Category Archives: food

Ritual

I think ritual might be the line between drudgery and enjoyment, or, in the case of dinner, the line between ordinary and elegant.

The ritual, inconsistently employed, that elevates my dinner experience from ordinary to elegant is a candle. I love presentation, but more often that not time and hunger seem to usurp any hope of grace. To quote Elaine, “…and now I just feel like a big sweaty hog waiting for them to fill the trough.”

Then I had a discussion with a friend about Leila’s eating habits, and the constant grazing and the complete lack of meal times and she suggested adding a ritual. It was simple – lighting a candle and saying a prayer. And that one more, little thing seemed utterly beyond grasp. How could I make dinner and light a candle? It was too much. But I tried it. Before our next meal, I took a moment and walked to the hallway and brought out a tiny tea light in a plain glass holder, and before the meal I lit it.

It was transformative. Suddenly our meal had this distinct beginning and end. The prayer felt less rushed. The mealtime felt more sacred.

Candles. I understand why they are a part of so many traditions.

I do not remember to light a candle before every meal. Now they sit on our dining room table, but it might take me days to take two minutes to change an extinguished candle and sometimes I do not feel like walking three steps to get the matches.

Tonight I did it though. Ben made dinner. I cleared the table and refilled the candles and lit them. And dinner felt special.

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(Sometimes, on New Year’s Eve we get really fancy and light lots of candles and wear our best tutu and flower headband to the table too.)

Do you have any simple rituals that elevate the ordinary to elegant, or make the mundane a little more enjoyable?

I’ve realized I have started to integrate them into my life in small ways.

The (Simple) Joy of Cooking

In the midst of the chaos that is my October, I am finding respite in the chopping and measuring and other menial tasks that turn ingredients into a meal. Sometimes a feeling is so familiar I think to check whether I have visited it before, which is how I found my way to this.

(Reposted from December 8, 2011)

A few months ago while chopping onions I realized something in the midst of my crisis. I enjoyed it – the chopping onions, not the crying. I knew I loved food and recipes and anything related to either. Sometimes though, in the midst of the everyday I forget that I really do take pleasure in cooking. Time constraints, budgeting, sifting through the junk trying to figure out what to buy and from where is exhausting. In spite of the distractions, every once and awhile I find myself getting lost in the process.

I got pleasantly lost this week. Yesterday afternoon I took the time to chop and wash and put away all of the turnips and beets and kale and collards and mustard greens that came in our weekly share. It felt good. Then I turned some of the greens and squash and sausage into a soup. The whole endeavor took hours. I needed to walk Wrigley and call about getting our furnace checked, but taking care of the food was just more enticing.

Then I spent all of today in the kitchen. I roasted a pumpkin and pureed the soft flesh into orange mush, which mixed with flour and sugar and spices became two fat chocolate chip pumpkin loaves. I kept the oven hot to roast the beets for a large salad on Saturday. Tonight I made fresh dough for pizza. I loathe the dishes it creates, but if I let myself forget about the time I find being in the kitchen soothing. There is just something empowering about maneuvering ingredients into a dish.

Menu Planning: Dinner (with enough for leftovers)

I find cooking something that is completely gone after the meal is over quite discouraging. Enter casseroles, crock pot meals and bowls. Prep once – eat twice, or more.

 

1. Paleo Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken or Roasted Chicken or maybe this way (probably all three)

*Use bones from chicken to make stock

Chicken

2. Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala (or might try this one or this one)

Chicken Thighs

Onion

Ginger

Crushed Tomatoes

Jalapeño

Heavy Cream

Cilantro

3. Paleo Crockpot Cashew Chicken

Chicken Thighs

Ginger

Raw Cashews

4. Chicken-Spinach Sour Cream Enchiladas (Made in Texas Cookbook)

Leftover Chicken

Onion

Mushrooms

Cheddar or Monterrey Jack Cheese

Tomato

Tortillas

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Sour Cream

Green Chiles

Note: Ben’s favorite meal, and what I usually do with leftover chicken.

5. Paleo Crockpot Chicken Pad Thai 

Chicken (Thighs or Breasts)

Zucchini

Carrot

Bean Sprouts (Optional)

Green Onions

Cashew (Optional)

Cilantro (Optional)

6. Italian Meatballs

Ground Beef

Sausage

Onion

Tomatoes, Crushed

7. Sausage in Peppers

Sausage

Bell Peppers

Cauliflower

Tomato Paste

Onion

Basil

8. Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

Chicken Breast

Onion

Ginger

Orange

9. Paleo Friendly Honey Garlic Wings

Chicken Wings

10. Bacon-Gruyere Meatloaf

Beef

Onion

Bacon

Blue Cheese

Note: Another of Ben’s favorites. Also, I actually make this with blue cheese.

11. Paleo Slow Cooker Thai Beef 

Beef Stew Meat

Onion

Ginger

Tomato Paste

Thai Red Curry Paste

Limes

Broccoli

Carrots

Jicama

Cilantro

12. Bahn Mi Bowl

Carrots

Onion

Shrimp

Ginger

Green Onions

Cucumber

Jalapeños

Cilantro

Note: I make this one with shrimp instead of the meatballs. I toss cooked shrimp with soy sauce, fish sauce, ginger, garlic and green onions. So stinking good and easy.

 

Refrigerator/Freezer Staples

Almond Milk

Yogurt (Full-fat, Plain)

Butter

Liquid Aminos

Organic Ketchup

Spinach

Chicken Stock (see above)

Nut Butters (Almond, Sun, Cashew, Peanut)

Fish Sauce

Eggs

Maple Syrup

Sesame Seeds

Minced Garlic

 

Pantry Staples

Olive Oil

Coconut Oil

Sesame Oil

Apple Cider Vinegar

Rice Wine Vinegar

Coconut Milk (Full Fat)

Almond Flour

Salt/Pepper

Coriander

Cumin

Garam Masala

Sugar

Cornstarch

Brown Rice

Red Pepper Flakes

Ginger

Cayenne

Italian Seasoning (homemade blend)

Basil

Oregano

Thyme

Honey

Paprika

Bread Crumbs (Regular & Panko)