When I spend time with a friend, we usually meet around food—lunch, or more often than not, coffee or tea. Early on in my friendship with my husband, Nicholas, I spent some of my favorite time together over the daily crossword and a shared crepe. And now, as husband and wife, we begin each day together with coffee and breakfast. We eat because we need to, but also because it brings us together.
In my own kitchen, I’ve always loved the precise nature of baking. And over the last few years, I have had an increased interest in cooking. The more I cooked, the more I garnered an interest in the ingredients' origin, and the best way to prepare delicious, nourishing food. From my time as a barista and crêpe chef at a wonderful specialty coffee shop, I learned to enjoy preparing food from my boss. I learned so many seemingly "little skills," from what to look for in a good chef’s knife, to how to properly chop peppers and onions, and that chicken seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper can be delicious—all of which have contributed to my growing interest in cooking.
In the last few months, we decided to remove refined sweeteners and processed food from our diet, with the intent to focus on eating real, whole foods. We also make more conscious decisions about where we source our produce, dairy, and meat. Even a year ago, I could not have anticipated our decision to deviate from the “standard american diet.” But we did. And we've felt so much better.
Aspects of this transition have been challenging, but we’re learning to really love food that is good for our bodies. The biggest surprise for me is that cooking this way is not nearly as limiting as I expected. I still feel incredibly comfortable in my kitchen, and I have more peace of mind about the food I make for Nicholas and myself. We do spend more on groceries each week, and I spend more time preparing food in the kitchen, but I’m enjoying this process, especially as a person who loves routine (I just recently came to terms with this part of my personality!).
I’m learning the lesson that tasks which take up a good amount of my time are not necessarily a burden. In this case, kitchen time is time well spent. Good things—and good food—take time.
I love the cooler months for the feel of them, in every way. I love cold-weather clothing, and candles, and the idea of slower, soothing months, where life doesn't feel so hectic. I love the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I love a good comfort food meal, that you can start in the afternoon, and let it simmer while doing laundry or a pre-dinner tidy of your home. This chili is that food for me. It's not altogether pretty, but you could always add some color by way of green pepper or jalepenos, etc. It's very mix-and-matchable and well-suited to whatever you have in your pantry. For us, that's chickpeas and lentils, since Nicholas isn't a huge fan of pinto/navy beans, etc. These ingredients afford a "traditional" enough chili for me, with a texture he enjoys as well.
Baked PB oatmeal or just "PB oatmeal" as we fondly call it, serves as our breakfast at least 300 mornings of the year. I've mentioned it about one million times on the blog, since I've been making is for us ever since Summer posted the recipe almost exactly five years ago, but I've never actually shared the recipe and how I make it. Over time, I've adjusted a few things and tweaked it to it's current state. I adore recipes like this that I can make again and again. We eat a lot of eggs for any meal of the day, and so it's nice to have an egg-free breakfast option. And I really love the idea of a make-ahead breakfast that will reheat easily and fill us up with both protein and carbs.
Yesterday, I stopped by my friend Jessica's house to see her and her son. I played with her little boy while she chopped veggies for a meal she was bringing to a friend that night. Whereas I prefer to follow a recipe, since I'm nervous that my kitchen experiments won't turn out, Jessica is naturally good at using up all the food in the fridge, coming up with new combinations and just "throwing together" a meal, or following a recipe with modifications, based on what she has on hand.