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Caring About Sharing

It seems that sudden changes bring on a whole lot of noticing.  Maybe it’s the data-nerd I was brought up to be by my father, or just that I notice food-related things, but changing how I operate food-wise has made me think a lot about how I would be operating if nothing had changed.

This past week contained my birthday, and so there was more socializing.  It is a well-established social phenomenon that human gatherings center around food more often than not.  On this elimination diet there is nothing that prevents me from eating when I gather with friends and family.  However, I am often not eating the same dishes as everyone else, and it feels different.

There is something about having the same foods that you have chosen to nourish your own body be the same foods that are nourishing those you love.  If we want to get symbolic: it is as if the building blocks that I am consuming to become a part of me are the same building blocks that are becoming a part of you, and so by sharing the same food we are building a (hopefully) delicious bridge between us.  We are becoming closer together not only in this experience we share, but in the very material we are made of.  If this is too hippie (or creepy?) of a concept for you, let’s just back up and imagine the difference between a lunch table where each individual brings their own brown bag filled with food that only he or she will experience, and a lunch with dishes of food being passed around and shared, where nourishment comes from a common source.  The intimacy of sharing not just the space you are eating in, but also the food you are eating, cannot be denied.

I am grateful for this time I have apart from the communal eating experience, to appreciate the role it plays in the non-elimination life I normally lead.  It has also added another dimension to the culinary challenge — can I make things that my friends and family, who can generally enjoy any taste they please, would be happy to share with me?  Not pity share, but share because it’s just as good as the cheese they could be eating.

For my family birthday celebration, I made a roasted cauliflower dish with a pumpkin sauce my housemate, Meredith, made up during our first week as a ‘cheesy’-sauce-substitute for (quinoa) noodles.  It is velvety and savory, and while no one would mistake it for cheese, it fills the creamy comfort shoes quite well.  I roasted cauliflower, then topped it with the sauce (made of sautéed onions, thyme, salt, pepper, pumpkin puree, and olive oil), chopped parsley for brightness, and toasted pumpkin seeds for crunch.

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And then, the ultimate challenge – a birthday cake with no chocolate (or gluten or eggs or refined sugar…).

I decided to base it on a sticky toffee pudding, since it already features dates, which are allowed in the elimination diet.  I found a recipe that was already gluten, dairy and egg-free, and altered it so that the only sweeteners were the dates and some honey (instead of maple syrup), substituted almond milk for the coconut milk, and un-dairy-freed it a little by using ghee instead of ‘buttery spread’ (ghee is okay on the ED because the milk solids have been removed).  Mer used her gluten-free baking expertise to replace the tapioca flour/potato starch combo with a tapioca flour/arrowroot powder combo, and lo and behold it was good.

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Super good.

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It may not be quite in line with the ‘honey (in moderation)’ specifications we should be aiming for, but if there’s any time to not really break the rules but kind of nudge at them a little, it’s your birthday.  At the end of the day, I had a cake I could share.  AND I didn’t even notice I wasn’t eating chocolate =)

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A Load-a Oats: Cookie Recipes!

(Hooray, I recovered the post!  Today’s Tidbit #Two: Sometimes Perseverance Pays Off)

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for*… Here’s the missing cookie recipe from the last post.  Or, I guess, recipes, since I made the one recipe into two different cookies.

*I fully recognizes that none of you may have been waiting for this moment at all… but I hope you’re glad it’s here anyway : )

Like I said before, I started with a recipe from Oh She Glows (which was already a combination of two different recipes), and then did some experimental modification to create two different types of cookie with one dough base.

I’ll give you the base, and then the mix-ins for the two variations.  Or feel free the variate to your taste. They will satisfy any oaty and/or nutty need that resides within your being.  Plus most of the mixing takes place in a food processor, which minimizes the need for both extra hours in the day and high endurance arm strength.

Nuts and Oats Cookie Base

Ingredients:

1 cup toasted almonds*

3/4 cup oats, ground in a food processor until flour-like

1 cup old fashioned oats, not ground

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 tsp any type of milk (cow’s, soy, almond, etc)

1/4 cup (4 tbsp) unsalted butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

(*If your almonds aren’t already toasted, toast for 10-12 minutes in a 350 F oven until they smell lovely.)

Directions:

1- Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a baking sheet.

2- Put the almonds in a food processor and process until finely ground (before it starts to exude oils and turn to almond butter)

3- Add oat “flour”, all purpose flour, old fashioned oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar and process for about 30 seconds until all mixed up (it may seem redundant to have the floury oats and the old fashioned, but the floury ones help hold the cookies together, and the unground oats add some oat nub textures).

3- Melt the butter in a mixing bowl (or melt the butter on the stove top and then put it in the mixing bowl).  Stir in the maple syrup, milk of choice, and vanilla.  Pour these wet ingredients into the food processor and process until thoroughly combined.

4- At this point, if you are making a chocolate version of these cookies, you also need to process the cocoa powder and extra 2 tbsp milk (see below for specifications).  If you do this, expect this:

Transformation!

5- Remove dough to the mixing bowl and stir in your mix-ins.

6- Remove about 2 tbsp of dough, roll into a ball, and then flatten into a cookie shape.  Place on cookie sheet and repeat, spacing cookies about an inch apart.

7- Bake for 10 minutes, no longer!

8- Remove from oven and let sit on sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack until cool.

Possible Mix-In Ingredients:

for Double Dark Chocolate Oat Cookies..

2/3 cup cocoa powder

2 tbsp milk of choice

1/2 cup chocolate chips

(the cocoa powder and milk are processed in with the dough in the food processor and the chocolate chips are stirred in after)

for Extra Oaty Cherry Walnut…

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/4 cup walnut pieces

(stir all of these ingredients into the dough after removing from the food processor)

That was probably the last thing I baked just for fun… over a month ago!

School is always a difficult balance for me because if I decide to try and “relax” I often end up preoccupied about the work I should be doing.  But if I let my need to work take over, I seldom do certain things I enjoy, such as baking.  I am not as extreme as some — I always make time for running, eating, and sleeping — but there are many things in life I find pleasing and I do not want to exclude all of those things from my life.

Friday I stayed in College Park to do some grading in the hopes that Sunday could be a little more relaxing, but today is Sunday and I still feel the weight of the Things To Do that lie ahead… However, I did make a conscious decision to bake this cake, since it was something my mother expressed interest in and I am currently obsessed with fresh figs.

Figs, resting in a bed of butter and brown sugar, scattered over with rosemary, waiting to become a lemony Fresh Fig, Walnut,  and Rosemary Upside Down Cake.  I can’t vouch for the taste yet, but the smell is definitely tantalizing.  According to Food Blogga, who posted the original, it’s a cake of balance and contrast, which are the qualities that make desserts like these interesting.  I was convinced, and maybe you will be too : )

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Slapdash

Ugh.. I wrote over half a post and then lost it.

So here’s a summary!

I started a summer class three weeks ago, which means I’m working less, which means I’m cooking more. Well, by cooking I usually mean chop/sautéing… But it’s more than I was doing before : )

I took a little study break to post a few food pictures. They’re taken with iProducts of course… I need to get back in the habit of taking “real” photographs… But I suppose it’s fitting: slapdash pictures of slapdash food!

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Sautéed purple cabbage with carrots and tofu next to a salad with summer squash, apple, and homemade honey-mustard dressing.

Dressings are my variation these days… They’re so easy to make out of random ingredients.  It may sound unlikely, but adding some nut butter to a dressing makes it creamy and adds a smoothness to the flavor too. I started making dressings with tahini and lemon juice, but now I’ll put almond butter in a mustard vinaigrette and it’s great!

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Sauteed greens, onions, and summer squash, topped with an over-easy egg!

The purple cabbage in the first picture and the egg seen above are both from the Farmers Market that comes to campus on Wednesdays. The eggs are SO delicious… possibly the best I’ve ever eaten. (Well, besides the duck egg I recently ate, which was laid by the ducks owned by the Brew Master at work…hopefully I’ll share more about those later.)

Okay, back to the books… I will leave you with the cake Rosie and I made yesterday. I saw it on Not Quite Nigella and sent the link straight to Rosie. She and I have had great success with liquor-infused cakes in the past (the highlight, in my opinion, being the Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake), and this recipe spoke to us.

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And though pictures may speak louder than words, they don’t speak as loudly as tender almond cake soaked in a citrusy and oh-so-delicately-spicy syrup. So you may have to make yourself a cake : )

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Decisions

Half-way through my toast this morning I decided I wanted to be eating cereal.

Quick fix!

I just chopped up my toast and poured milk on it.  Even better than cereal from a box.

And I had two “flavors” from the two halves of my reincarnated toast: sunflower seed butter with raisins, and peanut butter with banana.

Decision making is easier when you can have two things as one.  And I need all the help making decisions I can get…

Last weekend I was tasked with making the cake for my uncle’s birthday.  It was an open-ended assignment, since he indicated no preference for flavor.  Luckily Katie was here and had concrete ideas about what cake I should make.  We get the little mini Everyday Food magazine that comes alongside the Martha Stewart Living magazine.  They did a maple/brown sugar feature that included a Maple-Walnut Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting.  It stole Katie’s heart, and I didn’t take much convincing 🙂

The magazine doesn’t have the recipe online (yet?) but someone else did the work of transcribing it, so here it is.  It was pretty simple cake-making.  It just involves…

Creaming Butter, Sugar and Maple Syrup…

Adding Flour, Baking Powder and Salt…

(There’s An Egg in There Somewhere…)

Folding in Walnuts…

Baking…

Frosting (hand modeling by Decider and Assistant Spreader Katie)…

And Decorating!

 

It was super-decadent, autumnal, and salty-sweet (I accidentally used salted butter in the cake, but I think it worked).  The walnuts added texture and toasty flavor, and the cake itself has a mapley-caramel taste.  I think it has gotten better with age, too.  I’d call it a success.

 

After a busy week of work and visitors, I have a completely free day.  I’m going to clean my room, study for the GRE, go for a run, and I’m thinking of baking something, I just have to decide what…

 

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Birth Post

I don’t know why, but the thought of starting my own blog has been intimidating me for months.  I think it has something to do with the overwhelming supply of fabulous blogs that I encounter on any casual stroll through the world wide food web.  I haven’t been able to quite convince myself that I would I could provide something fresh, engaging, and at the same caliber as the blogs that have been tempting me to start my own thread in the web.

The way I got over my intimidation is kind of like how my mom got through her first pregnancy:  “All those other women with kids gave birth and they seem to be doing okay.”  Every blog has a beginning.  Maybe being just another blogger is kind of like being just another mother.  You give the blog life, care for it, and it will grow into a unique little extension of your being.

And I hear blogging is less painful that childbirth.

Well, birth is a good theme for my first post, because we’ve been celebrating a few birthdays around here.  My parents’ birthdays are a week apart, and so we got together with the extended family yesterday to celebrate.  Cake was my assignment (sigh, what a burden).  We had a lot of plums to use up, so I went to foodgawker, typed in “plum cake,” and had my mom chose which one she wanted.  She chose this one, and here is the result:

I was pleased with the smooth mosaic the plums made on top.

And that it looks like a flower because of the leaves painted on the plate 🙂

It made a print on the parchment I lined the pan with.

Katie said I should frame it.  It would be a quite beautiful twist on fly paper 😛

One more thing before I go.  That was some “yum”, but where’s the “run”?  Well, today marks the official beginning of my marathon training.  I signed up for my first marathon just moments ago.  Yeek?  I’ve done a few half marathons, but when 13.1 miles is half of something… I would consider that a long something.

I’m hoping to make this blog a chronicle of my training, as well as the food I create and enjoy along the way.  A record of two of my favorite things: yumming and running.

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