Like I don’t already put enough pressure on myself to eat healthy, stay thin, stay positive, work hard, cut out the wine at bedtime (!), get organized, clean the damn house from time to time, do laundry, walk the dog (again), get out and talk to other humans, exercise and try hard to let go of my kids because they are grown-ups and mostly don’t need me to be their Mom-ager. And then New Year’s comes along and it’s got me gnashing my teeth over a short list of resolutions I SHOULD be doing IF I want to have what all the holiday-card-senders and well-wishers seem to want me to have: A HAPPY, HEALTHY, PROSPEROUS, AND PEACEFUL NEW YEAR.
And I want that for myself too, I really do. But with me this leads to ANXIETY. The first couple of weeks of January I worry about how I am going to make that happy, prosperous thing happen. Every year starts with the optimism that it can be done and I don’t know why I am so optimistic on January 1, when just the night before, I might have been thinking how glad I was that I could stop pushing the rock that was last year up the hill and maybe, just maybe coast a bit in the year to come. There is something about a clean slate that we love, don’t we? But, honestly this year it’s making me just a little tired. I make lists of things I’ve yet to do that must be done. Things I want to do, things that are good, really good, but just can’t seem to make myself do, or stir up the voodoo to manifest. Here is my list and tell me if it doesn’t scare you.
- write more: blog, journal, book idea
- continue taking classes toward my masters’ degree in mental health counseling
- meditate once a day; twice is better
- exercise daily, at least 3x a week in the gym w weights
- make more money than last year; be in demand for my services, talents.
- date. try to date.
Ok, it’s a lot, but you can see I’m trying. Number 1: I’m writing. It’s torture, but I’m doing it. Why it’s torture, why I avoid it at all costs when it brings me such pleasure, and satisfaction when it’s all said and done, I can’t tell you. Maybe it has to do with an overall difficulty with indulging in pleasurable activities that lead to nothing in particular except pleasure. I was not raised to have fun. (#7. Have more fun.)
Very Brief And Over-Simplified History: My mother was a Nazi concentration camp survivor and my father was a violent, charming, pedophile, so I learned about genocide and sex at an early age and maybe I somehow linked pleasure to pain, and NOT in a sexy way. From my mother I learned that if I wasn’t vigilant, all that I cherished could be lost in an instant, for no good reason other than who or what I happened to be; and from my father I learned that my body, and those I loved, could betray me. Fast-forward childhood to serious adulthood, do not pass Go or collect any carefree playtime. (I repeat: #7!)
Wait, is this a blog about food?, you may be asking yourself right now as you scroll down and search for the unsubscribe link. Bear with me. Yes, it is about food, because with all I’ve been through, food and cooking have been my joyous through-line and life-line. But as my own life has changed over the past two years, I’ve avoided this platform because I knew somehow that it would have to change too: that the sunny family kitchen and the bright photos, and the long days I had to spend on cooking projects were over. I knew Food Fix Kitchen had to change and morph as I continue to do, but I didn’t know in what way. Now I have an idea how I want it to be but I still don’t know if I have the courage to do it, or the talent to pull it off. Or in the end, if anyone gives a s#*t. And even if they don’t, according to my list, it’s something I seem to have to do to satisfy my healthy, happy quotient (and soul).
I want to write about food, but not in the “here’s the recipe and the step by step pictures” way it has been or that you can find copious examples of at the flick of a search engine. I want to write about food and how it makes us feel, how we relate to it, the memories it makes, the pain it suppresses, the pleasure it brings or the way we use it to punish ourselves. I want to explore our food fixes by exploring my own relationship with food—a complicated love affair—and writing in a meaningful way about it, while sometimes using foul (or fowl) language if that’s where my voice takes me (I salute you Thug Kitchen). Yes, there will be recipes, mostly wholesome, healthy recipes that reflect my menu at the restaurant, because that’s where I’m doing most of my cooking these days, but others may be wildly indulgent and have no other possible reason for being other that complete unadulterated pleasure. (That is if I get to #7, and I’m hoping I do.)
And finally, here is a recipe. It’s everything I love and need in a snack which mainly comes down to CRUNCH, followed by sort-of-healthy, not-too-fattening and delicious. AND FUN (#7 ). I found this at my local Whole Foods while rushing past the bakery section with partially-averted eyes, trying hard to ignore the gluten-and-dairy filled treats I can’t have. They call it TRAIL BARK, but I’m warning you now that you won’t find it at all Whole Foods locations—I learned this the hard way while nervously jonesing for it during a trip to Napa Valley to visit my son. Hence this recipe, so I will NEVER have to be without it again. Trail Bark is a good name for it, but I like to call mine, (a very accurate, though slightly tweaked version of it), GRANOLA SLAB. It bakes up, low and slow, as a sheet-pan-sized slab. Cut into squares and enjoy like a cookie, or pound it up into clusters to be eaten like cereal with your milk of choice, sprinkle on yogurt, fruit, salad, ice cream, or PBJ sandwiches.
Full Disclosure: While I begged the bakery team leader at Whole Foods in Montclair, NJ to give me the recipe, verbatim, as used by his team, he politely refused. Instead he sent me a recipe he said “I found online to be most similar to our recipe. It does call for butter which ours does not, (we use sunflower oil). The only other thing I see it is missing is brown sugar and molasses to help with the sweetness.” Having tried his “similar” recipe, I can say with confidence that it is worthy. I omit the brown sugar, use oil instead of butter, and add a bit of molasses. The original comes from the Anson Mills website, a producer of superior organic artisan grains and flours.
- yield: One, 18x13 sheet pan full
16 ounces (3 cups) steel cut oats such as Anson Mills Handmade Toasted Stone Cut Oats
6 ounces (2 cups) raw sliced almonds
3 ounces (1 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
4ounces (1 cup) raw shelled sunflower or pumpkin seeds
3.75 ounces (¾ cup) raw hulled sesame seeds
2¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)
1½ teaspoons ground ginger (optional)
¾ teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)
5 ounces sunflower oil, or other neutral-tasting oil or fat source you prefer.
9 ounces (scant 1 cup) honey
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Line a large rimmed baking sheet (18 by 13 inches) with parchment paper and set it aside.
Place the oats, almonds, coconut, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and spices in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine.
Heat the oil/fat and honey in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Stir in the salt and vanilla, and then pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Turn the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and press firmly with an offset spatula to create an even layer about ½ inch thick. Cover and refrigerate overnight, time and space permitting.
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 250 degrees. Bake the granola until it is firm to the touch and deep golden brown, about 1¼ hours. Let cool in the baking sheet; the granola will become crisper as it cools.
When cooled and crisp, lift an edge of the parchment paper to loosen the bark and break the granola into pieces. Store in zipper-lock plastic bags or a container with a tight lid at cool room temperature. The granola will keep at the height of its texture and flavor for 2 weeks.