Wandering in the Kitchen

Yesterday we brought you Scallops and Bacon from a brand new Worker Bee. Today new Worker Bee #2 has another delicious Primal recipe. Enjoy!

There is something to be said for letting your mind wander. Even in the kitchen. Even when you have a rather sharp kitchen tool in your hand. Even when you’re cooking meat that is notorious for turning dry and flavorless if you’re not careful. I have often aspired to take part in the disciplined mind-wandering of meditation or to be lulled into a peaceful mental vacation on a yoga mat. But in my busy life this is unlikely. More often than not, my mind enters the blissful state of thinking about absolutely nothing when I am in less zen-like places. Like in front of the kitchen sink. It happened the other day when I was peeling a carrot. I kept peeling and peeling, my hands focused on the task but my mind …well, I don’t know exactly where my mind was.  But before I knew it I had peeled the entire carrot instead of chopping it into rounds like I had intended. But this is the beauty of letting your mind wander. Sometimes it leads you to an interesting place; a place you never would’ve gotten to had you been following an exact recipe. The carrot had turned into a beautiful swirl of thin ribbons that I sautéed quickly with fennel and red pepper flakes.  The carrot was still a carrot, but changing its shape and texture made it taste like an entirely new vegetable, one that I hadn’t already eaten thousands of times during my life.

This tendency for my mind to wander while in the kitchen also explains why I like using a slow-cooker so much. A slow-cooker (or crock pot, as it’s also called) is the ultimate appliance for cooks who have trouble focusing on specific recipes and techniques. You can throw almost any combination of meat and/or vegetables into a slow cooker, add a cup or so of liquid, and it will cook itself into a meal. I regularly walk away from my slow-cooker, completely abandoning the food for most of the day. I don’t give dinner a second thought until I return home to the warm, rich aroma of meals like Cinnamon Pork With Parsnips. I do this year round, not just in the winter when slow-cooked meals are especially popular. I do this without feeling the least bit like a 1950s housewife. Crock pots are for everyone now: hip young cooks, macho cooks, single cooks, inexperienced cooks, and professionally trained cooks like myself who can’t help but let their minds wander away from the kitchen from time to time.

Carrot Ribbons With Fennel


4 medium carrots
1 fennel bulb
2 tsp olive oil
Dash of red pepper flakes

Discard stalks from the fennel bulb and the first outer layer of the bulb. Slice fennel as thin as you can.

Warm olive oil in a pan over medium heat for 20 seconds. Add red pepper flakes, carrot ribbons and fennel.

Saute for 10-15 minutes. Salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Slow-Cooked Cinnamon Pork Loin With Parsnips


4 large parsnips, peeled
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/3 to 1 1/2  lb. pork loin
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups water

Cut parsnips into even rounds.

Mix together cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ground ginger, black pepper, garlic and salt.

Cut excess fat off the loin.

Rub meat with 1 Tbsp olive oil then vigorously massage spice rub all over the loin.

Turn heat on high under a sauté pan and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sear sides of the loin until browned, about 3-5 minutes each side.  Put pork in the slow cooker with parsnips. With heat still on, add water to the sauté pan and use a spoon to scrape up browned bits. Add the water to the slow-cooker. Turn the temp to high and cook 3 1/2 hours or low and cook 5-6 hours.

Cooking Tips

  • Carrots aren’t the only vegetables you can peel into ribbons. Try celery, cucumber, squash and kohlrabi.
  • Meat doesn’t have to be seared before going into a slow-cooker but browning the meat will intensify the flavor. This isn’t because searing meat seals in flavor and moisture (Food scientist Harold McGee has proven this is a myth). Rather, searing meat caramelizes the surface of the meat, enhancing its meaty flavor.
  • To save time, use 1 1/2  tsp Chinese Five Spice + 1/2 tsp kosher salt instead of making your own spice rub.
  • Experiment with different spices to create a variety of rubs. Or, just season the meat with salt and surround it with fresh herbs.
    Garnish finished dishes with minced herbs.

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20 thoughts on “Wandering in the Kitchen”

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  1. Great posts with very nice pictures, what I notice both yesterday and today is the portion size. I guess I am not loosing as fast as I like to, apart from quit smoking (93 days), is the portion size.

    I love cinnemon, so I´ll try this one soon.

  2. Wow, thanks. Those all look really good. The photo looks like a pork tenderloin or is that the same thing as pork loin? I always thought the loin was a BIG piece of meat.

  3. I’m not much of a cook, but why cut off the fat from the pork? Is this considered a bad fat?

    1. There is more than one reason to trim fat when preparing a dish. It depends on how you want the dish to turn out, not just whether you believe animal fat is good for you. Leave the extra fat on if you’d like. Our trained chef Worker Bee in this instance found that the excess fat didn’t jive with how she wanted the final product to turn out so she trimmed it a bit. I see how this could send the wrong signals, but it really wasn’t a decision made out of fear of fat, that’s for sure.

  4. I was also surprised to see the fat cut off of the loin. It’s not necessary in my opinion.

  5. What I find especially amusing in this recipe is that it combines kosher salt and pork. Very goi, …

  6. I realize this post is ancient history in www terms, but I recently bought some fennel (first time ever) and this looks like a good way to start out with it. I think I’ll do both recipes on this page together – the fennel salad as a side dish to the pork. Though I may add some apple cider vinegar to the salad. Just seems like it would go well.

  7. I notice in the picture there are Bay leaves on the pork loin but they are not in the ingredient list. Clarification please.

  8. I made this tonight and I was completely blown away. Definitely one of the top ten best meals I have ever eaten in my life, and the best pork loin I’ve ever tasted! I seriously loved this! Thanks for posting!