Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Right Tools

I thought of something interesting while I was cooking dinner tonight that I would like to share with you.


I know that some of you are curious to find out what happened with Katherine and her school issue, so I would like to address that first.

She will be going to another school starting tomorrow.  She has been out of school all this week due to some issues in getting her enrolled.  I want to tell you the whole story, but I will wait until tomorrow when we will find out exactly how the enrollment in this new school goes.


I will let you in on what occurred to me tonight while I was cooking.

It all started with this:

Actually, it ENDED with this, but it started with my desire to COOK this.

I found this recipe on page 193 of the March 2011 issue of the magazine REAL SIMPLE.  It is called Asian Pork with Snow Peas, Red Peppers, and Soba Noodles.  It goes in the crock pot and can be done in 4.5 hours.  Of course, you can also do it on the stove in a covered pot.  (And I think it can work with a grass and sticks diet!  You know who you are!)  Now, that is nothing fancy, but you have to understand...

I never cook things like this.  Ever.  When I was little in my mom's house, we ate Hamburger Helper and all sorts of different things mixed in with fried rice and cooked up on the stove.  We didn't try new stuff, and we never ate ethnic food.  So, when I moved out of the house, you can guess what I cooked.  You got it!  Hamburger Helper and other foods that mostly came out of boxes or took minimal effort or skill to prepare.

I was always interested in cooking, and I knew my way around a kitchen, (I got Best Chef award in Home Ec!  Go me!) but I only had the basic stuff in my kitchen so I could really only make the basic recipes.  Then I started selling Pampered Chef, and I liked what I saw in the catalog and I began to earn some of that cool stuff to use in my own kitchen.

And I began to lose my fear of the unknown and to try new recipes because I had the know-how and the right tools for the job.  (For example, before I got some of the knives from Pampered Chef, all I had was a plastic handled job from the Dollar Spot at Target.  You can imagine trying to cut, slice and dice with THAT!)  Having the right tools for the job allowed me to make this, and other, new recipes that had a taste way different from anything that I have ever cooked before.  Not only that, but because I have been cooking more new and interesting meals, it has been easier to get everyone involved and cooking dinner has become more of a family event rather than me (or Elizabeth) slaving in the kitchen over something that really has the same taste as everything else we have eaten and that no one really wants.

***Disclaimer...we don't cook fun stuff every night, so don't go thinkin' I'm the next Rachel Ray!  :)  ***

Anyway, on to my point (and yes, my mind does work in little loops like this pretty much all the time):

You can't do a job right if you don't have the right tools!  

I know.  That's simple.  But wait!  Let me apply it!

We expect our kids to be smart, fun, kind, good people with great futures.  But, if any of  you out there are anything like me, your days can often be filled with no's or reprimands to your kids without the backup of what they are SUPPOSED to do.  I was thinking about this even more since tomorrow is Friday which means that Jo doesn't have school so she will be home with us all day, but Jimmy and I have to be working and she needs to entertain herself.  She's only 3.  So, I have to ask myself...have I given Jo the tools she needs to do her 'job' tomorrow right?  Or will my day just be filled with 'Jo, stop whining!  Jo, go play!  Jo, Mommy needs to work right now!....

If I want Jo to do the right thing, I have to provide her with the right tools...workbooks, coloring books, blocks, puzzles, a certain time when we will play together...things like that.

But what about our lives as Christians?  In order for us to do our job right, we have to have the right tools, too.  What are our tools?  Well, the Bible, of course, and prayer, but what about the other tools that are not so obvious?  Time is a tool.  Do we use it wisely?  I know I don't.  What about money?  Are we good stewards?  And food?  Do we eat right to keep ourselves healthy?

But the main thing is this:  Are we passing down these 'tools' to our children so that they are fully equipped for the life path that God has planned for them?  And are we showing them the right way to use these tools?

I don't know about you, but it made me stop and think a bit.   Do Elizabeth, Jo and Gabriel see Jimmy and I using the 'tools' that God has given us every day?  Are we passing down these tools...prayer, stewardship, good health choices, good time management...along with showing them how to use them so that our kids will feel ready and capable when it's time for them to move out from under our wings?  I can see some areas where I certainly need some work.

I don't know.  Maybe because of the situation with Katherine, I have been thinking a lot about the kids I come in contact with them and what they learn or don't learn from me during the time that I get to spend with them.

Anyway...since I know that Asian Pork dish looks so yummy sitting on my plate (it's now sitting comfortably in my tummy!), I will share the recipe.  I must say, though, that I rarely follow a recipe to the letter.  So, for your edification, I will put here the modifications that I made.  If you want the original recipe, you can find it in REAL SIMPLE.

1/2 c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (next time I would use was a little on the sweet side for me)
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (I used olive oil because I don't have sesame oil)
3 large mushroom, sliced
1 1-in piece fresh ginger peeled and sliced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2.5 lbs pork shoulder trimmed and cut into 2 in pieces (or you could use chicken or whatever meat you want)
12 oz Chinese noodles (it calls for soba noodles but I don't know what that it)
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
frozen peas, carrots, green beans or snow peas
chopped roasted peanuts, for serving

In the crock pot stir together the first 7 ingredients.  Add the pork and toss to combine.  Cover and cook until pork is tender 4-5 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low (or you can cook it on the stove top until the pork is tender.)

15 minutes before serving, cook the noodles according to the package.  Add the bell peppers and frozen vegetables to the water during the last minute of cooking.

Meanwhile, transfer the pork to a medium bowl and set aside.  Pour the cooking liquid into a large skillet and boil until slightly thickened, 4-5 mins.  Add the pork and toss to combine.  Serve the pork over the noodles and vegetables.  Top with chopped roasted peanuts.

Here's how it looks:

All the good stuff ready for the pot.

The easiest way to slice mushrooms!

 In the crockpot (that my friend Doralyn gave me as a gift 14 years ago!!!)

 Cookin' the noodles

Lots of veggies in this one!

I think I might be hungry again...but this was such a hit, there's no leftovers!

Elizabeth shelled the peanuts and I chopped them in the food chopper.  I wasn't paying attention so I almost pulverized some of them!

Now, for some free, shameless advertising, here's my website if you want some of the 'right' tools for your kitchen!  :)

And, if you happen to try this recipe, let me know how it turns out!

I've linked to somewhat simple today.

somewhat simple button

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