Pork tenderloin ragu over polenta

Pork and Mushroom Ragu over Polenta

Pork tenderloin ragu over polenta

I think we can all agree that November = prime fall comfort food time. It’s also starting to turn into prime busy time with holiday prep, days that are shorter and darker (ugh), and trying to wrap up all sorts of projects before the end of the year. You know what this means: it’s slow cooker time. Aw yeah!

Slow cookers make everything easy, but Smithfield is taking fall cooking simplicity to the next level with their marinated pork. You seriously don’t have to do anything besides cook it, and you have a flavorful main dish ready for anything you want to pair with it! I made this tasty ragu with a marinated fresh pork tenderloin, so it’s a bit leaner than some other cuts of pork, but still packed with protein… it’s still so tender and it’s a great slightly lighter option in these pre-Thanksgiving days.

Pork tenderloin ragu over polenta

This recipe is simple comfort food at its finest, and you’re not going to feel weighed down by the cooking process or the dish itself. Score!

Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Ragu over Polenta

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Red Curry Coconut Pulled Pork

Coconut Curry Pulled Pork

Spring is in the air and flavorful, fruity recipes are on my mind! This time of year is always pretty busy for me, but spring of 2016 is proving to be especially crazy, mostly because I’m officially six months away from my wedding (yes, shockingly someone has stepped up to the plate to spend the rest of their life with me, who knew).

So I’m knee-deep in all sorts of wedding planning and bridal budgeting, while trying to juggle a day job, all my blogging projects, and SXSW, which completely takes over the city of Austin in both good ways (parties, events, and bands galore!) and bad ways (traffic, omg the traffic).

Basically, this leaves me with zero time to cook. The good news is, I have a slow cooker. And with a slow cooker, you cannot fail. Throw some ingredients in there, set it, forget it, come home from your job or event or meeting and you have a piping-hot meal waiting for you to devour. In this case, that meal is a mouth-watering, sumptuous pulled pork that you will be oh so happy to say aloha to after a long day.

Red Curry Coconut Pulled Pork

Of course, the ingredients you throw into that miracle slow cooker need to be good. And this recipe here is full of good stuff. We’re starting with a boneless netted fresh pork shoulder roast from Smithfield. This pork is the star of the show and it couldn’t be easier to prep. Literally go buy it at the store, take it home, cut it out of its net, and drop it in the crockpot. Done. No trimming, no chopping, no nothing. Love it!

Then you need some flavor to make your pork great. This is where the aforementioned fruit comes in. The pork shoulder is drenched in crushed pineapple and pineapple juice, plus a bunch of bright, island-y flair: ginger, soy, agave, sriracha, and curry paste come together to make a sweet-spicy-tangy sauce that is so perfect with this juicy, tender pulled pork. Oh, and you’re adding in some coconut milk at the very end for a little bit of creamy sweetness that takes this tropical pulled pork to the next level.

Even if springtime means “no time,” I promise this meal will come together in a snap and everyone will love it. Make sure to have plenty of sweet Hawaiian rolls and white rice on hand for serving!

Red Curry Coconut Pulled Pork

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Red Quinoa Crock Pot Stew

A Big Mess of Slow Cooker Quinoa Deliciousness

Red Quinoa Crock Pot Stew

January is prime slow cooker season, as far as I’m concerned. The days are still pretty dark and pretty cold (okay, it was 70 and sunny here in Austin today, but that’s still kinda “cold” for us in Texas). When I get home it’s nice to have something hot and tasty waiting for me. (Besides my fiance. Haha. I’m fully of the jokes today.)

A lot of the popular slow cooker recipes out there are kinda unhealthy, but I’m still recovering from the massive infusion of sugar, butter, and booze I put my body through last month during the holidays, so I like to keep my January dinners fairly light. Luckily there are plenty of meals that are easy to throw in the crock pot, absolutely satisfying, AND good for you.

This red quinoa stew is one of those recipes. It’s so filling and flavorful that it seems like it should be worse for you, but it’s a paragon of good nutrition. Plenty of protein, fiber, and vegetables. This recipe makes 4-6 servings, so if you’re not feeding a big family you should have some nice leftovers for lunch the next day. The slow cooker truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Red Quinoa Butternut Squash Stew

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Slow Cooker Ginger Honey Chicken

Slow Cooker Ginger-Honey Chicken

Slow Cooker Ginger Honey Chicken

I can’t believe it took me so long to blog this ginger honey chicken dish, because it was SO GOOD. While winter is in its last gasps I encourage everyone to make and enjoy this super-easy slow cooker recipe. As with all the best slow cooker situations, it’s quick to prep, makes your house smell delicious, and seems like you put waaaay more work into it than you actually did. Score, score, and score.

Slow Cooker Ginger-Honey Chicken

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Southwest Shredded Slow Cooker Chicken

Southwest Spiced Slow Cooker Chicken

Southwest Shredded Slow Cooker Chicken

Some of my friends and I are in a Bachelor fantasy league. Feel free to make fun of me, I don’t care. It’s awesome and a legit excuse to drink a questionable about of wine on a weeknight. It’s kind of like fantasy football, but we “draft” the hot messes from each season of the Bachelor franchise and then hate-watch and track whose players earn the most points (from achievements like “revealing a sob story,” “secretly has a kid,” “hot tub bonus make out” etc.).

We take turns hosting – whoever is on weekly host duty is also in charge of dinner. I hosted the premiere last week and needed to make a big batch of healthy food – and this southwest spiced chicken was perfect. I was able to prep everything the night before, throw the chicken in the slow cooker before work the morning of, and when I came home dinner was basically done.

Now that is worth some major bonus “hot tub make out” points. (If by “hot tub” we mean “slow cooker” and “make out” we mean “cooking.”)

Southwest Spiced Slow Cooker Chicken

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Homemade Green Curry Chicken

Green Coconut Curry Chicken, Crock Pot Style

Homemade Green Curry Chicken
As I recently mentioned, I got me a crock pot! I’ve been trying to embrace my new slow cooker lifestyle by ummm, Pinterest-ing a lot of recipes to get an idea of good technique (such as the meat-searing tip in my recipe below!). I’ve also been trying not to be such a hot mess in the kitchen – usually I’m holding my phone to look at recipes, photos, etc. while simultaneously chopping and sautéing and almost dropping it into the sink. Horrible. So I have to give a shout out to the silly-named Monkey Kit, which holds up the iPad so I can cook hands-free like a normal person. They sent me a sample model and it has truly been a game changer, two thumbs up. Between this and the crock pot I really am becoming a human adult, I guess.

SO! This is the next meal I’ve perfected with my new slow cooker. For this recipe you could totally use red or yellow curry paste if you prefer it over green. Red curry paste is actually my favorite, but green is what I had on hand and it worked well with the vegetables I used and my pumpkin seed garnish. As with most dishes, you can feel free to swap out the vegetables with whatever your favorites are… just keep in mind cooking time. Softer vegetables you can just add in at the end of the day, about a half hour before you plan on serving. Harder vegetables with a longer cook time can be added in the beginning at the same time as the chicken. Got it? Great.

Homemade Green Coconut Curry Chicken (in the crockpot!)

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Hatch Chicken Chili

Southwest Slow Cooker Hatch Chicken Chili

Hatch Chicken Chili

I finally gave in and got a crock pot this past weekend. (I say “finally” because I feel like slow cookers are really experiencing a renaissance in my generation, thanks to Pinterest and other domestic-y sites – I’m one of the last 20-something girls I know who didn’t have one.) It was perfect timing because for the first time since, oh, March, Austin was cold (aka, in the low 70s) and wet. Pair that gloomy, stay-inside weather with a weekend full of football, and you’ve got yourself an ideal slow cooker combo situation.

This recipe is just something I threw together on Sunday morning, and it turned out so well. The bonus: unlike a lot of football snacks, it’s completely healthy. Take about 10-20 minutes to prep this in the late morning or early afternoon, leave it on high for 4-5 hours, and you’ll have a hot, spicy meal just in time for the evening game.

If you don’t have a Crock Pot or other slow cooker, guess what? You’re in luck. You can achieve the same results by cooking low and slow in a stockpot on the stove. Just make sure you’ve cooked your chicken breast most of the way through and add ingredients from there.

Note – this recipe uses hatch chiles, grown in New Mexico, which are really popular in the southwest this time of year. If you don’t have them in your neck of the woods you can feel free to use whatever chile pepper you prefer. Canned chipotles are always a favorite of mine, and they’re easy to find in practically any grocery store.

Southwest Hatch Chicken Chili

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