Monthly Archives: July 2013

Latin Pork & Tomatillo Stew

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Latin Pork & Tomatillo Stew

One of our very good friends just turned 30 so we attended a shin-dig hosted by his girlfriend over the weekend. The theme was “Fiesta” so I decided to bring Elderflower Sangria and a big pot of Latin Pork & Tomatillo Stew with homemade corn tortillas. Bringing a hearty stew to a party in the middle of July may seem strange, but I was happy to have something filling to soak up the booze.

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At less than 350 calories per serving, this stew is the perfect choice for a filling meal without the guilt. I’d highly recommend taking the 30 minutes to make the homemade tortillas, as they just bring something special to the table compared to the store-bought variety.

The pork takes a little while to roast in the oven, but it is totally worth it to achieve that fork-tender fall-apart texture. Next to the heat from the Serranos and the bright flavor of the tomatillos, the pork tastes wonderfully savory.

Start by roasting some poblano chilies under your broiler, then set them in a bowl to steam under a cloth for fifteen minutes.

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Next, get your pork, cilantro, garlic, salt, cumin, Serranos, green pepper, and onions into a Dutch Oven and into the oven to roast for one hour.

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Meanwhile, take two pounds of tomatillos…

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…husk them…

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…and chop them into quarters.

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Grab those poblanos out from under the dish cloth and peel them under running water. Remove the seeds, and chop.

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Add the tomatillos and poblanos to the pot and return it to the oven for another hour and a half. This would be a great time to work on some homemade tortillas!

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Add in the corn, stir, and taste. Add salt and black pepper as needed.

Garnish with cilantro and cotija cheese. Serve with warm corn tortillas for dipping!

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Makes: 8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 poblano chilies
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped, divided
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 serrano chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 lbs. tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and each cut into quarters
  • 1 can (16 oz). corn, drained

Directions:

  1. Preheat your broiler to High and line a broiling pan with foil. Place the poblanos on the pan and broil close to the source of the heat, turning occasionally, until charred all over, about 10 minutes. Wrap foil around poblanos and allow to steam until cook enough to handle.
  2. Turn oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a heavy 5-quart Dutch oven, combine garlic, salt, half of the chopped cilantro leaves, pork, green pepper, onions, serranos, cumin, and cayenne. Toss to combine. Cover and bake for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, remove and discard skin and seeds from the poblanos. Cut chilies into 1-inch pieces.
  4. Stir  tomatillos and roasted poblanos into the Dutch oven. Cover and bake 1 1/2- 2 hours longer, or until the meat is very tender. Stir in corn and heat through. Sprinkle with reserved cilantro and cotija cheese.  Serve with tortillas.

Nutrition (per serving):

349 calories, 22 g. fat, 22 g. protein, 17 g. carbs, 4 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 9

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Cherry Garcia Bars

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Cherry Garcia Bars

I only recently discovered Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, which must make me the last person on the planet to do so as it is their number one selling flavor. A few weeks ago on a particularly hot summer day the husband and I roamed over to the nearest 7-11 to pick up some ice cream treats and I paid a whopping $3 for a Cherry Garcia ice cream bar. While stupidly over-priced, it was also stupidly delicious.

When a big box of bing cherries found their way to my doorstep (Thanks, Harry & David!) I decided that they needed to be sacrificed to the Cherry Garcia gods. I took what was left over after making the Elderflower Sangria and spent the next hour painstakingly halving and pitting every last cherry. Throughout this process I had a brilliant idea to invent a gadget which would pit cherries for me, only to find that I’m also the last person on the planet to hear about the wonderful invention that is a cherry-pitter. Hold on while I add that little baby to my Amazon wish list…

Okay, I’m back.

After my fingers were stained blood red and I’d successfully developed a case of carpal tunnel, the cherries were prepped and ready to go.

I made a shortbread crust and a brown butter filling to contain all of the ooey-gooey cherry-chocolate madness.

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The brown butter flavor really adds a layer of complexity to these bars and plays up the flavor of the fresh cherries.

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Waiting for these babies to cool was by far the most difficult part of the process.

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Ohhhh yeahhhh (make sure you read that with the Kool-Aid man’s voice).

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The delicate buttery flavor of the shortbread works so well with the complexity of the brown butter. I’m considering making a cranberry and cream cheese version with a graham cracker crust when the holidays come back around.

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Be still my heart!

Here’s the recipe:

Makes: 1 serving  (just kidding…. or am I?)

(Makes one 9×13 pan)

Ingredients:

[For the shortbread crust]

  • 3/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • Caviar from half of a vanilla bean
  • 2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

[For the filling]

  • 1 c. unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c. white sugar
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c.  flour
  • 1 tsp. bourbon (or try almond extract)
  • Caviar from half of a vanilla bean
  • 4 c. cherries, halved and pitted
  • 3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate pieces, roughly chopped (all I had were chocolate chips, but it would have been much prettier with hunks of baking chocolate!)
  • 1 Tbsp. all purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper, letting the paper come up the sides.
  2. Take the 3/4 c. melted butter and mix with 2/3 c. white sugar and the vanilla bean caviar in a medium bowl. Add the flour and salt and mix with a spatula until combined. Dump the dough into the prepared baking pan and press into shape using your fingers.
  3. Bake the shortbread crust for 17-19 minutes, or until golden and puffed. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Keep the oven on.
  4. Meanwhile, toss the cherries with a heaping spoonful of all-purpose flour.
  5. Dice the remaining cup of butter and place in a small heavy-bottomed pot. Heat over medium for 6 minutes, stirring constantly. The butter will foam, turn clear, and then turn a golden brown color. Remove from heat and pour into a glass liquid measuring cup. (Don’t be like me and pour it into a drinking glass without a handle and then burn yourself trying to pick it up.)
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a regular bowl and hand mixer), use the whisk attachment to combine the sugar, eggs, and salt. Add half of the flour, then the bourbon, the rest of the flour, and the vanilla bean caviar.
  7. Once smooth, slowly pour in the browned butter with the mixer running to incorporate into the mixture.
  8. Arrange your cherries and chocolate on top of the cooled shortbread crust. Pour the filling mixture evenly over the top. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 28-32 minutes, or until the top has turned golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Cool for fifteen minutes in the pan, then use the parchment paper to remove the bars from the pan and place on a rack to cool completely.
  10. Once completely cool, use a serrated knife (bread knife works great) to cut into bars. Store bars in the fridge if you don’t consume them all within 24 hours.

15-Minute Vietnamese Pepper-Pork

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15-Minute Vietnamese Pepper-Pork

Another 15-minute recipe! I think it’s fairly obvious that I’m having a pretty lazy week. It’s just too hot around here to justify spending more than fifteen minutes in the kitchen, so forgive me if just want to inhale my food, sit down, and direct the AC unit right at the couch.

Did you forgive me yet? Okay, great. On to the food.

A while back I bought a bunch of tri-color peppercorns from the bulk section on a total whim. They have been sitting in a pretty little jar on my counter for ages, entirely neglected. I finally cooked the perfect dish to justify the “work” of grinding my own peppercorns – Vietnamese Peppercorn Pork.

 

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I don’t know why I put off grinding peppercorns for so long because it was an absolute cinch. I just toasted them for a bit in a hot pan with some lime-infused grapeseed oil (you could use any oil you like!), then abused the heck out of them in the mortar and pestle that I bought on the streets of Bangkok’s Chinatown (finally! a reason to use it!). Let’s just take a minute to talk about how surprised I was to find a Chinatown in Bangkok. I’m not sure why I never realized that cities outside of the U.S. could also have Chinatowns, but it seemed totally weird to me at the time.

Back to the pork!

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I’m still trying to figure out the whole “lighting” thing, so I took these pictures outside on our back pork porch (that was an actual typo that was just too awesome to delete). Right, so just picture this… I have this dish sitting in a silver tray that I really only use around Christmastime (another sweet gift from the MIL), which is sitting on a bar stool on our back patio. The husband is holding up a few sheets of paper towels to try to diffuse some of the direct evening sunlight, and I’m practically sitting on the hood of my car to try to take a picture. I really need about six more arms.

Now, back to the porch pork (just kidding this time). This dish comes together in under 15 minutes! Be smart and start your rice ahead of time. I sauteed some fresh spinach in some lime oil and honey-ginger vinegar to go along with it and it was the PERFECT addition to the pork. Feel free to use up whatever leafy greens or vegetables you have taking up space in your fridge.

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The pork has a wonderfully light sweetness to it, while the fish sauce makes it incredibly savory. Toasting the peppercorns in oil before grinding them mellows them out so you’re not sneezing all over the place. Give it a try!

Here’s the recipe:

Makes: 4 Servings (2 servings shown in pictures)

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless pork chops, cut into half-inch chunks
  • 6 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. water
  • 4 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. whole peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. oil (I used Lime-Riesling Grape seed Oil, but you could use just about anything!)

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized heavy-bottom sauce pan, combine the pork chunks, fish sauce, water, and the white and brown sugars.
  2. Heat the pot over medium-high until the mixture reaches a boil.
  3. Reduce to a lively simmer and let cook for 7-9 minutes, or until pork is cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the 1 tsp. of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the peppercorns and sautee for 1-2 minutes until toasted. Be careful not to let them burn!
  5. Remove the peppercorns from the pan and grind with a mortar and pestle (or in a herb mill, or with a ziplock and a hammer, or however you prefer to let out aggression).
  6. Once the pork is cooked through, remove it from the pan and reserve any drippings left in the pot.
  7. Top the pork with the fresh ground pepper corns. Serve with rice and a leafy green. Garnish with fresh lime wedges, and use the leftover drippings as a sauce for the rice.

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Nutrition (per serving):

329 calories, 7 g. fat, 43 g. protein, 20 g. carbs, 0 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 8

What stray ingredients do you have around your house that you need to use up? 

15-Minute Almond Chicken with Noodles

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15-Minute Almond Chicken with Noodles

I very rarely cook Chinese food because I usually can’t help but throw some fish sauce or lime juice into anything I make in a wok. Thus, most everything veers into the Thai-food realm rather than remaining strictly Chinese. I stuck to my guns on this dish and was really glad I did.

I had the idea in my head to make Almond Chicken and then just happened to find a big bag of snap peas at my office that same morning. One of my employees lives on a farm with her husband so she brings in fresh produce when they have too much to eat themselves or sell in town. Lucky for me, these little beauties went perfectly with the smooth tang of the sauce and the crunch of the slivered almonds.

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Did I mention that this whole bowl of chicken, veggies, and noodles is under 500 calories? Uh, because it is.

I originally had thought about serving this with rice, but since we eat so much Asian food in our household I’m kind of sick of it lately. Instead, I cooked up some whole wheat angel hair pasta until it was al dente, then fried it in some sesame oil and soy sauce to give it a little texture. It turned out somewhat similar to lo-mein. They worked perfectly to soak up the sauce and bulk up the dish – I don’t think it would have been the same with plain old rice!

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Here’s the recipe:

Makes: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. soy sauce, divided
  • 1/4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet rice wine (Mirin), or substitute sherry
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sesame oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 c. sugar snap peas, rinsed
  • 1/4 c. dry-roasted salted almonds
  • 1/4 c. chopped scallion for garnish
  • 6 oz. whole wheat angel hair pasta (or any long noodles – just follow package directions for al-dente)

Directions:

  1. Place the chicken in a medium bowl with 2 Tbsp. soy sauce and the minced ginger, then toss to coat evenly.
  2. In a large pot, boil 6 cups of water with some salt. Add pasta and cook for 3 minutes, or until al dente. Do not overcook the pasta, as it will continue to cook when you stir fry it.
  3. In a small bowl make the sauce: combine the chicken broth, sweet rice wine, cornstarch, 1 tsp. sesame oil, and sugar, and stir well. Set aside.
  4. When the pasta has finished cooking, drain the noodles and return the pan to low heat. Add 1 Tbsp. sesame oil and 2 tsp. soy sauce to the pan.
  5. In a wok or large, deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Add the ginger and chicken mix and spread it out into a single layer. Let it cook for 1 minute then stir.
  6. Add the onion and sugar snap peas and cook, stirring now and then, for 3-5 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.
  7. Meanwhile, return your al dente noodles to the pot containing the warm oil and soy sauce. Turn the heat up to medium-high and let the noodles fry, tossing them with tongs occasionally to prevent burning.
  8. Add the pre-mixed sauce to the work and toss well to mix everything together. Once the sauce has thickened, add the almonds and toss to coat. Serve over the pan-fried noodles and garnish with chopped scallions.

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Nutrition (per serving):

488 calories, 20 g. fat, 30 g. protein, 43 g. carbs, 5 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 12

Green Curry Mung Beans with Spinach

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Green Curry Mung Beans with Spinach

If you’re anything like me, you probably read the title of this post and are likely quickly losing interest in this recipe because you have no idea what mung beans are. But wait! Fear not, my child. I promise you that you can find mung beans in most any grocery store and they are very cheap and easy to cook. Most importantly, they do not need to be pre-soaked! I buy them in bulk at the grocery store, keep them in a mason jar in my pantry, and pull them out when I need to throw together a quick meal with no fuss.

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These little beauties are found mainly in Asian cuisines, particularly in Thai, Indian, and Filipino dishes. They are packed with all sorts of good-for-you nutrients, protein, and fiber. You can use them as you would green split peas or lentils (my favorite!). They have a slightly sweet flavor which works perfectly with the delicate coconut milk in this recipe.

As with most recipes calling for curry paste, feel free to swap out the green curry paste in this recipe with whatever you happen to have. Alternatively you can use regular curry powder if your pantry is looking a little bare; start with a few teaspoons, taste, and add more if needed. I typically purchase Thai Kitchen curry pastes which aren’t terrible expensive and are easy to find on the ethnic food aisle.

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I used two tablespoons to this dish as green curry paste is pretty mild. If you are using red, massaman, or panang, you may want to start with a little less and work your way up. Remember, it is always easier to add more than to try to take it out!

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I’ve also taken to purchasing coconut milk in these adorable little two-thirds-cup cans rather than the usual 15 oz. size. It’s the perfect amount for a dish like this and then I’m not trying to find a way to use up the leftovers from a full size can (like the time I attempted to make pina coladas – total fail!).

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This recipe is really a cinch to make. Simply saute an onion in oil until semi-translucent and slightly brown…

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Add in some ginger and garlic…

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Add your mung beans and let them toast…

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Then add three cups of water, bring it to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes.

IMG_0040This is my adorable little 3-quart enameled cast iron dutch oven. Isn’t she beautiful?

After twenty minutes, stir in some chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, curry paste, and seasonings, then re-cover and let cook for another few minutes until your mung beans are tender.

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Here are the beans when they are not-quite done…

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…and here they are when they are split and tender…

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They lose a bit of their vibrant green color by the time they are tender and look a little more like cooked green split peas.

Once the beans are tender, stir in some fresh spinach leaves…

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and let them wilt. Once they are dark green and wilted, taste the dish and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.

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Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro!

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I like to mold my rice into little bowls them turn them out onto the plate to impress the husband.

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I think it makes him feel special.

Be sure to take some out-of-focus pictures with your new lens….

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And, as always, spend so much time trying to figure out how to work your camera that the food gets cold before you can eat it.

Voila! Stay hungry, my friends.

Makes: 6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. mung beans, sorted (remove any debris)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 3 c. water
  • 2/3 c. coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp. green curry paste
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. oil (I used grapseed)
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • Dash ground coriander
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart dutch oven or large covered pot over medium-high heat.
  2. When hot, add the chopped onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until semi-translucent (about three minutes).
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, stirring frequently so as to not burn the garlic.
  4. Add the mung beans and cook, stirring frequently, for 60 seconds until slightly toasted.
  5. Add the three cups water, stir, and bring to a boil. Let boil for 2-3 minutes then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add in the chopped tomato, curry paste, coconut milk, and seasonings, then stir, re-cover, and cook until mung beans are tender and splitting out of their shells (another 5 minutes or so).
  6. Add the spinach leaves and stir until wilted.
  7. Taste the dish and add salt and pepper as desired (I added quite a bit of both).
  8. Serve with rice and garnish with cilantro.

Nutrition (per serving):

216 calories, 9 g. fat, 10 g. protein, 26 g. carbs, 7 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 6

What’s your favorite way to cook up beans or lentils? 

Latin Pork Kebab Bowl

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Latin Pork Kebab Bowl

I have a serious obsession with kebabs lately. There’s just something about eating meat off a stick in the summertime. I can’t get enough!

I particularly love meals that have lots of different flavors, colors, and textures, so this Latin Pork Kebab Bowl is right up my alley.

Just picture it: you, some pork, a bowl of awesomeness, two or six margaritas….. paradise, I tell you.

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Looking at this picture I’m realizing that it looks like I borrowed some under-ripe tomatoes from the neighborhood Taco Bell….but, I didn’t. I swear. Those are actually chunks of papaya!

Papaya and avocado are one of my most favorite food pairings of all time. The smooth, creaminess of the avocado just perfectly balances the tang of the papaya. Together, they melt into smooshed-delicious-awesomeness in your mouth.

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This creation put good use to the leftover pinto beans and white rice in my fridge. You can, of course, prepare fresh rice and beans but you know how I like to speed things up whenever possible.

What can I say? I get REALLY hungry after work. The husband calls it hangry – I’m so hungry, I’m just angry! You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry.

Anyway, so here’s how you make this bowl of YUM:

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • marinade

    • Juice of three limes
    • 3 Tbs. grape seed oil
    • 2 tsp. brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. cumin
    • 1 large clove garlic, minced
    • Pinch cayenne pepper
    • Kosher salt
  • kabobs

    • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
    • Bamboo skewers
  • bowl

    • 2 c. cooked rice
    • 1 1/2 c. cooked pinto or black beans (or just use one can, rinsed and drained)
    • 1 small avocado, diced
    • 1 cup papaya, diced
    • Juice from half a lime
    • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
    • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
    • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. To make the marinade, combine the juice of three limes, grape seed oil, brown sugar, cumin, minced garlic, cayenne pepper, and a dash of salt in a resealable plastic zipper bag. Add the cubed pork, toss to coat, and refrigerate for at least an hour, but up to four hours.
  2. Meanwhile, soak your bamboo skewers in water for at least thirty minutes. Maybe have a beer.
  3. Cook your rice if you don’t have any leftovers to use: in a heavy bottomed pan, bring to a boil 1 cup dry rice, 2 cups water, a teaspoon of oil and a dash of salt. Continue boiling until water has reduced to just barely skimming the surface of the rice. Turn the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for fifteen minutes or until all water is absorbed.
  4. Add the juice from half a lime to a medium sized bowl and add your red onion. Set aside.
  5. Fifteen minutes before your pork is done marinading, preheat your grill to medium-high.
  6. Once marinaded, thread pork cubes onto your pre-soaked skewers and place them on the grill. Cook for about 8 minutes, turning once or twice, until cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from grill and let rest for three-five minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, add your papaya and avocado to the boil containing your lime juice and red onion and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Set out four bowls and to each one place a quarter of each of your components in the following order: rice, beans, papaya/avocado mixture, cilantro, and, finally, top with pork kebabs.

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Nom nom nom nom nom.

Don’t mind me, just chowing down over here.

What are your favorite foods to eat off of a stick? What else should I do with the massive amount of leftover papaya I have?

Nutrition (per serving):

446 calories, 17 g. fat, 20 g. protein, 56 g. carbs, 11 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 11

Related Links:

Caribbean Pork and Clementine Kebabs – from Healthy. Delicious.

Mango Pork Kebabs – from Pots and Plots

Papaya & Avocado Salad – from The Leftover Queen