FREE-STYLE. In other words, few restrictions. I like the sound of that. During Operation Transformation there have been many restrictions. And so it is nice to take a break and open up the boundaries. Speaking of boundaries, let me begin with my personal experience of how having few restrictions scared the shit out of me.
I grew up with the idea of free-style although was never really comfortable with it. Free-style rap was emerging. Improvisational dance was being shared with the dance community and spreading like wildfire. 80’s fashion. HA! Despite all this freely roaming creativity, I liked having someone (besides myself) tell me what to do next. In ballet class, in school, chores at home. I was shy and timid and often had little to voice. One of the most prominent memories comes from my experience at an incredible performing arts high school (Booker High School in Sarasota, FL). I was a ‘bunhead’ ballerina. I loved ballet and all its technique and discipline. Even my beginning years of modern dance was based in Graham & Horton techniques. The teacher or choreographer called out vocabulary or demonstrated what they wanted to see and the dancer followed. Since the age of 5 this is what I was use to. Welcome junior & senior year at Booker and man was I in store for change. IMPROVISATION. That’s right. I had to learn to improvise. It did not go so well. Let me just say this, week after week I chose to sit out…not participate…and get a ZERO for the day! I was so scared. Lacking confidence. I couldn’t let go. Until I graduated high school and attended the American Dance Festival at Duke University. A world renowned 6 week dance festival. There was no choice but to dive in head first to improv. I cannot explain how it transformed my dance world. I didn’t want to stop. Literally. By the time I got to college I shouted out to anyone that would listen about the greatness of improvising art. Some listened and some sat scared like I once was.
Yet when the opportunity presents itself (like in cooking) I tend to still freak a little and not feel capable of winging it. Cooking without a recipe has not always been my cup of tea. This means there is more digging to do. More transforming. Slowly but surely…free-styling is proving a super valuable lesson. Learning to free-style a few areas in my life has only deepened the experience of turning negative self-talk into true body-love and living an authentic/happy/healthy life.
Here are a few examples of how I am challenging myself to get comfortable & confident about free-styling in the kitchen:
- Make your own oatmeal. Buy rolled or cut oats and put your own additions in. The packages all say to cook the oats in water. I have replaced 1/2 the water with non-dairy milk (usually almond) and the flavor instantly changes. Then I look to see what is around in the form of nuts, seeds, and dried or fresh fruit (the other day we were out of fresh so I added frozen blueberries which defrosted quickly). But do not stop there! Look at your spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, etc. Vanilla beans or extract. Many options. An alternative to oats is leftover brown rice. Also I’d like to share something I just came across from a well trusted source, FoodMatters.tv. “Grains such as oats should be cut or rolled and then soaked overnight in a warm, acidic medium to neutralize the many anti-nutrients naturally occurring in grains, such as irritating tannins, digestion-blocking enzyme inhibitors and mineral-blocking phytic acid. This treatment can also gently break down complex proteins in grains.” To read more visit the link http://www.foodmatters.tv/articles-1/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry. But let me warn you, there is frightening information to ponder.
- If you eat eggs, experiment with omelet ingredients. The most recent surprisingly delicious ingredient we have added to omelets is frozen green peas. If you like green peas, you must try! I can’t really give all the credit to trying to free-style. After all, when we were in NYC last spring we ordered an omelet with green peas and were pleasantly surprised. So get creative with veggies, and herbs. An alternative to eggs would be tofu or tempeh scramble.
- Pancakes. Look into from a sweet OR savory perspective. I’ve mentioned before a favorite in our house, Jessica Seinfeld’s Pink Pancakes. She uses beet puree to give the pink color and a step up in nutrition value. Why can’t shredded zucchini or squash be added to pancake batter with some fresh herbs?
- Get comfortable with left-overs. And then re-invent them. Use the left over grilled veggies from Sunday’s football party for a wrap (whole grain of course OR gluten free) with hummus or pesto.
- Use left-over rice for a quick and fried rice https://awholesomeapproach.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/a-recipe-using-up-left-overs-vegetable-fried-rice/.
- Salads have endless opportunities. Work with simplifying the dressing part. Switch between creamy & vinegar based dressings. Remember that adding avocado to homemade creamy style dressings is a great alternative to using actual cream. Once in a while try just good quality olive oil and lemon or lime. Chop up fresh herbs and add the salad.
DINNER (inspired by Vegetarian Times Sept. 2013 issue)
- Soups. Start with a good quality oil or butter (ghee can be used as well). Sauté what you have – onions, leeks or shallots; carrots, celery, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc. Then add garlic, herbs & spices. Doing this second will prevent these little bits from burning. Toss in the vegetables that make cook slower like potatoes, large squash, parsnips, etc. Now the delicate veggies and if using beans – zucchini, broccoli, corn, peas, green beans, and beans. Towards the end of cooking time add more fresh herbs. For a really cool trick, stir in juice from a citrus source (lemon or lime).
- Stir-frys. CHOP – garlic, ginger, onion, broccoli/raab, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, celery, bok choy, mushrooms, bell peppers, snow peas etc. Also prep your protein – tempeh, tofu, edamame, or meat. Also think about nuts to add – cashews, almonds, peanuts, etc. SAUCE – soy (soy sauce or tamari), sweet (honey, jam, brown sugar, maple syrup), acid (vinegar or citrus juice), spice if you like (chile sauce, chile flakes, fresh chiles). SAUTE – over high heat. Start with onion to caramelize, then add the hard “vegetables”, add “soft” veggies & protein. Toss in the ginger & garlic, add the sauce.
- Granola. One of my most favorite things to make at home. Leaves the house smelling divine for hours, is easy to pack for on-the-go, and ok on its own or mixed in. So many options out there so experiment and find what works for you.
- Snack mixes. Get creative with pulling from nuts, dried fruits, puffed rice cereal, brown rice syrup for a sweeter snack or nuts, roasted chickpeas, wasabi peas, and spices for a savory/salty snack. Make at home!
Here at A Wholesome Approach, we are all about getting back to the roots of living. Today its all about cooking. It’s important to use your senses and taste what you are creating as you go.
Please comment below and share your favorite ways to let go in the kitchen. Or your free-style recipes.