Sweet Tarts for my Sweet Hearts

It’s almost Valentine’s Day!  Which, when I was in my 20s, I really thought was just a “Hallmark holiday”, even though I was in a committed relatinoship at the time.  I felt, like many people do, that every day should be a day – “the” day – you tell your loved ones what you feel about them, what you appreciate about them.  While I still sort-of feel that way, meaning I put no pressure on my husband to show up with jewelry or take me to dinner, I must say that having kids changed my thoughts a little.

My son has my heart.  Every day, all the time.  One of the most enjoyable parts of having a little one is the holidays, or special treats when we’re able to give them to him.  Probably the BEST thing is all of the “firsts” you get to be present for, and that includes paintings, writing valentines, and so forth.  As a mom, this Valentine’s Day is a day I’ve looked forward to with great anticipation.  We have been secretly making gifts for Daddy using Pinterest ideas and some of our own creativity.  Little Dude has drawn love notes for people in our family and tomorrow we get to distribute them.  It’s the sweetest thing!  And, something I have learned, is that small children know how to love better than ANY of us.  They get it.  They get it like we never will.  I’m so proud of my sweet boy, and his love and sensitivity for others, and of course I want to encourage and foster that in him.

So… still not a romantic holiday in my book, but I’m totally on board with loving it up on Valentine’s Day.

The way I show my love is through food.  I enjoy cooking – particularly baking – for my loved ones.  I created my own recipe for tomorrow’s Valentine’s breakfast.  What follows here is a happy accident.

Valentine’s Apple Pie Croissants Fluffy Tarts

Yeah, so, I had the brilliant idea to do something semi-homemade, like Sandra Lee.  (Don’t you love her? I just love her.)  One of my favorite, super easy, dessert or breakfast add-ons is skillet apples.  Cut up an apple into chunks, cook in butter, add cinnamon and some sweetener, and VOILA!  Basically pie filling you can eat with eggs or ice cream, whatever you like.  So I thought I’d stuff some pre-made crescent rolls with the filling and my family would hail me as the loving genius that I am.

However…

I’m not going to name names, but instead of getting the more expensive, name-brand crescents, I purchased the store brand.  Twenty cents cheaper and “it’s the same thing”, I said to myself.  Big no-no in cooking, in my opinion, is cheaping out.  A lot of times those costly ingredients cost more for a reason. Yes, you can go generic sometimes but other times you’re paying less because the quality is less.  This was one of those times.

I got home and assembled my ingredients:

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Yummily in my Tummily, as Pooh Bear might say.

Next, I heat a “pat” of butter – I just eyeball, it’s probably about a tablespoon – in the skillet:

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For accuracy’s sake, it isn’t a skillet. It’s a sauce pan. It’s my favorite saucepan, so watch your mouth.

Add the apples, sweetener, (sugar is best but I used Stevia this time), and as much cinnamon as you like. I like a lot.  You know in movies, when Italian Mobsters say “Fuggedaboutit” (sp, obviously) ?  Well, one of my favorites of all time is Donnie Brasco, I just so thoroughly enjoy Al Pacino’s Lefty Ruggiero character, it’s beyond explanation.  His is the best accent, the best wardrobe, very best “fuggedaboutit” in the film.  And friends, I have to tell you, if “fuggedaboutit” had a smell, it would smell like this.  Moving on…

Everything’s going fine, I’m thinking I’m going to get this done in 15 minutes and have time to take a nap.  Yay Super Mommy!  And then, it happened.  I peeled back the label on the crescent roll can, holding it as far away from me as possible becauseI am as jumpy as a chihuahua and I hate that “pop” sound.  The label came right off, but no pop.  I squeezed.  Still no pop.  Finally I got a large knife and tried to cut them open, but even that was a mess.  After a few minutes of wrestling with it, I finally managed to pull the dough out.  Unfortunately it was hot and not at all in any recognizable shape.  Instead of croissants, I would have to make something else.

Light bulb!  I pulled the dough apart and made six somewhat even balls.  I sprayed my brand new muffin tin with Pam, and lined six muffin cups with the dough.  Tarts! Pies?  I don’t know, we’ll see.  It’s better than wasting my fuggedaboutit apples, AmIRight?

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I quickly – hurriedly, even – filled the dough ball wads with apple goodness and put them in to my preheated (350 degrees) oven for 10 minutes.

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Pretty Before

The outcome?  Better than I could have hoped, all things considered.  They are like quiche without egg, like tarts if tart makers allowed a “home-style crust” option.  They taste wonderful, and I was still able to get that nap!

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Delicious After

 

They’re buttery, crisp on the outside, soft in the middle and filled with warm apple cinnamon LOVE.  Sweet and tangy and everything I want my Valentine’s breakfast to be.  This is why cooking is so wonderful! It’s magical, a true adventure… and so are love and mommy-hood.

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BBQ Pulled Pork in the Crock Pot

I am good at everything I do.  I am successful at everything I attempt.  These are just an example of positive self-talk statements that I use  when starting something I’ve never tried before.  Usually, I believe me.  And usually, I am right.  There is certainly something to this kind of thinking.  I did say these before trying this recipe, which was made up on the fly, However, this is a FOOD post and not a Law of Attraction post, so let’s get right to the food…

Boston Butt is not something I have attempted to cook in my adult life.  I’m not sure why; as a kid it was a favorite, and one of my dad’s favorites to prepare.  Last week I was thinking about the 4th of July and how to celebrate it.  We weren’t taking a beach trip, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the kids downtown to see fireworks.  (In my experience, the level of difficulty/frustration in doing anything downtown that late with a 3 year old and a 16 year old is about one billion-point-two.)  So we decided that since we have a large swimming pool and we’d both be off work this weekend, let’s cook!  Just us, some fresh watermelon, and lots of sun and fun.

I went to the grocery store a few days ago and I’ve just been chomping at the bit to cook this roast.  Last night I perused a ton of recipes, using Google and Pinterest, looking for inspiration.  I didn’t find anything that I really wanted to try.  Granted, my bar was a little high because 1) this is my first pork roast and I want it to knock my socks off, and 2) I needed something that listed the ingredients I have in my cabinet.

So, as per usual, I decided to make something up.  I didn’t write everything down, because I was moving quickly and chattering to myself, mad scientist style, so I could get the roast in the crock pot and get some sleep.  Here is, to the best of my recollection, here’s how it went down:

Unwrapped the Pork Butt (mine was from Publix, 3.78 lbs) and assembled the following: salt, black pepper, cumin, ginger, yellow onion, low sodium soy sauce and barbecue sauce of your choice.  (What I used was Kraft Original, because it’s what we had.  They do make a “light” version, which I did have but wanted to use on some chicken later in the week.)  I chose ginger because it’s a flavor that I always associate with Asian dishes, and I knew it would go well with the soy sauce, so I figured what the heck.

First I chopped the onion and placed it in the bottom of the pot. Next I placed the pork in the pot and salted it moderately and sprinkled some pepper on top.  Also some shakes of cumin, maybe 1 tsp and ginger, maybe 2 tsp.  Rub all of that in, the top and sides of the pork.  (Note: When I say I salted moderately, I mean moderately for me, and I rarely use seasoning so my moderate might be your “light”.  Just use your discretion here.)  Then, in a measuring cup, I poured soy sauce until my inner culinary guide said “when”, which happened to be right at 1/4 cup.  Sure, sounds good.  We’ll go with it.  Then into the same measuring cup I poured the barbecue sauce.  I kept going until the liquid reached just over 3/4 cup line.

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I stopped for a minute to take in the smells.  One of my FAVORITE things about cooking and creating recipes, are the smells.  Before they become flavors, they are sweet, sour, tangy, seductive aromas wafting all around me.  My kitchen smelled delicious.

I mixed the soy sauce and barbecue sauce together with a fork, not paying attention to lumps and bumps since it’s a crock pot, which tends to be very forgiving of things like that.  Poured it on top of the rubbed pork butt roast and added maybe 1/2 cup of water.  Set the crock pot to HIGH.

Rubbed, sauced, ready to go!
Rubbed, sauced, ready to go!

 

Yes, I set it to high!  Everything I had read about crock pot roasts said to set it to low or medium, which is what I meant to do.  However when I woke up this morning to check the roast, the pot was on HIGH!  Of course, there was a fair amount of freaking out before I found the courage to look inside.  Thankfully, the roast was not a charred, stinky, inedible mess.  It looked PERFECT!  But was it perfect?  Only one way to find out.  I gently transferred the roast from the pot to a plate, and THIS is what it looked like:

Did someone say rump roast?
Did someone say rump roast?

It’s everything I dreamed it would be!  Hard, flavorful outer “shell” with tender, juicy, fully cooked but not dry meat inside.  Just look at that juiciness!  I grabbed a fork and started pulling this pork!  I was (I still am) elated at how this “not a recipe” recipe turned out!  Here’s the final product, off the bone and ready to be devoured:

The only pig I ever loved.
The only pig I ever loved.

Does that not look amazing?!!  Let me tell you, it tastes even better than it looks.  My socks are decidedly off.  I’ve said it before about other dishes, but this truly is one of my best.  The taste was right on, all the flavors blended well together and for me, it was everything I want my barbecue pulled pork to be.  It isn’t too sweet, and I’m glad about that because one thing I cannot eat is sweet barbecue.  So, thanks for reading, and PLEASE try my recipe and give me feedback!  I’d love to hear what you think!  (Good news if you are Paleo/Atkins/low carb, I don’t know the exact macros but I can tell you that the sugar and carbs in this dish are negligible.  If you go with a sugar-free or “light” barbecue sauce, they’re even less.)