Why I Feel Like an Empowered Shopper, and Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork.

Disclaimer: Buycott did not ask or pay me to write this post. These observations and opinions are all me!

None of us is a perfect consumer. Our buying decisions have ramifications far beyond the immediate, and even the most conscientious shopper can’t account for everything that goes into the products he buys. But since each dollar we spend sends a message about our standards and our principles, it’s incredibly important that we put our money where our mouth is when it comes to the things we buy. I’ve tried to do the research and make sure that I avoid companies that are most in conflict with my values and views (Chevron, Monsanto, Nestle, Tesco, to name a few), but with all the sub-brands and mergers and corporate crap that goes on, keeping tabs on these guys would be a full-time job.

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That’s why I want to share my experiences with the Buycott app—an app that gives me peace of mind by letting me make much more informed decisions when I’m standing at the grocery store shelf. Once you download Buycott, you browse through different “campaigns,” from support of LGBT rights to responsible disposal of waste to child labor to labeling genetically-modified foods. You choose any and all the campaigns that align with your consumer values, and Buycott saves them. Now the fun part: grab any product, pull up Buycott’s scanner, and scan the barcode. Buycott looks it up and tells you whether the company is in conflict with, neutral to, or in support of the campaigns you care about. Then you to decide whether it’s worth it to continue buying that product or not. It’s an easy way to make sure my money sends the right message, and it makes me feel empowered, like I have at least some idea where my dolla dolla bills are going.

On Friday, I made use of Buycott in a big way on a visit to a chain grocery store I had never been to before. As soon as I crossed the threshold, cart a-rollin’ in front of me, I pulled up the Buycott app on my phone and started scanning like a maniac. Normally I shop at Trader Joe’s, where I’ve never found a Buycott-conflict item for sale, so on this trip it was amazing to see just how many brands I would have put in my cart, if I hadn’t found out from Buycott that they went again my standards. For example, the huge Goya brand of Mexican foods, which normally I would be thrilled to put in my cart—according to Buycott, Goya dabbles in GMOs and Monsanto products! Heartbreaker. I will no longer be buying Goya because of this. And the store’s private brand, which I would have assumed the worst about—it turns out that they weren’t in conflict with any of my campaigns. They got to stay in the cart.

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While Buycott is not perfect, and definitely doesn’t take the whole consumer universe into account, it does make a difference to me. It’s an easy, time-saving tool with which to better wield the awesome power of my consumer dollar, and that’s why I love it. To any of my readers who feel the same way as I do about spending, I so recommend downloading it. I mean come on, it’s free.

And what did I have to show for myself at the end of this shopping trip? A kick-ass pulled pork, made entirely from ingredients that got the Buycott thumbs-up. I almost called it “Austin Powers Pulled Pork,” because, yeah baby.

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INGREDIENTS

1 large onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
3-4 lb pork shoulder (also called pork butt)
salt
1 tsp peppercorns (or 3/4 tsp pepper)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (or scant 1/2 tsp ground mustard powder)
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced (throw in a few more if you like it extra spicy)
1 tbsp adobo sauce (the sauce from the canned chipotle chiles)
2 bottles root beer (about 24 oz – I used Berghoff Root Beer, because I’m a good Midwestern girl)
1 cup water (optional – use if you want more juices leftover after it’s cooked)

Just the Recipe link: Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Lay the onion wedges in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid. Season the pork with salt.

If you’re using whole peppercorns and mustard seeds, grind them up using a mortar and pestle until they’re broken up, but not pulverized.

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Sprinkle your pepper and ground mustard over the pork, and place the pork in the pot, on top of the onions.

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Next, add the chipotle chile and adobo sauce to the pot, and pour in the root beer. Optional: add the water. Do this if you want more sauce at the end – I made mine without the water, and it had just enough sauce for the pork to soak it all up. If you like it a little saucier, add the water.

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Cover the pot and put it in the oven for at least 3 hours (I cooked mine for just over 4 hours). Flip the pork over once during cooking.

You know you’re there when you can easily shred the pork using two forks. At this point, remove the pork from the pot and shred it completely. Discard the bone.

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There should be just enough sauce left in the pot to coat the pork, so add the shredded meat back to the sauce and stir. That’s all!

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Obviously this makes a great pulled pork sandwich, but I served mine with these refried beans and this red cabbage slaw.

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Pork perfection, ready for its close-up.

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Vegetable Stock.

Homemade vegetable stock: SUCH a helpful ingredient to have around. I make this stuff in huge batches and keep it in my freezer for whenever I need it, which is as least once a week. I always cook couscous and quinoa in stock to boost their flavor, and it’s also fantastic for sauces, soups, and cooking veggies. Also, it’s practically free. Here’s why: in a freezer bag, I save up all of my otherwise-throw-away-able bits of carrot peel, onion skin, garlic skin, celery leaves, herb stems, whatever I’ve got around, and once the bag is full, I’m ready to make a gorgeous pot of stock out of things I would otherwise have tossed. So why not recycle by making your own stock? It tastes great, has no preservatives and no sodium, and it’s free. The ultimate homemaker’s trick!

INGREDIENTS

enough frozen vegetable bits to fill a pot – I use onion skins, garlic skins, carrot peels, and celery leaves
seasoning to taste – I try to stick with the Scarborough Fair rule of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, but I was out of rosemary. Instead I used a bit of marjoram, just because I felt like it.
3 bay leaves
a palmful of peppercorns
Note: I go back and forth about salting my stocks. It’s a saltiness control thing. Stock absolutely needs salt, but then stock is also an ingredient in other dishes that get their own salt. Skipping the salt in your stock means you’ll have more control over the final dish’s saltiness. Does that make sense? Pun very much intended, salt is just a matter of taste. Add it, don’t add it, we’ll all survive.

DIRECTIONS

Put all the veggie leftovers and the flavorings in a Dutch oven or large pot. Cover with cold water.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook 2-3 hours.

When the stock is done, turn off the heat and let it cool a little bit. Then use a mesh strainer to strain everything out.

You’re left with a giant bowl of super flavorful, glistening amber vegetable stock—lucky you. I reserve a few cups of it to keep in the fridge for use in the next week, and then I pour the rest of the stock into ice cube trays to freeze. I pop the stock cubes out of the trays and keep them in a bag, so I can use exactly the right frozen portion whenever I need them in the next few months. Unendingly convenient, this is definitely one of my favorite recipes!