Cooking from my cookbooks: Minced pork and sour beans

One of my goals for 2014 is to cook from my cookbooks more often.  I neglected them a lot during 2012 and 2013, mostly because they were packed up during my floor renovations, which I have posted about before.  I’m thinking cooking from them twice a month is doable.  This time I ended up making the minced pork and sour beans from Cooking for Two.  I strongly recommend this cookbook for people who cook for one or two regularly.  It’s been a workhorse in my kitchen.

To be honest, I didn’t even notice this particular recipe when I was flipping through the book, ever, and I’ve owned this book for years and years now.  I’m a fan of the knitting and crochet site, Ravelry, and the forums on Rav extend well beyond just fiberwork.  I participate in the crockpot cooking section of the forum, as does Bruce Weinstein, one of the authors of Cooking for Two (He’s also got a new crockpot cookbook out now, which is really excellent, but I’ll post about that more later).  Bruce said this was one of his favorite recipes, and well, shit, he wrote the book,  so I thought I’d give it a try.

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It’s great!  And makes just enough for two filling servings.

1.5-2 C approx rice vinegar

1/3 lb Chinese long beans, or green beans, cut into small pieces, about a quarter inch

2 T Peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T minced ginger

1 t red pepper flakes

1/2 lb ground pork

2 T soy sauce

Simmer the vinegar in a saucepan and cook the beans, covered, for two minutes.  Drain the beans and discard the vinegar, but don’t rinse the beans once drained.

In a wok, heat the oil, garlic, ginger, pepper for a minute.  Add the pork, cook through, about 4 minutes.  Add the beans, cook another minute.  Add the soy sauce, cook another minute.  Serve with rice.

January Books

Another goal of mine is to log all the books I’ve read this year.  So often I’ll read a book and totally forget that I read it.  I’m going to preface this by saying that while I won’t put in blatant spoilers,  I may make references to the plots, so please read at your own discretion!

1. After the Music Stopped, Alan Blinder

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I do a lot of economic/political reading when I look for non-fiction, and when I first started this book I nearly put it down as usual fluff but I kept reading and ultimately got a lot out of it.  I don’t agree with a number of Mr. Blinder’s conclusions (he’s awfully soft on the Fed and the Clinton administration, but then you read his bio and see why) but the chronology of this book is really super and I did learn a lot.  He assumes a basic knowledge of macroeconomics as well as derivatives which might make this book too much for someone without a finance background (if that sounds like you, I highly recommend Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia) but I really like how he includes 2006-2012 in this book–so many stop after 2009 or so.  My biggest takeaway was a clearer understanding of how the various players in the game–the Fed, the Treasury, Congress, big bankers, etc– worked with each other during the fiscal crisis.

2. The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer

I couldn’t put this book down, but I do have mixed feelings on it.  It’s about six teens who meet at an arts summer camp in the 70s.  It follows the lives of four of the youth up through their 50s (aka through present time) with the occasional mention/appearance of the other two.  Something happens between two of the teens which has implications on them for decades to come.  To be honest I feel like it didn’t need to happen.  In another plot, one the other teens ends up being wildly successful (creates a show that sounds an awful lot like The Simpsons) and the concept of evaluating your choices in life, as you get older, and wondering if you did the right thing or if you were ever truly meant to be anything but ordinary  could have been expanded rather than the confrontation which splits the group.  The confrontation is never comfortably resolved, though, I suppose that’s rather realistic in many cases, but it makes me have less respect for our protagonist.  Did anyone else read this book?  Would like to hear your thoughts on it!

3. Allegiant, Veronica Roth

this has been a hot series in the YA fiction realm so I’m hoping I’m not the only one who has read this here.  I HATED the ending.   HATED IT.  I felt massively uncomfortable experiencing the last few chapters along with Four.  But the more I thought about the series as a whole the more I find fault with it.  To note:

1. What’s up with all the factionless people?  Why is this OK in the eyes of the factioned?  Wouldn’t you think the Abnegation would do something about this?  Based on how the Abnegation culture is described, they wouldn’t permit a world with this vast factionless population.  The factioned people all seemed pretty naive/ignorant regarding the factionless.

2.  Not buying how things end with Evelyn and Four.  Sorry not sorry.

3.  Why did Ms. Roth name the romantic lead Tobias?  How am I supposed to buy into a romantic scene when this is all I can picture:

The name Tobias is forever tainted.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve read in January.  I’ve started another non fiction book called Dollarocracy, which I’m not too far into, but now that I’ve plowed through Louie on Netflix maybe I’ll be reading more.

Total books read for 2014: 3

Tuna Casserole from scratch: Courtesy of the kitchn

Our winter here has been excruciating.  Snow, super cold temps, and no end in sight.  Total casserole weather.

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So I made The Kitchn’s Tuna Casserole.  I was pretty pleased with it.  The recipe notes that it freezes well (cook it first, then freeze it), so rather than making it in one large baking dish I split it between two smaller ones so one could be for dinner that night and the other went straight into the freezer after it cooled.  I hadn’t had tuna casserole in years…maybe even decades…but it just sounded like the perfect meal for this endless winter.

I haven’t defrosted the second one yet, so I can’t verify that it’s just as good after being frozen, but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t have frozen well, given the ingredients.

Now Streaming: Louie

With miserable weather like we’ve had this month, it’s the perfect time to watch the tv you’ve heard was good but never got around to.  Enter Louie:

Being happily childfree, I still find Louie’s struggles with raising his little girls hilarious and relate-able.  Three seasons are up on Netflix right now, and I plowed through them pretty fast.  It’s  mostly dark, deadpan humor, with a surprising amount of poignancy and even bleakness at times.  Surrealism is it’s wheelhouse–the show veers into complete fantasy with no notice.  Louis CK is really excellent at keeping it interesting at all times, and I find every season to be better than the last.  It’s also a great portrayal of New York–very reminiscent of Woody Allen, cinematically.  Here’s a clip that illustrates what I’m talking about regarding surrealism at work in this show (and I absolutely love his portrayal of the coffeeshop scene).   Don’t watch this at work or everyone will think you’re off your rocker:

Louie comes back this May, I can’t wait!

Late to the party again: Sweet potatoes and black beans

OK, I saw someone talking about this meal online and it sounded so easy and worth trying that I made it for dinner on Saturday.  And, OMG.  This is so easy and really delicious.  Is everyone else eating this and I wasn’t aware?  Because we should all be  eating this.

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Roast sweet potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees for at least 45 minutes.  I kept them whole, and poked holes with a fork all over them prior to putting them in the oven.  My potatoes were pretty large, so they took closer to an hour.

When they’re just about done heat up a can of black beans and add salsa to taste.  You can add salt or chili powder if you want.

I put manchego cheese on mine, but it’s great without it too.  And it’s really pretty filling!

Also what’s pretty cool is I made this entirely with food from the farmers market, save the spices.  The sweet potatoes and cheese I got from the winter market last wknd, the beans I bought dried this past summer and canned using my pressure canner, the salsa I also made over the summer using farmer’s market produce and water bath canned.

Hope you enjoy this super easy and tasty (and vegan, when made without cheese!) winter dinner!

Back again…late to the party!

Hello again! Over the Christmas break my computer stopped working.  I was able to narrow down that it was a hardware issue and as it was a cheap, bulky laptop from about 2009 or 10, getting it fixed seemed to be a poor use of money. Every other time I have had a computer die, I do the following: 1.  Panicflail that I’ll be without my beloved internet:

panicflail!!!

2. Make haste to the nearest Best Buy.

3.  Ask for cheapest laptop available.

4.  Repeat in three years when the cheapest laptop can’t handle this earth any longer.

This time I actually took the time to think about what I wanted and do some research.  Yes, I was without a computer for a few weeks, but I can still browse the internet with my phone and kindle, although they suck for typing.  (aside: what is with the wordpress app for android?  anyone else use it and have a hell of a time typing on it?  it capitalizes Every Damn Word regardless of placement.  Can anyone help me with it not being a piece of crap? )

I really don’t like to sit at a desk, so I was really interested in a tablet with a keyboard.  Also, seeing as I work in accounting, my whole career is wrapped up in spreadsheets, and I really wanted MS Office.  My past two laptops didn’t have it (because they were cheap and I didn’t want to pay for it separately) and OpenOffice’s spreadsheet software just wasn’t cutting it.

Bitches be all over my vlookup skillz.

I settled on the Asus Transformer T100.  It’s cheap, comes with MS office, runs on Windows 8.1 which I’m told is superior to Windows RT, and I gotta say I absolutely love it so far.  The  only real drawback is the keyboard is really small, although I’m really not struggling all that much through physically typing this post out, so I guess it’s not all that much of a drawback.  I am really enjoying the bing apps that come with it as well–particularly the fitness, cooking, and news apps.  If you’re here in Chicago you’ve probably seen the ads for this laptop/tablet hybrid on the Brown line.  They taunted me all week while I waited for the computer to ship.

Anyways I named this post “late to the party” because I feel like everyone has been working off of tablets now and I’ve finally ditched the huge clunky beast of a laptop I used to work off of.  Also, I’ve got a recipe that I’ll be putting up soon, that was so tasty and simple I can’t help but wonder if everyone else has been making it without me!  I’ll save that post for another day, though.