This last Sunday night my daughter, Octavia, was coming for dinner with Mark and me. Thirty minutes before she arrived there was a power outage in our neighborhood. As a result, my homemade tomato soup and grilled quinoa toast with goat cheese and lettuce from the garden had to be postponed. I know… doesn’t that sound delicious? (Here is the recipe for the soup.)
Since we were all hungry, and the power was still not back on at 7 PM, we decided that my husband would run over to the San Mateo Fish Market, a local restaurant that we always enjoy. Mark placed the order on the phone and was told it would be ready in 20 minutes. Just as Mark was heading out the door to get the carry-out, the power came back on. I really wanted to call the restaurant back, cancel the order, and prepare something at home to eat. But I was out-voted, so off he went.
As a side-bar, but part of this story, because half the town was without power, the restaurant was mobbed, and instead of the 20 minutes they told Mark that the food would be ready, he waited there for over an hour. And then he came home with cold and soggy food, and with two of the dishes we ordered missing. This is relevant because it reinforces the value to you to be in control of when you eat, the quality of the food you prepare, and the freshness.
Today I was heading out to get a dish at our local Whole Foods to take to a dinner party tonight, having decided it was too hot to cook. (It’s a scorcher today) Then, I remembered what happened on Saturday night. Presto, I turned the fan on and made the dish I will describe below. I came into the kitchen at 3:30 and this gorgeous dish (if you don’t mind my saying) was ready at 3:57. I made a note because I wanted to have this be part of my story. Here’s the thing: when you have the ingredients and when you make the time, the food you prepare at home will be fresher, taste better, and take less time than if you go out “because you don’t have time to cook.” Yes, I realize that I have lots of practice, and so can you. I suggest that you not let lack of experience stop you from learning how to cook at home. I’ll show you something that was so easy in a follow-along way.
Step one: Saute a variety of mushrooms (about one pound), one large shallot, and two cloves of garlic in a large pan in olive oil. I recommend cooking slowly to create uniform texture and to avoid burning. When finished, about ten minutes, remove and set aside. Add some real salt and ground pepper to enhance the flavor.
In the same pan add chopped Swiss chard and cook until tender. You will need more olive oil to make sure that it does not stick. I like to add some water and cover it because I like the steam/saute combo.
After the mushrooms, onions, garlic, and chard are cooked put them back in the pan. I added some herb goat cheese, artichokes right from two cans (drained) and a package of fresh pomegranate seeds. At the end I poured some balsamic drizzle which makes the dish look fancy and tastes delicious. I left it in the pan for the flavors to combine and the entire dish to heat up.
A couple things about this dish. Like I said, it took about 25 minutes from start to finish. It looks much fancier than it is. There was no recipe, but I had ingredients like this in my fridge and pantry because they are so readily versatile and easy to use in a wide variety of recipes. Regarding quantities, I know that if you are new to cooking you want to know exactly how much to use. And I respect that. In addition, please trust me that the quantities are rarely sacred. If you love artichokes and don’t like mushrooms, or vice versa, simply make that adjustment. If you like spinach, and don’t have access to Swiss chard, you can replace spinach in the dish, and remember that spinach is not nearly as fibrous as chard and cooks in about one minute.
Mostly, have fun. Make the time. Experiment. Have a good laugh if your dish does not come out the way you hoped. I have been experimenting in the kitchen for a very long time and my dishes flop sometimes as well. Give yourself permission to be creative and be open to learning how different veggies respond to heat and combinations. Your body will love you back for making nutritious food in your own kitchen.
I believe that cooking from home is among the best things you can do to preserve your health, maintain your ideal weight, and feel like you are on board with becoming and remaining well.
Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
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