Optimism, or the art of the happy accident

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

It’s been a week of happy accidents. As spring turns to summer, we have a little more work to do, both at home and at our jobs.

The days get longer, giving me time to scrape loose paint to get ready for our summer painting project. The backyard also requires attention as perennials pop up and weeds stake a claim beside them.

And at work, we are in summer mode, when all the food we can make is made. Rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries get the spotlight on the menu. So we are off and running.

But back to accidents: those events that occur unexpectedly and sometimes cause loss or pain. I have had quite a few of these in my life. Just this week, I spent a few hours with a friend, remembering one of the most difficult ones I’ve had, when I was fired from a job numerous years ago.

And then, on the food side, there are always those times when the cake falls, the fresh pan of rhubarb crunch is dropped, the bread is forgotten in the oven and burns to a crisp. In some cases, it’s always better to just move on. I can’t really make anything with a loaf of bread that looks like charcoal. I accept the loss and put it behind me.

But then there are the happy accidents. Just when I’m ready to put the raisins in the cookies, I discover there are none. But I do have dried cherries…

After losing a job, I discover I am a really good baker and a whole new career ensues.

Winter weather slows everything down, but it gives me time to reassess my life.

These are the happy outcomes of accidents. And it is the way I try to live my life. Be present to the unfortunate, but find a creative way out — or at least, find the good that comes out of it.

For me, this past year has been chock full of unfortunate events. And all of them continue to teach me that there is life beyond them.

So, the other night for supper, we had another happy accident: the leftovers from lunch added to the planned evening menu. We ended up with a wonderful mix for our burritos, and we were happy indeed.

Jerk chicken, black bean and fresh pineapple salsa burritos
Enough for 4 to 6 burritos

Jerk Chicken Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground allspice
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper 

Jerk Chicken Directions

  1. Take a couple of chicken breasts and put them in a bag with the spices. Let marinate for several hours or overnight.
  2. Bake in a 375 degree oven until cooked through, about 25 minutes. Slice into small pieces.

Burrito Ingredients

  • 2 cup pineapple, diced
  • ½ red pepper, diced
  • ½ jalapeño, diced
  • ¼ cup mint, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro chopped
  • 2 tbsp. red onion, diced
  • Mix all of these ingredient together in a bowl.
  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • 1 can black beans
  • Juice from 1/2 lime 

Burrito Directions

  1. Sauté the onion in a little olive oil. Add the jerk chicken, garlic and chili. Continue to sauté.
  2. Add red pepper, black beans and the lime juice and cook until it is all heated through.
  3. Pile this into a flour tortilla, along with the fresh pineapple salsa, and some grated cheese. Enjoy!
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