Spicy Sausage and Swiss Chard Soup

This soup is so perfect for this weird, rainy, crappy weather we have been experiencing and a great way to use up the chard from your CSA or the farmer’s market! Enter the raincloud:  It’s also great if you are in the process of re-homing your dog who has been your baby for the last 7 years and you’re feeling pretty blah. Our toddler and our doggie have been good friends since our daughter started crawling and being mobile. However our sweet little girl (toddler) is also pretty rough with our other sweet little girl (doggie) and no amount of discipline has seemed to work to make this situation better. Last weekend it resulted in a nip on the finger that drew blood and it was pretty traumatic for all involved. It’s not that our dog is a bad dog; she’s a lover. She loves to snuggle, give kisses and bark at squirrels. But she doesn’t love dealing with our toddler constantly exploring and pulling on her fur. And it’s not fair to keep her in her room all day (yes, she literally has her own bedroom complete with her food/water dishes, a couch, blanket and pillow that are exclusively hers to snuggle with). So in the end we decided our doggie will be better off with another loving family who doesn’t have small children. We are choosing to take action now, before something worse can potentially happen. This is where you can start judging me if that’s something you’re into.

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I took to Facebook of course to find a new home for my little doggie in a “Pets for Sale” group and I was overwhelmed by the response! There were tons of folks right in our area who offered to adopt her and provide her a loving home! So many in fact that I had to send out a blanket message saying I will keep everyone posted as we meet with potential families and make sure we find the right fit for her. And while I was expecting the crazy internet trolls to come out of the woodwork on my post (because that’s just what they do; sit at home all day and wait to pounce) I was still quite appalled at the things some people had to say. “Get rid of the baby!” might have surprised me the most. Like duh, why didn’t I think of that?! Are you kidding me??? That comment was followed by several other (very grammatically incorrect) jabs at my parenting and many folks questioning my capability of raising a child.

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Of course I threw a few snarky comments back because sometimes I just can’t help myself, but in the end I decided to take the high road…and block all those haters! Seriously though, thank you Facebook for the block button. Because sometimes you don’t need Facebook trolls to make a very tough situation even more difficult. I also must note that for every one judgmental person spewing hate, there was at least 2-3 people with messages of encouragement and positivity, so the good certainly outweighed the bad (funny how you only remember the bad though, right?). I am trying to find comfort in knowing that our doggie will find a loving home and people who can appreciate her in all her glory and treat her like the princess she is.

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So, make this soup. It’s delicious and it might make tough situations just a tiny bit easier to deal with.

Spicy Sausage and Swiss Chard Soup

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 19.5 oz. hot Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stalks removed and diced, leaves roughly chopped (about 6 cups chopped leaves + 1 cup chopped stalks
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 32 oz. chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups V8 (or generic vegetable juice)
  • 15 oz. can cannellini beans
  • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • shredded Parmesan for garnish

Directions

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Squeeze sausage from the casing and discard casing. Brown sausage, crumbling with a spatula. Drain most of the grease off of the sausage and transfer to a bowl. Heat the same pot over medium heat. There should be just a sheen of grease from the sausage still. Add Swiss chard stalks and onion to the pot along with a large pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Return sausage to the pot and add Swiss chard leaves, chicken stock, V8, cannellini beans, diced tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine, turn heat up to medium high and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid, turn heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove soup from heat and slowly stir in cream. Garnish with shredded Parmesan and serve!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (2)

 

Simple Summer Salsa

This might seem like a no-brainer to a lot of folks, but I come across people all the time who ask me for the simplest of recipes. Some people are more comfortable making something that is tried and true (by someone else) before jumping in themselves.  Personally, I love to improvise in the kitchen! Growing up my mom had her signature dishes–beef stroganoff, chili, bacon wrapped chicken–and never followed a recipe. She knew the ingredients from memory and adjusted them based on what was available. It always amazed me how she’d whip things up with what she had in the kitchen, and while she always had an end result in mind, the journey of making the meal was a little different each time. I’ve grown so comfortable with improvising in fact that when I first started blogging, it took me a while to get in the groove of actually measuring ingredients and then writing them down. Now I’ve got my trusty little notebook that lives on my kitchen counter, ready at a moment’s notice to record whatever creation I come up with.

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I like to cheat when I make salsa and put most of the ingredients in the food processor. Obviously the tomatoes do not do well in a food processor, so those will need to be diced by hand, but literally everything else can just have a whiz in the processor for a few seconds and you’ll save TONS of time. Unless you’re into chopping, then by all means, chop away! With a very active 1 year old, I am into whatever takes me the least amount of time these days.

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This salsa was made entirely with veggies from our CSA from Square Roots Farm. You’ve heard me talk about them before; they’re great and you should check ’em out. They have a Fall CSA share also, which I am seriously considering…they’re veggies are just so dang good!

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So let’s bid farewell to those delicious summer veggies by using them to create a delicious, healthy, simple salsa!

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Simple Summer Salsa

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 4 large ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound or 2 cups), cored and diced
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 cayenne pepper, ribs and seeds removed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • pinch of fresh cracked pepper
  • pinch of cumin
  • squeeze of lime juice (optional)
  • tortilla chips for serving

Directions

Add onion, cayenne, garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper, cumin and lime juice to a food processer. Pulse until minced, scraping down the sides as need. Add minced veggies to diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips and enjoy!

If you’re feeling crazy, add mango or pineapple to your salsa too! It’ll had a hint of unexpected sweetness.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (3)

Honey Lime Chicken Tacos with Chipotle Slaw

Typically I am one of those people who loads up any Mexican dish with extra sour cream and tons of cheese. I have often joked that to me tacos are just a vehicle for sour cream. But in an effort to live a healthier lifestyle, I’ve been scouring the internet for lighter versions of my Mexican favorites. The only problem is, most of the recipes I’ve found end up tasting like diet food. I don’t want to eat diet food. Because I’m not on a diet. I’m working towards living a more healthy lifestyle–long term. I want healthy food that tastes delicious and leaves me feeling full and satisfied, not diet food that leaves me feeling deprived and hungry. Well friends, look no further! I present to you healthy tacos loaded with lean protein from the chicken breast paired with a crisp crunch from the broccoli slaw and a kick of heat from the chiles in adobo. You will not miss the cheese or sour cream, I promise. You don’t have to sacrifice the flavor to get rid of some of the fat!

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These tacos are pretty much the quintessential summer food! Hand-held, fresh, light and flavorful. The perfect way to enjoy the last few weeks of a great Wisconsin summer and use up some fresh veggie from the garden. They are a unique, healthy alternative to the traditional ground beef version loaded with fat and grease; however, they are still loaded with flavor! The best part? They are super easy to make and cook up great on the grill so you won’t have to spend your whole day inside making dinner.

You could use flour tortillas for this recipe if you prefer, but corn tortillas are really the clear winner when it comes to health. They are typically lower in calories, fat, sodium and sugar than their flour counterparts and are also higher in fiber than flour tortillas. While I will admit, at first I did not enjoy the texture of corn tortillas (since I grew up strictly on crunchy hard shells or soft flour tortillas) but over time my taste buds have grown to enjoy the texture of a soft corn tortillas.

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Keep your eyes peeled for some other healthy(ish) Mexican fare coming to the blog soon. I am thinking my next endeavor will be enchiladas…

Honey Lime Chicken Tacos with Chipotle Slaw

  • Servings: 6 tacos
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Ingredients

For the chicken tacos

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast (I like to use tenders)
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon diced chiles in adobo
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 6 soft corn tortillas

For the slaw:

  • 12 oz. broccoli slaw
  • 1/2 cup whole milk plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion + more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons diced chiles in adobo
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper

Directions

In a large bowl combine lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, honey, Dijon mustard, cumin, chiles in adobo, chili powder, garlic powder, a large pinch of salt and pepper. Add chicken to the bowl and stir to combine. Try to cover the chicken completely with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably over night.

While the chicken is marinating, combine all slaw ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed. Cover and let the flavors marry in the fridge.

These chicken tacos taste best when cooked on the grill over medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until a nice golden brown crust forms. Alternately, you can also cook them on the stove top by heating a large saute pan over medium high heat. Use a tongs to remove chicken from the marinade, allowing any excess marinade to drip off. Cooking in 2 batches, place chicken tenders into the pan about an inch apart and cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes or until a dark golden brown crust forms. If the chicken doesn’t seem to be cooked through at this point, pop it on a sheet pan and in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5-7 minutes until it’s fully cooked.

Allow chicken to rest for a few minutes and then slice into half inch pieces width wise. Heat corn tortillas in the microwave, heating 3 tortillas for 25 seconds or in a large sauté pan over medium heat for about a minute each, flipping frequently. To assemble, place sliced chicken in the center of a tortilla then top it with a heaping spoonful of chipotle slaw. If you’re feeling a little crazy, add some pico de gallo!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (4)

Secret Family Recipe Chili

So you can just throw away all your other chili recipes right now–all those ones that boast they are the best in the world or even claim to be the best ever. This is the only one you will ever need. It’s got the classic duo of chili powder and cumin along with a bit of a kick from one of my secret ingredients–diced chiles in adobo (smoked, dried jalapenos in a tangy, sweet red sauce). It’s also loaded with fiber rich beans and lean ground turkey which means it’s a healthy meal that you can feel good about serving it to your family!

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If your kids (or significant other) are super sensitive to spice you can certainly omit the chiles, however I would strongly urge against it. They add a slow, smoky flavor that builds with each bite. Even those who don’t typically enjoy spicy foods can appreciate the flavor of these chiles. I add them to EVERYTHING–enchilada sauce, fajitas, pork carnitas, chicken marinades, tortilla soup. They add so much depth of flavor and just the right amount of heat.

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V8 juice is my other secret ingredient. I’ve never seen it in another chili recipe and I have no idea why! It’s the perfect liquid to simmer and marry all those delicious flavors and it also lends a nice smooth texture to the chili–not too watery like some that I’ve come across, but also not too thick!

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Seriously I don’t mean to toot my own horn here. But, yeah I do…TOOT TOOT!

Secret Family Recipe Chili

  • Servings: 12
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground turkey (you could use ground beef if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon diced chiles in adobo
  • 28 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups V8 (or generic vegetable juice drink)
  • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz. can pinto beans
  • (2) 15 oz. cans black beans
  • (2) 15 oz. cans kidney beans

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, jalapeno and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Then add garlic and cook for another minute, stirring frequently.

While the veggies are doing their thang, heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add ground turkey and a pinch of salt and pepper. Brown turkey, using a spatula to crumble as it cooks. Once it is just about cooked sprinkle chili powder and cumin over turkey. Stir to distribute spices evenly. Cook for another minute or so, until the turkey is completely cooked through.

To the large pot add, browned turkey, sugar, chiles in adobo, tomato sauce, tomato juice, diced tomatoes, pinto beans, black beans and kidney beans. Season again with a large pinch of Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper and stir to combine.

Turn heat to medium high and bring the chili to a simmer. Cover pot and simmer on medium low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, thinly sliced green onion and a dollop of sour cream. If you’re feeling really rowdy, serve it with some Fritos too!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (5)

Easy Baked Falafel

Looking for a healthy appetizer to make for girls night? I am usually that person who brings the rich, creamy spinach and artichoke dip with French baguette or homemade soft pretzels with homemade nacho chees sauce or hand dipped mini corndogs and hand cut French fries. So, in an effort to eat a little lighter and get a little lighter, I introduce to you, baked falafel! Loaded with garbanzo beans, fresh herbs, onion and garlic, this is a Friday night favorite you can feel good about eating!

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With that said, obviously there is a time and a place for super indulgent foods and I am certainly not one to tell you to skip your favorite greasy pizza or fabulously rich dessert. However, I personally am trying to make some lifestyle changes and appetizers like this one are making it easier for me to do so!

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I for one am not into the calorie counting. Which might be why I weigh 20 pounds more than I did 10 years ago… So I have tried to at least start writing down everything I eat in a day. Not necessarily thinking about the calorie count, but more just realizing how much I am eating, when I’m eating and maybe even why I’m eating. I’ll tell you I’m not someone who eats for fuel or when I’m hungry. I mostly just eat whenever there is yummy food around and if you follow me on Instagram you’ll notice that is more often than not. So I’ll let you know how things go. Hopefully in 6 months I can post one of those awesome transformation Tuesday posts on Insta and tell you about how much better I feel and sleep and blah blah blah.

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But for now I am trying to find the little things that make me happy and focus on those. A walk on the bike trail with my daughter and husband. A really good show on HBO. A quiet evening to read when my daughter goes to bed early. Laughing with good friends and maybe a glass of wine now and then. Because it’s the little things that make life so great, right? Like these falafel!

Easy Baked Falafel

  • Servings: 30 falafels
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Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add onion, garlic, parsley, olive oil, flour, cumin, baking powder, salt and pepper to a food processor. Process until all ingredients are minced and well combined. Then add garbanzo beans and pulse until they are finely diced, but still a bit chunky. The mixture will be tacky but not too sticky.

Spray a baking sheet with coconut oil baking spray. Use a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop balls of falafel. Place balls about an inch apart and use a little oiled palm to flatten the falafel into 1/2 inch thick discs. Spray the tops of the falafel with another thin layer of coconut oil baking spray. Bake for 20 minutes, flip, then bake for another 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a couple minutes before serving.

Enjoy falafel nestled in a big pita pocket along with tzatziki, cucumber, onion, feta and tomato. Or just dip them in some hummus!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (6)

 

Pork and Poblano Taquitos

Remember last week when I shared that yummy Pork Carnitas recipe? Well somehow I ended up with leftovers (I have no idea how!?!?!?) and some extra poblano peppers. So naturally my mind went straight to my meal prep for Sunday. These taquitos are loaded with flavor and pack a bite so crisp you’d swear they were fried, but they’re not! They’re baked!

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To achieve the same crispiness as our fried friends (with wayyyy less fat) you just wrap your filling in a corn tortilla and then brush it with oil. Bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes and voila!

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Crispy, crunchy, melty, healthier taquitos. These would be the perfect appetizer for your next party!

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You could make them ahead and refrigerate, and then just before your guests arrive brush with olive oil and bake. Of course I serve them with my signature dipping sauce – equal parts full fat Greek yogurt and Taco Bell hot sauce, combined.

Pork and Poblano Taquitos

  • Servings: 18 taquitos
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Ingredients

  • 18 yellow corn tortillas
  • 2 cups Beer Braised Pork Carnitas (or your favorite Mexican pulled pork)
  • 2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese (or any shredded cheese)
  • 1/2 cup diced poblano pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup diced jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Taco Bell hot sauce (for the dipping sauce)
  • Whole milk plain Greek yogurt (for the dipping sauce)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil. Place a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet. In a small bowl combine pork, cheese, poblano, onion, jalapeno, chili powder and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Heat tortillas in the microwave in batches of 4, heating each batch for 30 seconds. This will make them warm and pliable. Work quickly, as the cooler the tortillas get the more likely they are to rip.

Place about 2-3 tablespoons of filling in a line down the center of each tortilla and roll the tortilla tightly away from you forming a fat little cigar shaped taquito.  Place rolled taquitos, seam side down, onto the cooling rack on the baking sheet about an inch apart.

Brush the entire top surface of the taquito with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges start to get brown and the taquito is crisp. Serve with my favorite dipping sauce/dressing combo–equal parts Greek yogurt and Taco Bell hot sauce combined.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (7)

BBQ Pork Carnitas Breakfast Pizza

I’m going to keep this short and sweet because it’s Saturday and I want to spend it outside with my family and not inside on my laptop. But I really want to share this recipe with you because it’d be perfect for Sunday morning breakfast.

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Do you remember my Beer Braised Pork Carnitas from last week? We didn’t quite finish it all so I showcased those tender, juicy, crispy leftovers in this meal. I’ve been trying really hard not to let any food go to waste, especially when it tastes as amazing as this pork.

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The fried egg on this pizza really makes it for me.

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But don’t take my word for it. Get going and make this pizza for your family tomorrow! Or tonight!

BBQ Pork Carnitas Breakfast Pizza

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients

  • 2 lavash breads or your favorite kind of pizza crust (about 8 inches across)
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (I like Annie’s Chipotle BBQ)
  • 1 cup Chihuahua shredded cheese (or any other melty shredded cheese)
  • 1 cup of my Beer Braised Pork Carnitas (or your favorite pulled pork)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced poblano pepper
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • pico de gallo

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place crusts on a foil lined baking sheet. Divide BBQ sauce evenly between the two crusts, leaving about a half inch of crust around the edge. Next divide the Chihuahua evenly between both pizzas, sprinkling it in an even layer. Then divide the pork, onion, and peppers between both pizzas. Bake pizza for about 10 minutes.

While the pizza is baking, fry up those eggs! Add olive oil to a large saute pan over medium low heat. Allow the pan to heat for a couple minutes. Carefully crack eggs into the pan and sprinkle them each with salt and pepper. If the oil starts to sputter and spit, turn the heat down. You want to cook the eggs low and slow. Cook until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.

Place fried eggs onto the center of each pizza. Garnish with pico de gallo and enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (9)

Summer Tomato Tart

I’m going to share some intimate details about myself in this post. I’ve never really liked raw tomatoes. I will eat almost anything, but when it comes to tomatoes they just aren’t my jam unless they are cooked. If they’re pureed and simmered in a creamy tomato soup or cooked up in a tangy marinara sauce, I’m game. If you’re putting a big ol’ slice of raw tomato on my cold turkey sandwich you can guarantee I’ll be picking that baby off and throwing it away. I have been known to enjoy a tomato now and then on a grinder from Mancino’s, but only because it’s a hot sandwich and the tomatoes are basically overpowered by all the horseradish and jalapenos and Cajun seasoning I like on my Flavor Train.

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However, this summer I have been eating BLTs with reckless abandon–with raw tomatoes! I think my taste buds are turning over a new leaf. What’s changed? Pretty sure it’s because the only tomatoes I’ve been eating are from our Square Roots Farm CSA and they’re so ripe and juicy and tasty. I have come to realize how delicious a tomato really can be when it’s grown with great care and picked at the peak of ripeness.

So when we were invited out to dinner at the farm I felt like I had to bring something showcasing the delicious variety of tomatoes we’ve been getting from them all summer. And since I had no clue what I wanted to make, I was pleasantly surprised to find all the ingredients for this tart right in my kitchen!

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So this should actually be called the “clean out your fridge” tart. However, I feel like when you call something that it sounds less appetizing to others. Nonetheless, that is exactly what I did and it was delicious!

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I had some cute little green cherry tomatoes, some of those little orange baby tomatoes and giant slicing tomatoes that we got in our CSA this week. Those tomatoes would have been perfect for another batch of Roasted Tomato Gazpacho but they were destined for other things.

Summer Tomato Tart

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 1 large slicing tomato
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (assorted colors will make for a prettier tart)
  • 1  store bought refrigerated pie crust
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese (or any other melty cheese)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill

Directions

Core the large tomato and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half of in thirds depending on how large they are. Place them in a single layer on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and spray your tart pan with non-stick cooking spray. Unroll pie crust, lightly flour your work surface and roll the crust to match the size of your tart pan. Be sure the crust not only covers the bottom, but also the sides of the pan. Press dough firmly into the bottom and along the sides of the pan.

Use a fork to prick the dough all over so that no large air bubbles form. Bake the crust by itself for 5 minutes then remove from oven. Sprinkle Chihuahua cheese in an even layer across the bottom of the tart. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Place tomatoes in an even layer across the bottom of the pan creating almost a mosaic of tomatoes. Then sprinkle on feta, onion, Parmesan, thyme, a couple pinches of red pepper flakes, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.

Bake tart for 15-18 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then garnish with fresh dill and serve. This tart is also delicious at room temperature as well.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (10)

 

 

 

Beer Braised Pork Carnitas

Try as I might, I am not a morning person. I never have been. I’m definitely not a night owl either. I’m more of a “needs 9 hours of sleep to function properly or I’ll be super grumpy” kind of person. When I was younger my parents used to call me Margaret whenever I was tired and grumpy. Or hungry and grumpy. Looking back on it now, I realize it was their polite way of telling me to quit being a grouch. I shared this fond memory with my husband years ago and he has carried on the tradition of calling me Margaret since he takes the brunt of her grumpiness. Lucky him…

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And so, Margaret has kind of become my alter ego. I try not to let her out, but sometimes it just happens. It’s usually when I’m woken up any time between 10pm and 8am. Or whenever I go more than 3 hours without eating. But seriously other than that, I’m pretty easy going, I swear. Every once in a while I forget about Margaret and I get this crazy idea that I’m going to start being a morning person. Not just a morning person, but a morning person who works out. In the morning. Before I go to work. In the morning. Even as I type the words, I realize how crazy it sounds.

But without fail, every few months I try for a week to wake up at 6am and get my sweat on. And without fail, when my alarm goes off at 6am, I shut it off, reset it for 730am and go back to bed. Then at some point I feel frustrated and Margaret probably makes an appearance and nobody is happy and I’m still not a morning person. So just like last week, when I came to terms with not being a gardener, now I am admitting that I will never be a morning person.

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To minimize the appearance of Margaret and let myself sleep in as much as possible, I have been getting really into meal prep on Sundays. My goal each Sunday is to create two meals that we can eat throughout the week that are healthy and satisfying at the same time. This week, it was Beer Braised Pork Carnitas (which I mixed with brown rice, black beans and veggies to make burrito bowls) and Turkey Meatball Gyros. I find that my mornings run so much smoother when I can just grab my lunch from the fridge and go. And I’m less tempted to eat crap when I get home from work if I have dinner made already.

This recipe makes a ton of carnitas because no matter what I always find myself wishing there were more. These would be great to make and then freeze too if you’re just cooking for one or if you don’t like to eat the same thing multiple times in a row. However, once you taste these carnitas, chances are pretty good you’ll want to just eat them until they’re gone. They are juicy and tender, but also crisp and filled with flavor. And best of all, they are SUPER easy to make. 20 minutes of prep and the rest is just inactive cooking time. Alternately you could make these carnitas in a slow cooker too. I’d cook the pork on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours, checking about halfway through to see how tender and shreddable they’ve gotten. I usually just want to eat them as soon as possible, so I make them on the stove. My favorite new dressing/dipping sauce for anything Mexican is equal parts full fat Greek yogurt mixed with Taco Bell hot sauce. It might sounds weird, but it’s really good and mostly healthy.

Beer Braised Pork Carnitas

  • Servings: 10
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons + 3-4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 lb. pork shoulder/butt roast
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz. bottle of your favorite beer
  • 32 oz. chicken stock
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. In a small bowl combine cumin, oregano, chili powder, paprika, cayenne and a couple large pinches of salt and pepper. Rub spice mixture all over the surface of the pork roast. Place roast into the pot and cook each side for about 1-2 minutes or until the entire outside of the roast is seared nice and dark golden brown. Remove roast from the pot and set aside for the moment. Add onion to the pot and turn heat to medium. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute, stirring often. Put roast back into the pot.

Add beer, chicken stock and orange zest and juice to the pot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer on medium low for about 2 hours or until pork shreds easily with two forks.

Transfer pork to a large bowl. Heat the same pot you cooked the pork in over medium high heat. Working in batches, add one teaspoon olive oil and then an even layer of pork. Sauté the shredded pork for about 1-2 minutes, then flip it over and let the other side get nice and crisp. The goal here is to have tender, juicy shredded pork with dark golden brown crispy bits on the ends.

And seriously, don’t skip that last step. It makes the dish.

Serve in a burrito bowl with brown rice, beans and veggies or in a warm corn tortilla with chopped raw onion and fresh cilantro.

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