Beef Stoop (A Recipe for a Sort of Soup, Sort of Stew)

It’s not quite a stew and not exactly a soup…it’s Beef Stoop!

This is my very own throw-it-together recipe, named by my 2-year-old son (he came up with the name more than a month ago, and the recipe followed). I whipped this up this week and didn’t want to forget the recipe. Then I figured others might like it, so why not post it to the blog! Feel free to share and re-post liberally, but please do link back here and give me credit for the recipe. And if you make it, comment and let me know how you like it!

This will be technically “done” after an hour or so of simmering, but I do think it benefits from several hours of cooking.

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds lean stew beef, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 large onions, chopped

1-2 T coconut oil

6 small carrots (or 3 large)

4 stalks celery

6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 quart organic beef broth

1 quart organic low sodium chicken broth

1 T sea salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

4 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, washed and chopped (this is just what I happened to have going bad in my fridge; you could certainly sub out any number of other spices, like sage or maybe basil or oregano or thyme or marjoram, or leave this out entirely)

1 pound frozen organic green beans

1. In a 3-quart or larger pot (one with a cover), heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add beef and sere on all sides. Add chopped onions and cook until translucent.

2. Add carrots, celery, garlic, broth, salt, pepper, and rosemary and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 4 hours or so.

3. Add frozen green beans, return to a boil over medium heat, then simmer, covered, over low heat for an additional 1-2 hours.

I was very pleased with how this stoop turned out. The broth was rich and flavorful, the meat and vegetables tender. The whole family devoured it with gusto. And it’s relatively inexpensive! I might try it in the slow cooker next time.

Search my “recipe” category for many, many other of my favorite recipes (both mine and from other sources)!

Breakfast today: Teff!

What was that? I thought that said you were having ‘teff’ for breakfast.

Yes, you read that right. Teff.

That’s not really a word. You just made that up.

Not only is it a word, it’s an “ancient grain of Ethiopia.” It’s the smallest grain in the world (about the size of a poppy seed) and it’s also gluten-free. It’s high in iron and protein and fiber and yumminess. It comes in ivory or brown. The brown is darker in color (as you might have guessed) and has a slightly stronger flavor than the ivory.

What does it taste like?

I think it tastes kind of nutty. My daughter likes hers with just salt in it. My son and I like ours with frozen or dried fruit. Today I had frozen blueberries and a touch of maple syrup in ivory teff. It’s also good with chopped dates and walnuts, especially the stronger-tasting brown variety.

Where on earth do you buy teff?

I’ve found it at Whole Foods, but since it’s become a staple for us, I now buy it in bulk through Azure Standard. You can also buy it online.

OK, then, how do I make teff?

Teff is totally easy to prepare. It’s a 1-to-3 teff-to-water ratio. So, to make three servings, boil 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of teff and stir. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. The teff at the bottom of the pot will thicken first, so be sure to bring that up when you’re stirring.

Faux Pep Mo

My friend Lynn posted a very provocative Facebook status this morning:

Life is better with a homemade peppermint mocha made from leftover candy canes and chocolate chips. Even if it is decaf.

After acquiring more details, I was on my way to making one at my house, too.

 

Satisfaction.

 

Here’s what I used:

3.5 scoops of ground dark roast coffee (I used decaf)

water up to level “5” on the drip coffee maker

1 handful chocolate chips

1 peppermint candy cane

1 smidge of coconut milk (full-fat? Yes, please!)

While the coffee’s brewing, put the other ingredients into the coffee mug you got your spouse for Christmas but which you get to use while said spouse is at work. Pour the coffee over top and stir to melt/dissolve/yummify. Chug before your kids realize you’ve put candy in your coffee and ask to share.

Lynn added sugar, but I found mine sweet enough without any additional sugar.

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Breakfast for Dinner

We waited all day for the snow to start.

I don’t know why, but something about waiting and waiting for snow made the day just drag on and on. That and the even-more-futile-than-usual task of trying to clean up the house. Entropy just got the better of us. I gave in, quit trying to clean, and helped my daughter cook up some pink play dough.

My daughter kneading pink homemade play dough.

We rallied in the evening, though. It helped that my husband brought home three bars of Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate (Whole Foods got me hooked on it and then didn’t carry it for weeks). One bar (3 servings my foot) gave me enough energy to do dishes and make breakfast for dinner while my husband and the kids were upstairs watching Curious George. It was the first time I’d made either of the recipes I used (both from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair), and they turned out to be the perfect thing for dinner tonight. Nothing like leafy greens to give a mommy back her energy.

Breakfast for Dinner: Green Eggs (No Ham) and Healthy Home Fries from Feeding the Whole Family

One was Green Eggs (No Ham). I cooked the eggs a little more than the recipe called for (I like well-cooked eggs. When I get eggs that are the least bit runny, I have the same reaction Napoleon Dynamite did when he tried the egg-laden orange juice at the chicken farm). What was nice, though, was that the addition of the little bit of rice milk in the eggs when I whisked them up along with the moisture of the spinach at the end of the cooking process kept the eggs moist and fluffy even though I browned them like I always do. The kids even liked them. My daughter said, “Mmm! Spinach! My favorite!” I’m guessing you could substitute chard leaves if spinach is not your favorite.

The other recipe was Healthy Home Fries. I used russets rather than red potatoes because that’s what I had on hand. It was a simple but very satisfying accompaniment to the eggs. I ate them with ketchup.

I’m still thinking about decluttering and making plans for next month’s resolutions (I’m planning to take some kind of class as part of January’s “Explore” theme, but I can’t decide what to take), but I’m trying to give myself a break from all the decluttering talk.

So, have yourself some yummy breakfast for dinner (or breakfast for breakfast). You’ll need your strength to tackle all of the post-holiday decluttering and re-stashing of decorations. Unless, of course, you celebrate holidays on the Orthodox Christian calendar, in which case you still have another week to go, and you’ll probably need your strength to get through the run-up to all of the celebrations to come, but you won’t be able to eat the eggs because you’re fasting. If this is your situation (or if you’re vegan full-time), Cynthia Lair’s book has a recipe for Tofu Vegetable Breakfast Burritos you might like to try. Have I mentioned this is my favorite cookbook?

Green Eggs (No Ham)

reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008) www.cookusinterruptus.com

Prep time: 10 minutes

Makes 2-3 servings

4 eggs

2 T water or milk

1/2 t sea salt

1 T butter (I used olive oil)

1 c baby spinach leaves (I used ~1.5 cups cut-up grown-up spinach leaves)

1/4 grated cheese, optional (my family made these into burritos with cheese, but I didn’t cook it in)

Whisk together the eggs, water, and salt in a bowl. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the butter; when it melts, add the eggs.

Using a heatproof rubber scraper, gently stir the eggs as they cook, lifting the curds from the bottom of the pan. When the eggs are nearly cooked, add the spinach and the cheese, if desired. Cover briefly (less than 1 minute) to wilt the spinach.

Remove from the pan when the eggs appear light and fluffy, but still shiny and wet (I think I’ve already made it clear that mine looked dry and lightly browned when I removed them from the pan). Serve immediately.

Healthy Home Fries

reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008) www.cookusinterruptus.com

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes

Makes 4 servings

6 red potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, cut into half-moons

1/2 t sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Place potatoes in a steamer basket and steam 7 to 10 minutes until tender.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté until soft. Add steamed potatoes, salt, and pepper. Flip potatoes occasionally until browned on both sides. Serve warm. (My family added them to their burritos with the green eggs and cheese. I ate them with ketchup.)

Cinnamon Rolls and Ugly Eggs: My Morning in Pictures

My husband took the kids to the playground and then out to lunch in advance of the snow storm this afternoon. I dedicated my alone time to preparing and eating food and getting dough on the camera.

First, I made Ugly Eggs. My preferred breakfast is one that I can make with whatever I happen to have in the house. Ugly Eggs fits this definition well because you can put pretty much anything in it. I’ve used peppers (both sweet and hot), mushrooms, asparagus, beans, potatoes, kielbasa, breakfast sausage, pepperoni, chopped turkey lunchmeat (not all at the same time).

If you, too, want to make Ugly Eggs, saute some veggies and meat together in a skillet. For this morning’s Ugly Eggs, I used 1/2 bell pepper, 1/2 small onion, and some chopped up leftover ham. While the veggies and meat are cooking, whisk up three eggs with some salt and pepper. When the stuff in the pan has begun to brown, pour in the eggs. Keep agitating with the spatula until they’re done to your liking (I like my eggs slightly browned, but I seem to be in the minority). Spoon into a bowl and eat with a fork (if you’re me) or a big spoon (if you’re my husband). If you’re neither me nor my husband, I suppose you can make up your own mind about what sort of utensil to use.

Some people put cheese on top. I do not.

Inspired by the decadence of my Ugly Eggs, I decided to make GF/CF cinnamon rolls. You can find the recipe I used here: Living Without – Cinnamon Rolls – Recipes Article. I didn’t have sweet rice flour so I used millet flour. I think next time I make these, I’ll try using the King Arthur multi-purpose GF flour. I ground my rice flour myself, but it wasn’t quite as fine as I would have liked. It didn’t stop me from devouring half of the cinnamon rolls within a couple of minutes of taking them out of the oven, though.

And now, the visual record of my food adventure this morning (as I try out the slideshow function on WordPress):

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Oh, (Vegan) Fudge!

 

What do you mean, you thought it made two pounds? Isn't this two pounds of fudge?

This is a recipe entitled “Old Fashioned Vegan Fudge” from vegweb.com. While I don’t think there’s anything old fashioned about soy creamer, this is yummy vegan fudge. I made it and I ate (most of) it. I recommend having someone in mind with whom to share this fudge before you make it. Two pounds is a lot of fudge.

 

Old Fashioned Vegan Fudge

(reprinted and very slightly modified from Christine P’s recipe on http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=25962.0)

Makes 2 pounds.

Preparation time: 10 minutes and 1 hour+ cooling time.

Ingredients

5/6 c soy creamer (I used original Silk creamer)

2 1/4 c sugar

1/4 c vegan butter (I used half a stick of Earth Balance buttery sticks)

18 ounces vegan chocolate chips (I used a bag and change of semi-sweet chips and then an ounce of Ghirardelli bittersweet baking chocolate)

1 t vanilla

1 c chopped walnuts, if desired (I desired them but my daughter didn’t, so I didn’t use them)

Prepare an 8×8 pan by either greasing it or lining it with foil or parchment paper.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine cream and sugar. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil then lower heat to medium and continue boiling and stirring for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in butter and chocolate. Keep stirring until satiny (or until your arm gets too tired, which is how long I stirred it). Add vanilla and nuts, if using. Immediately pour into prepared pan. Cool completely at room temperature before cutting.

A note about stirring the fudge: Some people warn against stirring fudge and toffee while they’re cooking. In my experience, the key is to not stir too vigorously. You’re just trying to keep the bottom from scorching. If you stir too vigorously, something happens that assume can be explained by physics or chemistry that causes the sugar and fat to separate out. Just stir gently and no too fast and you should be fine.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Popovers

Popovers, batch #4: Journey's end

The story of these popovers is the story of a journey.

It began with a trip to the store to buy gifts for a family in need. I went to one of those big combination discount store/grocery store places. I needed a glass container for the homemade sugar scrub I’d made the mom. Once I’d found that and looked at all of the other sale items in housewares, I headed back upstairs. On my way, there between the freezer cases was a display of deeply discounted items. Among them, King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour. The box was really banged up, but the bag inside was intact. The price was marked down from $6.99 to $3.49 and the ingredients didn’t include sorghum (which I strongly dislike), so I said, “Sweet!” and tossed it in the basket.

The next morning, I noticed that there was a recipe for gluten-free popovers on the back of the box. It looked very easy, so I whipped some up. They were delicious! And they looked like this:

Popovers, batch #1

How convenient that they had those little dents in them to hold jam or honey or whatever else (I considered putting turkey in them for lunch, but decided against it).

We liked them so much, we ate the whole batch, leaving none for my husband when he returned home from work that evening. So I made some more using the same recipe.

Popovers, batch #2

I was so thrilled with the popovers, I wanted to blog about them. I visited the King Arthur Flours website so I could link to the recipe. There I found a picture of a popover much different than the ones I had made. The ones on the website were puffy. Huh. I wonder why they didn’t puff when I made them? I posted a note to the website about it, commented about it on Facebook, then went searching online for more information about popovers.

With all of this research, I came to the conclusion that popovers are very temperamental creatures, and that I was trying to make them with three things working against me:

  1. Gluten-free: this messes up many an otherwise delectable baked good.
  2. Dairy-free: this usually is a non-issue for me, I just use rice milk and fake butter and all is well. But apparently popovers have strong opinions about cows.
  3. High altitude: this was the big kicker, I think. I’d forgotten that we’re between 4,500 and 5,000 feet in elevation at my house. It’s not always enough to make a big difference (rice takes longer to cook and my sister huffed and puffed a lot when she jogged when she visited us, but those are the biggest differences I’ve noticed). But from what I read in the New Mexico State University High Altitude Cooking Guide, altitudes as low as 3,500 feet could require recipe modification.

By this time, it was almost 11 at night, but I was a woman possessed. I decided to modify the popover recipe from the high altitude cooking guide to make it gluten-free and dairy-free and make one more batch before bed. The other change from the other two batches: I mixed the batter in the blender rather than with a whisk. They were puffier and cakier, but not popover-y.

Popovers, batch #3

The next day, I took a break from cooking popovers. I realized that I was acting a bit obsessive and I thought the least I could do was try to get a handle on myself by taking a break from actually cooking popovers. So, I ruminated and searched the internet and solicited suggestions and dreamed about baking popovers. Based on my research and my experiences with my prior three batches of popovers, I decided to use the King Arthur recipe as a guide and make four main modifications:

  1. less fat, a suggestion for high altitude baking
  2. higher initial oven temperature, also for high altitude baking
  3. preheating the muffin tin, something that was recommended on several popover recipes and that I later found was suggested in response to my query on the King Arthur site
  4. using light coconut milk, to try to approximate the properties of cow’s milk without the lactose and casein

This morning, I made up another batch.

Yes, dear reader, they puffed.

Puffy Popover. (Proud? Perhaps.)

Here is the resulting recipe, the culmination of much research and experimentation. Those of you at sea-level will likely be fine with the King Arthur recipe. Those of you who are at altitude but not GF/CF will probably be fine with the New Mexico State University recipe. But for those of you who are GF/CF and living above 4,500 feet, this could be your path to popover bliss. For those of you who don’t eat eggs, I’m sorry I can’t help you. My obsession carries me only so far.

Imperfect GF/CF High Altitude Popovers (inspired by the King Arthur Flours GF popover recipe)

makes 12

Ingredients:

1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I used King Arthur multi-purpose flour blend)

1/4 t xanthan gum

1/2 t salt

1 1/4 c “light” coconut milk, at room temperature

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 T vegan margarine, melted and divided (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)

Preheat oven and muffin tin or popover pan to 450°F.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Combine coconut milk, eggs, and 1 T melted butter substitute in the carafe of a blender and blend until combined. Add dry ingredients and blend until smooth.

Remove pan from oven and brush cups with the remaining 1 T melted margarine. If there’s any butter leftover, pour it into the rest of the batter and mix briefly until incorporated. Pour the batter into the greased cups, evenly distributing among all 12 of them (about 1/2 to 2/3 full).

Place in 450°F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and cook an additional 25 minutes. Popovers are done when they are a tad browner than golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool just enough so you don’t burn yourself when you eat them. They have a nice hollow inside for all of the yummy stuff you might want to put in them.

My 5.5-year-old daughter likes them plain, my 16-month-old son (who can now say, “popover”) likes them with raspberry preserves, I like them with fake butter and real preserves. My husband hasn’t tried them yet, but I’m trying very hard to leave him a couple. Or maybe one. Half.

Talkin’ Turkey (Soup with Brown Rice)

We spent Thanksgiving with some homeschooling friends this year. We had a lovely time, but not having a carcass to stew up left me with the sense that something was missing from the holiday. Luckily, turkey wings were on sale at Whole Foods last week. I bought six of them and stuck them in my freezer until the time was right to make soup.

The time happened to be right this morning.

What follows is an account of the tossed-together soup that I created, reported with as much accuracy as possible given that I took no notes during the process. I wonder sometimes if I should be more scientific about my recipe creation, keeping a lab notebook so there’s a chance that the results might be reproducible. Maybe some day. But not today.

Part 1: Turkey Stock

Makes 4 quarts.

Preparation time: about 3-4 hours (although it doesn’t have to be near that long. I left it simmering until after the baby’s nap, when I finally remembered it was simmering on the stove).

Ingredients:

1-2 T canola oil

4 turkey wings (about 4 pounds)

2 large yellow onions (the ones we got from Costco), roughly chopped

~6 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

1 bulb garlic, pressed

~2/3 of a bunch of cilantro, rinsed and roughly chopped

1-2 T grated fresh ginger

Kosher salt

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot you bought at Crate and Barrel with a gift card your husband’s aunt and uncle sent for Christmas about three years ago over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop in two frozen turkey wings. Brown on one side for a couple of minutes, then use tongs to turn them over to another side. Realize you probably should have thawed the turkey wings and put the remaining two turkey wings into the microwave to thaw while the first two are searing. When the second two turkey wings are thawed, wrestle the first two apart and push them to the sides of the pan, then add the thawed wings. Sear all wings on all sides.

Add all of the roughly-chopped vegetables and cook until the onions start to soften, stirring frequently. It will look kind of like this:

Seared turkey wings with chopped veggies underneath. Note the uneven searing. This may be important to the recipe.

Add five quarts of water and toss in some kosher salt. I really have no idea how much I put in.

It’ll look like this:

Stock before 3-4 hours of simmering.

Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to the lowest temp you can and still maintain a simmer. Go about your daily business, letting it simmer until you notice the yummy smell a few hours later and say, “Oh, wait! I’ve got turkey stock simmering!”

The stock is done with the meat falls off the bones when you go to use the tongs to put the turkey wings on a plate to cool. Pour the stock through a colander or mesh strainer into a large glass or metal container (something you won’t melt with hot stock). Let cool a bit, then either portion it into freezer-sized aliquots, or set aside for further soup prep. I ended up with roughly four quarts of stock. I’m guessing that the remaining quart is humidifying my home.

When the turkey wings are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, tear into bite-sized pieces and either refrigerate/freeze for later, or continue with soup prep.

Part 2: Soup

Ingredients:

2 quarts turkey stock

Reserved turkey meat from four turkey wings (probably about 3-4 cups of bite-sized pieces)

1/2 large, yellow, Costco-sized onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped (I would have liked to use about twice this many, but it turns out there were only two in the fridge when I went to get them)

2 handfuls frozen peas

4 cloves garlic, pressed

2 stems of fresh rosemary cut off of the tree you have decorating your dining room table, rinsed and chopped

1 healthy dash each of dried thyme and oregano (probably ~2 teaspoons each)

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

2 handfuls brown rice

Saute the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in a little olive oil over medium heat until onions are soft. Add everything else. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, maintaining a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 45-60 minutes or until rice is done. Then it will look something like this:

The finished turkey soup with rice.

Feed it to your family and refrigerate the rest for lunches the next few days.

GF/CF Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (and Week 16 Review)

NaNoWriMo Day 21 Word Count: 37,869

I know that many of you eat raw cookie dough even if there are eggs in it. But I’m certain I’m not the only overly-cautious person who will not even entertain the idea of eating raw any kind of anything with eggs in it. My daughter has been programmed so well that when we cook together, she says, before I even have a chance to say anything, “This has eggs in it so it’s not safe and sound to taste it.”

When we made these cookies, we were both thrilled that I could say, “Guess what? There are no eggs in this recipe, so we can eat the dough!” I imagine trippy psychedelic colors undulating in my daughter’s brain with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida playing over it. I highly doubt that actually happened, but she was excited about eating raw cookie dough nonetheless. So was her brother.

Oh, and the cooked cookies were excellent, too. And since they’re sweetened with maple syrup and have rolled oats in them, they’re health food, so you can eat the whole batch, which is only one dozen. If you whip some up after the kids go to bed, you easily will have gotten rid of all of the evidence by the time they wake up. The perfect crime.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

Reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008) www.cookusinterruptus.com

I’ve put the modifications to make this GF and Vegan in parenthesis after the original amounts.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Makes 1 dozen 3-inch cookies

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (I used Gifts of Nature GF oats)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (to make GF, sub 3/4 c brown rice flour, 3 T potato starch, 1 T tapioca starch, and 1/2 t xanthan gum, or 1 cup of your GF flour mix of choice + 1/2 t xanthan gum)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (I used coconut oil to make them dairy-free)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine oats, flour, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.

In a separate bowl mix together maple syrup, butter (or coconut oil), and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix well. Stir in nuts and chips.

With moist hands form dough into 3-inch cookies and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges turn golden.

These cookies are delicious and soft right out of the oven and turn kind of crispy once they’re cool. The flavor reminds me of Russian Tea Balls, which I think are similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies. I would almost prefer raisins in them than chocolate chips. Almost.

Week 16 Review:

This week has been a little challenging. I’ve just been kind of low energy and irritable. I’ve been ignoring many of my resolutions from previous months as I focus all of my attention on NaNoWriMo. I’ve not been working out much because my knee has been bothering me and walking just doesn’t do it for me the way running does. Maybe if I don’t run until the beginning of December, my knee will be ready for action again. I’ve been going to bed late and not being as mindful as I was. I’m still aware of judgmental thoughts, which has been helpful, and I’ve started eating better again (namely, I’ve stopped drinking coffee again. I drink decaf, so I don’t think the caffeine was a problem, but I feel better without the coffee anyway).

I don’t think all of my malaise can been attributed to my self care or lack thereof, though. I think some of it is just a result of the psychological roller coaster that I’ve heard participants in NaNoWriMo ride as the month progresses. Here I am at nearly 38,000 words. I’m in the home stretch, and while I know that, if I keep this pace, I’ll finish in plenty of time, I find this fear creeping up that I won’t be able to do it. I’m doing my best to be gentle with myself and to recognize this naysayer for who she is (my inner critic trying to protect me from disappointment by keeping me from really trying to succeed at a goal I’ve set for myself. She seems to think it’s better to say, “I gave up,” than it is to say, “I tried as hard as I could and still didn’t finish.”)

Week 14 Review. And Pancakes!

NaNoWriMo Day 7 word count: 13,017

Before I started NaNoWriMo, I was hard-pressed to find anything to blog about. I would be searching around for quotes and writing a lot about the books I was reading or the podcasts I was listening to. Ironically, now that I’m writing so much more every day, I find I have even more to say on the blog. So rather than blog about week 15 and then post about my pancakes tomorrow, I’m just going to do both in one post.

If you just want the pancakes, feel free to skip to the end.

This week, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I’ve been able to keep pace with my goal of writing 1,667 words per day on my novel. Today I’m almost a day ahead because my husband presented me with the gift of about three hours (cumulative) of kid-free writing time. I have a “Ladies Night” scheduled with some mom friends this Wednesday, so I wanted to get a bit ahead, in case I don’t get much writing done that night.

I’ve been avoiding writing much about writing because I feel a little superstitious about the whole process. It’s not clear when the “muse” is going to sit down with me at the keyboard and when she’s not. But I’m encouraged by the “writing begets writing” phenomenon I seem to be experiencing, and the success (so far) I’ve had in just playing around with the novel rather than worrying about whether it’s “good” or not.

I’m kind of approaching it as though I’m gathering raw material which I will later hone into something lovely. In the wake of the Chilean mine collapse and subsequent rescue, there was a story on All Things Considered about Chilean mineworkers. These aren’t the minors who work for companies. These are free agents who work in mines that have been closed down because they’re not profitable enough anymore. They operate without safety equipment or really any oversight at all. If an accident happens to one of these miners, it’s unlikely anyone would even know until it was too late to do anything. The way they get the gold out of these spent rocks is they chisel out pounds and pounds of rock then grind it down. From Juan Forero’s interview with one of the miners,

He’s happy with four ounces of gold for every 130 pounds of rock he manages to pull out of the mine…To get at a few precious particles, though, he has to pulverize the rocks, then scrape them.

While I’m not physically mining more than my weight in rock each day, four ounces of gold for every 130 pounds of rock is about the ratio I’m targeting in my writing.

In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami likens writing to digging for water. As a writer, each day you set to work digging, hoping you hit a vein of water. And every time you hit water, you feel grateful to have found it and also somewhat fearful that the spring won’t be sufficient to sustain you.

But if you don’t dig, there’s no chance of finding it at all.

So, my 1,667 words per day are my digging. I won’t know until I pulverize the rocks and sift through the dust just how much gold I’ve mined.

Mostly I try to think of my writing as play rather than as work. More than ever before, I get the sense that this process is about getting to know my characters and letting them reveal their stories to me. In the interview with Lynda Barry on To the Best of Our Knowledge (that I mentioned in September in my post, “Happiness is Like a Butterfly”), Barry talks about how she experiences writing—and teaches it to her classes—as a process similar to recalling a memory and writing it down. I’m pretty good at writing things down from my memory. That’s likely why I felt such an affinity towards creative nonfiction in college. It’s been something of a revelation that I can use the same process to write fiction.

Even if the events I’m recording never happened in reality, there’s some truth that’s trying to speak through them. It’s like I’m opening myself up to the truths of the universe (or at least those questions and fears that lie in my soul and in my psyche) and channeling them through my fingers. At least that’s my hope. I have so far maintained faith that those truths are there, even if they’re buried deep in the rock.

Let’s see…what else has gone on this week? Well, the Facebook Fast has been going fairly well. I spent a few days feeling paranoid that I wasn’t in contact with anyone until I remembered that I had intentionally left Facebook. All of the people with whom I usually connect are still there, and if I go back to Facebook, I can connect with them again. Or I can find another way (the phone, perhaps? Or good, old-fashioned e-mail?) to connect with these friends outside of Facebook. IRL, as the kids say. (Yes, some of these “kids” are older than I am by 10 or 15 years. I use the term loosely to refer to anyone better-versed in the online world than I am.) For the most part, I’m loving the Facebook Fast. I have so much more time, and now that I’m not processing so much information, I feel much less frenzied.

Things are still somewhat in chaos, as I might have expected changing around my entire routine. But the chaos has the feel of the chaos I necessarily created as a part of my decluttering. It’s necessary to the process, and greater clarity will follow.

(Did I mention I attended service at the Buddhist Temple this morning?)

OK, enough about my week. Let’s talk pancakes!

I modified a recipe from Feeding the Whole Family and made some very yummy GF/CF pancakes this morning. I topped them with the Blueberry Sauce recipe from the same book. Super, super yummy.

Multi-Grain Pancake Mix

1 1/3 c brown rice flour

1 c garbanzo/fava bean flour

1 c potato starch

2/3 c tapioca flour

1 T xanthan gum

1 c buckwheat flour

1 c cornmeal (medium grind)

3 T baking powder

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t sea salt

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To make pancakes:

1 1/2 c pancake mix

1 c buttermilk (1 c non-dairy milk plus 1 T lemon juice)

1 T maple syrup

1 egg, beaten (this can be omitted, but pancakes will be a little less fluffy)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour by 1/4 cupfuls onto a pre-heated, oiled skillet. Makes about 6 pancakes.

Blueberry Sauce

(reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008) http://www.cookusinterruptus.com)

2 T kuzu or arrowroot powder

1 c apple or berry fruit juice (I used cranberry-raspberry from Costco)

1 c blueberries, fresh or frozen

2 to 3 T maple syrup

1 t lemon juice

Dissolve kuzu in juice in a small saucepan. Add blueberries and maple syrup and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture turns clear and purple, about 3 minutes. Remove for heat, stir in juice, and serve immediately.

The finished product:

GF/CF Pancakes and Blueberry Sauce. Modified from "Goldie's Whole Grain Pancake Mix" in Feeding the Whole Family