Friday, August 29, 2014

Fabulous Friday -- Lesson Learned

Further to the fake sour cream post:

Some experiments fail and that's okay.
It wasn't a proper failure as Thursday's experiment with extra psyllium fibre in the mix tasted okay, if a bit mild.
I decided to use it as gravy. I marinated steaks in wine and after cooking them as well as mushrooms I poured the marinade in the pan.
After several seconds of stirring I put in the 5-6 ounces of fake sour cream.
Psyllium fibre is a great gluten substitute. It holds things together beautifully when cooked.
The consistency of the gravy was disgusting.
The whole mess of it held together well enough it could be picked up with a fork. It was edible as long as one didn't look at it.
Even my husband noted it looked gross and this is a man currently working at the local landfill.

We ate it and we're here to tell the tale and that's good.
Bu best of all I had a failure of sorts.
Failing is a great way to learn and learning is fabulous.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Fake Sour Cream Mission

My current food mission is to create a tasty, easy, viable fake sour cream.
I believe I am on to something.
In the past I've used tofu to which I've added vinegar and lemon and canola oil. It worked well. I was very happy with it and even happier when I decided to add a wee bit of salt and sugar to moderate the flavour and happier yet when I discovered a bit of tahini gave it great body.

I've cycled away from tofu. I've nothing against it; I've simply moved on.
What I moved to was coconut milk. It makes a great substitute for milk and cream depending on the thickness of the product.  Though available already made up in a carton in the milk section of stores I prefer to buy canned and make it the way I like without sugar or stabilizers or what-have-you.
My favourite brand has added guar gum. This is not a crime.
I whir it together with about one-third of a can of water and get about three cups of coconut milk. It's great on fruit, baked goods, and my morning oatmeal.

I checked out a few recipes for making it into sour cream. Most say to drain off the water and then mix in vinegar and/or lemon and/or salt and let it sit.
This makes a reasonable facsimile of sour cream. Because I'd already added water to mine it was runnier that I'd like, but it still did the job.
Yesterday I played around a bit with the recipe. I mixed up some tahini for body for it and then added it to about a half a cup of coconut milk.
It was still fairly runny so I mixed it psyllium fibre. All together it may have been half a teaspoon of it.
It helped a bit, but I think I should have added it in with the tahini. I'll try that next time.
Guar gum may be a better addition, but for now I am going to play with the psyllium fibre. I am convinced it will work.
As to the taste, it is pretty good. I have to play around more to get the souring correct for my tastes, but a) experimenting is fun and b) you get to hide the failures by eating them.

The batch I made yesterday was for a Scandinavian style cucumber salad:

It's tasty and it worked.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In The Moment

I devoted some time to reading outdoors today. I sat in a camping chair in the sun and when it got too hot I moved to the shade by the deck and read more.
My chair sat close to my garden and close to the garage.
This gave me a fine view of the young house sparrows helping themselves to the sunflowers in the garage feeder.
They are noisy and sloppy eaters, much like me.  For every seed in a beak at least nine more flew off the side.
They ate a bit and flew off to a nearby tree or the birdbath or to the cable that runs from the house across my garden and yard to the alley. They sat on the wire and shat on the lawn and flew off to attack the seeds once again.
They are happy in the way that a bird is happy on a sunny day when there's food and water and shade about. They are living in the moment and it is a grand lesson for all.
We have many birds come to our yard. Goldfinches are regulars, chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, and assortment of sparrows and other members of the finch family including an orange variant house finch.
Few siskins have been about this year. While I wonder about it I am a bit relieved as the 40 lb. bag of black oil sunflower seeds  lasts longer without the flying stomachs to feed.
That may change now that the young house sparrows have found the feeders.
It is relaxing to sit in the sun as they eat and fly and chirp. It is a good noise. It is a wholesome, natural, and soothing noise and it convinced me to put down my book and be in the moment with them.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gratitude Monday -- Lentilfest

It's been a veritable lentilfest around here since my operation.
My body tells me it needs lighter fare than meat.  Fish and chicken have their places, no question, but lately it's been lentils.
They make a great meat substitute and for that I am grateful.
I've made burgers with them and a pan loaf thingy that defies description for several reasons ( it was tasty, thought, give it that) and last night we had lentil balls.
They're like meatballs. To the cooked lentils I added the pulp from the morning smoothie: carrot, watermelon, cherry, garlic, lettuce, and sauerkraut.
I also added slow fried onions and mushrooms as they are the key to making lentils taste similar to red meat.
Chop onion, slice mushrooms, and let them fry slow and low for at least a half-hour, covered.
By low I mean once they start cooking turn the heat down to barely noticeable. I tossed in some fresh garlic toward the end.
I found a recipe for a tahini sauce made with garlic, lemon. cumin, and cilantro which I have mostly followed. It sets off the lentils beautifully.
I am grateful I have lentils, that I know what to do with them, and that they serve my current need to eat lighter than usual.
I am further grateful my husband loves lentils and would eat them every day if he could.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fabulous Friday --Tub Time

I took my first bath in over a month last night.
Lest you get too horrified, let me explain. After surgery I was told to shower, not bathe, for an extended period of time. Most medical personnel suggested six weeks, but I believe they were only being careful.
The point was the incisions had to heal before I could soak myself.
Showers are fine. In fact, I quite like them. But I'd gotten used to bathing before bed. It was relaxing, it put me in the mindset for sleep, and best of all it kept me warm.
Showers did none of that,
My feet stayed cold. In fact, despite the hot weather I often pulled on a pair of thick socks at night. I took them off after a few hours, but the mere fact I had to wear them when it was 80F in the house was disturbing.
A few nights I had to wear winter weight pyjamas.
But that all changed last night.
All four incisions were long since healed and well on their way to making some magnificent scarring.
That's not sarcasm, my scars are my life map. They remind me where I've been, what I've done, and that I am here to tell the tale.
I wear them with pride.
Yesterday marked a lunar cycle and a day since my cancer surgery. I decided bathing was safe so I drew a deep, hot bath last night and soaked a while.
It was relaxing. The weather was cool enough yesterday that it was 68F in the house. I had to have the heat on. The bath kept me warm and despite the cool house I didn't need to wear socks to bed.
In short, I had a bath last night and it was fabulous.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gratitude Monday-- Embrace Your Mess Edition

Embrace your mess.
This is my philosophy and has been for many, many years. I gave voice to it around 2006 or so, but I believed it and used it for several years before then.

It calls for a change in attitude and being able to change one's attitude is something for which to be grateful. It speaks of a fluidity of mind, and if one's mind cannot flow, then one gets stuck.
Stuck does not serve anyone especially the stuckee.

The mess can refer to anything, but in my case it refers to the things society expects of a person that I am simply unwilling and/or unable to do. In most cases I plain don't want to.
It also has a literal interpretation for me.
I am a messy eater. It's not too bad in the great scope of the world, but it's noticeable. I have tried every way to not spill, to ensure it all gets to my mouth, and to ensure it stays on the plate until then.

It ain't a-gonna happen.

I remember my mother commenting from time to time, "You're wearing your dinner."

Yup. I am.

It used to embarrass me. Not to the point where I wouldn't eat in public, but I was acutely aware that I was making a mess.  Further, I like eating messy foods so my choices often enhanced the experience.

Why fight it?
This came to me one day and for the life of me I couldn't come up with a good reason to continue battling and repeatedly losing.
Instead, I chose to embrace it.
I am a messy eater.
I can't say as I am proud of it, but I am in no way embarrassed about it.
It's me. I do my best and that's as good as it is going to get.

A few years back as I ate a bakery confection a new acquaintance pointed out I had icing around my mouth.
I looked him straight in the eye while brandishing the remainder of the confection and said, "Yeah, and it's just going to get worse."

That's what I mean when I say embrace it. I am grateful I have gotten to this point.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fabulous Friday

Why Fabulous Friday?
Because the world is filled with fabulous things.
It may be because they are wonderful.
It could be because they are extraordinary.
Or it may simply be because they are mythical.
It doesn't matter. What's important is they are fabulous and deserve to be celebrated.
This is the logical extension of gratitude.
Gratitude is great. I've been posting about gratitude on Mondays for several years now.  What happens when you do that is what has been ordinary becomes extraordinary.
You perceive the magic in the mundane.

For example:
ThePeasof2014 .2
Plant a few seeds and you get fresh, tasty peas.

As for Photo– Finish Friday I am nowhere near done with it.  It will appear from time to time as the mood strikes me.
But right now, the world is a fabulous place –for many values of that word—and I will celebrate it.
Oh, and the fresh garden peas?
They taste fabulous.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Gratitude Monday - Blueberries


I am grateful for blueberries.
They are tasty and healthy and make a great snack. A great and very hard to stop eating snack.

We bought some yesterday that were grown in B.C. They are big and juicy and taste close enough to blueberries to satisfy.

What do I mean?

I grew up on a farm carved out of the bush. If I wanted blueberries I went to the back yard.
I also could find strawberries and raspberries and saskatoons in their turn.
In short, I know what berries taste like and the commercial ones are sad imitations most of the time. But these BC blueberries are plump and delicious and for it I am grateful.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Photo-Finish Friday -- Framed

CycladesNikon 076 Through an abandoned building on Paros.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Peasant Surprise

I've been wanting to try a this recipe  from Alexandra Stafford for gluten free peasant bread for a few weeks now, but hot weather and surgery got in my way.
No more of that nonsense.
I've been craving bread for about a week. I made a few loaves in my bread machine and a free hand French loaf.
Playing around with gluten free flours is fun, if frustrating.
Most gluten free loaves rely heavily on rice flour and potato, corn, and/or tapioca starch. The combo works great, but they're all simple carbs . One may as well eat sugar.
I've added in various combinations of bean flours, sorghum, even coconut. The latter is very absorbent.
If I toss in psyllium fibre to help things stick together the dough can be too dry.
A few of last weeks loaves are now serving as croutons and are very good in my version of a tomato-bread salad.
Today I came very close to following the recipe as given. I used sorghum, rice, and coconut flours in it and a whole egg rather than the two egg whites called for. 
I do this simply to be contrary.
I got things going fairly early the baking would be done before the heat of the day.
It worked well.
I will the recipe around and work out how much more liquid it needs, but for right now it is just fine.
GF Peasant Bread 007

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Gratitude Monday– Sketches of Thanks

Another Monday rolls around and I've plenty for which to be grateful.
I'm recovering well from surgery. I feel good which helps cope with the pain as it makes it easier to ignore. I refuse to take pain killers on the grounds that they'll get in the way of me judging how well I am healing and they'll muddle my mind.
I am very grateful that I weaned myself away from all but the Tylenol 500s while in the hospital. I probably could have gotten away with refusing them, too, but I decided, why suffer?
They left me clear-headed enough to think and to create. The first morning after refusing Toradol I came up with a character and wrote a brief sketch of her.
Because I had assumed I'd be in pain and helping myself to the IV morphine, I brought neither pen nor paper.  But I had a pencil because a nurse brought me one. The hospital allows patients to circle menu choices for the next day and I had done so earlier.
The paper I used was from the print-out that came with the breakfast which ensures the proper patient gets the proper food.
It wasn't much, but it was all I needed. 
I wrote small.
So small that when I got home later I had to dig out a magnifying glass to read it.
I am so grateful I
a) had one
b) that what I wrote made sense.
I'd been kicking around an idea for a few weeks. This character has helped clarify the story and given me a start. 
She's also given me reason for a guest appearance from another character, this one in the book I have under contract with Holland House Books/Lost World Press.
And I am very grateful for both the guest appearance and the contract.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Photo-Finish Friday -- Waiting

CycladesNikon 079

A Greek bus driver waits for his passengers at a dock at Parikia (Paros).