October Things

Pressure Cooker Pork Harissa w/ Israeli Couscous and Carrots


I love seasonal items at Trader Joe’s and discovered a jar of harissa sauce the other day. I’ve never cooked with (or consumed) harissa before but the ingredient list promised a spicy experience so I picked a jar up. According to an article on the Kitchn, harissa is “a spicy and aromatic chile paste that’s a widely used staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking…[a] standard version includes a blend of hot chile peppers (which are often smoked), garlic, olive oil and spices, like cumin, coriander, caraway and mint.” The Kitchn had me at spicy and aromatic chile paste…and TJ’s had me at capsaicin as the first ingredient listed.

I know I post many variations of “pork butt in the pressure cooker” but I can’t help that pressure cooker pork shoulder yields an amazing meal meat base in a very short period of time. I think the more actual variations in taste or combinations, the better!


Prep Time: 15 min (excluding marinating time) | Cook Time: 1 hour

Serving Size: 5-6 servings

Podcast Recommendation: Okay, this isn’t a podcast but I have been loving Halloween Wars. It is infinitely hokey and about the aesthetic nexus between candy makers, professional pumpkin carvers (I guess that’s a thing), and cake decorators instead of the traditional food network shows which ostensibly provide recipes for the viewer to recreate at home. Pretty cool to see the insane stuff that people can make!


  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2.5-3 lbs pork shoulder, cubed into 1.5-2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup of Trader Joe’s harissa paste
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • garlic salt
  • 1 box (8.8 oz) of Israeli couscous (I used Osem couscous)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup hot or boiling water
  • 1.5-2 cups water, or more depending on how much is needed to cover pork in pressure cooker
  • 1 cube pork bouillon


  1. Put the chopped onions, pork shoulder, harissa paste, coriander, olive oil, and garlic salt in a ziplock bag and squish to distribute the paste and spices evenly over the pork; marinate in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 24.
  2. Once the meat is done marinating, dump all the contents from the ziplock bag into pressure cooker and add enough water so that 3/4 of the meat is covered. Drop the bouillon cube into the pressure cooker and turn on high (I use the meat/stew option) for 30 minutes.
  3. A couple of minutes before the 30 minutes in the pressure cooker is up, put a pot on the stove and put the water, carrots, and Israeli couscous into it and turn on high.
  4. Once the meat is done cooking, take the pressure cooker outside to manually release the pressure.
  5. Add 1 cup of the pork juices from the pressure cooker into the couscous pot and then turn the heat down to low. Continue to cook, stirring as needed, for 8-10 minutes. You will be able to tell if you need to stir the pot if the couscous is stuck to the walls of the pot. You can also add more water/broth from the pressure cooker, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the couscous is sticking to the walls or burning but not done cooking.
  6. While couscous is cooking, turn the pressure cooker back on high for another 10 minutes.
  7. Once couscous and meat are done, plate the couscous first and then create a crater in the center to hold the meat. Top with the broth from the pressure cooker and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Crepes of Wrath.


Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes

Serving Size: ~22 cookies, depending on the size

Podcast Recommendation: WashPo’s Presidential Podcast: Ep. 42: Bill Clinton: The Good and the Bad. Stumbled on this gem of a podcast – Lillian Cunningham, the host of the show, realized she didn’t know that much about our prior presidents so she created a podcast where she interviews reporters/historians/biographers/etc. about each past president, starting in episode one with George Washington.


  • 1.5 sticks (3/4 cup) butter (softened if mixing by hand)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In large bowl or stand mixer bowl, stir sugars and butter until blended. Add in vanilla and eggs until light and fluffy.
  3. Stir in oats, flour, baking soda and salt, then stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Measuring by 1 or 2 tablespoons, form balls of cookie dough and then slightly flatten and place on parchment paper – about 2 inches apart.
  5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly and eat!

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker.

Cheesy Pizza Dip


Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 12-15 minutes

Serving Size: 3-4

Podcast Recommendation:


  • 2/3 cup shredded Italian cheese blend, divided into two 1/3 cups
  • 1/3 cup tomato puree
  • 4 oz (half a block) of neufchatel or cream cheese
  • garlic salt
  • crushed red pepper (optional)
  • parsley (optional)
  • 6 slices pepperoni


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Mix cream cheese and 1/3 cup shredded cheese and put into medium ramekin
  3. Pour 1/3 cup tomato puree on top of cream cheese mixture.
  4. Add garlic salt, crushed red pepper, and parsley on top of tomato puree.
  5. Top with shredded cheese and pepperoni.
  6. Bake at 375 F for 12-15 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately with crackers, bread, or (for a ~healthier~ option) broccoli!

Recipe adapted from The Recipe Critic.

Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas Bowls

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serving Size: 2-3

Podcast Recommendation: Hidden Brain: The Perils of Power:The psychology behind “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton.

This is a really interesting interview with Prof. Dacher Ketner from Berkeley who looks at the paradox of power. People with higher emotional intelligence/empathy gain power more easily than their brutish counterparts but they lose those empathetic qualities once they feel powerful.


  • 2-4 lbs Pork Shoulder/Butt, cut into 1.5-2″ cubes
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fajita seasoning (pro tip: go to World Market for more exotic spices)
  • garlic salt
  • 1-4 jalapenos*, cut in half longways
  • 1-4 serrano peppers*, cut in half longways
  • 1/2 cup water per lb of pork
  • 1/2-1 cube beef bouillon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves – 1 whole head of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice + 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce or puree (I used puree)
  • canola oil
  • 1 cup black beans
  • Optional Garnishes:
    1. shredded cheese
    2. sour cream
    3. cholula
    4. salsa
    5. pica de gallo


  1. Pour 1-2 tablespoons oil into pot of pressure cooker and set on “saute” setting.
  2. Mix cumin through garlic salt seasonings and coat meat with them.
  3. When oil is sizzling (should only take about a minute for that to start), put the meat into the pot. Be careful to avoid hot oil splatters!
  4. Move meat around to try and brown on all sides (if some sides don’t get browning, that’s not a big deal either).
  5. Add chopped onion and garlic and peppers on top of meat and push around. Let food continue to saute for a few minutes.
  6. Add water and beef bouillon into the pressure cooker.
  7. Put lid on pressure cooker and switch pressure cooker setting from saute to meat/stew and cook on high pressure for 10-12 minutes per pound of meat.
  8. While meat is cooking, prepare the rice. In the wide and shallow pan with lid, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil on medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add dry rice and push around, being careful not to let the rice burn (no brown!!), about 1 minute.
  9. Add water to rice and tomato sauce or puree, reduce heat to low, and put lid on pan. Cook for ~10 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed from rice.
  10. Push the rice towards the sides, creating an opening in the center where you can see the pan. Add the black beans to the center (this is where the pan is the hottest).
  11. Cook the black beans and rice for an additional 5-8 minutes on medium heat, mixing frequently to prevent rice from sticking to bottom of pan. Once rice and beans are done, turn off the stove but keep the lid on the pan to preserve heat.
  12. Turn broiler on (~450) and once the meat is done in the pressure cooker, put the meat on an aluminum-foil-lined cookie sheet and place on top rack. Broil for 5 minutes.
  13. Plate rice and beans while meat is crisping in the broiler. Add whichever garnishes you’d like.
  14. Top with meat once it’s done and enjoy!

* Choose the number of peppers depends on your spice preference

Recipe adapted from here.


DIY Warm Fleece Dog Bed


Project Time: 20 minutes (w/ sewing machine)


  • 1 yard (36″) of 59″ wide fleece (I purchased in-store during 1/2 off fleece sale for $6.49/yd)
  • 1 pillow (I used 27 x 27” purchased in store w/ 50% off coupon for $17.49)
  • good fabric scissors
  • sewing machine/needle and thread


  1. Line up ends of fleece that the store did NOT cut and cut into two halves. You should have two rectangles that are 36″ x  29.5″.
  2. Line up the two fleece pieces with the right/good sides touching.
  3. Leaving a 6 inch allowance (starting after 6 inches in) from each end, sew together the two pieces of fleece along the long (36″) edges.
  4. Flip inside out so that the seams are on the inside and put the pillow in to measure how far you can cut strips into the fleece.
  5. Take pillow out and cup strips about 5 inches deep and 1 inch apart from each other
  6. Tie the strips (on opposite pieces of the fleece) together and then follow the same steps with the other side. When tying strips, make sure not to make the knots too tight or super close to the inner edges, or else you will get weird bunching at the base of the ties.
  7. Once remaining side’s strips have been cut, put pillow in and then tie those strips too.
  8. Bask in your pet’s love!❤️


Pizza w/ Trader Joe’s Garlic & Herb Dough


Pictured w/ Branch Cake Server from Sur la Table
Prep Time: 10 minutes (+ an hour dough-resting time)| Cook Time: 12 minutes

Serving Size: 3-6, depending on appetites🙂

Podcast Recommendation:


  • Trader Joe’s Garlic & Herb Pizza Dough ($1.29)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • parchment paper
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree (not sauce!!)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • thinly sliced onions
  • quality pepperoni (i.e. Roundy’s Old World Pepperoni)


  1. Let pizza dough sit out and get to room temperature for 30 – 60 minutes (even though you might want to, don’t skip this step!).
  2. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  3. Tear off piece of parchment paper the size of a cookie sheet/pizza stone (whatever you are baking the pizza on).
  4. Liberally flour the parchment paper and place room temperature pizza dough on it. Flour the side of the pizza dough that is facing up.
  5. Stretch out pizza dough but holding it perpendicular to the countertop and rotating the dough while maintaining hold on top of circular dough. If the dough is getting thing then place on parchment paper and knead out the center to redistribute the dough towards the outer edges.
  6. Mix tomato puree and olive oil. Feel free to add additional spices (such as oregano, etc.) here if desired.
  7. Spoon tomato puree and olive oil mixture onto stretched-out dough, making sure it is spread pretty thing (you should be able to see the white parts of the dough through the sauce).
  8. Sprinkle garlic salt on top of tomato puree.
  9. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of tomato puree.
  10. Sprinkle parsley on top of mozzarella cheese.
  11. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of parsley.
  12. Sprinkle onion slices on top of parmesan cheese.
  13. Top with pepperoni slices.
  14. Bake for 12-15 minutes on middle or top rack of the oven.

*Optional: The thick-cut pepperoni is pretty greasy so I blotted after popping the pizza out of the oven and added crushed red pepper. Yum!

Fresh Fig Scones


Prep Time: 10-15 minutes | Cook Time: 18-22 minutes

Serving Size: 8 scones

Podcast Recommendation: Radiolab Presents: More PerfectObject Anyway. This show looks at the story behind Batson v. Kentucky in which the Supreme Court struck down the validity of using race-based peremptory challenges. It also follows up with James Batson, the original criminal defendant (and later on appellant) in the case and Joe Guttman, Batson’s prosecutor who struck the black jurors in Batson’s case because of their race.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted, mixed with 1/2 cup half and half (or just ½ cup heavy cream), plus 1 tablespoon (for brushing the tops)
  • 2 tablespoons truvia honey blend (or plain honey)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 1 cup skin-on diced fresh figs (~8 figs)
  • granulated sugar, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Dump flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Having uneven pieces of butter throughout is ok.
  3. Dump flour/butter mixture into large mixing bowl and gently stir in figs until coated with flour.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, ½ cup half and half/butter mixture OR heavy cream, Truvia honey blend, and vanilla paste, then fold into the flour mixture. Gently toss with a rubber spatula until dough begins to form. Don’t over mix.
  5. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead gently, about 5-6 times, until a ball forms. The dough will likely be slightly sticky. Pat the dough into a 9-inch circle, about ¾-inch thick, and cut into 8 even wedges. My dough was pretty sticky so I popped it in the fridge for 5 minutes and ended up shaping each of the wedges into lopsided circles about 1/2 inch apart from each other (to give them room to expand while baking).
  6. Place scones on prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with a bit of heavy cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  7. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  9. While scones are still hot, sprinkle again with coarse sugar for extra crunchiness or drizzle maple syrup on top.
  10. Scones are delicious either warm or at room temperature. Scones are best eaten the same day they are made, but they can be frozen for up to 1 month.

Recipe adapted from Pretty Simple Sweet.