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Carnitas with Chile and Sweet Potatoes

If I told you that our Super Bowl party was literally a bloody awesome time, you may assume that I’m one of those people who wrongly uses the word ‘literally’ to express exaggeration rather than expressing actual events. But no…there was literally blood everywhere at my super bowl party. In fact, there is still blood everywhere.

It all began earlier in the afternoon. The boys were playing Xbox Kinect with my husband while I was preparing party food in the kitchen. Everything was coming along wonderfully. The spinach dip was made, the chicken wing dip prepped, and the creole deviled eggs ready to go. Then came the urgent call from the living room. It had appeared that our three year old had somehow cut his toe, as it was covered in fresh blood. Weirder yet, the entire living room appeared to be sprayed in the same blood. My husband started the clean up while I brought our little guy upstairs to clean and bandage the wound. I could find no wound to bandage, but everyone seemed ok, so we carried on with our party prep, puzzled by the mysterious blood.

A little while later, while my husband was giving the boys a pre-party bath, I spotted fresh blood on the sliding glass doors in the living room. At that point, I realized the blood had been coming from our dog, not our son’s toe. A bit of blood on his nose led me to believe it was caused by a nose bleed, but since the bleeding appeared to be under control, we carried on our merry ways.

Everything was going swimmingly at that point. All of the food had been prepped, the house was clean, the kids were dressed. And then our first guests arrived and everything fell into utter chaos. It all happened so fast. As our friends approached the door, along with their three young children, our dog began his typical guest-greeting frenzy, wildly wagging his tail in eager anticipation of our first guests. It was in that moment that we very quickly discovered the true source of the blood. As his tail wagged, smacking our entranceway baskets and walls, blood flew everywhere. And I mean everywhere. In a matter of seconds, the walls, baskets, floors, curtains, and clothing of anyone standing with 10 feet of the dog were instantly speckled with streams of bright red blood.

In walked our first guests, followed in rapid succession by our other guests. We quickly ushered young children through the blood soaked entrance as we frantically tried to make it appear less like the scene of a violent crime and more like the site of a festive occasion. We put the dog outside where I unsuccessfully tried to wrap his wagging tail in gauze. The children played and helped themselves to an unsupervised buffet of red, white, and blue jelly beans, while some of our friends grabbed wipes and cleaned dog blood off our floors. (I throw a great party, right??)

Ultimately, we came to the realization that our pup needed medical care. So, my husband packed our bloody dog into the car and headed off to the emergency vet, leaving me in our blood-speckled home with our houseful of guests and a gaggle of kids in the midst of a major sugar rush…one of which was now doubled over in bellyache pain.

Our friends are lovely though, and everyone took turns passing the baby around as I served drinks and heated the food, while breathing through the panic attack that lay just beneath the surface of my calm demeanor.  Our friends were even so gracious as to claim that it was a great party as they left later that night. (I think they were just being polite.) My husband arrived home by half-time with our dog (who had been shaved, sedated, and stitched) along with a hefty vet bill. The evening will forever be remembered as the Deline Family Super Bowl Massacre, as it would appear to anyone approaching our front door, which is still streaked in red.

I will spend the rest of the week cleaning up from the worst party I’ve ever hosted.

I’d hoped to be sharing a recipe for the Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread I made last night, which was insanely fantastic, but in the chaos of last night’s events, I didn’t take a single picture. So, that recipe will need to wait until I have a chance to make it again…Don’t worry, I’ll find some excuse soon!

In the mean time, here are a couple recipes for a really tasty meal…tender, slow-cooked pork carnitas in a sauce of sweet potatoes and spicy chiles. On the side, a simple variation on my favorite roasted brussels sprouts, cooked with spicy chorizo to coat the sprouts in utter deliciousness. The pork has a long cook time, but reheats beautifully. So, either prepare the pork a day ahead of time or plan it for a day you’ll be around to babysit the oven.

Enjoy, friends! Hope your super bowl celebrations were a bit less bloody than ours!

Carnitas with Chile and Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 6-7 pound pork shoulder, trimmed of most excess exterior fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato (yam), cooked until tender, skin removed, lightly mashed*
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • Salt
  • Ground cayenne pepper
*To prepare the sweet potato: Prick the exterior several times with a fork, then bake in a 375 degrees oven for about 60-75 minutes, until quite tender. Cut the potato in half and scoop out the tender interior. Use a fork to lightly mash the potato.

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously season the pork with salt. Heat olive oil over medium/medium-high heat in a large dutch oven pan or oven-safe pot. Place the pork shoulder in the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Remove the roast from the pan and set aside. Add the onion and peppers to the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sweet potato, chicken broth, and honey. Return the pork shoulder to the pan, the cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook on the middle oven rack for about 3.5 – 4 hours.

After 3.5 – 4 hours, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature. Once the pork is cool enough to handle, remove it from the pan and use a fork or your fingers to pull apart the meat, which should be incredibly tender. (I prefer the use my fingers, since it’s easier to remove and discard any bits of fat.)

Allow the sauce to rest while you’re pulling the meat. As it rests, the excess fat should rise to the surface. Use a spoon to skim and discard the excess fat. Then, using a blender, food processor, or immersion blend, puree the sauce until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes over medium heat, until about 1 1/2-2 cups of nicely thickened sauce remains.Stir frequently to prevent burning. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and cayenne pepper, if desired.

Toss the meat with the sauce.

To reheat the meat and develop some nice caramelized bits, heat the sauced meat under a hot broiler for a few minutes until the top begins to turn a golden brown.

Serve in warm tortillas.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo

Ingredients

  • 4 cups brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
  • 4 ounces spicy Spanish chorizo, quartered and sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a baking dish. Cook for 40-45 minutes, tossing every 10-15 minutes to coat the brussels sprouts with the delicious oil, which will render from the chorizo. Season with salt, to taste.

Diet Day: 37  Weight Loss: 13  Motivation: Stable…enjoyed myself at last night’s party, back on track today!

Spooky Eyeball Cake Pops

My dog is regressing in his old age. Only his behavior is becoming so much worse than when he was a puppy. And it’s a lot less cute.

Amongst an assortment of other undesirable hobbies, which he has taken up in his senior retirement days, my dog has become a garbage-picker. He first taught himself how to nudge open the lid of the can in order to drag out each item, tear it into shreds and scatter it throughout the house. And let me tell you, the last thing you want to find when you walk into the house with 15 bags of perishable groceries and three cranky children, is a house covered in shredded bits of garbage.

So, we bought a garbage can with a lever-controlled lid, which he taught himself how knock over in order to complete his garbage scavenging mission.

We then decided to abandon the garbage can completely, in lieu of a plastic bag hanging on the doorknob, which we could easily throw into the garage before leaving the house. (He never fails to notice if we forget to throw the bag in the garage.)

In the absence of garbage to go through, he jumps up and pulls items out of the sink to lick clean; glasses, storage containers, cookware. You name it. I had to see it to believe it. This massive dog, with bad hips, jumping upright to pick through the sink. The force of motivation is strong within this one.

So, we learned to become diligent about making sure the sink is empty before leaving the house. But, as you may have guessed, he finds other mischief to get into, namely wrapped packages of food on the countertops. Say, an entire package of hamburger buns or a string-tied box of bakery cookies. Or perhaps a clean wooden spoon from my cookware canister. Are you beginning to understand how time-consuming it’s become to leave the house for even the simplest errand?? And this is on top of preparing three young children!

And now, his acts of mischief have become so brazen, or perhaps his brain is just slowly melting into a state of pure self-satisfaction. For lately, he runs straight to the garbage or jumps up to sink the very moment a door in the house closes. It doesn’t even matter if the house is still full of other people. A door closes and he heads straight to the kitchen to engage in his mischief. Seriously, buddy? I’m standing right here! At least show me the respect of waiting until I leave.

My fuzzy, senile friend is lucky he’s so good with the kids.

Speaking of the kids, I made them these cake pops. Cause the boys are totally into anything gross and spooky these days. Aren’t they cute? Cute and a bit time consuming to make. But, totally worth it for the perfectly creepy final product. They’re made with bright red velvet cake and have a fruit gusher candy nestled into the center to make them extra gross. I couldn’t wait to pack these disturbingly delicious treats into my sons’ lunch boxes for a surprise treat which would evoke shrieks from their tables of little friends at school.

Except, my dog; my darling, elderly dog; ate the cake pops, which I’d falsely believed were safe in the very center of the dining room table, surrounded by a barricade of heavy chairs. He ate every hand-crafted cake pop. Leaving a trail of chewed lollipop sticks scattered throughout the house as evidence of his misdeed.

Want to know the kicker?

He ate the cake pops while I was dragging the three kids out in the rain to pick up the dog food we needed for his dinner.

I wonder if he shrieked as he bit into the gushy center…

Learn from my mistake, dear friends. Make these cake pops, but be sure to store them in a place where your fuzzy friends are unable to help themselves.

Spooky Eyeball Cake Pops

Ingredients

  • 1 13×9 inch red velvet cake
  • 1 16-ounce container of cream cheese frosting (you won’t use it all)
  • Approximately 48 Gushers candies (available near the fruit roll-ups and fruit snacks)
  • About 4 dozen lollipop sticks
  • Approximately 4 cups white candy melts
  • Approximately 1/2 cup red candy melts
  • Approximately 48 gummi Lifesavers candies
  • Approximately 48 mini M&M candies

Directions

Prepare the cake pops according to the step by step directions found HERE. Insert a Gusher candy into the center of each ball as you roll.

Dip each frozen cake pop into melted white candy melts. Adhere a gummi Lifesaver to the pop while the white candy is still soft. Stand the pops upright in a piece of styrofoam until the candy has hardened. Place a small amount of the melted white candy into a small baggie. Cut off the tip of one of the corners of the baggie. Use the baggie to squeeze a bit of candy “glue” into the center of each gummi lifesaver. Place a mini M&M into the candy glue. Allow to dry. Melt the red candy melts according to package directions. Use a toothpick or fine-tip paint brush to give the eyeballs a bloodshot appearance. Store at room temperature for a few days.

Gusher center and candy decorations inspired by Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.

A few more cake pop hints and tips:

  • You can prepare the cake pops up to adhering the balls to the lollipop sticks and freeze them until you’re ready to dip and decorate. You can then dip and decorate a small batch at a time and leave the other pops in the freezer for later (or for when you dog eats all of the other cake pops).
  • If your candy melts are too thick for dipping, try stirring in a small amount of solid vegetable shortening.
  • Make sure not to introduce any liquid while melting the candies, which can ruin the candy’s meltability. Keep bowls and spoons dry throughout the melting process.
  • Dip the cake pops right up the the stick. The hardened candy will help the cake balls to remain adhered to the sticks.
  • Cake pops can be stored at room temperature for a few days.

Broiled Flank Steak with Pomegranate-Balsamic Reduction

Our garbage disposal threw its hands up and surrendered to the land of broken appliances. We fought it for awhile, clinging to the hope that our dear friend would stay with us. But, its conviction was strong and we’ve had to say goodbye. It’s funny, because I never had a garbage disposal growing up, yet I’ve somehow become so very attached to the one in our home that I hardly know how to function in the kitchen without it. A new, super monster of a disposal is waiting to be installed, but in the mean time, we’ve been learning to throw our scraps in the garbage.

No one has benefited more from the broken garbage disposal than our giant labrador disposal. We do not feed him people food. No, he just helps himself. And so, during he night, while the rest of the family is sleeping, our labrador sticks his giant head into the garbage bag and enjoys a midnight snack. His most recent snack included tender pieces of broiled flank steak drizzled with a pomegranate balsamic reduction and served with garlic-sauteed broccoletti and roasted sweet potato wedges. He greeted me in the morning with the enthusiastic tail wags of gratitude.

Interested in pleasing your canine friend? Here’s how it’s done…

P.S. Humans will also enjoy this tasty meal.

Broiled Flank Steak with Pomegranate Balsamic Reduction

Ingredients

  • 1 Flank Steak (about a pound)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3/4 cup Pomegranate Juice
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Directions

Preheat broiler. Season the steak with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place it on a baking sheet and broil a few inches below the broiler, for 10-15 minutes, depending on your desired doneness. Allow the steak to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

For the reduction, combine pomegranate juice and balsamic vinegar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Continue boiling until the mixture has reduced by 3/4. Spoon the warm reduction sauce over your cooked slices of steak.

Garlic Sauteed Broccoletti

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of Broccoletti (or broccolini, rapini, rappi, broccoli rabe)
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Insert the broccoletti and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Strain. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the broccoletti to the pan and toss in the olive oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

Ingredients

  • 3 large Sweet Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Cajun Seasoning

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Thoroughly wash the sweet potatoes and cut in half across the middle. Place in a microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for about 5 minutes. The potatoes should still be quite firm at this point. (Microwaving the potatoes for a few minutes will help to reduce the roasting time and makes the potatoes softer and safer to slice into wedges.) Allow the potatoes to cook for a minute, then slice each potato half into wedges. Toss the wedges in olive oil until well coated and season with cajun seasoning. Arrange the wedges in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until tender and lightly browned.

Serves 4 Humans (with enough leftovers for one large dog)




Gideon’s Peanut Butter Fudge

When I was younger, my family had an Irish Wolfhound as a pet. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Irish Wolfhound breed, they are, on average, the tallest breed of dog. They are the size of small pony, with the most gentle, protective, and obedient personalities. Our Irish Wolfhound’s name was Gideon, named for the angel, Gideon, in the 1985 movie, One Magic Christmas. Sadly, as with many large dog breeds, their lifespan is not long and we lost him long before anyone was ready. It was an honor to have Gideon in our lives.

My siblings and I remember the day our family first met Gideon. He was a few months old at that point. The breeder, an older woman, had initially planned on keeping him, but quickly realized she didn’t have the stamina for another pony-sized puppy. As my parents and the breeder sat inside to discuss the purchase details, my siblings and I were send outside to play with the ‘puppy’. This ‘puppy’ was already the size of a full grown German Shepherd with all of the energy of an 8-week-old Labrador. He wanted nothing more than to romp around that yard and tackle me and my sisters. We shrieked and screamed and laughed.  And when the negotiations were complete, we took our new puppy home.

But this post isn’t really about Gideon. It’s about Gideon’s fudge. My mom has been making this fudge at Christmastime for as long as I can remember. Each year, she’d make a two-pound batch of the fudge, package it in a tin or plastic container, and place the fudge on a counter, along with the other annual Christmas goodies. Well, Gideon’s head was easily counter-height, a fact we too often forgot. You can imagine what happens next. My family arrived home one day to find Gideon, lying on the living room floor, moaning as his stomach furiously growled. It didn’t take long to find the empty container of peanut butter fudge. Thankfully, a call to the veterinary poison control center assured us that a dog his size would need to consume at least nine pounds of the chocolate-glazed peanut butter fudge to be in any real trouble. His bellyache eventually subsided and we all learned a valuable lesson about safe places to store food.

The origin of this recipe has long been forgotten, but to us, it will always be Gideon’s fudge. I’ve doubled the original recipe, since what are you going to do with an open can of undiluted evaporated milk anyway?? Otherwise, the recipe is the same as the fudge Gideon enjoyed years ago. It’s amazingly simple to put together and makes a great addition to any holiday treat collection. Store in an airtight container in a high place, safe from dogs, who will find the scent irresistible.

One more little note… I haven’t tried it yet, but I suspect this recipe would easily make a nice chocolate fudge by substituting chocolate chips for the peanut butter chips.

Gideon’s Peanut Butter Fudge

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups Sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups Undiluted Evaporated Milk
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 4 cups Mini Marshmallows
  • 3 cups Peanut Butter Chips
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2 cups Chocolate Chips

Directions

Lightly butter two 8×8 inch baking dishes or one 13×9 baking dish. Combine sugar, milk, butter, and salt in pan over medium heat. Bring to a full boil. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low if the mixture bubbles up too vigorously. Remove from heat. Stir in the marshmallows, peanut butter chips, and vanilla until melted. Pour the fudge into the baking dish(es) and cool completely at room temperature. Slowly melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or over a double-boiler. Pour the melted chocolate over the fudge. Refrigerate until firm. Remove the fudge from the baking dish and cut into small squares. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Makes 4 pounds


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