Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


Sky breakfast

Again, so busy doing my job as editor of a dog newspaper that I haven't had time to cook or blog. I've written before about what I cook for dinner when things get hectic (generally salads, quick soups, or "slumgullion"), but have I mentioned my quick and healthy breakfasts?

Here's one. Equal parts plain yogurt and applesauce (organic on both counts). Add a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Voila! A pretty good dose of protein and fiber, and it's yummy.

Some of my other favorite instant breakfasts:

1) Sprouted grain toast with smear of almond butter and mashed banana or thin-sliced apples or pears
2) Scrambled egg on s.g. toast with a slab of roasted red bell pepper
3) Smoothie made of lots of fruits, flax seed, vitamin C crystals, spirulina, in a base of soymilk or yogurt, or soy yogurt.
4) If I don't have time to sit down, it's often a few pieces of dried fruit (prunes, apricots) and a small handful of nuts on the run.

Doesn't it look like my breakfast this morning was floating somehow in the sky? T'wasn't. I had placed the bowl on a blue-topped table strewn with pine needles. Now I plan to eat a sky breakfast every sunny morning all summer...

Blessings and bon appetit!

When the party's over...

For me, soup is such a soothing thing. So the day after too much food, wine, and activity -- after the stay-over company went home -- I made up a pot of thick, aromatic comfort food to put myself and the super-spouse back into balance. Using the "whatever's in the fridge" method of ingredient selection, I cooked a vegetarian soup. And it did the trick.

What makes soup so comforting a comfort food? It's easy to eat and digest, for one thing, because its vegetables, lentils, grains etc. are well-saturated with flavorful liquid. That's also why it always tastes so good. And it SMELLS good, too. That fragrant steam raises our enjoyment quotient.

But there's more to it than that, something mysterious that the rational mind can't compute. Maybe soup triggers a primitive genetic memory. As long as as we have the light of the cooking fire and something simmering in the pot, we're safe once again from the sabre-toothed tiger. That sort of thing. Maybe.

I only know that this soup brought us around. And then we both slept long and late and awoke refreshed. Soup and sleep: two ready and reliable restoratives.

Learn to cook a good soup and you will always be able to take care of yourself and those you love. That's it. The secret of life. What could be simpler or more natural than that?


Cooking compadres

Are there certain people you love to cook with? Friends who see and smell and taste food the same way you do? Who share your passion for fresh and fabulous cuisine and can go the distance with you at the produce market and in the kitchen?

I do, and it's such a lucky thing. There is something very special for me about creating a feast with like-minded cooks and then sitting down to savor it together.

Here's what happened when Ricky and Cathy T. came to see us over the weekend. On the second day of the visit, we meandered through the Berkeley Botanical Garden, marveling at the great beauty and variety of the plant world. Then we stopped at Monterey Market so R & C could stock up on exotic veggies before heading back up to their mountaintop. They planned to get on the road immediately and make it home before dark.

But then I started wheedling. We NEVER get to cook together, I said. And you almost NEVER come to see us. And we have all this WONDERFUL food we just bought. So PLEASE stay for dinner.

And it worked. Ricky and I got busy devising a meal from the various ingredients we had just purchased, and then we cooked it, and then we feasted together and shared all our recent joys and challenges and bright ideas around the table.

Here's the menu:
1) Cappellini with arugula/parsley/almond pesto
2) Romano beans stewed with fresh corn and tomatoes
3) Ling cod with sauteed morels and shallots (for the non vegetarians on hand)
4) Zabaglione (Italian marsala-laced custard) folded into whipped cream with macerated fresh blackberries

Need I say how delicious this was? And I don't mean the food. Well, yes, I do mean the food, but even more the incredibly rare and wonderful experience of this culinary collaboration and all that flowed from it.

Find some cooking companions, or if you already have some, get together often to cultivate your friendship and your passion for beautiful, nourishing food. And remember to give thanks for the fact that you are so well fed, on so many levels.

Blessings and bon appetit!