. The oil around the edge of the tortilla will boil rapidly. (If it doesn’t bubble, increase the heat until it does.) Allow the tortilla to fry in the oil until the bottom side turns golden brown, then use your tongs to flip the tortilla over and fry until that side is golden brown as well. Transfer the tortilla to a paper towel-lined plate, then repeat this frying process with the remaining tortillas.

To assemble your tostadas, cover one side of each tortilla with a liberal amount of the bean mixture. Top with a few spoonfuls of the pork carnitas, then sprinkle a handful of shredded cheese on top. Broil the tostadas for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top with spoonfuls of salsa and sour cream and garnish with cilantro and lime juice. Serve with a cold beer and enjoy!

Pork Carnitas Tostadas

Pork Carnitas Tacos

Yesterday Matt and I had our Engagement Photo Session with our wonderful wedding photographer, Melissa Hassey. Prior to the shoot Melissa suggested that Matt and I just relax and do what we normally would be doing on a Tuesday afternoon so we embraced that advice and decided to cook a big meal. That’s pretty much a typical weeknight, after all!

Our “Engagement Session Meal” consisted of slow-cooked pork carnitas tacos with lots of yummy sides including jalapeño-lime slaw, avocado crema, and fresh cilantro. We also enjoyed a pitcher of mojito limeade and a few cold beers. Yum!

I can’t wait to see how Melissa’s photos turn out. She actually snapped some of me taking pictures of our food before dinner while Matt waited patiently for me to finish which, once again, is a pretty normal part of our daily life together!  (Update: You can view one of Melissa’s photos of me taking photos of our carnitas here.)

Slow-Cooked Pork Carnitas Tacos (serves 2 with LOTS of leftovers for 2-3 lunches each!)

For the Pork…
3 ½ – 4 lbs. Bone-In Pork Butt, fat mostly trimmed off and discarded
Salt and Pepper
3/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Cumin
1 teaspoon Chile Powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
3 teaspoons Mexican Oregano

Corn Tortillas (approx. 3 per person)

Toppings/Sides…
Jalapeño-Lime Slaw
Avocado Crema
Chopped White or Yellow Onion
Fresh Cilantro
Guacamole
Rice (or, better yet, Cilantro-Lime Rice!)
Lime Wedges
Tortilla Chips

Directions:
Generously salt and pepper both sides of the pork butt and place the meat into a slow cooker. Pour the vinegar into the slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 8-10 hours.

When pork is finished cooking, remove the pork from the slower cooker and transfer to a large bowl. Pull the pork apart with two forks (or your fingers!) and discard the bone. Stir in the cumin, chile powder, cayenne pepper and more salt and pepper — feel free to adjust the seasonings to taste. Spread the seasoned meat out on a large baking pan and broil in the oven for 5-6 minutes until the edges start to get crispy.

Pour the cooking liquid from the slow cooker into a large measuring cup and then return the broiled pork to the slow cooker. Mix in the oregano, then pour some of the cooking liquid into the slow cooker and stir until the pork absorbs it. Keep adding more liquid and stirring until the pork reaches your desired moisture level. (We skipped this step yesterday and thought that our pork was a little dry but we’ll definitely do it next time!) Discard any leftover liquid and keep the pork warm until you are ready to serve it.

Meanwhile, prepare your toppings and sides as per their respective recipes. Just before serving, heat up the corn tortillas to make them pliable and yummy. Either microwave them in a damp paper towel for approx. 30 seconds or have fun with the grill and grill the tortillas over indirect high heat for 2-3 minutes.

To assemble your pork carnitas taco layer the pork, slaw, crema, onion, and cilantro onto a tortilla and enjoy!

Pork Carnitas Taco

Shanghai Noodles

Shanghai Noodles

When Matt and I were in college we were lucky enough to live 5 minutes away from a wonderful Chinese restaurant called Sang Kee Asian Bistro. Sang Kee specializes in noodle dishes and it quickly became our favorite restaurant. After college we moved away from Sang Kee but, as luck would have it, a brand new Sang Kee opened up right down the road from our house and we were able to satisfy our need for tasty Chinese noodle dishes once again.

Unfortunately the local Sang Kee didn’t do very well in its new location and it closed about a year ago. We had been going about our lives feeling rather noodle-deprived until last week when we realized that we should just try to make our own version of a Sang Kee dish! (Eureka!) We decided to make one of my favorites, Shanghai Noodles, and, after a quick web search to consult some recipes, came up with the following tasty dish. Enjoy!

Shanghai Noodles (adapted from the recipe on Cooking With Alison)

You will need…
1-2 tablespoons Peanut Oil
2 packed cups of Cabbage, cut into slices (approx. 2” long by 1/4″ thick)
2 Carrots, sliced into long, skinny sticks (approx. 2” long by 1/8” wide)
Splash of Dry Sherry
1 lb. Pork Tenderloin, sliced into thin strips (2-3” long by 1/2” wide by 1/8” thick)
1 bunch Green Onions, cut into 2 inch pieces (plus some thinly sliced as a garnish)
3 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce
2-3 “pinches” of Ground White Pepper
1 lb. freshly cooked and drained Udon Noodles (these are fat, white noodles, see below*)
1 1/2 teaspoons Sesame Oil

Stir-frying the Pork and Veggies

Directions:
Before beginning, make sure that all of your ingredients are prepped as described above. Heat up a wok over medium-high heat and coat with peanut oil. Add the cabbage and carrots and stir fry for 2 minutes, then stir in the sherry and add the sliced pork. Continue to stir constantly for 1-2 minutes until the pork is just cooked through then add the green onions and stir. Add the soy sauce, white pepper and noodles and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil. If desired, garnish the finished dish with thinly sliced green onions.

Shanghai Noodles 2

*A note on Udon Noodles – Dry/uncooked Udons are sold in larger grocery stores, but I’ve found that they are much thinner than the noodles that Sang Kee serves. Therefore, we resorted to buying 4 packages of Japanese-style Udon soups that each included a vacuum-pack of flexible, fat Udon noodles and a dried soup flavoring packet. We discarded the flavoring packets and, after combining the 4 packs of noodles together and boiling them for 2-3 minutes in a pot of water, found them to be a good substitute for the Sang Kee noodles. I’m sure there must be an easier way than this but we haven’t found it yet!

Shanghai Noodles 1

Oven-Roasted BBQ Spare Ribs

Matt and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring.  Until then, we’re attempting to brighten the last few days of winter with summery meals like tacos with lime-jalapeño slaw and pasta tossed with garlic and fresh veggies.  Last weekend’s summer-inspired food was a new one for us:  oven-roasted pork spare ribs with homemade barbecue sauce!

BBQ Pork Spare Ribs

Spare ribs are a thicker, meatier (and, in my opinion, more cartilage-filled) cut than the ‘baby back ribs’ that you’re likely to see in restaurants.  Spare ribs are an inexpensive cut (just $2.99/lb at Acme), so they were a good starting point for our first rib-roasting experience.  Nevertheless we agreed that next time we make ribs we’ll opt for the pricier and more tender baby backs.

From start to finish this recipe took about 6 hours but most of that time was hands-off oven-roasting.  The most time consuming part was making the barbecue sauce but if you don’t have time to do that you could easily use bottled sauce instead.  When you serve the ribs, make sure to have plenty of napkins on hand… these are juicy, saucy, and delicious!

Oven-Roasted Pork Spare Ribs (from The New Best Recipe)

Ingredients for the Dry Rub:Dry Rubbed Pork Spare Ribs
1/8 cup Paprika
1 tablespoon Chile Powder
1 tablespoon Cumin
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Dried Oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Ground White Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Ingredients for the Ribs:
1 rack Pork Spare Ribs (approx. 3-4 lbs.)
Dry Rub (above)
1 1/2 cups Barbecue Sauce (homemade or bottled)

Directions:
Mix the dry rub ingredients together in a bowl.  Place the rack of ribs on a large rimmed baking sheet and, using your hands, spread the dry rub over the entire surface of the ribs (top and bottom).  We found the rub to be a little overwhelming so next time we make this I’ll probably only use about 3/4 of the rub.  Position the rubbed ribs meaty side up and allow to sit at room temperature for 1.5 hours.  (If desired, you could also cover and refrigerate the rack for up to 24 hours which will produce a very strong rub flavor.)

Roasted Pork Spare Ribs

After the ribs have rested, cover the baking sheet tightly with foil and place in a preheated 300°F oven on the middle rack.  Allow to roast for 1 hour, then remove the foil and continue roasting for another hour.  Remove the ribs from the oven and liberally apply about half of the barbecue sauce over the top (meaty side) of the ribs with a brush.  Return the ribs to the oven for another 1 1/2 hours.

When the ribs are done roasting, remove them from the oven and wrap the ribs (without the pan) completely in foil.  Place the foil-wrapped ribs in a paper bag and fold/crimp the top of the bag shut.  Allow the ribs to rest at room temperature in the bag for 1 hour.

After resting, unwrap the ribs and cut them between the bones with a sharp knife.  Serve with the remaining barbecue sauce and enjoy!

BBQ Pork Spare Ribs