By Tonja Engen

Fall can be a chaotic time with school in full swing, along with everything else—sports, dance, church, business trips. You name it, it’s begun. What happened to my carefree summer when dinners were at dusk and kids lingered in their swimsuits with wet hair and popsicle-stained faces? (sigh)
Let this recipe and your slow-cooker become your new best friend during this busy season. I always try for some semblance of dinner even if the house is a revolving door. These carnitas tacos are big on flavor and low on effort. Your family can grab their favorite fixins and enjoy this tasty versatile meal. The best part—leftovers. You can use leftover carnitas to make chili, quesadillas, salads, or wraps. The possibilities are endless. Or simply freeze the leftovers for another meal.

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

For the Carnitas:
4–5 pound pork shoulder
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T kosher salt
1 t ground black pepper
1 T ground cumin
1 T dried oregano
2 T chili powder
½ t crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
¼ c fresh squeezed lime juice
½ c fresh squeezed orange juice
1 onion, chopped

For Assembly:
Red onion
Queso fresco (shredded), or your favorite cheese
Radishes, sliced
Cilantro, minced

In a small bowl, combine oil, salt, black pepper, cumin, oregano, chili powder, red pepper, and garlic to make a paste. Rub paste liberally over the pork shoulder.
Place bay leaves, lime juice, orange juice, onion, and seasoned pork shoulder into a slow cooker. Cover, and cook on low heat for 8–10 hours or high for 4–6 hours.
Remove pork shoulder from the slow cooker and shred the meat before returning to the slow cooker with the juices. Season again with salt and pepper. Cover, and keep warm until ready to serve.
If you would like the carnitas crispy, preheat oven to broil. Place carnitas on a baking sheet and broil until crisp and crusted, about 3-4 minutes.
Serve immediately.

We are always looking for ways to make weeknight dinners healthy, fast, and tasty. I hate skimping on flavor for the sake of time. This dinner checks all the boxes and is a cinch to throw together. The garlic becomes a soft spread after it cooks, and the juices meld into a lemony white wine sauce—so sop it all up with some ciabatta bread and pat yourself on the back. You have a new go-to meal for your weeknight repertoire.

Sheet Pan Roasted Lemon Garlic Chicken With Cauliflower

9 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
⅓–½ c olive oil
3 T lemon zest (3 lemons)
1 t each salt and pepper
2 T fresh thyme
2 T fresh rosemary
½ t red pepper flakes
8 garlic cloves, peeled
½ c white wine
3 lemons, thinly sliced
3 T fresh parsley, minced

Preheat the oven to 425°F, and line a 13 x 18 inch large sheet pan with foil.
In a bowl, stir together the lemon zest, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and pepper flakes.
Place the chicken on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle it with half the olive oil. Sprinkle the herb mixture over each chicken thigh. Place the cauliflower, garlic cloves, and lemon slices around the chicken. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the cauliflower, garlic, and lemons.
Pour white wine around the chicken, and place in the oven.
Roast for 35 to 40 minutes or until the insides of the chicken reach 165°F. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle fresh parsley over the top.
Serve with a crusty loaf of bread.

Want more easy recipes? Tonja Engen’s award-winning cookbook Tonja’s Table: Menus and Recipes for Every Occasion is available at This cookbook includes over 40 menus for entertaining and parties or weeknight dinners, with a special section for restaurant-inspired recipes.