Can we still have a pumpkin thing? Yes.

I am a fan of simple tasty recipes that also are healthier than the alternative. I’m also a fan of quick. This is even easier than the black bean brownies (yes, you read that right) and is also just two ingredients. Just a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin. Mix thoroughly and then you bake per the instructions on the box. I generally make cakies (cookies that are pretty cake-like) by dropping spoonfuls on a baking sheet and baking the amount of time for cupcakes. But you could do cakes or proper cupcakes too, of course. Enjoy!

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Pardon the interruption…

Wow. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted something. I know that right after the last post in August we went on vacation and I took hundreds of photos in Spain, planning to post them while there but I never did. And then when we got back I got really busy with work and also I was just a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff I *could* post that I got paralysis about it all and so didn’t do anything. I even took more photos on my walks around home and work and have other items to post about crafts I’ve done with my mom, but I’m just so overwhelmed by choices! AAAAACK!

I have more time off coming up with Thanksgiving, and my plan is to spend some time organizing my Spain photos and doing a lot of posts about our travels there, as well as my usual items. In the meantime, here is a picture of some food we enjoyed in Ponferrada, Spain. As it happened, the first day we were there was the last day of a festival they were having – so we got wonderful festival food for lunch. And this reminds me – I really need to grill jalapenos! That was amazingly tasty.

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Smokin’

As July 4th approaches, I’m preparing to smoke pork shoulder in the Southern tradition. Not only it it a national holiday, it’s my husband’s birthday – and he’s loved pulled pork ever since my father introduced him to it. My father taught me, and then I got his old smoker when he upgraded to a new one. Smoking pork is an all-day affair with a big payoff at the end. I did it for Memorial Day weekend and the results were fantastic.

I start by lighting the fire before 6am – pork is smoked over indirect head and “low and slow” is the only way to go. Once the coals are hot, I add water-soaked hickory chips on the coals to generate the smoke.

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It’s important to have the coals up on a grate, because there will be a lot of ash created – the foil lining the bottom helps with cleanup.

Now I put on the meat – this is about 4 pounds of pork shoulder (aka “boston butt” and don’t ask me why) cut in two pieces.

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This has marinade basted on it that is very important – we use Wicker’s original and there is zero reason to look for anything else. It’s perfection. Close the lid, and now we’re smokin’!

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For the rest of the day I keep checking the smoke and the coals – every 15 minutes or so (maybe 30 at max) I need to add coals and/or wood chips. Now, there are people who will tell you that adding more wood chips after a certain time is meaningless because no more smoke will penetrate the meat. Perhaps they are right. There is no doubt a time that I add the wood chips solely to torture my neighbors with the fantastic aroma.

After an hour or so, the meat starts to tighten up and become firm and the color darkens.

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I’m continuing to baste with the Wicker’s and I turn the meat every so often to make sure the indirect head is generally distributed. Again, some people will tell you that once you close the lid you should never open it again until you are done. I say to them: my results are amazingly tasty so shut up.

After about 10-12 hours the meat has a nice bark on it and eventually it will start to feel “loose” – loose means it wants to fall apart on its own. This is what you want.

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At this point, you remove the meat and if you’ve done things right you only need a couple of forks to pull the pork apart into delicious shreds.

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The more pink you see the better – that is how far the smoke penetrated. It is juicy and delicious!

I serve this with red onion, amazing barbeque sauce, vinegar-based cole slaw, and baked beans. Many people use a bun and make a sandwich, but the bun to me is just taking up room on my plate that I could fill with pulled pork! The bark is intensely tasty and a prized treat as well.

Now I’m hungry, and I have days yet before the 4th….

Bon appetit!

That’s just nuts.

I was on a business trip for the last few days. While on the plane I was treated to a tasty bag of peanuts. I was also bored so I read it.

Nuts

This is what we have come to. The “KING NUT COMPANIES” has to warn you that a bag whose ingredients are “Peanuts Roasted in Peanut and/or Canola Oil, Salt” was, in fact:

“Produced in a facility that processes peanuts and other nuts.”

Black Bean WHAT???

My twitter-and-real-life pal @NomdeB sometimes shares some odd recipes with me. After all, she’s the only reason I ever made avocado chocolate mousse. I mean, who does that? Apparently a lot of folks. At least that was one she’d made herself so when I tried it I knew she had first hand knowledge to make the recommendation.

Recently she sent me a link to a recipe for black bean brownies.

Yes.

BLACK BEAN BROWNIES.

Now, I’m a fan of black beans. Clearly love them. I’ve even posted about them before – in soup, where they are expected and normal. But I kept thinking about this. Of course, I didn’t have the link any more and again resorted to google. It was there I found that, to my shock, there are a TON of recipes out there for black bean brownies. Seriously. Go google it. I’ll wait.

SEE???

So I decided to give it a go. I remembered the link NomdeB had posted included two ingredients:

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So I bought them. The various recipes differed on whether I needed to rinse and drain the beans or not, and I’m inherently lazy. So I didn’t do anything but dump them into the blender:

Nothing says "we're making brownies" like a blender full of black beans!

Nothing says “we’re making brownies” like a blender full of black beans!

And I pureed them for a long time because I really really didn’t want to have anything resembling a whole black bean at the end of this process.

okay, now it looks like I'm making soup.

okay, now it looks like I’m making soup.

Next I used a spoon and mixed the brownie mix and the black bean puree together. Soon it really looked like normal brownie mix.

I admit, I tasted it and it was chocolatey.

I admit, I tasted it and it was chocolaty.

Into the pan (sprayed with cooking spray first) it went. I recalled seeing in a couple of the recipes that it was important to spread the mix out flat because it wouldn’t spread on its own, so I did that.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

I followed the box directions and baked at 325F for 45 minutes (because the pan is glass). At the end, the house smelled fantastic and this came out!

holy cow, brownies!

holy cow, brownies made with black beans!

I waited for them to cool a bit and then dumped them out onto a plate and pulled off a hunk, because I’m a heathen with no couth. They are delicious! I did show some restraint and only took a small portion for dessert.

sooooo rich and moist and wonderful!

sooooo rich and moist and wonderful!

Honestly. If I didn’t tell people these were made with black beans instead of adding oil and water and egg (or whatever the box called for) no one would know. These are higher in fiber (I mean, I assume so – wouldn’t they have to be?) and lower in calories and extremely easy and tasty. Much easier than the avocado mousse, so I’m more likely to do this again sometime.

Bon appetit!

Winemaker’s dinner – food porn

My husband and I are fortunate to live in the heart of Washington’s wine country. Within an hour of our home there are well over 200 tasting rooms and growing. Of course, we all have our favorites and luckily the two of us agree that Terra Blanca is top notch (and the people there are very friendly, too!). We belong to their wine club and enjoy visiting their gorgeous facility. We recently attended a winemaker’s dinner there that featured their signature wine, Onyx. This is what we got to enjoy:

This is what a wine dinner table looks like when you're having a seven course meal with seven different wines...

This is what a wine dinner table looks like when you’re having a seven course meal with seven different wines…

first course - Cocoa dusted sea scallop with roasted wild mushrooms and fig syrup. Paired with 2002 Onyx

first course – Cocoa dusted sea scallop with roasted wild mushrooms and fig syrup. Paired with 2002 Onyx

second course - Roasted beet tartare with goat cheese, sumac powers, beet chip, and arugula pesto. Paired with 2003 Onyx

second course – Roasted beet tartare with goat cheese, sumac powder, beet chip, and arugula pesto. Paired with 2003 Onyx

 

third course - pork with greens, red wine jus, and barley truffle risotto. Paired with 1999 and 2006 Onyx

third course – pork with greens, red wine jus, and barley truffle risotto. Paired with 1999 and 2006 Onyx

At this point we had a palate cleansing lavender scented sorbet with vanilla-honey and apple, but I didn’t get a decent photo of that. It was lovely!

fifth course - Duck breast with roasted parsnips, dark cherry gastrique and braised Swiss chard. Paired with 2000 Onyx

fifth course – Duck breast with roasted parsnips, dark cherry gastrique and braised Swiss chard. Paired with 2000 Onyx

 

sixth course - Lamb crusted with pepitas, with black current veal jus and potato croquette. Paired with 2009 Onyx

sixth course – Lamb crusted with pepitas, with black currant veal jus and potato croquette. Paired with 2009 Onyx

 

seventh course - Chocolate gateau with wildberry jam, Hawaiian sea salt, vanilla bean creme, and caramel glass. Paired with 2007 Onyx

seventh course – Chocolate gateau with wildberry jam, Hawaiian sea salt, vanilla bean creme, and caramel glass. Paired with 2007 Onyx

The pork had two pairings because the winemaker (Keith Pilgrim) and his wife (ReNae) had differing opinions of which was better. The vote of the room was for the 1999 Onyx, which means Keith gets to keep being the winemaker as that was his choice. Both were excellent, but I picked the 1999 as well.

The beet salad made me nervous as I had a traumatic beet experience as a youngster that involved a salad bar and an assumption that something was a spiced apple when it was, in fact, a beet. But I tried everything and I did enjoy the beets – I suspect the roasting had a lot to do with that. I’ll not be running out for beets, and I probably enjoyed the goat cheese more, but I cleaned my plate.

The lamb was my absolute favorite of the food dishes (though the chocolate cake was divine!). Although the 2009 Onyx is really young it is amazing already. We walked out with several bottles to enjoy at home.

All in all, if you have the chance to attend something like this – DO IT! We hired a car service so we could enjoy and be safe. It’s certainly an extravagance, but we had a wonderful evening and met some really interesting people.

Bon appetit!