This may go against everything I’ve ever said about food and cooking and the virtues of cooking quick and healthy meals from scratch, but I’m just going to go out and say it: there’s no shame in indulging in soup from a can, or buying your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie from the store instead of whipping one up from scratch.
While I’ve always tried to spread the word that cooking from scratch is not as difficult or daunting as it seems, sometimes you just need to give yourself a break.
In my own life, I’ve always tried to do too much. I’ve guilted myself into spending entire Thanksgiving weekends in the kitchen, peeling potatoes, trussing the turkey and somehow finding time in between to knead a pie dough and chop up a pumpkin for dessert. By the end of it, I was exhausted and grumpy — and for what? My fiancé would have been just as happy with a Thanksgiving chicken from Swiss Chalet, but for some reason I’ve always felt compelled to go all out.
But this year, I bought my pie. I know it doesn’t sound groundbreaking or life-changing, but it was for me: it was finally accepting the simple concept that being driven doesn’t have to mean driving myself crazy. Successful, happy people know when to give themselves a break and be less than their idea of perfect.
I’m not suggesting that you buy take-out every night this week just to make your life easier — cooking healthy meals from scratch is incredibly rewarding, both physically and mentally, but you have to find a balance. Cooking has always been a great de-stressor for me, but when I try to take on too much, it becomes a source of stress. So by taking little steps to become less like Martha Stewart and more like a normal, imperfect person, I’m actually becoming a much happier and fulfilled one.
You can apply this concept to anything, even if cooking isn’t your thing. Whether you love gardening or get great fulfillment from your job, try to be a little less perfect next time, and notice the difference it makes in your happiness.
This recipe is the perfect example of striking balance between enjoyment and perfection. I spent hours in my kitchen turning ripe, juicy peaches into smooth and spreadable fruit butter, and then chose to enjoy the spread on store-bought rolls instead of forcing myself to be “perfect” and make those rolls from scratch. It’s all about balance.
Cardamom Apple Peach Butter
Makes 8 250-ml jars.
A pectin-free alternative to jam, fruit butter is great spread on fresh bread and rolls, or heated slightly and drizzled over vanilla bean ice cream. I’ve added apples for extra sweetness, and cardamom — my absolute favourite spice — adds an exotic hit of flavour.
1 stick cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp whole cardamom seeds
8 cups peeled and chopped peaches (Watch my new video to learn the easiest way how peel a peach!)
2 cups peeled and chopped apples
3-1/2 cups sugar
Pinch sea salt
Juice of 2 small lemons
1. Cut a 5×5-inch square of cheesecloth. Place cinnamon and cardamom in centre of cheesecloth and secure in a bundle with butcher’s twine; set aside.
2. In a large pot, combine peaches, apples, sugar and salt. Add cheesecloth bag of spices. Heat on medium and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, barely simmering, until peaches and apples are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Remove mixture from heat and take out spice bag; set spice bag aside for later use. With an immersion blender, purée peach mixture until completely smooth. (Alternatively, transfer mixture in small batches to an upright blender and blend until smooth; return to saucepan. Be sure to work in batches, as doing the whole batch at once can cause the mixture to overflow or splatter). Return spice bag to peach mixture and heat on lowest setting. Stir in lemon juice and cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes.
4. Divide mixture among sanitized 250-ml glass jars and top with lids and lid bands. Process in a canner for 15 minutes. Carefully remove from canner and transfer to a flat surface. Let rest, undisturbed, for 24 hours. After 24 hours, ensure all lids are popped down; if not, this indicates that the lids are not properly sealed, and peach butter should be refrigerated and consumed within a week.