pork stuffed baked apples

Pork-Stuffed Baked Apples

Perhaps it was the fact that I was at my alma mater, Bay Path University, for 10 year college reunion this weekend – I’m an undergrad alum for the Class of 2006, a graduate alum for the Class of 2014, and $47k in the hole with SoFi. Ha! – but as I was taking that long boring bus ride back from Hartford to Manhattan, I was conjuring up all sorts of ideas for new recipes. Perhaps being back at school stimulated the ol’ brain synapses. I can’t tell you what spurred this idea. I was simply playing a matching game within my head. I thought, “Apples…pork…pork chops? No. That works, but I need to do something more interesting. Maybe sausage and apples? Maybe I could find ground sausage to stuff inside of the apples? YEAH!” Admittedly, I realized that I had started to talk aloud to myself as I caught a fellow busmate giving me a marginally amused sideways glance.

pork stuffed baked apples

As I arrived back in Manhattan 20 minutes ahead of schedule, I still had a long ride home; when you live above 168th Street and the A Train isn’t running above 168th, that makes for a fun commute home. *myeh* By the time I got to my beloved C-Town, there was no ground sausage to be found and the cheap price of ground pork made me say, “Whatever! I’ll dress this up my own way.” (i.e.: I was actually cranky, hangry, and not in the mood to shop around.) After I ascended the stairs to my 4th floor walk-up with my backpack, my overstuffed Madewell tote, and two grocery bags, I was feeling bushed yet inspired to create this recipe. I was surprised how quickly this meal came together! From start to finish, this took about 45-ish minutes, and its 30 minute baking time was perfect; I took a post-travel nap and let my iPhone’s alarm wake me up. Let’s be honest: What’s better than waking up to hot food?

pork stuffed baked apples

Okay, perhaps a few things, but this is what worked for me at the time. Ha!

pork stuffed baked apples

(P.S.: Please forgive the mediocrity of these photos. My professional camera’s card went a little wackadoo after I had already started to prep and bake, so I did the best I could with my iPhone 6S and decent-enough natural lighting. Haaa. I’m hoping to re-shoot more salivary gland-inducing photos in the near future.)

Pork-Stuffed Baked Apples
(Makes 4 – 6 servings)

Ingredients:

– 2 – 3 large baking apples (I used Rome)
– 3/4 pound ground pork
– 3/4 cup carrot, finely diced
– 1/4 turnip, finely diced
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 teaspoons honey
– 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

Before We Get Started…

– I used turnip in this recipe merely to switch things up a bit; I would have probably used celery if I had any, but I didn’t, nor did I want to buy a big bag! That being said, you can switch up the turnip for celery, if you have it.

– I highest suggest using Rome apples; they yield a soft flesh when cooked for 30 minutes, but still hold their shape when cut into.

– If any pork mixture remains, store in the refrigerator for future use; if you don’t use it in apples, its great added into tomatoes for a makeshift tomato sauce!

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 375°F.

2.) In a large frying pan, cook pork over medium to medium-high heat; allow to cook through completely and break up until finely crumbled. If there is excess fat, drain, if preferred.

3.) While the pork is cooking, cook carrot, turnip, and garlic in olive oil or butter over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes or until vegetables have softened. If vegetables start to turn brown, reduce heat.

4.) When vegetables are finished cooking, add to pork mixture, along with salt and honey. Mix until thoroughly combined.

5.) To prepare apples, leave skins on and slice in half. Scoop out seeds with a spoon, and continue to scoop out enough apple to allow pork to be stuffed into it. Once scooped, carefully spoon pork mixture into apples, being sure to fill the space.

6.) Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and eat immediately; store any leftovers! (This is meal that does save well for some work day lunches!)

one pot pasta

One-Pot Pork & Vegetable Pasta

Who isn’t a fan of one-pot meals? The fewer pots and pans I have to wash, the happier I am. I’ve lived with a rotating cast of roommates for the past seven years that have had varying levels of kitchen cleanliness, from keeping the sink so clean you could eat out of it to leaving dishes in a gravity-defying two-foot tall stack for three days straight. I’d rather wash one large pot at the end of the night if I’m going to be washing other peoples’ dishes as well. 😉

(Ahhh, New York, New York…roommates…)

one pot pasta

This recipe is based on a wonderful one-pot recipe I yanked from Buzzfeed a couple of weeks ago. On weeknights when I’m struggling to come up with a meal, Buzzfeed has saved the night dozens of times over the past few years. Seriously. Bless ’em. I’ve tried quite a few one-pot recipes from them. Most work, while a choice few have failed. (A watery pasta – chili – soup amalgamation I tried this winter certainly wasn’t one for the record books.) This one, however, has quickly become a staple for me. It easily makes dinner for two, and I can get an additional three or four lunches out of it. Surprisingly, I don’t get sick of it for a few consecutive lunches, either. It’s that delicious.

one pot pasta

I upped the ante a tad by adding some grated carrot into the dish; sautéed shredded carrots are something I’ve always enjoyed with pasta! I remember how I used to make a dish back in high school that I got from the back of a pasta box. I tossed small bow ties with sautéed carrots and onion, along with freshly crumbled bacon. In that case, it adds a really lovely sweetness to the savory bacon. In this dish, it’s simply a good excuse to squeeze an extra vegetable in. You know, health and all that jazz…

one pot pasta

One-Pot Pork & Vegetable Pasta
(Makes 4 large servings or 6 small servings)
(Recipe adapted from Buzzfeed’s One-Pot Pasta with Pork and Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients:

– 1 pound ground pork
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tablespoons tomato paste
– 1 tablespoon dried oregano
– 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
– 4 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
– 1 cup carrot, shredded
– 2 cups stock (chicken or veggie stocks work best)
– 1/2 cup water
– 8 ounces whole grain spaghetti, split in half for shorter strands
– Salt and pepper, to taste

Before We Get Started…

– Tomato paste is a must for this dish. The first time I made it, I did not have any. When I made it the second time with tomato paste, I noticed a very marked difference in flavor.

– If you want more variety in texture, substitute 14 ounces of crushed tomato and 14 ounces of chopped tomato for the 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes.

Directions:

1.) In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add ground pork; use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the pork. Spread evenly over bottom of pot for even cooking. Cook pork until evenly lightly brown on all sides. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2.) Add onion and garlic to pot and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add carrots and cook for another 1 – 2 minutes or until carrots are softened. Add tomato paste to pot and stir until the pork mixture is thoroughly coated. Add stock, water, tomatoes, and oregano and stir until combined.

3.) Add pasta to pot and submerge in liquid and pork mixture; be sure to separate the pasta strands slightly, or it may clump up while cooking. Bring mixture to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes; do not disturb the pasta. Remove cover and stir pasta, cooking for another 8 – 10 minutes or until al dente. Remove from heat; add spinach and stir until wilted and combined with the pasta and sauce.

slow cooker carolina style pulled pork

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This Christmas, Santa blessed me with two staples of every amazing kitchen: A Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and a slow cooker. Here I was, for years, mixing batters with an electric mixer, or by hand, like a sucker. Oh, and who knew I could just plop three pounds of meat into a metal pot, pour some broth and spices onto it, turn a switch, walk away, then have a meal six hours later?

Amazing times we live in.

I do have to laugh, because I am a person that adores cooking and going through the process, no matter how lengthy it may be. Trust me: I’ve spent 2+ hours on certain mornings just to make eight bagels. For years, I thought creating meals in a slow cooker was an easy way out. I’ve learned better. Just as I love to make soups en masse to freeze so I’ll have some lunches for the weeks ahead, I can use my slow cooker to make meals with purposeful leftovers at a low cost. For this recipe, the only items I needed to buy were the pork butt, apple cider vinegar, and tomato sauce. Those three items cost me $8.33, and with about six cups of pulled pork yielded, that knocks it down to about $1.38 a cup! (Note: In true NYC fashion, I got the vinegar and tomato sauce, both Goya, from my local bodega for $1.89 combined, the transaction completed while the new bodega cat weaved in and out of my legs.)

On the day I chose to take the ol’ girl out for a spin for the first time, this lil’ guy named Jonas came to visit, but he was kind of rude and made me spend a lot of my day inside.

IMG_5783.jpg

Well, I really can’t complain about cooking this up, can I?

slow cooker carolina style pulled pork

slow cooker carolina style pulled pork

slow cooker carolina style pulled pork

slow cooker carolina style pulled pork

Props to my roommate Sally’s mother for sending along some ideas for rubs and sauces. This pig did not die in vain. Our stomachs gave it a very happy home.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
(Makes…a lot of servings [roughly 6 cups])

Ingredients:

– 2 – 3 pounds pork butt (shoulder), bone-in or boneless

Rub:
– 2 tablespoons chili powder
– 1 tablespoon ground cumin
– 2 tablespoons brown sugar
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– 1 tablespoon paprika
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 1 teaspoon ground pepper

Sauce:

– 1 & 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
– 1/2 cup tomato sauce
– 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 tablespoon brown sugar
– 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon ground pepper

Before We Get Started…

– The measurements in this recipe can be adjusted; the measurements in this recipe are suited to accommodate those using a 3-quart slow cooker.

– The rub can be applied right before cooking, though I highly suggest applying the rub and letting the pork sit for at least four hours, preferably overnight.

Directions:

1.) Place pork shoulder on cutting board; if using a bone-in pork shoulder and are planing to leave the fat layer on the pork, score with a knife. Otherwise, discard outer fat layer. If using boneless pork shoulder, cut into several large pieces, roughly fist-sized.

2.) Combine all dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Apply rub to pork, thoroughly covering the surface. Allow pork to sit for at least four hours before cooking. (See note in Before We Get Started… for rub suggestions.)

3.) In a large bowl, combine all sauce ingredients and whisk until incorporated.

4.) Place pork in slow cooker; pour sauce on top of pork. Cover with top. Turn slow cooker on high and cook for six to seven hours.

5.) Carefully remove pork from slow cooker and place into a large bowl; allow to cool for 15 minutes. Use two forks to shred pork apart; discard of any larger pieces of fat. Bone, if bone-in pork is being used, can be discarded or saved for other uses (bone broth, et al).

6.) Ladle 1 to 1 & 1/2 cups of the remaining sauce remaining in the slow cooker onto the pork and allow to sit.

7.) Serve pulled pork as you please!