Today we bring you Pam’s Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas, and a fun Q&A that will help you get to know her a little better. Pam is halfway through her “Year of Inconvenience,” a personal challenge she embarked on in an effort to live without any packaged or processed foods. Read about how Pam said goodbye to frozen pizza and cheese puffs and eats only meals made from scratch at her aptly titled blog here.
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Q: How did you decide to embark on your "year of inconvenience"?
A: It started quite innocently two summers ago when I was reading the book, "Julie and Julia." I wondered what it would be like to commit to something for a whole year, especially something that had to do with cooking. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook. My challenge was making the time for it with a busy professional life. So I made up some rules for myself, what I could eat and what I'd consider to be "convenience" food - and started on my food journey.
Q: Has it been harder or easier than you anticipated
A: It was really hard at first, to the point of frustration and tears on some days. I was spending the better part of my Sunday's cooking for the week, which was the frustrating part. The tears came when I worked late, still had to shop for ingredients, and knew unless it was a simple meal, we wouldn't be eating until 8:30 or 9:00 - which is late for me. It got easier, quite honestly, after I learned how to process tomatoes and stocked up for the winter... well hopefully I'm stocked up. The freezer is now my friend and I break up the cooking "chores" so that I'm cooking something like chicken breasts for sandwiches while I'm relaxing at home at night. Next day, pop them in the freezer in individual bags for lunches.
Q: What is the most rewarding and challenging aspect of your project?
A: The most rewarding has been writing the blog and getting encouragement from strangers and not just my friends. I had no idea people would actually read this stuff and cheer me on. The second most rewarding thing is to have people say they tried the recipes. It's rewarding for me to try someone else's recipe and then make it my own - so I'm happy to read that others are doing the same.The most challenging aspect would be... writing the blog. Seriously, it takes a bit of time and I feel like if I don't post weekly I'll lose momentum. So at times that feels like a chore, even though in the end it's rewarding.
Q: What convenience foods do you miss most, and do you think you'll go back to using any after your year is up?
A: I would be inclined to say CHIPS is what I miss the most. But in reality, it's canned beans. I'm eating less beans (and therefore fewer vegetarian meals) because it takes some planning to soak and cook the beans. I know with great certainty, that I will go back to buying canned beans when the year is up. I hope, on the other hand, to continue to make my own granola, granola bars, bread, pizza, and tomato products - those were the surprises in terms of the end results that aren't that difficult or time-consuming to make.
Q: What is your favorite thing to cook?
A: Hands down, I love baking bread. I love trying new recipes and figuring out the chemistry of baking - the look of the sponge or the feel of the dough. Actually, it's bread products - pretzels, pita bread, crackers, and crusty breads are some of my favorite things to bake.
Q: Any tips for readers who would like to try and make some new things from scratch but may be intimidated?
A: My tip would be - don't let food intimidate you. Understand the flavors you like the best and what makes up those flavors (herbs, spices, vinegar, wine etc.). Then you can start to play a bit with recipes and add your own flair. I don't cheat on bread, however. I follow each recipe exactly as it's written. I purchased a scale so I can weigh the flour and portion out things like dough for rolls. That really has helped build my confidence.
Pam's Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas
- 2 pounds pork shoulder, cubed into 1 ½ inch chunks
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- ½ sweet onion, cut into quarters
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¾ teaspoon salt
Place the cubes of pork into the slow cooker. If you purchased the shoulder with bone-in, use the bone as well. Sprinkle the minced garlic on top of the pork. Now mix all of your spices together and add to the pork, stirring it until all of the meat is coated with spices and garlic. Take the onion and layer it on top of the pork. Don’t worry about the fact there is no liquid in this recipe, the meat and onions will create a delicious broth after about 4-6 hours. The meat can be tested as “done” when if can be easily shredded.
Enjoy the pork served on fresh whole-wheat tortillas with diced tomato, diced avocado, tomatillo salsa, and a dab of sour cream.