Sunday, January 13, 2008

Feeling Creative Lately: Food

Spelt and Dark Chocolate Cake

Spanish Potato Tortilla

This weekend I tried out some recipes from Bea, my favorite food blogger.

I wanted to make her gluten-free dark chocolate cake, so I headed out Saturday morning to the local natural grocer to find amaranth flour and quinoa flour (pronounced keen-wa). I have been feeling sick again these days after a complete regression of indulging on wheat products over the holidays. In fact, my entire shopping trip was punctuated with migraine pangs. So I decided to return to a purer diet and what better way to kick off than by making dense dark chocolate cake?

Alas, no amaranth flour was to be found and I am seriously sick of the flavor of the gluten-free all-purpose flour I've been using. I had a hippy-esque chat with the clerks, who educated me on the dangers of eating meat and dairy, as well as the difference between gluten-free and wheat free, and while I'm not about to convert to veganism, I did discover more or less that my general intolerance is more to wheat than gluten. So, I happily purchased some spelt flour, nearly identical in taste and texture to wheat flour, but wheat-free (full of gluten, though). Did you know that due to cross-pollination, there is literally NO wheat left in the world that hasn't been genetically modified (GMO)? The wheat we eat now has a completely different molecular structure than that of 30 years ago. No wonder some people get so sick from it.

After I got home (and waited for my migraine to wind down), I went to work on the Amaranth and Quinoa Dark Chocolate Cake recipe, substituting 6 tablespoons of spelt flour for Bea's 3 tablespoons of amaranth flour and 3 tablespoons of quinoa flour (you could also substitute regular all-purpose flour, if you like). Click the link to see Bea's recipe and her beautiful photos. Mine didn't turn out quite so voluminous, but I may have used a bigger pan. Regardless, the dense, slightly moist chocolate cake was delicious with my afternoon tea and this morning after breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, my next attempt was Bea's Spanish Potato Tortilla, a dish she took hiking with her through Acadia National Park, not far from us in central Maine. The recipe was simple and I embelished it with a dollop of light sour cream and some fresh cilantro (aka coriander).

A nicely spent weekend. I am so happy with both of these recipes and will definitely use them again. They were fairly simple to create, healthy, and really delicious. Thanks Bea!

Feeling Creative Lately: Knitting

Well, I guess winter fosters all-out domesticity for me. I have been getting very inspired lately by knitting blogs and the local yarn store, Knitwit, around the corner from my work. I stopped by the other day to pick up some yarn for a beret for Heather (organic cotton from Blue Sky, color cumin, just like the beret I'm wearing in the photos from the Lobster Tree lighting), and saw a beautiful rosey bronze pure silk yarn on sale. I had to have it and I spent the last of my Christmas money on two skeins.

I wasn't sure what to make with it, but then I found this beautiful pattern and thought it would be perfect. Except I think I'll keep the collar up. I was inspired by Katie Holmes' bolero from Monique Lhuillier, sans sequens of course, and came across this beauty. The creator has a nice stash of links to other inspiring knitter blogs, including straight males. Believe it!

Kelly's bolero design

I'm always working on wee gifties for friends and family, particularly since Matt and I resolved not to buy any gifts this school year when we moved to Maine. I'm working through the heaps of yarn I brought with me to Maine, even if gifts come a bit overdue as a result. For my best friend Ashley's baby Lilly, I made a little elephant, from a Safari Friends pattern I picked up at Knitwit, using left over yarn from socks and a hat I knit for her in August. Isn't he adorable??


I love him! Now I'm working on another Safari Friend, but it's under wraps until it's finished. I'll also post a photo of the shrug/bolero once I've finished. And here's a close-up of the beret. Get excited Heath! I wear mine almost every day.

My favorite beret

Saturday, January 05, 2008

So this is the new year

winter in Cape Porpoise, from our porch and in our neighborhood

Happy New Year from snowy Maine. We have had 43.8 inches of snowfall so far this winter--that's over three feet! Don't worry, we're not snowed in. We've had some melting between storms, but as you can see, some beautiful snow that sticks around. This week the wind chill was 15 below zero. I could feel my nostrils start to freeze together when I went outside. This is a winter of epic proportions.

Besides the weather, January is, of course, the beginning of a new year. I'm not a big new year's resolution sort of person; I'd rather live consistently throughout the year. It seems that lofty aspirations of discipline are fated to fail,
like dieting or trying to read the Bible from cover to cover in a year. If you need a set of rules or a kick-off day to start something, doesn't that mean that your heart wasn't in it already?

All that being said, I've surprised myself this January with the feeling of a fresh start. I wasn't planning any resolutions, but a few have presented themselves to me and I feel ready to walk into a kind of discipline that is borne of desire and just the right circumstances.

1. TV Watching: After being in Minnesota for Christmas and then Massachusetts at New Years, Matt and I had hardly been home since mid-December. In that time, the only tv show I'd watched with any consistency (total trash television--I won't even tell you what it was) had finished for the season and I realized I hadn't watched tv in weeks. I also noticed how productive I had become with the little time I had in the evenings--knitting gifts, cooking, reading, paying all the bills, writing, working on my French lessons. It was incredible how much I could get done and how much more fulfilling than the false sense of rest I get from unwinding in front of the television, which leaves me feeling more tired than before (not to mention eating snacks I didn't need and feeling bad about the way I look after being inundated with skinny celebrities on E) . I've decided to stick with it and not watch tv just to veg-out, but instead to watch a one or two select shows with friends (I am not giving up Project Runway night with the girls!).

2. Food: One of my favorite things to do in January is to make a big pot of my family's soup, minestra, a tradition handed down from my Italian nonno and nonna. It's made by boiling a whole chicken, or (as I prefer to do) a few chicken breasts on the bone, with tomatoes, celery, and salt. I like to add some organic chicken stock to make the broth a bit richer. You then remove the chicken, puree the vegetables and put them back in, boil egg noodles in the broth, and serve it with Parmesan, the chicken meat, and french bread. It's so simple, light, and delicious and I like to take the leftover soup to work for lunch the next day. This is my Italian slimming plan, along with lighter meals during the week now that I'm working such long days. We've stocked up on frozen fruit for smoothies, cliff bars for a quick lunch, lettuce and apples for grilled chicken salads, anything to simplify prep time during the week. Voila! Instant loss of holiday pounds. Besides, I'm sick of all the cookies and chocolate I inhaled in December. Peppermint tea is my new afternoon pick-me-up.

3. Exercise: Ever since I started my new job up in Portland with a 9-6 work day and an hour or so commute each way, I haven't been able to figure out how to fit exercise in my weekday schedule. I'm getting home at the same time as my 7:15 yoga class and I'm not the sort of girl to skip dinner. Matt and I finally figured out a way to work sharing the car and still going to the Y together on Tuesdays and Thursdays for my class. Cliff bars on the bus are a good enough dinner for me.

4. Writing: My most resolution-y change this new year is in my writing. For the first time in years, I actually feel like I have a lot to say and a lot of projects to get through with my writing. Before when I would try to force myself to write, I would have no idea what to write about. Too much pressure. But nowadays, I could use some discipline to move the ideas from brain to paper. So my strictest resolution is that I write something every day. Could just be journaling or storyboarding or blogging, or it could be actually writing a chapter in my novel or finishing an essay. Any way I slice it, I have to get my butt in the chair and work a little every day. Day 5 and still going strong.

That's about it. More of a fresh outlook than a lot of rules to follow. I can already tell that it's going to be a good year. What are you resolving to do?