Taco Tuesdays in a Flash: Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

In my life, Taco Tuesdays started when I was in university at this bar called Ethel’s Lounge.

They would serve four tacos for $2 and it. was. pandemonium. Seriously, getting in there on a Tuesday was about as likely as me actually reading every single thing on my class syllabi.

The tacos were akin to those made from a taco kit you get in a grocery store so, flavour-wise, they weren’t anything special but COME ON! FOUR tacos for only $2?! As a broke university student, it was the only place I could confidently ask for another round without checking my wallet first.

While those basic shredded lettuce/grated cheese/chopped tomato/ground beef (or veggie ground round for me) numbers on a crunchy shell still hold a special place in my heart, these pork carnitas are the new go-to filling in my house.

They are perfect for a games night, so good on nachos, and just what your Taco Tuesday needs!

Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

Serves 6  

2.25kg pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into roughly 2-inch cubes
2–3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dry oregano
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1–2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
2 oranges, halved
1 lime, halved
1 cup water
Corn tortillas and taco toppings such as avocado, feta cheese, red onion, sour cream, and cilantro, for serving

Set out the pork shoulder and trim off the large fat-cap that sits along the top. Cut the shoulder into roughly 2-inch cubes (feel free to trim around the bone to about 1-inch of meat on each side; I find the bone adds flavour to the end product) and set aside in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the kosher salt, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, dry oregano, and brown sugar until well combined. Sprinkle this mixture over the pork, making sure that the meat is evenly coated with the spices. Place the seasoned pork into the bottom of your electric pressure cooker followed by the chipotle pepper(s), garlic cloves, and red onion. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and lime onto the pork followed by the water, then place the juiced halves pulp-side up into the pressure cooker.

Set the electric pressure cooker to “pressure cook” at the highest pressure setting and set the timer for 40 minutes then close and lock the pressure cooker. The pressure cooker should start preheating and pressurizing once you lock it – this should take around 10 to 20 minutes depending on how cold your ingredients were going into the pot.

When the cooking time is up, allow the pressure cooker to naturally release for 15 minutes. To naturally depressurize, just don’t touch the pot. It will slowly release some of that built up pressure and finish off any cooking that needs to be done. After 15 minutes, do a quick release of the pressure by turning the vent or pressing the “quick release” button. Wait until all pressure is released before removing the lid (this takes about 1 to 2 minutes on my pressure cooker).

Discard the citrus and remove the pork pieces and cooked down onions to a dish to cool slightly then shred with two forks, ladle over some of the cooking liquid, and serve with corn tortillas and all of your favourite taco toppings!


*If you’d like the carnitas to be a little crispy, place the shredded pork onto a rimmed baking sheet and place under a high broiler for 3 to 5 minutes or until browned and slightly crisp. Serve with a little more of the cooking liquid as above.

Pretty in Pink: Roasted Rhubarb Tiramisu makes Sprinter somewhat bearable

Roasted Rhubarb Tiramisu

Roasted Rhubarb Tiramisu

Sprinter: that horrible time between Winter and Spring where the weather is completely blah and there seems to be both mud and ice freaking everywhere.

While there are approximately 18 zillion things to loath about this time of year, the one saving grace is the wonderful crossover of the tail end of citrus season with the first signs of my favourite tart stalk, rhubarb.

The sweetness of an orange and the tangy sourness of rhubarb play so well together in this oh-so untraditional take on tiramisu. It's the perfect "I'm totally over Winter, bring on Spring" dessert.

Roasted Rhubarb Tiramisu with Orange, Ginger, and Pistachio

Serves 8

For the rhubarb:
½ cup sugar
1 orange, zested and juiced
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
6 cups rhubarb, sliced on a diagonal into 1-inch pieces
One 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

For the tiramisu cream filling:
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 cups mascarpone cheese
¾ cup chilled whipping cream

For assembly:
¼ cup boiling water
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
½ cup orange juice
½ cup liquid from roasted rhubarb
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
20–24 store bought ladyfingers
1 cup chopped pistachios

To prepare the rhubarb, stir together the sugar, orange zest, and the pulp from the vanilla bean in a medium mixing bowl.  Add in the rhubarb, sliced ginger, scraped vanilla bean pod, and the juice of the orange into the bowl and stir well to combine.  Allow this to sit at room temperature for 25–30 minutes to allow the rhubarb to release some of its juices.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.  Roast the rhubarb, tossing once about halfway through, for 20–25 minutes or until tender and juicy.  Allow the rhubarb to cool to room temperature.

For the tiramisu cream filling, in a large glass or metal bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, powdered ginger, marsala, and orange liqueur together.  Place over a pot of simmering water and whip using a wire whisk or handheld electric mixer until the mixture has tripled in volume (this should take around 4-8 minutes).  Remove the bowl from the heat and beat in the vanilla and mascarpone.  Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature then fold the whipping cream into the mascarpone mixture.

For assembly, stir together the boiling water and powdered ginger in a shallow dish.  Add in the orange juice and orange liqueur.  Set out 8 individual serving dishes and quickly dunk the ladyfingers in the orange ginger mixture until they are lightly soaked.  Break a ladyfinger or two into each serving dish, top with a generous helping of the mascarpone mixture, a spoonful of the rhubarb, and a scattering of pistachios, and then repeat the layers.

Serve immediately or place in the fridge to firm up before serving.

The Sauce Fiend Chronicles: Spaghetti al Limone

Spaghetti al Limone

Spaghetti al Limone

The first time I made Spaghetti al Limone was during my undergrad.  I was living with four other girls and, being me, went into cooking and cleaning fits whenever the stresses of academia were mounting. 

I like to think of it as productive procrastination…

My roommates, each of whom were much more involved in sports and such than I have ever been, would often come home to three dozen cookies, a cake or two, litres of tomato sauce cooling on the counter, and a chicken roasting away in the oven.  Their first instinct was always glee at not having to slog through the kitchen after a big practice whipping up their own meal.  Their second was to make sure I was ok…  I mean, not everyone deals with seemingly insurmountable deadlines by doing chores…

During one such time, I was going through a bit of a lemon phase.  The dreary long nights at the end of the Fall semester had me craving sunshine so lemons were everywhere.  Seriously.  I put those bad boys in chicken, tall pitchers of lemonade, squeezed and zested into teatime treats, and literally anything else I could think of that needed a little kick of summer.

That is what led me to discover the wonder that is Spaghetti al Limone. 

It’s so easy and delicious and, in my mind, you can never make it lemony enough!  Now, upon taste testing my first go at this classic Italian dish, one of my roommates did scrunch up her face and promptly put her fork down.

“It tastes like Skittles…”

Well, you can’t win them all.  And yes, I might have added a *tinge* too much lemon for some palates but, come on!  Lemon!  It’s the best!

Since then, I’ve toned down the lemony kick and balanced it with the perfect amount of smoky extra virgin olive oil, nutty Parmesan cheese, fresh leafy parsley, and salty little capers.  It has become a staple in my “oh-man-we-have-nothing-to-eat-what-should-I-make-for-dinner” repertoire and I hope it will become that for you too!

Spaghetti al Limone

Serves 2 (with some leftovers, if you’re not too hungry at dinner)

250g dry spaghetti
1 tablespoon lemon zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 2 lemons
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon dry chilli flakes
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente.

Meanwhile, whip up the sauce by combining the lemon zest, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, chilli flakes, capers, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.

When the spaghetti is cooked to al dente, scoop out and reserve about a half-cup of the cooking liquid and drain well.  Pour the pasta back into the pot and stir the sauce through, making sure that each noodle is well coated.  If needed, add a splash or two of the reserved cooking liquid to loosen the sauce up a bit.

Now, crown with a sprinkling of some fresh pepper and freshly grated Parmesan and dig into summer!

Carrot Cake aka The only cake I want for my birthday

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

Confession: I am not all that big on cake.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baking and decorating all sorts of cake-ish confections and the celebration and excitement that goes hand-in-hand with bringing a cake to the table is unlike anything else.  That childlike joy that lights up the faces of true cake lovers like my sister-in-law Jenna is probably one of the best things to see on an adult human’s face but digging into a big slice of double chocolate, super fudgy, oh-so sweet cake is not something I crave.  I am and forever will be a savoury over sweet lady. 

Now, please excuse me while I immediately contradict what I’ve said above by introducing you to my good friend Carrot Cake.   I love carrot cake for its sneaky ability to feel just a wee bit savoury while still satisfying the cake-lovers in the crowd.  This carrot cake is so wonderfully moist and can easily be baked up into two lovely loaves (bake for 45-50 minutes) or 24 muffins (bake for 20-25 minutes).

If you are a fan of raisins in your baked goods, feel free to toss a handful into the mix.  I am of the opinion that grapes are grapes, raisins are raisins, and raisins should never try to become grapes again like they tend to do when reconstituted in baked goods.

Carrot Cake

Makes 2 – 9” round cakes

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup vegetable oil
2 oranges, zested
2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
¼ - ½ tsp grated nutmeg, to taste
¼ - ½ tsp ground clove, to taste
3 cups coarsely grated carrot, about 5-6 medium carrots
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
½ cup finely chopped fresh pineapple
Cream cheese frosting, recipe follows
Optional garnishes: candied pecans or walnuts, candied orange slices

Preheat your oven to 350F and prepare two 9” round pans by lightly greasing and lining the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugars with a whisk until slightly light and fluffy.  While whisking, slowly pour in the oil and continue to whisk until fully incorporated.  Stir in the vanilla and orange zest and set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Add this dry mixture to the wet and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold the mixture together until just combined.  Add the carrots, nuts, and pineapple and stir just until everything comes together.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 20 minutes then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Once cool, frost your lovely little cakes with some cream cheese frosting and garnish to your heart's content! 


Cream Cheese Frosting

2 – 8oz packages brick cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 - 6 cups powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon

Using either a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Begin adding the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time mixing on low in between each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Keep adding icing sugar until your cream cheese frosting is a spreadable consistency and finish by beating in the salt, vanilla, and cinnamon.