I love playing in the kitchen, cooking intuitively, chopping and tossing a bunch of ingredients into a large pot, then, stirring up some magic by sprinkling in a pinch of pixie dust (shhh, it’s actually salt and pepper, but we won’t divulge that culinary secret). Sometimes, I plan in advance, soak black beans or kidney beans in a large heavy pot the night before, then cook them in the morning. The pragmatist in me reminds me that soups and stews with some plant-based protein are more likely to keep me well satiated.
On a chilly Sunday, I naturally choose to prepare chili for dinner, and make plenty more for the next few workday lunches. The black beans are freshly cooked and are temporarily resting in a bowl on the counter. I don’t enjoy washing large cooking pots, so of course I intend to use the same pot I used for cooking the beans to cook the chili itself. The EVOO on the bottom of the pot sizzles joyfully, threatening to become menacing lest I take my time chopping the yellow onion and mincing garlic. So, I rush, then carefully sweep the onion and garlic off the bamboo chopping board and into the pot, and reduce the heat of the burner to medium-high. The aroma of the golden onions is comforting, reminding me to breathe deeply as I chop the green peppers, yellow peppers and button mushrooms, adding them in batches to the pot. I grind a few peppercorns in my mortar and pestle, then add a generous amount of fine sea salt and, affecting my best impression of Tinkerbell, sprinkle it all into the pot, watching the magic transpire before my eyes as a I slowly stir the delicious contents with a large wooden spoon. Oh, but I almost forgot the chili powder! How much shall I add? Too much spice, and the youngest Wanderlust Junior would need plenty of convincing and a tall glass of water before reluctantly attempting to eat his spicy meal. Not enough spice, and the chili would taste like a bland stew. I settle on one heaping tablespoon, then grab the packet again and shake in a bit more of the coppery powder.
I open a large can of diced tomatoes, add some boiling water to cover the vegetable and bean mixture, plus an inch more, and increase the heat to ‘high’ bring it all to a boil, stirring occasionally simply to satisfy my olfactory senses. I lower the heat to ‘simmer,’ replace the lid, and allow it all to cook for about 30 minutes.
At dinner, I serve the delightful concoction with purple tortilla chips on the side, then watch as the chips quickly start to disappear. “Eat the chili itself,” I remind Wanderlust Juniors who gaze at me sheepishly from beneath downcast eyes, grinning mischievously as the rhythm of their crunching slows for just a moment. I inhale the steam that rises from the bowl before me, then ask my family, once again, to ensure that their own servings, prepared well in advance before mine, are cooled enough for them to eat. I am the only one in our family who enjoys piping hot foods and drinks.
We’re all here, and we are warm. These people at this cozy pine kitchen table are my inspiration for playing in the kitchen. They are the reason I continue to craft dishes that warm our bellies all through the winter season. They also remind me that there is always an opportunity to practise awareness, setting true intentions, all while allowing my imagination to sparkle!
What is your favourite winter meal? Please leave a comment below, and thank you for taking a moment to share this blog with a friend!