Hard Cider Braised Pork Roast

Tonight was the second time I’ve made a pork roast using this recipe. And while the recipe was quite good as written, this time we made a substitution that changed it enough (in a good way) that I think it deserves its own post. Since Jason doesn’t love beer, I swapped out the beer for hard cider (I used Woodchuck), and the result was, in my opinion, markedly more delicious, even though I really like the beer version too. (I also used regular paprika, since smoked paprika isn’t my favorite. I really don’t know if it makes a difference or not.)


  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
  • 3 pounds pork butt roast, cut into 3– to 4–inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into big chunks
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 2 12-ounce bottles Woodchuck or other hard cider
  • 1 can (10.5 ounces) beef broth


  1. Combine the brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, oregano, and seasoned salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Rub the dry spice mixture over the pork pieces until well coated and refrigerate 4–24 hours.
  3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sear the meat on each side and add to a large slow cooker.
  4. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, mushrooms, hard cider, and beef broth to the slow cooker.
  5. Stir all of the ingredients and cook 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

Beef Lo Mein

In the grocery store recently, Ian spotted chow mein noodles and asked if we could try the “dried worms . . . someday.” I am nothing if not susceptible to suggestions, and I have been craving Chinese food ever since. This simple recipe from an old Weight Watchers cookbook hit the spot.


  • 1/2 pound fresh lo mein noodles or spaghetti
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 1/4 cup sake or rice wine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian (dark) sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound beef top round, cut into thin strips (I actually used bottom round, which the butcher told me was essentially the same and cost 70 cents less per pound)
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • chow mein noodles for garnish (to please the 5 and under set, mainly)


  1. Cook the noodles or spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Combine the broth, sake or rice wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and sesame oil in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Heat a nonstick wok or a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles. Swirl in 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, then add the beef. Stir-fry until just cooked through, 3–4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Swirl in the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil, then add the mushrooms, green onions, and garlic. Stir-fry until softened, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the broth mixture to the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens, about 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in the beef and noodles. Cook, tossing frequently until heated through, about 1 minute.
  7. Garnish with chow mein noodles (optional).


Meal Planning

So this seemed to be helpful to at least a couple of people last week ideas-wise, and I know it was helpful to me to have all the recipes that I was using in one place. For what it’s worth, here is another week of what’s on the menu at my house:

Sunday: Spaghetti

Monday: Pretzel bites

Tuesday: Pasta bake (a holdover from last week; it was on the menu but didn’t happen)

Wednesday: Ham and cheese sliders

Thursday: Spaghetti and Greek Meatballs (yep, spaghetti twice in one week; that’s how we roll)

Friday: Breakfast for dinner (this was also on the menu for last week and didn’t happen)

Saturday: Italian Runzas — I am still looking for a good recipe for the filling; I will use a Trader Joe’s pizza crust for the dough

Pretzel Bites

For some reason, I keep making these on evenings when I have a babysitter coming. This is not particularly smart of me because they are fairly time- and labor-intensive, and getting them done has stressed me out. On the other hand, they are really kid-friendly and tasty. And I actually do like making these; I just need to pick a different kind of night to do it. Also, the leftovers make for a great cold lunch.

I know that sounds like a mixed review, and, yes, 13 steps is kind of ridiculous. But they really are good, so good in fact that I am adding the recipe to Needs More Butter to keep it handy. :)


  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup warm milk (110–115 degrees F)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (plus extra to make dough the right consistency)
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) instant dry yeast
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped ham or pepperoni slices
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • melted butter
  • coarse kosher salt



  1. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and milk. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and warm milk mixture.
  3. Stir until a soft dough forms. Add more flour as needed (up to 1/2 cup). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times, forming a smooth ball.
  4. Brush the inside of a large clean bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Alow it to rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust a rolling pin with flour and roll each piece of dough into roughly a 12×4-inch rectangle.
  6. With the long sides facing you, place the ham or pepperoni and mozzarella cheese onto the bottom third of each piece of dough.
  7. Roll the dough as tightly as you can, starting with the long edge holding the fillings.
  8. Cut each roll into 4 equal pieces.
  9. Transfer the pieces to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let them rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

    Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

  10. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add 4 teaspoons of baking soda to the boiling water and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.

    Boil the pretzels in batches, cooking for about 20 seconds each and turning once.

    They should look slightly puffed when they are done. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them back to the baking sheet.

  11. Cut the pretzels into 3 equal pieces — or thereabouts — going for bite-sized here
  12. Bake in the preheated oven until they are puffed and golden, about 15 minutes.
  13. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with kosher salt

Pumpkin Spice Latte

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time for everything to be coming up pumpkin. I saw this recipe on a friend’s Facebook thread about pumpkin spice lattes and decided to try it today, with a few alterations. I am so glad I did. Honestly, my first thought was that it might be a little bland, but it grew and grew and grew on me to the point that I can’t wait for it to be tomorrow so I can justify having another one.

Serves 2 (and I think it’s probably best fresh rather than warmed up, so either be prepared to drink a lot (eh) or make half)


  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I use whole ’cause that’s what we have around here)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (more wouldn’t hurt)
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • dash garam masala (you could skip this, but, really, I wouldn’t)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or to taste)
  • 2 cups strong coffee (a scoop or two stronger than you would otherwise drink it), hot


  1. Combine milk, vanilla, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, garam masala, and maple syrup (so, everything but the coffee) in a microwave-safe measuring cup (or bowl) and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes, or until very hot (you could also head the mixture on the stove)
  2. Pour the milk mixture into a blender and blend until it is frothy (about 2 minutes?)
  3. Pour frothy pumpkin milk into a large mug (fill it about halfway), and add hot coffee to fill the mug the rest of the way. You can play with the proportions to suit your taste.

Meal Planning

I think I probably start a new meal planning “system” every 3 months. I am open to whatever tips you have — especially for simplifying meal planning and preparation and for saving money. Lay them on me.

Here’s what’s on the menu for dinners at our house this week:

Sunday: Sloppy Joes (and frozen vegetables)

Monday: Rice bowls (with chicken, beans, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, salsa)

Tuesday: Pork roast (with mashed potatoes and onions and carrots)

Wednesday: Italian sausage

Thursday: Tacos

Friday: Pancakes and eggs

Saturday: Pasta bake

Honey Nutters

I am on the hunt for new ideas for lunchboxes. These are super easy to make (the kids help crunch up the graham crackers), and they come together in under ten minutes total. The only drawback is they might get eaten before they make it to the lunchbox.


  • 1 sleeve graham crackers
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (or any kind of nut butter or seed butter, I would think)
  • 1/2 cup honey or pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk (the original recipe called for organic whole milk powder, but we use the lowfat powdered milk, Best Choice brand, and we haven’t died yet)
  • coconut for rolling them in (if you like that kind of thing)


  1. Roll the graham crackers into crumbs (or use a food processor).
  2. Melt the honey or syrup and peanut butter  in a sauce pan on the stove until warm and runny.
  3. Add graham crackers, peanut butter mixture, and powdered milk to a bowl and stir together. Roll (gently press and squeeze) mixture into balls (smaller than golf balls), then roll in coconut if you’re using it.

I keep ours in the fridge, but they would be ok on the counter, covered, for a few days too, if they last that long.