Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pork Carnitas

3.5 pounds of boneless pork shoulder
2 T olive oil
8 garlic cloves
1 large white onion
2 jalapeños
1 T cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp orange zest
1 large orange
1- 1 1/2 cups water

1 lime, cut into wedges
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
1 red onion, thinly sliced (cooked or raw)
1 avocado, sliced

Cut pork shoulder into cubes, carefully removing as much fat as possible.  Start by cutting entire piece into large 1 inch slices.  Then cut up each slice while discarding the fat.

Heat oil in large stock pot.  Mince for of the garlic cloves and sauté in the oil for 1-2 minutes.

Add half of the cubed pork to the oil and garlic making sure that each piece is in the oil.  Braise each side of the meat until it begins to brown. Scoop out the cooked meat and set aside.  Repeat braising with the remaining pork.  Add all the pork into the stockpot.

Chop up onion and peppers into small pieces.  I used my hand crank food processor as it chops up everything evenly but doesn't pulverize the onion and release all of the juices.

Add the onion and pepper mixture to the pork.  Add the remaining 4 cloves of garlic (whole or sliced in half if they are too large) to the pot. Simmer together for 3-4 minutes until onion is translucent.

Meanwhile, slice the orange in half and zest enough peel to equal 1 tsp. Set aside.  Use a manual citrus juicer to squeeze the orange juice.  You should yield between 1/3 and 1/2 cup.

Add orange juice and all spices and herbs to the pot; cumin, paprika, turmeric, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, bay leaf and the fresh thyme sprigs.  Stir together all ingredients.

Add enough water to almost cover all of the meat.  Turn heat to medium until it begins to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer approximately 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is soft and easily pierced with a fork.  Remove lid for the last 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has reduced completely.

Serve over corn tortillas, and top with cilantro, cheese, and red onion.  Goes well with chopped cabbage, carrots, pepitos (toasted pumpkin seeds) and avocado. Squeeze lime over entire dish.

For fewer calories, I skip the corn tortillas and serve the pork over the cabbage and make a "carnitas salad."  No other dressing is needed except the lime juice.

Serves 4.

For Whole30 compliant, skip the cheese and tortillas. Here's how I recently enjoyed it on top of a bed of spinach and some lime shrimp and sliced avocado.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Southwest Chicken Salad with Avocado Lime Dressing

Salad Ingredients:
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
2 cooked skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped green onion

Assemble salad.

Avocado Lime Dressing:
2 medium sized avocados
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup packed cilantro
2 T apple cider or white wine vinegar
Juice from two limes
1 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 T red pepper flakes
1 T honey
1/4 cup water (as needed)

Place all ingredients, except water,  into food processor or blender.  Mix all ingredients on high until fully blended.  You may need to remove the lid and scrape sides a few times as the cilantro will tend to stick on the sides of the blender or food processor.  Add a little water at a time to get to the consistency you like.

Toss salad with dressing and serve.  Other toppings or ingredients to consider; red onion, tortilla strips, red or green bell pepper, olives, jalapeño, pepperoncini.  Be creative and make this to fit your tastes. In the summer, I would use fresh corn on the cob and grill it first for a nice roasted flavor. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Stuffed Eggplant


2 tsp salt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
2 large eggplants
1 cup cooked brown rice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large carrot
1 sweet potato, peeled
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. Cut eggplants in half, lengthwise. Using a spoon, carve out insides of eggplant, reserving 3/4 of the eggplant meat.  Sprinkle gutted eggplants with 2 tsp salt and set aside in a large baking dish.

2. Mix together 1 tsp salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, chili powder.
3. Cut up eggplant meat into small pieces and place in a large bowl. 
4. Shred carrot and sweet potato into eggplant mixture, using a grater or food processor.
5. Add garlic, rice, cheese and spice mixture to eggplant, carrot and sweet potato.

6. Fill each eggplant half with mixture.  Sprinkle with olive oil and place in oven.  Cook for 30 minutes or until eggplant is softened and slightly browned.

7. Top with fresh parsley and serve.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lemon Chicken Piccata

I don't make a lot of chicken besides my tortilla soup or a chicken rice soup on a cold day.  I'm not sure exactly why, but I get bored with chicken.  Maybe it's because I don't do any cream or soy based recipes due to the intolerant digestive systems of some of my family members, and all the chicken recipes I see always seems to be either soaked in some kind of cream, cheese or soy sauce. But lately, I've been experimenting with a lemon base for my chicken.  Adding the capers and wine to this one was the perfect twist that was needed to get thumbs up from the whole family (well, maybe not the capers for some).

1/2 cup flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 T butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
Juice from half of a lemon
1 T capers
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
zest from 1/2 lemon
4 slices of lemon from remaining half
3 cups cooked angel hair pasta
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Mix flour, salt and pepper and place on a large plate or shallow dish.  Dredge chicken breasts in flour, coating on all sides.

 2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Add minced garlic and stir until the garlic begins to turn golden.

3. Place flour coated chicken breast in hot oil, top with garlic slices and lemon zest.  Cook 4-5 minutes on each side until chicken is browned and starts to crisp on all sides.

4. Remove chicken from pan and place on a large plate. Remove pan from heat.

5. Using a spatula, scrape all crispy pieces loose from bottom of pan, but don't remove them from the pan.  This is the best part that will add a lot of flavor and crispiness to your dish.

6. Put pan back on heat and add butter, wine, chicken broth and lemon juice, stirring to keep garlic and crispy bits from sticking to bottom of the pan.  Heat for 4-5 minutes on medium high until juices are all blended and alcohol begins to burn off. 

7. Return chicken to the pan, cooking on both sides for an additional 5-6 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken reads 165 degrees.

8. Top with capers, lemon slices and parsley.

9. Serve chicken over top of angel hair pasta.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lime Shrimp Tacos with Green Sauce

It's funny how our subconscious works.  Yesterday, I saw a post from one of my favorite cooking blogs, The LatinKitchen in my Facebook feed and without even reading it, clicked to share so that I could go back and read it at a later time.  I didn't think another thing about it and went on about the rest of my social media check ins before heading to bed.  

It was about 5:30 this evening and I was on my drive back home from work trying to figure out what I should feed my family tonight.  I did a quick mental scan of what I thought I might have on hand in the fridge.  I remembered a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer and in the remaining 11 minutes of my commute, concocted a recipe to fit my now mouth watering craving for spicy green sauce shrimp tacos.  It wasn't until I logged in to publish this recipe tonight that I realized that picture from the LatinKitchen the night before must have made a strong impression on my tastebuds and implanted into my brain.  I just looked at the recipe and I'm dying to try theirs next.  Mine is a no frills easy version concocted from ingredients on hand.  

Ingredients for the Green Sauce:
1 tomatillo
1 small tomato
2 jalapeño peppers
1 cup (half bunch) packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

1 pound frozen uncooked shrimp
3 limes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped green cabbage
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 dozen soft corn tortillas

Core stem from tomato and squeeze out most of the juice and seeds. Place jalapeños, tomatillo and squeezed tomato onto a cooking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Place under a broiler for 4-6 minutes, turning at least once until skins begin to blacken.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Slice jalapeño lengthwise and remove stem, seeds and vein.  If you want a very spicy sauce, leave in some or all of the seeds.

Place roasted peppers, tomatillo and tomato into a blender or food processor.  Add remaining ingredients of the green sauce; cilantro, parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Blend until sauce is a smooth consistency.

Squeeze juice from two limes onto raw shrimp and set aside.

Heat large skillet on stove top with light coat of cooking spray.  Add minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add lime soaked shrimp to skillet.  Sprinkle red pepper flakes and saute.

Wrap stacked tortillas in a wet paper towel and heat in microwave for up to two minutes (depending on your microwave).

Fill tortillas with cabbage, cilantro, and shrimp.  Top with green sauce.

Freeze leftover green sauce.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Almond Cake to Die For

My family all requests this cake for any special occasion.  We all forego anything with frosting, so this low frills, yet impressive recipe is a must for any guest occasion.  I got this recipe from the Portland Palate Cookbook and adjusted the sugar level and garnishes to make it less rich. 

One can almond paste
1/2 cup (one stick) of room-temperature butter; I use the Earth Balance Vegan butter for my dairy free husband
3 eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour

Heat oven to 350 degree temperature.
Once butter has softened to room temperature, add to large mixing bowl.  Add eggs and mix on low until well blended.
Add almond paste and mix at high speed until entire mixture is well blended.  The lumps need to be smoothed out of the paste before you can add the rest of the ingredients.
Add sugar and continue to blend.
Add flour and mix at low speed.
Add entire mixture to spring form pan that has been coated with oil and flour.

Spread evenly across the pan.
Sprinkle sliced almonds across the top of the mixture.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until edges just begin to turn golden.
Remove from oven and cool slightly.  Use a knife to gently separate edges from pan.  Release spring loaded sides and lift off of the cake.

Serve as is, or drizzle your favorite raspberry topping, fresh fruit, ice cream or whipping cream on top.

Dietary considerations:
Gluten Free: Replace flour with almond flour.
Dairy Free: use non-dairy butter substitute (Earth Balance)

Cucumber Fennel Salad

So, I just got back from a short trip to New Orleans late last night.  You'd think this recipe would be some Creole recipe or at least something with shrimp in it.  Don't get me wrong; I had some great food in NOLA!  Yet, the one dish I was dying to try to replicate was more of the vegetable variety because I was so enamored with the flavor I experienced in, of all places, the Denver airport.

Fennel?  I've never purposely eaten fennel.  Sure, I'd heard of it.  I'd even seen it at the grocery store wedged between the beets and the kale. I wasn't even sure what fennel was.  Yet, this little gem came as a accompaniment to the avocado crab cakes I ordered while on an unanticipated 2-hour delay in Denver on my way to a 4 day mini-vacation.  Obviously, I had New Orleans on the brain because I couldn't resist getting my journey started into the crab cake capital of the world.  I have no idea how they made this dish at the restaurant, so I quickly interrogated the waitress. Unfortunately, I got a lot of, "Umm, I'm not sure" responses.  However, I do know that the menu said, "cucumber fennel salad" and that was all I needed.

Fennel: aka that black licorice flavor you either love or hate.  Now, I warn you-- I hate black licorice. Yet, when using the true licorice root of the plant, called the fennel bulb, you will instantly fall in love with this hint of anise flavor.  The combination with the cucumber and dill is amazing.  Of course, I had to figure out how to actually use fennel.  Do you use the bulb?  The green fronds? both? I don't know!  Of course, there's a Youtube video for everything.  And here you go.

For tonight's dinner, this salad accompanied my crabcakes (see previous post), salmon fillets and some wild rice.  Of course a Chilean Chardonnay was also served.  I'm not sure I quite captured the salad I had at the Denver airport, but I got a thumbs up at the dinner table.  I imagine there are many possibilities with this dish; red onion, scallions, jicama... use your imagination!

1 large fennel bulb
3 cucumbers
4-5 radishes
2 T quality olive oil
2 T white balsamic vinegar or your favorite flavored vinegar; I used pear champagne vinegar
1 tsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 T chopped fresh dill

Slice fennel bulb into very thin slices.  Chop fennel fronds and set aside.
Peel cucumber.  Cut off ends and slice in half, lengthwise.  Use a spoon to remove seeds.  Slice cucumber into thin slices.
Slice radishes into thin slices.
Place fennel, cucumber and radishes into a large salad bowl.
Combine olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper into a small bowl and whisk together.
Add olive oil mixture to fennel and cucumber mixture and toss all ingredients.
Place in refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
Just before serving, garnish with fresh dill.

Dietary consideration:
Unless you're allergic to any of these ingredients, it's a very friendly vegan, gluten free, non-dairy and Whole30 recipe.