Posts tagged ‘cook’

March 27, 2018

What’s Worth Preserving?

In the kitchen and in life it’s important to consider what’s worth preserving. After recovering from a severe stomach virus in December, my system has been slowly readjusting to raw vegetables and meat proteins. I’ve cooked a number of dishes that I ultimately couldn’t tolerate. I feel a bit wasteful throwing those away, so I’m constantly faced with a decision about what’s worth preserving.
jars
I don’t have a canner, so preserving food is primarily limited to freezing. I have to confess that I’m really bad at freezing anything other than baked goods. Actually, I’m really bad at remembering to thaw the food.

Of course I open my freezer every day. I get ice out of the ice maker. I grab a handful of almonds I store there. I sometimes grab flour out of it to bake. But those things can be used immediately. A muffin can be microwaved for a few seconds. On the other hand, a roast, Cornish hen, or chicken thighs take time to thaw. That’s where the problem comes in.

I plan when I’m creating or testing recipes. When I’m cooking for myself, I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time. Thawing and last minute cooking don’t mesh well. And I haven’t been pleased with the results I get from microwave thawing. Knowing myself as I do, I work around this weakness by rarely preserving in the freezer.
beef
Instead, I ask the following questions when I’m deciding what to keep:

How much longer will it last?
What I can’t tolerate today, I may be able to in 3 or 4 days. If it will last 3 or 4 days it still has usefulness and I will keep it.

Can I freeze it, then give it away?
My sister falls on the opposite end of the freezing spectrum. It’s her favorite way to store food. Sometimes it makes sense for me to freeze something, then give it to her.

If I cook it, will I eat it?
The answer to this question may lead me to cook the food, but give it away. If I have a friend who is overly busy or has been ill, I can do us both a favor by preparing the food then delivering it to them.

Can I donate it?
A local food bank or food closet may be able to accept fresh food. We have a new local organization that only serves veterans and disseminates quickly so perishables are acceptable. Churches may also be able to use the food to feed members of a congregation.

Should I throw it away?
Sometimes throwing something away is the best decision. If you were raised to conserve, reduce, reuse, and recycle, this may be a difficult concept to absorb.

When I was small, we had very little money. I don’t like wastefulness. It makes me feel anxious and insecure. What’s gone can’t be gotten back and I internalized the idea that I might not be able to afford to replace it. Most of the time, this serves to make me more efficient and less wasteful, but it can also cause me to want to hold onto too many things.

This is the point at which questions about food preservation begin to intersect with questions about what’s worth preserving in life. Should I hold onto every piece of furniture or knick-knack that I remember from my grandmother’s house? Should I keep every blurry photo of my family? Should I hang onto grudges against my aunts and uncles that originated before I was born?

Our experiences and families leave a legacy often left unexamined. But in life it’s valuable to ask what’s worth preserving. Sometimes what we retain is limiting us from having the life we desire. We accept a version of reality that may not have to apply.

When deciding what’s worth preserving in life, I often begin a question with – Can I know for sure that…

Can I know for sure that I won’t have funds to replace my mom’s dresser that has outlived its usefulness?

Can I know for sure I’ll forget the warm feeling I had in my grandmother’s kitchen if I get rid of her cookie jar?

Can I know for sure I won’t see that same smile on my cousin’s face in a different photo that’s not blurry?

Can I know for sure that Uncle John is as rotten as my dad said if I don’t get to know him myself?

Can I know for sure that I won’t find love again if I let go of this relationship that makes me feel really bad about myself?

Can I know for sure that I won’t get that dream job even though I’m only 80% qualified? Should I just stick here where I’m miserable, but secure?

If I can’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt that something is true, then I turn the question around and ask – Is it possible that…

Is it possible that I will find a dresser that’s cherry like my bed instead of a mismatched maple one with a drawer that sticks?

Is it possible that the smell of peanut butter cookies baking in my oven will remind me of the warm feeling I had in my grandmother’s kitchen?

Is it possible that I have 15 pictures of my cousin’s smile in the 5 boxes of photos I haven’t organized because there’s so many to go through?

Is it possible that Uncle John tried to apologize to my dad, but my dad wouldn’t listen and he’d actually love to have a relationship with me and my sister?

Is it possible that I don’t believe I deserve to feel good about myself in a relationship?

Is it possible that a fear of being inadequate is standing between me and the job I want?

If I can’t know for sure and it’s possible that exactly the opposite is true, what am I preventing by holding onto my current belief? Am I cluttering my house with so much stuff that has to be cleaned that I don’t have time to enjoy my family? Am I cluttering my collections with so many extraneous things that the best aren’t easily visible? Am I missing out on a positive, supportive relationship because of someone else’s beef? Am I missing out on a loving partnership that makes me feel I am being my best because I keep trying to make a bad one work? Am I missing out on my dream job by letting doubt keep me from applying?

It could be that some of the things I’m holding on to are costing me dearly. By asking a question and then turning that question around, I can quickly identify things in my life that are not worth preserving. Sometimes they seem so obvious, I wonder how I could have been so blind.

One thing I know to let go of is guilt; another is shame. I will make mistakes. I will make decisions of which I’m ashamed. I will fail. I can hold onto guilt, shame, and failure and in the process lose my best self or I can let them go in order to learn, improve, and shine in my life. I choose to let them go. Some things just aren’t worth preserving!

March 13, 2018

Time Is On Your Side

jellyThere’s no need for pressure in the kitchen; time is on your side. If you’re a fan of TV cooking shows, it may seem like cooking is a timed event. That may be true in reality TV, but it is not reality. In fact, taking your time in the kitchen can bring added benefits!

Of course, it makes sense that TV shows time challenges to build tension that will keep you watching through the breaks, but that might not seem so normal if we hadn’t gradually filled our days with more and more activity and more and more distractions to the point that hurrying has become a way of life. If we begin to think of cooking as a challenge to be conquered in a certain amount of time, we may end up with good-tasting food, but we’ll miss the joy of the process.
tomatoes
My grandmother worked, gardened, canned, and cooked. When she made tomato juice, it was no 30 minute process! In fact, it stretched over months. She planted tomato seeds, tended the garden, harvested the tomatoes, cooked them down, pressed them through a cheesecloth lined chinois using a wooden pestle into sterilized jars, then topped the jars and placed them in a pressure canner for about 25 minutes. Whatever time she spent was worth it! It was the most delicious tomato juice I’ve ever tasted and it only contained tomatoes and salt.

You don’t have to begin with seeds to make delicious food. I only relate the story to help put things in perspective. My grandmother thought nothing of spending an entire day in the kitchen canning tomato juice. There was no hurry to her process.

Viewing meal preparation as a hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with experience adds pressure and robs us of the chance to:

Explore

Taking time to scout for unique ingredients can lead you to ethnic grocery stores, pick-your-own farms, urban gardens, farmer’s markets or produce stands along the highway. Picking strawberries, choosing blue crabs, or tasting churros at an unfamiliar mercado can be a great way to explore your area and spend time together as a family.
blue crabs
Experiment

If you’re trying to get out of the kitchen quickly, you’re unlikely to try something new. Experiments are, by nature, less predictable in time and result than dishes you’ve prepared many times. But eating the same thing over and over gets tiring. Why not make cherry upside down brownies? Why not slow roast a pork butt for the neighborhood barbecue? Why not cook the greens from the tops of radishes and beets? Why not try making croissants?

Teach

There are tons of lessons to be learned in the kitchen. If you’re hurrying through meal prep, you’ll have no time to teach those lessons. Not only will your kids miss out on learning, they’ll miss valuable memories of spending time with you while surrounded by warmth and the aroma of bread baking.

Dance

Kitchen prep time is great for dancing along to your favorite tunes or having a family sing-a-long. Think of it as multitasking in the best sense of the word.

Savor

It’s impossible to be fully present in the moment when you’re rushing around. If you slow down enough to smell each ingredient, notice its texture, carve it carefully, or roll it evenly, you’ll have a chance to savor each tactile delight.

I love being in the kitchen. I know it makes me feel better, and yet sometimes I fight cooking. I wait too long to start and get too hungry. I fail to inventory my pantry for ingredients, lack something essential, and refuse to substitute. I wait too long to cook some meat and it’s spoiled when I open it. While this doesn’t make me proud, I just have to let it go.

I know the value of being in the kitchen and I am usually mindful enough to enjoy the experience when I’m there. Lots of new recipes and delicious food have resulted from my less than perfect kitchen attendance. I’m going to let that be good enough. From this point, I plan to take my time and savor more and more joy during my kitchen time.

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-3-the-lessons/

January 22, 2018

Mix and Match

Sometimes in the kitchen I just have to mix and match. I grew up on a farm so it wasn’t convenient to shop at the grocery store often. We planned and purchased for a week at a time. If we decided to vary the menu from our plan, we sometimes had to make substitutions. Those habits stuck with me. I tend to shop once a week with a loose plan in my head. In between trips, I mix and match to create the meals I desire.
herbs
While our Cooking2Thrive recipes go through at least three extensive tests to make sure the proportion of each ingredient is just right, my everyday cooking is haphazard, thrown together, and, more often than not, delicious! I’m rarely deterred by lack of an ingredient.

I recently decided to make tuna croquettes. They’re one of my favorite quick & easy go-tos. I keep them really simple like my grandmother did. She always mixed canned salmon, an egg, crushed saltines and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Then she pan fried them in melted butter. I use tuna rather than salmon, but other than that I follow her lead.

Technically, these may not even be croquettes to you. They have no béchamel or brown sauce. They’re not rolled in breadcrumbs, and they’re shaped like round patties instead of cylinders. Nonetheless, they’re quite tasty.

Five-ounce cans of solid white albacore tuna in water are staples in my pantry. I combine one or two cans with one egg, gluten-free breadcrumbs, and a little salt & pepper. I never measure, I just add breadcrumbs until the mixture isn’t too wet or dry to hold together. Then I make patties and pan fry them in butter.

Most recently, I began making the croquettes and realized I only had about a tablespoon of breadcrumbs. That’s not enough. I had no crackers or bread on hand. I did have an open bag of Cheetos® puffs (yes, I know those aren’t healthy). I placed a handful of them in a plastic bag and crushed them to use in place of the breadcrumbs. I had to crush a few more, but they worked like a charm!

I had never before considered using Cheetos in croquettes, but there are substitutions I make on a fairly regular basis. I add vinegar to regular milk to use in place of buttermilk. I use coconut crystals in place of brown sugar. I use dates or honey to sweeten muffins or cookies. I substitute anise for fennel or vice versa. I mix and match citrus all the time depending on what I have handy, sometimes adding a little apple cider or rice wine vinegar to enhance the acidity of lemon, lime, or orange flavor and balsamic vinegar to enhance cherry.

Last week I baked some tilapia to serve over rice. I really wanted the fresh punch of a pico de gallo as a finisher on top. I had no cilantro, lime, or peppers on hand. What I had was grape tomatoes, yellow onion, and basil stir-in paste.

I thought why not see if I can combine these into something that will add the cool acidic top note I’m looking for? I chopped the tomatoes and onion into small pieces, added a small dollop of the basil along with some salt and pepper. The resulting salsa enhanced the fish and rice perfectly even though the flavor profile varied from pico de gallo.

At some point, most of us will discover we lack an ingredient needed to finish a dish we’ve already started cooking for dinner. That’s a great time to mix and match. If you’re not sure where to begin, a guide to pairing flavors can be helpful. Check out the award-winning book – The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs.

Or just do what I do and wing it. Cooking is as much art as science. I can’t tell you how I know a substitution will work. I just see it in my head. You may be able to do this too. There’s nothing wrong with giving it a try!

Mixing and matching may make your food a little less predictable, but in my experience, no one seems to mind as long as it’s tasty.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/tilapia-has-a-terrible-reputation-does-it-deserve-it/2016/10/24/4537dc96-96e6-11e6-bc79-af1cd3d2984b_story.html?utm_term=.2f02886f3438

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flavor-bible-karen-page/1100163990#/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

September 17, 2014

Can you stop just existing and thrive? You can, and you are worth it.

Can you stop just existing and thrive? You can, and you are worth it, but you may not be living that way because you may not believe it way down deep. Why do so many of us feel so bad about ourselves?

In this age of headlines and 24/7 talking heads we lunge from crisis to crisis. Our culture is swept up in rivers of bad news, glaring failures, dissatisfaction, and united finger pointing at whomever we can identify as a potential villain. NFL players have taken the stage this week led by Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

What has resulted is a narrow focus on the behavior of professional athletes. Not even women’s rights advocates have suggested that all professions should purge their halls of those who physically assault their partners or children. Why is the NFL special? Let’s purge elementary schools, colleges, newsrooms, courts, churches, investment firms, manufacturing facilities, the trucking industry, pipe fitters, doctor’s offices and mental health facilities as well. If we don’t, what point are we making?

And that’s my point. Most of the time, it feels like we’re just finger pointing and creating a villain of the moment – someone who can make us feel better about ourselves while we contrast our public behavior from theirs. What we sometimes forget is that most of the violent incidents we see aired were not believed to be public. They were private moments. We know this and if we’re willing to tell ourselves the truth, we know that we would not look good if our most vile or shameful moments were plastered on a TV screen.

All of us have erred. All of us feel shame. In this commonality of human experience we can find compassion, empathy, and healing or we can find condemnation, comparison, and hate – peacefulness or warmongering.

The problem with focusing our energy on the condemnation of other people in order to make ourselves feel better, or momentarily superior, is that this behavior systematically prevents our own improvement. As we elevate ourselves in contrast with others, we become less and less willing to admit when we have erred in a similar manner for fear that an astute observer may remember our prior condemnation of this behavior and hold us accountable. We will go to great lengths to support our fantasy that we not like those we vilify.

As we feel the internal conflict inherently created by trying to live a fantasy, we are forced to disassociate from our authentic feelings and real truth. Until we reconnect with these, we simply cannot live fully. We will be able to make superficial change, but our inner turmoil will remain. We will never thrive.

Unfortunately, many of us are products of family systems that denied our reality. We had mothers who failed to report our injuries from our father’s physical violence, or fathers who failed to acknowledge the real danger we experienced when our mother passed out and almost burned the house down with us in it. Of course there are millions of versions of this story. The point is that when our family systems normalize this behavior while simultaneously requiring us to hide it, we are trained early on to deny the truth of our experience.

With a cultural bias toward public condemnation and universal opportunities presented by social media to anonymously criticize, it can feel daunting to embrace your truth, especially when it doesn’t match up with social convention. So many of us develop a habit of selling ourselves short.

If we grew up as targets of abusers, we may carry this a step further. The scenario goes something like this: deny our truth, sell ourselves short, blame someone else for holding us back, feel angry, release that anger in inappropriate ways or use it as a defense that prevents us from receiving love and support, suffer the consequences of our behavior or perceived lack of support and continue to make choices that cause us to feel like a victim. Victims do not recognize their power. If they did, they would not choose to continue to live like victims.

If you are existing rather than thriving, we support your desire for change! No matter who you are or what you have done, you deserve appreciation and love. We cry with you as you grieve your losses. We accept your less than perfect behavior even when we can’t condone it. We understand that when we tell ourselves the truth, you are the same as we are and given similar circumstances we are capable of making the same choice you have made.

Forget what you think you “should” do. We encourage you to do at least one thing each day that makes you feel free, safe, happy, light, or content. We also encourage you to allow yourself to feel your anger, fear, sadness, and longing in order to begin the process of letting it go. You do not need permission or approval to embrace the unique gifts and journey you have been given. They are your birthright.

It does not matter how many times you have been told you are worthless. Repetition does not make it true. Whoever told you that was lying to you to make you believe you are powerless. It does not matter how much time you’ve spent alone because a parent did not nurture you. You deserve love, attention, and affection and there are people who will show you love when you find the courage to let down your defenses. You are not valuable because of what you achieve or what you own. You are valuable because you are here. Let your legacy be how fully you live. If your energy is consumed by attaining material wealth at the sacrifice of your relationships or your health, you are living a life limited by material possessions. Such an existence may appear full from the outside, but you know the hollowness inside the facade.

The path to thriving is not all easy, but it is all worth it. No matter where you began or what you have endured, today begins with a choice. You can choose to live your truth or you can be confined by someone else’s. Can you stop just existing and thrive? Yes you can, and you deserve it. The truth you choose will determine whether you exist or whether you thrive.

Epilogue:
When you need a bit of inspiration, check out the stories of these survivors of violence, neglect, and abuse who have found a way to move past horrific events in order to thrive. Know someone else inspiring? Share with us in the comments below.

ESmart

Elizabeth Smart

IVanzant

Iyanla Vanzant

PConroy

Pat Conroy


JWalls

Jeanette Walls


OWinfrey

Oprah Winfrey

BClinton

Bill Clinton


RBritten

Rhonda Britten

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”