Spicy Goodness

Spicy Pulled Pork with Carolina Style BBQ Sauce

For the pork you need a 10 to 11 pound Boston butt.  Rub with 1/2 cup red chili based rub (I mix my own using two types of chili powder, paprika, black pepper, salt, cumin, oregano, and brown sugar), wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.  The next morning light your grill and set up to smoke.  Bring roast up to room temp by removing from the fridge and setting it out on the counter for about an hour before putting it on the grill.  We soaked cherrywood chips for an hour in a bowl of water.  Throw chips on the fire and put the roast in a disposable aluminum pan and set on the grill.  Smoke for about 3 hours, keeping the grill at a steady 275 degrees.  Remove the roast from the grill and wrap with aluminum foil (I wrapped around the aluminum pan) and place in a preheated 325 degree oven and roast for another 2-3 hours or until a fork goes into and out of the meat easily.  Slide entire pan into a paper bag and crimp closed and allow to rest 45-60 minutes.  Using two forks or your fingers shred the meat.  Pour pan juices into a fat separator and let sit several minutes until the fat separates from the juices.  Pour juices over shredded meat and discard the fat.  Serve on rolls with your favorite BBQ sauce.  The following recipe is our favorite sauce for pulled pork.

Carolina Style Barbecue Sauce

1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2-2 tsp crushed red pepper (depending on how spicy you like your sauce--I went with 2 tsp)

Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan whisk together and bring to a boil over medium heat--whisking constantly to keep sugar from burning. Boil for several minutes.  Cool and refrigerate until needed.

This is a thinner sauce and has a good vinegar and mustard tang to it and pairs extremely well with pulled pork.

Skinny Iowa Skinny

If you've never heard of them, Iowa Skinnies are a regional fried pork tenderloin sandwich that are sinfully delicious, but can run upwards of 1000 calories.  Not what a figure conscious girl would want to eat on any given day.  I've made the full calorie fried variety on occasion and they are a family favorite, but I was wondering hoping there could be a healthier skinny version that might be nearly as tasty.  What I found is you just can't replace fried, but this alternative is pretty darn good when you just can't justify the added calories.  My slimmed down version is around 300 calories for the breaded, baked, pork cutlet alone.

The pork is usually sliced tenderloin pounded thin (about 1/4 inch thickness), but at the commissary I can purchase pork cut for scallopini and that saves me a time consuming step.

Skinny Iowa Skinnies
(serves 4)

4 pork scallopini 
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp garlic powder

2 eggs beaten

4 cups unseasoned bread crumbs

Cooking spray

Skinny Chipotle Mayo

1/4 cup regular mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce; minced
juice from 1/2 lime

In a shallow dish or pie plate stir together flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Place beaten eggs in another shallow dish and bread crumbs in a third shallow dish.  Dredge pork in seasoned flour, shaking off excess.  Next coat in egg wash and lastly dredge in bread crumbs, pressing to adhere evenly.
Place coated cutlets on a cooling rack sprayed with cooking spray set over a sheet pan.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray top of cutlets evenly with cooking spray and then bake for 15 minutes.   Turn and bake for another 10 minutes.  Serve on hamburger buns with skinny chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomato, and mild pickled peppers.

A Northern Girl's Take on Jambalaya

6 to 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound Andouille sausage, cut into bite sized chunks
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
2 cups Texas basmati brown rice
4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper

Salt and pepper both sides of chicken thighs. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven or large deep skillet. Add chicken skin side down and brown for about 8 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side for about 5 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan. Peel the skin off the thighs and discard. Set chicken aside. Add diced onion to the pan and saute until deep golden brown and beginning to crisp on the edges. Add all the spices and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil and spices. Pour chicken stock over rice and nestle reserved chicken thighs and sausage in the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, reduce to low and cover, simmering until most of the juices are absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes for the Texmati brown rice. Serve with cornbread and Tabasco for a little extra kick.

Chile Verde

8 boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
4 poblano peppers, diced
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, diced (remove seeds and ribs if you don't want too much heat from the peppers)
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mexican oregano
4 cups chicken broth

Place flour, salt and white pepper in a large ziplock baggie and mix together. Add pork cubes and shake to coat. In a large skillet heat oil until shimmering. Place pork cubes into hot oil, being sure to shake off any excess flour, and brown on all sides. Be sure not to over fill the skillet. You will need to cook the pork in approximately 4 batches. When browned on all sides remove using a slotted spoon and set on a platter covered with several layers of paper towels. Set aside. In a large dutch oven or soup pot heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add chiles, onion, and garlic and saute until onions are just translucent (about 5 minutes). Add cumin and oregano and stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add reserved browned pork and chicken broth. Bring stew to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer until stew thickens and pork becomes tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Serve over white rice with shredded cheddar and sour cream, or fill flour tortillas with stew, topping with cheese, and sour cream and wrapping tortilla into a burrito.

White Chicken Chili

3 split skin on bone in chicken breasts
1 Tbsp oil
1 onion; quartered
3 cloves garlic; peeled and smashed
4 stems cilantro; rinsed
8 cups chicken broth
6 cups water
1 Tbsp oil
2 pablano peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
1 serrano pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp cumin
3 14 oz cans of white beans; drained
juice from one lime
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In large dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add chicken breasts, skin side down and cook until skin is browned and crisp; about 6 to 10 minutes. Turn breasts over, add onion quarters, smashed garlic, cilantro stems, broth and water. Bring to a boil, skimming scum that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to low and let simmer 1 1/2 hours. Remove from heat. Using tongs, remove chicken breasts to a plate and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Strain broth through a large strainer, reserve broth, and discard vegetable solids. Pull skin off breasts and discard. With your fingers pull chicken from bones and shred into bite size pieces. Cover and refrigerate until ready to put soup together.

In a food processor, mince peppers, garlic, and onion. In cleaned large dutch oven heat oil over medium high heat. Add pepper mixture and salt and saute until onions are translucent and peppers begin to brown slightly. Add oregano and cumin and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved broth and drained white beans. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat, simmering for about 30 minutes. Add reserved chicken and heat through. Just before serving add lime and chopped cilantro. Serve with garnishes such as; minced red onion, shredded cheese, diced avocado, minced jalapenos, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges.

Chili for Chili Dogs

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons water
1 pound lean ground beef, preferably the thicker ground often labeled for chili
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
14 ounces water

In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, pepper, garlic and 3 tablespoons of water to make a spice paste, set aside. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan. Add onion when oil begins to shimmer and sprinkle with salt. Saute onions until they are soft and begin to brown. Clear a small space in pan and saute tomato paste and chipotle peppers in that hot spot until they begin to caramelize and become fragrant. Add spice paste and saute for about 30 seconds until spices become fragrant. Stir tomato paste, chipotle peppers, and spice paste into sautéed onions until the onions are evenly coated. Add ground beef to the pan and break up with a wooden spoon, stirring constantly to coat meat in onions and spices. Saute until beef is browned. Add crushed tomatoes and water and stir. Bring chili to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow chili to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about one hour.

Serve chili mixture over hot dogs, nachos, french fries, grilled burgers, or baked potatoes. Add a can or two of drained black beans, kidney beans, or pinto beans and serve chili in bowls topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, onions, etc.

Fish Tacos

Tilapia fillets (approximately one small fillet per person)(or any other flaky white fish that does not have a very strong fishy flavor; Mahi-Mahi works very well too)

Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp oil (olive oil is nice, but any vegetable oil will do) per fillet

Lightly salt and pepper each fillet. Heat oil in nonstick skillet until shimmering. Pan fry fillets about 2 1/2 minutes per side or until outside is golden brown and a bit crispy and the inside is tender and flaky. Be sure not to crowd the pan. You want nicely seared fillets, not steamed fish! Break into rough chunks.

Citrus Slaw

Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2 TBSP honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bag coleslaw mix (4 cups shredded cabbage will work too)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 minced red onion
1 finely minced jalapeno (seeded if desired)

Combine lemon juice, lime juice, honey and olive oil and mix until combined. In a bowl toss together coleslaw, onion, cilantro and jalapeno. Pour dressing mixture over coleslaw mix and toss to combine.

Corn tortillas (about 3 per fillet) warmed in microwave or oven until soft and pliable. I usually brush both sides very lightly with oil and place them on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and warm them at 250 degrees for about 4 minutes, turning once. I then stack them on a paper towel covered plate and wrap them in foil to keep them warm for serving.

For each tortilla place several chunks of fish, add desired amount of coleslaw and top with sliced jalapenos, julienned red onion, and/or chopped cilantro. Fold or roll up as desired.

During the summer, we love this dish served with watermelon as a side.

Chili Con Carne

Two packages of stew meat (it is usually sold in cubes for stew or chili along side other cuts of beef)
3 to 4 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (you can use crushed tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes too)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce minced (optional, but gives the chili a little heat and nice smokiness)
8 to 10 cups water
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 cans black beans drained and rinsed

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add 1/4 of the meat and brown on all sides ( this should take about 5 minutes) remove with a slotted spoon. Add another 1/4 of the meat and repeat process, adding oil as needed until all meat is browned. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to now empty pot. Add onion and saute until soft and browned 8 to 10 minutes. In a small bowl put garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup of water to make a chili paste. Add to onion still in pot and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and saute with spices until fragrant and tomato paste begins to darken, about 2 or 3 minutes. Re-add browned meat and toss to coat with onion and spices. Add tomatoes, water and lime juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low for 2 hours. Drain and rinse beans and add to chili. Stir until heated through. Our chili recipe is more on the soupy side. If your family prefers a thicker texture you can thicken by stirring in a slurry made from 2 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water. Garnish with lime wedges, chopped cilantro leaves, shredded cheese, sour cream, diced red onion, sliced jalapenos, tabasco, etc. Serve with Frito's Scoops or homemade cornbread. This will make 14-16 servings. Once again our family will often go for seconds at dinner and there will still be enough left over for a couple folks to have for lunch the next day.

Shrimp in Thai Red Curry

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest (a substitute for lemon grass)
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (found in the Asian foods section of your local grocery store)
4 bottles clam juice (chicken broth would be better, but it was a Lenten Friday for us)
2 14 ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
1 can bamboo shoots drained and julienned
1 carrot julienned
1 red bell pepper julienned
10-15 cherry tomatoes
1/2 pineapple cut in to chunks
1 pound large frozen shrimp; defrost, peel, and clean
Salt to taste
Sticky white rice cooked according to package directions

Toss thawed shrimp with 2 teaspoons salt and set aside. In a large soup pot saute garlic and ginger in oil over medium heat until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds. Add lemon zest and red curry paste and saute another 30 seconds. Pour in clam juice and coconut milk and bring to a soft boil. Add cornstarch mixture. Reduce heat to med low and simmer about 15 minutes. Add bamboo, carrot, bell pepper, tomatoes, and pineapple and cook 5-7 minutes to soften just a touch. Add seasoned shrimp and stir, cooking gently until it is just cooked through 1 1/2 to 3 minutes. Taste curry and season as needed with more salt.

Using large soup bowls place a nice mound of sticky rice in the center of each bowl. Gently ladle curry around the rice and serve. Wingnut likes his curry on the spicy side so we serve an Asian spicy chili sauce on the side so he can spice it up to his liking.

Honey Crunch Pork Chops (Serves 6)

Ginger-Honey Sauce

1 tbsp Vegetable oil
3-4 garlic cloves; minced
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger; grated
1 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

In a medium sauce pan heat oil and garlic over medium heat until garlic just begins to sizzle.  Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.  Return to heat and reduce temp to low and bring to a simmer. 


6-8 boneless loin chops
11/2 cup flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper
4 eggs
vegetable oil

Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper.  In a shallow dish stir together the dry ingredients.  In a separate shallow dish whisk eggs until frothy.  Dredge chops in flour, then egg, and then flour again and set on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan to rest. In a large skillet add approximately 1/2 inch of oil and heat over medium high heat until a drop of water splashed into the oil sizzles.  Gently place 3-4 chops in the oil and fry 4-5 minutes on each side until coating is golden brown and crunchy.  Remove from oil and place on a sheet pan covered with paper towels.  Repeat with remaining chops.  Once chops are fried and drained, serve with ginger-honey sauce spooned over the top.

I served the chops with this yummy asian coleslaw and sesame ginger dressing.

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