Name: Rachel


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Bio: Freelance writer and editor based in Marion, Indiana.

Posts by rachelelwood:

    Perfected Pulled Pork (Instant Pot)

    October 9th, 2018

    It may be October, but in Indiana we are celebrating what will most likely be our last summer-like day of the year! It’s sunny and 80s outside – so gorgous. However, fall will be arriving in force tomorrow to bring us back down to earth and the reminders that winter is ever marching closer. Closer. Closer.

    So what better way to kiss summer farewell, than with a summery recipe? Today’s jaunt into my cookbook stash is from Great Food Fast: Bob Warden’s Ultimate Pressure Cooker Recipes. As you may have guessed from the title, this is a pressure cooker cookbook. I got an Instant Pot a year or so ago, and to be honest, I’m a little scared of it and I’ve been slow to warm up to it. Nearly every time I’ve made something I’ve gotten confused about all the settings and buttons. But in general, I have to admit that most things have turned out OK in it, particularly roasts. And last week I made meatloaf and potatoes in it (nice to only have one pot to wash!).

    And now, pulled pork, too! Both Steve and I were impressed with the taste and texture of this pork. It was tender and tasty and not at all dry and tough, which often seems to happen with pork. This is definitely a keeper recipe, way better than any other pulled pork recipe I’ve made with a slow cooker. I think the secret is just how hot it gets the pork; I don’t think a slow cooker gets the pork hot enough to make it really tender We made it for our small group carry-in, and it was a hit. I like it with lots of onions, pickles, and extra sauce.

    Pulled Pork Plate

    And I REALLY need to be more intentional about making myself use my Instant Pot. That’s the only way I can get comfortable with it! I just saw an article the other day talking about how Indian cooks are major adopters of the Instant Pot. Maybe someday I’ll have to give a curry a try and see how it does. And there are several others in Great Food Fast that I want to try, so hopefully this book will be featured again.

    Perfected Pulled Pork

    Perfected Pulled Pork (Instant Pot)


    • 1 4-5 lb pork shoulder butt (I’m sure this cut exists somewhere, but it did not in my Aldi. So I used 5 lbs of loin)
    • 2 tbsp brown sugar
    • 1 tbsp chili powder
    • 2 tsp paprika (I used smoked paprika)
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 1 tsp dry mustard
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
    • 1 tsp liquid smoke (Bob suggests to double this if you really want a smokey flavor, so we did.)
    • 1 16-oz bottle of BBQ sauce


    1. Cut the pork into 2-inch thick slices, to help speed up cooking process.
    2. Mix together the dry spices and rub onto the pork. Really get into it.
    3. With the cooker’s lid off, heat oil on HIGH or “brown” until sizzling. Place the pork into the cooker and brown on each side.
    4. Add chicken broth, vinegar, and liquid smoke. Securely lock the lid and set for 100 minutes on HIGH. Make sure vent is set to closed.
    5. Let cooker’s pressure release naturally for 15 minutes before quick releasing any remaining tension. (We were in too much of a hurry to wait this long. And it was fine.)
    6. Using tongs (And WATCH IT because the little buggers are HOT, tender, and are falling apart), remove pork from the cooker and discard remaining liquid.
    7. With the cooker’s lid off, heat BBQ sauce on HIGH or “brown” until simmering. Pull or shred pork into sauce.

    Do you have any go-to Instant Pot recipes to share? I’m totally open for more encouragement to use mine!


    Mango Coconut Cucumber Salad

    October 2nd, 2018

    Mango Coconut Cucumber Salad


    Sometimes you’re browsing through a cookbook, and you see a recipe that inspires you. Then you plan it into your week, or, if especially excited about it, you just go out and buy the ingredients and make it right then.

    Other times, you find yourself the recipient of buckets of garden fresh cucumbers and you’re flipping through cookbook after cookbook trying to find a recipe that uses up cucumbers.

    FYI. Not many people use cucumbers in recipes. You got your standard sweet-sour cucumber salad or creamy cucumber salad, and that’s about it. And neither of those options floated my boat at the time.

    But I did find this one! And it was so good I gave it another go and made it for my parents when they stopped by last week, and THEY liked it too.

    This cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, is another of the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks. I think my brother-in-law Phil gave me this one a long time ago. I’m not an anti-fat fanatic or vegetarian, but I have made several recipes in this book, appreciating the concern they give to nutrition and healthy, good-tasting recipes. It’s definitely inspiring to read through, and it gives detailed nutritional information as well as menu suggestions – ALWAYS helpful! I wish more cookbooks gave menu suggestions.

    Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat FavoritesAt any good Thai restaurant, you can usually order coconut sticky rice topped with mango and fresh mint. A SUBLIME dessert. My friends, this is the salad version of that dessert! It has all those flavors – mango, coconut, snippets of fresh mint, all tossed with cucumbers and peppers in a citrus marinade.

    Mango Cucumber Salad

    The first time I made this, I halved the recipe and scarfed it all down myself. Then when I made this for my parents, we had this as a side dish with Steve’s incredible Chicken-Bacon Mac and Cheese, a great sharpish, tangy accompaniment to just a rich main dish. The meal was rounded out by a nice loaf of bread and a salad.

    Salad time!

    This recipe is absolutely perfect as is! You definitely need a perfectly ripe mango. I usually have to buy them several days before I plan to use them, to give them a chance to ripen on the counter.

    Mango Coconut Cucumber Salad


    • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
    • 1/2 tsp minced fresh chile (I didn’t have one on hand so I just tossed in some freshly ground pepper)
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp lime juice
    • 2 tsp brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp unsweetened dried shredded coconut
    • 1 mango, peeled and diced
    • 1 small red bell pepper, minced
    • Chopped fresh mint or cilantro (I used mint both times because it’s exploding out of my garden, and I highly recommend it!)


    1. Combine all ingredients except mint and toss well. Cover and chill for at least 15-20 minutes. Add mint right before serving. Easy peasy! All the work in this recipe is in the prep – chopping all those veggies and fruit.

    As the description shows, this salad is super versatile. It goes with a wide range of cuisines, and, like in our case, it was just the right thing when you want a fresh side dish that cuts the richness of a more fat-heavy main dish.

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    Church Social Brownies

    September 6th, 2018

    A few weeks ago, we traveled to North Carolina to say our goodbyes to Steve’s paternal grandmother, Jane. The whole family gathered for her funeral in the small community of Burnsville, North Carolina, deep in the Appalachian mountains. I always loved visiting that beautiful and strange (for me) place. As someone who grew up surrounded by rice paddies a few miles from the Indian Ocean, the wild hills and mountains of North Carolina feel very foreign. And the people who live tucked away in little hollows and valleys – or perched on top of the mountains – are as unique as the location.

    Green Mountain, NC

    Usually I’ve walked away restored and inspired by the endless natural beauty, but frankly puzzled – in a good way – by the culture. It’s just that I can see enough to recognize the differences.

    Jane dearly loved their church, Covy Rock Freewill Baptist Church. She was an outsider herself, having moved there when she and Stuart retired in 1990. But, as Steve’s mom noted the night before Jane’s funeral, Jane successfully adapted to the culture. Until her health began to suffer, she was an integral part of the church’s hostessing crew. She decorated the church at Christmastime, and brought her amazing homemade food to potlucks and suppers. For years, she hosted a post-caroling soup meal at their home, Rocking Horse Farm (pictured below with the flower arrangement for Jane). She’ll be very much missed by Stuart, the rest of the family, and her extended church family.

    Rocking Horse Farm

    Jane had this cookbook, The Church Supper Cookbook, in their house, and Steve’s mom offered it to me. Knowing that church ladies are some of the best home cooks on the planet, I took it gladly. (However, I would note that although the title says it’s from churches and families across the country, 99% are from New England. Not that that’s a bad thing at all, just noting what I observed as I read through it.) I believe this is an earlier edition; it looks like editor David Joachim has since released an updated version.

    The Church Supper Cookbook

    Last week, after we got back from our travels, I had a hankering for brownies, but I really wanted them to be homemade. I mean, if I’m going to spend my calories on a treat, it might as well be a really good one. Plus, we had company coming so brownies seemed to be a good choice. Everyone likes brownies.

    This cookbook has two recipes for brownies, and I picked the one that said it was for people who liked their brownies a little less sweet. Even so, I cut down the sugar by an additional quarter cup. I’ve found that a lot of American desserts are just a little too sweet for me. My Mom taught me that you can generally decrease the sugar amount by 25% and the final product won’t suffer. I also added 1/2 cup chocolate chips to boost the chocolate flavor.

    Also, I had just watched this Buzzfeed Tasty video about brownies, and I picked up a tip: halfway through the bake, take the brownies out of the oven and give them a good whack against the stove. It somehow settles the batter and improves the texture.

    Church Social Brownies

    This brownie recipe is a winner! And it was a small thing to do that made me feel like I was continuing Jane’s legacy; making good food for people I love.

    Church Social Brownies


    • 1/2 cup butter (I used vegetable oil because I was low on butter)
    • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 3/4 cups sugar (was plenty sweet this way)
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips, optional


    1. Preheat oven to 325 and grease 9×9 pan. Melt together the butter and chocolate. I did this by microwaving for 30 seconds, then beating it until it all melted.
    2. Beat eggs and add sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat in chocolate mixture, and add flour. Stir in nuts or chocolate chips, if using.
    3. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool before you cut it, if possible. Makes 16 pieces.

    These brownies are rich, fudgy, not terribly sweet, and will satisfy any chocolate craving!

    Brownie time!

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    Cinnamon-Pecan Shortbread

    September 2nd, 2018

    Cinnamon-Pecan Shortbread

    I’ve been on somewhat of a quest for a good shortbread recipe. Shortbread is just so good, especially if it’s got a good salty-sweet balance. The Hubs is a major fan, so it seems like a good cookie for me to perfect baking. I’ve made this version (well, plus my changes) several times, and I’m a fan. It’s quick to mix up, and just the right thing to enjoy with a mid-morning or post-dinner cup of coffee or tea.

    I found this recipe in an old issue of Cooking for Two magazine, which used to be published by the same people who did Taste of Home. I don’t think it’s in circulation any more. My mother-in-law had been decluttering Hubs’ grandparents’ house and offered me a box of vintage Cooking for Two and Taste of Home magazines, as well as some other cookbooks. Hubs wasn’t thrilled at the idea of more cooking media coming into our house, but I was happy!

    The thing about cookie recipes is that most of them make a TON. And if you’re watching your cookie intake a bit, it’s hard to eat them all before they go stale. My mom, the smart person that she is, freezes balled cookie dough so she’s never more than 12 minutes away from a freshly baked cookie. But sometimes, even that work seems daunting when all you want just a cookie.

    Cinnamon-Pecan Shortbread Stack

    So this recipe, in it’s original meant-for-two-form, is perfect. I’ve also doubled it with great results. I find that I cut the cookies smaller than the original recipe stated. It says to cut in four pieces, but I usually get eight. Shortbread is rich, and all you need is a few bites. So with those ratios, a doubled recipe works great to have cookies for several days.

    Princess and her Shortbread

    Here’s a link to the original recipe, which I altered a bit. Rather than toast the nuts in butter on the stovetop, I toasted the nuts in the microwave for about 60 seconds (stir halfway through). I also added 1 tsp vanilla and doubled the salt and cinnamon.

    Cinnamon Pecan Shortbread


    • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
    • 3 tbsp butter, softened
    • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder


    1. Microwave nuts for 60 seconds or so, stirring halfway. Basically until they smell nice and nutty.
    2. Cream together the confectioners’ sugar, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the butter-sugar bowl. Mix well (shortbread is a dry-ish dough) and stir in pecans.
    3. Pat into a rectangle or square or whatever shape seems to make sense, about 1/2 inch thick. You can score lines fore and aft to make cutting them after you take them out of the oven easier, but it’s not essential. I used parchment paper for easier cleanup, or you can put them straight on an ungreased cookie sheet.
    4. Bake at 350° for 14-16 minutes or until edges look golden brown. Cut into pieces immediately. Allow to cool for two minutes before moving to wire rack or on top of paper bag (drains the butter a bit). If you double the recipe, you may need to increase baking time a hair. You’re looking for them to cool into a nice crisp texture.

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    Basil Limeade

    August 6th, 2018

    Yet another recipe that came about because of an herbal abundance! My basil is taking over one of my garden boxes and there is no way that I’ll use it up before the end of the summer.

    Exploding basil!

    There are lots of basil limeade recipes out there, but most of them had way too much sugar for my taste. I decided to just play it by ear, and this is what I came up with.

    Basil Limeade


    Basil Limeade

    Ingredients (for one)

    • 1 lime
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 5-6 leaves basil
    • 1/2 cup boiling water
    • 1 cup cold water
    • Ice


    1. Muddle the leaves manually a little bit (just fold/bend them a bit) and add them to a glass with the sugar. Add boiling water and let steep for about 5 minutes.
    2. Pull out the leaves and discard. Squeeze in lime juice. Add cold water and serve with ice.
    3. This recipe is super easy to multiply for more servings or if you like your limeade sweeter. Or you could add mint for Basil-Mint Limeade.
    4. I stuck the basil garnish in there just for the photo originally, but I ended up leaving them in the glass because I liked the additional basil aroma they imparted. Also I’m of the opinion that garnishes are meant to be enjoyed along with the dish they’re showing off. (Is my frugal German/British/Dutch ancestry showing?)
    5. Happy basil-ing!
    • Basil makes everything so pretty!

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