Barbacoa Beef

Our last stop in New Zealand was Ahipara, a surfing town on the north shore of the North Island.  We are still novices at surfing, but we spent a week here enjoying the quiet beach, surfing, scoping out the New Zealand green-lipped mussels, and relaxing.  The tides were massive - the biggest I've ever seen.  Apparently the max tidal range is 13 feet, which represents the vertical change in the tide -- what we noticed was that at low tide, the water was hundreds of feet from where it was at high tide.  

At low tide, the beach was massive, the tide pools (and mussels) were visible, and you can actually drive on rocks around a point to reach new beaches and surf spots!  It was quite a contrast to Kauai where the tide was imperceptible.  

Examining her shadow on the water as the tide goes out

Examining her shadow on the water as the tide goes out

We've arrived in Tokyo, which means thatI won't be doing much cooking for the next six weeks.  We are renting homes in a few of our destinations, but also staying in hotels and ryokans, which are traditional Japanese inns.  In any event, I don't think cooking elaborate meals is on the agenda as I want to savor and try all of the local food.  Plus, I'm uncertain that I'll be able to figure out how to use the appliances...

I took advantage of having a slow cooker at our last airbnb in Ahipara to make Barbacoa Beef for taco bowls.  Barbacoa is, in Mexican cooking, beef, lamb, or other meat that has been slowly cooked with seasonings, and is typically shredded and used in burritos or tacos.  We've only had Mexican food once since we left Hawaii and we were both craving it - plus, this is ridiculously easy to make.


My dear friend, Megan, sent me an article this week about teaching your children about gratitude.  In this era of instant gratification (oh, how I miss Amazon Prime, which didn't work in Hawaii and certainly doesn't in New Zealand), it's something I have thought a lot about.  One tip in the article is to have your children help prepare meals.  I try to cook with Blythe, but often lament the fact that it means more clean up and the inevitable spills.  Instead of fretting about the mess, I'm going to try to embrace it!  The article recommends Curious Chef knives, which are safe for children, as well as a fun apron.  Curious Chef also offers a 30-piece set of kitchen tools in its own caddy.  Blythe uses the adult-sized tools, but I suspect she'd enjoy her own set and she could use them in her play kitchen. 

The ingredients for Mexican food in the Kaitaia grocery store were limited, so I had to improvise a bit.  That said, I've made this as written below numerous times with success.  We usually eat these as burrito bowls with lettuce, black beans, rice, tomatoes, shredded cheese, avocado or guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and hot sauce on the side.  This is one of those amazing slow cooker recipes that (1) requires no advance cooking in a separate pan, and (2) actually tastes good!

Barbacoa Beef
Yield = approximately 12 servings
Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

Preparation time = 10 minutes
Cook time = 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low


  • 3 lbs chuck roast (fat trimmed), cut into pieces that fit into your slow cooker (I don't make these chunks small, just a rough chop so all the meat fits in the slow cooker)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 chiptoles in adobo sauce, chopped (or more to taste - these are spicy but add great flavor)
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup beef broth or water

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker. Toss gently to combine. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours and 30 minutes, or on high for 3 hours and 30 minutes.  Test with a fork to confirm beef is tender and falls apart easily when shredded with a fork. 

2. Using two forks, shred the beef into bite-sized pieces inside of the slow cooker or on a separate plate (I find it easier to remove the beef and do this on a separate plate or on a rimmed baking sheet). Toss the beef with the juices, then cover and let the barbacoa beef soak up the juices for an extra 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.  Use a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon to serve the barbacoa beef.

3. Serve the beef with a range of toppings.  Our favorites include lettuce, tomatoes, Mexican rice, black beans, hot sauce, salsa, guacamole or avocado, and shredded cheese.

If not using immediately, refrigerate the barbacoa beef with its juices in a sealed container for up to 5 days or freeze it for up to 3 months (I've never tried the freezing before).

Barbacoa beef also tastes good served with a nice IPA.

Barbacoa beef also tastes good served with a nice IPA.