Growing up, I was blessed to have two grandmothers, who not only cooked but cooked well. I can’t say for certain that I inherited my ability to cook from them, but I’d like to think that their culinary skills did rub off on me just a little bit. Only sharpened by the necessity of cooking for a special needs kid and my own autoimmunity.
As the weather cools, I feel more inclined to cook heartier meals that reflect the produce of the season. So, tonight I took all of the butternut squash that I had in the freezer and combined it with leftover rotisserie chicken along with the aromatics of garlic,yellow onions, celery and carrots in the Instant Pot. In addition to the salt and pepper, I added organic poultry seasoning to amp up the flavor. And to add depth to the chicken broth, I squeezed fresh lemon juice into the broth before sealing the pressure cooker.
Shazam! That soup turned out to be a flavor explosion in the mouth. As I ladled all three bowls it occurred to me that in addition to the fresh parsley, I should a little more fresh lemon juice to each bowl. It was delicious! My only regret was that I didn’t prepare a gluten free bread to accompany the soup.
Though I didn’t follow a recipe nor did I write down the steps I followed to make the soup, it was made with love and it was wholesome. In my very humble opinion, I believe that love is the main or primary ingredient for cooking. Without it, anything you make falls flat.
Though not at 100%, I still felt strong enough to cook us a decent meal for dinner. While cooking may be laborious at times, there is just something special about cooking for the ones that you love.
Since frozen salmon is quite expensive at the moment, I decided to buy wild caught canned salmon and turn it into what people used to call it here in the south “croquettes.”
If you want the recipe there really isn’t one, because I just make stuff up and then after I make it, I say to myself, “you should have written it down, so you can make it again.” I’ll make it again and it will be slightly different because I will inevitably have an ingredient that is missing and will have to do a substitute. But hey, this is just the way I live. 😂😂
Salmon croquettes, made with fresh onions, celery, red bell pepper, about two teaspoons of honey mustard, one egg and about a half cup of cassava flour.
I steamed the petite green beans and finished them with coconut aminos and garlic, sautéed the squash, with onions, red bell pepper, parsley, oregano and tomato paste. I’d say it turned out well, because we have no leftovers. 😋 Cooking is an expression of love.
In ancient times, spices were more than just a condiment added to various foods for flavor. In fact, in many cultures, spices were used not only for consumption but for medicines as well. There was really no distinction between spices that were used to flavor food from spices that were used for medicine. In fact, spices were so valuable that they were often used as articles of exchange and trade.
As a student of functional nutrition, it is always my goal to find foods that not only taste amazing, but can aid in the healing of various health issues.
Here are a few of my favorite spices and how I like to use them to perform double duty.
For my coffee lovers, who also love the various creamers and syrups but are trying to avoid dairy and sugar. Consider adding cinnamon to your brew. Why?? Cinnamon is not only a natural sweetener, but it has been shown to lower blood sugar, which is a big deal if you are diabetic or borderline. It also has anti inflammatory properties. And I love it mixed in tea and in my chicory root coffee.
Turmeric, is another favorite, this brightly colored spice is so commonly used in Indian cooking, I would almost question the authenticity of any Indian dish that doesn’t include it. Turmeric is anti inflammatory, provides anti-oxidants and may also improve memory, as evidenced by the fact, that Indians have the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s globally.
Another favorite around here is ginger. I always have a few numbs of ginger in my freezer, not just for cooking but for stomach aches, nausea, or just as aid for digestion. Did you know that ginger, though spicy is anti-inflammatory? It is an anti-oxidant, anti-viral, reduces arthritis pain, relieves asthma and may even protect the brain from oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Wow!
I could go on! But the point is this, if we’re trying to live our healthiest and to minimize dis-ease, I think we can take a page or two from the ancients. They seemed to understand that food should not only nourish and stop hunger, but should simultaneously have a medical benefit as well.
How would you incorporate healing spices into your daily regimen?
I truly enjoy cooking! Not to the level of opening a restaurant or a cafe, but to the level that I want to cook the best food that I can for those that I love. Fortunately, it’s something that I get to do everyday for my most favorite people on this planet, my children. Today was no different.
Much like many other areas in the country at the moment, we experienced a bit of unusually cold weather, for northwest Georgia. The low this morning was about 27 degrees Fahrenheit with a few snow flurries. It was so cold that my sliding doors on my minivan would not open until it was sufficiently warmed up. I believe the high was a sunny but cold 33 or 34 degrees. Yikes!
With the temperature hovering so low, it only made sense that our dinner would be some type of soup. Let me just say that soup, is my love language. I could absolutely eat soup year round! But what I love around this time of the year is the memories of my childhood that come flooding back when I am in the kitchen. I reminisce on how good it felt to eat at my grandmothers’ tables. I can almost smell all the smells and the joy I felt to when I was in their kitchens.
Both of my grandmothers were wonderful cooks. My dad’s mother, was more of an Iron Chef type cook. That woman could make the most amazing meals and so to us it was always a treat to eat at her home because you knew, no matter what it was, it would be delicious!! My Nana (my mother’s mother) on the other hand was a bit more straight forward with her cooking, her one signature dish was fried chicken. But her hugs and conversation was what drew you in. It saddens me that my children, have never experienced those moments. Perhaps one day, when I become a grandmother, I’ll be able to create in my grandchildren’s lives abundant and colorful memories of love.
Tonight, in honor of serving and all things winter, I decided to make my version of a minestrone soup minus the pasta and beans. What emerged was a flavorful burst of summer squash, chicken sausage, chopped tomatoes and a mixture of herbs that not only make the soup taste delicious, but are also good for you as well. Think, any boost I can give to my immune system, I am in!
The one drawback here is that I am not good about writing things down, because I never really know what is going to come together when I start, but today was an exception. Here is what I used:
One pound of mild chicken sausage (gluten free) with casing removed. One medium yellow onion, five cloves of garlic (fresh), three sticks of celery, and three carrots peeled and chopped. I sautéed that mixture together in my Instant Pot and once cooked through, I started layering in the spices.
Two teaspoons dried oregano, one teaspoon of thyme, one teaspoon of garlic powder, one half teaspoon of dried rosemary, one teaspoon of dried basil and one teaspoon of dried parsley. I then added in a box of chopped tomatoes, a bag of frozen yellow squash and two fresh peeled and chopped zucchini followed by two boxes of chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste! I then put on the lid and let it cook at pressure for about 20 minutes. It was a hit! And we still have plenty for lunch tomorrow.
If you find cooking challenging, start with soup. It’s probably the one meal that you can make that will turn out well, even when you don’t know what you’re doing. But more than that, you will create some lasting memories for the ones you love when you take the lid off that (instant) pot!