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Crockpot Pork Carnitas

Got a bit of the blues? Like the it’s so cold outside you swear your eye lids are going to freeze open, and you can’t feel your fingers cold weather blues? If you’re on the Northern East coast tonight you probably do. But, we’re here to help warm you up with today’s delicious recipe. One sniff, one bite and you’ll immediately be re-living warmer memories with these fiesty Crockpot Pork Carnitas.

 Crockpot Pork Carnitas 3

OK. A confession. I love meat. Because … meat. Obviously, vegetarianism is not written in the stars for me. I know, I checked. (Aren’t astrological charts super helpful?!) I would die before giving up chicken, beef, or pork. Ok, ok, you’re right. I probably wouldn’t actually die, but it would feel like dying I’d imagine. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s just focus on pork alone for a minute …..

Hello! sausage, bacon, carnitas.

(Disclaimer: This is just me and my own little old opinion. I have several wonderful vegetarian friends who I love and adore and who cook like rock stars)

Crockpot Pork Carnitas

How would my life ever be the same again? Carnitas, aka Mexican style shredded meat, are among the most flavor-packed taco fillings in existence. I can’t imagine never having had a taste of them before, or never having the joy of another bite in my future. The amazing taste of these carnitas in particular is the result of slow cooking and the perfect blend of ingredients.

Crockpot Pork Carnitas 2

After several flavor melding, taste bud blowing hours cooking in the crockpot, the pork loin is cooked to perfection. You can easily pull them meat apart using two forks, or if you’re pressed for time give it a quick whirl in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Think that’s crazy? Check out the idea here.

Crockpot Pork Carnitas

Crockpot Pork Carnitas 3

1 1/2 – 2 lbs boneless pork loin
salt and pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and ribs removed, chopped (optional)
1 orange, cut in half
3 tbsp vegetable oil

corn tortillas

Directions

1. Rinse and dry the pork loin. Salt and pepper it, liberally. In a small bowl combine the oregano, cumin, and olive oil. Generously rub the mixture all over the seasoned pork. Place the pork in the crockpot and top with the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and add in the two halves. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high 4-5 hours.

2. Once the meat is tender, remove from slow cooker and let cool slightly before pulling apart with a fork. In a large saute pan, heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Press the corn tortillas into the oil and fry until crusty on one side. Serve the shredded pork over the carnitas with your desired toppings.

Sous Chef Sunday: Crockpot Ham & White Bean Soup

Do any of you other Moms & Dad’s make your kids cook? Because apparently that is listed under to ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ category on Friday nights. Ya know, the weekly fend fo yo-self night. Son # 2 acts like it’s just unconscionable that his mother wouldn’t want to slave over the stove or toil away in the kitchen for him for one evening a week. Because apparently that’s my job. Ha!

So, fend for youself night. Nothing new around these parts, but you’d never know it when listening to the complaining chorus. Anywho, it’s pretty simple make what you want, and leftovers are always divided evenly amongst the boys. Sometimes though, one son will decide that’s not sufficient, or maybe he’s just having a golden child moment, and decides he’s going make dinner for everyone. While years ago that would have been boxed mac and cheese (because that’s where they were at), it’s now an actual meal … something say, like Mom would make ;) While I’ve always been adamant that my boys know there way around the kitchen and be self sufficient, I wasn’t satisfied with knowing how to follow the directions on a packet of pasta, or scramble a few eggs. (Oh, and to make sure we all know/knew what we were doing we took it back to the stone age by deciding against owning a microwave) Within the past few months or so though, they’ve caught onto a little piece of meal magic though. The CROCKPOT. Turns out I’m not the only one who can throw a few ingredients in that sucker and have dinner ready in a few hours.

It’s Friday? You know where the family recipe books are. Pick one and work together, or there’s always grilled cheese and a can of tomato soup. Or Ramen noodles. I did say it was fend for yourself night, didn’t I?

Behold! The sons won’t did not in fact starve this week!! So we’re here to share their latest creation … crockpot ham and white bean soup. And it’s good you guys.

Want to know what’s even more ironic? I made this for them two weeks ago for supper, and you should have heard the resounding complaining chorus. Because, soup. Of any kind. For dinner.

My, my … how the tables have turned ;)

Crockpot Ham & White Bean Soup

1 lb of dried Great Northern Beans, rinsed and sorted through
about 1 lb of ham, large pieces
6 cups of chicken stock or broth
1 medium white onion, diced
salt and pepper, to taste
parsley, to taste
oregano, to taste

Directions

1. Place all ingredients in crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours.

See? So simple a child can do it. ;)

Greek Chicken Burger Sliders with pickled onions & Greek yogurt sauce

Greek is one of our (the hubs and I’s) favorite kinds of food. The sons are a bit more leery of the foreign flavors. On those rare evenings he and I are able to get out alone, we’ve been known to hunt down new Greek places to try. Our favorites are usually the little hole in the wall joints, that are almost always the most authentic. I especially love coming home and trying to replicate the flavors and dishes we’ve found.

A lot of the ingredients in these sliders we often find in many of the Greek wraps we’ve tried, along with either grilled chicken, grilled gyro meat, or Kafta (spiced lamb). It may not be a silver platter, but I love the way these flavors are bundled together and served on a slider bun. For these, the buns ARE the silver platter.

 Greek Chicken Burger Sliders with pickled red onions and a lemonmint yogurt dressing 3

Another thing to love (especially with 4 hungry, hungry hippos boys to feed)? These dense burgers are protein packed, making every bite count, and exploding with flavor from healthy condiments and ingredients.

Greek Chicken Burger Sliders with pickled red onions and a lemonmint yogurt dressing

Healthy! With mint, parsley, feta, bell peppers, they’re then topped with pickled red onions and a tangy Greek yogurt sauce. Holy yum!

Greek Chicken Burger Sliders with pickled red onions and a lemonmint yogurt dressing 2

Don’t be overwhelmed when you glance at the recipe or ingredients list. Yes, it does look like a lot. Yes, it is a lot. BUT, moving in the steps as we’ve broken them down keeps it from being overwhelming. And then end result is so worth it. And, it can even be made ahead of time if your dinner hour is usually the dinner rush.

These are totally unique little burgers, that deliver an awesome flavor combo. It will be an instant hit with whoever eats it, whether it’s for a regular dinner, a pretty party app that’s packing a flavor punch, or something you plan to debut at your first summer BBQ.

Greek Chicken Burger Sliders

Greek Chicken Burger Sliders with pickled red onions and a lemonmint yogurt dressing 3

recipe originally from The Nutmeg Nanny

For the quick pickled red onion:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 thinly sliced large red onion

For the Greek yogurt sauce:
1 (6 oz) plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp finely minced parsley
1 tbsp finely minced mint
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the chicken burgers:
1 lb ground chicken
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp finely minced mint
1 tbsp finely minced parsley
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
baby spinach, optional
6-8 slider buns

Directions

For pickled red onion:
1. In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, brown sugar, salt and water. When the sugar & salt are totally dissolved in the mixture, add the onion and let it sit on the counter for at least an hour.

2. Store leftovers in the fridge with a little bit of the pickling juice.

For Greek yogurt sauce:

1. In a small bowl add everything and mix together. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

(Keep in mind the burgers contain feta cheese which will add a bit of salt to the finished sandwich)

For chicken burgers:
1. In a large bowl add ground chicken, cheese, mint, parsley, red bell pepper, salt and pepper.

2. Using your hands, mix everything together until thoroughly combined. Divide meat mixture into 6 – 8 slider sized burgers.

3. Over medium heat, cook on the grill until the inside of the burger is no longer pink. {If you do not have a grill you can pan fry the burgers in one tablespoon of olive oil.}

4. To assemble the burgers add Greek yogurt sauce to the top and bottom of the bun, add burger, baby spinach (if using) and a few pickled red onions.

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

This  soup is everything you could hope for in a meal on a cold Winter’s night. It’s creamy. It’s comforting. AND it saves you money. How does it save you money you might be asking? Because it’s so good (and filling) that there won’t be any reason for you to run out to a certain ‘bread cafe’ to get a bowl full.

I first had this particular soup at that oh-so popular bakery/restaurant. You know, the one that starts with a ‘Pan’ and ends with an ‘era’? That’s the one. And it was love at first bowl. It even knocked Broccoli & Cheddar down on the totem pole, and I would’ve never thought that possible. It was just so good. It was packed with veggies, and the broth was thick and creamy with the perfect texture from the rice that I’d just never gotten from pasta in any of the chicken noodle style soups I’d had before. Luckily for me, the hubs agreed! And there may or may not have been a two week period where we went back for lunch (ahem) several times for another bowl of the good stuff. But, I couldn’t just keep shelling out money for ‘the good stuff’. I mean we have responsibilities. Bills to pay! I had to be a grown up. Meh.

And that’s how this here beauty was born. Necessity is the mother of invention after all. And it doesn’t disappoint. It’s just as good, even a little friendlier to your waist-line (amen!), and A LOT friendlier to your budget.

This is amazing on the first day. One the second day? It’s somehow even more flavorful and a little thicker. It’s like magic. That really good kind of refrigerator leftover magic. A quick repeat and you’re back in business. Again ;)

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

 Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed, or shredded
2 (6 oz) boxes of Long Grain and Wild Rice mix
2 (14.5 oz) cans of chicken broth
4 cups milk, regular or evaporated
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tbs. cornstarch
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning, optional
2-3 carrots, thinly sliced
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Cook the rice according to the directions on the box.
2. In a large pot, melt butter. Add in the chopped carrots and celery and pepper to taste, and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until the veggies are tender. Add in the flour, cornstarch and poultry seasoning (optional), and whisk together quickly.
3. Add in the chicken broth and milk, whisking constantly as you pour. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often.
4. When the rice is finished, add both the cooked chicken and rice to the soup.
5. Give everything a good stir, allow to heat through, and enjoy!

Poor Man’s Beef Wellington

Once upon a time I thought beef wellington was just for rich people (and snobs). Those pricey cuts of beef were certainly out of my budget, even if puff pastry was not. I mean, I’ve got four kids and one income. Fancy cuts of beef are reserved for special occasions. Heck, who am I kidding? Even our anniversaries are more economical than that. But, over the years and with lots of trial and error, I’ve learned that cooking in a frugal kitchen and staying within your budget doesn’t mean we have to give up fancy meals. Sometimes, a little creativity is all you need to turn a gourmet favorite in a budget-friendly dish.

 Poor Man's Beef Wellington

Then I stumbled across this wonderful recipe. This revolutionary idea for Poor Man’s Beef wellington. Subbing ground beef for expensive cuts and adding in a healthy helping of veggies, it makes it doable, and delicious, for all of us. It’s like this fantastic hybrid that crosses the classic flavors of Shepherd’s Pie with all the delectable texture of a traditional Beef Wellington.

Hooray! Beef Wellington for everyone!!

Poor Man’s Beef Wellington

Poor Man's Beef Wellington 2

recipe adapted from Oh, Sweet Day

1 onion
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 potatoes, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
4 sprigs of rosemary or thyme
1/2 cup of frozen peas (optional)
1 egg, beaten
1 lb of lean ground beef
1 package of store-bought puff pastry
flour, for dusting and rolling
salt and pepper

Directions

1. In a large skillet, gently saute all the veggies, garlic, and the herbs, stirring occasionally, until your vegetables are tender and the onions are translucent. It will take about 6-8 minutes. Transfer the cooked veggies into a large bowl and allow them to cool completely.
2. Once they’ve cooled, add in the beef and peas. Here is your chance to play with your food! Get into the bowl with your hands, really dig in, and start kneading everything together, including salt and pepper and half of the beaten egg, reserving the other half for the pastry crust. Make sure everything is good and mixed up and evenly incorporated.
3. Dust a clean work surface with a handful of flour and roll out the puff pastry to a 1/4 inch thickness.
4. Shape your beef mixture into a log (as close as you can get) and place it in the center of the rolled out pastry sheet, finish shaping into a log if necessary, and brush the edges with the reserved egg. Roll it up, tucking the ends inside like a giant burrito, brush the sealed pastry log with beaten egg everywhere you can see, place it on a baking sheet seam down, and lightly brush the top with the remainder of the beaten egg.
5. Bake the Beef Wellington at 350 degrees for 45 min to an hour, depending on your oven, until golden and crispy on the outside.
6. Allow the Beef Wellington to cool for about 5 minutes. Use a serrated bread knife to gently slice the wellington into the desired portions. Serve and enjoy!

To round out the meal, you can serve your Wellington with a simple green salad or, if you’re looking for a heftier meat and potatoes kind of meal, even roasted potatoes.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

Rich, creamy, and laced with bits of crisp, cooked bacon and sinfully delicious cheeses this is the gratin to end all gratins. Forget the traditional potato version. We’ve traded up! It’s still easy enough for weeknights, but still oh-so elegant for holidays or other more formal dinners.

 Brussels Sprouts Gratin

Even the staunchest of veggie haters will be won over by this incredible side dish. Blanched Brussels Sprouts are smothered and covered in a creamy bacon sauce and then baked to perfection. It’s mmm, mmm, melt in your mouth good!

Brussels Sprouts Gratin 2

So just to review, if you’ve never been tempted to try Brussels sprouts then this recipe is the one you need to try. Like, ASAP. If you’re just not a fan of Brussels sprouts, then this is the recipe that is going to convert you. If it doesn’t, well there’s just no hope for you ever jumping on the sprout band wagon.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

brussels sprouts gratin 3

2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed of outer leaves and sliced in half
salt
4 strips of bacon, diced
1 tbsp butter
3 shallots, peeled, halved, and sliced
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp salt
scant pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 oz of grated Gruyere cheese, divided into 3 ounces and 1 ounce

Directions

1. Heat a large pot of salted water, 4 quarts of water, 1 Tbsp salt. Blanch the halved Brussels sprouts for 3 to 4 minutes, until just barely tender. Use a collander to drain and then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, and set them aside.
2. Place diced bacon in a large skillet on medium low heat. Cook until most of the fat is rendered, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside, leaving the rendered fat in the pan.
3. Add butter to the pan and melt on medium heat. Add the shallots and gently cook until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour to the butter shallot mixture to make a roux, whisk for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the milk and stir with a wooden spoon until the roux is incorporated into the milk. Cook over medium low heat for several minutes, stirring, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of your spoon. Add in the thyme and sprinkle with nutmeg.
4. Add 3 ounces of the grated Gruyere cheese into the white sauce and stir until the cheese is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Add half of the cooked bacon back to the sauce. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter, or spray with non-stick cooking spray, an 8×12 gratin dish or casserole . Add the Brussels sprouts into the cheese sauce. Transfer the cheesy Brussels sprouts into the casserole or gratin dish. Sprinkle with the remaining bacon and the remaining 1 ounce of grated Gruyere cheese. Bake for 25 minutes until top is lightly browned and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

English Muffins

I grew up eating English muffins all the time. For breakfast, for a quick after school snack. Shoot, I can’t tell you how many times my Grandma made us English muffin pizzas for lunch. Now, here we are years later, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve made them for the sons for lunches.

Morning, noon, or night the sons love an English muffin. They love them for breakfast in our freezer breakfast sandwiches. The love them smothered with jelly. They love them toasted with BLT fixins for lunch. I could even serve them English muffin pizzas for dinner, and they’d be perfectly content. The possibilities go on and on. English muffins are a beautiful blank canvas to top with whatever you are feeling that day.

 English Muffins 2

This recipe couldn’t get any easier and is perfect for any baker, regardless of their experience level. I also love that this recipe doesn’t have me suffer through long rise times, and before I know it I can be opening one of these, hot off the griddle, with a fork and digging in. While their insides aren’t filled with all the signature fissures of a store-bought English muffin, their texture is still craggy enough to trap and hold plenty of butter and jam — which is the point, after all.

English Muffins

English Muffins

3 2/3 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 envelope active dry yeast (or instant yeast)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
2/3 cup plain yogurt, Greek or regular
fine cornmeal
oil

Directions

1. Whisk together flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add water and yogurt, and mix into a soft dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, until smooth, adding more flour if it gets sticky. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
2. Roll dough out to a thickness of about ¾ inch. Cut out 12 circles with a 3 inch round cutter. Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina, and cover each side of muffins with it. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until almost doubled in size.
3. Heat a flat griddle pan until hot and brush with oil. Add the muffins and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 12 minutes, six minutes on each side, until firm and golden brown. Turn only once. Serve with butter and jam.

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