Kitchens are ruled by all kinds of formulas—that's what a recipe is, after all. I like to run my kitchen activity–and my life–by a simple formula called 'QTR'. QTR stands for Quality Time Remaining. It's the brainchild of my dear pal, Charlie Brush, and it captures an entire life philosophy in three simple letters: how do you want to spend your Quality Time Remaining? Charlie is a passionate spirit who knows how to maximize fun and adventure. He also knows how to turn drama and pain into the positive–he's even the kind of person who can find the joy in a near-death avalanche experience. Check out KBF for another inspiring example of how Charlie rolls QTR.
QTR is simply wisdom on command–it is the inner wisdom we all possess, but rarely remember to access. It is the filter through which all decision-making can flow. QTR is my very own built-in psychic and I can ask it anything. From 'What is for breakfast?' to 'Should I make time for this person?' to 'How can live my highest good today?'
It works like this: 'Given my QTR, is this (choose something) in my best interest?' The answer will be instant and accurate; my result is usually 99% in alignment with core values I have chosen for myself: Integrity, Freedom, Wellness, Prosperity, Enrichment, and Vital Relationships. QTR is not a morbid or negative practice at all; in fact, it's quite the opposite. QTR keeps my mind fresh in the present moment, and on track with what I truly desire (mostly playing and writing!)
‘My Healthspan is now the metric I live by…’
At 60+ I don't want to live in the metric of ‘years-of-age’ any more. The art of aging— proactively—can be like living on the tip of awesomeness everyday. My Healthspan is now the metric I live by: 'How long can I live in prime physical health so that I can enjoy a variety of sports, travel, family, and enrichment?' This is my guiding principle. QTR is there to motivate me and gently nudge me towards my goals whenever I am feeling unsure, pressured, or acting inauthentic with myself.
Which leads me to its efficacy in the kitchen. Here's an example of how QTR can break down stale thinking and old patterns that no longer serve. Throughout our thirty-five years of marriage, our standard MO for entertaining has been to throw a dinner party. I appreciate a good dinner party as much as the next person–but giving them? Nowadays? Not so much. I'm no longer invested in this laborious, time consuming ritual. Yet, even though that era feels completed to me, I still yearn to 'feed' my vital relationships and engage with the people I love. I asked QTR to help bring me a fresh perspective on how I can most authentically spend Quality Time Remaining with my people.
‘To those who have mastered this party trick, my awakening might seem a bit slow or silly sounding…’
1. QTR: I want to see my friends (Yes!)
2. QTR: How about a Dinner party? Prep is 8 hours for shopping, cooking & cleaning (NO!)
3. QTR: What about a pop-up party with a pre-hike activity? (Yes!)
4. QTR: What if everyone brings something? (Yes!)
5. QTR: What if I roast a big platter of veggies for the main? (Yes!)
And so we did it. Because it was a casual evening (we were in hiking clothes and playing games) and because I came from a 'pop-up' mentality (quick email invite; no formally set table–just pretty paper napkins, compostable bamboo plates, and glassware set out), and because everyone brought an element of the meal, it was super easy. We had fourteen people, which I would never attempt at a regular dinner party. We sat wherever, and people moved around at will, catching up after a long winter. There was less superficial chit-chat to endure, and more convivial clusters of people enjoying actual conversations. I literally spent less than an hour preparing (I went skiing and took a nap with my QTR) and I have never felt such joy or relaxation while entertaining in our home. To those who have mastered this party trick, my awakening might seem a bit slow or silly sounding–but not for a serious cook, who happens to be a Virgo. I am so happy to be QTR-cured!
My point is that we all have our blind spots, obligations we dislike, and self-inflicted patterns that don't serve us any longer. Spending a little time figuring out how we really DO want to spend our QTR is a wonderful practice to play around with. Ask yourself: 'Given my QTR, is this (choose anything)in my best interest? Does it spark joy? With a practice of QTR you will begin to release old, killjoy patterns and invite your truest desires to blossom.
For my next pop-up I'll be snuggled outside by the fire pit serving a delicious 30-minute Pad Thai in fun take-out containers with chopsticks. My friends will bring additional goodies to fill out our evening's repast, and I will be feeling serious QTR joy.
QTR Pad Thai (VG)
1. Rough-chop 2 large onions; slice 2-leeks. Heat a large dutch oven and add 2-T of vegetable oil. Saute onion and leek on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes, salting lightly, twice.
2. Meanwhile: slice 3-sweet peppers (tri-colored) into thin strips; 5 garlic cloves, minced; 2-cups snap peas sliced in half.
3. Add garlic and peppers. Saute 5 minutes. Lightly salt.
4. Add 1-16 ounce can full fat coconut milk and vegetable stock, as needed. Add 16-ounces of rough-chopped oyster and shitake mushrooms. Add 2-3 frozen ginger cubes, or ginger to taste. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Adjust for seasoning. Meanwhile, lightly toast 1-2 cups of coconut in a nonstick pan, reserve for toppings.
5. Turn off heat and add 3-cups fresh bean sprouts and 2-cups snap peas. Let Pad Thai sit, covered, for 3 minutes. Stir in 32-ounces of fresh Pad Thai noodles that have been soaked and softened for 1-minute and drained. (If fresh noodles are not available, use dried and follow box directions, which take longer.)
To serve: Ladle portions into take-out containers and top with lots of fresh mint, peanuts, toasted coconut, and market chili garlic sauce. Serves 8-10.
I’d love to hear from you—feel free to send your comments to me.