One of the things I wanted to focus on this year was creativity. I think I mentioned that in one of my posts recently.

Creativity comes in different forms for different people and one of mine, the biggest one for me lately has been in the kitchen.

You’re shocked, right? I mean… Who wouldn’t be? I love a lot of things in this world, but playing in the kitchen with cooking or baking or coffee…that’s one of my biggest jams.

Y’all have heard me talk about how long I’ve been cooking, that my first jobs were in food service. The first kitchen I loved was my grandmother’s kitchen and the smells that would come from it. My favorite meal smell is Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and dressing.

My favorite comfort. Food.

Over the years, being married for so long, dinner gets stale. Ideas are harder and harder to come by, even with Pinterest and food bloggers and YouTube and cookbooks galore. I tended to just stick to the things I knew my family would eat until this year.

We joined HelloFresh for a few months and I started to fall in love with cooking again. We tried new dishes. We tried new ways of cooking familiar ones. I tried things I hadn’t before. It became fun, making dinner.

We canceled the service a few weeks ago, but I’m still cooking. I started falling back into the same old ruts from before until dairy decided it didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. Now, I’m trying new recipes that are dairy-free, a lot of them are more vegan than not, and they’re good. They appeal to my sense of curiosity in the kitchen.

My thing right now is taking food I grew up loving and trying to make it tasty and dairy-free. This is easy and not, and it tests and tries and rewards my creative soul. And when my creative soul is thriving in one area, it also starts to thrive in others. I’ve learned that I need a day to simply play in the kitchen. A day to try something new. A day to explore and experiment. A day to just get excited with no expectations.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. I made vegan Mac and Cheese.

Now, I’m a Southern woman. Mac and Cheese is one of our religions down here. Every family has a secret to their recipe. But what happens when you can’t have all those layers and layers of cheesy goodness? Well, you try to find something that will work for you.

This is not the kind I grew up with. This is not the baked with burnt edges of cheese and pasta that I grew up with. This is definitely not the holy grail that the Spouse grew up with. But it worked. It worked and I ate a bowl of it and I wanted seconds. It satisfied the craving for pasta and cheese, baked under a crispy layer of breadcrumbs.

I also roasted my very first butternut squash yesterday. I’d never had it before. Roasted or otherwise. See, I don’t like yellow squash at all and I pretty much lumped all squash into the category of NOPE! But I wanted that mac and cheese up there in that picture and the only way to get it was to roast a butternut squash. I only needed half of it for the recipe, so the other half of the squash was roasted with maple syrup and cinnamon and let me just tell you now… Oh. My. Goodness. Literal goodness.

I was happy. I was making messes left and right. I was testing the taste at every stage of the recipe. I made a cheese sauce out of…no cheese. You read that right. No. Cheese. And yet, with the combination of ingredients in the recipe, it became a cheese sauce for the pasta. Even the Spouse said it was good and that he’d eat it. And remember, he grew up with the holy grail of mac and cheese.

I was so proud of myself and for the second week in a row, I exclaimed how much I love being able to cook.

Yesterday, I also made some iced pour over coffee. And two different kinds of overnight oats (maple cinnamon and lemon).

It’s fills my heart and soul to be able to play in the kitchen. It boosts my overall mental wellbeing. It’s a happiness and a need that I have. It’s a must like writing. When I’m going strong with writing, doing it daily, especially, it becomes a living, breathing part of me and my mental health thrives.

Creativity is something I need to be happy and whole. It’s not everything I need… There are other things too… Music, naps, drives up into the mountains, reading. Each thing fuels and feeds the others. And playing with food, playing in the kitchen… I definitely do need it for my creativity and for this new way of eating. Talk about nourishing the soul and the body…

Talk to y’all soon…