Monday, June 30, 2014

Pork Chile Verde

Chile Verde Soft Tacos with Jalapeno Slaw
Can you take another Mexican-style slow cooker recipe? I feel like I can never have too many of them. Not only are they generally easy to make and very budget friendly, they are also pretty healthy and taste delicious! I spotted some good looking tomatillos in the grocery store this week, and had some leftover pork roast, and this is what I came up with: Chile Verde.  For those of you who've read my blog and know that I like to cook and experiment around the kitchen, let me say right up front, THIS DISH IS A WINNER! The flavors were so darn good, it was hard to believe it started out with leftovers! Give this I try, I promise you WON'T be disappointed!

I got the original recipe from a cousin and made it once, as she suggested, with beef chuck roast. I served it at one of my Halloween chili nights, but honestly, I felt like it needed something. I loved the shredded meat texture, and so did all the folks at the chili fest. I thought,  "Next time, I'll try it with pork and change it up a little."  The best addition was, I believe, "Chipotle en Adobo" chilies. They are readily available in cans, you shouldn't have any problem finding them, If you are not familiar with them, they are smoked jalapenos in a spicy tomato sauce. Freeze the remaining peppers and sauce for later, they are great in chili, any spicy dish or sauce. Also, I think I skimped on the fresh cilantro the first time around. I was a little hesitant to add quite so much, but not this time. The cilantro made the dish really special!

First, I started with a pork roast. Here's how I make mine. Make sure to buy one big enough so that you'll have approximately 2 lbs. of pork leftover. I made my roast on Monday and threw the leftovers into the slow cooker on Friday. Here's my leftover piece of roast so you can judge the size you'll need:

Leftover pork roast, about 2 lbs. 
If you've never purchased a tomatillo, here's what you are looking for -- they look like tomatoes, but with a papery hull on the outside. They feel a little sticky when you remove the outer layer and stem, so wash them well. They should be firm, but not rock hard.
Tomatillos - 2 with hulls still on, 2 with hulls removed

Now, on the to the recipe!

Slow Cooker Pork Chile Verde
2 lb.s cooked pork, cut into chunks                                                           
Vegetable prep, onion, chilies and garlic
1 small can chopped green chilies
2 chipotle en adobo chilies, chopped and 2 tsp. of the sauce from the can
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 tomatillos, papery hull removed, washed and chopped ( I used my food processor)
1 heaping Tablespoon dry oregano
2 tsp. cumin
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. packed chopped fresh cilantro 
2 tsp. kosher salt 

For Serving:
Spicy Jalapeno Slaw (recipe here )
Shredded Cheddar or Jack Cheese
Soft Flour or Corn Tortillas
a few fresh cilantro leaves for topping the tacos

Chop everything up and throw it into your slow cooker. No need to mince it all carefully, the slow cooker does the work for you. You can see I left my onions kind of big. Didn't matter, the texture was great. I set my slow cooker on auto-shift, which means it started out on high and then switched over to lower heat. 
Chile Verde in the crock pot. It already smelled and looked yummy! 

I cooked the chile verde for 6 hours, stirred it vigorously to break up any large chunks of meat and then let it heat through again and served it. We ate ours like soft tacos, draining off a little of the juice and putting the mixture into soft flour tortillas. We topped it with some shredded cheddar cheese and spicy jalapeno slaw (recipe in this post ). It would be great served over corn chips or you could add 2 cans of beans and make it into more of a chili type stew. The flavor was SO darn good, you're going to want to make it again, I promise! time, I think I'll add those beans AND serve it over chips.......

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Feeding the Birds

WBU Small Tube Feeder
A few years ago, I began working for Wild Birds Unlimited of Richmond, VA. I do book work and office work, and help I them with their Facebook page (Find us on Facebook HERE). It's a nice place to work, close to home and they've got great stuff. I've always been a gardener and there are lots of garden goodies to look over. A side benefit of the job has proven to be that my husband and I have developed a hobby we both enjoy: Bird feeding and backyard bird watching. First I am going to share what I've learned over the years -  the seed at WBU is really fresh -- it comes in every week, and the birds LOVE it. One of my friends said that when she put seed from WBU in her feeder, as opposed to seed from the grocery store, it was like she was having a fancy dinner party. All the really "good" birds showed up! This comment has made me laugh for years -- I keep picturing birds arriving in limos and dressed in top hats. 

My husband has embraced our new hobby, and is quite good at identifying different birds. He's really gotten into it. This was brought home over the weekend when, early Saturday, the man himself  went out to fill our "main" bird feeder and found that the squirrels who frequent our back yard and torment our dogs had finally done what they seem driven to do -- they had broken off the 2 seed portals with perches so they could have easy and unlimited access to the seed blend we fill it with. He took the feeder off the pole but could only find one of the portal/perches. The devils must have absconded with the other one, carrying it off to their nest as a trophy. Or, whatever. The portal was gone.

"Look what the squirrels did!" he said in a hurt tone of voice. "The poor birds don't have any food and the feeder is ruined." The man was distressed. After spreading a few handfuls of bird seed on the ground, he was still upset. He kept muttering, "Poor birds!" and glaring at me like I'd broken the feeder.

"Don't worry" I told him. "I'll take it to work on Tuesday and get it fixed or get a new one." I felt OK with that. He didn't.

Round glass feeder from Wild BIrds Unlimited.
I put Bugberry Nuggets with Calcium in it.Apparently, he didn't.

Keep in mind that there are 2 other feeders in my years. They are more ornamental, but they are bird feeders! 

Treat Feeder from "Painted Seasons".
You can find them on Etsy. and HERE

By Sunday afternoon, I could take it no more. I hopped in my car and took the broken and now clean feeder up to the store . Two of my nice colleagues were watching the shop and more than happy to help me, because that's the way they are (really). The feeder was fixed in about 5 minutes and ready to return home.

"Is it free to me because I work here, or is it free to everyone?" I asked incredulously.

Yes, it is.  Free.  They'll fix it free (see limitations below).

If you purchase certain Wild Birds Unlimited branded feeders, they have a limited lifetime guarantee, for normal wear and tear. Now, if a deranged/enraged child, or, uh, husband, throws the feeder to the ground in a fit of anger,  and stomps it, that is not covered. However, under normal use, the feeder is covered for repairs. HERE'S a link that tells you exactly which feeders are covered, etc. I was so happy to find this out that I went and celebrated by purchasing more plants for my patio. What? WHAT? (That's what my husband said when he spied a box full of plants coming out of the back of my car.)

Now, what else do I need to plant out back? Maybe a few more pots filled with flowers? Perennials? Another hanging basket? Hhhhmmmmm......
Visit Wild Birds Unlimited of Richmond, VA HERE 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Spending Time in My Garden

If there is another household pastime I that enjoy as much as cooking, it's got to be spending time in my garden. I've got a nice patio with a somewhat cultivated strip of flowers and herbs around it. We put out lots of hanging baskets and potted plants and there's a border that runs around the back yard, that I am slowly filling with flowering bushes and perennial plants.
Here's one end of my patio. We like to sit out in the evening and if it's chilly, we can light the chiminea. That makes it almost year round here in central VA! I enjoy making the baskets. No cushions out today, because there is a chance of a quick storm. We had a doozy yesterday! 
Asian Lilies (pink), Golden Cosmos, Brown Eyed Susan, Cleomes and Daisies
This is my flower bed that runs along the other side of the patio, near the dining table. Over the years, I've planted so many different things and dumped bags and bags of cow manure on and now it kind of takes care of itself. I didn't plant any seeds in it this year and so far I've gotten native "Brown-eyed" Susans (as opposed to the cultivated "Black eyed Susan" you see in nurseries), daisies, golden cosmos, cleomes or spider lilies, Asian Lilies, daffodills, pink hollyhocks, lavender and ageratum. The Brown Eyed Susans simply appeared on their own, delivered no doubt by an accommodating bird!  
Ageratum, with it's fuzzy purple flowers. 
When the lilies finish and the Brown Eyed Susan dies back, during the heat of July and August, the ageratum fills in next to the golden cosmos.

Double Day-Lilies
I absolutely love day-lilies, and I've got them all over my back and front yards These are double orange ones, which never fail to bloom and delight me. I've got some golden ones too.
Yellow Day-Lilies

What do you grow in your garden? I've got a few herbs as well, by my little fountain. The birds love the fountain and so do we! It's so soothing to listen to! 
Herbs by the fountain
In this picture you can see my thyme, to the left, and the poor garlic chives that the recent storm flattened (but they'll perk back up). I've also got basil, flat leaf parsley, and lavender, just out of the shot. The hollyhocks (tall and pink spires) and cosmos come up wherever they want, I can't -- and don't want to -- control them! 
And here's one of the very best reasons to make a flower garden, bouquets of flowers in the house! 
Late Summer Bouquet from 2013 -- I didn't plant zinnias this year.....hmmm...maybe I should...