Saturday, February 6, 2016

Desserts - better tasting, better for me!

There was just no way I was going to give up dessert during the hardest part of the winter, so I needed to find a different approach. Dessert knocks out my energy and makes me feel like crud usually and I couldn't take much more of that during these dragging winter months, but giving it up entirely? Please.

So I started searching Pinterest for sweets made from more nutritious ingredients and collecting them on a new board. Then testing was necessary. Some have turned out tasty, some very good, and my newest one . . . I've struck gold. I'm going to share all three recipes below, from tasty to GOLD.

I've adjusted all of the recipes as I go to better suit my tastes or available ingredients, I'll link the originals to all three I'm sharing today at the end of my version of the recipe. The pictures are not amazing because I just have no patience for working to make food all pretty and perfect only to consume it, but their nice enough to give you the idea. Now, the sweet treats!

First up the very functional daytime treat, the pumpkin cookie dough with chocolate chips. I'm doing a daily core workout every morning this month and I wanted to have a mid-morning snack that would be high in protein to feed my muscles and please my sweet tooth. Hence, this is a protein powder based treat. This is the one that's a nice tasty mid-day snack.

Pumpkin Cookie Dough

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder (I used vegan pea-protein powder)
1/2 cup almond flour
2T nut butter of choice (I've used peanut and almond, it turns out about the same)
2T maple syrup
1/2 tsp nutmeg pwd
1 tsp cinnamon pwd
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt
milk of choice, 1T at a time as needed

dark chocolate chips (optional)

Throw all of the2 ingredients other than the milk and chocolate in the food processor. To get a nice smooth consistency add 1T of the milk of your choice at a time to the "dough". Once it's the texture you like it's ready to enjoy.

I like to divide it between four 4oz Ball canning jars. I'll put about a half dozen chocolate chips in the bottom of each jar, spoon the "dough" in, then top with half a dozen more chocolate chips or so. Screw on the lids and then refrigerate. I've kept them in the fridge up to five days and had it still be fresh.

The original recipe can be found here:


Next up, FUDGE. Now, I am not a fudge fan, but this has the right texture and is, in my opinion, so much better. This just melts away in your mouth and a small piece can create a whole lot of satisfaction after a meal. And the color is so pretty!

Blackberry Almond Fudge

1 - 7oz can of creamed coconut (I use this one, available at Common Ground Food Co-op)
1 cup of blackberries or black raspberries (you can use fresh or defrosted frozen ones)
2 T maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract (paste has a better flavor)
1/4 tsp almond extract

Break up or cut up the creamed coconut if it is hard as a rock and put it in the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and process with a regular S blade. Leave the processor running for several minutes. Pour the resulting delightful magenta goo into a bread loaf pan or similar sized container, use a rubber spatula to get all of the goo out of the food processor bowl and into the container. Lid or cover with foil, then place the container in the refrigerator to set. It will be firm and ready to eat within an hour or so, it cuts easily with a butter knife. Stores well in the fridge at least five days. I pre-cut it into 1.5 inch squares so I can just pop in the fridge and grab a small square when the sweet tooth strikes, that's all it takes to satisfy me because this is just so darn good, I close my eyes and enjoy the melting texture.

The original recipe can be found here:

The first time I made these I used fresh blueberries as recommended but found the flavor of the blueberries is so mild that the final product just tasted like coconut. Nothing wrong with that if you love straight coconut flavor but I've found the blackberry version with a hint of almond is a whole higher magnitude of yummy.


And now, for dessert gold. I do not exaggerate. As much as I love the blackberry almond fudge, I admit there are desserts full of a lot more sugar and made with flour, butter, etc that I love even more. This next dessert is sincerely among my top desserts in the world, I'm a texture person and the texture of this, along with the rich chocolate flavor, is just a knockout.

Dark Chocolate Mousse

2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup of high quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 T coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
1/2 a can of coconut milk (shake well before opening, you want it well mixed)

You know what to do - put it all in the food processor with a standard S blade and let it process for several minutes until silky smooth. I portioned this into five 4oz ball jars but it could easily be spread into six such jars and then served topped with a few raspberries or sliced strawberries. Once it's portioned out chill it to set, the texture magic happens after this has chilled for an hour or two.

This is excellent just like this, but I am tempted to cut the maple syrup to 1/4 cup next time and see if the results are still as pleasing, I am suspecting they would be. The original recipe had you chill the can of coconut milk and only use the thick cream layer that forms at the top of the can, tossing the watery remainder. This is just more headache than necessary and renders the rest of the can practically useless. I just upped the coconut oil and then used the well mixed coconut milk so the rest of the can is still perfect for using in other treats or curries. Don't have an immediate use for that other half a can? Put it in an ice cube tray and once it's frozen pop the coconut milk ice cubes into a zip lock. These are great in coffee or defrost them as needed for recipes (most standard ice cube trays make cubes that are about 2T of fluid when defrosted.)

This stuff is MAGIC, I can motivate all day if I promise myself one of these at the end of the day. So good.

Oh, and here's the original recipe:

I'm tempted to add just a hint of mint extract to this next time, but I'm a little afraid to mess with a good thing. We shall see!


So I'm not giving you the speech about dessert and moderation and all that. I'm just happy that my sweet treats as of late have been more nutritious and honestly, more satisfying. I love going into the fridge and seeing these cutely portioned little dessert options so I can treat myself any time I feel the need and still feel awesome afterwards. None of these make me feel the sleepy, cranky way I feel after most desserts, and I cal that a win.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chickpea Omelettes from Mediterranean Heaven

Finally, I have conquered.

Chickpea flour has always *sounded* like a good idea. I've been meaning to try it out. I'd read several recipes making pizza crust with chickpea flour. It sounded easy.

From this assumption came the Chickpea Pizza Crust Disaster of 2014.

I put "chickpea crust pizza" on my cooking list for our summer vacation with friends in Michigan. I'm a pretty experienced cook so I thought, despite me never having made a single chickpea flour recipe that it would be a breeze. The doughy mess that took much, much too long to make that left us everyone forlorn and hungry that resulted turned me off from ever cooking with chickpea flour again. Well, I did try again, a chickpea flour pancake. Which was heavy and flavorless. DONE.

But I got lured in one more time when I saw this recipe for chickpea omelettes. I was looking for new meal ideas. I found several surfing around the internet and this one was my lowest choice, but it made it onto the list. We still had a bunch of chickpea flour from my brick-like chickpea pancake experiment, might as well try to use it up.

And the results were wonderful! These are soooo quick and easy, much quicker and easier than it even sounded to me in the recipe. It's truly like making pancakes, really quick ones.

This powdered mix does not look particularly promising, but the results are actually awesome!

My first deviation from the recipe is was pre-cooking all my vegetables. The author suggests there is no need to pre-cook the veggies but I disagree, they will release a lot of water and I prefer they do it before I put them into my omelette. My second deviation was the addition feta. These would be great vegan as well, but the addition of the feta was lovely. Last, we added sauce. The sauce made these pop. For the filling you can really used a 1/2 cup to 1 cup of any cooked vegetables minced up fine.

You can find the original recipe here:

I love Organic Valley and I love feta. It takes such a little bit to add a lot of flavor, making it long-lasting and economical to use. 

Most important, make sure the batter is thin and spread the mix out super thin in the pan, like this:

The results:

Mediterranean Chickpea Omelettes

The omelette mix:
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon salt (if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

The filling:
  • 1 T of canola or olive oil
  • 1/3 of a red onion, minced fine
  • 2 big handfuls of baby spinach, then mince 
  • 10-12 kalamata olives, minced
The sauce:
  • 1/2 cup tahini 
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of cayenne 
Toppings (optional):
  • 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 3 oz of feta
Put all the dry ingredients for the mix in an air tight container and mix well with a fork. Set aside. 

Put the oil in a frying pan and heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the onion, cook for two minutes, then add the spinach and olives. Cook another minute until the spinach is fully wilted. Set aside. 

For the sauce put all of the ingredients in a mason jar and mix with a fork or lid and shake until well combined. The resulting sauce will be like a clotted cream, if you'd like it thinner add a tablespoon of water and mix in well to thin the texture. 

Mix 2/3 cup of the omelette mix with 2/3 cup water, mix together well with a fork. Add in the pre-cooked vegetables. The texture of the mixture with the veggies are in it should be like thin pancake batter. If it's not, add another tablespoon of water and mix in. Keep adding a little water at a time until you have that thin pancake batter texture, it's important that the batter is thin, this is key. 
If your fry pan is not non-stick or a very well seasoned cast iron, oil the pan with a tsp or two of oil. Heat the pan over medium high heat for a minute, then add 1/4 of the omelette mix to the pan. Working quickly, use the back of a spoon to spread the mixtures as thinly as possible. Let the omelette cook for a minute on one side then check the bottom with a spatula. You're looking for the bottom to be lightly browned. Once it is, flip it and cook on the other side for another minute or so until both sides are lightly browned. Put on a plate and cover to keep warm until all omelettes are complete, four in all. 

Crumble the feta over the omelettes then spread out the chopped tomatoes evenly among the omelettes. Place a generous dollop of the sauce on each omelette. Enjoy!

Again, this sounds so much more complicated than it is, it's very quick! And the powered mix can be kept covered in the fridge pretty much indefinitely, just add the water and cooked veggies and fry up like pancakes, topping optional!

The delicious results. So, so good. So cheap. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Walnut tacos?

It's been a long time and all of that. I don't know about anyone else, but I just don't enjoy those long, chatty intros when what I want is the recipe, so I'm going to get down to it.

I keep seeing recipes for tacos with walnuts as the basis for the protein "meat" main topping. It sounded well, weird, but I got more and more curious. So I read an few and then tweaked and changed here and there. Here's what I came up with:

Walnut taco meat:
1 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, soaked
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried chipotle powder OR 1/2 of 1 canned chipotle
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 T oil (I used a canola/olive blend)
4 oz fresh white mushrooms, sliced or diced

Soak the sun dried tomatoes in some very hot water for 20 minutes.

While those are soaking, put the oil in a small frying pan and heat it a bit over medium heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan with a pinch of salt and fry for 3 minutes, stirring once. Turn off the heat.

Drain the sun dried tomatoes and discard the soaking water. (Or keep it for soup if you're making some soon, it's yummy) Put the sun dried tomatoes, the walnuts, the spices, the salt, and all the mushrooms in the food processor. Run for 3 seconds with a regular blade, then check the texture. We're aiming for a texture similar to ground beef. I usually have to scrape the sides down and run it one more time for 3-5 seconds.

And that's it. We served this up on tortillas with tomatoes, green onions, minced cilantro, hot sauce, and I added some plain unsweetened yogurt to mine (I like it just as well as sour cream and don't keep that stuff in the house, so yogurt it was.) We thought these might need refried beans on them as well but it was totally unnecessary, these were delicious as is! It's so nice when something so good for you turns out so tasty. Mike and I give this two thumbs way up, plus it was easy so we'll actually put this one into work day rotation. Next time I'll just start the tomatoes soaking in tap water in the morning and let them soak until I'm ready to make dinner, which will make this even faster, maybe 20 minutes tops to pull together. This is enough filling for 8-10 small tacos.

The walnut meat after processing. 
The delicious end result!

Friday, July 19, 2013

I've been working 60 hours a week for three weeks in a row now. Uhg. About 3.5 weeks ago now, I pledged to myself that I was cleaning up my eating habits, aiming for as little processed food and added sugars as possible. Other than two meals served in whole wheat wraps during that period, I've stuck to it. Oh, and that one hard cider after that impossible day, but come on, give a girl a break.

Thing is, working as much as I have been, my meals have mostly consisted of salads, cups of pre-made soup, and cottage cheese topped with veggies or fruit. I like salads, soups, and cottage cheese quite a bit, but still, I was really wanting a fuller meal tonight and got off work at 5pm, hurrah! In honor of this event, I created a new cheap, healthy, easy meal that I think is about to become a staple in our house. The meal has a bit of sugar in it and the processed sausage, but its affordable and full of fiber and greens, so again, I'm cutting myself some slack.

This is a what I call a "shorty" - a recipe made with many pre-concocted ingredients so its almost more heating things than cooking, but the result is still a satisfying home-cooked-feeling meal. Don't get me wrong, I try to avoid "cooking from cans" when I can, but this meal, can-ful as it is, is still a far healthier and cheaper option than going out to eat. The cost comes out, if done with vegan sausage, $3.29 a serving if made with ingredients from the co-op (I worked it out and if you replaced the vegan sausage with some local farm Triple S sausage its $3.40 a serving). Its not cheap enough to qualify for our Food For All program recipes which can all be made for $2 or less a serving from all CGFC ingredients, but still, $3.29 for a big satisfying bowl of delicious home-cooked goodness that is done in 15 minutes total? Sign me up.

Greens and Beans
4 Servings
1 T olive oil ($0.20-ish)
1 organic yellow onion, chopped ($1.50)
1 bunch local collard greens, remove tough stems, chop ($3.49, Prairerth Farm)
8oz Tofurky beer brats, sliced ($3.14)
2 - 15oz cans of Field Day organic maple & onion baked beans ($4.78)
1 tsp chipotle powder ($0.05-ish)

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, once hot add the chopped onion. Cook over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then toss in the collards. Sprinkle on some salt and cook until the greens get bright and soften a bit, about 3 minutes. Push the greens to one side of the pan, then add the sausage. Cook until brown a bit on the edges touching the pan and hot, about 3 minutes (if it is animal sausage cook a few minutes longer and make sure it is cooked through, no pink in the middle, before proceeding to the next step). Add both cans of beans and the chipotle powder. Stir in well and continue to heat until a hot.

This makes generous, filling servings. I took a picture to show you the finished product . . . but it seems to have disappeared from my camera's memory, boo. Trust me, it looks like a delicious stew you can't wait to dive into. This recipe will leave you with 1 and a half  Tofurky sausages left over to flavor another meal later in the week, bonus! I think this also could be very good with a bit of Worcestershire sauce added as well, but it was mighty fine as in, and as I said, done in 15 minutes! I'm definitely making this one again after a long day at the office. So nice to know you can make something so quick and healthful after a long day at work that costs about half what a fast food "value meal" would cost that tastes soooo much better. And, for those interested, I threw the recipe into a calorie calculator and came up with 429 calories per serving. Very reasonable, no?

Do you have a go to very fast, very affordable, yet healthy dinner recipe for busy nights?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quick Dinners From a Can (or "pumkin curry soup in a flash for those days")

Being home with a sick little boy today, I didn't get a lot done that I'd hoped to, but I did get to catch up on all the produce in my fridge that was desperately needing using up. What to do with all the beets and radishes  just about to go south? I started a beet kimchee ferment, if it turns out I'll post about it here soon. (I love fermenting!) I composted some stuff too, I have to admit, but I caught the cauliflower *just* before it was going to go off, thank goodness! Now I had to find something to do with it.

I discover cauliflower pretty late in life, as in, about three years ago. I was raised without it being a part of my diet and as an adult I just never discovered it until my mid-30s. Now I can't believe that, as it is one of my favorite vegetables. Most people think I am nuts when I say that, but its really true. So what did I do with this sad looking head of cauliflower? (This isn't the actual one I had, like I said, I had a sick kid at home with me, so I forgot to take my own pics. My cauliflower looked worse.)

I trimmed off the browning bits, then cut it up into florets and roasted it.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 big head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 T olive oil
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp tumeric
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss all the ingredients into a big bowl, stir until the cauliflower is well coated with all the other ingredients. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on metal cookie sheets and cook for 15 minutes, then stir, and return to the oven. Check it again in 10 more minutes, it should be starting to brown on the edges, that's a *good* thing. Stir again and return to the oven if not yet browned on many of its edges. Once browned, remove from the oven and let cool. It should look like this (again, not my pic):

Now I was running out of time, I was getting hungry and my partner would be home for dinner soon. What to do? Aha! My 15 min pumpkin curry soup! I had roasted up some winter squash already earlier in the day, but I've made this with canned pumpkin or butternut squash and it works great. Its a go-to fall meal for me for when I have no time to cook but want dinner to still be pretty healthy.

15 Min Pumpkin Curry Squash Soup
2 tsp cooking oil of your choice or ghee
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced (or tsp or so of garlic powder in you are in a real rush)
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 T curry powder blend of your choice
1 can coconut milk (lite or regular)
1 can (16oz) of pumpkin or butternut squash puree, plain
Vegetable broth

Put the oil or ghee in a soup pot, heat on med-high flame, then add the onion. Stir and cook until the onion is pretty soft, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, keep stirring and cooking 2-3 minutes more, then add the curry spice and stir to coat the onion for 1 minute. Pour the can of coconut milk into the pot and stir, scraping up any bits of the curry that got stuck to the pan. Add the pureed squash and mix well, then add veggie broth (or chicken for those who enjoy it) until its a consistency you like. Heat through. Done!

If you have the time, you can add broth until the soup is thinner than you like and then add 1/2 cup red lentils (has to be *red* ones, they cook up fast) and simmer the soup until the lentils have softened, about 10 minutes. Add more broth as needed until the lentils are done.

Here's where the cauliflower comes in:  put your lovely, tasty, easy-as-heck soup in bowls, then top with a big handful or two of your roasted cauliflower. Don't stir it in, just serve like that, its prettier that way, you can stir it in when you go to eat. Want to get really fancy? Serve with lime wedges and fresh minced cilantro. Didn't have time to do the cauliflower? No problem, serve with crusty bread, leftover rice, leftover quinoa, or as is!

Healthy and a heck of a lot cheaper than going out!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Autumn Returns

You always know it is coming, but still, fall always takes me by surprise, especially after a summer as wicked as the one we've had this year. The summer was very early, very hot, and there was a bad drought. It was the kind of summer you couldn't wait to put behind you, but also the kind you began to wonder if would ever end.

But end it did, and with pretty timing too. Just a day or so before the autumnal equinox, on came the cool cool nights. Walking with E to the farmer's market around 7:30 this morning, we were bundled in fleece-lined hoodies and knit hats, and our fingers and noses got quite cold. The first very fall market of the year I cannot resist all the autumn vegetables. After getting E his muffin from the Muffin Man, we rounded up some red cabbage, green beans, turnips, salad green, new potatoes, and winter squash. Most of the veggies went into a basic vegetable stew, but the winter squash I had other plans for. Potluck plans.

For E's 1st birthday, years back now, I went a bit nuts and made a lot of food for everyone. I love making up food for parties, but back then we were broke, I was working constantly, and E was a high-demands kid. It really was nuts, but maybe getting to do something I take so much pleasure in actually helped keep me sane. It was for that party that I made up the Winter Squash Spread, based on a vague memory of my friend Jessy making some sort of butternut squash spread for pizza when we both worked in a natural food store kitchen together. From this experiment the Squash Spread was born.

I always make it with butternut squash and it always comes out perfect. This time, I let the beauty of a red kuri squash lure me in and I used it instead. I'd never had a red kuri before and the flavor of the flesh was wonderful, but it had a grainier and drier texture than a butternut and it showed in the end results. I'd recommend using the butternut for this, it can't be beat.

Winter Squash Potluck Spread

1 medium butternut squash
2 bulbs of garlic
2 T grapeseed oil (or other oil that does well at high heat)
2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 cup raw hazelnuts
salt and black pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Chop the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all the stingy guts and seeds, place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Break the bulbs of garlic into cloves and remove all the papery bits. Put half of the garlic cloves in the cavity of one squash half, the rest of the garlic in the cavity of the other half of the squash. Flip the squash halves over onto the baking tray with the garlic trapped between the squash and the pan. Poke the backs of both squash halves with a knife in a couple of places, this will allow the releasing of steam and help the squash cook more evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, then prick with a fork, if it slides in easily the squash is done, otherwise check again every 7-10 minutes until done.

While the squash cooks, place the hazelnuts on another baking tray with sides so they don't slide off and place in the oven for 3-5 minutes. The hazelnuts should become fragrant and darken just a tad. Take them out of the oven and pour them onto a dry dish towel. Let cool until just cool enough to handle the nuts in the towel, then use the towel to agitate and rub the hazelnuts, loosening their skins until most fall off. Don't worry about getting them all off, but you do want to get off as much of the skins as is possible without tons of effort. Put the nuts sans most of their skins in the food processor and process until very fine.

Put 1T of the oil in a skillet and add the onions over medium-low heat. Toss in the onion, stir in the oil, then turn down to low heat. Stir every few minutes and allow the onion to slowly caramelize. This process will take around 20 minutes to complete, the onions should be tender and lightly browned all over. Add the onions to the food processor bowl.

Once the squash is done cooking let it cook until you can touch it safely, then flip it over. Put the garlic in the food processor bowl, then scrape the flesh of the squash out of the skin and into the food processor bowl as well. Add salt and pepper, then process until very smooth.

Serve with baguette or pita chips, or use as a spread on pizza in place of the usual tomato sauce. If you have left overs you can thin it with a bit of broth and serve it with bread as a soup the next day. The soup freezes well for future use.

I feel silly, but I forgot to take a picture of the pretty end product all gussied up in one of my spouse's handmade pottery bowls. Ah well, trust me, it turns out a lovely golden color. Put it in a pretty bowl, put the bowl on a large place, and surround the bowl with your chips or bread slices, and then head off to your potluck party! Trust me, you'll be getting requests for the recipe for this tasty and healthy nosh!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

To the Beat of the Knife and Skillet

Food sucks up time.

I touched on this a bit in my last post, the fact that we pay in extra dollars and loss of nutrition (usually) when we have others prepare our food rather than spend the time and develop the skills to prepare food ourselves. And I talked about how I am trying to get honest with myself about this and the way I chose to pay - in dollars and lost nutrients or in precious time I could be putting to many other things.

Our ancestors spent huge gobs of time preparing food. Whether they grew the food themselves or not, they still spent great amounts of time cleaning, trimming, mixing, and cooking food. Food was central to every day, almost every minute of the day. It was a constant focus between obtaining the food, preparing the food, consuming the food, and preserving the food. I'm not the first to observe this, I know. But I've been thinking about this a lot, the way I even remember my grandmother just 30 years ago being seemingly always in the kitchen. I know I've got rose-colored glasses on when looking back to that time, I am sure I do, but I don't remember grandma being miserable when in the kitchen and I do remember how happy and honored I felt on the occasion she'd give me something to do to help with the big meal she was working on. This only happened a few times as my grandma was very sick by the time I was 7 or so, but those memories stuck.

My father's mother had a tiny kitchen in a house where she was raising 11 children on a tight budget on 100% homemade food, some of it grown in her own garden. The steam of food releasing moisture as cooked seemed a constant in the background as my cousins ran around the house and in and out the backdoor that was located in that kitchen. Who could doubt, when grandma was still alive and well, that the kitchen was the heart of that house? My mother and aunts would crowd in it on holidays or family birthday parties, peeling vegetables, washing dishes, and talking and singing together. I resisted the kitchen duties after grandma died and as I grew because I began to see that only the women were expected to partake in these tasks while the men sat around or played sports. I decided I would not do kitchen work either if the Y chromosome types of my family deemed it not their job and got to play. Looking back, I see I kind of shorted myself on sharing the warmth and work of the kitchen, on overhearing the family stories and tales but I empathize with that young girl and rather respect her spunk.

My mother's mother had a very different kitchen and prepared very different food. She never baked and her cooking was more all-American, full of casseroles and such (my father's mother was Italian and her cooking reflected it) but still, the kitchen was the heart of the house. We'd go over to her house after school on Wednesdays and no matter where we roamed in the house or yard, there would be grandma making dinner in the kitchen, the anchor in the center of the house. She had this wonderful little bar you could sit at in her dinning room that looked into the kitchen and you could nibble on after-school snacks and chat with my always-smiling grandma as she peeled the potatoes or mixed up the meatloaf.

Cooking is work, a lot of work, and when it is left to us whether we want the task or not by societal expectations I can understand why it could be a drudgery. I think this idea, that preparing our food is drudgery forced on women, seeped into me and I missed how much food preparation was at the center of so many happy memories for me. When the work is shared or there is someone sitting nearby keeping you company and telling you about their day, perhaps the work is transformed.

I am thinking about this a lot because this will be my third week in a row of working around 60 hours and when all you do is eat, sleep, WORK, go home for a quick dinner, WORK again, come home to put your child to bed and then crash on the couch for an hour before sleeping society tells you you deserve to eat out. We hear it again and again, we're much too busy to cook, I've had a hard day so I'm dragging the family out for pizza, etc. I've had many, many days like this. But what I've started thinking lately, without noticing at first, is that if I am going to work this hard what I deserve is a healthy meal that is going to nourish my body and help me wake up alert in the morning. What I deserve is the fun of sitting at the dinning room table with my partner chopping up the cheap produce of the season to freeze and to savor the idea of how good it will taste to serve it up later and how proud and happy we'll feel doing so. What I am starting to think is, making food isn't some drudgery I have to wedge into my day and do on top of everything else, its a constant and comforting rhythm that turns my days into a dance of movement and planning and nourishment.

It was a joy to sit at my dinning room table tonight and peel and chop up two dozen mangos with my partner while my son played in the background. We didn't even talk really, we just enjoyed the companionable silence and the task in front of us. There is something really satisfying about the feel of a very sharp knife skimming down the curve of a mango, the skin falling away in smooth petals. There is something deeply satisfying about the full bowl of juicy fruit ready to be spread on cookie sheets and frozen for future enjoying, about the idea of stocking your larder for future meals. There is a pride and sense of simple accomplishment in getting a few things chopped up just before bed and stocked away in the fridge so you are ready to throw together a quick and healthy dinner for your family between commitments tomorrow. There is a part of me that say, "yes, this is good, this is not drudgery, this is a gift we get to partake of every single day."

Now if only I can start to see preparing food through that lens more days than not, wouldn't that be something?