Slow Cooker Spiced Honey Apple Pork

There may be nothing better than a fall crock pot experiment that turns into a keeper recipe. Armed with dozens of golden delicious apples after a trip to the orchard I searched for recipes that were more savory than sweet. When I found one similar to mine below, I made a few key changes and created something I think we will be making over and over again this winter! fullsizerender

2+ pounds of boneless pork loin (I used about 2.4 for this recipe)

6 medium golden delicious apples (any green apple would work)

1/4 cup of honey + hot chili honey

Apple pie spice, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder

Thinly slice the apples and cover the entire bottom of the crock pot with a layer of apple slices (about 3 apples). Coat generously with apple pie spice and then drizzle with about half of the regular honey. Season both sides of the pork with a generous amount of smoked paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder (you want these flavors to infuse into everything) and then place it on top of the apples. We received Mike’s Hot Honey in a DIY pizza kit from Bespoke Post and I thought it would be the perfect kick to this recipe. Drizzle it on top of the pork instead of the regular honey. Then, layer the remaining apples and sprinkle again with the apple pie spice. I drizzled the remaining honey and some of the hot honey on top and set it on low to cook for 6 hours.

For a side dish, I made a box of pearl couscous and cooked in some raw baby spinach to sneak some veggies into the meal.

After 6 hours, the pork chops were still perfectly in tact, but fell apart easily when eating with a fork. They were incredibly moist and even held up as leftovers in the microwave.

So simple and had my fiancé raving about how delicious it was. Something to make again and again!


Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken + Veggies

I was searching for a recipe over the weekend that required little-to-no grocery shopping (based on what I had in the pantry) and came across this one for Thai Peanut Chicken that I had pinned a few weeks ago. The recipe looked great, but I wanted to add more veggies and I didn’t have crunchy peanut butter, so I made some changes and it turned out absolutely delicious.

Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken + Veggies

1 1/2 lbs of chicken breasts IMG_5551

1 large green bell pepper

1 packet of fresh snow peas

1-2 large carrots

1 white onion

Rice (brown or white)

For the sauce:

1/4 cup of House of Tsang Bangkok Peanut Sauce

1 tbs lime juice

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbs honey

A sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional)

Place the chicken breasts in the crock pot and cover completely with the sauce. Set to low and cook for 5-6 hours. When the chicken has about an hour to go, shred the chicken and then let it keep cooking. Meanwhile, chop your vegetables to be sauteed on the stove. Finely chop the carrots and add to a saucepan on medium-high with some salt, ground ginger and sesame oil. As you chop the onion, pepper and snow peas, add to pan, stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables have started, cook your rice as normal (2-1 water ratio), but substitute one cup of water for broth from the crockpot.

When the rice is finished, serve with the veggies and chicken and drizzle some of the leftover Peanut Sauce on top. Be sure not to overcook the vegetables– they should be a little bit crunchy so that they add some texture to the dish. For me, the dish made about 5 generous servings.

I really, really loved this dish and will definitely be making again!

Summer Corn “Chowder”

IMG_1545Summer soup, what could be better? I adapted this recipe from one I came across on Pinterest and was really happy with it. The changes I made were simply because I wanted a bit more protein to make a heartier soup.

Summer Corn “Chowder” 

2 tbsp butter  

1 white onion, diced

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1.5 lbs of yukon gold potatoes, peeled & diced in 1/2-inch cubes 

3 ears of corn 

1 red bell pepper

2 chicken sausages (TJ’s smoked with apple) 

1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed

2 cups of chicken broth + 3 cups of vegetable broth 

5 sprigs of thyme

Goat cheese with herbs (optional)

Melt the butter in a large dutch oven and then add the onion. Saute until the onion is tender. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to boil, then let simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Remove the thyme sprigs before serving. This is a great broth-based soup, but the real kicker is to add a dollop of goat cheese. The recipe I saw called for ricotta, which I didn’t have on hand, so I tried goat cheese instead. I was a bit skeptical, but it actually gives a great flavor and once mixed in makes a nice, creamy “chowder!”

Menomalé: simply a must

Of all the food in the world, pizza is one of the most simple. We see it presented by the face of Peyton Manning and bubbling with cheese-stuffed crust laden with fruit, but in reality, it is best when made with a handful of quality ingredients. In Italy, pizza is an art form. Pizzaioli know that to make a perfect pizza is a serious study. In Italy, this is common, but to find a true Neapolitan pizza here in the US isn’t easy. I think that Menomalé of DC is the best I’ve had this side of the Atlantic.

Everything about Menomalé is true Italian: the tiny water glasses (no room for ice), the limited seating, and, of course, the wood-fired oven. Go to Menomalé and take some time to enjoy the experience. Their select beers are all great pairings with pizza and they also boast a decent wine selection. Their antipasti platters are standard – meats, cheeses, breads – and you can tell that everything is hand-picked to resemble Italy’s finest. Share the antipasti, enjoy a beer, order a pizza, and then imagine. I’ve spent time in Italy and I’ve made memories around the table. The pizza served by Pizzaiolo Ettore Rusciano makes me nostalgic. Served in whole on specially made plates, the perfect Neapolitan pizza, the one that can be found so effortlessly in Italy, is bursting with the flavors of tomato and mozzarella di bufala. The dough has a bit of charring, but is soft and slightly chewy. The traditional toppings, often representing more than initially considered, are the perfect after note. This is Menomalé. Maybe I’ve been away from Italy for too long, but if I close my eyes, there is no distinction.

Menomalé upholds my love affair with pizza. The whole experience is genuine: the staff is knowledgable, the atmosphere is comfortable and the ingredients embody the best of Italy.

Located in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast DC, it should not be overlooked. If you’ve been to Italy, it will take you back. If you haven’t, just don’t ask for it sliced.

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 I suggest: Affettati Misti della Casa, the Quattro Stagioni, the Diavola, Nastro Azzurro (draft), Curieux (bottle)

 Menomalé, 2711 12th St, NE, Washington, DC 20018

It’s time to start documenting my “culinary” adventures

Acknowledging the plethora of food bloggers out there, I’m doing this mainly for my own personal benefit. Pinterest has opened us up to a world of recipes and food porn, yet only occasionally does the recipe turn out the way it “should.” Pinterest Recipes always seem to require a bit of tweaking and they never look exactly like the picture that accompanies them. I’ve also decided that in my next life I want to be the next Top Chef and I figure soup is a good starting point. It’s pretty hard to mess up and pretty much always delicious. One day I will graduate to more involved dishes. Until then, I will be experimenting with easy, post-grad, budget-friendly recipes.

Taking advantage of a free morning (yay, President’s Day), I decided to make a big pot of soup to get me through the rest of the week. Side note: after all of the foodie posts I have done in the past, I am coming to the realization that soup is actually my favorite food. Sad? Maybe. At least there’s a lot of variety.

Italian Vegetable Soup (can anyone think of a more creative name?)

1 lb ground beef                                         1lb Italian sausage (I like it hot)
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes                1 can red kidney beans (drained)
1 can cannellini beans (drained)        3 carrots
3 stalks of celery                                      2 large russet potatoes
1 yellow onion                                          1 jar (almost) of Prego traditional
3 cups beef stock                                      1.5 cups water
2 tsp black pepper                                  2 tsp Italian medley seasoning blend
1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and Italian sausage. Drain. In a large dutch oven, combine the ground beef/sausage with all of the other ingredients (chopped– doesn’t have to be perfect… you’re throwing them all in a pot together). Bring to a boil. Let simmer for another hour to hour and a half. Finito! It’s actually that easy. The soup can simmer for longer, but at this point all of the vegetables are perfectly tender and ready to eat. Even better with toasty bread and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.



PS. This recipe makes A LOT of soup. I’m talking I have enough to eat it every day this week and also freeze some. Make sure your dutch oven is big enough (my 6 qt was nearly overflowing!) and that you are really in the mood for soup!


comfort foods

After deliberating for most of the night (thanks, Mom / Cooking Light for the pain and inspiration), I have finally compiled my top ten list of comfort foods. It was harder than expected, but brought back some awesome memories. As a self-proclaimed “foodie,” these may not be the most amazing dishes I have ever tried (next blog?), but they mean something. And I could probably live off of them.

1) Mom’s mashed potatoes. A staple at every family holiday and they are perfect in every way.

2) Panzerotti from Gina’s in Mola di Bari, Italy. They’re kind of like fried pizza pockets, but better. They can also be stuffed with ricotta and cinnamon. So they’re a win-win sweet & savory situation.

3) Fried Dumplings. There’s never really a time when a fried dumpling isn’t delicious.

4) Pizza Diavola. This is my all-time favorite pizza. It’s basically just a cheese pizza with Italian salami, which is essentially pepperoni, except it’s not. It’s really only available in Italy and that’s awesome.

5) Tortellini al Brodo. This is weird. Tortellini in broth? I know. But I love soup and this was one of my favorite comfort meals in Italy, whether I made it at home or ordered it at a restaurant.

6) Chicken Enchiladas. Just because.

7) Bacon-Cheddar-BBQ Cheeseburger. I could possibly eat one of these three times a week. Maybe four.

8) Bread. Because when you’re having a bad day, nothing is better than stuffing yourself full of carbs. Spread with butter, covered with cheese & garlic, dipped in parmesan & olive oil, whatever.

9) French Fries. Only the breaded, extra crispy, dipped-in-bbq-sauce kind like from Spanky’s in D-town.

10) Cool Mint soft serve ice cream from Soft Stuff. An explanation for this is impossible. If you would like to try and understand, drive to Route 40 in Ellicott City and ask around.

I am a foodie.

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

I’m not exactly sure what the textbook definition of a foodie would be, but I know now that I am one. I have had suspicions about myself ever since entering Italy and being more excited to take a picture of my Tortellini than the Coliseum. However, I officially discovered that I am in fact a foodie after I felt truly euphoric feelings twice during my week in London. These feelings didn’t come from the first eyebrow wax I’ve had in 6 months or even from seeing my mom for the first time since Christmas. No, these feelings came after the consumption of BBQ Sauce and an aged Scottish 7oz Angus Fillet – eaten separately.

Upon exiting the Tube station near the Tower of London, The General and I stumbled upon Bodeon’s BBQ. I would like to clarify what I am sure you all are thinking at this point – that I hate condiments. And I do. However, BBQ Sauce is someone’s glorious gift to the world we live in. It is often mistakenly classified as a condiment, but this is wrong. It is actually a sauce and anyone who places it on the same level as ketchup & mustard, or, God forbid, mayonnaise, should never be allowed to eat again. So, after eating probably half a bottle of BBQ Sauce (something that has been missing from my Italian diet), I realized that I was wearing one of the biggest smiles this dark sided girl has seen in months. Albeit semi-frightening, it was an amazing feeling.

And then I went to Boisdale’s. Boisdale – the Scottish steak house just around the corner from our hotel in London. I had no idea that I would be sitting down to the best meal of my entire life. There is no way to describe the gloriousness of this fillet; it was just too delicious. All I know is that the feelings I felt afterward were extreme gratification & satisfaction, such in a way that I have never felt before.

When I get back to America I am going to begin a pilgrimage to find out who invented BBQ Sauce. And then I am going to thank them every single time I spread it on a chicken sandwich or dip my extra crispy french fries in it. And I am going to start home-raising some grass fed cows and then hire some Scottish men to cook them up for me on a regular basis.

I love food. And a true love lasts a lifetime.

I am on vacation and I paid .80E to pee yesterday

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

The greatest part about Italy right now is that I am receiving credit to be on vacation.

Friday, we took a “field trip” to Rimini. The day was super educational and we learned just about everything there is to know about the Riminese economy and the role tourism plays in this city. But instead of taking a train back to Residenza Studi Superiori at the end of the day, we checked into the Sunflower Hostel aka sleeping in a field of sunflowers would probably have been cleaner and got set to experience for ourselves the craziness that is supposed to be Rimini night life (I failed miserably at this part).

Friday night 6 of us found a family owned Osteria off the main street and had my favorite meal experience so far. Grandma seated us and asked where we were from, telling us how beautiful it was that we came all the way from America. We then ordered 2 pizzas and 2 bottles of wine and settled in for 3 hours of food and socialization – Italian style. Toward the end of our meal Grandma brought us a homemade Italian style pound cake topped with rainbow sprinkles; if I wasn’t already loving my evening this was the it for me. We demolished the cake in a matter of seconds and left delightfully full and happy.

Saturday we headed immediately to the beach and I could have stayed there forever. I have missed my ocean vacations every summer so getting to spend a day laying in the sand, swimming in the Adriatic, and glaring at the men who were taking pictures of us with their telescopic cameras was beyond amazing.

Sunday we managed to spend an entire day just eating: first breakfast at the hotel, followed by a quick and final (bye beach, I’ll miss you) trip to the beach. We then made our way into town and found just about the only open Osteria in all of Rimini. Ordering plates and plates of homemade pasta and freshly caught seafood we once again stuffed ourselves. We were also again amazed by Italian wine. For years I have watched my dad study the wine menus at various restaurants, deciding which one is the best. That does not occur here; you either order the house red or the house white and it is going to be good. I’m sure all you wine conoisseurs are scoffing at me right now, but I am 20 – the most I know about wine is from the “Italian Wine for Dummies” book Jimbo made me read before I left. Also, I am in Italy and I have chosen to put all my faith in the country that produces some of the greatest wines in the world. So far it’s worked out great.

Most of us believe that we found the greatest gelateria in all of Italy in Rimini. They had an overwhelming amount of flavors and apart from the normal cone and cup choices, you also had the option of ordering cakes (how can you ship gelato?), as well as styrofoam cooler to-go cases that could be packed with all your favorite flavors. After my lunch of shrimp & pasta and fried scallops I decided to go light on gelato – 1 waffle cone packed with 5 flavors. Yep, I love Italy.

I said above that I failed miserably at Rimini nightlife. Being the lame, generally un-friendly person I am, I don’t love getting wasted in bars and waking up the next morning with a headache and an empty wallet. So, when everyone else was heading out at midnight for dancing, drinking, and staying up til sunrise, I was heading back to the hostel & my bed bugs.

Finally, it was time to end our weekend at the beach and head back to Bologna. Here I paid .80E to pee in the train station. Unbelievable. Back to Bologna and back to “reality.”