Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pork Butt Three Ways

Have you ever made pork butt before? It sounds appetizing doesn't it? I had never made it until Saturday. Guess what? It's delicious. See below for a recipe for Pulled Pork Tacos that I generally followed, but didn't have the cocoa and made a 6 lb pork butt instead of the specified 2.5 lb pork butt. It all worked out though. All you do is rub the spices all over the butt of the pork and then let it do its thing in the slow cooker all day long. It will make your house smell all delicious and like you are some kind of pork cooking master. The pulled pork tacos are very simple to assemble and are basically a means of shoveling lots of luscious, tender, falling apart pork butt into your mouth.

If you, like me, decide to make a giant pork butt of the 6-lb variety, you will find that you have a lot of pork butt on your hands, post-pulled pork tacos. That's okay, because the sky's the limit when it comes to what you can do with leftover pork butt. Here's what I did:

Pork Enchiladas--I got this recipe from Robin's blog. Thanks, Robin! You'll see that the recipe calls for chicken, but just substitute your sumptuous pork and watch the compliments roll in.

Chicken Tamale Casserole--Got this one from Ramona when she brought us this for dinner after Teddy was born. We loved her version (with chicken), so I hope this pork version does it justice.

I'm just making things with pork over here while the snow falls and Charlie coughs and mouth breathes all over me (he has the never-ending cold). What are you up to? Feel free to post any pork ideas or any ideas at all! It's been a long snow day inside and I need some good comments to see me through to bedtime.

Pulled-pork Tacos (from Real Simple magazine)

2 cups store-bought salsa, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Kosher salt
1 2.5-lb boneless pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
18 corn tortillas
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 lime cut into wedges

1. In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine the salsa, chili powder, oregano, cocoa and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the pork and turn to coat.

2. Cook, covered, until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

3. Twenty minutes before serving, heat oven to 350. Stack the tortillas, wrap them in foil and bake until warm, about 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, using 2 forks, shred the pork and stir it into the cooking liquid. Serve with the tortillas, cilantro, sour cream, lime and extra salsa.

Serves 6


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Be My Valentine, Miracle Blanket

Lately the kids are hooked on Charlie Brown DVDs. Uncle Bradley gave them the deluxe box set of Peanuts movies for Christmas (thank you, Uncle Bradley!) and so now we don't have to wait for ABC to run the appropriate holiday Charlie Brown movie. We can watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown any old day of the week.

Every day that Charlie (my Charlie) has preschool, he comes home tired. He unbuttons his coat, slips off his shoes and asks if he can watch a Charlie Brown video--it's sort of Charlie's version of having a cocktail after a long day at the office. Since I am generally surviving on very little sleep and pretty tired myself these days, I usually say yes to his request for more Charlie Brown. Today the kids watched Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. This led to a discussion at dinner about being in love and what that means. Can you be in love with spaghetti and meatballs? Does this mean you're going to marry spaghetti and meatballs? I was in and out of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, but I guess there is a lot of love talk in that movie (or at least more than in, say, You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown).

While I do like spaghetti and meatballs a lot, I would not say I'm in love with them. I do not want to marry them. I do have a few things that I am in love with at the moment, though. And if I weren't already very happily married to Brandon, I might consider marrying them (in an imaginary Emma and Charlie world where you are allowed to marry things, food and/or your own baby). Here's a list of what I'm in love with at the moment:

  • The Miracle Blanket. I was about to give up on ever sleeping more than an hour at a time...and then the miracle blanket came into my life. It is like a little straight jacket for babies and it is amazing how much it helps them sleep. Teddy started sleeping long stretches the first night with the miracle blanket. He even put himself to sleep in it one night! Amazing! I am dedicating my first book to the miracle blanket.

  • Teddy's room. I didn't set up a nursery for Teddy right away because we only have three bedrooms--one is Mommy and Daddy's room, one is Emma and Charlie's room and one was sort of a man room/guestroom/place to put all the unsightly toys and mismatched furniture. It was really a cute room as you can imagine. For some reason, before Teddy was born, I thought we needed to preserve this room so that it could fill its many functions. And I figured Teddy would be in Mommy and Daddy's room for a while anyway, so why mess with the ugly man/guestroom? After being in Austin for Christmas for two weeks, I came back and saw our house with fresh eyes and realized the ugly man/guestroom was valuable square footage that could be turned into something much more useful than as a place to put guests and husbands and piles of stuffed animals. So, I decided to move Teddy's hammock bed and changing table into that room and move the TV into Mommy and Daddy's room. Having a TV in our bedroom is not really the most romantic thing in the world, but it was either we have the TV there or put it right next to the other TV in the living room and pretend like we're living at the gym or a sports bar. Teddy's room is still pretty sparse, but I kind of like its sparseness. I kept the futon in there just in case we ever have any guests. So basically there's a futon, a changing table and a baby hammock and that's about it. I have some watercolor pictures that Emma did a long time ago hanging on the wall in frames. It's still pretty bare, but I love going in that room now. Somehow it makes Teddy feel so much more real to me. He takes up a room--he's not just crashing over in the corner. Plus, I love how clean and simple the room is. It feels like starting over in there. Like a blank slate.

  • Cheese. Not just any cheese either...parrano cheese is the one I want to marry. I tried it for the first time a month or so ago when I was in Whole Foods with Charlie. Charlie loves cheese and he always wants to try the free cheese samples at Whole Foods. His young palate did not approve of the parrano cheese and this was apparent by the way he pulled an already sucked on piece of cheese from his mouth and handed it to me. I, however, loved this cheese. It was a beautiful moment in Whole Foods when the cheese and I were first were introduced. I don't know if you're familiar with parrano cheese (I wasn't until Charlie pointed it out), but it is a combination of sort of a Parmesan-y and a gouda-ish cheese. It's described on wikipedia as "mild and nutty, combining salty and sweet flavors." It's the kind of thing that you eat and you are just so thankful that someone cares enough to make stuff this good. It really does restore your faith in humanity (and cheese).

  • Teddy. He exceeds all baby expectations. I can't say enough good things about him. I'm totally head-over-heels for Teddy. Sure he has his moody times, his I don't-really-care-that-you-have-a-million-things-to-do-I-want-you-to-hold-me times. But don't we all? I love that he sucks his knuckles sometimes when he's sleeping. I love his crazy hair and his eyes that are a million different colors at once. I love that he is not stingy with the smiles or the cuddles. I love how he tolerates the fierce love of his brother and sister. I love that he has come into our family and made it into this new, wonderful thing.
  • Alice Munro. I asked for the Alice Munro book Runaway for Christmas. I got two copies of it. (Thanks, Uncle Bradley once again! And thanks Gigi & Granddad!) I have been reading it and I'm about halfway through maybe. Alice Munro is like the parrano cheese of short story writing. Her stories are nothing short of perfection. You'll start out reading one and you're like hmmmm....this is a story about old people in Canada. Surely this story will be boring. But it isn't. Each one takes you to an unexpected place, the character that you thought would have nothing to offer you is in fact as complex and real and human as if they were sitting right next to you. The way her stories unfold is nothing short of a miracle; when you get to the end of one you realize that, sort of like your own life, things couldn't have happened any other way. Love, love, love that Alice Munro.
  • Tina Fey. I'm so glad Emma is growing up in a world with Tina Fey in it. If I had known Tina Fey existed back when I was in high school I think it would've given me so much more hope, so much more to shoot for. Who knew that when I was in high school watching Teen Witch on HBO for the zillionth time, Tina Fey was too? Did anyone else see Kenneth's "Top That" rap on 30 Rock last week? I was beside myself with excitement when I saw that. My anti-TV friends are going "what?" right about now. I won't bother explaining the Teen Witch reference. If you know what I'm talking about, then you'll know how funny it was. It felt like a Tina Fey shout out to nerdy, funny girls everywhere. It made my heart soar. I also loved her "suck it" speech at the Golden Globes. Top that!

  • Brandon. What can I say here that won't make everyone want to puke from mushiness? I love him for his patience and his acceptance of me, for his devotion to our family and for his uncanny ability to make me not only happy, but content. I love that we find the same things funny and the same things not funny. I love that he will watch the Golden Globes with me (and seem genuinely excited when Kate Winslet wins) when (yet another) playoff football game is going on. Lately what I love most of all is that he can always put Teddy to sleep with this little dance that he does that's like swaying and bouncing all at the same time. It takes a real man to dance like that. I love you, Brandon...more than spaghetti and meatballs and more than parrano cheese. Even more than miracle blankets. Now that's saying a lot.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The clock is ticking

I have one hour and fifteen minutes until I have to pick Emma and Charlie up from preschool. Teddy fell asleep about ten minutes after I got home from dropping off the kids. What have I done with the past hour and a half of glorious free time you ask? Ummmm....I really couldn't say. I spent a good deal of it catching myself up on my own blog. I haven't even looked at the thing for several weeks. I used to feel guilty about that, but now I have no problem taking a break from documenting my own life. Sometimes you just have to focus on living (L-I-V-I-N) and save the documenting for a quieter time. Or at least that's how I rationalize it. So, it would seem that that quieter time has actually arrived...at least it's quiet at this particular moment. There's no telling how long the quiet will last, though. With a new baby in the house it's always hard to know how long you've got until the next feeding, how long the current nap will be...could be 20 minutes, could be 3 hours.

And because you never know how long you've got, it's always hard to know what task to tackle when you do finally have a few seconds (or minutes, or hours) to yourself. Do I finish transforming the mountain of pre-drilled particle board I bought at Target into playroom storage? I am itching to complete this project (projeck) because I still suffer from the delusion that I will one day have a clean and organized playroom. For those of you who have been on this blog journey with me for a while, you may remember I was blogging about organizing the playroom at this time last year. There have also been all the other billions of times I have rearranged the playroom and not even blogged about it. (I know, I have cheated you out of so many playroom organization posts, I'm sorry.) Only Brandon can know the full extent to which I obsess over playroom organization. It is my motherhood holy grail. Deep down I know I will never really achieve the Real Simple vision of a playroom that I have embedded in my mind. But still, I persevere. So, I bought a ton of that cheap ClosetMaid organizing stuff from Target in the hopes that our lives could be a little less cluttered in '09. We'll see...

Anyway, I can't really put the ClosetMaid stuff together because it involves a whole lot of banging and cursing on my part and I don't think that's in the best interest of Teddy napping. It turns out Teddy has slept long enough that I could've gotten a decent nap in, but I hate to spend my precious me time unconscious. I know I'd probably feel better afterward, but I sort of want to be awake to enjoy the quiet and not miss a minute of hearing the central heat cutting on or the ice maker depositing another batch of ice into the freezer. Ahhhh...quiet. I love you.

I could've maybe cleaned something or prepped dinner, paid bills, or some other productive task. Bor-ing. I'll save that for when the big kids are home and Teddy's hanging out in his swing smiling and doing his little spastic arm movements that make it seem as though he is waving at you. I love when babies can't control their arms and their feet. It's like, "whoa, where'd this arm come from? Whoops, here comes my foot!" It's so charming how little control they have over their body parts.

In the same way, I guess I have very little control over my schedule these days. For a while yesterday it was looking like it was going to snow last night. There was talk of freezing streets, treacherous commutes and possible school closings. I went to the store yesterday and diligently bought toilet paper like everyone else in the DC area. After several years of living here, I have learned that that is what you do when there is talk of snow. When I woke up this morning my first thought was to look outside and see what the weather had brought us. What would our destiny be? Turns out it's just gray and rainy. No snow, or ice. Just a whole lot of toilet paper.

My time and really my life are not my own. I am in a season of life when one never knows when they will get to shower or sleep or eat or when a snow storm will blow in and cancel preschool. At least I'm assuming this phase of having no control is in fact a phase and not a life-sentence. Am I wrong?

I can't even imagine a time when my life will be my own, when the quiet time outweighs the hectic, loud, chaotic time that generally rules my life. Part of me never wants Teddy to grow up. He is most likely our last baby and I am mourning his babyhood even as he lives it. Part of me can't wait to have a little control over things again, to have long leisurely sessions to write, to finally finish what I'm working on and not feel like such a writing fraud. But that control comes at a high price. Basically, I will finally get to that stage when my kids are grown and don't need me so much anymore. The organized playroom will probably only become a reality when no one is playing anymore. The clock is ticking....the kids are growing up even as I write this. I have now used up all of my preschool/nap time. Oh well. I don't think it was a complete waste. Time spent realizing how quickly time passes is time well spent in my opinion. (Say that three times fast.) And now, I have to go. Me time is officially over.