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Play with your food!

Most of us grew up being told not to play with our food – that the meal was there to build strong bones or have us grow tall – no laughing matter.

But did that take some of the joy out of things?

Last month, a dear friend celebrated her 50th birthday and I made her some cupcakes, which in and of themselves are whimsical. Using fresh strawberries to create a novel cake and frosting was a new twist. Then, taking the time to turn the strawberries that were garnished with into cut flowers took things to the next level, especially for me as I was creating them.

It made me realize that food often becomes solely utilitarian or a means to an end. Yet, there is so much pleasure to be derived from how we prepare and present our food. Adding edible flowers like calendula, nasturtium or dandelion adds a pop of color and a deeper nutrient profile. Pouring sauce around the edge of the plate can offer a bit of pizazz. Even arranging the food on the plate into a smiley face or a heart can brighten the receiver’s day (and yours!).

Preparing foods ahead of time can create so much ease in the kitchen when it comes time to cook. When you have more time in the week (usually on the weekend), take the time to slice and dice vegetables so you can simply grab them out of the fridge and toss them in a pan to elevate breakfast or round out dinner. Make homemade sauces or dressings for quick marinades or a pop of new flavor on old favorites like grilled chicken or noodles. Make things like pesto or marinara in large batches when those ingredients are in season. Then freeze them in small Ziploc bags so you can have defrost a serving or two whenever you want to experience those fresh flavors again. For example, the pesto I have in my freezer from last summer can be tossed with pasta, vegetables and sausage or create a more interesting baked chicken. Add more olive oil and it makes a lovely salad dressing or dip.

Seeking out new recipes or new flavor combinations can be another way to reignite your passion for creating and consuming edibles. Melding bacon into a scallop and lemon recipe adds a new dynamic. Sprinkling some cinnamon into a beef stew creates a warm and interesting experience for the palette. Tossing salad simply with flaky salt and olive oil allows the natural flavors of the lettuce or arugula to really shine.

Most importantly, when you’re choosing or preparing foods, are you present and engaged with what you’re doing? Are you infusing the food with love and joy? When we connect with the fact that whatever we are doing in this moment is our choice, it can bring more fulfillment and freedom to everything we touch each day.

Now that you’re older, you get to decide how you interact with your food – from garden to grocery, pan to plate. Are you ready to have more fun?

Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.