spring break and a recipe: slow-cooker sweet-and-sour pork

I wondered whether I would be able to withstand almost five days without checking my email, without sending and receiving texts, without Twitter. I had a bit of anxiety about missing out on things happening with my patients at work, not being available by phone if necessary. I worried that something would happen to my brother or my father and my mom wouldn’t be able to reach me.

Those were irrational thoughts, of course, and I knew that. But it took some convincing.

Even though I couldn’t be reached by email or cell, the world outside continued on without a hitch. Everyone fared well while we were gone; there were no emergency room visits or catastrophes, medical or otherwise. The house and our two cats were pampered by our friend, Deanna.

And the days of technological silence were bliss.

As it turned out, I needed the break. I needed this:

And this:

And I really needed this:

We disembarked in Port Canaveral early in the morning on Thursday. After one last breakfast on the ship, we were shuffled through Customs and finally in the car, headed home. I turned on my iPhone to find over 300 emails waiting for me. Strangely enough, I didn’t mind.

We’re settling into our end-of-spring-break routine. The kids are reminiscing about the cruise, wondering where the ship is now, at this exact moment – “Is it in the Bahamas now? Are they eating dinner or lunch?” The swimsuits have all been washed and put away, and the half-empty bottles of sunscreen have been put back in the bathroom cabinet.

And sadly, we’re having to convince our stomachs that no, we really don’t need an ice cream cone at 10am or a basket of french fries at 2pm simply because they’re free and available. Or that frosty glass of piña colada, just because the pool boy has been kind enough to bring a tray around to my lounge chair.

This was one of our first home-cooked dinners after the gluttony of dining on the Disney Dream. I wanted something relatively light, a dish that went easy on the butter and fat. I also wanted my slow cooker to do most of the work for me. Slow-cooked sweet and sour pork, served with jasmine rice and steamed broccoli, fit the bill.

And I’m already thinking of my next technology-silent vacation…

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours (low setting) or 4 hours (high)

Slow Cooker Sweet-and-Sour Pork

Most of the prep work for this dish can be done the night before, making this easy to assemble before you leave for work in the morning. Serve the sweet and sour pork over jasmine rice and with some steamed broccoli for a complete meal.


1 can (20-ounce) pineapple chunks, packed in juice
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, sliced into thin wedges
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, crushed
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


Drain pineapple chunks and reserve juice. Refrigerate pineapple chunks until ready to use.

In a slow cooker (at least 4 quart), combine carrot, onion, red bell pepper, and pork. In a medium bowl, stir together the reserved pineapple juice, brown sugar, rice vinegar, tomato paste, tapioca, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, salt, and sesame oil. Pour over the vegetables and pork.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Stir in reserved pineapple chunks. Taste for seasoning, adding additional salt as needed.


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19 Responses to “pork tamale pie”

  1. 1
    Lynn — June 27, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    This sounds so yummy! I love casseroles too. I recently joined a meal sharing co-op, and casseroles are really great for swapping. I think this might be my next contribution! Thanks!

  2. 2
    Joy — June 27, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

    This is a wonderful twist to a tamale. I have always wanted to try to make some but I never got the chance. This is the type of recipe I would try.

  3. 3
    Belinda — June 27, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

    This looks and sounds totally yummy! Sorry your little man wouldn’t eat it! 🙁

  4. 4

    A version of this was served to me at a book club dinner – it was great because one dish served about 10 of us. Yours looks delicious! [K]

  5. 5
    Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle — June 28, 2010 @ 11:20 am

    I just got some tamales from a vendor in Denver and am once again reminded of how much I love them and how I would never make them…but this I would!

    I grew up with 5 brothers and sisters. Casseroles were my mother’s saving grace not just for ease but as a way to stretch the budget. I still have some favorites I’ve made for years and I think they are the epitomy of ‘comfort food.’

    One day your son will see the light; promise.

  6. 6
    Jason Phelps — June 28, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

    Give your son my address so he can ship me his dinner! That looks awesome and a sure bet on my list of “To Make” meals.


  7. 7
    Just Food Snobs — June 28, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

    Great recipe! Your husband sounds like mine, the spicier the better. With all the cooking I do my son, if he could, would eat cheeseburgers every day!

  8. 8

    Yum, I love spiced meat casseroles! So tasty. Great looking meal!

  9. 9
    Cynthia — June 29, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

    This looks so yummy! This is definitely going on my list to try soon! 🙂

  10. 10
    Maria at Fresh Eats — June 29, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

    I love casseroles too, and this one looks great! My three kids all like a lot of foods, but hardly any of the SAME foods, so I hear where you’re coming from…

  11. 11
    Jennifer Hess — June 30, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

    This looks absolutely delicious. I’m with you, I could eat comfort food like this any time of the year 🙂

  12. 12
    Megan — June 30, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

    Ever since you talked about this on Twitter I have been craving it! We make a version that is basically just meat, cheese, beans, corn, and salsa, with the cornbread topping. Previously my son loved it … but I’m guessing he wouldn’t touch it now. Kids!

  13. 13
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — July 1, 2010 @ 7:37 am

    We ate all sorts of casserole-type dishes when I was younger (ugh – tuna mornay…) but nothing as delicious as this. Your son will come around eventually!

  14. 14
    Magic of Spice — July 1, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

    Looks great!

  15. 15
    Chris — July 4, 2010 @ 8:24 am

    This looks really good to me and yes, casseroles when done right are just the perfect comfort food. I’d probably try the recipe with pulled pork, since I always have some extra frozen. Just smoked 16 lbs of it yesterday.

    • merrygourmet

      merrygourmet replied: — July 4th, 2010 @ 9:24 am

      Chris – I bet it would be delicious with pulled pork!

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  17. 16
    Amber — July 28, 2013 @ 1:01 am

    You wrote, “1 1/2 lean ground pork.” 1.5 what? Pounds, I’m guessing but, I want to be sure before I try to make it.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — July 28th, 2013 @ 8:09 am

      Thanks for pointing this out, Amber. It should be 1.5 pounds. I’ve corrected the recipe above. Thanks!

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