from up above

I have been wanting to write something about food here—since, you know, this is a food blog or, it’s supposed to be. I have been wanting to cook something and take pictures and tell you about it, I really have.

And I’ve tried. I mean, Monday, after being out of town for the weekend, I barely unpacked before I roasted broccoli in coconut oil, which is a new way of making it for me. Tuesday, I ate grilled tilapia and grilled asparagus with my family. Each morning this week, I’ve made eggs, first over easy, then sunnyside up for breakfast, usually with a smoothie on the side. And last night, using the same method I blogged about here, I roasted golden beets to put in a salad with greens and goat cheese and red onions.

But every time I think about blogging one of these things, I come back to that picture up there, the one taken from my airplane window Saturday, bound for Cincinnati. It’s crazy how different everything looks from up above, you know? On the ground, I can tell you about the scratch on a bumper, but from the air, I can’t even single out a car. Trees become parts of forests. Fields become parts of huge sections of land.

Perspective changes everything.

golden beets

I like that. And it’s just as true with blogging as with anything else. In a ground-level way, this post is about beets, yes, about how to roast them the same way I have done before, with a few pictures sprinkled through of beets on blue plates. But from up above, it’s about something greater, about the kind of cooking that doesn’t always try new recipes but that remembers routines, feels what is familiar, is more everyday. I like finding more of that type of cooking in my life lately. I like that very much, indeed.

beet salad

After I roasted these two golden beets, pretty mindlessly Tuesday night, while I worked on the computer and listened to music and grabbed fish off the grill, I sliced them into thick pieces and put them in a salad. I wrapped up half and sent them home with my brother. I topped some with goat cheese to put in my lunch.

What I’m learning is that sometimes, maybe most times, this pretty basic, unexciting, humdrum stuff is the most real and valuable stuff we do, in our kitchens, in our lives.

What about you? What staples do you find yourself making throughout your regular days and nights? I’d love to hear!

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Lan

    Rice is a major staple for me, it reminds me of my childhood – the act of washing it, the smell of it steaming and finally seeing it in a pretty little bowl w a pair of chopsticks beside it.growing up I hated everything about rice but when I moved away my perspective changed. Rice is a constant in my life – back then and now.

  2. Kim

    I would love to know your beet-roasting method. I always shy away from it because I find it time consuming and messy, but I think maybe I am doing it wrong. Or not doing it best, anyway.

    My weeknight staples definitely fall into the “what’s in my kitchen?” recipe category. Usually pasta, sometimes salad, sometimes pizza, sometimes a “throw it all in a dish and bake it”, but always a scrounge around the kitchen for whatever’s handy.

    That or thai food delivery. ;-)

  3. Lisa (newRDcook)

    Salads for lunch with lettuce purchased at the weekend farmers market. I pack them the night before in Tupperware just like your picture above, topped with a protein and additional veggies that I may have cooked that evening. Perfect for lunch at work – helps ensure I get a few cups of vegetables in my daily diet!

  4. Gemma

    I have a few staples that don’t require any thought at all:

    Roasted beets, roasted squash, chickpeas, feta, salad onions, olive oil, sumac, and dried mint all mixed together for a hearty lunch.

    Pork burgers made with dijon mustard, lemon and herbs sliced up and stuffed into pittas with salad leaves for a simple and quick dinner.

    Couscous with peppers, cucmber, halloumi, capers, olive oil, dried mint and lemon juice for dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day.

    All dishes I love to eat and all dishes I don’t need to think about at all. They are staples of my weeknights. I look forward to the list growing over the years to come.

    Gx

  5. Maddie

    I’ve recently started making a mindless routine out of this simple weekend lunch: taking a warm baguette and surrounding it with plates of toppings and small bites (sliced radishes, butter and sea salt; goat cheese and honey; cut-up apples).

    I like what you said about these routines being so valuable in our lives. Sure, it’s flashier to go out of your way and make a big production out of something, but the real fabric of our lives is made from the everyday “humdrum” efforts. And that’s true for so much more than food!

  6. Erin

    My old standard is pork chops with pierogis. The pork chops either baked with honey or in the crock pot with onions and cream of mushroom, and the pierogis boiled and then fried.

    This is partly due to the fact that there’s a 1/4 of a pig in my freezer, and partly because it reminds me of dinner when I was growing up. It’s my little indulgence into my Polish heritage which is undoubtedly the most repressed of them all.

  7. Val

    My go to meal is a stir fry. I usually have an onion and garlic in the fridge leftover from something else and I keep some Trader Joes frozen sliced peppers and pineapple chunks in my freezer. I cook those with some sliced chicken breast, teriyacki sauce, and noodles. Really simple and tasty and I usually have most of the ingredients around.

  8. Jarrelle

    at night i try to shy away from carbs but after a good work-out i love to have them so i always to a big veggie dish and i try to do a couple different ones through out the week. to go along with it i am now addicted to Quinoa. it is great!

  9. kate

    Gold beets are a favorite, and I roast them too for salads much like you’ve listed. They really don’t need much, do they?

    Staples for me are so simple; I need peanut butter, lettuce for a quick salad, oats and eggs for breakfasts that give me plenty of pep, chicken or artisan sausages to make a quick dinner. My pantry has 6 kinds of rice in it. The freezer is full of nuts, and in a bind when I am exhausted to the bone like I was on Wednesday this week, there is cereal, topped with brown sugar macerated strawberries that are pretty common in the fridge these lovely June days.

    I so agree with your take on the simple aspects of what feeds us, both in body and in soul. Taking a step back for a different view is always eye-opening.

  10. Hannah

    You are so right – humdrum is so meaningful. I think about that every time I picking weeds from the garden.

    Right now, my staple is toast. It’s so simple, but I love dressing it up and playing around with it. Toast is a wonderful vehicle for all kind of tasty things. My favorites at the moment are peanut butter, with cinnamon swirled in, then drizzled with huckleberry honey and avocado smeared, then topped with grapefruit. Yum!

  11. The Leftoverist

    I just love golden beets. Their vibrant color and great flavor make them almost too good to be true. My staples lately are muesli with soy milk with breakfast, all sorts of salads for lunch and dinner, Triscuits (the one thing I eat every day), and wok-popped popcorn for a snack. And avocados. In any and every way.

  12. Alicia

    Eggs and meat are becoming a part of my everyday eating style, thanks to my new protein diet. I’m surprised to hear that you’re eating eggs every morning! It makes me happy, for whatever reason. And I wish I had read your beet post earlier, because I just butchered a beet in the microwave yesterday.

  13. Caitlin

    It’s true – some of my favorite meals are the quick, 15 minute dinners I whip up after getting home from work. Most times, it’s some sort of grain topped with sauteed greens or diced and quick cooked tomatoes followed by a soft poached egg on top. Add some cheese, any cheese, and there’s comfort in a bowl.

  14. Shannalee

    It’s rare that I don’t respond to each individual comment here, I know, but I’ve been loving reading them! Glad so many of you agree on beets, love toast Hannah!, am honored you like those potatoes Mackenzie, and eggs! eggs! I so agree with you guys on those.

  15. Tara Anderson

    I just finished up with a dietary challenge called Paleo. Not sure if you’ve heard about it, but it was basically five weeks of no grains, no sugar and no dairy. It was difficult, but what I’ve found is that it really helped get me into a good routine of eating lots of real food. During this challenge, my pattern included lots of chopped veggies as snacks, lots of almond butter to help with sweet cravings and coconut milk with berries almost every night for dessert.

    But you mentioned coconut oil in your post and this has to have been my most favorite new find. Sauteed veggies in coconut oil not only taste heavenly, but remind me of the tropics. What can beat that smell coming out of the kitchen?

  16. Angela@spinachtiger

    In trying to answer your question, I realize I don’t have a go to. It changes all the time. But my husband does. He eats peanut butter with apple sauce on toast.

    I need to get some coconut oil. I know it’s good for you. I’m just afraid there will be a coconut taste, which I would hate.

  17. shannalee

    Angela – applesauce on toast! now that I have never tried! on coconut oil: you’re right, it does have a coconut taste, and I totally notice it (but I like it). I will say though, the latest brand I bought from Whole Foods—Nutiva—has much less of a taste. In fact, I really do not even think about the coconut with it, so maybe try that brand!

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