crystal bowl

11 04 2010

Since March 1, I have been experimenting with some changes in my daily schedule. The most significant of these is a morning walking routine with M. Rain or shine, by the dawn’s early light, we march along beaches or tracks or even roads – sometimes in conversation, other times in silence (or with deep huffing and puffing on my part).  I have come to love the ritual of putting on my shoes and walking out the door – it feels wonderful to regain some of my fitness and it is a surprisingly rapid change. I have noticed that M is leading me towards hills more often and, although I want to balk like a mule and insist on the flatter beach surfaces,  my pride forces me to push through my reluctance.

The walking has naturally encouraged a more specific focus on healthy and simple fare. I have long been determined to prepare creative, tasty, healthy and easy meals that  do not require exorbitantly priced ingredients and now I am trying to organise myself in such a way that healthy options are abundantly available.

This leads me to the third mindful intention –  an experience really : joyful awareness and appreciation of all the beauty in my little world and a desire to create more –  particularly with my meals. So,  I have been concentrating on healthy, simple, inexpensive, beautiful meals and I have had some fantastic successes.

This week, I began making bread each morning. I started with no yeast bread and beer bread and moved onto simple farmhouse Cobb loaves – there are many recipes on the internet for all different experience levels. I don’t eat a lot of bread but Zuzu really enjoys toast, especially since she bought a bread template that presses  a cheery “good morning” onto her toast.  I also decided to make a small selection of delicious soups and chilis to keep in the freezer so that healthy options are always available for dinner, even when I am feeling slothful.

I started with a simple carrot orange and coriander soup that I created pretty much by taste and instinct. I tend to use a similar base for most soups that yields the most flavour, in my opinion.

Step 1:  Sauté an onion (or 2) in oil. I used garlic infused rice bran oil.

Step 2: Add chopped garlic (2 or 3 cloves).

Step 3: As the above ingredients soften, add  a tsp of spices and herbs to match the soup you are making. I find sticking with a herb or two that complements the main vegetable of the soup is plenty.

Once I have the basic foundation of the soup, anything can happen. For the carrot, orange and coriander, I added the ground coriander at Step 3.

Step 4: Add approximately 8-10 washed and chopped carrots to the pot. Stir and cook for 5 mins.

Step 5: Add approximately 3 cups of stock. I often use Rapunzel Organic Vegetarian Bouillon cubes. The amount here is approximate because the liquid will reduce as the carrots simmer and I often end up adding a little more water.

Step 6: Simmer until the carrots are soft but not mushy. Add 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (and the orange rind as well for about 10 minutes – be sure to remove it).

Step 7: Blend the soup. I use a stick blender in the pot and everyone enjoys a different texture to their soup so the best rule of thumb is to blend to your fancy.

Step 8: Add salt and pepper to taste and top with fresh coriander.

My intention is to keep 6 or 7 frozen options for quick and healthy meals – such as: curried split pea soup, red lentil and kumara, cream of spinach (blended with potato for creamy consistency), the old favourite leek and potato (caramelizing the leek for a sweet change),  cauliflower and nutmeg and chili lentil. These all begin with the Step 1-3 base and end with a flurry of playful ingredient tossing.  Very simple, healthy and inexpensive.

Yesterday was a strangely slow motion day for me. I didn’t seem to accomplish much but had a great time doing it. After lunch I plopped myself down in bed with a book that had captured my imagination and emotions –  “Recipe for Life “, by Nicky Pellegrino. It is a wonderful story of food, unlikely friendships, gardening, Italy and love. I was caught up in the tastes and textures and scent of the fresh ingredients and the passion for traditional cooking in the story.  I read until I was done and emerged full of determination to taste Italy for myself.

I decided to make a Tasty Green Bean, Tomato and Red Onion Salad with Grilled Haloumi and crusty fresh bread.

Step 1: Slice a handful of fresh green beans into 2-3 cm lengths, wash and blanch in boiling water. Cool.


Step 2: Dice 3 cloves of garlic and 1 red onion and add to the bowl.

Step 3: Slice a handful of fresh lettuce very finely and add to the bowl.

Step 4: Quarter 5 or 6 tomatoes and add to the bowl.

Step 5: Add cooled green beans.

Step 6: Add salt and pepper, a splash of oil (I used tomato basil infused olive oil), and fresh basil and toss gently.

Step 7: Grill slices of  haloumi in a small amount of oil until golden brown on both sides.

Step 8: Serve salad from a beautiful dish with slices of haloumi and crusty fresh bread.

I rummaged around in my cupboards for the beautiful crystal bowl in which so many of my childhood salads were presented. My mumma loved this bowl, which was a gift from her father, and I take great pleasure in dressing my own simple meals in such an elegant dish. The salad was a wonderful infusion of flavours, colours, textures and scents, and I felt perfectly pleased that my intentions had coalesced in that particular crystal bowl.


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