The Value of Being Versatile (as Demonstrated by Cashew Nut Butter)

Versatile – to be able to adapt or be adapted to a many different functions or activities.
See also: adaptable, flexible, all-around, multifaceted, multitalented, resourceful, protean; adjustable, variable, convertible, alterable, modifiable, multipurpose.

It is interesting to me how particular values, traits or qualities become more or less in vogue throughout the passage of time. Today it seems that concepts like gratitude, mindfulness, balance, and versatility are highly prized in the media and society at large around many parts of the world. Although often the rise in popularity of such buzzwords can end up translating loosely to nothing tangible (and can be a bit excessive or annoying at times), they do potentially
shape the way that we tend to think and sometimes act. I find it hard to say that I wouldn’t find value in expressing more gratitude for my many blessings or that being fully engaged and present/mindful in a particular moment isn’t advantageous to soaking up experiences. I don’t believe in balance personally, but that is a topic for another day (I am an abstainer versus a moderator), but being versatile seems like something worth considering.

Certainly in the workplace being versatile, a team player and someone who is willing to be agile, make adjustments or be flexible, is encouraged.   Not limited to individuals, people also don’t want to do business with rigid companies either as evidenced by the diminishing brand loyalty, vast amount of customization and variety that is produced. Similarly, many people are turned off by overly obstinate or stubborn people in their relationships across many scenarios. While some things may not (and necessarily shouldn’t be) be able to be changed or adapted, like our personalities, core values, and beliefs, life does often require our ability and willingness to be flexible.

My first big girl job was working in inventory management to control food costs for a major restaurant group, analyzing reports, determining issues with data in terms of reporting or loss, and coaching store managers. The goal was to reduce the actual costs related to food in comparison to the theoretical by addressing issues in forecasting sales, ordering via Just In Time (JIT) principles, reducing attrition by expiration through FIFO principles, calculation of appropriate stock and prep levels, and reducing overall SKUs.   Although there were over 100 different items on the menu, the goal of the company was to use versatile ingredients that could be leveraged in a litany of recipes. The goal in food production is the same as in many manufacturing environments, run as lean as possible without stock outs.

This way of working has been ingrained in me and I actually take great pleasure in having the exact right amount of “inventory on hand” in my own life. I am what is referred to as a “Finisher,” which means I really feel an odd sense of satisfaction or accomplishment when I use the very last drop of oil in a bottle or piece of spinach in a bag before it goes bad. I really hate waste and I try to keep storage areas less cluttered by only buying a backup of an ingredient or other household item right before I think I will need it (I manage my personal kitchen inventory weekly as part of my meal prep process). I get a weird little thrill on Saturday before my big grocery shop for the week when my shelves and refrigerator are nearly bare and ready for the next week. It’s a fun little game I play with myself. And since I have a very specific type of dietary lifestyle, I don’t want to be stuck with a huge bag of something like maca powder or spirulina without a plan or multiple ways to use it. Some people are skeptical or hesitant to buy products with a very limited or specific purpose and I am one of those. I like to use ingredients which are versatile and can be used up in many ways.

One way I do this through thorough meal planning, trying to pick a few recipes that require the same ingredient (it not only reduces wastes, but also total grocery costs). If I am buying something which has a shelf life, like a pumpkin for example, I am going to find a few different ways to incorporate it throughout the week; maybe roast some as side veg, puree some to add to a soup, and work into a muffin recipe. That way none of it goes to waste, but I don’t have to eat the same thing everyday. Another method I employ is using ingredients with an array of purposes, things which are versatile enough to be worked into many recipes. And one of my very favorite, most commonly used, and highly versatile ingredients is cashew nut butter! In fact when I launched my blog, Julette starting referring people to it as a place where readers could learn “how to make just about anything with cashew nut butter!”

It’s creamy, smooth, and just the right balance of stickiness and thickness. It’s neutral enough in flavor to take a strong supporting role for other ingredients in the recipe, but distinct enough to make a delicious statement of its own. I use it savory and sweet dishes, for any meal or snack of the day. Cashew nut butter is certainly among the Who’s Who of Versatile Kitchen Ingredients.   And one very tasty way that I have used it recently is in my Whole30 Spicy Chicken Cashew Pasta. Spiralized zucchini/courgette pasta tossed in a spicy and creamy sauce made with cashew nut butter, ginger, sriracha, and coconut aminos and then topped with chicken, peppers, scallions and some raw cashews. Unanticipated deliciousness.

Spicy Chicken Cashew PastaSpicy Chicken Cashew PastaSpicy Chicken Cashew Pasta

Spicy Cashew Chicken Pasta

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Cook time: 

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Serves: 3

Delicious and slightly spicy Whole30 and Paleo dinner or lunch option!
  • Cashew Butter .25 cup (65 g)
  • Coconut Aminos .25 cup (60 ml)
  • Minced Garlic Cloves 3 each
  • Freshly Grated Ginger 1 TBSP
  • Sriracha (check labels!) 1 TBSP
  • Coconut Oil 1 TBSP
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 1 TBSP
  • Diced Chicken Breast 1 lb (450 g)
  • Medium Yellow Onion, Chopped 1 each
  • Red Bell Pepper, Chopped 1 each
  • Yellow Bell Pepper, Chopped 1 each
  • Spiralized Zucchini/Courgette 2 each
  • Scallions, Chopped 2 each
  • Raw Cashews .25 cup (28 g)
  1. Combine the cashew butter, coconut aminos, garlic, ginger, and sriracha in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Heat a saucepan over medium high heat and melt the coconut oil then add the chicken and crushed red pepper. Stir to ensure chicken is cooked throughout, about 5-7 minutes. Then set the chicken aside.
  3. Then add the onion, red pepper, and yellow pepper to the pan and stirring to soften and sautee for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. In a large bowl, add the chicken, peppers, onions and blended cashew sauce using tongs to toss well, coating the ingredients with the sauce evenly.
  5. Split the zucchini/courgette noodles between three plates and then spoon the chicken mixture over the top.
  6. Sprinkle the scallions and cashews over the top, adding salt, black pepper, or red pepper flakes to taste as desired.

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