I’ve been reading a lot lately, in one form or another, about finding balance in life. I’ve avidly made my way through, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life, and Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, among other titles. Though they all sound a little different, I feel like they all sort of tie together remarkably well; and I’ve certainly gotta say something, or another in each one of these books has really struck me.
Essentialism, for example, focuses on figuring out what’s essential or important in ones own life, and eliminating the things that aren’t. This applies primarily to the activities we spend our time on, but I think the philosophy applies equally well to the objects we have in our lives. The basic philosophy is this: if it’s not useful, productive, or bringing joy to our lives then perhaps it’s not worth our time (or space) and in fact is keeping us from spending our time on the things that do matter. We then need to make a conscious decision about where we do want to spend our time by eliminating those things that aren’t really essential; because we can’t really have it all. You can choose anything, but you can’t choose everything. Something will give somewhere. You can make that choice yourself or let external factors make the choice for you.
Overwhelmed, approaches the same concern, not having enough time for what really matters to us: meaningful work, time with those we love, and fun. The book at it’s heart is a sociological look at time. Our time. Where it went, why we never have enough of it, especially for the good stuff, and what we might do to change that. The book is a mix of the author’s personal experiences with not having enough time, scientific research about what we humans do with our time, and interviews of people who have found a way to balance their time so it includes not only meaningful work, but time for meaningful connections with family and friends, and even time for play.
Some of the books, like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and A Minimalist Living Guide are more about finding a balance with our stuff. Though I will again make the argument that these same ideas could probably be applied to our time and activities as well. Most people in the Western world have more stuff then they need, or perhaps really deep at heart, want. Their stuff is managing them, wasting their time with endless maintenance, cleaning, and organizing. Both of these books definitely approach solving the problem with a minimalism method which I find very appealing. I’ve been actually a fan of the Miss Minimalist blog for a long time. I think the blog is probably how I came upon the concept of minimalism in the first place. It was a good introduction. Though I’m sure my version of minimalism will never quite look like hers, I feel like she gets the real point behind the principal, which is less stuff means more time, money, and energy for what does matter.
I think sometimes people form an inaccurate picture in their heads when they hear the word minimalism. So, when I say minimalism, know: I’m not talking about an uber expensive condo painted in all white, with barely any furniture, let alone a comfortable piece of furniture a person could sit on. I’m not talking about getting down to the point of owning only one bowl and one fork. I know much of the world lives this way, or even worse, but I personally consider myself and others in a similar situation very blessed to have more physical comforts then that. Self imposing scarcity, doen’t necessarily bring about the real goals of minimalism. I guess I’m trying to say the principal of minimalism is about more then having just the bare minimum or doing the bare minimum. It’s again about making a conscious choice about what adds real value to our lives. However, because of this ‘choice facto’ the end result of minimalism, is probably going to look pretty different for everyone who decides to apply it.
I’ve been reading these things a. because I find them strangely fascinating; and b. because I feel like I could really use more balance in my life lately. I’m sure I’m not the only one who ends up feeling over committed, over stuff-ed, and like I’m probably always over spending I’ve been looking for the roadmap to treat some of these ‘over-eges.’ As I said something in each one of the books I mentioned struck me, probably because they are at least a partial answer to some of this sense of over-everything I’ve been feeling.
I’m not going to go into excruciating detail about each and every one of my little epiphanies that touch on all corners of my life; but I will share a little bit about one realization: I’m a perfectionist about everything. This actually relates to almost everything in my life, but, even most recently to my cooking habits.
I’ve found, I’ve become a perfectionist about all the food I cook.
Now, running a food blog and doing a good job means you need to develop recipes that really work and taste good. You also need to take photos that show this food in an appealing light. Reasonable right?
I think so. But for some reason, I’ve started going past this point. Doing these reasonable things well has somehow translated in my own head to mean I must bring you elaborate recipes here at the blog or make absolutely everything anyone in my house eats from scratch. This is kind of ironic because one of my goals for the blog is to share recipes that make everyday food special without making it complicated; and I also very much think connivence food and pre-made food has it’s place.
It’s fun to follow elaborate recipes sometimes, when I feel like it (choice!). However, food can most certainly be exciting and delicious without being elaborate too. I believe you can feed yourself and others well without torturing yourself. AKA: balance not perfectionism. So why am I suddenly being a perfectionist, and departing from my blogging goals to boot? Honestly, I don’t really know. But, recognizing I’ve been doing it has made me want to stop, and return to the more balanced approach I really already believe in.
Anyhow, in honor of that, today’s recipe (Though honestly calling it a recipe could be a stretch. It’s more of a toss together.) is working with what is probably the most simple vegetable enhancing technique of all: the sauté. Get your pan nice and hot. Add olive oil. Add veggies. Add seasoning. Ten minutes and a little string and you have a really flavorful dish on your hands. More healthy vegetables that taste good, and also happen to be simple to prepare! Plus, the ingredient list is super short, and most likely readily available. Perhaps best of all, the simplicity of the recipe allows the already flavorful vegetables to shine. Top with a little fresh grated cheese, because, well, can you ever go wrong with a little cheese?
Perhaps balance at last?
At least for tonight.
Simple Sauté: Zucchini, Spinach, and Toasted Almonds
- splash of olive oil
- 1/3 cup blanched almonds
- 4 zucchini, cleaned and sliced into thin rounds
- 3 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan or asiago cheese
1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot add the olive oil and almonds. Toast the almonds string frequently until they are lightly golden brown.
2. Add the zucchini rounds to the pan. Sauté until the rounds become lightly browned and soften. Stir regularly to prevent any burning. At the last minute add the spinach to the pan. Cook until the spinach has fully wilted into the other vegetables.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the cheese right before serving. Serve hot.