The Versatility of Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

I made slow cooker pork carnitas last week and the flavour and versatility have earned them a spot on my rotation of "must-do meals."

I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of the bay leaves. I didn't have any so I omitted them. They definitely would have added more flavour but the recipe didn't suffer from the exclusion. Adding the orange rinds to the slow cooker added a real depth of flavour; I'd hesitate to use bottled orange juice and omit the rinds.

After the shredding step, but before the broiling step, I froze half the meat for future meals. The recipe makes a lot.

So! What did we make with our carnitas? The first night we had tacos. The following night we had taco salads (leftover taco toppings piled on leafy greens with a squeeze of lime juice as dressing). And last night (aka "use whatever's left in the fridge because tomorrow we're going grocery shopping" night) I made this:

carnitas_hillarywith2Ls

I fried up some leftover carnitas in a bit of olive oil until hot and crispy. I piled it on top of a diced avocado and quartered grape tomatoes while I quickly fried up an egg. A sprinkle of fresh cilantro finished it off. It was quick (it took less than 10 minutes to assemble) and tasty. I will definitely be recreating with roasted sweet potatoes and some sort of black bean / corn fresh salsa in the future.

You can see why I love this recipe, right? One day of effort got me three tasty, nutritious meals AND more in the freezer.

Do you have a slow cooker recipe that makes you feel like a kitchen ninja? Share the love!

Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup

This soup is quick and easy to throw together, is full of vitamins and minerals, and is comprised wholly of ingredients I always have in my pantry (a major win in my books). It can be jazzed up with shredded cheese and sour cream or left plain and simple. The recipe makes a lot but it freezes well.

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
4 carrots, sliced (approximately 1 cup)
1 sweet potato, finely diced (approximately 3 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 x 796mL can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 x 540mL can black beans, drained and rinsed well
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium high heat. Add onions, carrots, and sweet potatoes and cook until softened, 7 - 10 minutes.

Add garlic and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute or two.

Add tomatoes with their juice, beans, and broth. Bring to a boil and cook until vegetables are completely tender, anywhere from 5 - 15 minutes depending on how big you sliced your veg.

You can leave this soup as-is or you can blend all (or part) of it for a smoother consistency. I like to use my immersion blender and blend in quick bursts to end up with a sort of half-smooth-half-chunky consistency.

Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, sliced green onions, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, hot sauce, etc. The sky's the limit.

Makes 8 servings.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup || Hillary with 2Ls

Meal Plan 2/8/2016 - 2/12/2016

Making it in just under the wire this week!

Monday: Lasagne and green juice. I had a marathon lasagne-making weekend a few weeks ago and threw one in the freezer for emergencies. Today was Family Day in BC and it was sunny for the first time in forever so frozen lasagne it is!

Tuesday: Lasagne and green juice! My freezer lasagne is giant so we're going to get two dinners and a lunch out of it. I am feeling very prepared and smug right now. And excited for all the carbs and garlic.

Wednesday: Coconut Kale Quinoa served with roasted carrots, steamed broccoli, and whatever fish looks good at the fishmonger.

Thursday: Smitten Kitchen's Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup served with leftover veg from Wednesday.

Friday: Homemade pizza and a plate of assorted fresh veg (of which Grady will likely eat the cucumber and one solitary carrot stick after much cajoling).

How to Make Simple Roast Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

If there's one thing I learned while living in England, it's that Sundays are for roast dinners. Roast chicken is a meal that intimidated me (it felt so grown up!) but once I mastered it, it quickly became a staple in our home. So crank your oven, crack open a bottle of wine (wine is a necessary part of Sunday roast preparation so don't skip it. Look, I don't make the rules, I just follow them,) and get ready to fill your kitchen with feel-good-food smells.

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and sliced into eighths
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 apple, roughly chopped
1 lemon, washed and cut into sixths (leave the skin on! You're going to get lots of beautiful lemony flavour from the skin)
olive oil
salt and pepper
small bunch fresh rosemary (or thyme or other herb of your choice), finely chopped
1 (2 - 2.5kg) roasting chicken
4 - 6 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F.

Mix onion, carrots, squash, apple, and lemon in large roasting pan. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add rosemary (or your favourite fresh herb), salt, and pepper, and mix well.

Give your chicken a quick rinse and pat dry with paper towel. Place on top of veg in roasting pan. Rub 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil into skin. Place garlic in chicken cavity. Season chicken liberally, inside cavity and out, with salt and pepper.

Roast in preheated oven for 90 minutes, until juices run clear and meat thermometer registers 170F. Baste chicken periodically with cooking juices (I usually do it at 45, 60, and 75 minutes). I also give the veg a bit of a stir whenever I baste the chicken to make sure they're not sticking to the bottom and getting too golden. (Hi, I am my parents. I refuse to call things burnt. Things are just varying stages of golden.)

Remove roasting pan from oven and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Remove lemons, carve chicken, and serve with roasted veg. In a perfect world, I'd pair this with steamed broccoli or salad to add a green component but real talk: sometimes green things do not find their way to our plates.

Simple Roast Chicken and Veg