The Zenful Kitchen is temporarily closed as my personal life undergoes renovations. When we reopen, I will begin blogging here again.
It has been a while since I have taken the time to write here. I am not quite sure why, other than I have been busier than ever between school, Pampered Chef, SAJEWord, Inspiritual and family. Honestly, though I think it is just that I have not taken the time to sit and be still and let my imagination flow. Nevertheless, this morning I woke up thinking about green eggs and ham and peanut butter and jelly and bacon and chocolate and other now normal, but once new flavor combinations.
It is hard to remember a time when there was not peanut butter and chocolate, burger and fries, ham and cheese, salt, and caramel, butter and popcorn, spaghetti and meatballs, apple pie and ice cream, raspberry and chocolate, bacon and eggs, pizza and beer, rum and coke, chicken and waffles, chocolate and peppermint, cinnamon and apples, caramel and vanilla ice cream, salmon and cream cheese, chocolate and wine, lime and coconut, and the list goes on. Even as I was typing this list, my wife kept telling me there has always been this and there has always been that. It is hard to imagine these flavor combos not ever being together.Read More
While i was doing some research on the Paleo diet, I came across this article on food and gratitude. Since that is our focus this month, I thought I would share it. It is not about the Paleo diet, but really about our attitude towards food and how food is something for us to be grateful for in our lives.
Sure, it’s easy to focus on everything that’s wrong with the modern food system. The corn subsidies that make Coke and Doritos cheaper than tea and apples. The junk food industry that advertises sugar-coated sugar to our kids for breakfast. The research sponsored by food and beverage giants like Pepsi Co. All those things are serious problems. But keep it in perspective: we have plenty to be grateful for.Read More
It has been a while since I have written here, Life has been full and I have had to make decisions about removing some things from my plate periodically. I also hate writing when I have nothing to say and lately. It has not been that I did not have anything to say, but for some reason I had told myself I needed to write about the spiritual practice of the month and not just write.
So this morning as I sat and twirled the spaghetti squash around my fork I found myself thinking about how interconnected everything is and how transformative a vegetable can be. Yesterday what I was eating was a whole squash. Then I cut it in half, scooped out what was not usable, roasted it, and then this solid mass of squash began coming out as spaghetti as I ran my fork through it. It is not so much what I did with it afterwards that intrigued me, but the process of transformation which spoke to me.Read More
The spiritual practice we are focusing on this month is forgiveness. As I began to pray about this, I wondered how I was going to talk about forgiveness and food. It was during our Living the Five Agreements group when I realized that what had helped me stop overeating and eating compulsively was when I began forgiving myself and others.
I, like so many others, have tried just about every diet imaginable. For the longest time I thought about dieting as it related to food and how much I ate. When I thought about forgiveness, I thought about other people. I had never thought about forgiveness and food. In my mind, forgiveness was what I ate, not what I had a relationship with.Read More
Have you ever seen a commercial that just sticks with you because it is making a message that transcends the product it is selling, or attempting to sell to consumers? I have a few, but one of them for me is a commercial for Wolf stoves, a top of the line appliance company. Years ago, I saw this commercial, where this “spirit,” was watching a woman prepare an ambitious meal in her apparently new Wolf stove. He was trying to place doubts in her mind that she could prepare what they wanted one to believe was a challenging dish to prepare. Eventually, her faith in herself and her confidence in her abilities caused him to leave and she continued on with the preparation of her meal.Read More
Just eating? This morning I was looking for inspiration for my blog. I was having a hard time thinking about faith and cooking. Then I stumbled upon this simple question which was the framework for a whole program on practicing faith in our eating, and eating is one of those things that I sometimes forget to think about when writing this blog. Just eating? While this phrase could mean only eating, the word, just, also means “being honorable and fair in one’s dealings.” Eating is something we can do with minimal to no thought or reflection or it can become an opportunity to practice our faith and our beliefs about justice. Eating is also a space in which we can be mindful of what we are doing and who we are with.Read More
I know it has been a while since I have written here, but this morning seemed like a good time because what I have been reminded of recently was that I need to have faith in my senses and gifts when I am cooking. Cooking is all about having faith in one’s self and one’s abilities.
It all started with a simple zucchini. I was sautéing some shredded zucchini to cook off the water in it. As it was cooking, I began seasoning it for inclusion in what I thought would become a recipe I was going to make. However, watching this broth develop from the juices being released from the zucchini inspired me to try making this into a zucchini soup. I had to have faith in my inspiration, my taste buds, my vision, and my abilities. It was so good that I wound up drinking the whole pot of “soup” and I know I will make it this morning.Read More
This morning I was seeking inspiration and came across this blog about dogs who are not enthusiastic eaters. I had to laugh because the only time I had known a dog who did not eat with enthusiasm was when they were sick. However, as I read this piece I realized that a lot of her advice had to do with people as well personally and spiritually. So today, I am trying something a bit different and my responses to her are in italics.
Most dogs are eager eaters. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that actually knows how to chew.
However, there are some dogs who don’t eat well. Some are finicky about what foods they eat while others are just less than enthusiastic about the whole experience. There are temporary circumstances when your dog’s appetite may suffer and that includes vaccinations, illnesses, changes in the household, changes in his normal routine or travel. But these are usually short lived decreases in his appetite that will return to normal without much delay.Read More
When you look at this image and this quote, they both provide the same advice. Whatever you are doing in life, bring it! Bring enthusiasm, bring your soul, and bring your passion to the dish or to whatever you do. A recipe is nothing more than a recipe. It is what you bring to it, how you prepare, and the love you infuse into it that brings it to life.Read More
Everything in life is an opportunity to practice devotion. When we remember that everything we do from the way we worship to the way we eat has the potential to be an act of devotion, then we have the potential to practice living a life of devotion. Recently, I found an exercise about eating one raisin which reminded me to think about all that I eat and drink in the same way. How differently would I eat and drink if I went through a process of honoring and appreciating every little thing about that which sustains me. So this morning, I thought I would share this devotional approach to eating with you. I encourage each of us to do this with at least one food item each day. It doesn’t have to be a raisin, but we could begin there. This morning, I am going to start with broccoli as it is what I am having for breakfast.Read More
What is your signature dish? That is the question Bobby Flay asks each contestant who has come to challenge him to a throwdown. The question really inspired me this morning. A signature dish is a recipe that is like a chef’s fingerprints. It becomes one of those dishes that one could eat in a blind test taste and know who cooked the meal. I have seen it compared to how an artist has his or her own unique style or a writer who has his or her own voice. The dish itself does not need to be unique, but the manner in which it is prepared is. Whatever the dish is, most chefs talk about how they have been working on perfecting their signature dish for years, sometimes decades.
In an issue of Food & Wine magazine, they identified the signature dishes of 10 world-renowned chefs. Wolfgang Puck’s was Pork Schnitzel, Thomas Keller’s was Smoked Salmon Crisps, Daniel Boulud's was Chilled Spring Pea Soup, Mario Batali's was Bucatini all'Amatriciana, Rick Bayless's was Carne Asada with Black Beans, José Andrés's was Paella with Shrimp and Squid, Gale Gand's was Lemon Meringue Pie , John Besh's was August Chopped Salad, Tom Colicchio's was Braised Short Ribs, and Nobu Matsuhisa's was Black Cod with Miso. Each of these chefs had spent years devoted to perfecting this one dish.Read More
The last few days I have been thinking about how many times I have heard or read stories about how people have devoted their lives to perfecting their craft. In reading the stories of now renowned chefs, I have heard their reflections on how those who mentored them would have them devote blocks of time to preparing a single vegetable. For example, months spend learning how to properly clean an artichoke. People who are renowned for what they do in life, are so because they have devoted their life to perfecting their craft. In the process of trying to find some examples to share about the importance of devotion to the process of cooking, and in reality anything in our lives, I came upon this article about Jiro Ono. This story about him and his devotion is inspiring and carries valuable lessons for each of us, encouraging each of us to become devoted to being the best we can be with the talents we have been given, regardless of what we do.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary on the life and craft of the great 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono who owns a tiny 10-seat shop in Tokyo that has the highest Michelin Guide rating of three stars.
To get a seat you must make a reservation months in advance. The courses are carefully planned and the creation and serving of the meal is a multi-course symphony of sushi that some guests have even described as “stressful” yet an experience like no other. Jiro himself serves each course to his guests and carefully examines their faces as they taste his elegant works of edible art. What follows is the wisdom distilled from the great sushi chef on how to master your craft.
1. Learn from the best. Sometimes you must learn to fail before you learn to succeed.
Yamamoto, a renowned Japanese food writer, says: “When you work for Jiro, he teaches you for free. But, you have to endure ten years of training. If you persevere for ten years you will acquire the skills to be recognized as a first-rate chef.”
In Jiro’s restaurant, many apprentices do not make it to the next level. Yet there are those who persevere. For example, one of the apprentice sushi chefs tried over 400 times to make egg sushi that met Jiro’s standards of being worthy to be served. When he finally received Jiro’s approval, he was overwhelmed with joy and cried.
Take away lesson: Only when you understand what it feels like to fail and try again will you be able to cherish the moment when you achieve success.Read More
One of the comments I hear from the judges on Chopped most often is that individually, the components on a dish taste good, but it was not a cohesive dish. The various ingredients did not come together a unified whole. I feel that way a lot. My wife, for example, likes simplistic meals, like a “fried” chicken breast, a baked potato, and a salad. She is thrilled, but for me that is not a cohesive dish because there is nothing that weaves it together.
When I was pastoring, it was important for the service to be cohesive. Everything from the artwork on the front of the bulletin, to the music, the scripture, and the sermon needed to weave together so that everything worked together and wove together in a seamless manner. Doing so required time to plan my way through the process.Read More
It is nice to finally be healed enough from my most recent surgery that I have the energy to cook and entertain again. Whoo hoo! Just having the energy to cook again and create healthy low fat, low carb meals for my wife and I is such a blessing. Last night, I was chatting with a friend who was having one of those days where she just needed to know she was loved. I suggested she come join us for a very simplistic dinner. It was a chicken stir-fry with brown rice for her and Zoe. She wanted to know what she could bring and I said just come. It was those last two words – just come, that really spoke to her heart and soul.Read More
Years ago, I remember a Wendy’s commercial with these three older women looking at a burger and saying, “where’s the beef?” Today the question is not where the beef is, but where does it comes from?. I have been thinking a lot about compassion the last few weeks. One of the questions I have been grappling with is when are the times I have not been able to be as compassionate as I would like. It started when I began to make a list of “missed opportunities” to show compassion to others. I realized that one of my behaviors was the choices I was making about what food I purchased. In my head, I agree with the farm to table mentality and want to buy nothing but organic and grass fed, farm raised protein products. I have watched and shown my students too many videos on the factory farm and the inhumane treatment of animals.Read More
I wanted to do something a little different this week. The theme for this month is Compassion and so I thought I would start by talking about how people have used food to express compassion. In the process of doing my research, I stumbled upon this story about one of my favorite chefs, Ming Tsai. May this story inspire each of us to share a meal with someone we know who is struggling.
In 2010, Shauna McLaughlin faced a mother's worst nightmare. Her then 19-month-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. As a single parent, Ms. McLaughlin was solely responsible for her daughter's medical, emotional, and financial care. Ms McLaughlin recalls, "I left my job to take care of her because she needed me around the clock. I couldn't leave her alone at the hospital. She was critically ill, and at times on life support."Read More
For the last few years I have been reflecting on the various things I have learned in and through the kitchen. With the health challenges I have been through in the last few months, I have made significant changes in how I think about food, plan menus, shop for ingredients, and cook. I also realized that I had some kitchen equipment, which needed to be replaced and that there were things I needed that we did not have. A series of events in my life and the lives of people I know led Zoe and I to buying a few new things for our kitchen from Pampered Chef. It is funny because Zoe, who never cooks, loves Pampered Chef products. I have always found it humorous that she who hates to cook, loves going to Pampered Chef parties.Read More
Every morning, as many of you, know I post my thought for the day. However, I also have a few places that send me inspirational messages as well. This morning, my message from God was “you are only as free as you imagine yourself to be. There is nothing "out there" that's holding you down, - you are limiting yourself only with your own imagination. And your greatest limits are not even the "cannot" and the "should not", but the places where your imagination hasn't yet gone at all. There has never been a better time for you to open your eyes, let the imagination soar and see what more is possible.”Read More
For those who were expecting me to say that this week’s blog was inspired by my addiction to Chopped, I have to partially disappoint you. It was not my original source of inspiration. It was actually inspired by the reflection and meditation I have been doing the last few weeks about being present. Last week, I talked about being present while cooking, not just being present with the process, but with the ingredients and taking the time to let them speak to me through all my senses.
Last night, as I was finishing my blog on The Gift of Presence for my Inspiritual Reflection I realized this was why gathering around the kitchen table to share a meal is so important. It is not just a time to eat together. It is a time to be present with each otherRead More