It may seem frightfully obvious to most, but planning meals based on old cooking magazines, then grocery shopping based on those meals are really great ways to 1) save money on groceries 2) waste less food and 3) try some new things.
Clearly, I’m a bit daft sometimes. The truth is that my cooking sort of happens in chapters the way the rest of my life does. Each move brings a different kitchen, different grocery stores, and different flow of life. My Florida chapter was the Asian phase when I cooked dim sum, Thai, and learned to make sushi at home. In Germany I cooked more than in any other place despite having the smallest kitchen of my life. In Spain, my dependence on Mercadona decided what I could or could not cook. Jamón serrano was a staple while Libby’s pumpkin was a seven hour drive away.
For some reason, converse to Germany, I had the biggest kitchen of my life while living in Maryland and really didn’t have it in me to cook much. I wasn’t inspired. My fully packed pantry meant that I could “whip something up” pretty consistently, but I lacked imagination.
Somehow Oklahoma is a tastier chapter. No clue why, but it is and I’m glad. The knowledge that we could move again this summer (we just got here, I know) only reinforces my desire NOT to have a totally packed pantry. I sit down with cooking magazines and old newspaper clippings, choose what sounds good, and make my grocery list accordingly. The result is amazing. I’m trying quite a few new recipes and wasting nothing. Every ingredient is getting used. It’s a good thing.
Today the girls worked almost entirely on the oral reports that were due today (they procrastinate like their mother) and I worked on unpacking/repacking chores before heading into the kitchen. I felt happy in there tonight – noticeably calm. Sometimes cooking is a chore, an obligation, and my lack of inspiration makes it dull. Tonight, I felt good cleaning up the kitchen and even better mincing ginger and chopping vegetables.
My family was glad. The Asian Pork sandwiches are a hit and I will DEFINITELY make these again. They’re even good enough for company.
Asian Pork Sandwich with Half-Moon Salad – Inspired by a recipe from Cuisine at Home, half the recipe to serve 4. This portion will serve 6-8 with no leftovers.
The Asian Pork
1. IF you like toasted bread, preheat the oven to 450.
2. Combine, stir, and set aside:
- 1/2 cup hoisin sauce (in the Asian department of your grocery)
- 4 T. honey (don’t worry, you won’t taste it)
- 2 T. ketchup
- 2 T. chili garlic sauce
- 2 T. rice vinegar
3. Saute in 1 T. vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil):
- 2 lb. ground pork
- 2 T. fresh minced ginger
4. When the pork has been thoroughly cooked, 5-7 minutes, drain it, return it to the pan, then mix in:
- the hoisin mixture
- 1 cup chopped scallions
5. Turn heat to low to keep warm.
6. Slice a baguette horizontally and coat each half with butter, then place on a baking sheet and toast it for 5 minutes. (Optional – I toasted our baguette, but didn’t use butter.)
The Half Moon Salad
1. Toss together:
- 2 cucumbers, seeded, then thinly sliced into half moons.
- 1 cup bean sprouts (canned are OK, but rinse them well)
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves (I didn’t have basil, so it got left out)
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2. Drizzle 1/2 cup rice vinegar and 1T. sesame oil over the cucumber salad and mix well.
3. Rinse 8 romaine leaves. The original recipe calls for 4 cups of spring mix lettuce greens to be tossed into the cucumber salad, but I like romaine and the large boat-like romaine leaf allows you to omit the bread altogether for a healthier, no-carb, gluten-free option.
1. Place a slice of romaine on your baguette slice (it calls for mayo, but I don’t use that either and didn’t miss it – this is plenty moist without butter or mayo) OR omit the bread entirely and just use the lettuce boat.
2. Place one slice of deli ham on the romaine.
3. Top with the Asian Pork mixture.
4. Top with the Half Moon Salad.