07 March, 2010

Baking as therapy

It is amazing how, in times of stress, I revert to baking. My grandma died: I baked pie to cope; I baked a lot of pies that summer. My thesis deadline drew nearer and nearer: cookies, muffins and chocolate scones (particularly when the statistics got to me). No paycheque in two and a half months: cookies, muffins and rice casserole all came out of the kitchen this weekend. Yep, that’s right, no paycheque for 2 ½ months! I am BROKE! I am thinking of seeking some financial assistance from the Bank of Mom and Dad right now, actually. ... and trying to work, but taking a much-needed sustenance break.

I love that I’m figuring out how to only spend about $30-$50 on food per week, but I do not love that I have no option BUT to spend less than $50 per week. I also do not love not having rent money in my account, or finding out just how harsh credit card fees are, and not being able to pay them. I’ve already played the blame game (it’s probably 60% them, and 40% me), so now I’m trying to meet the deadlines and get the cash so I can go on with my life. ... my life that has taken a serious nose-dive of late.

I really don’t know what to do with myself. I’m applying for jobs in earnest, and yet I hear nothing (there will be a cold call or two this week). And this contract: e-mail just doesn’t work, and I can’t get them on the phone because we’re in different time zones and I work nights. This is awesome. Oh, and it gets better. I have a second job (hence the working nights schtick) working days in a lab. That one hasn’t paid me yet, but it is going to, soon (not enough to live off of all by itself), and it is also going to end soon. Other than figuring out my taxes, April looks like a whole lot of nothing.

In fact, April looks so blank that I’m scared of it. It’s like it doesn’t exist, a black hole (like life after 30 when I hadn’t yet reached 21). April looms so large, that it is hard not to focus on it, and how there are only three weeks left in March, leading up to it. I am caught on a hamster wheel. I need to do all this work, by the end of March, and I know my body is angry at me for staying up late and stressing out etc. etc. etc. but I NEED to do it or I won’t be able to pay rent. Why is that not enough motivation though? Why is it that instead of getting all gung-ho and working on things, I bake, or shut down, or get really angry and fester? I know that part of it is that I have already gone through school twice to get to this point, and I am still being treated like an undergrad. And I NEED to treat this like I treated my undergrad work: it’ll be over soon, just get it done by the deadline and who cares what happens next. ... except that’s so unprofessional. And I know that a certain part of me is just too angry to care anymore; that I was jerked around and so now I feel like it doesn’t matter whether I do the work or not. But I NEED to get this done. There’s money riding on it. Money that would get me through April, May and June... or at least pay off my visa and get me into May! Arghh!

So I baked. I baked muffins: apple-pecan muffins (adapted from the Joy of Cooking) with cinnamon and sunflower seeds. They’re “healthy” too because they’re whole wheat and got an extra boost of ground flaxseed in them. I’m working backwards: the muffins were the most recent things to come out of the kitchen. I also made Mexican Rice, courtesy of the Best of Bridge Winners book (the best of the BoB in my opinion). I added more stuff to it though, and thought it was hilarious that some rice was already turning to mush while other pieces were still hard-centered, but such are the perils of tall-pot stovetop casserole cooking, I suppose. It has all evened out since then into a big rice-y tomato and pepper mess with a bit too much chipotle! I made it for a potluck, but still have enough left over for a whole week of lunches. And I also made peanut butter cookies (which chilled in the freezer while I was making the casserole). I made the enormous 5+ dozen cookie recipe that I just love to eat and share. A bunch went to the potluck, and a bunch will be going to my dad and brother, and then a bunch will probably make their way to work tomorrow.

I’ve been experimenting with my muffins and all the left-over, slowly over-ripening fruit and veg in the house. These muffins were made from three old Ambrosia apples (smelled to ensure no mould contamination), and though the Joy of Cooking suggests using 1 ½ cups of them, I had much closer to 2 cups. So, I boldly substituted away, using whole wheat flour instead of white, adding ¼ cup of flaxseed meal and a bunch of sunflower seeds in addition to the chopped pecans (or walnuts, I’m saving my amazing Okanagan walnuts for something more deserving) the recipe called for. They’re a little over-moist: too much apple, not enough flour, I guess. Next time I’ll add more than just ¼ cup of flax. That will probably work. I am not sure when or why I started experimenting with muffin baking, but I’ve come up with some really entertaining pseudo-healthy hybrids like those apple ones. My other standby favourite, which I might have to make soon, are zucchini chocolate muffins, taken from the Company’s Coming cookbook line. Actually, it’s a Company’s Coming- Best of Bridge hybrid, I took two recipes and combined them: I adapted a zucchini muffin recipe and my all time favourite cake to mix the two, and healthify it in the process. Whole wheat flour, flax meal, any kind of seed I have on hand (sunflower, pumpkin, more flax), a bit of cocoa, 1 cup of zucchini and a handful of chocolate chips to seal the deal. Fibre, fruit and fun all in one! (whoa, nerd, sorry)

I wish I could convince my doctor that these aren’t going to kill me. It’s not like I eat more than one at a sitting, and I sure as heck don’t use a pile of sugar, butter or oil in them. The apple ones call for just over ¼ of a cup, and the zucchini ones call for about the same, maybe a little more. I still think Michael Pollan has the best line of all when it comes to healthy eating: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. And I’m doing my best to stick to it. ... except for cheese... mmm cheese!

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