Departing The `Bus

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

It’s pretty amazing to me that an author writing to an audience 400 years ago could capture my emotions so completely today.  So many adventures await us in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.  Yet so many friends and memories tug me back to The `Bus.  I am pretty reminiscent about the last 2 years here.  Columbus, a city that began to feel like a real home so immediately.  A block of neighbors that reshaped my idea of what community really is.  A campus that challenged me beyond my wildest hopes.  A group of close friends who reached out to The Philosopher and me in ways I can’t begin to recount here.  I find myself tugged towards a future, yet I am not ready to give up my home.  I feel I am fortunate to have had my time in The `Bus and am pretty sure that if Ohio pulls us back someday, it will be Columbus calling. We wrapped up our time in this city with a lovely, wet evening a few weekends ago.  We built our last backyard bonfire, cooked up some of the last ingredients in our fridge, and poured from those few remaining liquor bottles for a final night with our friends.  Our community.  The makers of our home.  During that damp, cool night, I stared into the fire and talked to a new `Bus resident about how great it is to call this city home.  I began recounting my favorite local events, restaurants, and bloggers, encouraging them to learn more about all that this city offers.  Soon, I was being urged to create my personal Best of the `Bus List.  So here it is.  Tracy’s Favorite Columbus “Stuff” List.  Like all “Best Of” lists, I should say that this is from my limited perspective and income.  In fact, let’s not call this a “Best Of” list.  Let’s call it Tracy’s Lived in Columbus for 2 Years and Discovered Some Awesome Stuff List.  This city is huge in opportunity.  If you are new to The `Bus, I would be happy to serve as a part of your city introduction, but I want to also encourage you to explore on your own.  This city is pretty awesome.

First, it should be noted that I spent a fair amount of time on campus.  The great thing about OSU is that there are more interesting, intellectual, exciting things to do than I usually had time for.  See a play, go to a speaking event, and watch an obscure film.  I often found that stepping out of my College of Public Health’s list of events and speakers opened new doors and introduced me to amazing people.  The Wexner Center has great foreign films at reasonable prices.  As a student, a large amount of campus time was spent studying.  Prior Health Sciences Library has a great coffee shop with extremely friendly staff.  You can also reserve a room for your study group.  The Thompson Library also has great meeting rooms.  I am certain that my limited knowledge of biostatistics was developed in one of those meeting rooms with a dedicated group of very intelligent women who never let me fail!  Lastly, my friends and I ate many meals at the OSUMC cafeteria and Hang Over Easy.  OSUMC’s cafe allows for packed lunches, so all members of our group could meet weekly to share our ideas for how to change the world.  I am certain that we got pretty close a time for two!  Hang Over Easy was a great place to stare at a computer, editing that group project one last time.  No matter how long we squatted at a table, the servers refilled our coffee cups!

I ensured that our cupboards were never bare by running to Weiland’s Gourmet Market.  The fish, produce, and meat is fresh and local (when possible), the staff are extremely knowledgeable, and it always reminded me of my local grocery store growing up.  The faces were familiar, the smiles warm, and the food comforting.  I also found local food at the Clintonville Farmer’s Market.  As The Philosopher and I grew more experienced, we found that talking to the farmers became easier, we knew what we valued in our food and we never hesitated to ask questions about how something was grown.  This task was immensely easier because of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.  Our membership kept us in the loop about Ohio agriculture.  We loved the annual potluck and talking to the crusaders of the local, organic food movement in Ohio.  After meeting Warren Taylor, I knew all of my future milk purchases would support Snowville Creamery.  Four Seasons City Farm is working in our community to bring produce into our inner city with urban gardens.  You should look them up and volunteer.  They are doing good work and I am sorry that my time working with the organization has been so short.  This year, I expanded our personal garden with the help of the Como Yarden.  Our tomatoes and peppers were vibrant, tasty, and in varieties I had never heard of.  Finally, I have written much about our experience with a Community Support Agriculture share with the Sippel Family Farm.  Leaving farmers we trusted and produce that never failed to be of the highest quality, is very difficult for us.  Ben and Lisa were highly skilled at communicating with us non-farmers about the highs and lows of the growing season.  They offered us recipes and food advice and folded us into another community in The ‘Bus with their monthly potlucks at their home.

Speaking of food, The Philosopher and I enjoyed eating out in The ‘Bus. Clintonville is filled with fabulous options.  We frequented The Wildflower Cafe with some of our neighbors.  It was near our home and reliable for a great breakfast at reasonable prices.  We also dropped into Mozart’s Cafe for breakfast often.  The atmosphere is great, especially their outdoor seating.  The homemade pastries are delicious.   You can find the keys of a piano chiming throughout the day and evening.  Stopping in on a Friday evening for the live music and a glass of wine is the perfect end to a busy week.  When I needed a caffeine fix, I found my way to Yeah Me Too.  During my first visit, I learned that it was a cash only establishment.  Disappointed, I began to walk out as I only had a credit card, when the owner told me to pay the next time I returned.  Well, return I did.  My last visit was Friday, the day my movers arrived.  After chatting with the owner, he again sent me on my way with a free cup of joe, as his going away gift. Yeah Me Too feels like my best friend’s home.  The coffee will be ready soon and the person pouring your cup is someone you hope you can one day emulate.  As a graduate student, I completed many projects and homework assignments with my dear friend at Global Gallery.  It’s a great place to linger over a cup of coffee or to discuss healthcare reform in a group meeting.  My friend and I also nibbled on muffins and cinnamon rolls from Pattycake Bakery when exam time rolled around.  Another Fine Mess:  Desserts by Dorie is another great way to get delectable study treats.  A scoop of Jeni’s was always the perfect reward at the end of a long quarter, as well as a martini from Sage.  When The Philosopher and I wanted a low-key evening out with friends, we found our way to India Oak.  The bar feels an awful lot like the television show Cheers.  Let me just say, that graduate school taught us how to celebrate!  The Philosopher and I occasionally needed a pizza to get through the weekend.  Thankfully both Hound Dog’s and Dante’s never failed to disappoint.  Many an evening was spent on the patio of Northstar.  As one of the few restaurants we could enjoy while on our detox diet, our already deep love of the place grew and expanded even further.  From my post-yoga cup of coffee and biscuit to the mid-week break from cooking for a ginger ale and Northstar burger, The Philosopher kept going back for more.  And we took each of our coworkers, visitors, and new ‘Bus transplants.  Lastly, Cafe Bella may be one of the ‘Bus’ best kept secrets.  The patio is beautiful with the trickling sounds of the hydroponic system. Since there is no menu, it feels like you dropped into your forgotten Italian grandmother’s house with your own bottle of wine for dinner.  You don’t know what will be on the plate in front of you, but you will certainly love it.  I tried to get the recipe for their amazing eggplant parmigiana, but Vince, the owner, had no secrets to share.  I guess you all will have to find visit soon to this culinary delight!

The Philosopher and I loved to eat in The ‘Bus.  And we didn’t just eat in Clintonville.  The North Market was the place we took every visitor to our home.  One of my favorite memories of the North Market was when my best friend and I spent a morning sipping coffee, watching local farmers deliver their produce to the various stands, and feel the market began to grow and swell with electric excitement in the space.  Skillet wasn’t close to our home, but it was never far from our weekend breakfast thoughts.  The menu is filled with comfort food you can feel good about.  The best restaurant in The ‘Bus has to be Alana’s.  There is no better way to celebrate an occasion than to sit on this patio and await the wonders of Alana.  The Philosopher still talks about the best pasta we have ever eaten from her kitchen.

Finally, The Philosopher and I never had a boring Saturday.  Or Tuesday.  The ‘Bus is filled with great ways to spend your time.  The museums and parks are great.  The movie theaters and local organizations never left our To Do list empty.  Pecha Kucha is a great way to find all the great things going on in The ‘Bus:  great music, great speakers, and food carts.  Wild Goose Creative has events for every person.  We have attended events from foodie parties and improv comedy events in this space.  The Park of Roses offered a space for leisurely strolls and energy-filled doggie playdates.  Two good friends kept my eyes happy with their photography skills.  While both of them take amazing photos of graduating seniors and wedded bliss, their specialties are my favorite!  Moments by Kelsey will make you want to grasp a baby’s hand or wonder over their tiny toes.  Photo Kitchen will leave you salivating while reading Edible Columbus or will send you out to the grocery store to make her newest posted recipe.  WOSU filled my car, bathroom, and IPod with the news and stories that were important to me.    The Philosopher and I found that the Drexel in Bexley was the best place to see those hard to find foreign films that we craved.  They also have great opening nights.  Studio 35 may be the local business we frequented most.  They show all the OSU football games on their big screen for free.  We also watched most of the World Cup games with a few hundred of our closest Clintonville friends.  Many nights we could be found in a seat holding a great beer and chowing down on some Pizza Primo awaiting the previews or cheering on the Buckeyes.

I read nearly everything written by local bloggers.  These individuals kept me in the loop about the new and the old ‘Bus favorites.  Thank you to Hounds in the Kitchen, The Pizza Slayer, Itinerant Foodies, Breakfast with Nick, the CMH Gourmand, The Green Between, the Columbus Foodie, Nothing Better to Do, and Columbus Food Adventures for showing me around.

Finally, I am challenged to acknowledge those individuals who made The ‘Bus my home.  No combination of cool places to shop, eat, and play will make any city feel like home.  It’s the people who fill your life and your backyard who make the difference.  I have used this space to try to express my deep feelings of connection with our friends in The ‘Bus.  I have gathered with old and new friends to swap nice belongings we no longer wanted or needed or new things we didn’t know we wanted or needed.  Ask me about the Swap Parties — you should plan one for the friends in your neighborhood.  I enjoyed countless bottles of wine and delectable treats with The Vertebrates, the book club that breaks all the book club rules.  I am proud to have been one of the two outcasts at the College of Public Health’s orientation.  We found ourselves speaking out in the classroom, surrounding ourselves with like-minded, beautiful and strong women, standing up when we knew that changes had to happen, seeking ways to change the world, and learning all the things we didn’t know that we didn’t know.  Scarecrow, I think I will miss you most of all.  The Philosopher and I hosted countless dinner parties and backyard bonfires.  We broke bread with people whose intersecting lives have profoundly changed ours.  We have laughed and cried and screamed together in frustration and excitement.  We have hugged and high fived.  We have found comfort and care in people who have shared our table, used the spare key to turn off our oven we we accidentally left town with tomatoes drying inside, joined us for drinks, dropped in to help a stranger move into their new home, chased Penny through the neighborhood, talked about philosophy and religion and healthcare and politics, served us the perfect homemade pizza, watched great and horrible movies, became immediate friends while chatting at the bus stop, challenged us, inspired us, helped us when we most needed it, and made us redefine everything we ever imagined the words community and neighbor could possibly mean.  We are different, better because of each of you.  My growth as a person, as a professional, as a cook, as a gardener, as a writer, as a friend, in my marriage, in the classroom, in my relationships, is because of you.  I look toward my future with excitement and hope and promise because of my community in The ‘Bus.  You compose my memories of the last 2 1/2 years.  Thank you for everything.  You always have a place in our home.  And we will be visiting you again soon.

Love always,

Tracy, Bradley, Sophia, and Penny

 

Advertisements

Detox Detour: Donuts.

Need I say more?  Today my friend Jess came over and we made donuts together.  You are already jealous, I could stop here.  But I won’t, because I’m sadistic like that.  I can give you a little gluten free love, though, with what we made first for brunch, which was a sweet potato frittata.  My real camera batteries were dead, so you will have to cope with the underwhelming iPod photos.

It was inspired by this recipe, but turned out to be vegetarian (no bacon y’all) and not nearly as thick.  I think my eggs were small and I didn’t use a whole onion or that much spinach.  Also, I used goat cheese instead of feta, which is tangier and not as salty.  I threw a little nutmeg and cayenne on top, because those are my go to spices for sweet potato dishes.  And I didn’t broil it in the oven, I just baked it for 10 minutes or so, to get the top a little brown and to make sure the egg was set.

This turned out amazing.  There were only two of us, but we ate 3/4 of the whole thing and then I finished the rest for dinner.  I decided the reason it was so delicious, besides liking each of the ingredients separately, is that it had all the flavors.  So, the sweet potato was sweet, the egg was a little salty, the crunchy almost burned bottom was a little bitter, the goat cheese added a little sour, and the onion/spinach combo was pretty savory.  In every bite, you were able to experience all the flavors.  Did I forget any?  It also had an excellent density, with the egg staying fluffy and the sweet potato reaching that stage of creaminess that only sweet potatoes can find.

It turned out so well that I’m kind of excited about making other frittatas and soon.  It was really easy, and while it required a lot of eggs, it was a good way to get a lot of delightful tastes into one mouthful.

You might be like me and be a little nervous about heating up a quart of oil to 375 degrees on your stove top, but rest assured, making the frittata was the most dangerous thing we did all day.  Jess cut her hand on the mandolin, slicing perfect sweet potato rounds, and I burned my fingers taking the frying pan out of the oven.  It’s really a wonder that we persevered on to making doughnuts, but let’s be honest, what better way to sooth our wounded selves than with some sweet puffed sugar coated goodness?

For the donuts (please note that I am using donuts instead of doughnuts because I don’t want to keep typing doughnuts all the time; this is likely the same reason the shorter version was developed in the first place), we used this recipe for the most part.  It was most aggravatingly sticky at first, even though I put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, but with a little more flour and some coaxing, we were able to get it to calm down and we made it into donut shapes.  Turned out that the holes were more satisfying, but if you are going to make donuts and talk about it, you have at least make a few that look like the traditional donut.

The oil was a little tricky, mostly in maintaining the correct temperature.  We put the burner on high to get the oil heating, and when it got into the range we needed, we turned it down to low, but it kept rising well over 400.  So, we had to take a little hiatus while waiting for the oil to cool down again.  It ended up sticking right around 365, but that seemed to do the trick, because it was definitely cooking our doughnuts into the most wonderful little bundles of joy.  We had the dough about 1/2 inch thick, and it looks really flat, like you are going to have flat donuts, but they definitely plump up.  The coolest part is when you first put them in and they sink to the bottom and then within a few seconds, they rise to the top and sometimes they even flip themselves for you.

The donuts were awesome even without anything on them.  I love cake donuts, so this type of recipe was a natural choice.  However, yeast donuts seem a little bit tricky, more difficult to get right; it makes me want to try them.  Jess was talking about potato donuts, make partially with mashed potatoes, which I am still trying to wrap my head around.  So there may be more donut posts in the future.

Cinnamon Sugar DonutsFor the ones which we didn’t eat immediately, we dumped some in cinnamon sugar.  They tasted just like the fresh donuts you get at the fair or outdoor markets.  For the others, Jess whipped up a lovely maple glaze.  I couldn’t decide which way I liked best.   I think some chocolate icing with coconut would have been amazing, but really I was just pleased to have made donuts at all.

The real question, at the end, was what to do with the oil.  You can’t dump it down the drain, you can’t pour it into your trash can.  My thought was to put it back in the bottle, which we did, but Jess suggested straining it so that we could use the same oil for donuts again in the future.  I feel good about this proposition, and now I have a bottle of donutty oil sitting in my cupboard.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this brief detour from the detox fast.  I can assure those of you who are tending towards a diet that is gluten free that at your request, we would be glad to try our hands at gluten-free donuts.  We may have to do that anyway, because my roommate has been sentenced to a gluten-free diet for basically the rest of her life.  I would love to hear other folks’ stories about making donuts at home and whether you have any hints that would add to our approach to donut making in the future!

The Diet: Day 19

Good news everyone, I took pictures today.  Bad news, I have been away from the blog too long, so long I failed to realize that I typed a post on Thursday and never published it.  Shame on me!

The last few days haven’t been too exciting culinar-ily, but have been busy!  We helped a friend move in next door to us on Saturday morning and spent the evening with my brother watching my cousin perform with his band.  We went to Northstar with my brother for dinner Saturday night.  Yesterday, morning, I made gluten-free apple pancakes and hashbrowns for my brother and neighbor.  Then, we spent the day with my mother and enjoyed baked cod and steamed broccoli for dinner.

Today I was busy with work (yes, on my spring break!) and doing some yard work.  Dinner wasn’t too fancy, but it tasted great.  For some reason, I was craving soup, even though the weather was probably in the 60s today.  Maybe it’s because I have a stack of butternut squash from my CSA I still haven’t used.  Either way, I stirred up some butternut squash soup and made gluten-free flatbread.  And I am going to share with you what I did!

Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Gluten-free Flatbreads

Peel one butternut squash and chop into 1-2″ pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven until tender and beginning to caramelize.  In the meantime, saute one chopped onion in olive oil until translucent.  Add 2-4t of curry powder, 1/4-1/2t cayenne pepper, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1T tomato paste.  I had a huge squash, so I used the larger amounts of ingredients.  With a smaller squash, I would recommend using less spices.  I also added one chopped ripe tomato.  When the spices were fragrant in the pot (stir together at least 1-2 minutes), add 2-4c vegetable stock and 1 can coconut milk.  Add 2-3 chopped carrots (about 1-2″ long pieces, halved if necessary) to the pot and the roasted squash.  Bring to a low boil and reduce heat.  Simmer at least 20 minutes.  In the meantime, make bread.  First, reduce the heat on the oven to 375 for the bread.

This flatbread recipe is based on one from Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book.

In a small bowl proof your yeast.  Mix 1 c of lukewarm water, 1/4c agave (maple or plain flavored), and 1/2t yeast.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together 2 3/4c brown rice flour, 1c garbanzo flour, 1/4c flax meal, 1 1/2t sea salt, and 3/4t xanthan gum.  In the bowl to my mixer, I add 1/4c olive oil or safflower oil and 1/3c pumpkin puree  (can also use sweet potato puree).  When the yeast has bubbles rising to the surface and looks a little cloudy, add it to the mixing bowl.  Slowly add the dry ingredients while mixing slowly.  Do not overmix.  I knead the loaf 3-4 times in the bowl, but you could do this on your counter if you prefer.  Divide into 8-10 portions on a rice-floured surface.  I use my hands to roll into a ball and gently flattened until 1/2″ thick, but a rolling pin would also work well.  Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the top liberally with oil.  You can sprinkle the bread with dried or fresh herbs, coarse salt, or leave them plain.  Tonight, I left them plain for my soup.  Pop them in the oven until they are lightly brown and slightly firm, ~15-20 minutes.

When the flatbreads are in the oven, puree the soup in the blender (or with a handy immersion blender, if you have one) until smooth.  Serve together, piping hot!

The play off the sweetness of the coconut and squash against the spicy background was fantastic.  Especially with a piece of bread to dip in and clean out the bowl with.  Yum!  Great dinner, eaten outside with a new neighbor and old friend.  Doggie fun has begun now that the weather is warm.  Wrestling and running around our steaming plate of soup, the sounds of barking and good conversations fill the air.  Ahh, spring!  You may arrive after all!

The Diet: Day 14

Look, flowers!

It’s easy to take off my grumpy pants when these were my first sight this morning.  Don’t worry, I did put pants on.

Today was again filled with leftovers.  Except for dessert.  I decided to try another Flying Apron recipe with glorious results.  Here’s what I did:

Berry and Oat Bars

Grind 2 c of gluten-free oats in the food processor or blender until it turns into a fine powder like flour.  (You can also purchase gluten-free oat flour in the grocery store to use instead).  Put oat flour in mixing bowl with 3 additional cups of gluten-free oats, 1/4 c maple flavored agave, 2-3T plain agave, 1c olive oil, 1/2 t salt, and 1 t vanilla extract (I finally found an alcohol-free bottle!). Mix with mixer or paddle attachment if you have one until well incorporated, 2-3 minutes.

Press 2/3 of the mixture into a 13×9 pan and bake for 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven until lightly brown.

While that is baking, stir together 3 1/2c berries of your choice (I used blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.  I cut the strawberries into smaller pieces), 1/2t vanilla extract, 1/4c arrowroot powder and 1/4c maple flavored agave. 

When the base is ready, distribute the berries over the dough evenly and spread the remaining oat mixture over top.  Bake for 40-50 additional minutes until the top is golden brown and slightly firm to the touch.

There is nothing like berries to shepherd in the lamb of spring.  Thankfully, a warmer day with brighter sunshine serves to lift ones mood even better than a sweet snack.  Get outside!  You deserve it!

The Diet: Day 13

As the skies turned gray in Columbus, my interest in cooking for this diet began to wane.  What began with gusto has a middle filled with dreams about cheese.  And bread.  And bread covered with cheese.  And a cup of coffee, I would totally settle for decaf.  And a glass of wine.  Oh wine.  How am I to celebrate the end of a quarter without you?

But alas, we found out today that we are going to stick with this diet for another month.  You read that right.  MONTH.  After 6 weeks, we will reevaluate the progress and decide our next steps.

The good news is that I will have a week to look harder for more recipes and can work to integrate more variety into our diets.  The other good news is that we can have yeast.  Tomorrow I plan to attempt a gluten-free bread.  Keep watching, I will update!

Breakfast was muffins from Day 11 and bananas.  Lunch was leftovers for both of us.  Dinner was more interesting.  Tonight I made stuffed acorn squash.  This is simple and is a recipe that is better made in advance.  That’s a helpful way to have dinner on the table during finals week.  Here’s what I did:

Almond and Apricot Stuffed Squash

First, I halved two acorn squashes and removed the seeds.  You can easily roast the seeds if desired while roasting the squash.  I roasted face-down on a cookie sheet with a little olive oil at 400 for 15-20 minutes (or, in my case you can pop them in the oven and take the dogs for a mile walk and check them when you get home).  Also, chop the top off a head of garlic so the cloves are exposed.  Place clove-side down on the cookie sheet and roast with the squash until golden.  When I returned from the walk, I removed the squash and garlic and set aside to cool.  In a pan, I sauteed one onion in olive oil until translucent.  Next, I added a dusting of dried sage (1/2t or so), allspice (1/2t or so), and a dash of cinnamon and cumin.  When the herbs were fragrant, I added a handful of dried apricots that I had chopped into 1/2″ or less pieces, a generous splash of lemon juice (white wine would always be my first choice here), and all the roasted garlic.  I cooked until the lemon juice was absorbed.  I added a handful of chopped almonds, salt and pepper, and a pot of cooked brown rice.  When the rice is warmed through remove from heat and stuff into the prepared squash halves.  Refrigerate for up to one day or until you are ready for dinner.

Preheat the oven to 350 and place the squash in the oven.  These bake until the rice on top begins to brown and the squash is warmed through.

This meal is filling and warming and always reminds me of an autumn day.  I often throw other veggies in with the rice mixture; mushrooms, greens, and leftover bits of squash from other meals are good choices.  I often use other dried fruits, golden raisins are especially pretty.  A variety of nuts may also be desirable.  I have served these to dinner guests and have always received positive feedback.  A crisp salad on the side finishes this as a meal that will warm your tummy.  I usually have extra rice which makes a good lunch the next day.  And hopefully this will help if you are feeling a little sick of eating rice.

The Diet: Day 6

I was worried that there would be no new update today for you.  Yesterday, I decided to have a cup of tea, put the kettle on the stove, turned the knob to high, and walked away.  I was busy typing a final paper and it took me awhile to notice that the kettle had not gone off.  When I finally noticed and investigated, I realized that the burner had not turned on.  A trip to the basement confirmed my worst fears–this was not simply a breaker, the oven and stove were not working.  Since there could really be no worse time for this to happen, I was worried.  One friend suggested we go raw until it was fixed.  I figured I would walk into Whole Foods’ deli with my “No” list and a sign hung around my neck begging for help.

Thankfully the landlord arrived today and while it took longer than expected, the stove and oven are now in working order.  The Philosopher and I have finished all the leftovers from Day 1 and Day 2.  Tonight we made a good dent in Day 4‘s leftovers, but we will probably have Moroccan lunches for a few more days.  Tonight I decided to make roasted cauliflower in honor of a working oven.  It was simple and complimented the lentils and rice well.

I cut one head of cauliflower into ~1″ pieces and tossed with enough olive oil to coat all the pieces.  I sprinkled the tops with kosher salt (~1/4 teaspoon) and popped them in a 450 degree oven.  While warming up the lentils, I checked the cauliflower every 5 minutes or so, stirring them to get even browning.  After 15 to 20 minutes (or after the cauliflower is browned nicely) remove and serve.

The Philosopher’s words, “Who knew olive oil and salt could do so much?!”  He pretty much gobbled down the entire head of cauliflower.  This is not a vegetable that would typically excite him at our table, so this is pretty big news.  This is another way I have tried to incorporate snack-like food into our elimination diet.  Over the weekend I made roasted potatoes for the same reason.  Sometimes, you just want something that is salty and crispy.

Thoughts:  Unfortunately, I may be coming down with something.  I have not been hungry for the last few days and have been forcing myself to eat.  I have also had a headache–likely related to the stress of finals.  The Philosopher reported that he’s been feeling pretty well, but his stomach is a little funny too.  He; however, is always hungry.

Furthermore, when one of my classes had a baby shower for the professor, I volunteered veggies and hummus to ensure that there was at least one thing I could eat.  My friend invited me out for coffee yesterday and I found that there was only one drink on the menu I could have, roobios tea.  It’s also hard not to pop a piece of gum in my mouth during class or accept a mint offered by a classmate.

Overall, none of these things have been such a big deal.  I am not having any major cravings or have felt compelled to cheat.  It is just hard to feel like an outsider in social eating situations.  It in fact reminds me of a realization I had a few years ago when I worked with a very specific population within the field of developmental disabilities (DD). For nearly two years, I supervised a home for individuals dually diagnosed with DD and mental illnesses.  Two of my residents had a disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome.  This disorder was cruel: individuals had a low muscle tone and therefore could not consume as many calories as a typical person of the same height and weight.  Furthermore, their stomach and hypothalamus did not communicate well, so they never felt full.  Unfortunately, there are stories of individuals with Prader-Willi who die of overeating.  One of my residents once consumed over 6000 calories in graham crackers and peanut butter before 7am.  While supervising this house, I was struck by how difficult it was to plan an event without involving food.  When inviting other group homes to visit, the natural suggestion was to eat a meal together.  Our culture does not understand celebrating a birthday without going out to dinner and having a cake.  Society is confused by an Easter, Valentine’s Day, or Christmas without a food focus.  Halloween and Thanksgiving may have been the most difficult holidays as there is no ceremony without eating.

I suppose this is linked directly to conviviality, which I wrote about at Thanksgiving.  Our culture values eating together, humans seek the opportunity to break bread together in community.  As I now become a little more like the individuals I used to work with, I wonder how conviviality can look with differing diet needs.  The latin word means to live together, dine together.  How do we ensure health and safety of all the members of our table while we are eating together?  How best can we live together and respect the living of all those who gather at our table?

The questions always outnumber the time I have to write.  The answers always feel miles away.  But the thinking.  The thinking is good.

Turning an Oops into an Ohh

Elimination Diet: 15 hours, 28 minutes

As I told you all, I was going to attempt to make granola bars for our breakfasts.  I adapted a recipe that I had used before, hoping that agave would act like maple syrup and stevia would act like sugar.

Almost Mistake #1:  It is hard to cook without my usual ingredients.  I almost sprayed the pan with vegetable (soybean) oil. 

Almost Mistake #2:  I accidentally purchased non-allergen free cashews, so I couldn’t use them in my granola bars.

Almost Mistake #3:  I bought a variety of dried fruit:  craisins, raisins, apricots, mixed berries.  The craisins and mixed berries had added sugar.  Thankfully I caught it, but only after adding it to the nuts.  I had to pick out all the dried fruit just in case I mistook a blueberry for a raisin.  (See the pile in the back of the picture?)

Actual Mistake #1:  Granola bars never set.  They maintained a crumbly, yet delectably yummy texture (and they smelled great!).

Actual Save #1:  Turning granola bars into granola.

If you would like to make gluten-free, peanut-free, sugar-free granola, here’s what I did:

3 1/3 c oats (read the packages carefully, many are not gluten-free)

11 packets of Stevia (or ~4 T)

2/3 c oat flour (simply put oats in blender or food processor until a light powder forms

1 t salt (I left this out since my nuts were salted)

1/2 t cinnamon

1 c raisins

1 c flax meal

2 c coarsely chopped nuts (I used almonds and pistachios)

1/3 c cashew butter

1/3 c almond butter (you could just use 2/3 of a cup of either butter alone)

4 T safflower or grapeseed oil

1/2 c agave

2 T water

First stir the dry ingredients and nuts together.  In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, agave and water.  Add both bowls together with the nut butters and stir together well.  This is where you should not follow my directions.  You should turn the oven onto 250 and layer some of the mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  Bake, mixing every 5-10 minutes until golden brown.  I am not sure how long this will take total to bake.  I pressed mine into a 13×9 pan first baking 35 minutes, hoping they would be bars when finished.  Then I baked on a cookie sheet an additional 15 minutes.  I suspect it will take about an hour.   Just be careful, burnt granola does not turn into an ohhh!

I think I missed the vanilla I usually add (vanilla often has alcohol and sugar, making it a no-go).  I think that for my next batch, I will add a vanilla bean to the wet ingredients and let it meld together happily for a bit before stirring together.

New breakfast plan?  Granola with almond milk and fresh fruit.  Blueberries and bananas see like a good place to start, huh?

I am trying to get some prep work done for the next few days.  I just finished cooking some garbanzo beans for hummus in the pressure cooker and am soaking more beans for dinner tomorrow night.  For now, I am going to sip my last cup of coffee for a while and enjoy a final egg.  Tomorrow morning will arrive very quickly!

Wish us luck!