Aprovechar

Taking the full measure of life

Life, Evolving

January 4th, 2010 · 23 Comments

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While all was quiet on the blogging front, I moved. A long way.

Last year was a hard year. My husband finished his Ph.D. We looked at a million options of where to live. Seriously, we considered everywhere from Berlin to Adelaide (South Australia) to Seattle. We also spent a good bit of our savings while I wasn’t bringing home the (relative) bacon like I used to, and while I found my first year of self-employment hard (emotionally). In the ‘end,’ it seemed we were destined to stay in Atlanta a while. Dan took a job there. I started grad school in Seattle and flew out for it about a week a month, doing the rest long-distance. I spent the whole year feeling unsettled and, quite frankly, anxious. And it showed—in my difficulty to remember good self-care tenets, among other things. I tried. But I didn’t feel like I had much to say. I panicked when I felt like I did have something to say, and I found much of what I believe deeply hard to do. Much of what I want my life to be about, much of what I consider Truths we should all know, I struggled with. Self-acceptance. (We are all enough. We may need to grow, but we also need to appreciate ourselves.) Acceptance of the unknown. Acceptance of change. Etc. I gained between ten and fifteen pounds over the course of 2009, but that was the least of it.

I still worked hard at taking care of myself. But my exercise routine suffered. A knee injury in August didn’t help. I would have to say of the last 3-4 years, this past year was the most difficult for figuring out, and achieving, what I needed. If I were going to paint the year 2009, it would be swirls of color—a few strands bright (cooking classes I taught, the births of friends’ babies), many dark. Very swirly. Very uncertain. Very anxious.

Despite having great co-workers, my husband didn’t love his job in Atlanta. If you spend a chunk of your life getting a Ph.D., you should love the job you get using it. But the work wasn’t a good fit for him, and because I am an emotional sponge, I soaked up his feelings and felt them myself. Empathy is good. No emotional boundaries between yourself and your spouse is not good. It didn’t help that he took the job–for my sake, for the sake of my grad school tuition–while he was still finishing his thesis. I didn’t see very much of him for several months, when I did see him he was a ball of stress, and that whole situation was hard on both of us.

I knew I could get back to good, that I could achieve a different and new good. The question has been how, and the answer has been a struggle within myself–a mighty, internal wrestle between Jacob and Gabriel. Living in limbo is very uncomfortable.

In November, Dan was recruited for a new job in Santa Monica, California—a job with a very respected research firm. We flew out for the interview even though I had always told Dan I wouldn’t live in California. The most logical reason is the cost of living in much of the state, but California had also just never held for me the appeal it holds for some people. Nonetheless, when Dan left his interview, he told me it seemed like the perfect job for him right now. When the money worked out where we could manage to afford it, I gave Dan my blessing to take the job. Due to internal regulations, the company had to have him on payroll by a certain date, so we rearranged our lives to arrive just before Christmas.

sally-santa-monica-beach-sunset

I know that it’s a fallacy to think that a change of location fixes everything. I’m not sure that, by itself, a change of location fixes anything for very long. But I do think you can let a new location be a catalyst for change. What do I want out of life? Who am I at my core? Who do I want to be? How can I express myself as that person starting now? What plans should I make to make life here what I want for it to be? Those are the kinds of thoughts that have been running through my head.

So what am I doing about it now that we’re here?

I’m utilizing a life coach. Molly and I talked before I moved, but I decided to wait till I was settled here to officially start working with her. We just started last week, and I’m working on a plan for my year. I’m really pumped about coming up with my goals and the steps to reach them.

I’m running, and I’m doing it first thing in the morning to get my emotions settled, as exercise does, at the start of the day.  I’ve been out of running for a while.  Since my knee still gets unhappy sometimes, I am easing back into it by redoing Couch to 5k. With low humidity and weather in the 60s-70s year-round, Santa Monica is great for running. I’m planning on joining the (cheap!) YWCA this week, as well, for access to their weight room. I’m also contemplating yoga and belly-dancing classes. Santa Monica basically has classes in anything you can think of. I’m also halfway considering using a personal trainer for a while, though the cost is off-putting.

I joined a weekday hiking group. My first hike is on Wednesday. I’m excited to go take photographs on the hike, and, I hope, also meet people. My hiking boots are on our big shipment of belongings that haven’t arrived yet, but I stopped by REI’s scratch-and-dent sale this weekend and found a pair I might like better than my original ones.

I (and Dan, to a degree) joined a variety of social and volunteer groups: a book club, a wine outing group, a YWCA event-planning board, an urban adventures group, a Westside women’s social group. I may, in time, create a gluten intolerance and/or food allergy group here, but I’m going to let myself settle in more before I think about that in much detail.

I am reaching out to friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. Know someone wonderful on the Westside of LA? Connect me–I’d love it. (I’m not a snob about locations, but traffic in LA is insane, so I’m accepting that most of my friends are going to need to be near me.)

I’m getting a bicycle, a beach cruisier, so I can skip using my car as much as possible. I’m leaning toward the Electra Townie 3i, though I welcome suggestions of other kinds. (I want the option of foot brakes, I want an internal shifter, and I want to be able to put my feet down at stop lights.) I discovered when I went to test-ride a couple of them that I have developed a fear of bike-riding. It has been about twenty years since I’ve ridden a bike, so I’m not chastising myself for that. But I’m also not letting it hold me back. I’m going to practice with my bike in an empty parking lot before I join the world on it.

My husband and I chose an apartment that’s well within what we can afford. It’s still a hell of a lot of money, but it’s not a stretch for us with his new salary. We ended up feeling like the great little house with the gourmet kitchen that we rented in Atlanta stretched us too thin financially there. We aren’t doing that to ourselves here, even though it means we’ll be in a small place for at least the first year.

We are putting money directly into savings from each paycheck to rebuild our savings account.

We are getting a dog. I have wanted a dog for ever so many years. We weren’t ready for one till now. The dog will be my jogging buddy in the mornings and then my companion (along with the two cats) while I work at home during the day. We have been approved for a rescued English Springer Spaniel and are just waiting to be matched with the right puppy!

I’m writing, as you can see. I’m putting the pen to the paper (or the fingers to the keyboard) to keep it real, and honest, and mostly positive. I can do this. I know I can.

→ 23 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

More, Please

January 3rd, 2010 · 7 Comments

Hello there.

Um, Happy Thanksgiving.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukah. Festive Eid. Etc.
Happy New Year.

This afternoon, I was sitting at the farmer’s market relishing a chicken and poblano tamale from a nearby stand when I overheard the two girls at the table beside me talk about how “definitely, yes, tomorrow” they were starting on new, extreme dietary regimens. They debated the reward versus difficulty of the Beyonce lemon-and-cayenne plan. One of the girls was determined, it sounded like, to start a new eating plan tomorrow that involved only greens, fruit juice, chicken, and beef. All organic, which was the only part of the diet that sounded reasonable. I mean, really? Can you maintain that diet the rest of your life? Would you want to? No? Then I suggest that you not take that route for weight loss, either.

What I want for myself this year, what I suggest for you as well, is more. Yes, more. How do you and I figure out how to maximize health and pleasure? How do we figure out how to include accomplishment and rest? How do we throw ourselves out there and also replenish ourselves?

I want more:

more exercise that I love, afterward if not while I’m doing it
more vegetables in each meal
more adventures in hiking, travel, cuisine
more cuddling with my husband
more heartfelt moments with friends

We can whittle life down to its meanest components. We can survive, for a time, on orange juice, kale, and broiled chicken. But there’s so much more to be had: nourishment, fulfillment, exploration. Let’s set goals and take paths that offer us more. Not a life of hedonism, but an attempt at balance with only occasional overkill. Aprovechando.

→ 7 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Thanksgiving: What To Make When You’re Gluten-Free or Allergen-Free

November 24th, 2009 · 5 Comments

thanksgiving

Going gluten-free, casein-free, egg-free, and soy-free this Thanksgiving? Here are some suggestions of dishes you can create to make your celebration fabulous:

Hors d’oeuvres/Soups/Starters
Carrot Soup
Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Soup
Ginger Sweet Potato Soup
Guacamole With Pomegranate Seeds (with gluten-free, soy-free tortilla chips—soy lecithin okay)
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (with cut veggies)
Fried Chickpeas & Spiced Nuts With Olives & Radishes (using ghee or olive oil instead of butter)
Pumpkin Soup with Red Pepper Mousse (using MimicCreme in lieu of heavy cream)
Roasted Chestnuts
Carrot Soup With Toasted Almonds (using ghee or olive oil instead of butter)
Cashews With Crispy Sage & Garlic

Starchy Sides
Wild Rice With Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Corn
Jeweled Rice With Dried Fruit (using ghee or olive oil instead of butter)
Moscatel-Glazed Parsnips (using ghee or olive oil instead of butter)
Potato-Parsnip Puree (using MimicCreme in lieu of cream and ghee or olive oil in lieu of butter)
Potato, Chestnut, & Celery Root Puree (using ghee or olive oil instead of butter)
Autumn Millet Bake
Cornmeal Crunch (using nutritional yeast with a bit of salt instead of Parmesan)

Veggies
Creamed Leeks (using safe bread and MimicCreme plus 1 tablespoon of tahini in lieu of cream)
Brussels Sprouts Hash With Caramelized Shallots (using ghee or olive oil instead of butter)
Crisp Haricot Verts With Pine Nuts (using olive oil instead of butter)
Brussels Sprouts With Buttered Pecans (using ghee or olive oil instead of butter)
Baby Peas With Bacon & Crispy Leeks (using ghee or olive oil instead of butter and MimicCreme + 1 tablespoon tahini instead of cream)
Kale With Garlic & Cranberries (this dish is super-easy and amazingly good)
Sauteed Broccolini With Garlic
Shredded Brussels Sprouts With Maple Hickory Nuts (or Pecans) (using ghee or olive oil in lieu of butter)
Green Beans With Ginger Butter (using ghee or olive oil in lieu of butter)
Brussels Sprouts With Shallots & Wild Mushrooms (using ghee or olive oil in lieu of butter)
Braised Kale
Caramelized Broccoli With Garlic
Kale With Currants, Lemons, & Almonds
Roasted Broccoli With Ancho Butter (using ghee or olive oil instead of butter)
Sweet & Sour Catalan Spinach

Bread
Skillet Cornbread With Green Chiles & Cinnamon

Desserts
Dark Chocolate Bark W/ Walnuts & Dried Cherries (use dairy-free chocolate, soy lecithin okay)
Chocolate Sorbet (made with dairy-free chocolate, perhaps with OJ instead of water?)
Plum Crumble (made with an egg replacer and ghee instead of butter)
Pumpkin-Pecan Cookies
Apple Cake With Cranberries
Chocolate Cupcakes with Coffee Icing
Mexican Chocolate Cake
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Cranberry & Vanilla Bean Sorbet
Warm Pumpkin Cake (using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour + 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, flax egg replacer, and ghee or coconut oil instead of butter)
Baked Figs in Lemon Syrup (using ghee or coconut oil in lieu of butter)

→ 5 CommentsTags: autumn · celebrations & holidays · dessert

Holidays With Food Restrictions: Help Is Here In Atlanta!

November 11th, 2009 · 5 Comments

thanksgivingmeal

Here’s the email I just sent out to my Sally-created-Atlanta-events mailing list:

The holidays are often hard for people with food restrictions, but we can take away the anxiety and sadness and bring back the joy! I have a variety of upcoming private parties, and I would love for you to be my guest.   These parties will all be in a hands-on, small-group format (min. of three, max. of six participants) in my house in Kirkwood (a neigborhood on the eastern side of Atlanta).  Sometimes the scariest thing about going gluten-free or allergen-free is getting in the kitchen and just doing it. Getting you over that hump and into some delicious eating will be what we’ll do at these parties.  Of course, we’ll also have lots of time to talk through any issues you’re having with your cooking techniques and food restrictions—and we’ll be able to simply enjoy each other’s company.

The suggested donation is included with each description.  To reserve your spot at the parties, either Paypal me at this email address (sally.parrott@gmail.com), including the party/parties you want to attend, or send me an email to say you want to sign up but would prefer to mail me a check.  We’ll figure it out from there.  Once I hit the maximum number of attendees for a given party, I will send out an email and decline any future Paypal money that comes in for that party.

If you have other food restrictions than gluten, soy, dairy, and eggs, and you are planning to attend a party, please don’t hesitate to let me know what they are so I can make sure the recipe choices will be geared toward including you.  That said, I can’t promise my kitchen is completely free of any traces of ingredients other than gluten, soy, and eggs.

SOLD OUT Sunday, 11/22, 4-7 p.m.: Holiday Sides SOLD OUT

Figuring out how to make the best parts of Thanksgiving—the amazing side dishes—can make you feel panicky when you’re eating free of gluten, soy, dairy, and eggs.  We’ll prepare and eat a variety of fabulous, mostly vegetarian side dishes that are allergen/gluten-free but will make your mouth and stomach happy. Featuring locally grown, usually organic produce.  $45

Sign-up deadline: midnight on Thursday, November 19th, or when max (6) is reached (SOLD OUT)

Saturday, 12/12, 3-7 p.m.: Turkey & Trimmings

A whole holiday meal plan—soup to dessert—that we’ll cook, mix, and bake together! Then we’ll sit down to enjoy it, and you’ll go home ready to prepare wonderful dishes for your family and friends. Free of gluten, soy, dairy, and eggs, and featuring locally grown, usually organic produce. $60

Sign-up deadline: midnight on Wednesday, December 9th, or when max (6) is reached

Saturday, 12/19—two sessions at 12-3 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.: Holiday CookieFest 2009

Going without gluten, soy, dairy, and eggs at the holidays doesn’t have to mean going without delicious cookies.  We’ll make, bake, and even decorate a variety of cookies that are allergen- and gluten-free. After our tasting of the finished products, you’ll have a variety of recipes, great holiday memories, and a half-dozen cookies to take home with you.   $40

Sign-up deadline: midnight on Wednesday, December 16th, or when max (6) is reached

Sunday, 12/20, 4-7 p.m.: Leftover Heaven

How are you going to make good use of the money and effort you put into that leftover turkey, ham, or other holiday food? We’ll explore delicious gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and egg-free ways of using holiday leftovers.  Come and find out how to make satisfying, stomach- and heart-warming dishes from soup to tetrazzini. (Buying turkey on sale after the holidays can also be a bargain!) Featuring locally grown, usually organic produce.  $45

Sign-up deadline: midnight on Thursday, December 17th, or when max (6) is reached

~~~~~~

During the week before Christmas, I’m also available during the day to hold a private party with your friends and/or kids (at your house or mine) for cookie baking and/or decorating.  The cost will vary depending on your desires, so just get in touch if you’re interested.

If you want to give attendance at one of these parties as a gift for someone, I’m happy to make up a gift certificate for you, as well.  Just let me know.

And if you would like assistance in other ways, get in touch, and we’ll discuss it.

Let’s take back our enjoyment of the holiday season!

thanksgiving_table

→ 5 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Serenity & Inspiration

October 22nd, 2009 · 11 Comments

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change:

  • uncertainty about where we’ll be living in a year (or less), and the emotional toll that brings;
  • ambivalence about whether my chosen grad school was the right path;
  • the fact that some of my queries will be rejected;
  • the exhaustion I’m experiencing lately;
  • the fact that Dan can’t be an equal partner in the upkeep of our house and lives right now;
  • the emotional struggle that fall and winter always brings;

courage to change the things I can:

  • move my body lots daily, even if the only actual ‘exercise’ is just a walk;
  • continue to cook healthy, moderate-fat, high-vegetable, high-whole-grain meals for us on a near-daily basis;
  • sit on the porch when it’s sunny and warm and do work there;
  • sit under my SAD lamp while eating breakfast each morning;
  • do part of my class readings in advance, each morning, so that I keep up;
  • finish my re-write for a class paper by tomorrow night, rather than waiting till just before it’s due;
  • seek out time with friends twice a week;
  • engage in co-creation at school by posting in the appropriate forum about what bothers me—trying to find solutions instead of just feeling irritation;
  • visit possible shared work spaces next Wednesday afternoon;
  • do a daily activity that’s just for me, because it inspires me differently than other things;
  • send off the queries anyway, even with the possibility of rejection at hand, starting with one prepared by tonight for my writing critique group to check for me;

and wisdom to know the difference.

I’m not alone here.  You’ve made that clear through comments and emails I’ve gotten since yesterday.  So . . . what do you need to accept? What actions can you take right now to change what’s been bothering you?

→ 11 CommentsTags: sturm and drang

To Be Honest

October 21st, 2009 · 13 Comments

self-portrait-october-21-2009

For a couple of days, I’ve been spending a couple of minutes here and there searching on Flickr for a Creative Commons-licensed photo of someone barely keeping her head above water.  But I haven’t found any, so instead you get a self-portrait I took today that isn’t nearly as interesting, perhaps, but illustrates what I’ve spent a lot of time doing:  contemplating. What do I want from life? How do I design my life around what is important and fulfilling? What keeps me from going for some of what matters most to me? How do I get around or go through those barriers?

I’ve also kept busy with a variety of other activities. They say the first quarter/semester of grad school will kick your butt, and they aren’t lying; I’m amazed by my classmates who are managing to hold down full-time jobs and get all the work done.  I’ve been sick with what may have been H1N1; I’m still coughing a bit, still tired, a month later.  (This can happen.) I’m helping my husband get through the last few weeks before his Ph.D. defense; that means I’m the primary cook and cleaner and errand runner, and I will be for the next month.  I’m flying to Seattle for about one week a month for my graduate program.  I’m worn out pretty regularly.

And I’m not writing enough.  Not here, not for money, not anywhere.  I keep thinking of posts I want to write at inconvenient times, and then I never make the time. In fact, I’m not doing enough of a lot of what matters to me.  After the great cooking class I taught in August, I have thought about scheduling another one and have written some notes, but I haven’t made it happen yet.  (If you want to be on my email list about future cooking classes, shoot me an email at sally dot parrott at gmail dot com).  I had planned to apply for a small part-time job managing a farmer’s market here in Atlanta (would have loved it! would have been great at it!), but I never had the spare time to get everything together for it.  I could have forced time for it, but I didn’t, and I don’t quite understand the inertia that kept me from it.  I also haven’t exercised as much as I would have liked in the past six months—partly because summer in Georgia makes me lethargic, and partly because I went from a kickball knee injury into more exercise for two weeks into H1N1-ish illness.  I am, at least, climbing out of that; I started back running yesterday, and I am working on a consistent yoga practice. When I do it, exercise makes me feel better in a whole range of ways (not to mention allows me to stay at a healthy size).

How much am I just busy? How much am I just recovering? How much am I being too hard on myself? How much am I avoiding what would make me more fulfilled? You can see why my mind goes and goes.

So I’m in a strange sort of place in life right now: I am free to schedule my days according to my own wishes, yet I seem to be having difficulty fitting in what I want to do.  But I also don’t feel like my time is always well-ordered. At times, I waste time, especially when I’m lonely or tired (which is more common than usual right now). I feel like I need a life coach to help me create some order from these whirls of positive activity and dysfunction and to help me figure out where I am heading.  But I can’t (truly) figure out how to eek out the money for that right now on top of other things.  In the last few months, I have felt a bit stuck. And just thinking about feeling stuck makes me feel more tired.

→ 13 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

And Just Like That

September 12th, 2009 · 16 Comments

sailboat-at-cortes-island

My mother’s voice cracked as she said, “Your father is moving out for a while.”

My mother stood in the doorway of my Spanish class with a packet that said, “Congratulations! We are pleased to admit you to the class of 2002.”

My ATM balance print-out read, “$ -362.00.”

My professor said, “This paper is graduate-school-level work.”

My boyfriend cried and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

My roommate ran into our dorm room and said, “A plane hit the World Trade Center!”

My doctor stood at my bedside and said, “We found cancer, but we don’t have further results back yet.”

The bill in my hands read, “Your insurance has denied your claim for a CT scan.”

The lettering on top of the lit birthday cake my boyfriend was holding read, “Will you marry me?”

The letterhead stationery in my hands read, “Congratulations! We are pleased to admit you to Cohort 8.”

My editor said, “This is just the kind of writing we’re looking for.”

The phone rang, and my mother said, “We don’t expect your grandmother to live more than another day or two.”

Grandma died last week.  A few weeks earlier, she had been living independently still—at the age of 94.  I know that means she had a long life.  I’m certain her life was good in many ways.  It was also complicated and difficult in many ways.  That’s the way of life: we don’t get off easy, period, individually or collectively. Grandma was proof that relative ease isn’t what always creates longevity and that major adversity doesn’t always mean a short lifetime of sorrow.  I don’t know what it all means, ultimately, the combination of joy and suffering and everything in between, but I do know that in many ways, Grandma was a model to follow on how to live through it all—with measures of grace, stubbornness, and thoughtfulness, and with deep faith in what is yet to come.

→ 16 CommentsTags: sturm and drang

Gluten-Free/Allergen-Free Cooking Class in Atlanta

July 13th, 2009 · 13 Comments

Together with Laurie Moore of Moore Farms & Friends (a local CSA),  on August 22nd, I’ll be teaching a local-foods-based cooking class that’s free of gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts, fish and shellfish. The recipes will not be free of corn or tree nuts.  The class will be held at Cooks Warehouse in Midtown Atlanta.* The class is being partially sponsored by Return to Eden, which I consider Atlanta’s best grocery store for the gluten-free. (They even have a staff member whose job is the gluten-free market!)

The menu, designed around the idea of a Labor Day picnic, will include barbecue made with pastured meat; macaroni and ‘cheese’; fresh bread; roasted veggie salad; and berry galettes—all made with as much locally grown, pesticide-free produce as possible.

If you’re interested in attending, you can reserve a spot at the Moore Farms special events page. Rumor has it that it’s going to sell out pretty quickly, so if you’re interested in attending, I’d encourage you to sign up in the next couple of days.  The cost is $40 with an additional $10 if you also want a pre-made bread mix using the recipe we’ll utilize in the class.

I’d love to see you there!  We’re going to cook up some great food and share some lovely recipes, but we’re also going to have a wonderful discussion about gluten-free and allergen-free lifestyles, including their pleasures and their challenges.

*The demo kitchen will be thoroughly cleaned, and we’ll be using my safe pans and utensils, but we can’t guarantee the kitchen will be free of traces of the offending foods.

→ 13 CommentsTags: allergen-free recipes · locavore

Deliciously Stale Bread (& a BLT Salad)

June 26th, 2009 · 11 Comments

As many people have discovered after going gluten-free for a while, I have found that I don’t always miss bread, or crave bread, as much as I did when I first started eating this way.  I can go for a week without a bread-like product without feeling a bit grumpy, which often bewilders friends who don’t see me often or people I go to visit. “But is it okay if we make burgers since you didn’t bring a bun?” “Oh yeah, it’s fine.” I’m not by any means offended that they ask permission—it’s kind of them—but eating a burger (or whatever) on a bed of lettuce, with a smear of avocado and a dollop of ketchup—it’s just what I do at this point. It’s shruggable.  That’s not to say I, by any means, live a low-carb lifestyle:  I eat plenty of potatoes, rice, corn, sweet potatoes, quinoa, wild rice, grits, etc.  And of course I occasionally make quick breads—-muffins, cornbread, etc.  Bread, by which I really mean loaf bread, by virtue of requiring particular effort, is just not often my carb of choice.

But sometimes I do get a hankering for it, and sometimes I just have the desire to bake some real bread—and if I have the time (it’s not so much the energy, as the bread recipe I most often use is easy), I’ll have a go at it, and make a loaf or two.  When I make bread, for the first two days after it’s fresh from the oven, I eat sandwiches for lunch, and often for dinner,  and sometimes I make toast for breakfast, as well.  After two days, the bread—lacking the moisture-locking gluten—can go into the freezer to be thawed and toasted later, if I desire.  If I make two loaves in a batch, unless I have a rush of company coming, I will slice and freeze the second loaf.  But more often, I make one loaf, and when I get to Day 3, I put that bread to use as people have deliciously used stale bread throughout its history:  bread pudding, French toast, bread salad, or croutons.

Yesterday was Day 3 of my most recent loaf.  After I sliced off two pieces for a sandwich, I chopped the remainder of the loaf  into 1″ cubes, tossed the cubes in a bit of olive oil, salt, garlic, and herbs, and toasted them—at 300 degrees—on a jelly roll pan for 45 minutes, flipping them once in the middle. (Or at least, that’s what I usually do.  Yesterday, I actually flipped them, set a new timer, missed when the timer went off, remembered about twenty minutes later, exclaimed a word I won’t repeat here, rushed to the oven, and found . . . my croutons were just fine. Simply a bit more crunchy than I usually make them.  Hurray for a slow oven.) The croutons keep in a closed container on the counter or in the fridge for several days; I imagine that they’d keep for months in the freezer, but they never last that long here.

This morning, while I was at the coffee shop working, I started pondering what to make for lunch.  Then I remembered my croutons, and my idea developed rapidly from there. Mmmmm.

blt-salad

BLT Salad
Serves 1

2 cups of lettuce, preferably mixed types
8-10 grape tomatoes, sliced if desired
1/4 cup croutons
2 slices of crispy bacon, crumbled
Optional additions:
1/4 of an avocado, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons almonds

Dressing:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey

Layer salad ingredients on a plate. Combine dressing ingredients in a small jar with a lid. Shake well, and pour over the salad.  Consume with abandon.

blt-salad-2

A few other foods I want to try making soon:

Jamaican Veggie Patties
Falafel
Blue Corn Chickpea Tacos
Roasted Carrot Spread
Millet Hamburger Buns
Early Summer Vegetable Salad
Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake with Chocolate Pudding Frosting
Shrimp Tamale Casserole With Three Sisters Black Mole (only I probably won’t use shrimp since we only eat it when we’re at the coast)

→ 11 CommentsTags: 2/3 veggies · allergen-free recipes · quick meals

Frustration Or a Lesson

June 21st, 2009 · 8 Comments

I just made muffins.  I sorta followed a recipe, but the recipe wasn’t gluten-free or egg-free, so I kinda ran with it and did my own thing. How many times have I made muffins that have come out just fine without me following a recipe? But you know what? I didn’t really make muffins, because they didn’t really come out as muffins.  They were wayyyy too gooey even after nearly an hour of baking, even though they seemed the right consistency going into the oven.

This usually doesn’t faze me anymore.  I don’t usually cry over a failed recipe unless I have dinner company arriving in 10 minutes—and sometimes, not even then, anymore. There was The Great Chili Disaster of 2008: I forgot you can’t cook beans in acidic water, and I put the beans in the same time as the tomatoes.  I didn’t remember until I’d wasted a lot of ingredients (beans, meat, corn, tomatoes, gf beer, spices) and company was due any minute.  Company arrived—laughed, commiserated.  We discussed possible remedies.  We discarded them.  I threw away the chili, and we went out to eat.

I’ve accepted that being gluten-free and allergen-free means you have to roll with it. It means I waste some ingredients, yes, and it definitely means I waste some time.  But it’s also true that those wasted ingredients and that wasted time are, in another sense, not wasted at all, because they often lead me to new understanding.  Failure can either set us back or teach us, right? Certainly, it’s sometimes both. I prefer to try, to try, to think about the growth and not the setback.

That doesn’t mean I never get frustrated.  Last week, I wanted to make a hazelnut pear cake as one of my fall recipes.  I can’t tell you how many loaves and pans of pear cake I made  (the texture was all wrong, seemingly no matter what I did, and I tried a huge number of variations) before giving up and moving on to another idea.  The next morning, I knew the kind of pie crust I wanted to create for the magazine article.  I was a day behind after wasting a day on the pear cake with no usable result.  I proceeded to spend the next 14 hours making pie crust, sometimes baking it with a filling, and always throwing it away.  At 11 p.m., my back, arms, and legs ached; it was well beyond being fun anymore.  Fortunately, when the 11 p.m. iteration came out of the oven and I bit into it, I went, “This is it.” Finally.  My husband agreed.  Yesterday, when I used that same pie crust recipe for the groom’s ‘pi pies’ at the reception of a friend’s wedding, people were shocked to learn the pie was gluten-free, and they—truly—gobbled it up.  The 14 hours of experimentation was worth it just for that, not to mention for the tasty treats that that pie crust will offer my future.

pi-pies

→ 8 CommentsTags: dessert · on the soapbox