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Reach For the Unexpected and Allow Yourself to Be Surprised

By Tina Albo:

If there's anything you've learned about me already, it's that I endeavour to find those unexpected ingredients that make everyday foods more satisfying. In my inaugural article, I merely scratched the surface when I mentioned the two deliciously unexpected combinations that were near and dear to my heart.

In my quest to discover more of the unexpected, I was surprised to learn that some ingredients we keep around the house are taken for granted. While each ingredient is elegant in its simplicity, it also hides a catalyst of complexity that makes the mundane become flavourful in ways one couldn't imagine.

Believe me when I say that you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you do not give these little gems a try.

Coffee: More Than Just a Beverage to Accompany Your Dessert

When the Ethiopian farmer first discovered the reason why his goats were dancing and jumping about, he never anticipated that the berries they were eating would become such a versatile, complex ingredient.

Centuries later, coffee has become a finely tuned art, from the growing process all the way to the final roasted blends we know and love from our favourite cafés and supermarkets. Much like we depend on cut, colour, and clarity to identify quality diamonds, coffee can be similarly identified by roast, region, and even the type of plant it’s been cultivated from.

I will note that coffee has been used in a variety of delicious desserts, such as Tiramisu. However, I could never imagine that the same ingredient that gives my favourite dessert its distinctive flavour could be used for savoury foods as well. When I first decided to try coffee as an ingredient to a pork chop marinade, I had no idea what was in store for my taste buds. Color me pleasantly surprised after my first taste.

Despite the unlikely combination, pork and coffee are well-suited for each other. The complexity of the coffee beans adds some depth and complexity to pork’s subtle flavour. If you’re a big fan of barbecue, then the recipe I recommend most would be Coffee-Rubbed Pulled Pork. The best way to take advantage of this complexity is to incorporate the ground beans into your flavour rub.

If there’s a main thing I’ve gleaned from my own foray into barbecue dishes, it’s that you need to keep your rubs simple. This is especially true with pulled pork, because a simple rub will give you all the flavour you need.

My go-to rub combines ground coffee with each of the following spices: garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, white pepper, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Please keep in mind that this ratio only works for boneless pork butt cuts that are up to 3.5 lbs. You will need to adjust these numbers if you plan on using a bigger cut. Done right, this rub will create a nice flavor profile that will make your mouth water with every bite.

Once you try this, you’ll never take coffee for granted again!


Coffee-Rubbed Pulled Pork (Serves 4–8 people)


1–3 lb Picnic Shoulder Roast (or Pork Butt)

Spice Rub:

2 tbsp ground coffee

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper


1. Spread rub evenly over the shoulder roast. Place roast in a bowl and cover before letting sit in a refrigerator at least six hours to overnight.

2. Place shoulder roast in slow cooker and add enough water to cover it halfway. Set timer for 8 hours on low.

3. 4 hours in, turn shoulder roast over for even cooking.

4. Extract roast from slow cooker and let sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour before separating the meat from the bone.

5. Shred the pork with two forks or gloved hands.

6. Place shredded pork in hot, well-oiled skillet and add your favourite barbecue sauce. Stir until meat is evenly saturated and the sauce caramelizes.

7. Take pork off the heat and serve on a bun with some coleslaw.


Coca-Cola: Who Knew That A Soft Drink Could Do More Than Quench Your Thirst?

When one thinks of Coca-Cola, one doesn’t think of it as a versatile cleaning ingredient or a potential mind-blowing addition to a marinade. We think of the iconic glass bottle, fresh from the cooler and covered in a fine sheen of mist on a hot summer day—a veritable treat to beat the blistering rays of the hot sun.

When an acquaintance gave me a recipe for Coca-Cola chicken, I was understandably skeptical. I had never considered using anything other than beer or wine as a suitable way to add flavor to a batter or a marinade. Yet, my curiosity outweighed my doubt, and I decided to use the recipe one afternoon after pondering what to do with the chicken breasts I had just defrosted.

Long story short, my curiosity was rewarded with tender, flavorful meat that caused my mouth to water with each tantalizing bite. I’m not normally a fan of chicken breasts, as I find them to be too dry when cooked. After adding Coca-Cola into the mix, I will never look at this part of the chicken the same way again.

If you’re a fan of beef pot roast, then consider Coca-Cola your new best friend. My recommendation is to add a cup of Coca-Cola to the sauce you will be pouring over the browned roast and into the roasting pan.

The rest of the sauce I use is comprised of the following: 1 can of crushed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, and 1 teaspoon of dried basil. (Please keep in mind that you will want to adjust your numbers if you plan on using a roast bigger than 3 lbs.)

When melded with the cooked beef, these ingredients come together into delicious gravy that you will want to swipe your Yorkshire pudding and garlic bread into when all the meat has been eaten. It will be the highlight of your meal!

Try this combination and change your perspective on soft drinks.


Coca-Cola Pot Roast (Serves 4–6 people)


1–3 lb beef roast (chuck, blade, or sirloin will do)

4 medium carrots, cut

1/4 Spanish onion, chopped fine

4 stalks celery, cut

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp white pepper


1 cup Coca-Cola

1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil


1. Take roast and cover evenly with salt, black pepper, and white pepper. Set aside in refrigerator and allow to sit for at least 6 hours to overnight.

2. Place carrots, celery, and onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.

3. In a hot, well-oiled skillet, brown the meat evenly on all sides. Place browned meat on top of vegetables in the slow cooker.

4. Mix the ingredients for the sauce together and stir until completely smooth and combined. Pour sauce all over the browned meat. Add a cup of water to the meat.

5. Set slow cooker to low heat and program for 6 hours.

6. Remove meat from slow cooker and let rest before slicing.

7. Extract sauce from slow cooker and thicken as desired.

8. Serve with roasted potatoes and Yorkshire pudding.


Orange Juice: Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

It’s no secret that the juice from an orange is versatile. However, there are still many people out there who find it daunting to find a use for this particular ingredient outside of brunch.

Fear not! Orange juice can be used in a multitude of dishes so that you can enjoy its flavour at every meal: You can marinate bacon in the juice to create a delicious caramelized treat. You can also make a healthier ice-cream topping by cooking your fruit in orange juice instead of using the sugary alternatives. If you want to give your pork roast a Cuban flair, add it to your marinade and then use the resulting sauce as a delicious glaze.

In addition to marinades and homemade salad dressings, I prefer to use orange juice instead of water when I am making a side dish of rice. It’s a simple substitution, and it adds an extra burst of flavor that pleases the palate. Orange rice is a great side to roast chicken or a baked white fish like sole.

However, my favorite use for orange juice is to use it to deglaze a pan when I pan fry shrimp or chicken for a stir fry. Not only does it give the meat extra oomph, but it also adds a delicate sweetness to the vegetables and buckwheat noodles it accompanies.

Orange juice is meant to be your friend, so use it in the kitchen as much as you can! You’ll be glad you did.

When you use unexpected ingredients like coffee, Coca-Cola, and orange juice, you are awakening your senses to new and exciting flavors. Life is too short to stick to your culinary comfort zones, so get out there and discover the untapped potential waiting for you in your pantry, spice rack, and refrigerator. You’ll never know what’s waiting for you.


For kitchen inspiration and other interesting recipes, follow my Facebook page, Tantalizing Tastes!

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