Crockpot Barbecue Beer Pulled Pork Tacos with Crispy Onion Straws and Mango Salsa

The title of this recipe is a mouthful, am  I right?? Well, the entire dish was an amazing mouthful, so well worth the long name! This pulled pork taco dish comes from the amazing blogger over at How Sweet It Is. I am on-and-off obsessed with her recipes, because they are most often quite delicious, and she is a funny and quirky writer. The downside is that they are often very elaborate dishes and not usually “everyday” kind of dinners. My husband and I had an at home date night last Friday and I decided to make these and we watched Divergent (we are watching the second one tonight, and I cannot wait for the third one to hit the theatres!).

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This dish is AMAZING. Seriously, it’s amazing. But it is also a heck of a lot of work, so be prepared for that. I did realize that going in. The pork itself is pretty simple because it just cooks away all day in the crockpot. The mango salsa is a bit time-consuming to chop and throw together but pretty basic. Can I also say that I just love fruit salsas? A close friend of mine haaaaates them (you know who you are ;)) but I just love them. They are definitely not sweet (as most of you know, I hate overly sweet things), and the onion, cilantro, etc. that is also in them usually counteracts any sweetness. I will say that one mango is perhaps not enough, because the mango did not get to shine enough, but I ended up adding extra onion too, since I had some leftover.

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But let’s talk about the onions. Oh, the onions. They are WORK, my friends. I stood over the stove for what felt like forever frying up these babies. I used a stock pot, but an entire onion thinly sliced takes awhile to fry. I also want to mention that adding the salt as soon as each batch is done frying is essential. I taste-tested one (ok, ok, a lot) pre-salt and taste-tested some post-salt, and the post-salt definitely won me over. I didn’t use much, just a quick grind, but it really packs a punch on the hot, fresh from the frying oil coated onions. That being said, they are definitely essential for these tacos. Yes, store-bought is WAY easier, but you will not be sorry for frying up these babies. Keep in mind to only make what you will use for that serving, as they don’t really re-heat super well.

BBQ Beer Pulled Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa and Crispy Onion Straws

serves a lot (we still have leftovers from 3 days ago)

Ingredients:
-1 (3-4lbs) pork shoulder roast (mine was boneless)
-1tbsp onion powder
-1tbsp smoked paprika
-1tsp garlic powder
-1/2tsp salt
-1/2tsp pepper
-12oz beer (I used rootbeer which made it a bit sweeter, but still good)
-32oz barbecue sauce + additional for drizzling
-small flour or corn tortillas
-4-6oz freshly grated cheddar cheese
-1 batch of crispy onion straws (see below)
For the mango salsa
-1 mango, peeled and chopped
-1/4 red onion, finely diced
-1/2 jalapeño, finely diced (I omitted, because my husband doesn’t like that much heat)
-1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
-the juice of 1 lime
-1/4tsp salt
-1/4tsp pepper

Directions:
-Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sear the pork on every side (about 2-3 minutes per side) until golden brown before adding to the crockpot.
-Add pork to crockpot with onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Add beer and 24 ounces of barbecue sauce. Cook on low for 8+ hours, tossing once or twice if desired.
-After 8 hours, shred pork with forks and add remaining barbecue sauce. Toss pork to coat and let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving to absorb everything. Remove bone (if bone-in) before serving.
-Combine all of the mango salsa ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to mix. **It can be stored in the fridge for up to 2-3 days**
**You can make the onion straws and mango salsa a few hours in advance, if desired**
-To assemble your tacos, layer pork, mango salsa, cheddar cheese, and onion straws on the tortilla, fold up, and enjoy!

The crispy onion straws come from the genius blogger, My Life as a Mrs.

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Crispy Onion Straws

serves 4

Ingredients:
-1 large red onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
-1.5cu lowfat buttermilk (I made my own using a mix of regular milk and lemon juice)
-2cu flour
-1.5tbsp garlic powder
-1.5tbsp salt
-1tsp black pepper
-1tsp cayenne (optional – I couldn’t even taste it)
-canola oil for frying
-additional salt

Directions:
-Preheat oil in a deep pot to 350°.
-Add onions and buttermilk to a large bowl and toss until combined. In a second bowl, mix together flour, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne.
-In small batches, take the buttermilk coated onions and dredge in the seasoned flour (shaking to remove excess flour), and fry for 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 minutes on each side (or until golden and crispy). Place on a paper towel line platter and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt. Repeat until all onions are golden and crispy.

Triple Pork Mazeman with Roasted Garlic and Pea Tips

Recently, my mom tried out Blue Apron for a couple of weeks. It is a meal service that delivers ingredients right to your door. You can choose the frequency and my mom was on a plan for 3 meals per week that serve two people each. That totaled about $60, which actually isn’t *too bad* of a price. The neat thing about Blue Apron is that everything is sent in neat little packaging and contains the precise amount of each needed ingredient.

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My mom ended up canceling her subscription, because the price did add up after awhile, plus she is not quite as adventurous of an eater as I am, and Blue Apron really offers a wide variety of dishes, an she is more of a meat and potatoes type of gal. Though she did like that it helped her prepare even simple vinaigrette from scratch, the type of thing she is not inclined to make on her own (similar to most people!). Similarly, this recipe calls for a pork demi-glace, which is basically a fancy rich, thick type of stock. I don’t think I would ever make it on my own, but you can google recipes for it, but I am not sure where you might find it in a store.

In any case, my mom gave me one of her meals, which was this Triple Pork Mazeman. It was delicious! It turns out that mazeman is a type of ramen, but it is dry, and made with a thin sauce instead of a broth, allowing the toppings to take on center stage, in this Japanese dish, according to the recipe page!

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Triple Pork Mazeman with Roasted Garlic and Pea Tips

serves 2

Ingredients:
-5oz ground pork
-1 slice bacon
-12oz fresh ramen noodles
-2oz pea tips
-1 bunch garlic chives
-1 head of garlic
-2tbsp pork demi-glace
-2tbsp soy sauce
-2tbsp mirin
-1-in. piece of ginger
-1tsp pork mazeman spice blend (black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, kibbled nori and sansho pepper)

Directions:
-Preheat the oven to 475F. Cut off and discard the top of the garlic head (to expose the cloves). Place it on a piece of aluminum foil, then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Tightly wrap the foil around it, place on a cookie sheet, and roast for 28-30 minutes. Set it aside, to cool.
-While the garlic is roasting, heat a large pot of salted water to boiling (you’ll come back to this later). Dice the bacon into very small pieces, mince the garlic chives, cut the pea tips into one inch pieces, and peel and mince the ginger.
-In a medium pot, heat one teaspoon of oil on medium. Once hot, add the bacon and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until browned and crispy.
-To the bacon pot, add the ginger and all but one pinch of the garlic chives. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. Add the ground pork and cook for 4-5 minutes or until heated through, breaking the meat apart with a spoon; season with salt and pepper, then remove it from the heat.
-When the garlic is done and has cooled enough to touch, squeeze the individual cloves out of the head. Add the pork demi-glace, soy sauce, mirin, roasted garlic cloves, and one cup of water to the pot with the pork mixture, and stir to combine. Turn to high to bring to a boil; once boiling, reduce it back to medium and let it simmer, while stirring, for 2-3 minutes, until it reduces in volume.
-While the sauce is simmering, add the noodles to the pot of boiling water and cook and stir for 90 seconds (no longer), then drain well and immediately add it to the sauce pot. Cook and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat. Stir in pea tips and season with salt and pepper to taste.
-Spoon the finished product into each bowl and then top with the remaining chives and spice blend.

Mini Football Pizzas

I had a fun baseball-filled weekend watching the Everett Aquasox, a minor league team, play on both Friday and Saturday nights. Friday’s game was not very eventful, until the bottom of the 10th when they won 3-2, but Saturday’s game was full of fun, including my little niece catching a foul ball!

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However, football is upon us, so it is time for some football-themed snacks, like these yummy mini football pizzas from The Daring Gourmet that I made last year during football season. They are a fun snack for any football party.

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I also had Seattle Seahawk themed Jamberry nail wraps for the occasion!

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Since there were some vegetarians in the crowd, I used meatball crumbles, which were actually pretty good. Feel free to use whatever meat you’d like.

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Mini Football Pizzas

serves

Ingredients:
-1 (11oz) can refrigerated Pillsbury thin pizza crust
-1 (14.5oz) can pizza sauce
-4oz bulk Italian sausage
-1 green bell pepper, diced
-3 mozzarella cheese sticks

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Lightly flour a surface and unroll the pizza dough. Use a football-shaped cookie cutter, or cut the dough into football shapes by hand, according to your desired size.
-Cook the sausage and peppers on medium in a skillet until cooked through, and set aside.
-Spoon pizza sauce onto each pizza crust and top with the sausage and pepper mixture, then bake for about 4 minutes.
-Cut out the mozzarella cheese sticks into long and short strands and lay them on top of the pizzas (check out the pictures). Bake for a few more minutes until the cheese is melted and everything is cooked through.

Skillet Baked Ziti

Happy Monday!! I hope that everyone had a restful weekend. Mine was certainly nice! I spent part of the weekend with my niece enjoying free slurpees! And now I have a great and yummy Monday recipe for ya – from Our Best Bites, skillet baked ziti.

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I was a little worried about my fry pan going into the oven, but it still worked well: AKA tasted good, no fires, and no ruined pan. Score!

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So I used regular ground pork (from my brother’s farm!), however you can use the sausage requested, or even ground turkey, beef, or possibly chicken! I also used tomato sauce instead of the tomatoes, since I don’t like the chunks, but to each their own.

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My husband LOVED this ziti. He said it was similar to how his mom and even grandma made it (read: Italians), minus the skillet part. We gobbled up a ton right away but thankfully still had leftovers for each of us. Yum!!

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Skillet Baked Ziti

serves 4-6

Ingredients:
-1lb Italian sausage or Italian turkey sausage (“hot” or “sweet”)
-1 (28oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
-1tbsp olive oil
-6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 2tbsp)
-1/4tsp red pepper flakes
-Salt
-3cu water
-12oz ziti pasta
-1/2cu heavy cream
-1oz Parmesan cheese, grated
-1/4cu chopped fresh basil leaves (fresh is best, but it is ok to add a heaping tablespoon of dried if necessary)
-ground black pepper
-4oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions:
-Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees.
-Pulse the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until coarsely ground and no large pieces remain (or just use sauce).
Heat 12-inch or larger oven-safe skillet to medium high heat and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Remove the sausage from castings and cook, crumbling with a spatula until browned and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to sausage and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the processed tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit salt if using sauce). Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw, about 10 minutes.
-Stir in the water, then add the pasta. Cover, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer, until the pasta is tender, about 15-18 minutes.
-Stir in the cream, Parmesan, and basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top. -Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and browned, 10-15 minutes, then serve.

Thai Pork Salad with Cellophane Noodles

I have been wanting to try this Thai pork salad with cellophane noodles by Bev Cooks forever. But it is not a husband-friendly dish by any stretch. Well, it is not a MY husband-friendly dish. This is the man that groans when I suggest going to Thai for dinner. This is the man that really, really branched out at my birthday dinner this year by ordering curry for the first time (which he loved). He has made many strides in the adventurous eating category, but I knew this was not a dish he’d eat willingly.

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I even discussed with a friend, that sometimes to get him to eat new food, I don’t tell him what’s for dinner and just plop a plate in front of him. This has actually worked before. Or I just become really vague…”what’s for dinner?”…”oh, you know, pork…”…”yum!” This has worked too.

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However, on the night I made this, things went awry and I don’t remember how it played out since it was several weeks ago now, but he wasn’t home at the time and came home later and it was in the fridge waiting and he made something else instead, with the promise of trying it later, but that never happened. Dang.

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BUT that meant MORE FOR ME. This was so good, guys. Like, gobbling up for lunches for days, good. Like, I wanted to eat the entire huge bowl the first night. My pictures look quite a bit different from the original blogger’s (and not just because she’s a better photographer), but my noodles broke down a lot and didn’t look as glassy as hers. But it was delicious. It tasted very Thai-esque and it was a very light, thin meal, if that makes any sense. The flavours were just sensational together. If you are feeling less adventurous, you can play around with it, or make it into a fusion-taco, etc. If you don’t like pork, you could also substitute a different meat. I also added tons of sriracha, of course.

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Thai Pork Salad with Cellophane Noodles

serves 4+

Ingredients:
-2cu cellophane noodles
-1lb ground pork
-2-3tbsp Chinese five-spice seasoning
-3 cloves garlic, chopped
-1tbsp fresh ginger root, minced
-2tbsp brown sugar
-1cu peanuts, roughly chopped
-4 scallions, finely sliced
-2cu loosely packed cilantro, chopped
-1cu loosely packed mint, chopped
-1 habanero, minced (I omitted this, since I thought my husband would be eating it)
-1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
-1 jalapeno pepper, minced
-juice of 1 lime
-1tbsp soy sauce
-2tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
-1/2tsp coarse salt

Directions:
-Soak the noodles in boiling water for a few minutes and drain. Reserve the noodles in a large bowl.
-Heat half of the oil in a pan over medium-high and start browning the pork. Once almost done, add the five-spice powder and toss it around for a second. Add the garlic, ginger, minced habanero, jalapeno, brown sugar, peanuts and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine and take off the heat.
-To the bowl with the noodles, add the mint, cilantro, scallions and red bell pepper. Add the browned pork mixture and toss to combine. -Squeeze the lime juice over, then drizzle with soy sauce and remaining extra virgin olive oil.

Greek-Style Chicken Pocket Sandwiches

I made this recipe soooooooo long ago it’s not even funny. I haven’t had a chance to post it, since it involves actually sitting down with the cookbook (and who has time for that?). Ha. In any case, the original recipe is for “Greek-Style Pork Pocket Sandwiches” from In The Kitchen The Costco Way, which I picked up at a garage sale last summer. It is a pretty great little book. It contains easy and simple recipes that are great to throw together for weeknight meals (or anytime meals, for that matter).

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I substituted chicken, as I didn’t have any pork on-hand, and it worked really well. For a recipe like this, you could really go either way! I also used my new favourite black bean and wheat blend tortillas, instead of pita pockets, as that is also what I had on-hand. I have no complaints with this recipe. Again, it was simple and tasty. Who can argue with that??

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In case you are wondering, I have no recollection for the potatoes I paired with it. I kind of just do my own thing with potatoes now and don’t really follow a recipe.

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Greek-Style Pork Chicken Pocket Sandwiches

serves 2

Ingredients:
-1 large chicken breast (or 2 small ones), cut into small pieces
-1/2cu Caesar dressing
-2 or more pita loaves or tortillas
-1/4cu cucumber dressing
-1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 400.
-Combine chicken pieces with Caesar dressing. Spread out in a baking dish and roast for about 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through.
-Fill each pocket or tortilla with the chicken, then top with cucumber dressing and red onion.
-Done!!

Homemade Zuppa Toscana

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I really do love the Olive Garden. My husband and I usually only go there when we get a gift card, or if we are randomly craving soup, salad, and breadsticks. Speaking of the breadsticks, we have debated several times which is better, OG breadsticks or Red Lobster biscuits (which, we also only go to Red Lobster when we get a gift card, which seems to be often…). Mmm. Totally craving all of that right now.
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Also speaking of soup at the Olive Garden, while I love most of them, zuppa toscana is just my FAVOURITE. I mean, how could it not be? It is fully of amazingness – ground sausage, not too overly cooked kale, potato, cream…oh so heavenly. I also have been discovering several knockoff (aka homemade) zuppa toscana recipes, which I just love! This sausage, potato, and kale soup from The Pioneer Woman is no different – and who doesn’t adore the pioneer woman? 😉

Does it still count as a different recipe, if each version is basically the same, just tweaked very slightly to that particular chef or blogger’s taste? I think so. Yes. Because I would like to keep making it all the time! 😉
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I made a few minor changes, but basically to suit my own needs – I used regular ground pork sausage (it was leftover from my brother’s pig – mmmm homegrown pork) and russet potatoes (as they were given to me by my M-i-L and I needed to use them up). I also altered the milk, cream, and half’n’half ratio, as I didn’t have the appropriate amounts of them all (I think I mixed heavy cream with the half’n’half, and used nonfat milk). Also, I used only one head of kale, since I actually reduced the liquid ingredients a little (it calls for 12 servings). I will post the instructions as originally written, and feel free to alter to your own needs! =)

The best part of making so much amazing soup? LEFTOVERS!!!
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Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup (aka Homemade Zuppa Toscana)

serves a lot

Ingredients:
-2 bunches kale, cut into bite-size pieces
-12 small red potatoes, sliced thin
-1 onion, chopped
-1.5lbs Italian sausage
-1/2tsp red pepper flakes
-2cu low sodium chicken broth
-2cu whole milk
-4cu half-and-half
-splash of heavy cream
-fresh or dried oregano
-black pepper, to taste

Directions:
-Rise and chop the kale, then set aside.
-In a medium pot. boil sliced potatoes until tender, then drain and set aside.
-In a large pot, crumble and brown the Italian sausage, drain the fat, stir in the red pepper flakes, oregano, chicken broth, milk, and half-and-half. Simmer for 30 minutes.
-Taste the soup and adjust the flavouring as needed. Then add the potatoes, a splash of heavy cream for richness, and stir in the kale. Simmer an additional 5-10 minutes, then serve.