Thursday, August 4, 2011


Inspiration comes in many forms, and in times like these when the world seems to be spiralling faster and faster out of control I think we need it more than ever.  I've been in a bit of a creative rut lately, and definitely in need of some inspiration.  I found it yesterday over sushi with one of my favorite former students.

I had the pleasure of having Jarred in my class for two and a half years, and his classes were always my favorite.  Jarred is a great kid; he is intelligent, thoughtful, creative, compassionate, and understanding.  He sees the world in a different way than most people I know, especially most teenagers.  When you talk to Jarred about the world, he makes statements that make you stop and think.  Even just talking about going off to college, and all the things that are different about where he is headed, Tulane University in New Orleans, are thought-provoking.  Jarred doesn't pretend to understand everything, because he has a passion to learn what he can about all the places he encounters.  He is majoring in International Relations, and has big plans; he may never graduate because he wants to study abroad in a million different places just to be able to explore their cultures.  We talked about school, a little about the future, and a lot about what he learned in high school about life.  But, the best thing about talking to Jarred is that we can carry on a conversation that doesn't revolve around pop culture.  His fresh look on things was exactly what I needed to get it together for the coming year.  The knowledge that you should never stop learning, never stop aiming for something higher, and never give up on your dreams was something I needed to be reminded of.  Thank you, Jarred.  You are a star.  (And your mom is right, you should take some vocal coaching, but for radio and speech, not music!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kitchen Adventures

The last couple of weeks have been full of cooking, baking and eating.  I like it that way.  I like eating.  My waist does not, but that is beside the point.

Shortly following my adventure with cinnamon rolls (I have learned that the dough must be refridgerated for at least 3 days before even attempting to roll, regardless of what the recipe says), I made two large chocolate sheet cakes, and a gigantic Dr Pepper pulled pork, both of which are deliciously yummy.  I was particularly proud of my pulled pork, as I have never attempted anything like it before, and it was met with glowing reviews!  Yay!  The chocolate cake was pretty easy; I realized towards the end of the process that I had almost this identical recipe under a different name.  Regardless of how easy it was to make, and having basically done it before countless times, it was still delicious!  So, since these recipes turned out so well for me, I thought I should share the recipes with you, along with some pictures of the process.

Dr Pepper Pulled Pork - from The Pioneer Woman
My sister made this for us when we were up in Minnesota for Easter this year, and it was great.  When my grandpa's birthday rolled around I took on the task of making the pulled pork while my most awesome Aunt Nancy pulled together all the fixins for some wonderful pulled pork tacos. 

I started with two large pork shoulders, bone-in, totalling a little over 7lbs.  The grocery store was out of boneless, so I was stuck with bone-in, which made it a little difficult to shred since it was falling off the bone, it also made it more difficult to cook in my crock-pot. 

The recipe calls for a can of chipotle peppers, which I skipped and used barbeque sauce instead.  If you do this, find a spicy barbeque sauce, the one I used was too sweet, so the meat didn't have a tang at all, but it was still wonderful!  The crock-pot is lined with onion pieces, and the meat is covered with salt and pepper, Dr Pepper, brown sugar, and the barbeque sauce.  Then just turn the crock-pot on and let it cook!  I should note, the recipe cooks in the oven, but I used my crock-pot.  It cooked in about the same amount of time, but has a meat cooking guide if you use a different amount of meat.  It also says you need to flip the meat occassionally, which I did every two hours, but I don't know that it was actually necessary in the crock-pot.

Once it was cooked, it took a while to shred, since there was so much of it!  As I mentioned before, it was a bit difficult to get out of the pot, but it was totally worth it!  Word of advice, invest in a skimmer, it was really difficult to seperate the fat from the juice, and you want to keep the juice!

My aunt is a genius, and had three kinds of cheese prepared: cheddar, quesadilla mix, and cojita, along with fresh tomatos, peppers, cilantro, quacaole and tomatilla sauce, and perfect flour tortillas.  I also made some of the leftover meat into nachos for the next couple of days.

Official Recipe:
Spicy Dr Pepper Shredded Pork


1 whole Large Onion
1 whole Pork Shoulder ("pork Butt") - 5 To 7 Pounds
Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 can (11 Ounce) Chipotle Peppers In Adobo Sauce
2 cans Dr. Pepper
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

Preparation Instructions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  (Remember, I used a crock-pot set to high)
Peel the onion and cut it into wedges. Lay them in the bottom of a large dutch oven.
Generously salt and pepper the pork roast, then set it on top of the onions in the pan.
Pour the can of chipotle peppers over the pork (include the sauce.) Pour in both cans of Dr Pepper. Add brown sugar to the juice and stir in.
Place lid tightly on pot, then set pot in the oven. Cook for at least six hours, turning roast two or three times during the cooking process. Check meat after six hours; it should be absolutely falling apart (use two forks to test.) If it's not falling apart, return to the oven for another hour.
Remove meat from pot and place on a cutting board or other work surface. Use two forks to shred meat, discarding large pieces of fat. Strain as much of the fat off the top of the cooking liquid as you can and discard it. Return the shredded meat to the cooking liquid, and keep warm until ready to serve. (You can also refrigerate the meat and liquid separately, then remove hardened fat once it's cold. Then heat up the liquid on the stovetop and return the meat to the liquid to warm up.
Serve on warm flour tortillas. Top with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, grated cheese, avocado slices, salsa, and whatever else you'd like.

The recipe link has much better pictures!

Chocolate Sheet Cake - also from The Pioneer Woman, but this recipe can also be found as Dr Pepper Cake, Coca-Cola Cake, Texas Sheet Cake, etc.  I've seen it a million times, with basically the only change being what liquid you add to the cocoa and butter.

I made a double recipe of this cake, one for my grandpa and one for my father-in-law.  This cake is really easy to make, and really, really moist.  My secret ingredient is using Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder rather than regular cocoa powder.  It makes the cake extra decadent, especially served warm with vanilla bean ice cream.
Like I said before, I realized I had made this cake before.  I had discovered the Dr Pepper Cake recipe a few years ago and it had become one of my staple cakes.  I prefer it to this version, especially when using Cherry Dr Pepper.  But, this one was very good too!  This version of the recipe calls for it to be cooked in an 18x13" baking sheet or jelly roll pan.  I prefer it to be thicker, so I used standard cake pans.  That changes the cooking time to 25-30 minutes rather than 20.  Rather than mixing the pecans into the icing, I just sprinkled them on the top.

Serve warm with ice cream and you are golden!

Ree's Recipe from The Pioneer Woman Blog