Oh the crock pot. You are like a little round chef that makes my evenings so delightful. There is nothing like coming home to a house full of delicious smells and you didn’t have to cook a thing! Tonight, in an effort to brighten up the most dreadful Seattle March, I am embracing the Caribbean caveman inside.

What’s for Dinner:

Caribbean Caveman Jerked Pork Loin and Pineapple Salsa

Serves 4, 8 Hours on Low

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you need:

Jerk Seasoning (3 Tbls or make your own)

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2  teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbls Coconut Oil

2-3 lb Pork Loin

1/2 cup Water

Pineapple Salsa:

1/2 Fresh Pineapple (cut into bite sized cubes)

1 Green Pepper (chopped)

1/2 Onion (chopped)

2 Jalapanos (chopped, remove the seeds for less heat)

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

Salt and Pepper

How it’s done:

Melt down your coconut oil and mix in the jerk seasoning. Slather your pork loin with the spices and oil, place in slow cooker on low.

Cut up pineapple and veg into bite size pieces. Squeeze lemon juice over and mix well. Lightly season with a dash of salt and pepper. Mix well and store in air tight container. Let the flavors mingle until the pork is done.

About 8 hours later, pull out pork and let rest for 5 minutes. Pull apart, plate and top with salsa. Enjoy!

Well I have successfully completed day one of the new job. I have to say, I am very excited about all of it. The only down side is the 40 minute commute after getting out at 6pm… To say I have been spoiled the last few months would be an understatement. Working seasonal jobs afford you months off at a time. Months filled with cooking and hulu. Now, returning to the work force to take on a “real job” means adjustments must be made. No more 5:30 dinner, no more 4pm crossfit, no more 9pm bed time…eek.

I do believe there is a solution though, the crockpot aka: slow cooker. The answer to my prayers ( kind of like the burning bush, only it’s a crockpot afire). Here’s to hoping mine never literally catches flame. My vision, dinner waiting for me when I walk in the door after hitting the gym post work. Before I get to ahead of myself, let’s review the past two days…

What was for dinner:

Lemon Pepper Salmon, Roasted Broccoli and Sweet Potato

Serves 2, ~20 Minutes, Oven 400/Broil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you need:

2 Wild Caught Salmon Filets (thawed and rised)

1 Tbls Lemon Pepper (more or less depending on your taste)

1/2 Head Broccoli (cut into large florets)

2 Tbls Ghee (melted)

Salt and Pepper

1-2 Sweet Potatoes (depending on size)

How it was done:

Start by getting your oven heated to 400F, prep your broccoli and melt your ghee. In a shallow roasting pan, toss the broccoli with the ghee and lightly season with salt and pepper. Pop that in the hot box for 15-20 minutes, or until just tender and nicely caramelized on the tips. While that is going, fold up a large piece of foil so it is double thick and make a little edge that stands up all the way around. (this is going to make clean up a cinch!) Lay out your thawed and rinsed salmon, pat it dry and sprinkle on the lemon pepper.

Set that to the side and prep your potatoes. Wash them up good, poke a few holes with a knife or fork, wrap in a paper towel and wrap that in a little plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 5-6 minutes and leave them in until ready to plate. At the same time, turn your oven to broil and pop the salmon on the top rack. Broil for 6-8 minutes, but make sure to watch it closely. Once the white fat in the salmon starts to show, it is done. Don’t over cook it! Let the salmon rest a minute, plate your potato and broccoli. Enjoy!

Picture if you will, a time of yore. A time of horses and knights, a time of maidens and castles; the time of the blacksmith.  Not much has changed in the way a good quality piece of cast iron cook wear is made over the years. “Pig iron” is melted down along with other scrap iron, impurities removed, and poured into a mold made of sand and clay. Once it cools, the mold is cleaned off and ta da, you have your skillet. The good people at Lodge have been making cast iron cookwear this very way since 1896 in South Pittsburg, Tennessee . Here’s a quick little video of their factory:

Now you may say, but there are all these fancy (and expensive!) Stainless steel and anodized pans on the market, surely these new fangled pots and pans are better than Meemaw’s ol’ thing? Let me tell you, Meemaw was on to something…

The Benefits of Cast Iron:

1. Economic…heavy in your hand, not on your pocket book
  • Built to last

That same cast iron skillet or dutch oven Meemaw had on her stove all those years, well chances are, it’s going to be around for another 60 years if cared for properly.

Most pieces can be picked up for between $10-$30 depending on size. Some of your larger skillets or grill pans top out at the $50 mark. However, compared to the moderately priced ($200-$400) 10 or 12 piece conventional cookwear set, the initial cost is on par. Your more elaborate modern sets are going to cost you more in the beginning (some ranging up to$800! Eek!), and chances are they will last a little longer than the lower end, but still hit the dust well before Meemaw’s.

2. Environmentally Friendly
  •  Did I mention, built to last? 

 Cast iron is built to last more than a life time. Meemaw’s skillet is going to be with you longer than Meemaw herself (Sorry Meemaw, we love you!). Since you won’t be replacing your cookwear every 10 years, that means there are just that many fewer pots and pans cluttering up the landfills. Plus, because cast iron improves with age (much like women….) that skillet is only going to get better the more it is use; a claim your non-stick super-duper anodized pans cannot make.

  • No Toxic Chemical Processes; Just Iron, Rocks, and Sand

 Lodge has been making cookwear the eco-friendly way for years. Just a little iron, a few rocks and a lot of sand. (Check out their info page for more details) They have taken steps to make sure their cast iron has as little impact on the planet as possible. This includes what goes on the skillet, as well as, what goes into it. PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid is the key ingredient to DuPont’s slippery Tephlon®. Studies show that this chemical, along with a few others, never break down in the environment.  Lodge uses a kosher vegetable oil to give their cook wear its “seasoning”. (Perhaps someday they will switch to coconut oil :) )

3. Good for your Health
  •  Cast Iron gives you iron!

  Eating food prepared in cast iron provides you with trace amounts of iron. This can be particularly helpful for those suffering from anemia (10% of American women are iron deficient). Better yet, cooking acidic foods (like tomato based sauces) increases the amount of iron leached from your pan by up to 20 times, a great technique for all those vegetarian/vegan folks out there.

  • Less Fat Needed

 Now, I am a strong believer that fat gets a bad wrap in is country. Personally, I consume foods rich in healthy fats as part of my balanced diet. However, I do think this deserves a mention. A well seasoned pan takes less fat to cook food. You can skip the tons of oil if you like, and let the pan do the work. Once you have a pan that has been seasoned to a shinny gloss, you’ll find it works better (and tastes way better!) than most conventional non-stick ones.

  • No Perfluorooctanoic or Perfluorocarbons (I can’t even pronounce that…lets just go with PFOA’s and PFC’s), only Fe

 Did you know, in 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency launched a program aimed at reducing the use of PFOA by 95 percent in 2010 and eliminating it altogether by 2015. Why you may ask?

    • Is very persistent in the environment
    • Is found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population
    • Remains in people for a very long time
    • Causes developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals.

 Yummy…studies have also shown a correlation between liver damage, cancer, developmental problems and, according to one 2011 study in the Journal of ClinicalEndocrinology & Metabolism, early menopause. Even more frightening, the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that children and teenagers with PFOA in their blood serum had higher total cholesterol levels and higher levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, than children who were not exposed. (Keep in mind this is not a “causation” further study is required.)

 4. It’s all about the little things
  • Your CIS Can go from the stove top to the oven (Something your non-stick pans or plastic handle pots cannot.) 
  • Skip the soap! Use a stiff brush and little hot water to clean up. No harsh/environmentally harmful solvents needed. 
  • It keeps the heat. Even after the oven or stove has been turned off, the dutch oven will keep that chili warm. (That means less energy used, it all adds up.) 
  • It’s not going to warp. You can drop it, ding it, bang it and that skillet is going to keep its shape. 
  • You could use it as self-defense (Note, I am not advocating hitting someone with one. But if the need arose, I believe Fried Green Tomatoes has a bit of truth.)

 

A Quick how to on the care of those cast iron beauties. *Note- I recommend the use of coconut oil.

 

And one more from Scotty on the everyday maintenance of your pan

 

Phew! Now with that said, just a couple final thoughts. Even if you aren’t sold on the idea of cast iron for all of your culinary adventures, please take one thing to heart: Throw out those chipped and cracked non-stick pans! And never ever put one in the oven. For the sake of your health and the health of those you love, the ill effects may not be 100% proven, but is it really worth the risk?  Try out a CIS Meemaw will be so proud. 

Tonight was the final onramp session for me and the boyfriend. Finally we are able to join the rest of the crew sweating and lifting heaving things in the big boys/girls room. :) Today was also the last day at my current job. Sort of a bittersweet end for new beginnings you could say. Onramp was awesome. The first time lifting with a real bar (vs the wooden stick). The boyfriend kicked the WOD in the butt with a 4:46 time, all but the last 9 unbroken. I chipped my way through with a 7:23 time, finishing my last 9 with air squats instead of burpees. I did however, get my fill of puppy kisses, as Stella found my chap-stick particularly enjoyable during warmup. Crossfit puppies make everything better :)

WOD: Onramp #3

Warmup:
Gen Warm up
Burgener x2
Air Squats
Back squats 45#
Front Squat 45#

WOD: 7:23
21-15-9
Wallball
Burpee/air squat 9 :(

What’s For Dinner:

Salad, Sauerkraut and Sausage

Serves 4, ~40 Minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you need:

The Salad:

Lettuce

Tomato

Green Pepper

Cucumber

Black Olives

EVOO and Vinegar of choice

The Sauerkraut and Sausage:

1 Tbls Coconut oil

1 Onion (chopped)

5 Pork Sausage Links

1/2 bag Sauerkraut

1 cup Chicken Stock

1/4 c Vinegar

Salt and Pepper

1 tsp Caraway Seed

*Adding a diced apple is a great way to sweeten things up. I opted to forgo it this time, but man is it tasty! Just throw it in with the sausage to caramelize some of the natural sugars.

How to do it:

Melt your coconut oil in cast iron skillet or dutch oven over med heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Place sausage links in pan and allow to brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Pour in chicken stock a bit at a time and scrape up all the tasty brown bits from the bottom. Add your sauerkraut, vinegar and seasonings. Turn down to med/low and simmer until sausage reaches internal temp of 160F. You can leave them whole, or slice on a bias. Either way, enjoy!

Since the ground beef from last night’s dinner took a back seat to steak, in tonight’s dinner  it had to be the star. The weather being unseasonably cold today said one thing to me, spaghetti. I come from an Italian family and even spent some time living in Italy after college. So abandoning my noodle laden roots is a little like calling the Pope’s hat gaudy, you just don’t do it. (My grandmother will never understand…) Fret not, tasty substitutions can be made with the addition of squash. I generally stick to one squash when making a “pasta” dish, but I found my fridge a couple zucchini shy of a full meal. Luckily there is always a spaghetti squash kicking around my cupboard. Born out of necessity, I give you Spaghetti Squash take Deux.

What’s for Dinner:

Spaghetti Squash Deux

Serves 4, ~40 Minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you need:

The Sauce:

1 lb Ground Beef

1 Onion (chopped)

4 cloves Garlic (minced)

2 cans Diced Tomatoes (no salt added)

2 Tbls Tomato Paste

1 cup Mushrooms (chopped)

1 cup Black Olives

2 Tbls EVOO

1 sprig Rosemary and Oregano (chopped)

1 dash Cinnamon

Salt and Pepper

 

The Squash:

2 small Zucchini

1 Spaghetti Squash

How it’s done:

First, get your spaghetti squash cleaned and in the oven. Follow the directions here for all the details. Next get your sauce started. Heat the EVOO over medium in a sauce pan, add onion and saute until translucent. Add your garlic and reduce heat. Once your garlic starts to brown, add both cans of tomatoes with juice and paste, cover and simmer over med/low for 10 minutes.

While you sauce is simmering, brown your beef in a cast iron skillet. Add mushrooms half way through and finish cooking until meat is brown. Remove your sauce from the stove and blend with immersion blender to add a little body. (Be careful! The sauce is hot and the blender can splatter, use a flexible cutting mat or lid to protect yourself.) Pour your sauce in with your meat, add olives, herbs, and seasoning and turn down to low.

Prep your noodles as explained here. Rinse the pot, fill with water and bring to a boil. Cook zucchini for 2 minutes, drain and rise if you aren’t plating right away. Pull out your spaghetti squash, pull with fork and plate. Add zucchini and sauce, enjoy!

Today I had pulled a brick of Organic Prairie Grass Fed Ground Beef out of the freezer, but spent the day at work thinking: “Man, I really want a steak.”  This week has been all about the birds. Turkey meatloaf, chicken soup, turkey sausage…where’s the beef?!? Though the ground beef stuffed pepper I had originally planned promised to be delicious, some nights just call for a steak.

After leaving work and cramming in a little bargain shopping  for new work clothes, (The trifecta! Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshals!) we got a large chunk of the grocery shopping complete. Oh yeah, Saturday night at the grocery store, we know how to have fun! :) In the cart tonight: fresh pineapple, apples, and bananas, amongst the usual veg; Lara bars; a really lovely and huge pork loin that will be cut into 3; and a big ol’ package of beautiful ribeye steaks. So much for all that space I freed up in the freezer with the soup…

What’s for Dinner:

Ribeye Steak, Roasted Asparagus,and Sweet Potato

Serves 2, >20 Minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you need:

2 Ribeye Steaks (I like to buy the thin cut)

Salt and Pepper

1/2 bunch Asparagus

3 cloves Garlic (minced)

Oil of choice

Salt and Pepper

1 Sweet Potato

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to do it:

If you haven’t invested in cast iron cook wear yet, just do it! You won’t be disappointed. Personally I own two main pieces, a large skillet and a smaller grill pan. If I were cooking for more than two, I would want a bigger grill pan, but that is not the case right now :)

Anyway, get your grill or grill pan nice and hot and heat your oven to 400F. Season your meat (always good to let it reach room temp before cooking, it makes it juicier in the long run) and set aside. Trim up the asparagus and toss with your oil and garlic, season with a little salt and pepper, lay it out in a dish or pan and get that in the oven.This is going to take the longest of the 3 dishes, about 15 minutes.

Next, wash up your sweet potato, poke a few holes and stick it in the microwave for about 6 minutes. I wrap mine in a paper towel and a little plastic wrap, I find it keeps the skin from turning to leather. Just leave it in the mirco after the time is up, it will keep it warm and finish cooking without adding additional heat.

Now depending on the thickness of your steak and how done you like it, (we eat ours on the rare side) you will want to toss it on the grill pan for about 2-3 minutes a side. My thin cut Ribeyes were cooked to our likings (120F)  in about 4 minutes. Pull them off and let them rest for a few minutes before cutting. Plate your asparagus and cut your potato in half. Enjoy!

Continuing down the road of comfort food, today seems like a great day for a big bowl of chicken soup. Lately my freezer has become the catch-all of food on death row. Currently it is so full that the thought of putting one more item in sends me into a Tetris induced coma. Luckily, tonight’s dinner is almost completely from the freezer. See, I am a budget shopper and stocker. I love the idea of having my fridge full of all things delicious, but cost often out weights desire. So when the local grocer has natural whole chickens on sale for 78 cents a pound, I can go a little overboard. A girl can’t argue at that price! A couple chickens and I have enough pieces for 4-6 meals and 4 quarts of stock!

What’s for Dinner:

Chicken Cashew Soup

Serves 4, ~1 Hour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you need:

2 lbs Chicken (I went with a breast and a couple thighs I had stashed in the freezer)

3 Shallots (chopped)

4 Cloves Garlic (minced)

3 Carrots (chopped)

1 cup Sweet Potato (chopped)

3/4 cup Cashew or Almond Butter

1 package Frozen Spinach (fresh would be lovely here, but use what you have! Thawed and squeezed.)

6 cups Chicken Stock (liberated from the deep freeze)

1 Tbls Coconut Oil

Pepper and Salt

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

Cashews (chopped for garnish)

How to do it:

A dutch oven is the ideal vessel for this, but a large heavy bottom pot will work just fine. Start by adding your oil and getting the pot hot over med heat. Season up your bird with a little pepper and salt and put it skin side down in the pan. Let this brown up (don’t move it!) for a couple of minutes on each side. Now add your shallots, and garlic. Saute your duo until the shallots just begin to turn translucent and you can smell all the shallot. Pour about a cup of stock in and deglaze your pan, making sure to scape up all those tasty brown bits. Add the rest of the stock and bring to a simmer, turn down to med/low and let it all cook covered until the chicken is done (about 20 minutes). Once your chicken is done (it will be falling off the bone) remove it from the pot and add your sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and cashew/almond butter. Cut up the chicken into bite size pieces and return to the soup, season with nutmeg and salt/pepper to taste. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Once your potatoes are soft, you’re ready to eat. I find the longer I let this go on the stove, the tastier it becomes. Garnish with a few chopped cashews and Enjoy!