Pear and Pomegranate Tacos

I had to think about whether I wanted to post tacos two days in a row on here, but decided, “What the heck?” Tacos are delicious and specialty tacos are even more delicious! It also just occurred to me it is the second day in a row of fruit salsa. If you read yesterday’s post about the mango salsa, then you definitely know I love fruit salsa! It is a great combination with a faint touch of sweet, hint of zest, and just all-around yummyness.

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The original blogger of these tacos from Gimme Some Oven titled them “Christmas Tacos” because they kind of look like Christmas! She also made them as little “taco boats” too, which would make a great appetizer! I think that counts as a different recipe, therefore I could sort of make this again and it would NOT be the same dish twice.

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The flavours came together so well – with the sweet tartness of the salsa, the protein-filled chicken, the punch that feta cheese packs (oh – I couldn’t find cojita cheese, so I subbed feta instead, which was also a great choice). It just works. I would love to put this salsa on everything! The only thing stopping me is that pomegranates take some time and effort to seed! Even all the easy “hack” ways are still a bit time consuming – but so worth it!

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Pear and Pomegranate Tacos

serves 4

Ingredients:
-Tortillas (any kind you like will work)
-1 large cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced or shredded
-1/4cu crumbled cotija cheese (I used feta)
-optional garnishes: fresh lime wedges, extra chopped fresh cilantro
For the salsa
-2 fresh pears (any kind), cored and diced
-1 fresh pomegranate, seeded
-half a red onion, diced
-1/2cu chopped fresh cilantro leaves
-juice of half a lime

Directions:
-Cook and shred the chicken (I just baked it for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees).
-While the chicken is cooking, prepare the salsa by mixing all the ingredients together, then season with salt and pepper.
-To assemble the tortillas, add a layer of chicken, a few spoonfuls of the salsa, and top with cheese. Add your additional garnishes, then roll up and enjoy!

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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.

Avocado Macaroni and Cheese

Let me start by saying my life was completed yesterday. I got to see my favourite musician in the world, Andrew McMahon, in concert (not for the first time) and he played such an amazing mix of old and new music. After the show, I got to meet him, hug him, get my picture taken with him, and have his new CD signed! An even better bonus is that I took the day off work today and am just at home enjoying my free time!

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In almost equally exciting news, I made this uh-mazing avocado macaroni and cheese the other week, by Two Peas and Their Pod. Seriously. Creamy and cheesy pasta plus creamy and smashed avocado…all mixed together? How does it really get any better than that? I was a bit perplexed at first, since it is definitely a little different, but the outcome was so, so, so amazing. There was plenty for leftovers the next day…which I must admit was a bit odd, given that avocado browns over time, however the browned part is still edible, but also it only browned on the very top, so if you prefer, you can scrape off the browned part and then chomp away!

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One of the best parts also was the chopped chunks of avocado that the recipe calls for you to throw in the finished product. Once again I say…SERIOUSLY. Creamy. Cheesy. Smooth. Avocado. Pasta. What else is there in life? Ok ok, a lot of things. But food wise, this basically takes the cake for sure.

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Avocado Macaroni and Cheese

serves 4-6

Ingredients:
-10oz dry elbow macaroni
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 avocados, peeled and pitted
-2tbsp fresh lime juice
-1/3cu chopped fresh cilantro
-2tbsp butter
-2tbsp all-purpose flour
-1cu milk
-2cu shredded Pepper Jack cheese
-salt and pepper, to taste
-fresh avocado chunks, for garnish, if desired

Directions:
-Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Salt the water and add in macaroni. Stir and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
-While the pasta is cooking, make the avocado sauce by placing the garlic, avocados, lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper into a food processor or blender, and process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
-Make the cheese sauce by placing the butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. When melted, whisk in flour to create a paste, then whisk in milk until smooth. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce starts to thicken, then add in Pepper Jack cheese and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy.
-Transfer the macaroni to a large bowl and pour the avocado sauce over the macaroni and stir until well coated. Add the cheese sauce and stir until macaroni is covered and becomes creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot and garnish with fresh avocado chunks.

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.

Chicken Fried Rice

Fried rice really is one of those simply delicious dishes, isn’t it? I don’t make it very often, but it is so easy to do and so tasty!! This “better than takeout” chicken fried rice comes from The Recipe Critic and it did not fail me at all.

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It calls for just a few ingredients that aren’t expensive and are easy to find, which is always a bonus. I used minimal peas in this, because my husband is not a fan, but I used tons of fresh green onion from my garden!

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This is a quick meal to throw together, so it is pretty good for any night of the week. It can be even faster if the chicken is already cooked. I have also been told that it is best to use day-old rice for fried rice dishes, so the bulk of this could be made in advance, which definitely saves time as well. Enjoy!

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Chicken Fried Rice

serves about 6

Ingredients:
-1lb chicken, about 2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded/cubed
-3cu cooked rice
-2tbsp sesame oil
-1 small white onion, chopped
-1cu frozen peas and carrots, thawed
-2-3tbsp soy sauce (more or less to taste)
-2 eggs, lightly beaten
-2tbsp chopped green onions
Directions:
-Cook and shred the chicken (you can cook the chicken in this sauce also by The Recipe Critic, which I did, and it was fabulous!).
-Preheat a large skillet or wok to medium heat, then pour sesame oil in the bottom. Add white onion and peas and carrots and fry until tender.
-Slide everything to the side of the wok, and pour the beaten eggs onto the open space. Scramble the eggs with a spatula, and one cooked, add everything back together.
-Add the rice and chicken to the veggie and egg mixture, then pour the soy sauce on top. Stir fry everything together, then add the chopped green onion on top.

Thai Larb Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I made these wraps about two months ago and FINALLY posting them…and as usual, my first post in quite a long time. I’ve been hooked lately to watching CSI Miami which leaves little time for much else. In fact, I recently told my husband, during a particularly sad episode in which they lost one of their own, that the CSIs are like my friends and they’re my people. He kinda laughed at me, so I suppose you can feel free to do the same. 😉

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These Thai Larb Chicken Lettuce Wraps come from Cupcakes and Kale, and were so delicious and flavourful! I had never heard of it before, but the blogger includes a note stating that Larb is an Asian salad that is apparently the national dish of Laos. The salad features a spicy and sour stir-fried meat on top of cold, crisp lettuce. The dressing typically consists of fish sauce, spicy chiles, lime juice, and mint leaves. Pretty much anything goes well in a lettuce wrap, and I was definitely loving these!

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Thai Larb Chicken Lettuce Wraps

serves 2-4

Ingredients:
-1.5tbsp cooking oil
-1/2lb ground chicken breast
-2 shallots, diced
-1/4 red onion, diced
-1 clove garlic, very finely minced
-minced fresh chiles, Jalapeño or Fresno (however much you want)
-1tbsp fish sauce
-1/2 lime, juiced
-1tsp low-sodium soy sauce
-1 head iceberg lettuce, for the cups
-1 handful of cilantro and/or mint, cut into chiffonade (long, thin strips)

Directions:
-Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat. Once hot, swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil and chicken. Break up the chicken and cook.
-Once cooked through, push the ground chicken to one side of the pan and swirl in the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil. Then add the shallots, red onion, garlic, and fresh chiles, and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and soy sauce, and mix everything together.
-Spoon the mixture into the lettuce cups and top with herbs. Enjoy!

Thai Peanut Sauce Spaghetti Squash

In the summertime, a lot of times people don’t want to turn on their ovens. I am one of those people. Also in the summertime, a lot of people don’t think to cook with spaghetti squash. However, this Thai Peanut Sauce Spaghetti Squash by Leelicious, which my good friend Alysha turned me on to, is an exception!

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I love basically everything Thai-related, and this dish is no exception! The peanut sauce is so delicious and really pairs well with the noodle-like consistency of spaghetti squash is just perfect. It is not too sweet and it is not too spicy. In the words of the 3 bears, it is just right! 😉

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I ended up not being able to find the coconut sugar, however I has googled how to use regular sugar or brown sugar and it still worked out well, though perhaps would have had a different flavour if I’d found the Asian-esque coconut variety.

I hope you like it, and that it’s worth turning on your oven for, in this summer heat!

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Thai Peanut Sauce Spaghetti Squash

serves 2

Ingredients:
-1 medium spaghetti squash
-olive oil
-salt
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1/4cu chopped parsley or cilantro
-2tbsp crushed peanuts
For the peanut sauce

-1 can (14oz) coconut milk
-2/3cu natural, unsweetened peanut butter
-1/4cu coconut sugar
-1/4cu water
-2tbsp soy sauce
-2tbsp white or apple cider vinegar
-2tsp sesame oil
-2tsp red curry paste

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
-Drizzle the inside with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes.
For the peanut sauce
-Place all sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then turn down to low and simmer for 5 minutes while stirring almost constantly, then take off the heat to let cool.
-When spaghetti squash is done roasting, take it out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Then, using a fork, scrape out the spaghetti squash strands. If your squash is very moist, you might have to place the strands in a colander and pat with paper towel.
-Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, chopped parsley and 1/4 cup of the peanut sauce pan and combine. Add spaghetti squash, rest of the sauce, and crushed peanuts, stir to combine and cook until heated through (about 2 minutes).
Plate and garnish with a little more crushed peanuts and chopped parsley. Serve right away.