Food Happiness Reflections Vegetarian Cooking

For the love of cooking

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I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately, and I’m loving every minute of it!

Perhaps it’s because after seven total years together, of which five were spent apart and one of those was while we were married, the love of my life and I finally moved in together in July. This new chapter in our lives made me happier than you can imagine — no more Facetime dates or flying back and forth, or planning social events to coincide with each other’s visits. Now, we could actually spend weeknights together: come home from work and take a walk as we talk about our day, share a meal, and binge-watch our favorite TV shows from the comfort of our couch—together.

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Naturally, there’s also been some adjustment here and there to living with a lifelong “roommate”, but one welcome change that I have come to embrace is the challenge of whipping up something different to cook for dinner each night. It was so easy to slip into the monotony of eating the same food night after night or eating out when I was living by myself, but now, with someone for whom to cook, I savor my time in the kitchen so much more and use it as an opportunity to try to make new dishes.  I especially love the Wednesdays when I get to work from home and Jis is off too, so we can have lunch at home together. (See wifey #workfromhomewednesday)

Catering to true love

Adding to the challenge is the fact that my husband is not a vegetarian like I am, though we keep a vegetarian household. For the longest time I thought that the hearty, meatier vegetables such as eggplant and mushroom that Rachel Ray promised would be a good substitute for meat could help make traditionally meat-based dishes taste like meat.

Not true.

While these ingredients certainly add more substance to a dish, I quickly discovered that, not only do they not taste like meat, but they are also among my husband’s least favorites. He was just too sweet to say anything about it before when we were dating.

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Thus, over the last few months I’ve been cooking up a storm and experimenting in trying to balance out our weekly menus with a mix of vegetarian meals that are hearty and healthy while satisfying both the carnivore and herbivore among us. Baked pasta entrees, hearty soups, cauliflower dishes, couscous medleys, veggie burgers, lentils and legume-based Indian curries are among our shared favorites.

IMG_4914 (3)Sharing the love

Now that we are together, we’re entertaining our friends and family at our place a lot more. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a culture and family where welcoming people into your home and hosting grand parties were the norm that I don’t think of this as pressure or stressful. Instead, I love cooking and having people over. I thrive off making food that I think our guests will appreciate. Cooking — and food– has always brought people together. It’s why people gather in the kitchen and dining areas most often when you have them over. Dining provides an excuse to get together, and it’s something that everyone can enjoy.

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Plus, at its most basic level, cooking fills a need: at the end of the day, we all need to eat for sustenance, so I’m happy to provide it.

Loving yourself

As much as I like to make delicious, rich, and filling food for when we’re hosting so that our guests enjoy themselves, nutrition has increasingly become an interest and obsession of mine as of late. That’s why when we have friends over to share a meal, I make sure there’s something carby-cheesy-creamy as well as something “clean” so our friends have a choice. It’s also how I plan our meals at home. If we eat a heavy baked pasta dish or rich chowder on Monday, it’s a green salad and soup kinda night on Tuesday.

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Especially as I approach 30, I’ve become more conscious of what I’m putting in my body. I’m more interested in the ingredients I’m using in my food— whether organic, dairy-free, detoxifying or energy-boosting — and how best to cook them to release their nutrients. Reading blog posts on plant-based diets and books like Jolene Hart’s “Eat Pretty”, or the Sadhguru’s “A Taste of Well-Being” have inspired me to widen my grocery list and repertoire of recipes. With the wealth of information out there and various goals at which each diet or wellness regimen is geared, it becomes a harder task and more important for us to know what our bodies needs and when.

What I’ve found at the end of the day is, when we take all of this into account—who we cook for, who we eat with, and what we choose to cook, be it animal, vegetable or mineral— when we cook from a place of love we ultimately find ourselves loving to cook.

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