05 May

Carnitas de Puerco

(Mexican Tender-Crisp Pork)

May 5: Cinco de Mayo

Many cultures have their version of slow-cooked shredded/pulled meat. Islander grew up eating kalua pua’a in Hawaii, so she already liked the similar carnitas de puerco when we moved to San Antonio, Texas. This Mexican recipe uses spiced pork that is slow cooked until tender, shredded or pulled, then fried to a crisp.

For our simple Cinco de Mayo celebration, we made carnitas for soft tacos. But the meat is versatile in many Mexican dishes—as a filling in tamales, burritos or empanadas or as an entrée with rice and beans.

Cook up some carnitas de puercofor a fun and festive food for Cinco de Mayo.


(Adapted from Food Network)


  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt/shoulder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (we used Mexican oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (seeds and ribs removed)
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


Line slow cooker with cooking bag (optional). Rinse the pork and pat dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper all over. In a small bowl, mix the oregano and cumin with the olive oil. Rub the oil mixture over the pork. Place in a slow cooker.

Chop the onions, mince the garlic, chop the jalapeno and cut the orange. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the slow cooker over the pork. Place the orange halves in the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. Remove from the slow cooker and place on a deep plate. Cool slightly and then shred/pull with fork. In a large skillet or pan, heat the vegetable oil on high. Press a few chunks of shredded pork in the oil and fry until crispy on one side. Drain on paper towels. Serve as a filling or as main dish.


  • Cinco de Mayo is a minor Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s defeat of the French army during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Although some Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate May 5, it is September 16 that is more significant as Mexico’s Independence Day. Many Americans, however, enjoy fiesta foods and the commercialized culture of Cinco de Mayo but this holiday can be a teachable moment about Hispanic history.
  • Traditionally, pork is stewed in its own lard to maintain the moistness in the meat. The fat in the pork butt/shoulder is not trimmed so it can do the same in the slow clooker.
  • Search our blog for more Mexican recipes under the Theme Menus category.


Avocado Truffles

May 2: National Chocolate Truffle Day and National Avocado Day

What a coincidence that today is National Chocolate Truffle Day AND National Avocado Day—because we combined these two ingredients to make avocado truffles. As chocoholics, we love to indulge in candy but it is not always that healthy. However, when we saw this 3-ingredient recipe in Health magazine, we knew we had to try these truffles. Dark chocolate is high in anti-oxidants and naturally low in sugar. Avocado has several vitamins and minerals and good monounsaturated fat that helps lower cholesterol levels. Celebrate two food holidays today with a guilt-free dessert and make avocado truffles.


(Adapted from Health magazine – April 2017 edition)


  • 4 ounces 70% dark chocolate, chopped (we used one bar of Ghirardelli)
  • 1 small avocado (3 tablespoons mashed or pureed)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


In a large bowl, melt the chopped chocolate according to the package directions (we melted our chocolate in the microwave for over a minute at half power). Stir until smooth. While it is cooling slightly, cut a small avocado and discard the skin and seed. Mash until smooth.

Stir in 3 tablespoons of mashed avocado into the melted chocolate. Add a pinch of sea salt. Stir until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill it for about 25 minutes or until thickened. Before taking it out from the refrigerator, sprinkle cocoa powder into a small bowl. Use a small scoop to make one-inch balls from the thickened chocolate ganache, shaping and rounding out each truffle in your hands. Roll it around in the cocoa powder to coat. Place in chocolate candy cups. Chill in an airtight container until ready to serve.


  • Search our blog for more chocolate and avocado recipes.
  • February is also National Avocado Month.
  • Try mixing in a few drops of peppermint extract to the ganache. Or roll it in toasted coconut flakes, crushed nuts, a little ground cinnamon, etc. Below is a sample of original avocado truffles and others covered in unsweetened coconut flakes, chocolate jimmies and matcha green tea powder.


Strawberry Salad with

Balsamic-Yogurt Dressing

May: National Strawberry Month

We have attended both the Poteet and Pasadena strawberry festivals—the only two of their kind in Texas. Poteet (outside of San Antonio) holds theirs in April while Pasadena’s (in the Houston area) event is this month. We enjoy experiencing the energy in the carnival-like atmosphere, seeing cute strawberry mascots and royalty (scholarship winners) wearing red walking around the festival grounds and tasting everything made with strawberries (shortcakes, ice cream, jams and jellies, drink mixes and more)!

It is also getting warmer (hot!) in Texas so we like to cool down with something light featuring this month’s fruit: strawberry salad with balsamic-yogurt dressing. Strawberries are abundant now at our local grocery stores and we buy them in bulk there, if not at the festivals. For National Strawberry Month, mix some fruit with vegetables and make a strawberry salad with balsamic-yogurt dressing.


For the balsamic-yogurt dressing

  • ½ cup olive oil, extra virgin
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ tablespoons plain yogurt


In a bowl, combine the olive oil with the balsamic vinegar. Stir in the minced garlic. Add the maple syrup or honey.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the yogurt. Mix until the salad dressing is creamy.

For the strawberry salad

  • 2 cups mixed greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 3-4 strawberries, sliced
  • toasted almonds (to sprinkle)


In a salad bowl, place the mixed greens. Sprinkle feta cheese and bacon. Arrange the sliced strawberries on top. Pour about 3+ tablespoons the salad dressing. Sprinkle the toasted almonds. Serve immediately.



  • This is a colorful and complementary salad. The greens are balanced by the red strawberries (like on the color wheel) and the bitterness of the vegetables is tempered by the sweetness of the fruit.
  • Search our blog for more strawberry recipes.


Slow Cooker Brisket

May 28: National Brisket Day

We have eaten our fair share of beef brisket as Texas residents. Whether barbecued, braised, baked, smoked or slow cooked, brisket is delicious shredded as a sandwich or taco filling or sliced and served with BBQ sauce, potatoes and sweet baked beans.

Brisket is a primal cut from the portion of beef breast or lower chest and can be a little tough and stringy. So the meat must be cooked slowly with some liquid to keep it moist and tender.

For a Tex-Mex touch, we slow cooked our brisket with beer/cerveza for a tender and tasty meat filling in soft or crispy tacos. Leftovers could be eaten with BBQ sauce between burger buns for a hearty sandwich. Whether for tacos or sandwiches, try this slow cooker brisket recipe for National Brisket Day.


(Adapted from Muy Bueno Cookbook)


  • 2-4 pounds beef brisket
  • 2 ounces liquid smoke (recommended 2 ounces per pound of brisket)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 ounces beer
  • salt and pepper to taste


Line the crockpot container with slow cooker bags for easier cleanup. Place the beef brisket in the container, fat side up. Pour in the liquid smoke. Add the bay leaves.

Pour in the beer. Cover the crockpot with a lid and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 6-8 hours. Remove the brisket from the crockpot and transfer to a cutting board. Shred the brisket, discarding the fat, and place in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve.


  • This slow cooker brisket is similar to our kalua pig (Hawaiian pulled pork) recipe.
  • Learn more about beef brisket from the Better Homes & Gardens website.
  • Smokin’ hot! We once attended Rodeo Houston’s World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest as guests of Highlander’s company’s associate sponsors. There were lots of tents/booths and barbecuing activities going on at the grounds of NRG Stadium. Coincidentally, the tent/booth to which we were invited won the contest in the best brisket division! However, unlike our brisket, they did not use a crockpot–just the Texas-sized grills!

Char Siu

May 16: National Barbecue Day

Many people think that barbecues involve a grill. This recipe for char siu involves an oven.

Char siu, Chinese-style barbecue pork, is one of Islander’s comfort foods. After church on some Sundays, her family would go to Chinatown in Honolulu and buy a piece of red pork meat hanging by the Peking ducks in the windows of Asian grocery stores. Sunday dinner was simple: char siu, sticky white rice and a vegetable side dish (see Notes). Char siu is also chopped up as a filling in manapua (Hawaiian word for char siu bao—Chinese buns) or sliced as a garnish for saimin and fried egg noodles.

While it may be simple to buy it ready-made at the store, it is quite easy to make char siu at home. Meat is marinated in an auspiciously red sauce (which freaked out Highlander the first time he saw it in our refrigerator looking like something from a horror movie/insane asylum). It is then baked in the oven (which makes this seem more of a roast than a barbecue). Islander especially loves the char in char siu—the blackened parts of the juicy pork from being caramelized!

Try this baked BBQ recipe for Chinese barbecue pork as something different on National Barbecue Day. Char siu is also appropriate throughout National Barbecue Month in May.


(Adapted from Foodland and Serious Eats)


  • 3-5 pound pork (loin, shoulder, ribs, butt or belly)
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sherry or rice cooking wine
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • few drops of red food coloring (optional)


In a large bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce and sherry or rice cooking wine.

Stir in the sesame oil, Chinese five spice powder and red food coloring. Mix well. Cut up the pork and place in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for a few hours (overnight is best).

Remove pork from the marinade and let the sauce drip back in the bowl. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet (easier for cleanup). Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for around 45 minutes or until the pork is cooked through (adjust cooking time for different pork parts). Remove from the oven and let the pork rest for a few minutes. Slice and serve.



Crepes Suzy

May 6: National Crepes Suzette Day

Highlander had to undergo fire safety training for his job in the oil and gas industry. Even with his background and reassurance (plus the fire extinguishers he put around the house), Islander is frightened about flambéing her fruity foods (Crepes Suzette, Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster, etc.). So she found a simplified and shortcut Crepes Suzette recipe, which uses store-bought crepes and marmalade for the “Suzy Sauce”. The orange-flavored liqueur is still included as an ingredient but it does not have to be ignited. The alcohol cooks off in the heat and the sauce is still sweet for this delicious dish. For a fast French food without the flame, make Crepes Suzy for National Crepes Suzette Day. Bon appétit!


(Adapted from About.com Desserts/Baking)


  • 12 ready-made/store-bought crepes
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter (we used French butter)
  • 12-15 ounce jar orange marmalade (we used one that has champagne in it)
  • ¼ cup orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Curaçao or Triple Sec)
  • 2 tablespoon brandy (we used Cognac)
  • orange, thinly sliced (optional garnish)


In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium low heat. Stir in the orange liqueur and brandy. Simmer on low for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol.

Mix in the orange marmalade and bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat. Add a crepe to the sauce and quickly fold it in half, being careful not to let it soak or it will get soggy. Fold in half again and transfer to a plate. Continue folding the rest of the crepes one by one in the sauce. Arrange crepes on a plate, layering a few on top of each other. Garnish with orange slices. Spoon some more Suzy sauce on top of the crepes and orange slices.



Bantha Milk

May 4: Star Wars Day

Want something super simple to drink as a last-minute observance of Star Wars Day? Then prepare Bantha Milk—that (in)famous blue beverage first seen in “Episode IV: A New Hope” where Luke’s aunt Beru served it to him for supper as a nutritious drink. Wookieepedia lists other appearances of Bantha Milk in movies and books within the Star Wars universe. There are also boozy Bantha Milk cocktails, Blue Milk shakes and various versions of this recipe. But we wanted to post a quick and easy drink recipe that is sure to be a total “blue milk run” to celebrate Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you!


  • Milk (cow, goat, sheep, almond, coconut, cashews, etc.)
  • Blue food coloring


In a clear pitcher, pour the milk. Add a few drops of blue food coloring. Mix until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to drink. Pour into glasses or cups and serve cold.


  • The “lightsaber straws” are actually plastic spoons that came in a cereal box a long, long time ago and a galaxy far, far away.
  • Serve Bantha Milk with Wookieee Cookies.
  • See our Theme Menus and scroll down to the Star Wars section to see a list of recipe ideas.


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