Goodreads part II

Last week I mentioned I’d been using Goodreads to track my reads and my thoughts on some of the books. Some of you said you liked my reviews, thanks! One of the things I wanted to ask in that post, and didn’t, is how you use Goodreads. I often feel like there’s a lot more potential I could be getting from the site that I’m not, because in the past I’ve focused on just tracking my books, and I feel a little overwhelmed about venturing outside my own library.

For instance, I know there are discussions that occur there, but are those only in group areas or are there non-group areas? And how do I track people’s reviews and get notified of them? By following? It appears that I have lots of friends, but am not following anyone. What does following do?

Also, what groups do you recommend? When I first joined Goodreads, I wanted to use it to track what I was reading. I moved “up” to adding mini-reviews when I felt moved to do so. It’s nice, because any time I’ve reviewed here on the blog, I’ve always felt like I need to have a lengthy, more detailed and formal review. On Goodreads, I can just slap a few thoughts down, mostly for myself but if someone else finds them useful, yay!

I guess what I’m looking for is to hear from some of you as to how you use Goodreads, other than just tracking your own reading. What are some of the best features of Goodreads, in your opinion, and what do you wish more people would take advantage of, that they might not know about?

Weekly Menu: February 14-20th

Doesn’t it seem like we’re always thinking about something having to do with the kitchen? Cooking, doing the dishes, emptying the dishwasher, grocery shopping. I swear, I feel like 25% of my time is spent thinking about that one room of my house. Why is that? Anyway, I feel totally unprepared to do the menu this week. I’m kind of tired of thinking about it. Mommy/wife burnout! But since I hate eating takeout and leftovers, I’d rather think about it and have “real” food. However, I’m not at all hungry right now and it’s quite hard to think about food when you’re not even a teeny bit hungry!

Sunday: Today for V-day we had grilled steak, steamed shrimp and Pioneer Woman’s crash potatoes (with dried herbs instead of fresh because my rosemary bush is under several feet of snow).

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: spaghetti and meatballs (you might notice we have spaghetti a lot. It’s my and Brianna’s favorite meal)

Wednesday: Roast chicken w/bread

Thursday: Chicken bog

Friday: Parent’s Night Out free babysitting at the YMCA. Date night! (rescheduled from last week due to snow. Bleh)

Saturday: I’m leaving this open. It seems like I often don’t do what I plan on Saturdays so I may stop planning for Saturday.

How about you, what’s on your menu?

All Romance eBooks feature

As part of All Romance eBooks’ 28 Days of Heart campaign, I’ve been featured as the 12th of 28 romance bloggers. You can check out the interviews of all 28 here, or scroll to day 12 to read my interview!

Read on for more about the 28 Days of Heart Campaign:

In conjunction with our 28 Days of Heart Campaign to raise funds for, and awareness of, heart disease, All Romance is also taking the opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the wonderful romance blogs that help make the eromance reading community thrive. Every day in February, our newsletter will be profiling some fantastic romance blogs that we know you’ll love as much as we do.

During the month of love, when everyone’s attention is focused on matters of the heart, All Romance eBooks (ARe) is helping to fight the number one killer of women, heart disease, with their 28 Days of Heart campaign.

Beginning February 1, 2010, ARe, the digital bookseller that owns All Romance (www.allromance.com) and OmniLit (www.omnilit.com), will release one new novella per day for twenty-eight consecutive days. All proceeds from the sale of these shorts, which will be offered exclusively on AllRomance.com and OmniLit.com as individual eBooks, will be donated to the American Heart Association.

The stories cover all the genres, from Gay to Interracial, Paranormal to Historical, Contemporary to Sci Fi. They were generously donated by both best selling and up-and- coming authors from some of your favorite publishers including Kensington, Berkley, Pocket, St. Martin’s Press, Ellora’s Cave, Cerridwen, Samhain, Total E Bound, Loose Id, Phaze, Liquid Silver, Torquere Press, Siren, Amber Quill and more!

The stories range between 10,000 and 20,000 words, so they are a perfect sweet (or more accurately spicy) Valentine treat. Each includes a forward by author Charlaine Harris (of True Blood fame) as a show of support for the charity the stories will benefit. Indulge yourself this year for Valentines Day—enjoy one of each, and know you are helping a worthy cause at the same time.

Reading and Goodreads

Though I haven’t been updating here about my reading, and actually took those widgets off my sidebar because they were populated by LibraryThing and I’ve been using Goodreads instead (link to my Goodreads account), I have been reading what I think is an impressive amount (for me). Considering that I’ve still been reading submissions, and that I’ve taken two trips in 2010 already (and I read very little when traveling), I’ve still managed to read 34 books to date in 2010.

As I said, I’ve been tracking my reads on Goodreads. I did a fairly decent job of it in 2009, but right around the time all of the upheavel happened in my professional life last fall, I also stopped updating Goodreads. However, since I read mostly digital, I was able to browse my Fictionwise, Kindle and Calibre records and fill in most of the gaps from September to December. When I was done, and knowing there were books missing because I hadn’t been diligant about keeping up my Goodreads records, I discovered I’d read at least 220 books in 2009.I was happy with not only that, but the variety of genres I’d read. I felt like I pushed myself last year to read a little more outside my comfort zones and I managed to do that. This year I’m also going to be specifically tracking the genres I read.

So what have I read so far in 2010? A lot of Charlaine Harris, apparently. Not the Sookie books, I’ve already read all of those several times, but I read the Lily Bard and Harper Connolly series. Neither of which I actually liked that much, but I found something oddly compelling about them. Weird when that happens. Also, true to form, I’ve read a lot of urban fantasy. Last fall I discovered Karen Chance’s Dorini Basarab series but had not read her Cassandra Palmer series, so I got to catch up on that these past few weeks. Also read Eileen Wilks’ and Nalini Singhs’ new books. Two of my favorite authors, and I loved these offerings.Oh, and I bought some Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz digital backlist titles from Fictionwise, so I’ve been indulging in those. I’m a little disappointed in the quality of the Amanda Quick books (they were obviously scanned from print and not proofread for scanning errors) but the stories remain good for me!

Now I’m patiently waiting for the next JD Robb book to release in 2 weeks. And the Patricia Briggs book in March. Another two of my favorite authors.

Right now I’m in between books (I was catching up on back episodes of Chuck last night). I have a significant list of books TBR but I can’t decide what to read. What are you reading?

Recipe: Katie's Pulled Pork

Katie Dunneback has her fingers in lots of pies. Her mother is glad
it’s no longer the butter. Professionally, she currently is working
for a state agency providing consulting services to libraries.
Personally, she has been cooking and baking since she was a small kid,
knitting for almost five years, and took up scrapbooking a few months
ago. Online, she spends most of her time on Twitter as younglibrarian,
and blogging a mix of professional and personal topics at “Make of It
What You Will

Pulled Pork Heaven

I wish you could all smell what I’m smelling. Namely, the scent of
spiced roasting meat. There is no other way to describe it but
gorgeous. This is a recipe that I’ve developed over the last two years,
picking bits from here and there. I really enjoy experimenting in the
kitchen and I encourage you to use this as a jumping off point for your
own experimentations!

I’m warning you now that this recipe is time intensive, but it is
so, so, *so* worth it. The most time intensive bit of this recipe is
also the most crucial in mine, and my mom’s, opinions. Yes, my mother
has tested this recipe and given it her seal of approval. Moving on.
The brine. This recipe is pretty much all about the brine. It’s also
the bit that took me longest to get correct. But first, the things you
should make sure you have on hand prior to attempting the recipe (other
than the ingredients):

  • A saucepan for the brine, at least 2 qt.
  • 2 gallon plastic bag – I prefer the Hefty slide zip version
  • Tongs you can use to move around a 3 to 5 pound slab of meat
  • A shallow bowl for coating the meat in browning dust. Again,
    large enough to fit the cut of meat.
  • A pan for browning the meat
  • Slow cooker liner
  • A slow cooker that can fit the size of meat cut you choose
  • A scissors to cut the ties holding the roast together AFTER it’s
    done in the slow cooker
  • A pan in which to shred the roast
  • Two forks with which to shred the roast

Okay, you’ve got all of that. We’re on to the brine. Since this is a
piece of pork we’ll be roasting, I started playing around with sweet
and savory tones that are known to work well with pork. Salt is a given
in any brine, but with all of the choices of salt out there, I just go
with kosher. It’s pretty much the workhorse salt of the kitchen in
my and all the chefs and cooks I’ve watched on Food Network over the
years opinions. For the truly sweet, I went with a mixture of apple
juice, brown sugar and molasses. The sweet aromatics are whole cloves
and cinnamon sticks. And the savory is cracked or crushed black pepper,
half a head of peeled and cracked garlic (yes, I like my garlic, but
the taste is pretty darn subtle), ground mustard (if you can get your
hands on some Colman’s, I totally recommend it), and my “secret”
ingredient: ground cumin. I don’t know what it is about cumin, but I
add a bit of it to all of my spice mixtures and they just taste even
more yummy than before (I also found out at Trivia Night last week it
is the second most popular spice in the world behind pepper). Put all
of that and the water into the saucepan before turning on the burner.

Brine for pulled pork

Bring it to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally in the beginning
to make sure the salt, brown sugar and molasses have dissolved and
incorporated.

Brine at rolling boil

After you’ve got it at a rolling boil, let it go for about five
minutes to really steep the aromatics. Then, take it off the heat and let it
cool down completely. If you’re in a good winter location with a place
to stick food/drink outside to cool without much interference from the
local critters (a cookie sheet topped by a kitchen towel topped by a
good sized rock does wonders for this issue, and is also how I chill
Angie’s cracker candy recipe), place the saucepan out there on a
cooling rack to let the air completely circulate around it. I usually
also stick a piece of saran wrap on top of the saucepan before putting
the cookie sheet on it.

Once the brine has completely cooled, you need to set up for getting
everything into the plastic bag. I like to have the bag set up and open
with the brine nearby before I even open the butcher’s wrapping on the
roast. Using those nice sturdy tongs you have on hand, move the roast
from the butcher wrapping and into the plastic bag, doing your best to
avoid contact between the roast and the outside of the bag. We’re all
about food saftey here, right? Next, pour the brine into the bag. Now,
this is why I like the zip closing mechanism on the plastic bags I use.
I close the zip top almost all the way, squeeze all of the air out of
the bag, to the point where the brine is *just* about ready to squirt
back out on me, and then close the zip completely. Refrigerate at least
8 hours, preferably overnight.

Pork shoulder in brine

Now that you’ve let the roast absorb the yummy flavors overnight,
it’s time to put the finishing touch on it before popping it into the slow
cooker. It is time to brown this sucker. Browning meat helps to seal in
flavors. I prefer to add an extra oomph to the meat by coating the
roast in seasoned flour before subjecting it to this step.

Browning dust ingredients

This is will save your sanity later: LEAVE THE BUTCHER TIES ON
THE MEAT. Believe me, you will be sorry if you cut them off before the roast is completely done cooking.
The ties are meant to survive browning and cooking without impacting the roast.

Pork shoulder in browning dust

You can go a little browner on the crust, but try for at least this level of coloration around the entire roast:

Pork shoulder browning

The roast is now ready for the main event: 8 to 10 hours soaking in the slow cooker.

Browned pork shoulder in slow cooker

Like Sarah, I believe the slow cooker liner is a crucial kitchen tool. Clean-up is beyond easy if you use them. Use them. To add
that last layer of flavor, I mix a half cup of apple juice, three large-ish cloves of garlic and enough water to go 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the roast.

Apple juice for pork shoulder cooking

Cracked garlic cloves in water for pork shoulder cooking

Browned pork shoulder in apple juice/water/garlic mixture for cooking

A lesson that sometimes needs reinforcing (I can be a little
dense at times): the smaller your roast, the less time it needs to
cook. This is where a meat thermometer really comes in handy. Pork is
considered fully cooked at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s recommended by
some, so as not to overcook it, to pull it about 5 degrees below and
let it sit for 15 minutes as it will continue cooking those last 5
degrees. I use a 9×13″ glass Pyrex pan for my shredding, so I let the
roast sit in there for those 15 minutes.

Now is the time to remove the butcher ties (I feel a little like
Dieter saying that). Depending on the type of ties your butcher uses (mine
does a webbing that I like), you may find bits of your pork sticking to
it as you remove it. This is fine. All you need to do is pick it
off…and eat it. It will be hot, though. The following pictures are from a time before I browned because I
stopped taking pictures for some reason after the last one, but you’ll get the idea.

Cooked pork shoulder resting

Once you’ve removed the ties, you can shred. I recommend following the grain of the meat.

Pulled pork

With that, you’re all done but for the eating! Enjoy!

Pulled pork sandwich and orange soda

KATIE’S PULLED PORK

3 ½ to 4 lb. Pork shoulder roast

Brine:

4 c. water

1 c. apple juice/cider

1 c. kosher salt

¼ c. brown sugar

2 T. molasses

1 T. cracked pepper

2 sticks of cinnamon

½ handful of whole cloves

½ head of garlic, peeled & cracked

2 t. ground cumin

1 t. ground mustard

Mix in saucepan. Bring to boil. Let cool completely. Add to Ziploc bag
w/pork in it. Let sit overnight in refrigerator.

Browning dust:

¼ c. all-purpose flour

1 t. ground mustard

½ t. ground cayenne pepper

¼ t. ground ginger

Coat pork shoulder in browning dust & brown.

Slow cooker:

4 c. water

½ c. apple juice/cider

3 cloves peeled & cracked garlic

Place browned pork shoulder in slow cooker, aka CrockPot, fatty side
up. Pour in water/juice/garlic mixture until about halfway up the
roast. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

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