Chop, Mix, Relax, Enjoy

It’s not unusual for me to enjoy the task of cooking, but since coming home from vacation, I feel like I have really appreciated it more. After eating on the run while we were gone, I’ve enjoyed getting my hands on the food – beyond bringing fork to mouth. A few nights ago, for instance, I made a favorite lentil recipe and breadsticks. It involved chopping vegetables and kneading dough – really getting my hands on the food. I’ll admit, I don’t always feel this way, but on the really good cooking days, these tasks are so relaxing. I’ve even described it as a form of meditation. Similar to running, I can be alone with my thoughts as I mix, measure, chop and knead, and the rhythm of my movements only contributes to the relaxing feeling.

I’m not always a solo cook. I also spend time cooking with my children. That’s fun in a different way. Sometimes I even step back and act as supervisor while my children take on the food prep task pretty independently. (Just yesterday they made pancakes for our breakfast with very minimal involvement from me. :)) I recall one occasion when my husband and I cooked a meal together in recent months. I enjoyed it, but it is not our reality very often.

It’s the solo cooking, though, that serves as the relaxation, the meditation.

If you love to cook, maybe you can relate. If you don’t enjoy cooking so much, maybe next time you’re in the kitchen you can consider the potential relaxing effect of your repetitive movements. Hypnotic in a way – chop, chop, chop, you’re beginning to feel relaxed, mix, mix, mix, you’re growing more and more relaxed…

I think the meal can even taste better and satisfy more when the cooking experience itself has been enjoyable. I once read a book that claimed that preparing food with love literally made the food healthier, affecting the enzymes somehow. I rolled my eyes at that, but I can feel myself slipping fairly close to that kind of claim. I’m not claiming better health benefits, though, just more enjoyment in the end product when I’ve also enjoyed the process. Boy, I must be enjoying my time in the kitchen.

And because I love to share, here are the recipes for my breadsticks and lentils. Remember my improvised hamburger buns? Well, the same combination works great for breadsticks.

Curried Lentils (from The World’s Healthiest Foods)

Ingredients:1 cup brown or green lentils, washed and picked over
4 cups + 1 T vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 medium celery stalks, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 cups finely chopped kale (I skipped, because I didn’t have any on hand.)
2 t curry powder
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
3 T chopped fresh cilantro
salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse lentils in strainer and sort through, removing debris.
Heat 1 T broth in medium soup pot. Cook onion in broth over medium heat for 5 minutes stirring frequently, until translucent.
Add garlic, carrots, celery and kale. Continue to saute for another couple of minutes. Add curry powder and mix to bring out its flavor.
Add rinsed and drained lentils, broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until lentils and vegetables are tender, about (45 minutes)*. Add cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.

*The recipe says 30 minutes, but I’ve found that I need to cook at least 45 minutes in order for the lentils and vegetables to be tender.

Soft Breadsticks

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (give or take)
2 t sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2/3 cup milk
3 T butter, melted
2 t sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Gradually add milk and stir to form a soft dough. Add more flour if dough is too sticky, more milk if it is too dry. Turn onto a floured surface, knead gently 3 to 4 times. Roll into a rectangle and cut into 12 breadsticks. Place melted butter in 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Place breadsticks in butter and turn to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 450 degrees for 14 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

I’ve used this recipe to make the hamburger buns, which ended up more like sandwich thins. I’ve made the breadsticks. I’ve rolled it and cut it into different shapes for fun. My children gobble them up!

I know, my phone photography leaves something to be desired, but you get the idea.

When it comes to food, do you enjoy the process of making it, the end result, or both? Or (and this is hard for me to imagine) is food simply your fuel and enjoyment doesn’t come into it at all?


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