Friday, September 2, 2011

September 2, 2011

Are you ready for Labor Day? The last weekend of summer? I know, technically the summer won't end until September 23, but we can all agree that Labor Day weekend typically is the last hurrah of the summer. Have fun at your cook-outs and picnics! If you have any great recipes...send them to me!

This week has been busy, and I knew it would be. So, having picked out a few recipes that called for cooked chicken, I roasted a few split chicken breasts early in the week, shredded them, and had the main ingredient needed for a few dishes already on hand when it was time to cook dinner. Although I didn't take a picture of the roasted chicken, I included the recipe, as well as the recipe I used to make chicken stock from the skin and bones that were left over. No need to let all that go to waste when it could easily become a great stock with barely any effort!

I used the chicken for Chicken Orzo Salad, Chicken Enchilada Soup and Cranberry Chicken Salad. The only new one of that group was the Chicken Orzo Salad, and it was a keeper! This recipe was given to me by one of my dearest friends. I'd had it on my list of dishes to try, but then the summer came and went and I never got around to it. Finally this week I found the time to make it, and it was fantastic! I only had iceberg lettuce on hand so I used that, but you can use whatever greens you have on hand. Don't wait to try this one...I think you will love it!

Our family loves pulled pork, and over the summer I was talking with my cousin who told me about a pulled pork recipe he tried. He couldn't believe the results, and now it is the only way he makes it. I love our quick and easy pulled pork (in the crock pot, couldn't be easier), but after hearing my cousin's raves, I had to give it a try. It isn't hard at all, though it is time consuming. But, rest assured, you don't have to babysit it at all, and the active prep time is maybe 30 minutes. I tried it this week, and from the get-go thought it would be a winner because it called for a Boston Butt. When my son heard that name, he couldn't stop laughing! Out of the gate he was predisposed to like the dinner. We all loved it, and after enjoying pulled pork sandwiches one night, we are having shredded pork tacos tomorrow, and I had enough to freeze for two future dinners! Definitely worth the time and effort -the results were fantastic, and we got 4 full dinners plus a few lunches out of it!

Also, with the start of school, I baked our favorite chocolate chip cookies for the kids' lunches. They freeze well, which is really nice. Not only are the cookies great in the kids' lunches, but also since they are packed away in the freezer I am less likely to eat 10 over the course of one day! This recipe isn't new for me, but I do think it is worth sharing; if you make them I am confident you will love them!

New Recipes

Chicken Stock
Roasted Split Chicken Breasts
Chicken Orzo Salad
Slow Roasted Pulled Pork

Tried and True
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oven Roasted Pulled Pork


1 whole Boston butt, 4-9 lbs. (bone in if available)

For Dry Rub

1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix well and store in an air tight container.

For Brine Solution

1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 qts cold water
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp dry rub mix

Add salt to cold water and stir very well until all the salt is completely dissolved. Then add the brown sugar, dry rub, and bay leaves and stir well to combine.


1. Rinse the pork and place in a large container, pour in the brine solution until the shoulder is completely covered. Cover the container and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
2. Remove pork from brine solution, pat dry with paper towels, place in baking pan that is bigger than the roast by at least a inch in length and width and at least 3 inches deep. Make sure the roast has the fat layer on top.
3. Sprinkle dry rub onto the surface of the shoulder and massage in such that it adheres to the surface. Coat all sides.
4. Place baking pan uncovered in a 225 degree oven on the middle rack. Insert a probe thermometer into the center or thickest part of the shoulder, but not touching the bone. Monitor the temperature throughout cooking (a digital thermometer with an alarm function is the easiest way to do this). Do not remove from the oven until the center of the shoulder reaches 200 degrees.
5. When the shoulder has reached 200 degrees, shut off the oven and let the roast cool for a couple of hours before removing from the oven. When the temperature drops to 170 degrees or slightly lower, remove from oven. Place on a large, clean work surface such as a cutting board, and remove the large sheet of crusted fat on the top. Pull apart with two forks, discarding the fat as you go along.

I used a large turkey roasting pan (as seen in the picture above). I didn't take a picture of the shredded pork, but it was delicious! You can serve it as sandwiches, or in recipes. Our whole family loved it!!!

Update: September 2013
I made an almost 10 lb bone in pork shoulder using this recipe, and it was amazing, again!  For a time reference, the roast went in at 9pm the night before we wanted to serve it, and it reached 200 degrees at about 1pm the next afternoon.  We just left it in the oven until we were ready to shred it and serve it, which was at 5pm.  So, a super long cooking time, but so worth time it!!! Yum!

Chicken Orzo Salad

Ingredients for Salad
* 1 1/4 cups uncooked orzo
* 3 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
* 1 1/2 cups trimmed arugula, romaine lettuce, or iceberg
* 1 cup tomatoes, chopped (grape, cherry or Roma work well)
* 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
* 1/4 cup red onion
* 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
* 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
* 6 tbsp (1 1/2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese (optional)

Ingredients for Vinaigrette
* 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
* 1 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin works best, but use what you have on hand)
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 1/8 tsp black pepper


1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain well and rinse under cold water.
2. Combine pasta, chicken, and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.
3. Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat.
4. If desired, sprinkle with cheese.

We loved this salad without the goat cheese, but if you do have some on hand, it adds a nice zip! Also, if you don't have all the ingredients for the vinaigrette, use whatever salad dressing you have on hand - balsamic or Italian vinaigrette. Bottled salad dressing works just as well, and saves you a step!

Chicken Stock


* Bones and skin from roasted chicken (Roasted Split Chicken Breasts)
* 1 onion, cut into 8 pieces
* 1 tsp minced garlic
* 1 peeled carrot, cut into 4 to 5 pieces
* 3 celery stalks, each cut into 4 to 5 pieces
* pepper to taste
* 2 bay leaves


1. Put the chicken bones and skin into a large stock pot. Add the other ingredients on top of the chicken parts.
2. Fill the pot with cold water to within 2 inches of the top of the pot.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for at least 2 hours, longer if you like.
4. Skim off any foam and visible fat.
5. Let the broth cool, then strain. Keep only the liquid.
6. Portion out to save and use in your favorite soups and dishes. Stock freezes very well!

Roasted Split Chicken Breasts


* 3 to 4 lbs bone in chicken breasts
* olive oil
* 1 lemon or lime
* 1 tsp paprika
* salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Line rimmed cookie sheet with parchment. Place chicken breasts on cookie sheet.
3. Drizzle olive oil on chicken, rubbing it around with your hands. Squeeze citrus juice on chicken, and sprinkle the paprika all over the chicken. Grind some salt and pepper on the chicken, and place in the oven.
4. Roast the chicken for 45-50 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then pull the chicken off the bones.
5. Reserve the bones and skin in a bowl to use to make chicken stock. (Chicken Stock)

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies


* 8 ounces unsalted butter
* 12 ounces bread flour
* 1 tsp kosher salt
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 2 ounces granulated sugar
* 8 ounces light brown sugar
* 1 large egg
* 1 large egg yolk
* 1 tbsp whole milk
* 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/2 - 3/4 cups chocolate chips


1. Melt the butter on the stove over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
2. Measure the flour, then whisk it with the salt and baking soda.
3. Pour the butter, the sugar and brown sugar into the stand mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes.
4. In a measuring cup, whisk together the whole egg, the egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined.
5. Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Once the flour is completely incorporated, and add the chocolate chips. Chill the dough for 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
7. Scoop rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake from 9-15 minutes (depending on how large you made your cookie mounds). Keep an eye on them. Once the edges begin to slightly color, remove them from the oven. Cool on racks.

I don't use that many chips in these cookies, and even sometimes leave the chips out completely (Ryan loves them this way). These cookies freeze very well - we freeze them for the kids' school lunches. As you've seen in other posts, a kitchen scale is a great addition to your kitchen - especially for baking!