SLOW COOKER CARNITAS LETTUCE WRAPS AND PALEO PLANET REVIEW


They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I cannot think of a better phrase to start this post. Several months ago – a few too many – I learned that the hostess of one of my favorite food blogs (A Calculated Whisk) was publishing her first cookbook. After I was done with my extended version of the happy dance, I pre-ordered the book, Kindle version. The book was downloaded to my computer in August last year, but within a couple of days I asked for a refund, and immediately switched to a paper copy of it. I guess that tells you how much I loved it…  I then contacted Becky and asked if it would be ok to publish one of the recipes and do a little review of her cookbook. She was adorable, sent me right away a list of recipes that the publisher agreed could be shared by food bloggers, and I made her Bacon and Spinach Souffle.  My intention was to blog about it on the first week of December, but the pictures turned out really bad, doing no justice whatsoever to the great taste of the dish. I was disappointed and decided to make it again later.  Just as I was getting ready to do it, Becky herself blogged on that very recipe, with drool-worthy images… So yes, I re-made the souffle’ because we enjoyed it so much the first time, but skipped blogging about it. Instead, I jumped right away on another goodie, Lamb Meatballs with Saffron Sauce… One word: WOW. Ok, another, OMG. That makes four words? Sorry. I need them all. But here’s three more for you: Slap To Forehead.  That particular recipe was not in the list approved for sharing by her publisher. Can you feel my pain? Undeterred, although a bit embarrassed by my comedy of boo-boos, I attacked yet another recipe: Slow Cooker Carnitas Lettuce Wraps with Pineapple Salsa.  Five words for you: Third Time’s the Charm. Let me blog about it quickly before someone else beats me to it…
 CarnitasWithSalsa
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SLOW COOKER CARNITAS LETTUCE WRAPS WITH PINEAPPLE SALSA

(slightly adapted from Paleo Planet)
reprinted with permission from Becky Winkler)
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for the carnitas:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 bone-in pork shoulder (about 2.5 pounds in weight)
1 onion, thickly sliced
Juice of 2 oranges (reserve the shells)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
for the salsa:
3/4 cup fresh pineapple chunks (I used diced mango)
1 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 avocados, diced
1 head of Boston lettuce for serving
Cashew cream or Mexican crema for garnish (optional)
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Make the carnitas: mix the olive oil, cumin, salt, black pepper, oregano and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub the mixture all over the pork. Place it in the crock pot and top with the onion and citrus juices. Add the orange shells to she slow cooker as well. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.  The meat should be fall-apart tender.
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When you are ready to serve the meat, turn the broiler on and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, preferably the heavy-duty kind. Remove the pork from the slow cooker, discarding orange halves and onion slices. Shred the meat using two forks into bite-size pieces. Place the meat on the baking sheet, spoon some of the liquid left in the crock pot over the meat, and broil until browned on top and crispy around the edges, about 5 minutes.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
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Make the salsa: combine all he ingredients in a small bowl except the avocado pieces and mix well to combine. Gently toss the avocado, taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice if so desired.
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To serve, spoon the meat over leaves of lettuce, top with the salsa, and drizzle with crema or cashew cream.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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carnitascomposite
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 Comments: This was superb. Absolutely superb. I am a pulled pork cheerleader, so I could be slightly biased, but still. It was one delicious meal. The salsa, so simple to prepare was a perfect topping for the meat. I was lucky to have blood oranges available when I made this recipe, they gave a gorgeous color to the cooking liquid. I highly recommend you make this dish when they are in season. As for the salsa, I used mango instead of pineapple simply because I tend to develop canker sores when I eat pineapple, which is pretty sad, since I love the fruit. Oh, well, there are worse problems to have in life.  I used this recipe for cashew cream, which I blogged not too long ago.
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holidays
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And now, it’s time to share my views on Becky’s first cookbook,
Paleo Planet: Primal Foods from the Global Kitchen…
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As expected from a cookbook published by a reputable food blogger, the photos are amazing, so if you are a very visual person when it comes to picking a recipe to try for the first time, this cookbook will be a huge hit with you. But not only the photos are great, the book was designed with a wonderful sense of aesthetics. Details like the edge of the pages in each chapter marked with a different color, so browsing through is easier… also, each color matches the font in the list of the ingredients. The book is a pleasure to hold, open, and read. I smiled my whole way through it. Another thing I love about it? Becky did not go through 126 pages to explain what is Paleo diet, why you would benefit from it, and listing every single ingredient and gadget you will need to make a Paleo meal, including 3 sizes of wooden spoons, that… come to think of it, cavemen lacked, I am sure. I joke. but some Paleo cookbooks take you for such a looong detour before giving you what you want (recipes!) that it becomes tiring, at least for me. Becky devotes austere 9 pages of text to cover not only her own experience with Paleo, but everything you’d need to know in case you are new to the subject. That is it. I loved it!
book

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Chapter One:
  Spice Blends, Pantry Staples and Sauces…
 In this chapter you will find gems like homemade date syrup (after paying for a bottle and getting addicted to it, I am sure it will be fun to make my own in the future), Cashew Cream (another one of my recent addictions), Slow-cooker caramelized onions, a few chutneys like onion, tamarind, and mint, and many other things to spice up your food.
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Chapter Two: Appetizers, Soups, Salads, and Snacks… How do you feel about Tahini Glazed Chicken Wings? Yes, they are there. Malaysian Beef Satay with Quick-picked cucumbers?  Also waiting for you… Some super enticing soups like Butternut Squash with Fried Garlic and Chile Oil (the photo made me swoon…), or Cauliflower and Mushroom Soup with Gomasio (a fun, simple item ready in seconds that would go well on many dishes). For some reason, I associate Gomasio with a handsome butler…  “Gomasio, please bring me a glass of carbonated water with a dash of Angostura bitters, will you?”  Nah, trust me, nothing to do with it.
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Chapter Three: Poultry... I pretty much wanted to make every single dish of the 21 included in this chapter, but what can I say? I love poultry. Roast Chicken with Za’tar and Yogurt Sauce maybe gets the number one spot with me, but some serious contenders would be Coconut Tamarind Curry, Drumsticks with Mole Poblano, and Chicken Tagine with Potatoes and Quick-Preserved Lemons. WOW!
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Chapter Four: Beef, Pork, and Lamb… Mat lovers, get ready to dig in! Another chapter I could cook from first to last. Includes my featured recipe (Slow Cooker Carnitas), and the one I could not blog about, Lamb Meatballs in Saffron Sauce, but also gems like Date Glazed Pork Tenderloin, and Honey Chipotle Short Ribs.
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Chapter Five: Seafood…. Great recipes in here too, starting with her Lemongrass Shrimp with Cucumber Vermicelli, for which you will need a spiral cutter to make your life easier. You know you need one, almost as badly as you need Becky’s book, so order them both at amazon.com and help keep our great economy moving. Once you get the spiralizer, you can make the second recipe of this chapter, Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles. See? It all falls in a nice place in the Paleo Planet.  I also want to make her Broiled Salmon with Ginger-Orange Sauce, although I would probably opt to grill the fish instead.
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Chapter Six: Vegetables... Cauliflower Rice is there, in case you are wondering. How could it not be? It is probably the staple of choice for Paleo diet lovers.  Her take on it is simple, straightforward and works great. But how about some Smoky Sweet Potato Latkes?  I want to make them soon, hoping that mine would look half as gorgeous as hers. Another great choice would be the Ginger-Lime Parsnip Puree, as I see parsnips as a great ingredient, often ignored. Love this chapter, it even includes a recipe for okra, which tempted me, but I resisted, I suspect my beloved husband is grateful for it.
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Chapter Seven: Breakfast and Brunch…
I thought it was interesting that she added that more to the end of the book instead of the beginning, unexpected pleasure to stumble upon the chapter. Surprisingly, one of my favorite recipes of this chapter is already in my blog!  Mini-Quiches with Mushroom Duxelles and Baby Broccoli, was my choice of recipe to make from her blog in The Secret Recipe Club back in January 2015. Check it out here. By the way, very few of the recipes from her book were previously on her site. No worries about ordering your copy. Spinach and Bacon Souffle, the first recipe I made but with disappointing photos is also from this chapter.I have a single photo that is not too bad to share, take a look at how creamy it was…
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freezer-2
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Chapter Eight: Desserts…
Becky managed to assemble a collection of 17 recipes that don’t make you go “I don’t know about this one…”  You know what I mean, Paleo recipes sometimes bring blueberry muffins made with stuff as tasty as sawdust and sprinkled with honeyed seaweed.  No, not the case. You will find options that are naturally Paleo friendly such as Vanilla-Cardamon Berries, Chocolate-Ginger Truffles, Mocha Panna Cotta, Mexican Brownies, Lemon Olive Oil Cake, and the last recipe closing the book is Coconut Whipped Cream, something lots of bloggers rave about, but I haven’t tried yet.
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So that is my take on a great cookbook that I’m glad to own in its real format, I’ll take the opportunity to save some trees later.  The book was clearly made with love and attention to every detail. Becky follows a Paleo nutrition but doesn’t act like a member of the Paleo Police, quite the contrary. I appreciate that very much, and highly recommend her cookbook, no matter the type of nutrition you enjoy or follow. Of course, vegetarians might find the options slightly limited, but if they don’t mind skipping three of the chapters, there’s plenty to cook from Paleo Planet.
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Becky, I am sorry it took me so long to get this post published, but as I said in the beginning, I had very good intentions…
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If you’d like to order Paleo Planet, follow this link.  I am not associated with amazon.com, and will not profit from your purchase. My reviews of cookbooks and products arise exclusively from my desire to do so.
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12 thoughts on “SLOW COOKER CARNITAS LETTUCE WRAPS AND PALEO PLANET REVIEW

  1. Interesting,my favorite slow cooker version has always been Rick Bayless’ slow cooker version which I have made about 6 times, it features fire roasted tomatoes and a few chile peppers, but the addition of citrus looks pretty interesting. My favorite Broccoli shuffle might have some competition in that department with the spinach and bacon recipe, must try.

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  2. You had me at PORK! I also recently bought a slow cooker and got rid of my old Rival Crockpot my Mom gave me when I left home for college — I graduated from high school in 1968 so you can see I had an old original. I mostly bought a new one to use for keeping food warm at pot luck things. I have had the sense that the newer crockpots cook much higher than the old originals and haven’t found many recipes that don’t taste like an over-boiled dinner. This one looks like it might change my mind about that. Will do it soon for sure. You keep rescuing me when my weekly meal plans are stale or I am suffering from menu block.

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    • THe crockpots these days are pretty amazing, mine switches to warm once the time is over – I think it is important to keep the timing right, most recipes tell you to dump everything inside and forget it for 10 hours – for most types of food it’s too much, unless it’s a brisket or pork shoulder…

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  3. Sally, thank you SO much for taking the time to do such a comprehensive review of my book! I really appreciate it. Now I just can’t wait for blood oranges to come back in season–I never thought to make this recipe with them, but it’s such a fabulous idea. Love the mango sub, too. I’m so happy you’re enjoying the book!

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    • thrilled that you enjoyed the post! And guess what? I made your bacon soufflee again last night, this time I used prosciutto instead of bacon. Did not care for the outcome, the texture was wrong, but Phil liked it. I prefer your original version, so don’t try this at home! 😉

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