Cuban Pulled Pork

Cuban Pulled Pork

Inspiration: It’s a balmy 31 degrees here today, and it was something similar on the day that I made this recipe. Sometimes you just need a nice summery meal with a good island feel to it in the midst of winter, you know? It won’t be long until we’re back in flip-flops, celebrating Ben’s first summer with him. But until then….well, we’ll just eat some avocados and some citrus every now and then, right?

What We Loved: Usually with pulled meats or meats that are slow cooked in the crock pot all day, I think of the end result as being very rich. What was nice about this recipe was that the pork was citrusy light and summery, with a nice touch of sweetness. We really loved the bright orange and lime flavors. I served this with avocado slices and coconut ginger rice, which made lovely accompaniments and really complemented the pork well. I might just list a good pulled pork as my favorite meal, and this one didn’t disappoint. 

Tips: The pork mixture is very thin/watery at the end of cooking, so I would recommend cooking uncovered on high for about an hour to reduce the liquid. I have a stove top-safe crock pot insert, so I was able to just put the insert on the stove and boil away until the mixture was nice and thick. I will include instructions for a normal slow cooker below.

Cuban Pulled Pork
Source: Adapted from Elly Says Opa, originally from The Partial Ingredients

2.5 lbs pork shoulder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon oregano
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Juice from 2 limes
1/4 cup chicken broth

1. Rub the pork shoulder all over with oil and mustard. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

2. Combine the cayenne, allspice, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and oregano in a small bowl. Rub the mixture all over the pork. Wrap the pork in plastic, and refrigerate overnight.

3. Place the pork in a slow cooker. Add the onions, garlic, honey, orange juice, lime juice, and chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for seven hours. Shred the meat, and then uncover and cook on high for about an hour, until most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture is thick.

Slow Cooker Chocolate Chicken Mole

Slow Cooker Chocolate Chicken Mole

Inspiration: I have been wanting to try out a mole at home for so long now, but I’m always a little leery of the laundry list of ingredients. I’m ambitious with my cooking a lot, but somehow I just never got around to driving to a million markets to find all of the right peppers and then devoting an entire day to whipping up the meal. And now that we have Ben, that’s pretty much an idea that will be put on the back burner for the foreseeable future. When I ran across this recipe a few weeks ago, though, I knew that I had found a simpler, more manageable mole that could work for us right now.

What We Loved: This dish was fantastic. It was the best new recipe that we’ve tried in quite some time, and I immediately filed it away in my “awesome Mexican recipes” file for plenty of use in the future. The sauce is truly incredible, both in texture and in taste. Texture-wise, it is incredibly velvety and creamy, which is quite surprising considering the fact that it wasn’t even pureed. A bunch of ingredients thrown into a pot magically melted down into velvet after six hours of cooking, and the chicken just fell apart. And taste-wise, the flavor was rich and complex with notes of dark chocolate, earthy peppers, and bright tomatoes. Plus, it wasn’t bitter at all, which is something that I usually dislike about a lot of moles. As this was cooking away, the aroma in the house was divine. Brandon came home and asked if there was chocolate in what I was making, because he could smell it, which was awesome. The mole really had a rich chocolate scent without tasting too much like chocolate. Perfect.

Tips: If you’re looking for a really authentic, time consuming, involved mole, I’d recommend turning to Rick Bayless. He’s got several mole recipes in his cookbooks (and probably online) that seem to be the real thing. Also – the one recommendation that I’d make for improvement in this recipe would be to either rehydrate the peppers first so that they can be very finely diced, or throw them into a food processor. I chopped them into big chunks, and I wasn’t overly thrilled with the texture of those big chunks in the finally dish. They were the only thing that didn’t (and couldn’t) melt down.

Slow Cooker Chocolate Chicken Mole
Source: Rubies and Radishes

Butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 28 oz can whole fire-roasted tomatoes
5 dried New Mexico chiles, stems and seeds removed and chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup almond butter
2.5 oz dark chocolate (I used Endangered Species brand 88%)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Avocado, cilantro, and jalapeno, for garnish

1. Add a pat of butter to a saute pan over medium heat. Saute the onions until softened, and then add the garlic. Stir to combine, and transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the saute pan, and brown on all sides. Place the chicken in the slow cooker.

3. Add the tomatoes, chiles, almond butter, chocolate, cumin, salt, cinnamon, and chili powder to the slow cooker. Mix everything together well, making sure that the chicken is nestled down under the sauce.

4. Cook for 4-6 hours on low.

5. Serve garnished with avocado, cilantro, and jalapeno.

Anaheim Peppers stuffed with Beef, Salsa, and Cheddar

Anaheim Peppers stuffed with Beef, Salsa, and Cheddar

Inspiration: While I love drawing recipes from all sources – all over the internet, cookbooks, TV chefs, my head – sometimes one of the best places to go to for recipes is our childhoods or our families. There’s just nothing like a recipe that my Mom made for me when I was a kid or that Brandon can remember eating for as long as he can remember. Food with memories attached is just the best. This recipe comes from Brandon’s Mom, and for me, it speaks of warm summer evenings at their cabin in the mountains and the time in my life when I was first dating Brandon nearly a dozen years ago, learning the ins and outs of his family. This was actually one of the first recipes that I posted on the blog, and needless to say, it needed a serious revamp.

What We Loved: Spicy peppers and salsa, ground beef flavored with taco seasoning, and gooey cheddar cheese are simply a fantastic combination. Those ingredients are the stuff of tacos and enchiladas and quesadillas – everything that I think of when I want something Mexican and cheesy for dinner. The salsa that we use for these is Brandon’s Mom’s homemade salsa, and it is spicy, so we really love the great spicy bite that comes from both that salsa and the peppers themselves. A cooling dollop of sour cream and/or guacamole to go along is the perfect complement. And really, I don’t think that you can ever go wrong with seasoned beef and cheese. Rich, gooey, cheesy, delicious.

Tips: Ground turkey is also great with these if you prefer that over ground beef. And the accompaniments that you can use are endless. I like sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro, but in the past we’ve used chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, Mexican rice, etc.

Stuffed Hot Peppers
Source: Brandon’s Mom
Serves: About 4

10 Anaheim peppers
1 lb ground beef
Chili powder
Paprika
Oregano
Ground cumin
Ground coriander
Garlic powder
Kosher salt
About 1 cup of tomato-based salsa
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro, to garnish

1. Slice each pepper in half, and remove the ribs and seeds. Place the peppers cut-side up in two baking dishes.

2. Saute the ground beef until cooked through. Add a splash of water and season generously with chili powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, and salt.

3. Fill each pepper with a scoop of the ground beef mixture, and then top each with a scoop of salsa.

4. Cover the dishes with foil, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.

5. Remove the foil from the dishes. Sprinkle the peppers with the cheddar cheese and return to the oven for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

6. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro.

Cheesy Pesto Spaghetti Squash Bake with Chicken and Tomatoes

Cheesy Pesto Spaghetti Squash Bake with Chicken and Tomatoes

Inspiration: While I was pregnant with Ben, I whipped up a bunch of meals to throw in the freezer, and one of the items that I made was a big batch of pesto. I thought that a casserole like this – so perfect and comforting in the winter time – would be a great way to use up the last of it.

What We Loved: I always find that spaghetti squash is something that needs a lot of add-ins to make it really flavorful, and the good thing about this dish is that it really has a lot going on. It’s cheesy (cream cheese is just the best in casserole-type dishes like this); it has plenty of rich, garlicky pesto; and the chunks of nicely browned chicken add great texture and protein. Brandon remarked that he always loves casserole-type dishes that contain diced chicken, and I have to agree with him – there’s just something about chicken in a dish like this that really turns it into a comfort food meal. And to finish it off, the roasted tomatoes add a nice pop of sweet flavor.

Tips: As is usually the case, I don’t think that more cheese would be a bad thing. Next time, I might up the cream cheese to about 6 ounces for an even creamier texture.

Cheesy Pesto Spaghetti Squash Bake with Chicken and Tomatoes
Source: Original Recipe

1 small spaghetti squash, cooked and seeded
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
4 oz cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons pesto
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, each sliced in half
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Scoop out the spaghetti squash strands into a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the chicken, cream cheese, and pesto to the bowl. Mix well to combine.

3. Season well with Kosher salt and black pepper. Be liberal with the salt – spaghetti squash needs it. Taste test until you’re happy with the seasoning.

4. Pour the mixture into a baking dish. Top with the grape tomatoes and the Parmesan cheese.

5. Bake at 350 degrees F until the casserole is heated through and the cheese on top is melted and beginning to brown.

Spiced Burgers with Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Relish

Inspiration: I have so many recipes saved all over the place that I don’t think that I’ll ever get to making all of them. I have a Google doc that’s packed full of online recipes that I’ve saved, my Google Reader is full of starred recipes, my cookbooks are covered with post-its, and I have a big old pile of recipes that I’ve torn from magazines clipped together in my pantry next to my recipe box (which is also full of recipes that I still need to try). In an effort to reduce some paper clutter, I decided to start plowing my way through the magazine recipes. That way, if I like one, I can post it up onto the blog and throw away the paper copy. Let’s see if I can stick to it.

What We Loved: This was one of the most interesting burgers that we’ve ever had. We tend to make burgers that are on the richer side (see our favorite avocado burgers, for example, or these bacon burgers), but this burger was in the complete opposite direction. The Greek yogurt and cucumber relish toppings were light, crisp, and refreshing – and they were such a unique complement to the charcoal grilled burger with its smoky, hickory flavor. It really was a different experience for us to take something that we have always experienced as a rich meal and turn it into something much lighter. And we absolutely adored the Greek yogurt as a burger topping. It was such a cooling, creamy addition that seeped down into the burger and was quite an excellent replacement for any type of cheese. I have to confess that I still prefer my rich and cheesy burgers more than any other, but these are a pretty nice option for something that’s a little bit different.

Tips: Make sure to taste test the relish as you prepare it. I thought it was much too bland at first, until I added enough lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. A little bit extra of those items makes a huge difference in the overall flavor.

Spiced Burgers with Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Relish
Source: Adapted from Women’s Day Magazine, March 2012
Serves: 2

About 3/4 lb ground beef
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 small cucumber, seeded and finely diced
1 thin slice red onion, finely diced
Handful fresh mint, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
About 4 oz Greek yogurt

1. Mix the ground beef with the cumin, oregano, cinanmon, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Form into two burgers.

2. To prepare the relish, mix the cucumber, red onion, and mint in a bowl. Add a good drizzle of olive oil, the juice from 1/4 lemon, and a nice sprinkle of salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

3. Grill or saute your burgers until cooked through (we used a charcoal grill with hickory smoking chips), about 4-5 minutes per side.

4. Serve the burgers topped with a good dollop of Greek yogurt and some of the cucumber relish. Squeeze the lemon juice from the other 1/4 lemon atop the burgers before serving.

Chicken Chili

Inspiration: So this is one of those recipes that I’ve been making for years in one form or another. It used to be on my blog a few years back, but I took it down because I’ve made some significant changes since then that I really think improve the dish. Brandon always tells me that this is his favorite chili every time that I make it, and it’s really up there for me, too. I can never really pick a definitive favorite, though. How can you choose between chicken chili or a really great tomato-based, ground beef chili? Or chile verde with pork? The decision is not one that I’m ready to make.

What We Loved: This chili has a really great depth of flavor for how simple it is to make. It’s one of those meals that can come together in an hour, yet it tastes like it’s been cooking all day. One can of navy beans is pureed and acts as part of the sauce, which I love, and the intense flavors of the green chiles, chili powder, and cumin really provide a great backbone for the chili. Plus, I just love any dish that begins with sauteeing onions and peppers in a good pat of butter. When those vegetables get nice and softened in the butter, they contribute so much richness to the dish. And that’s not even to mention the chicken, which is the main component of the chili and a lovely star, at that – especially if you use nice, tender chicken thighs. We’ve tried different toppings for this chili, and we just love it best with freshly shredded pepper-jack cheese and fresh cilantro. A nice cheesy kick and a fresh herbal bite really add that finishing touch.

Tips: I’ve really been digging navy beans lately instead of cannellini beans when I’m looking to use white beans in a dish. I mainly prefer them because they’re much smaller, which means that they don’t mush apart as easily or lose their skins in your dish like cannellini beans tend to do. Plus, I feel like they have a better flavor, and they’re never mealy, which cannellini beans can sometimes be. Any kind of white bean that you prefer would work, though.

Chicken Chili
Source: Original Recipe

Butter
1 onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 oz cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
About 1 cup chicken stock
About 1 cup half and half
Approximately 4 cups cooked and shredded chicken
2 cans diced green chiles
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
Kosher salt and black pepper
Pepper-jack cheese, shredded
Fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a soup pot. Add the onion, red pepper, and jalapeno pepper, and saute until softened.

2. While the onions and peppers are cooking, process one can of navy beans in a food processor with a bit of chicken stock until smooth.

3. Add the garlic to the pot, and stir to combine.

4. Add the pureed navy beans, second can of navy beans, chicken stock, half and half, chicken, green chiles, chili powder, and cumin to the pot. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper. If the mixture is too thick, add a little bit more stock and/or half and half.

5. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the flavors have had time to meld, at least half an hour. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Reduce to the lowest setting on the stove and keep warm until ready to serve.

6. Serve garnished with freshly shredded pepper-jack cheese and cilantro.

Pollo Fundido

Inspiration: Like a few other recipes on our blog, this one comes to you via some more inspiration from El Salto, the restaurant that we like to frequent with my parents. I’ve been on a pollo fundido kick there recently, ordering a dish similar to this nearly every time that we stop in. Their dish doesn’t have bacon included, but Brandon always orders a similar dish that has beef and bacon instead of chicken, so I decided to make a mixture of the two. Adding bacon to a dish is never a bad idea, after all. Here’s to El Salto for their awesome food and some awesome inspiration.

What We Loved: This recipe just might be a new weeknight staple for us. It’s a snap to throw together and results in a nice and flavorful Mexican meal. Like the chipotle shrimp that we previously made, it turned out differently than the restaurant version, but I really think that it was every bit as good – just in a different way. I truly love dishes that meld all of the ingredients together so that each bite has a myriad of different flavors, and this dish does exactly that. With every forkful, there’s a bit of rich bacon and onions, some super tender chicken, and a tiny kick of heat from the poblanos. Plus, the chihuahua cheese melts and oozes down into everything, providing a fantastic, cheesy glue. You can’t beat that.

Tips: We love chihuahua cheese because it’s a really great Mexican melting cheese, so I would really recommend trying to find it, if you can. It has a wonderful texture and really just oozes down into the dish in an awesome way. We always buy ours at Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, though, Monterey Jack might be an okay substitute.

Pollo Fundido
Source: Original Recipe, Inspired from El Salto

5-6 slices bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 medium-sized poblano or anaheim peppers, seeds/ribs removed and cut into slices
1/2 large onion, cut into thin slices
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into slices
Kosher salt and black pepper
Chihuahua cheese, freshly shredded, about 1/2 cup
Cream, a few tablespoons
Fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Place the bacon into a saute pan over medium heat. Saute until cooked through and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add the pepper slices, onion slices, and chicken slices to the pan, and season with Kosher salt and black pepper. Stir to combine, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, the vegetables are softened, and everything is starting to nicely brown and caramelize.

3. Meanwhile, add a good handful of cheese and several tablespoons of cream to a small sauce pan. Heat over low heat until a nice sauce forms. Add more cheese or cream as necessary to get a nice, thick consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Remove the pan with the chicken mixture from the heat. Add the bacon back into the pan, stirring to combine.

5. Serve the chicken mixture topped with the cheese sauce and fresh cilantro.