Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hungry for Stories, and Chocolate

I didn't get a chance to post anything about Remembrance Day yet this week because I've been awfully busy with work, so forgive me for being a day late.

I love history. It was always my favourite subject in school, and I used to dedicate a lot of my time to reading non-fictions during my recreational time (back when I had an excess of it). My family is the same way; my mom keeps our family's genealogy records and is constantly updating them, my brother has assumed history as a minor in university, and my sister had recently developed an interest and is going on a school trip this spring to Belgium to see the war memorials and so on.

Despite this, my family's roots aren't really in history. My ancestors were all simple farmers, right up to my mother's father (who was actually rejected to join the army during the war because his 'trigger' finger on his right had was cut off when he was a boy, even though he was actually left handed).

I'm trying to say that we doing have any hero stories or special badges or medals passed down. I used to be a little ashamed of this. But then I though, alas, there had to be some who stayed behind.

Since I work at a retirement home, I was lucky enough to have some of the residents show me medals and pictures from their late husbands. It was really fascinating. I often fantasize about what it would have been like to live during that time, and this isn't something I go and tell people, but I think on this kind of thing often.

One woman was married when she was seventeen. Seventeen. I'm older than that now, I thought. Because her eyesight isn't so good, I read out a little poem for her about soldiers going off to war. I finish, and I notice her eyes are glistening, and she's no longer looking at me. And it hits me.

"Where did all the years go?" She asked, to no one in particular.

I just sat there, awestruck. She's holding and old leather case in which two hand-coloured photographs are kept: from nearly century ago, an elegant, young married couple in their late teens.

I can't help it, I just think of my grandparents who have been gone so long, when I was so young, that I can barely remember their faces now. Where did all the years go, indeed.

I think I can learn a lot of things from these people. There are things I would like to ask my grandparents and stories I would like to hear, but I cannot do that, so this will suffice. All the residents have some stories to tell, they're just waiting for someone to listen. More than being proud, I believe they just don't want those memories to be forgotten. Therefore, they are looking for someone to pass down those stories to, so the memories of their loved ones can continue on. I'm always all-ears.

I'm not too sure where I was going with that, it's a bit of a mess. Just like those chocolate sables at the top of this post. If you haven't forgotten them already, throughout my blabbering.

I think I messed up, probably because I didn't measure the baking soda (oops). They certainly don't look like these. But they taste good. I will try this recipe again and actually measure things properly this time. I just get impatient, you know? It's chocolate, for goodness sake.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Kind of Breakfast

I have this thing for oatmeal.
A really big thing.
A 'to the ends of the earth and beyond' kind of thing.

I put oats in nearly anything, and if I could have oatmeal for breakfast every day (ie. if I wasn't so lazy or busy most mornings) then I probably would. It's one of those things I just don't see myself tiring off. Like chocolate or peanut butter... or chocolate and peanut butter.

It's been months since I've made any baked oatmeal. Oh, how I've missed it! There is just something so comforting about a bowl of warm oatmeal. In its baked form, oatmeal becomes a special treat—something different.

The following is a recipe I've changed quite a bit, and one I change every time I make it. I don't even remember the source anymore. I'm always switching it up, between the type of fat (you could even sub in apple sauce if you want), sweetener, and nuts and fruits used. Alter it depending on what is in season or simply by what is in your kitchen.

Baked Oatmeal

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup (or liquid sweetener of your choice)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground ginger
Generous pinch of salt
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 flax egg (or 1/4 cup fruit puree)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ripe banana, sliced into rounds
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, divided

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Spray a casserole dish and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix together oats, walnuts, baking powder, ginger and salt. In another bowl, stir together maple syrup, milk, flax 'egg', oil and vanilla.

In the casserole, place banana slices in a single layer; sprinkle over 1/2 cup of the blueberries. Evenly cover the fruits with the oat mixture, then pour over the milk mixture. Sprinkle remaining blueberries on top.

Bake 30-35 minutes, or until golden and mixture has set. Allow oatmeal to sit 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve warm. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to a few days.

Serves 4

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Starting From the Bottom

Sorry about pulling a disappearing act during the final days of MoFo. Unfortunately I had a bunch of things to do which left no time for baking and a very unhappy me. Boo hoo.

Today I want to talk about the holidays. My thanksgiving already passed, but the American Thanksgiving is later this month (I can totally still celebrate that, right?), and Christmas is in just over 50 days! Soon the year will be over. Where did you go, 2011? I will be an old lady before I know it. End melodrama now.

I'll start by announcing that I don't have many holiday traditions or special memories, especially not involving food. I grew up on processed, packaged foods. My parents aren't much of cooks, so they use a lot of boxed mixes and such. Rarely was there anything homemade, and definitely nothing like cookies made from scratch. It makes me sad to think about it, truly.

Somewhere along the line when I was a vegetarian and had to make meals for myself, I picked up some kitchen skills. I had to teach myself how to cook, use a knife, season my food, etc. Where my persistence and patience came from, I don't know.

But that's a different story. What I'm trying to get at here is that regarding holiday favourites—like pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and gingerbread cookies—all of the ones I grew up with don't hold much weight in the memory for me because they were all store-bought. And I might be ok with that if there had been just one thing I could hold on to, as if to say, "At least I have ____!" But I really don't.

I was thinking, now that I'm a vegan, maybe I should be making my own holiday traditions. I mean, a tradition can't become a tradition right away, but it has to start at some point before it can hold traditional status and all that.

So I'll be mucking around with a lot of cookie recipes (poor, poor me), and more savoury things, too. Please do recommend me recipes, or even just a food that reminds you of the holidays (and is vegan, of course). By this time next year, I should have a few recipes under my belt that make a reappearance. And I do mean quite literally under my belt. Such are the consequences of bulk recipe testing.