Sunday, December 26, 2010

HOLIDAY CHEER

Our office holiday party put a nice beginning to the weekend.  The boss and his wife hosted us at their home in Hudson and it was a lovely evening relaxing with co-workers and sharing some laughs. 

There's very little more holiday-ish than a drive through Hudson with the Main Square Clock Tower lit to spread the season's festive mood.  Hudson is always beautiful, but the trees in the square and even more beautiful with lights and snow on them.
Coming home, I drove past this remarkable home near the entrance to route 8.  These people take the blue ribbon for house decorating.  If you get an opportunity to drive by Rt 303, turn into Heather Lane and go to the first cross street to the left.  You cannot miss seeing this house!  I was first told about this two years ago and it seems they still go all out.  Rumour has it this guy is a professional lighting decorator and it's easy to believe this would be true.


HELP!  I THINK MY TEETH ARE FALLING OUT!
After eating so many sweets over the past couple of weeks, I sometimes feel that if I put anything more made of sugar in my mouth, my teeth are just going to fall out of my head. For one time a year during the week between christmas and new year, I simply feel that if I see another sweet treat I'm simply going to toss my cookies. 

photo courtesy of asteofohio.com
With that thought in mind, my culinary thoughts turn to heading into the kitchen to make something to eat other than candy, cookies, cakes, or pies.  What I tend to crave during this first really cold snap of winter are some foods that can be put into the slow cooker to simmer all day so that I come home to the aroma of dinner waiting for me.  In anticipation of this type of cooking, I made a trip this week to my absolute favorite meat store in Barberton - Al's Quality Market on West Tuscarawas Avenue.

Al's Market is known throughout the area for their smoked meats - Hungarian, Slovene, Slovak, Polish sausages, salamis, bacon  and pork chops, and a beautiful array of fresh meats.  When you walk in you're assaulted with the heady aroma of smoked meat, garlic and spices. The counter help are always friendly and knowledgeable about their  products and the customers always know they can find the best smoked meats here.  One young girl waiting in line with her Mother commented that she loved the smell of the place (no doubt a future next generation Al's shopper in the making).

Slovene smoked sausages rich
with garlic and spices
Another big plus in my shopping book is that this is a locally owned shop that's been around for quite a while.  Meat smoking is an art that not many in our area are doing.  Al's turns out quality products at good prices with small neighborhood charm.  This is one of those local shops that we'd be sorry were gone should they disappear.

 Although Barberton is not a long distance from home, I only make it out this general direction once every few months so when I make the effort to go to Al's I tend to buy with the intent of feeding myself for several weeks .  Everything looks so fantastic in the case it's easy to get carried away. 

This trip I ended up with Slovene smoked sausage (terrific in the slow cooker with sauerkraut or stuck in the pot to cook with stuffed cabbage), some really fantastic looking bacon, one small beef chuck roast, 2 pretty chopped steaks, and 4 super sized smoked pork chops. 

Even at a little over 1 pound, this roast
is too much for one meal.

I really like shopping ahead like this - about an hour in the kitchen yields about 15 prepacked meal-sized freezer portions.  When cooking for one person, the easiest thing to do is have meat pre-portioned out for meals.  The only trick is to think far enough ahead to pull something out of the freezer to thaw for your meal preparation.  Sausages and pork chops already come in single portion sizes, bacon can easily be separated out and frozen in small quantities. 


A little knife skill turned this into
3 nicely portioned roasts

The biggest item I brought home that required a bit of knife magic was the 1 pound chuck roast.  I cut out the largest chunk of fat and cut the rest up into 3 portions, rewrapped, marked and packed for the freezer.


Each roast will be terrific in the slow cooker.  Add with some root vegetables and seasoning depending upon mood, and my dinners will be ready and waiting for me on a cold winters evening.
Rewrapped and ready for the freezer













Beautiful smoked pork chops

These lean smoked pork chops will serve two purposes - I removed the bones and set them aside to be used in bean soups and the chops themselves will be delicious served with sweet potatoes in place of ham later on this month. 

If you haven't had the privilege of having smoked pork chops in the past, give yourself a treat and check these out.  Once the holiday season is past, it's not likely that most families will buy a ham to fix for dinner.  Smoked chops are a delicious substitute, giving you the smokey flavor of ham, without the need to dish out $50 for a whole ham.

Bone set aside and chops ready for
the freezer.
I'll be fixing mine soon and will share my recipes with you.  If you have had these and know a wonderful way to prepare them, please feel free to share with me, I love new recipes.  






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