creative liberties

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There are few places I’d rather be than in the kitchen.  I realize that sets me apart from a lot of my contemporaries, and the generations before us.  I didn’t grow up in the kitchen.  And, though I have to remind my mother that she does more than she thinks she does when it comes to home-cooking, I didn’t grow up with my mother in the kitchen, either.  I became interested in cooking during college, after removing meat from my diet and finding myself at a loss for what to eat after that.  As the years went on, I found myself pouring over food blogs and cookbooks and, more importantly, pouring over pots and blenders in the kitchen, mostly making it up as I went along.  By senior year, I was the margarita cupcake queen, hosted club board meetings potluck-style in my apartment, and raced home between classes and duties to roast vegetables and make gigantic green smoothies.  When I think of my relationship to food, I can fondly look back at my life in stages: when I couldn’t stand the thought of animal cruelty staring back at me on my plate, when I eschewed wine in favor of bread and cheese in Europe, when I discovered flaxseed and made a connection between food and healing, when I played private chef at Casa de Mom and Dad, when every meal went down Chopped-style in our Denver volunteer house, on and on.

Sometimes I picked up trends (hello, bananas; goodbye, bananas) but most times I was just following my heart – er, tongue.  Now that I’m “in the health food scene” as I say – which means nothing more than that I have my finger on the pulse of what is happening on the nutrition front and the social media explosion of food-sharing – I’m even more privy to trends in food and wellness.  Some I embrace whole-heartedly (chocolate + tahini is EVERYTHING), and some I can’t justify launching into (delicately constructing a patterned parfait only to demolish it in a fraction of the time??).  In culinary nutrition, we encourage batch cooking and meal prepping.  However, that’s never quite worked for me.  Sometimes, yes, it pays to wash and prep all your greens, make a slow-cooker soup, or blend up a quick dressing to use all week.  But I don’t make it a regular thing, and here’s why:

  1. I’d rather not spend half a day cooking all my meals for the week.  I prefer to spend my free days bopping around doing whatever thrills me in the moment.  Sometimes, that’s cooking an elaborate meal which takes half a day, but at my own will and freedom.
  2. I’d rather spread out my cooking over the week so that I still have it as my daily meditative and creative time.
  3. I don’t want cooking to be just another chore I have to do on the weekend, like vacuuming, or bathing.
  4. I try not to eat the same thing all week, which is often the result of meal prepping because it is easier to batch cook one dish rather than individual cook seven.
  5. I have no idea what I’ll be craving any day, so I’d rather deal with that when it comes.
  6. I have the time and freedom to cook at my leisure.
  7. I enjoy the creativity that comes from trying to make meals out of what I have on hand.  This is why I don’t meal plan and shop for a list of ingredients, either.  I’m more comfortable problem solving and making it up as I go rather than following a recipe.
  8. If I were to prep a snack or a dessert to have on hand all week when the craving hits, I’ll eat most of it before the end of that day.  Never fails.  Face palm.

The following recipes were whipped up based solely on what I had on hand.  It lets the creativity flow freely.

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POTATO + EGG SALAD

5 red potatoes, boiled and chopped
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
Bunch chives, finely chopped
1 Tbsp ghee
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
A few healthy pinches of pink salt
Dash red pepper flakes

Add ingredients to a bowl and smash with a fork until well-mixed and desired consistency.  Spoon over fresh and crispy lettuce leaves, or use as a filling in a collard wrap.

Yield: 6 servings

Note: There is no mayonnaise in this recipe (GASP!).  The only reason for that is I did not have any on hand.  I think smashing the potatoes and eggs together creates a nice consistency, and the ghee was added for healthy fats and moisture in its stead.  I salted the salad quite a bit, because I think potatoes beg for salt and it’s okay if your salt has plenty of minerals!

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RAW MANGO COCONUT PUDDING

2 very ripe mangos, pulped
1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 Tbsp coconut palm sugar
1 Tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Refrigerate to set until thickened to desired consistency.

Yield: 1.5 cups

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RAW CHOCOLATE TAHINI FUDGE

1/4 cup tahini
1 heaping Tbsp cacao powder
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Small pinch pink salt

Blend ingredients until smooth.  Pour into a fudge mold (I used a parchment-lined pyrex dish).  Freeze until set, about one hour.  Slice to serve.  Store in airtight container in freezer.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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