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Simple Pleasures

 

 

 I consider myself fortunate to be a person who views the selection, preparation, enjoyment and sharing of fabulous food, most especially in a serene and beautiful environment,  as some of the most extravagant and pleasurable experiences in life.

 

Here are some things that I do to savor and enhance the joy of the meal at any stage:

 

 

 ~  HERBS ~  Make it a point to always have some fresh herbs on hand. Fresh herbs can change a ho-hum dish into a dazzler with little effort.  You can buy fresh herbs and keep them in the refrigerator. I wash them, shake off the excess water, wrap them in a paper towels, place them in a zip lock baggie, and squeeze out much of the air. Keeping them in the crisper drawer, fresh herbs have lasted 5 to 6 days for me, especially if I buy them at the Farmer’s Market. Grocery store herbs are older and usually don’t last as long.  You can also grow your own herbs easily. Make a little space in a sunny spot on your kitchen counter, patio or table for an herb bowl. Pick herbs that you like, and just plant them in a pot of soil. Cut what you need when you want them. There are also pre-made herb bowls available at many Farmer’s Markets and nurseries. Of course, if you have space outside, grow all the herbs you want!

 

~  COOK EXTRA ~  When cooking a meal for your family or friends, try cooking an extra portion or two of veggies. Asparagus, mushrooms, eggplant, red peppers, onions – whatever you are having, just put the extra serving(s) in the fridge for later use.  When you are ready, use your “planned leftovers” in a morning omelet or a light meal frittata.  For example, this morning, I found some leftover eggplant that I had stir fried a few days ago. I quickly fried some sweet onion (scallions if you have those instead) in olive oil with a little salt, added the eggplant and a small handful of freshly chopped lemon-oregano from my garden. When everything was warmed through, I added 3 egg whites (whole eggs or combination if you prefer), flipped it over and sprinkled it with some leftover Feta cheese. When the cheese melted nicely, I added some freshly chopped tomato and the rest of the chopped fresh lemon-oregano, added a grind of lemon pepper and WOW, a gorgeous, healthful and mouthwatering frittata!  Eat this way and you may never look at “leftovers” the same way again!

 

~  BE KIND TO YOURSELF ~  In the hectic, crazy world that most of us have invented for ourselves, we just don’t take the time we deserve for simple pleasures!  Being alone with my thoughts in my lovely home or dining in my luscious yard gives back to me whatever I might have given up or lost during a busy workweek. If you have found this to be true for yourself, read on. Even busy Moms and Dads or a frazzled woman executive who thinks she still has to be superwoman when she comes home, can choose to make some “delicious time” for themselves. You are definitely worth it! Start by turning off the noise (TV, radio, IPOD, whatever!). This one thing alone will give you an atmosphere that allows your creative mind to flow! If you are about to create your dinner or another meal, just remember that you can’t prepare a gracious meal without grace!  Let me give you an example.  This morning, after the rush was over, instead of following my usual routine, I decided to “dine by myself”.  I set a lovely place on my patio table with a colorful placemat and cloth napkin, chose an especially pretty plate and glass, and brewed myself a cup of my favorite tea. I fixed myself the frittata I mentioned earlier and quietly ate my breakfast, enjoying a fabulous Southern California morning replete with trilling birds, bees dancing from flower to flower and leaves reflecting prisms of light from the leftover morning dew.  It seems to me that if you think about it, you can also create a place where you can find harmony with yourself. Just look around, it’s right in front of you!

 

~  GRATITUDE  ~  One thing that has always made my food experiences a little better is gratitude. Being at the top (or so we think!) of the food chain brings with it an interesting responsibility. You can look at it in a spiritual or simply pragmatic way, but any way you choose to look at it, gratitude is a necessary component to the creation of a fabulous meal. For one thing, I believe the food is only as good as the love you put into it. If you are rushing through, fighting with your lover or the kids, taking shortcuts, swearing at the dull knives, or crushing your lettuce with your fury, things will probably taste the way they were prepared – rushed and angry. And then you wonder why you have indigestion!!  When you handle a juicy peach or a shiny black eggplant or a fillet of salmon, do it with respect. Everything but EVERYTHING you consume has given up its place on the food chain, its life, so that you can survive. Be grateful for that. If you put that feeling of gratitude and awe into your cooking, you will never regret it. As you pick, peel, chop or fry, just think about it and give thanks!

 

~  FRESH IS FASTER  ~  Did you know that it’s just as fast (sometimes faster) to cook a nutritious, balanced meal as it is to put a pizza in the oven, wait for take out, cook a sodium-rich boxed meal or even to microwave some of those “chemical meals” that so many weight watchers are so fond of?  Think about how long it would take you to sauté a boneless, skinless chicken breast (or a piece of fish) in a little olive oil with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice and to beam some asparagus. About 20 minutes, that’s how long.

 

 Aren’t you worth that?

 

 

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December 8th, 2010


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