Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Pork for Dinner at this Pig Pen

During the months of April and May, we usually don't have many opportunities for a sit down family dinner; however, since it rained over the weekend, my husband, the farmer, isn't in the fields and was home for dinner tonight.  I had originally planned on tacos for dinner, but when I opened up the fridge in the garage I noticed that my husband already had a package of pork burgers and a pork tenderloin roast defrosting.  (This is an occupation hazard as my mother-in-law and I operate a small retail pork business out of my garage and my husband likes to visit our freezers... he thinks I don't know.) 

So at 5:30pm, I was staring at a defrosted pork tenderloin and didn't know what to do with it.  I decided that the tenderloin needed to marinate in something even if only for a few minutes... so I put it in a Ziploc bag and added some teriyaki sauce and then put the bag in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

While the tenderloin was marinating, I had to figure out some sides.  Thankfully, we had some potatoes and carrots on hand and I knew the kids would love preparing and eating what we like to call "potato packs."  To prepare a "potato pack,"  spray the bottom of a piece of aluminum foil AKA tin foil with cooking spray or spray butter, I prefer PAM. 

Then add cut up potatoes (I leave the skin on as it is easier), carrots ( I use whole and cut up baby carrots), and anything else you want.  Top it off with salt and pepper. 

Fold up the ends and you have a "potato pack" that is ready for the grill.

I thought that was going to be it, but then my husband asked if we could fix the asparagus that was in the fridge so I quickly got it out and started to prep it.  One of my all-time favorite cooking tips involves prepping asparagus.  I don't remember where I first heard it, but it is one I always follow much to my husband's dismay as he thinks we are wasting asparagus, but I know we aren't. 

Here is the tip in case you don't know it.  When prepping asparagus, hold one end of the asparagus in each of your hands and bend the asparagus to determine where it would naturally break.  Once that point is determined, snap the asparagus at that point and only prepare the asparagus from the fresh break.  Discard the original ends.  This allows you to prepare only the freshest part of the asparagus. 

These are the ends you discard.

This is the "new" end of the asparagus spear.

This small, easy step makes all the difference when preparing asparagus in my opinion.  We then keep it simple by drizzling olive oil on the asparagus and then sprinkling with salt and fresh ground black pepper. 

The real beauty of the meal tonight was that it could all be grilled, which is something my husband loves to do. He even went ahead and grilled the defrosted pork burgers so he is set when I have to travel for work later this week.

Considering, I had no idea what we were going to have for dinner at 5:30pm, when we all sat down for dinner a little over an hour later, I felt like we had a yummy, nutritious meal in front of us. 

We had a great family dinner, which are hard to come by during corn and soybean planting season.  And we even had dessert (vanilla ice cream with fresh California strawberries), but you will have to tune in later for my tip on making strawberries even sweeter.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is the competitive gene inherited?

I will admit I am a competitive person by nature.  I blame it on my early involvement in sports and 4-H as a kid.  But let's face it... life is a competition.  So is it bad to be competitive?  I don't think its bad to be competitive, but I do think it is bad to be a sore loser and this is one thing my parents instilled in me as a child.  Even if we were upset after a game or competition, we could not show our disappointment in front of others.  We had to wait until we were in the confines of our own car or home.  This was hard at times, but I think it was a very valuable lesson. 

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to chaperone our oldest daughter's bowling field trip.  As she bowled, I could see her competitive side coming out as she was bowling with 3 boys in her class.  At the end of the first game, she ranked #3 out of 4.  I could tell by the look on her face, she was just thankful that she hadn't been last.  And I must admit, I had the same feeling as I knew she would be devastated to be last.

Although she improved her score by more than 12 pins from game 1 to game 2, she finished 4th at the end of the 2nd game which put her in 4th place overall when the scores from both games were combined. 

I could see how disappointed she was and the fact that she didn't get a spare or a strike in any of the 20 frames only made it harder to handle.  I could understand her disappointment, but what was hard for me to handle was that she started to pout and act like a sore loser.  I didn't want to embarrass her, but we did have a brief conversation over to the side about this and she changed her behavior immediately.  However I must admit, I am nervous about her developing a sore loser attitude.

So any tips or advice you are willing to share with helping me nip this sore loser attitude would be greatly appreciated as well as tips on improving her bowling game.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Welcome to my pig pen

My “pig pen” consists of my husband and our three children. We raise hogs, corn, and soybeans with my husband’s parents. Life at our “pig pen” is often crazy as we try to balance family life, farm life, and my full-time job. I don’t know how we do it, but we just do with lots of love and fun. This time of year is particularly fun or challenging depending on how you look at it. It is prime planting season for corn and soybeans at our farm. My husband and father-in-law put in long hours and our time together as a family is often limited to taking them a meal to the fields or helping them move to a new field, of course the children always manage to get a tractor ride with Pop Pop or Daddy. Planning meals that can be easily prepared and consumed at any temperature can be difficult, but my mother-in-law and I enjoy it. We love being a farm family.

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