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Happy-Gourmand

Are you 'procrastibaking?'

There is a new trend emerging that is evident on social media, perhaps you have participated?

#Procrastibaking is a popular hashtag on Instagram, duly accompanied by pictures of the owner’s accomplishment.

As you might guess, this pastime is the practice of involving oneself in a baking exercise as a way to put off work.

There are even a bunch of unspoken rules involved to ensure you can feel good about your misplaced energy.

However, we are satisfying our present selves and sacrificing our future satisfaction by putting aside our true priorities.

I will admit that I have been guilty of this practice, albeit without knowing it was a thing. That doesn’t let me off the hook, though.

Do you have a passion that can distract you from more important matters? Have you ever been caught avoiding deadlines and making excuses with some minor task?

I suspect most of us could raise our hands on this subject. Isn’t it interesting, however, that some pastimes don’t lend themselves to being a false priority. Even my garden doesn’t make the cut.

I love gardening, but I won’t head outside with my gloves on unless I know I can honestly dedicate time to accomplishing a particular task. Why then, do I find myself baking sourdough bread from time to time instead of updating my accounting?

An article in the New York Times on the subject mentions that best practices for procrastibaking include the following:

  • A fun component (so the recipe shouldn’t be something you need for a proper diet – maybe then I’m off the hook by making bread?)
  • Working with ingredients at hand (no, heading out to shop for items is a different kind of procrastination – hence the propensity for “kitchen sink” recipes to be featured)
  • Many steps in the baking process (okay, baking bread is back on the list, with all its time for turning and proofing — rats. The fact that I do a bit of work in between the steps supports the procrastination according to the experts, not the important task at hand)

I could take solace in knowing that many professionals and creative types use procrastibaking as a sort of “warm up,” getting into the flow of their process.

Does that mean that a mechanic might “procras-tinker” in the garage with some random machine? Does a painter dabble at some little drawing or paint the house while a commission awaits? I wonder.

I am constantly working on my time management, trying to make the most of every day with a balance of accomplishment and heartfelt enjoyment.

I know I can do more to improve but I have to say, the fruits of my procrastibaking labours make it hard to feel bad about the time I spend. I’m going to work on just putting a bit of baking on my regular “to-do” list, so it can be a real priority to be scheduled in my day.

If you feel the need to try out this new trend, I can recommend a suitable recipe that fits all the parameters. Millionaire Shortbread is certainly not a required dish in the food pyramid, and it has a few steps with its layers of shortbread, caramel and chocolate.

It will certainly make you feel good when you indulge in a piece.

If you’re one of those people who is focused and on top of things, well maybe you should take a load off and celebrate your organizational skills by stopping with a coffee or tea and a piece of this delectable treat.

Of course, you’re welcome to use the hashtag if you’d like to post a picture of your baking efforts. Just don’t get stuck down the rabbit hole of scrolling through your feed for too long.

You’ll never get anything done if you go down that road.



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Ready! Set! Summer!

The Victoria Day long weekend is traditional as the unofficial start of the Canadian summer.

“May long," as it’s called in many parts of the country, is when the boats come out on the water and the steaks come out on the grill.

Sometimes, Mother Nature doesn’t co-operate, but in true Canuck spirit, lots of folks still head to their favourite camping spot to christen another outdoor season. A little rain doesn’t seem to do much to dampen the enthusiasm of a nation that spends more than the proportionate three months in winter mode.

When I was a kid, I hated the May long weekend. It meant my Mom would begin her garden plan, which meant I would be put to work.

The veggie garden patch had to be dug out (my Dad’s job, at least until I was tall enough to use the pitch fork). Then, it had to be hoed and planted (my job).

The flowers were put in – that could be fun, discovering new varieties at the nursery and playing with the peat moss (so spongy!) Then, everything had to be watered, gently with the watering can. (I felt like Mickey Mouse with so many buckets of water as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.)

The worst was when Mom got creative… like the year she decided to import boulders from the dam to give “texture” to the landscape. Our favourite picnic spot at Ghost Dam outside Calgary became an excavation site as we filled the back of the family Volvo with the biggest boulders we could carry.

Then, of course, we learned, what goes in must come out – and go all the way up the walk to the back yard.

My poor brother was not immune to the hardships of the yard either. My Dad figured any young enterprising lad could make real money in the suburbs with a lawn mower. I think at the peak of business,

Justin had four or five lawns to mow, including ours. He got a good tan and built up some good arm muscles from lifting the mower around, but he didn’t exactly start an empire with his earnings. I wish he lived closer now; I can’t get anyone to mow our lawn.

Of course, the irony to all this hardship is that I became such an avid gardener. Thankfully, the climate in the Okanagan is such that I can start earlier and so the heavy lifting is done by now.

I do wish I could meet some research scientist who would like to take on my yard as a project, studying all the exotic weeds I can grow. If they could get a grant for their work, perhaps they could pull the weeds out and I could work with the plants I’m trying to grow.

Any takers?

All sarcasm aside, I do have fond memories of the first summer meal off the grill. Once we got our green feet washed and our fingernails cleaned out, we were treated to Dad’s delicious burgers cooked to perfection (always with the cheese melted on the bottom of the bun, please).

Mom would make Kool-Aid, and there would be potato chips. Or maybe it would be a real splurge, with steaks and Dad’s barbecue veggies cooked in an aluminum foil package with herbs and butter.

“It’s important to put the reflective side of the foil in, so the heat bounces back," he would say. Well, not so much, but they were awesome veggies nonetheless.

In honour of this important weekend, I am sharing one of our family’s most coveted recipes with you. My Mom’s barbecue sauce was something akin to summer in a jar in our house. She didn’t make it in the winter, so it’s seasonal quality made it just as precious as the season itself.

As the saying goes, we did put it on everything, but it truly shone on grilled meat.

This is an old-fashioned concept I know – everyone buys sauce in a jar now, it seems; there are enough varieties for everyone to pick their own favourite. But this stuff is divine, with sticky sweetness and a slight tang, and even chunks of onion (okay, you can purée them if you’re not an onion fan).

It is a “finishing sauce," since it has sugar it is not meant to go on the grill or it will burn. It is best served warm though, as is any barbecue sauce – more of the flavour can be tasted in almost any food when it’s warmer.

You can keep any leftovers in the fridge for a couple of weeks, so you can have it on hand when needed.

Cheers to a happy long weekend. May your feet stay up and your stress level stay down as you enjoy time to stop and smell the freshly mowed grass on the summer breeze.

NANCY’S PRAIRIE BARBECUE SAUCE

I always thought this recipe was unique to my Mom, but I found out all my aunts had it too, as did most of their friends in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Hence the revised name on the splatter-marked page in my book of recipes. (As any cook knows, the splatters are always the best sign of a cherished favourite recipe.)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup honey OR 1 cup brown sugar
½ cup ketchup
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup Worchestershire sauce
1-1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1-1/2 tsp dry mustard (like Keen’s)
¼ tsp ground pepper
½ tsp dried or fresh oregano

In a medium saucepan, sauté onions in vegetable oil. Once they are transparent, add garlic and sauté for a few minutes more.

Add liquid ingredients, then dry, into the saucepan and stir well. Let simmer for 30 minutes to allow flavours to combine. Serve warm. Refrigerate any leftovers.



Mom's the word

Sunday is Mother’s Day. Many people don’t agree with this holiday, saying it’s too commercial.

This included the woman who petitioned for it in the first place; she hated that it became more about sending cards and flowers than something more intimate.

While I will admit I have never taken my Mom out for brunch on the day or sent her flowers, I do take seriously the idea of recognizing our moms — and dads, too (thanks for the reminder, Father’s Day).

The catch to making Mother’s Day personal is that not all the people who should be recognized fit the Webster’s definition of “mother” as a noun. Perhaps we could use the definition for the verb instead:

  • “to mother - the act of bringing up a child with care and affection”

I have had many wonderful moments with my mom, some of them on Mother’s Day and lots more throughout the years.

I have also had many moments with other wonderful role models. Friends of my parents, other relatives, teachers… they all helped mother me, shape me as a person.

In my day, this was just part of my hippie upbringing, having all those people around who loved me because they cared who I would become.

Nowadays, with blended families and a world that moves at Mach speed with lots of technology, having various role models is almost a requirement.

Even people who come and go in our lives can be an influence. Mother’s Day offers us a designated time to thank the expected people like Mom, Grandma and maybe your godmother.

I propose we pay it forward and think of making Mother’s Day gestures any time for anyone who helps us become our best selves. A simple thank you or a hug can let a special person know they made a difference in our lives.

My mom always used to say that the little things were important to remember. “Stop and smell the flowers” is one of her favourite expressions.

If someone helps us smell the flowers, then the best way we can show our appreciation is to let them know we enjoyed the moment. When we are little, this comes more naturally; kids have no filter and can’t help but share their opinions.

As a Girl Guide leader, I know this all too well from many beautiful (and some very funny) exchanges with girls. Once we get older, it can be harder to share, but sharing makes the love bounce back twice.

Life is a circle. As children we learn from the adults in our lives to be responsible and share our best selves with the world.

We don’t all become parents, but that doesn’t mean we don’t help shape the lives of young people as we get older. Let’s make Mother’s Day every day of the year and keep the good energy flowing.

My favourite treat for Mother’s Day is one of the first things my brother and I made. Since food is my specialty, I’m sharing it here.

You don’t have to make it now, but some time when you want to create a memory with a role model in your life, try sharing this dessert.

Smiles are just about guaranteed.

DECADENT CHOCOLATE MOUSSE  (serves 6)

When my brother and I made this, I didn’t know about making coffee. The recipe called for “strong coffee” and I thought it meant coffee grounds; I thought strong meant just adding a bit more – like a heaping spoonful.

My mom, bless her heart, said she loved the crunchy bits of coffee in the final result. You can decide if you want to try it that way or brew the coffee.

6 ounces / 170 g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (use quality chocolate, around 70% cacao)
6 ounces / 170 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup / 2 oz. dark-brewed coffee (dark as in, use dark roast beans)
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup / 120 g, PLUS 1 tbsp / 15 g sugar
2 tbsp / 30 mL dark rum
1 tbsp / 15 mL water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp / 5 mL vanilla extract
Dark chocolate for shaving over top  (optional but a nice touch)

Heat a saucepan filled one-third of the way with water and set a larger bowl on top (don't let it touch the water). Add the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat. (Save the pan with the water, you'll be using it again.)

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

Using another bowl that fits on the saucepan of water, whisk the yolks of the eggs with the 1/2 sugar, rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise.

(You can also use a handheld electric mixer if you're not up to serious whisking. Note: Be sure this mixture is thick before removing bowl from heat.)

Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick. (Hold onto the bowl with the yolks, to ensure it doesn't slip into the melting ice.) Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then the vanilla.

Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don't overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if desired. If you want to make the mousse look especially spiffy, use a microplane grater or peeler to shave chocolate over the top before serving.



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Reaching for the sun

The days are getting longer. The Flower Full Moon was just last weekend, meaning spring is officially in the air and in our souls.

Green shoots abound, and blossoms of all kinds are bursting out everywhere.

If you have allergies, I offer my condolences. For the rest of us, I say “Breathe deep!” We are on our way to summer, and more sun.

What is it about the sun that we love so much? Even those who love winter pastimes and the purity of snow often find the sun and sand a decadent environment. Perhaps it is the primal need for warmth. We need to maintain our body temperatures and food needs warmth to grow.

We can create warmth other ways than just standing in the sun, but the plants need the sun for photosynthesis, and without plants we have no food. So there you go. Even if you’re not keen to lie on the beach and soak up the rays, you need the sun in your life indirectly.

As a gardener, I have an intrinsic need to keep plants growing. As a gourmande, I have a desire to grow plants that are edible. In the Canadian winter that can be challenging.

I found a marvellous solution this winter, thanks to a fellow gardening friend. Our Tower Garden gave us a jump start on spring, offering green lettuce leaves and herbs in March, not to mention light for 12 hours a day.

Just like the plant pods in the tower shooting out toward the LED lights, we felt like we could breathe deeper and stretch our muscles towards the warming sun. This wonderful accessory has made me happy inside and out.

Besides eating fresh food, I do like to get my dose of vitamin D from outside as opposed to swallowing a pill. Having a dog gives me a chance to get outside every day, to take the time to smell the fresh air. In the winter this can be a feat some days, braving brisk winds and snow or rain.

As the orchards and fields and gardens come back to life in spring, it is rejuvenating to take it all in. Morning walks require fewer layers as the ground warms up and the sunny days come more often, more in a row.

Even my pal, Ella, takes advantage of spring by nibbling on the green shoots of crab grass in the field.

I was pleased to know that I am not alone in my efforts to celebrate the coming of spring. Historically there are numerous examples of spring festivals and parties that go back centuries.

Have you ever heard of a Maypole? The Medieval tradition still exists widely in the U.K., Germany and parts of Scandinavia. Dancing around a tall pole with ribbons that intertwine the pole is a central part of spring and midsummer celebrations.

No one is sure how the dance started, but some research says the pole may represent a tree, and paying homage to the rejuvenation of trees in spring goes back to the Druids.

Did you know that the full moon this time of year signifies an ancient Celtic myth called Beltane that celebrates the transition from winter to the growing season of summer?

There are groups around the world that gather around fires at Beltane to shake off the vestiges of winter and anoint themselves with the renewing energy of a new growing year.

If you believe in fairies, now is the time to watch for them, dancing in the night. For those who like to travel, the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh is an event to check out.

You don’t have to plant a garden or get a pet to enjoy spring. You can borrow the enthusiasm Mother Nature offers by attending spring events.

The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival starts this week, and it offers a perfect example of spring celebration, just as in much of history. My only recommendation is to share the experience, so you can toast to your good fortune — summer is on its way.

If you’re a cook and a gardener like me, then here are some salad ideas for you. Feel free to use fresh greens you picked up at the farmer’s market, or herbs you may have growing in a pot.

Congratulate yourself on celebrating a new season of growth. Bon Appetit, and Happy Spring.

(We used these quantities when we made salad for the school class in our Edible Education program. Feel free to adjust the amounts to your crowd.)

CHEWY & CRUNCHY GREENS

1 head green lettuce
3 carrots, grated
2 apples, sliced
1 cup raisins
¼ cup sunflower seeds (raw or toasted)

Dressing:

¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup yogurt
¼ tsp celery seed
¼ tsp salt

MEDITERRANEAN TABOULLEH

1 bunch parsley, chopped (by hand or in a food processor, but not too fine)
1 bunch mint, chopped (as parsley)
3 tomatoes, chopped (can use 1 pint cherry tomatoes if you wish)
1 English cucumber, chopped fine
1 cup cooked bulgur or quinoa

Dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste



More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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