Sweet and Sour Pork Balls

Posted 23 July, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 12 Comments

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Sweet and Sour Pork Balls

 

Sweet and Sour Pork Balls

Trying new recipes is always a gamble with kids. I love experimenting in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s tough to get little ones to buy into something different. Even with mashed potatoes (what IS it with kids and mashed potatoes!). A few years ago I found a recipe for sweet and sour pork balls that we really enjoyed, and it’s one of those that I’m shocked everytime my kids gobble it up. Mom and dad are happy, kids are happy, and there’s usually some leftovers for lunch the next day.

When I made these Sweet and Sour Pork Balls two nights ago, Elle threw a massive fit because she wanted tacos. I gently explained that sometimes we have to make dinner according to what’s in the fridge that day and I could make tacos on Friday. She pouted and pouted until she took her first bite of the porkball. She smiled and said, “oh mommy, I do love this!” *eyeroll*

Sweet and Sour Pork Balls

Serves 4, Ready in about 30 minutes

Ingredients for Pork Balls

1 pound ground pork
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cups breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/4 tsp Chinese Five Spice
salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp oil (for cooking)

Ingredients for Sauce

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/4 cup water
8 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained

Directions

1. Mix the ground pork, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, Chinese Five Spice, and salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.

2. Form pork mixture into 24 uniform balls

3. Heat the oil in a pan and cook the pork balls (in batches if necessary). About 20 minutes

4. Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine the sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce. In a separate cup, whisk together the cornstarch and water and add to the pan. Mix together well and bring to a boil. Simmer sauce for 5 minutes then add then tomatoes and pineapple. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. I like to blend the ingredients with an immersion blender to make smooth, but this isn’t necessary if you rather a chunkier sauce.

5. Add the pork balls to the sauce to coat. Serve with fried rice.

Notes: I found the recipe for these Sweet and Sour Pork Balls online years ago (yay found it!). The original does not call for Chinese 5 Spice which has a pretty distinctive taste. If you’re not a fan, omit it. The original also calls for green peppers in the sauce, but I developed a pregnancy aversion so skip this as well. I also brown the pork balls and cook in the sauce, but since I’m doing a billion other things at the same time I don’t know how long I cook them for so didn’t include this change above. Other than these small changes (and the fact that I don’t measure out the tomatoes and pineapple), the recipe is pretty close to the original. It’s one of those that is super forgiving…thank goodness!

Sweet and Sour Pork Balls 2

Last week someone asked me about my fried rice recipe. It’s another one of those family favorites that I haven’t shared because I just kind of wing it without measuring anything. I use this Chinese Fried Rice recipe as a starter. All I know is that everyone loves fried rice in our house!

Yum yum! Nothing better than a delicious meal that the kids will gobble up.

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Linking up with:

weekend cookingEvery weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

 

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Books From Around the World

Posted 19 July, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook / 27 Comments

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10 Books from Around the World

Reading books from around the world is something I love to focus on. I love traveling to different countries via books and seeing the world through other’s eyes. Sadly over the past couple of years, though, I haven’t been paying as much attention to where I’m reading nor where the authors I’m reading are from. This means that while my reading is still fairly diverse, the books I’ve been reading have been mostly set in the United States and the UK.

Today the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish are asking for our favorite books that aren’t set in the US. I took this one step further and am sharing books set abroad by authors who are not from the US. This means I had to leave out some of my favorites–The Poisonwood Bible (Congo), Maus (Poland), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Dominican Republic)–but hopefully you can find something on the list to diversify your reading list.

Books From Around the World

Books Around the World

The Bone People by Keri Hulme (New Zealand) – A beautiful and tender story about the tenuous relationship between an outcast woman, an orphaned boy, and a haunted man.  Hulme focuses on the Maori culture and the way that the indiginous people are margionalized in New Zealand. A touching read. On Goodreads

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (India) – Set in 1960s India, The God of Small Things centers around young twins and an Untouchable whom they both love dearly despite “love laws.” While this wasn’t the easiests of reads, it gripped me while reading it and has had a lasting impact on me. More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (Canada) – I feel a bit of a cheat including a book set in Canada in this list, but I love Atwood’s books set in Toronto which make me nostalgic for the years that I lived there when I was young. The Blind Assassin is part mystery, part science fiction, but entirely engrossing. On Goodreads

I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached (Lebanon) – This graphic memoir shows what life was like during the Lebanese Civil War through the eyes of a child. I loved the black and white illustrations, but what struck me was seeing the everyday juxtaposed with a wartorn country. More of my thoughts |  On Goodreads

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (Ukraine) – Partly set in the UK and partly set in Ukraine, I learned so much about wartime and peacetime life through Lewycka’s quirkly little book. A Short History is full of colorful characters and is a gem of a book. More of my thoughts  | On Goodreads

 

Books Around the World

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (Japan) – The book that made me put Seeing the Cherry Blossoms in Japan on my bucket list. While the book details a love affair, the descriptions of the Japanese countryside and culture were unforgettable. More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

My Father’s Paradise by Ariel Sabar (Iraq) – I’m breaking my “authors not from the US” with this selection, but I wanted to include Sabar’s memoir/biography/history of searching for his Jewish roots in Kurdish Iraq. Certainly when we think of Iraq, we don’t automatically think of the Jewish faith, but reading Sabar’s book brought to light so many things about the country and religion. More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Chile) – One of those sweeping South American family sagas with all of the magical realism. No but really–a great multi-generational story that will make any soap opera look tame. I read this one over a decade ago and some of the scenes are still so vivid in my memory. On Goodreads

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Mexico) – Admittedly I didn’t love this little love story set in Mexico, but so many people rave about it that I’ve kept it on my shelf for a re-read one day. Do you do that? Plan to read a book you didn’t love the first time to see if you like it better the second? Sigh. More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) – Another book set in the 1960s, this time during the Nigerian-Baifran war. A war I didn’t realize happened and a country I didn’t realize existed (Biafra) until I read this book. Half of a Yellow Sun is a character study and one that I would love to revisit. You know, right after I read Adichie’s other books first! More of my thoughts | On Goodreads

Coming up with this list made me realize how much I miss reading the world.

Which books set outside of the US by international authors do I need to add to my reading list? I’d love to hear your recommendations.

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A Blue Apron Experience

Posted 15 July, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 38 Comments

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Thoughts on Blue Apron Food Delivery Service

For the past couple of years I’ve seen so many pictures on social media of my friends cooking up delicious sounding meals from Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and the likes. If you’re not familiar with these food/meal delivery systems, the idea is a simple one–the company sends all of the ingredients needed to make an entire meal along with the recipe and helpful hints. I was thrilled when a friend told me she wanted to send me two free meals (a promotion Blue Apron offers to subscribers).

In order to get the two meals, I had to sign up for a Blue Apron account but it was clear that I would be able to cancel after I received my meals as long as I did so before my second shipment was prepared. Or if I wanted to continue with the service, I would be ready to go. I took a look at the calendar and there were four meals offered for each week–two of which I could choose (there is an option for three meals a week that only serve two people).

I picked a week that seemed to have the best choices for my family. We would receive the ingredients for Seared Chicken and Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs with Fried Rice. Yay! We were all set to receive the box…and then Scott booked a work trip for that week. So, I received the box on a Sunday and we didn’t cook our first meal until the following Saturday and one the following week. This is a testament to just how fresh to ingredients are. The only item that wasn’t high quality was the garlic, which I found baffling as I’ll hang on to the same bulb of garlic for (I don’t want to admit how long).

The picture above shows the box as I opened it. All of the ingredients were individually wrapped and each recipe had a brown paper bag with the “knick knacks” (the pre-measured spices and sauces). The meat products were stored beneath the produce and the chicken was leaking a bit so I put it in a ziploc before storing in the fridge.

 

Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs with Fried Rice

Blue Apron Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs Ingredients

 

The first recipe I cooked was the Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs with Fried Rice. Neither the meatballs nor the fried rice are foreign concepts in our house; in fact, both are family favorites. With allergies and young palates, though, I knew that I would have to cook the zucchini, mushrooms, scallions, and snow peas separately and that I would be the only one eating them. I prepped all of the ingredients and served up each plate based on everyone’s tastes. I gave the girls the meatballs before I rolled them in the glaze, but I wish I hadn’t done that because I think they would have really liked the sweet flavor. Scott loved it! I loved the fried rice with all of the veggies. This was a definite winner and one that we’ll be making again (with my normal fried rice).

Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs Recipe from Blue Apron

Blue Apron Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs Cooked

 

 

Seared Chicken and Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Blue Apron Seared Chicken & Crispy Smashed Potatoes

 

I wasn’t convinced that the Seared Chicken and Crispy Smashed Potatoes would be as big a winner as the pork balls, but I ended up being surprised at how flavorful the chicken was with just salt and pepper seasoning. I wish I had pounded the chicken before cooking, though, because it ended up a little tough. The potatoes are ones that I’ve made before, but I liked the idea of cooking them on the stovetop instead of in the oven. I had some of the same potatoes at home when I received the order, so I added them to the mix. We are big potato eaters and I’m not sure the Blue Apron portion would have been enough if I hadn’t added extra. I really liked the green beans but was the only one who ate them. This is no fault of Blue Apron. Overall, another satisfying meal.

Seared Chicken and Crispy Smashed Potatoes Recipe from Blue Apron

-Blue Apron Seared Chicken & Crispy Smashed Potatoes Cooked

 

 

What I Loved about Blue Apron

The meals were flavorful and easy to cook up with my kitchen experience. I love the recipe cards Blue Apron provided with the step by step instructions as well as helpful hints. If I felt so inclined, I could have gone onto their website for more helpful hints. The quality of the food was good, especially as we were probably eating the dishes much later than what Blue Apron intended. I was still able to control the amount of ingredients going into each dish and was able to make small amendments based on our tastes.

I love that the recipes got us out of our comfort zone just a little bit–adding garlic and shallot to green beans is a great move but not one I would normally take the time for. Similarly, I usually just add frozen peas and chopped carrot to my fried rice but loved the snow peas and zucchini. What’s also great about these meals is that we can try ingredients without committing to a big purchase that will end up wasting away in the pantry or fridge.

 

What I Didn’t Love about Blue Apron

The cost of Blue Apron is one of the big prohibitors of me signing up for a subscription. The family plan (for four) starts at about $70 a week for two meals. The two-person plan is about $60 a week for three meals. If a family eats out a fair amount or orders take-out, then this is likely less expensive than cooking from groceries? For a homecooked meal, I could buy all of the ingredients for much less. The convenience of having everything proportioned is definitely factored into the price as well as the convenience of home delivery. See more on Blue Apron pricing.

Another pitfall was the amount of prep required. The pork meatball recipe took me a long time to get ready between chopping all of the veggies, making the rice, forming the porkballs. The cook time says 35-45 minutes but it took me a lot longer than this. The chicken recipe went more quickly, but even that required a bit of prep work ahead of time. The bottom line is that cooking any recipe for the first time will take longer than it should, at least for me. I love cooking new things, but it isn’t ideal for a busy weeknight meal with three kids underfoot.

 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, my not continuing with Blue Apron comes down to two factors–kids and allergies. Yes, cost is a big factor but with better budgeting and planning it might work. Allergies is the biggie. Oral allergy syndrome means that hub cannot eat most fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked down to mush. This makes our dinners complicated as it is (“Why doesn’t daddy have to eat broccoli?”) but it’s manageable when I can plan all aspects of our meals. The Blue Apron selections have a lot of produce, which would normally be a huge plus but not for our limitations.

Kids. I don’t care what that book says about French kids eating everything. I’m considering it a huge win that my kids don’t eat frozen chicken nuggets every night (hey, no judging here!), but they don’t have gourmet palates either. Asking them to try shiitake mushrooms is one thing, but asking them to enjoy them is another. For a family with small children, the meal choices I saw on Blue Apron were a bit sophisticated.

Overall I had a lot of fun cooking up our two Blue Apron meals. For a foodie who loves to cook, this was a fantastic gift and I loved the experience. While it isn’t for us right now, perhaps when the girls get older this could be a really fun way to experiment in the kitchen–especially as the two older girls love to help cook. I was also thinking it would be a perfect gift (or subscription) for my retired parents who don’t have any kids at home (or anyone who doesn’t have young kids at home…or who doesn’t mind cooking more than one meal a night for their kids…or who has kids who will miraculously eat everything). Either way, as these services are popping up all over the place, there’s certainly a market!

 

Have you tried a food delivery/meal service? I’d love to hear about your experience!! Is there one that you think might be more friendly to young families?

 

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Linking up with:

weekend cookingEvery weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

 

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Ten Random Facts About Me Right Now

Posted 12 July, 2016 by Trish in Life / 34 Comments

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Ten Facts About MeHi guys! I’ve been wanting to write some rambly style posts for a while but time always seems to get away from me. Yes on Wednesday through Friday each week I’m at home alone with the babe and she usually naps for two to three hours during the day, but I have no idea what happens during that time! Of course, if I’m honest, it usually takes me several hours to churn out a single post these days.

I keep an Evernote note of Top Ten Tuesday prompts so that I can quickly see at a glance if there’s anything interesting coming up, and when I saw that today’s prompt is Ten Facts About Me I figured I’d roll this up into stuff that’s going on in my life right now. You know…besides those three little whirlwinds that keep me busy.

So, instead of the usual facts like I’m half Canadian or that I’ve had my ears pierced 11 times, below are ten things that are true in this moment.

 

Ten Absolutely Random Facts About Me Right Now

ONE – I am obsessed with making my bed every day. Sometimes this doesn’t happen until five minutes before I get in bed. Yes it does make a difference! It’s one of my absolute favorite things. Even better if the sheets have been washed that day.

make bed gif

 

TWO – No matter how hard I try, I absolutely cannot seem to get dinner on the table before 6:30. Even if I’m only heating up leftovers. Or if I’ve been cooking something all day. I suspect this is because I’m supremely good at procrastinating? But 6:30 is certainly the magic number.

THREE – Snapchat. I succumbed. And those filters. I cannot get enough of them. Ahem…see first paragraph about what happens during naptime. It’s a sickness. Find me! (And while the makeup below is not mine, the bedhead 1000% is)

snapchat

 

FOUR – I, like everyone else in the world, cannot stop listening to Hamilton (the musical). I’m currently on step 20 of these Steps to Becoming Obsessed with Hamilton (though agree with 21).

FIVE – When I’m in between audiobooks, I’ll sometimes listen to bits and pieces of Outlander. Skipping here and there. Just trying to get more of Jamie and Claire (rhyme unintentional).

Jamie and Claire

SIX – Speaking of Jamie and Claire (what, they can take up 20% of my random facts, right?!), I recently watched the season finale of Outlander Season 2 on Starz. There were actual tears. I can’t wait another nine months for another season!

SEVEN – I chopped my hair off. It hasn’t been this short in years and I sent Scott a warning text before I got home because I was afraid he’d die of shock. The girls barely noticed. Heh.

short hair don't care

 

EIGHT – We recently took a roadtrip to New Mexico (Taos area). I’ve already forgotten that I slept 60% of the nights with a six month old on my chest and am proclaiming it the best trip ever. Though I have not forgotten when Scott decided to drive home through the night rather than during the day. Thank goodness for Hamilton and Outlander during my driving shifts!

new mexico

 

NINE – Elle goes to Kindergarten in six weeks. I literally just calculated that for the first time and can now be found in a fit of depression. How did this happen?

5 years old

 

TEN – Annnnnnnd to keep this bookish, I’m currently in various progress with four different books. Just Mercy (on my Kindle), Everything is Illuminated (on paper), The Fireman (audio/library ebook). Ok, that’s just three books. I forgot that I just finished Gulp (on audio). (Pst…if you want to read The Fireman, jump along on social media with #FiremanAlong. Lots of folks still getting started!

FiremanAlong

 

Whew! So maybe this was cheating a bit for today’s post, but it was fun thinking up these random tidbits. I feel like that’s what this blog (and I) have been missing lately.

What’s an absolutely random fact about YOU right now? I’d love to hear what’s going on in your world.

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Six Month Update – 6.27.2016

Six Month Update – 6.27.2016

While I didn’t publish Cara’s five month update, I did record it. This means that this update will look quite different from her four month update, but I’m going to try hard to not back track with explanations! Sleep – I do love a napping baby. Turns out Cara loves to sleep afterall. I wouldn’t have known it during the first four months of her life when she only napped for 30 minutes in a row. […]

Posted 9 July, 2016 by Trish in Mommyhood / 12 Comments
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How to Fit Audiobooks Into Your Day

How to Fit Audiobooks Into Your Day

Did you know that June is Audiobook Month? I can’t believe I let the entire month go by before mentioning this, but since there are still three days (including this one) left, here we go! When I first started listening to audiobooks, my listening was limited to my 45-60 minute commute to and from work. If I was listening to a particularly good book when I got home, it wasn’t unusual for me to sit […]

Posted 28 June, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook / 32 Comments
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A Trip to Trader Joe’s

A Trip to Trader Joe’s

  Trader Joe’s has a bit of a cult-like following, it seems. People, especially on the west coast, are quite fanatical about the chain. If you’re not familiar (and I’m not an expert), it’s a small grocery store that specializes in it’s own food brand which keeps costs low. We didn’t get our first Trader Joe’s until a year or so ago, and before then all I really knew of them was the low prices […]

Posted 25 June, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 34 Comments
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In the Parenting Trenches

In the Parenting Trenches

    When milk spills all over a freshly mopped floor, do you cry before or after snapping a picture? Parenting has felt a little like that lately–a mixture of “do I laugh or do I cry?” Sometimes it’s easier to laugh at a bowl of spilled milk than others–but last night was not one of those nights. No, there wasn’t any spilled milk but there were tears. Mostly mine. We were off to a […]

Posted 22 June, 2016 by Trish in Mommyhood / 22 Comments
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Pleasure Delayed Reading

Pleasure Delayed Reading

Happy Sunday!! Who’s suffering of heat exhaustion now that we’re a day away from summer? While we haven’t officially broken 100 yet, our heat index has reached above and I’ve been avoiding the outdoors at all costs. Yay summer! Perfect excuse to stay in with a book, right? I’ve recently noticed that I have a bad habit when it comes to books. I love to scour bookstore shelves for books that I’m dying to read. I […]

Posted 19 June, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook / 23 Comments
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Perfect Cherry Cheesecake

Perfect Cherry Cheesecake

  Cheesecake is the best, isn’t it? But it can also be such a personal dessert–some like a stiffer cheesecake while others prefer creamy. As cheesecake is one of our favorite desserts, I’ve made several throughout the years with varying success. I’ve had some crack nastily across the top, some that turned out dry and mealy, others that required cooking in a water bath, and others that just didn’t fit the bill. A few years ago, I […]

Posted 18 June, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 19 Comments
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