This blog provides as much gratification as anything else I work on in life. Among the many fulfilling components, I derive great satisfaction from providing others with the platform to share their gifts.
Heather Downey’s gifts are many. Today, we illuminate her ability to prepare fresh, healthy, satisfying meals. More importantly, we learn about her “why.” As you well know, we don’t care as much about what people do as much as we care about why they do it.
The meal below is the surface of what Heather provides and suggests for athletes looking for power and speed, mothers and fathers aiming to inspire their kids and people simply striving to achieve their healthiest self. We’ll take deeper dives in the months and weeks to come. For now, enjoy, Heather.
I have a true love of cooking.
Cooking for me represents love. When I’m cooking for myself, it’s an expression of self-love. If I’m not going to first and foremost love and honor myself and my temple, who else is? When I’m cooking for my children, family and friends, it’s an expression of love. There are fewer things I enjoy more than preparing an amazing home-cooked meal for my family and/or friends!
For me, cooking brings up many wonderful memories of my childhood. I was blessed to have a mother who was a true homemaker. We had our own garden; she canned veggies, made jam, baked fresh bread…the list goes on. Our home always smelled of something delicious, fragrant and fresh. My mom fed us healthy, well-balanced homemade meals daily and always made us nutritious lunches for school. I know without a doubt that being raised this way instilled the values of good nutrition and healthy living at a very young age. I love knowing that I’m providing those same sensory experiences and important foundations for my own family.
I love preparing foods that are not only fresh and seasonal, but ones also full of beautiful colors and many different favors. Brightly colored vegetables(and fruit) contain a rich assortment of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables darker and more vibrant in color contain high concentrations of plant compounds called phytochemicals. These phytochemicals provide numerous protective health benefits against cancer and diseases and additionally help control blood sugar and calorie intake in diabetics. So my words of wisdom when choosing your produce….go bright or go home!:)
Here are are just a few reasons to learn to embrace the enjoyment of preparing and cooking meals at home. First and foremost, exceptional nutrition is fundamental for good health. Cooking at home provides you with the opportunity to provide your body with fresh, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods necessary for optimally fueling your body. Cooking at home is also a lot more cost effective. By preparing your meals at home rather than eating out, you will be saving a lot of money, which will improve your finances which, in return, will reduce your stress levels. In fact, another huge benefit to cooking is…stress relief!! In fact, many mental health professionals and therapists are recommending “cooking therapy” for their patients as cures for depression, eating disorders, stress, and much more. In addition to all these reasons for cooking at home, isn’t it also a wonderful feeling to know you are fueling your body and soul in the healthiest way possible? I think so!!
When I’m cooking, I think about my goals and how what I am preparing will nourish my body. I visualize the results of how a healthy meal will fuel my muscles and make me stronger, make my skin more radiant, make my heart healthier, etc…To be honest I sometimes even chuckle to myself as I’m eating something, because I truly think things like, “Because of this pasta tonight I will be strong enough to add even more weight to the leg press tomorrow,” or “If I eat half an avocado today, my skin will be even more smooth for my photo shoot in the morning.” I really do genuinely picture these goals in my head both when I’m cooking a dish and while eating it. And guess what? Actually taking a moment to mentally visualize the results really works for me! And I know it can work for you too!
When I’m in the kitchen, it’s a time to be expressive and creative. I love trying new things and I’m not afraid to experiment, whether it’s spices I’ve never used before or replacing certain ingredients based on likes or dislikes. Cooking should be a fun and enjoyable experience, not something you dread or feels like a chore. If this has been the case for you, it’s not too late. You can change your mindset and absolutely learn to enjoy cooking as much as I do. How do you learn to enjoy it, you ask? First, if you are on Kaplifestyle, you already clearly care about your health. Whether you are an athlete, an aspiring athlete or someone who just wants to live healthier, you are on here, seeking information for a reason: to better yourself. Whether your goals are to become faster, stronger or healthier, cooking can absolutely help you become the best possible version of yourself.
Mediterranean pasta salad with grilled chicken
- 16 oz bag healthy pasta( I use organic quinoa/ brown rice fusilli)
- 2 1/2 cups grilled chicken breast(cut in cubes)
- 1 1/2 cups blanched or lightly steamed broccoli florets
- 1/2 large orange bell pepper
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 cup kalamata olives(pitted and halved)
- 2/3 cup fresh basil( chopped)
- 2/3 cup marinated artichoke hearts( sliced)
- 2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon stone ground mustard (Dijon is fine)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
To prepare dressing:
In small bowl whisk together the red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, mustard, salt and pepper until mixed thoroughly. Slowly add in olive oil while continuing to stir all ingredients together. Set aside.
To prepare pasta salad:
Cook pasta according to directions. Once strained, stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil throughout pasta while it cools, as this will prevent sticking. Once pasta is completely cooled, combine all above ingredients in a very large bowl, including dressing and mix thoroughly. Add extra sea salt and pepper to taste. Let chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes, serve immediately. Unless you have a huge family, there will be leftovers for lunch, which I think is always a great thing!
A few helpful hints:
I often will double the dressing recipe so that I have extra to add the next time I serve it, as the pasta can tend to get a bit dry overnight. If you prefer your pasta salad to be on the wetter side, I would double it and add more according to personal preference.
Remember, cooking should be fun. If making the dressing seems like a pain, by all means pick up a healthy pre-made balsamic vinaigrette. Don’t own a grill or short on time? An all natural rotisserie chicken cut up instead is also healthy and very tasty. Prefer red bell peppers over orange ones? No problem, swap them! Prefer a bit more feta? Add a bit more. Make it joyful, and make it your own.
My hope for you is that that you can truly learn to enjoy cooking for yourself. Preparing healthy, fresh and nutritious meals can be a very enjoyable and creative sensory experience that your body and mind will absolutely thank you for.