• Jeannette Napoleon

To Live Longer, Learn to Love Cooking

Updated: 11 hours ago





















In my introductory blog, “Please, Eat Better!” I’d hoped to Inspire my readers in this healthy endeavor. There were five suggestions to help. In this blog, I focus on the cooking recommendation.

Becoming aware of the benefits of eating a whole-foods based diet, I hope to educate and inspire others to do the same. With a whole-foods diet, I’ve found that I have more energy, feel more emotionally stable, rest better and have happier joints. To manage a whole-foods diet, it’s been easiest for me to learn to cook. Fortunately, years ago, I had met Markele. I came to refer to him as my kitchen guru. Markele had managed his HIV diagnosis for decades by living a well-thought out lifestyle, which included eating a whole-foods diet. He was impeccable where his diet was concerned!

Markele once showed me his pantry, fridge and freezer. I remember few, if any, common, processed foods. In his fridge, a jar of wholesome, organic mayonnaise made from expeller-expressed oil, unsweetened, greek yogurt, fresh in-season fruits & vegetables, naturally-fermented vinegars and kefir, kimchee, organic eggs, meats, cold-processed olive and sunflower oils. In the pantry, a wide variety of whole, dried herbs and teas. Canned soups, Jimmy Dean sausages, boxes of Hamburger Helper, jars of nacho cheese, nor their like was to be found anywhere. In the freezer, trays and trays of various juiced vegetables and fruits. Markele juiced watermelon, apples, carrots and spinach and more. He would add them to smoothies and delicious sauces.

Before Markele, I’d only been a marginally-competent cook.

I didn’t grow up cooking. There were three girls, four counting Mom. We did have home-cooked meals routinely. Our late stepdad, Russ, did some of the cooking. He had a terrible way with beef liver & onions. So dry. Mom often would do spaghetti & meatballs. During my last years at home, the sauce took on a very spicy flair as mom experimented with cayenne hot pepper.

I remember tasty pork pot roast with cabbage, delicious homemade yeast breads and freshly-rolled and baked tortillas. There were puddings and strawberry shortcakes all made from scratch. The Better Homes & Gardens cookbook got a heck of a workout. While I can recall the good flavors, I also recall that I had little, if anything to do with it all. Don’t really remember helping with any of the prep or actual cooking.

Once out on my own, there were many store-bought pizzas and Hamburger helper dishes to start. Later, I began using the BHG cookbook. About the same time, I began gardening. I could and did cook. The results were edible certainly. Yet, I don’t recall having a remarkable way with many dishes. Yeast breads were great, but little else was notable. Could probably count the number of tasty dishes I could produce on one hand.

That’s where I was when Markele had came along. I happily credit him with igniting my love for cooking. He taught me that by using high-quality equipment & gadgets, sound, wholesome ingredients and care with procedure, the results would routinely be grand. He owned not one, but two stand mixers, several dorm-sized freezers, a 1-qt, 2 qt and 4qt food processors, nice stainless steel sauce pots of various sizes and a couple specialty non-stick skillets. I eagerly worked to replicate his kitchen as closely as possible. With Markele’s encouragement and my husband’s indulgence, I revamped our kitchen. I shopped at second-hand stores, growing my collection. From stand-mixers, emulsion blenders, a mandolin slicer, food processors & dehydrators, as well as good kitchen knives, I have a wonderfully useful assortment. One of my favorite pieces of kitchen equipment, a gift from my late-stepdad, Gene Solomon, has become nearly indispensable and lives continuously on the counter! The Instant Pot does a Saute’s, souz vide, slow cook, pressure cook, rice & grain cooker, cheesecake and even yogurt!

I’ve learned to:

  • Chop, dice and mince garlic and onions.

  • Saute, fry & roast

  • Use the Proper ratios for dry/liquids for a good Yeast dough

  • Sear meats.

  • Salvage bones for broth

I’ve learned to incorporate spices into the cooking fun. Herbs can take bland to interesting, mundane to exotic.

Chives, garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and marjoram can all be easy to use. The key is moderation and a sense of exploration. Oregano used sparingly is great in Mexican and Greek-inspired cooking. Garlic, thyme and marjoram are ultra user-friendly and common in many dishes across the globe.

The reward and result and reward for all of this was the ability to go into the kitchen, undergoing a few simple activities to wind up with Yum! Just yesterday, a serious craving for Alfredo fettuccine wouldn’t rest. My daughter had shared with me an easy version of this: LINK: EASY FETTUCCINE ALFREDO at www.Lil Luna.com. What I remembered about the recipe was that it actually didn’t require one to make a sauce. That makes it super easy AND fast. However, I was already working up yet another batch of the clam chowder for my husband. For it, I’d be making a roux. I quickly decided to make extra to use for the alfredo sauce. This recipe was already handy and the decision allowed me to only seek the one recipe as a refresher for rough ratios of flour, butter, milk. Dinner the day prior had me still familiar with the rough ratio of flour:butter:liquid for a roux. I knew I wanted to include some pea leaves I’d recovered following our two-day-in-a-row frost, fresh onion, garlic and store-bought meatballs. Chopping & sautéing celery, carrots, onions and potatoes for a quick pot of clam chowder for my fella after quickly locating a recipe, “LINK!” My Best Clam Chowder at All Recipes.

Even my beloved dogs profit…

As I had some feta cheese I needed to use and had found some whole wheat spaghetti noodles in the pantry, I was well on my way to my dream dish. I can honestly say I’m pretty sure I’ve never enjoyed restaurant pasta any more than I did my own that night. Gilbert, too, seemed quite pleased with his clam chowder!

And now with a love also for gardening, I’ve also learned to use kale for my stews and smoothies. Garlic mixed into the olive oil spread over the pizza crust before the sauce gives a huge flavor bonus “LINK!”. I’ve learned thanks to another grandmother in the family that Roasted vegetables from carrots to beets to onions to asparagus and fresh-cut okra add a depth of flavor to any salad that’s hard to resist.

I’m very grateful for my experiences with food. Cooking and serving friends and family has reinforced my motivation and enjoyment of cooking. While I do boast the love for the activity, I sometimes wonder if addiction isn’t a more accurate description. Honestly, I cannot easily walk into the kitchen for any reason whatsoever without actually conducting a step or two of some process that will result in a cooked dish! It’s an addiction I’m ok with.

CONCLUSION: For yourself and those who love you, can’t you see yourself having some fun while trying new things in the kitchen?


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