Monday, November 13, 2017

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork) Tacos

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Carnitas, literally meaning "little meats," is a dish of Mexican cuisine originating from the state of Michoacán.  Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably lard until tender. Pork carnitas are traditionally made using the heavily marbled, rich "boston butt" or "picnic ham" cuts of pork. The whole roast is typically cut down to a workable size and seasoned heavily before slow braising or deep frying.  Traditional carnitas are made by a process of simmering the meat in lard in a heavy bottomed pot until tender over a very low heat. Once appropriate tenderness is achieved, the heat is turned up and the outside of the pork begins to crisp. At this stage, the collagen in the meat has broken down sufficiently to allow it to be pulled apart by hand or fork or chopped with a cleaver. The meat can then be used as an ingredient in tamales, tacos, tortas, and burritos.  

I don't know about y'all, but I'm a little past the age where I can comfortably look at a recipe that simmers my meat in lard without making "that face" that means "Oh God, how long would I need to workout after eating THAT?!"  Soooo.... let's take this awesome carnitas recipe and give it a healthy makeover.  And while we're at it, who has time to stand over an outdoor pot simmering a long-cooking recipe?  What if you could put this on in the morning before you leave for work and finish it up when you walk in?  Yep.  Let's try that direction.   This would also totally work for your #mealprep if you are in a group because you could pull some and freeze some.  The recipe is #glutenfree if you use a gluten free soy sauce.  


Ingredients:  Serves 8-10 
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  • 4 pound pork shoulder 
    • may be called pork butt, trimmed of excess fat
    • I buy the bone-in pork shoulder because it's less expensive and I think more flavorful 
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
    • ~ 1 large lime 
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion rough chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper 
    • cut large so you can pull it out later for mild heat
    • or
    • chopped fine for more heat

Wet Spice Rub
  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder for more smoky heat
    • or  sub 1 tsp mild chili powder for milder heat
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked or spanish paprika 
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
Step-by-Step:
For the bargain price of $1.00/lb, you really can't beat this price for a quality protein!  Most "slow cooking" proteins are less expensive. You cook them low and slow and allow time to do the work of breaking down the collagenous fibers for you, and then the meat just literally falls apart.  As a bonus, look how much money I saved by using my WinnDixie card!  Haha!  practically half off.  That's 4 pounds of meat for the price of a drive through meal! 
4 pound bone-in pork shoulder
The disadvantage of the slow cooker is that you don't get that good sear on a piece of meat, so let's do that real quick first on the stovetop.   Heat 1 Tbsp EVOO over high heat in a large, heavy bottom skillet.  Sear the pork on all sides until beautifully browned.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board until it is cool enough to handle.
1 Tbsp EVOO
4 pounds pork shoulder
While the pork is searing (it does take a few minutes), let's throw together the "wet rub."  Just throw all the seasoning together and mix.
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp chipotle chili powder (smokier and spicier)
(or mild chili powder - mild)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Spanish paprika (or smoked paprika)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
(available in regular, reduced sodium, and gluten free versions)
2 Tbsp tomato paste 
3 Tbsp EVOO
When the pork is cool enough to handle, you can put it in the slow cooker and rub the wet rub all over the surface of the pork.  (I felt it was easier to show these steps while it was NOT in the slow cooker.)

Seared pork with the wet rub.
Add the orange juice, lime juice, liquid smoke, bay leaves, onions and jalapeños to the slow cooker.
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (juice of 1 large lime)
1 tsp liquid smoke
2 bay leaves
1 onion, rough chopped
1 jalapeño pepper
- seeded and rough chopped so you can pull it out later (mild heat)
or
- finely chopped (more heat)
And we are ready, set, GO!  Set your cooker on LOW for 8-10 hours, or HIGH for 5-6 hours.  Personally, I like my pork to be literally falling apart, so I'm going for 6 every time, I can't lie.  At this point, the pork should be falling off of the bone and should shred easily with two forks.  
After 6 hours on high.
At this point you can either put the pork in the fridge to finish later (or freeze it), or continue.  If you are continuing with the shredded pork, preheat your oven to 450F.  Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.  Remove the shredded pork from the slow cooker and spread onto the lined baking sheets with as much of the juice as you'd like.  Bake at 450F until meat is desired amount of crispiness with "burnt" edges.  They really aren't burnt, but my family really does love that crispy, caramelized edge that resembles what you might have on an open pit.  You may need to move them around with a spatula.  This may take anywhere from 15minutes (straight from the hot slow cooker) to 30 minutes (if you put the carnitas in the refrigerator).  
Coming out of the oven with "burnt" and crispy edges.  Mmmmm!
Serve your "burnt edge" carnitas as taco filling with tortillas,  as a Mexican salad, on nachos for game day, in burritos, on brown or cauliflower rice for a low carb  meal prep... the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!  

The Pork Carnitas Tacos pictured below are served with low carb whole wheat tortillas (4 net grams carbs each) (Mission CarbBalance brand), tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, jalapeños, Cacique queso fresco, Cacique crema Mexicana, Herdez guacamole salsa.
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Pork Carnita Tacos
*Not sponsored by any of the above brands.  I just put the brand names on there to be helpful.  :) 

To order the Menu Musings Cookbook - 
Yes, the holidays are right around the corner!  This would be a fantastic gift for someone you love! 
Click HERE to check it out!  This page will give you more information about it. 

Bonus Recipes -
Left Over Pot Roast Pot Pies - What to do when you have leftover pot roast!  Mmmm.
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Oreo Heath Bar Cake - Irresistible!  Festive and super easy! 
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Chicken Piccata with Sun Dried Tomatoes - Have Italian night YOUR way at home.  Quick and easy!
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Spicy Fried Cauliflower Bites - A fun and unexpected appetizer or simple side.  
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Mardi Gras Pasta - super easy, kid friendly, sneaks in veggies, and pasta stretches the budget!  
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Written Method -
The disadvantage of the slow cooker is that you don't get that good sear on a piece of meat, so let's do that real quick first on the stovetop.   Heat 1 Tbsp EVOO over high heat in a large, heavy bottom skillet.  Sear the pork on all sides until beautifully browned.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board until it is cool enough to handle.

While the pork is searing (it does take a few minutes), let's throw together the "wet rub."  Just throw all the seasoning together and mix.  When the pork is cool enough to handle, you can put it in the slow cooker and rub the wet rub all over the surface of the pork.  

Add the orange juice, lime juice, liquid smoke, bay leaves, onions and jalapeños to the slow cooker.  And we are ready, set, GO!  Set your cooker on LOW for 8-10 hours, or HIGH for 5-6 hours.  Personally, I like my pork to be literally falling apart, so I'm going for 6 every time, I can't lie.  At this point, the pork should be falling off of the bone and should shred easily with two forks.  

At this point you can either put the pork in the fridge to finish later (or freeze it), or continue.  If you are continuing with the shredded pork, preheat your oven to 450F.  Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.  Remove the shredded pork from the slow cooker and spread onto the lined baking sheets with as much of the juice as you'd like.  Bake at 450F until meat is desired amount of crispiness with "burnt" edges.  They really aren't burnt, but my family really does love that crispy, caramelized edge that resembles what you might have on an open pit.  You may need to move them around with a spatula.  This may take anywhere from 15minutes (straight from the hot slow cooker) to 30 minutes (if you put the carnitas in the refrigerator).  

Serve your "burnt edge" carnitas as taco filling with tortillas,  as a Mexican salad, on nachos for game day, in burritos, on brown or cauliflower rice for a low carb  meal prep... the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Marinated Turkey Burgers

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I can't take any of the credit for this recipe.  Actually, it was given to me by my oldest son, Nicholas.  How's that for making you feel old, huh? (Gulp!) His girlfriend doesn't eat red meat, so he made this recipe for her.  They looked and sounded so good that I asked him to send the recipe to me.  I knew these would be just perfect for prepping ahead for a low carb lunch option for my husband and me.  Of course, you could totally throw them on a bun and add any burger "fixin's" your heart desires, but you get the jest of it.  

These are super easy to make and come out so flavorful!  I think my husband may have been a little hesitant since they weren't beef when I sent a couple to work with him, but later that week he said to me, "Oh, by the way, those turkey burgers you sent for my lunch were AWESOME!"  SCORE!! 😊

Ingredients: (4 turkey burgers)
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  • 1 pound ground turkey 
  • Dale's seasoning
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tony's Creole seasoning
  • Handful shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
  • Toppings of your choice 
    • I chose sautéed mushrooms, Provolone cheese and a lettuce wrap rather than a bun. 











Step-by-Step:
This is a super touchy-feely recipe, with no exact amounts.  Sorry.  That's how it was given to me.  
1 lb ground turkey

Dale's seasoning - liberally added
Worcestershire sauce - several good shakes
Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning - several shakes
A big handful of shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese (probably ~ 2/3 cup or so)
These need to be mixed and packed tighter than ground beef, as the meat is so tender and juicy.  Or else they may fall apart.  The cheese does help them stay juicy and adds some fat to super lean turkey.  - and of course, flavor.
Since these are poultry, they do need to be cooked fully to 165 degrees either on your grill pan or grill.  Top them as you like.   To continue my low carb theme, I served mine with sautéed mushrooms and a slice of provolone cheese on lettuce rather than a bun.
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 I hope you enjoyed this recipe!
Here are some bonus recipes for you - 


Frankenstein Pudding Cups
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Chicken Tamale Casserole
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Crock Pot Beef and Broccoli
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Ham, Caramelized Onion, and Gruyere Quiche
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Tilapia en Papillote
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Indian Chicken Korma

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In the last city we lived in, the little kids and I used to frequent this little Indian restaurant.  I dare say it was our favorite guilty pleasure.   One of those places that just walking in and smelling those exotic spices makes you feel so incredibly happy.   An additional perk to Indian food is that the spices used are super healthy, so at one point I got brave enough to try out a few recipe of my own.   We've made Naan and Curried Chicken Salad (which is probably NOT authentic Indian at all), and we've done this Korma recipe several times.   

It may seem like you have to gather up quite a few odd spices, but really you are just dumping them all together.  And Lordy, the smell!  Wow.   I will say that you could probably make this a lot more spicy than I did, but my little girl is quite sensitive to heat, so I limit the amount of chili powder to accommodate her.  This is a very simple recipe.

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Ingredients:
  • 2-3 pounds chicken, cut into pieces
    • I used chicken breasts
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 2-3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 inches fresh ginger root, grated
  • 2 tsp chili powder
    • Add more for extra heat
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp+ salt (probably more)
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • Fresh cilantro leaves to garnish
  • Freshly cooked basmati rice to serve with

Step-by-Step:
Put the chicken into a large saucepan, covered with water and bring to a boil.  Simmer only until the chicken is cooked through.  This does NOT take long!  Remove the chicken and set aside, reserving 4oz of the cooking liquid.  Empty the saucepan and use for the rest of the recipe.
2-3 pounds chicken, cut into equal sized pieces
water to cover

1/4 cup retained cooking liquid
cooked chicken pieces
Heat the butter in the saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring for around 3-5 minutes until the onions are softened.
8 Tbsp butter
2-3 onions thinly sliced
Go with your preference and the size of your onions.
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
Or equivalent amount of garlic paste.
Add the ginger, chili powder, turmeric, ground coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and salt and cook for five minutes more.
2 inches fresh ginger root, grated
Or equivalent amount ginger paste.
2 tsp chili powder
*Add more for increased heat.
1 tsp turmeric
**oops.. forgot to take a pic of the 1 tsp coriander!  Don't forget to add it!  
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1 tsp coriander at top right
1+ tsp kosher salt
You can always adjust this later.
And oh my goodness.  When you mix these spices together... the smell is just amazing!  
Add the reserved cooking liquid.  Cook for around two minutes.
1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid from the chicken
Blend the flour with a little of the milk and add to the pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer.
1 Tbsp flour + 1/2 cup milk
Stir in the half and half and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency.  This may take around five minutes.   
1 cup half and half
You can use heavy cream if you'd like it to be richer.
Add the cooked chicken and heat just until the chicken is hot (it's already cooked).
The poached chicken.
Garnish with cilantro leaves.  
Serve over freshly steamed basmati rice and some warm naan.
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Here are some bonus recipes I hope you'll enjoy!
Dreamsicle Mimosas  - tailgating parties, anyone?
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Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup - equally perfect for after those soccer games and under the RV awnings for football game gatherings.
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Sesame Shrimp and Asparagus Stir-Fry - quick, low carb and elegant!
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Tomato Basil Chicken - all fresh ingredients.  MmmMmm good.
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5-Ingredient Berry Crisp Dump Cake - five pantry ingredients that you probably have on hand right now!  Great for emergencies like unexpected dinner guests or dinner invitations.
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Written Method:
Put the chicken into a large saucepan, covered with water and bring to a boil.  Simmer only until the chicken is cooked through.  This does NOT take long!  Remove the chicken and set aside, reserving 4oz of the cooking liquid.  Empty the saucepan and use for the rest of the recipe.

Heat the butter in the saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring for around 3-5 minutes until the onions are softened.  Add the ginger, chili powder, turmeric, ground coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and salt and cook for five minutes more.

Add the reserved cooking liquid.  Cook for around two minutes.

Blend the flour with a little of the milk and add to the pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer.  Stir in the half and half and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency.  This may take around five minutes.

Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve over freshly steamed basmati rice and some warm naan.  

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