Here we are in the dog days of summer, the last hurrah, the final stretch. As a mother to two young boys, these remaining weeks of August are celebrated almost as grandly as Christmas. We head to Grandma’s beach house, settle in, and try to forget the impending backpacks and lunchboxes.
But as any busy parent knows, “vacation” with kids is not all frosé and beach reads. No, vacation with little ones is a full-on Olympic sport: Sleep is thrown off, thousand of pounds of beach toys are lugged down steamy paths, and regular routines are shaken up.
Dinner is one such routine (don’t ask how many soft serve twists and bags of Cape Cod potato chips were consumed this month...).
But I've smartened up. This year, I am packing my beloved slow cooker to ensure that stress-free, balanced meals make it onto the dinner table. Although the slow cooker is thought of as a winter tool, I am pleased to report a homecooked dinner waiting for you after the beach tastes just as good as one after sledding. Slow-cooking in the summer doesn’t overheat the house, and produce from the local farmers market and farm stands make perfect sides and sauces to compliment the main event.
Here is my recipe for Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos with Summer Peach & Tomato Salsas, which you can start in the morning and return to for dinner that night. I encourage you to put the kids in charge of the salsas: Set up a few cutting boards outside and child-safe knives, drop a load of fresh peaches, tomatoes, and herbs and let them go to town—there's (almost) no way they'll mess up the perfect August produce.
As this recipe feeds a crowd, you are likely to have leftover carnitas, which taste just as good the next day at the beach, packed into a sandwich or atop greens.
For the carnitas tacos:
- 4 to 5 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder
- 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Juice of 2 limes plus 1 lime cut into wedges, for serving
- Juice of 1 orange
- 12 ounces beer
- Corn tortillas
- Peach and tomato salsas (recipes below)
- Hot sauce of your choice (I like green pepper sauce on these)
For the salsas:
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons minced jalapeño (with or without seeds and membranes)
- A few big pinches kosher salt
- A few grinds of black pepper
- Big squirt of lime juice
- 2 cups diced tomatoes (any color or size)
- 2 cups peeled and diced peaches
What's your favorite way to use your slow cooker in summer months? Tell us in the comments!
Photos by Elizabeth Cecil