936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
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My family has a slight fixation with peanut butter. Ever since I made my first attempt at throwing some on-sale roasted peanuts into my food processor, we’ve been hooked on this wholesome treat. Homemade peanut butter is a permanent inhabitant on our refrigerator shelf. I began making peanut butter when I found coupons for Planters peanuts, and paired the coupons with sales at our local market. This meant I could whip up a batch of peanut butter for a couple of dollars. Recently, however, I’ve discovered that it is well, well worth the extra few dollars to buy raw peanuts from our local health food store and roast them myself before processing them into peanut butter. The difference is stark and magnificent. Our peanut butter was good before, now it is irresistible. In fact, I gave Ezekiel a dollop peanut butter still warm, straight from the food processor, with some apple slices. He ran out of apple slices prematurely, and so he resorted to using his finger to transfer the remaining peanut butter to his mouth. Eventually, actually rather quickly, he ran out of peanut butter on his plate. Fortunately, messy eater that he is, he managed to collect some on his arms, which he promptly began to lick and suck off of himself.
Two weeks ago was my first go at roasting peanuts myself. The peanut butter recipe I use calls for 16oz peanuts, removed from shell. Knowing our family goes through a lot of peanut butter, and that it lasts for two months in the fridge, I doubled the recipe. I used 2 lbs of raw peanuts, about 6 cups. After processing, this resulted in 4 cups of the most delicious peanut butter we had ever tasted. 4 cups is a lot of peanut butter. I imagined it would last at least two weeks, maybe three if we rationed–which we didn’t. A week later we hit the bottom of the container.
Off to the store I went for another 2lbs of peanuts. Now, you would assume that with such a successful batch of peanut butter made just a week earlier, that this would be a breeze. 10 minutes and I would have a delicious batch of home-roasted peanut butter. 1 hour and 15 minutes later I spooned my pale, soupy, overly-rich processed peanuts into our peanut butter container. The catastrophe had begun 10 minutes into the whole ordeal, when I realized my peanuts were not quite processing as they did last time. Actually, the whole catastrophe probably began the evening before, when I failed to roast my peanuts long enough. Sure, they were roasted, but still a bit pale, which left us lacking the real roasted flavor that was the star of our previous batch.
Standing now before the food processor, I argued with myself over the dilemma facing me. The peanuts looked dry. Instead of forming into a creamy mass, they just sort of shot around the processor in little tiny peanut tid-bits. Dry. Add more liquid? I recalled another failed batch I’d made last year in which I added too much oil, causing the peanut butter to harden in the fridge. It was more of a peanut butter brick that we had to microwave before we could manage to dip an apple slice into it. This previous experience bred in me a slight apprehension to add more oil. Honey, then, was my only other option; in went some more honey. Process, high, I hit the button again–again–again. The boisterous riot coming from the kitchen was too much for Ezekiel, even with Baby Einstein distracting him in the living room; he began to cry. I placed him in his crib and let him “nap”, promising the noise would be over soon. Back in the kitchen, I approached my new nemesis. The honey was failing at its mission to smooth the peanut bits into butter. I caved and added more oil. Each time I turned the machine on now, smoke began to ascend. I reasoned with myself that it was just “peanut dust”, as they were surely being ground into finer bits, soon to be a superb butter consistency. I was wrong. More oil. More honey. More processing.
After an hour of this, I took some of the mixture out to try processing it in smaller batches. Finally, the peanuts formed into a creamy mass, flowing round and round the processor cabin just as it should. I removed the creamy peanut butter, and processed the rest of the batch likewise. I had won. Or so I thought. As I spooned the mixture into our peanut butter container, I noticed it was a tad pale in comparison to our last batch. And after that long brawl in the processor, it was now more of a soup than a butter. I swished the container and it all sloshed together. It would firm up in the refrigerator, I assured myself. Yet again I was wrong. I revisited the butter a few hours later, excited to finally have my long-anticipated snack of apple slices and homemade peanut butter. With bite one, I concluded that it was at least better than store-bought. Bite two made me question my conclusion. Bite three and the verdict was in–yuck. And with a few more bites I actually developed a small stomach ache. It was certainly over-processed, as the refrigerator had done nothing to help the liquid consistency. And along with that, all of the oil and honey I had added to “fix” the butter had left it overly-rich and sweet. Fail. (Note that the photos in this blog post are of the successful batch, not the failure) Fortunately, my back-up all-natural peanut butter was on sale (buy one get one free) this week at the supermarket. Instead of spending another $10 on raw peanuts, we’ll opt for the natural store-bought option, spending $3.99 instead of $10.
When you cook real food with real ingredients, a fail such as this in the kitchen may leave you sour the rest of the day. After all, I’d spent over $10 on the peanuts for this batch of butter. Add to that all of the honey and oil I added, and this batch of butter probably ran us close to $15, not to mention one rubber spatula, almost my food processor, and definitely my sanity. Fortunately my husband can sense when my kitchen fails bog me down, and he’s quick to come up with solutions, or simply assure me that it’s no big deal. This time he reassured me that this batch could be used for baking. And in fact, sitting here writing this post, I just finished off a homemade dark chocolate and peanut butter granola bar, made from my failed peanut butter, and it was delicious!
Peanut butter may seem a silly or mundane example for how we deal with failure. But when we allow small failures to teach us how to process and move forward after defeat, then we are better equipped to handle the big failures of life. Michael Hyatt, a Christian author and blogger on personal productivity sets forth in his podcast, “How to benefit from setbacks and failures”, an important step in dealing with failure in our lives: we must, after failure, whole-heartily enter into our next project. Using the example of my peanut butter, that day was in itself turning into one of my “kitchen failure” days, when anything I attempt to cook goes awry. Just before I embarked on my batch of peanut butter, I had thrown a whole batch of useless bread dough into the trash bin. It was the recipe I use every week for bread, but the flour I bought at the store was no good. Surely this day in the kitchen was doomed. However, I pressed on. Even after the peanut butter mishap, I persisted in my list of recipes for the day. Next was a couscous salad, and then on to homemade pizzas for a potluck dinner with our Bible study group that evening. The success of my (first ever) couscous salad, and the raving reviews over both it and my pizzas were enough to bury my disconcerting feelings over the bread and peanut butter from that morning. Perhaps the fact that I was able to press on past disappointment and onto success was the greatest achievement in the kitchen that day. The point is that we cannot allow failure–big or small–to get us stuck. Failure is an essential part of life; just one ingredient that God uses to teach us new lessons, show us new perspectives, regain our attention, and turn our dependency back to Himself.
Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
It is God, after all, who enables us and strengthens us to do anything good and worthwhile with our lives. Apart from Him, we are but dust–useless, unproductive, good-for-nothing dust. Failure offers us a constant reminder of this.
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
When our trust is placed in Christ, He becomes our strength. Though we stumble, we will not fall. And as we recover from each stumble, He steadies our feet to continue in the path He is leading us on. We persevere through Him and His strength alone. I thank God that my failures do not have to be an end-all, but that His grace is sufficient to not only lift me up again, but to even use my setbacks and defeats to train me up in the way I should go, and strengthen me for the road ahead.
Jeff Goins, an author and blogger puts it well when he says, “If you’re failing, you’re in the game.” Let us not be caught doing nothing because we are too afraid to fail. Rather, let us “be in the game”, and allow failure be a simple proof of that participation in a fuller life.
With this said, here is our Real Food Question of the Week, please leave your comment below on the blog:
What is a past experience of failure you’ve had in the kitchen, and what is a past success?
Roasted Peanuts (from homecooking.about.com):
Home-Roasted Peanut Butter (adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe):
This recipe is for a single batch which should make about 2 cups of peanut butter. If your family is like ours, and consumes mass quantities of peanut butter, I’d suggest making a double batch; it lasts two months in the fridge. However, as I learned the hard way, process it in single batches
Comment below on the Real Food Question of the Week: What is a past experience of failure you’ve had in the kitchen, and what is a past success?
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!