Spring Baseball Special

Once a sports fan, NOT always a sports fan.  Well, that’s a strange way to start a post about spring baseball season!  But let me explain what I mean.

My friends and family have long known that I’m a pretty big sports fan, especially football, baseball, and hockey.  I grew up sitting next to my dad to catch the latest St. Louis Cardinals or Blues game or any Mizzou game.  I even played a little sports in school, although not that well.  I frequented college football, basketball, and volleyball games as a cheering spectator.  As an adult, I’ve logged my fair share of hours watching ESPN and other sports networks.

I love the competition.  I love the unexpected outcome.  In sports, it’s not always a happy ending for some.  I love the concept of loyalty, standing by a favorite team through good seasons and bad.  I love the bonding between fans.  I love the social activity that develops from an afternoon of tailgating or gathering around a championship game.  I respect athletes for their talent and dedication to the game.  That is, until they are no longer respectable.

Food For Thought  In the past few years I have found it more and more difficult to be a sports fan.  It has become too political for me.  I have always found sports to be a source of entertainment, but like so many other forms of entertainment out there right now, I just can’t take all the fighting, hateful tweets, and disrespect.  So, like all those other forms of entertainment, I’m slowly backing away, distancing myself from the negativity.  I still catch an occasional game from time to time, but I’m finding my time and money better spent in other ways, away from the growing level of greed and ego that seem to permeate the American sports culture these days.

When you make millions of dollars as a professional athlete in this country, it’s hard for me to listen to your whining.  When, as a professional athlete, you have been given opportunities that only a very tiny percentage of people will ever experience, it’s hard for me to recognize that you have been oppressed in any way.  When, as a professional or college athlete, you are given special consideration for your crimes or rule-breaking, it’s hard for me to support you.

I’m choosing, however, to not get ugly about it on social media or make loud demands or protests.  I will simply change the channel.  When you all grow up and decide to be thankful for the experience you have been blessed with, maybe then I’ll be a true sports fan, once again.

Today’s Scripture

Today’s Recipes  While I may be viewing fewer games these days, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some sports-themed parties or gatherings.  Kids are still playing their peewee and little league games.  Grown-ups are still gathering around the television or tailgate for some sports-related socializing.  Since it’s spring, we’re mostly all talking about baseball.  Some of us are heading to the big stadium to watch the big league-ers and some of us are going to the little field to catch a glimpse of our smallest big hitters for the afternoon.  However you’re celebrating baseball this season, I have three options to spice things up or sweeten the deal.

Concession stand fare has really grown up in the past few years.  You are no longer confined to ordering a hot dog or a few stale chips with rubbery cheese sauce.  Unless you want to, that is.  Most major league ballparks have really upscaled their offerings.  In our city, the go-to is barbecue!  You can get beef brisket nachos or loaded fries with pulled pork.  Yum!

My first recipe today is a nod to a local favorite…Pulled Pork Polish Sausage with Creamy Coleslaw…wowza! Personally, I think this recipe is all about the pulled pork, starting with my own dry rub seasoning blend.

Dry Rub Seasoning Blend for Pork

Directions

Combine the following in a large bowl: 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup salt, 1/8 cup each of onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, allspice, smoky paprika, and Aleppo or cayenne pepper. (Be sure to use garlic and onion powder and not salt!) Once well combined, place in a lidded, air-tight container until ready to use.

Pulled Pork Shoulder

Directions

Set oven to 275 degrees. Place an 8-10 pound pork shoulder in a deep-sided foil or roasting pan. Rub 1/4 cup of vegetable oil generously on all sides of the pork. Liberally pour dry rub seasoning over pork and rub in to all sides. Note–The dry rub blend I shared above usually does two pork shoulders.

Pour a 12-ounce can of Dr. Pepper (not diet) over the roast and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place in 275 degree oven and cook for 8-10 hours.

Remove from oven; remove foil. Shred or pull the pork using tongs or forks.

Pulled Pork Polish Sausages with Creamy Coleslaw

Directions

While pork is cooking, place a dozen polish sausages in a slow cooker. Add enough water to just cover the sausages. Turn slow cooker to WARM (the sausages only need to stay warm).

When ready to serve, place a polish sausage on a bun. I recommend brat or hoagie buns because they are more sturdy for these sandwiches than just regular hot dog buns.

Top polish sausage with pulled pork. Add your favorite creamy coleslaw on top. Serve with pickles.

But wait, there’s more! I have a couple EASY baseball-themed sweet treats to share, also.

If you follow along regularly, you know that cake decorating and piping is not my biggest talent. So, I’m always on the lookout for ways I can create cute theme treats with minimal work on my part. That’s how these Baseball Donuts and Baseball Oreo Pops will be. You can certainly pipe the stitching onto either treat with traditional buttercream using a piping bag, but that’s not really my scene. I used a store-bought red gel icing and red candy melts and let toothpicks do the hard work for me.

For setting the scene for your baseball-themed party or gathering, you can get this baseball print scrapbook paper for about 25 cents a sheet, which makes a cute table display, backdrop, or placemats. We like to have some inexpensive picnic ware in our hometown team’s colors to use for serving, like these blue gingham print picnic plates and blue plastic flower “pots.”

Oreo Baseball Pops

Directions

Take 8 to 10 Double Stuff Oreo Cookies and stick a lollipop stick through the middle of the cream filling. Press down gently to be sure they’re secure. I like the Double Stuff cookies for this because there is more frosting to secure the lollipop sticks in place.

Melt 6 ounces of white almond bark according to package directions. Dip each cookie pop in the white candy coating. Be sure both sides are coated and allow excess to drip off before placing on a wax paper-lined tray. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to harden coating.

Using red decorator gel, draw 2 semi-circles on each side of the ball. Using a toothpick, drag through each side of the semi-circle lines to make the stitching details. They don’t have to be perfect, they’re whimsical!

A note about making a display for your pops–first, if you’re going to place your pops in a container like the flower pot in my picture, be sure to have some cut foam, such as florist foam, to fit in your container to stick the pops into. They are top heavy, so they need something sturdy to keep them standing up straight. Second, the red gel icing does not set like the candy coating, so they remain sticky to the touch. This means they are a bit tricky to get into the display container without smudging the red stitching.

Vanilla-Glazed Cake Baseball Donuts

Directions

Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray a donut cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Prepare a white cake mix according to package directions. Fill each donut space with cake batter until about 1/2 full. Bake at 350 for 16 minutes. Remove pan to cooling rack for 15-20 minutes. Run a butter knife around the inner and outer edges of each donut space and gently pull out each donut and place on wire rack to finish cooling. Repeat process, including spraying with nonstick spray, until all cake batter is used. You will get 1 1/2 to 2 dozen donuts, depending on the size of your donut pan.

For glaze, place 1/2 a container of vanilla frosting in microwave safe bowl. Microwave 15-30 seconds to melt into a glaze. Take each donut and dip top-down into glaze and flip back over onto rack to allow glaze to set.

Place 4-6 ounces of red candy melt wafers in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds to 1 minute until melted and smooth. Using a drizzle tool, outline two semi-circle shapes on the sides of the donut. Drag a toothpick through the chocolate to add details for stitching or leave stitching as is for a more simple look.