The Beauty of Simple Food

05.13.2024

I about know people that feel the kitchen is their happy place. They cook with love and joy.

I cook because we need to eat. I am more like my Grandma who would start cooking, leave the kitchen to do something more interesting and then come back when it smelled like something was burning.

I do little tricks like focus on the senses and gratitude. But, I need to do tricks because I don’t like cooking.

I also see the way processed foods are degrading our health. The increase in cancers and diabetes. And in general how they make you feel energy-wise. I have better digestion and almost no heartburn since I switched to less processing.

Here’s an article by the Mayo Clinic  about processed foods.

So, if I don’t want to eat a bunch of processed foods, I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and with current food prices, I don’t want to pay a lot – I need simple food – basic and wholesome. I love how simple foods show us pure flavors. Tasting the lemon or garlic or basil without the chemical aftertaste.

I don’t eat totally clean. We have some processed foods like bread and noodles. I am not a perfectionist with food, rather I am moving closer and closer to less processed foods. I want to be gentle on this journey.

I am also not a dietician and will not tell you what foods you should eat. Every body is different in its needs. And as an adult, I don’t expect other people to tell me what to eat. This is more about moving towards what feels good in your body. Eating is an experiment – what gives you energy? What makes you feel sluggish? When does your body like to eat certain foods?

I also learned a lot from the Blue Zone documentary about people in regions that have more centurions than usual. They also wrote a book  if you don’t have Netflix. My journey right now is towards simpler foods as that makes my body happy.

Embracing Simple Food

  • Use in-season produce and go to the local farmer’s market or farm stands. You will pay more for out-of-season food and they won’t taste as well. Experiment with produce you don’t usually eat like parsnips, beet greens or fennel.
  • Choose what is worth spending more on and cut back on foods that matter less. I am willing to spend more on foods like local maple syrup (tastes and is better for you than pretend syrup), local honey and fresh herbs and cut back on foods from boxes and cans. We get fresh meat from local farms when we can (not as often as I would like, yet).
  • Less ingredients in a dish, means subtler flavor that the palette seems to like and less cooking/prep time.
  • Use simple cooking methods like roasting, grilling, steaming and sautĂ©ing. Stir-fries or roasted salmon and veggies take little prep-time.
  • Play with seasoning. We found fresh seasoning, herbs de Provence and Italian seasoning blends taste better than the flavors from a box. (I know, who knew? 🙂 Good olive oil, cooking wine and various vinegars also enhance flavors.
  • Savor foods like a fresh pear, a piece of dark chocolate or homemade chili. The more you appreciate real foods, the more you start to crave them over processed foods.
  • Plan ahead. Cook whole grains ahead of time. Chop fruits or vegetables the night before. We also like to make extra to freeze for lunch or dinner in the next weeks.

For breakfast every day, I get as much nutrition in one meal as possible with a smoothie. Here’s how I make my smoothies. 

If I get hungry before lunch, it’s mainly nuts and fruit.

I used to have a lot of frozen meals for lunch, thinking I didn’t have time to make anything. But, they are so full of sodium and manufactured flavor. I was telling my daughter while we were at the grocery store yesterday that since we’ve been preparing lunch, the frozen meals don’t even look that good. (Plus, they are so expensive now!)

Lunch is usually something from Fresh20 with 5 ingredient meals or Mediterranean Made Easy. I also like the Art of Simple Food . A typical week would be variations of:

Quinoa, variety of vegetables with beans

Salmon with roasted zucchini.

Pasta with homemade sauce and broccoli, salad with nuts/seeds

Homemade chicken soup with lots of veggies and a salad

Stir fry with veggies and a little meat, maybe cashews

Leftovers on Saturday

And usually breakfast food for Sunday like eggs, french toast, etc. Something quick for after church.

It’s mainly Mediterranean with lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, some carbs, some protein. Lots of soups and salads. Nothing takes terribly long and most don’t have many ingredients.

My husband usually takes various fruits and vegetables, greek yogurt, nuts and something like peanut butter crackers to work.

He doesn’t like a lot of meat and has a limited amount of foods he likes to eat, so we have a smaller variety at dinner. A typical dinner menu might be:

Taco salad or some Mexican dish

Tuna sandwiches and fresh veggies like carrots

Homemade soup or chili with crusty bread and fruit salad

Fish, potatoes or rice, veggies

Casserole like cornbread casserole or shepherd’s pie

Pizza – not homemade unless we make french bread pizzas

Chicken, Zucchini with noodles or other pasta dish with simple sauce

Evening snacks might be plain yogurt (I used to make my own yogurt before my grandson moved in. I might bring that back soon) with fruit, veggies, lunch leftovers, or chocolate. And this is where I struggle the most – I might have cookies (not always homemade), pudding (not homemade), pretzels (not homemade), or ice cream (not homemade). We see my next challenge.

We have been enjoying slowly changing what we normally eat from a box and seeing how easy it is to make it homemade. And it usually is not as difficult as we think. Plus it tastes better!

What are your favorite non-processed meals and snacks?

As you think about your next meal, how can you make it simpler? How can you make it healthier? How can you make it less processed?

Besides less processed food, I think the most important thing is to eat your meal with presence. No phones. Hopefully with family and friends. Noticing the flavors and smells. Perhaps with soothing music. (My grandson and I like Blue Lake Radio for breakfast.) Paying attention to body cues and slowing down the mind thoughts. Enjoy your meal!


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