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I know it’s insanely popular, but I just can’t get into Sudoku. Something about having to project ahead on so many levels at once, wading through multiple strata of possiblility, the endless contrasting options being played out in one’s head–I just find it exhausting.
It reminds me of when my cousin Marketing Guru tried to teach me chess when we were kids. Each time it was his turn, he’d contemplate the myriad options, his elbow resting on one knee, his chin perched on his fist. His eyes would roam from the Bishop to the Pawn to the Knight to the Pawn to the Rook to the Pawn as he scrutinized the board the way an oncologist scrutinizes an X-ray. I’d be there fidgeting and sighing while I waited for him to make up his mind until it was finally my turn, when I’d just grab a piece and move it. (Needless to say, I never won. Oh, and it drove him bananas).
Now, that is not to say that my mind isn’t capable of entertaining a plethora of options all at once–far from it. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that such games are ill suited to anyone like me who is, shall we say, prone to a tad more anxiety than the average person–precisely because we think that way, all too often. To wit:
Scene I. Mid-February in Toronto, 6:55 PM. The HH is late getting home from work; normally, he’s home by 6:45. Ricki glances at the snow outside, pelting waves of white bullets that ping across the surface of the window. She presses her nose up against the glass.
Ricki: Hmm. . . what could be taking him so long? Winter sure sucks. I hope he remembered to fill the tank with gas this morning. Oh, no, what if he ran out of gas on the highway? And what if his car just stopped running right in the middle of the road–amid all those cars? Oh, no! And what if the vehicle behind him was speeding so fast it couldn’t stop in time to keep from rear-ending him? [She presses her face more firmly against the window in an attempt to see outside.] And then they got into a huge accident and the HH’s car was propelled across black ice and ended up spinning and losing control and racing headlong into a ditch–Oh my God!! The HH is lying dead somewhere in a ditch!! I have to call the hospitals! I have to call the police! I have to–
HH: [strolls through the door] Hi honey. Whew–it’s bitter cold out there! Traffic is hardly moving. So many bad drivers on the–hey, why does your nose look so flat?
Scene II. End of July. Some time in the afternoon. Ricki notices a mole on her calf.
Ricki: Hmmm, that’s strange. . .looks a little darker than I remember. Was it always that brown? Is that a fleck of black I see in the middle? Or could it be that it’s gotten bigger? Hmm, those edges look a little erratic to me. . . what if it’s actually not a regular mole? What if it’s something more sinister. . . and what if it needs to be excised and biopsied? And then what happens if it doesn’t heal properly?? And what if they have to send me for tests? And oh, no, what if they have to operate??? I could lose my leg! And what if I can’t find a proper prosthetic to match my skin tone?! And what if–oh, I think I’d better just grab this pencil and check the eraser’s diameter against it. . .
Scene III. Late November. Afternoon. Ricki is frustrated with her old computer.
Ricki: This darned thing is getting slower and slower. Oh, I know I should buy a new one, but maybe I’ll try defragging it first. But what if that doesn’t work? And wasn’t the external drive supposed to help? But it didn’t. Does that mean it’s beyond help? Or maybe that means something else isn’t working properly. Did I remember to update my virus protection? Oh, no, what if the virus scan isn’t working properly and that’s why it’s so slow? That strange email I got last week was pretty suspicious. . . what if my computer is infected now?? And what the virus wipes out all of my hard drive? Oh, no!!!! And then I’d lose all my files and all my photos and all my writing and my entire blog–and I wouldn’t be able to access the Internet! And I couldn’t do my job properly!! And then they’d fire me!! And I’d have no job! And then I’d end up homeless and penniless. . . Aaaarrrghhhh!
You see what I mean.
On the up side, people who exercise their brains regularly are less likely to suffer from dementia of all kinds. And while my brain gymnastics may be of no use when it comes to Japanese number games, it’s a plus in the kitchen when you’re looking for culinary variety. Unlike the HH, say, or my dad, who consume the exact same breakfast every morning, I find that I rarely eat the same thing two days in a row. Even when it comes to foods I love, such as steel cut oats, I feel the need to vary the preparation or accoutrements each time I consume it.
I’ve played with baked oats and almond-butter topped oats and veggie-dense oats for breakfast, and this week I tried the “cut into wedges and served on a plate” oats. I was inspired by the huge array of vegetarian options for Thanksgiving in a recent New York Times article—an entire Thanksgiving menu of meatless recipes! And tucked within the collage of photos was this unusual presentation of oatmeal: Pan-Seared Oatmeal with Warm Fruit Compote and Cider Syrup. Well, my mind skipped over the compote and syrup (neither of which I can eat on the ACD) and latched onto the oats.
I immediately threw together my own version, which I enjoyed for breakfast yesterday. I loved it! Inside, the texture is much like what you’d expect from a bowl of steel-cut oats: chewy, nubby bits suspended in a creamy base. But the exterior is browned, slightly crispy and dry, encasing it all in a neat little package (one that’s portable if need be). Brilliant!
I topped my first meal with almond butter and applesauce, a winning combination. Then yesterday, I feasted on leftovers with some warm fresh plum sauce and a dollop of my Sweet Potato Spread (sweet variation). Both were heavenly. This afternoon, I may just have to snack on some oatmeal wedges on their own, perhaps sprinkled with a touch of garlic powder, curry powder, or garam masala. And then maybe tomorrow, something else a little savory. . .
I mean, the possibilities are endless, aren’t they?
[And don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the next Festive Freebie–you get to choose the prize!]
Seared Oatmeal Wedges (inspired by the NY Times’ Well blog recipe– suitable for ACD Stage 2 and beyond)
Diet, Dessert and Dogs (http://rickiheller.com)
Preparing oatmeal as you would polenta, this recipe is versatile enough to serve at any meal, or as a snack. Keep it sweet with maple syrup or fruit for breakfast or dessert, or top with a savory mushroom or tomato-based sauce for lunch or dinner. However you prepare it, you’ll love this easy and delicious use of oats.
3/4 cup (125 g) steel-cut oats
1 cup (240 ml) water
1 cup (240 ml) unsweetened almond, soy or rice milk
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic.
Line a loaf pan with parchment or spray with nonstick spray and set aside.
Place all ingredients in a medium sized, heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat until the mixture boils. Stir, then lower heat to simmer and cover the pot. Allow to simmer over low heat until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently during the last 15 minutes to prevent scorching. (It should be a tad thicker than regular oatmeal).
Turn the mixture into the loaf pan and spread evenly. Allow to cool at reoom temperature for 20-30 minutes, then place in refrigerator until cold.
Once cold, invert the pan over a cutting board to remove the oatmeal (it should stay in once piece). Cut into desired wedges. Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat and add the wedges; cook until browned, about 5 minutes, then flip and brown on the other side as well. Remove to a plate and serve with maple syrup, fruit compote, nut butter, or another topping. Makes 3-4 servings.
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Last Year at this Time: Reprise: Last Minute Thanksgiving Ideas
Two Years Ago: Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings
Three Years Ago: Yet Another Chocolate Tofu Pudding (not scatalogical, I promise)
© 2010 Ricki Heller