Cinco de Mayo – Easy Shredded Pork for Tacos

Hola!

Whether you celebrate Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May) or not, it’s almost always appropriate to eat Mexican food. I honestly believe I must have had a former life as a Mexican because I could eat that food three (or more) times a day.

So I look forward to Cinco de Mayo each year to give me a valid excuse for my Mexican indulgence!

Because I was usually in a hurry to eat something when I came home from a long day of teaching, or even today as a stay-at-home author, one of the easiest meals for me to make is a simple pulled pork taco from my slow cooker.

I start out with the meat from pork steaks or chops, cubed in 1-inch pieces. (You also could use beef or chicken.) Then I dump in a 24 ounce jar of either red or green salsa (any style). The “heat” depends on your taste, but mine usually goes for the hottest.

To this you can add a bit of chopped onion, garlic, or more spice. I generally toss in two or three of the tiny Thai peppers from my garden. Uh…I like spicy!

Cover and cook on low all day until you get home – eight to 10 hours.

Sometimes I put it in a bowl, top with sour cream and chopped cilantro to eat like soup. If I plan to do this, I add a can of drained corn or black beans to the pot (or both).

If I want it as a taco or tostado, then the pork is so tender you hardly have to shred it. Spoon it in or on a warmed up tortilla, add chopped lettuce, grated Mexican cheese, a dollop of sour cream, chopped cilantro, and maybe even another spoon of salsa.

I could eat a dozen of these, but I’ll try to contain myself!

These two photos were taken in the patio of Tres Hombres in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, which sadly no longer exists. That was my “go to” place for Mexican food when I was in town. Each year, if it was your birthday, they would bring out this enormous (and heavy) sombrero for you to wear. Then they sang to you and took pictures!

Hasta luego!

Jambalaya & Black-Eyed Peas

This week we will celebrate Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Mardi Gras. I’m not from New Orleans, but I spent enough years in the Deep South to have this celebration in my soul. Since I won’t be there to toss beads or join in the festivities on Bourbon Street this year, I plan to do something to feel like I have truly honored the day.

Usually, this dish contains ham and/or shrimp, and/or chicken, and/or sausage. The only thing I could come up with this time was one lone sausage, so that’s what I used. Fortunately, when I added about a cup of black-eyed peas leftover from New Year’s Day, I found pieces of ham.

These are the basic ingredients but just use what you have. You could find many versions of this dish online, or you can dig around in your kitchen and come up with the basic ingredients of a traditional Jambalaya. This makes enough for a couple servings.

You can add the seasoning for your own taste, but I like spicy!

My Version of Jambalaya

Into a slow cooker, I put:

  • 1 can non-fat chicken broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large sliced spicy sausage
  • 1 cup Jasmine Brown Rice blended with Wild Rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 diced garlic cloves
    2 diced baby bell peppers
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • 2 broken bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (more or less to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

All of this cooked for 4-5 hours on high. The last 30 minutes, I put in the pre-cooked black-eyed peas. I think you could put it on low for 8-9 hours if you wanted to leave it all day. Any bean can be added, but somehow the black-eyed peas seemed more in keeping with New Orleans.

“Laissez les bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll), as any good New Orleanian would say, until the beginning of Lent.

A hui hou!

Orange Bread

When I was in high school, I worked as a Saturday receptionist for one of the local optometrists who was also a member of my father’s church, which was probably the reason he gave me the job. His wife was known to be a great cook, so this is the recipe from Bea Henderson of Litchfield, Illinois – one I’ve made for many years.

This recipe became a staple when I lived on my boat. It was not only a delicious and fast bread to whip up in my tiny galley, but it used up the orange peels instead of tossing them overboard. Jokingly, I called it my “garbage bread,” but it is anything but garbage!

Decades later, I’m still making this bread and it continues to be one of my favorites. The picture above shows it fresh out of the oven.

Orange Bread

¾ cup orange rind, cut into fine strips
1 ½ cup sugar
1 cup water

Boil the above until tender.

Add 2 tablespoons butter and ½ teaspoon salt. Cool.

Beat 1 egg and add cooled orange mixture.

Mix together:
3 cups flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder

Stir – put in loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

Good for “teas,” sliced thin and buttered (my mother’s words)

My Note: Many “heirloom” recipes don’t give specific instructions on what to do if the batter is too thick, what size pan to use, and the like. I think the thickness depends on how long you let the orange peels simmer. If it’s too thick, I add either water or a little orange juice when I’m mixing. But do expect this to be a thick dough. I sprayed my loaf pans with a canola oil spray to help it come out easier.

I’m afraid my loaves never last until a “tea.” It’s just too good not to eat warm and fresh out of the oven! It’s all I can do to limit myself to one (or two) slices right out of the oven. Also, I usually double the recipe and freeze one loaf for later. It makes great toast or just sliced up and eaten cold. This is absolutely a wonderful, simple bread to make, and tastes like autumn.

A hui hou!

My Cookbook Addiction

I confess! I’m addicted to books! But I have read all the books I own and continue to use them all as reference and/or for teaching.

My addiction carries over into cookbooks, and I doubt if there is even one of these books that hasn’t been used for at least one recipe. Like many cooks, I use recipes mostly for guidance to come up with my own variation. My cooking has never been an exact science.

The shelves of cookbooks shown above were in my kitchen/dining area when I lived in Ocean View, and I had another shelf of cookbooks in another bookcase, because there wasn’t room for them all here. I’ve even been known to borrow cookbooks from the library to read!

When I moved onto my boat from a large house in the late 70s, I gave a book box of cookbooks to each of my four children. This is what I have left!

I know I could probably find the same recipes online, but there is something deeply soul-satisfying about sitting down and reading through an old book of recipes that my mother, or grandmother used. Tucked into each book are other recipes given to me by friends, or that I have cut out of a magazine.

Yes, I think you can say I’m addicted!

Now, you may think that with all these recipes at my disposal, I’d be cooking delicious dishes every day. The fact is, I usually have only myself to cook for and if I ate the way I’d like to cook, I’d be as wide as the channel between here and Maui!

So this week, instead of sharing a recipe with you, I thought I’d tell you about my favorite books on these shelves, and even tell you about some of the recipes in them that I love.

Probably the oldest book I have is a little booklet from the Metropolitan Insurance Company; I think I inherited it from my great-grandmother. Several of my books date back to the 30s, and many of what I have date to the 50s, when I was a young woman. My first Christmas as a married woman in 1955, I received the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, a three-ring binder that is barely holding together.

I also love my specialty books, like Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Creole Cookery, from 1953. You wouldn’t believe how many pages are spattered with oil and tomato paste! One recipe from that book is “Shrimp Creole” and someday I’ll post that because I make it often.

I have quite a few Mexican cookbooks, but my favorite is Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking by Elena Zelayeta, blind, but she kept on cooking. Her “Caserola De Pollo Y Elote” (Chicken and Corn Casserole) is full of green chiles and wonderful!

Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook is another tattered book on my shelves, also full of messy pages! And Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook probably has most of the comfort foods I make.

The Rodale Cookbook published by the Rodale Press is where I go for breads and other wholesome foods. I have several other of the Rodale books and they are all great.

As I peruse the books, it’s fun to see how many phases and stages of eating I’ve gone through. You will find vegetarian/vegan books, low-fat books, low-carb books, and all sorts of specialized diet books, all of which I still read and sometimes use. Then there are the regional books that show where I’ve lived – Guam, Alaska, Arizona, California, Down East, Deep South, the Orient.

Even though I still buy new cookbooks, I still go back to my old “tried-and-true” standards when I want to make something special for friends. Maybe someday I’ll stop reading my cookbooks like novels (which is what I do!) and actually use them for more cooking.

Now I’m anxious to go find a new recipe to try for you!

A hui hou!

Lilikoi Butter

 

First, you need to know that “lilikoi” is our Hawai`ian word for passionfruit, the fruit of the Passion Flower vine. Read the Wikipedia religious explanation of the word “passion.” But I’m passionate about the passionfruit (groan), which I know mostly as lilikoi.

In January, I wrote about trying to grown my own, but I haven’t had much luck so far. In that post, I also included a recipe for lilikoi butter, but I’ve refined it a bit. Also, this is for the benefit of those readers who are new to “Lava to Lilikoi.”

A friend in Na`alehu gave me a huge box of lilikoi fresh from the vine. I love to simply scoop out the insides with a spoon and eat, seeds and all. But this time, there were way too many to simply sit and eat myself sick. So I asked around for some recipes. My masseuse (Velvet) gave me this recipe.

The process I use for juicing is to cut them in half, scoop out the insides, and let that drain in a colander for about 24 hours to get rid of the seeds. My house smelled like lilikoi for days after I finished juicing them.

Lilikoi Butter

4 eggs
4 cups sugar (I used a little less and mixed it with Splenda)
1 pound unsalted butter
1 ¾ cup lilikoi juice

Mix juice, sugar, butter in a large pan. Heat until butter is melted. Beat the eggs together in a separate bowl and temper by drizzling a little of the hot liquid into the beaten eggs so they don’t scramble on you. Keep stirring and when the egg mixture is about the same temperature as the hot liquid, pour it into the pan with the juice, butter and sugar.

Bring to a rolling boil, then down to a slow rolling simmer for about half an hour. This will thicken as it cooks.

I don’t know how to improve on this simple recipe other than to use it whenever you can, over whatever you can find. I like it over ice cream, on toasted English muffins or scones, over plain cheesecake, or just right out of the jar with a spoon!

I made a double batch with all the lilikoi I had, and ended up with twelve jars. They look like jewels on my shelf!

I first published this in September 2009 and have had many requests for it since. If you are interested in seeing later posts I did on Lilikoi Butter, look for them under “Categories” on the left-hand side of this post.

A hui hou!

Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding

 

When I was pastoring at a church in Arizona, someone always brought several dozen doughnuts from the local bakery to serve with coffee during a fellowship hour. If some were left over, I took them home and let them get stale for a couple days.

Then I would break them up into bits of about an inch to make this bread pudding – regular doughnuts, cake doughnuts, jelly-filled doughnuts, cinnamon twists, and the like. What a delicious and unusual bread pudding!

So I recently got hungry for some old-fashioned bread pudding and dug out my old recipe. This time I used whole wheat bread and dark raisins. The photo above is fresh out of the oven. In the next photo, it is topped with vanilla bean ice cream and dribbled with caramel syrup. Too delicious for words!

 


Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding
1 heaping quart of dry bread – use any kind of bread or leftover pastries [see comments above]
½ cup seedless raisins – or maybe even some dried cranberries or dried blueberries
2 cups milk (I use non-fat, but you don’t have to. Some even add coconut milk.)
2 beaten eggs
½ cup brown sugar (or less if you use sugary pastries)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine bread and raisins (or other dried fruit) in a buttered 1 ½ quart casserole. Add milk to eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Beat with a whisk until well mixed. Pour over bread and dried fruit. Bake at 350 F for about an hour.

You can add almost anything fruity or nutty to this, like flaked coconut or chopped macadamia nuts. I like it warm with ice cream or cold applesauce. Bread pudding is a popular dish here in Hawaii. I guess it’s a comfort food for a lot of people!

A hui hou!

Irish Soda Bread from an Irish Grandmother

 

I have been using various recipes for Irish Soda Bread for many years. Over a decade ago, my daughter in Idaho sent me a recipe that came from the Irish grandmother of one of her former co-workers. It surpasses anything that I’d ever made before and I pass it along to you in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day next week.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups unbleached flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
½ cup cold butter
½ cup raisins (she adds a bit more)
¼ cup caraway and fennel seeds mixed (she adds a bit more of this, too)
1 ½ cups buttermilk

Measure and combine dry ingredients.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or in a food processor).

Stir in desired amount of raisins and caraway/fennel. Stir in buttermilk.

Turn dough onto floured board and knead a few minutes, adding flour until dough is not too sticky.

Form into a ball and place in greased and floured round baking pan. Cut a deep cross on top.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, brush top with simple syrup made of sugar, water, nutmeg and continue baking a few more minutes.

Let cool 15-20 minutes before removing from pan.

Add a big pot of corned beef, cabbage, carrots, onions, and peppercorns so you’ll think you are back in old Ireland.

A hui hou!

Altamont Pudding

 

As a preacher’s kid (we were called PKs), I grew up eating quite a variety of foods made by church members. Several years before my father died, he and my mother decided to put together some of the recipes they’d gathered over the years. He typed them up on an old Underwood typewriter and Mother (Jane) made some rough sketches to go with it. The picture above is the cover of one of their efforts. The cover is spotted with grease and the edges are well worn, as you can see.

Usually there were no names for the dishes people brought to potluck suppers, so our family started calling them by the name of the person who made it, or sometimes for the town where we ate it.

Such is the case for this recipe. I never knew it by any name other than “Altamont Pudding.” When I asked my grandmother where that name originated, she said it was a dish one particular woman always brought to share when my grandfather was a pastor at Altamont, Illinois. It came down through my mother, and on down to me simply as “Altamont Pudding.” I may have even given it to my oldest daughter when she got married.

I’m using my mother’s words with almost no editing. Just before she wrote out the recipe, she had been talking about a meal of clam fritters with a cucumber salad.

Altamont Pudding
 

Makes a gooey good hot dessert with this meal (see note above), or it’s a happy thought to take to a sick neighbor, or to serve at church dinners, made in larger quantities.

Part I. Melt in a big square pan 2 tablespoons butter, 1 c. brown sugar, 3 c. boiling water, 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Part II. Make a batter of ½ c. white sugar, 1 teaspoon allspice, ½ c. milk, 1 c. flour, 3 level teaspoons double acting baking powder and ½ c raisins.

Pour the batter of Part II into the Part I and bake 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes or until done, or until batter rises to top and cooks through.

When served, spoon it upside down into sauce dishes; it has its own “dip” on the bottom. Make a double recipe to keep for in-between meal eating. Jane’s old standby for instant company.

Roasted Pig’s Head

In my freezer, the head of the pig I got from Masazo’s Piggery in Na`alehu remained, mostly because I wasn’t sure how to prepare it. Every recipe I found online talked about half a head of a smallish pig. This was a whole head from a 400 pound pig, probably weighing between 16 and 20 pounds.

The eyeballs, ears and snout were a bit intimidating! Fortunately, I had the help of a physician who (sort of) knew what we were seeing. We didn’t cook up the head as a whole, but cut off jowls, tongue, and ears to roast separately from the rest of the head.

Please understand that neither of us knew what in the world we were doing, so we took bits from various online recipes. We sprayed the head with canola spray, then rubbed in a mixture of 5-spice powder and ground up sea salt. Garlic cloves were tucked into all cavities, and a cut onion stuffed in the mouth.

We started off with 1 ½ hours in a 375 degree F., oven, basting periodically with a honey-water mix. Then we turned the oven down to 325 degrees F. for another 3 ½ hours.

I won’t gross you out with some of the other pictures I took during this process, but the end result wasn’t really too bad. We sliced meat off the cheeks and served with fresh local corn on the cob. The meat was super rich, and I thought it a bit chewy.

I froze some of the other meaty sections to make Pozole later, a Mexican pork and hominy stew that is traditionally made with meat from a pig’s head and served at Christmas time.

The whole ordeal was quite an experience, although I’m glad there was only one head on the pig. I’m not sure I would want to bother with another one!

A hui hou!

Oktoberfest in Hawai`i

When I was in high school, my father was the first English speaking pastor of a church that had once been considered a “German church.” Everyone spoke German, I learned Christmas carols in German, and the food was always German. No wonder I had trouble in gaining weight!

Every Thursday, the women met to quilt and served sauerkraut, spare ribs, and mashed potatoes. They always saved a plateful for me to eat as soon as I got back from school. Then I would sit down and quilt with them, trying to imitate their tiny stitches.

On October 1 of this year, I had the pleasure of attending an Oktoberfest at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church here on the Big Island. Instead of spare ribs, we were served a long Bratwurst; instead of mashed potatoes, we received a big boiled potato, but we did receive a big helping of sauerkraut and a bottle of non-alcoholic beer (St. Pauli N.A.). Apple strudel finished off the meal.

There was a wonderful 7-piece polka band, complete with several accordions, a string bass, trombone, clarinet, piano and drum.

The Fraulein servers were authentic. . . .

. . . and the dancing was exuberant.

You never forget how to dance a polka! But when I asked a friend to dance with me, she said she didn’t know how. I easily taught her, however, and we took off in a whirl.

We were taught several German songs. One was “Hock Soll er Leben,” or “Hail to the Host,” which we sang several times during the evening, each time raising our beer bottles to the host.

This Musik Meister led us in song, and also played one of the accordions.

Another tongue-twister song was “Oh Du Schöne Schnitzelbank,” a song we were told was never sung in Germany, but was local only in America.

I brought home a plate of leftovers from the church kitchen and relished the meal again later.

A hui hou!