Quick Weeknight Pulled Pork.

Pulled pork is legendary. I could probably eat it a few times a week. But its 4-6 hour cooking time can be brutally long, especially on a weeknight, when you’d have to be nuts to attempt it. Four to 6 hours cooking after work means either a midnight meal or a “creative solution,” and that’s what I’ve got for ya here. Complete with its own quick homemade sauce, this one-pot dish cooks on the stove top and is ready to go (even if you’re a slow recipe-maker!) in under an hour. Now of course, this isn’t the same as the 6-hour slow-cooked version, but it’s tender and flavorful and still makes for awesome leftovers the next day. And the day after. And it’s an excuse to eat some of my favs – coleslaw and refried beans!

Quick Weeknight Pulled Pork by KellyintheKitchen | 2 tbsp butter, olive oil, 1/2 onion, 3 cloves garlic, salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 lb boneless pork loin roast

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp butter
olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup ketchup
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 lb boneless pork loin roast, cut into 4 pieces

DIRECTIONS

Heat a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid over medium heat. Melt the butter (plus a splash of olive oil to keep the butter from burning) and add the onion, cooking until soft and just starting to brown. Add the garlic and salt and cook another minute, careful not to burn the garlic. Add the cayenne pepper, cumin, and ground coriander. Stir and toast the spices for about a minute.

When the spices are fragrant (and you feel like you might sneeze from the smell of the cayenne pepper), add the ketchup, stock or water, brown sugar, thyme, and cider vinegar. Bring to a boil and then add the pork to the pot. Cover the pot and keep at an active simmer for about 25 minutes. I flipped the pieces of pork over halfway through.

When the pork is tender and cooked through, remove it to a plate. Turn up the heat so that the sauce comes to a steady boil and let it bubble away until thickened a bit – I let mine go for about 15 minutes.

Quick Weeknight Pulled Pork | KellyintheKitchen Quick Weeknight Pulled Pork | KellyintheKitchen

Let the meat cool until it’s not too hot to work with, and then shred it with two forks. It won’t shred as easily as the slow-cooked kind—don’t worry, just power through it. Toss the pork in the sauce and serve!

Quick Weeknight Pulled Pork by KellyintheKitchen | 2 tbsp butter, olive oil, 1/2 onion, 3 cloves garlic, salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 lb boneless pork loin roast

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Balsamic Chicken with Sauteed Vegetables and Lentils.

Can we talk about lentils? Why don’t we eat more lentils in this life we lead? I realize I’m speaking for you, readers, when really I should just speak for myself…maybe you eat a lot of lentils already, or maybe you’re allergic to lentils and I’m being insensitive to your needs. Sorry. But everyone else, why aren’t lentils a bigger part of our lives?! They are cheap, good for you, SO easy to make, and incredibly versatile. They can be the star of a dish, the sidekick, or the background canvas for another ingredient’s greatness. And let me repeat how cheap they are. Most stores in my neighborhood sell a pound bag of lentils for less than a dollar, and since they do plump when you cook ’em, you end up with a LOT of lentils for very little money. They are also a great high-protein substitute for rice if that’s your thang, and since you prepare them basically the same way you prepare rice, it’s not hard to learn to make lentils. Also they taste great. Are you convinced? Good. Make this. IMG_1270 INGREDIENTS

for chicken:
3 small chicken breasts
fav all-purpose spice rub (there are 2 kinds of people: those who know that Back-of-the-Yards rub from the Spice House is the best seasoning ever, and those who haven’t tried it yet)
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar
butter

for lentils:
1/2 lb lentils
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups water
pinch of parsley
pinch of rosemary
pinch of thyme

for veggies:
1/4 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
lemon juice (optional)

DIRECTIONS

IMG_1281 I believe marinades are an art, not a science. With that in mind, have a bowl or plastic bag handy and rub the chicken breasts with some spice rub and salt and pepper. Put the chicken in the bowl or bag and pour in a few teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. Let this concoction marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or as long as overnight.

The lentils take a little while, so get them going next. Sort through and pick out any stones or weird looking ones, and rinse the remaining beauties. In a small pot, combine lentils, chicken stock, water, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook until tender, and drain any remaining liquid. Set the lentils aside.

When you’re almost ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350 F.

To cook the chicken, heat a skillet or other stove-to-oven-safe pan over medium high heat. Add some butter to the pan and let it melt, and then add the chicken breasts. I like to move each one around a little bit in the butter so that I know they’ve all had their turn in the good stuff. Make sure the chicken breasts are not touching or crowded too closely (we don’t want them to steam or braise).

When one side of the chicken has browned nicely, flip the chicken over and get some color on the second side. Once you’ve got some good color on both sides, turn off the heat and finish cooking the chicken all the way through in the oven. It’s done when the center is white, not pink, and the juices run clear. Remove from the pan and set chicken aside.

But don’t do anything to that wonderful pan! It has awesome flavor in it from the chicken. So put the pan back on the stove and turn the heat to medium low. It should still be a pretty hot pan, so add the onions, carrots, and garlic, and stir around to pick up the beautiful browned bits of flavor. Cook until softened and add the spinach, cooking just until wilted. Squeeze over a bit of lemon juice if you like.

Then add the lentils into the pan and stir to create a beautiful mottled mosaic of colorful veggies. Taste for salt and pepper, and then top with your chicken breasts for a gorgeous, rustic meal!

IMG_1284 This lasted me a few days of lunches at work, and man was it good. Lentils are just awesome. IMG_1236

Czech Goulash: Updated Recipe.

Four years ago when I went to Prague, I ordered a dish of goulash at a little restaurant near our hostel. It was my first taste of goulash–my first heavenly taste of that paprika-y, hearty stuff–and I’ve loved it ever since. In fact, my goulash might be the first recipe I ever made that I can claim as a Kelly original. That recipe has lived through a few delicious incarnations as I’ve re-worked it through the years; I think this posting is the third version. And it’s by far my favorite. I’ve kept it simple and focused on my favorite flavors, most importantly the deep deep warmth of paprika, which absolutely rocks on a chilly winter day. An homage to my Bohemian relatives and a sweet memory of my trip to Prague, here is my updated recipe for Czech goulash!

Czech Goulash | KellyintheKitchen | olive oil, 1 large onion, 3 carrots, bay leaf, 2 lb stew beef, cubed, 3 cloves garlic, 3-4 tsp paprika, 2 tsp caraway seed, 1 tsp dried thyme, 15 oz canned crushed tomato, 4-6 cups cold water or stock, salt and pepper to taste, 2 tbsp corn starch, and garnishes: sour cream, green onion, marjoram/parsley

INGREDIENTS

olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
bay leaf
2 lb stew beef, cubed
3 cloves garlic
3-4 tsp paprika
2 tsp caraway seed
1 tsp dried thyme
15 oz canned crushed tomato
4-6 cups cold water or stock
salt, pepper to taste
2 tbsp corn starch
sour cream, green onion, and marjoram or parsley for serving

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil over medium in Dutch oven or other large soup pot. Add onions, carrots, and bay leaf, and cook until transparent. Then add the beef and cook until browned.

Stir in the garlic, paprika, thyme, and caraway seed. Cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant.

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Pour in the tomatoes and 4 cups of stock and add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if necessary.

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After 2 1/2 hours, stir in the corn starch. Cook for another hour at least; I like to cook the goulash for a total of 4-5 hours if I have the time. We’re going for fall-apart tender beef that could almost float away in the broth/gravy/stew juices (or whatever they’re called).

Remove from heat and fish out the bay leaf. Serve with a scoop of sour cream and a sprinkling of green onion and parsley or marjoram. This stuff is amazing right out of the pot and only gets better as it sits in the fridge!

Czech Goulash | KellyintheKitchen | olive oil, 1 large onion, 3 carrots, bay leaf, 2 lb stew beef, cubed, 3 cloves garlic, 3-4 tsp paprika, 2 tsp caraway seed, 1 tsp dried thyme, 15 oz canned crushed tomato, 4-6 cups cold water or stock, salt and pepper to taste, 2 tbsp corn starch, and garnishes: sour cream, green onion, marjoram/parsley

Savory Braised Short Ribs.

What’s not to love about short ribs? They’re pretty cheap, super meaty, and easy to cook because after a bit of prep, you can just walk away and forget about them. My kind of meal. These short ribs are fantastic and feature one of my all-time favorite flavors in the world ever in the history of the universe: Worcestershire sauce. I’ve loved it since I was little (though we did break up for a short time, when I discovered “anchovies” on the ingredients list. But I got over it and we’re back together). I love cumin and bay leaf with Worcestershire, so they got thrown into the mix, and thyme is always a good time/thyme., so he’s here, too. As far as side dishes go, I like to add petit pois at the end of the cooking process and make a sort of one-pot meal, but short ribs also go great with mashed potatoes, grits, or some delicious buttery rolls. Just go carnivore-nuts on their deep amber goodness.

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INGREDIENTS

5-6 short ribs (I actually prefer boneless short ribs, but my store was sold out, so I used bone-in. Boneless usually don’t need to cook quite as long, so keep that in mind if you go for boneless.)
butter
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 small onions (or 1 large onion), diced
1 1/3 cups carrots, sliced into segments
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 cups stock (beef stock would be best, but all I have is my homemade chicken stock, and it does the trick)
optional: 1 1/2 cups frozen peas (J‘adore les petits pois.)

Just the Recipe link: Savory Braised Short Ribs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a Dutch oven or other large, stovetop- and oven-safe pot with a lid, heat butter and olive oil on medium high. Season each side of the short ribs with salt and pepper, and brown them in batches, careful not to crowd the pan. Don’t worry about cooking them through; we’re just trying to get some color on these babies. Once all the short ribs have had their time to brown, set them aside.

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Turn the heat down to medium and add more oil to the pan if necessary. Toss in the carrots, onions, and garlic. Cook until softened, and then stir in the cumin, red pepper flakes, thyme, and bay leaf.

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Cook until fragrant, and then pour in the Worcestershire sauce. Stir the veggies around as it steams, and then nestle the short ribs back into the pan. Pour in the stock and bring to a bubble. Taste for seasoning, and add salt as needed.

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Place the top on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure you have enough liquid to keep things good and moist.

Once they’re falling-off-the-bone tender, the short ribs are done, so take the dish out of the oven and remove the bay leaf.  Use a large spoon to remove some of the fat from the top of the juices. Then, if you love peas as much as I do, stir them in now and then re-cover the pot, letting the heat cook them through.

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That’s it! Dig in and let the tender melty goodness fall right off the bone and into your heart/stomach. And watch out for little canine stomachs, who might want to steal a bite.

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Caprese-stuffed Chicken with Basil Oil and Balsamic Glaze.

After three days of work travel this week, I was exhausted when I got home Friday afternoon. I was so tired, in retrospect I feel like the only appropriate word to describe my state is the fantastic Irish expression “knackered.” I was knackered! I wanted to grab my yoga pants, put some 30 Rock on, and fall asleep.

….And then I thought of this recipe, and believe it or not, I got a second wind. The punchy and comforting flavors of caprese go so well with baked chicken, and I was thrilled to get to use two favorite ingredients that I don’t have on hand every day: fresh basil and balsamic glaze. And the finished product was definitely deserving of such delicacies. Apologies for the photos here – when I started cooking, the light was lovely. But the night went on, as it tends to do, and by the time everything was ready to eat, it was too dark for a decent photo. I will most definitely make these again and again, so I’ll just have to snap a picture next time. Make these, and make them soon.

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INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup cheese (I used a combo of fresh mozzarella and cheddar)
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tbsp fresh basil, julienned, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
salt and pepper
5 – 6 halved chicken breasts (about 1 lb in total, sliced through the center, so they are long and wide, but thin)
olive oil
balsamic glaze (a.k.a. reduced balsamic vinegar – you could use regular balsamic here, too)
also need: toothpicks or kitchen twine

Just the Recipe link: Caprese-stuffed Chicken with Basil Oil and Balsamic Glaze

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 F.

First, put 1 tbsp basil in a ramekin or small bowl with 1 tsp olive oil, and stir. Set aside to marinate a little bit.

In another bowl, combine cheese, balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp basil, garlic, and tomato.

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Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Top each one with a spoonful of the caprese stuffing and roll the sides over, to seal it in. Secure with two toothpicks. Repeat with the rest of the chicken breasts.

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Heat an oven-safe, stovetop-safe pan, like a cast iron skillet, over medium heat with a bit of olive oil. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Don’t worry about cooking the chicken, since it’s going in the oven – just give it some color.

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Then move the chicken to the oven and cook until the middle is no longer pink and the juice run clear. I didn’t time it, sorry. Maybe 15-20 minutes? I swear I’ll time it next time, folks! Just keep an eye on it.

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When the chicken is cooked through, plate it with a good drizzle of balsamic glaze and a scoop of the basil olive oil. Aww, yeah.

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Refried Beans.

I never ate refried beans as a kid. They just looked so…gross. Ugh. And while I love them now, I have to admit that they’re one of the homeliest side dishes around. Their puree-like texture, the way they just kind of plop, free-form, onto your plate, and that unappetizing pink-beige color, reminiscent of cafeteria lunches on The Simpsons. Sorry, I’m sure you don’t even want to read the rest of this post after that description. But folks, those bean-hating days are long gone, and today I don’t care how ugly refried beans are, because they taste great. So I made them for dinner, and in spite of their homeliness, they were pretty fantastic. Rock on, refried beans, and don’t go changin’!

PS – I made these to go with my Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork, and I cooked my beans in some of the pork cooking juices. If you’re thinking this was a good idea…you are correct. Do it. Of course, they can be made vegan as well – just use water or vegetable stock instead of chicken stock or pulled pork juices.

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INGREDIENTS

olive oil or bacon fat
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
pinch of red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
2 cans pinto beans, drained
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup water or stock (or, if you’re making these with my Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork, as I did, skim off 1/4 cup of the pork juices and use water/stock for the other 1/4 cup)
salt and pepper
optional: shredded cheddar cheese

Just the Recipe link: Refried Beans

DIRECTIONS

These are really easy. Heat the oil or bacon fat over medium low and add the garlic. When it’s softened, add the cumin and red pepper flakes and stir. Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

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Then add the beans, the oregano, and the water or stock. I HIGHLY recommend making these while a pot of pulled pork is cookin’ in the oven, because if you do, you can replace half (or all) of the water/stock in this recipe with the glorious cooking juices from the pork. It would be a really good decision, but it’s not a mandatory one. Stir and bring to a simmer.

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When the beans are heated through and some of the liquid has cooked away, grab a potato masher (or even a fork) and mash the beans to your heart’s content. I like my beans on the smoother side, so I work the masher quite a bit. But do whatever floats your boat.

If the beans are how you like them, turn off the heat. If you want to cook away a bit more of the liquid, turn the heat up to medium high and cook, stirring consistently, until the beans reach desired consistency. Stir in some shredded cheddar cheese if you like.

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That’s all, folks. Refried beans from scratch: they’re ugly on the plate, but beautiful in your mouth.

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And may I plug my own recipe again by suggesting that you serve these with Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork? Yes I may.

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