Slow Cooker Part Deux – A Failure and A Find

A prevalent pet peeve is how Facebook distorts reality. With frequent postings of party and vacation pictures plus endless boasting about kids and jobs, it’s easy to conclude that more fun is being had by everyone else. Which is of course not true.

At least, I hope it’s not.

But all this bragging led me to consider recipe blog posts. It’s an apt corollary as the vast majority of recipe blog posts are about successes. Indeed, I do it too. I hadn’t realized until I looked, but to date, all my recipe blog posts have been about recipe successes. So with this post I am bucking the trend, because this post is about a lo-co cooking failure. And I think that it’s an important topic because cooking lo-co is tough enough without the false belief that everyone else’s dishes turn out well all the time. Because they do NOT.

Case in point: last week I tried a slow cooker recipe for Char Siu Pork Roast that had huge promise, but that failed. Miserably. Actually, it was absolutely awful.

This dish was so appalling I threw it out and ate cereal for dinner. Worse, I could not get the stench of this dish out of my house fast enough (challenging when it’s sub-freezing outside, but open the windows I did!)

I was particularly disappointed in Char Siu Pork Roast because: a) the recipe was from Cooking Light, and I always (now nearly-always) have good luck with their dishes; b) it was listed in an article with the promissory title of, “100+ Slow-Cooker Favorites“; and c) there were 108 reviews and it got four stars.  FOUR STARS. OUT OF FIVE. (I went back to see if it was four starts out of ten, but nope, four out of five).

I don’t know who these 108 people are, but their collective tastebuds are very different from mine. Not only that, my easy-going husband didn’t like it either. The problems were many. The five-spice flavor was overwhelming; several ingredients seemed to flavor-fight with each other; and worst of all, it was dry, dry, dry.  I guess I should have paid more attention to the several reviewers who panned this recipe; my experience was eerily similar.

So. A lo-co failure. I should have taken a photo, but there wasn’t time as I could not throw it out fast enough!

And then – another fail – I bought a pork tenderloin a few days later but accidentally grabbed one that was seasoned with pepper when what I wanted was plain.

Sigh. I am not a fan of peppercorn-marinaded anything.

pressure-29744_640But I didn’t want to throw away a perfectly good pork tenderloin, so that inspired a search for a slow cooker recipe that would mask the massive pepper. I readied the cereal boxes in case it was another failure… but was pleasantly surprised last night with “The Best Crock-Pot Pork Tenderloin” dish. Especially since the recipe was from a site I’d never seen before (usually I only cook from Cooking Light or Epicurious).

This WhiskingMama.com site must have really great SEO — the only reason I clicked on this “The Best Crock-Pot Pork Tenderloin” recipe is that it was the #1 result in my search for “pork tenderloin crock-pot recipe.” I decided to try it because I already had the (wrong) tenderloin, these ingredients looked like they’d cover up the pepper, and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand (with a few substitutions: dijon for yellow mustard and garlic cloves instead of garlic powder).

This dish was easy, quite tasty, and while it might not be the “best” crock-pot pork tenderloin recipe (I mean, who’s to judge?), I’d make it again. The cereal’s been put back in the pantry for breakfast as we’re planning leftovers for dinner tonight.

Here’s the recipe for “The Best Crock-Pot Pork Tenderloin” if you prefer a PDF to clicking on the link above. I made it with a one-pound tenderloin instead of two-pounds, and just read this morning in Sam Sifton’s A Simmer View of the Slower Cooker article that I should have cut the marinade in half. Mr. Sifton’s quote refers to different recipe/ingredients but the basic tenet is the same:

“The most important thing is not to have too much liquid in the pot. For a small slow cooker, use a smaller cut of meat and a proportionately smaller amount of fish sauce, hoisin and water.”

The next time I make this Crock-Pot Pork Tenderloin recipe I’ll use regular rather peppered tenderloin and will either cut the marinade in half OR, more likely, I’ll make it with two pounds of tenderloin because it was delicious enough to want leftovers.

So one recipe to avoid – and one to try!  Feel free to send me your lo-co recipe failures or favorites!

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The Hurricane Irene Shopping Spree

With Hurricane Irene a’stormin up the east coast, I joined the thousands flocking to the stores this morning to stock up on food.

Actually, I must admit the embarrassing truth: my panic-buying began last night. What set me off was the scary idea of no phone for multiple days (we have cable-phone so if we lose power, we have no landline). So I went battery crazy. The first thing I nabbed was a set of 3 iPhone battery chargers. I had planned to buy one months ago but never got around to it. Of course now instead of just one, I bought 3 so we can charge for days. And paid a small fortune for 1-day delivery.

Then I really lost it, and placed a 2nd Amazon order for a LOT of batteries and 2 lanterns (the thought of WalMart today was overwhelming). I am usually a value shopper so the 1 day shipping fees just slayed me, but I pushed the amazon button anyway.

Go ahead and laugh at me – I realize I’m ridiculous.

Though I’ll have lanterns and flashlights galore. And a working iPhone. So there.

Gloating over, let’s get back to how to cook Lo-Co meals sans electricity.

To create a plan, the first step was to consider the heat source. I am fortunate as we have both an outdoor gas grill and a gas-fueled cooktop. Though if the forecasted 100 mile per hour winds whisk away our grill (my husband’s plan is to bungee it to the deck…we’ll see how that goes), then I’ll just have the gas cooktop.

I fear I’ll be right, but planned a menu assuming my husband’s bungee plan will work. With that in mind, here’s my Hurricane Irene / No Electricity Lo Co menu plan.

  • Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin served with No-Sugar-Added-Applesauce, leftover quinoa and broccoli/string beans (steamed on the cooktop rather than microwaved). The beauty part of pork tenderloin is it can either be cooked in the oven if we have power OR on the grill. I’ve not included a recipe as I just follow the prepared pork tenderloin cooking instructions on the wrapper.
  • Hot & Sour Chinese Eggplant – cooked stovetop on a wok, served over rice.  This recipe is easy and flexible – you can add/remove spice. (Though you have to soak the eggplant for 1/2 hour which I forgot the first time I made it.) View it online at allrecipes.com or for my suggestions along with useful reviews / idea from others, download: Hot and Sour Chinese Eggplant With Reviews.
  • Several boxes of pasta and jars of sauce – both traditional and pesto.
  • If we are power-less for more than 3-4 days, I am assuming we can drive somewhere for take-out so I have just these dinners planned!
  • For lunch, I bought soups, black beans (to put on tortillas) and bunches of fruit that can ripen on the counter.
  • Breakfast is either eggs or cereal (milk kept in an ice cooler).  Hmm…need ice.

As I stuffed 5 bags worth of groceries into my pantry/the fridge, I stared at the Silk soy coffee creamer I’d auto-tossed into my cart. Creamer in hand, I wigged at the realization that my Keurig coffee machine doesn’t have a battery.

With no electricity, how will I get my daily coffee fix?

Panic sent my imagination went into overdrive.  My solution?  I plan to tote my Keurig into the garage and plug it into my car.

As soon as I find that DC car charger.

I’m signing off now to go look for it while we still have lights.

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