I would devour a cookbook – reading the recipes and recreating them. I could hum the intro tune to any Food Network show and followed the chefs on social media. My family looked forward to my experimentations in the kitchen and I was always on the hunt for new cook’s tools. Most Friday night movies pertained to food and France, followed by whipping up something sweet with my husband. My favorite foodie lifestyle was when I would create a spread for guests. I wanted to invite friends over just so I could create a menu.
Then it stopped. Not suddenly, but slowly tapered off. A recent morning my realization dawned on me and very simply, I felt sad.
My keenness for cooking had taken a momentary backseat. I couldn’t understand why my cookbook compilation was collecting dust rather that food stains, and my DVR piled up with unwatched Food Network episodes: largely of Ina Garten and Giada de Laurentiis. Dinner prep became a chore and certain recipes were on repeat. Every. Single. Week. Worst of all, entertaining friends transitioned to whatever was easiest. Horrible, I know!
I would not dare admit to cooking being just a stage I delighted in; it was still too engrained in my life. So, I began asking myself why the lackluster attitude towards something for which I carry a passion. Yes, our lives grow increasingly busier as the kids get older, but again, I would not accept that as an excuse. It’s not that my family or I did not enjoy eating as much, nor was it that cooking was not a soothing activity (especially when coupled with drinking wine). Then it finally hit me.
I spend a lot of time reading about food and not just recipes, but rather the effects certain foods and their elements have on our bodies. And let’s be honest, the more birthdays I celebrate, the harder it is to keep my waistline at bay. While I do not follow any particular diet like Paleo and my family has no sensitivities to food, I have become so particular to the types of nutrients in my diet, therefore limited anything that did not supply beneficial values to our bodies and skin. As a result we began surviving on lean meats, vegetables and anything without carbs. In watching more carefully what my family and I ate, I somehow became uninspired along the way as I felt my options narrowed. However, I’m now embarking on a new approach in the kitchen. While I desperately missed pasta dishes and cheese, I honestly felt healthier from the inside, out.
I recently took a cooking class at Sur La Table for a girl’s-night-out and when making meatballs the instructor mentioned to never use lean meat. He proceeded to say that if on a diet, maybe don’t eat meatballs. With a chuckle, I frowned inside. I like to use the word diet as a synonym for food lifestyle, rather than dropping pounds. I still like to indulge in some saucy meatballs with a very small portion of pasta. Albeit it’s no longer a realistic regular dinnertime meal, but maybe once a week it’s acceptable.
While needing a dose of inspiration, it unexpectedly happened. A Mother’s Day tradition is for Brian to study my cookbooks, followed by laboring in the kitchen to prepare a fabulous supper. With the fresh pages still sticking together of my Peru cookbook, he kindled a dormant excitement as I bit into my creamy chicken empanada and solterito salad. My momentary cooking lapse caused me to forget the joy of both exploring and devouring new flavors and has now sent me on a hunt for tuning my favorite recipes to healthier meals.
Nicely balanced, I’m learning to cook with a different twist and falling upon recipes from other cultures that import loads of nutritional value. For example, often under the impression my familiar Polish cuisine consists of heavy sausages and fried foods, it’s quite the contrary. While those are often the most well known around the world, chefs there master some flavor packed raw vegetable salads that are candy for the eyes, easy on the hips, and enticing to our palates.
I’ve discovered some new cooks (Danielle Walker) and admired chefs with healthier cookbooks (Giada) who offer a wonderful combination of both worlds – flavor and health. In addition, I’m learning to own the quote, “A little bit of everything, not a lot of anything.”
Let me know in the comments if you know of any cookbooks that are filled with healthy and tasty recipes. Below are some of my new go-to recipes.