A Simple Dinner with Pork

After an entire week of eating bean and vegetable soup (not complaining!), I went for a change and grabbed a couple pork center loin chops.  I've been happy eating less meat, and I made sure to buy the smallest package of two, which cost $2.09.  They were about a half inch thick and a third of a pound each.  Instead of making my awesome pineapple pork stir-fry, I went an easier and less labor-intensive route.

I put a cup of brown rice and a crushed dried chili pepper into two cups of boiling water in a 1 qt pot, then set to simmer for 45 minutes.  This is generally about six modest portions of rice.

Then, I heavily sauted a sliced medium onion in my steel frying pan.  I didn't fully caramelize it, but it was more brown than yellow.  When it was done, I put the onion on a plate and set it aside.

I patted the pork chops dry with a paper towel, then put them in the hot pan for a few minutes to brown.  I sprinkled rosemary on the tops, then flipped them over, sprinkled with pepper, put a cover on and turned the heat down to low.

Then I made salads from bagged mix, baby spinach, walnuts, habanero cheddar cheese, button mushrooms, and dried cranberries, topped with a little light ranch.  All together the salads cost a little less than $1 each, and we'll eat them daily while we have the components.  The greens and mushrooms were on sale this week, and I've always got walnuts and cheese.

When the chops were done cooking, I plated them, then poured a half cup of Chardonnay (about 1/40 of a $15 box of Almaden) into the skillet to deglaze it.  I turned the heat back up a bit and reduced the sauce down to about two tablespoons, then poured it over the pork chops.

The chops were juicy and delicious!  The rice and onions were a good accompaniment for the pork, and the salads rounded out the meal.  This was a great dinner for two for $5.  Each person's meal cost $2.50 and had about 600 calories.  If the rice is made earlier, this meal takes a half hour to make.


School Lunches

School lunches are a travesty in the US.  This isn't new.  They are plagued by outdated laws, lazy and ignorant staff, and corporate lobbying.  Jamie Oliver also showed how a culture of pride in ignorant inertia instead of valuing performance improvement can contribute to schools fattening up our nation's children like pigs in a factory farm.  Money, however, is not necessarily a problem.

Paul Boundas is demonstrating how easy it is to serve kids delicious and nutritious food that they will eat for less than $2.74 per meal (unfortunately, the article does not say if that amount is just for food ingredients, or if it includes rent, utilities, equipment, cooks, etc...).  Boundas is a great example of what can be accomplished when authority is given to a knowledgeable person with a drive to experiment and apply scientifically proven techniques to the improvement of a system, instead of lazily allowing profiteering suppliers or people who have obviously not valued education or quality in their own lives, to direct programs and policy.

Here are some of the ways that Boundas effectively applied principles from psychology and business to efficiently improving the health and welfare of thousands of children:

  • He asks the kids what foods they like, then makes healthy versions of them.
  • He gradually increases the proportion of whole grain in his pasta without telling the kids until long after they've been happily eating it.
  • He gives foods names that kids associate with other foods they like instead of with foods they erroneously believe they would not like ("power bar" versus "granola").
  • He uses fresh ingredients.
  • He tailors his menu to what ingredients are inexpensive at the moment (quick breads from bananas that would have gone to waste).
These are things that parents can do at home, too.  Understand the power of expectation biases, and harness them to get your kids to eat good food.  Buy seasonal or discounted ingredients.  Work with your family instead of being a dictator.