CROCK-POT COCHINITA PIBIL

When I found out that January was National Slow-Cooking Month, I knew exactly what recipe I was going to adapt first for Crock-Pot cooking. I’ve always wanted to test my theory that cochinita pibil can be done in a slow cooker, so the fact that it was a nationally recognized month-long culinary holiday-of-sorts was the perfect chance to take on the challenge.

And, ahem… Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner, so if you’re planning a party with some Mexican food, this is an easy and delicious way to treat your guests to something new!

Yes, we’ve posted a recipe here before for cochinita, but let me tell you why this one is different. We’re using a different cut of meat (boneless country-style pork ribs), an easy spice mix made from scratch (no achiote paste in brick-form here, amigos), and as with most slow-cooker recipes, you can set it and forget it, making it relatively hassle-free compared to the traditional method of making cochinita. If you’re making it for guests, you can still serve it wrapped in warm banana leaves to impress them. Just check out our original recipe for cochinita pibil for directions on how to heat the banana leaves so they’re pliable.

And finally, we’re not going to serve our cochinita pibil as a taco like you might expect–we’re going to make a version of panuchos Yucatecos instead. In some places, they put the black beans inside the little tortillas and fry it before adding the meat, salsa and any garnishes on top, but we’re going to use a simpler method using small store-bought tostadas. After all, the point of a slow cooker is to make your life easier by letting you spend less time in the kitchen preparing food, so there’s no need to deal with the mess of stuffing and frying your tortillas. Plus, this recipe is a bit healthier because we’re leaving the frying out. If you can’t find small tostadas or picaditas at your grocery store, you can make your own by either heating corn tortillas in the oven until they’re dry and crispy, or you can get the same result by cooking them longer on your comal…. 

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Back to basics with breakfast: avena y té de manzanilla

Since we’ve been back from Mexico, we’ve been very busy in the Tortilla Test Kitchen testing new recipes and having fun shooting new videos we’ll be sharing soon. But while we were in Mexico, we ate and ate…and ate and, well, you get the picture. I think I may have finally earned the affectionate nickname I’m sometimes called at home – Gordita, or Gordis, for short.

We decided we needed to bring a little order to our daily habits after eating to our hearts’ content for nearly a whole month. That’s not to say that healthy Mexican food doesn’t exist, because it definitely does and you will see more new examples of that on The Tortilla this year. However, it’s sometimes harder to make those healthy choices when most of the year I live in Chicago and can’t get some of my favorite Mexican foods.

It’s a bit like letting a kid loose in a candy store, only instead of a candy store, you’re dropping me off in a city full of taquerías that serve my favorite things like chicharrón de queso, tacos al pastor and Sidral Mundet apple-flavored soda. It’s hard to say no to all of that, knowing that in a short time, I’ll be back in Chicago without access to these things again until my next trip. There’s nothing wrong with eating or drinking all of those things if you do it in moderation, but sometimes we need a reminder that moderation is the key in order to stay healthy.

This year, we’ve decided to bring some good habits back from Mexico, such as eating breakfast daily. We started every day with a good breakfast during our visit and now I crave breakfast as soon as I wake up in the morning. In the past, I’ve been known to rush out the door in the morning without eating breakfast because I’m crunched for time, but I’m vowing to break that bad habit in 2011.

And for breakfast, there are so many healthy options. One of my suegro‘s favorites is avena con nueces o fruta y azúcar moreno, or oatmeal with nuts, fruit and a little brown sugar.  I’m a huge fan of oatmeal, but truth be told, I don’t like the instant stuff with the artificial flavors. Since I’m usually on the go in the morning during the week, I often have to prepare something the night before to take with me to assure that I get a good, healthy choice…. 

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