Weekly Menu January 31-February 6

This is HARD. Two weeks of no menu planning and very little cooking, and it’s incredibly difficult to get back in the habit of planning meals. And cooking them. It’s worse that I have to actually cook them. I’m going to be faced with a two week period of non-cooking again in the last week of February/first week of March when I do back to back trips again so I guess I’d better start getting used to this as travel season gets geared up. Also, doing a menu plan means I have to grocery shop. I haven’t had to do that in several weeks either. Yes, I have gotten spoiled!

Sunday: General Tso’s chicken (yep, Josh is cooking, easy for me!)

Monday: Beef stew w/herb bread

Tuesday: Grilled steak w/salad and bread (we are so crazy, grilling in the middle of winter!)

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Mexican Lasagna

Friday: Spicy Basil Thai Chicken

Saturday: Pizza Casserole

Whew! That was…difficult. For some reason I had a terrible time thinking of anything to make this week. I forced my family to help plan this time.

What’s on your menu?

Boston pork butt/shoulder (How do you use one?)

My local grocery store has Boston pork butts and shoulders on sale at least once a month. And by on sale, I mean well under a dollar a pound so I can get 8 or 9 pounds of meat for something ridiculous like $6. But I kept passing the sales by because I didn’t know what to do with those cuts of meat. Finally, I got impatient with myself one day and realized, look, I know how to use Google. I practically live on allrecipes.com, why not just do a little research and find some recipes? Turns out, I’m really happy I did because I found two recipes, both slow cooker recipes, that I can use to prepare meals not only for that night, but also enough for freeze-ahead portions. Both these recipes were serendipitously tasty, too, so it was a win all around.

First up: carnitas. As always, the basic recipe came from allrecipes.com, but I read through the comments and adapted it to our tastes.

Carnitas (recipe adapted from allrecipes.com)


* 2 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoon garlic powder
* 2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 (4-8 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast
* 2 bay leaves
* a few sprigs of fresh cilantro (optional)
* 4 cloves of garlic (crush to release flavor, no need to mince)
* 3 cups chicken broth


1. Mix together salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut pork into managable pieces (maybe 6-8 pieces). Coat pork with the spice mixture. Place the bay leaves, garlic and cilantro in the bottom of a slow cooker and place the pork on top. Pour the chicken broth around the sides of the pork, being careful not to rinse off the spice mixture.
2. Cover and cook on Low until the pork shreds easily with a fork, about 8 hours, or on High for 5 hours. Turn the meat after it has cooked for 5 hours. When the pork is tender, remove from slow cooker, and shred with two forks. Use cooking liquid as needed to moisten the meat. Remove bones.
3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place shredded pork on a large jelly roll pan (cookie sheet) and crisp pork for 20 minutes.
4. Serve as tacos, use in enchiladas, burritos, nachos, etc.

For something different, how about pulled pork?
Pulled Pork (adapted from allrecipes.com)


* 2 tablespoon mild paprika
* 4 teaspoons light brown sugar
* 3 teaspoons hot paprika
* 1 teaspoon celery salt
* 1 teaspoon garlic salt
* 1 teaspoon dry mustard
* 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon onion powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 8 pounds pork butt roast
* 1 teaspoon liquid smoke


1. In a small bowl, mix mild paprika, light brown sugar, hot paprika, celery salt, garlic salt, dry mustard, ground black pepper, onion powder, and salt. Rub spice mixture into the roast on all sides. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight (I did not do this and it was still very tasty).
2. Cut pork into 6 to 8 manageable pieces, put in slow cooker on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8 hours.
3. If you’re cooking this much meat, you will need to switch bottom pieces with top pieces at some point, so it all gets cooked evenly.
4. Shred into bite-sized pieces using two forks. Remove bones.
5. At this point, I just add a small amount of barbecue sauce for flavor because I like just a little sauce. Then each family member can add to their own sandwich individually.

Soup base

Recently on a forum I belong to, we got into a short discussion about soup base, because someone was asking about making homemade chicken soup. A few months back, here, I posted a recipe for homemade turkey soup, using the leftover turkey carcass. But the truth is, for many of my recipes–and for any recipe calling for chicken broth–I use a soup base. In fact, on my chili recipe you’ll see that one of the ingredients is beef base.

Soup bases are a concentrated paste of flavor that, when mixed with water, create a broth or a stock. They come in a variety of flavors. The main three are probably chicken, beef and vegetable. But you can also get ham, turkey, seafood, and pork. There may be others out there I’m not aware of as well.

Once it’s opened, soup base usually needs to be refrigerated, but it’s well worth the space in your fridge to store a small jar of soup base. For every recipe that calls for broth, you can mix hot water and base to create the right amount of broth–much, much cheaper than buying it by can, and much tastier than the bullion cubes.

Not only that, but using the base allows you to control both the sodium level in your dish (which you can’t do with pre-made broth) and the intensity of flavor. With base on hand, you’ll always have the beginnings of soup stock/broth. Just add pasta and veggies and serve!

Red Bean & Barley Soup

This post was written by Sarah of SmartBitches

Last week I mentioned one of my favorite cookbooks, “Saved By Soup,” which I keep for exactly one recipe: Red Bean and Barley Soup.

In addition, this recipe is the single reason I own a immersion blender. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I make this soup a LOT in the winter. It’s very easy, I can keep the ingredients in the house with little trouble, and it’s delicious – and it needs about 30 minutes to cook.

So, let’s get started.

You need: olive oil, pearl barley, water, one small saucepan, one dutch oven, onion, kidney beans, broth, salt, and parsley if you have some.

You’ll also want an immersion blender, or a potato masher if that does not seem to be among your kitchen appliances.

I use Goya beans, because they are inexpensive and the kidney beans are HUGE. Goya stuff generally rocks, and I learn the Spanish name for everything if I didn’t know it already.

Dice your onion, and saute it until softened in a little olive oil in the dutch oven. Oh – and this is the part I don’t have a picture of. Rinse the barley in a colander, then put it in a small saucepan. Cover the 1/2 cup of barley with water and put it on to simmer for about 5 minutes. It helps soften the barley before you toss it into the soup. Let them simmer for 5-8 minutes, then take them off the heat. The cookbook recipe says you should rinse them again (but that 2nd rinse is not mandatory).

Rinse the red beans while the onion cooks. Rinse them. Rinse them again. Rinse them bad until they’re all good because otherwise: Too salty.

Toss the beans and broth into the dutch oven with the onion.

When the beans and broth have cooked for about 15 minutes, and you can totally fudge that by 10 minutes if you have to, grab Ye Olde Immersion Blender and use it to break up the beans. You can break them up almost entirely, or only a little bit – depends on how much you like whole beans in your soup. Us, we love whole beans.

Toss the barley in, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer it for about 30 minutes until the barley is tender. Keep an eye on it, and stir every now and again, so it doesn’t get all stuck to the bottom. If you want to add meat, this is a good time – toss it in and let it cook with the barley, keeping an eye on the whole thing for sticking and burning and cooking.

Serve with chopped parsley or a swirl of olive oil or a giant piece of bread. The leftover soup is even better, if that’s possible, the following day. Especially if there’s sausage up in there.

Happy eating!

Printable recipe ahoy:

Red Bean & Barley Soup

1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium size onion, chopped
4 cups (or 2 cans) red kidney beans, rinsed omg like rinsing has never been done before
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup of parsley

Optional additions:
2 cups of white beans (substitute for 2 cups of red beans)
Sweet Italian sausage, taken out of casings and crumbled into soup when time to cook for 30 min
Hot Italian sausage – same thing

Cover barley with water, rinse off, and put in small saucepan with water to cover. Bring that to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Chop onion, and saute over medium heat in a dutch oven or 4 qt stockpot until soft (2-3 minutes). While the onion is cooking, open cans of beans and RINSE RINSE RINSE OMG RINSE like you’re using Breck conditioner and it’s not coming out of your hair.

Add beans and broth to pot. Bring to boil and cook for 15 minute (or 10. Or 5).

Grab immersion blender and turn off heat on stock pot. Break up the beans with the blender – or with a potato masher, or if you really like doing dishes, use a slotted spoon to transfer some or up to half of the beans to a food processor and pulse a few times to break them up. Me? Immersion blender, baby.

Add the barley to the soup, bring to a boil again, and then simmer for up to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until barley is all tender and the house smells so good you want to eat the atmosphere. If you want to add bits of sausage or meat, do so when you add the barley, and keep an eye on the liquid level and the sticking-to-the-bottom thing.

Makes 6 servings, or four if you’re hubby and me and you have big ass soup bowls.

Happy eating!

1/17-1/23 Weekly Menu

For the next two weeks my weekly menus are going to be…pretty much non-existant. This week, I’m flying out to Toronto tomorrow and won’t be back until o’dark-thirty on Wednesday (which translates to just before midnight). Then, Thursday morning I’m having lasik and, well, I don’t think I’ll be cooking much Thursday. I’m going to shoot for cooking on Friday, though.I fly out again Monday and won’t be home until that Thursday. So…yay for me and not having to cook! But I’ll give this week’s “menu” a bit of a shot anyway.

Sunday: Football food (wings and lil’ smokies wrapped in bacon) for lunch. Pork chops for dinner.

Monday: I’ll be gone but today I’m cooking up a Boston Pork Butt for bbq sandwiches for them to eat for dinner.

Tuesday: They’re on their own, but there will be leftovers.

Wednesday: Ditto.

Thursday: Order pizza.

Friday: Shrimp pasta and fresh baked herb bread (both recipes from the Pioneer Woman website)

Saturday: Mexican lasagna w/spanish rice

So what’s on your menu this week?

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