One interesting aspect of Whole30 has been adding a lot more protein to my diet. In the past, I didn’t eat much meat during the day, for the most part defaulting to smoothies, toast, cereal/oatmeal and sandwiches (usually PB&J) and for dinner I’d usually make some kind of chicken or fish (occasionally pork or beef) that was served alongside pasta, rice or potatoes. So when I started Whole30 and I couldn’t eat any gluten, grains or starchy vegetables I basically had to start over. I never had a problem planning dinners but breakfast and lunch was hard to figure out.
It quickly became apparent that when I ate meat and/or eggs during the day, I had a lot more energy and felt much better. Despite that, it’s been a big adjustment, since the meats I prefer (bacon, ham, lunch meat) have added sugar or chemicals so I’m not allowed to eat them. To keep my energy up during the day, I’ve mainly been eating a lot of eggs for breakfast and then chicken or tuna for lunch. I also add spinach to either my eggs or a smoothie since leafy greens have a lot of protein. Even after almost a month, I can’t say I love eating so much during the day, so I’ll be very happy when I can get my protein from Greek Yogurt, peanut butter and bacon again.
I do like being able to eat more meat at night, though. And it’s especially nice not feeling like I always have to choose the low fat or lean option. I’ve been experimenting a lot more with my dinner protein so that I’m not just eating the same chicken and fish all day, every day. Brandon loves ribs and has been asking me to make them for…years now? But I’ve never even eaten ribs and cooking them seemed pretty intimidating. Plus, whenever I’ve seen people eating them, it always looks so messy. My OCD does not like messy food.
But I’m really glad that I finally told my OCD to stuff it. It turns out Brandon was right (sigh, I hate admitting that) and that pork ribs are really freaking good. Also? They’re so easy to make! I was imagining it to be big ordeal, but you only have to rub them with some spices and put them in a slow cooker for 6 or 7 hours. That’s it! After slow cooking for 7 hours, these ribs are super tender and juicy and perfect. Then you slather them with sauce and pop them under the broiler for a few minutes before serving.
Now, the ribs are really good on their own, but I think it’s the sauce that’s key. It’s not quite Fall yet and there’s still lots of summer produce to go around, so I wound up with a bunch of peaches and mangoes that were on sale and this barbecue sauce was the perfect way to use them up. This recipe is completely Paleo, so there’s no added sugar. The fruit provides plenty of sweetness, with lime and vinegar for tartness and then jalapeno and spices to add a nice spicy kick. The ribs are coated in the same spices that are in the sauce, which makes everything extra delicious together.
It would be easy just to eat ribs, but I knew I had to get some vegetables in there, so I served them with my favorite recipe for greens. I generally find kale and spinach too bitter but this recipe cooks the greens down in a tangy and sweet mixture that balances out all the bitterness. The ingredients might look a little weird, but when they’re all cooked together it comes out delicious. The best part is that this recipe works with just about any kind of leafy green vegetable like spinach, kale, chard or a combination of your favorites.
These slow cooker pork spare ribs are comfort food at its finest. They’re perfect if you’re looking for a simple set-it-and-forget-it recipe to make while you’re at work or out enjoying your weekend. The barbecue sauce can even be made the day before to save more time. Just make sure you have a lot of napkins on the table when you serve these ribs, you’re going to need them.
Slow Cooker Pork Spare Ribs with Spicy Peach-Mango BBQ Sauce
Dinner | Servings: 6 to 8
Prep time: 20 min | Cook time: 7 hours | Total time: 7 hour 20 min
- 3 to 4 lbs. pork spare ribs
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. ancho chile powder
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil
- 2 large peaches, pitted, peeled and chopped
- 1 mango, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers, roughly chopped (remove seeds for less heat)
- 5 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 tsp. coconut aminos or soy sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. ancho chile powder
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (reduce or omit for less heat)
Cook the Ribs:
- Cut ribs into smaller sections that will fit in your slow cooker.
- In a small bowl, combine salt, garlic powder, ancho chile powder, pepper, both paprikas and cayenne pepper. Rub spice mixture all over the ribs until well coated.
- Place seasoned ribs in your slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. (The longer you cook them the more tender they’ll be, but mine were great after about 7 hours.)
Make the BBQ Sauce:
This can be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge. Reheat the sauce over low heat or in the microwave.
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped peaches, mango, onion and jalapeno peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add in tomato paste and chicken broth and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes more or until the fruits and vegetables are soft.
- Transfer the peach mixture to a blender or food processor and process until completely smooth. Transfer mixture back to the pan and place the pan over low heat.
- Stir in the coconut aminos (or soy sauce), lime juice, vinegar, minced garlic and all the remaining spices.
- Cook, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally. It should be low enough that it’s not splattering everywhere but still simmering very gently. Reduce the sauce for at least an hour or until it’s as thick as you want it to be. Remove from heat and set aside until the ribs are done.
Serve the Ribs:
- When the ribs are done cooking, preheat your broiler.
- Place ribs on foil lined baking sheets. Liberally brush with warm BBQ sauce.
- Place under broiler for 5 minutes or until they look nicely glazed. Serve immediately.
Don’t worry if you taste the BBQ sauce and it’s too spicy for you. It becomes less spicy the longer you cook it for, so just keep the heat low and keep cooking it.
Sweet and Savory Greens
Side Dish | Servings: about 4 servings
Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 30 min | Total time: 40 min
You can make this with any one or combination of dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, chard, mustard greens, etc. My grocery has pre-packaged kale, baby spinach and chard, which is what I’ve been using lately, but I’ve also made this with only kale or spinach.
- 2 tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 4 medjool dates, pitted and finely diced or 3 tsp. sugar
- 6 cups kale, spinach and/or chard, stemmed and torn
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries (optional)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat oil in a large, deep pan over medium. Add onion and garlic and cook for about 5 or until the onions are translucent.
- Stir in broth, mustard, vinegar and dates (or sugar). Increase heat to high and bring to boil.
- Add in greens, cover and cook for about 5 minutes or until wilted.
- Turn the heat down to medium-high and add in the cranberries (if using). Continue cooking, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half and cranberries have softened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.