I feel like trying and failing to meal prep is a constitutive piece of adulthood. Do I prep everything I plan to eat for the week? Do I prep a couple proteins, carbs, and veggies and play dinner mix and match? Do I shop on Sunday but prep nothing? Do I not even think about it and stop at the store on my way home from work every day, ignoring the likelihood of picking up In-N-Out at least once if I go with that last plan? The internet is replete with meal prep tips that theoretically make our lives easier, but I find all of that information to be overwhelming. Different approaches to meal prep work for different people, and I think this week I mastered the approach that fits my life.
Cooking at the end of the work day soothes and calms me and I love the freedom to choose my dinner recipe the day of, ensuring that I’ll be in the mood for it, but having nothing prepped can be stressful. This week I prepped some slow cooker pulled pork which I seasoned neutrally, knowing that I could transform it throughout the week. I had two preparations for it in mind so I bought ingredients that I’d need for those and stopped at the store as needed. While the Ralph’s parking lot at 6pm is my least favorite place and also where my road rage tends to comes out in full force, going for a couple of ingredients feels much more manageable than going to buy supplies for an entire dinner recipe.
The base of my meals for the week was a super easy slow cooker pulled pork. I threw in pork shoulder, chicken broth, salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder Sunday afternoon and cooked it on low for 8 hours. I went about my Sunday and came home just in time to shred it and throw it in some tupperware before heading to bed, of course sneaking a taste and being thrilled at how tender and flavorful it was. I knew it would be a good week.
Day one had me feeling excited for all the upcoming summer flavors, and as I’d just booked a flight home for my family’s annual Memorial Day BBQ, or as my dad calls it “ribfest” I was stoked about barbecue. I reheated the pulled pork in a skillet with some locally made habanero pineapple BBQ sauce and threw together some quick pulled pork sliders. I served these up with corn on the cob and Trader Joe’s garlic parmesan potatoes and had a fantastic dinner pulled together in twenty minutes.
Day two: Taco Tuesday. Carne asada and al pastor are usually my meats of choice when it comes to tacos, but there was a time when I was all about carnitas and this brought me back. Again, I reheated the pork in a skillet and threw in some lime juice, cumin, and a bit more chili powder and I was amazed when these were the best carnitas I’ve ever tasted. I’m seriously so impressed with myself I wanted to make these for the rest of the week, but I had made a promise to myself to use this pork in new and interesting ways every night so I went ahead and tried something new.
Pulled pork bolognese. A traditional bolognese is simmered for hours to let the flavors really develop, but using the already slow cooked pork gave this that amazing slow cooked flavor in a sauce that came together in less than half an hour. My earliest cooking memories involve adding fresh herbs and new spices to store bought pasta sauce, so I’m a big believer in picking a pretty good product and elevating it. I loosely followed a recipe from The Optimalist Kitchen for this sauce and took their recommendation to use a store bought sauce with Italian sausage to elevate the flavors and really give it that Italian flavor profile. All these flavors melded so well with the incredibly tender pork, and the ricotta pulled everything together to be a really special dish.
My last use of pulled pork for this adventure is these pork, mango, and avocado spring rolls from The Lemon Bowl. Lunch is the meal that I find meal prepping to be most important for to help me avoid spending $10 per day at Starbucks, which I’ve been guilty of a bit too often lately (something that my family won’t let me forget after finding a few too many old Starbucks bags in my car). But these spring rolls are the perfect lunch recipe and such a fun use of pulled pork that I never would have thought of on my own.
My pulled pork adventure over the past few days has been fun and delicious, and it’s showed me how versatile a meat that I’ve always associated as exclusively for barbecue can be. I mean seriously, I made American, Mexican, Italian, and Vietnamese dishes out of one slow cooked pork shoulder. I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut in the kitchen over the past few weeks, but this week reminded me how much fun it is to try out new recipes and mix up flavors to create something new every day. I’ve got some big plans to branch out my creativity in the kitchen over the next few months and this was the perfect preamble, stay tuned!