I am not cooking this week. My downstairs AC unit has not been working since last week, and it is not due to be fixed until Friday…and with temps in the upper 90’s it is just too hot to heat up the kitchen any more than absolutely necessary. So tonight I took a little field trip to my local Whole Foods and let my boys pick their dinner from the pre-made section. I chose smoked chicken, cornbread, potato salad and cole slaw. And then I saw it….the dessert section. Usually I pass on this section, but today I felt drawn to the counter with the colorful layouts of individual cheesecakes, tiramisu, fruit-laden florentine cups, and finally the mango panna cotta (my choice).
I love a good panna cotta, and often choose this when it’s an option. Today’s panna cotta had a wonderful cookie-like crust and was topped with a gelatenous mango layer. The flavors mingled with one another to create a luxuriously creamy taste sensation. For anyone wondering what panna cotta is, in its most basic form it is a creamy Italian dessert made by heating cream with sugar and adding gelatin to help it set up. To this other flavors may be added, vanilla being a popular choice. I have had some wonderful panna cottas in my travels, and this one ranks right up there. Somehow the mango and cream combo just works for me. Of course, I also love mango with coconut rice as a dessert. Hmmm, I bet a coconut panna cotta with mango would taste divine. I will have to give that one a try and report on it at a later date. In the meantime I will savor the remainder of my dessert…Bon Appetit!
So I know this has nothing to do with food; however, it is, in a sense, a type of cleansing – only it’s for the spirit and body rather than the palate. A few months ago I discovered Nia. “Nia?” you ask…”What is Nia??” Nia (pronounced ‘Knee-uh’) is a form of dance which has been around since the 1980’s. It incorporates several different styles of movement including jazz, salsa, martial arts and yoga. What I especially love about it is that while there IS a structural base, there is also freedom within the structure. If one doesn’t move exactly as the instructor that is not only okay but often encouraged. In fact, most classes have a ‘free dance’ element. Nia is for all body types and all ability levels. The classes I attend include several people who I am fairly certain are/were professional dancers. On the other end of the spectrum there are those who have limitations in their mobility. And then there is everyone in between…it is a wonderful mix!
Nia, for me, is joyous and mind-opening. It brings to me a sense of peace, self-awareness and self-confidence…after a class I feel centered and more conscious of my life. And the people I have met are some of the most beautiful I’ve encountered. It is an ecclectic group for sure, but I believe that is part of what makes it so beautiful and fulfilling. My instructor has an awesome spirit. She expresses joy in every movement. The people in my classes include singles, mothers, grandmothers; a chef, a sex columnist, a lawyer – and then there’s everyday little ol’ me. Different as our life stories and paths are, we are all looking for something the typical cardio dance class falls short of providing. And I appreciate the fact that there is no one telling me I have to do this or have to move like that…there is no competition over who does Nia ‘best’ or is the most intense. There really is not a ‘wrong’ way to move. I consider it my form of ‘group therapy’. I am hooked, and this is one habit I don’t plan to break! If you haven’t given it a try I highly encourage you to get right over to the nearest group…but watch out, you might get hooked, too!
I am considering the concept of vegetarianism…at least when eating out. Well, maybe that is a bit extreme, but my body has gotten used to grass-fed beef and free-range chicken. Tonight I had an appetizer with pork at a nearby restaurant, and as a result my stomach is not very happy. Same thing happened last week with a local restaurant I used to haunt on a weekly basis…they closed down to remodel for a couple of months, and when they re-opened they had changed the supplier of their chicken. I recognized the difference with my first bite. How disappointing!! This had been my back-up on nights when I was short on time and/or energy.
For me eating is as much a spiritual experience as it is a nourishing one. I relish ‘the perfect bite’. I take great pleasure in feeding my family and friends and making sure the food I provide is not only full of flavor but also rich with the nourishment that helps our bodies flourish. I know…sappy…but it’s how I feel. Which is why getting sub-par meals is so disappointing to me.
I have noticed that, gradually, more restaurants are becoming conscious of what foods they provide to their customers. A new place recently opened in my town – The Grazing Cow – which offers grass-fed beef hamburgers and hot dogs from the same place I order my beef. I have not eaten there myself but have heard wonderful things about it. When I finally get there I will make sure to report back…We recently traveled to Virginia and went to Big Bowl. They use all local produce, free-range chicken, pork from sustainable farms and beef that is hormone/anti-biotic free. Their beef is not grass-fed, but perhaps that will come in the future. The food was delicious! I think that as more people discover how good ‘real’ food tastes the switch from processed foods will be a bit easier. I pray this time is only right around the corner!