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.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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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17 Responses to “she took her name off the list”

  1. Gail — December 18, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

    xoxoxoxoxox

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — December 18th, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

      xoxo right back to you, Gail.

  2. MJ – I am so sorry to hear about this but glad your mum is on the road to recovery. She’s so lucky to have a daughter like you (and I bet she loves being known as the Doctor’s mum!) XOX

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — December 18th, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

      Thank you so much, Mardi. xo

  3. Cheryl — December 18, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

    Too often the diagnosis is broken heart. But they can mend and she is showing that. You are a daughter she can be proud of too.

  4. Janis — December 18, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

    I believe that your mom is wonderful. Look at who she raised ;–)

  5. Paula Kelly-Bourque — December 18, 2014 @ 7:29 pm

    I have read so many of your posts about you, your father, your family with such a lump in my throat that it was hard to swallow. This one just plain made me tear up. My heart goes out to your Mother, truly it does and I shall remember her and your family in my prayers. God bless all of you.

  6. Liren — December 19, 2014 @ 1:41 am

    Mothers always think of themselves last, why is it so? MJ, this post touched the deepest part of my heart, and I’m glad she has you there as she remembers herself and how important she is. Sending love to you as you stay strong for your family, too.

  7. Leigh — December 19, 2014 @ 8:25 am

    Beautifully written. I’m sending so much love to you both. xo

  8. Flavia — December 19, 2014 @ 11:47 am

    Thank you for sharing such a beautifully written post, MJ. You are blessed to have a mother like yours; not everyone is so fortunate. I can relate to your mom in some ways after being a caregiver for my great-aunt at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. Unlike your mom who dedicated years to caregiving, I only took on the responsibility for five months, but I know what it was like to take myself completely “off the list”, and I know the feelings of sadness and grief that settle into your heart when caregiving responsibilities were over. There is so much that stays with you and so much to “process”. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was often frustrating and heartbreaking. But it was also a blessing and a privilege.

    My prayers are with your mom for a full recovery and a journey back to putting herself not just back on the list, but right at the top. Merry Christmas my friend. So happy to know you. xo

  9. Sharon — December 19, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

    This made me cry. I so empathize. I hope she takes time to have fun. I have been going through poor health,knee replacement and anxiety wasn’t able to eat for a month I was so shaky and anxious. I hope your Mom feels better soon. I finally started to eat and making energy drinks. I just blend peanut butter, milk, ice, half banana and little chocolate syrup. Seemed to help…at least mentally 🙂

  10. Alicia K. — December 19, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing your mom’s story. I’m guessing many of us can relate and empathize in some way. I’ve printed your recipe and shall rename it Mrs. George’s Daughter’s Butter Cookies to remind me whenever I look at it of this story about your strong and beautiful mom who put herself back on the list. I cheer for her!

  11. Cherie — December 19, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

    This touched me so – I’m so glad your mother has put herself back on the list 🙂

    I am going through a divorce, and things for so long have been about taking care of everyone else and keeping all the balls in the air. As things progress I am realizing that for a long time I’ve taken myself off the list. I am trying very hard to find a way back to myself, to get myself on the list, to put my oxygen mask on so I can help those around me do the same.

    My prayers for your mother’s mental and physical health – and for you as you find a new balance caring for her and supporting HER as she cares for your brother.

  12. Vanessa @frenchfoodiemom — December 20, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

    MJ, thank you for gifting us your mother’s beautiful story. Such a lovely tribute and an important reminder to all of us in the middle place, busy taking care of both children and parents, to not forget our own needs. I hope your mom returns to her dominoes and books soon. She is lucky to have your love and support.

    Your cookie recipe will be our first baked item in our new stove later today.

  13. Katie Fiore — December 20, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

    Such a touching and moving story. You’ve put it into words beautifully as well.

  14. Colleen — December 22, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

    Condolences on the loss of your father. What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I have tears on so many levels. But hope, too. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Mallory @forkvsspoon — December 29, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

    So touching – you have a story telling gift, especially with stories that are hard to write but they are often the ones that hit a chord with so many. Thanks for sharing and much love to you and your mom!

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