Meat and other ‘Merica things


10367736_737019966349243_6995694065233738491_nWell I’d say I’ve officially crossed the bridge to being a real live American woman by cooking my first successful big roast of meat. Sure, I cook all the time, but rub down and roast a four pound pork butt for seven hours in my oven, I had not.

I had my friends over for a pre-July 4th celebration last night since all of us actually have to work today (what is that? that is not exactly freedom, my friends). I don’t even know why I automatically jumped to pulled pork sandwiches, but once I did I had the whole menu played out in my mind. I did some researching and landed upon this fabulous recipe for more of a Texas style pulled pork that wasn’t drowning in crockpot liquid (pulled pork is really not a TX thing, but I might like it better than fatty brisket, shhhhh).

http://thegoudalife.tumblr.com/post/26502809520/slow-down-eat-pork-coffee-chipotle-pulled-pork

A coffee chipotle rub and dry low and slow heat give you that beautiful charred bark on the outside and fall apart moist and slightly sweet meat on the inside. If that’s not American, then I don’t know what is. I let DJ contribute by having the all too important task of shredding the pork, even though I knew he was bound to (and did) “taste-test” about a half pound of it before bringing to the table. Boys…

I tossed the pork with about a cup of Stubb’s original BBQ sauce (again with the accidental TX theme) and paired it with the slaw from the same site (with the addition of carrots): red cabbage, julienned jals, cilantro, and a great tangy lime dressing (I subbed Greek yogurt for the mayo). Spicy, limey, and crunchy perfection to contrast the smoky sweet pork. I toasted up a combination of honey wheat Hawaiian rolls for sliders and onion rolls for regular sized sandwiches.

For an easy side, I roasted a few ears of corn (in their husks and directly on the oven rack at 350 for about 30 min) and served them with a chili lime honey butter that really complimented the pork sandwiches. I just eyeballed amounts of chili powder, lime juice, and honey and stirred into room temp butter.

Jenna brought over the cutest little watermelon, and dinner was served. Of course some cold, classic Shiner was the perfect beverage for this Texas, I mean American, celebration. After another dinner of hilarious conversations, we played a round of Apples to Apples and concluded that none of us have low self esteem or confidence issues; it gets pretty heated and competitive with our four fiery personalities, the only way games should be in my opinion.

What other way to finish off a Fourth of July dinner party than with Bluebell berry sundaes and watching one of the greatest American works of the 20th century, The Great Gatsby?

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Happy Independence Day to all you lovely Americans. Rep those Stars and Stripes proudly wherever you may be today, and never take our freedom for granted!10151998_737240736327166_9154440737824637170_n

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Hot pizza, cool people

Few things make me happier than to have a great group of folks gather in my small college apartment, let them help with the prep work (grating the cheese is in fact a crucial task), sit around the table, and enjoy delicious grub in between fits of laughter, friendly arguments, and story-telling. Last night was the first summer dinner party to be hosted at what the boys lovingly named “The Shack,” and if it was any indication of the nights to come, I’d say it’s going to be a pretty eventful season.

Of course my default for any good dinner party is my artisan pizza from scratch: whole wheat thin crust, specialty cheeses, and creative toppings I’d say are restaurant menu-worthy but so much more fun since my friends and I get to dirty the kitchen (what else is it good for?) and throw around ingredients to each other to taste-test along the way.

For my basic, go-to pizza tips and other topping ideas check out my original pizza post here (https://eatpraylearnblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/becoming-a-pizza-pro/). For this get-together, I decided on prosciutto, arugula, and truffled cheese, BBQ chicken, and pesto margherita pies.

ImageFor the arugula pizza, I only added an extra-aged asiago, truffle English cheddar, and slices of fresh mozz before putting in the scalding hot oven (as hot as it will go). The last minute of cooking I topped with slices of proscuitto, and then when it finished I covered with roughly chopped arugula, shavings of parmigianno reggiano, and a drizzle of EVOO.

For pizza number two I pre-baked two chicken breasts in BBQ sauce, and other toppings included caramelized onions and green bell peppers. I went for a combo of mozz and pepper jack for the cheese on this one. This one is really all about the kind of sauce you use ranging from sweet and tangy to smoky and spicy.

The margherita pie was simply that (thanks to my sis for the fresh Romas from her garden), with the addition of my homemade basil pesto. Thick slices of fresh mozz and a couple handfuls of asiago and parm, and you’re literally in Tuscany.

We headed to my place after summer LifeGroup at Cameron Park learning how to play spikeball, showing the guys my secret tomboy football skills, frisbee, slack-lining, and hammocking (we do claim to be the #sportysection). This newly formed summer hangout group of Jenna, one of my best friends throughout college, Matthew who has been in our Lifegroup but left Waco last year to attend Bethel School (yes, THE Bethel in California), and his Waco BFF, Daniel (who happens to be a sophomore at a little place down the road where they bleed maroon).

One of the things I love about Waco summers is that you can become tight friends with people that you might not have the chance to during the school year. I’ve known Matt for over a year, but obviously since moving to California we haven’t really stayed in touch. I literally just met Daniel last week, and I feel like we’ve known each other forever. Bonding over pizza and frantically trying to shut off smoke alarms will do that sometimes (the best pizza calls for way-too-hot-ovens and that’s just that). Also, the fact that we all are united through living our life in Christ makes a big difference in these kinds of friendships that are based on so much more than surface-level small talk. These folks are seriously passionate, powerful, God-seeking, kingdom-minded, and wise well beyond their years. Every time I’m around them, just the way they simply walk out their life in the pure JOY of the Lord and speak revelation over others reveals more of God’s character to me than they know. Just last week, I asked if the guys could pray over me and Jenna during this time of applications, MCATs, interviews, and just overwhelming decision-making, and after that night I left with such a new sense of excitement and hope in the Lord from what they said and the pictures that God gave them about us. Long story short, this is an awesome group of the most genuine, encouraging, and hilarious people I could be friends with this summer and ultimately for eternity. I can’t wait for weekly shenanigans with these world-changers.

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Becoming a Pizza Pro

If I’ve ever had you over for a food get-together of sorts, chances are I’ve made my homemade pizzas the main event.  Ever since my sister and I traveled to Italy two years ago, my hunger for artisan pizza and how to perfect it has been a never-ending project.  Since good, authentic pizza is one of my top comfort foods, I never get tired of it.  I’ve never made a pizza that let me down, and I always leave the night with a fresh appreciation for interesting flavor combos, a new level of perfectly blistered crust, and surrounded by happy people I love.  Many people think of homemade pizza-making as something beyond what’s possible with their limited kitchen experience or simply are fine leaving such a seemingly daunting task to one of their foodie friends.  I’m here to tell you that you can have the confidence to create a beautiful night of imperfectly perfect pizza that you can proudly deem “from-scratch.” Another tasteful and healthful benefit of making your own pizza is you know exactly what’s going into it as opposed to the mysteries of sodium-loaded (yet still bland) sauce, piles and piles of cheese (low quality mozzarella trying to cover up sub-par toppings), and dough that wasn’t hand-kneaded just hours before eating (like yours will be).  Trust me, it’s worth it.

Now onto some of the pizza making tips that really take it to the next level.

1. HEAT! Seriously, this is what makes a pizza great.  If you go to any pizzeria, those ovens are usually close to 1000 degrees and the pies get flash-baked for less than three minutes.  So unless you’re cooler than me and have your own wood-fired pizza oven in your backyard, your kitchen’s oven can be maxed out to give you that perfect pizzeria crust.  I have a pizza stone that I really believe is a key player for the perfect crispy crust, but if you don’t want to invest in that for $20 or less, a baking sheet/pan that’s been preheated with your 500 (or as high as it will go) degree oven for about thirty minutes will give you similar results.  I’ve also grilled my pizza which can be even better, and I might make a later post about that as an option.  To maneuver a delicate pizza in and out of that fiery furnace, I recommend a lightly floured with a sprinkle of cornmeal pizza peel (those giant wooden “spatulas”).  Usually ten minutes (max – just check periodically to make sure nothing is burning) or until the crust is lightly charred and the cheese is bubbly.

2. As far as ingredients go, try to resist the urge to load up one pizza with every single topping that you love. Your pizza won’t be able to handle all that love at once and will give you a soggy crust.  When I make pizzas, I typically will have 2-4 different kinds, each with no more than about 3 different toppings. That way, I can experiment with different flavors and try to make all my guests happy.  Since I am a self-proclaimed “flexitarian,” I’m not known to have a meat-lovers pizza, but I do love the occasional splurge on prosciutto or pancetta for my pizzas.  The main thing here is to have fun and play with toppings that YOU like, but don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things.

3. I’m a fan of light sauce.  Again, to not weigh down your beautiful hand-made dough, but also so you can actually taste that dough as well as the individual toppings or maybe that specialty cheese that would otherwise be drowning in sauce.  I usually have a general menu of one tomato sauce-based, one pesto, and one “white” (no sauce – just maybe an herb/oil brush or ricotta base).

Those are essentially the basics! I’m attaching the link to the whole wheat dough that was the first dough I made, and I’ve stuck with it.  Adjustments I make are to usually divide it up into two or three pieces because I’m a fan of thin crust, as well as sometimes freezing the dough balls before I let it rise for a later day.  Then I just take it out about 4-5 hours before to allow thawing and then rising.  Dividing it up can make the same size pizzas, just with the crust being 1/2 or 1/3 as thick.  I also like to mix in a pizza seasoning (basically just S/P and italian herbs).

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/thin_crust_pizza_dough.html

Here are some of my creations to get you thinking, but I didn’t want to post pizza “recipes,” because that’s the fun of pizza making! It really is an art-form because you create YOUR work with your hands, your imagination, and your friends. If you have any specific questions, just comment on this post, and I’ll try to answer them.

Balsamic fig, prosciutto, fresh arugula, shaved parmesan

Balsamic fig, prosciutto, fresh arugula, shaved parmesan

Ricotta, caramelized onion, lemon-marinated asparagus ribbons

Herbed ricotta, caramelized onion, lemon-marinated asparagus ribbons

Classic Margherita (mozz, tomato, fresh basil)

Classic Margherita (mozz, tomato, fresh basil)

Grilled veggie

Grilled veggie

Ricotta, green apple, prosciutto

Ricotta, green apple, prosciutto

Kale and spinach pesto, sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onion

Kale and spinach pesto, sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onion

Balsamic peach, goat cheese, fresh basil

Balsamic peach, goat cheese, fresh basil

Now go make some pizza. Tonight.