We want it to sell, not smell.

The other day, I shared with some of my friends on Facebook that I was starting work on my first book, Gastrospirituality. It will build off what I have been writing here in The Zenful Kitchen and be a blend of recipes, stories, and spiritual insights gained from the ingredients, preparation, and stories behind the food. One of my friends asked if I needed intestinal testimonies. I was not quite sure what he meant by that. I wasn’t sure whether he was asking if I needed people to taste and evaluate the recipes or whether I was wanting to know about how one’s intestines were responding to the food. His response was “We want it to sell, not smell.”
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Tebowing in my kitchen

A fellow food blogger, Warren Caterson, whose sense of humor, I love wrote a piece called Excuse Me While I Chill Some Wine and Take a Few Moments to Tebow. In it he started by talking about Tim Tebow and how when he does well on the field, he drops down to one knee and prays. After talking about football for a moment, he brought it to a place I could relate to on a personal level. He said, “For me, culinary expertise is a gift just like any talent. The ability to taste, to tweak, to cook is all on loan.” I could not agree more. I know that everything I learn about food, every gift I have in the kitchen, every smell that comes alive, the aroma that fills the air, the way the foods change textures as I work with them. All of these things are a gift from the Infinite. Warren jokingly said, “So if my next meal pleases the palates of my guests? Perhaps you just might catch a glimpse of me "Tebowing" in the darkness of my pantry. Because being thankful for whatever talent I might have is something I will strive for.”
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How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Back in the 70’s, two of my favorite singers, Meg Christian and Chris Williamson, had a line in one of their albums. They asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer was, “practice, practice, practice.” When I first started my reflections here, it was because of a series of dreams I had about being The Next Food Network Star. In my dreams, I kept advancing to the next round until I ultimately won. Having the confidence to apply to the show would be my getting to Carnegie Hall. So how am I going to get to that place, the same answer, “practice, practice, practice.” Watching the show the last few seasons, I have come to realize that one of my strengths would be that I have this clear point of view to my cooking.
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Seasonings in the Kitchen and for the Soul

I was starting to read the next chapter in Deborah Madison’s book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, when I found myself unable to move past the first page of her chapter The Foundations of Flavor. It was not that the rest of the chapter had nothing to offer, it did. However, it was a comment she made about herbs and spices that resonated with my spirit. She wrote “Even more then vegetables themselves, it’s these small intensely flavored ingredients and how they’re combined, that give a culture’s food it’s unique stamp” (p. 27). It is these small intensely flavored ingredients, these herbs and spices, which in combination with other ingredients can transport me to another place and time. I began to think about how lemon and oregano when used to marinate my tempeh, along with some garlic, olive oil, and soy sauce allow me to experience the flavors of Greek in my vegetarian Greek Tempeh Salad or in my Greek Tempeh Pita Wraps. I think about how it is the fresh dill when combined with some Greek yogurt and cucumbers creates an amazing Tzatiki. Or I can think about ancho chili powder, cumin, and coriander and how in combination with just about anything they enable you to experience the flavors of Mexico.
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Teikkai

It can be a bit of a challenge to curl up anywhere to read a 700 plus page book. Yet this is what I found myself doing today as I began reading Deborah Madison’s book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. As I looked at this book for a moment, I had this wave of feelings that went through me as I wondered, for a moment, what I had just committed to doing this year as I cook my way through her book, seeking to develop a deeper relationship with the plant offerings I eat, developing my culinary skills, seeking to modify them when needed to be diabetic friendly, and inspire me to create new dishes. At the same time, there was this wave of excitement. This cookbook about vegetarian cooking has been compared to Julia Child’s cookbook on French cooking. So until I am done cooking the over 1400 recipes in this book, it will be Sharon and Deborah, just like it was Julie and Julia. Then the journey began and like Bastian in The Never Ending Story, I opened the book and began reading the Introduction to my new culinary and spiritual adventure
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Lessons from Cabbage Casserole

It is amazing the things that you can learn from a single meal. My wife’s favorite dish, which I have been commanded to make weekly, is my cabbage casserole. A dear friend of ours, who is staying with us for a few weeks, loves it as well. The best part about making this casserole, which by the way is not my favorite, is the look on their faces. Sometimes it looks like they are having orgasms in their mouth. I know that look because I have had that experience as well. My guess is that you know that experience as well. You develop an emotional reaction and relationship to this dish that surpasses description. I have several, but one of mine would be a jalapeno bagel with lox and cream cheese. But that is another reflection, back to the cabbage casserole. Watching them last night as the two of them nearly finished off a casserole that was supposed to serve 6-8 (lol); I had a series of epiphanies.
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Welcome to the Zenful Kitchen

Several months ago, I began having this series of dreams about being on the Next Food Network Star. My culinary point of view is that being in the kitchen does not have to be stressful; it can be zenful. The name of my show in my dream was going to be The Zenful Kitchen. Over the last several months, I have had this same dream. The only difference being that, like the show, there was a decreasing number of people against whom I was cooking each week. This past week, I had the dream one last time and the focus group and the judges all selected The Zenful Kitchen as the winner of the Next Food network Star. I thought the dream was neat for a couple of reasons.
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