Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Simple Life

I recently bought The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. Not to be too dramatic, it's changing my life. The author calls it a delicious revolution and I couldn't agree more. Although, truthfully, there are many people around the world who have always cooked simply, and continue to do so. The book is asking those people who have come to rely on faster convenient foods to think about the quality of the food they choose, and about the beauty of the eating ritual. Food is necessary for our entire well-being, not just as fuel. Ms Waters speaks about eating locally and seasonally, and although this is not ground breaking news in today's environmentally-conscious world, the way the book is presented is. She teaches her readers to move away from recipe-dependency, and to move towards cooking intuitively and simply. This is a complet change for me - a compulsive recipe follower. She gives us the basics - simple tools necessary in the kitchen, as well as simple techniques such as roasting and making broths. She then gives a few receipes for each technique to be practiced often. The last part of the book is filled with even more recipes, each of which will be learned and put into rotation at my house.
The "simple" way of approaching things is what is resonating with me. Life is so busy and chaotic sometimes, that pulling back from that, and just sitting down and reflecting is how I cope. I've had a lot of ups and downs recently, been busy with so many different things (but at the same time feel I have not really got anywhere), and I want to just sit back, reflect, and enjoy the everday activities. I don't want cooking after work to be a chore anymore - I want it to be a time of reconnecting with my husband and relaxing and recharging. I don't want running a household to be a chore anymore - I want it to be an enjoyable part of life. I don't want to be forever putting off creative ideas and activities for lack of time, or for feeling that something other must be done first. Looking back at how I approach life, I realize that this desire has always been there for me - when I first moved out on my own, I sat down for weeks in a row and copied some of my mother's recipes onto 3.5 x 5 cards, handwriting them in a fountain pen, instead of just photocopying the pages; I get great pleasure from digging a new garden - just smelling the dirt and thinking of the potential of the garden; I am thrilled when I take a freshly baked loaf of bread out of the oven, made completely from scratch. But these are just moments in the middle of stress and work and busy-ness. I want more.
I've spent a few months now reflecting on big things. I've recently finished the second of two unsuccesul rounds of IVF, and have decided not to try again. We are uncertain whether we will be adopting, or moving forward in life without children. Either way takes a re-organization of our ideas and thoughts and dreams of the past 5 or 6 years years which were concentrated on the goal of having kids. Either way, I want to move on from the stress and heaviness of the past several years, and enjoy the here and now, instead of forever waiting for the future to happen. Guess what, I've blinked and almost a decade has gone by.
We are now in a new house, in town (we were way out in the country before), and are reconnecting with friends and family. Now is the perfect time to start enjoying now. I've taken a couple of days off work, and am sitting in my new back yard, messy as it is, sitting enjoying a coffee, barefoot in the grass, sitting under a tree, smelling the lilacs from the neighbours, watching a bird feed her new babies, listening to the wind in the leaves, and planning future 'now' moments.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The weather outside is frightful!

This is what fall is supposed to be like! Not so, here. The winds are ferociously blowing outside and the trees are swaying back and forth in response. All the colourful leaves are being blown off the trees and whipped across our property. The rain is coming down and it's icy cold - threatening to turn to snow later this afternoon if I believe the weather channel. The sky is completely grey and the only bright colour out there is the maroon from the sumac fruit (a learning moment: the fruit stacks are called bobs!), and the bright ocean blue of the damn inflatable pool that I've yet to roll up and bring into the shed.

Today calls for something homey and yummy! It's a good think I bought a bag of local apples recently - I'll make apple crisp! I take out my ceramic pie dish and place it on the counter. Not that your pie dishes must be ceramic, I just like the feel of this one. Mine is just plain beige, not cranberry like the one online. It sets the tone for whatever I'm going to make - it says: "whatever you bake in me is going to be yummy and delicious and smell like home". Then I cough loudly and look away, and try to look cool after imitating the pie dish talking outloud.... I like the ceramic ones too as they "cure" like a cast-iron pan over time, making them naturally non-stick.

I cut up the apples in wedges, taking out the cores, and put them in the pie dish (maybe about 10 small apples). Next, I take a bowl and mix up:
  • 1 cup brown rice (or other non-gluten) flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (see note below)
  • 2/3 cup of brown sugar (see other note below)
  • 1/2 little tub of Fleishmann's non-salted margarine (or casein-friendly: 1 stick butter)

Use a pastry cutter or a couple of knives to chop up the margarine into the flour and oats, to a coarse texture. Once mixed, pour the topping all over the apples and pop the whole dish into the oven for 50 minutes at 375F. Perfect for a day like today!

Note on oats: oats are naturally gluten-free, however, since most oats are processed in a mill/factory where other flours are being milled, the companies cannot guarantee that they are gluten-free (including Bob's Red Mill for most of their oats). There are, however, some companies that now have guaranteed gluten-free oats (including Bob's Red Mill).

Note on brown sugar: I adjust the amount of sugar according to whatever fruit I use - if the fruit is more naturally sweet like peaches, I'll use less, but if it is more tart, or I add in berries, I'll use more.

Note on my ineptitude: I went to take a picture of this super crisp, and found the batteries were dead. Left the camera on last time I downloaded pictures :( So, no picture this time of food. I'll try to be less of a useless blogger next time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Buckwheat Zydeco Pancakes

It was Saturday morning. I knew I'd be home slogging it out on the laptop for much of the day, working :(. I needed something hearty to get me through the day! I looked in the fridge... wasn't feeling like eggs. I was feeling like bacon, but we didn't have any. Hmm... what to make? Oatmeal? Ok... but guy doesn't like oatmeal very much. He eats it if he has to, but only if it's slathered in fruit and brown sugar and yogurt and nuts and everything else in the pantry that could effectively hide the "bland" taste of the oats.

Then I remembered the entry from Gluten Free Girl where she talks about her husband not being into oats as much as she is. She had come up with a recipe for pancakes, which incorporated cooked oats, and her husband loved them! I decided to do the same thing. I guess it's a bit like hiding the veggies in chocolate sauce so your kids eat them. Or wrapping your dog's flea pills in meat (which only works if your dog is not so smart - ours used to neatly lick off all the meat and then, just as neatly, spit out the whole pill, and then would look at us with a look that said: "Really? You think I'm that dumb? Come on, people, give me more credit than that!" And then he'd walk away, rolling his eyes at us and shaking his head, laughing.)

So, Shauna uses sweet rice flour and oat flours in her pancakes, neither of which I had. I did have regular white rice flour, so decided to use that. My other choices were brown rice, corn, potato, or buckwheat flours. I decided to try the buckwheat, as I had been wanting to try it, and hadn't yet had the chance. I knew from reading about 'alternative' flours that buckwheat gives an earthy flavour (so good for breads and such). And, despite its name, is not related to wheat in any way. Plus it has a cool name - I can't seem to stop at buckwheat, I have to say buckwheat zydeco, and that is just plain fun on a Saturday morning. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Ok, back to the kitchen. I made the pancakes following her recipe, but substituting the rice flour for the sweet rice flour, and the buckwheat (zydeco!) flour for the oat flour. They, of course, ended up being much darker than in her picture, and they were absolutely DELISH! Guy loved them too! We sprinkled ours with icing sugar, and then drizzled maple sugar (well, maybe a little more than drizzled) all over the top. Yum yum!

Bon appetit, mes amis!