Simple is a Relative Term

As you may have noticed, the past couple weeks have been about simplifying meals. Or maybe more than just the past couple but you get the point. Who doesn’t love simple?

What is sometimes overlooked when using the word “simple” is the fact that it’s a relative term, like so many other words. Just as certain beings are more naturally athletic than others, there are those who are apt to cooking. They possess advanced senses, which are acquired at birth and naturally develop with age. It’s usually a keen nose or accurate taste buds that lead them to delineate what a dish is missing. While I highly respect connoisseurs of that nature, I also believe in eating what you want. Combine ingredients that make you happy, in both taste and simplicity, and you’ll be on your way to lovely kitchen livin’.

For example, I recently made Pork BBQ. I chose this dish because I needed to create massive quantities for around 10 people and I intended on keeping the ingredients to a minimum. After quickly scanning the internet for helpful and unique Pork BBQ recipes, I realized there were too many. Literally, every single one was different. So what makes one recipe better than the other? If a recipe comes from a Chef who’s restaurant is packed on a daily basis, should it be the winner? What if it hails from the oldest BBQ joint in South Carolina?

The answer is easy. The best recipe is your own. This is where the relative simplicity comes into play.

For that Chef who packs his restaurant every night, it’s simple to add an array of fresh herbs and homemade sauces, blending the ingredients ever so perfectly. For me and you, it’s simple to chop it and plop it. So that’s exactly what I did (with a little extra work but nothing major). Believe me when I say, the result was still magnificently enjoyable and just what I was hoping for. I didn’t spend a fortune and I didn’t waste a ton of time.

Try this method next time you’re hoping to prepare a drool-worthy meal. Feel free to scope out recipes online but if you don’t have one of the minor ingredients, let it slide. I’m sure your panel of judges (family & friends) won’t even notice.

Pork BBQ

  • 2 – 4lb. pork butts from local farmer’s market
  • pepper
  • cider vinegar
  • bbq sauce
  • ketchup

Optional: smokey paprika seasoning, honey, brown sugar, whatever you like

I put my dry ingredients on both sides and let it sit over night but if you don’t have time to do that just sprinkle them in the crock pot pre-roast. Place the pork butts in the crock pot with a TINY bit of water (a lot of juice will form from the pork so too much water could mean overflow). Set to low and let it sit for 6 hours. The meat will pull right off the bone and then you can tear it apart using two forks. Add the ketchup, vinegar and BBQ sauce or other goodies that you wish to taste. Mix. Eat. The rest is history!

 

Until Next Time,

Back to Basics Babe

 

 

Relaxcation in Kutztown. No, That’s Not a Typo.

As Americans, we’re often ridiculed for not knowing how to relax. I could easily be classified under this stereotype every day of my life. Although I inherited many attributes from my European ancestors, who reign in this world as championed relaxers sometimes taking up to 25 vacation days a year, I am unable to grasp the Italian attitude toward free time.

Dark hair? Check. Olive skin? Check. Take a breather every once and a while? How do you do that?

What typically happens, and you may know the feeling, is even though I’m in a relaxing environment, away from my office and not discussing professional matters, my mind can’t seem to escape work or errands at home. As shameful as it is to admit, I find myself getting so tied up in the little things, life seems to be speeding on by. When I begin to look back at the big picture, everything has blurred together.

It’s almost like those clever photo mosaics that were big in the 90′s. My tiny photos would be glimpses into a weekend party, a music festival, or outdoor activities. But in this case, when they’re all put together, the big portrait is me working, cleaning, cooking, etc. Is this all too familiar for you as well? I hope not but if so, I might have found an easy solution.

I recently started to take notice of this more so than usual and discovered something rather peculiar. Of the occasions that I do feel most relaxed, work free and careless about where my mind wanders, 99% of those times occur in Kutztown. It might even be safe for me to say that they all occur in my pleasant home town, a location peacefully comprised of rolling farm hills and quiet streets.

Since I no longer reside in Kutztown, but do visit on a regular basis, I’ve come to appreciate more than ever the many offerings it has, including a haven for my wandering work thoughts. There are elements to the most agreeable town that play well together, as if by accident, to create a natural worry free environment that’s slow paced. Outsiders may translate that to mean boring and I respect their opinion but kindly ask for a re-survey. It’s that attitude of always needing “something to do” that led me down my thought-cluttered path in the first place.

Not to say there isn’t anything to do in Kutztown. There are unique events year round, one of a kind independent vendors on Main Street and ongoing activities with the University as well. However, sometimes the only thing you should be doing is nothing at all. That’s the beauty of Kutztown. It has the perfect balance of both so when you’re feeling antsy, you can get out and do but when you need peaceful time, free from everything including your thoughts, that’s also achievable in a multitude of places. Try the park, a local cafe or the Main Street Inn’s terrace?

You may be able to relate if you’ve ever gone on a vacation that involved an unofficial itinerary. Go here, go there. See that, see this. It’s more exhausting than it is relaxing. The solution? Vacation to Kutztown! Maybe you just chuckled but I’d recommend a reconsider. When that feeling of simplicity and relaxation finds you, I’m sure you won’t be laughing anymore. Just dishing out deeps sighs of relief.

 

Until Next Time,

Carefree Kutztownian 

 

Make Ahead for the Masses

As you may have noticed by now I tend to write “conveniently”. Not because I don’t care about this blog or the Main Street Inn by any means. I write what I know and what I naturally do because it’s fitting and it saves me some time. I happen to have another job so by creating my regular meal plans into blog posts like this, it reserves as much time as possible for me to have a personal life. That’s acceptable, right?

Hopefully you’re nodding your head in an agreeing fashion because you’ve felt the feeling before. When you really think about, we all have gone the convenient route at some point. Maybe your instance didn’t necessarily revolve around food and/or work (although those two things are one in the same for me) but it could have been sports, school or vacation.

We make a quick 1-2 pass in soccer because it’s more convenient than dribbling around the defender. Students skim their reading assignments for bolded words or relevant headers. Isn’t that why text books evolved to be written that way, for convenience?

Any time you go out to eat, hire a dog sitter or use your Pert Plus 2 in 1 Shampoo & Conditioner, it only appears as if you’re paying for the finished product. At the route of every service and product on the market today, though, there is a convenience factor that we want, we need and we’re willing to shell out some dough for.

That being said, this weeks recipe stems from the fact that I’m finally going on vacation. Woah, woah, woah! No tears just yet. Being the responsible Main Street Inn blogger that I am, I worked ahead as conveniently as possible and will have 2 posts for you the week that I’m away. Also, since I spent the week preceding my vacation preparing food for the masses who will join me on a private Canadian Island the following week, you might feel that that this recipe seems a bit “out of season.” In my opinion, a vegetable stew is satisfying at any time of the year and one of the most flexible meals you can make. You can alter the flavors by using fresh, seasonal produce.

Although we haven’t been having the coolest Summer nights lately, that is when my “Hodge Podge Vegetable Stew” will come in handy on vacation. Posted up by a fire, outside a bare boned cabin on the Thousand Island River, the nights tend to carry the greatest kind of chill factor. We’ll toss on our sweatshirts, stay in Summer shorts that we may or may not have worn the day before, and warm our bodies with the tantalizing tastes of this ratatouille-like dish.

To really heighten the flavors I shy away from anything canned because it ups the salt content, masking the delicious vegetables in their natural state. It’s also healthier to use ingredients like dried beans and fresh tomatoes to prevent the inclusion of can chemicals like BPA. In general, fresh (from the farmer’s market/your own garden/CSA) and/or organic is always better!

Below I’ve listed the ingredients I used to whip up this vegetarian stew. I cook with my eyes because I think contrasting colors are appetizing, so challenge yourself and try not to repeat veggie shades. It was made in the crock pot for (what do ya’ know?) CONVENIENCE, but I also like the way the vegetables and beans create their own savory broth when cooked slowly for 5+ hours. As mentioned, I used dry beans. You can prepare them ahead of time as the package explains or add them to the crock pot about 3-4 hours in advance with some water (or a homemade vegetable/meat broth). This will have the same effect and once the other vegetables are added for an additional couple hours, the beans will be fully cooked!

Also, there is no need for this meal to be completely vegetarian. I actually cooked up some pork chops in a separate pan and will be bringing those to the island in case my fellow vacationers crave some meaty goodness with this easy, one pot meal. Keep an eye out for next weeks convenient cooking class to hit the blog on Thursday!

Ingredients

1/2 bag Hurst’s Brand 15 Bean Soup (any brand will do)

Cherry Tomatoes (I food processed about 20 – don’t puree, you want some chunks)

Carrots (sliced like coins-rather thick)

Onions

Red Bell Peppers

Potatoes (any kind will do – dice them)

Corn

Green Beans

Fresh Basil

Garlic (keep it chunky)

Salt & Pepper to taste

Spicy Brown Mustard (if you like a little kick)

 

Until Next Time,

Easy Peasy Planner