Ah, life! You’ve gotta love it, don’t you? It’s surely never boring, all full of wonderful twists and turns, ups and downs. And it seems that when things are going along smoothly and perhaps too easily, a little thing called “balance” likes to stir things up a bit and trouble the waters, so to speak. When life gets a tad too comfortable or predictable, that’s when either someone or something will come along on queue to shake things up and take me out of my comfy zone. Maybe it’s the tone of voice that someone uses, or perhaps what feels like an unreasonable request; maybe it’s a bill that was larger than expected, or a disagreement with someone I’m close to. Whatever the scenario, it zings me a little, and it becomes a hurdle in my day. It turns up the heat. But in order to grow and continue to move forward, I’ve got to roll with what’s been placed in front of me, like it or not, and look for the positive. If I can just keep my eyes peeled for those sweet little encouragements that exist around me to get me through the “spiciness” of certain days, then I think I’ll be golden.
Sweet ‘n spicy is a great combination when it comes to food, but how about when it comes to life? I like to think that spicy becomes bearable with a touch of sweet, and sweet gets a little “wake-up” kick in the behind from spicy. If I’m going to be honest, it’s the “spiciness” that’s introduced into my day that gets my attention—like a little pinch or a poke—and that actually isn’t a bad thing; but without a little hint of “sweet” to balance things out, the sting of “spicy” has potential to discourage. Sometimes the sweetness seems nowhere in sight, but its there; it’s just more subtle than spice. The “sweet” can be found in simple encouragements—the friendliness of a co-worker, a compliment on a meal I prepared, the smile on the face of a passerby on my walk, the gesture from another driver that allows me into the flow of traffic, a display of appreciation—and if taken in, makes way for a feeling of gratitude to enter, taking that edge off of the spice.
I think it’s kind of funny how food speaks to me in a way that ends up being so much more about life itself than about just eating, but then again, maybe I’m little strange. I’ll just say that it’s good that there are “sweet n’ spicy” days to keep me on my toes. Finding the balance in daily life is easier said than done, but worth all effort. There’ll always be the people and the situations that supply the friction in day-to-day existence (somehow those are never hard to find); but consciously keeping eyes open for the sweet, simple encouragements that are there will make a day more pleasurable and balanced, more positive. Leave it to Sweet ‘N Spicy Garlic Pork to teach me that.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Sweet ‘N Spicy Garlic Pork with Crisp Green Beans Over Fried Ramen Noodles
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(Serves about 4)
• Pork tenderloin (about 1¼ – 1½ pounds)
7 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided use
3½ tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce, divided use
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press
12 ounces petite green beans (“Haricot Verts”)
12 ounces Ramen noodles
6 green onions, chopped, divided use
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided use
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
-Cut the pork tenderloin into small, bite-sized pieces, and add to a medium-sized bowl; add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, the garlic powder, the black pepper and the 3 pressed garlic cloves to the pork, toss together to combine well, and marinate while the green beans are blanched and the Ramen noodles are prepared.
-To prepare the green beans, place a medium-sized pot of water over high heat, and while you wait for it to come to the boil, prepare a large bowl of ice water to use to shock the green beans once they’re cooked; once the water in the pot begins to boil, add in the petite green beans, and blanch/cook for about 3 minutes until bright green and crisp tender; remove from the water and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking, for about 30 seconds; remove and place onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain; set aside.
-To prepare the Ramen noodles, prepare according to package instructions; once cooked, drain and rinse well in cold water; allow to drain well, and then add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil to the noodles and toss to keep them from sticking together; to fry the noodles, place a large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat, and add 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil; once hot, add about half of the chopped green onion to the oil, stir, and quickly add the cooked Ramen noodles to the oil and green onions; add 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil to the noodles along with ½ tablespoon of the soy sauce, and toss well with tongs; fry for about 4-5 minutes until lightly crispy, tossing with the tongs every so often to prevent noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pan; remove from heat and keep warm.
-To prepare the pork, add the 1 tablespoon of corn starch to the pork pieces and toss well to coat; place a large, non-stick pan over high heat, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil; once hot, add the pork and brown for about 5-6 minutes, or until cooked through; turn off the heat, and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and the sweet chili sauce; finally, add in the blanched green beans, and toss everything with the tongs to coat well.
-Add a portion of the fried Ramen noodles to a bowl, and top with the Sweet ‘N Spicy Garlic Pork with Crisp Green Beans; garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining chopped green onion, and an additional splash of soy sauce, if desired.