Pressure Cooker Carnitas

These are the easiest, most delicious carnitas you will ever make. Depending on how much time you have on your hands, make them in either the electric pressure cooker OR slow cooker.

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I have made these carnitas embarrassingly often since first discovering the recipe 3 years ago. The original recipe is for the slow cooker, which is great if you have all day, or have the presence of mind to throw everything together before you leave for work. For me, this is not always the case. After receiving an electric pressure cooker for Christmas, I decided to adapt the recipe. That way, I’m able to have carnitas in a fraction of the time.

Our favorite way to eat these carnitas is Chipotle burrito bowl-style. Toss some of this crispy yet tender pork in a bowl with some Cilantro Lime Rice and a variety of taco/bowl toppings (beans, cheese, guacamole, etc.), and you’re in business. They’re also excellent in a taco (corn tortillas, please).

The slow cooker preparation comes from Damn Delicious.

You’ll need (yields 8 servings):

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 3-4 lbs pork shoulder, boneless and trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 2 limes, juice
  • fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine all of the spices in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the Pressure Cooker

Cut the pork shoulder into 2- to 3-inch chunks.

Add the garlic cloves, quartered onions, and cubed pork to the electric pressure cooker (PC) insert. Sprinkle the spice mixture over everything. Using your hands, toss the garlic, onions, and pork around in the spices, rubbing the spices into the meat. Add the orange and lime juice to the PC insert.

Place the lid on and lock it. Depending on what kind of PC you have, you’ll want to do a couple of different things. If you have an Instant Pot: Cook for 25 minutes on high pressure. If you have one without the high/low pressure manual options (like mine): select the “meat” menu and cook for 25 minutes. Depending on your preference, you can allow the pressure to release naturally or do a quick release.

For the Slow Cooker

Add the garlic cloves, quartered onions, and pork to the slow cooker. Sprinkle the spice mixture over everything. Using your hands, toss the garlic, onions, and pork around in the spices, rubbing the spices into the meat. Add the orange and lime juice to the slow cooker.

Put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

Both Preparations

Here’s where both the electric PC and slow cooker recipes come back together.

Now that the pork shoulder is cooked through, you’ll want to crisp things up a bit. Preheat the broiler to high. Remove the pork from to a baking sheet lined with foil, and shred the meat. Spoon some of the juices and onions that are left over onto the shredded meat. Broil for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the sheet pan from the oven and toss the meat around a bit with tongs. Pour some more of the juices over the meat and broil for 2-3 additional minutes. Remove from the oven, top with chopped cilantro, and serve immediately. Definitely enjoy with some Cilantro Lime Rice.



Garlic and Herb Grilled Pork Tenderloin

A couple of friends came to visit yesterday, and I was able to fire up the grill for the first time in our new house.  (More on the move to come, once the place is fully unpacked and isn’t such a disaster area)

Garlic and Herb Grilled Pork Tenderloin | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe was adapted from one found on Tide & Thyme.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • ~2 lbs pork tenderloin

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the pork.  Rub the marinade all over the pork tenderloin.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes – 4 hours, until ready to grill.

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire on your charcoal grill or preheat your gas grill to medium-high. Grill for 15-20 minutes, turning so all sides get browned, or until a meat thermometer reads at least 155 degrees F.

Transfer the meat to a serving platter, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Then slice into that bad boy and eat!

Creamy Baked Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

Let me just start this off by saying that after taking his first bite, Sean stopped and said “Baby, this is ballin’.”  So… yeah.  I’d say we have a winner here.

Oh, yeah.  And sorry I’m not sorry that this contains pumpkin ;).

Creamy Baked Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe is adapted from Leave a Happy Plate.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box short cut pasta (I used rigatoni)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, halved and sliced thinly into half moons
  • 1-2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 lb ground sausage
  • 1/2 cup plain Chobani Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus a little more for topping

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, minus 1 minute.  Drain and set the cooked pasta aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large oven-safe skillet/pan/dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook until browned, crumbling as you go.  Remove the sausage from the pan and allow it to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Add the olive oil to the pan.  When the oil is nice and hot, add the sliced onions and fennel seeds.  Sauté the onions until they are softened.

While the onions are cooking, combine the yogurt, pumpkin, heavy cream, chili powder, and cheese in a mixing bowl.

Mix the pasta, onions, and sausage in the pan.  Pour the yogurt/pumpkin mixture over the top and stir until everything is nicely coated.

Top with some more parmesan cheese, and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Crock Pot Brown and Maple Sugar Pork Tenderloin

Everyone loves a good crock pot recipe, amirite?  Here’s another easy, tasty one that will make your life easier on days when you just really don’t feel like/have the time to cook.Crock Pot Brown and Maple Sugar Pork Tenderloin | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe came from Your Homebased Mom.

You’ll need:

  • 2 lbs pork tenderloin (I used one that was like 4 lbs, and this amount of sauce was fine)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs real maple syrup
  • 4 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • 1 tbs cold water

Put the pork in a slow cooker.  Salt and pepper the meat.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, maple syrup, mustard, honey, brown sugar, vinegar, and thyme.  Mix well.  Pour over the pork, turning to coat.

Cook on low 7-9 hours or high 3-4 hours.

Once it’s done, remove the pork from the crock pot and cover with foil.  Put the juices in a small sauce pan and simmer 8-10 minutes.  Combine the cornstarch and water.  Add this to the simmering juices and whisk, cooking for a minute or so longer.

Pour the thickened juices over the pork.  Shred a bit and enjoy!

Grammy’s Ham Barbecue Sandwiches

My husband and I, along with a group of friends, recently spent a long weekend at a cabin in West Virginia.  We had such a good time that we’re already talking about staying there again next year.  Our time was spent catching up with one another, walking around in the woods, feeding some nearly-tame deer, and doing a lot of eating and drinking (of course).  I made these sandwiches for the group for lunch one day.  I just wanted to share a few pictures from the trip with you, too.  It was really beautiful there.





They came right up to our cabin!  We even had the doe eating out of our hands a few times.

So, this may not be news to some of you, and I didn’t initially realize this but apparently ham barbecue sandwiches are a regional thing!  It first occurred to me when a friend from South Carolina had no idea what I was talking about when I offered her one.  If you aren’t from the Western PA/Ohio/etc. area, and have never heard of them, please give ham barbecues a try!  They’re great at a picnic.

I got this recipe from my Grammy, who will often make these for family gatherings, especially in the summertime.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 bottle ketchup
  • 1 bottle’s worth of water*
  • Chipped ham**, as much as desired
  • Sandwich buns

Sautee the onion in the butter until the onions are translucent.  Add the brown sugar and vinegar and saute for 3 more minutes.

Add the ketchup and water.  Stir to combine.  Heat through, 5-10 minutes.  Add the chipped ham.

I typically put the ham and sauce into a slow cooker and keep it warm that way.   It’s particularly convenient if you’re feeding a crowd, or if you’re serving them at a cookout/picnic.

To serve, add as much ham and sauce to a sandwich bun as you’d like.  Enjoy!

*You can always stretch the sauce by thinning it with more water

**For those of you outside of Western PA, just ask for ham that is sliced or shaved very thinly.

Sausage & Kale Mock Lasagna Casserole

So yeah, I suck.  I’m averaging only slightly more than 1 recipe per week in the month of February.  Sorry guys.  I’m in a bit of a rut.

I found this recipe on Kalyn’s Kitchen.  Since I’m on a bit of a kale kick lately, I thought it would be a good way to use up a good portion of the gigantic bag that we picked up at the grocery store.  It’s definitely a winner.

You’ll need:

2 medium-sized bunches of kale (I used ~3/4 of a big bag that I bought at the grocery store)
1 tsp salt (for water to cook kale)
2 tsp olive oil
19.5 oz. tube of Italian sausage
1 jar tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground fennel
parmesan cheese, shredded
2 cups reduced fat mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 9×12 inch casserole dish (or a pan of comparable size) with cooking spray.  

Add the salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.  If necessary, trim the stems from the kale and cut into ribbons.  When the water begins boiling, add the kale and lower the heat.  Boil for 5-6 minutes.  The kale will turn a beautiful bright green.  Drain the kale into a colander and let it sit there and continue to drain while you deal with the rest of the ingredients.  You might want to squeeze it between some paper towels before using to squeeze out some of the remaining water.

While the kale cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook and crumble the sausage until it is browned and totally cooked through.  Then add the pasta sauce, dried basil, and ground fennel.  Let it simmer for 20 minutes or so, or until it reduces a bit.

In the casserole dish, layer half of the kale and sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese on top.  Then add half of he pasta/sausage, and 1 cup of mozzarella.

I did it out of order, but you know… it all works out in the end.

Repeat with another layer of kale, sauce, and cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Then remove the foil and bake for an additional 15-20.  The casserole will be bubbling by this point.

Let the casserole sit for about 5 minutes after baking before digging in.
This was excellent.  Before we were even finished eating, Sean asked if I would make it again sometime.  I plan on doing so this week.  It’s a relatively guilt free way to get your lasagna fix.  I’d highly recommend it!  Enjoy!


Spicy Pulled Pork

I’ve been pretty absent lately.  I’ve probably said this before, and I know I’ll say it again: things are really ramping up at school.  My workload is inversely proportional to my level of activity on my blog.  Sorry!  Hopefully this amazing recipe will help to make up for my lack of activity.  I won’t beat around the bush now, though.  Let’s get to the noms!

This recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, by Ree Drummond.

You’ll need:

1 5-7 lb pork shoulder
1 onion, quartered
1 tbs chili powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tbs salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs white wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

Begin by preheating your oven to 300 degrees F.  Combine all of the ingredients (minus the pork) in a food processor.  Pulse until everything is totally combined.  

Pour that mixture over the pork.  Rub it into the meat, making sure that you get into all of the nooks and crannies.  Place the pork in a roasting pan or Dutch oven.  Add 2 cups of water.  Next time I’ll try adding some beer, too.  I figure that could only improve the flavor.  Cover and roast for 6-7 hours.  Turn the meat over once every hour.

After the 6-7 hours, test to see if the meat is fork tender.  I’d also recommend breaking out your meat thermometer and making sure it has come up to 160 degrees F.  I’m pretty sure there’s no way it wouldn’t have by this point.  .

Leave the meat uncovered, and turn the heat up to 425 degrees F, roasting at this temperature for about 20 minutes.  Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

Shred the meat (you can use two forks for this).  If you’ve moved the meat to a serving platter or other vessel, make sure to pour the pan juices down over the top of the meat.

This pulled pork is so. freaking. good.  I don’t know what else to say about it.  The rub/marinade imparts so much flavor to the pork.  It’s spicy (not hot spicy, but very flavorful) a little sweet, and oh so tender.
We turned it into quesadillas… and then into sandwiches… and then just ate it on its own.  It’s amazing in all of those variations.  It would be good as taco filling, too!  Let your imagination run wild.

This is definitely something that needs to be done on a weekend, or a day when you can work from home, since it requires turning every hour.  But don’t let that stop you.  The results are so worth it.  Enjoy!!