Friday, August 8, 2014

Your Slow-Cook BBQ Pulled Pork Recipes Suck- Well, most of them anyway

I grew up in a family that rarely served pork, with the exception of weekend bacon and the occasional breakfast sausage link from the diner-like restaurant my grandparents would take us, the "Gingham House" on Castor Avenue, now the location of a Brazilian steakhouse and luncheonette.  Occasionally, our mother would make baby back ribs with a homemade, ketchup-based barbecue sauce, but that was the full extent of my pork experience.

In the past couple years, I've delved into the realm of the "other white meat". And lately, BBQ pulled pork has crossed both my palate as well as my kitchen.  I've tried making it now about half-a-dozen times, as well as slow-roasted other pork cuts, like tenderloin, for years. Finally, I found a recipe that works. I promise, that if you listen to me, your pulled pork will be stellar.

Every time I made it, I used different pork roasts, but the one that works best is a bone-in pork shoulder. Also, forget the need for alcohol like hard ciders, ales, or stouts.  If we're really roasting, the meat doesn't need to sit in any additional liquid, other than its natural juices and steam that that comes from a new tip I find is key to slow cooking.

For last night's dinner, I used two 3-4lb bone-in pork shoulders. If you were making a beef roast, you would brown the meat, but in this case, it's not necessary at all.

     -First, prepare a dry mixture of 1/2 to 1 C of light brown sugar and combine
      with 1 T each of paprika and chili powder, 1 tsp each of garlic and onion powders,
      1/2 tsp of mustard powder, and 1/2 tsp of black pepper.
      Mix with spoon until well blended.

     -Trim away excess fat and cut off skin from pork shoulder, if still intact.

     -We have an old slow cooker, so now is when I like to turn it on and preheat to
       about 300 degrees.

     -Grab that meat and start rubbing, using your extremely clean hands to rub the
      dry mixture into the meat, lightly covering all sides and little nooks.

     -Using Pyrex ramequins, or some other oven-safe containers that are small
       enough to fit inside your cooker, drop 4-5 drops of Liquid Smoke natural
       mesquite into each of the 2 ramequins and add enough water to nearly
       come to the top of the containers. This will add incredible flavor as the
       liquid steams.

     -Close your lid and walk away for 5-8 hours- you don't have to do a thing.
      If you're dying from anticipation as your house fills with amazing aromas,
      you can take a peek and even taste a little piece of the edge to see how it's
      coming along.

     -In a 1 qt saucepan, add 1/2 C of ketchup to just under 1/2 C of yellow mustard
      (I like to use Woeber's Sweet 'n Spicy), 1/4 C brown sugar, 2 T naturally
      fermented soy sauce (if you can't do fermented food items, you can omit
      the soy and just use water), and 1/2 tsp of black strap molasses. Stir gently
      over low heat until sugar and mustard are fully blended, with no lumps.
      Remove from heat.

     (I chose not to make a lot of BBQ sauce because the meat is already quite
      sweet and packs a lot of flavor, it will also be exceptionally tender. This
      is simply my preference, so if you're really into loading your meat with sauce,
      by all means, don't let me stop you. Just give it a try first before deciding.)

     -Since my slow-cooker pan has a ceramic coating, I like to take the meat
      out and place in a large, Pyrex casserole dish (depending on how much meat
      you are preparing, you can use something as small as a loaf pan for one,
      small shoulder).

     -Using two forks, begin pulling them in opposite directions to shred the pork,
      taking care to remove any large, unsavory pieces of fat or tissue. Remove bone
      and discard. Your pork will come apart easily and with little effort.

     -Drizzle 1/3 to 1/2 the BBQ sauce over the pork, stirring and fluffing the pork with
      a fork. Some people suggest putting the pork in the oven at this point to
      create a crispy finish, but there is no need to potentially dry out your meat.
      Serve hot.

     - Use remaining BBQ sauce for individual plates.

VoilĂ ! The best pulled pork you've ever had in your life. If you try this recipe, let me know how it worked for you and whether you stuck to this recipe or deviated and added your own, culinary genius.



As an endnote, what prompted me to post my recipe was a friend who posted this recipe on her Facebook page that called for using dry soup mix and cola. It was out of the sheer need to save all of you, like an evangelical who is willing to egotistically force you toward saving your souls, I did it all for you.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Only One for Me Is You

The more I read about Syria and think of the past couple decades of middle eastern world affairs, the more it becomes clear that the objective is disruption of the entire Islamic world- religion? Oil? I don't know the "whys", though many people have their own ideas.

I do know that we all suffer in the consistent demoralization of humanity, sitting by, as those who blanket us in security are the monsters in the night who terrorize the hopes for peace. When I say "we", I mean all people of this planet.  Remiss of nationalism or any other "-isms", my choice is not to take sides, nor do I place blame with entities that I or mass culture deem responsible.  I understand that at the core of everything, each person is taught that Survival of the Fittest reigns over the land. I know that we are taught, from the moment the umbilical cord is cut and the oxygen from mother to child is ended, that we must breathe on our own, or perish.

It literally gives me pain to think of others' suffering- it doesn't matter how or in what fashion the pain occurs, just that it exists.  It's a real pain that I feel in my heart when I think of everything from the macro, planetary aspect, to the micro, of a dying child. It's a lot to shoulder that I, individually, am responsible for everything that exists whether positive or negative. What a heavy burden.

Fortunately, the burden is shared. Collectively, we are the same one at heart.  So, sing, dance, chant, pray, meditate, fund-raise, build, create, be that one consciousness that decides Peace. There is enough for all of us if we just change the way we think.

The long-standing beliefs of aloneness and separateness are at the core of humanity's progress and its demise. One mustn't toss out progress in place of collective oneness.  A recent study published in Nature Communications, coupled with common sense, determines that teamwork and cooperation are what propel society into survival.

This very moment of the Now is a chance to transform the energy of perpetual fear and suffering into one of perpetual motion of compassion and peace.

You are enough.

This is enough.

Enough.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Receiving

This morning, I was having a shitty feeling for a few moments, which upset me, because I was emotionally responding to an Internet thread... talk about a double-edged sword. I mean, no one likes allowing one's self to become upset at all in some negative ego response, let alone when it is due to Internet strangers. So, I stood up to look outside my large, floor-to-near-ceiling, front window.

On the top of where the deep, green, creeping juniper arches, there was a bright, handsome, male cardinal eating berries. In swooped a male blue jay whose immense size put the cardinal on high alert. He, too, began munching berries, but at the flat base of the plants, closer to the house. Then, just as the scene triggered an early childhood wish to be able to see both of these birds together, something amazing happened: a butterfly dashed across the yard, the female cardinal appeared on a pine tree branch, a bumblebee flew to the vinca and hopped from flower to pink, trumpet flower. Goldfinches arrived on their thistle seed-filled sock feeders and a common northern mocking bird landed in the driveway, which led my eyes down to see a pair of mourning doves scouring the ground for treats.  At that moment, the sun burst through the fluffy, white clouds that mostly blanketed the sky, revealing bright blue that reflected on the lake, where a silhouetted squirrel hopped over the landscape's horizon.

It a scene right out of Snow White.

The collective whole was symbolically telling me to not be so serious about something so trivial when, if I just open my eyes and release my silly, hurt self, there is so much beauty to be seen which helps the ego to rest peacefully and just let it flow into a new moment, being ever-present.

Just in case I forget what matters, the universe is happy to remind me and, fortunately, I am grateful to receive her song. I guess it does the same for others in whichever way they need to be shown. For me, that comes in the form of reminding me that there is so much more that is seemingly, infinitely smaller and equally, infinitely larger than a moment that will, ultimately, be nothingness.

Little bit harder, just a little bit more,
A little bit further than you've gone before.







Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Doing Their Own Thing (What You Wanted Them to Do in the First Place)

It's a tough balancing act, this line caregivers walk when trying to steer kids in the right direction.  I made the mistake of pushing a bit too far with my older daughter, a musical whiz who can proficiently teach herself any instrument of her choice.  That's the problem with gifted and talented children- it has to be of their choosing and it generally, from my experience, has to feel natural, like it's their thing.  Once there is interference, no matter how well-meaning, kids lose interest.  It's a classic case of reverse psychology through oppositional defiance-- kids are turned-off by anything their caregivers deem to be remotely hip, because they're trying to find their unique Self.

It reminds me of this old Sesame Street video where viewers have to pick the one kid who is doing his "own thing".

For Julia, my 14-year-old, I hired a classically trained concert pianist/composer who hailed from Romania to provide lessons.  As a mother, I know what the kid is capable of achieving... greatness, of course! But I failed to understand that Julia has her own style of learning and of creative inspiration that have little to do with strict teachers telling her that her scales are sloppy.  I actually, for a brief moment, thought that hiring this type of person was better than Julia free-wheeling music in her own creative, fun, and interpretive manner that results in a unique sound all her own.  I was mistaken.

According to school testing and learning metrics, my younger daughter, Angelina, prefers to operate using logic, reasoning, and organization.  She categorizes and sequences, attempting to make sense of the world around her.  So naturally, her scores in Maths and Sciences are high.  Even as a talented artist and writer, her pieces have a sense of precision.

Since we are a household of musical geeks who love technology and nature, she wanted to do something that seemed to gel well with the rest of us and declared last year, "I want to be a florist and have a shop in Manhattan.  I will have to study art and botany in college."  Learning from my early mistakes with Julia (sorry Julzie, the first kid is always the guinea pig... but, you're fine! Right? Mommy learned and from this point on, I will not stand in the way of your liberation from expectations!), I backed-off and let her sit with that idea, telling her that being a florist is a fine profession.

Secretly, I wished she would pursue a career in science.

Ang also watches a lot of YouTube- mostly popular and goofy bits.  Recently, on several occasions, I have noticed she is immersed in watching neuroscience videos that are about ten minutes in length.  She literally sits glued to the computer, watching video after video about how the brain works, for hours.  I am careful not to comment and say something like, "You're a GENIUS! I mean, what 10-year-old wants to watch these videos?  Furthermore, what 10-year-old understands these videos? Do you want to go to science camp? I will totally send you to science camp!"

It is with all my might that I restrain myself.

Last night, Angelina said, "I don't know what I want to do when I grow-up." I told her that she had a while to figure that out and shouldn't worry, and that she should do whatever it is she enjoys.  She said, "Well, I don't think I want to be a florist anymore."  So, I said that was fine and she continued, "I would like to study science, I think.  I'm really interested in the brain and how the brain works.  Like when why we see optical illusions and stuff like that."

I told her neuroscience is a fine profession.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Google Maps on Nintendo's WiiU- A Refreshing View

As early adopters of most things technological, we love being on the edge of the latest consumer trends.  When Nintendo's WiiU arrived on the market last year, we bought one knowing that the supporting software was not quite up to the consumer's or to Nintendo's expectations.

Nintendo, at least in our experience, has always delivered products and innovations far ahead of its counterparts.  Not only does it deliver, it does so with impeccable class and style from design to the finished product.  Nintendo has always seemed to care more about maintaining a strong reputation for excellence than it has in producing quantity.  So, as a consumer, I know that if I buy Nintendo anything, I can't go wrong- because the stuff is also easy and FUN to use!

Knowing that updates would take place in the future, the future is now and Nintendo sent its latest update in the form of Google Maps.  Licensed by Google to Nintendo, Google Maps can now be fully interactive using Nintendo's state-of-the-art controller which incorporates the same gyroscopic technology seen in smartphones.  Here are some videos we shot using Google Maps on WiiU- you can see how much fun it is to just explore our worlds in the comfort of our living rooms, seeing places that maybe we would never have the chance to see.  Check it out for yourself!


Video #1 was shot with an iPhone 4.
Video #2 was shot with a Google Nexus 4.

Monday, November 26, 2012

On the Importance of Maintaining Religious Freedom

     Religious freedom should always be protected. I think protecting religion is so important so that we, as a whole people, can naturally come to realize organized religion and its dogmas are a hindrance to social progress.  It's like the difference between kids whose parents made no attempt to hide aspects of life versus kids who kept from everything deemed "bad" or "adult".
     The Puritan families wind up with the most fucked up kids.  If you happen to be ultra conservative with your children's upbringing in terms of not allowing your kids to explore their world without fear and secrecy, then your kids are going to be a mess.  While deviating slightly from a permissive parenting style in the sense of passing on to progeny some sort of ethical fortitude, it is important for healthy people to be able to explore and sample different aspects of life.  If life remains in such darkness, the seeker will always look for light.
     When tolerance and freedom to explore are the central factors in one's upbringing, suddenly, the taboos of life are diminished.  All the "sins" suddenly become less sinful.  Now, I'm not talking about breaking universal taboos like incest, child abuse, and murder if we all get out there and give it the college try, attempting to desensitize society.  What I am saying is that when we make nothing in life more special than something else, we see that nothing is shocking.  Life becomes less enigmatic and more pragmatic.
     Here's where religious freedom comes into play.  If there is no freedom, there are two possibilities that remain which are similar to Cannon's "fight or flight" response: 1) Freedom is sought and/or 2) Freedom is not sought.
     In the first instance, since its inception, the battle to pursue organized religion has only lead to war and death. From the Crusades to the American Revolution, the cause is the same.  Prohibit or attempt to suppress any behavior, and the one exhibiting the "negative" behavior will continue to rebel either in secrecy or in overt, physical manners.
     In the second instance, one might note a person forced into religion by birth, marriage, etc.  In modern times, this seems to be a more accurate portrayal of most people born into democratic cultures.  You are what your parents are- in the case of most, what your father is or was, unless one is Jewish, in which case, it follows the mother's lineage.  One time, when I was about 10, I asked an orthodox rabbi, "Rabbi, Jews say that if my mother is Jewish, then I am Jewish; yet, Catholics say that I am what my father is. So what am I?"
     "Is your mother Jewish?" he looked at me, bending down to my level.
     "Yes."
     "Then you're Jewish," he said, shaking his head in the affirmative.
     "But, Rabbi, my parents baptized me Catholic."
     "It doesn't matter, we don't recognize that.  You're Jewish."
So, basically, even if I choose, am indoctrinated, swear allegiance to any number of gods or goddesses, or choose no religion at all, I am Jewish, at least according to some people.  If I lacked the kind of freedom that was really given to me by my parents, I might actually think I must be Jewish.  Every other religion is the same- you are what your parents say you are, because their parents told them what they are and so on.  This is a classic case of blind leading the blind.  Why are we waiting in this line? Oh, just because there is a line! I see... you mean some guy is just tying his shoes?  This alternative reality to religious intolerance is far worse than the former, as people become sheep, "Sheeple".  Unfortunately, sheeple follow the pack.  They raise their hands, speak when spoken to, believe in a Golden Rule, not because it comes from a deeper understanding of human suffering and the need for compassion, but because they were told of it, over and over again.  It was drilled into their heads as basically as the ABCs or simple arithmetic.  These are people who completely lack all advanced moral development.  Kohlberg believed most people fell into the category of defining morality according to rules and the law--maintaing order above all else.  This is why people can accept "safety and security" above their own liberty.  I'd rather fight.  There is more honor, though life might not be as long lived, like Bertolt Brecht's character, Mother Courage, an ironic name given to a woman who profits from war by claiming allegiance to whomever the ruling occupiers were during the Thirty Years' War.  That's how she stayed alive, and is the ironic facet to her name, she simply flew the flags of those occupying and never really showed any courage- but she stayed alive.
     When religious freedom is protected in society and especially in the home, or when a kid is allowed to sip wine at dinner with her parents, there is no mystery, no need to seek.  There is no need to binge drink with one's buddies, learning the hard way that lying face down in one's vomit is no pleasure cruise, and there is no need to die, kill others, or walk blindly like sheep and turkeys.
     As a Jewish Catholic, I've participated in Southern Baptist bible school, Catholic school, synagogues (from orthodox to reform), Jewish overnight camp, twirled with Dervishes, attended Buddhist temples and sangas, Hindu temples, Wiccan ceremonies, and sat in on Satanic rituals.  I've danced naked to the moon and sung songs praising Jesus.  I've read bibles, ancient religious texts, spoken philosophically with religious leaders, honored Mother Earth, drank from the plants of the gods, and sat in quiet meditation praying for inner and outer peace.
     Through all of this some have called me "lost".  Contrarily, I believe I'm found.  Through my ability to freely seek, tasting delicious, savory, full-bodied life without fear, I have found that one truth remains: Organized religion is nothing more than a tool for controlling the masses and the self in a world of competing gods who threaten an eternity of suffering or elation, depending upon whether or not one accepts that god or set of beliefs.  True morality comes from within one's self, through seeing the suffering that exists in the world and through seeing that laws change according to the culture of the times.  A moral compass can't be worn around a neck like a crucifix.
     So, Atheists and Agnostics, fear not.  You are what you are because you had the freedom to see, first hand, the antiquated tyranny of religion.  Long live religious freedom!
   




   


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Purpose?


     While preparing dinner the other night, my ten year old daughter asked what the purpose of ants is, so I explained they help fertilize plants, help with decomposition, they work the soil and are like nature's housekeepers, keeping the earth tidy. Then, she paused and asked about spiders, so I said they eat insects we don't like, like ants.  I added, "Now, mosquitos, fleas, ticks, lice and other parasites serve no purpose. They can die." 

     "Mom, what about humans? What purpose do humans serve? They pollute and kill, so what is the point of a human?" she pondered.

     "Well, the great thing about humans is that we make choices to pollute and kill." She wasn't following me.  "You see, humans have free will and consciousness.  They can choose to do wonderful, beautiful things, or they can be destructive and do awful things." I realized that my words did not answer her question, I merely described potential, not purpose. "Microbes. Bacteria."

     "What are you talking about, Mom?" Angelina leaned her head to the side and stuck her chin out, while furrows appeared in her little nose and brow.

     "Remember I told you that humans are really ninety percent microbial, that only ten percent of our cells are human?"

     "Yes, Mom, you told me this a millon times," she said, shaking her head in the affirmative.

     "Well, you know, the entire planet is microbial too.  So, what if it's all about the microbes? What if humans exist in order to serve the purpose of the microbes? Like, each of us is just a planet for the microbes that exist on us and in us."

     "Mom," she said, as her voice became slightly more bass, "that idea freaks me out. You are freakin' me out, woman!"

     I shrugged my shoulders and raised my left hand into the air as if to suggest that it's just another idea, "Hey, it's the only purpose I can think of!"

     Philosophers have, for millennia, attempted to answer the seemingly simple, yet most puzzling question life can offer-  a child can ask it, but a quadrillion minds who worked tirelessly until the end of time (if that exists) would not be able to think of one, true reason that all would accept.  There are ideas about utility and greater good, existential happiness, pleasure, responsibility and absolutes, whether free will really exists, whether free will is meant to serve in duty, that life has no meaning or purpose at all... on and on, around and around people go, trying to make sense of life.

     Last year, I wrote an article called "Space Invaders" that discussed the eerie antithesis of human existence- that we're not really human at all.  In a US News article from 2008, Matt Kane, from the National Science Foundation, said, "If all of Earth's microbes died, so would everything else, including us, but if everything else died, microbes would do just fine."


     Microbiologists have been attempting to globally map microbial genomes (this links to an interactive map, showing the current genome mapping at the Microbial Genomics Program) which seems like a daunting and impossible task since there are more microbes that exist in a spoonful of dirt than stars that exist in our galaxy... about 100 billion.  According to the article linked above, humans, depending upon where they live and how they are born (vaginally or Caesarian section), can be host to many different bacteria- so not all humans are created equal. Our biology is different and our response to internal and external environment depends wholly upon the microbial colonies that exist on us and in us.  

     In the future, perhaps science will have the perfect formula for colonizing bacteria in and on humans to allow us to reach our biological peak of perfection- nonetheless, benefit or not, the microbes reign.  

     What if our brains and all of our directed consciousness are the evolutionary response to bacteria's need for optimal survival?  If only our egos would let us believe this is true, we might be a lot happier with the result being more compassion and less suffering. After all, life is so very small and so very large- it seems like a lie when we promote the idea of the "individual".


         Now, humans, you billions of inner-planetary planets, you will learn to bow to your microbial overlords! And for the sake of all us, throw away that anti-bacterial soap.




(Image Source- http://theboldcorsicanflame.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/bold-bacterial.jpg)