A family friend tells the story of how one day, as a young man, he was working out with weights, and his younger brother, always curious about what the older, wiser, man cub was up to, came in, and just stood silently by watching. After surveying the scene: the weights scattered all around, the brothers’ rippling back and shoulder muscles (the result of months of hard work!), the sweaty attire, etc.., the youngster was spontaneously moved to blurt out the words: “I feel stronger just watching you!”
That’s how I feel when I shop at Central Market, located at 320 Coit Road, in Plano, TX. I walk past those amazing displays of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, and check out that incredible case stocked full with oh, I dunno, something like 5,000 varieties of cheeses, or breathe in a hint of some intoxicating, aroma from the bakery, of one of their baked-fresh-daily artisanal breads, and it plays havoc with my emotions, and I want to blurt out the words: “I just feel like a better cook when I enter these doors!”
So, when a friend recently accompanied me there, for the very first time, I was excited for the opportunity to introduce her to a true foodie pardise, and show her the lay of the land…
If you are at all a ‘foodie’ (a person who deeply loves and appreciates food or food related activities), stores like Central Market are the stuff that fantasies are made from. If there has been, or ever will be, a time in your life where you wanted to cook something ‘different’, and the recipe ended up calling for some esoteric spice or ingredient that you never even heard of before, this is the kind of store you’d go to find it . They have everything!
My friend was dully impressed, of course, so I expected her say something like, “Hey, hold up. I need to get a basket…”. Instead, however, she explained (candidly) that stores like that were often intimidating, and might even be the type she’d be more prone to avoid – given her young, professional, ‘living on a shoe string’ lifestyle.
As a parent of adult children, who are also making their own way in the world, her words struck a cord with me, and took me back to that period in my own life (someday I’ll share my potatoes story with you…), so I wanted to share this, in hopes of opening up the lines of communication, and to help provide some added insight for all those who might initially have had that same response.
The simple truth, is that very few people have an unlimited budget for anything, including food, and so even if you don’t feel you can make a place like Central Market your every shopping trip kind of market, it’s not the end of the world. Be aware that it’s there, and don’t hesitate to investigate its bounty, because it is an awesome resource, and one that’s valuable to know about, even if you only take advantage of it every once in awhile. And wherever you do choose to shop, always make it a habit to shop for what’s in season. Shopping for fruit and produce that’s in season (when it’s most plentiful, and at its peak of ripeness), will not only help you choose food that is more flavorful (because it’s ripe), but it’s also the easiest way to find quality ingredients at lower prices.
From that starting point: recognizing that such a store is a resource that you can check out once in a while, begin working on putting together a plan for some simple, easy to prepare, meals, and start to substitute a few, new, fresh ingredients to your normal meal preparations each week. (Adding just one new, healthier, meal plan a week, will have you eating 52 new, healthier, meals every year.) And just the way, when you begin to start setting aside some money from your weekly earnings, into a savings or retirement account, you are preparing for your financial future so you might enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle later on, making this one small change, in the types of meals you consume each week, will pay you dividends as well, in your long term, future, health.
One of my favorite (super affordable) side dishes for dinner, is roasted root vegetables; not only because they’re affordable, but they also pair easily with roasted meats or chicken. (Food tip: Root vegetables are actually roots of plants which are used as vegetables. The list is quite extensive, but includes things like turnips, beets, carrots, parsnips, and sweet potato…, which is a tuberous root.)
Try this easy recipe for Simple & Savory Roasted Root Vegetables:
Prepare 1 to 2 lbs of raw, root vegetables by washing thoroughly, peeling and trimming (as needed), and slicing into 1 inch thick slices. Toss vegetables into a bowl, along with enough olive oil to coat the pieces thoroughly, and add salt and fresh ground black pepper. Spread out the vegetables evenly on a baking sheet, and bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees, for appx. 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, to help ensure even cooking, and taste near the end of cooking time, to test for desired level of tenderness and to adjust seasonings. (Food Tip: To ramp up the flavor even more, try adding several unpeeled cloves of garlic and 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, sage, or thyme, to the mixture before baking.) (Serves 4-6)
Gradual change often is the most sustainable anyway, so don’t worry about starting off with small changes Just start! In time, you’ll wonder how you ever lived any other way.
Photos by: Lauren Carlene Photography
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