November brings to mind Thanksgiving and thoughts of good food, family and friends gathered around a table to share it. It is my favorite holiday of the year, I enjoy planning and preparing meals for others. Food is central to many cultures and is a way to build community. It is very important for celebrations around the world. To be honest I have been thinking about good food for the past several months as a result of the Pandemic. I have been exploring and enjoying new gourmet recipes instead of going out to eat at restaurants. Due to dietary restrictions going out to eat has been challenging. Many times in the past I have found myself after a dinner out not feeling well due to some ingredient that does not agree with my body.
What is better than a delicious home cooked meal? The recipe for a great meal starts with advanced meal planning. I enjoy the process of perusing cookbooks, magazines and online for recipes that will make a great meal. Libbie Summers a cookbook author said “While planning the menu think about what will make your guests eyes light up.” You cannot beat a home cooked meal made with fresh ingredients. Be willing to spend a little extra on locally grown and organic produce the results will be worth it. Cookbook author Scott Peacock said “It’s the details that make the difference. Cooks are placing a high value on food from their own gardens and are seeking out recipes that connect them with the earth and family.” Many of us are cooking with more skill and enthusiasm than before due to restrictions as a result of the lockdown. Now that the country has opened up more, many people are making meals together. This is a bonding experience that will create lasting memories. Many of us have traditional favorite, family recipes for the holidays. Old fashion recipes like a perfect roast chicken are making a comeback. Try new healthier twists on old favorites, there are a variety of new cooking methods and tools available now like the air fryer, instant pot, and rice cooker among others.
Preparing food does not have to be a chore. Make it a culinary adventure, enjoy the process and the results. Chopping and preparing can be like a meditative experience. At the very least it can give us a much needed break from technology. Enjoy the experience of cooking, think about the beauty of food. The sight, color and textures, the smell and taste, sweet, spicy, savory, and sour. Play lovely music while preparing your meals, there are many meal prep playlists available on sites like Spotify or simply ask Alexa to play some music. Make delicious meals to bring people together and make them smile. Try unique recipes and new tastes instead of getting stuck in a rut of the same meals over and over. Experience bursts of savory flavor while cooking by adding a wide variety of herbs and spices that are healthy for you as well. Think about ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander, basil, thyme and many others. Experiment with recipes, if you do not have all of the ingredients a recipe calls for use a substitute for what is missing. Don’t be afraid to add your own twist to a recipe. For a special occasion try a dessert made from scratch instead of a box and savor the luscious flavors.
All meals do not have to be complicated. Try a simple meal with fresh ingredients like a quick cooking fish dish and mixed green salad. There are many cookbooks available that feature fresh, fast recipes if you feel you do not have time to prepare a complicated meal. A quick search online can give you a wealth of recipes to fit your food preferences. Create a recipe binder or folder on your phone or laptop to save your favorites. Personally, I prefer a printed recipe from a cookbook or my binder, and find it frustrating to use recipes online while trying to prepare a dish.
With the current inflation at a thirty year high and spike in food prices, you may want to search out recipes that will stretch your staples. If you have the freezer space, you can buy one chicken, beef or pork roast to make many meals. Try stir fry, tacos, casseroles, stews, or soups. Try a healthy meatloaf with added ingredients like sautéed vegetables. Chef Scott Peacock said “any good white bean can become the base for healthy, deep flavored stew or soup.” If you are by yourself connect with others to share meal prep and food. You can start a meal swap where each person makes extra to freeze and share with others. Cooking is a way to show others you love and care for them.
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: It is the time for home.” Edith Sitwell, British Poet.
My belief is, that if you have to eat to live, why not make it the best tasting and healthiest food you can. Experience the joy of cooking and live a food inspired life!