Posts tagged ‘cake’

January 9, 2018

Make the Kitchen Your Happy Place

If you want to improve your family’s eating habits, make the kitchen your happy place! Watch any home improvement show and you’re sure to see a lot of emphasis on kitchen design. Even tiny house occupants often insist on full-size appliances. This could lead you to believe that Americans love to spend time in the kitchen. But according to former consumer packaged good consultant Eddie Yoon, only 10% of Americans love cooking.

Why do we go to all the trouble and expense of large refrigerators, stone countertops, and multiple small kitchen appliances if we don’t want to be in the kitchen? It doesn’t make much sense. On some level, we must still believe the kitchen is important. Since the only way to really know what’s in your food and thereby ensure you are meeting your health and nutrition goals is to begin with fresh food, it would be good if we enjoyed our time in the kitchen.

So, how do we take a basic space or a beautifully appointed kitchen with a custom pantry, elegant countertops, decorative backsplash, and ample refrigerator and turn it into a space we want to use, a space that draws us in, a space that feels like our happy place?
Make it Yours

Forget all the sparse, neutral images you see on TV and online. Those are just showing you a blank canvas waiting to be personalized. Let your kitchen become a place filled with things that make you feel good.

Put your grandmother’s cookie jar on the counter and keep it filled with homemade cookies just like she did. Add a wireless speaker to the top of the refrigerator so that meal prep can be choreographed to your favorite dance tunes. Get a spoon rest that makes you laugh. Buy a handcrafted cutting board that makes you feel connected to the outdoors. Get cabinet organizers that reduce frustration by making everything easily accessible. Get rid of appliances you never use so you don’t feel guilty for having them. Buy a small appliance if it will invite you into the kitchen to use it (for more than the first week or two). Add a collection of decorative objects you love. A kitchen does not have to be cold and clinical to be functional and efficient.
Add Color
Don’t be afraid to add some color!!! All white, mostly gray, or somber black and brown can dampen my mood! Unless your house is listed for sale, there’s no reason to be hesitant about adding something bright and happy to your kitchen. If you’re not comfortable with painting the walls or cabinets, bright curtains, a painted island, decorative plates, unique pottery pieces, wall art, vintage salt and pepper shakers, flowering plants, or potted herbs can help make you feel happy to spend time in the kitchen.

Get Comfortable
If you love to converse while you prep veggies, add a bar stool or a comfortable chair near your prep space. Share a cup of hot chocolate, hot tea, or coffee and conversation with a friend, neighbor, partner, spouse or child while your hands are busy. They don’t necessarily need to help. They can just keep you company. This can be a great time to exchange recipes or share cooking techniques.

My great aunts used to shell peas together. They’d gather at my Aunt Nola’s house, sit outside in metal chairs with a bushel basket in front of them and talk while they worked. They actually did many things as a group – crocheted, quilted, and painted ceramics. The grandkids ran free in the yard or around the farm while the women stayed in touch and made work seem like play.


If you’re new to cooking from scratch (without the use of something that is already prepared or in existence), but love to play around with color, texture, and flavor, the kitchen may soon be your favorite place! I tend to visualize how flavors will taste together in my head before I try them in real life, but I also get inspired to pair flavors when I taste something that excites me.

A cucumber, jalapeño ice lolly I ate on a hot day inspired my recipe for Chilled Honeydew Soup, a delightful and refreshing combination of honeydew, cucumber, with a hint of jalapeño. Soon after eating that ice pop, I began experimenting with ingredients in varying proportions and possible additions until settling on the best combination. After that, the recipe faced 2 more tests in order to meet the Cooking2Thrive quality standard. For me, each of the experiments was fun!
Good Taste

Even if experiments don’t excite you, It’s hard to resist a room filled with delicious food. Remember, many ingredients do not require cooking to be scrumptious! If you are reluctant to cook, consider constructing simple salads. These following salads rely on flavorful fruits for their flavor and texture. They do not require cooking and they are both delicious.

No Cooking Required
Tomato and Avocado Stacked Salad
Layer tomato slices, avocado, and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with a vinaigrette made from olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, chopped basil, salt, and pepper. Add a slice of crispy prosciutto if you like.

Simpleberry Salad
Combine fresh blueberries and blackberries with sliced bananas and tiny cubes of cantaloupe. Dollop with sour cream or plain yogurt and top with grated nutmeg. Add a dash of cinnamon if desired. You can also sprinkle with a granola crumble if you like some crunch.

Bake Something
When you add baking to the equation, the kitchen will fill with warmth and the smell of browning cookies, yeast bread, pizza dough, and cake. Yummmmmm!! Who can resist the kitchen then? It’s like having your own personal bakery.

Add the Family

The smell of fresh baked cookies, pork tenderloin, or a casserole will bring the family running. A kitchen filled with all ages creating a meal is a wonderful place to connect and bond. Food is a source of comfort. Connection is another source of comfort and joy. When you begin to associate cooking with comfort and joy, it automatically becomes your happy place! Even the cleanup process ceases to be work when it’s a shared experience of laughter and fun.
When my kids were growing up, there was always someone sitting on a counter in my kitchen. Sometimes it was my kids. Sometimes it was their friends. Sometimes it was me. One or two of us would be preparing a meal and the others would be engaged in the conversation while warming the counter. I don’t know why this seemed natural in that particular house, but it was. During cleanup, the roles reversed. In between, we enjoyed a meal together. This didn’t happen every day of the week, but it happened enough that that’s how my kids remember meal time.

Both of my sons are good cooks. Not only can they fix pancakes or steak and blacken Brussels sprouts, they bake yummy pies and cakes. They feel no limits when they’re in the kitchen. It’s a place they’ve always felt comfortable. I didn’t emphasize cooking back then. It was just a regular part of our lives, but it set the stage for them to cook in their own homes. That’s the benefit of making the kitchen your happy place!

My grandson DJ and I read “Green Eggs and Ham” on a regular basis. Whenever he balks at a new food, I simply say, “Try them, try them, and you may. Try them and you may, I say.” He knows exactly why I’m saying it. If you have never really gotten your hands dirty in the kitchen using fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch, but don’t think you like cooking, I’d probably say the same thing to you, “Try it, try it, and you may.”

And if you don’t, every family needs a cleanup crew in a happy kitchen!

November 14, 2012

Travel Tip #3 – Gently Prepare Your Host in Advance

When traveling to see friends or relatives with whom you only occasionally visit, prepare them in advance for your gluten-free way of living. It is best not to assume that they will remember your eating plan just because you told them last time they saw you…and the time before…and the time before.

If your loved ones do not remember that you are gluten-free, please try not to take it as a slight or an insult. A failure to focus on this detail of your life does not automatically mean they don’t care about you. It just means that your dietary concerns are not one of the things they must remember in order to navigate everyday life so it is natural to forget over time. When you think about it, they probably don’t remember your shoe size, your favorite book of all time, your junior high boyfriend’s name, the color of your first car, or the Pythagorean theorem either. Before you are tempted to add that as fuel to a they-don’t-care-about-me fire, take a moment to note that you probably don’t remember that Aunt Sue had gout when she was 50, or Uncle Bill drinks a coke at exactly 10 am every morning, or that your cousin Carol hates to eat any sort of fish prepared in any sort of manner. You know this doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. This kind of forgetting is natural.

Your announcement or reminder of your gluten-free status can be part of the natural flow of trip planning. As you discuss logistics for airport pick-ups, sleeping arrangements, theatre tickets, amusement park visits, and the like, include a simple statement in an email that says: By the way, I have to follow a gluten-free eating plan. That means I won’t be able to consume any food that contains wheat, rye, barley, malt, or oats.  Once we arrive, I can make a quick trip to the store to pick up a few items that will fit in with the menu you already have planned. Also, don’t worry, I can usually find a suitable choice at any restaurant we visit. In the rare instance this is not the case, I always have a backup plan so it won’t be an issue. I just want you to know in advance why I’m skipping the pancakes at breakfast. I’m so looking forward to having this time together.

If your host then expresses an interest in learning more, use the opportunity to give him/her the specifics needed to make the trip go smoothly. Let kindness and consideration be your guide as you determine the easiest way to maintain compliance while allowing the host to feel good about accommodating you. Make simplicity a priority so that extra work is kept to a minimum. This can be a delicate dance. Remember to express your gratitude for each special accommodation along the way.

Sometimes you may be met with resistance. That does not mean you’re doing anything wrong, so do not let this deter you from following your plan. In this instance, do not expect or push for accommodation. Take the initiative to purchase and prepare items that meet your needs. If there is a notoriously difficult personality involved, you may need to leave the premises, eat compliant food, and then return to snack on a salad or some vegetables at mealtime. Nothing can be gained in a tug-of-war over whether your gluten-free regimen is necessary. You do not need to change this person’s mind. All you need to do is remain compliant with your plan and take care of yourself.

When traveling a relatively short distance by car, you may want to pack a basket full of gluten-free treats to share. Including others in your world allows them to feel more kinship with you and can serve to lessen their fear of embracing a different way of eating.

Preparing your host in advance communicates that you value them as an ally in your quest to be healthy. It shows respect by giving them time to adjust shopping lists and meal plans if they so choose, and it establishes in advance that you will be politely refusing to eat a piece of cake, no matter how moist, chocolaty, and deliciously homemade it may be.