I’m nearly a week into the Epicurious #cook90 challenge and good news, I haven’t given up — yet. If you missed my post on #cook90 you can read the details here. During week one, it has become clear that meal prep is the key to success. Prepping things ahead of time means it’s easy to turn down temptations. In the first week alone, I was invited to attended two lunches and because I had a fridge full of lunches ready I didn’t feel tempted to use any of my cheat meals. Full disclosure at one of the lunches, I did eat dessert (after I ate lunch at my desk) so that I wouldn’t feel completely left out.
Carnitas three ways
One of reasons I’m doing #cook90 is to try cooking new things, the first thing on my list was carnitas. I followed this simple and easy recipe from Gimme Some Oven that you can make in your slow cooker. I love a good recipe that you can set and forget. The trick to this recipe is crisping the carnitas in the oven after they finish cooking in the slow cooker. From that one recipe I was able to make three different meals: enchiladas, a polenta bowl and nachos. Note: I halved the recipe — there’s no way I could eat four or five pounds of pork.
The enchilada recipe also came from Gimme Some Oven, and even included a homemade enchilada sauce. Making the sauce was so much easier that I thought it would be and so so good — goodbye store bought enchilada sauce!
Next up the polenta bowl, which was sort of inspired by the carnitas sopes at Saison Market here in Richmond. I layered polenta (I used the store bought tube, because hey, I already made enchilada sauce and carnitas this week), cuban style beans and fire roasted corn from Trader Joe’s, carnitas and cheese and topped it with a fried egg.
Last but not least, I used some of the remaining carnitas to make nachos. Finding different ways to use the carnitas I made early in the week kept things interesting and meant I didn’t get bored of eating the same protein over and over again. When you’re only cooking for one, this is often a challenge I run into since many recipes are written to serve two, four or six people.
Mosaic Kale-Farro Shrimp Salad Copy Cat
I am not a big salad person, although I do end up eating them for lunch at least a couple of times a week (usually begrudgingly). And I rarely eat a salad for lunch when I’m at a restaurant, but the kale-farro shrimp salad from Mosaic is my exception. Why you might ask? Well, this salad is full of goodies —roasted sweet potatoes, dried blueberries, grilled shrimp, toasted almonds — served over a bed of kale, and dressed with a balsamic smoked honey vinaigrette.
I don’t have a grill and it’s early March so I didn’t grill the shrimp, but I did marinade it in this flavorful and simple roasted garlic herb sauce. Seriously, so easy (as long as you have a blender or food processor) and it adds so much garlicky goodness and bright lemon flavor. In addition to the garlic sauce I also tried my hand at making this honey balsamic vinaigrette from Martha Stewart, and made it a little creamier with the addition of a dollop of greek yogurt. After realizing how easy it is to make dressings from scratch at home, I’m not sure I’ll ever need to buy it from the store again.
Keeping lunch and breakfast simple
As I eased into more thoughtful and unfamiliar cooking last week, I also made sure to stick to a few staples so that I didn’t get overwhelmed. For breakfast that meant making a few yogurt bowls — plain greek yogurt topped with shredded unsweetened coconut, sliced banana, blueberries, Kashi organic cinnamon harvest cereal, flaxseed meal, a scoop of peanut butter and a drizzle of raw honey.
And for lunch, my go to recently has been a plate packed with avocado toast, chicken sausage and half a roasted sweet potato. I did get a little fancy with my avocado toast this week.
Idle Hands’ Eps bread replaced my typical sprouted bread from Trader Joe’s and instead of just using avocado and spices I layered flavors starting with chive and onion cream cheese, some of the garlic herb sauce I mentioned earlier and smashed avocado.
Now I’m on to the next week, if you want to share your favorite recipe with me you can still do that here, I’m sure that on week three I’ll start running out of ideas!
P.S. Any other food bloggers out there excited for the time change on Sunday? I cannot wait to have natural light in my dark apartment so that I can actually take some decent photos of my dinners. Hence why the carnitas photos are so dark and the lunch/breakfast photos in this post are so much lighter and brighter!