Tacos with Sweet & Spicy Pork is a great slow cooker recipe for a do-ahead summertime meal. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Summer temperatures have finally arrived at the cove and I’m so grateful to have time to spend beautifying my little kingdom. Over the past month or so I’ve gotten into the wonderful routine of tending to dinner prep in the morning before the daily work of tending to the garden.

Slow cooker recipes aren’t often thought of in summertime, but for me, this method is a lifesaver when I am otherwise engaged. I have to say that never in my life have I cooked meat in soda before, but I will be doing it again. Soon. An added bonus is that there were leftovers to build hefty pork/sweet potato/black bean burritos for a few ready-to-reheat meals.

If you’re lucky enough to own a mandolin, this tool works well for prepping the crunchy jicama slaw. If you don’t have one, just use a good sharp knife. If you want to tone down the heat, remember to remove those seeds from the jalapenos. (I always wear gloves when handling hot peppers and suggest you do the same.)

As promised, here’s another rhubarb dessert that is definitely a keeper. I used a half-loaf of stale homemade wheat bread, but any kind of bread you have around the house – including those leftover hamburger buns – work. I think the whole business would be extra sublime if you incorporated a loaf of swirly cinnamon bread.

This dessert is lovely for breakfast, with bacon on the side – just call it “oven French toast” — and try a swizzle of pink rhubarb syrup on top!

Tacos with Sweet & Spicy Pork

1 (4-5 pound) pork butt
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 large onion, cut into wedges
3 cups root beer or Moxie
3-4 (canned) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
2-3 teaspoons additional adobo sauce
24 corn tortillas, warmed or fried
Suggested accompaniments: diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa verde or pico de gallo

Rub seasonings into pork on all sides then place in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add onion. Combine soda, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce and pour over pork.

Cover and cook on low seating for 8-10 hours or on the high setting for 4-5 hours or until pork shreds easily with a fork.

Transfer pork to a platter. Transfer liquid to a saucepan. Skim off fat and simmer sauce over medium heat for 20 minutes to reduce and thicken liquid.

Place shredded pork back in slow cooker and stir in sauce. Serve in tortillas with jicama slaw and other accompaniments. Yield: 12 servings

Jicama Slaw

3 pounds (3 large) jicama, peeled and julienned
12 ounces (1/4 large head) red cabbage, thinly sliced
Juice of 3 limes
3 jalapeños, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons sea salt

Combine cabbage and jicama in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. To make the dressing, combine lime juice, jalapenos, cilantro, scallions and salt in a medium bowl. When ready to serve, toss the vegetables and dressing together until well coated. Yield: 6 servings

Rhubarb Bread Pudding

6 cups (8 slices) stale bread cubes
1 1/2 cups milk, heated
1/4 cup butter, cubed
5 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread in a buttered 1 1/2-quart baking dish.

Stir butter into warm milk until melted. Pour over bread; let stand for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Fold in rhubarb then stir into bread mixture. Sprinkle with brown sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until set. Serve with vanilla ice cream and/or syrup. Yield: 8 servings

Pink Rhubarb Syrup

4 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, until rhubarb is soft. Remove from heat.

Strain rhubarb through a fine sieve. Return liquid to saucepan and simmer to reduce and thicken liquid. Yield: 2 cups

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