Double Chocolate Brownies

Double Chocolate Brownies 1

Last year, my husband was informed that he would need to start traveling for work.  His company’s parent is located in Amsterdam, so he boarded a plan and crossed the pond for the first time in his life.  I wasn’t jealous.  I swear.

Jake and I stayed behind and did our best to pass the time while Daddy was away.  To make the separation a little sweeter, Jeff brought me back a tin of Belgium cocoa that was the best, most delicious cocoa I have ever tasted in my life.  Within days of him being home, I was in the kitchen trying to decide what to use my new cocoa in.

I opted for my favorite dessert of all time:  brownies.  Double chocolate brownies to be exact.

I have made these brownies a few times over the past year and have informed Jeff that every time he goes to Amsterdam, he is to purchase at least one tin of cocoa.  If he wants to continue to have these brownies, that is.

Double Chocolate Brownies 3

For Valentine’s Day, my little cooking buddy and I whipped up a batch of these brownies as Daddy’s Valentine’s Day present.  We also shared some with Jeff’s parents as a thank you for watching Jake as we went to dinner at J. Alexander’s.  (Side note:  avoid that place on Valentine’s Day.  Unless you don’t mind waiting 3 hours for a table.  The sad part?  We even called ahead.)

Later on, Jeff’s mom told him the brownies we gave her were the best brownies she’d ever had.  That says a lot because we live right down the road from a grocery store who is famous for their Killer Brownies!

The next time you want to make something delicious for a loved one, try these brownies.  They’re simple, easy, and insanely good.  Just be warned you may not be able to get rid of that person after.

Double Chocolate Brownies 2

Double Chocolate Brownies
(from allrecipes.com)

1 cup butter, melted
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*.  Prepare a 13×9 pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Add in the flour, cocoa, and salt until mixed well.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Spread evenly in the pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Double Chocolate Brownies 4

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes

Up until I had a kiddo, I didn’t usually celebrate Valentine’s Day.  And here’s why.

My mom’s birthday is 2/14, so my siblings and I would celebrate at school with pink and red everything and little mailboxes full of funny little notes from our friends, but at home it was all about mama.

Jeff and I don’t tend to go overboard with Valentine’s Day stuff because we think of it as a Hallmark holiday.  And I’m not really into flowers.  Sure, they look and smell great.  For about a week.  Then comes the day when you walk in the house and you smell that sickly sweet smell of flower rot.  I paint quite the picture, don’t I?

So when Jake came along, I knew I’d have to step up my game.  The first couple years passed without TOO much changing, but this year, I’m trying to be better at the whole “I Love You” day.  Here’s what’s new this year:

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes 3My little guy goes to daycare and for most holidays, they have a little party for the kiddos.  I wasn’t asked to bring anything this time, but I couldn’t resist.  Plus I had all the ingredients I needed on hand, so why not?

Oh and you may be wondering where the “surprise” in the Strawberry Surprise cupcakes are.

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes1Boom.

Sweet, gooey strawberry jam tucked away inside.  It’s a wonderful thing.

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes
(Makes 24 regular cupcakes or 48 minis)

For the cupcakes:
1 box white cake mix
1 1/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 egg whites
1 jar strawberry jam (I used Smuckers Natural Strawberry Fruit Spread)
Water for thinning

For the frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup marshmallow fluff
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350*.  In a mixing bowl, add your cake mix, water, oil, and egg whites.  Beat on low for 30 seconds or so to combine, then bump up the speed to high for 2 minutes.  You want your batter to get a lot of air whipped into it.  This makes your cake light and fluffly.

Meanwhile, line your cupcake pans with liners.  I ended up doing 24 minis and 12 regulars.  My coworkers are mighty lucky Jake only has 22 kids in his class.  When your batter is fully whipped, dish it out amongst your pans.  I like using the little ice cream scoops.  You want the batter to come just under the lip of the liner.

Bake at 350* for 12 minutes for minis and 15 minutes for regulars.  Check the doneness with a toothpick.  It should come out clean.  Let the cupcakes cool completely before moving on to the next step.

For the filling, empty the contents of your jar of jam into a microwave safe dish.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds and stir.  Microwave for an additional 30 seconds and stir.  You want your filling to be thinned out a little so it will easily flow into the cupcakes.  You may need to add a little water if your jam is thick.

When the jam is somewhat liquidy, push it through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of all the seeds, lumps, and big pieces of fruit.  Once strained, put into a squeeze bottle with a spout.  You can find these in the baking section of any craft store.

After the cupcakes are cooled, squeeze a small amount of filling into each cupcake.  I put the tip of the squeeze bottle into the center nearly to the bottom of the cupcake, applied a little pressure to the bottle while simultaneously lifting the bottle a bit.  You know you’re cupcake is filled when the filling peeks out at you a bit.  Take care not to overfill them.

To make the frosting, add the two sticks of butter to a stand mixer.  Beat on high until the butter is soft and creamy.  Add your marshmallow cream, vanilla, and salt.  Beat until well mixed.  Add your powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time until the 2 cups are fully incorporated.  I continued to beat the frosting for another minute or two to increase the amount of air in the frosting, much like I did with the cake batter.

Move the frosting to a piping bag or a gallon plastic bag.  Frost your cupcakes by drawing a circle on the top of the cupcake and slowly working in.  I like to frost from the outside in but you can do whatever feels comfortable to you.  Or you can just spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes with a knife or offset spatula.

However your frost them, eating them will be the best part.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes 4Happy Valentine’s Day!  And happy birthday, mama!

Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese

Baked Mac & Cheese 3

My mouth is still watering thinking about that amazing sammich from Tuesday’s blog post.  I haven’t made it back to City BBQ to satisfy my craving yet.  Maybe this weekend…

Moving on.  What goes better with a BBQ sammich than mac and cheese?  Not much, in my opinion.  Well, friends, I have a fabulous recipe for you today just in time for all those Super Bowl parties.  It’s creamy, it’s delicious, it’s got bacon.  Yep, the perfect dish for a little football watchin’.  Just add some beer and you’ve got yourself a par-tay.

Baked Mac & Cheese 2

Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese

8 oz cooked elbow macaroni
6 slices thick cut bacon (I’m partial to Dorothy Lane Market’s applewood smoked bacon)
1 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream of mushroom soup
3 ounces shredded Italian blend cheese (or mozzarella)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp salt
2 ounces shredded Colby Jack cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 450*.  In a large skillet over medium heat, cook your bacon until it is crispy.  Remove bacon and drain off all but 1 tbsp of oil.  Add the flour and whisk for 1-2 minutes or until you’ve cooked the “raw” flavor out of the flour.

Add your milk and soup, whisking to combine.  Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes or until thick.  Turn the heat off and add the Italian blend cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, dill, and salt, stirring to combine.  I switch to a rubber spatula at this point because the cheese tends to get stuck in the whisk.  Once the cheese is melted, stir in the cooked pasta and bacon.

Pour the macaroni into a greased 8×8 casserole dish.  Top with Colby Jack cheese.  Combine bread crumbs and olive oil and sprinkle on top.

Put dish in the oven until bread crumbs are golden brown (6-8 minutes).

Baked Mac & Cheese 1

Same City, New Tastes

I can be a creature of habit.  At certain restaurants, I find something I like and have a hard time branching out.  At Smashburger, it’s the BBQ Bacon Burger and Smash fries.  At Sammy’s El Pueblo, it’s the Bourbon Burger.  (Sensing a burger theme here aren’t you?)  At Piada, it’s the Balsamic Chicken Salad.

You see, if I find something I love, and especially if I don’t get to that restaurant very often, I want those meals over and over again.  I’ve been to Sammy’s about 20 times and I think I’ve only ordered something aside from the Bourbon burger maybe three times.

CIty BBQ 3

The same goes for City BBQ.  Every time I go, I get the beef brisket with mac and cheese and fries.  Every. Single. Time.  Though one time I did order hush puppies instead of the fries.  Wasn’t the same.

But when Samantha (a marketing manager for City BBQ) contacted me about meeting up and trying a few new items to their menu, I was all over it.  A free lunch to expose me to items I’ve never tried at one of my favorite restaurants in Dayton?  Uh, yeah.  That was a no brainer.

City BBQ 4

First, she brought out some sides and set them on the table while she gathered the rest of the meal.  It was all I could do to not shove the entire bowl of mac and cheese in my mouth while I waited for her to return.

I snapped a few pictures instead.

In addition to the mac and cheese, she ordered up some corn casserole.  I had had this before (Jeff ordered it) and it’s pretty tasty!

City BBQ 5

Also on the menu was their green beans.  I’m not a huge fan of green beans that aren’t oven roasted and slightly crispy, but these veggies were delicious.

City BBQ 6Finally, she pointed out one dish I’d never tried before.  The gumbo.  I confessed to her I didn’t even know it was on the menu.  She said she hears that a lot, but sure enough when I looked up at the sides board, it was listed plain as day.  I loved it!  Spicy with a little creole flair.

City BBQ 1

Next, she offered up their award winning roast turkey.  I was very familiar with this turkey breast.  I picked one up for my store’s Thanksgiving Day dinner last year AND convinced my friends and family to have one at each of our Thanksgiving Dinners as well!  They are so quick and easy, it really is a great solution if you’re looking for a time saver on Thanksgiving.

Finally, she brought out the big guns.City BBQ 2This, my friends, is the More Cowbell.  Oh. My. God.  I need to take a minute and remember this glorious, delectable morsel of food.  My entire mouth just filled with saliva.

This sandwich quickly replaced the brisket sandwich as my favorite item at City BBQ.  It’s like the beef brisket’s hot, sexy, leather wearing, motorcycle riding older brother.  It’s a brisket sandwich topped with sauteed peppers and onions, provolone cheese, crispy onion straws and horseradish sauce on Texas toast.  It is perfection.  Definitely check this sandwich out the next time you’re near a City BBQ.  You won’t be disappointed.

To entice you even further, Samantha generously donated some gift cards to me to giveaway to a few lucky readers!  To enter, all you have to do is comment on this post and let me know what your favorite thing is to eat at City BBQ.  Only one entry per person please.  Visit my Facebook page for an additional chance to win a gift card!

Entry to this drawing will close at midnight on Wednesday, February 4th.  Winners will be announced in my blog post on Friday, February 6th.  Good luck!

Mini Mexican Pizzas

Mini Mexican Pizzas 5 EditedI have a weakness for Mexican food.  The cheese, the spicy flavors, the deliciously seasoned meats.  What’s not to love?  I also have a weakness for meals I can prep ahead of time and keep in my fridge or freezer for those nights where I’m racing the clock to get dinner on the table.

Last month, during Retail Crunch Time 2014 (otherwise known as Christmas), I threw these little babies together really quick one night and popped them in the oven.  They were delicious!  Neither Jeff nor I could believe how yummy they were!

Plus everything is better in mini, right?

(Sorry it took me so long to get this one up, Mrs. Linda!)

Mini Mexican Pizzas Edited

Mini Mexican Pizzas
(adapted from this recipe)

5-6 large whole wheat tortillas
1 cup lean ground turkey or beef, browned and drained
1/2 cup salsa (I like Kroger’s version of Tostitos salsa)
1/2 packet dry taco seasoning
1/2 can whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can refried beans
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
Optional:  black olives, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sour cream

Preheat oven to 425*.  Spray muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.  I believe this recipe made 18, but I can’t be positive.

Lay out your tortillas on a flat surface and cut out rounds to fit your muffin tins.  I want to say I ended up going with a 3″ diameter round that fit in my muffin tins but as it was over a month ago and my brain isn’t quite as young as it used to be, I’m having a tough time remembering.  Some blogger I am…

Press each round into the muffin tins.  They don’t have to be perfect or even go all the way up each side.  They just have to cover a decent amount of the surface area of the muffin tins.

In a small bowl, combine your turkey or beef, salsa, taco seasoning, corn, black beans, and refried beans.  Stir to combine.  Scoop about 1/8th of a cup of the filling into each cup.  Top with cheese (divided equally) and bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and everything is warmed through.

Serve with toppings if you choose.

Mini Mexican Pizzas 4 Edited

My favorite part of this recipe was how the tortillas got a little crispy on the bottom.  Mmm…this are definitely going on next week’s cooking list!

Stuffed Shells

2015/01/img_6602.jpg

One of my least favorite things in the world is leaving work at 5PM, getting in the car to drive the 35 minutes (or longer as I travel on the interstate…in rush hour…most of the way) home, and realizing I didn’t plan for dinner that night.  My boys like to eat at 6PM, so if I didn’t plan something earlier in the week, it’s pizza or take out for dinner.  Not that they complain about that mind you.

I like to do my meal planning, shopping, and meal prep on the weekends so when it’s crunch time, I already have a plan.  Plus things like sloppy joe, pre-cooked Dad’s Spaghetti sauce, or this little recipe are the perfect make ahead meals for Jeff to throw together at the last minute when I have to work late!

As you guys may know by now, Allrecipes.com is one of my favorite places to go for meal inspiration.  One day I was perusing and a little gem of a recipe popped out at me.  I thought it looked intriguing, so I added the ingredients to my grocery list, cooked it, and the rest is history.  Now we have Stuffed Shells at least once every few weeks.  It also freezes beautifully.  The recipe makes two 6×9 pans of shells or one 13×9 pan.  It’s also a great meal to take to someone who recently had a baby or moved into a new home!

2015/01/img_6607.jpg

Stuffed Shells
(adapted from Allrecipes.com)

1 box large shells
4 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp parsley
**In place of the oregano and parsley, you could just use a couple teaspoonsful of Italian seasoning
1 jar pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 350º.  Cook your shells according to the package.  There should be a shorter time on the box specifically if you’re going to further cook the noodles in the oven.  I think mine is 9 minutes or something like that.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, eggs, garlic, and seasonings.  **Hint:  if you want to sneak in some veggies, replace 1-1.5 cups of the ricotta with pureed cauliflower.  They’ll never know… 

Drain your pasta and rinse with cold water until the noodles are cool enough to handle.  Prep a 13×9 or two 6×9 pans with cooking spray and a little drizzle of the pasta sauce (just enough to barely coat the bottom).  Transfer your filling to a large Ziploc bag.  Cut one of the tips off the bottom of the bag to turn it into a piping bag.  Fill your shells with the filling and then place filling side up in the pan.  Top with the rest of the pasta sauce and the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes or until everything is hot and gooey.

Make a double batch and freeze in some foil pans.  These shells make a terrific meal on a cold, snowy night with a large loaf of crusty Italian bread and some salad.

Healthy in 2015

Back in 2009, I got motivated and decided enough was enough.  It was time to get moving and lose the weight I had been putting on for the last few years.  So I decided to eat right, count calories, exercise more, and so on.  After about 6 months, I was 30 pounds lighter and in the best shape of my adult life.  Then…I got pregnant, had a miscarriage, and got pregnant again.

After Jake was born, I began again.  Eat right, count calories, exercise more.  Again I lost some of the weight I put on, but I was still about 10-15 pounds heavier than I wanted to be.  I just wasn’t as motivated as I once was.  I was still lighter than I had been, I felt relatively good, and I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted and not put on weight.  Plus, with my job in retail, I was on my feet for a good portion of the day.  I maintained my somewhat high weight for a good 1.5-2 years.

In January of 2014, another big life change occurred.  I got promoted to Store Manager, hence why I stopped blogging.  I had to get used to this new chapter in my life along with a husband and much more mobile, attention-seeking toddler to appease.  So now, I was still eating somewhat (OK maybe a lot more) poorly and on my feet less.  Store managers tend to have a bigger role in the planning process and a smaller role in the task doing process.

You probably see where this story is headed.  After a year of being a store manager, eating poorly, and not really working out, I had put all of my weight back on.  I was back up to the weight I started at in 2009.  Yippee.

So what now?  I thought, in the spirit of being accountable, I’d share my plan with all of you.  How will I get Healthy in 2015?

Accountability:  My best friend, Carolyn, and I have been doing a weekly weigh in with each other off and on since 2009.  That’s when we developed this plan and it worked back then.  I was a way for us to keep ourselves accountable to each other and motivate each other.  Well, the novelty of the program kind of fizzled.  It just wasn’t working anymore.  So this year, we gathered several of our friends and created a Facebook page to post recipes, issues we have either with motivation or challenges we are facing, and share accomplishments of all shapes and sizes with each other.  So far it’s really working!

In addition to this, Carolyn and I joined DietBet, an online program where you send in your starting weight and “bet” that you will lose 4% of your body weight by the end of the program.  You pay $25 and everyone who achieves that 4% splits the pot.  So, basically, if you’re pretty determined to lost that 4%, there’s no risk as you’ll just make your money back.  The only bad thing is for you to make money, others have to do poorly.  But I’m not going to focus on that…

New Gear:  I’m a gadget person.  I really am.  My family knows that so, for Christmas, they got me a few things that would help me on the journey they had no idea I was planning to take.

Fitbit Flex

I wear this thing every single day (except the one time I left my tracker at home and went to work just wearing the arm band…that was fun).  I didn’t know if I would be motivated by it or not, but I usually am!  See how the Flex works is it has a tracker you charge periodically and then slip it inside a wristband you wear.  You can tap the tracker throughout the day and little dots light up to tell you your progress.  I have mine set to the standard 10,000 steps per day, so for every 2,000 steps I take, a dot lights up.  If you’ve reached your “mile marker” (i.e. 2,000), the light is steady.  If you’re progressing, the light blinks: slowly if you’ve just entered that 2,000 or more quickly as you’re nearly the end of that particular set of steps.  Once you reach your goal (which you can adjust to fit your lifestyle), the wristband vibrates! If it’s towards the end of the day and I haven’t achieved my goal, I typically walk around the basement or head to the gym to make up my steps.

The Flex also tracks sleep and can wake you up if you like, but I don’t like to wear jewelry or anything like that when I sleep, so I don’t use those features.  It’s nice that they are included though.

Fitbit Aria (i.e. the Fitbit Scale)

I’ve wanted this scale for quite some time.  It’s the neatest thing for lazy people like me.  When you step on the scale, it tells you your weight and body fat %, but then automatically uploads that weight to My Fitness Pal, which is an app I use daily (when I’m in this healthy phase).  It keeps track of all my past weight ins too.  What’s more, you can link up to 6 people on it, so Jeff and Jake can use it too!  Sure, it’s not a necessity by any means, but I like it.  :)

Soundbot SB220 Bluetooth Headphones

Again, not really necessary, but having Bluetooth headphones is nice when you’re at the gym.  When I’m lifting weights or running or whatever I’m doing, I don’t want my ear bud cord getting in my way.  Plus, with these headphones, you don’t have to worry about them falling out of your ears like you do with ear buds.  The one downside to these is I like to immerse myself in music when I’m at the gym.  These get pretty loud, but I can still hear outside noises every so often. Not often enough that I will go back to ear buds though.

Finally, some of my favorite apps I’ve downloaded this year to help me stay fit and motivated:

MyFitnessPal (Free)-This app is how I track all my calories, exercise, and water intake.  It’s probably the most talked about calorie counting app out there and what’s better is it links directly with my FitBit.  The more I walk, the more calories I get to have if I choose.  Also, a new feature they’ve added since I used it last is the recipe importer.  This is killer for me as I do A LOT of cooking from internet based recipes.  Before I would always shy away from inputting recipes because it was time consuming and tedious.  Now you can enter the link for the recipe you’re making and MFP finds the ingredients for you.  You have to verify the items and quantities, but for the most part MFP gets it right.  It has never been easier to upload a recipe!

Fitness Buddy (Free)-This is a new app that was rated highly in the App store.  I discovered it on one of the “best apps for working out” lists I read when trying to find workout apps earlier this year.  I downloaded several but so far this is my favorite.  It has a ton of different workouts, easily tracks your sets and reps, and (best of all) it was FREE!  I believe there are some in-app purchases available, but I haven’t needed to utilize that function yet.

Couch to 5k ($1.99)-This app is another one that’s highly rated and tons of people use it when they want to train to run a 5k.  There are free versions available (one I like is Ease into 5k), but when experts recommend something to people, this is the one they choose.  Being a gadget girl, I like that this app (and others like it) track your runs for you, build you up gradually, and even have voice over encouragement if that’s your thing.  I don’t really enjoy running, but I do love the runners high I get when I do.  It’s a love/hate relationship, people.

RockMyRun (Free)-I just discovered this app last night actually.  I’d had it on my phone for a while, but I’d never really played with it.  (Something you may not know about me is I’m a music junky.  I love music.  It motivates me when I want to give up and calms me down when I’m anxious or upset about something.)  Last night was my first time in the gym in a while.  I had made a half assed attempt to go last week but ended up flaking out on my cardio, banged out some strength work, and left.  Just no motivation at all.

Last night I decided to try something a little different and played around with this app.  Maybe it was the playlist I landed on, maybe it was my mood, maybe something completely different.  Who knows.  But I KILLED IT last night.  I like to think it was due in part to this app.  The playlist I found was a mix of rock, rap, & pop.  What’s better is they were all mashups!  (Mom – mashups are when you take two seemingly different songs and blend them together so they seem as though they were meant to be together all along.)  I had to stop myself from busting out the lyrics to Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’!  I’m anxious to get back to the gym just to find another playlist I love.

So, as you can see, my year is starting off on the right foot.  Where it will lead, I have no idea.  But for now I’m gonna ride this wave as far as it will take me.  Hopefully this post has left you with a little inspiration for your own healthy 2015!

Zucchini Crisps

Zucchini Crisps

I like to think I’m a veggie eater but in truth they’re not the first thing I go for.  Or the second thing.  Or even the third thing most of the time.  Until now.

Once upon a time, when I would go to the grocery store, I would pass by the zucchini and squash without a second glance.  Every so often one of them would make it into my cart and end up roasting in the oven or on the grill brushed with a little olive oil and some herbs, but 9 times out of 10, I just kept on rolling.

Ever since Heather posted a picture of her zucchini crisps on Facebook, rarely a grocery trip goes by that a zucchini doesn’t find it’s way into my cart.  These crisps are simple, easy, and sooo yummy.

“Fried” Zucchini Crisps
(adapted from several recipes)

1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 egg whites, beaten until frothy
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper
Penzey’s Sunny Paris seasoning (or any seasoning of your choice)
1 zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/4″ thick

Preheat oven to 450º.  In a gallon Ziploc bag, add your flour.  Place your eggs in a shallow bowl.  Sprinkle your zucchini with the salt, pepper, and seasonings on both sides and add to the flour bag.  Shake to coat lightly then pull out and put in the egg whites.  You’ll want to shake off any excess flour before dunking in the whites.  I threw the entire contents of the bag into a colander and shook the excess off.

Add your panko and Parmesan cheese to the empty Ziploc bag.  Combine well then add your floured and egg washed zucchini back into the bag.  Once again shake to coat.  Pull out and put on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or sprayed with cooking spray.

Cook at 450º until crisp, about 25 minutes.

The thinner you make your crisps, the less veggie-ish they taste, so if you don’t really care for the flavor of zucchini, make them 1/4″.  If you don’t mind the flavor of zucchini, you can go a little wider, like 1/2″.  Enjoy!

Ultimate Pulled Pork

Ultimate Pulled Pork | One Girl's Taste on Life

I have a new favorite Food Network show.  Have you met Damaris Phillips?  Damaris, a Louisville, Kentucky native, was the winner of Food Network Star, Season 9.  Now, I didn’t watch that show, but I tend to spend Saturday and Sunday mornings going through the list of Food Network shows as this is when the new cooking shows air.

One day, I happened upon a show called Southern at Heart.  I’m southern at heart…sort of (I grew up in Tennessee)…so I set it to record and went on my merry way.  Well, I don’t remember what Damaris made on the show that morning, but I do know I was charmed the minute she started talking.  With her southern drawl, her quirky behavior, and her passion for somewhat unique ingredients (coconut oil, sorghum, agave nectar), I was hooked.  I’ve made a couple things of hers including Fried Chicken Salad sandwiches (recipe to come) and I’ve never been disappointed.

I’m always looking for a good pulled pork recipe because pork is relatively low in fat and calories and can be made into sandwiches, tacos, or piled on sweet potatoes.  She made a pulled pork recipe on her Football Tailgating episode in November, so I added the recipe to my weekly food list and headed out to the store.

The entire day, I kept smelling the pork.  It smelled good.  I was not disappointed.  I practically ate the whole roast before it had even cooled!  If you’re looking for a delicious, healthy pork recipe, add this to your list.

Ultimate Pulled Pork | One Girl's Taste on Life

Ultimate Pulled Pork
(adapted from Damaris Phillips’ Pulled Pork Nachos)

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 small or 1 large bay leaf
salt & pepper
3 pounds boneless pork butt, cut into smaller pieces
One large onion, diced
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp liquid smoke

In a medium sized bowl, combine the chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, chile powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.  Put your diced onion into the bottom of the crock pot to create a base for the pork to sit on.

Trim your pork of most of the fat.  I didn’t do this the first time, and I kept finding big chunks of fat amid my delicious pork.  To quote Alton…not good eats.  Damaris suggested cutting the pork butt into more manageable pieces, so that’s what I did.  Once your pork is prepped, dredge in the seasonings and place in the slow cooker.

Next, combine the honey, oil, vinegar, and liquid smoke until mixed.  Pour over the pork.  Set your slow cooker to low and let cook for 6-8 hours.  Remove from liquid and shred with two forks.

This pork is very versatile, but my favorite way to eat it is just alongside Oven Fried Zucchini Medallions.  They’re the perfect side dish to this meal.  Stay tuned!

Ultimate Pulled Pork | One Girl's Taste on Life