Collecting

I collect cookbooks.

It’s one of my weaknesses, and the only thing that makes me feel even remotely better about my habit is that I know there are people out there with even larger collections than my own. For instance, I know for a fact that I don’t have 101 cookbooks. Though, truthfully, I’d bet right now I have over 50. And, like any true cookbook collector, I have acquired more and discarded none. I’m becoming more discerning in which books I purchase; I have enough cookbooks that I don’t use and that have poor recipes in them that I’ve learned my lesson. I also avoid cookbooks that rely heavily on convenience foods. If a cookbook contains any recipes that use cake mix or cream of crap soup as an ingredient, I put it back immediately. A cookbook really has to stand out, and I have to accept the authority of the writer as a good cook before I’ll buy one. And yet, my collection still grows. At least the growing has slowed.cookbook shelves

Most of what I purchase now is from America’s Test Kitchen and its various iterations. I buy the special publications they sell at Sam’s Club or Costco, and I also recently purchased their DIY cookbook. But the recent purchase I’m most excited about is a book by Ellie Krieger, called So Easy. stack of cookbooks

I saw it at Sam’s Club, leafed through it, and then checked the price on Amazon and ordered it instead. I was immediately drawn to several recipes, and even though it had a lot I wouldn’t make (I don’t eat seafood…), there were plenty to make up for it. Like all her publications, this one focuses on healthy food and includes all the nutritional information. I’m not concerned about counting calories or sugars, but it speaks to the book’s goal at the very least. Several of the recipes are entire meals, as well, including a main protein as well as a suitable side dish that amplifies the main. What I like most, however, is that it focuses on healthy ingredients, but is still normal. I get so tired of seeing “healthy” recipes for things my family wouldn’t eat. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to eat like a rabbit to be healthy, and I like books that put healthy spins on foods that would please people who aren’t on a diet. Ellie Krieger has gotten it so right with this book. It’s also broken down into eight chapters, with two devoted to each meal. One is a “meal rush” chapter, for meals when you don’t have the luxury to prepare an elaborate meal, and one is a slower paced chapter (she includes two chapters for dessert as well). The rush hour recipes aren’t exactly quick, but they aren’t laborious either and I find that they are certainly doable for a week day meal.

The real test, of course, is not how beautiful the book is (which, by the way, it is), but how good the recipe are. I’ve made four recipes from this book in the past two weeks and they have all been great. I guess I’ve been on an Asian kick lately, because all the recipes I’ve tried have been Asian-style (though I’m going to try a non-Asian one tomorrow), and they have been easy and delicious, and have not tasted like diet food.

pork and mango stir fry

I had high hopes the one I made last night would also please Sous Chef; I selected Pork with Mangoes stir fry partly because Sous Chef loves mangoes. It also sounded good, but I hoped that if I made something with mangoes that she would like to eat it and I wouldn’t have to prod her quite as much to eat her dinner. Alas, it did not. She ate it, but only because she really wanted her cotton candy she got from a birthday party earlier this week. While she only deigned to eat it, Engineer and I couldn’t eat it fast enough. The mangoes were just sweet enough and played off the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg (my feeble substitute for Chinese five spice powder) so well. The other vegetables were balanced with the mangoes and nothing was overwhelming. It was a really delicious and different stir fry we’ll definitely add to our regular dinner rotation.

Bonus, it was quick and easy. It was done within 45 minutes of starting, and that’s only because I dawdled. I’d definitely classify this one as a 30-minute meal.

Pork and Mango Stir Fry

Adapted from So Easy by Ellie Krieger

3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

4 teaspoons canola oil

1/2 pound pork tenderloin, thinly sliced

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup snow peas

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

1 cup frozen mangos, thawed, and cut into bite-sized pieces

3 cups cooked rice (white or brown)

In a small liquid measuring cup, stir the cornstarch into the chicken broth until dissolved. Add the vinegars, soy sauce, spices, and sriracha sauce and stir. Set aside.

Heat half the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is just cooked through, 4-6 minutes depending on how thick the pieces are. Transfer to a plate.

To the same pan, add the remaining oil. Add the onions, peppers, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, just until the vegetable begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the snow peas and liquid mixture, and stir to combine. Cook until the snow peas are crisp-tender and the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Return the pork to the skillet and add the mango pieces. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mangoes and pork are heated through. Serve over rice.

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