Cuban Roasted Pork and Cuban Sandwiches

If you watched the movie The Chef, you probably wanted to eat a Cuban sandwich the entire second half of the movie.  Maybe that’s just my inner fat kid talking but ever since watching that movie I’ve had a hankering for Cuban food.

My favorite spot, Versailles (both in Miami and in LA, different owners I believe), are a little out of reach. I decided to take matters into my own hands and roast a pork leg and make some damn sandwiches!  Isn’t that how all good stories start?

Let’s be honest. Sometimes we just need a good sandwich.

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The ingredients are simple: roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard, pickles.  But simple is definitely not what I would call this sandwich.

All this started with roasted pork marinated overnight in orange, lemon and lime juice with lots of garlic, onion and oregano.  Then I roasted it on high heat to get it crispy then let it cook low and slow for about 4 hours.

I’m not sure how to make a hunk of meat look good, but here it is.

roasted pork

A hunk of meat that got lots of TLC.  Then I sliced it up thin as the base for my cuban sandwiches.  You should know they’re delicious because I’m eating one as I type this.  My keyboard is greasy and I’m ok with that.  So let’s get started.  You start with the pork….

Cuban-Style Roasted Pork

1 pork leg (mine was about 7lbs)
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup lime juice
20 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
handful of fresh oregano

Cuban Sandwiches

a few slices of cuban-style roasted pork, recipe follows
2 slices of ham
1 slice of swiss cheese
some pickles
some mustard
dang good bread*
a bit of butter (for grilling your sandwich)

In a blender, blend together juices, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and oregano.  Pierce pork as much as you can with a paring knife.  Pour juice mixture over pork leg and marinate overnight.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 450F.  Transfer leg to a roasting dish and roast at 450F for 20 minutes, reserve the excess marinate.  After 20 minutes, turn down the heat to 300F and continue to cook 4-6 more hours.  If you want it falling off the bones tender, cook it longer.  If you want it sliceable, it should be ready around 4 hours.  If you slice it and it’s still bloody, throw it back in the oven.

While your leg is baking, transfer the excess marinade into a sauce pan and boil for about 5-10 minutes.  This will be the perfect side mojo sauce for dipping your pork in, also great with rice and yucca.

Once you remove the pork from the oven.  Let it chill on the counter for about 10 minutes on its own.  Then slice for sandwiches.  Now you’re ready to assemble your sandwiches.

*A note about “dang good bread.”  Cuban bread is delicious.  It’s soft and wonderful but not always easily accessible.  I used hoagie rolls I found at the grocery store.  It did the job.  Do with that what you will.

Spread your dang good bread with mustard (I like a good amount of mustard on there), then top with pickles, ham, roasted pork slices and swiss cheese.

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Put the sandwich together and grill it.  If you have a panini press, use that.  If you’re not fancy (like me), put it in a pan with a bit of butter then place another pan on top with a jar of something heavy to weigh it down.  And ta-da! Instant panini press on the cheap.

Allow to cook a few minutes (low and slow is the best way to go so the cheese melts), then flip and cook for a few more minutes until toasted and melty and delicious.

Slice in half and serve.  Repeat with however many sandwiches you’d like to make.

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A whole pork leg will yield a lot of meat, and I understand that this is definitely a process, but trust me, it’s worth it.

So invite your friends over, roast a pork leg and make some sandwiches, then go for a walk because you’ll probably need to walk this off.

What’s your favorite type of sandwich?   This is a tough one for me. This Cuban sandwich was amazing but I also love Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches.  Maybe that should be my next sandwich attempt!  But first… I’m running my first half marathon next Sunday, wish me luck!

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Hatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

You know how everyone has certain staples that they keep in their pantries?  I feel like for most people that’s things like canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, pasta. Basics that you can use to throw together a meal pretty quickly.

For me, it’s canned beans and tuna.  Classy. I know.

I rarely ever buy pasta.  It’s one of those things I just don’t even think to buy.  But I’m human and I love mac and cheese.  Sometimes I want that cheesy goodness, but I don’t feel like going to the store to buy pasta.

So I’ll be honest.  This is one of those things I threw together because I haven’t been to the grocery store in almost two weeks (I know, how am I surviving right?).  Spaghetti squash will last a good while on the counter, and I roasted some hatch chiles that Melissa’s Produce sent me a week ago, so we’re good to go.  But don’t worry, just because I threw this together with ingredients on hand, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.  I’ve been eager to use those hatch chiles and this was seriously delicious.

I think you’ll love it!

hatchspaghettisquashandcheesetextHatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fully cooked sausages, diced (optional)
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheese
2 hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Poke holes in your spaghetti squash with a sharp knife and microwave for 5-10 minutes.  The cook time will vary depending on the size of your spaghetti squash.  You’ll know it’s ready when you can run your knife through it fairly easily.

While your spaghetti squash is cooking, heat oil in a large pot.  Once oil is hot, add sausage and brown until crispy on medium/high heat.  Once the sausage is browned, turn the heat down to low and add flour.  Toss with sausage and let it brown a minute or two.  Slowly stream in milk while whisking, breaking up any clumps in the process.  Once the milk is incoporated, add cheese and hatch chiles.  Stir until cheese is melted, taste and season with salt and pepper to your desired amount (I only added a few pinches because I don’t like things too salty).  Turn off heat and set aside.

Now go back to your spaghetti squash.  By now it should be cooked and cool enough to handle.  Slice in half, then spoon out the seeds.  Using a fork, fluff and pull out the strands of the squash.  Add the spaghetti squash to cheese sauce and stir until well combined.  Garnish with extra cheese and hatch chiles if you’d like then serve and enjoy!

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The spaghetti squash I used was enormous.  I’ll be eating this for a few days, but no complaints there.  This has an awesome kick from the hatch chiles, but it’s cooled by the creamy, cheesy sauce.  You can also easily make this vegetarian by omitting the sausage (or using vegetarian sausage).

What I also love about spaghetti squash dishes (oh hey, remember the Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash I made a while back?), is that it doesn’t feel too heavy. While I’m not claiming that this is healthy, I feel a little bit better about eating it than a full plate of pasta.  I think you could make this a bit healthier by reducing the amount of cheese and adding some greens in there.  We all need a little more kale in our life.  I’ll try throwing some in there next time.

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I’ll definitely make this again!

What are some of your pantry staples?

Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers and Eating More Vegetables

We’re all adults here. We all know we’re supposed to eat vegetables, because they’re good for you.  But the reality is life happens.   We get caught up in things; we forget to eat vegetables…  Not cool, guys.  Eat your vegetables.

I’m a big proponent of vegetables and exercise being the cure for most things.  I’m not a nutrionist or a doctor but I’ve realized that when I eat more vegetables and exercise regularly, I tend to feel better.

Last week, Melissa’s Produce reached out to me asking if I’d like to review one of their boxes and maybe come up with a few recipes from the content.  I said Yes, because 1. I love vegetables and 2. it seemed like a great opportunity to blog about things.

So let me tell your a little bit about the produce box I got.  I got the “Organic Mixed Vegetable Box – Southern California Delivery.” I chose this one because I didn’t want a box with fruit.  I would rather just have vegetables.  It arrived while I was at work.  Since I live in a housing complex, it was delivered to the apartment office, so the box didn’t sit outside all day.  Luckily, I was able to make it home a few minutes before the apartment office closed at 5pm.  If not, I would have had to wait til the next day, which would have sucked.

I got the box and it was jam packed with deliciousness.  I definitely give them props for their packing skillzz.  Everything was in there, the lettuce wasn’t smashed or wilted.  Thumbs up for that! There was also an ice pack in the box  that kept everything cool.

Here is everything my box included:

produce

This is a good amount of produce for two people.  But Jesse and I eat a good amount of vegetables so we’re good to go.   One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about produce delivery services and CSA shares (aside from cost), is that it’s simply too much produce. I agree, it is a good amount, but not really too much.  When I first saw the enormous pile of vegetables, I got concerned and thought, oh goodness how are we going to eat all this?  But really, having this box forces us to eat more vegetables, it’s just about prioritizing and planning. Using this produce, I’ve planned a variety of meals to use up almost all the vegetables, and today I’ll share one of these recipes: Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers with Creamy Yogurt Sauce, served with Grilled Zucchini. Sounds delish right?  I think it looks pretty great too! turkeylettuceburger2

The most important thing to remember with CSAs and produce delivery is that certain things go bad faster than others.  Lettuce and kale are the most perishable, so they should probably be eaten first.  Then Zucchini, Broccoli, Cucumber and Celery.  Beets, Carrots, Potato, Garlic, Onion, Leeks and Ginger, will all last a pretty long time.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve been having green smoothies with kale for breakfast everyday to make sure to use the kale.  To consume the lettuce as quickly as possible, I decided lettuce wrapped burgers were the way to go.

turkeylettuceburger4

Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers with Creamy Yogurt Sauce

For Turkey Burgers: 

1 package lean ground turkey (a little more than a pound)
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
1/4 cup onion finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
garlic salt to taste

For Creamy Yogurt Sauce:

1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, grated
1 lime
Garlic salt to taste

Extra:

Lettuce
Tomato  

Combine all ingredients for turkey burger.  Work together and form into patties (4-6 depending on how big you want them, I did 6).  Grill on a hot grill, or on a skillet or you can even bake them.  If you’re grilling on a grill or in a pan, it’ll be about 5 mins per side (depending on how thick your patties are).

In the meantime, prep your yogurt sauce by combining yogurt, grated cucumber and lime juice.  Mix together and add garlic salt.  Taste until you get the right saltiness.  Then refrigerate until ready to use. (Note: You can make this sauce is advance.  As long as it’s refrigerated, it’ll be good for a few days)

Next assemble your burger.  I doubled up and used two lettuce leaves per side of the burger “bun” (so 4 lettuce leaves total per burger. Remember, we’re packing in those vegetables!).  Put down two pieces of lettuce, top with burger and tomato, drizzle with yogurt sauce and top with more  lettuce.  Serve with some grilled zucchini and enjoy!  

This recipe will make 4-6 lettuce wrap burgers (I made 6). I was really happy with this recipe.  Confession: I ate 2!  I don’t feel guilty.

If you’re curious about how I grilled the zucchini, I just sliced it into 1/2 inch thick strips then drizzled with olive oil and tossed with some garlic salt.  That’s it.  And seriously delicious. turkeylettuceburger3

This meal was chock full of vegetables, which is always awesome, but also super tasty and satisfying.

turkeylettuceburger1

I can’t wait to make use of the other vegetables.  Here are some of my ideas to make the most of each ingredient…

  • Use Ginger to make awesome peanut sauce to go on zucchini noodles.  Or just drink with hot water, because ginger is great for your immune system!
  • Roast beets to make an amazing kale salad with onion, almonds, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.  Doesn’t that sound amazing? I also intend to saute those beet greens and add those to the salad as well.
  • I cut up the rest of the cucumber that I didn’t use in the yogurt sauce just for snacking.  Because don’t we all need some extra veggies as an afternoon snack?  I think yes.
  • Carrots: Gluten free carrot cake.  Yup. I made it happen.  Recipe soon!
  • Celery: I love filling celery with tuna salad for an awesome and light lunch.  I can seriously go through 10 celery ribs in one sitting with a bowl of tuna salad.
  • Leeks + Potato… Do I even need to say it?  Potato-Leek Soup!

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with Melissa’s Produce delivery service.  It’s the most reasonably priced delivery service I’ve seen.  I used to pay about $19/week for my CSA share in Ithaca.  The box I got through Melissa’s Produce costs $25 (although I got it free this time, thanks to Melissa’s Produce!).  For $25 you get 7lbs of organic produce.  Not bad.

Are you a fan of lettuce wrapped burgers or are you a bun purist?

Disclaimer: Melissa’s Produce provided me with a free produce box in exchange for this blog post.  Opinions and recipes are my own.

Breakfast Sliders

One of my favorite things to do is  recreate things I tried in restaurants.  A few weeks ago, I met up with a friend for brunch in Long Beach.  We shared an appetizer and an entree and sipped bellinis.  For our appetizers,  we shared some breakfast sliders.

After one bite, I was in love.  I mean… biscuits, eggs, bacon, sausage gravy.

Everything you want in breakfast in one delicious bite.  I knew I had to recreate them, and so I did.

breakfast slider2

Breakfast Sliders

1 Recipe for Crazy Good Biscuits
1/2 lb breakfast sausage
1/3 cup flour 3 cups milk (I used low fat)
garlic salt
12 slices of bacon
8 eggs (I used Eggland’s Best)

First make your sausage gravy.  Crumble and cook your breakfast sausage in a large skillet or pot.  Make sure you buy the kind in the tube, not the links.  Once the sausage is almost cooked through, add flour and toss.  Cook a few minutes.  Stream in milk, slowly, stirring constantly to break up lumps.  Add garlic salt to taste. Remember the breakfast sausage is pretty salty on its own so you won’t need too much.  Set aside, leave on simmer to keep warm.

Next make your biscuits and cook your bacon until crispy and set aside.

The last step is to cook the egg.  Scramble the eggs in a bowl.  Pour eggs into a greased, heated skillet.  Cover and allow to cook a few minutes until almost cooked through.  You’re basically making a big egg pancake that you can slice and fold. Once the eggs have almost set, flip over and cook another few seconds.  Remove from heat and slice in half, then slice each half into 1 1/2 – 2 inch thick strips.  You should have 10-12 pieces.

Now assemble your sliders. Slice the biscuits in half.  On the bottom half, lay some sausage gravy, then take an egg strip and fold in half and place on top of sausage gravy, lay on some bacon and top off with top of biscuit.  Repeat until all your sliders are ready.  This recipe will make about 10-12 sliders.

breakfast slider1

These coincided with the fact that Eggland’s Best send me some egg coupons to throw a Brinner Party.  These were the perfect appetizer.

So if you’re having a Brinner party or if you just want to have an awesome breakfast-inspired treat, this is it.

breakfast sliders

ALSO, this is my entry for the Eggland’s Best “Your Best Recipe” contest.  Cross your fingers for me, then submit your own recipe!

Here are the contest details:

2014 Eggland’s Best “Your Best Recipe” Recipe Contest:

  • Visit the Eggland’s Best website to learn about their 2014 Eggland’s Best “Your Best Recipe” Contest
  • Eggland’s Best will be accepting original recipes through their website until July 31st
  • One Grand Prize Winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize and a year supply of EB eggs
  • Category winners will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and a six-month supply of EB eggs

Pretty awesome, right?  Who doesn’t want to win eggs and money?

Speaking of which, one more day to enter the Eggland’s Best giveaway to win some Eggland’s Best Eggs and a $25 Visa gift card!  Click here to enter!

 

What’s your favorite brunch/brinner appetizer??

Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Salad

I’m currently having a bout of I-don’t-want-to-cook.

It’s a chronic syndrome.  I haven’t quite found the cure, but I have a remedy.

The situation is this:  I want to eat healthy meals, but I’m just not in the mood to prepare them.

An unfortunate result of I-don’t-want-to-cook is a desire to eat bad things.  And thus, I also want to eat fatty sandwiches and burgers (because those are cheap and easy to pick up… but really I should mention Del Taco Bean and Cheese burritos because they’re my weakness).  Today, I almost gave in to a fatty sandwich for lunch, because I was too lazy to pack a lunch.  I got a salad at a local spot.  And while it was healthier than the fatty Reuben I also wanted, nothing beats the healthiness of a home-cooked meal.

So the solution to the chronic I-don’t-want-to-cook (or really I-don’t-want-to-do-dishes) is to get a boyfriend who cooks having lots of healthy leftovers.  I’m a fan of cooking in bulk for the week because I always know there will be a day when I don’t feel like cooking so I might as well be prepared.  My most recent creation is perfect for these days.  You can make it on Sunday and it’ll still be good for Thursday, since there’s no meat involved.

RoastedCauliflowerLentilSalad2

Don’t worry, I didn’t go crazy with photoshop.  I used yellow cauliflower.  That’s why it’s so bright.  I’m currently making this again with purple cauliflower.  I’m going to bet that will look awesome as well.

RoastedCauliflowerLentilSalad3

 

So if you’re like me and you’re having an I-don’t-want-to-cook (or do dishes) moment, this is your solution.  Very little work and lots of deliciousness and nutrients.  So get your cauliflower/lentil on…

 

Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Salad

3/4 cup lentils, dry
1 head cauliflower, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
garlic salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp)

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 oz goat cheese (optional)

Cook lentils for 20 minutes (or until tender) in boiling water.  While the lentils cook, pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Chop cauliflower, toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, cumin, paprika, cayenne, garlic salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, or until golden and crispy.

Next make dressing.  Whisk together 1 tbsp olive oil, mustard, vinegar and some salt and pepper.  Now combine all ingredients.  Toss together lentils, cauliflower, cilantro, and dressing.  Top with goat cheese and serve!  This recipe will serve 4.

RoastedCauliflowerLentilSalad1

  Like I said, this recipe is super easy.  It only takes about 5 minutes of prep work.  The rest is pretty much just the oven and stove doing the work.  That means you can watch Orange is the New Black while you wait for it all to be ready, then take 2 minutes and throw it all together. RoastedCauliflowerLentilSalad4

Sounds like a great idea to me.  I have some cauliflower in the oven, now all I need is Netflix.

 

What’s your quick and easy, to-go healthy meal?

Ceviche de Jaiba

I’ve been agonizing over this post for about two weeks now.  I’ve had a million ideas about what to write and none of them seemed to work out.  Instead of agonizing any further, let’s talk about what led up to the amazing recipe I’m going to share with you… It all started with a hike… a 10 mile hike to a bridge where people were bungee jumping.  If you’re in the LA area and have never been to the Bridge to Nowhere, I recommend it.

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Given how NOT graceful I am when it comes to balance, I’m really impressed that I could cross streams on rocks and logs.  I think the hike is medium difficulty, and overall really fun.  It took us about five and a half hours.  On the way back, we were all ready to be done, because it was hot and we ran out of water.  Clearly a bad combo.  Next time, I’m bringing a water filter and a swim suit.  There were tons of little pools in the stream for swimming.  It would have been great to swim given the heat.

That particular day, my legs were sore.  The previous week, I had hurt my arm at crossfit.  While I let it heal, I modified all my workouts to involve only lower body movements.  Basically I just squatted and ran for a week.  Then on Saturday, Allison and I ran.  So by Sunday, my legs were toast.  This hike did them in.  By the end of the hike, all I wanted to do was drink a gallon of water and sit for a bit.  Being the dream boat that he is, Jesse made this:

Ceviche1

I’m going to go ahead and say that this is really his recipe, but I’m sharing it with you because it’s damn delicious.  Gentlemen, make this for your lady.  She will appreciate it.

Ceviche de Jaiba

1lbs imitation crab meat, shredded (or Real Crab meat)
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of 4 limes
salt to taste
Avocado and Chips/Tostadas, for serving  

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Serve with sliced avocado on a tostada or with chips and cover in hot sauce.  Jesse likes to put ketchup on his too.  That was tasty enough but I was a big fan of the hot sauce.  You can also add fresh sliced jalapeños or habanero peppers for some extra heat.

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This ceviche with a nice cold beer was the BEST post-hike meal.  It’s light and citrus-y, and if made by a nice fella… it’s pretty much everything a girl could ask for.  I can’t wait to go on another hike and eat this again.

What’s your favorite place to hike? How about post-hike meal?

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado-Pepita Pesto

These days I pretty much only want to talk about vegetables.  As I mentioned last time, I’ve been over doing it with desserts/sweets recently so I’m going to get super excited about vegetables and tell you about my most recent vegetable-filled discovery: Zucchini Pasta.

I’m not the biggest fan of pasta and I’m partially convinced that I’ve talked myself into not liking it, because I just don’t feel like it’s amazing enough for the calories.  Bread, on the other hand, I’m happy to eat tons of bread, regardless of calories.  Pasta… I’m meh about pasta.  That said, I’m a huge fan of eating things in the shape of long stringy pasta.  I love spaghetti squash and when my co-worker gave me an extra spiralizer that she had, I was ecstatic.

Since then my brain has been churning with awesome zucchini noodle ideas.

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The inspiration for this recipe came from a raw, vegan cooking demonstration I went to a few weeks ago.  They served us zucchini noodles with pesto. So from there, I decided to make my own version with ingredients I had on-hand at home.  It was a complete success. zucchinipasta1

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado-Pepita Pesto

5 small zucchini squash, spiralized or julienned
1 small avocado
1/4 cup pepitas
1 cup fresh basil
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato, diced

Place avocado, pepitas, basil, lemon juice in food processor (or vitamix).  Pulse.  Stream in olive oil and water and continue to blend until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Toss zucchini noodles with some of the pesto, you can add more or less to your liking.

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Please note, this recipe will make more than enough pesto for 5 zucchini.  You can refrigerate the rest for another day (it’ll start to turn brown after 2-3 days). zucchinipasta3

 

What I loved about this dish was:
1. how easy it is to make.
2. how well it tastes the next day and
3. the fact that it doesn’t require you to turn on the stove or oven, with our recent heat wave and summer just around the corner, that was essential.

I’ll definitely be making this again.   I’m consistently surprised at how much I like raw zucchini.  It’s definitely an underrated vegetable.

 Do you have a spiralizer?  Any ideas on what I should try to spiralize next?

 

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Peanut Butter and Co. Bee’s Knees Giveaway to win two free jars of Peanut Butter!