Weeknight Dinners

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

Busy families, this one is for you! I highly suggest making it on a Sunday night so it’s ready for your busy week ahead. This is easy 2 or 3 meals for a family of 4.

It was too sunny in our kitchen when I took this quick photo, but you get the idea of how YUMMY it was!!! We also sliced up some watermelon to eat with it, too.

For a short cut, I picked up pre-made pico de gallo from Metcalfes produce section, but canned salsa works, too! I like quick toppings with little to no prep time.


I griped a little on IG live about this recipe since it’s a two-step (make marinade night before) type of recipe. Having to “mess up the kitchen” twice for one meal really seems pointless to me and I hate doing it. However, this overnight marinade is so simple and you don’t have to dirty ANY dishes if you don’t want to. Just dump a few ingredients into a bag. SUPER EASY, even I could do it, which says a lot.

Clean plate club all around two nights in a row with this meal. Love it since there is a lot of juicy, flavor in the meat, very filling and not spicy for the kids.ย  Good for all!

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos


  • 1 3/4 boneless pork shoulder, trimmed (I had to ask for this from the butcher counter)
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (I just used one lime)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, divided
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 oregano sprigs
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 12 corn tortillas warmed
  • 6 tbsp onion for garnish
  • cilantro for garnish
  • lime for garnish
  • avocado for garnis
  • cotija cheese for garnish


  1. The night before, cut the pork into 3 inch pieces / chunks / cubes however you see fit. I just made three giant strips and place into a large zip top bag.
    1. Add brown sugar
    2. Add 1/2 tsp salt
    3. Add 1/2 tsp pepper
    4. Add 2 tbsp lime juice
    5. Add 2 tbsp orange juice
    6. Zip the bag up and remove as much air as possible. Set on a plate / bowl and place in the fridge (I do this in case the bag has a hole in it, last thing you want is to clean out the fridge!)
  2. Place 2 cups hot water and ancho chile into bowl and let stand 10 minutes.
    1. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid
  3. Transfer the pork from the zip top bag to the slow cooker + discard the remaining marinade.
    1. Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, oregano, ancho chile, 1/4 cup reserved liquid, 2 tbsp lime juice, 2 tbsp orange juice
    2. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours uninterrupted.
    3. 4.ย  Remove the meat and shred. The recipe says you can pan fry it in cast iron skillet to give it some crunch, but you don’t have to, especially if you’re short on time, just build out those tacos and eat!!!

Enjoy! We did!

Weeknight Dinners

Spring Carbonara

If you saw me on IG live cooking, you certainly got a nice preview of this dish, Spring Carbonara, inspired by Cooking Light Magazine! Also, that was Neuskes Bacon in my mouth while I was talking, sorry about that. Sometimes you need to sample as you cook! Actually, I encourage it!


This recipe sets up really quick, perfect for weeknight cooking. There are no short-cuts on this one, just super fast and easy. It’s almost asparagus season, and that makes me so happy because it’s a flavorful vegetable! Asparagus season reminds of when I was in Stuttgart, Germany, for work a few years ago. EVERYTHING had asparagus in it, and it was so fresh and tasty.

Spring Carbonara

  • 8 oz uncooked whole-wheat linguine (half of a regular box of pasta)
  • 4 center-cut bacon slices, chopped (Neuskes)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped asparagus
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced (or 1 tbsp powdered)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated (use your microplane), divided
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup Kim Crawford to deglaze the pan


  1. ย Cook pasta according to package omitting fat and salt. Drain in a colander, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid (to use later on in your frying pan)
  2. while you’re cooking the pasta, add bacon to a large skillet over low; 6-8 minutes or until crispy. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towel to rest. Add the asparagus to the pan full of bacon fat. Yes. Sautee the asparagus in bacon fat, it’s amazing.
  3. I added a little Kim Crawford at this point. It’ was 5:10, and it seemed right. Mostly, my pan was getting sticky and dirty and I needed to get the crunchy bits off the bottom. White wine goes well with this dish, so why not?! Just a splash, no more than 1/4 cup and use your scraper to get the bacon off the bottom of your pan. If you are using a non-stick, this probably wont be an issue, and you should use bamboo utensils if you’re scraping the bottom of your pan ๐Ÿ™‚
  4. Add garlic; cook, stirring often. About 3 minutes then transfer to the same plate as the bacon to rest.
  5. Whisk together three egg yolks, salt, pepper and 2 tbsp parmesan in a medium bowl.
  6. Add oil, drained pasta, 1/4 cup mixture to skillet and toss to coat. Heat skillet over medium and cook, stirring constantly until sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.ย  Add bacon, asparagus, garlic, peas and 1/4 reserved cooking liquid (pasta water, from pasta). Cook until heated through, about 1 more minute. Stir in more cooking liquid if your mixture looks too dry.

ANNNNDDD!!ย  Something happened to my photo of my meal, so here’s what it looks like in the magazine! Enjoy! We loved it!


Holiday Favorites

Christmas Eve Dinner ::: Nut-Free & Vegetarian

Christmas Eve is quickly approaching and I like to keep things super simple, especially when family is visiting. I’d rather be spending time WITH them, not doing tasks in the kitchen. That’s why we choose to make classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for Christmas Eve.

We started this tradition a few years ago, and it works perfectly. It’s a meal everyone likes (even littles) and it takes little to no time at all. The meatballs can be made in advance, just warm through in the oven for a few minutes during your party.

We’re having 7 for dinner on Christmas Eve, the yield on this menu is about 8. You can easily double this recipe for a larger group.

Christmas Eve Menu

  1. White Christmas Sangria, adapted from She Knows blog
    • 3 tart Granny Smith apples
    • 1 large orange
    • 1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries
    • 1 cup fresh raspberries
    • 2 bottles dry white wine (I used an unoaked chardonnay)
    • 1 cup white cranberry juice
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 16 ounces ginger ale or club soda
    • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
    • Chop fruit small, mix together in large glass pitcher. Let it “Merry” together before serving.
  2. Lynnie Salad
    • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 2 pinches kosher salt
    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
    • 8 cups salad greens
    • ยผ cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
    • ยผ cup cheese crumbles (feta, goat, or gorgonzola)
  3. Handmade Meatballs
    • 2 pounds organic ground beef
    • 1/2 cup parmesan
    • 1 cup breadcrumbs
    • 2/3 cup fresh parsley
    • 1/2 cup tomato paste or ketchup
    • 2 tsp Italian herbs / dry blend
    • 1/2 chopped onion or 1 tbsp onion powder
    • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
    • roll out, bake at 400* for 20 minutes or until browning around the outside. Max 30 minutes.
  4. Meatless Meatballs
  5. Spaghetti
    • 2 pounds of Barilla spaghetti pasta
  6. Homemade Tomato Sauce with canned garden tomatoes
    • This is top secret, but here’s something similar that can all be dumped into slow cooker and sit for quite a while, minimum 2 hours.
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 large white onion, minced
    • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
    • ยฝ cup chicken broth
    • 1 (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes
    • 1 (15 oz can) tomato sauce
    • 1 (6 ounce can) tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoon white sugar
    • 1 tablespoon ground oregano
    • ยฝ teaspoon salt
    • ยผ teaspoon ground black pepper
    • ยฝ cup chopped fresh basil
    • ยผ cup chopped fresh parsley
  7. Garlic bread
  8. Dessert
    • Making some decadent homemade cupcakes (on Friday) since I found some adorable nut-free wilton reindeer and santa cupcake decorations at Michaels Craft Store last month.
    • Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes
Holiday Favorites, Weeknight Dinners

Sunday Night Beef Roast

It’s cold, damp and dark in Wisconsin, so it’s the perfect time to make a hearty and filling Beef Roast with Vegetables. So bring out your dutch oven, turn on your fireplace and snuggle in with this winter favorite recipe. It’s the perfect addition to your Sunday, especially if you’re hanging out with friends or family before your busy week starts. The yield on this is about 6-8.

We made it last week and it was excellent. I was busy searing the meat on the stove top, about 4 minutes on medium- high each side, when I realized I did not have any red wine to add to this recipe. Quickly, I called my daughter over and had her make a list of things I needed for the recipe from the downstairs pantry. It was a great way to have her help in the kitchen, and practice her spelling. And she nailed it! Seghesio’s Sangioveseย was the perfect addition to my gravy + deglazed the pan wonderfully.


  • 1 (3-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 cup red wine, Seghesio works well!
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) can beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces (short cut, baby carrots. no chopping or peeling, just dump them in)
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Fresh thyme


  1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  3. Sprinkle chuck roast with salt and pepper. Add roast to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side to brown all sides. This adds a TON of flavor. be careful because the olive oil will spit and splatter since the pan is very hot to sear the meat.
  4. Remove roast from pan once it’s seared on all sides. Add onion to pan; sautรฉ 8 minutes or until tender.
  5. Return browned roast to pan.
  6. Add the red wine, thyme sprigs, chopped garlic, beef broth, and bay leaf to pan; bring to a simmer.
  7. Cover pan and bake at 350ยฐ for 1 1/2 hours or until the roast is almost tender.
  8. Add carrots and potatoes to pan. Cover and bake an additional 1 hour or until vegetables are tender. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf from pan; discard. Shred meat with 2 forks. Serve roast with vegetable mixture and cooking liquid / gravy.

Image result for Beef Roast in Le Creuset pot

This photo is from Cooking Light Magazine. I failed to take a photo of our finished product since it was so delish, and quite late when we finished. The kids needed to get in bed. However, it looked EXACTLY like this one, same red dish and all. Your dutch oven will be quite messy from searing the meat. Make sure you use a wooden spoon to gently scrape down the sides with cooking liquid to make washing easy. It’s good to clean your pan when it is still nice and hot! Otherwise it gets caked on, and I’ve actually thrown pans away that I cannot get 100% clean. Well, that was when I was still using my oven for storage and binge watching Sex and the City. Things have changed since then ๐Ÿ™‚

This week nutfreemomblog will feature our menus for Christmas weekend and a few fun snacks along the way. Have a great week!

Holiday Favorites

Nut Free Thanksgiving Menu

Jumping into leaf piles!
Jumping into leaf piles! We love fall!

Tradition gives us hope and happiness, and while I know it won’t be the same this year without my husband’s Mom here (we miss her so much already), we are going to try to incorporate some of our usual traditions to help carry us through to a new beginning and happier 2018. Especially for the kids. They need this the most, to see how we persevere in light of adversity.

For thanksgiving this year, we’re going to use the staples most of us have had, sans the nuts, as per usual, except the one cooking in the kitchen! Here’s what we are thinking.

  1.  Do nothing. Do absolutely nothing, call Whole Foods and have the entire thing catered because 2017 has sucked out loud. Click: Whole Foods Holiday Meals
  2. Welp, if you’re the go-geter kind and Pinterest pressured (so me, see: Bad Mom’s + Bad Mom’s Christmas) into making the whole damn thing, these are some helpful links that we’ve used in the past.
    1. Do order your Turkey from Whole Foods – they have the BEST tasting turkeys, this is where my mom usually orders hers from. This year we’re smoking the turkey using this technique Smoked Turkey Recipe
    2. Green Bean Casserole
    3. Roasted Brussel Sprouts
    4. Cranberry Sauce
    5. 12 Minute Mashed Potatoes
    6. Allergy Free Stuffing
    7. Canned Chilled Cranberry (IS THE BEST)
    8. Mushroom Gravy (V/GF/PN/TN Free)
    9. Roasted Acorn Squash
    10. Stuffing (GF) Alternative
    11. Apple Pie
    12. Pumpkin Pie w/ King Arthur Nut Free Flour
    13. Rhodes Bake N Serv Dinner Rolls Nut Free
    14. Seghesio Wine
    15. Chocolate Milk (Nut Free / GF)
  3. Don’t forget the relish trays. If you’re in Wisconsin, you know there has to be cheese, crackers and sausage. And pickles and olives. And possibly a small veggie tray.
  4. Lastly, tablescaping is uber important. Pretty Natural Table

There you have it – our Thanksgiving meal in a nutshell. Don’t forget the Egg Nog, and to turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to get everyone in the holiday spirit.  As always, we will be double checking all of the labels on the above items, even though I’m 99.9% sure they are all OK since we use them frequently. My favorite part is the pie – and watching everyone around the table laughing and having a good time.  What’s yours? I hope wherever you are, you have a wonderful holiday week surrounded by the ones you love the most.

Happy start to the Holidays!


Weeknight Dinners

Cheesy Chicken Fajitas

Monday Hustle was fierce today!ย  After a really nice weekend, it was great to get back into our routine today, meal time being part of it.


If your kids are choosy eaters, this may be a good transition recipe to try. It has many favorite ingredients found in Mexican food that almost all kiddos love. Just changing the flavor a bit, or adding/subtracting favorite ingredients may help your littles become more diverse eaters. Don’t give up, it’s a process. Modifying their favorite meals is one way to get their taste buds to open up a bit.

This weeks menu is posted to my IG, thanks to Cooking Light Magazine.

Yesterday I found an old Cooking Light Magazine in my pantry. I like to keep old magazines because our taste changes, things we like vary and I need some quick inspiration sometimes without turning on a device. Ugg. Looking at a screen or scrolling my phone is the LAST thing I want to do most days. Old magazines are nice. I keep them organized by month (or at least I’m going to tell you that :)) in magazine holders inside our walk-in pantry on the bottom shelf. The kids can reach them, too, which is OK. This recipe is two of my favorite things, fast and easy.

Since this was the first time I made the recipe, I was surprised with how quickly it came together. I’ll post the recipe, then tell you what I’d do differently to make it even faster.


  • 2 tsp evoo
  • 1 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 cup sliced bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup canned corn (I used the whole can because that other half will just sit in my fridge)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup unsalted canned pinto beans
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes (I used one large garden tomato and diced it)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 4 oz of rotisserie chicken
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese
  • corn tortillas
  • sour cream
  • avocado


  1. Preheat broiler to high
  2. Heat oil in ovenproof skillet over medium – high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, corn, salt, and pepper to pan. Saute 3 minutes or until crisp tender (more like 5 min).
  3. Add beans, tomatoes, stock and juice. Cook 2 minutes. Add the chicken, sprinkle evenly with cheese (I used the whole bag because hey, this is Wisconsin. and I’m preventing osteoporosis.)
  4. Place pan in oven and broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts.
  5. Heat tortilals in microwave for 1 minute.
  6. Divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas. Top with avocado, sour cream and whatever else you have, like UMMM BACON. Or anything that will add some flavor.

So my biggest concern with this recipe was flavor. It doesn’t call for herbs, dry spices or flavor mixes that would add significant depth. I followed the recipe to a T and recommend the following:

  1. Add 1 tbsp garlic powder
  2. Add 1 tbsp onion powder
  3. Add 1 tbsp oregano, dried
  4. Have a Lawrys fajita season packet on standby, just in case you don’t like the flavor
  5. Hot sauce
  6. Do not add the chicken stock – I saw no reason to add this, it made the entire dish soupy and never thickened up.
  7. Do not use your broiler. I was literally waiting for magic to happen. Nothing happened. The cheese melted. Big deal, you can do that on a regular burger with a thing called a LID.
  8. Instead of cast iron skillet / oven proof pan, just use a regular large frying pan, a really big one. This recipe makes a LOT of food, yield of 8 at least. My teeny little cast iron skillet was very crowded and it affected my saute timing.
  9. Saute the crap out of your vegetables + pepper. You want some flavor form them, get some markings on them from your pan.
  10. Only use the chicken stock if you need to deglaze your frying pan. Otherwise, do not add it. I had enough liquid from the lime juice and tomatoes that I did not need the chicken stock.
  11. Lastly, flavor. This meal was OK for flavor. The rotisserie chicken added a ton of flavor, but hot sauce was definitely required. My kids do not care for corn tortillas, so regular work too. Add the above recommended dry spices, and you’ll be fine. Worst case, just make this into a giant dip, eat with chips. Done.

Clear as mud, right? Anyway, follow the recipe, make your own changes. One thing I like to do is get extra Taco Bell sauces to keep at home. I pull them out on nights like tonight to make the meal a little fun for the kids. My kids LOVE taco bell, and they LOVE the sauces, so this makes them think we’re sort of eating at taco bell, only without the nasty gut-rot after! YAY!

Have a great week – I’ll be back tomorrow talking about a new pulled pork recipe that I found using a new spice mix. It cooks all day, so I don’t have to worry about dinner because I’ll be downtown!!!!


Weeknight Dinners

Slowcooker BBQ Pork Sammies

It’s Sunday Funday! This morning we had some fun family time mini golfing at Vitense Golfland. Truly, this place is made for kids who want to mini-golf but still have a ton of energy to “do-stuff-besides-golf.” It’s been ranked nationally, and is the number one place in Wisconsin to mini golf.

When I say it’s made for kids, I mean every other hole has a slide (for big kids, too), or an activity of some sort; rocking motorcycles, zip lines, light house climbing tower, giant Giraffe, climbing walls, bridges, you name it. Oh, and having your ball roll into the water, don’t worry, it’s meant to. Who doesn’t LOVE splashing in the water to fetch the ball?

My kids love to mini golf, but their attention span is about 1 putt, then on to something else. Vitense nails family mini golfing.

If it’s cold, don’t worry, the indoor mini golf is even more impressive than the outdoor. It’s a full on replica of Madison landmarks; UW Campus, State Street, Governors Mansion, State Capitol, lakes, Men’s basketball, the Dance County Airport, Wiener mobile (that you can sit in and drive), hot dog slide and a few kids games with tokens.

I bet you didn’t think I was going to fill your head with thoughts of mini golf, did ya?

On to the recipe for your “Meaty Monday” — this IS WISCONSIN, after all.

Crockpot BBQ Pork


  • 2 – 2.5 lbs. boneless pork loin
  • 1/2 onion sliced
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 16 oz. bottle BBQ sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker.
  2. Cook on medium for 6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.
  3. Shred and enjoy!

Nut-free buns for this would be anything made by Kings Hawaiian. After speaking with them last year, their stuff is made in a dedicated nut-free facility. And they’re pretty good tasting. Not the lowest calorie count for a bun, but it’s a bun.

Sides for tomorrow, I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do yet. I’ll probably do something easy like a Steamfresh bag of green beans or peas seasoned with Season Salt and a little butter and a quick coleslaw (pre-chopped bag) with dressing.

Hope you have a great week – I’ll post a pic of this meal once I make it tomorrow. The rest of the week’s meals can be found on my Instagram at:


Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your Sunday night.

***And yes, Milwaukee area friends, this attraction is worth the drive. You could spend a day here at Vitense between the indoor restaurants, big kid games, mini golf, arcade and heated driving range, you’ll be set for a minimum of 4 hours. Did I mention there’s also a movie theater down the road from this place? Nice little get-away, especially for cooler weather months.