slow cooker pork tacos

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  What better way to celebrate than a round of tacos and margaritas for dinner - yum!  Really, I would use any excuse to eat tacos - they're one of my favourite foods.  

This is a super easy meal.  You could even prepare the pork the night before, then just get it going in the morning before you head out for the day.  If your pork loin is bigger than you need, no worries - the cooked meat freezes beautifully!  

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos

  • Sorry, there aren't any specific measurements for this one - just mix the spices together according to your taste and what you have on hand. 
  • pork loin
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Mix together the spices in a small bowl.  Cut the pork loin into 4 pieces, then rub the spices all over the meat.  Place into the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Use two forks to shred the pork.  At this point you can package some up for the freezer.  

When you're ready to make tacos heat up 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat.  Put the pork into the heated pan.  Let it cook on one side for a few minutes before flipping it over so that it gets little crispy, browned bits on it.  

Serve on warmed corn or flour tortillas.  Top however you like!  (I like a bit of pico de gallo and a drizzle of Valentina)

thai chicken salad

This salad is sooo easy and sooo delicious - I'm going to be making it all summer long!  The flavours are crisp and bright.  The dressing is the perfect blend of spicy, sweet, savoury and salty.  This one definitely brings back strong memories of Thailand - the combo of toasted peanuts, mint and fish sauce I think.  Anyhow - this is definitely one to add to your meal plan, you won't regret it!

Thai Chicken Salad

  • 1 bag of broccoli slaw (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 cups baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes 

Start by cooking the chicken breasts however you like (pan fried, grilled, roasted, etc.).  While the chicken is cooking prep the salad.  Add the broccoli slaw, cucumber, baby bok choy, chili pepper, mint and toasted peanuts in a large bowl and toss together.  Add all of the remain salad dressing ingredients together into a small jar or container with a lid.  Give it a shake to mix it up, then pour over the salad and toss to combine.  Once the chicken is cooked allow it to rest for a minute or two, then slice it against the grain.  Serve the chicken on top of the salad and voilà!  Dinner is ready!

Recipe adapted from Jo Cooks

catelli ancient grains pasta & chef lynn crawford

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a cooking event hosted by Catelli & Chef Lynn Crawford.  The event was to introduce Catelli's new line: Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains.  The pasta contains 100% Canadian whole wheat, quinoa, amaranth, teff, sorghum and millet.  Have you tried all of these grains before?  I hadn't!  

Chef Crawford told us that she was excited to pair up with Catelli because it's what she uses at home and in her Toronto restaurant, Ruby Watchco.  I'd loooove to visit her restaurant sometime.  

Chef Crawford was great!  She was hilariously funny, easy going and totally approachable.  Hanging out with her for the evening was like stepping into an episode of 'Pitchin' In'.  She brought a few of the participants up the front to help her cook and plate.  She had my friend Megan (check out her blog here) make pesto in the amount of time it took to cook the pasta al dente and there was an impromptu 'Chopped Canada' plating challenge for a fellow blogger.  

Shaking the salad dressing to the tune of taylor swift (complete with dance moves)

Chef Crawford prepared pasta for us in several ways.  First we enjoyed a duo of rotini with marinara sauce and spaghetti with basil pesto.  Sooo good!  I finished every last bite, which shows that healthy eating doesn't have to be boring - Catelli's Ancient Grains pasta tastes great and delivers a ton of nutritional benefits.  In fact, I liked the taste and texture better than regular whole wheat pasta.  This Ancient Grains pasta will be my new go-to choice for delicious and healthy dinners (or lunches... or any other time I need some pasta!)

After Chef Crawford's cooking demo we moved into smaller groups to try our hands at preparing 'Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing' using Ancient Grains Spaghettini.  It had a ton of fresh, crunchy vegetables and the noodles held up really well to the zippy dressing.  I'll definitely be making this one again - in fact I'm already imagining enjoying this tasty salad by the bowlful for summer evening dinners on the patio.   

Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing

  • 1 pkg Catelli Ancient Grains Spaghettini
  • 2 cups snowpeas, blanced in hot water, then thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 cup shelled edamame beans
  • 1 cup red pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small long english cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups napa cabbage, finely shredded
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • wasabi to taste
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds

Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Rinse with cold water and drain well.  Toss with a few tbsp of canola oil and set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare all the vegetables.  Add the rice vinegar, canola oil, soy sauce, lemon zest & juice, brown sugar, sesame oil, ginger and wasabi into a jar with a lid (or something similar).  Shake everything together until mixed well.  (According to Chef Crawford shaking is better than mixing, especially if you're dancing at the same time).  Toss the salad dressing with all of the prepared vegetables.  Put into a large serving bowl and top with avocado slices, cilantro leaves and black sesame seeds.  

The event was held at Get Cooking.  Their kitchen is beautiful!  All of the staff were so friendly and helpful.  Get Cooking prepared several appetizers for us and everything was super tasty.  I loved the chickpea pancake with kale on top and the beet macaron with hummus filling.  This was the first time I had heard of Get Cooking, but I'd love to go back and take one of their cooking classes some time.  

I had a wonderful evening cooking, laughing and meeting fellow bloggers.  Big, big thank yous to the following: Catelli, Chef Lynn Crawford, Gail Bergman PR and Get Cooking.  

bits and bites - june 2013

Hi friends!  It's definitely been a while... I guess you could say I've been on a bit of a 'pregnancy hiatus'.  I just didn't seem to have time to do everything that I wanted to over the last few months and, unfortunately, blogging was put on the back-burner.  This week was my first week of maternity leave - I'm about 8 1/2 months pregnant, so we're almost there.  I've been working on getting the house and nursery in order and managed to find a bit of quiet time to relax on the couch with my lap top.

This was taken last month when I was in Victoria

In all honesty, I haven't been doing much in the way of cooking or baking in the last several months (due to lack of energy, ongoing nausea and severe reflux) but I did take a few pictures that I can share along with some recipes.

Sweet Potato Skins

These make great appetizers if you're having friends over for movie/sports-watching or an easy light dinner (just add a quick side-salad).  The left-overs also warmed up nicely for lunch the next day too.  Depending on how many you want to make, slice 1-2 sweet potatoes into 3/4"-1" slices and brush with olive oil on both sides.  Bake at 375 F on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet for about 45 minutes (or until soft all the way through and lightly browned).  While the sweet potatoes are baking fry up a few slices of bacon, drain it on some paper towel then cut it into small pieces.  When the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven, sprinkle on some grated cheddar/mozzarella cheese and the bacon bits then put them under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese.  Serve them up with sour cream and finely sliced green onion.  Easy and yummy - I love sweet potatoes.

Pizza is a pretty common dinner in our house.  It doesn't really take that much effort, it tastes great and we're both happy eating the left-overs for a few days.  I don't think I've found *the best ever* dough recipe yet (or baking method - I really want a pizza stone!) but this one is easy and pretty tasty, so I thought I'd share it.  For the pizza in the picture I topped it with tomato sauce, fried Italian sausage, wilted spinach, toasted pine nuts, sliced green olives, provolone and a sprinkle of freshly-grated parmesan cheese - definitely a tasty combo!

Food-Processor Pizza Dough

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 envelope instant yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 cups room-temperature water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups bread flour (it's best with bread flour, but you can substitute all-purpose if that's all you have)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • olive oil or cooking spray for the bowl

Combine the warm water with the yeast in a measuring cup and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, until it looks foamy.  Add in the remaining water and olive oil and stir together.  Pulse the flour and salt together in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the dough blade (if you have one).  Allow the food processor to run while you slowly pour the liquid ingredients in through the feed-tube.  Continue mixing until the dough comes together into a ball.  Continue mixing for another 30 seconds, then turn the dough out onto the counter and knead a few times to form it into a smooth ball.  Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise until doubled in sized, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Press the air out of the dough, then form your pizzas & top them (I found that it's best to roll out the dough as thin as possible).  I usually bake at 450 F until the bottom looks lightly browned.

This last one is just a photo - I can't find the recipe that I used.  Trevor and I made this cake together for a family dinner.  All I remember is that it involved poaching the pears in a bottle of wine (riesling maybe?) and spices then nestling them into a very thick, pound-cake like, batter.  It looked really pretty when sliced up and had good flavour.

So what else have I been up to?  We sold our first little house and bought a new one (to make room for our expanding family), so things were a bit hectic with packing, moving and getting settled again.  We both love our new home, and I really think it suits us perfectly, but we've decided to do a bit of renovation in the kitchen.  Trev just started tearing tiles off the existing backsplash and we've picked our new stone countertops, so stay tuned for kitchen-reno posts in the future :)

Pizza dough recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated.

bits and bites - october 2012

Ok, so I know I'm a day late for October, but I simply ran out of time this week!  Actually I ran out of time all month.  It's been a busy transition back to life in Canada, but the dust is starting to settle and I'm itching to get back to a regular(ish) blogging schedule.  I have lots of stuff I wanted to share, so better late than never, right?

First of all, how great is fall?  I love it - I think it might actually be my favourite season, so I was feeling pretty lucky that most of October had lovely weather.  It was great that the leaves turned goldeny yellow, but actually stayed on the trees for a while.

We spent Thanksgiving weekend out at the lake.  We enjoyed a massive feast (of course) then lots of turkey sandwiches over the next few days afterwards.  Here's two of my favourites:

Turkey BLT sandwich (perfect for brunch).  Thick cut slices of bacon, crispy fried, juicy red tomatoes, fresh lettuce, a smear of mayo, grainy whole wheat bread and turkey.  So good.

Turkey-brie sandwich (great for a quick dinner one night).  I don't have a panini press, so I use the little George Foreman grill that I had back in my university dorm days as a substitute.  Just butter the outside of two pieces of multigrain bread.  Spread the insides of the bread with cranberry sauce (on both sides) then stack turkey, slices of brie and peppery arugula up in the middle.  Squash it into the George Foreman grill and let it get nice and toasty.

The weekend after Thanksgiving we had a potluck BBQ with some friends at our place.  Trev's been wanting to try to cook a brisket on the charcoal BBQ for quite a while, so this was the perfect opportunity.  He picked up an 11 lb. brisket at Real Deal Meats, then made a spice rub for it to marinade in overnight (check out the recipe here).  Brisket takes a looooong time to cook - it seemed awful early when our alarm clock went off at 6:30 so that Trev could get the Webber BBQ going and the brisket on the grill.

So here's the gist of it:  Trev aimed to keep the BBQ temperature between 200-250F all day.  Once the internal temperature of the brisket reached 150F (which took 7-8 hours) he wrapped it in aluminum foil then returned it to the grill so it could continue slow-cooking.  It took another 4 hours for the internal temperature to come up to 195 F.  Then he put the aluminum foil wrapped brisket on a cookie sheet and let it rest in a pre-warmed (not on) oven for another 45 minutes.  (Here's the website Trev used forbrisket-cooking info)  It's best to slice it right before serving, but it turns out 11lbs. was waaaay too much for the number of people at our house (probably because of all the other delicious things our friends brought), but that's okay, there was lots to share and more than enough for tasty sandwiches the following week.  (I'm realizing this 'bits and bites' post has a bit of a sandwich theme...)

I love roasted veggies so now that it's fall I've swapped the zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms for a mixture of root vegetables.  This time I had potatoes, carrots, golden beets, onion & garlic.  I pretty much do the same thing every time - regardless of what's in the pan - toss the veggies with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous sprinkle of fresh ground pepper & sea salt, then bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.  Yum, so good.  And check out the haul of potatoes Trev's mom and grandpa got out at the lake!  

Oh, one more thing: I'm heading to Atlanta, Georgia for a conference in November - any recommendations for must-see-things or must-eat-foods?  I'd be happy to have them :)