Slow Cooker Carnitas

(Sorry there are no photos because I realized something: I suck at photographing meat. It was also so delicious that it didn’t last long.)

When I was a little kid my idea of Mexican food consisted of bean and cheese burritos and chips with bean dip. I didn’t even venture into salsa until well into my teens. I know, I was the whitest little kid ever. I remember my mom would get batches of homemade tamales from her friends and I would never eat them. They looked weird. What was with the leaves they were wrapped in? No thank you.

Now that I am well into my adulthood and also dating someone who knows his way around some good Mexican food there are now several things I love, tamales among them. Every once in a while Vahid will make wonderful frijoles from scratch and they are the best thing ever. About once a month I will make a big batch of carnitas and we eat them throughout the week. Usually I would make them on the stove cooking them for a few hours. Recently I have adapted the recipe to make them in the slow cooker which is so much more convenient. I can set it to cook overnight and wake up to wonderful delicious food in the morning.

Slow Cooker Carnitas:

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 2 stips of bacon to line the bottom of the slow cooker (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoon oregano
  • ground black pepper or ground nigella seeds to taste
  • apple cider vinegar
  • (optional: ½ teaspoon ground garlic or one chopped up garlic clove; dash of onion powder, dash of cayenne pepper)
  1. Chop of your pork into about 2 inch chunks
  2. Line the slow cooker with strips of bacon if using then cover the bottom with the pork
  3. add your seasonings as evenly as you can. (Note: if using the optional seasonings you can omit the oregano. I try to limit my garlic and onion consumption due to the cognitive effects they can have and sometimes cayenne upsets my digestion so I sub oregano to add a delightful flavor)
  4. cook on low for 8-10 hours
  5. Pork should be soft and easily pulled apart when done
  6. After cooking add some apple cider vinegar to the cooked pork. It adds a delightful tartness to the meat

Now I’m sure this isn’t an authentic recipe or anything but I call it carnitas and it’s delicious in a taco or burrito or anything else you want to put it in. It has a great taste and is savory with just the right amount of flavor and is great as a base for guacamole or salsa. Sometimes I’ve even added some to my eggs to make a quick scramble in the morning.

If you try out this recipe let me know how you like it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What’s for Breakfast?

I’m not a big breakfast person. I just don’t sit down in the morning and eat breakfast. If I have a few hours before work to wake up fully, drink a few cups of tea, then I would be a breakfast person. That’s why I love weekend brunch. I’m usually up by 9 and eating around 11am, the timing is great. But waking up at 7 and eating by7:30? Not a great match for me.

Vahid has been making me “Breakfast Tea” as I call it. It’s a version of a Bulletproof Coffee that he makes for himself. It’s great because I get to spend fifteen minutes before I have to leave for work sipping a nice filling tea rather than trying to choke down some eggs or toast. This fills me up and by the time lunch rolls around I’m hungry but not ravenous.

Below is a modified recipe of the traditional Bulletproof Coffee.

Breakfast Tea:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strongly brewed Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 t raw cacao powder
  • ¼ t vanilla powder
  • 3 drops of liquid stevia

Directions:

  1. Brew your tea (I like to let it steep for a good five or so minutes)
  2. To a Blender add: butter, cacao powder, vanilla powder, stevia
  3. Once tea is done brewing add tea
  4. Blend!
  5. Enjoy your lovely morning drink

What is your “go to” breakfast? Are you a big eater in the morning or do you have to wake up a bit first?

 

Monthly Triumphs of August

I’m sitting here wondering what I actually accomplished this month. It’s been a little stressful at work and when I think of August those stressors pop into my mind. However, despite that it’s been a good month and here’s why:

  • Vahid and I are cooking nearly all our meals at home. I’m really loving the routine we’ve developed of getting our produce (and most of our meat) at the Farmer’s Market each week and cooking with really good, really fresh ingredients. It’s really great to learn new uses for things I used to just walk by each week like leeks and fennel.
  • We bought a new mattress and our sleep has dramatically improved. I knew our old mattress wasn’t great and wasn’t giving up good quality sleep anymore but I wasn’t expecting such a difference. I don’t wake up in a bunch of pain from sleeping on a mattress past it’s prime. It’s a much better way to start the morning!
  • Exercising in the morning. This isn’t an every single morning activity yet as I’m still adjusting to waking up a little earlier to accomplish this but the mornings that we have been doing this I’ve felt more alert and just felt more energized throughout the day.
  • Reading. This might seem silly but it’s been quite a long time since I’ve dedicated time (nearly) every day to do some reading. I’m even reading a book just for pleasure (I’ve been reading a lot of books on thinking, habits, and general self improvement) which is a great change of pace. This summer one of my favorite things has been to just sit on the shared patio with a book and a glass of iced tea or lemonade in the evenings and read. It’s pretty nice, even if I don’t have the whole place to myself.
  • Drawing some boundaries professionally. I don’t mind my job mostly. I’m not in love with it. I don’t wake up super excited for work, but I don’t dread going either. But it was good that for the first time I was able to draw a line in the proverbial sand about a couple things and it felt good. No one was upset and I was glad that this will end up being a place where I am not expected to be ready to work ‘round-the-clock.

I suppose once I thought about it this month has been pretty eventful!

How has your month gone? What are some things you’ve accomplished or are accomplishing?

Stupid Simple Pizza Sauce

No matter how much I love pizza, pizza does not love me. Pizza is something I am always tinkering with. I have tried a few dough recipes that don’t require flour and found one that was a success.

Right now I am really enjoying zucchini pizza. Have you heard of this? Tried this? It’s actually pretty good. The zucchini is quite mellow and the pizza toppings add some great zing to it. Really, it’s such a weird thing but I keep making them every chance I get. I like to the chop the zucchini into circles and create little pizza bites.

One of my biggest problems with pizza (besides how deliciously fattening regular pizza is) is that conventional pizza sauce just has a lot of sugar in it. I am trying to stay away from sugar (which is much harder than you think it is) and as a result always getting a little aggravated when I see how many grams of sugar a pizza sauce contains.

I’d like to say that now I tell you how I creatively came up with a great tasting pizza sauce that doesn’t use sugar. But I didn’t. Vahid came up with this amazingly easy pizza sauce that doesn’t have any added sugar. It’s delightful and I often will just dunk some mozzarella slices into the sauce and eat it. It’s that good.

Want to learn how I made it? You’ll laugh at how easy it is. Really.
Pizza sauce!

Stupid Simple Pizza Sauce

Ingredients: 

  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 teaspoons of pizza flavoring
  • 1.5 teaspoons of xylitol (more/less depending on sweetness desired)

Directions:

  1. Pour sauce in a bowl
  2. Combine all ingredients in bowl and enjoy!

Really that’s all there is to it.

Make this and enjoy it. Put it on dough, zucchini, or just spread it on a pepperoni and roll it up with some mozzarella and put it in your face. You’ll like it, I promise.

Sweet, Sweet Tea

I didn’t grow up in the south. Sweet tea was not a beverage I grew up drinking. The closest thing we got was a sun tea. I didn’t like tea much growing up. It was kind of bitter and bland and I did not want a lemon squeezed into it.

Now I love tea. I drink everything from a basic breakfast black to a fruity herbal tea. I have favorites of course, teas that I always go back to like my Hot Cinnamon Spice tea from a local tea shop. But on a hot summer day it’s hard to be a nice cold glass of sweet tea.

I can’t take credit for this recipe as I was not the one who came up with it. Vahid came up with this and it’s a fridge staple at our house. I love this tea. I love this tea even more because it doesn’t use sugar. Wait, how can a tea be called a “sweet tea” if it doesn’t use sugar to, you know, make it sweet?

It started as a way to come up with an iced tea that made use of all the mint that grows at Vahid’s mom’s house. Vahid and I love mint, Vahid might love it a bit more than me. So when we would visit his mom we could clip a bunch and take it home. Vahid started making teas and then started making iced teas with it. In an effort to cut down our (okay my) sugar consumption he experimented adding ground stevia* to the tea to make a sweet tea that satisfied my sweet tooth and didn’t have the detrimental effect sugar has on the body.

It was such a success that it’s the only iced tea we make and one of the few things we drink besides water. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s ridiculously easy to make.

Summer is better with sweet tea!

Sweet Mint Tea

Ingredients:

  • ½ bunch of mint leaves
  • a small amount of stevia (I prefer ground stevia leaf but other forms of stevia can work if that’s what you already have)
  • water

Directions:

  1. Pull the leaves from the stem and place in a pot of water on the stove
  2. Add as much as stevia as desired to make it sweet. Start small as stevia is an incredibly powerful sweetener. If making a big jug maybe as much as ¼ teaspoon. Maybe. I say err on the side of caution and start with a few pinches and go from there.
  3. Boil the leaves and stevia for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Strain and taste. If you think you still need to sweeten add some more stevia at this time
  5. Chill to room temperature and then place in fridge to get cold
  6. Pour some over ice and enjoy in the sunshine!

And that’s it. Enjoy some guilt free sweet tea this summer!

*I buy ground stevia leaf from Mountain Rose Herbs. It’s just dried stevia that has been ground into a powder. It’s still green and hasn’t been treated in any way to make it more “sugar” like. I try to stay as natural as I can and avoid stevia that has been chemically treated to resemble sugar.