Slow Cooker Pork Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

I’m still in a Greek mood over here at SS&N (check out my last post, Warm Greek Salad with Chicken, if you missed it!) so I’m continuing the theme with another very much Greek-inspired dish!

Gyros are one of the most well-known parts of Greek cuisine. You’re probably familiar with them – a grilled pita filled with either chicken, pork, or veal, along with various condiments and veggies. Traditionally, the meat is roasted slowly on a spit over a constant heat. I’ve deviated a bit from tradition here, mainly due to my lack of a vertical turning spit for meat, and decided to do mine in the slow cooker. One of my most popular posts was my Apple Pulled Pork, and this definitely gives a nod to that method, but I’ve switched up the spices and cooking liquid a bit to make the dish definitely Greek.

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Start by dicing 1/2 a red onion and 2 stalks of celery and put them in the bottom of your slow cooker, to create a bed for the pork. Next comes the ever-important spice rub, which as always, starts with brown sugar. To the brown sugar, add 1 tbsp sat, 2 tsp of pepper, and about a teaspoon each of garlic powder, basil, oregano, celery seed, and dill weed. Rub this liberally all over your cut of pork. For mine, I used a 2 pound pork loin, and it turned out SO tender! If you’re needing to serve more than 4 people, you can use a pork butt (also called a pork shoulder) like I did in my original pulled pork recipe. If you get one that’s 4 pounds it should easily serve 8 people. (Obviously, double the quantities of everything listed if you go that route!)

Carefully place your pork on top of the bed of celery and onion.

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The last thing you’ll need before you set this thing a-cooking is your braising liquid. It’s so simple, you almost won’t believe it. Just combine the zest and juice of one lemon, 1 cup of dry white wine, and 1/2 a cup of balsamic vinegar. Pour that around your pork, put the lid on, and cook on high for 4 hours (or low for 7-8).

After the pork is cooked through, take it out of the slow cooker and use two forks to shred the meat, then return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and let simmer on low for another 15-30 minutes… essentially as long as it takes to do the rest of the prep for the meal!

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To make the tzatziki sauce, dice 1/2 a cucumber, salt liberally (perhaps 2 teaspoons or so), and then add them to a blender or food processor, along with 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon, and a teaspoon each of pepper, dill weed, and mint. Blend until smooth and then dish out into a small bowl.

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Finally, no gyro is complete without vegetables! Julienne 1/2 a red onion and 1 green pepper and saute with olive oil over medium high heat for about 3-5 minutes, or until they become tender and pliable. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, saute for one additional minute, and then remove from the heat.

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Once everything is done, use a slotted spoon to dish the pork out of the slow cooker, ensuring that you let most of the liquid drain off. Serve the pork, sauce, veggies, and some feta cheese in warmed pita bread. Pita bread comes with a handy little pocket for filling, but for the pictures, I just piled all my filling on top! 🙂

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Enjoy with a glass of dry white wine. Cheers!

Full Recipe:

Slow Cooker Pork Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Yield: 4 hearty servings

Ingredients:

Pork:
1/2 red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp each garlic powder, basil, oregano, celery seed, dill weed
2-pound pork loin
1 lemon (zest and juice)
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Tzatziki Sauce:
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 tsp salt
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 lemon (juice and zest)
1 tsp each pepper, dill weed, mint

Gyro Assembly:
4-6 pieces pita bread
1 tbsp olive oil
1 green pepper, julienned
1/2 red onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
Feta cheese, for topping

Process:

1) Make a spice rub for the pork. Combine brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano, celery seed, and dill weed in a small dish. Rub liberally all over the sides of the pork.

2) Place diced onion and celery in bottom of slow cooker. Carefully lay rubbed pork on top.

3) Combine lemon zest and juice, white wine, and balsamic vinegar, and then pour around the pork. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours.

4) Once pork is finished cooking, remove from slow-cooker and use two forks to shred the meat. Return the meat to the slow cooker and let simmer on low for another 15-30 minutes.

5) To make the tzatziki sauce, salt the cucumbers with the 2 tsp of salt and add to a blender or food processor. Also add the yogurt, lemon zest and juice, pepper, dill, and mint. Blend until smooth and pour into a small dish for serving.

6) Saute julienned green pepper and onions in olive oil over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes or until beginning to become soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute for one additional minute, then remove from heat.

7) Warm the pita bread and then cut open and fill with sauce, pork, and veggies. Top with feta cheese and enjoy!

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Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

I’m pretty convinced that everything good in the world comes from the Mediterranean region. As my loyal readers know, Tuscany is probably my favorite place on the planet, as I illustrated in my most pinned and most popular blog post ever, Tuscan Pasta in Lemon Blush Sauce. (Guys, it’s been pinned 142 times as of today. That’s a LOT for a small town girl like me!)

But I digress.

A place I have yet to visit in the world (but is TOTALLY on my bucket list!) is Greece. Not only is that a country steeped to the bursting in history and rich culture, but their food is known for being natural and wholesome. The Greeks are not at all fans of processed food – most McDonald’s that have tried to open there have ended up closing. Because of this, it’s naturally the ideal kind of cuisine for someone like me.

So, I’m sure a lot of you frequently visit Panera or some other establishment that serves a “Greek Salad.” Usually, it’s mixed greens with some olives, peppers, and feta tossed on top. Now don’t get me wrong – I will tear up a Greek salad from Panera Bread if I’m waiting to meet a client there. But did you know, the classic “Greek” salad actually has no lettuce at all?

Yup, that’s right. It’s a tomato and cucumber based salad, tossed with red onion, green pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese, and dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette.

Mouth watering yet? Yeah, mine too.

Read on my for my take on the classic Greek salad – warmed up with sautĂ©ed chicken!

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Mise en place – French for “everything in its place,” or doing all of your prepwork before you start cooking – is so important for this dish! The only thing you have to cook is the chicken, and that goes so fast that you’ll need to have everything else ready beforehand!

So, get yourself your favorite large cutting board (my father made mine for me, crafty gentleman that he is) and prep the following:

One pint cherry tomatoes, halved.

One cucumber, large dice.

One green pepper, small dice.

Half a red onion, small dice.

About 40 (ish) kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped.

Three cloves garlic, minced.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Kalamata olives typically come with the pits still in them. To get them out, crush the olive under the side of a chef’s knife (sort of like how you’d smash a clove of garlic to peel it) until it smashes down and the skin breaks, then pull the pit out with your fingers. It’s a little tedious, but once you get a rhythm, it’s not so bad.

Once this is all done, cube two large chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and once the pan is hot, add the chicken and season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss to coat and let simmer for five minutes or so, tossing occasionally. When it’s just about done, add your minced garlic, toss to combine, and cook for one additional minute.

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While the chicken is cooking, make your dressing by whisking together the zest and juice of one lemon, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the really good stuff!), 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but I promise, you only want a light coating of dressing!

Once the dressing is done, add your prepped veggies to a large bowl and pour the dressing overtop. As soon as the chicken/garlic is finished cooking, get it off the heat and immediately into the bowl. Toss it all together so the heat from the chicken warms up the vegetables a bit, and then dish it out and top with crumbled feta cheese!

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We eat with our eyes before we ever taste with our tongues, and I have to say, the colors in this dish make it look SO appetizing – and the flavors packed into it don’t disappoint!

Alternatively, you could of course make this into a vegetarian dish by removing the chicken. (Removing the chicken also turns it into a super awesome side dish, especially for summer!)

Full Recipe:

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, large dice
1 green pepper, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
Approx 40 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large chicken breasts, cubed into bite size pieces
Zest + juice of one lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for sautéing chicken)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, to taste

Process:

1) Prep all vegetables first (tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and olives), putting them into a large bowl as you finish each one.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Add to vegetables.

3) Cube chicken and add to a heated skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss occasionally and allow to cook for about five minutes, or until cooked through. Just before chicken is done, add minced garlic and toss to combine, allowing to cook for one additional minute.

4) Remove chicken from heat and immediately add to the vegetables. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with feta cheese after serving.

Four Super Simple Portable Breakfast Ideas

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I work from home. Therefore, breakfast for me should be pretty simple – just get up and cook whatever is on hand, and voila, I have a nutritious, filling breakfast every day!

This is great in theory, but I also happen to be a full-time college student, and I make sure to register for 8am classes so that I can beat rush hour and then be out of classes by noon. So, on those days of the week when I have to leave the house at 6:30 in the morning for an hour long commute, I definitely need a breakfast that is quick, simple, and won’t leave my stomach rumbling only an hour or two later!

This blog post is dedicated to some of my favorite simple breakfast ideas that are not only really easy, but also very portable, so you can eat them on the go!

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BONUS: They are all pretty good for you, too! Each one has a variety of elements that help to keep the meal balanced and keep you feeling full!

Whole Wheat Bagel with Mascarpone & Apples

This one is probably my favorite. The combination of flavors really has a lot of depth and they blend well together. I also think this one is the most filling!

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All you do is take a whole wheat bagel, spread each half with mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese, if you prefer), drizzle with honey, and lay apple slices on top! Sandwich it together and you’re done! I make this one the night before, wrap it tightly in foil, and leave it in the fridge overnight. That way, in the morning, I just grab it and go!

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Bagel-Apple-Sandwich

Yield: 1 sandwich

Ingredients:

1 whole wheat bagel
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1 tsp honey
1/4 apple, sliced thin

Process:

Spread each bagel half with mascarpone cheese. Drizzle honey, top with apple slices, and sandwich together. Can be stored overnight in refrigerator if necessary.

Good for you stuff:

Calories: 440
Fiber: 5.85g (24% DV)
Protein: 11g
Iron: 21% DV
Vitamin A: 8% DV
Vitamin C: 5% DV

Whole Wheat Banana & Nutella Sandwich

This one has all the sweetness of dessert without being horribly bad for you! I absolutely love Nutella because it is so versatile and goes with so many things – if it’s not a staple in your house, it will be soon!

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Toast two slices of whole wheat bread and spread each slide with Nutella. Slice about half of a banana (9 slices should be perfect) and lay them on one piece of the bread. Put it together and enjoy! This one should be eaten right away.

Finished Sandwich

Banana & Nutella Breakfast Sandwich

Yield: 1 Sandwich

Ingredients:

2 slices whole wheat bread
2 tbsp Nutella
1/2 banana, sliced

Process:

Toast both slices of bread. Spread with Nutella. Top one piece with banana slices, then sandwich together.

Good for you stuff:

Calories: 390
Fiber: 6.5g
Protein: 10g
Iron: 10% DV
Calcium: 10% DV
Potassium: 6% DV
Vitamin C: 9% DV

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

There are a whole lot of really complicated smoothie recipes out there that use a dozen and a half different ingredients to pack every possible ounce of nutrition into them. These have some merit, to be sure, but a lot of that stuff isn’t in the typical household (from what I’ve found) and it means it takes longer to put it together. This smoothie has only 4 ingredients, so it’s really quick and simple.

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In a blender, blend 1 banana, 3/4 cup strawberries (I buy the frozen sliced kind), 3/4 cup orange juice, and 1 container Yoplait Light Strawberry & Banana yogurt until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy! You can get some pretty awesome plastic re-usable travel cups from just about anywhere that are great for on-the-go smoothies.

Finished Smoothie

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:

1 container Yoplait Light strawberry-banana yogurt
3/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup strawberry slices
1 banana, sliced

Process:

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Good for you stuff:

Calories: 315
Fiber: 5g
Protein: 9.5g
Iron: 3% DV
Calcium: 24% DV
Potassium: 12% DV
Vitamin A: 15% DV
Vitamin C: 212% DV

Apple Pecan Muffins

These do take a little bit of work the day before, but they stay fresh for a couple of days, so you can take a couple to work/school for a few days in a row! They didn’t even last 24 hours in my house, though!

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees and line a cupcake baking sheet with paper baking cups. In a small dish, melt 4 tbsp (half a stick) of butter in the microwave. (45 seconds should do.) Set the butter aside to cool, and then dice a small-medium granny smith apple and roughly chop 1/2 cup pecans. Put the pecans on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven while it’s preheating. (5 minutes or so.)

Continue by combining 1 cup flour, 1/2 tbsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt in a small bowl. Set this aside, and then beat together 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/4 cup apple butter in a stand mixer. Keep the mixer on and slowly pour in your melted butter until everything is incorporated.

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Add your flour mixture to the liquid mixture and combine on the STIR setting for only a few seconds. You should still have flour visible:

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Add in your apples and pecans and then combine on STIR setting again for another few seconds until everything is mixed.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: You should have no more than 10 seconds or so of mixing time once you’ve added the flour to the bowl, and it is imperative you use the lowest possible setting on the mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, do this all by hand. Over-mixing the batter causes the muffins to be tough and dry instead of soft and moist!

Once your batter is combined, spoon it into your prepared baking pan. I found that it makes about 8-10 muffins if you fill each one almost to the top.

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Bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve immediately, or place in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

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I think two of these muffins in an appropriate serving size that compares to the nutrition levels found in the other 3 recipes in this post.

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Apple Pecan Muffins

Yield: 8-10 muffins

Ingredients:

1 small to medium granny smith apple
1/2 cup pecans

1 cup flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

4 tbsp butter
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup apple butter

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper baking cups.

2) Melt 4 tbsp butter in the microwave for 45 seconds. Set aside to cool.

3) Dice apple into 1/2 inch or smaller chunks and roughly chop pecans. Put pecans on a baking sheet and toast them in the preheating oven for about 5 minutes.

4) Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

5) In a stand mixer, beat together egg, sugar, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and apple butter. Slowly pour in melted butter while the mixer is still on.

6) Once everything is combined, stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then add your flour mixture. Combine on stir setting for a few seconds, then add apples and pecans. Combine on stir for another few seconds until mixture is combined. (No more than 10 seconds total mixing time after flour is added!)

7) Pour into prepared baking cups and bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.