Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trader Joe's pulled pork taco...to the rescue!

Wow, I can't believe August 13th was the last time I posted! I do have an excuse, and it's a good one. We moved across the country, and I have been in a whirlwind of unpacking boxes, buying furniture, returning furniture because I realize it's ugly when I get it home, navigating new and twisty city streets, learning to deal with mean city drivers, and just generally getting acclimated to life in Pennsylvania after six years in the desert.

One thing that was the most stressful about this move was getting back into a cooking groove. Not only did I have to throw away a ton of my staple ingredients and re-buy everything, but I also had to get used to a completely different kitchen set-up. I still have to open at least 2-3 drawers before I find what I'm looking for, but for the most part my kitchen is now stocked and organized, and I'm ready to get back into cooking with a vengeance!

I also hope to breathe some new life into this blog by posting more frequently (aiming for 2x a week), taking more pictures, and just generally giving it a face lift. I hesitate to put this in writing because then I'll be held accountable, but I guess I'll go ahead and do it anyway. :)

I'd like to kick off the new East Coast edition of Quinoa and Corn Chips with a recipe that was a lifesaver on a day I really needed one. It was a cold, gray, rainy day (there are lots of those here, I'm noticing), and I was trudging through Trader Joe's, craving a warm comforting dinner without a clue about what I wanted to make. Usually I have at least an inkling of something in mind...a certain meat I've thawed out, or a veggie I need to use before it goes bad. But on this particular day, my mind was completely blank.

Then I saw these cute little red sheets of paper tucked into a little bin along the wall in the meat section of the store:

I almost cried with relief: "Yes! This is it!" This is exactly what I want to make!" And to make it even better, it listed ingredients that were right there in that very store. No hunting down special cuts of meat or unique spices. Everything I needed was right there in that Trader Joe's, and to make it better YET, it was a crockpot dish. And not a complicated crockpot dish that requires lots of chopping and marinating and browning, it was a "dump everything in and turn it on" type of crockpot dish. The dinner fairy was definitely looking out for me that day. I don't know if these little recipe slips are at all Trader Joe's, or if it was just a nice gesture by an employee at this particular store, but either way I am grateful and wanted to share the wealth. Here is what the paper says, BTW:

Mexican Pulled Pork from Trader Joe's in King of Prussia, PA

1 package of taco seasoning
2 1/2 lb pork loin
1 can of organic diced and no salt added tomatoes*
3 garlic cloves
1/2 onion diced
1 bunch cilantro
1 tbs apple cider vinegar

Pour the can of tomatoes into your crock pot. Add the pork loin, next toss in the rest of the ingredients. Slow cook on high for 3 hours, then cook on low for the next 4-5 hours. Remove the pork loin and shred. Add the pork loin back to your crockpot so the meat can absorb the juices. Serve in a tortilla with your favorite toppings, or simply serve with Cuban Style Black Beans and Rice. Enjoy!

*Obviously they are promoting their own canned tomatoes, but any diced tomatoes will do. 

I took home my ingredients, dumped them in the crockpot, and had delicious pork tacos that night.

As always, I have a few personal notes about the recipe. 

1) The total cooking time is about 8 hours (not counting the shredding), so make sure you plan accordingly. If you don't start them until 3 pm, you'll be in trouble!

2) I chose to use hard shells instead of tortillas. Whatever you choose, just don't forget to buy the taco shell because it's not on the ingredient list. That's something I'd typically do, so I wanted to point it out.

3) The flavors in this recipe were fantastic, but one key ingredient was left out: salt. Make sure you season it thoroughly with salt before serving. And if you'd like to spice it up, you could also add diced chiles, jalapenos, or chipotle peppers...totally up to you.

4) The other thing that was left out was the fat removal. I have a huge issue with fatty meat, so I made sure to scrape off and discard all the visible fat after the meat was cooked, and only put the lean shredded pork back into the pot. 

5) And of course you'll probably want some accompaniments to the tacos, so in addition to the ingredients listed, I recommend having any or all the following on hand:

Chopped tomatoes and/or salsa
Chopped red onion
Chopped cilantro
Shredded cheese
Shredded lettuce
Sliced avocado
Hot sauce
Sliced jalapenos

I forgot to take a photo of the finished tacos because I was too busy shoveling them in my face. So just close your eyes and envision some delicious, tender, shredded pork in a crispy shell, topped with all of the things I listed above. Yum! And since there was so much left over, I put it in a freezer bag to have on some other cold, gray, rainy day (which I'm sure will be tomorrow) And this time the prep will be even easier. Thanks Trader Joe's! :)

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