Making Cooking An Enjoyable Experience

As a self-taught chef, it took me years to build confidence in the kitchen and to view cooking as something other than stressful.  I had to do a lot of experimenting, read cookbooks, watched Youtube videos, and learned from friends, but with time I found ways to make cooking a pleasurable experience.  I’m no Martha Stewart, but I’ve mastered various cooking techniques and cleaning methods, and finally figured out a way to successfully cut a goddamn onion without crying. Huzzah!

Kitchen preparation is equally as important as the cooking process.  When you eat, you absorb not only the nutrients but also the energy of the food. Macrobiotics, a dietary philosophy centered around health status, location, age, gender, etc., follows the premise that every action on the food affects the quality and nutritional value of the meal.  Every single slice or chop, the speed of the stirring, the quality of the food, the mood the cook is in, as well as the cleanliness and order of the kitchen, is consumed with the food.  Ever heard the expression “Cook with love?”  Aim for that.  Cook with love, and you’ll taste the love.

Keep a Clean Workspace

I want you to imagine two different scenarios.  In the first one, you walk into your kitchen about to cook and everything is a mess.  Crumbs and wrappers litter your counter and dirty dishes pile high in the sink.  In the second scenario, you walk into your clean, clutter-free kitchen about to prepare a meal.  In which situation do you imagine you’d be more excited or inclined to cook?

More than likely, you chose scenario two. Having a tidy workspace always makes the task at hand more inviting.  According to the Japanese, both cleaning and cooking should be a meditation.  Messy spaces can affect your happiness and heighten stress levels, while clean ones have the opposite impact.  I’ve found that I am so much more in the mood to cook when I have the space to work.  Of course, for some, cleaning can be a drag to do after a meal, so this brings me to my next tip.

                                    Clean As You Go

Julia Child says, “In professional kitchens most chefs enforce the ‘clean as you go’ rule, which prevents unsightly messes from building to unmanageable levels and removes clutter, which can distract even the most efficient cooks as they chop, grill, and plate through the evening.” (source: PBS.org)

Cleaning as you go may sound like a lot of effort, but it’s not. I swear, adopting this kitchen habit has totally improved the entire cooking experience.  Not only does it keep counters clutter-free throughout food prep, but there’s much less mess to clean up after the meal is over. For each meal I cook, I now put a paper garbage bag, compost bag or bowl on the counter as my designated scraps bin (I highly recommend composting to reduce your carbon footprint).  I work on a cutting board and prep each item one at a time, pouring scraps into the compost bag as I go. Each prepped food goes into a bowl to keep things separate.  It takes hardly any effort at all. Look how tidy everything looks in this photo below:

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Have Fun With It

If you aren’t having fun yet, then pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some music, and get your family or friends to help out.  If I find a recipe online, I like to print it out and read through all the directions before I start so that I know exactly what to expect.  I’ve neglected to read through the whole recipe only to find that I wasn’t prepared for some of the later steps.  This would completely halt the cooking process or throw the timing off. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices and seasoning and always choose fresh, quality products.  The fresher and more seasonal your ingredients, the more delicious and nutritious your food will be.

Good luck and happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

Chinese Green Beans With Pork

San Francisco is a city rich in culture and diversity, which is one of the greatest reasons why I’m obsessed with this city. Because I grew up in a densely Asian-populated neighborhood, my comfort foods have always been any kind of Asian dishes. I love the flavors and smells and have luckily found that many Asian dishes are fairly simple to replicate at home.

My friend and I made a stir-fry dish the other night with green beans, minced pork, garlic, scallions, and mushrooms that we put over rice. It was incredibly easy to make and had the same flavors as the food I’d buy at one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood where I grew up. Although we ate this dish with rice, I think it would also go well in lettuce cups for a lighter version, or even with noodles. I found the recipe on Tasty (accompanied by a straightforward cooking demo video), but my friend and I switched the recipe up a bit to make it our own. Here is our version:

c9aaa16c-cf47-4392-a960-e259bc575268.jpgIngredients

-1 lb. ground pork

-1 lb. green beans

-4 cloves garlic, diced

-4 scallions, chopped

-4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, chopped

-1 tbsp chili sauce

-dried red chili flakes (optional)

-2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

-1 tbsp rice vinegar

-1/4 cup sesame oil

 

Instructions

1- In a wok or large pan, heat the sesame oil over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the string beans and cook until blistered. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2- Add more sesame oil if necessary to the pan. Add the scallions and garlic about a minute, or until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and ground pork. Once the pork has browned, stir in the chili sauce and add the red chili flakes. Then add the green beans back to the wok or pan and stir all together.

3- Add the soy sauce or tamari, rice vinegar, and a dash of pepper. Serve over rice or with lettuce cups, or just on its own. Enjoy!

 

Three Healthy Meals and One Dessert To Impress Your Guests This Holiday

It’s important to eat with the seasons, and with the cold winter months rolling in, it’s time to start eating warmer, more grounding foods. Below are four simple holiday recipes (also budget-friendly!) that should keep meal prep and cook times to a minimum so that you can fully enjoy your holiday season with friends and family. These dishes could either be served together as one delicious four course meal, or perhaps separately before the big Thanksgiving or holiday meal. I would serve the salad first, then serve the soup and vegetable galette together. Obviously save the dessert for last… or don’t!

Winter Salad

Featured image

-1 bag fresh spinach

-1 container of pomegranate arils

-1-2 handfuls of dried cranberries

-chopped pecans

-1 pear, diced

-feta cheese

-balsamic

1. Wash the spinach, pat dry and put into large salad bowl.

2. Add the pomegranate arils, cranberries, chopped nuts, pear and feta cheese. I like to add the juice from the pomegranate container.

3. Personally I find that the salad doesn’t need much dressing if you add juice from the pomegranate arils, but balsamic would be a good choice too. Serve and enjoy!

original recipe: autumn chopped salad

Roasted Carrot Soup

-6 organic carrots
-1 potato
-1 yellow onion
-4 cloves garlic
-chicken stock (I used veggie stock or you can just use water. You can also add a bullion cube or Italian seasoning for flavor)
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
   1. Heat oven to 425 F. Peel the carrots and cut them into bite-size chunks. Cut the potato and onion into smaller chunks. Place the carrots, potato, onion and garlic in a baking dish with olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and roast for 10-15 minutes, until it starts to smell delicious.
    2. Remove dish and place the roasted veggies in a pot. Fill the pot with the chicken stock until it just covers the vegetables. Throw in a bullion cube if desired. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to a simmer and cover with a lid for an hour.
    3. Place contents of pot in a blender and blend until it’s a smooth soup. Enjoy!
Vegetable Galette
(serves 2, or serves 4 as appetizer)
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-1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
-2 small, yellow squash cut into thin circles
-3 tablespoons pesto
-1/3 cup ricotta cheese
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
-flour or whole wheat flour (could also use a GF flour, like coconut flour)
   1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
   2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter or on a cutting board. Lay puff pastry sheet out on top of the flour. Use a rolling pin to spread the sheet out a bit.
   3. Spread ricotta over the puff pastry sheet. Then the pesto.
   4. Lay the thinly cut squash circles on top of the ricotta and pesto. Fold up the sides of the puff pastry.
   5. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper the squash.
   6. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
original recipe: The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson
And finally, for dessert…
Black Bean Brownies
(boyfriend approved!)
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-1 15oz. can beans, drained, rinsed well and patted dry
-2 large eggs
-3 tablespoons coconut oil
-3/4 cups cacao powder
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 cup raw sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking power
-optional: chocolate chips or crushed nuts
   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
   2. Lightly grease a baking dish (8×8 works)
   3. Add beans to a food processor and puree. Then add the remaining ingredients, except the optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   4. If the batter seems too thick, then add a little water and pulse again. The batter should not be too runny.
   5. Distribute the batter into the greased dish and add optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Your brownies are ready to serve!  I poured a little unsweetened almond milk over mine to give them a little moisture. Enjoy!
original recipe: black bean brownies

Why Routines Are the Ticket to Success

Humans are creatures of habit.  Most of us have a daily routine of some sort, whether we are conscious of it or not. Life can definitely be hard and full of stress.  The more out of control we feel, the more a routine will benefit us. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, so keeping a routine helps greatly with time management, efficiency, energy, and motivation. Through personal experience and through my health coaching practice, I have realized that maintaining a routine is repeatedly one of the best ways for achieving success and happiness.

Everyone has their own morning ritual, but the day should begin with some type of routine.  My morning routine begins with my puppy’s cold nose on my arm every morning around 6:45am.  I get up, let him out and Wake-up-to-a-new-day1feed him, drink a warm glass of lemon water and have a small bite to eat while I journal for a little, brush my teeth, get dressed for the gym, work out, and then eat my post-workout meal.  This doesn’t need to be everyone’s routine, but for me, I anticipate my morning going as mentioned.  When these things don’t happen, my entire day is thrown off. Work gets put off, my energy is low, I get crabby often because I’m stressed from my routine being altered, I procrastinate more, forget to do certain things, crave foods I shouldn’t be eating, and just feel out of balance.

Think about the times you’ve traveled or had a reason to change your normal schedule.  Did you notice any differences in your day?  Perhaps differences in your eating, sleeping, emotions, motivation, or stress levels?

Sleep- Going to bed and waking up at the same time is crucial for healthy sleep patterns and deep sleep. Sticking to a schedule also gives our minds a sense of a starting and stopping point with work during the day.  For example, if you work a 9-5 job, our minds know that those hours are working hours.  But if you work a job with inconsistent hours, you’ve probably experienced your mind and body getting out of whack, and that it becomes more challenging to get in the mindset of work mode.

Meals- Try to eat at the same times daily.  This keeps our blood sugar levels steady throughout the day and gives us a sense of consistency.  Even eating the same foods (or similar foods) every day gives us one less thing to think about.

Morning Routine- In my opinion, having a morning routine is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Wake up at the same time, brush your teeth and wash your face, have a glass of water, and get dressed, even if you work from home.  This pattern helps get our mind prepare for the day and for work.  I also find I stay more organized and have more energy during the day if I stick to my morning routine.

Exercise- Even if it’s just stretching or getting off the subway a few blocks early so you can walk the rest of the way to work, a morning routine will help your success.  Exercise is a great way to escape stress and 31d21c8c1ae2bdde84b3483a75531396it gives us a sense of accomplishment.  This initial success in our day prepares us to take on the rest of the day and the obstacles it may throw at us.

Friends and Family- Spending time with the people that make us happy is important for maintaining balance in our lives.  Even with a busy schedule, find a little time during the week to catch up with the people that matter most.

Personal Time- “Me time” is so important!  Our lives are so busy that we often forget to make time for ourselves.  This alone time is time to decompress, reflect, relax, and to do the things that make us happy. Don’t use this time to respond to emails or phone calls… that does not count as personal time.

Interested in health coaching?  Check out my website jkhealthcoach.com for more information or contact me at jessicakhealth@gmail.com.

Sources: Motivate Thyself, Man Cave Zen

Support Boobs with Avon’s Walk for Breast Cancer 

Support Boobs with Avon’s Walk for Breast Cancer

Get involved with Avon’s annual Breast Cancer Walk.  I have done the Avon Walk in New York and now this year I’ll participate in San Francisco and it’s a fun thing to do with friends and family for a huge cause.  Most likely you know someone personally or know someone who knows somebody personally who has been affected by breast cancer.  Someone in my family is a survivor of breast cancer and that’s not the only person I know who has been affected.  So get out there and support victims, survivors and breasts!  Men can get breast cancer too FYI!

To register or learn more, please visit here –> Avon Walk for Breast Cancer