Since January 1, I've cooked each evening except one, and that night was a "everyone is on his/her own night." Each evening, I worked to include herbs and spices, and each meal save one was given the thumbs up. The save one meal didn't get a thumbs down; it received a sideways thumb, and I think that was because I didn't get the black beans pureed the way they needed to be for the black bean soup to be creamy. I tried to puree the beans while they were too hot, and well, putting hot food into a blender then turning it on just isn't a good idea. Even though I was pressing down on the lid to prevent it launching to the ceiling, it still popped off. Black beans spewed everywhere. As if the first try wasn't enough, I made a second attempt. Yeah, not a smart move. The lid took off like a rocket, allowing black beans to splatter across cabinet doors, my sweatshirt, this computer, and my exposed wrist, which burned and now sports a nice red welt. It was carnage. So, the soup leaned more to the chunky side; however, the flavor made up for the lack of creaminess. It really was good. Angel Baby found dipping tortilla chips in it made for another way to enjoy it. I found adding some avocado gave it further dimension. I'm thinking now the sideways thumb was a bit harsh, especially given the damage incurred while making it.
This evening, I roasted jicama. I've never eaten jicama before and had no idea how to prepare it. I have since learned jicama is a taproot and can be eaten raw or cooked. I decided to cut the jicama into cubes and roast it in the oven with olive oil, onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Part of me was a little afraid the boys wouldn't like it, but when dinner was over, no one had any jicama remaining. Its crispy texture and slightly sweet flavor blended nicely with the onions and herbs, and the dish went well with the pork chops.
I've been reading Thich Nhat Hanh's How to Eat since I've enjoyed his The Heart of Buddha's Teachings so much. The one idea from How to Eat that has stayed with me and has become a part of the meal preparation routine is considering where the different parts of the meal came from. Really thinking about what went into creating the green beans, the strawberries, the venison roast. When I think about the role the sun played, along with the soil and water, as I'm cutting the tops off the carrots, or how the cow meandered through pastures, munching on grass then maybe drinking from a stream flowing through the pastures, I find a whole new appreciation for what the family is about to eat. I never used to think about my food beyond making a list before going to the grocery store then trying to find a foolproof recipe so everyone would like the meal. Now, as I walk through the fruits and vegetables section, I touch the different produce to feel their textures, pick them up to inhale their scent. At the meats, I look over the different offerings, knowing most of the animals didn't have a great life, and I try to choose only those meats that come from free-ranging, grass fed animals. Giving more thought to the foods I'm purchasing and then consuming has made eating a much more enjoyable activity.
Tomorrow I'll be making chicken stock to put in the freezer. I bought a free-range whole chicken and will boil it. The chicken will become chicken salad for dinner, and the stock will be used for whatever needs stock in the upcoming week. Preparing my own stock has become one of my favorite things to do, and I'd like to branch out to make beef stock soon, but I haven't figured out where to get bones from a healthy source. Once I do, I'm definitely going to add beef broth to my freezer, which in turn will add another element to the way I cook. I'm looking forward to this moment. Very much.