Crispy Carnitas

Since I made this the first time a couple weeks ago, I haven't stopped telling my friends and clients they need to try it. The meat is juicy and flavorful, making you feel like you're eating out at a Mexican restaurant, without all the grease. 

It feeds a large group, and keeps well if you’re like me and plan to re-heat it throughout the week for lunches. Throw into a corn tortilla for tacos, or serve it bowl-style with rice, beans or lettuce. Top with cilantro for an extra fresh twist, and throw green chilis into the crockpot for a kick. Recipe adapted from @FeedingTheFrasers.

Ingredients:

4lbs pork butt or shoulder

3-4 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried cumin

½ cup sweet onion, diced

4 teaspoons minced garlic (or 8 cloves, smashed)

2 limes, juiced

2 large oranges, 1 juiced and 1 sliced

Directions:

  1. In the slow cooker, add pork, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, onion, garlic, lime juice and orange juice

  2. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8-10 hours, or high heat for 5-6 hours (until meat is falling apart)

  3. Remove pork and shred with two forks (keep the liquid!)

  4. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add pork in batches of two or three, and sear until just beginning to crisp. Pour about ½ cup of leftover liquid onto meat in pan, and continue cooking until the juices reduce down and the meat is crispy.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Recipe: Summertime Fiesta Bowl, Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice

This dish is easy, super satisfying and tastes like a summertime fiesta in your kitchen. Oh, did I mention it’s ridiculously easy?

This serves 2-3 people with big appetites, and there’s about 3/4lb chicken left that will store great in the fridge to pair with regular rice, quinoa, sweet potato, beans or a salad for quick meals later in the week. Score!

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)

  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix (I used Casa Fiesta)

  • 1 16 oz jar salsa (use your favorite; I used Sprouts brand classic mild)

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Juice from two fresh squeezed limes

Instructions

  1. In your slow cooker, place the chicken breasts first, and top with taco seasoning.

  2. Top with salsa, lime juice and cilantro.

  3. Put lid on top and cook for about 4 hours on high, or 6-7 hours on low.

  4. Move chicken to a bowl, and shred with two forks. Pour a small amount of juice from the slow cooker on the chicken to add moisture, based on preference.

  5. Set aside to put on top of Fiesta Lime Rice (below), or enjoy by itself or on top of a salad - yum!

Nutrition: Per 4oz - 8g carb, 2g fat, 24.4g protein (149 calories) and high in Iron.

Fiesta Lime Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 package Uncle Ben’s Jasmine Ready Rice (90 second microwave kind, SO easy! You also can use dry rice, you’ll need about 1-½ cup cooked)

  • ½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and heated

  • ¾ cup cooked corn (I grilled mine, but you can also get the frozen steamable kind!)

  • 1 small-medium tomato (diced)

  • ½ cup chopped bell peppers

  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Juice from one fresh squeezed lime

  • Salt to taste

Directions

Toss all ingredients in a bowl, stir, and serve warm.

*If you made the chicken, mix in with rice and enjoy! Any lean protein mixed in with this rice would be delicious. Other good toppings or mix-ins could be shredded cabbage, avocado, sour cream, onions, jalapeños and/or cheese.

Nutriton: Per 100g rice - 20g carb, .7g fat, 3.2g protein (98 calories), and high in vitamin C and Potassium. 

If you need help tracking these recipes in MFP, check out my step-by-step guide here.

 

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Have any plans this weekend?

If you're looking for something fun to do on your next day off, look no further, because I have an idea for you that is fun AND helps you get an awesome start on your meal prep! What could it be?

Go visit your local farmers market! To get a list of the ones in your area, click here.

If you're not sure what the big deal is with farmers markets or shopping local, just hear me out:

First, it's the prime spot to buy locally produced food: The food looks and tastes betterbecause it’s grown in the natural season, picked at the perfect peak of freshness, and doesn’t need added preservatives to sustain travel time or to prolong shelf life.

There's an opportunity to discover foods you may not have tried before, and incorporate them into your cooking for new flavors and added variety of nutrients. Large retailers can't sufficiently stock very unique items, but a local shop can and often do bring character, charm and rare finds to places like the farmers market.

It's a great place to meet other community members who care about locally sourced food, as well as grab a bargain because the middleman and transportation costs are eliminated. And, you likely get to talk to the person who actually grew your food — how cool is that?!

When you shop at the farmers market, you're also supporting the environment.When items have to travel long distances it uses an enormous amount of fuel. If only 10% of ingredients were sourced from a state grower instead of corporate farm, it would save 310,000 gallons of fuel annually (source). Additionally, food that takes a while to get from farm to table demands special packing and storing methods that are typically not recycled.

Shopping local helps financially support those living in and caring for your community, and provides you the delightful opportunity to get closer to the root of your food source (no pun intended).

Go check out a farmers market near you this weekend, and reply back and let me know what you find in the comments below! :)

Recipe: You won't believe how easy (and delicious!) this spaghetti squash is

It's no secret I love spaghetti squash. In a previous blog post, I wrote about the health benefits and basically why it rocks, so check it out if you haven't already. This recipe is my latest take on the versatile vegetable, and it's easily now one of my favorites. With the perfect amount of flavor, it's a staple side or base to a main dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Salt

  • Black pepper

  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Cut spaghetti squash length-wise and scrape the seeds out with a spoon

  3. Brush the inside of the squash halves with 1 tbsp oil (1/2 tbsp each) and season generously with salt and pepper

  4. Place the halves face up on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork. Then, remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to touch.

  5. Use a fork to scrape the inside of the squash, creating spaghetti-like strands. Set aside.

  6. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until lightly brown (about 3 minutes).

  7. Turn off heat, add cheese and reserved spaghetti squash to the pan. Use tongs to evenly coat.

  8. Enjoy!

Note: If you want to use this as a main course instead of a side dish, just add protein! Ground turkey, lean ground beef, chicken sausage, shrimp, salmon or chicken (grilled, baked, rotisserie) are all great options.

To have extras for later and/or use as the base of a meal, consider cooking 2 spaghetti squashes at the same time.

Nutrition: Per serving (about 1/4 of recipe): 3g carb, 3g protein, 8g fat - 96 calories

I’d like to introduce you to Roger

Roger Zetah knows a thing or two about investments, to say the least. He spends his weekdays clocking long hours at the office as a 58-year-old CPA (certified public accountant). Though, that’s not the particular facet of his life that fascinated me: it’s his investment in health in and out of the CrossFit gym we attend together.

When he’s not hitting the workout of the day with the class, he’s in the back training to improve his olympic weightlifting mechanics. He’s an accomplished athlete, missing qualifying for Regionals as a Masters competitor by only 35 spots and 5 spots, respectively, the last two years. And for those who know as little about the Masters category as I: it’s a worldwide competition where only 200 of the best move on to Regionals. I got curious about what keeps him going; age aside, at a time when so many people across the board struggle to maintain consistency of gym attendance. So I asked him if we could chat after a workout.

He’s certainly got an admirable level of determination, which became painfully clear when I found out his first CrossFit workout ever, five years ago, involved 100 thrusters.

I loved a particular story he shared: when he was focused on getting his muscle-up, he actually changed his license plate to say “muscle-up” to constantly remind him. Then he got it! Maybe if I borrow his car, my gymnastics will improve too.

With my knowledge on nutrition I was pretty convinced he was killing it the kitchen too, but of course I had to ask.

“It’s huge how much eating impacts performance,” Roger said.

He wasn’t at all shy to admit he absolutely dreads cooking, but suffers through time in the kitchen every Sunday to meal prep and set himself up for success, thus being able to avoid the task for the next six days. Chicken breast (particularly prepared through his newfound love of the crockpot), ground turkey, a variety of vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, sweet potatoes and small amounts of fruit are on the menu for his typical day.

He explained that weighing and measuring his food doesn’t interest him, though he did go strict Paleo for 42 days at an old gym for a group challenge where he dropped to an unsustainable 4% body fat.

“For the first two weeks (on Paleo) I didn’t want to be around sharp instruments,” Roger joked. “And performance wise I didn’t have enough energy.”

After ditching that method, he’s discovered that intuitively eating quality foods keeps him feeling good in the gym and satisfied throughout the day. Well, that and a little bit of dark chocolate.

“I have a small piece of dark chocolate almost every day. I get my fix and I’m done,” he admits. The minor indulgence keeps him on track, as he doesn’t entertain cheat meals or cheat days. He went on to tell me that he doesn’t ever feel deprived by structuring his nutrition this way.

“Once I started eating better, I stopped craving things. I look at bread and ice cream and to me, it’s not food,” he said.

I pressed for what motivates him to keep his health on the forefront of his priorities, especially with his circumstances: his wife is a recent cancer survivor, he works full-time and hates prepping his food. Crushing excuses like thrusters.

“I feel better. I like working out and I can do things people my age can’t do,” he said. “Everyone at Magna that comes to workout that works out hard inspires me, whether they’re a beginner or have been here 5 years.”

He offered me some of his best advice to share: “If you fall off the track, don’t stay off. And be patient, everything will come in time with discipline.”

I really believe that every person you meet has something to offer. And all too often the opportunity is missed. How frequently do you stare at your phone checking out at the grocery store, instead of engaging with the associate helping you? Or come to the gym and make friendly nods, but never actually learn about the people you’re sweating with? These people all have stories, passions, inspirations and knowledge that is just waiting to be shared.

Thank you Roger, for sharing a piece of your story with me.

 PHOTO BY BRETT BARTLETT

PHOTO BY BRETT BARTLETT