Further Lessons Learned in the Kitchen – Patience

Spending hours in the kitchen not only results in food that nourishes the body, but it is a process that nourishes my soul. It is time that allows me to disconnect from technology, from other concerns, and to focus on the task at hand.

Kale, Cabbage, and Quinoa Salad

Kale, Cabbage, and Quinoa Salad

It is also a time for me to experience powerful learning moments. In the kitchen, I have learned the value of process, as well as the value of failure. Most recently, I have been reminded of the value of patience.

Weeks ago, I picked up a bag of hazelnuts at the store, thinking about how incredible it would be to make hazelnut butter. Hazelnut butter soon turned into Nutella. So, last Saturday, after breakfast and crosswords with my husband, I placed 2 cups of hazelnuts into the oven for a quick 10 minute roast in order to loosen the skins.

I slowly and painfully** rubbed the skins off of the nuts, and placed them into the food processor.

Roasted hazelnuts

Roasted hazelnuts

**Do not do as I did and use your bare fingers…it will create a slight blister. Use the “kitchen towel” technique!

Once the hazelnuts were pulsed into a coarse meal, I added a few teaspoons of raw cacao, and kept on blending…. and blending… and blending…

Pulsed hazelnuts

Pulsed hazelnuts

But unlike when I have made other nut butters, that magic moment when things get creamy kept illuding me. Getting frustrated, I figured that I must need to add some moisture, so I added one, and then two, tablespoons of almond milk. The mixture became moist, but not smooth and creamy. Deciding that Nutella was no longer an option, I threw some dates into the mix and made “Nutella Bites.”

They aren’t great, but they are edible. I need to tweak some things before this recipe is “shareable.”

Nutella Bites

Nutella Bites

Curious to learn where I went wrong, I sat down and started to research (something that would have served me well before my experiment began…). I learned from Oh She Glows that I lacked the necessary patience. Getting the mixture to that creamy place can take a full 15 – 20 minutes of constant processing.

So, my failed attempt at making Nutella, just like my failed attempt at making yogurt, was due to a lack of patience… And yet, the next day, I sliced, roasted, peeled, chopped, and simmered ingredient after ingredient to make a delicious, healthy, and hearty quinoa, cabbage, and kale salad, inspired by Ashley’s quinoa salad and Sarah B’s braised cabbage.

I documented the process with my iPhone, and the finished result was so beautiful, I just had to take some “real” photos to share this creation. On a slow Sunday afternoon, creating this colorful salad was a labor of love.

Sliced Cabbage

Sliced Cabbage

A 3 pound head of cabbage (the smallest I could find) is a LOT. I braised the whole head, but used only about half in this salad.

Cut in half and roasted for 10 minutes, then seeded, peeled, and cubed

Butternut Squash – Cut in half and roasted for 10 minutes, then seeded, peeled, and cubed, and roasted for an additional 15 – 20 minutes.

Squash is easier to deal with once it is softened.

Peeling a blood orange

Peeling a blood orange

Blood oranges are so beautiful – one of nature’s many delights!

Combine sliced kale, chopped orange, and chickpeas

Combine sliced kale, chopped orange, chickpeas, and dressing

I took at least an hour preparing this hearty salad that provided me with meals all week long. It occurred to me after the fact that while I continue to procrastinate my experiments in bread making because “it takes too long,” the active time to make bread is far less than the time I spent making this “easy” salad.

Add ~2 cups cooked quinoa

Add ~2 cups cooked quinoa

It’s all a matter of perception, I guess. Something about working with vegetables relaxes me. I love chopping them. Fresh herbs, however, often intimidate me with their “laborious” preparation process (i.e. washing, drying, and chopping). Clearly, my mental perception is slightly skewed.

Toss in squash

Toss in squash

Awareness is the first step, though, so fresh herb chopping and bread making loom on the horizon.

Braised cabbage

Braised cabbage

Perhaps because of the time and attention it took to prepare this salad, I delighted in eating it for lunch or dinner each day last week.

Last but not least, toasted pecans

Last but not least, toasted pecans

My patience was rewarded! With so many textures and flavors, this salad was great. I look forward to repeating it with variations here and there.

What lessons have you learned in the kitchen?

-L

Food for Thought: The Ethics of Quinoa

My husband shared an article with me a few days ago, and it has been weighing heavy on my mind ever since.

I aspire to be a conscious consumer, especially when it comes to food. I buy local produce, and when local is not available, I buy things from as close to Virginia as possible (so, for example, I choose Florida or Pennsylvania over California; U.S. over foreign, etc…). I try to buy organic produce when it comes to the “dirty dozen.” I pay attention to the meat or seafood I buy, choosing local, grass-fed meat and sustainably farmed seafood.  While I do sometimes choose to buy imported products (ahem, coconut and bananas), I have never really thought about the origins of the grains I buy.

quinoa spoon

Quinoa has gone from obscurity to wide-spread popularity in just a few short years. We have shared quite a few quinoa recipes here and lauded its health benefits. But at what price?

I knew that quinoa came from South America, and that it was a staple of traditional diets in Andean cultures, but I never paused to think about the effects of its popularity. According to ,

“The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.” (Source)

quinoa close

The article ultimately argues that an omnivorous diet is more able to embrace local products than a vegetarian or vegan diet. In a retaliatory article,  argues that the grain consumed by animals raised for meat makes a much more significant impact on the environment and the global food market than grain consumed by humans.

Rather than getting into an argument for or against veganism, I’d like to focus on the issue this article really stirred up for me:

When trying to be aware of the social impact of your eating habits, what factors do you consider? How do you decide which factors to prioritize?

I do not think that the simple answer to the “quinoa problem” is to stop eating imported quinoa–now that we have shifted the balance of the economy, to suddenly reduce the demand for the crop would surely have unforeseen (negative?) consequences.

quinoa bowl and spoon

My husband, always the one to play devil’s advocate in any argument, has reminded me that I often oversimplify things in my mind when trying to extol the virtues of an as-local-as-possible diet. What would you do if the local food sources we destroyed by bad weather or disease? Would you starve, or would you turn to imported foods?

So, it’s easy for me to make the choices I make when I live in a town that has high quality, local and organic foods readily available. It’s easy for me to choose organic even when it costs more, because I am blessed to have a job that allows me to make these decisions. It’s easy for me to choose “certified fair trade” products, because I choose to shop in stores that make this information available.

But trying to reduce the social impact of your eating habits is not easy. Just the opposite. The quinoa article has made me reflect on the choices I make. It has made me pause and want to investigate the origin of products I often take for granted (like grains). Labels are endlessly confusing, but I want to pay attention to the claims I see, and investigate their true meanings.

I’d love to hear about the choices you make when it comes to buying food.

Do you aspire to eat organic? Local? Are you a vegetarian or vegan for ethical reasons? Why do you make the choices you do when it comes to food?

-L

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Quinoa and White Bean Soup [MMAZ]

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I remember the first time I heard the word “quinoa.” “Quin-what?!” I asked. Quinoa, a delicious, slightly nutty grain that contains protein. Hailed as the “supergrain of the future,” quinoa contains more protein than any other grain. It is considered a complete … Continue reading