Category Archives: food + drink

carnitas street tacos with homemade tortillas

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A few weeks ago it was a Saturday morning and I was supposed to be heading out on my final long run before the marathon. The day before, I’d heard back from my doctor that my MRI showed an area of stress and swelling in my tibia and his strong recommendation was that I not run and rest for six weeks. (Although I later decided to run, at this point I’d resolved myself to not running and was basically a basket case of emotions). I’m a big believer in allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel, but I also know myself well enough that I’ll feel better if I’m doing something else I enjoy and not dwelling on whatever is upsetting me.

Enter: carnitas. We bought the Food52 Genius Recipes cookbook a few weeks ago, and the carnitas recipe has been at the top of my list of recipes to try out ever since. This recipe really couldn’t be simpler: a few simple ingredients (you’ll need just pork, salt, and water) + a few hours of your time, some unattended. From there, the options are endless – the meat can be used in tacos or burritos, put on top of nachos, rolled into enchiladas, on a sandwich, and the list goes on.

We decided to use our carnitas in small street tacos, and went the extra mile to make a few homemade corn tortillas. They require some patience, but they do get easier the more often you make them, and they are always worth it. (Of course, your favorite store-bought corn or flour tortillas would work just fine here, too). Besides the meat and tortillas, you won’t need much else: we topped ours with diced white onion, chopped cilantro, pico de gallo, and queso fresco, and they were perfect.

A genius recipe, indeed.

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Diana Kennedy’s Carnitas (from Food52)


-3 pounds pork shoulder
-2 teaspoons salt
-cold water, to cover


1. Cut the meat, with the fat, into strips about 2 x 3/4 inches. Barely cover the meat with water in a flameproof dish, add the salt, and bring it to a boil, uncovered.

2. Lower the flame enough to bring down to a simmer. Let the meat continue simmering until all the liquid has evaporated -- about 1 hour and a half, depending on the shape of your pot. By this time the meat should be cooked through but not falling apart.

3. Lower the flame a little more and continue cooking the meat until all the fat has rendered out of it. Keep turning the meat until it is lightly browned all over -- about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
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meals / week 18 & 19

It’s been a few weeks since a weekly meals post! The week of our half marathon, a couple of weeks ago now, we literally ate out or had some sort of dinnertime event every night that week, so this post is from the past two weeks since then. We were hoping that life would calm down a little bit after our race, but it’s still feeling pretty crazy around here. I think an important lesson that we’re learning is that not everything has to be a perfect meal to be dinner-worthy. Sometimes I feel defeated if we don’t have all the ingredients for a particular recipe, or when there’s a bunch of random things in the fridge that don’t seem to go together – it can be easier to resort to take-out on those nights, but when I stick it out and make something from what’s already there, it’s infinitely more rewarding.

Here are a few things we’ve put together over the last two weeks: 

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Otherwise pretty basic and boring, but with these tortillas, kind of amazing. These are the next best thing to homemade, are restaurant-quality good, and get that good crispiness that is hard to achieve with other store-bought soft tortillas. If you live near a Costco or Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, give these guys a try next time. Oh, and yes, that’s beef jerky on our burritos. Sometimes you gotta get creative.

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We’ve made a few different versions of this salad recently. I’m not good at eating salads as an entree unless they are filled with delicious things. Leftover baked sweet potato, a can of chickpeas, some sliced up beef jerky (again!), and yummy green goddess dressing definitely made this worth eating.

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Nothin’ special. Except that it’s asparagus season, which is obviously very special.

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I actually really like baked sweet potatoes, and they are easy to make in a big batch, so I’m not sure why we don’t make them more often. I rubbed these with some olive oil and coarse sea salt, baked for about an hour on 400, then added some shredded rotisserie chicken with BBQ sauce, plus scallions and shredded cheese. A pretty hands-off, hearty, healthy meal that we’ve been having for lunches a lot lately as well and has become a new fave.

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We needed something quick and easy for Friday dinner last week, so we stopped on our way home for bread and ricotta and whipped up these tartines, which I gather is just a fancy word for things on toast. They were really good, especially with the addition of lemon zest. They would be a great appetizer for bigger meal or for a dinner party, but worked out pretty well for us since I made several of them and since I knew we’d likely be eating something else later that evening.

this week: This week we’re determined to get a bunch of yard work done and our garden planted, which means we should be home most nights and making dinner. There are a bunch of random things in the freezer and cabinet that I’m hoping to make use of before we go on vacation in a few weeks, so there might be some, uh, creative, meals this week.

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sunday suppers | braised short rib ravioli with red wine reduction

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Ever since we got our stand mixer and the pasta roller attachment a couple of years ago, it’s been on my bucket list to try homemade ravioli. Last weekend marked our seven year dating anniversary and we miraculously had a free Sunday so in celebration we decided to give it a go. Since this was our first try at this, we probably could have (should have?) gone with something simple like a basic cheese-filled ravioli, BUT, last summer on a trip to Locanda in San Francisco, we had a life-changing meal of The Best Pasta Ever, which happened to be short rib ravioli in a deep, rich braising sauce. I routinely dream about this meal and it’s been on my mind to attempt recreating it ever since, so when we decided to do ravioli, I knew it had to be this.

I googled around for recipes a bit and found quite a few that looked good, but ultimately thought this one looked the most similar to what I was going for, and also had good, thorough directions. We more or less followed this recipe verbatim (rare for me!), except that we didn’t have a ravioli pan so we used a mason jar lid to cut out our pasta instead, which worked well once we got the hang of it (lots of flour). The short ribs braise on the stove uninterrupted for three hours, so there’s quite a bit of hands-off time, but I will say – things got a little stressful at the end, because you’ll have one skillet with boiling water for the pasta, another skillet with an obscene amount of melted butter (just let it happen) to coat the pasta in once its done cooking, and the reduced sauce staying warm on another burner. (Anytime there are more than two things going at once on my stove, it gets a little dicey). But it’s only chaotic for a short few minutes and then you get to pour yourself some wine (probably not Rose, like we did – I got distracted by the pretty bottle) and sit down to an amazing meal.

My worst fear with ravioli making has always been that they’ll fall apart, but I’m happy to report they stayed together very nicely (I recommend an egg or ice water wash for sealing unless you have a ravioli pan). Next time, I’d probably roll the dough even thinner, or cook them for an extra minute or two. But the butter sauce with mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) and the reduced braising sauce? Wouldn’t change a damn thing. If we’re talking deep, rich flavor, this sauce is probably the single most delicious thing we’ve ever made, and it totally “makes” the dish. Don’t skip it, and be patient while it reduces and thickens up.

If you’ve been thinking about making some ravioli yourself, I highly recommend this version.

for the meat, sauce, and overall recipe: Braised Short Rib Ravioli from Kev Cooks
for fresh pasta dough: Homemade Pasta from Spoon Fork Bacon

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meals / week 16

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About as boring and easy as it gets. Hy-Vee pizza (which I think I’ve mentioned before, but is impressively decent) plus some green stuff. Bonus: lunch leftovers the next day.

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I’ve had this recipe pinned on Pinterest for a long time, so when we decided on salmon for this night but didn’t have a plan beyond that, I remembered that I’d seen this and that it looked yummy. After making this, I definitely want to incorporate more one-pot pastas, etc. into the mix because this was really delicious but also so easy. Yes, a bit of prep work to get all the veggies chopped and ingredients ready to go, since you more or less add everything into the pot at once, but otherwise, not a lot of work at all and pretty much foolproof. Really flavorful and could easily be adapted to other flavor profiles, other proteins, etc. (Although I think it’s well-suited to fish due to the short cooking time).

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Yep, this happened, from a box. All I can say is, I saw this article on my way home that afternoon, and it disturbingly still made me want boxed mac & cheese immediately. (We buy the Annie’s white cheddar kind, so we can feel slightly better about ourselves). Five minutes after eating this, still starving and plotting dinner: round deux, I remembered that while delicious, this is not an appropriate, well-rounded adult meal. Lesson learned.

this week: We’ve got something going on practically every night this week – volleyball on Monday, Creighton baseball on Tuesday, a group run on Wednesday, and then we’re heading to Lincoln on Friday afternoon for the half marathon on Sunday. Dinners will be all over the map this week, so we’re focusing on hearty lunches (carb loading!) and lots of healthy snacks this week, and of course, tons and tons of water. Looking forward to having a little more time once this race is over to be better about meal planning and cooking again, so tell me – have you made anything tasty lately that we should try?!

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meals / week 15

Here’s what we cooked last week…

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I mentioned these potstickers last week, and am happy to report that they reheated really well straight from frozen. We have another batch in the freezer yet, and will be happy to have them around for another quick weeknight meal. To make this meal a little heartier, I sautéed up some rice noodles with broccoli and carrots and soy sauce. Quick and easy!

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We finally used up the last of the leftover brisket that we froze way back on Super Bowl weekend. It held it’s flavor really well and went great on these pizzas. After I had all the ingredients on – thinly-sliced brisket, cheese, red onions, greens – I thought that BBQ sauce would make a nice addition, and it did. On night two of these (not pictured), I actually spread BBQ sauce on the naan breads before adding any of the other ingredients, which worked even better. Both nights we had some simple steamed veggies as a side, also.

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You’re probably catching onto that if we cook at all on Thursday nights, it’s something super easy. We picked up brats, buns, and ready-made and seasoned fajita veggies at the store on our way home, and grilled, with some chips, guac, and beer on the side.

this week: We have a crazy couple weeks coming up, with the Lincoln Half Marathon as well as getting our house ready for our very first AirBnb guests (!), so the goal for these next few weeks is to just keep things as simple as possible. No elaborate meals or new recipes planned. Probably a lot of soups and sandwiches for work lunches, and using up what we’ve got in the freezer and cabinet for dinners. Nothing exciting, but that’s life right now!

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