There is something magical about a weekend winter morning. I find that the early hours of the day are steeped in a particular slowness that doesn’t accompany the other seasons. I can sleep in, go for a long walk in the snow to build up some appetite and then move onto my favorite thing: an artful meal.
Like I mentioned a couple posts ago, our hurried lives don’t often allow us the time to eat “properly”. We tend to see it as another thing to check off the to-do list, instead of a privilege and an opportunity to nurture ourselves both physically and spiritually. And especially when we are cooking for ourselves, we will settle for a fast and pathetic meal of microwave popcorn (admit it, you’ve done it).
Eating is an art, and every meal can be a masterpiece. All it takes is a couple more minutes of dedication and the results are a truly astounding. When I allow myself the time to prepare food well and beautifully, it’s like I’ve just given myself a gift.
Meals that tempt the eyes are more likely to tempt the taste buds. That’s why, as a health-conscious cook, it’s important to make nutritious foods look their best. When a meal is appealingly presented, you and your family are more likely to eat and enjoy it – making it easier to stick to a healthful diet.
Creating a beautiful meal doesn’t take a lot of work, just a little know-how. Here are some tips to taking that hum-drum dinner to restaurant worthy fare:
1. Pack as much colour on the plate as you can. There’s nothing inspiring about a plate of all one-colour food, so include a rainbow of vegetables, herbs and spices.
2. Pay attention to form. Experiment with cutting foods into a variety of shapes and sizes. You can cut peppers in elegant strips, festive rings or small triangles. Slice carrots, celery and zucchini on the diagonal for change. You can vary shapes and sizes within a dish as well. For instance, make a fruit salad with melon balls, pineapple chunks, kiwi slices and orange sections.
3. Texture matters. Use long stands of beets, or ribbons of cucumber for added crunch on salad or a swirl of high-quality olive oil for added smoothness in a soup.
4. Add a garnish. Herbs work well, just select one based on the dish’s ingredients. Some of my favorites are cilantro, Italian parsley, fresh basil and mint – these really perk up a meal with their fresh flavours, bright colours and nutritional goodness.
Pictured above is one of my favorite winter breakfasts, rolled oats with a buffet of toppings. I like to stir in wild, frozen blueberries about a minute before serving so they thaw, but don’t overcook. These turn the bland-coloured oats into a deep purple indulgence. Then I arrange sliced apples and chopped nuts on top. The apples are cool and crispy in contrast to the warm, soft oats and the nuts are rich and add crunch. I keep the extra garnishes on the side to add as I go – the whole experience makes me feel special.
Over the next few Saturdays or Sundays, give yourself the chance to create something beautiful with your food to enjoy alone or with friends and family. It may even become a priority…and suddenly life will be full of an unexplained richness that feels like you’ve just won the lottery and tastes like heaven only hopes.