Balance and the Kitchen

Oh, balance — it’s one of those things I’m trying to figure out at this stage of life. The last few weeks, I’ve been working on planting myself and focusing on complete wellness: Nourishment — in so many areas; moving my body as often as possible and in ways I haven’t in a long time, creating simplicity around me and striving for clarity and focus. So far, it’s been extremely rewarding, making whole food choices and testing myself physically. I’ve loved getting back in the kitchen, finding therapy in the routine of chopping of romaine lettuce and the motion of washing Roma tomatoes under running water. I love peeling the skin from fruit, those fuzzy kiwis and those mandarins whose peel I try to remove without breaking off a single piece. I like feeling the heat from my skin after running on a treadmill, the way my bones seem to decompress on a yoga mat and the deep sleep I fall into after. When I started this, I was making myself do this, making myself decline processed food, making myself go to the gym. But now, I know it’s something I’m allowing myself to do, finally. Sometimes I wonder what took me so long, but I realize now that going back to past regrets isn’t at all healthy or helpful or necessary. So you just move forward and try to be a better you this time around.

With this, though, comes the tug — guilt, maybe — from those changes. Like my camera, that remains on the shelf, untouched for a couple of weeks. My Instagram feed is quiet. My phone has made few calls. Most of my time spent with the puppies has been when they’re sitting at my feet, waiting for a strawberry or grape to roll off the cutting board and onto their soggy pink tongues. It’s all part of that balance I am learning. And I suppose it’s okay to not have a shopping trip or craft project to share because most of my time goes to working and chopping and sweating. It’s okay that my artsy side has only been showing itself in an effort to try new, healthy recipes, like the most-fabulous kale chips.

Balance came a little this weekend as I prepared food for the week but also decided to play a little with my loves of food photography and sunlight (though overcast and homey).  I thought this would be a good time to share a little of what has been going on in my life and in my kitchen. I’m not saying I’ve been perfect or that it’s been easy every day. But, I’ve been close — and I’m pretty happy for this turn in my present life.

So, this is what I’ve been eating. It’s not too fancy or gourmet, but it’s good all around.

Whenever I think of what I would eat for a last meal or whenever I get to ask my mom for a birthday dinner, I think of portabellos. When I was in high school, my my mom threw together a few ingredients — penne pasta, portabellos, garlic, evoo and lots of parmesan cheese. And it made the most fabulous, melty dish I can imagine. She says she doesn’t remember how to make it, or why I thought it was so special. But, oh my, it was.

I’ve forgotten about this lovely little fungus for a long time, but it was revived this past week when I made a healthy version portabellos sauteed with a little bit of evoo, fresh garlic and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan. Dinner lately has simply been baby asparagus. If I eat it before a workout, I might add a little protein with a hit of beans, cottage cheese or a couple strips of grilled chicken, though I’m finding that I quite enjoy staying away from meat most days.I eat asparagus in salads, steamed or roasted with sea salt. (I think I roast it at 400 degrees for 10 minutes after I coated it lightly with evoo spray and sea salt. Don’t crowd the spears and flip them while they’re in the oven).Black beans are a life saver. Sometimes, I throw canned beans into my salads for my mid-day protein. But this weekend, I made a big pot with onions and sea salt, and I’ve been adding them to my salads for a Mexican twist. Kind of like a Chipotle salad?At least once a week, I made a big bowl of pico de gallo. 100 percent veggies. This is my salad dressing, though I’ll sometimes mix it with light sour cream or avocado, which makes it creamier. My problem with salads has always been the added calories I find with dressing. This way, I don’t get any extra calories (except from those dang avocados … though I still count it as healthy fat).  This also saves me time because the tomatoes and onions for my salad are already chopped for the week. All I do is add romaine lettuce and black beans, and I have a great lunch.

How I make Pico de Gallo:
6 Roma tomatoes, diced fresh
1/2 Red onion, diced
1/2-1 Jalepeno, fresh, diced and seeded
A handful of cilantro (I like it a lot)
Chopped garlic (I like about four medium-sized cloves, but do what you like)
Juice from 1/2 to 1 lime
Spoon (or to taste) Cumin
Spoon (or to taste) Salt
Dash or 3 of garlic powder
Mix it all together in a pretty bowl — and voila. You can make it “saucy” by adding tomato sauce or blending some of the tomatoes. I don’t do either of those.
I’m a little bit in denial about the season. All of my fruit bowls radiate summer in my mind. I, personally, haven’t minded one bit. I’ve fallen in love with bananas and strawberries and kiwi and blackberries and pineapple. I eat them together. Or one by one. They are lovely. I am careful of sugar grams and calories, so those bananas are tricky. But on most days, they’re perfect.Did you know that a lime squeezed on strawberries, kiwis and blackberries is amazing? And, it kind of brings all of the flavors together, especially if one fruit is more tart than the others.I’d love to hear your thoughts on food, health, eating and recipes. It’s a journey I’m excited to continue exploring and sharing.

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8 Responses to Balance and the Kitchen

  1. Looking at you blog made me hungry for fruit! By the way they are so nice they look commercial-like!

  2. Such gorgeous pictures. What’s your secret? My photography always seems to make delicious food look like a dog’s breakfast. 😦

    • Lauren says:

      Thank you; I’m so glad you visited. My biggest secret is … drumroll, please … use as much natural light as possible. I usually won’t shoot food unless it’s in the daylight, which is why I rarely photography my weeknight dinners. I hate the yellowy-glow you get with most kitchen lighting. On weekends though, I turn off all the lights and shoot near the open window. Don’t be afraid to move around or even take your plate of food outside. And my other secret is simply, shoot a ton : )

      • Genius. I am forever trying to photograph my food at night and wondering why it looks so sickly and sad. I’ll have to start cooking earlier in the day and walking my food out onto the fire escape to photograph it. My neighbors will think I’ve lost it but I can live with that if it means better pictures.

        Thanks for the tips!

  3. Danny says:

    Your photography is beautiful and I love the Pico de Gallo recipe you shared. Thanks!

  4. Beautiful, enjoyed the post.

  5. mltucker says:

    nice meals, great pics. Be healthy.

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