Pumpkin Pork Tenderloin {in your Crockpot}

DSC_0090If you’re a food blogger and it’s October you’re obligated to post a recipe that features pumpkin so before October slips away from me, here it is! I love baking with pumpkin but wanted to try something new so I experimented with using it a savory way.  The results were great; this is a recipe that will make your kitchen smell wonderful and will taste as good as it smells. The vinegar and hot peppers balance out the maple syrup and brown sugar to keep the pork from being too sweet.

What to buy (serves 3-4):

  •  2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

What to do:

  • combine pumpkin, vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, cinnamon, salt, pepper and chipotle peppers in a bowl
  • add pork to slow cooker and spoon pumpkin mixture onto pork,
  • cover and cook for 6-7 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high, cut or shred before serving hot

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Some Good Reads {Fall 2014}


I know you’re supposed to eat your frozen wedding cake on your first anniversary but I’m not sure what happened to our cake so I picked up one of Target’s finest and it was perfect. If I don’t have time to make one myself, grocery store cake is my go-to. Who doesn’t love a marble cake with that trashy vanilla icing?!

We spent the beginning of this week in Asheville to celebrate our first anniversary and to see the changing leaves in the North Carolina mountains.  Last year we honeymooned at the Biltmore Inn so we stayed at The Grove Park this time and ended up liking it better!  The dining options were great so we didn’t have to venture out much in the stormy weather. We had fantastic meals at both Vue and the Sunset Terrace.  We also enjoyed the live music in the great hall both nights.  The rain ruined our hiking plans on Tuesday, forcing us to stay inside, drink champagne and watch 22 Jump Street, not a bad anniversary at all!DSC_0118 I also spent time finishing a few books that had been sitting on my nightstand for too long and now have enough titles to share another  list of my book recommendations.  I’m continuing to read more parenting-focused books and have added those in at the end.  If you like my literary tastes and want more, check out my master list. As always, send any recommendations my way sallymacncheese@gmail.com or tweet me @sally_cooks.

I hope you enjoy the fall weather with a good book (and maybe a glass or two of champagne!)

  • Practical Magic is my book club’s October pick and a great book to read around Halloween.  The book tells the story of several generations of New England women who may or may not be witches but are powerless in the face of love.  Remember the late 90’s movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock?!
  • What I know for Sure is a compilation of Oprah’s life lessons from her column in O Magazine.   While some are a bit cheesy or obvious I thought many of the essays were easily digestible and inspiring.
  • Friendship is my book club’s November selection.  This review from NPR says it all without revealing too much: “Friendship is superficially about youngish, self-involved writerly types, but it’s really about people who are trying to be good and finding it hard. This is a book about ethics—about the real, unglamorous daily battle that is not being a jerk.” I enjoyed Gould’s take on what it means to be 30 today and what makes a real, deep friendship.
  • If you liked the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, I recommend you read the book that inspired it all.  You’ll see how much the show changed the original story of one woman’s experience in Federal prison.
  • If you liked The Secret History from my summer part 2 book list or if you followed the trials of Amanda Knox, you’ll want to check out Abroad, a psychological thriller also set on a college campus, this one in the old Etruscan city of Grifonia full of study abroad students.
  • The Food Lovers Guide to Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill is pretty self explanatory and a well written resource to eating and enjoying all that the Triangle has to offer.
  • One Plus One was my book club’s September choice.  The story takes place between the English shore and Scotland and has quite the cast of characters.  I imagine it will make a good movie; think Little Miss Sunshine.
  • One Kick is the first thriller in a new series from Chelsea Cain, author of the New York Times bestselling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell books. The book is well written and the protagonist is a complex character dealing with a highly uncomfortably subject matter (child abductions/child pornography.)
  • The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities is the latest book to take on the Duke Lacrosse case.  It is an exhaustive account of the scandal from its elements of race, sex, tension between town and gown, and how a university manages student athletes and confronts a crisis.
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block promises to impart the secrets to mastering an automatic “off-switch” for your baby’s crying.  Joe and I both read this and felt like we learned a lot.  It gave me a nice boost of confidence to know a few tricks to soothe a hysterical baby (not that my baby ever cries…)
  • French Kids Eat Everything is a refreshingly honest account of how author Karen Le Billon was able to alter her children’s deep-rooted, unhealthy American eating habits after moving to France. At once a memoir, a cookbook, a how-to handbook, and a delightful exploration of how the French manage to feed children without endless battles and struggles with pickiness, French Kids Eat Everything features recipes, practical tips, and ten easy-to-follow rules for raising happy and healthy young eaters.
  • Joe just finished When I First Held You: 22 Critically Acclaimed Writers Talk About the Triumphs, Challenges, and Transformative Experience of Fatherhood and I’m planning to read it next.  He thought the stories were well-written, interesting and refreshingly honest about a subject that is very new to us.

Some Good Reads {Master List}

This is a compilation of all of my book recommendations since I began sharing them in Summer 2013, separated by genre.  You can find more details here.  Happy Reading!


An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies

But Momma Always Put Vodka in the Sangria

Bread and Butter


Delicious!: A Novel

Drinking and Dating

Four Kitchens


Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

My Paris Kitchen

The Art of Simple Food

The School of Essential Ingredients

Pickles and Preserves

Yes, Chef

The Food Lovers Guide to Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill


Drinking and Dating

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I Didn’t Come Here To Make Friends

I Suck at Girls

Law Man

Mick Jagger

Mud Season

Orange is the New Black

Runaway Girl

The Million Dollar Mermaid

The Wolf of Wall Street

Tom Cruise: The Unauthorized Biography

Yes, Chef

Orange Is The New Black


And Baby Makes Four

All Joy and No Fun


Expecting Better

How to Rock Your Baby

The Kids Will Be Fine

The Other End of the Leash (puppies)

This Is Ridiculous This Is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists

The Happiest Baby on the Block

French Kids Eat Everything

When I First Held You


Dark Places


Lost Girls

The Silent Wife


One Kick


A Million Ways to Die in the West

Beautiful Ruins

Big Brother: A Novel

Crazy Rich Asians

History of a Pleasure Seeker

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You: A Novel


The Divorce Papers

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P

The One and Only

The Pillars of the Earth

The Secret History

The Sunshine When She’s Gone

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns

Rules of Civility


Sycamore Row

Visible City

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Where We Belong

You Should Have Known

Practical Magic



One Plus One

One Kick


All There Is: Love Stories from Story Corps

A Short History of Christianity

Crazy Rich

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

Exposed: The Secret Life of Jodi Arias

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Map Thief

Meditation and Relaxation in Plain English

Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding

The Great Sea

The System

Love Illuminated

Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis

What I Know For Sure

Orange Is The New Black

The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities

113890973My Book Club’s Picks:

The One and Only

One Plus One

Practical Magic


Crock Pot Carnitas

This weekend I used my slow cooker again to make a delicious batch of carnitas.  Carnitas are usually made by simmering pork in some type of fat but this recipe takes a healthier route by allowing the meat to cook in its natural juices and tomatoes.  You’ll love how tender the meat becomes from cooking for hours in your crockpot and it is the perfect filing for tamales, tacos and burritos.  I served this deliciousness in soft tacos with guacamole and queso fresco.  DSC_0177

What to buy (serves 4-5):

  • 2-3 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 chipotle peppers with 1-2 tablespoons adobo sauce (canned in adobo sauce)
  • 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices

What to do:

  • add meat to slow cooker and layer spices, garlic, peppers and tomatoes on top
  • cook on low for 5-6 hours or until meat is tender enough to be shredded easily with forks
  • allow meat to cool slightly and shred, reserving some vegetables and sauce for serving
  • for carnitas tacos, serve in tortillas with guacamole, cheese,  sour cream, lettuce, whatever you like!DSC_0084



Chicken, Chorizo and Sweet Potato Chili {in your Crockpot}

Happy first day of autumn!  I decided to welcome the change of seasons the best way I know how, by boxing up my summer clothes, (so long maternity bathing suits!) giving my boots a little love with some leather conditioner and making a big batch of chili in the crockpot.  I haven’t cooked many new recipes at all since we brought William home from the hospital.  Right now I’m struggling to find the time  to plan meals, to go to the grocery store and to cook so I’m thankful for friends and family who have brought us delicious meals and groceries.   I know I’ll get back into the kitchen more regularly sometime in the near future but for now my recipes posts will be a little sporadic…

Thats said, today I feel very accomplished because I pulled out my beloved crock pot and make a variation on the traditional beef chili.  This one has ground chicken, spicy chorizo and sweet potatoes. It’s perfect for the first day of autumn and doesn’t take too much time to put together.  The spicy chorizo pairs wonderfully with the sweet potatoes and peppers.


What to buy (serves 7-8):

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, cooked and cubed
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 pound ground spicy chorizo
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 beer, whatever you like but ideally something darker with lots of flavor
  • 15 ounces pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounces kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

What to do:

  • in a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic; cook until they start to soften, about 3 minutes
  • stir in the chicken and chorizo, cooking until they are no longer pink, about 5 minutes
  • once the meat is cooked, add everything from the saucepan and the remaining ingredients to your crockpot, stirring well
  • cook for 3-4 hours on high heat or 6-7 hours on low heat, serve plain or topped with cheese, cilantro, green onions, sour cream – whatever you like!

One Week

It is amazing how much life can change in one week.  Last Friday we were in the hospital welcoming William Carson, all 7 pounds, 12.5 ounces into the world.  We chose the name William for Joe’s Dad’s name and Carson for my Mom’s name and my Grandmother’s maiden name.  It’s been hard to find a moment all week to share the news of his arrival since we brought him home Sunday morning; it’s amazing how time flies in a cycle of feed, sleep, change, feed, sleep, change… but here it is, at last!   The last week has been incredibly exhausting, but without a doubt some of the best days of my life.  He has my blue eyes for now, a head of brown hair and his Dad’s flat feet.  We’re so in love.  


17 Recipes for Football Season

The fall and football season are right around the corner and I don’t know about you but I’m excited to watch my Blue Devils (I bet you can’t get season football tickets for only $80 at your alma mater!) and  Bengals.  In honor of the Bengals’ 17 game season (one bye week,) here are 17 of  my favorite, crowd-pleasing recipes that are perfect for sharing on a lazy Sunday or at a full-on tailgate.

  1. Layered Sweet Corn Guacamole and Black Bean Dip
  2. Spicy Hot Cheese and Sausage Dip
  3. Loaded Baked Potato Soup
  4. Monday Night Chili 
  5. Crunchy Baked Tacos
  6. Get You Married Spinach-Artichoke Dip
  7. Spicy Baked Beans
  8. Cinnamon Sugar Pecans
  9. Chicken and Dumplings {in your Crockpot}
  10. Soft Chocolate Chip Molasses and Coconut Oil Cookies
  11. Spicy Buffalo Chicken Soup
  12. Triple Chocolate Mocha Pudding 
  13. Beef and Dark Beer Chili
  14. Classic Banana Pudding
  15. Turkey Tenders + Cranberry Ketchup
  16. Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Snickers Pie
  17. Broccoli Corn Chowder with Bacon {in your Crockpot}PicMonkey Collage

Baby Bump {39 Weeks} and Bark in the Park


Happy Friday!

I’m still pregnant but happily that could change any day now! This week I’ve been having some pregnancy insomnia, which is apparently a common complaint when you’re this far along and trying to sleep with a watermelon where your stomach used to be.  But don’t worry, these three are resting up for baby.  This was the scene last weekend after a big walk.

Other than not sleeping much I’m feeling pretty good so we’ve been making an effort to get out of the house while we’re still footloose and fancy free.  On Wednesday night we took the dogs to Bark in the Park at the Durham Bulls with the help of my sister.  It was a blast, tons of dogs, nice vendors, puppy pools and Durham Magazine on hand taking professional dog shots for their blog.  The girls were ready for their closeup:IMG_0780After the photoshoot Bengal sat on Joe’s lap for several innings (so ladylike) and Red discovered that peanut shells under the seats are delicious. I definitely recommend bringing your pup to Bark in the Park next year!





IMG_0766Update: here is a picture of our girls from Durham magazine’s photo shoot: Bengel & Red

Decadent Banana Bread with Mini Chocolate Chips


This recipe is a decadent spin on the classic banana bread – improved, in my opinion, with the addition of mini chocolate chips.  Every bite is delicious and dense, packed with chocolate and banana.  It’s a great way to use your overripe bananas and if for some reason it doesn’t disappear within a a day of baking, it freezes well tightly wrapped in foil.  I like to use the mini chocolate chips because they distribute more evenly through the bread and won’t sink to the bottom of your loaf pan.  The key to perfect banana breads is not overmixing the batter once the liquid ingredients are added to the dry. 

What to buy:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

What to do:

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • combine flour, baking soda and salt and set aside
  • whisk eggs and vanilla until combined
  • grease a medium to large size loaf pan with butter or cooking spray
  • cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light and fluffy
  • gradually pour the egg mixture into the butter, while mixing, until incorporated
  • add the bananas (which will appear to curdle the mixture, don’t fret)
  • slowly mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated and fold in the chocolate chips
  • transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about one hour
  • cool the bread in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes until you can flip it out to cool fully


Paint Your Pet with HappyMess in Durham

Recently my husband and I attended one of those sippin’ and paintin’ classes that have become popular in the last couple of years.  The theme for this one was “Paint Your Pet” (yes, we’re obsessed with our labs) and the class was offered at HappyMess Studios in Durham.  Joe signed us up back in February as a birthday present to me and some six months later we finally found a time to attend!

 When you first arrive the instructor shows you to your place where she has roughly sketched out a  photograph of your choice.  IMG_1702Fortified by whatever beverages you bring,  (a milkshake for me and beers for Joe,) you learn a brief lesson about colors and shading.  IMG_1697And then you get to work!

Our instructor, Libby, circulated between us for the next couple of hours to make sure we were on track and to help us mix the colors.  Before we knew it, 3 hours flew by and we were signing and dating our masterpieces.





DSC_0097Thanks to Libby’s hand, this photograph became this painting:IMG_1718

And this oneDSC_0879became this work of art by Joe:

IMG_0663And finally with this sweet face as inspirationDSC_0101

I painted: IMG_1720Overall, it was a great time, our instructor could not have been nicer and we took home some artwork that won’t win any awards but makes me smile.