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As you may have noticed, I haven’t had many new recipes to post in the last few weeks. It’s hard to think of and try new meals, when so many of my regular favorites now turn my stomach.  That’s right, I’m pregnant!

Adam and I were lucky to be able to tell our families in person while we were in Arizona on vacation last week. The weather in north-eastern Arizona was mild, breezy, and beautifully sunny. The scenery wasn’t bad either!

The carnitas dinner on Wednesday night was a hit, though I did start to feel nauseated from the smell of pork while cooking the second batch. The ice cream, on the other hand, was amazing and did not make me nauseated at all! I highly recommend Rick Bayless’ recipe for Cinnamon Vanilla Custard Ice Cream, which I made with heavy cream instead of milk for a thick texture.

I am beginning to feel more normal appetite-wise, and will do my very best to keep experimenting in the kitchen as I continue along with my pregnancy. This is undoubtably the most important time for me to be eating well, after all! Here’s to the start of a whole new adventure on the micro-farm!

Next week Adam and I are very lucky to have an entire week off from work to visit Northern Arizona with his family.  It will be a balmy 80 degrees every day, and dry!  None of this humidity that everyone is so used to in Ohio.

There will be 15 people staying in a giant cabin in the woods, and I will have the pleasure of making dinner one of the nights that we are there.  After much deliberation and searching through cook books, I finally decided to make Pork Carnitas from Rick Bayless’ book, Authentic Mexican.  What’s better than juicy pork ribs crisped in their own rendered lard?  Oh yes, slathering them in guacamole.  And that’s why I chose carnitas!

I am no whiz at frying.  I’ve known that for a long time.  In fact, I cook bacon in the oven to avoid the spatter from frying it on the stove.  I hate getting surprised by a rogue oil droplet flying out of the pan, and I haven’t fried things often enough to have the timing down.  So, I figured that a practice run of the main course was in order.

I started with just over 3 pounds of delicious, fatty Country Style Pork Ribs.  Don’t trim off any fat, because it has to render into the cooking water.  Once the water boils off, the fat is left to fry the outside of the ribs.  Genius!  So, start with the ribs in a large stock pot (my Le Crueset worked wonderfully here, thanks to the porcelain coating), large enough to keep the ribs in one layer on the bottom.  Cover with water until it is 1/2″ above the ribs, then add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water.  Boil the ribs at a simmer (not a rolling boil) partially covered for about 40 minutes, or until “just tender” as Rick says.  When the ribs are tender, turn the boil all the way up to evaporate the water as quickly as possible.  This part still took a good 20 minutes I think.  Once the water has boiled off you will just have the ribs left in a surprising amount of rendered lard.  Turn the heat down to about medium, and watch the ribs carefully/turn them often until the outsides are just crisp, which took about 20-30 minutes for the biggest pieces.  Don’t let them get too dark, because you’ll end up with dry/stringy ribs!  Thankfully that only happened with a couple of small pieces, and I learned my lesson.

Aren’t they golden and delicious looking?  Any decent carnita should be served with a side of delicious guacamole, and according to Rick, can be eaten just as crispy ribs with guac, or cut up into bite sized pieces and served in corn tortillas with guac.  Adam and I ate them as is, and were impressed with the results of my first attempt!  At least now I know they won’t be an utter disaster for the family!  Since that is only the main course, I will also be serving guacamole and salsa with tortilla chips (not for me) and sliced veggies (definitely for me) for dipping, homemade coleslaw (the dressing is surprisingly easy), and Custard Ice Cream with Cinnamon and Vanilla (also a la Rick Bayless)!  The dessert uses a full 20 egg yolks, meaning it should taste like frozen creme brulee (a.k.a. heaven).

Here’s hoping that no one has suddenly turned vegetarian on me!  They probably wouldn’t be happy eating just guacamole for dinner…though I wouldn’t mind!

I just came back from a short but wonderful visit to Arizona, where I was helping my dad recover from major heart surgery.  Seeing as my primary domestic talent is to cook, I figured that he would appreciate some help in the meal planning category of his extended recovery.  Not only was I able to feed him (and a few others!) for the few days I was there, I was even able to leave enough food for a few weeks worth of meals.  See for yourself!  This freezer started out 100% empty, and is only holding about 75% of everything that I made:

Nearly 100 meatballs, marinara sauce, spaghetti squash, salsa chicken, chicken broth, shrimp stir fry ingredients, cubed sweet potatoes, trail mix, and pulled pork fill these shelves, while a few other things fill the fridge and inside freezer.  I promise I’ll share a few of these recipes, but for now, I really want to share the pulled pork recipe as well as the accompanying salad that I love to serve it on.

Ingredients:

4-6 pound Boston Butt (a cut of pork shoulder, bone in) depending on the size of your crock pot
2 bay leaves
6-9 full cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons paprika (Spanish, Hungarian, Smoked, not smoked…whichever your favorite is)
1 teaspoon sea salt
Chili flakes to taste

1. Set Boston Butt in the crock pot
2. Cut slits in the meat big enough to insert the garlic cloves all over
3. Combine all spices and sprinkle over the top of the meat
4. Cook on low heat for 12 hours
5. Drain off most of the broth (and save it for later in a jar of course), and shred the meat with two forks. Try not to eat most of it while shredding.

This will make A LOT of pulled pork, which can be eaten as is, with scrambled or fried eggs or as an omlette, or with a “southwestern salad” using guacamole as dressing. The latter is one of our current favorite meals!

For the guacamole, start with the following ingredients:

2 ripe avocados (they should feel soft to the touch, but not mushy)
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (in place of sour cream)
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons spicy salsa (or more or less depending on your taste for spiciness)
juice of half a lime
sea salt and black pepper to taste

1. Cut the avocado with a knife lengthwise around the entire fruit, not cutting through the pit. Pull the pit out, and spoon the flesh into a bowl (this will be very easy if the avocado is ripe).
2. Smash the avocado with a fork, then add all of the other ingredients. Mix thoroughly, and you’re done!

Use your favorite salad toppings, add the warm pulled pork on top, then as much guacamole as you like.

I added grape tomatoes, bell pepper, and sliced red onion to this salad. If you’re worried about the amount of fat in the guacamole, and therefore think the salad will be just fine without it, please think again! The veggies in the salad are fat soluble: they NEED the fat in the guacamole and pork in order to be digested by your intestines. Eating your veggies without fat means they go in and out, and your body is not able to unlock the important fat-souble vitamins including Potassium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A housed in them. So eat your guacamole, and like it, because it’s probably the most nutritious part of your meal!