SRC: Pork Carnitas

pork carnitas in shells

After a break to allow everyone to enjoy December with their families, The Secret Recipe Club is back! Being in Group A, it’s been almost 2 months since I’ve posted with the group. Bring on 2013!

My blogger this month was Anne from Authentic Simplicity. Anne has a lot of ideas for a wide variety of recipes. I have made things from her site before, so I was excited to scope out a new recipe for SRC. Truthfully, it didn’t take me long. I couldn’t get past this pork carnitas recipe. How can you pass up a recipe the author states she makes almost every time she buys a pork roast? There are only bonus points for the fact that it’s a dump and cook recipe for the crockpot!

pork carnitas close

I stayed pretty true to the recipe, although I bought a relatively lean pork roast at the store, trimming off any large sections of fat at home before I cooked it. The only other thing I added was a pinch or so of red pepper flakes for just a bit of heat. I can tell you that this smelled SO GOOD when it was cooking. My husband even came in and asked what I was up to in the kitchen. For me, what really makes this meat is the cinnamon. A spice that I never would have added into this mix on my own. It is so good on this meat. We enjoyed the meat layered in baked taco shells, and I can tell you we will be making this again. Thanks Anne for a keeper recipe at this house!

(Printable Recipe)

Pork Carnitas
Adapted slightly from Authentic Simplicity

Ingredients:
3-4 lb. lean pork roast, large pieces of fat trimmed
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. dried cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. paprika
pinch red pepper flakes
2-4 bay leaves (I used 3)
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Place the roast in the slow cooker. Pour the broth over the meat. Add the onion, garlic, and spices. Mix a little to combine. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours depending on the size of the roast. When the meat is done, it will shred easily with a fork. Shred the whole roast adding just a little cooking liquid back into the meat to keep it moist. Serve as desired. The meat can be used for nachos, enchiladas, tacos, tostadas, etc.

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Root Beer Pulled Pork

rootbeer pulled pork

I’ve mentioned it a couple days ago – but football is back, and this weekend, no matter what level you prefer to watch (high school all the way up through the pro’s), you’re set until the Super Bowl in February. While we may be located in Arizona, I am still a Nebraskan at heart, so college football (specifically the Huskers) is my football of choice. 

One thing about football is that my husband has a very specific mental definition of “game food.” I still haven’t quite figured out the specifics (as it seems to keep changing), but it seems to revolve around food that is somewhat portable that goes well with game day beverages of choice. Unfortunately for me, cookies don’t quite fit the bill (although I strongly disagree). 

root beer pulled pork after cooking
rootbeer pulled pork sandwich

While I’m not quite sure pulled pork meets the bill of portable, this recipe has passed his inspection to qualify as “game food.” It is a recipe that really can’t get any simpler – any cut of pork + root beer + barbeque sauce of choice in the slow cooker. It can be scaled down for 2 or all the way up to feed a party. For the meat, we typically use a pork loin roast. While I haven’t tried it myself, I’ve heard reports of cuts from pork tenderloin to pork shoulder working well. Any cut of pork that will do well in the slow cooker should be fine.

The recipe came from one of my co-residents last year, although I’ve heard people have also found it on allrecipes.com. We’ve made it several times at this point, and it always seems to disappear before I am able to get any good pictures. Whomever your team is, I hope you are able to enjoy this as “game food” before the season is over. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Root Beer Pulled Pork
From Shannon D.

Ingredients:
approx. 1 lb. pork loin
1 liter root beer (approx 1/2 of a 2-liter bottle)
barbeque sauce

Trim the meat of any large portions of visible fat. Place in the slower cooker. Cover with root beer about 2/3 up the cut of meat. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low.

When the meat is cooked through, remove and shred. Drain the root beer reserving 1/4-1/2 cup. Place the shredded meat back in the slow cooker and mix the the reserved root beer until the meet is just moist. Mix in barbeque sauce until desired consistency. I usually turn the slow cooker back to low to heat through (about 5-10 minutes). Serve with rolls and additional barbeque sauce.

SRC: Pork Fajitas with Cherry Salsa

pork fajitas with cherry salsa2

I bring you this break from the Olympics and (newly) studying for an additional board certification exam to bring you another SRC post! My blog this month was The Cookaholic Wife written by Nichole. Nichole has been inventing recipes since the first time she cooked, and I spent a lot of time reading through many of the posts on her blog. With a fun mix of meals and sweets, there are a lot of great recipes!

Truthfully, I was all set to make this Spicy Basil Chicken when Nicole posted these Pork Fajitas with Cherry Salsa late last week. Fajitas are my absolute favorite meal, and there was no way I was passing on this recipe.

pork fajitas cherry salsa (1)
pork fajitas cherry salsa (2)

Speaking of cherries, while they are one of the quintessential summer fruits, I usually am not that into them. It is not that I don’t like the flavor (love them), I just can’t handle eating them and then spitting out the seeds. Pitting cherries just to eat them seems a little drastic, so I usually just don’t do it (that and we don’t own a cherry pitter). A couple weeks ago, I ran across a tip to use a sturdy straw as a cherry pitter, so I tried it out with this recipe. I used a strong plastic straw from one of those reusable cups, and it worked pretty well, although I think using a sturdy (ex: thick) straw would be essential to this method.

pork fajitas with cherry salsa

Anyway, back to the fajitas. These definitely lived up to their expectations! I was not able to locate chipotle chili powder, so I just used traditional chili powder which worked fine here. My only other change was to swap out cheddar cheese for monterey jack. Thanks Nichole! I know these are going on my “make again” list!

(Printable Recipe)

Pork Fajitas with Cherry Salsa
Adapted from The Cookaholic Wife

Ingredients:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. chili powder
zest of 1 lime
1 lb. pork tenderloin, visible fat trimmed, cut into thin strips
1/2-1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 green bell pepper, julienned 
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
8 tortilla shells

Cherry Salsa:
1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, chopped
4 tsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder

In a small bowl, use a spoon to mash the salt and garlic together until a paste forms. Stir in the lime juice, lime zest, and chili powder. Add the pork strips, and mix until combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients for the salsa and toss until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat a large skillet and oil over medium heat. When hot, add the pork strips and cook for 5-7 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer the pork to a plate and keep warm. Add the red and green pepper and onion to the skillet. Cook until crisp-tender. Return the pork to the skillet and stir until heated through.

Place pork, peppers, and onion in each tortilla shell. Top with cherry salsa, monterey jack cheese, and cilantro. 

Favorite Pork and Vegetable Kebabs

family favorite kabobs closer

April might be a little early to start thinking about grilling season. But if any of you are like we were when living in the Midwest, when there’s a will, there’s a way. We’ve even been known to scoop the snow off the top just in order to use ours (of course this wasn’t in AZ!).

This is a kebab recipe that I’ve been making since before I was even blogging. In fact, I can distinctly remember the first time we made it because the weather was quite the opposite that night. We had tornado warnings rather than snow 🙂 

Crazy weather aside, let’s talk about the food. The term “favorite” in this recipe comes from the original recipe, although I would certainly say this is on the top of our grilling list. There are quite a few steps in this recipe, but the end result is worth it. We have adapted it through the years in both ingredients and methods to match what works best for us, and you can certainly swap the vegetables for others that you prefer others. My only piece of advice would be not to leave out the pineapple! 

family favorite kabobs

Break out the grill early this year, and try this out. Enjoy!  

(Printable Recipe)

Favorite Pork and Vegetable Kebabs 
The Cookin’ Chemist Original

Ingredients:
6 small red potatoes, halved

1-1/4 cups canola oil

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

3 Tbsp. prepared mustard

2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 medium ears sweet corn, cut into 2-inch wheels

1 large onion, cut into wedges

1 large green or red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pkg. cherry tomatoes

1-1/2 cups cubed fresh pineapple (can use canned)

1 cup brown rice, uncooked
lg. foil roasting pan

skewers

Prepare rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until starting to soften, about 10-12 minutes (this will depend on the size of the potatoes). You do not want to cook them completely through as they will go on the grill later. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, parsley, pepper, and garlic. Pour half into a large resealable plastic bag; add the pork. Pour the remaining marinade into another plastic bag, add the vegetables and pineapple. Seal both bags and turn to coat. Refrigerate and marinate for 1-2 hours. 

Drain and discard the marinade from the pork. Thread the pork pieces through skewers. Drain the vegetables, reserving a couple tablespoons of marinade. Place the vegetables in the foil roasting pan and add the reserved marinade from the vegetables. Heat the grill over medium heat. Place the entire pan of vegetables and the pork skewers on the grill. Grill until the pork has cooked through and the vegetables have softened. Serve over rice with some of the reserved liquid in the vegetable pan.

Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce

Grilling. It has to be synonymous with summer, and the smell of dinner cooking away outside has to be one of my favorite smells in the world. When you combine grilling with one of our favorite cuisines (Greek), I am game. Thus, as soon as I saw this recipe for grilled pork souvlaki on The Blest Nest, I knew we would be making them soon! 

Greek and other Mediterranean dishes aren’t foods that either of us grew up eating, but they are something that we have come to love since we first tried them in pharmacy school. Lemon, oregano, garlic, chickpeas, olive oil. What’s not to love? Not only is it GOOD, but it can be pretty healthy for you too. Double win 🙂

While we have made a couple other Greek meals at home, this pork souvlaki has to be the best one yet. It is really simple to make. No more complicated than your standard skewers in that you marinate the meat for several hours and then throw it on the grill. My only change was to grill the pork and vegetables on separate skewers to account for different cook times. Sometimes the veggies will finish cooking before the meat is done, and if they are on different skewers, you can simply take them off the grill. I made my own whole wheat pitas for this, but you could easily use some from the store to make this doable for a weeknight meal. Done and done. Enjoy! 

(Printable Recipe)

Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce
Adapted from The Blest Nest

Ingredients:
Pork Souvlaki:
1 large lemon, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 green or red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup feta cheese
whole wheat pitas

Tzatziki Sauce:
1 cup lowfat Greek yogurt
1 large cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dried dill (or 1 Tbsp. fresh if you have it)
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

For the meat, in a ziptop bag, combine the lemon juice, oil, soy sauce, oregano, and garlic. Swish to combine. Add pork cubes and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours (can be made in the morning for that evening). If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling. If using metal skewers, the soaking step is not necessary.

For the tzatziki sauce, squeeze as much water from the cucumber as possible using a clean dish towel or paper towels. Combine with the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, dill and salt. Let the flavors marry in the refrigerator while the skewers are cooking.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade and set aside. Boil the marinade for 5 minutes to kill any bacteria because you want to use it to baste the skewers. Thread pork and pepper and onions onto separate skewers. Cook for 10-15 minutes or to desired tenderness. Baste the meat occasionally and turn skewers frequently for even cooking. The vegetables will not take this long to cook. Remove them when the vegetables are tender and begin to brown around the edges. 

Serve the pork, vegetables, and tzatziki over whole wheat pitas. Top with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese. Enjoy!

Chile Verde Pork

I have to admit that my crockpot is not an appliance that gets a lot of use at my house. I do use it frequently in the winter to slowly warm heartier soups like chili, but I don’t use it very often (if at all) to cook much else. When we were first married, I had a “bad-experience” with a roast that didn’t finish cooking until around 11:00PM. It was delicious when it was done, but at that point, it was a little late to eat dinner 🙂  

I would really like to get into using my crockpot more as I know that my year will be getting substantially busier starting in July. Not to mention that slow-cooking all day long usually results in a great meal! This Mexican pork recipe is my first attempt at getting back into the crockpot world. I found the recipe on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, but Mel mentions that she adapted it first from The Sisters Cafe. You can’t go wrong with Mexican food in this house, and in her post, Mel raves about how good this pork is. Okay, I’m in.

I am thankful to report that my 2nd attempt at a large chuck of meat in my crockpot went much better than the first! There actually are quite a few steps in this for a crockpot recipe, but Mel explains her work well, and it turned out wonderful. I actually had to shoo my husband away from the crockpot after I shredded the meat because he kept sneaking forkfuls 🙂 Mel states that you shouldn’t skip the step about reducing the sauce, and I agree. It helps keep the meat moist and adds so much flavor. The green chiles and green enchilada sauce in there give it just enough kick, but not so much that it ends up falling into the “only for spicy lovers category.”

The ingredient list does get a little lengthy, and you might be wondering what I made for 2 people with 5 lbs. of meat? The fun thing about a meat recipe like this is that you can use it in anything. I’ve made chicken enchiladas and pork tostadas, and have 3 more bags of meat portioned out for us in the freezer. That’s 6 meals total (2 meals of the enchiladas). Pretty good if you ask me. We have chile pork tostadas back on the menu this week, and I know we’re both looking forward to them. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Chile Verde Shredded Pork
From Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. canola oil
5 lbs. boneless pork roast, trimmed of as much fat as possible
salt and pepper for seasoning the roast
2 yellow onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed
1 (15 oz) can green enchilada sauce
2 (14 oz) cans diced green chiles
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 beef bouillon cube (or 1 tsp. beef bouillon granules)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Cut the roast into 3-4 large chunks. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper on all sides. In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat until the oil is shimmering and hot. Add the pork (in shifts if necessary), and brown on all sides until golden and well-browned, about 30 seconds to a minute on each side. Leave the roast in the pot and add the onion and garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often. Place the pork, garlic, and onions in the slow cooker. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours. 

After the roast has cooked for the allotted time, remove the roast and shred into bite-sized pieces. Set aside, covered with foil to keep warm. Pour the remaining liquid and ingredients from the slow cooker into a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, and simmer vigorously over medium-low or medium heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking or burning, until the mixture is considerably reduced and thickened. Add the shredded pork and sauce back to the slow cooker. Stir to coat the pork with the sauce. Turn the crockpot to low or high and allow the pork to heat through again. Serve with warm tortillas or use to fill burritos, enchiladas, etc.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Can anyone else believe that it is already May? While we aren’t going to be able to go back to Nebraska for the ceremony, I graduate on Saturday. The culmination of 21 consecutive years of school. Wow! Besides graduations, May always brings thoughts of swim suits, flip flops, backyard parties. It’s almost summer, and what better way to start the party a little early than indulging in a little bit of mexican food to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. 

We love Mexican food around here and typically do not need a reason to cook up some great southwestern meals. With a reason like Cinco de Mayo quickly approaching, I can guarantee that we’ll find a way to work some spicy flavors into our diet 🙂 While this recipe is technically Cuban-based rather than from Mexico, the flavors profile is quite similar. Beans, peppers, onions, garlic, cumin. Sound familiar? If you have never cooked your own black beans, please, please do it for this recipe. The beans make this dish. In fact, plan a couple recipes that week using black beans and cook a whole bunch at one time. They were also great in our black bean stuffed peppers. Cooking the beans does require some planning ahead, but do it. I promise you will not be disappointed!

While the end result is worth it, the process of making the dish takes a fair amount of work (as seems to be typical of Cook’s Illustrated recipes). Unfortunately, I don’t own a dish that can transfer from the stove-top to the oven. When it came to that step, I poured the mixture into an oven-safe baking dish, and it seemed to work just fine. Because of the long process, we ate this as a main dish rather than as a side, and it was definitely hardy enough to subsist on its own.  My husband had never had beans and rice in this manner and was a little skeptical when it appeared on our menu. After dinner, he was bargaining with me to assure that he could have the leftovers for his lunch. I guess it was a hit? Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Cuban Black Beans and Rice
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated March and April 2011

Ingredients:
table salt
1 cup dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 large green bell peppers, halved and seeded
1 large onion, halved at equator and peeled, root end left intact
1 heat garlic, 5 medium cloves removed and pressed through a garlic press, remaining head halved at equator with skin left intact
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces diced pancetta, in 1/4-inch cubes (recipe calls for 6 ounces diced lean salt pork; I couldn’t find it)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves)
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 medium scallions, sliced thin
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

Dissolve 1-1/2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in a large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

In a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, stir together drained beans, broth, water, 1 pepper half, 1 onion half (with root end), halved garlic head, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce to low. Cook until beans are just soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Using tongs, remove and discard pepper, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Drain beans in colander set over large bowl, reserving 2-1/2 cups bean cooking liquid (if you don’t have enough add water to reach 2-1/2 cups). Do not wash out Dutch oven.

Adjust oven rack to medium position and preheat to 350 degrees. Place rice in a large fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, about 1-1/2 minutes. Sake strainer vigorously to remove all excess water; set rice aside. Cut remaining peppers and onion into 2-inch pieces and process in food processor until broken into rough 1/4-inch pieces, about eight 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary; set vegetables aside. 

In now empty Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil and pancetta over medium-low heat; cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and rendered, 15 to 20 minutes. Add chopped peppers and onion, oregano, and cumin. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and stir to coat, about 30 seconds. 

Stir in beans, reserved bean cooking liquid, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Pour into an oven-safe dish if necessary, and cover and transfer to oven. Bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let rest, uncovered, 5 minutes. Serve, passing scallion and lime wedges separately.

Stromboli

This has to be one of the easiest and most versatile recipes ever. We started making stromboli years ago when we found it in one of my mother’s cooking magazines. It’s been long enough that I have no idea which one it was. In fact, it was actually the first meal that Derek made for me way back when we were 16 and 17. Since then, we’ve made it a million times with several different variations.

This time it happened to be a “vegetarian” stromboli. The original recipe calls for ham, swiss cheese, green onions, and bacon, but the recipe is basic enough that it really can support about any combination that you can dream up.

The one tip that I would give is that it is best to leave the french bread loaf in the refrigerator until it is time to unroll it on the pan. The loaf has a nice seam that allows it to be unrolled without a rolling pin, but if the loaf gets too warm, the dough becomes sticky and is almost impossible to unroll. Enjoy your creations!
Stromboli
1 can of french loaf dough
1/2 lb. deli ham
shredded swiss cheese to taste
crumbled cooked bacon
1 pk. of green onions, sliced
Cook the bacon and crumble into small pieces. Shred the swiss cheese. Mix together. Add sliced green onions and mix well.
Open and unroll a french loaf. Lay the meat over the bread leaving about an inch around the edge. Spread the cheese mixture over the meat. Roll up the bread. Pinch the bottom and the ends so that it is sealed completely. Flip the loaf so that the seam side is down. Cut the roll crosswise in several places for vents.
Bake according to package directions until bread is golden brown.