One Bowl of Veggies, Day 5: Pulled Pork Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Slaw

Day 5. (days 1, 2, 3, and 4) We’ve reached the end, and we’re going to go out with a bang. A big porky bang.

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Pulled pork has become one of our favorite indulgent meals because it’s so easy to make it good. I don’t cook meat that often – it’s expensive, often time consuming, and when it tastes good, it’s not particularly healthy. Yes, there are plenty of healthy boneless, skinless chicken recipes out there, but I’d just as soon make something vegetarian that tastes equally good, if not better.

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Pulled Pork Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Slaw

I made this pulled pork in the slow cooker, but you can also do a braise in the oven, which is faster. To do that, follow the first steps of browning and adding the braising liquid in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Put the whole thing in a 350-degree oven for 2-2.5 hours. After two hours, check it. If it pulls apart with a fork, it’s done, if not, keep cooking.

1.5 pounds bone-in pork loin
1 tablespoon neutral oil (like grapeseed or canola oil)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, quartered
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 dried avocado leaf (optional)

mixed veg
j
uice of 2 limes

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon honey

corn tortillas

If your slow cooker has a removable pot, pull it out and heat it over medium-high heat. If not, heat a pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil. Generously season the pork loin with salt and pepper, then brown each side of the meat in the oil. Be sure to get a deep brown color on each side.

Once every side is browned, remove the pork from the pan and set aside. Add the garlic, onion, and cumin to the pan and stir it around in the remaining oil. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Add a splash of the apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the leftover brown bits. If you’re doing this in a separate pan, transfer everything to your slow cooker now and add the rest of the vinegar, water, red pepper flakes, Mexican oregano, and avocado leaf. Season this sauce generously with salt, then add the pork back in. Otherwise, add the remaining ingredients to your slow cooker pot while it is still on the burner. Bring the liquid to a boil, then move the pot into the slow cooker.

Cook in the slow cooker for 5 hours. At this point, the pork should be falling off the bone and tear apart easily with a fork. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and pull it apart using two forks. I usually do this in a large bowl, then pour a bit of the braising liquid over the pork and stir it around. I like to keep the braising liquid by straining out all the other stuff. I will water it down and use it as a base for soups, and you can freeze it to save for later.

To make the slaw, combine lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, and honey in a small bowl. Whisk it all together, then toss the mixed veggies in the dressing.

To make the tacos, warm the tortillas in a dry frying pan or over a gas flame. Add the pulled pork and some of the dressed vegetables. Eat.

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One Bowl of Veggies, Day 4: Kale + Mixed Veg Salad with Coconut-Lime Dressing

Day 4. (days 1, 2, and 3) Are you sick of veggies yet? In anticipation of the fatty, porky tacos that are to come tomorrow, today we have a kale salad. You might have noticed that I make kale salads a lot. They’re just good.

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We’re back from Louisville and had so much fun driving around rural Kentucky to taste bourbon. Our favorite of the day was at the Heaven Hill Distillery; they make the Elijah Craig 12-yr bourbon that went down nicely without the aid of water. Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve had the prettiest distilleries with a lot of old buildings; Buffalo Trace is pictured below.

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This picture is of Willet Distilleries bourbon aging warehouses… they look like eery old prisons.

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With our newfound educations, we felt a lot more comfortable ordering bourbons at the bar!

Louisville

Louisville

We ate at Chef Edward Lee’s restaurant in downtown Louisville called Milkwood. It was so delicious, and the cocktails were perfect. The octopus bacon was a killer starter, but the pork burger was what we thought about the rest of the night.

Louisville

And now… back to healthy food for the week!

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Kale + Mixed Veg Salad with Coconut-Lime Dressing

1 bunch lacinato kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 can full-fat coconut milk

zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon honey
mixed veg

To prepare the kale, remove the stems and roll the leaves up into a tight bundle, then finely shred the leaves. Place the kale in a large bowl and mix in the olive oil. Massage the leaves until they are all coated.

In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice, red pepper flakes, and honey.

Toss the kale with the veg and dressing.

One Bowl of Veggies, Day 2: Creamy Coconut Soup

It’s day 2 of having a big bowl of vegetables in the fridge (see day 1 here). Today’s recipe is super easy. Simmer coconut milk with some aromatics and then add your vegetables to the pot. Done.

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Què màs? Well, Eric and I are heading to Louisville this weekend to drink our way through the Bourbon Trail. We have an ambitious plan of visiting four (maybe five, if we can handle it) distilleries on Saturday, including Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Heaven Hill, and Willet. We’re quite excited. I’m making a big batch of quinoa patties to sustain us between distilleries, and I’m loading them with veggies. Broccoli, rapini, and butternut squash are getting mixed in for maximum health benefit in addition to herbs and parmesan cheese. This trick of ours – bringing quinoa patties to munch on – also helps us cut down on eating-out costs while we travel. Win-win.

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Creamy Coconut Soup with Veggies

1 13.5-oz can full-fat coconut milk
13.5 oz water (just use the can to measure this)
1/2 inch knob of ginger, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 stalk lemongrass
salt to taste
mixed vegetables
handful of toasted pepita seeds

In a pot, combine the coconut milk, water, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. To prepare the lemongrass, remove the tough outer leaves and cut off the ends. Cut it into 4-inch pieces and smash it with the back of the knife. Simmer the mixture for 20-25 minutes, being careful to never let it boil.

You can heat the vegetables in the microwave for a minute or two to warm them, then place them in a bowl. Ladle the coconut broth over the vegetables and top with toasted pepita (pumpkin) seeds.

One Bowl of Veggies, a Week of Meals

Making a giant bowl of veggies has become a nearly weekly ritual. I’ve nearly perfected the art – it takes just the right vegetable combo, proper blanching, and a bit of creativity – but lately I’ve managed to turn my big bowl of vegetables into several different meals, and I thought it was time to finally share. Here we go.

Day 1: Make the veg and eat a simple bowl mixed veg with harissa and yogurt.

Day 2: Creamy coconut soup and top with mixed veg.

Day 3: Miso soba noodles with mixed veggies.

Day 4: Cold kale-veggie salad with coconut-lime dressing.

Day 5: Tacos topped with mixed veggie slaw.

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On day 1, I like to keep it simple. After all, I just went through all the work of chopping and blanching and roasting, so I generally throw the veggies in a big bowl with some harissa, yogurt, and a soft-boiled egg. If I have a decent avocado, that will go in the mix as well. The harissa here is homemade, and I’ll include a recipe below, but you can also buy jars of harissa at the store.

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Making the harissa was a process as well, since I bought seven different peppers, prepped and processed them each separately, and then mixed then in small quantities until I found the perfect recipe. I actually recommend you do the same because a) it was a fun experiment and b) your palate is likely different than mine. Eric ended up preferring a different recipe than I did, but they both had one thing in common: fresh roasted red pepper. Most recipes for harissa only call for dried red chiles, but the fresh red peppers add a sweetness that works well to counter the bitterness of the dried chiles.

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As for the veggies, you can get creative with it, but the broccoli in my opinion is not optional. Quickly blanched, it just works. The asparagus in this bowl was on sale, which is why it is here, but I would say a good base is always squash, broccoli, and red cabbage. This trio has the perfect texture and color to make it all look so entirely appetizing. Add to that lentils and any other veg that looks good/is on sale.

Big Veggie Bowl 

1/2 head red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 medium-sized head broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 small butternut, buttercup, or other squash of your choice, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup black lentils, uncooked
1/2 cup green lentils, uncooked

To save on dishes, I usually use two pots and cook everything in series. But, by all means, if you have 4 pots and you want to wash them all when you’re done, do it all at once! Otherwise, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, put the broccoli in for 30 seconds to 1 minute, MAX. Immediately drain the broccoli (you can reserve the liquid to blanch the cabbage if you want) and place it in an ice bath. Follow the same procedure to blanch the cabbage, though the cabbage can cook in the water for 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the black lentils in a pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer until all the water is gone. Put the lentils in a big bowl and reuse the pot to cook the green lentils.

While all the above is happening, roast the squash. For butternut squash, peel the skin off, but for many other types you can and should leave the skin on. Toss the cubes in olive oil and salt and pepper. For butternut or buttercup squash cut into 1-inch cubes, I usually roast them for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Other squash might take more or less time. Just check them and pull them out when tender.

When everything is finished cooking, mix it all together in a big bowl. Taste it and season as necessary. This big bowl is now the vegetable base for your week’s worth of meals.

Day 1: Mixed Veg with Harissa, Yogurt, and a Soft-Boiled Egg

1 egg
1 heaping teaspoon harissa (see recipes below)
1 heaping teaspoon greek yogurt
1/2 avocado, finely sliced
few big scoops from the big veg bowl

To make a soft-boiled egg, I place a raw egg in room-temperate water (from the tap) and turn on the burner. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, I set a timer for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, I pull the egg out and run it under cold water until it is cool enough to peel. This timing makes the whites nice and solid and the yolk still runny, but this could vary a lot based on altitude, so play around with it. For example, in Nairobi, I boil my eggs for 5 minutes instead of 2.

Layer everything in a bowl, take a picture because it’s pretty, and then mix it all around. Eat.

Homemade Harissa

To test out the recipes, I bought fresh red pepper, fresh red jalapeño, and five varieties of dried chiles: ancho, morita, mulato, guajillo, and pulla. If you want to do your own chile test, you can follow this method:

1) In a dry skillet, toast the dried chiles one batch at a time. Toast them over medium heat until fragrant but be careful not to burn them. Remove the stems and deseed the chiles as best you can. Keep the different varieties in separate bowls and label them if you need to.

2) Roast the fresh red pepper and red jalapeño. Place the red peppers under a broiler until the skin turns black. Remove them and allow to cool until you can peel the charred skin off. Roast the red jalapeños under a broiler, but not charred. Pull out and remove the stems. I kept the seeds for spice, but you can also remove them.

3) In a food processor, process the chiles. For the dried, toasted chiles, pour some water in until the peppers become a paste. Pour each paste into a jar, label it, and set aside. The roasted red peppers should process easily without water, but the red jalapeños will also need a bit of water and/or oil to form a paste.

4)  Make garlic oil. In the food processer, add 5-6 cloves of garlic and process with 3/4 cups olive oil. Pour the mixture into a pan and heat until fragrant over medium heat.

5) Taste all the chile pastes separately to get a feel for the flavor of each one. Morita chiles, for example, have a very smoky flavor, while ancho chiles are a bit sweet.

6) Start mixing and matching. Each batch should have a mix of pepper pastes in addition to salt, garlic oil, and cumin. In general, per 5 teaspoons of pepper paste, I used 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1 tablespoon of garlic oil. Play around with it until you find a combo you like.

Harissa 1

Harissa 3

April’s Harissa Recipe

If you already have the pepper pastes made, here are the ratios I preferred:

2 parts roasted red pepper paste
1 part roasted red jalapeño paste
2 parts guajillo paste
1/4 part cumin
3 parts garlic oil
salt to taste

If you don’t have pepper pastes, here are better measurements:

5-6 dried guajillo chiles
1 roasted red pepper
2 red jalapeño peppers
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic oil
salt to taste

Eric’s Harissa Recipe

1 part roasted red pepper paste
1 part ancho chile paste
1 part morita chile paste
1 part mulato chile paste
1 part red jalapeño paste
1 part guajillo chile paste
1 part pulla chile paste
1/4 part cumin
3 parts garlic oil
salt to taste

Eric’s is kind of a mish mash of everything. Rather than providing better measurements, I would simply buy a bunch of different peppers, process them according to the directions above, and mix them all together. The exact quantity is probably not as important as imparting a bit of each chile into the final harissa.

Kale, Tofu, and Butternut Squash Salad with Miso-Soy Dressing

This post comes a little late. Or a lot late. I made this at least two months ago, and the early spring has us eating asparagus and ramps rather than squash now, but it’s still good so I figured I’d share.

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And speaking of sharing… did you know I am going to Africa this summer?! I accepted an internship position with an NGO that works in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. I am really, really excited to test out the waters of working for an NGO and be confronted with new and probably life-changing challenges. Hopefully I will post more about my job at a later date and throughout my time in Kenya, though I cannot promise anything until I get a real sense of how I will be living over there.

In other exciting news, Eric and I will be traveling through Tanzania for 2.5 weeks prior to my start date in Kenya! I am still in research mode, which involves lots of spreadsheets, books, and websites, but rest assured, we will be visiting the Serengeti at least and checking out some awesome African wildlife. Other parts of the trip are currently unplanned, and they may remain that way until we hit African soil.

Kale, Tofu, and Butternut Squash Salad with Miso-Soy Dressing
inspired by 101 Cookbooks

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 16-ounce package extra firm tofu, cubed
1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil, like grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon white miso
juice of 1 lemon or 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
5 tablespoons water

Steam the squash until just fork tender or even just a little underdone. Also make sure the tofu has no moisture by patting it dry in a towel.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the sesame oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, miso, acid (lemon juice or rice wine vinegar), chile flakes, and water. Set aside.

In a pan, heat the neutral-flavored oil over medium-high heat. Place the tofu cubes in the pan in a single layer and let it sit for a few minutes, until the bottom becomes crispy brown. Toss the tofu around a bit to get the other sides browned (if you want to be meticulous here, you could brown each side of tofu, but after one side is browned, I usually just toss it around let it sit for a few more minutes – the lazy way). Add in the butternut squash (and a bit more oil, if needed), and stir it around with the tofu. Let this cook for a minute or two. Finally, add the kale and stir around until it gets soft – just a minute or two.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in the dressing. Serve warm.

Black Bean, Butternut Squash, and Chorizo Soup

This recipe has been sitting on my Pinterest board for a while now, and the butternut squash and dried black beans have been on my counter for almost as many days. The original recipes comes by way of Sprouted Kitchen and did not include chorizo. Of course, the original recipe was much healthier! But chorizo makes everything better, and since I had some left over after I made Eric’s birthday chorizo mac and cheese, this Mexican-inspired soup seemed a perfect fit.

I had to adjust some quantities, so the recipe below is written as I made it.

Black Bean, Butternut Squash, and Chorizo Soup

adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped (about two cups)
3 cups cubed butternut squash
4 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, plus a little adobo sauce
3 cups cooked, black beans, plus extra liquid from black beans
1 pound chorizo, cooked

salt to taste

cilantro, for garnish
fried corn tortilla “crumbs” or strips, for garnish
pickled onions, for garnish

Sauté the onions in garlic in oil for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Then add the squash, cabbage, cumin, and cocoa powder. Stir around for a minute, then add the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

In the meantime, cook the chorizo in a separate pan. Finely chop the chipotle and add it, with some juice, to the chorizo and stir around.

When the veggies are tender and cooked, add the black beans and chorizo. To make tortilla chip crumbs, I put some day-old corn tortillas in the food processor, then fried them in oil in a pan. I also happened to have some pickled red onions on hand – to make those, soak finely sliced red onions in lime juice for an hour or more. They make for a really pretty topping, and the acidity is a nice touch. Alternatively, squeeze a bit of lime juice over the soup before serving.

Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza

I was about to post a recipe for Creamy Poblano soup when I realized that my last two posts were soup/stew related, so instead I have some pretty awesome pizza to share. I’ve been experimenting with pizza dough, trying to find the best whole wheat recipe.

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Well – most recipes I’ve found for whole wheat pizza dough are pretty similar. Rarely do they call for 100% whole wheat flour; usually it’s somewhere in the range of 3:1 or 1:1 whole wheat flour:bread flour. To up the health factor, I go with the 3:1 ratio and throw in a couple teaspoons of ground flax for good measure. I think I’ve said this before – you’ll never get that light, fluffy dough like you get from white flour, but I think that it’s worth it to feel like you’ve done something good for yourself.

I made a rather large batch of this dough and froze several individual portions. Last week, I failed to photograph our traditional sausage pizza with a spicy, peppery tomato sauce, Italian sausage, and fresh mozzarella, but this week I made a fall special with butternut squash. It’s one of my favorite combinations, which I lifted from some recipe ages ago, and it’s a bit unexpected at first. After the first bite, though, I’m sure you’ll be as hooked as I am.

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Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza

for the dough:
1 1/2 cups warm tap water
2 packets active dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground flax

for the topping:
1 small to medium sized butternut squash
1/2 cup or more to taste of crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1/2 cup or more to taste of mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 small to medium size fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
big pinch of fresh ground black pepper

salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
handful of arugula or spinach

Combine all the dry ingredients in a food processor with the dough blade. Pulse to combine. Meanwhile, combine wet ingredients. While processing, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the food processor, until the dough forms into a ball on top of the blade. Remove and knead on a dry, floured surface for a few minutes. Pour some olive oil in a bowl and place the ball of dough in the center, cover with saran wrap. Let the dough rise for approximately two hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

While the dough is rising, roast the squash in a 450 oven for 30 minutes or so, until soft. I usually place a piece of foil on my baking sheet and pour a cup or two of water in to help steam the squash.

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Slice the fennel bulbs very finely. Over medium-low heat, saute the fennel in olive oil for about 45 minutes, until lightly browned and caramelized. Set aside.

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When the dough has doubled in bulk, cut in half and freeze the other portion (or heck, make it all in one night!). Roll out the dough on parchment and pop in the oven for 5-10 minutes (if you have a pizza stone, use that… it’s on my Christmas list).

To make the topping, scoop the squash out of it’s skin and combine with blue cheese, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper – stir it all together so you have a homogeneous mixture. Spread this mixture on top of the baked pizza dough. Top with the caramelized fennel and mozzarella and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted. When it comes out of the oven, top with a big dose of spinach or arugula.