Twice a month, there is an after school garden work party at my daughter’s school.  Parents and their preschool age children gather to weed, seed, and harvest the bounty.  It is a delight to participate in this effort, a joy to see these young children so excited to work with AND eat fresh vegetables, but a bear to come home late with two overtired and hungry kids of my own.  Thank goodness for the crock pot.  With only 10 or 15 minutes of prep the night before, a delicious dinner can be ready to serve when I return home.

Lentil Wheat Berry Soup with Herb Pistou is a crock pot soup that satisfies on so many levels.  The earthiness of the lentils blend with the chewiness of the wheat berries.  The pork infuses a richness into the flavorful broth.  These ingredients stew in the crock pot all day and provide a guarantee that your house will smell divine when you return home, tired and weary from the day.  The herb pistou solves the one hangup I have with crock pot cooking.  While cooking food all day ensures tenderness and rich flavors, there is a tendency for colors and flavors to become too melded and for the heartiness to become dull or bland.  Inspired by Blue Kale Road’s Spicy Israeli Zhoug, I came up with a last minute swirl of fresh herbs and acidic lemon to brighten the entire soup.  Serve this soup with a crunchy salad and fresh bread.  It freezes and reheats beautifully.

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Carnitas could easily claim their spot as my favorite food, especially when smothered in smokey, tangy tomatillo salsa.  These “little meats” came late into my life, but over the last few years I have experimented with different methods of preparing them including on the stove top, in the oven, and most recently in the slow cooker. The slow cooker, as the name of this post suggests, is the easiest method by far.

Every busy household should have a slow cooker.  During the school year, I rely on our slow cooker to have a hot dinner ready for us after my long day of work and my kids’ long day at school (especially on Mondays!).  For the longest time though, I made the mistake of thinking that slow cookers are  best used in the cool season months.  I used it primarily for soups and stews, the kind of food we crave to warm us up in the winter.  Recently though, I discovered that it is just as useful in the summertime to prepare dinner in the morning and have it cook all day. It does not even heat up the house, like the stove or oven would.

With dinner in the slow cooker, my family and I can head out on an adventure and not worry about having to be back to cook dinner for our nearly insatiable children.  This worked out perfectly last weekend when we returned from a day on the river, hungry and wiped out from the sun and water, to find perfectly cooked carnitas waiting for us.  I chopped up some cabbage for a slaw, warmed some tortillas, and dinner was served.

World’s Easiest Carnitas contains only five ingredients: pork shoulder, onion, salt, pepper, and oregano.  You do not even need to add water.  Just dice the pork, toss it in the spices, and place it in the slow cooker.  The heat renders the fat from the pork and allows the meat to cook in its own lard.  The top of the meat chunks that are exposed caramelize and brown beautifully.  If you prefer to add other seasonings you certainly can.  This method really highlights the taste of the pork, which I happen to like.  These carnitas are more of the shredded pork variety than the super crispy nibble variety.  If you prefer yours super crispy, brown them off in the oven just before serving.  Serve carnitas with tortillas and grilled tomatillo salsa.

World’s Easiest Carnitas

adapted from Bon Appetit

serves 4

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch cubes

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons oregano

1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered

the garnish

corn tortillas

minced onion

cilantro

Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

Toss the meat with the seasonings and place in the slow cooker.  Toss onion quarters on top.  Cover pot and cook on low for 6 hours.

Discard onion.  Remove meat with a slotted spoon and shred with your fingers.  Serve warm with warm tortillas, minced onion, cilantro, and Grilled Tomatillo Salsa.

Note:

If you prefer super crispy carnitas, remove meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and spread out on a baking sheet.  Roast in a 450 degree oven until crispy, about 10 minutes.

Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

inspired by Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday

makes 1 pint

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed

4 garlic cloves

1 jalapeno

1/4- 1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place whole tomatillos and jalapeno over a medium hot grill.  Grill, turning occasionally, until skin is blackened and beginning to split.  Remove from grill.  Place jalapeno in a plastic bag for 5 minutes or so to loosen the skin.  Peel and de-seed pepper.  Place tomatillos, garlic, jalapeno, salt, and 1/4 cup water in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add more water if it seems too thick.  Taste and adjust salt to taste.

Here is a printer- friendly version of the recipes:

World’s Easiest Carnitas with Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

You may also like:

Mexican Pozole Rojo

Chipotle Salsa

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Grilled Tomatillo Salsa on Punk Domestics
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