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.

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.

Strawberry Summer

It’s summer. I’m calling it even though we’ve had a smattering of rain and the mornings and evenings are still jacket weather. (Although it’s light jacket weather which is an improvement.) The sun always seems to warm up the afternoons and more importantly it’s the middle of strawberry season!

Few things make me happier than when the summer berries start making their appearance at the Farmer’s Market. One of those things is getting to pick berries and taking home all the berries. Then I proceed to eat as many as I can until my stomach tells me that that wasn’t my smartest move. But still. Berries.

This weather always triggers a craving for ice cream. While I have so many great options in Portland (really I’m spoiled by all the amazing ice cream. If you come to visit I will give you the official, unofficial, ice cream tour. It’s delicious.) sometimes I want something that doesn’t have a ton of added sugar and dairy. So I whipped up my own concoction.

Presenting: The Fresh Strawberry Milkshake! (minus the milk)

Homemade strawberry milkshakes in the summer afternoon.

Recipe: Fresh Strawberry Milkshake

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint “So Delicious” brand No Sugar Added Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream
  • 1 pint of fresh strawberries (or more depending on how strawberry tasting you want it), with the tops cut off if that’s up your alley
  • Milk of choice for thinning. I use coconut but hemp, and nut milks are good options. (I try to avoid soy milk but if that’s your jam have at it.)

Directions:

  1. Dump your strawberries in your blender
  2. Add at least half your ice cream
  3. Blend
  4. Add the rest of your ice cream and milk if needed
  5. Taste and add more milk or strawberries to suit your preference.

It’s super simple to make and at the end you have enough milkshake for two glasses to enjoy on a hot summer day!

**Note: This is great with all berries, not just strawberries. Right now it’s just strawberry season so that’s my focus. But please enjoy this with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, all other berries. Or even a mix of berries would taste fantastic!

What do you think? Would this make it on your summer treat list?