Excellent dinner last night. Got to meet the new woman in my friend’s life.

Food…I love food. Food means company and talk and wonderful smells and sounds. My happy childhood memories all seem to center around Sunday dinners at my grandparents. Which really meant hanging out in the kitchen with my aunts, listening to them cook, chatter and laugh, while the menfolk gathered in the basement to roar at sports. It was fun to head down there to the land of the old-school home bar and pool table, and play with the seltzer bottles. But the kitchen was always the best part.

The best part of being an adult is the freedom to recreate such moments at a whim. When I want to feel that happy buzz and roar again, all I need to do is turn on the oven, open a bottle of wine, and try to tease some company over for a few hours.

As a nutrition coach, it’s also a chance to make sure my nutritionally deprived friends eat enough veggies. Eating veggies is something no one does enough of. Veggies are hard to find, expensive…and we have no idea what to do with them. Don’t you just love that feeling of incompetent horror you get when you head into the vegetable section of the supermarket?

Honestly what the hell is half…no, three quarters of that stuff? Are you really supposed to eat it, or is it actually intended to sit on the counter until it decoratively molds? And why is that thing in the fridge called a crisper when it should be called the “black liquider?” Yech.

Anyway, moving on. My friend asked me to bring a salad last night, and I was happy to oblige. My fiancée had ordered a large variety of heritage and exotic seeds for our garden over the winter. She’d carefully nurtured those seeds into seedlings via totalitarian occupation of bookshelves, and then herded the wee little green beasties outside into the dirt to play and grow big…so we could eat them. Last night it was the turn of the varied lettii (What? “Lettuces?” Sounds less science-y. I’m sticking with lettii. Neeners.) to fill our bellies.

On top of that we added mint, rosemary, and thyme from the garden. Would have added strawberries but the ripe ones got raided by a ravaging horde of biclops. Next layer was crunched up cashews, black sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. And then some dried blueberries, and a big whomp of crumbled goat cheese. Topped off with olive oil and balsamic. It was good. Could have used a little more citrus to balance things out…we should have sliced up some strawberries and dumped them in. Next time.

A salad is a nice gateway to eating veggies. When I work graveyard shifts, I toss the leftover meat from dinner, chopped up, in with the salad for a tasty and healthy lunch. When you make a salad for yourself, I recommend starting out with something simple and easy. Buy a plastic bin of pre-chopped greens. The darker the greens the better. Avoid buying anything pale or light green. Forget salad dressing. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar…or olive oil and flaked salt if you don’t like balsamic. Next add some protein to the greens. Nuts are great and add more quality fats. They also get you used to eating things with a little more variety. You have to train your tastebuds slowly and easily.

Greens, nuts, oil and balsamic…now treat yourself and add in a little something sweet. Just a smidge. Raisins are great, or other dried berries. A little sugar kick, some good proteins, green nutrients, healthy fats. That’s a good meal. You can use this base to experiment with new veggies and flavours. Dice up orange peppers and add them in. Blend in some walnut oil. Avocado oil? Why not. Peanuts? Almonds? Tiny BBQ’d meatballs with maple syrup glaze? Hell yes! Diced up habanero peppers? Balance them with some more aggressive greens like julienned green peppers and maybe a hint of smoked paprika…toss some grilled chicken in.

Our dinner last night was hefty good garlic bread, two kinds of pasta with a killer home made pesto, strawberries and baked goods for dessert, accompanied with a huge Argentinian wine, and a delightfully floral French pinot noir. Chased it all down with some exotic and exquisite New Zealand liqueurs. Eating well is such a chore…