Weeknight meal prep is not usually something on the top of anyone’s thrill list, especially when you work long hours and have obligations after. Spending 3 hours in the kitchen to prep something that may last you a few days but you may tire of can seem daunting too. In this blog, I am going to give you simple ideas on how you can reinvent an easy recipe without breaking the bank, getting bored, or spending tons of time in the kitchen.
Carnitas is basically a heavenly Mexican pulled pork. Traditionally, carnitas is a pork loin or shoulder cooked in delicious oils and spices for about 4 hours and shredded into little pieces. You can make carnitas several different ways: oven roasted, in the crockpot, in a smoker, and my favorite—the Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker.
After about 5 minutes of searching Pinterest, I found a base recipe that I used. This recipe was a delicious, easy recipe that was prepared the Instant Pot. The carnitas was finished cooking in about 60 minutes. When I opened the Instant Pot after it was finished cooking, the house was filled with the heavenly scent of spiced succulent pork. Excitedly, I pulled the meat apart using tongs and a fork. The meat slid apart effortlessly. It was tender, juicy, and full of flavor. The hardest part about this recipe was squeezing the fresh orange and lime juice and searing the pork. All of these things were elementary though and my 9-year old self could have done this to help my mom in the kitchen.
I knew that my Monday night was going to be really crazy so, Sunday was my cooking day. One hour in the Instant Pot, fix it, forget it. While it was cooking, I was doing my workout, doing the dishes, and prepping my other ingredients. After the timer went off and I allowed for the pressure to release, it was magic. For the week, I utilized the Carnitas in three different ways and you can do the same.
1. Power Bowls
The first way I used this flavorful meat was creating power bowls. What exactly is in a power bowl, you ask? Whole grain and hearty ingredients that give you energy and power. Earlier in the week, I made quinoa and wanted to use the rest of it. Quinoa is a whole grain that is packed with protein and fiber. After shopping in my pantry and fridge, I found a can of black beans, smashed avocado, cotija cheese, and a lot of different ingredients that I could incorporate into this power bowl. I microwaved the beans and the quinoa, combined them in a bowl, and topped with carnitas. For topping, I drizzled on some of the sauce, the smashed avocado, cotija cheese, cherry tomatoes, and salsa. It was so delicious; my boyfriend Phong was scraping the plate like a starved beast.
½ cup Quinoa, cooked
¼ cup black beans, drained & rinsed
1 tbsp cotija cheese
¼ cup smashed avocado, fresh
½ cup Carnitas, prepared plus drippings for extra sauciness
Other suggested toppings:
Sour cream or Greek yogurt
Black olives, sliced
- Layer ingredients in a bowl and enjoy.
The second way I used this meat was for tacos, shock shock. Tacos are a pretty natural way to use up carnitas. Tacos are my love language. Once again, I went shopping in my pantry and fridge and found some ingredients that needed to be used. I found a can of low-fat refried black beans. I still had smashed avocado, tomato, cotija, and salsa, so that is what I used for my taco toppings! The hardest part about this recipe revitalization was warming the corn tortillas up in the skillet—which is a must so they hold together. Once the corn tortillas were to my preferred level of doneness, I simply layered refried black bean, carnitas, cotija, avocado, and salsa. Done! Messy, easy, and craveable. This whole meal prep took about 10 minutes to heat up and assemble.
3 corn tortillas
Refried black beans
Other optional toppers:
Grilled jalapeños and onions
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
3. Huevos Rancheros
The last way I used my carnitas leftovers were by making a Dannified version of huevos rancheros. Surprisingly, I've never made huevos rancheros, but I got this idea from a restaurant here in Oklahoma City called First Watch Café. Creatively, they make their huevos rancheros on tostada shells. We had tostada shells in the pantry, as well as enchilada sauce, a small can of green chiles, and a can of Rotel tomatoes. So once again, I am shopping from my pantry to recreate this meal. You would be surprised at what treasures you have in your pantry and fridge that can make magical revamps of your leftovers.
While heating the tostada shells in the oven, I combined the enchilada sauce, green chiles, and Rotel tomatoes in a sauce pan until almost to boil, stirring occasionally. Also, I reheated the carnitas and left-over refried black beans in the microwave. To make this a true huevos rancheros, you need over medium eggs. I grabbed some from the fridge and heated in a skillet. All that was left was to get my other topping ingredients out and arrange for assembly.
The only thing I actually cooked was my on-the-fly enchilada sauce and the eggs. This whole process took maybe 15-20 minutes, start to finish, including assembly. While the oven is preheating, you dump your sauce ingredient into a sauce pan. While the sauce is heating you microwave your meat and beans and cook your eggs. If you have a kitchen helper, they can do some of that for you so you can take a minute to sip some beer or tequila. Once everything is heated you start the layering process.
Tostada shells, heated or room temperature (so much better heated)
Refried black beans
1 can Enchilada Sauce
1 can Rotel Tomatoes
1 small can green chiles
4 eggs, over medium (for 4 tostada shells)
Sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Warm Tostadas in oven according to package directions.
- While oven preheating / tostada shells warming, combine enchilada sauce, Rotel tomato, and green chiles in a medium saucepan and heat to almost boil, stirring occasionally.
- In a large skillet, cook 4 eggs to over medium / over easy doneness.
- Reheat leftover carnitas and refried black beans in microwave.
- One all ingredients are ready, layer tostada shell with refried black beans, carnitas meat, enchilada sauce, and top with egg. Add desired toppings and enjoy.
For an experimental recipe, this was so delicious. The egg was perfectly cooked. You slice into it and that nice yolk poured the carnitas, soaking into it. Simple, quick, messy, and devourable. Of course, Phong was scraping his plate. The only sounds you could hear were us cutting into the food and wolfing it down. And the swallows. Phong said, “Danna, oh my god. Everything you've been making lately has just been elevated.”
Normally, I like to make most of my stuff from scratch, but on a busy week night, I just don’t have the time. You do not have that luxury as well. I really take a lot of pride in my cooking. Knowing that I can go to my pantry, shop from my pantry, and recreate something simple, elevated, and delicious and that didn’t take too long, makes me happy.
Meal prep does not have to be rocket science or extremely fancy. For these recipes, I had an idea of what I wanted to eat for a few days, different ways that I could reuse those same ingredients, and elevate it or do something different each time so that I'm not bored. That's the one thing that I hear the most from my friends and from my audience is “you know, I just don't do overs. We'll just eat it one time and then we'll throw it in the trash.”
As you can see from these 3 recipe revitalizations, you can get pretty creative on how you throw this stuff together. If you love Mexican food like I do, you will want to keep a few ingredients in your pantry for whenever a meal emergency arises:
- Rotel Tomatoes
- Refried Black Beans
- Black Beans
- Enchilada Sauce
- Taco Seasoning
- Corn tortillas
- Green chiles
- Chili powder
- Cayenne powder
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
I hope this blog has given you some ideas on how you can revitalize your carnitas leftovers. Other ways you could use this meat is as a burrito, a breakfast hash skillet, nachos, enchiladas, and stuffed chile rellenos. Before you rush out and go on a shopping binge, look to see what you currently have, and what you need to add. You could use this same recipe with a beef roast. That would be barbacoa though. Still a delicious, meaty option! Let me know if you try any of these ideas and what you think! Also tell me how you made them your own!
If you want the full details on this recipe revitalization, check out my Facebook Live where I give all the details and then some.
Until next time, keep life zesty!