“Stuffed” Pork Roast

Spring is shifting into summer, but I love when it’s cold outside, mostly because of the food! Perfect time of year to make pork roast is when it’s cold outside and you don’t mind your oven running for several hours. To be honest though, I’ve been known to make this during the summer, more than once!

This is my recipe for making a “stuffed” pork roast. ONCE AGAIN… I failed to get a final result photo. But I did put a photo of another one I cooked and how that came out 😊

I like the pork shoulder roast because the fat layer bastes the roast, but you could do this with any pork roast. Start by preheating your oven to 375 and prepping a pan. I like to use the toss away pans for easier cleanup. Once it’s cleaned, coat the bottom with cooking spray and a layer of salt. I also add crushed red pepper.

Now get your roast out of the packaging. These usually come vacuum-sealed (I believe this one was about 8 or 9 pounds). Put it skin side down in the pan and trim off anything that looks undesirable. Leave the knife in the pan and focus on the veggies.

The normal veggies would be onion, garlic, and bell peppers, but you can use whatever you have on hand: roasted red peppers, green onions, any type of herb, spicy peppers… it’s all up to you. I used onion, garlic, green pepper, and thyme.

The best (fastest) way to get these cut down is to use a little food chopper. Cut the onion and bell pepper into smaller chunks and toss them in the food chopper. Let it do all the work for you and just dump the small pieces into a bowl. It is ok if this mixture has liquid from the veggies in it.

Once you have everything chopped, add a bunch of salt & cayenne pepper (or whatever pepper you use). This is going to season the roast, so be very generous.

With your large knife, cut slits into the roast at various places and stuff the veggie mixture in. Do the top and the sides. Do not worry about the bottom where the fat layer is and do not worry about using all the veggies. You actually want to have some left over.

Once you have enough stuffed spots, flip the roast over and score gridlines into the fat. Once you’ve done that, pour the remaining veggie mixture on the fat and rub it in. It is ok if some falls into the pan. Then spray the entire roast with a generous coating of cooking spray. This will help keep the foil from sticking to the roast.

Add about 2 cups of water to the bottom and cover with foil. Put in the oven and cook for 1 hour at 375 then turn down to 300 for about 4 more hours.

NOTE: If you want to add potatoes, start peeling them about an hour and a half before done time. Cut into large pieces and add to the pan. Please make sure you season them – potatoes soak up a lot of salt – and add more liquid. Recover the roast and let the potatoes cook with the roast for the remaining time.

Different roast, but this is what it eventually looks like!

Serve with sides of choice (I prefer rice and either rolls or biscuits).

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Several sprigs of thyme
  • Pork shoulder roast, 8 or 9 pounds
  • Water
  • Seasoning to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Prep pan and spray with cooking spray. Season with salt & crushed red pepper.
  3. Take roast out of packaging and place skin-side down in the pan and trim.
  4. Chop all veggies in food chopper and dump into a bowl.
  5. Add salt & cayenne pepper (or your seasonings of choice).

Slow Cooker Braised Beef Shanks

I love beef shanks – the meat has a great flavor. Today I tried something a little different to see how they’d turn out. Normally, I cook these in the oven, but I decided to try in the slow cooker.

I started with 2 beef shanks; one was considerably larger than the other. This indicates the appetite difference between my SO and me. 😊

Using a small skillet, I browned them one at a time with salt and pepper on each side.

While that was happening, I sliced one Vidalia onion and peeled 3 garlic cloves. I sprayed the bottom of my slow cooker and layered the onion slices and cloves at the bottom.

I also added some salt, pepper, and stock to the bottom. I don’t like pouring liquids over seasoned meat as I feel it washes everything away. You can use beef or veggie stock or water. Just a little at the bottom since we are not trying to boil the meat.

Once the shanks were brown on each side:

I layered them in the slow cooker:

I added fresh rosemary from my garden and then went back to the skillet for a sauce.

I used one tablespoon of butter, ¼ red cooking wine (I’ll explain this in a minute) and the juice of one small lemon. My goal was to get the bits off the bottom. Once everything mixed together, I poured it around the slow cooker. I set it on high for 2 hours then I turned it to Low and cooked for 2.5 hours.

>Red Cooking Wine: Please use real red if you have it on hand. I do not drink wine, so I never have any hanging around. This is easier for me but do what works for you.

I once again forgot to take a photo of the final product. The meat was flavorful, tender, and falling apart.
>If I make this again, I’ll try to remember to snap a photo! I’m so bad at the end result pics.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 beef shanks
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion
  • Beef broth or water
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp butt
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  • Spray a skillet & slow cooker with cooking spray.
  • Season both sides of beef shanks
  • Sear beef shanks on both sides until brown
  • Slice 1 onion and peel 3 garlic cloves; layer on the bottom of the slow cooker
  • Season onion mixture with salt and pepper
  • Add beef broth to the slow cooker – about 1 inch of liquid
  • Layer shanks in the slow cooker and add 1 sprig of rosemary cut in half
  • In the skillet, add 1 tablespoon of butter, juice of 1 lemon, and ½ cup of red wine; reduce.
  • Add sauce to the slow cooker and set timer:
    • High for 2 hours then Low for 2.5 hours.
  • Serve with sides of choice. We served with jasmine rice and shishito peppers.

Hiatus

So I’ve been on hiatus since May, as you may have noticed. I received some startling news in June and have been dealing with health issues. I was diagnosed with Adenomyosis. My doctor and I decided on surgery, so I’m currently home recovering from a hysterectomy. The last 5 months have been an emotional roller coaster.

I will be posting again now that I’m on the mend, both physically and emotionally. Dealing with the emotional part of this surgery was more taxing than I had anticipated and I completely lost my motivation for this website. I’m doing much better with everything now, but there is still some healing left.

Stay tuned!

Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

Mmm breakfast. My favorite meal of the day. I often do breakfast for dinner because it’s easy, quick, and delicious. During the week, I need something for breakfast that I can take to work and eat there with minimal effort. My latest go-to breakfast meal prep has been biscuits with sausage gravy.

I only started making this a few months ago from a special request. I didn’t realize how easy this is to make until I actually did it. Now, I wonder how I ever lived without this tasty meal. It is also very filling! I haven’t tried homemade biscuits yet, so please excuse the canned biscuits. I do want to try making my own biscuits one day and see how they work.

What really makes this recipe for me is the sage-flavored breakfast sausage. I love the extra layer the sage adds to the overall dish. I would also like to one day try making my own breakfast sausage. When I do, I will post another recipe of everything from scratch. Until then, let’s go with the easy version.

Start with one pack of sage-flavored breakfast sausage. I cut it into discs and lay them around the pan.

You can use any type of pork sausage you want. I happen to love the way the sage flavored sausage tastes in this recipe.

When the first side starts to brown, flip them over and start mashing them out. You want to get them to the smallest pieces possible. However, if you end up with chunkier sausage, have no fear! It is still just as tasty.

The idea is to keep browning and separating the milk. You want the sausage to basically be crumbles in the gravy.

Keep stirring these around and mashing them out. You can add some salt and pepper to taste (I like cayenne pepper).

If you end up with larger chunks of sausage, don’t worry! It will still taste just as good.

Once everything is brown, add in ½ cup of flour and stir it all up.

If you want to add butter, do it before the flour and make sure it’s fully melted.
Make sure the flour is fully absorbed into the sausage.

Pour in a pint of milk and stir.

You can always add more if you want a lot of gravy. I prefer to not have poured gravy over my biscuits (it’s a texture thing!)
This will reduce a little, so if you want more gravy, add more milk or cream!

Lower the heat and cover slightly. Cook until the gravy is thick.

It really doesn’t take very long to get to this point. The gravy will be nice and thick and this makes a great meal prep. Just divide the sausage gravy into meal-sized portions and put away in containers.

Serve over or with your favorite biscuits.

**For meal prep, follow all the above directions. Allow the gravy mixture to cool then separate into containers for the week. My workplace has a toaster oven and I’ve found putting my biscuits in while it preheats to 350 plus 2 minutes at that temperature is enough to make the biscuits hot and soft again.

And that’s it! What do you think?

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 package sage-flavored breakfast sausage
  • 1 can biscuits (I’ve found the big biscuits work really well for this recipe)
  • 1 pint of milk
  • ½ cup of flour
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cut sausage into discs and lay around bottom of a skillet.
  2. When side 1 is brown, flip them over and start mashing the discs out to separate the meat.
  3. Stir & brown all the sausage while continuing to separate.
  4. When all the sausage is brown, add salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Add in ½ cup flour and stir.
  6. Pour in 1 pint of milk.
  7. Lower temperature, cover, and simmer until gravy is thick.
  8. Serve over or with biscuits.

Variations

A couple times I’ve made this, I added two tablespoons of butter for extra richness. I was also short on milk once and compensated with half and half. I would one day like to try adding cheese and see what happens. I’ll update on that if I ever do it.

Cajun Fricassee with King Crab

Being born and raised in Louisiana gave me a wonderful appreciation for food. So many flavors from very simple ingredients. However, living up north for as long as I have has forced me to adapt my Cajun favorites. Boiled seafood is non-existent up here. Boudin? What’s boudin? Cracklins? Exactly.

Growing up, my mom made fricassee a lot – chicken, potato, etc. The main difference between fricassee and gumbo is the amount of liquid you end up with at the end. Gumbo is more of a soupy consistency, but fricassee is gravy to eat over rice. I prefer to eat rice and gravy.

Let me start by saying I’m not an expert on all things Cajun by any means. I can only draw on my own personal experiences growing up on what my mom cooked. That being said, let’s drill down into how I make my Cajun fricassee with a northern twist…

Both start with a flour & oil base (also known as Roux) that you brown to a rich color. After that, you add in the aromatics, liquid, seasoning, protein, etc. What I do may deviate from “the norm” but that is all based on my own experimentation and preferences. Remember that “holy trinity” of onion, celery, and carrots? Well… I personally hate celery so I never cook with it. I also don’t really like any cooked vegetables so that takes the carrots out. In every fricassee or gumbo, I always use onion. For this fricassee, I used onion, red bell pepper, and garlic.

Starting with the flour and oil base, get the mixture to a creamy texture.
NOTE: Do NOT leave this unattended. It browns really fast and the more flour you use (thicker base), the faster it cooks. Once it burns, there’s no salvaging it. You have to dump it and start over, not to mention it has a pretty foul smell.

I never measure this part. You don’t want it too thick and clumpy or too loose. It has to be a nice mix.

Next, brown it up to a nice light coffee color.

Once you get to this point, watch it very closely. It will darken in seconds.

I add in my onions, peppers and garlic (all chopped). I have also used: chopped any-color bell peppers, chopped roasted red peppers, chopped cubanelles or poblanos, and green onions. I feel like the original intention of this type of dish was to cook what was on-hand and still made a hearty meal. Based on that, I experimented until I found ingredients I really loved that gave amazing flavor.

This will clump quite a bit. That’s ok! It will mix out when you add the liquid.

Once I’ve cooked the aromatics a bit in the roux base, I start adding my liquid a little at a time to get a good blend. You can use any type of stock, water, broth, etc. I have recently started cooking with bone broth a lot so that is what I’ve used here.

A little at a time to unclump the veggies & roux. Keep whisking until it’s all nicely blended.

Once I have a good mix, I add in seasoning. In this particular batch, I added in some liquid crab boil. Please do NOT try tasting this stuff out of the jar… it is very concentrated so a little goes a long way. Just a few splashes in a large pot is enough. This gives a backend heat – the kind that isn’t in-your-face spicy but sneaks up on you. Some salt because it needs to taste good and basically anything else you want.

?

***NEWSFLASH… I have never eaten File in any gumbo or fricassee. My mom never used it – so I never use it.

Back to the recipe… While this mixture simmers, I rinse off the crab. Up here, finding blue crab can be a chore so I’ve had to adapt and use other kinds. My hands-down favorite is Dungeness Crab but I couldn’t find any so I went with King Crab. Still very tasty. Most crab here is heavily salted and frozen, so I get all the ice off and make sure the outside is free from as much salt as possible. Also a good way to make sure its clean.

I put that in the pot and let it go. The longer you cook this, the better it tastes. I let this go for about an hour and the crab was already cooked. I just wanted it to taste amazing. I also added in a container of claw meat to get extra crab in there. It was on sale so why not.

I forgot to get a picture of the end so here’s a picture of what was left.

We LOVED it. It was very delicious, and the crab peeled easily (thank goodness because I forgot I didn’t have the claw crackers when I bought the king crab).

So there you have it – my Cajun Fricassee with King Crab. I use the same basic recipe and just add in chicken, sausage, potatoes, etc. I’ve also cooked pork neck bones like this. It all tastes great. Just cook it up and serve it over rice. I have discovered that my favorite rice is Jasmine and this goes really well with Jasmine rice.

What do you think?!

Recipe:

  • ½ bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 32oz container of broth, stock, or water (I used bone broth)
  • Oil & Flour (I don’t measure these but you want a well-blended, creamy consistency)
  • Liquid Crab Boil (a few splashes)
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Crab
  • Other liquid as needed

Directions:

  1. Chop veggies
  2. In a pot, heat oil (about enough to almost cover the bottom)
  3. Add flour and mix to creamy texture.
  4. Continue stirring until brown.
  5. Add chopped veggies and stir for no more than a minute.
  6. Slowly add liquid until well blended.
  7. Add liquid crab and other seasonings.
  8. Add crab (you will likely need to add more liquid to partially cover the crab).
  9. Partially cover and let simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  10. Serve over rice.

Couple things to note:

  1. The type of aromatic/veggies to use is entirely up to you. If you love celery, then by all means use it, just know that it could change the flavor.
  2. I sometimes add in a half can (or full can depending on how much I’m making) of condensed soup for extra richness. Types I’ve used: Cream of Chicken, Cream of Chicken & Herbs, Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Mushroom & Herbs, Cream of Shrimp. You could probably also use Cream of Celery.

Accepting Life

Life is a journey… or something like that. The hardest part for me? Accepting that I am alone. I am a single mom and that means all the responsibilities are mine, and mine alone. There is no one else here to help with anything. It sucks, it’s stressful, and most days I feel like crying.

I come home exhausted but there is no rest. Meals have to be made, things need cleaning up, the cat needs care, all on top of my son’s homework and keeping him on track until bedtime. Unless you’ve been in these shoes, you couldn’t possibly understand the level of exhaustion a single parent deals with on a daily basis.

I had a revelation or epiphany or whatever last weekend. I read something that said “happiness starts when we accept life as it is and not as we think it should be”. I am alone. I have to accept that I am alone. I have to embrace that I am alone. My responsibilities are my own and no one is going to provide assistance. I said it out loud “I am alone” and felt a little better.

We all have to get to the point where we accept life as it is. Whether or not we’re happy with it is a different story. We’re all only one decision away from a new life. But the first step is accepting our truth and our reality. Once we do that, we are free to make any choice we want to change our lives.

I have started making changes… and we’ll see what happens from there.

Coconut Butter Shrimp

Lol! Need to try the bank account suggestion 🙂

In my attempts to eat healthier, I did some experimenting in my kitchen with coconut oil. I know, I’m late to this party but better late than never!

I first tried coconut oil with my scrambled eggs. Not an altogether horrible turnout. It did have a distinct flavor that was sort of perfumey. While eating my perfume eggs, I decided to try this with shrimp, given the popularity of coconut fried shrimp I figured this would be a good match.

Let me make it very clear first that I hate coconut. I do not eat it in meals, desserts, or any other place. I tried coconut water, coconut milk, raw coconut and cooked. I do not like it. But I used the oil to make lip gloss & lotion bars for Christmas and I really liked the smell those things had. I know coconut oil is super healthy, so I made the leap and I’m so glad I did!

Basically, you need equal parts butter and coconut oil. Seasonings only consist of salt and crushed red pepper.

Put half the butter & half the coconut oil in the pan and let it melt.

Add your shrimp and season with the salt and pepper.

Flip the shrimp when the first side is pink and add the remaining butter and coconut oil.

Cook until done which should really only be a few minutes. Shrimp cook incredibly fast which makes this another winner in my book.

Final product is something very tasty. Enjoy!

Final plate!

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP Butter, divided
  • 1 TBSP Coconut oil, divided
  • Salt to taste
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • ½ pound of Shrimp (I used size 26-30)

Directions

  1. Melt half the butter and half the coconut oil in a skillet on low to medium heat.
  2. When fully melted, add the shrimp in a single layer.
  3. Season the shrimp with salt and crushed red pepper.
  4. When the first side of the shrimp is pink, flip them over.
  5. Add remaining butter and coconut oil.
  6. Cook until done (several more minutes on side 2).

What do you think?

Fibro Flares

It has been quite a while since I last posted. I’ve been super busy then a fibro flare happened (and is still happening!). This resulted in quite a few 7:30/8pm bedtimes. The exhaustion, fatigue, and pain are overwhelming. In the midst of the flare, I decided to do some research on fibro-sensitive diets (since scrolling on my tablet is about all the energy I had) and came across many interesting articles that suggest gluten-free.

The last time I went gluten-free, I suffered carb flu very badly. Because I’m working through a flare, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to add that on top. So, what have I decided to do? Well, I’m slowly weaning the carbs out. I started with soda, my morning biscuits, and lunchtime rice. This presented a few challenges since I usually have sausage & biscuits for breakfast every morning and a piece of baked chicken with rice for lunch. I can prepare the biscuits ahead, they travel well and only need a quick reheat in the toaster oven at work. Plus I never reheat the chicken, just the rice. However, I really want to feel better. You have no idea how badly I want to feel better.

I decided to still have my sausage, only in crumbles, not in that yummy white gravy (it’s flour-based, blah). I’ve been eating scrambled eggs & sausage for breakfast followed by a mid-morning snack of an avocado with lemon juice. For lunch, I’ve been eating a hamburger patty and salad followed by blackberries & sunflower seeds.

Needless to say, I’m starving by the time I get home. You don’t know how filling carbs are until you don’t eat them anymore. Today is only day 2 so I’m hoping this gets better as the days go by. This is forcing me to expand my taste buds though and I ended making the most delicious shrimp Sunday evening. I will post the recipe in another thread.

I’m curious to see how this turns out and I’m hoping for the best – that I have more energy, less pain, less fatigue, and I can actually do things again!

To all my fellow fibro warriors out there… Keep fighting, friends. This really sucks. I get you. I feel you. I’m proud of everything we manage to get done every day. Even if it’s just washing your hair – small victories add up.

Budget Planning Update

Lol, I love Grumpy Cat! The memes this cat has inspired are some of my favorites.

For some reason, it seems the word “budget” has a bad connotation. I can understand why – it usually means restrictions, cutting back, or completely giving things up. So let’s clear it up!

I’m doing an update on my budgeting plans that started several month back. I’ve learned quite a bit about money management, my own personal spending habits, and will power. Budgeting doesn’t mean restricting – it means creating a roadmap for financial success. A true successful budget doesn’t start by eliminating things. Here’s what I did…

  1. Write down total monthly income.
  2. Write down categories like Home, Auto, Utilities, Food, Savings, and yes, even Fun money.
  3. In each category, write the items that category includes. Example:
    1. Food:
      1. Grocery
      2. Restaurant money
      3. Kiddo’s lunch money
  4. Assign values to EVERYTHING: haircuts, weekly spending money, even that expensive coffee splurge – you have to account for ALL of it.

After that, I had a clear view of where my money was going and where it needed to go. I was able to shift things around so that I had a plan that made sense for my family.

Every month since the budgeting started, something has come up – car repairs, Christmas presents, etc. The Savings category has been there to cover all of it. The idea behind Savings, for me at least, was to save money, but it has mostly been a contingency fund. This has been a huge lifesaver since all these extra things have come up along the way.

So how has it been going? Well, I don’t have a savings stashed but I have been able to address random things that have come up with no trouble while not affecting the other parts of my budget. Budgeting allows me to compartmentalize my money so one thing doesn’t affect another.

So wipe out those negative thoughts about budgeting and ask yourself if compartmentalizing your money would make life easier. If so… try making a budget with categories and see if you can get your money moving where you really want it.

Living with Fibromyalgia

I don’t know where this picture came from… but it’s pretty accurate.

I first saw that picture on Pinterest. I don’t know where it came from or who owns it but it is pretty accurate. I’m 40 years old, but I feel much older than that. I don’t look my age so I hear a lot of “you’re too young to be in pain”. Living with Fibro… what a pain. Literally.

I was first diagnosed in my early 30’s but my symptoms were around for much longer. I have noticed they’ve gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I think the hardest thing about living with Fibro is getting people to understand how awful you feel.

So what is it like? Well… imagine you’ve been awake for 36 hours. Now imagine you run 30 miles without stopping and then push your car around the block several times. Add having the flu, a hangover, and a sunburn. You’re kinda getting close now. The problem with Fibro is the really extensive list of symptoms that anyone can experience at any time.

Here are the most common:

  • Fatigue
  • Widespread muscle/joint pain
  • Brain fog
  • Sensitivity in all of the 5 senses
  • Insomnia/screwed up sleep patterns
  • Depression

On a good day I wake up exhausted. On a bad day, I wake up feeling like I got hit by a truck the night before. I think anyone fighting this battle will agree the good days are few and far between while the bad days require every ounce of strength to just get out of bed in the morning, never mind going to work and being productive. I have learned, as we all have, to roll with the energy highs and lows. Last night, I fell asleep on the couch at 7:30 and then dragged myself to bed at 8:30. Tonight, maybe 9 or so but I did get a load of laundry done this evening. My sink is currently still full of dirty dishes.

My goal is not be super-mom. I work two jobs, I’m a single mom, my son is autistic, and when you add Fibro to that, well, there’s a whole lot going on in my house. Again, not trying to be super-mom. If I go to bed at night after accomplishing nothing, then so be it. If I manage to get a few things done, then so be it. It is what it is. My house is messy sometimes and I’m ok with that. My son is healthy and happy and that’s all I care about.

In the end, living with Fibro really forces you to prioritize your life. Every day, I wake up and ask myself “What is the most important thing I have to accomplish today?” and focus on that. If I get other stuff done, great. If not, great. Priorities. Priorities. Priorities.

It would be great if people really understood what Fibro does to a person, but the reality is that likely won’t happen. I don’t often talk about my Fibro because it’s so involved and the symptoms vary from day to day, that I would rather spend my time on what’s important: taking care of my son and taking care of myself.

For anyone out there fighting this battle… self care is so important. Whatever it is – massages, naps, warm baths… take care of yourself in any way you need to. Remember – it’s all about priorities.