Monday, February 28, 2011

Tex-Mex pork and corn Soup

Normally, I don't like reposting published recipes, but I found this recipe reproduced on several websites, so I can't feel too bad about it. It's originally from Better Homes and Gardens Eat Well, Lose Weight. I don't have a picture of it, but if you really want the visual, you can Google the title of the recipe, and you'll see other sites with the recipe and the photo that appears in the book :-)

1 tablespoon olive oil
12 oz. pork tenderloin or lean boneless pork, cut into bite-sized pieces.
1 cup chopped onion*
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 10 oz. package frozen whole corn
2 14 oz. cans of reduced-sodium chicken broth**
1 cup chipotle-style salsa or regular salsa (I used Trader Joe's garlic chipotle salsa)
1 cup chopped red or yellow sweet pepper***
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup snipped fresh cilantro****

*We're not big onion people, so I used about 1/2 a cup.
**I used half chicken broth and half vegetable broth.
***I used an orange pepper!
****I couldn't find cilantro, but the soup was still great.

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork pieces; cook and stir for 4-5 minutes or until brown and juices run clear. Remove pork from saucepan and set aside. Add onion and garlic to saucepan; cook and stir for 3-4 minutes or until onion is tender.

Add corn to saucepan; cook and stir for 4 minutes (I had to skip to the next step right away because there wasn't enough oil in the pan and the corn was starting to burn a bit). Stir in chicken broth, salsa, and pepper. Bring to boiling and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Return pork to saucepan and heat through. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in tomato and cilantro.

Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream if desired.

It came out really tasty! I think it helps to have a good salsa, and I took a risk by going with a salsa I'd never tried before. The only complaint is that the pork came out a little rubbery. I might have cooked it too long, or it might just be that lean pork is like that. Either way, though, I'll be making it again.

I think I've talked about this cookbook before, but it's worth mentioning again. It's about $22 if you buy it new, but it's on for $4.00. I recommend it. I think I've enjoyed everything I've made from it, and the book itself is handy because it's one of those spiral-bound books that lies flat on the counter--bonus!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Saving trees one meal at at time

Recently, I inadvertently made a move towards switching us from paper napkins to cloth napkins. I've been meaning to make the switch for some time now, but I've just never gotten around to it. That changed when I spilled something all over our remaining, albeit short, stack of paper napkins, which forced me to make a decision one way or another.

It helped that my brother and his family use cloth napkins, and when I visited them in January, it seemed pretty natural and not a big deal. I guess I was thinking that cloth napkins were "fancy." So, I found some on clearance at Bed, Bath, & Beyond (because nothing says "not fancy" like Thanksgiving merchandise leftovers), and I was ready to go!

They're pretty awesome because they don't have to be washed every time I sit down for a meal. I noticed that sometimes I grab a napkin and just hang on to it without actually using it, and with a paper napkin, that means it gets thrown out for no good reason at all. Now, I can have my little security napkin in my hands and just put it right back on the table at the end of the meal. Also, even if I do use it, it can still be reused multiple times unless it's super grody. When they're ready to be washed, they just go in with our other laundry. Easy peasy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Politics and simple living

You might have noticed that there's a lot going on politically these days, and I won't pretend that my simple living mindset is not related to my liberal political leaning. It absolutely is.

After reading this, I decided it was time to write this post. This writer explains something that I've always felt but couldn't quite put into words regarding the difference between conservatives and liberals. Basically, the conservative view point is one of self-interest, self-reliance, and self-discipline. If people are successful, it is because they have chosen to put themselves on the correct path. They are hard-working and have otherwise good moral standing, and they pass those qualities onto their children. People who are not sucessful are therefore lacking discipline and must get out of their problems independently by developing the qualities of the successful people.

This interpretation of the conservative perspective might not be the way that conservatives see themselves, but I do think that this is the way that liberals (if I must categorize us as one or the other) view conservatives. It is the way that I view the conservative perspective, and I have seen nothing to suggest otherwise.

I'm outraged at what I have seen going on with our country over the past decade. We believe that there is this great debt that we all owe, yet I continue to see people driving expensive vehicles, living in expensive homes, taking vacations, and buying, buying, buying. Yes, I believe we have been in a recession, but whose recession has it been exactly? Those at the top don't seem to be affected. How can that be if our entire nation is in crisis? Is it that the people at the top are more disciplined and hard-working as the ones who find themselves laid off?*

We are struggling with our budgets nationwide. But the responsibility we feel to correct budget problems shouldn't guilt us into taking money or authority away from schools, unions, or healthcare. There's a proposal in Detroit that would reduce the number of schools and push the number of students per classroom to 60. Sixty kids to one teacher. "Well, we have to cut somewhere." No, we don't; we have to gain somewhere. Instead of thinking about taking away, we have to switch to adding, to increasing the means of surviving and thriving. We're giving money to people and businesses that subscribe to the self-interest, self-reliance, and self-discipline way of thinking. By definition, they aren't interested in increasing our collective survival.

Schools, unions, and Planned Parenthood, though, are concerned with exactly that, by definition. These programs and institutions are designed to increase the means for surviving and thriving for everyone, even for people who could afford to do it on their own. The point is to increase our collective access to that which will allow us as a nation and a culture to survive.

What do we gain by taking from those who are already bled dry? What do we gain by limiting opportunities for those who already don't have them?

Simple living is more than a hippy-dippy lifestyle choice. It's about survival--not just my own, but all of ours collectively. I believe that what benefits my community also benefits me. I might want to have unpolluted air to breathe and parks to play in for myself or my family, but air and land is shared. Without community action, it'll never happen for me or for anyone else.

We are stronger when we act together.

For this reason, I just can't comprehend the direction our country has been going, and I can't comprehend the reasoning behind conservativism. It's counter-intuitive. The upside to all of this is that for a while now I've been sensing that some major changes are on the horizon for us. I've been feeling like the dam is going burst at any minute, and the protests that we've seen in Wisconsin, the revolutions taking place in other countries, and the general rise in political activism tell me that maybe we're on the eve of something really great. Maybe, if you push us hard enough, we'll finally push back and reclaim our democracy from today's tyrants.

*If you believe that, you're an idiot. And I'm not just name-calling here. There is no evidence that the people who struggle financially are any less disciplined or hard-working or morally good than those at the top. So, if you believe that all poor people got that way by being less righteous than rich people, then you are basing that belief on prejudice, not facts, and I can't think of a better definition of "idiot."

Friday, February 4, 2011

On movement

Monday evening I started writing a post about physical movement. It was a mess, and I ended up trying to rewrite it all week. Somehow, I can't quite put into words something that needs to be experienced physically.

This morning, I watched a TED video (one of my favorite websites--the link is below) about running. At the end of the video, McDougall says that we should return to the days where running was joyful. Suddenly, I was reminded of my crappy post, because that is the exact word that I kept using: Joyful.

The problem with my crappy post was that I was taking too long to say something simple, but the video helped me solidify my idea. So, here it is: Physical movement should be joyful, and it should be an integral part of our lives. As a culture, we are far from that philosophy. Most of us don't rely on our physical abilities for survival, so it's difficult to imagine why movement needs to be a part of our daily lives. We're given the choice between physical movement and stasis, and too often we choose stasis for all the wrong reasons, and even worse, we choose movement for all the wrong reasons too. I think McDougall explains it better than I do:

Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run? | Video on

I agree that we need to bring joy back into our physical movements. It might not be running for you, but we each need to find a way to move that brings us closer to our bodies, our surroundings, and other people.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

20 questions

My friend sent me this link to a CNN article the other day, and I thought it was pretty cool, so I'm passing it along to you all. It's "20 Questions That Could Change Your Life," although it seems more accurate to say that they are 20 questions to help you live a more fulfilling life. I think it's mostly targeting women, but I don't know why it wouldn't also apply to men. For your convenience, I've copied the questions here (with some minor changes to some of the questions):

1. What questions should I be asking myself?
2. Is this what I want to be doing?
3. Why worry?
4. Why do I like ___ more than ___?
5. How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it?
6. How do I want to be different because I lived in this world?
7. Are ___ better people?*
8. What is my body telling me?
9. What junk can I get rid of?**
10. What's so funny?
11. Where am I wrong?
12. What potential experiences am I sacrificing, and is the profit worth the price?
13. Am I the only one struggling not to ___ during ___?
14. What do I love to practice?
15. Where could I work less and achieve more?
16. How can I keep myself absolutely safe?***
17. Where should I break the rules?
18. Say my dream life came true...then what?
19. Are my thoughts hurting or healing?
20. Really, truly: Is this what I want to be doing?

I'm certainly not going to answer each question on this blog, but I do believe they're good questions to ask. In particular, I like the fill-in-the-blank questions. I also think as I read this list that the questions don't need to be asked/answered all at once. Sometimes just one of these questions can take us down a whole new path to living more deliberately.

*people we compare ourselves to
**my favorite question
***trick question