Saturday, January 30, 2010

Balance: West African Peanut Stew

This year, during the offering at our church's Christmas service (which is nontraditional, at best, given that we attend a UU fellowship), our minister told us that in the spirit of the season, we were going to get gifts. I was a little surprised, knowing how modest our fellowship budget is, but felt myself getting excited by the thought. When they passed around the "gift" baskets, I was initially disappointed; they were just tea lights. But when I turned mine over, on the bottom was printed a single word: balance.

If there is one thing I need more of in my life, it's balance. No one could have chosen a more appropriate gift for me. And while I can't say that receiving it has instantaneously improved things in my life, I do keep that tea light in my coat pocket, and am reminded about the gift every time I dig my hands in to fish out my gloves, or reach for a tissue, or just warm up. Divine intervention? Maybe. It almost doesn't matter.

There is always too much to do on the weekends; seems we're always running to a birthday party, or going to youth group, or running errands, or doing chores, or making dinners for the week. Even when I'm home, I'm not home; my mind is somewhere else, planning the next thing, worrying about a future that isn't even a certainty. I desperately miss going to yoga class, especially at Yoga Loka with my guru Bonnie Pariser, which seemed to help keep my frenetic pace in check, reminding me gently to be centered, but I just can't figure out where to fit that in any more, without missing precious weekend family time.

Miraculously, this weekend, nothing was on the calendar. And so last night, when I got home from my usual Friday night grocery shopping trip, I chopped vegetables, so I could throw this stew together and make the weekend even less hectic. This worked out well, since we ended up going to New Hope/Lambertville Winter Festival parade today, where they threw more candy at us than we could eat in a month. (Ian is still parading around the house, pretending that we're at a parade, throwing pretend candy at us.)

I confess I've never bought (or eaten, for that matter) okra, so it was an experiment, but everyone (even Ian) gobbled it up, so I think it was a success. The stew itself is a good balance: of sweet and spicy, smooth and chunky, fork and spoon. I served it to the boys with couscous, but ate it plain myself. And there's plenty of leftovers, so that even if I'm not getting myself to yoga class, at least I'll have one less night to worry this week about finding time to make dinner in the midst of everything else.

West African Peanut Stew (with thanks to Kayln's Kitchen for the original)

Ingredients (serves about 6-8):
2 c onions, chopped (used 1 large)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 to 1 tsp cayenne powder (depending on how you like it)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 c cabbage, chopped
1 c green bell pepper, chopped
3 c sweet potato, peeled, cubed
3 c tomato juice
1 c apple juice
2-16 oz cans diced tomatoes in juice
2 c okra, chopped
3/4 c peanut butter (used natural crunchy kind)
Cilantro for garnish

In a large pot, sauté onions in oil for about 8 minutes. Stir in cayenne, garlic and ginger and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add cabbage, green pepper and cubed sweet potatoes and then cover for 3-4 minutes. Mix in tomato juice, apple juice, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in okra and peanut butter. Simmer on low-heat until ready to serve. If stew is too thick, add water or more juice if desired. Add more spices or salt to taste if desired. Enjoy!
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