Southern-Style Baked Beans with Braised Pork Belly

We’ve had quite the chilly week up in the northeast, with temperatures only guaranteed to get colder over the coming weekend. If you’re looking for a warm and filling meal with little to no prep time, look no further.

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You Will Need:

  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 can (425 g) navy beans or other white bean, rinsed and dried
  • 1 can (425 g) red kidney bean or other red bean variety, rinsed and dried
  • 1-2 lbs pork belly, skin removed and cut into small 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup of molasses
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 1/2 cup water

baked beans

Directions:

  1. Set oven to 325˚F.  In a large oven-safe pot (a dutch oven is ideal for this), add EVOO, onion, garlic, and pork belly over medium high heat.  Cook until pork belly is slightly browned on all sides, and onions are translucent, about 5 -7 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together molasses, brown sugar, black pepper, mustard powder, chili powder, cloves, and paprika.  Add the mixture, as well as the beans, to the dutch oven or pot.  Pour the water over the top to make sure the meat and beans are covered, and stir everything together well so that the sauce is well integrated.
  3. Place the pot into the oven covered and cook for 2 hours.  Remove lid, stir, and cook for an additional 30 minutes uncovered.
  4. Serve with warm bread or on its own and enjoy!

 

Wishing you all a warm and happy weekend! xo

Thanksgivukkah

Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah) are both right around the corner, and although I’m not actually hosting in our tiny apartment, that hasn’t stopped me from dreaming up the perfect tablescape to combine the two.  Using a mix of rustic fall-influenced linens, coppers, and gorgeous deep blues, some of the products below would lend themselves beautifully to this one-in-a-lifetime meal!
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Get the look:
Wishing you all a happy and healthy start to the holiday season, xo!

Office Blues

I’ve come here before to “blog” myself little pep talks.  Here we go again!…zen-office via

For me, perhaps one of the largest transitions to adulthood has been navigating the world of a full time office job.  Getting into the M-F, 9-5 till you die routine is struggle enough, but even moving into my Freshman year dorm didn’t confine me with such a diverse crowd of people than those I have met out in the working world. I never knew that so many intelligent grownups could act like such teenagers – moody, gossipy, resentful, deceitful, cliquey, and just struggling to get through the day. Sometimes just walking into the building feels like walking into highschool – I truly never know what I’m going to get.

When you spend a minimum of 8 of your waking hours with the same people day in and day out, often much more time than you spend with your own spouse, it’s impossible not to let daily emotions slip in and to keep your professional face on all the time.  I think friendships made at work are extremely important, and that work can be a place of positive social interaction.   Recently however, I feel the “drama” that goes on at my place of work (who doesn’t like who, who thinks who will be fired, who is trying to take over so and so’s job, who messed up that client report and isn’t as smart as the rest, who left the milk out in the break room) has reached epic proportions, where people are spending more time discussing the dynamics of the office, rather than working.  The “shit talking” – I promise you, this is absolutely the most accurate, although crass, term to use to describe what has been happening – has gotten so out of control. No one can trust anyone, everyone is discussing things behind other’s backs (including our managers), and I admit it’s extremely hard not to get swept right up in the mix of things and participate.  I catch myself acting just as catty and childish as the rest of them, fearful if I don’t join in and make my voice heard, I will become the subject of conversation behind my back.  The negative social interactions have completely outweighed the positive in my work environment, and I’m just so, so tired of it.

Does this happen in most work environments?  Should I be mentally (and emotionally, and even physically) preparing myself to tolerate this sort of thing no matter where I go?  These are not rhetorical questions.  At 27 years old, I think it best I know the truth now.

I’ve made a promise to myself, that starting tomorrow, I am going to try to remove myself as much as possible from what has become a seriously black hole in my life.  I’m going to forgive myself and my coworkers for past transgressions, stay friendly but also removed and guarded, and just get my work done to the best of my ability.  I am making a promise to myself that I will no longer let work gossip and stress carry into other fun and amazing out-of-work aspects of my life, and will not bring negative feelings and anxieties home from the office.  I have no one to blame but myself for how much I have let it affect my mood and happiness in life, and I’m sure others don’t come home feeling as down in the dumps as I do.

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I am determined to be my own happiness, and to bring as much positivity as I can with me to work. This is something I know I will need to focus on every single day, but I also know it’s necessary so as not to waste away all the wonderful things I have in my life.

Being a grown up is much, much harder than it looks.  Stay tuned, everyone! xo

Pit Bull Awareness Month

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Two years ago, October was officially dubbed as “Pit Bull Awareness Month” in an effort to spread awareness and education about this misunderstood breed. The “Pit Bull” (“pit bull” is a generic name for three breeds of dogs – the Staffordshire Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and any mix thereof) has deservedly received positive attention in the past few years, with many celebrities adopting members of the breed and bringing beneficial media attention. Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Rachel Bilson, Jessica Alba, Rachel Ray, and Kaley Cuoco all proudly walk their pits for the paparazzi. TV shows such as “Pit Bulls and Parolees” and “Pit Boss” have also helped spread a positive image for these dogs, and put a spotlight on the abuse that these innocent dogs go through (and more importantly, the rehabilitation).  An emphasis on campaigns such as “blame the deed, not the breed” and “adopt, don’t shop” has put these dogs back into a much better situation than even 5 years ago, but the work is nowhere near over.  The abuse and mistreatment of these dogs sadly continues, and pit bull mixes still make up the majority of dogs in shelters.

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As a pit bull owner, I try to live my life as an educator on a daily basis,  but I find that sometimes this is quite a challenge based on my urban environment.  I currently live in a neighborhood where people cross the street when they see me coming with me dog, children scream, and I’ve even had mothers shelter their children while we pass, as if at any second my dog will viciously attack them.

It takes so much strength not to yell at these people or even laugh loudly at their foolishness, as I sometimes really really want to do.  I have to take deep breaths and remind myself that they are not to be blamed for their misconception and fear, that the media portrays dogs like mine as dangerous and deadly everyday, and to remember that they do not know my dog.

They do not know my dog that hides in the bathroom and refuses to come out for hours during a thunder storm. They do not know my dog that runs at the site of cats or small dogs yapping at her on the street.  They do not know my dog that thinks she is human, that curls up on my pillow next to me with a lick and a cuddle.  They do not know my dog that thinks she is small, and tries to climb her entire 60 pound body into my lap while we are in the waiting room at the vet.  They do not know my dog that allows my three small nieces, one with special needs who doesn’t easily understand “no”, to climb all over her and manhandle her, rubbing on her face and pulling on her tail, without even the slightest of protest. They do not know my dog who knows when I am sick or sad, and refuses to leave my side for any reason when she can sense I’m not well.  They do not know my dog, or any of the others of the “pit bull” breed, that everyday are gentle, kind, and loyal to their families.  They do not know the pit bulls that act as service dogs to those living with disabilities, or that serve in combat alongside our soldiers.

Although having an entire month nationally dedicated to awareness is a great place to start, a pit bull owner’s job is never done.  I don’t know that I fully appreciated the responsibility when we decided to adopt Dimona as a puppy four years ago.  Society has made me very much aware of the breed of dog I own, although owning her has made me more aware than ever of the false stereotypes that exist. Every day is an exercise in tolerance of ignorance, and being a responsible pit owner is so important as each and every pit on the street becomes an ambassador for its breed.  Owning a pit is knowing a pit, and I’d like to think that just by owning Dimona, we have brought awareness of the breed to family members and friends who otherwise would have harbored only the image the media portrays, of monsters with locking jaws and vicious temperaments.  And maybe, if I keep walking my dog down the same block day after day, they will begin to see the sweet girl with the blue eyes just out for her afternoon walk, who isn’t looking to cause bloodshed and mayhem.

They do not know my dog, but hopefully someday through education and deeper understanding, they will want to.

Cowboy Casserole

We’ve had quite the chilly week up here in the Northeast, with temps in the city only reaching into the 50s most days.  Without any travel plans, Josh and I decided to spend our Saturday having a  scary movie marathon at home.  We took to Pinterest to decide our dinner menu, knowing we wanted to find a recipe for something warm and comforting.  This “Cowboy Casserole” caught Josh’s eye, as “Cowboy” is a childhood (and into adulthood) nickname of his affectionately coined by his father.  I added a couple ingredients like the peppers to give the recipe a bit more kick, but this was definitely a winner that we will make again.

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(Serves 4-6 people)

You Will Need:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 small green jalepeno peppers, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained (I actually only used about 2/3 of the can)
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 4 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 package (30 oz) of tater tots (we used “crispy crowns” – sort of round flat disc shaped)
  • Black pepper and kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Let tater-tots thaw for about an hour before you begin prep to ensure they cook through.
  2. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Add onions, peppers and garlic to a large sauté pan with 1 tbsp EVOO over medium high heat.  Simmer about 2-3 minutes, until onions become translucent.  Add beef, and cook until browned.
  3. Meanwhile, mix milk, sour cream, and cream of mushroom soup together until fully integrated and smooth.
  4. Drain meat mixture and set aside in a bowl.  Add corn, 1 cup of cheddar cheese, salt & pepper to taste, and mushroom soup mixture to the meat, stirring well. cowboy3 (I’ll admit, it doesn’t look too appetizing at this stage, but hang in there!)
  5. In a greased casserole dish (ours was an 11 x 7 dish, but a 9 x 13 works too), cover bottom of dish with first layer of tater tots, add a layer of the meat and cheese mixture, followed by another layer of tots and repeat, ending with a final layer of tater tots.  I ended up with two layers – tots, meat, tots, meat, tots.  Finish by adding the final cup of cheddar cheese sprinkled over the top. cowboy1
  6. Cook the casserole for about 30 minutes covered with foil.  Remove foil and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.  I ended up cranking the heat to 400 for a final 5-10 minutes to get the tots on top extra crispy.
  7. Serve and enjoy! We used a bit of our favorite hot sauce on top to really boost the flavor, but it’s definitely not needed.

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Wishing you all a lovely day, xo!

Recipe adapted from Key Ingredient