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Cooking With Myra: All in a day's work

By By Myra Starkey
Aug. 13, 2013 at 3:13 a.m.

Homemade bean dip with fresh veggies makes a good snack.

Homemade bean dip with fresh veggies

• 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini (white kidney beans), drained

• 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 large garlic cloves, peeled

• 1 Tsp. ground cumin

• 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

• 1 Tsp. grated lemon peel

Puree first five ingredients in processor until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon peel and fresh mint and process. Transfer dip to small bowl. Refrigerate. Serve with fresh vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, carrots, cucumber or celery.

Most of my days are busy from the time I roll out of bed. There does not seem to be a lot of extra time. Taylor wakes me in the morning with a cup of steaming hot latte ready at my place on the kitchen table.

He has already toasted the English muffins or has gone to Halepaska's or Rosita's Bakery and brought me something. Or he hasn't made anything to eat, which means he wants me to cook bacon and eggs. We sit down and talk for about 30 minutes.

We are generally reading the paper and commenting about the day's topics, or we might chat about plans for the day. He leaves for the clinic. I do a little clean-up, get myself presentable and then join him there.

I then "work at work" as my friend and co-worker, Lisa, says. Most of us are employed somewhere, and so that is what we are paid for. We also have other work that we do that involves obligations to friends, family, church, organizations or just cleaning or upkeep of our house.

But during the day, my main focus is to make sure everything is running smoothly at the clinic and to pitch in and help wherever I am needed. As long as Taylor is caught up seeing patients, we go out for a quick lunch at midday.

Actually, I eat a quick lunch. Taylor eats slower and more deliberately, like he is not in a huge rush to get back to work. He likes the mental rest, and I think he tries to get me to also slow down and take a break.

The second half of the day is like the first. We return to work and stay busy until at least 5 or 6 p.m. and then we go home. Once we arrive, I begin the arduous task of creating a four-course gourmet meal. Not really.

Lately, I have been drinking a Slim Fast shake, and he eats cereal. Neither of us likes to eat much at night, and neither of us wants to clean up a mess in the kitchen. If we have dinner guests or it is the weekend, I do try to create something special. When people come over they are not happy if you only give them the choice of a Slimfast shake or a bowl of cereal.

Life is hectic for all of us, yet when someone takes a moment to surprise us, it slows down for that instant. That moment when we are shown thoughtful kindness is an unexpected delight. For example, I came home from work one day after a particularly hard afternoon and on my back porch was a sack of vegetables.

My friend and fellow gardener, John, grew them in his excellent and bountiful plot and, thinking of me, brought me this gift. He probably knew I was at work and left them on the back porch for me to find.

Another time, there were green beans, and they had been cleaned. I ran inside and hastily pulled out a skillet to eat the fruits of his labor. I sauteed them with butter and covered them with toasted almonds and ate like a queen.

This simple act of kindness lifted my spirits - just knowing that someone took time out of their busy day to do something for me.

When our children were young, we used to have a day called "good deed day." Typically, it occurred on weekends, but the good deed for a day could occur at any time. The kids would come up with the ideas, and then we would all carry out the task. One day, the boys picked flowers and then delivered them to neighbors in paper cups. Who would not want to open the door to a 9-year-old neighbor kid holding a cup of flowers? The deeds were never elaborate, and sometimes, they were done in secret, but the deed was a lesson in the act of kindness. I wanted my kids to feel the joy of doing something for someone without any expectation of being repaid for their effort. Their joy was contagious, and soon, the good deeds were more frequent.

Last week, I decided to commit at least 10 minutes every day to do something to make another person smile. I started this task on a Sunday, so I headed out to my garden to pick zinnias. They are in full and radiant bloom. It is almost time to remove them to prepare for a fall garden, and I wanted to share them with friends.

I have a three-strand, high voltage deer fence around my garden to keep those pesky critters away. I was wearing shorts because it was so hot outside. I unhooked the fence and stepped through, being very careful because the wire is "hot," and I know what a punch it packs.

I had made my way around the garden, picking a handful and wishing I had brought a basket. I decided to pick along the edge, and that is when I bent over and encountered the wire. It grazed across the back of my bare legs, and I let out a yelp.

My poodles were running in the yard and heard my call and raced over, but even the dogs were smarter than me and did not dare enter the electrified area. Some good deeds never go unpunished, or in this case, unpublished.

Acts of kindness in our lives never have to be expensive. You can take the trash can out for an elderly neighbor or bake cookies for a co-worker or even a stranger.

You might treat someone to a cup of coffee or a tall glass of sweet tea. The mere act of taking time to do something for someone else is sure to bring joy to your heart and to the recipient.

I know I am supposed to be eating healthy in my never-ending quest to drop a few unwanted pounds, so I decided to prepare a healthy snack for a friend and drop it off at her office.

I know she would have preferred chocolate chip cookies or maybe macaroons, but it is the thought that counts.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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