We so often live in either our memories of the past, or in fantasies about the future, without even realizing it. But when we cook, when we prepare a dish such as this delicious, from-scratch White Chicken Chili with white beans, tender chicken, fresh, ripe avocados and vibrant green limes, being present in the process is a necessity—the food requires it.
No matter how I slice it, the freeways of southern California are no joyride; and pretty much each and every time I attempt to merge onto one, I’m reminded of that.
There isn’t much kindness, compassion, or caring to be found on these freeways of ours, and most of us probably feel ourselves awash in frustration and irritation long before ever reaching our destination, as the seemingly most simple maneuvers such as merging and changing lanes can be quite the stress inducers.
And of course, this morning, things were no different. Why would they be?
But I had a bit of any eye-opening epiphany during my drive this particular morning, one that I hope I can remember and implement the lessons of during my next attempt to traverse from point A to point B in this crazy town.
Being a personal chef, shopping for my client’s groceries at the local Whole Foods Market, and then driving over to their home, is just a part of the gig.
The nature of my work requires me to be well organized and super time efficient, and so “time” always seems to be a factor for me as I get started in the morning, and I often find myself lost in a fantasy of what may or may not happen: “Will I get there in time to get everything done?” And other scenarios.
So this morning, when I had a really frustrating experience with another driver, and was muttering (and frankly cursing) under my breath, feeling angry, I wondered if there was a better way to do things; I wondered how I got to the state that I was in, when by now, I should know the drill with these freeways in the morning!
A thought came into my mind, a question really, an inquiry into what state of mind I was in when I left my home:
Was I even present, even truly conscious, or was I lost in thoughts of what lay ahead of me during my drive, and my morning at work?
And the honest answer was that I wasn’t present, and didn’t even realize it, and that was the problem.
So with that being the case, how could I feel any way other than reactive, when I was sort of “lost” in my own fantasy of what my morning may potentially look like, and was focusing on that rather than what actually was happening, what was around me, in the present, in the now?
And that was big.
I wondered how things could be different if, when I leave my house in the morning, I purposefully centered myself in the present moment?
What if when I pulled out of my driveway, I took a big, conscious breath, and specifically opened my eyes to all of those things that are actually there around me, in front of me, behind me, and beside me?
It could be a completely different experience, a more calm and less “reactionary” one, I suspected.
You see, we so often live in either our memories of the past, or in fantasies about the future, without even realizing it.
And those very deeply influence how we feel and how we behave, and we’re not even aware of it!
The past is gone, and the future hasn’t even happened yet; but somehow, we give so much of our present over to them!
I wondered how I might feel if I began practicing staying mindful of the present moment and what it actually contains, and how that may change how I feel about the things that surround me.
See, I have a feeling that if we could operate out of the present moment in each and every situation, we may be much more at peace and willing to see other perspectives.
Perhaps we might find more true joy and calm, more serenity and peace, even in the midst of chaotic situations, because our mind and body would already be centered and aligned with what is actually happening around us, rather than what is in our imagination.
And food is a great teacher when it comes to this.
When we cook, when we prepare a dish such as this delicious, from-scratch White Chicken Chili with white beans, tender chicken, fresh, ripe avocados and vibrant green limes, being present in the process is a necessity—the food requires it.
Otherwise, it is reflected in the finished product.
We must stay in the moment when we wield our knife, when we chop, slice and prep our ingredients.
And then, when we add our components into our pot, we must listen to find out what is happening, and hear the bubbling and simmering, and make necessary adjustments.
And of course, we need to be present when we taste, because after all, that is where the payoff comes in!
So why not be more present in every area of life? In every precious moment?
Why not try to find as much joy and surprise in the “now” as we can?
It seems to me that being as conscious of each and every moment that we find ourselves in is the best advice for when more joy and more peace is what we’re after.
After all, reality can only be found in the present moment; the past is gone, and the future is not yet here, so now is what is before us, now is all that we truly have.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
White Chicken Chili with White Beans, Fresh Avocado and White Cheddar Cheese
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves about 4
• 2 bone-in and skin-on split chicken breasts (roughly 1 ¼ -1 ½ pounds total)
• Black pepper
• Canola oil
• 1 white onion, chopped
• 1 ¾ teaspoons ground cumin
• ½ teaspoon ground coriander
• ½ teaspoon chili powder
• ¼ teaspoon white pepper
• 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 1 (15 oz) can navy beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 (15 oz) can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 (15 oz) can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
• 3 ½ cups chicken stock
• 1 tablespoon lime juice
• 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon natural liquid smoke seasoning
• 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
• 1 avocado, peeled and pitted, and diced
• Lime, cilantro leaves, tortilla chips, white cheddar cheese, and jalapeno, for garnish
-Sprinkle a little salt and black pepper onto the chicken breasts.
-Place a medium-large soup pot over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of the oil; once the oil gets hot, place the chicken breasts, skin-side down, into the hot pot, and allow them to sear for about 3-4 minutes, or until the skin is golden-brown; flip over, and sear the bone side for another 3 minutes or so; remove the chicken from the pot, and set aside.
-Add the onion into the soup pot, into the fat that the skin of the seared chicken breasts left behind, and saute for about 3 minutes, until lightly golden; add in a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, plus the cumin, coriander, chili powder, and white pepper, and stir to saute with the onion for about 30 seconds.
-Add in the garlic and stir, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the beans, along with the chicken breasts (bone-side down), and cover with the stock; gently stir to incorporate.
-Reduce the heat to medium-low or low, and allow the chili to gently simmer, uncovered, for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally; then, remove the chicken breasts with a pair of tongs, and allow them to cool just enough so you can handle them; at that point remove the skin and bones, and shred or cube the meat, and set it aside.
-While you’re waiting for the chicken breasts to cool, turn the heat up a little bit under the chili, and allow it to simmer a bit more vigorously for about 10-12 minutes, or until it thickens up a little.
-Once thickened, turn off the heat, and add in the shredded or cubed chicken breasts, the lime juice, the liquid smoke seasoning, and the chopped cilantro, and stir to incorporate.
-Serve the chili topped with about ¼ of the diced avocado, plus some white cheddar, lime wedges, cilantro, and jalapeno, as garnishes, if desired; serve with tortilla chips on the side.