Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pulled Pork Taco Casserole

I was hoping to bring you a post today with pictures experimenting with my new photography light. However, after the first shoot, I think there's more work to be done. The first pictures taken with the new light actually weren't that bad. The lighting was almost perfect in them. Almost. As I mentioned before, there's more work to be done. We are hosting my mother-in-law for a couple of days while her carpet is redone, so I haven't had a ton of time to mess around. I'll have more time for that tomorrow :)

And to be honest, lighting wasn't the main problem with the pictures I took. 

So in the meantime, I'll reach into the vault and pull out another recipe that's been waiting in the wings. One more great way to use leftover pulled pork in a re-inventive way. The hubby went back for generous seconds on this dish. I'm just saying...

I adapted this from my Turkey Taco Casserole. I thought pulled pork would be a fantastic stand-in, and yep, I was right. In fact, I only have 3 pictures of this casserole, because this is all that was left. True, it was a small casserole, but I mean, sheesh. We did some serious damage. And I can't say I'm sorry about it. Well, kind of sorry, but that's only because I didn't take pictures before I devoured my plate. I'd liken this to a Mexican Lasagna, with layers of pulled pork, refried beans, salsa, cheese, and tortilla strips. It's amazing, you'll just have to try it for yourself. I'll leave it at that.

You all know that I'm a big advocate for roasts. Large, tough, and usually cheap cuts of meat. There are many methods to make the roast tender, and you get lots of meals out of one piece of meat. It's economical to the nth degree. Not to mention, you can usually prepare them in the crock pot aka the lazy cook's best friend. In fact, I made a crockpot meal yesterday and was remarking to the hubby how much I love the crockpot. I love doing all the work in the morning, when I have the most energy anyway. There are many days that by the time evening rolls around, I'm too tired to cook. It's those days I wish I knew ahead of time so I could have planned a crock pot meal that day. Plus, those crockpot days open the door to leftover recipes, like this one. Having prepared meat at your fingertips gives you almost endless dinner options, and quick ones too. Pulled pork taco filling is one of my all-time favorite crockpot recipes.

Have I convinced you to make pulled pork yet? Seriously peeps. The initial meal will be good, but the meal possibilities are endless after that. Casseroles (like this one!), pizza, hash, enchiladas, sandwiches, salads, etc... I could go on for a long time :)

Have a fantastic day friends!

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

2 cups prepared Pulled Pork
1 (16 oz) can refried beans
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch thick strips
1/2 cup salsa, plus more for serving
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
sour cream, lime wedges, and sliced avocado (for serving)


1. Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly coat an 8x8 casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. To assemble the casserole, spread a thin layer of pulled pork into the casserole pan. Spread a layer of refried beans over the pork, followed by a layer of green chiles, and then cheese. Top cheese layer with 4 tortilla strips. Repeat layers. Top 2nd layer of tortilla strips with more cheese, and then more salsa.
3. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cilantro, and allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving. Top with sour cream, lime wedges, sliced avocado, and more salsa.

Recipe adapted from Eat, Live, Run.
Looking for other casserole recipes? Try these!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spiced Blueberry Jam

Something awesome happened yesterday...

My photography light came!

My parents took pity on me, probably after hearing me lament the fact I haven't had much usable photography light the last couple of weeks, and bought me a light! They are so very awesome! The light came in the mail yesterday afternoon, I actually haven't even had time to play with it yet. But today, I will! 

In the meantime, I took these photos on a day where I happened to catch 30 minutes of sunlight :)

So I had a huge tub of blueberries sitting in the fridge that I got on sale a couple of weeks ago. And what's my go-to recipe when I have lots of fruit I need to use ASAP? That's right, jam. While raspberry jam is my ultimate favorite, there's a spot in my life for blueberry as well. This blueberry jam recipe happens to incorporate the slightest hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, and wow! Revelation! I had no idea blueberry and cinnamon went so well together.  

Jam can be one of those convenience items that is so tempting to just buy at the store. However, homemade jam doesn't require much effort. It's mostly made by hands-off simmering time on the stove. And it tastes so much better than commercial. One thing (of many) I hate about commercial jam is you definitely taste the artificial flavor. There's nothing artificial about homemade jam, you're never going to get that fake taste. For me, it's worth the effort of simmering the fruit on the stove. Plus, a jar will stay good in the fridge for up to a month. 

Most of the recipes I found used pectin, as the recipes were mostly for canning. I just had one container of blueberries though, basically enough berries for one jar. There was no way I was going to can one jar of jam, so I omitted the next steps for canning the jam. I simply funneled the jam into a Mason jar and called it a day. Jam is pretty amazing, because when I poured it into the jar it had the consistency of syrup. After setting on the counter for an hour however, I had jam. The texture thickens and sets until you have wonderful, gloopy jam.

Is gloopy a word? It is now :)

Now, I have a big jar of jam in the fridge to play with. Since my brother is going to be here soon for a visit, I'm thinking about making Blueberry Danish's for when he comes. I've got the filling, I've got frozen puff pastry, I'm good to go! Mmmm, I wish I had one now...

All right, off I go. It's another busy day in the life of the Jarrell's. The hubby and I are still training for a 10K, so I've got 4 miles to put in today. Whew. Training is hard! It will all be worth after I cross the finish line, having ran my 1st-ever 10K!

Look out world! Jessica's putting her running shoes on! :)

Happy Tuesday!

Ingredients (makes 1 large Mason Jar):

4 cups blueberries
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg


1. Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir continuously until sugar melts and becomes like a syrup. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer mixture to a Mason jar, and allow to cool to room temperature. Place in fridge when cool. Keeps in fridge up to one month.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Looking for other jam-tastic recipes? Try these!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Home Decor: Coffee Bar

It's finally time to unveil my latest project, the coffee bar!

I have been wanting a coffee bar since before I had a house. Since before I even knew one would work in my house. Since the day I joined Pinterest, basically. An idea for a coffee bar was one of the first pins I ever "pinned". And now I have one!

I'm really happy with how it turned out. The hubby and I have been talking for over a year about doing this, we just kept putting it off. Well, now that my brother is coming to visit (did I mention my brother will be here in about a week and a half???) the hubby really wanted to get this put in. I put up a half-hearted argument, that we didn't need the coffee bar right now. But I just so happened to be at the now-unnamed craft store that I should be boycotting but I can't seem to stay away from, and I saw that shelf. The shelf ruined all my self-control and frugalness. I saw it, and I went nuts. I had to have it, and before we knew it, we had a coffee bar. Thankfully, the shelf was on sale and the buffet table was actually fairly economical. I picked up a few decor items to complete the bar, but we already owned both coffee machines and all the cups. Lets take a closer look, shall we?

One thing I love about the coffee bar is how much extra storage we've obtained. We've obtained counter space, where the machines used to be. I've gained storage space in my cupboards, where all the miscellaneous coffee items were, and where all the coffee cups used to be. I haven't figured out what I'm going to do with the extra space, but something tells I won't have empty space long!

I picked up these cute containers at the previously unmentioned craft store, and found the coffee cutting board on Amazon.

Same with these items. I picked up the tea container at the craft store, and found this cute teapot on Amazon as well.

If you know me, you know I love word art. You can find it all over my house.

I've got an eclectic mix of coffee cups, which I think makes the shelf look more interesting.

I couldn't decide on just one dish towel. I picked up this colorful one, and...

A couple of less colorful, more standard dish towels that still scream, "COFFEE!!!" A towel for every mood, if you will.

As you can see, lots more storage! I haven't even filled the baskets at the bottom yet, which is even more storage. I've got plenty of room to add more coffee cups to my collection.

And there you have it! I'm so thrilled with my latest addition. I've already gotten to the point where I can't remember what that corner of the dining room looked like without it. I also still find myself gravitating that way to stare at it. Pretty, pretty!

Something tells me when my dad comes to visit, the coffee bar is where you'll find him :)

I hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend! 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Greek Salad Sandwiches with Hummus

Happy Friday! 

Looking back at this month's post, I've just realized how light my July offerings have been. Almost every recipe involves minimal cooking and work. That's because it's the middle of freakin' July! Who wants to be sweating over the stove, stuffing their head in an oven when it's 90+ degrees out? Who wants to put heavy, complicated food in their bellies when they are (most likely) already hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable? Not this girl, and certainly not her cantankerous hubby. We live on sandwiches, light pastas, summer soups, and grilled chicken in the summer. And fresh vegetables. LOTS of fresh vegetables.

And speaking of fresh vegetables, these sandwiches take advantage of numerous summer bounties. I used tomato and cucumber from my garden, but if you grow lettuce and onions, you can grab those from your own private stash as well. I was really surprised at how much I liked this vegetarian sandwich. Vegetarian sandwiches are always tricky. To me, sandwiches always seemed to be the perfect vehicle for succulent meat paired with melty cheese. Like a cheesesteak. Mmmmmm. Great. Now I want a cheesesteak, and it's 7:00 in the morning. Sheesh. But, like I was saying, veggie sandwiches are hard to pull off. This sandwich, I'm happy to report, works. Between the marinated onions and olives, paired with hummus, you get plenty of flavor and moistness. Pile it high with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber and you've got plenty of filling. And it all works together. I've actually gone back and made these for lunch at the hubby's request since first serving them.

What I love about this sandwich is the possibility to play with it. Start with the bread and the hummus, and you could fill the sandwich with anything else that goes good with hummus. And what doesn't go good with hummus?

Not a whole lot, friends. Not a whole lot.

One idea that's particularly enticing to me would be to fill the sandwiches with roasted veggies like zucchinis, eggplant, yellow squash, and/or carrots. Yum! Grilled chicken would be fantastic as well. And of course, a sprinkle of feta never hurts.

Straight from my garden. Oh yeah! Aren't they beautiful? Garden-fresh produce tastes so amazing compared to the mealy mush you get from the grocery store. 

When I'm not making hummus to photograph for the blog, I put it straight into tupperware. That's how I roll :)

Now for some exciting news! Shortly after the hubby and I got engaged, he was laid off and we started our marriage in a serious budget crisis. Needless to say, we sacrificed our honeymoon in order to save that money for when we needed it. Well, we've decided to really celebrate our 5-year anniversary, and take our honeymoon to Cancun! I'm so excited! We booked our trip yesterday for the end of October. Now, all we have to do is cross our fingers our passports are ready in time (we mailed them off on Monday to be renewed) and pray there's not a hurricane in October. I have a feeling this trip is really going to motivate my workouts! 7 days in a bikini? Gym time required

It's going to be awesome sauce. Yep, that's right. Awesome sauce.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ingredients (makes 2 sandwiches):

1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
10-11 Kalamata olives, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Ciabatta rolls
1/2 cup Hummus
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small tomato, thinly sliced
1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped
2 tbsp feta, crumbled


1. Combine onion, olives, oil, and vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk to thoroughly mix. Set aside and allow to marinate while preparing the rest of the sandwiches. 
2. Slice Ciabatta rolls in half. Place facing up in oven under broiler. Broil for 1-2 minutes, or until bread is lightly toasted. Remove from heat.
3. Spread about 1/4 cup hummus on each Ciabatta roll. On top half, spread onion and olive mixture. On bottom half, layer with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. Top cucumber with 1 tbsp of feta. Sandwich halves together, and serve immediately. 

Recipe adapted from Skinnytaste.
Looking for other sandwich recipes? Try these!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cherry Pie Bars

Today is a big day.

It's the hubby's and I's 5th anniversary today! 

We cheated last night and went out for a couple of beers, even though we are going out today. We were sitting in our local brewery, talking brewing beer with the guy that makes the beer. The hubby was lively and engaged (he loves talking about brewing beer, and has no one to talk to about it around here), and even got to sample a couple of beers that the brewery hasn't finished yet. He was getting so excited over beer, and he was just so happy. It's moments like these that make my heart overflow, and I realize there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

Yes, I'm 2700 miles from home, my family, my friends, living in the boondocks on the Ohio-Kentucky border. But I love it! I'd follow that man anywhere. He could tell me we were moving to Cameroon and I'd probably say, "Ok!". 

I take that back-I'm not sure about Cameroon :)

But seriously, we did discuss our marriage over craft beers. Not every couple makes it to their 5th anniversary, and for that, we are grateful. I won't sit here and tell you that everyday is easy, because it's not. No matter what, there are 2 separate and distinct people living in my house and sometimes, sometimes they are going to clash. That's life. That's marriage. For better or worse, right? How in the world are you going to know when the better times are when you've never experienced the worse? How are you going to trust that person and know that they are strong enough to help you through if you haven't come through on the other side of a crisis? The hubby and I've had our share of hard times, and you know what? For that, I'm grateful as well. We make a great team, and I feel I could make it through anything with him at my side. 

I'll climb down off my marriage soapbox now. It's jut a topic that makes my blood boil, what with the younger generation treating marriage like Kim Kardashian. Going into a marriage with the thought in their heads, "You know what? If this doesn't work out, I can just get a divorce!". Uh, kids, if that thought is in your head, perhaps you should contemplate the marriage a bit longer before taking the plunge. Girls these days though, all they seem to care about is the white dress, the ring, walking down the aisle, and having their day in the sun. Not one thought about the day after the wedding. Or the next 18,262 days after that.

What do you know? Almost went off on my soapbox again! Let's talk about these bars now, shall we?

You are going to want to make these bars. They are amaze-balls. The hubby doesn't like cherry pie, and even he went gaga over these bars. They are the perfect portable version of cherry pie. Yummy, gooey cherry pie filling baked over chewy, almond sugar cookie with a creamy vanilla drizzle over the top. It doesn't get much better. 

One tip- After I baked these, I knew they were going to be hard to get out of the pan. I meant to put them in the fridge for 20 minutes before cutting them, but accidentally left them overnight. This completely changed the texture of the bars. If you are going to go this route, be sure and take the bars out of the fridge right away. The bars will keep at room temp that way. However, the bars are darn good cold too, so you could store these in the fridge if that's your preference. 

The hubby and I were going to go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant tonight, however we completely scrapped that plan over beers last night. I know, I know, what kind of a foodie am I anyway? I'm turning down the chance for absolutely hands-down amazing food? Call me crazy. We decided to head to Huntington, WV and go for a run, to the mall, and to our favorite bar for margaritas and tacos. This plan fits us much better :)

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Ingredients (makes 16-20 bars):

1 cup butter softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 (21 oz) can cherry pie filling
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp vanilla coffee creamer


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a 9x13 pan. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar for 1-2 minutes with a hand mixer, or until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs. Mix in vanilla and almond extract.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet. Mix until combined.
4. Spread 3/4 of dough into pan. Spread cherry filling on top of dough. Drop spoonfuls of remaining dough on top of cherry filling. Bake in preheated oven 35-40 minutes, or until bars are lightly browned on top. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for 60 minutes in the pan. 
5. In a small bowl, whisk powdered sugar and creamer together until you get a good "drizzling" texture. Drizzle the glaze over the bars. Allow the glaze to set for 30 minutes. Slice into bars, and serve immediately. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from The Recipe Critic
If you liked this recipe, you might enjoy these-

Monday, July 21, 2014

Spinach Artichoke Pizza

Well, guess what my lovely friends? I didn't take a single photo this weekend.





It was a gloomy weekend here in NE Kentucky. There was little to no sun on Saturday, and then yesterday was even worse! The sun began to peek through the clouds a smidge around 6:30 last night, but you can't take pictures at that time of night. So needless to say, I cooked a whole bunch this weekend and yet, I have no photographs. Today is supposed to be sunny, so I'm hoping to spend a couple of hours this afternoon taking pictures. Yep, hours. Here's everything I need to photograph:

Nectarine Yogurt Pops
Blueberry Jam
Thai Pickled Cabbage
Pulled Pork Taco Casserole
Cherry Pie Bars

Wowsers. I have my work cut out for me, so that sun better make an appearance!

In other news, I've demanded the hubby get me a photography light for my birthday so I'm not at the beck and call of the weather. Anyone who would like to contribute to the hubby making it a great birthday for me, contact him :)

So, where did these pictures come from you ask? I've had this recipe tucked in my back pocket for awhile. Saving it for a rainy day (ha!). And that rainy day has arrived. The hubby and I went nuts for this vegetarian pizza. While it's not the most beautiful or colorful, it's the deliciousness that counts. I made this on my homemade pizza crust, which is one of the best recipes I've ever found. There's a creamy béchamel sauce separating the crust from the glorious spinach, artichokes, and cheese. The crust is perfectly crispy. Honestly, this is one of the best homemade pizzas I've made. The hubby and I had no leftovers, we demolished a whole pie by ourselves. What piggies we are!

Did everyone have a great weekend? The hubby and I spent ours around the house. We signed up for a 7-mile run at the end of August, so we've started training for that. I think I mentioned last week that the hubby is very gung-ho on his health kick right now, which is making him very gung-ho on running. He's following a very specific training plan, which I'm going to follow and support him when I can. Meaning -> when he's at work, I'm the type of person that's going to do what she wants. Meaning -> I might do a gym day when I'm supposed to do a light run. Or a long, slow run when I'm supposed to do a short, fast one. 

I'm all for a training program, but I have to keep my personality in mind. If I'm not having fun, and something feels like work or a job, I'm 100% less prone to do it. I've got to keep it fun and light-hearted for me to keep at it. But, like I said, I'm going to support the hubby as much as I can :)

Have a great week everyone!

Ingredients (makes 1 pizza):

1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz spinach, divided
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper
6 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 oz parmesan cheese, grated
6-7 canned artichoke hearts, roughly chopped


1. Prepare the pizza dough according to directions.
2. Preheat oven to 550º. Allow to heat for 1 hour.
3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. When warm, add 3/4 of the spinach. Sauté until just wilted, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and roughly chop. Set aside.
4. While oven is heating, prepare béchamel sauce. Melt butter in a small skillet. When melted, add flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes, to cook out raw flour taste. Begin adding milk in small additions, whisking constantly. Add more milk if sauce is too thick. When milk is incorporated, add onion powder. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in wilted, cooked spinach. Set aside.
5. When the oven has preheated for 1 hour, turn the oven off and turn the broiler on.
6. Roll your pizza dough out into a very thin circle. Spread the béchamel sauce over the crust. Spread the remaining spinach and chopped artichoke hearts over the sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the crust. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the crust. 
7. Broil in preheated oven 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly, and crust is beginning to get toasty brown spots. Remove from oven, slice, and serve immediately!

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy.
Looking for other spinach and/or artichoke recipes? Try these!