Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dinner with friends

Tonight we had two friends over for a fun double date in.  Good friends + good conversation + good food = great evening!  I decided to go with a BBQ themed menu for a few reasons... they are foods that everyone tends to like, the dishes I chose were relatively cheap and healthy, I was able to make all of the dishes in advance that morning and just pull things together last minute, I am still avoiding using my oven and stove as much as possible and am loving slow-cooker meals and cold salads.  I ended up serving a slow-cooker pulled pork BBQ on whole wheat buns with cole slaw, corn on the cob, baked beans, and banana pudding.  I'm not going to insult your intelligence and give you a recipe for corn on the cob, but the rest of the recipes are below.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork BBQ

I've been making pulled pork BBQ for years, but I decided to try something new this time and it was a hit.  Jeremy said I don't need to ever go back to the way that I made it before, and that this was great!  This is probably the easiest way that I've made it, and the most flavorful.  The slow cooking in root beer produces such an interesting flavor in the pork, that I didn't find that any other seasonings or a dry rub were necessary.  A pork shoulder could easily be used here, and would be a little cheaper, or a pork loin would be nice and lean, but would be a little pricier.

-3-5 lb boston butt pork roast, trimmed of extra fat
-2 cups root beer
-BBQ sauce (our favorite bottled variety is Sweet Baby Ray's... it also tends to be the cheapest!)

Place pork roast in slow cooker.  Pour root beer over roast.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Remove pork to a cutting board, and shred with two forks, discarding fat.  Pour cooking juices out of slow cooker.  Return shredded pork to slow cooker.  Stir in desired amount of BBQ sauce (I think I did about 1/2-1 cup).  Cook on low 1 hour.

Cole Slaw

I decided to go with a new cole slaw recipe, rather than my old "go to", and I'm so glad that I did!  I used this  cole slaw recipe by Paul Deen.  This is now my favorite cole slaw, and I'm not sure I'll ever make it any other way.  I even got Jeremy to try a bite (who hates cole slaw) and he said it wasn't bad.  The only changes that I made was that I used light myao, doubled the carrot, used regular salt instead of the salt blend, hand sliced the scallion instead of food processing, and left out the parsley.  I usually shred everything for my cole slaw, but I took Paula's advice and shredded 1/2 of the cabbage by hand, and chopped the other 1/2 in the food processor.  She's right, this makes for a great texture!!!!  I was very tempted to add some dijon mustard or fresh lemon juice to the recipe, but I gave it a go as is and was so pleased with the results that I don't know if I'd take the risk of tweaking it in the future.

Baked Beans

I know that I just made a different version of baked beans a few weeks ago, but I wasn't happy enough with them to stick to them.  These turned out great, and Katie (who says she doesn't like baked beans) even liked them.  I went the convenience route and started with canned navy beans, but 1 bag of navy beans cooked to package directions could easily be used.  Most people would love bacon in these, but two weeks ago Jeremy and I decided that we were better off without bacon in our beans.  If I hadn't been making these for company I would have added 1-2 chopped carrots and stalks of celery to bulk the beans up with a little more nutrition (and just because I like mine that way).  

-4 (15 oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
-1 yellow onion, chopped
-1/2 green pepper, chopped
-1 1/2 cups kethcup
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-2 Tbsp spicy mustard 
-2 Tbsp yellow mustard
-4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-several dashes hot sauce 

In medium baking dish whisk together ketchup, brown sugar, spicy and yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and hot sauce.  Stir in beans, onion and green pepper.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Banana Pudding

I ventured away from my old "go to" banana pudding to try something that I've been hearing of... stirring sweetened condensed milk into the pudding and eliminating 1 cup of milk.  In my opinion this wasn't worth the additional cost or calories, and I'm going back to my faithful banana pudding recipe that is posted below.  I use all fat-free and sugar-free ingredients, but if you aren't watching your calories this would certainly taste better with regular pudding, cool whip (or whipped heavy cream), wafers, and milk.  I always make banana pudding at least 4 hours in advance, because I like time for the wafers on the bottom to get a little soggy prior to eating.

-1 (large... I think it's 1.5 oz) sugar-free instant vanilla pudding
-3 cups cold skim milk
-1 Tbsp vanilla extract
-1 box reduced fat vanilla wafers
-2-4 bananas. sliced
-1 (I think it's 8 or 12 oz) tub light cool whip

Beat pudding with 3 cups milk according to package directions.  Stir in vanilla extract.  Line glass serving bowl or dish with 2 layers of vanilla wafers.  Top with 2 layers of sliced bananas.  Pour pudding over top.  Refrigerate until pudding is set (about 20 minutes).  Spread cool whip over top.  Chill for at least 1-2 hours prior to serving.  Just before serving top with whole or crushed vanilla wafers for some crunch.


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