In 1998, I discovered the beauty of a crock pot. Peter and I had stopped by Shannon's apartment in Old Town and she kindly shared her pot roast with us. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The veggies were fabulous, the meat was fork tender and the prep work was but a few minutes out of her morning.
Prior to that occasion, I thought crock pots were nothing more than something one would collect from banks everytime a person opened a new account. I had no clue that the slow cooker could be so useful or that the meals one could make would be considered as unprocessed as something that was slaved over for hours.
Even after the introduction to the crock and receiving one as a gift, I still didn't truly get into it. I still felt like it was TOO easy, that meals tended to be too meat-based and somehow it just didn't feel like cooking. Then I found this site in 2009.
We were in California and enjoying fresh veggies galore. We would spend hours at farmers markets and wanted to create the healthiest meals possible. However, during the school year, nights quickly became busy and I realized I needed to rework the crock pot back into the meal plan. I found Stephanie's site and worked 3 of her recipes immediately into our rotation.
Then as is wont to happen, the crock went on the back burner. For the past year, I haven't done that much cooking (okay, I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to) and utilized the crock on occasion, but not frequently. However, since school has started and I'm a bit busier with evening obligations, I realized some dinners may be from the crock...or not at all. So, I pulled the crock back out last week for an old favorite: spiced lentils. Then I realized if I wanted to really rock the crock, I needed to get a bit more creative.
I have been afraid, you see, of mucking things up. My worst fear is to spend several hours (to more than a day) making something only to have it turn out to be a complete disaster. However, the only way to get over a fear like that is to jump off the deep end. I did and it turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself!
While we try to limit our meat intake, there is nothing that screams comfort food to me like a good bit of pulled pork. Now, put those judgements aside about the recipes, while I know I grew up (for the most part) in Memphis, I also enjoy a good Carolina style barbecue and figured the kids would, too. Knowing that our schedules would be very hectic on Sunday and having agreed ahead of time that a crocked meal would be best, I started researching recipes on a whim on Saturday.
After picking up Cait from an FSYF event in the city, we headed to the new, gorgeous Whole Foods (bulk everything, paper bags/cartons for veggies instead of plastic, a cart escalator, Icelandic cheese and so much local produce). She was ansty and wanted to get home, but then realized it was nice to have a bit of one-on-one quality time and got to hear all about the college days (Peter and I both graduated from GWU). Less than an hour later, we were headed home with all of the key ingredients. By 6 p.m. that night, the hand-rubbed shoulder was in the crock, delicately perched atop two quartered onions. By 11:30 that night, when we returned home from a night out playing poker (yes, even me!), the smell of the spices intermingling with the sugar, vinegar, meat and onions had begun to permeate all levels of the house.
And by morning? The scent was nothing short of heavenly. I admit, I sampled a bit throughout the day, but had no idea just how well it would turn out. I don't consider myself any sort of cook, but couldn't help but exclaim just how delectable the meat was when I bit into the sandwich last night. I was worried it would be too spicy (the sauce was a tad intense) but the meat was nothing short of perfect. Cait spent the evening at her youth group, but Kelsey and Nicholas gobbled it up. In fact, Kelsey had thirds, if memory serves and nearly licked the bowl when doing the official taste test.
When I mentioned the scent of dinner wafting through the air on Facebook, several friends asked for the recipe. It can be found on Food.com and I highly recommend it. It is extremely easy and the only processed food ingredient was the mustard. I like to cook from scratch as much as possible and despite the list of needed items seeming long, it was still a very quick meal from start to finish.
I can't claim that I made the potato salad or cole slaw, as I knew I could pick up tasty, pre-made versions at Whole Foods. However, I suppose next time, knowing how easy the pork portion is, I might just try to throw in a batch of homemade slaw....there's that deep end again!