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Carnitas Tacos with Pico de Gallo

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My weekend was rough – literally. I’ve mentioned I’m playing on a “Corporate Challenge” team for Brent’s work, and one of the games included is flag football. We had 3 games in a row this Saturday, and the challenge rules dictate that at least two women on each team must be playing at all times – we had only 2 women show up willing to play on Saturday. It was super exhausting (but a lot of fun!) to play in the heat that long, and not to mention, my lack of grace caused me to make frequent contact with the rough ground. I look beat up. My legs look like someone took a bat to my knees – yikes! Sunday I felt like I could barely move from the waist down, which was fine I suppose because I had to spend most of the day catching up on school reading anyway.

Carnitas

While I was making a grocery list this week, I (as usual) asked Brent if he had any meal suggestions and he requested tacos – specifically tacos made with carnitas. I know Brent likes to order a carnitas burrito at Chipotle, but I wasn’t sure what carnitas actually are, so I looked up a few recipes. After noticing that carnitas seemed to be traditionally cooked in lard, I was not so sure about it, but I figured I would try to make a not so authentic version without lard because I’m a great wife – at least that’s what I like to tell Brent.

What I used:

  • 2.5lbs Boston shoulder pork roast, cut into big 2″ chunks
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1.5T kosher salt mixed with a pinch each of: garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, chili powder, curry powder, thyme (I was basically trying to make my own seasoned salt without buying any new spices)
  • a few shakes liquid smoke – about 5 drops
  • 1/2 cup water

What I Did:

  • Threw it all in the crockpot
  • Cooked on high for 5 hours
  • Picked out onion and garlic chunks
  • Shredded it

While the carnitas were cooking, I made pico de gallo to top the tacos. For the salsa, I just threw the following into a bowl and let it hang out for an hour while I waited on the meat to be done. These are very rough measurements, people.

Pico de Gallo:

  • Three Roma tomatoes, small diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I shredded it on the smallest grater size)
  • half a jalapeno, seeded and minced (this was not spicy and I’m a wuss – use the whole thing)
  • 1/4t kosher salt – a good pinch

I really loved the pico. I would defs make it again as a salsa for chips. I served the carnitas on warmed corn tortillas, topped with avocado slices and some of the pico de gallo. Brent really loved them, and I thought they were pretty good too! Had to get some veg in with some lightly sautéed zucchini as well.

Now, obviously this made a ton of meat for two people. We did not come close to eating this much. Brent is having leftovers for lunch for a few days, and I threw a few servings in individual portions in the freezer. I just always think if I’m going to use my crockpot (which is huge – 7 quarts!) that I may as well make a big batch and freeze for later. Make it once, eat it twice right?

Food & Beer

Tonight Brent and I have reservations for a local food and beer dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, so hopefully I’ll get some photos and be able to post a fun recap sometime in the next few days! I’m really looking forward to it – the menu includes goat cheese ice cream. Can’t wait!

Antipasto-Style Penne

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Thanks for the sympathy and well-wishes guys! Today was a whole lot more productive and my mood has greatly improved. Brent got up early to run with me this morning, which always makes me happy. Unfortunately the 6 hours after that were spent taking the car to the dealership (for routine 60K mile maintenance), finding out we needed completely new rear brakes (thus doubling the cost of the visit), and waiting for the car to be done. Kind of a waste of a day, and of course giving someone that much money is never fun, but I’d rather do it now than pay thousands later. I spent my time waiting productively though – the kitchen is spotless and our big sectional couch has been vacuumed to get rid of Lucy’s hair – it’s a never-ending battle!

This is Lucy being embarrassed by her hairy mess:

She’s totally adorable, right?

My friend Ashley invited me to a Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana Hotspot Networking event at Club Soda downtown tonight. Networking seems like a good idea and I’m always up for getting out of the house (especially if it’s free!), so I happily attended (and dragged a less-enthused Brent with me). I had a really good time and met some interesting people, and I think I’d be more interested in doing more with the group in the future.

When Brent and I got home, it was 7:30 and I was ready for a real dinner. Tonight’s meal was another Cooking Light meal – sorry! I wasn’t feeling creative and I was menu planning in the car! This was one of my favorite make-at-home meals I’ve eaten in recent memory. I was having a total “When Harry Met Sally – I’ll have what she’s having” moment with this dish.

Antipasto-Style Penne: artichokes, pesto, cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes? Hell, yes please! It was just so good. I made the vegetarian option, using some cubed provolone instead of prosciutto. By the way, I did not see cubed provolone at the store and I could only find slices, so I just went to the deli counter and asked them to cut me a half-inch thick slice of provolone and cubed it myself. I got exactly what I needed and only spent $0.72. Perfect.

So now that you know how wonderful this dish is, are you going to make it as soon as possible? You really should. I plan on fighting Brent for the leftovers tomorrow.

Plans for tomorrow: spending the day at the pool with Brent and some chick lit. Sounds like a pretty good way to spend one of my last few days of break.

Question: What outside of work activities are you involved with, if any? I would definitely love to get more involved in the community and meet more people once school ends.

Grilled Peppers & Lentil Salad

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On the way back from Chicago Brent drove while I menu planned for the week using the new issue of Cooking Light. Nearly all the recipes in the Enlightened Vegetarian section sounded wonderful, including tonight’s dinner: Grilled Peppers & Lentil Salad.With so many flavorful ingredients, I thought this salad would taste delicious, or be too weird. Lime juice, cilantro, olives and fennel are not necessarily ingredients I would put all in the same dish.

I was really impressed! I thought it was really bright-tasting and I loved it. Brent “liked the flavors, but just doesn’t like lentils that much.” I did, however, have to change the recipe. Since moving into our townhouse, Brent and I don’t have a grill anymore, so rather than grill the peppers, I broiled them and proceeded with the recipe, and it worked just fine for me! I’m sure a charcoal grill would add even more flavor with smoky deliciousness.

Brent’s company does a “Corporate Challenge” in conjunction with our local YMCA, and the team competes in a bunch of sports, like flag football, basketball, dodgeball, etc… Well apparently they did not have enough women for the requirement, so Brent got recruited so that I would play. I have football practice on Wednesday. This should be pretty interesting – I am, by far, the least coordinated person I know, but I think it’ll be a lot of fun!

Falling off the face of the Earth

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I’m back! I spent all of last week visiting family and friends in Chicago. I was originally planning on attending the Healthy Living Summit, but I sold my ticket a few weeks ago and decided I wanted to use what little time off I have spending time with people I don’t see enough. I had a lot of fun, but by the end of the week, I was ready to get back home.

I acted as my family’s personal chef for the week and cooked a few of their usual meals for them, including chili, tostadas, and I introduced them to roasted broccoli with shrimp. I don’t have many pictures from the week, but I did manage to take one of the gazpacho I made.

Sorry for the blurry iPhone photo. This was my first time making and eating gazpacho, and I was impressed. I’m not a huge fan of raw tomatoes, so I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but I did!

I’m spending this week getting my life in order before my last semester starts next week, so I’ve got a lot of errands to run and cleaning to do. I hope everyone’s be enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

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I like sun-dried tomatoes, but I don’t think Brent does. I do not, however, *love* raw, ripe tomatoes. I just don’t get that obsession. I bought a quart of sun-dried tomatoes at The Fresh Market on a whim last week and wanted to use some of them in a pasta dish, so tonight I threw them in a food processor with extra-virgin olive oil, a clove of garlic, a handful of basil and a handful of Parmesan cheese. I sprinkled it with salt and pepper and blended(and added a bit more oil) until I got what look sauce-ish to me. It smelled pretty amazing too. Basil will do that.

I cooked some whole wheat rotini and sautéed some crimini mushrooms. I deglazed the mushroom pan with a splash of white wine, reduced it, and added a glob (definitely the best word for the amount I used) of the sun-dried tomato pesto. I mixed everything around until it was a well-mingled party and then tossed with the pasta. Then I grated more cheese on top. Because I love cheese.

I really love this. That was to be expected. My love of wine, pasta, and cheese is well-documented. My love of mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes may be less prolific, but it’s a love nonetheless so I was happy to have all my favorites in one bowl. I also drank some of the above mentioned white wine. It was a lovely meal to have on my last night as a 24-year-old.

Speaking of that, since my birthday is tomorrow, I wanted to highlight some of the things I crossed off my list as a 24-year-old:

And probably a lot more, but those are sticking out in my head right now. To get my 25th year started out on the right foot, I’ll post some things I plan on doing in the next year tomorrow morning.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Basil

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I’m done with school…. for the summer anyway. One more semester and in a few months I’ll be ready to take my boards! Thursday was my last day at the hospital for the summer, and I took my lecture final this morning. This morning, while I was looking through my notes one final time, Brent looked at me and said “Geez honey, I’m glad today’s your last day because I don’t think you could make it much longer.” Truer words have never been spoken. After my exam, I went out for margaritas with a few of my friends from class, and then got home and passed out in bed for a much-needed nap. It was glorious.

The point of this post was not to detail my exhaustion. We all have things that keep us busy. I did, however, want to tell you about this super simple salad I made Wednesday night. Good thing it was practically no-cook because our power went out for 5 hours that night! I had already cooked a cup of couscous, and then added 2 diced tomatoes, 1/3 a cup of diced fresh mozzarella, and 1/2 a cup of chopped basil. I coated with a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

Ignore the weird faux marble shelf. I had to take the photo right next to the window to have any light at all. I really loved this. Brent thought it was OK (quite picky, isn’t he?). Apparently he does not enjoy the texture of fresh mozzarella. He thinks it’s too much like uncooked tofu.

Tonight’s dinner was just some two buck chuck from Trader Joe’s, goat cheese, a french baguette and a hand full of olives. Really, my ideal dinner. We have plans to go out to dinner for a friend’s birthday tomorrow night, then Brent’s birthday is Monday, and my birthday is Thursday. So excited! 🙂

Gotta go watch Invictus with Brent. Enjoy your weekend!

A Throw-Together

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Tonight’s dinner was one of those “well at least I didn’t resort to ordering pizza” kind of meals. I spent 8 straight hours reading up on such exciting topics as “Interpreting intracranial waveforms” and “New Advents in Neurological Monitoring” and I just really had no desire to make dinner when the time came.

Aware that I had just been grocery shopping the day prior and spent a fair chunk of change, I just looked around blankly for inspiration and started throwing things in a saute pan. I sautéed some shallots in olive oil, then I added some sweet italian chicken sausage until browned, then a drained and rinsed can of chickpeas, and in the final moments, a big handful of grape tomatoes. Meanwhile, I boiled water and made some Parmesan couscous (from a box). I served everything together and actually had it ready when Brent got home from work.

Well, it only took 15 minutes, but it was actually super delicious. Sauteing the chickpeas really brought out their flavor and I loved them in this. This sausage was really tasty too, and not super salty or greasy, which was nice. I thought the couscous had a processed “flavoring” taste, but that’s sort of to be expected from a box, and it was totally fine when mixed with everything else.

I am now about to enjoy a glass of wine and head to bed within the hour. I am just too damn exciting for my own good.