Let the season’s bounty inspire your meals, children | Chef Dez
One of the many reasons why I love where I live, is that we get to experience four distinct seasons.
I look upon the start of each new season as an opportunity to refresh my pantry and my mindset in anticipation of the seasonal meals to come. Resolutions are not just at the start of a new year, and this is an example of one that I pledge quarterly.
Depending on where you live, you may still have weeks of cold weather ahead, but the “official” winter season has come to a close.
This earmarks the time that we start reducing the number of meals consisting of big bowls of hearty comfort food that has kept us warm and cozy all winter long. Spring brings along the essence of fresh vegetables, salads, picnics, and bringing the family barbecue out of hibernation.
Many cities and towns have farmers markets that start up in the spring and run until autumn. These venues are a great opportunity to not only celebrate the bountiful spring harvests, but also embrace the people in your community and the local economy.
I look forward to these weekly outings to gather fresh vegetables and mingle with the merchants and shoppers. Instead of looking upon grocery shopping as a chore, welcome these market outings as a way to bring some fun and interest to your household routines.
Spring is also a great time to blow some dust off your cookbook collection. Admit it: we all have a number of cookbooks, and many of them go unused.
Sure, we may have our favorites that are filled with chicken scratch and folded corners, but what about the others? We tend to get into ruts and make the same meals in our home menu repertoires time and time again, but why? Because it is comfortable. These are meals that we have made many times, so we already know they taste good, and we are familiar with the amount of effort they take, so preparing them seems to be less of a task.
With a little dedication and commitment, however, you can broaden the horizon of your dinner table and discover new recipes that could just as easily become your new favorites. Don't jump too deep into this idea if it makes you anxious; simply pledge to make one new recipe per week, or per month, and go from there.
Other ways of bringing about some seasonal cooking inspiration is perhaps to look in the direction of your cooking equipment. Maybe a new sauté pan or a chef's knife is in order? Visit your local kitchen supply store and talk to the staff to find out what's new and innovative for your kitchen.
Maybe this is the year that you plant a garden, or give your existing garden a makeover. If you have children or grandchildren, get them involved in this. Talk to them about what they would like to grow and maybe even dedicate a section of the garden solely for them.
Bring them to the store to help pick out the seeds and soil. Do online research together and make it a team effort. Talk to the merchants at the farmers market about growing tips and suggestions for the climate in your area.
Anytime you can spend quality time with children, create more enthusiasm about eating vegetables, or bring any meal together as a family, offers a lifetime of ripple effects.
Speaking of children, shopping and cooking also offers other educational lessons, such as planning, nutrition, budgeting and creativity. Get them to help you plan the home meals, and make shopping lists together, all while following a food budget and a balanced diet of ingredients. Teach them about prioritizing the weekly meals based on your household schedule and ask them for advice; make them feel involved and important in these decisions.
Cooking is something that is never going to go away, so it is always beneficial to find ways and reasons to keep you motivated in the kitchen. The change of seasons is a perfect excuse, and you and your taste buds are worth your efforts. Happy cooking!
Gordon Desormeaux aka Chef Dez is a chef, writer and host serving the Pacific Northwest. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4.