Food

Apple Cider Shandy

14

Posted on Oct 6, 2014 in Food

Apple Cider Shandy

Apple Cider Shandy

I don’t believe people when they say, “I don’t like beer”. I 100% believe that if someone says that, they just haven’t tried enough different kinds of beer to find one they like. Laying down a blanket statement like that is like saying, “I don’t like music”. You may not have heard any music you like, but I promise you, there is music out there for you. There are so many different kinds of beer, and they all have so many different flavor profiles, that it’s so hard for me to believe there isn’t at least one single beer out there for everyone.

And even if maybe drinking a beer straight up isn’t your thing, I promise you, there is a beer cocktail out there that you’ll love.

Apple Cider Shandy

Putting beer in a cocktail may sound strange, but there are a ton of great recipes for beer-based mixed drinks. Two of my favorites are beergaritas and shandys. Beergaritas are exactly what they sound like—the labradoodle of booze—mix half a margarita with half a light-flavored beer. It sounds strange, but it’s a really refreshing drink! And my personal favorite, a shandy, is half lemonade and half beer. You can buy shandys in the can at most grocery stores, but they’re really wonderful when made with homemade lemonade and your own personal favorite brew. And the great thing about shandys is that their premise works with so many flavors beyond just lemonade.

Apple Cider Shandy

While a classic shandy is the absolute perfect drink for when it’s 95° outside in July, the flavors don’t really fit very well here in October. But what does fit? Apple cider, pumpkin beer, and cinnamon! It’s the perfect slightly-sweet cocktail for fall.

Apple Cider Shandy

As far as the beer part of this shandy goes, you can really go any direction you like (although, I’d probably steer clear of darker beers—no stouts or porters—save those for a really good float). Personally, I like the addition of a really good pumpkin beer. There are no less than a billion pumpkin beers out there, so it might take some trial and error to find the one that works well for you. My favorite pumpkin beer is a local beer here in Indiana, and it tastes straight up like a carbonated pumpkin pie. It’s crazy good! But unfortunately, they don’t bottle or sell it in growlers, so I have go with my second favorite pumpkin beer for at-home drinking. We love this New Belgium Pumpkick. It is brewed with cranberries and has a really nice fruity tartness to it that somewhat mimics the tartness of lemonade—perfect for a shandy!

Apple Cider Shandy

I plopped a whole cinnamon stick in each serving glass, not only because it’s absolutely adorable, but also because the cinnamon flavor really starts to develop in the drink after just a few minutes. I’m assuming there is something about the carbonation of the beer and the acidity of the apple cider that helps break down the cinnamon faster—it’s super tasty. And, it’s cute. Everyone likes cute things.

Enjoy!

Apple Cider Shandy

Total Time: 2 minutes

Yield: 1 drink

Apple Cider Shandy

This super simple fall cocktail is perfect for those October gatherings!

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces (3/4 cup) apple cider
  • 6 ounces (3/4 cup) pumpkin beer
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Instructions

  1. Fill a glass with the apple cider, followed by the beer. Pop in a cinnamon stick. Enjoy!
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Pasta e Fagioli

11

Posted on Oct 2, 2014 in Food

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Faglioli

Where I went to college, only Freshman had classes on Fridays. It wasn’t some mean rule to punish the 18-year-olds, it was just that the incoming Freshman didn’t know any better. It took a semester or two to realize that, hey, most people don’t have classes on Friday, and plan your schedule accordingly. So once I figure it out, I managed to avoid Friday classes for the remaining three (and a half, ahem) years of college.

In our circle of friends, Friday became a nice and calm day to relax and have fun before the activities of the weekend began. I usually worked Friday mornings (I’ve always been a morning person), and then I’d get off around noon, and my friends and I would head out somewhere and grab lunch. Being poor college students, we were all about lunch specials, and Olive Garden’s $5.95 unlimited soup, salad and breadstick lunch became one of our absolute favorites. As a decently well-cultured lover of food, I should be sad thinking about all the meals I could have eaten at some awesome farm-to-table restaurant, and instead wasted at a mediocre chain restaurant, but the truth is, I still love soup, salad and breadsticks from Olive Garden. Send someone over to collect my foodie card.

Pasta e Faglioli

It was usually just us girls who headed over to the other side of town and camped out at an Olive Garden table chatting about what we were going to wear to the party that night. I have so many fond memories of giggling with my girlfriends over a glass of peach iced tea and a hot bowl of soup. I really like all the soups Olive Garden serves, but I’d have to say the Pasta e Fagioli is my favorite. Pasta e Fagioli literally translates to pasta and beans. The soup originates from an Italian peasant dish that mixed together two of the cheapest ingredients available—pasta and beans—in either a broth or tomato-based sauce.

Unlike most foods at Olive Garden, the Pasta e Fagioli is actually somewhat authentic. It’s definitely a more modern take on the classic recipe (it includes meat, something that wouldn’t exist in many peasant recipes), but compared to many of their other dishes on the menu, it’s a pretty close replica to what you’d find at an authentic Italian restaurant.

Pasta e Faglioli

When I make Pasta e Fagioli at home, I make it into more of a pasta dish than a soup. I really like it to be thick and very stick-to-your-ribs. You can easily adjust the thickness by reducing or increasing the amount of pasta. Typically, you’ll find Pasta e Fagioli made with small pasta like ditalini or mini elbow macaroni, but I don’t tend to keep those on hand. I do keep orzo on hand (I love me some orzo), so that’s what I like to use. If you want to be authentic, go ahead, but I promise you aren’t going to ruin anything if you use whatever small pasta you have kicking around.

Pasta e Faglioli

This recipe is one of those dishes that is really good straight off the stove, but becomes life-changingly delicious once it has melded in the fridge overnight. You could whip up a batch of this on the weekend, and then eat on the leftovers for lunch for the week. Yum!

Enjoy!

Pasta e Fagioli

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Pasta e Fagioli

This hearty, stick-to-your-ribs soup is a healthy copycat recipe for Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage
  • 1–16 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1–15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2–15 ounce cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 cups orzo (depending on how thick you'd like you soup)

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add in the red pepper flakes and garlic, and saute until garlic is fragrant and slightly tender—about two minutes. Add in the onion, and cook until translucent—about three minutes. Add in the Italian sausage and cook until browned.
  2. Add in all the remaining ingredients, except the orzo, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then add in the orzo. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the soup is thick and bubbly and the orzo is cooked.
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Bourbon Persimmon Bread

2

Posted on Sep 30, 2014 in Food

Bourbon Persimmon Bread

Bourbon Persimmon Bread

I love free food.

I don’t mean the kind like the free hot dogs they were serving at a festival we went to this past weekend (the line went around the block). No, I’m talking about foraged food. There is something really awesome about being able to gather up food that is growing natively around where you live. It feels “right”. Like that’s the food I’m supposed to be eating. I love growing my own food, but the fact that there are plants that grow on-their-own, with no intervention from us, and produce food makes me so incredibly happy. There isn’t much better than a maintenance-free food source—it’s easier than going to the grocery store.

We’re very lucky to live where we live and have quite a few native foods that grow not only in our area, but on our property. We have a massive thicket of wild black raspberries and wild blackberries. Chanterelle and morel mushrooms grow wild in the woods on our land. We have tons of black walnuts and hickory trees. And my favorite of all, we have a nice collection of wild persimmon trees.

Persimmons

If you’ve never had a persimmon before, they have the most unique flavor that is like the sweetest clementine you’ve ever had mixed with a perfectly ripe and juicy peach. It’s absolute heaven. I’m always amazed that persimmons are so often on the back burner. I’m sure there are many of you that have never seen a persimmon, let alone eaten one. That’s such a shame!

If your persimmon experience is limited, let me give you a quick persimmon primer. There are generally two types of persimmons—one is very soft and mushy and the other is more hard like an apple (and used like one)—this recipe uses the pulp from the soft ones. Be warned, soft persimmons are astringent, meaning if they are even the slightest bit unripe, you’ll end up with your face contorted into one heck of a pucker when you bite into it. We have American Persimmons (also called an Eastern Persimmon) growing on our property, and they are the astringent variety. In fact, growing up around here, it’s a pretty common prank to try and get a kid to bite into an unripe persimmon. My older brother got me to do it once, right after he got me to smell his shoes because he told me they smelled like strawberries. I was a naive kid.

Persimmons

If you’re picking up persimmons in the store for this recipe, more than likely, you’ll be looking for Hachiya Persimmons. They are heart-shaped, and a bit bigger than the fruit from the American Persimmon tree, but they’re widely available around the world. But just like the ones that grow around here, don’t you dare use it until it’s ripe. As in, it should be so soft and mushy that it feels like it’s rotting. We actually don’t even pick persimmons from the tree, because that would mean they aren’t completely ripe. We wait until the persimmons fall to the ground and collect them before the turtles and birds get to them. The best way I can explain how to know when an astringent persimmon is ready to eat is to think of a zip-top bag full of pudding. Does the persimmon feel like that? Then it’s ready! If it’s so soft and gooey that it feels like you have to handle it gently to avoid it exploding, it’s time to process.

The best way to use soft persimmons is to extract the pulp. Persimmon pulp is a very similar texture to jam. In fact, I always see people talking about making persimmon jam, and it makes me laugh, because that sounds like a lot of work considering I happily spread raw persimmon pulp on my biscuits all the time. No sugar needed!

Persimmon Pulp

Around this time of year in our area, you’ll see signs pop up in front of many farm houses advertising persimmon pulp for sale, so if you’re lucky enough to find someone to process your pulp for you, that’ll save you some time. If you aren’t that lucky, to make persimmon pulp with a Hachiya persimmon, just wait until it’s ripe, then slice in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon. You can run it through a sieve if you want it to be super smooth, but usually you don’t have to worry about that. American persimmons are a bit different because they are much smaller and have much larger seeds, meaning the best way to process them (at least on a small scale) is to mash them—peels, seeds, pulp, all of it—through a sieve until you have the most dreamy, smooth, bright orange persimmon pulp. I then freeze it flat in two cup increments in a freezer bag.

Oh, and then I fish out some of the seeds, clean them off, and slice them in half to see what kind of winter we’re going to have (we saw knives, by the way).

Bourbon Persimmon Bread

Persimmon pulp is most frequently used in baking. You’ll see a lot of persimmon bread, pudding, and cookie recipes out there. If you’ve ever baked with pumpkin pulp or applesauce, it’s the same idea with persimmon. It adds sweetness and moisture to baked goods, plus a light, fruity taste that is really remarkable. I also love use persimmon pulp as a mix in for oatmeal or yogurt. Yum!

This persimmon bread recipe is one of my favorite things I’ve made this year. I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, but man, I do love me some bourbon as an ingredient in a dessert. I know pumpkin is the “official” flavor of fall, but I think the combination of bourbon and persimmon tastes exactly like what fall should taste like. This bread is flavorful, moist, and dense—it’s heavy in the best way possible. It’s pretty much perfect to nibbling on while you sip a toasty mug of coffee in the morning.

Bourbon Persimmon Bread

As far as mix-ins go, I like to keep it simple and just toss in a few handfuls of chopped walnuts—even better if they’re black walnuts that we gathered from the front of our property. You can go as wild as you’d like with other goodies. Raisins, cranberries, pecans, and even chocolate chips would all be good to toss in. You can also leave the bread naked and just let the bourbon and persimmon stand on their own.

Enjoy!

Bourbon Persimmon Bread

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 2 loaves

Bourbon Persimmon Bread

Never worked with persimmons before? Try out this dense and delicious persimmon bread that is a perfect fall treat.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups persimmon pulp
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two 8" x 4" loaf pans with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the persimmon pulp, eggs, bourbon, butter, vanilla, and sugar. Mix on low until well-combined.
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and flours. Add in the flour mixture to the persimmon mixture in three additions—letting mix completely before moving onto the next addition.
  4. Fold in the walnuts into the batter. Pour the batter evenly between the two loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the bread is dark brown, and the top feels solid (not jiggly) when pressed on. Let cool completely before slicing.
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Blue Cornbread

2

Posted on Sep 26, 2014 in Food

Blue Cornbread

Blue Cornbread

Okay, I know. This bread looks crazy. But please, pretty please, don’t let the weird blue color turn you off. Blue cornbread is something you absolutely need to make. And yes, it is totally different from regular yellow cornbread. And honestly, I think it’s pale blue color is actually kinda fun! It certainly is different from the run-of-the-mill yellow breads you find on the dinner table.

Blue Cornbread

If you’ve never worked with blue cornmeal before, I highly recommend seeking some out. Blue cornmeal is much sweeter than regular cornmeal, and it has an intense corn flavor. It actually tastes like fresh sweet corn, which I find absolutely amazing. Blue cornmeal is also nutritionally superior to white or yellow cornmeal. It has 20% more protein than yellow cornmeal and a much lower glycemic index, making it an even healthier option. Blue cornmeal rocks!

Blue Cornbread

This recipe results in a crumbly, but moist cornbread with just a touch of sweetness. I know in some circles it’s blasphemy to put sugar in cornbread, but I think just a touch goes a long to way to bringing out the natural sweetness of the corn. And then, of course, I go all crazy and drizzle the top with honey. Because cornbread without honey on top is just sad.

Blue Cornbread

This is my go-to cornbread recipe—with blue, white or yellow cornmeal. It turns out perfectly every time, and is highly adaptable. Add in some shredded cheddar cheese, minced jalapeño, or some crumbled bacon. Switch out the dairy ingredients for vegan options (I recently made this with soy-free Earth Balance, unsweetened coconut milk, and plain coconut milk yogurt, and it turned out perfectly). Bake it in a cast iron skillet or pour it into a muffin tin for the most tender and delicious cornmeal muffins you’ve ever had.

Enjoy!

Blue Cornbread

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Blue Cornbread

Blue cornmeal is sweeter and has a better nutritional profile than its yellow and white cousins. Try out blue cornmeal in this moist and tender blue cornbread! Adapted from Daily Garnish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely ground blue cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, and milk. Pour into the cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined—do not overmix. Fold in the corn kernels.
  3. Pour the batter into a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or a square baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
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Oatmeal Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

35

Posted on Sep 24, 2014 in Food

Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Oatmeal Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

We just hit fall, and it feels like we’re already in pumpkin-overload, doesn’t it? I tend not to do trendy things, and instead focus on just cooking the things I feel like cooking for funsies, but pumpkin-flavored food is one place where the masses of Pinterest and my kitchen desires align perfectly. I love, love, love pumpkin season! So please forgive me if I join in the pumpkin fun. I promise my obsession won’t last too much longer.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

I love pumpkin because not only is it delicious and healthy, but also because pie pumpkins are incredibly easy to grow and store. We grow our own pie pumpkins every year and store the ones that are in good shape in our basement for use all fall and winter long. The ones that aren’t quite storable get roasted, turned into puree and frozen.

Even if you don’t grow your own, I highly recommend picking up a few pie pumpkins at your farmer’s market and making your own puree. It is so easy, and about a thousand times more flavorful than the stuff you get in the can. It also is so much cheaper to roast your own! Bonus: the pumpkins are so pretty you can use them as decor in your house until it’s time for their trip in the oven.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

I’ve been really into breakfast cookies lately. They are the perfect snack for when I’m up during the middle-of-the-night with the little one. I like them so much because they’re just a little sweet—unlike a dessert cookie. Plus, you can pack them full of all kinds of healthy and nutritious foods. This version, I packed with healthy whole grains (in the form of whole wheat flour and rolled oats) and healthy fats (in the form of eggs, flaxmeal, and coconut oil). You could throw in protein powder, chia seeds, nuts, other dried fruit—whatever tickles your fancy!

Oatmeal Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

I highly recommend making up a batch of these on the weekend and stashing them in the fridge to make weekday breakfasts run smoothly. A couple of these cookies plus a green smoothie is one heck of a healthy breakfast. And if you have family members that turn up their noses at eating healthy, you might just be able to trick them into eating something mega-nourishing by telling them you’re having cookies for breakfast!

These are also perfect for afternoon pick-me-up snacks when you’re craving something sweet, but not looking forward to the sugar crash that happens if you indulge. You get a little bit of sweetness and a ton of energy.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

If you’re interested in making these cookies a touch more decadent, I’d sub in semi-sweet chocolate chips for the raisins, add in a couple of handfuls of chopped walnuts, and up the maple syrup to 1/2 cup. It’ll still be a healthy cookie, but more of a healthy dessert cookie instead of a breakfast or snack. Still delicious!

Enjoy!

Oatmeal Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Oatmeal Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

These lightly-sweet breakfast cookies are a great grab-and-go healthy breakfast for those busy fall weekday mornings. Packed with pumpkin spice flavor, healthy whole grains, and healthy fats!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup flaxmeal (ground flaxseeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup raisins

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add in the coconut oil, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, and maple syrup. Mix on medium until well-blended.
  3. Add in the flour, oats, flaxmeal, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Mix on medium until well-blended.
  4. Fold in the raisins using a wooden spoon.
  5. Drop rounded tablespoonfulls onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch between cookies. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and solid. Let cool for five minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire baking rack to cool completely.
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Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

6

Posted on Sep 22, 2014 in Food

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

My wedding day was really low-pressure. Part of it was because of the location—we held our wedding between two trees in my parents’ backyard (which is now my backyard). Part of it was because we only invited our closest friends and family—we had about 40 people there total. But probably the biggest reason why it was so stress-free was because we were already married when we stood up in front of our loved ones and said our vows. Because of a tight immigration deadline, six months before, on a super chilly St. Patrick’s Day, Craig and I went to City Hall and were married by the Assistant City Clerk (who was wearing jeans and an orange hoodie). It was intimate, sweet, and incredibly romantic if you can ignore the fact that we got hitched in a hallway outside of the parks and recreation department (how very Leslie Knope of me).

And even though March 17th is the day that we officially celebrate as our anniversary each year, we also look back fondly to September 22nd—the day of our second wedding. It was the day that all of our friends and family got together and drank good beer, ate good food, and danced until the wee hours of the morning. It was one heck of a party.

wedding

To this day, people still talk about the food we served at our wedding (well, that, and the fact that it was a 94° that day—the Canadians were melting). Since we were having a backyard wedding, we knew we wanted to keep the food casual and comfortable. We tossed around a lot of ideas, but eventually landed on serving barbecue for our guests.

It was a ton of fun visiting all the different barbecue joints in our area and figuring out who we wanted to cater our wedding. We went with on one local place because no only was their food delicious, but we also loved their presentation. They served their “platters” of barbecue on metal trash can lids right at the table—we thought it was just quirky and weird enough to be perfect for our wedding! Everyone got a huge kick when these giant trash can lids to came to each table and everyone was encouraged to dig into the heaping piles of pulled pork, brisket, barbecue ribs, roasted chicken, baked beans, and corn on the cob. Now, every time I have barbecue, I get all kinds of warm and fuzzies thinking about our wedding day.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

The slow cooker is absolutely made for doing barbecue. It’s the perfect way to get slow-cooked flavor without babysitting the meat. If you’ve never slow-cooked ribs, I highly recommend trying it. They’re fall-of-the-bone perfect (especially after a quick trip under the broiler to get the sauce all caramelized and delicious). I also use the slow cooker all the time to make pulled beef, chicken and pork barbecue. The slow cooking adds so much rich flavor. It does require a bit of pre-planning—the dry rub on the pork the night before is the key to a super delicious sandwich.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I served up these pulled pork sandwiches topped with Cuban Slaw. And I also serve it with extra barbecue sauce to make the sandwiches extra sloppy and delicious. Some folks prefer their pulled pork sandwiches more dry, so my recommendation is to put the barbecue sauce out and everyone can customize their own sandwich. I tend to make my own barbecue sauce, but whatever bottle is your favorite would work well, too.

Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Total Time: 16 hours

Yield: 10 servings

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

It's easy to get slow roasted flavor by using the slow cooker to make this pulled pork recipe. An overnight dry rub adds tons of flavor without a lot of work.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 2-3 pound pork shoulder roast, extra fat trimmed off
  • Potato buns, coleslaw and barbecue sauce for serving

Instructions

  1. Combine the brown sugar, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the mixture liberally over the pork shoulder. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
  2. Cook pork shoulder in slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours. At the end of cooking time, take two forks and shred the pork. Serve on potato buns topped with barbecue sauce and coleslaw, if desired.
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