Monday, September 23, 2013

Pinterest to the rescue!

I love Pinterest. I guess you could say I'm slightly addicted. But I have good reason to be! I've found over this past year that, whenever I'm in a pinch, Pinterest is there to rescue me. For example, last night around 9 p.m. the Big Guy and I realized we had forgotten to run to the store to get a crucial ingredient for my crock pot Italian beef sandwiches, which were on tonight's dinner menu (yum!). How on Earth was I going to make Italian beef without the Italian dressing? And since it would be going in the crock pot around 6 a.m. before I left for work, there would be no picking it up the next day. I sat there in my yoga pants thinking, "Do I REALLY want to get dressed and go to the grocery at 9 p.m.?" And then I remember my dear friend Pinterest.

A paltry 10-second search turned up dozens of recipes for homemade Italian dressing. I quickly scanned them, and before I could've driven to Schnucks I was in the kitchen whipping up my very own batch of Homemade Zesty Italian Dressing! No getting dressed, no conversation with the furbabies about why they couldn't go with me, no $2.50 spent for processed crap - just some vinegar, olive oil, seasonings and dried herbage. Everything I needed was readily on hand in my cabinets.

That is what I love so much about Pinterest. I'll find myself scratching my head over what to make for dinner, or I'll freak out because I'm missing an ingredient, or I'll be cursing a home project that I just KNOW there has to be an easier way to tackle. And then I'll turn to my dear digital friend Pinterest, and soon all is right with the world. Seriously, if you aren't on Pinterest already, you should be. It's the cat's pajamas.

Now that we have all that out of the way, wanna hear more about those Italian beef sandwiches? They're not Chicago-style Italian beef; they're cheater Italian beef. But I still think they're the bomb-diggity. My favorite chef friend Mel taught me how to make these back in the early years of our marriage when I was just realizing how much I enjoyed cooking. I watched her every time she cooked or baked. I tried to pick up tips where I could, but since she didn't use a lot of recipes I almost always ended up failing spectacularly. I needed a RECIPE, dammit. Specific instructions to follow. I'm good at following instructions. So when she made these sandwiches and told me that even I couldn't screw them up, I knew I'd found a winner. Over the years, as I've come into my own as a cook, I've added my own little twists to her original two-ingredient, three-step process. Here's my version:

Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches

1 beef chuck roast
16 oz bottle of Zesty Italian dressing (or make your own!)
Hoagie buns or Italian mini-loaves, cut in half
Sliced provolone cheese

Sear chuck roast in a couple tablespoons of butter and olive oil (this step can be skipped if you oversleep and are running late to work in the morning). Place in crock pot and pour dressing over top. Cook on low at least 8 hours. Remove roast from crock pot and shred meat, discarding fat and gristle. Return meat to crock pot while you prepare the bread.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice buns or loaves in half, lengthwise, and spread top half generously with mayo. Tear cheese slices in half and arrange on bottom half of bun so that the whole area is covered. I usually use two slices of cheese per sandwich - sometimes more. We like cheese in our house. Support your local dairy farmer! Using a slotted spoon, scoop shredded meat onto buns. Cover and loosely wrap in foil, leaving top of packet open so sandwiches can toast. Place wrapped sandwiches on baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bread is toasty.

Dip your sandwiches in the au jus from the crock pot, or eat them straight-up. Either way, you're gonna need a napkin. Enjoy!

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