True Confessions: Dirty Dining Edition

Our local Chinese restaurant was on Channel 4’s Dirty Dining. For the unfamiliar, Dirty Dining is a weekly feature where the 10 o’clock news blindside local restaurants with their blemished health department records. Typically, they’re Chinese or other foreign-owned restaurant. One week, it was our go-to Chinese place.

So, we probably need to find a different go-to Chinese takeout place. We loved Jing’s, which is where we went on Christmas Eve. It’s a bit more expensive than a normal go-to place that has dinner specials that come with fried rice and an egg roll and always has coupons.

I decided that in the meantime I’ll try to create our Chinese food favorites at home.

Tonight I created pork egg rolls. They’re baked, not fried, so they’re a bit healthier.Pork Egg Rolls

Here’s how I made them.


  • Ground pork
  • Ground ginger
  • Garlic powder
  • Ground black pepper
  • Shredded carrots
  • Shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
  • Egg roll wrappers
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil
  1. First, preheat oven to 425-degrees. Then brown and crumble the ground pork. Season it with ground ginger, garlic powder and ground black pepper. Cook pork completely. Adjust season accordingly. Turn off heat.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine shredded carrots, cabbage and meat.
  3. On a dry surface, place one egg roll wrapper down. Place approximately 1/3 cup of filing into the center. Roll like a burrito.
  4. Dampen edges with water to seal.
  5. Pork egg rollsBrush rolled up egg rolls with vegetable oil.
  6. Bake 10 to 14 minutes until golden brown.

Browned to perfection


Here’s the money shot: Inside the egg roll


Oven-Roasted Pulled Pork

I don’t own a slow cooker, but I do have a Pinterest. If you’ve ever been on Pinterest, you know that it is mostly exercise tips and slow cooker recipes, especially this time of the year. It’s January, and the idea of a heat-omitting appliance cooking on your counter for 6+ hours isn’t terrifying. It’s extremely home-y and comforting like a Snuggie.

There are literally recipes to cook everything in a slow cooker. Slow cooker macaroni and cheese. Yum. Slow cooker apple cake. Oh my. Seeing slow cooker pulled pork put me in the mood for pulling my own pork. I love pulled pork. So does Jon. I don’t need a slow cooker to make pulled pork. Instead of breaking down and buying a slow cooker, I used my oven. How novel.

I started with a fresh pork shoulder that I purchased at Pick’n Save for approximately $8.

The Rub

Pork Rub

Creating the special rub.

First, I created a dry rub. The base of the rub was Smoked Spanish Hot Paprika. To approximately 2 Tablespoons of paprika, I added about 1 Tablespoon of ground mustard, 1 Tablespoon kosher salt, 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon of garlic powder. I mixed this thoroughly and then covered the roast completely, giving it a nice rub down, making Jon jealous.

Note: You will not use all of the rub you mixed. That is OK. Just cover the roast completely. The leftover rub could be saved in an airtight storage container.


Rubbed down and ready.

Then after the roast is covered, I covered it with plastic wrap and chilled it in the fridge for approximately 1 hour or up to overnight.

The Cooking

Preheat your oven for 300-degrees. Once the oven is preheated, put your uncovered roast inside. I read directions online to roast in the oven for up to six hours. I thought that sounded pretty absurd. So, I sent my timer for two hours. After two hours, the house smelled amazing. I checked the meat’s internal temperature. If I was smart about it, I would have placed a meat thermometer inside of it at the start of the cooking. I didn’t, so I relied on my instant-read digital thermometer. My plan was to roast the pork until the internal temperature at the largest part of the meat reached 175-degrees. That took about 3 hours for my roast. Then, I let it rest.

Ready to be shred.

Ready to be shred.

The Shred

This is my least favorite part of creating pulled pork. I wish I had really good tips to provide for a fuss-free shred, but I don’t. I just used two forks and went to town. I did let the roast cool so I was able to handle it while I shred it. That was helpful. Plus, that made sure the meat stayed as juicy as possible.

After shredding, I placed it in a sauce pan and covered it with barbecue sauce. Someone who isn’t me could use their own recipe for sauce. I didn’t. I just used the original Sweet Baby Ray’s. Jon and I both like that sauce. Use your favorite. Make your own. Whatevs. Add enough sauce to completely coat your meat. Then warm it.

The finished product.

The finished product.


To serve it, I bought bakery hard rolls and deli coleslaw. I topped the sandwich with the coleslaw. You could do that. Or you could just add a bit more barbecue sauce and call it a day.

Oven-Roasted Pulled Pork Sandwiches

  • 1 pork shoulder
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked Spanish hot paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic power
  • Favorite barbecue sauce
  • Rolls
  • Prepared coleslaw


Combine paprika, ground mustard, brown sugar, salt and garlic powder. Cover and rub pork roast with spice mixture. Once it it completely covered, cover with plastic wrap. Chill for an hour, up to overnight.

Preheat oven for 300-degrees. Cook pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 175-degrees are thickest part. Let roast rest, then shred. Cover shredded meat with favorite barbecue sauce. Heat through. Serve on hard roll, top sandwich with prepared coleslaw.


Cooking At Home

Jon and I have been living together for over a year. Considering that we live in a studio apartment with no doors besides the bathroom, the transition has been pretty seamless. But one thing that has been an adjustment is cooking dinner.

My better half is a picky eater. I’m determined to find healthy things to cook at home that we both like. I was inspired by NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. One of the things making them happy was Budget Bytes, a food blog. Check that site out. It’s got tons of economical and delicious recipes.

I created a list of recipes I wanted to try on the site. I sent to Jon to make sure he was on board. He liked everything on the list.

The site helps you menu plan and then create a shopping list. I decided to create three recipes for this week.

The first, Chicken Yakisoba, was tonight.

Dinner tonight.

Veggie-filled and tasty.

It was quite easy. Instead of straight-up cabbage, we used cole slaw mix, which I plan to use rest of in another recipe. I always worry that things with soy sauce will be too salty. This wasn’t.

We both loved it. I might add more heat to it next time.

I wish I could be one of those people who cook for the entire week on Sunday, but I’m not that organized or motivated. For now, I’m happy with trying new recipes.

Have you tried anything tasty recently?

This Weekend in Pop Culture


During the day, I saw American Hustle with my mother. We both loved it. My only major complaint was that I could feel the length. It was quite long, but I can’t think of scenes that needed shortening, though I’m sure there were. The acting, though, was a delight. So was the soundtrack. Also, so was the makeup. They made Christian Bale less desirable, which I didn’t think was possible. (Unless you think about that video that went viral with him yelling at his mom.)

Friday night is turning into Shark Tank & Chinese Take-Out Night in Heathercore Land. That’s what we did. Shark Tank has been pretty average this season. It seems like the natural progression of the show that the deals are more rare. I can’t think of the last time Mr. Wonderful (aka Kevin O’Leary) closed a deal. Also, we’re still struggling to find a good Chinese restaurant for takeout. We keep going to a restaurant on Chase Ave. that I’m pretty sure was the inspiration for TMJ4’s Dirty Dining.


On Saturday, I fell down the House of Cards rabbit hole. It’s so, so good. Kevin Spacey and his weird accent are sensational. It makes me miss being a journalist, and not because of all of the congressman I slept with. <wink>


It was Oscar Sunday. I went to my parents for an Oscar party with my family and my bff and official movie co-patriot, John.

John and I once again tied for first in the family Oscar pool, which means the losers get to cook us dinner.

Overall, I didn’t think Ellen did as good of job this year. It just wasn’t funny. I thought Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were a delight when they hosted the Golden Globes. Funny… like I thought Ellen would be. Also, it seemed like the Oscars were layering on the schlock this year like the performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings” after the In Memoriam. Also, with the clips of the Best Picture nominees, all of the montages seemed excessive. It seemed like The Academy was trying to convince viewers the relevance of both film making and the Oscars themselves.

With that said, I was happy with the winners. In case anyone from the Academy is wondering.

Until next weekend. Or whenever I feel like posting again. What did you enjoy this weekend?



My Wishy Washy 2014 Oscar Picks

This Sunday is Oscar Sunday where I sit in front of my television and judge rich people in fancy clothes while eating snacks and live-tweeting.

This Oscar season I’ve had the luxury of seeing all but one Best Picture nominee. I haven’t seen “12 Years A Slave,” and I don’t think I’ll get to before tomorrow. It’s kind of a bummer because that’s the one that most critics and knowledgeable people are picking to win a whole lot of awards.

Here are my picks.

Best Picture
Will win: 12 Years A Slave.
Should win: American Hustle.

Maybe it was because I forgot all of the hype about American Hustle, but it was well acted, well directed, and I thought the script was interesting. The soundtrack was also awesome. If Gladiator deserves Best Picture then American Hustle deserves Super Best Picture. 

Best Director
Will win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should win: Alfonso Cuarón

I don’t think that Gravity deserves Best Picture or any acting awards, but I do think it deserves recognition for how beautiful it looked, so I expect it to win for Best Director and Best Cinematographer. Though, I’d be pleased if it didn’t, and Scorsese wins. Or David O. Russel. Or Alexander Payne. 

 Best Actor
Will win: Matthew McConaughey
Should win: Leonard DiCaprio

I thought Matthew McConaughey was pretty fantastic in Dallas Buyers Club. He’s come a long way from his How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days past. I won’t be disappointed when he wins, but I think Leonard DiCaprio should win for The Wolf of Wall Street. He commanded the screen. He made that movie not feel like 3 hours. And I struggle to sit anywhere for that long. 

Best Actress
Will win: Cate Blanchett
Should win: Amy Adams

Didn’t see Blue Jasmine, but I think the only thing standing between Blanchett and a trophy is the recent Woody Allen revelations. Amy Adams in American Hustle was so fantastic. Her character had so much depth. 

Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Jared Leto
Should win: Jared Leto

Jordan Catalano FTW. Though, I think Will Forte should have been nominated for Nebraska. He played that role with such a quiet earnestness. 

Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Lupita Nyong’o
Should win: June Squibb

Squibb’s character in Nebraska made that movie for me. So funny. So real. 

Best Screenplay
Will win: American Hustle
Should win: Her

Spike Jonze deserves recognition for Her. 

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win: 12 Years A Slave
Should win: 12 Years A Slave

Making the total homer choice — the screenwriter, John Ridley,  is originally from Mequon. With that said, I’d also be extremely happy to see Steve Coogan win for Philomena. 


Scrabble Coasters

Jon loves Scrabble. And he also has an unnatural obsession with using coasters. So, when I saw DIY Scrabble Coasters on Pinterest, I knew we had to make them. Then, I got gifted an extra Scrabble game from my best friend, John, who knows how much Jon loves the game.

Here is a link to the directions I basically followed for this project.

Jon cut the cork for the back of each coaster:

Cut the cork

Almost finishedAlmost finished!

They turned out pretty fantastic. I have some friends who requested coasters, so I’ve got my eyes peeled for Scrabble games at Goodwill et al.


Homemade Birthday Gift

It’s my brother’s birthday, and I can talk about it, because he’s not one for social media. I wanted to give him something different from the obvious golf shirt. And, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So, my brother is getting cake balls!

If you are unfamiliar with cake balls, let me introduce you to one of the best ways to shovel cake into your mouth. A cake ball is basically a cake pop without the stick. It’s cake that has been crumbled and then coated in chocolate.

I chose to make him red velvet cake balls. When we were out for my father’s birthday, he mentioned that red velvet was a favorite of his.

There are plenty of recipes on how to make cake balls and how to decorate them all cute like baby chicks.We’re going pretty basic here.

First, make the cake according to the direction on the box mix. Let the cake cool. Then crumble it.

cakeballsCheck out the picture of my red mountain of cake. It looks like the surface of Mars. Next add a container of frosting. I chose plain old white frosting. It’s called “white frosting;” I’m sure it’s vanilla. Mix that until it’s combined. Next it’s time to roll you some balls. Decide how big you’d like your treats. Then roll the cake balls and place it on nonstick tray. Once you’re out of crumbles, place the tray inside the fridge for at least an hour. I had mine rest overnight.

Next, melt your candy coating. I’ve noticed that Wilton candy melts work the best, create the nicest finish and are quite tasty. Follow the directions on the package for melting. Coat each ball, place on a nonstick surface and quickly decorate before the chocolate sets.

Take a look at the picture of the finished product. Yum

I purchased a container at the Dollar Tree and a card there too, 50-cent cards FTW!

I’m sure my big bro will like them. If he doesn’t, I know Jon has been staring them down.

Gifts don’t have to be extravagant or super costly. My gift is from the heart. From my kitchen to my brother’s belly. Happy birthday, Scott!

Power Songs

Sometimes, like today, you just need to take a break and re-center yourself. For this, I typically turn to music. Here is a listing of songs that genuinely matter to me.

“She’s Got A New Spell” – Billy Bragg

I just love these lyrics. She took the stars out of the sky and baked them in a pie. I hear that line and smile. If I were to have a sitcom that needed a theme song and Alan Thicke was too busy to write something new, this would be it.

“Am I Loud Enough?” – Bis

It might be the writer in me, but I’m a sucker for lyrics. This is another song that I just love the message. I’ve been through everything, and you can’t bring me down. Bitches. Something like that. I’ve been known to listen to this song in the car and scream along. It’s way cheaper than therapy when you’re uninsured.

“Doing The Unstuck” – The Cure

Come on… Robert Smith sings, “Let’s get happy.” “Wish” is probably my favorite The Cure album. It’s great from start to finish, but this song is a stand-out one for me. The Cure is a strange band. I can hear “Sleep” and automatically start to cry. And then I hear this, and I smile.

“Counting Blue Cars” – Dishwalla

Ok… Ok…. I never owned this record, but this song reminds me of a certain day in high school that was a particular good one. So, for some reason, this song has a positive effect on me.

“The Ballad of Larry Bird” – Vermont

Love Larry Bird. Love Vermont. Love The Promise Ring. Also love “Indiana Jones” by Vermont.

“Rocket” – Smashing Pumpkins

The moon is out. The stars invite. Think I’ll leave…tonight! I saw them perform this song live numerous times, and it’s rocked my socks clean off.

“Simple Things” – Belle & Sebastian

This simple under-two-minute song beautifully sums up my love for Belle & Sebastian.

“With Arms Outstretched” – Rilo Kiley

“In My Life” – The Beatles

My last dying wish will be to listen to this song. It’s perfect. Love it so much.

“Femme Fatale” – The Velvet Underground

“Freelove Freeway” – David Brent (from The Office UK)

One of the greatest moments of TV history. I still want to hear the song with the line “She’s the serpent that guards the gates of hell.”

“Blue Girls” – Pulp

“Time” – Marion

“Excuses” – Minus the Bear

This song reminds me how amazing love is… And how exciting and scary a new relationship can be when you don’t really know exactly how the other person feels. There’s a song for that. It’s “Excuses” by Minus the Bear.

“Putting Out Fires” – The Bluetones

I had the biggest crush on Mark Morriss, the lead singer of the Bluetones, when I was in high school. I even made my former sister-in-law buy me a Bluetones shirt when she visited London in 1996.

“Say Yes” – Elliott Smith

The most optimistic Elliott Smith track.

“Carolina In My Mind” – James Taylor

This is a very sentimental song for me. Whenever I’m planning/traveling to North Carolina to visit my sister and her family, I listen to this song on repeat. And then some more. It reminds me of my family there. I wish I could be there right now. My sister, my brother-in-law and their three boys are amazing.

“Lessons in Love” – Kaskade feat. Neon Trees

If Jon and I had a song, this would be it. <3 #bieberfever







This Weekend in Pop Culture


I finally finished “Life After Death” by Damien Echols. A worthy read. I’ve been interested in the WM3 case since I saw the first “Paradise Lost” movie in high school. Needless to say that interest made me enjoy this book. If I was unfamiliar with the case or Damien, Jessie and Jason, I don’t think I would have enjoyed reading it as much. Some of the stuff in the book is so incredibly hard to read — just like the movies. Also, reading his diary from the months prior to being released from prison are really quite incredible.

I started reading “Talking to Girls About Duran Duran” by Rob Sheffield. This funny memoir breaks up chapters by 80s/90s song. It’s funny because in my relationship Jon is the Duran Duran fan, and this book highlights girls obsession with Duran Duran.

The reunion of Jesse and the Rippers on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” blew my mind. I was a huge Full House fan. I sincerely wanted to be DJ Tanner. So, this helped me remember that wonderful time of my life where Friday night meant TGIF on ABC.


I saw the house from “Home Alone” in person. Yep. That happened.


“Wife Swap” night. The thing I learned from this episode of “Wife Swap” featuring “Downtown” Julie Brown and Lisa Leslie.

  1. Lisa Leslie can’t lose to Ray Parker, Jr. in tennis. I mean, do you have to be that competitive?

Good quality TV. Next week, it’s Gerardo and Sisqo. Oh, this is “Celebrity Wife Swamp.” Not sure if you could tell.