If you are new to cooking I have one word for you, and if you are a veteran cook, let it be a reminder: prep.
Do like chefs do, and prep ahead. Wash and chop veggies, rinse legumes, grate that ginger, measure spices into little cups, place olive oil and other ingredients close at hand– have everything ready to rock and roll. It’s amazing how smoothly you can whip up a meal in this fashion, while talking to your 15 year old or anyone else, twirling over to the frig, spinning up the volume on your favorite song…
It’s sort of funny, but prepping for cooking is yet another example of slowing down in order to make things happen quicker.
Nothing could be easier, more elegant, or more delicious than roasted asparagus in the springtime. So when I hosted a pot-luck dinner party celebrating a dear friend’s birthday recently, I chose that for my contribution.
Don’t you agree that it’s preferable to have fun at a party rather than suffer from kitchen exhaustion?
This beautiful dish was the perfect solution. To serve 8, I assembled 2 bunches of asparagus, 1 orange bell pepper, 1/2 head of fennel, 4 portobello mushrooms and some red onion. After snapping off the tough ends of the asparagus, I cut the stalks diagonally into inch-and-a-half long pieces, cut the pepper into 1″ squares, and sliced the fennel, asparagus and onion as you see, then tossed everything in a large bowl with some good quality olive oil, coarse sea salt and fresh-ground pepper. I threw them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and topped with some fresh sprigs of thyme (remove when done– they blacken a bit). I popped the tray into the oven set on ‘low’ broil, and stirred around after 10 minutes, cooking probably a total of 15 minutes altogether. The roasted veggies turned out perfectly, looked gorgeous on a colorful platter, and were just right slightly warmer than room temp. Oh! Yum! Such a hit.
On the table I placed a gold cotton napkin in the center of each plate, with a fresh flower from my garden laid diagonally across the napkins at the last minute– an even mix of dandelions and Korean spice viburnum sprigs (fragrant!). Everyone smiled as they sat down.
ps– I can’t believe there was just enough left over for lunch the next day! (see photo)
aka Mr. Smoothie.
Derek wears a number of hats: Certified Holistic Health Counselor (CHHC); Case Manager & Intake Specialist for the Jericho Reentry Program, a post-prison project of the Episcopal Community Services of Maryland; Co-Coordinator of the Baltimore Nutrition Group; and a faculty member for Food As Medicine. For Food As Medicine, he gives one of our “Keeping it Real” lectures, a window into working very simply with people to change their health and lives through food. As a CHHC, he practices what he teaches, coaching a diverse group of clients in his melting pot Baltimore neighborhood towards wellness and vitality.
One of his transformative tools of choice is the green smoothie, an elixir of wellness, power-packed with minerals and antioxidants, radiating life energy. He tells great stories about clients of the Jericho Reentry Project reacting to the mysterious jars of green stuff on his desk. Oh, and did I mention he’s a trained actor and an amazing storyteller?
We visited recently and the Master led us through the simple steps to a divinely delish smoothie. The best way I can describe the taste is… like velvet sunshine.
Are you in the market for a delicious, nutrient-packed breakfast suggestion? Here’s one: cream of buckwheat.
The name comes from the Dutch word bockweit, which refers to both the way the seeds resemble those of beech trees and the way the flour resembles wheat flour. But it’s neither cereal grain nor wheat; it’s a fruit seed of the buckwheat plant, fagopyrum esculentum. And here’s some exceptionally good news: it’s both wheat and gluten-free, a great alternative for the gluten-sensitive, or those seeking wider variety.
Health benefits? It contains rutin and quercitin, two flavonoids with significant health-promoting actions. It’s a good source of magnesium, manganese, fiber, phosphorus, pantothenic acid and very high quality protein– containing all 8 essential amino acids. Studies have shown links to a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. (Source of information: Michael Murray & Joe Pizzorno’s invaluable book The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.)
Buckwheat has a pleasantly nutty flavor. The flour can be finessed into crepes as the French do, or used as the Japanese do to craft soba noodles. If you are avoiding gluten, check the package and be sure wheat flour hasn’t been added– “buckwheat” noodles are often a mix of the two.
But back to my delicious breakfast. Pictured is cream of buckwheat, cooked in under 10 minutes, and topped with almond milk, frozen wild blueberries and a splash of grade B maple syrup. Quick, warm, yummy, and packed with antioxidants, protein and all the goodness described above. I would have added nuts, but am recovering from dental surgery. Don’t ask. Still, this breakfast is top notch, and I recommend you try it.
What are your favorite healthy breakfasts?