What’s For Dinner? Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs


SlowCookedSmokedBabybackRibs

UPC’s Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs

I’ve been slowly but surely refining my basic process for cooking up a “Smoked” meat dish, in the comfort of your own home using a slow-cooker or crock pot. I consider these ribs to be the final proof of the process for that. So the good news (other than that I had a delicious dinner, and loved every minute of it) is that I can finally document my “Slow-Cooker Smoked” process and start to build some recipes around it. Keep your eyes peeled for this in the future as I intend to be sharing many of these recipes with you!

As far as this recipe is concerned, you could do this using the “Smoked” process which I will document separately, or you could do these in a more “traditional” slow-cooker process. In fact, this recipe will work well for a grilled meal as well. All you would do is change this recipe slightly to do the final cooking on the grill rather than in a slow-cooker. Also, since a grill is quite a bit hotter than a slow-cooker, the cook time for grilling these will be somewhere in the neighborhood of between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the temperature you use. A higher cook-time will give you a faster turn around. It will also sear the outside of the ribs more, which may be preferable. A lower temperature and longer cook time will encourage the use of sauces and other flavors to change the flavor of the ribs.

Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs; What you’ll need:

  • 1 large rack Babyback Ribs
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar (you can use a flavored one too, if you have one)
  • 1 cup water (filtered, please!)
  • Spices: Turmeric, Sage, Sea Salt

Serves: 2 (depending on the size of the rib rack; and how good it is!)
Cook and Prep time: 1.5 days.

1. In a pan or on a griddle, thoroughly brown the ribs on both sides. Do this using high heat – you want the outside to be browned, but you don’t want to cook the meat on the inside much, if any.

BabybackRibs_Browning

See the red showing on the edge of the ribs? Brown the outside quickly, but don’t cook the slab of ribs.

2. Put the ribs, spices, and oil and vinegar in a marinating container and put it away for a day.

3. About 6-8 hours before meal time, dump the ribs and marinade all in to a slow cooker or crock pot and turn it on to low.

4. Serve and enjoy!!

BabybackRibs_Spiced

For Grilling:
Instead of slow-cooking for 6-8 hours, slow cook for 1 hour. Then finish cooking on the grill on high heat for 20-40 minutes, brushing the marinade onto the ribs to keep them moist.

To do the “Smoked Slow-Cooked” Version:

  1. BabybackRibs_SmokingPlatformSave the bones from your last ribs in the freezer (or you can buy some bones from your local butcher – most have some for sale; If you buy, I’d cook these up at least once for some Bone Broth first!).
  2. Follow the slow-cooker instructions steps 1 and 2 above.
  3. Before above step 3: Thaw and arrange the bones across the bottom of the slow-cooker so that the meat will be lifted up above the marinade liquid.
  4. Return to the slow-cooker step 3 instructions, though this time drizzle the marinade over the top of the meat several times during the 8-hours of cook time.

This is a fascinating idea that I’ve been playing around with since this post, many months ago. What happens is the marinade will heat up, evaporating the liquids, and will effectively steam the meat slab suspended above it. If that were all that happened, this would be somewhat different than it ends up being. At the same time, the oils in the marinade allow the slow-cooker to over-cook the bones that were left in the bottom of the pan, letting them caramelize and smoke the meat above it. The intentional overcooking of the bones making the smoke, along with the flavors in the marinade, combine to create the same effect as using a smoker, while allowing you to do the whole thing relatively safely in your own kitchen.
As a note on this: I did recently find a crack in my crock pot, and it’s entirely possible that it was doing this that ruined it. Even using the Low heat setting will result in a lot of heat being funneled in to the slow-cooker, and since there’s not a lot of liquid in there to absorb the heat (that’s kind of our intention) it will end up causing the pot itself to heat up quite a lot. Of course, the benefit to this is that the bones on the bottom, since they’re touching the pot, will heat up a lot and smoke the meat. And it’s delicious! On the other hand, I suggest paying extra attention to the crock pot; keep it away from walls and potentially flammable stuff on the counter, and only do this when you’re home to monitor it regularly.

Questions:

  • Do you like smoked/cured meat?
  • Have you ever smoked your own meat?
  • Will you be trying the slow-cooker smoked meat steps/process that I’ve outlined above?
  • What kinds of meat would you be most interested in smoking?
  • Do you have a smoker? How often do you use it?
  • What kinds of sides would you serve with this meal?
  • What kind of dessert would you serve with this meal?

What’s For Lunch? Bacon, Ham, and Olive Salad


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UPC’s Bacon, Ham, and Olive Salad

I had an awesome weekend! I’m not going to write an entire post on what I did this weekend (I’m saving that for my 1-mile race, coming up), but I am definitely going to share. The highlight of my weekend was a “Super Spartan” race that I did with a big group of friends yesterday (Sunday). If you’ve ever done any of the adventure/obstacle races before, you already know that these events are an amazing way to spend a day enjoying your friends’ company, and having a great time doing it! I’ve done some research on the Super Spartan and Spartan Beast races in the past, and they’re really quite challenging running events in their own right; adding in the obstacles increase the difficulty, and the fun, so that a large group of friends can get together and have a great time working through the course as a unit.
My favorite obstacles from the course: The water slide (yeah, it was as awesome as it sounds like it should be!) and the rope climb (just like gym class). I think the hardest obstacle was the “military crawl” where we crawled about 50 meters under barbed wire, through mud, dirt, rocks, and assorted other challenging terrain. And the most timely obstacle: the pond-swim, which came just when I thought I was going to melt from the hill-climbing and running. Wow it felt great to cool down in the pond!!

UPC’s Bacon, Ham, and Olive Salad; What you’ll need:

  • Favorite Salad Greens (I used baby kale and arugula, both organic)
  • 1 lb Bacon, cooked and crumbled (use only premium bacon)
  • 1/2 lb Rosemary Ham, sliced
  • 1 medium Cucumber, chopped
  • 1 can Green Olives, drained
  • 1 cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 cup Crimini Mushrooms, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep time: 35 minutes

1. Start the bacon.
Note: I always cook my bacon on medium-low heat, covered. It helps me keep it chewy, the way I prefer my bacon.

2. Chop and prep the salad ingredients, combining them in a mixing bowl.

3. Tend the bacon. When it’s done, remove and place on a paper bag to dry and cool.

4. Crumble (or chop if you prefer your bacon chewy) your bacon thoroughly, and add it to the mixing bowl.

5. Add the olive oil (if you didn’t already) and mix thoroughly. Now serve, take to work, and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Have you done an adventure race of any kind?
  • If not: would you? Which one?
  • Was it an obstacle course style race, like the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or any of the other various exciting obstacle course races out there?
  • Would you do it again?
  • What did you enjoy the most/least about it?
  • Would you do a different one?
  • Which ones are you looking at?

What’s For Lunch? Pulled Pork and Bacon Bento Box


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UPC’s Pulled-Pork and Bacon Bento Box Lunch

I had a surprisingly good reaction from you folks about my Bento-Box style lunch menu last week. It would seem this is something you’re all interested in, in general. So I am going to try to put together a Bento-Box style meal at least once a week. By “Bento-Box” what I am really referring to is a full meal that you can pack from home for lunch with three separate components. You could very well combine them as you see fit, ending up with two parts, or even one whole salad. And I’ve had more than a few posts on here with my lunch salads for you all. The Bento-Box style meal, though, is a little bit of a change from the normal routine, and might add an extra bit of excitement in to your lunch routine. I really enjoyed having my lunches as one big salad. Even still, it was a nice change in my routine to have a simple, delicious salad, with a meat and some cooked vegetables to accompany it. And your comments last week tell me that you all enjoyed reading about it!

UPC’s Bacon and Pulled Pork Bento Box Lunch; What you’ll need:

  • Leftover Pulled Pork (See here for instructions on how to make it; today’s version was spiced with sage and cloves, still plenty of mushrooms!)
  • 1 lb Bacon, 1-inch slices (This is Vermont Smoke and Cure bacon)
  • Salad:
  • Favorite Salad Greens (This is baby kale and spinach)
  • 1 cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 Nectarine, chopped
  • 1 Avocado, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep time: 15 minutes

1. Start the bacon.

2. Add the pulled pork to your Bento-Box.
Note: If you want to re-spice the Pulled Pork, you should re-heat it in a pan with some coconut oil to ensure the flavor is well absorbed.

3. Add the salad ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
Note: I always mix my salad with my hands; I think that the end result is tastier.

4. Tend to the bacon.

5. Add all of the ingredients to your Bento Box style lunch container. Pack them, and head off to work, school, or wherever it is that you go during the day!
Note: The above link takes you to a google search for the lunch containers that I have in the picture. I’m really starting to love them, and highly recommend them!

Questions:

  • This is my second Bento-Box installment. What are your thoughts so far?
  • Is there any take-to-work meal that you would like to see me put together?
  • I often use pre-cooked ingredients in my lunches, to save on time in the mornings (and they’re already chilled because I prepared them ahead of time and stored them in the fridge). What kinds of pre-cooked ingredients are you using for your lunches?
  • Are there any particular pre-cooked ingredients that you would like to see featured here in a Bento-Box lunch?

What’s For Lunch? UPC’s Bento-Boxes


Lunch-FullMeal

UPC’s Salad Bento Boxes

I’ve shared pictures of my lunch salads before, but today’s post is somewhat special. My wife and I making a concerted effort to remove unnecessary plastic from our lives. There are a couple of reasons for that, but the biggest one is an attempt to reduce our impact on the world. I’m a firm believer in the “Golden Rule” and my wife recently pointed out to me that I really should be working hard to use as much re-usable materials as possible, since that’s ultimately the best application of the “Golden Rule” in regards to my impact on the environment. She’s right, of course, and I didn’t need any convincing. The plastic containers that I had been using previously would often last me months before being replaced. But they’re still plastic. So we made the shift to glass for out refrigerator items, and we just picked up several of the Smart Planet “Meal Kits” that are made entirely from silicone.

These are awesome for a couple of reasons, in my book: they’re durable, they’re light, they’ll last until we don’t like the colors anymore, and they collapse once you’re done with them to take up less space. And, of course, most importantly, they’re not ugly. Which makes it easier for me to share my lunch recipes with you!

I may make this “Bento Box Lunch” a whole separate category, if you all end up think it’s a hit. Be sure to read the “Questions” at the end to help me figure out whether this should be a regular thing, or if I should just keep in in the 3-meal rotation that I have going now.

Today’s UPC Salad Bento Box; What you’ll need:

  • 1 Serving of UPC’s Salad Eggs
  • 1 Serving of Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms (instructions below)
  • 1 Double-Serving Tossed Salad (any great lunch-salad will do; instructions for pictured salad below)
    UPC’s Salad Eggs:
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Organic Yellow Zucchini, chopped (obviously green zucchinis will work too!)
  • 2 Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
    Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms:
  • 2 medium Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup Crimini Mushrooms, quartered (chopped large)
  • 4 sprigs Organic Rosemary, Rosemary pulled off the sprig and chopped
  • Optional: Add copped Celery for additional flavor and green.
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil (for extra credit: use bacon grease!)
    Tossed Salad
  • 1 large Organic Avocado, chopped
  • 1 medium Organic Cucumber
  • 2 cups UPC’s Pulled Pork (alternately, sliced ham or bacon)
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 3 cups Organic Arugula, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2 (Breakfast and Lunch, depending on your meal sizes)
Cook and Prep time: About 1 hour

1. Start the UPC’s Salad Eggs. I’m going to skip the instructions for this, since they’re well documented in the linked post.

2. In a small pot, add the carrots first, then the mushrooms, rosemary, and coconut oil. Cover, and cook on high for 1 minute. After 1 minute, turn down to medium-low, and leave covered, stirring every 3-4 minutes while you prepare the rest of the Bento-Box.

3. Tend the UPC’s Salad Eggs, continuing to follow the directions in the post.

4. Turn off the carrots and mushrooms after about 12 minutes of cook time.

5. Add the chopped arugula (or your favorite salad greens) and basil to a mixing bowl. On top, add the avocado, cucumber and pulled pork. Then spread the olive oil evenly over the salad and mix carefully (I mix with my bare hands; yes I wash them first).

Serve each meal portion in to a separate section of your Bento Box, and enjoy!

Questions:

  • What are your thoughts on a full-meal post from time to time?
  • Do you like the idea of the lunch Bento-Box format?
  • Would you like to see more hot-meal components, or cold-meal components?
  • What do you bring for your own breakfast and lunch?

Roasted Mushroom Pulled Pork – A Weekend Meal Stash!


PulledPork

UPC’s Pulled Pork

The weather last night was icky, cool, and wet. Naturally, that made it perfect for me to go out and play in the rain!! And, of course, while I was playing in the rain, I was attempting another one of my “What’s For Dinner?” meals in the kitchen. As I’ve mentioned before, not every experiment ends in delighted success. On occasion, I cross the line a bit in my attempt for new and exciting flavors, and end up trying something that just simply doesn’t work. At least, according to me.

Last night I tried something that simply didn’t work.

What was it? I hope you’re asking with baited breath; heightened anticipation. Well, whether you are or not, I’m going to share. Right now. Well, after telling you that I’m going to share.

Almond Butter Coconut Steak.

As they say on TV: “Folks, do not try this at home.” I did, and it didn’t work. Take it from me, this is not a good idea. Of course, I’m not finished experimenting. That’s part of what I do. I’ll likely try something similar on chicken next; I think the flavors will mix better. And after trying it on chicken, maybe I’ll spice it heavily with some smoked habanero peppers, and see if it works better with steak and seriously hot peppers… And maybe I’ll… Well, anyway, I’ve got more ideas, and I’ll get to the bottom of how to combine those flavors deliciously. But last night, they were not delicious…

Roasted Mushroom Pulled Pork; What you’ll need:

  • 2 lbs Pork Loin Roast (at least 2 lbs; more works better!)
  • 1 lb Mixed Organic Mushrooms (this will work just as well with quartered crimini mushrooms)
  • 4-6 Organic Carrots
  • Spices: I used Black Pepper, Sea Salt, Italian Seasoning; use your favorite meat seasonings

Serves: 2 people, for several meals
Cook and Prep time: 6+ hours

1. Evenly spread the whole carrots across the bottom of a crock-pot or slow-cooker.

2. Place the pork roast carefully on the top of the carrots, making sure that the carrots are still fairly evenly spread across the bottom of the pot.

3. Spice the meat, add the mushrooms to the pot by spreading them evenly around the meat, and cook on a low setting (mine just has high and low; I use low) for at least 6 hours. You can continue to cook this for as many as 8-10 hours, as desired.

4. After 6+ hours of cook time take a fork and a set of grilling tongs and carefully pull the pork apart. To the limits of your patience, the smaller chunks you manage to pull the pork apart in to, the more “pulled” your end product will be!
Note: This step can be done at 6 hours of cook time, and you can continue to cook afterwards, if you’re available at that time. Alternately, you can do this just before serving the dish as well.

Questions:

  • What are your favorite spices to use on a Pulled Pork dish?
  • Have you had some epic gaffes in the kitchen lately?
  • Are you interested in seeing some non-food products that I make as well? Examples: Jewelry, face cream, art… And if so, how much would you like to see me intersperse non-food items in this entirely-food-related blog?
  • Did you notice the topic of discussion yesterday, and did you have thoughts that you didn’t have a chance to share?

What’s For Lunch? Ham-Steak, Roasted Mushrooms and Maduros


HamSteak1

I love ham steak; especially when it’s braised, UPC style!

Recently on my Facebook page (if you guys haven’t been there, definitely drop in and give me a shout out) I shared a link to a food prep video, where a professional goes through the steps she takes to prep food for pictures. It was quite a little demonstration, and a little bit sad that they have to work so hard to make their food appetizing… I mentioned then, and am reiterating now: I guarantee you that I am showing you pictures of real food, which I have prepared for my meal, and I am taking time before eating to take a photo of the food that I am about to eat. To demonstrate that, I am including a picture of the above meal half-finished later in this post. I just think it’s important to make good, appetizing food. And if you do a great job with your cooking, it should be photo worthy too!!

Braised Ham Steak,¬†Mushrooms and Maduros; What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Ham Steak (from a quality farm, please! This one is from Vermont Smoke And Cure; the makers of my favorite bacon)
  • Optional Spices: Pepper, Nutmeg, Turmeric (You probably don’t need salt…)
  • 2 cups chopped Mushrooms (I used a frozen organic mixed bag)
  • 2 ripe Plantains, sliced and baked/fried (see here for Baked Maduros instructions)
  • Greens (I used Arugula)

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep Time: 65 minutes

1. Begin cooking the ham-steak in a wide pan with 1 cup of water on medium heat.
Note: You may need to start the Maduros first if you’re baking them

2. Add the mushrooms around the outside of the ham-steak, and spice the top of the ham-steak.

3. Check on the steak every 10 minutes, refreshing the water to a 1-cup level in the pan. Do not cover the pan or flip the steak.

4. About 5 minutes before meal-time, prepare the plates with a bed of greens for the ham-steak, mushrooms, and maduros. Serve and enjoy!!

ChiquiEatingHamSteak

Notes about this meal:

Braised Meat: I really enjoy all versions of slow-cooked meat, and braising is one of my absolute favorites! Properly done, braised meat takes hours rather than the 1 hour that I allotted for this meal. If you have the time, I highly recommend taking the full amount of time to do a proper braise. If you do this right, the top of the meat should have a caramelized layer on the top. It’s a delightful flavor and color, and looks particularly excellent on pork!
Maduros: You’ve all seen my steps for baked maduros. They’re delicious, and I highly recommend eating your maduros baked. If you don’t have the time for that, or forgot to start them before starting the meal, fried maduros are an excellent consolation to their better baked brother. Just use some oil and heat them on medium-high heat for at least 20 minutes, 10 minutes per side. Continue to flip and cook them as you have time to a maximum of about 40 minutes. The longer you can cook them, the better they’ll taste!

Questions:

  • Last chance for Dessert – I asked which desserts people miss from their SAD diets; send them along if you want me to attempt to translate them in to Paleo desserts.
  • What kind of slow-cooked meals are your favorite? Smoked? Braised? Crock-pot slow-cooked? Barbeque? Left-it-on-the-stove-and-forgot? Pig-Roast?
  • Do you cook this yourself? Do you go to a friend or family member for this?
  • What is the recipe/steps to make it? What makes it special?

What’s For Dinner? Bacon Avocado Burger on Caramelized Onions


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UPC’s Bacon Avocado Burger on a bed of Caramelized Onions

I had a great weekend! Saturday was one of the most lazy days I have ever had. My wife and I woke up well after the sun came up – and closer to noon than dawn. We don’t get to sleep in that late, between errands, traffic, social engagements, and the occasional trip out of town, we are rarely in a position where we can sleep much later than a typical work day. And on occasion, we actually get up earlier than week days!
On Sunday, we headed back to Connecticut to spend time with our friends up there – that’s three weekends in a row now! When we arrived, we engaged in some perfectly-Paleo activities: eating, and playing in the water! My wife and I purchased some inflatable kayaks last summer. They have turned out to be every bit as good a purchase as a good bicycle! We can throw them in the trunk of our Civic coupe (yes, they both fit), take a drive somewhere, and have them both set up and be out on the water in 20 minutes! And best of all: they still fit, without any issues, in our closet at home!

Bacon Avocado Burger; What you’ll need:

  • 4 1/4lb Grass-Fed Burger patties (if you have the inclination to make them yourself, add some spices, olive oil, garlic and onions to the beef before patting out the patties!)
  • 8 slices Bacon (no nitrites/nitrates, low sugar, quality meats!)
  • 1 large ripe Avocado
  • 2 large Yellow Onions, chopped (or, for some color variance, use a yellow and a red onion)
  • Lettuce leaves
  • 1 Beefsteak Tomato

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep Time: 25 minutes

1. Chop up 4 of the slices of bacon in to small bits, and start cooking it in a pan on high.

2. Once the chopped bacon is starting to sizzle, add the onions to the pan, stir thoroughly, and turn the heat down to medium-low, covered.

3. Put the remaining 4 slices of bacon in the oven on a baking sheet and turn the oven up to 450.

4. In a second pan (you may need a third pan as well) add the burger patties and cook on medium, covered.

5. Stir the bacon and onion mix every 1-2 minutes.

6. After about 10 minutes of cook time, flip the burgers and the bacon in the oven. Leave the lid off the burger pan.

7. Prepare the avocado, tomato, and the plates. I put the caramelized onion down first, then the avocado on top of that. Alternately, it might be nice to put the lettuce down first, then the avocado, and drizzle the caramelized onion over the burger once you serve it.

8. After another 10 minutes of cook time, for a total of about 20 minutes of cook time, everything should be ready for serving.
20 minutes at medium heat, will cook the burgers to a medium-well; with very little pink left. If you like your burgers more rare than that, cut down the cook times by 2-4 minutes per side, as it suits your tastes.

Questions:

  • Workout and Diet: I’ve stopped doing my Workout and Diet posts. Does anyone wish I continued?
  • I did a full 4-week segment of Workout and Diet – would anyone like me to do a recap of the workout, the diet, and perhaps build it in to a 4-week Paleo Plan? Maybe a diet/workout guide to help people reach their goals?
  • Would you like to see a “Beginner” version, with cooking tips? Maybe an “Expert” version, with workout plans and form tips?
  • I realize that all of the above would entail quite a bit of work for me, but if you readers want to see it, I would be willing to undertake the efforts. Let me know what you think!