Great taste can be easy

There are times when I can’t believe how easy it is to prepare a really delicious dish.

It’s easy to assume that in order to enjoy something really tasty, you have to do something really complicated or go out and buy some unusual ingredients. Make it something healthy, and it’s going to be even harder, right? Wrong!

My wife, Kristin, is currently recovering from surgery and I’m doing the cooking for our three boys and us. Kristin thought she had some leftover broccoli in the fridge that I could quickly warm up for her with a bit of cheese melted over it. Unfortunately, I’d just thrown it away because it was looking limp and soggy. What could I do that would be healthy, quick, and didn’t require a trip to the store?

At the bottom of the vegetable drawer I discovered an unopened bag of sugar pea pods: they’d been there a while and were a little dry and a bit on the tough side, but they were still nice and green. So I offered Kristin a dish of stir-fried sugar pea pods, and she thought that sounded nice.

Szechuan Pea Pods

So I gathered together some staples that we always have in our kitchen: garlic, a couple of green onions, canola oil, chile paste, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, and a bit of sesame oil just for fun.

I chopped the white parts of the green onions into 1/4″ pieces and combined them in a small bowl with one tablespoon each of soy sauce, minced garlic, brown sugar, and diced ginger; a teaspoon each of sesame oil (optional) and chile paste. (More chile would have been fine, depending on how spicy I wanted it. Dry, red chile flakes–like the kind we put on pizza–would have been fine instead.)  I stirred it a bit with a whisk until it was mixed and set it aside for later.

I took out a frying pan and poured about a tablespoon of oil in it and heated it over medium heat on the stove. It was just short of starting to smoke when I dumped in a bunch of sugar pea pods and stirred them quickly so they’d get coated with oil before burning. I waited about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pea pods browned a bit on the sides, then took them off the stove and dumped them back in a bowl.

I put another tablespoon of oil in the pan and dumped in the sauce mixture from the bowl. When it started bubbling from the heat, I threw the pea pods back in and stirred constantly for another two or three minutes until it was good and hot.

The result–which took all of about 15 minutes and would have worked as well with whole green beans, ordinary pea pods, or asparagus–was a delicious, very satisfying plate of Szechuan Pea Pods: a great side dish to jazz up a plate of leftovers. To turn it into a full meal, add some chicken chunks (browned exactly the same way as the vegetable), some sliced red or yellow bell peppers, a bit of chopped white onion, sliced bamboo or water chestnuts, and serve with steamed rice.

It was so tasty, I decided to have some myself.

Tile saved me today

tile-on-key-chain_centerOrdinarily, my two sets of car keys (one for each car) are always in their usual place in our front hall when I’m not using them. I’m pretty good about it. But this week, my wife, Kristin, is recovering from surgery and I’m playing “single dad” for a bit. I’m definitely not on my game.

At 7:25am, after spectacular success getting everyone up, dressed, fed, and packed for school on time, I discovered that neither set of keys were in their place. A minute later, after checking all the likely places, I still didn’t know where they were. Guess what? No keys, no car; no car, no school! This was very, very bad.

how-it-works-step-1It’s been more than a year since I started carrying a Tile device on each key ring. So I fired up the Tile app on my phone and hit the “Find” button on each key ring. After one minute of straining to hear the faint, tinny, electronic tune, I had the set for the “wrong” car (the one I wasn’t planning to take to school). It had been in my bed, buried under the covers. Apparently I’d slept with it all night. (Planning a midnight escape?) After the second minute, I had the “right” set, which had been sitting in the cup holder of the “wrong” car, in the garage. (The Tile “range finder” feature guided me right there.)

Without Tile, it would undoubtedly have taken me another 30 minutes at least to find my keys in such unusual locations. And by then, I would have been a trembling, hyperventilating, crazed lunatic, shouting at the kids and destroying any chance of them having a calm day at school. Tile saved me!

Of course, I don’t have a Tile on my sunglasses, even though my mom and step-dad gave me a brand new Tile for Christmas this year. (They know how much I need these things.) So I still have no idea where those are, and I squinted all the way to school and back in the bright, New Mexico sunlight. But hey, ya’ gotta have priorities.

Tile images from