You learn to cook so that you don’t have to be a slave to recipes. You get what’s in season and you know what to do with it.
I got a recipe from a friend earlier this week that called for sausage and kale, among other ingredients. The only two items I had on hand were the Italian sausage and kale, but those two items sounded like the answer to my What’s For Dinner Tonight prayers.
I decided to improvise and soon heard myself shouting “Hallelujah!” as a delicious sausage and vegetable medley of kale, tomato, carrot and pepper was born unto thee:
We ate this for dinner and then for breakfast the next day too. This was slapped together and was great, but it doesn’t really warrant an official recipe. If you’re still learning to cook a la Julia Child, here’s how to rock this medley:
Step 1: Break up sausage into bite sized pieces and cook large pot. (Large enough to pile in a boat load of kale . Also worth noting that my sausage was in a casing and I cut it out of the casing before cooking.)
Step 2: As your sausage starts to brown it will release some oil, you can now begin sauteing diced pepper (and/or onions and minced garlic.)
Step 3: When your vegetables are soft, toss in washed and chopped kale. Cover, stirring occasionally, cooking until kale has reduced considerably in size and is soft. Add a little water if necessary.
Step 4: When your kale is nearly done, throw in any other quick cooking vegetables you might have on hand. (Given that we are in the thick of harvest season right now, my kitchen counters are littered with fresh produce. I’m having trouble keeping up!) It was a last minute decision to add a chopped fresh tomato and some shredded carrot.
Step 5: Season with salt and pepper.
Step 6: Take a picture. (Optional.)
Step 7: Devour.
Whenever dishes like this come together, I think back to a time when I had no idea how make something like this (let alone find it appetizing.) But people change, tastes change, so much of it boils down to practice. The more you do something, the easier it gets – at least in theory. Do that something enough times and ideally it will become a natural, normal thing that you do.
(Kale and Italian sausage are definitely going to be a new, normal thing that I do.)
I’ve come to see that it helps to think about other things you’re working on as “practice”. If you’re just practicing, there’s less pressure to be perfect or to get it exactly right.
I practice yoga. There are advanced poses that I would love be able to do some day, and I know these poses will only come with practice – and even though I’m not there yet, I still get on my mat most days and practice.
I practice mindful eating. I practice deep, cleansing breaths to keep my cool when my parental patience is wearing thin and I’m ready to flip my lid. I practice getting one or two loads of laundry done each day so I don’t have to tackle a mountainous mass of dirty duds later. I practice writing blog posts to share ideas without sounding too stupid. (Keep practicing!) I remind myself that these are the things I’m practicing, and if (when) I mess up, it’s OK. It’s just practice.
When you think about what to you’d like improve upon in your life, try thinking about it as “your practice” instead of something that you’re struggling with or just can’t manage to form into a habit. ”Practice” gives you room to slip up without feeling like giving up. It’s really just a shift in mind set, but it could allow you to persevere when you might otherwise throw in the towel, beat yourself up or engage in some self-defeating behavior.
Practice eating more fresh foods. Practicing checking in with yourself and your satiety levels during a meal. Practice being active a few days a week. Practice going to bed early so you can get up early to practice a morning walk. Practice living within a budget. Practice creating something instead of consuming something (food, internet, TV, stuff) when you’re bored. Practice thinking about the things you do in life as a practice.
And definitely practice eating kale. You’ll be an advanced kale eater before you know it.