Enjoying Home-Made Meals (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

As someone with a significant food sensitivity to an ingredient in nearly all savory foods (the allium family which includes garlic, onion and so on), eating a meal at a restaurant or take-away tends not to end in a gut-happy place. Even though it takes more effort and planning on my part, I find pleasure in creating recipes and tasting the results of my labor. The rarest of treats is a friend making an allergy-sensitive meal for me.

Purchasing Ingredients

I’ve changed strategies more times than I can count in terms of how I procure food. I used a home delivery ordering system for a while. Next, I went to the store several times a week. My latest strategy is to go to the store only one time a week, and to buy a few foods that can last until about four days into the week when I make a second round of dishes. This summer, I hope to spend lots of time at farmer’s markets buying the freshest possible vegetables and fruits.

Kitchen Necessities

I have a few weapons of choice in making my own meals, namely, slow cookers of various sizes, a Vitamix, a toaster oven, and cast iron pans. The slow cookers allow me to roast meats, marinate beans and tenderize vegetables. My Vitamix is vital for daily smoothies and rich, creamy soups. I bake breads and reheat food in my toaster oven. I actually do not have a microwave at my house! When the one I’d bought in college stopped working, I didn’t replace it and find that I rarely miss it. Finally, the cast iron pans let me crisp meats and veggies.

Meal Planning

There was a time where I wrote out elaborate meal plans for six months at a time, week by week and ingredient by ingredient. As of late, I am more spur-of-the-moment and less creative with the effort I put into what I am making. I like to have the same breakfast every day and to then vary what I eat through the rest of each day. I always include a lot of fruit, some vegetables (my sticking point), meat and/or soy products and some whole grains. Beans are the food group of which I would most like to increase my consumption. I’ve had a lot of issues digesting pork which is what I like to have with them, so that has made finding dishes in which they work more difficult.

How much do you like to cook homemade meals? If you don’t get to have them as much as you’d like, what barriers get in the way? What are your methods of buying food items? Which cooking tools must be in your kitchen? How do you meal plan?

Tasting and Smelling Delicious Food (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I am still sick with a respiratory illness but am hopeful that I am on the road to recovery. My sense of smell has been severely impacted and I’ve eaten meal after meal in which the only aspect of the food I could appreciate was its appearance and texture, because I could not taste anything. Today, some scents and flavors are getting through, so my lunch felt like an incredible luxury solely because I could enjoy more than how it looked!

I created a whole-wheat pasta dish with spinach, salmon and home-made pesto sauce. I started by cooking the pasta on one burner while I wilted the spinach on another in a cast-iron pan. After removing the spinach, I then pan-fried the center-cut salmon, skin-side down, in the cast iron. Finally, I toasted the pine nuts and then blended them with locally-grown basil, avocado oil and Parmesan cheese in my Vitamix (I am allergic to garlic but most people would add it in here). After sprinkling on a pinch of salt and a dash of oil, I served the dish in a large ceramic bowl I use for my more elaborate meals.

The creamy texture of the sauce, combined with my renewed ability to detect actual scents like basil and salmon, was so enjoyable. It makes me think of the tens of thousands of meals I’ve eaten in my lifetime and leads me to wonder how many of them I’ve scarfed down without any consideration or appreciation for being able to bring all of my senses to bear. A good meal is my quintessential simple pleasure. Have you cooked anything tasty in the last week? What’s your favorite or go-to lunch? Do you have any mealtime rituals that enhance your enjoyment of food?

Creating Pup-Pie Treats (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

My poor pup has been getting a little overlooked between my return to work and my illness, so I decided to make him some homemade treats today. I’ve never attempted to do so before, even though I let him have tiny “people-food” snacks far too often. I settled on a baked treat being the safest bet.

I first measured and then cooked 1 sweet potato by cutting it up and boiling it in water. It came in at 260 grams, so I measured out equal parts of that in rolled oats as well as in dry roasted, unsalted peanuts. I pulverized the peanut-oat mixture in my Vitamix until it formed a loose paste. Once the sweet potato was cooked through, I used the Vitamix to puree it. I mixed the wet and dry ingredients together along with two eggs. I then pressed the dough into a greased ceramic pie pan and baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for twenty-five minutes.

After the initial cook time, I cut the pie into one inch by one inch squares, and baked them at the same temperature on a sheet for 10 minutes so that they would be as dried as possible. I think they could have gone longer but I was too lazy to experiment. Weirdly enough, I unintentionally created the start of a gluten-free biscotti for humans, were I to add perhaps coconut butter and a source of sugar. All in all, not bad for a spur of the moment experiment!

A white ceramic pie pan containing a light brown cookie with chunks of sweet potato. The cookie is cut into small pieces.
Mid-way through the bake process.
A small purple bowl sits empty on a couch cushion. In the upper part of the photograph, a blurry image of a Yorkie is visible.
The empty bowl after offering the treat.
A Yorkie dog is standing on white carpet eating a treat.
Nibbling away!