Category Archives: Simple Pleasures

Pulled Pork and BBQ Pork Sandwiches

Of course, if you really want pulled pork at its finest, it comes straight
from a cooker that’s been slow-roasting a succulent pig for hours. However, that usually only happens for special occasions
like weddings or family reunions. Still, you don’t have to have the finest of the finest in order to enjoy pulled pork!Around my home, pulled pork is not an uncommon way to use leftover pork. The most tender pulled pork is stripped from a slow-roasted pork roast  or leftover BBQ ribs, although you can actually use any leftover pork.

It’s easier than pie, and here’s the simple 1-2-3!

1. Shred fully cooked pork meat into bite-sized (or smaller) chunks.
2. Cook over low heat with a cup of water, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder to taste until the meat is so tender it’s falling apart. (You can put the top on and steam it for awhile if you had pork chops or some other tough cut, but just make sure you check on it every few minutes, stirring it and adding water as needed.) 3. Once it’s tender and shredded, you’re done, and I sometimes serve it that way. However, we usually like a little of our favorite barbecue sauce added to give it an extra kick. Then, it’s “BBQ pork,” which is a perennial crowd pleaser around our house, especially when the pork is heaped on onion buns!

(P.S.—If your pork is really fatty, drain or spoon off as much of the liquified fat as you can before you serve it or add barbecue sauce. I once had a Kalua pulled-pork sandwich in Hawaii that was so big and so fatty that I couldn’t finish it and felt sick about half-way through trying to eat it. It tasted great, but the fat and sauce was literally dripping down my arms. Famous…but not for me!)

(P.S.S.—If you have an instant pot, this is the perfect way to make tender pulled pork especially fast and simple!)

He giveth meat in abundance” (Psalm 36:31).
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).

Chocolatey-Chippy, Sure-to-Get-Eaten Banana Bread

Probably everybody makes banana bread when you’ve got some extra ripe bananas that need using up, but my son Joel’s turns out so well that I asked if I could share his recipe. “But Mom!” he protested, “I just use your recipe, except I use half the sugar and add a package of chocolate chips.” Okay! We can do that. Here it is:

Chocolatey-Chippy Banana Bread

Cream together:
1 stick of softened butter
1/2 cup sugar

Then add:
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 bananas (whatever you have left over; the more bananas, the longer you’ll need to bake it)

Beat until smooth, then add:
1   12-oz. package chocolate chips for sure, and if you want
1 cup walnuts or pecans (totally optional)

Pour into a loaf pan and bake at 350°F. for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown on top and somewhat firm to the touch (starting to form a crust). We usually make banana bread for dinner (since it takes so long to bake) but serve the rest with breakfast the following morning. You can also make this recipe into muffins or glaze the tops with cream cheese frosting to make them into cupcakes, but then they’re undeniably a dessert rather than any semblance of a “bread” or morning “pastry!”  🙂

Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel
” (Proverbs 27:9).

The Tartar Sauce Caper

If you love fish as much as I do, you’ve probably figured out whether or not you love tartar sauce too.  Alan can take it or leave it, but there are very few fish dishes out there that I don’t think could be improved by a little (or a lot) of tartar sauce.  On our recent cruise on the Norwegian Star (and we all know Norwegians love their fish), we enjoyed many different types of fish…and I was always hoping for excellent tartar sauce on the side, although it didn’t happen very often. So, maybe not every culture likes tartar sauce, but if you do, I hope you aren’t buying commercial tartar sauce, because you can make your own at home in about a minute just be stirring together equal parts of mayonnaise (or any similar salad dressing) and pickle relish (sweet or dill, depending on your preference). To me, it tastes better, and it definitely costs less. Of course, there are all sorts of recipes out there to make your homemade tartar sauce even better, but last spring in Hawaii Alan and I both fell in love with tartar sauce laced with capers, and then last summer we were served such a delectable concoction again at a restaurant here on the shores of Lake Michigan, so I decided it was time to figure out my all-time favorite blend. Here’s what I came up with for myself, but I’ve also listed a few ideas that are good and add slightly different taste points just in case you haven’t already set your heart on any particular recipe. (If you have, please share it!)

Tartar Sauce á la Capers
(serves 2-4 people, depending on how much they love tartar sauce!)

Mix together:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dill relish (Alan prefers sweet)
1 teaspoons capers

That’s all there is to it, although you might want to experiment with adding any or all of the following just to change things up sometimes:
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped cucumber
* 2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
* 1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno pepper
* 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
*1 teaspoon of your favorite mustard
* 1 teaspoon fresh parsley
* 1-2 dashes of your favorite hot sauce
* 1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic clove
*1/8 teaspoon dill seed or crushed dill leaves (also called “dill weed”)
*Salt and pepper to taste (I don’t personally add either)

Have fun experimenting, and I hope you love your personal house blend! Please let me know if you find other additives that really make your tartar sauce sparkle!

For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:4-6, emphasis mine).

Bold’n Golden Banana Bread

Another favorite way of using up over-ripe bananas in our family—particularly on chilly fall days—is making a loaf of banana bread, which is really more dessert than bread but can also be used for breakfast if you’re in the mood. I like to add quite a bit of spice to give it a bolder flavor, and our kids love to add chocolate chips or nuts, but I grew up with plain banana bread, so I still think the old, classic taste is comforting and yummy without needing any extra pizzazz!

Bold’n Golden Banana Bread
(makes one rather large loaf; can serve 8-12)

2 ripe medium to large bananas
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butterBlend until fairly uniform and bananas are no longer lumpy bumps Then add together into mix:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup walnuts or other nuts (or even chocolate chips) as possible options, although it’s also great plain   Blend together briefly until thoroughly mixed, but don’t whip or beat it.
Pour into a well greased loaf pan and bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes or until it’s a deep, golden brown, nicely rounded on top, and doesn’t indent much when touched. Serve it still warm (if possible), either with or without additional butter.   My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes. My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:171-172).

 

Making Jams: Fun for Profit

Well, perhaps not for commercial profit, but certainly for personal profit, since you can make jam for a lot less than it costs to buy it (if you buy the fruit on sale at peak season), and you can be sure that homemade is fresher and more wholesome, particularly when contrasted with jams that contain preservatives or a lot of sugar.  For instance, in the last two weeks, I’ve caught a sale on raspberries for $.77 for 6 oz., another on 6 oz. packages of blackberries at 2 for $1.00, and quarts of strawberries at 3 for $5 (all nicely under $2 per pound). Without much work, I now have a winter’s supply of berry jams—some “canned,” some stored in the refrigerator, and some in the freezer—with enough to give away too. I don’t take a very conventional approach, and I used three different methods, but let me tell you what I did, and if you don’t already have a tried-and-true method, I hope it will inspire you to experiment!  I always keep one shelf in one cupboard for a stash of glass bottles with lids, which I use for food storage (on the theory that glass is better for my family than plastic, and—of course—the jars are free, since I just wash up empty glass jars left over from foods I’ve bought from the grocery store). Actually, canning jars with lids are my favorite (since they usually seal nicely without much effort), but you can use any jar with a lid that seals securely. I’m going to tell you what I did (and like), but I’m hoping this just inspires you to try making up your own recipes to get just the right tang, sweetness, and consistency for your own personal taste!

First, start by washing and drying 4-6 small jars and lids. Make sure you have the right tops and that they fit snugly, with no dents or flaws. Set them on top of a cutting board (or other surface that can take a lot of heat).

Mouth-watering Blackberry Jam

48 oz. fresh blackberries
1/3 cup water (just enough to keep anything from burning before the berries and sugar break down and melt)
1.5 cups sugar
1 package (1.75 oz or 49 g) fruit pectin (for making jam)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat in a heavy saucepan, stirring faithfully and pretty often until all the berries break down (which takes quite a while for blackberries), the sugar and jello totally dissolve, and the jam starts to thicken slightly. It took me half an hour on medium-low heat, but I’m quite sure it will depend on how hot your stove is, the type of pan you use, and how juicy your berries are, so go by the changing consistency rather than just time. It’s a pretty subtle but distinct difference, but it’s not “thick” at all, just no longer watery.  Once the jam is done, ladle it out immediately into the dry glass jars, almost to the top. When you actually can jams, you have to leave a little head room (like 1/2  inch), but I fill the jars almost to the top, which makes them more likely to self-seal. Make sure there are no traces of jam that will keep the jars from sealing properly, and then screw on the lids as tight as you can. Afterward, give the tiniest turn to the left just so air can escape if need be. When I do this with canning jars, almost all of them seal on their own within an hour, just left on the kitchen counter.  Any jars that don’t seal must be kept in the refrigerator to preserve them, or else you can open the tops and add a layer of sealing wax, but I’ve stopped doing either the official canning (which darkens the jams and I suspect causes loss of nutrients) or the wax. Suit yourself but please don’t sue me if you get sick. In my experience, you’ll see mold if anything is amiss, so you’ll know there’s a problem. Of course, if you’re willing to give up some refrigerator space and share with your friends, you won’t have any problem finishing it all off before it goes bad.   🙂

Rich, Ruby-red Raspberry Jam:

48 oz. fresh raspberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 large package (6 oz) raspberry jello

An alternate method for making jam is to use flavored jello (gelatin) instead of pectin, and I actually prefer it. I’ve found that one large package of jello replaces one package of fruit pectin, tastes a bit brighter (without needing to add lemon juice), and is less expensive (particularly if you catch it on sale!).  Follow the same instructions as for blackberry jam. However (of course), take particular care not to let it cook too long, or the jam will darken! If you do it just right, your jam will continue to be bright red, even after it’s finished and on your bread!

There are many recipes for making jam, but in the end, it depends on your taste. I started out with equal amounts of berries and sugar, reduced the sugar, switched from pectin to jello, stopped canning…etc! My theory is that cooking should be a growing, learning process whereby we develop our tastes and improve our nutrition as we go!

Unbelievably Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam

If you haven’t already discovered this world-class jam, try making freezer jam:

Step One: Clean and mash 4 quarts strawberries. Place in large mixing bowl.  Step Two: Pour 1 cup boiling water in a separate bowl, to which you add:
1 large package of strawberry jello
1 large package of orange jello
Stir faithfully until all the jello has dissolved in the boiling water. Set it aside to cool a little. Step Three: Combine 1 package fruit pectin for freezer jam (1.59 oz) and
1.5 cups sugar. Mix the pectin and sugar together, add to the mashed berries, stir thoroughly, and allow to rest on the counter for 15 minutes

Step Four: Add the tepid (not hot or cold) jello solution to the freezer jam mash. Pour immediately into bottles or plastic containers for the freezer. (If you’re using glass jars, make sure you do give at least 1/2 inch head room so the bottles don’t break when the jam freezes. Actually, I don’t think there’s an issue with plastic for freezing; the problems come with heating plastics. Theoretically, there shouldn’t be any problem with freezing jam in plastic containers.)

Step Five: let the jam rest on the counter for half an hour before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. This jam is quite a bit softer than regular jam, and if you don’t like the consistency, try adding another 1.59 oz. of freezer jam pectin. Also, some people like more sugar, so you could try adding another package of jello. If you don’t like the results…try, try, and try again!!

(P.S.—The recipe for cooked jam also works well with blueberries or any other type of berry. Whatever you happen to have on hand and like to eat!)

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

 

Flaky Crusts for a Perfectly Peachy Pie

Have you mastered the art of melt-in-your-mouth flaky pie crusts? It took me years, but I think I’ve got the recipe down for fork-tender crusts, learned from my foremothers!  My father used to tease that the reason he married my mother was for her fried chicken and cherry pie, and when I was little, I thought my mother made the world’s finest cherry pies.  However, when I married Alan, I discovered that his mother made the world’s best apples pies, so one day I asked if she could teach me how. She invited me  over to join her while she made some pies for a grange dinner. Unfortunately, she didn’t measure anything and did everything by feel and look. I watched carefully, and it was helpful to see the way things were “supposed to look,” but it took me a few years to perfect my apple pies. Alan’s older brother was the best critic, and his advice went like this, “More sugar…more butter.” Forty-five years later, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to make a flaky pie crust and a yummy pie, so I want to pass along what I’ve learned with photos, so you, too, will have an idea of how a flaky pie crust looks in the making, and how to make a scrumptious fruit pie.

2 Crusts for 1 Ten-inch Pie:
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 cups Crisco (or other vegetable shortening; you can use butter, which tastes a lot better, but the crusts aren’t as flaky)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very cold (refrigerated) water
Mix in blender until a soft ball forms (but then stop immediately, even if a few crumbs are left; it’s really important not to over-process the mixture). Set in refrigerator while making the filling so that it’s cold when you roll it out.

Pie filling:
In a large bowl, stir together:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add:
6-8 large peaches, ripe (Hale Haven are great, but there are lots of good varieties) peeled and sliced (I only used 6, because I was making it for an older lady, but 8 would fit and is better for a family who can eat whatever you make!) Toss the peaches with the flour mixture until all the peaches are well coated (You can use the same basic recipe for almost any fruit pie, like apple or cherry [pitted, of course, but dark cherries also make yummy pies, just FYI]. For smaller fruits, like blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, use 2 quarts.)  Roll out the bottom crust. I wet down the surface and add a sheet of saran wrap, then spread some flour on the top. At this point, turn on your oven to 450°F. so it’s piping hot when you’re ready to slide your pie into the oven.                   And add half of the pastry (about the size of a man’s fist).  Be careful to handle it as little as possible, but shape it into a ball, flour, pat it down, and roll it out. I flip the whole crust over a time or two and add flour as needed. Over the course of rolling the crusts, you will probably add as much as another 1/2 cup of flour.              (You can only flip the crust at first while the pastry is still quite thick.)                                       Smooth it out with a rolling pin                 until it looks like it’s about 2 inches bigger than the pie pan.  Place one hand under the saran wrap, and quickly flip it onto the pie plate.  (Use your left hand to hold the pie tin…unless you need it to take a picture!  🙂  ) Make sure there are no cracks visible. Repair any as needed. Truly flaky crusts are hard to roll out and will have cracks; if it’s too smooth and easy to roll, it will be tough! Prick the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork. (This keeps it from bubbling anywhere in the baking process.)  Arrange the fruit mixture in the pie plate.  Add: 1/4 cup butter in small slices all around the pie. This is one of the secrets to a great pie in my book, so don’t forget this step!  Repeat the process of wetting down the counter, spreading out the saran wrap, topping with flour, and molding the pastry into a ball. Roll out the rest of the dough (plus any that was trimmed off the edge of the lower crust if you had way too much on one side or something).  Carefully (but quickly) flip the top crust on top of the pie.  Even out the crust. You can add a little here and subtract a little there as needed. Form a little ridge around the top.  (If you’ve done it right, you won’t have many crumbs left over, but I usually have a few, and I don’t like the crust too heavy.)There are several ways to finish the top. Some people use a fork to make tiny ridges all the way around. There are pastry tools to make special designs. I use my mother’s method of alternately pinching a small piece together gently between my left thumb and left forefinger while pressing gently down with the forefinger of my right hand on the crust next to it on the right. If you do this around the entire edge, you’ll have a fluted crust like the one above. Our family tradition is to put the letter of the type of pie (“P” for “peach” on this one) and some little “stalks of wheat” on each side by cutting tiny holes with a paring knife. This gives the pie some “air vents” for releasing pressure as the pie bakes. We also sprinkle sugar on top. Some people brush the top with well-beaten egg for a glossy sheen. Bake your pie in a pre-heated oven. Start at 450°F for 15 minutes. This seals in the juices and insures that the crust will brown by the time the pie is baked. Turn the oven down to 375°F. for an additional 45 minutes or until golden brown. (Check at about 35 minutes and then keep an eye on it, since elevation and various types of ovens heat differently. I use a traditional oven, but convection ovens bake faster, of course.)Let it cool on the counter for at least 10-15 minutes (or while you’re eating dinner), and serve up for dessert! We usually add vanilla ice cream, but I was out, so this time I used “Triple Peanut Butter,” but people liked it anyway! Enjoy!

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing:
then said they. ..The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
” (Psalm 126:2-3)

The Beauty of Little Flower Girls

One of the things I love about country living is there are always wildflowers free for the picking pretty much spring through fall, and I have two little grand daughters who have been keeping me in flowers!Almost every day they bring me flowers…even enough to adorn such things as cupcakes that we baked to take to our new neighbors! A couple of days ago the baby slept so poorly that we sent Mama back to bed for a tiny rest while the baby had her morning nap, and while she was sleeping, the girls and I decided to make some bouquets for Mama! We walked up and down the lane, and even past our garden down to the lake, and picked some of all the different flowers we could find, and then the girls took turns choosing flowers to put in the vases. I think it was one of the happiest morning activities we did all month, and after we finished arranging the flowers, the girls worked very hard at writing cards just to tell their mother how much they loved her! (No prompting; this was all their own idea!)Parenting is such hard work, but it’s also one of the world’s most rewarding occupations! After all, where else can you get a zillion enthusiastic hugs and “I love you!”s  every day? Praise God for children…and flowers!

But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God
‘” (Luke 18:16).