Secrets to finding peace in the kitchen.


I used to hate cooking.  Actually it was the cleaning that I really hated.  My mother never allowed me to do more than the dishes in the kitchen.  When I moved out on my own, I worked in a restaurant.  This increased my distance to the kitchen.  When I did cook at home, it was typically from a box or package.  There is not skill involved in pre-prepared food.  This creates a non-satisfactory relationship with your kitchen.

For years this was how I lived and cooked.  It wasn’t until I had been a vegetarian for a few years that I figured out how to find that peace with my kitchen.  You do not need all the fancy tools, you do not need a huge kitchen.  What you do need is the feeling of satisfaction.  If you prefer to bake, then this is where you will find your peace.  I prefer to create, which is a step beyond peace.   I have a few cans of staples, but for the most part my kitchen is filled with dried beans and grains and fresh produce.

I often hear that when you have a job, cooking every night is impossible and exhausting.  Imagine riding a bike or bus for at least an hour to and from a 9.5 hour day, grabbing groceries on the way home and preparing a meal for 3 or 4.  I did it for 5 years, and I am telling you, it can be done.  Even more if you find that satisfaction in the kitchen, it can be enjoyable.  I do prepare some components ahead of time, usually on the weekends.  Things like a cream soup base, or a sauce, can be prepared ahead of time so that there is less work after a long day.

I find that searching for a new recipe at least a couple of times a month also helps.  It helps when you get excited about what you are going to prepare.  Maybe it is about avoiding a food rut, but I hardly ever make the same meals more than twice in a  month.  I also try to plan based on what I have on hand and keeping the same ingredients in a few of my meals.  This helps cut down on waste, and that also feels great.  An example is something like sour cream.  I tend to not use much so when I buy it, I try to incorporate it into several meals.  One day we might have baked potatoes as a side.  The next day we may have a Mexican theme meal.  One day we might make a quick stroganoff.  By doing this, I am able to minimize my waste.  I also like to have at least one stir fry of veggies a week.  I use up the veggies that are left over from other recipes.

One of my worst problems is the waste of fresh herbs.  Cilantro and parsley, I love them, but my partner hates them.  Putting them in randomly is not an option, so I used to find them rotting in the crisper drawer.  I found that I could make a quick Chimichurri sauce and use them up.  I use this as a salad dressing and find it to be a wonderful way to keep my herbs a few days longer.  I take whatever herbs are left over, some olive oil, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, salt, garlic and if I have some hot peppers or red pepper flakes.  Drop all the ingredients into the blender or food processor, *in a blender you need to put smaller portions of herbs in at a time.  Blend them up, adding more vinegar, olive oil and or lemon juice as needed.  Taste often, as you will want it to taste good so you will want to use it.

At the end of each week I look at the leftovers and figure out what I can create a tasty soup with.  Some leftovers are not good with others, keep that in mind.  I tend to take my leftovers for lunch or even breakfast.  There are days that making my own food is just not that interesting to me.  I take those days as recharge days.  Sometimes I go to a nice local restaurant to find a new inspiration.

My kitchen is not always my peaceful sanctuary.  Some days it drains me, those are the days I need to reboot and find my inspiration. Lately I find myself obsessed with my kitchen.  Maybe because I am not working and spend most of my days at home, maybe because it gives me a feeling of being needed.  Either way I have found that by eliminating much of my excess stuff, I have found my peace and that is amazing.  I have never kept my kitchen as clean as my current one is kept now, in fact my entire apartment is much cleaner than anyplace I have ever lived.  I think, perhaps the fact that I got rid of most things helps keep it clean.  Minimization is quite freeing and I suggest you consider it.

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