The Great Pulled Pork Experiment

So a few days ago, I became embroiled in a very intense discussion about barbecue, pulled pork, and barbecue sauce on Facebook with a group of relative strangers. The discussion originated with a status about Alabama’s “white” barbecue sauce — specifically, how it isn’t a barbecue sauce. Which is the absolute truth — mayo mixed with spices does not a barbecue sauce make. Yes, even if you destroy perfectly good pulled pork with it.

Anyway, this poor English bloke came into the conversation and ragged on American barbecue, saying, “You Yanks pour four gallons of sugar on something and call it good!” Now, we Southerners may argue about mustard versus vinegar versus tomato barbecue sauces, but we will form a united front against anyone who tries to say shit about barbecue. Anyway, it evolved into a conversation wherein we waxed poetic about a smoky pork butt, lusted over the tang of a good sauce, and sighed while thinking about appropriate side dishes.

All this talk gave me a hankering for some smoked butt coated in barbecue sauce. Unfortunately, I am currently situated in Florida, which means there isn’t barbecue worth a damn around here. We have Sonny’s, which is a BBQ chain, but saying Sonny’s barbecue is good is like saying Mickey D’s makes a great burger. Sonny’s is adequate, but it isn’t Carolina ‘cue. I ended up trying some barbecue from a food truck parked outside of a gas station. It was adequate, but it didn’t sate the hunger. For one thing, the damn pork was chopped, not pulled.

Now, any good Southerner knows the best pulled pork comes from pork butts slowly smoked over the course of a day after spending a night in the fridge generously covered in a brown sugar dry rub. Problem is, I don’t own a smoker, and they are pretty costly to buy. You can make your own, but they require more skill and space than I have. So I wondered — is there a half-decent substitute? To Professor Google!

I found a whole forum thread dedicated to the subject. The OP is a poor soul trapped in the UK where they do not ~do~ smoked pork. He was wondering, like me, if there was a way to make a suitable replica with something else, perhaps a slow cooker or dutch oven? The forum members were sympathetic to his plight, and they offered all sorts of advice for how they thought he might be able to go about it. Armed with this knowledge from a legion of barbecue connoisseurs (I knew they were, for they understood the Carolina sauce rivalry), I decided I would try to make my own slow-cooked pulled pork that would replicate smoked butt as closely as possible.

Below you will find the process and results of my experiment. Keep in mind this was my first time making it, so there is probably room for improvement. In parentheses I note some changes I may consider in the future — you can try them now, or you can use my tested recipe. Also, I am a “bit of this, bit of that” sort of cook. These amounts are rough estimates. Finally, feel free to experiment! That’s exactly what I did, after all!

Continue reading

How to: Brew Coffee in a French Press

If anyone knows one thing about college students, it’s that, for the most part, we consume a lot of caffeine. Well, actually, most people know we consume a lot of alcohol. But after that, it’s caffeine. This is even more true for graduate students. In the mornings, I need to have some form of caffeine or I end up like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. Now, if I had my way, I’d have a large mocha no whip with an extra shot of espresso every morning, but that shit costs money I just don’t have. Actually, I just recently acquired an espresso machine, so I’m working on my mocha recipe, but I have not quite perfected it yet. When I do, y’all will be the first to know.

Photo of a clear coffee mug full of coffee and a spent french press pot.

ANYWAY. Because mochas are expensive and I can’t make a decent one yet, I drink regular coffee every morning to perk me up if I have time to brew it. If not, it’s a Dr Pepper, but I really prefer the morning ritual of brewing a good cup of coffee. For most of undergrad, I’d get coffee from the dining hall or brew it in my room using my cute little 4-cup Mr. Coffee drip machine I bought for myself — it was my first dorm room purchase, and it brewed a pretty good cup of drip coffee for being a $30 machine. Of course, when you use a machine for four years every day, you get really good at using it. I had my system, and it made my coffee just fine.

But when I moved in with my boyfriend for graduate school, he kept talking about french press coffee. French press, french press, no he doesn’t want my weird drip coffee, FRENCH PRESS. “Fine!” I say. We will get a damn french press, and I will try to figure the fucker out, because you keep raaaaving about how great the coffee is. I was skeptical, but a press was only $20 at Target, and I really wanted a tea kettle anyway, so why not? I’ll give anything a shot.

Y’all. This was a day I had to tell my boyfriend was right — which, if you know me, is a pretty painful experience. When we got home, I went online and found myself french press tutorials and read all about them. The science is fascinating, by the way, but I’m not going into it here, because I’m a business major, okay? (That’s actually a bit reductive, actually, but we’re here to talk about coffee, not my degrees.) French press coffee is better than anything any ol’ drip machine can push out. It’s so rich! And smooth! And it has texture! You just won’t understand until you try it for yourself. If you think you love coffee, you will adore owning a french press. So go on, order yourself one, I’ll wait. And then I will tell you how to brew the most delicious cup of coffee you’ve ever experienced. Continue reading

Recipe: Avocado Pasta

So when it is sweltering outside (it was a lovely 93°F here today), a heavy, hot meal really just doesn’t sound appealing. But, you know, neither does effort. And that’s where this delicious avocado pasta comes into play. I started making this about a year ago after discovering it on Tumblr, and it quickly became a regular in the meal rotation, mostly because all the ingredients except the avocado are staples in my pantry, making it a relatively cheap but hearty and healthy dinner. It’s also a great “Oh shit, what am I going to make?” meal, because all you have to do is run to the store for an avocado if you’re out (or tell your partner/room mate/cat to go get one — though good luck with that last one).

Avocado pasta on a red plate.

You have probably seen a few versions of this recipe floating around out there. The difference between this one and those? It’s cheap. Guys and girls, I am 22 years old with a beer budget, and when I want champagne, I’m not spending my money on fresh basil, you feel me? This recipe is based on the one from Oh She Glows, but, you know, cheaper. Continue reading

Recipe: Kale Chips

So today I tried my hand at being a smug vegan* and made kale chips. I have some friends who sing the praises of kale chips, so I wanted to see what the fuss was about. They’re pretty inexpensive (especially if you omit the nutritional yeast) to make, and they’re very delicious — and quite healthy! I wouldn’t say they’re exactly Lays with ranch dip, but they’re pretty darn good. They are a bit time-consuming to make, so make sure you give yourself an hour or so to make them the first time, that way you can fiddle around with your baking time and ingredient amounts.

Photo of homemade kale chips.

This recipe is from the Vegan Junk Food cookbook, but I didn’t exactly follow it… my cooking style is typically of the “add shit until it tastes good” variety. I don’t like coloring inside the lines, okay? DON’T STIFLE MY CREATIVITY. Even if it leads to really bad roasted potatoes. But I digress… Continue reading

Whoops?

So yeah, the SOPA Black Out was on Wednesday, and I have only just now gotten around to taking it down. My bad. I kind of had one of the worst weeks of my life last week, so uh, sorry about that. Accordingly, not only did nothing remotely bloggy get done, but my resolutions were cast aside, as was my homework… and hygiene… and sanity… What? It’s not like those things seem very important when you’re a seething ball of anger and self-loathing for reasons I do not plan to disclose here, thank you for asking, but everything is all good now, I think. As good as it can be, I suppose. Only time will tell for sure.

On the bright side, I made bread today, to go with some buffalo chicken dip I made for the game today. My team lost (WHY, RAVENS, WHY), but at least I had delicious food. So I guess all was not lost when it comes to resolutions! Hurrah!

This week I am really going to have to kick butt to get back on track with my reading. I really wasn’t in any state to do it this week, so now I am going to have to pay for that. But, I am feeling very focused and energized after a weekend of recuperating from said crappy week, and I really think I will be able to handle it. It also helps that I went to my doctor on Wednesday to discuss changing the dosage on my meds, slash changing to a different medication altogether. I also ordered a light therapy lamp; I have friends who swear by them, and the lack of energy I have around 3 p.m. every day is staggering, to the point I cannot keep my eyes open. It should be here Tuesday, and I really think it’ll help.

Other than that, I am just gonna hop back on the bandwagon. I am printing out my new sticker chart for this week, and hopefully this week will be better than last.

Oh, graduate school.

I started this blog in the middle of a rather busy time for me, the beginning of the semester. Today I had an in-class examination on the theories we’ve covered in the past two weeks’ readings, which totaled up to more than 1,000 pages… just for that class. I also had reading for two other seminars, never mind the 10 hours I have to devote to my assistantship every week (I’m a research assistant)… and the fact I have a house to maintain, a cat to take care of, and a boyfriend who is not a roommate, but bless him, he has allowed me to treat him like one the past 12 days.

Things have smoothed out a bit now that today’s over… the problem with doctoral level exams is that they’re far from straight forward, and you really don’t know what to expect upon entering them. And, they’re almost always essays, and that is the rule for any major seminars (major meaning those taught in your department, not major as in Big Deal… though I guess they are that, as well). Today’s essay was more or less, “Write as many pages as you can discussing the two main perspectives and their theories we’ve learned about, then pick and three theories and apply them.” It’s closed notes, so you have to remember all the citations on your own (about 15 this week, I believe, which is honestly cake), and you get one hour; I got about five pages done in that time. I would like to think I did well, but honestly, I will not be sure until I get the comments back from my professor. You honestly never know what to expect.

This is a “lighter” week for me; I’m to about 500 pages of reading to do this week, as opposed to 700. Honestly, I would really like to go back over the previous two weeks, because it’s all material I need to know for my comprehensive exams next summer, but for now I am just trying to keep up. ANYWAY. All of that is a long explanation as to why one starts a blog and then does… nothing with it.

Eventually I might consider writing the About page, but that takes things like time and effort, and I don’t have much of either to spare. Besides, it gets rather dull talking about yourself when your life feels like the movie Groundhog Day. I don’t know what to tell y’all other than that I have a cat to feed, an apartment to clean, and a never-ending pile of reading. Congratulations, you now know my whole life! Who needs an About page?

Since the week is sort of coming to a close, I don’t think it’s a horrible time to write about resolutions. Boyfriend and I managed to spend an hour together playing Lego Batman on the XBox earlier this week, and Saturday evening we’re going to the movies, so we will more than meet our “quota.” It sounds really ridiculous to schedule time to hang out with your significant other, but last semester, I really just allowed my relationship to fall to the wayside in favor of my schoolwork. Which, my boyfriend was more than understanding, but just because I KNOW he will always be there does not mean I should stop nurturing our relationship. I am hoping I will turn this scheduling into a habit, such that spending time together becomes more natural than it feels right now.

I haven’t read anything non-school related, but I think I can be pardoned, given that I’ve had over 1,000 pages of academic reading to deal with. It’s just way different from “regular” reading. The concepts are heavier, the language is more dense, and there’s more to it than just reading the information and retaining it. I also have to think as I read: how could I apply this to my research interests, how does this fit in with my current knowledge of theory, are there any gaps, is it at odds with anything else I’ve learned about, on and on. Never mind that reading also involves making a detailed outline and summary; of course, those things aren’t strictly necessary for class, but they will be helpful to have when I get to comps and have to study all the material I learned. Anyway, I can get about 20-30 pages read with notes taken every hour. Meanwhile, I can read 100 pages of a “regular” book for pleasure in that same amount of time. You can do the math to determine how much time my academic reading has taken away from me. Then factor in the 9 hours of class and the 10 hours for my research assistantship… and well, you get the picture.

I have made no efforts toward the bread-baking, for the same reasons stated above. I do think I will do the reading I mentioned above this week from my Bread Bible (a Christmas present from my boyfriend) so I can learn more about the science of bread baking. I don’t know if I will actually get around to baking any — though I might make one of the breads I am more familiar with, I think my boyfriend misses the regular loaves of bread of last semester. At the very least, I will kill two birds with one stone by reading the Bread Bible: my efforts toward learning how to bake more bread, and my goal to read something not about organizations.

My other resolution was about shaving my legs. I have things to say about this as a feminist that I will discuss in another post, but just to keep you apprised of the situation, I have not shaved once in 2012. I do think I will tonight, though, because I actually have the energy to do more than put shampoo on my head and rinse. Shoot, I might even put on lotion! God, I am so fancy.

… I just read over this post, and it is so weird. I’m writing like I’m talking to someone. But I know nobody is listening.

Dinner!

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So this was dinner tonight, creamy avocado pasta from OhSheGlows.com. I made it with only one clove of garlic, because I was concerned about it being overpowering, and then I used lemon juice instead of a lemon, and no zest… mostly because I didn’t have a lemon. It’s a pretty easy meal to make – just as long as it takes the pasta to boil – and it’s pretty healthy. It’s also vegan, but you could easily add shrimp or chicken to make it a little heartier. If I were to add shrimp or chicken, I’d probably saute them in olive oil with some basil and garlic, then add them when mixing the pasta with sauce.

I keep pretty much all the ingredients on hand except the avocado, so it’s pretty easy to make if one of us is out and can pick one up from the store on the way home.

Definitely recommend making this if you love avocado. It isn’t the prettiest dish, but it is tasty. Also, don’t make extra… the avocado doesn’t save well. Don’t ask me how I know.