Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Slow Cooker Pork Roast with Apples, Rosemary, and Sage

This is the first food I've made for my blog that I didn't actually eat. I made it for my fiancé, in an effort to prove he won't be eating a diet strictly of cookies and grilled chicken for the rest of his life. He was more than assuaged. He was impressed.

We spent this past Saturday painting his living room (more on that in a future post), which presented the perfect opportunity to put a roast in the slow cooker, work for a few hours, and enjoy the delicious medley of scents wafting through the house. 

I started by seasoning the roast with salt and pepper, browning it slightly in olive oil, then sautéing sweet red onions in the remaining oil. The caramelized onions served as a bed for the roast in the crock pot, and I topped the meat with sliced apples, a sprig of fresh rosemary, and sprig of fresh sage. After cooking on high for four hours, the apples turned to apple sauce, and the juices from the meat and onions turned into a gravy-like sauce. (Confession: I forgot to plug in the crock pot for the first 45 minutes. So much for my Paula Deen impression.) Frank liked it as much as his mother's roast. Maybe he was lying. 

Or maybe not.

Why this flavor profile? Simple: It's cinnamon season. Although rosemary and sage are savory herbs, they pair perfectly with the sweet warmth of fall's signature spice. So for the side dish, I baked apples, sweet potatoes, and raisins in a blend of honey, cinnamon, and apple juice. The two dishes worked in beautiful harmony.

Slow Cooker Pork Roast with Apples, Rosemary, and Sage
Courtesy of Hamilton Beach

What you need
4-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
4 lb. boneless pork roast
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, sliced
1 fresh sage sprig
1 fresh rosemary sprig

Put it all together

  1. Toss the apple slices with lemon juice and set aside.
  2. Season the roast with salt and ground pepper. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium-high, then lightly brown the roast on all sides. 
  3. Sauté the onions in the remaining oil in the skillet, and place them in the bottom of the crock pot. Position the roast on top of the onions, then surround the meat with the apple slices. Place the sprigs of sage and rosemary on top. 
  4. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours. 
  5. Discard herbs before serving. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

8 Worst Seasonal Restaurant Foods

Burger King Gingerbread Cookie Shake

What it is: vanilla soft serve, gingerbread syrup, crumbled gingerbread cookies

Most restaurants opt for the obvious seasonal flavors: pumpkin, apple pie, or eggnog. So I applaud the creativity of gingerbread cookies. However, no amount of creativity can justify the 124 grams of sugar in this shake. That's like eating 18 Little Debbie Gingerbread Cookies!

Nutrition info 
810 calories
21 g fat (15 g saturated, .5 g trans)
142 g carbs (124 g sugars)
500 mg sodium

Gingerbread Cookie Sundae
350 calories 
7 g fat (4 g saturated, 0 g trans)
68 g carbs (57 g sugars)
210 mg sodium


Dairy Queen Pumpkin Blizzard

What it is: vanilla soft serve, nutmeg, pie pieces, pumpkin pie filling, whipped topping

I spotted the sign for this at a nearby DQ a couple weeks back, and I was immediately intrigued. It sounds incredible. But then I saw the nutrition facts. Even the mini version of this Dairy Queen creation packs 370 calories. Not bad, until you see the size of the mini cup. It's tiny. 

Nutrition info 
1,050 calories
37 g fat (22 g saturated, 1 g trans)
161 g carbs (118 g sugars)
730 mg sodium

Caramel Sundae 
300 calories
7 g fat (5 g saturated, 0 g trans)
51 g carbs (36 g sugars)
150 mg sodium


Culver's Pumpkin Pecan Concrete Mixer 

What it is: pecans, pumpkin pie mix, vanilla custard mix

Similar to the DQ Pumpkin Pie Blizzard, but with even MORE fat. Sure, much of that is from the healthy fats in pecans. But there's still 44 grams of saturated fat, more than twice what you should consume in a day. That's not to mention the 3 grams of heart-clogging trans fats.

Nutrition info 
1,319 calories
72 g fat (44 g saturated, 3 g trans)
146 g carbs (120 g sugars)
626 mg sodium

Pumpkin Cheesecake Concrete Mixer
467 calories
26 g fat (15 g saturated, 1 g trans)
52 g carbs (42 g sugars)
229 mg sodium


Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate 

What it is: steamed milk, mocha sauce, toffee nut and vanilla syrups, sweetened whipped cream, caramel sauce, turbinado sugar, sea salt

Apparently, plain old hot chocolate and marshmallows won't cut it anymore. You need mocha sauce and caramel sauce, sweetened syrups, plus extra sugar and, of course, a dash of salt to balance out that extra sugar. It's a laboratory concoction disguised as a holiday classic.

Nutrition info 
(venti, whole milk, whipped)
600 calories
24 g fat (14 g saturated, .5 g trans)
90 g carbs (80 g sugars)
360 mg sodium

Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte 
(grande, nonfat)
120 calories
0 g fat
19 g carbs (16 g sugars)
0 mg sodium


Panera Bread Roasted Turkey & Cranberry on Ciabatta

What it is: ciabatta bread, spinach, roasted turkey breast, cranberry mostarda, garlic and herb spread

If the idea was to sandwich Thanksgiving dinner between two pieces of bread, Panera succeeded. This panini houses 770 calories, which amounts to one giant meal. Blame the behemoth piece of breadthe ciabatta alone contains 450 calories!

Nutrition info 
770 calories
23 g fat (8 g saturated, 0 g trans)
101 g carbs (17 g sugars)
1,170 mg sodium

Smoked Turkey Breast on Country Bread
420 calories
3 g fat(.5 g saturated, 0 g trans)
66 g carbs (3 g sugars)
1,650 mg sodium

Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Muffin
What it is: pumpkin muffin with streusel topping and icing

I applaud Dunkin' for using real pumpkin, not some factory-produced faux pumpkin. The real problem with this muffin is its resemblance to cake. As if streusel weren't enough, the guys at Dunkin' iced this dessert-in-disguise with a blend of sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, trans-fatty partially hydrogenated oil, and corn starch.
Nutrition info 
550 calories
24 g fat (5 g saturated, 0 g trans)
77 g carbs (41 g sugars)
480 mg sodium

Pumpkin Munchkins (3)
180 calories
7.5 g fat(3 g saturated, 0 g trans)
27 g carbs (12 g sugars)
225 mg sodium

 Jack in the Box Eggnog Shake

What it is: vanilla ice cream, eggnog syrup, whipped topping, maraschino cherry

Jack in the Box boasts about using "real ice cream." Congrats. But can someone tell me what "eggnog syrup" is? 

 Nutrition info 
(24 oz)
1,135 calories
54 g fat (37 g saturated, 3 g trans)
140 g carbs (103 g sugars)
375 mg sodium

Chocolate Overload Cake
302 calories
7 g fat(2 g saturated, 0 g trans)
57 g carbs (34 g sugars)
347 mg sodium

IHOP Carrot Cake Pancakes

What it is: four oatmeal spice pancakes filled with diced apples, carrots, coconut, and walnuts, and topped with whipped butter and cream cheese icing

Carrot cake is perhaps the world's most deceptive dessert. It sounds insanely healthywow, I'm eating vegetables for dessert!but the scary truth is that carrot cake houses more calorie-dense oil than most other types of cake. And, sorry, calling cake a pancake doesn't make it any healthier.

 Nutrition info 
(4 pancakes)
1,120 calories
47 g fat (11 g saturated, .5 g trans)
152 g carbs (76 g sugars)

Simple & Fit Whole Wheat Pancakes with Blueberries
(served with egg substitute and two strips of turkey bacon)
460 calories
12 g fat(2.5 g saturated, 0 g trans)
63 g carbs (29 g sugars)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Doughnut Mini Muffins

Pumpkin is having a moment. You could argue it has a "moment" every year from October 1st to October 31st. But this year is differentpumpkin has moved beyond its post on the front porch, and into kitchens across America. It's become a mark of culinary coolness; as New York magazine puts it, "pumpkin is the new bacon." It's everywhere, it's impossibly chic, and it's freaking delicious.

Pumpkinespecially when combined with cinnamon, nutmeg, and other warm spicesis the epitome of autumnal eating. Since 2010, there has been a 38 percent increase in pumpkin-flavored foods on restaurant menus. And since 2007, the number of pumpkin drinks has leapt by 400 percent, according to Datassential MenuTrends. This year, Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte fans have faced serious withdrawal, as shortages of the wildly popular drink have swept the nation.

I don't need any more convincing. Pumpkin is incredible.

I NEED to get in on the action in my own kitchen. My recipe of choice: Pumpkin Doughnut Mini Muffins. The name alone is enough to make me salivate. I love doughnuts (who doesn't?) and I've long adored my mom's pumpkin bread. So why not combine the two? 

I opted for a mini-muffin pan so my little bites of autumn delight would resemble Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins. I also reserved some batter for a mini-pumpkin cake pan my mom gave me, but they just came out looking like little helmets. Soldier pumpkins!

My only mistake: making these on a Sunday afternoon, when I was free to shamelessly devour them. They have the delicious density of cake doughnuts, with just enough pumpkin flavor to make your taste buds scream, "Fall weather!" I seriously am obsessed.

Pumpkin Doughnut Mini Muffins
Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

What you need
½ cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups canned pumpkin
1 ½ tsp pumpkin spice*
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ¾ cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour 

1 ½ Tbsp sugar
1 ½ Tbsp cinnamon

*I used ¾ tsp cinnamon, plus ½ tsp allspice. 

Put it all together
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a mini muffin tin.
  2. Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt, and baking powder. Then incorporate the flour until smooth. 
  3. Fill the cups of the muffin tin about ¾ full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one muffin comes out clean. 
  4. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. While the muffins are still warm (but not hot), shake them in a large Ziploc bag with the sugar and cinnamon, until well coated. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

4 Celebrity Homes for Sale

1. Reese Witherspoon's California Ranch

Price: $10 million
5,000 square feet

Libbey Ranch, located in Ojai, California, a village in the foothills of north Los Angeles, is Reese Witherspoon's vacation and weekend home. However, it's perhaps best known as Robert Pattinson's "breakup hideaway." Witherspoon and Pattinson became friends while filming Water For Elephants, and when Kristin Stewart cheated on Pattison, he took cover at Witherspoon's ranch, a 9-bedroom estate built in 1923.

Witherspoon told Elle Decor, "When you buy a beautiful piece of art, you don't really own it. You're just the caretaker." I don't blame her for passing on her caretaker duties to someone else: The yearly property taxes alone run $125,000!

The property features Spanish-style architecture, with intricate details like century-old hardware, original stonework, plank floors, and Spanish tiles. The home was originally built for Edward Libbey, a glassware magnate.

 The country kitchen opens into a spacious dining room, featuring a large stone fireplace.

 The Nashville native held her March 2011 wedding to Jim Toth on the ranch grounds.

The grounds include a barn and horse paddock, where she keeps a horse, pony, donkey, pigs, goats, chickens, and dogs. "It reminds me of growing up in Tennessee, where we spent all day outside," Witherspoon told Elle Decor. I wanted my children to get that experience, to get muddy and hang out with the animals." Guess that fantasy didn't pan out!

2. Kelsey & Camille Grammer's Malibu Mansion 

Price: $17.5 million
6,645 square feet

Since Kelsey and Camille split in 2010 (you may have seen their breakup on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), they've sold two of their propertiesone in Colorado, the other in Beverly Hills. Now, they've put a third on the market: a Malibu mansion that comes with 4.75 acres of property, a private pool and tennis court, a barn, and a separate guesthouse. 

Dining Room

Outdoor Dining Room

Living Room


Home Theater

Outdoor Lounge Area

Lily Pond

3. A-Rod's Modern Miami Home

Price: $38 million
23,000 square feet

Yankees star Alex Rodriguez built this waterfront Miami estate in 2011 for $24 million. He listed it in August for an additional $14 million. It's rumored that he built the home to share with his former flame Cameron Diaz, but they broke up before it was finished.

The mansion has 9 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms.

The home features a 3,ooo-square-foot sporting facility, which includes a batting cage, billiards room, home theater, and an infinity pool.

4. Jim Carrey's Beachfront Mansion

Price: $13.95 million
5 bedrooms, 5.5 baths

Jim Carrey bought this home in 2002 for nearly $10 million. His real estate agent describes the beachfront Malibu property as "sun-drenched and spacious."

The living room leads to a large deck that has removable privacy walls.

The master suite boasts a fireplace, an ocean view, and a balcony.

The rooftop viewing deck features a spa tub and "mood lights."