Peter is out of town, so I am dining alone tonight. Walking into a dark house with a sleeping deaf dog – love you LOTS, Stella, but you are not the most engaging dinner companion – I contemplated the options for dinner. Cereal in front of the TV? Hummus and rice cakes in front of the computer? Screw it – an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce?
I caught myself mid-stream of thought. Wait a minute here! I just talked to my weight loss group about the importance of a pleasant eating environment. “Dinner is a great time to de-stress, have some pleasure, unwind,” I reminded them. ” What a great opportunity to practice mindfulness!” I added. And yet, here I was thinking of the most mindless check-out activities possible for my meal alone.
When Peter is home, which is almost always, dinner is everything I advocate: peaceful, pleasant, relaxing . . . candlelight, wine, background music, engaging conversation. Now, without my favorite dinner companion, why do I lean so easily toward just getting dinner over?
The good news is I noticed my thought process, the key to re-directing any navigating device, including the brain. (Note: Please do not get the impression that I am great at this! I am just practicing like so many of you.) That alone would have been a win, even if I had then collapsed on the couch with a bowl of cereal. It would at least have been a conscious choice.
But I think I felt the eyes of my group upon me. How hypocritical would I be to take the easy out, when less than an hour ago I was reminding others to improve their eating environment and practice mindfulness?!
So I pulled out the salad spinner and began assembling what turned out to be a delicious main dish salad. I started with red and Romaine lettuce and added red onion and cherry tomatoes, then tossed on a little blue cheese, avocado, and leftover breaded chicken (recipe below). A quick toss with a little homemade balsamic vinaigrette, and voila! Great with a glass of Spanish red wine.
Wow, this mindfulness is not easy! Sitting and JUST eating is not the norm for most of us. Try it yourself – put away your technology, turn off the TV, and JUST EAT. You may be surprised at how much more you appreciate the subtle flavors and textures of your food. We spend a lot of time thinking about food – what to make, what to eat, what we crave – so doesn’t it make sense that once we actually put it into our mouths, we should enjoy it as completely as possible?
Here’s a great recipe. It’s delicious served with mashed potatoes and a big side of vegetables – reminds me of classic diner comfort food. What surprised me was how good it is cold on top of a salad.
Mark Bittman‘s Lemon Parmesan Chicken (from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express – great cookbook!)
In a bowl, combine the grated rind from a large lemon, a cup of breadcrumbs (homemade are ideal), about a quarter cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley, and some salt and pepper. Pound chicken cutlets to about a quarter-inch thickness; dredge in a beaten egg and the breadcrumb mixture. Cook the crusted cutlets in a couple of tablespoons of butter or olive oil over medium-high heat until golden on both sides and cooked through. Serve with lemon slices.