I often live under the illusion all my meals need to be spectacular. You know, full of complexity and perceived "wow!" factor, a table full of mouth-watering dishes, everything coming together seamlessly. When I look at how my life, specifically meal time, actually is I find mealtimes miles from whatever immaculate images I've created in my mind - it's laughable.
Here's maybe the most important lesson I've learned about feeding people well:
Keep it simple.
It sounds obvious but in reality I need to remind myself of this truth daily. What I know is if I don't keep food simple it just doesn't work. I slack, I rely on the leftovers of leftovers, I get to 5:00 and start to panic, or deem the evening "on your own night". I'm frazzled and frantic and grumpy because I've let myself down again. I'm not present and therefore can't enjoy anything - my husband, my kids, the people around our table, the setting, the smells, the tastes. I miss all of it because I'm in recovery mode.
And then I look into the eyes of my girls and get a sucker punch to the gut. What I'm teaching them is perfection is most important and if perfection can't be attained then just scrap it all, be cranky, and eat popcorn.
Here's the thing, when I keep my meals simple, fresh, local, and "me" I actually serve more than just food to those I love. I give them a piece of my heart, my time, my effort, and all the good things I want for them. I'm giving my girls a sustainable and joyful way of doing food, something they can carry with them their entire lives.
When I hone in on what I'm good at making and enjoy eating, the meal comes out the way I want every time. I can relax and take pleasure in the process, experimenting along the way. This is what makes cooking fun and what brings me back to the kitchen each day. I like the comfort in familiarity that allows for creativity and adventure.
So, if you've struggled to "get it right" in the kitchen, find a few [seasonal, healthy] meals you like to make and cook them a lot. Get comfortable with the process and then experiment with different flavors and ingredients that reflect your own uniqueness. For me these are sauteed veggie scrambles, soups, and salads. I can make a mean veggie-hash in minutes or throw together a salad bar from almost anything. Over time I've learned what flavors I love and which I hate, creating my go-to dressings and seasonings that make assembly a cinch.
Don't feel like you have to scrap all your grandiose meal plans, just save them for the weekend or an open day. If you head into complex meals with the space they demand, I promise you'll have a lot more fun.
Here is one of my favorite, simple, and local lunches that provides the "fresh" reminiscent of summer yet uses seasonal produces and flavors. This is an especially great meal to enjoy while detoxing!
If you live well north of the equator, it's no secret winter is upon us. Glance out your window and the banks of snow, maybe snow flake flying, and biting temperatures will remind you of this. But all is not lost when attempting to support your local community with your food purchases. In many parts of the country winter farmer's markets are popping up surprising us all with the bounty farmers have year-round. If you can't find a winter market check in at your local health food store - many are locally minded and stock produce direct from your area whenever possible.
Although olive oil and some herbs and spices aren't grown and produced in my area, purchasing them from a local artisan or market gives money to small business rather than big box stores. I like to use well-crafted, high-quality olive oil on my salads for their intensity and variety of flavor.
That being said, if you live in West Michigan, my favorite haunts are:
Sweetwater Local Foods Market
Harvest Health Foods
Nourish Organic Market & Deli
Global Infusion [for herbs / spices / teas]
Old World Olive Oils
Even changing just one or two of your common purchases from large stores to local businesses can make a big difference. If each of us did this, imagine the impact we'd make!
1 small head of savoy cabbage, thinly sliced [If your cabbage is a bit wilted, cut and place into a bowl of water with a large handful of ice. Allow cabbage to soak for 20 - 30 minutes or until it's crispy again.]
1/2 delicata squash [I roast the whole squash and save extra for another time], reserve seeds
sage or rosemary, ground
caraway seeds, whole [optional]
squash seeds of delicata squash
1/2 kohlrabi, peeled and either shaved [use vegetable peeler or mandolin] or cut into match sticks
2 radishes, thinly sliced
3 - 4 baby turnips, thinly sliced
1/2 [local] apple, cubed
homemade sprouts [mix of choice, alfalfa is great for detoxing]*
juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed or 1/2 - 1 tsp. local apple cider vinegar
extra virgin, first cold-pressed olive oil [from local specialty store]
splash of local, organic, pure apple juice [if added sweetness is desired]
While squash is baking, place rinsed and drained squash seeds on another parchment lined baking sheet or stoneware pan. Toss with a pinch or two each of sea salt and nutritional yeast. Set aside [if you have an additional oven or toaster oven you can bake these while squash is roasting]. When squash is done, set oven to 375 and bake squash seeds for 10 - 20 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy.
While squash and seeds are roasting, prepare additional ingredients as noted above.
Toss prepared cabbage and kohl rabi. Drizzle over salad a tablespoon or two of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. When squash is done, toss with cabbage mix.
Top with a layer each of sprouts, turnips, radishes, and apples. Sprinkle with roasted squash seeds and eat to reducing toxins, good health, and supporting our local communities!
*To make homemade sprouts: purchase seeds specifically used for sprouting [will note on the package]. In a large glass jar, place seeds to cover bottom and cover with four times the water. Place a piece of screen or cheesecloth over the jar and secure with a rubber band. You can also purchase a sprouting jar. Let the seeds soak for 24 hours. Double check to make sure the cloth or screen is securely in place and then drain the water from the seeds. With cloth or screen still on bottle, let water run through to fill the jar. Drain water again, tip jar to side and place in a sunny windowsill. Gently rinse and drain the seeds 2 - 3 times a day for 3 - 5 days or until sprouts are a few inches long. Remove sprouts from jar and store in an airtight glass container for no more than a week.