[Sometimes, you just want a dish that's quick and easy--no fuss. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so simple to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
I swear, if my father had been born a Canadian (rather than a poor farmer’s son in Depression-era Europe), he would have been a lawyer instead of a butcher.* You see, in our house growing up, every request from me or one of my sisters for pretty much anything from a new notebook to a new bicycle, required us to present my dad with an argument so compelling and airtight that we could have put Atticus Finch to shame.
When it was time to submit my opening statements, I’d approach
the bench my dad with great trepidation as I attempted to memorize the logic that would win him over. I’d stammer through the reasons why I needed that bicycle (or Easy Bake oven, or new bell-bottoms, or troll doll), beads of sweat forming on my brow like morning dew on spring leaves:
“Well, Gemini I’s mom got her a new sweater and it’s–”
“You have enough sweaters. You already don’t wear half of them.”
“But this one is made from special yarn that’s extra soft–”
“So it’s probably thin, then, and it will wear out too quickly.”
“But I don’t have anything that’s blue, I want to wear it with my blue pants–”
“What? So now green doesn’t go with blue any more? Wear your green one.”
–and so on.
My dad would sit at the kitchen table, his intractable expression evaporating my confidence with each grimace as he tacitly challenged me to prove him wrong. (The only other stare I’ve experienced with that same intensity of purpose is when Elsie’s border collie genes assert themselves each day at dinnertime and her gaze bores into my back, willing me to get up and feed her.)
After the ordeal of The Presentation, inevitably my dad would wave me away like a mosquito at a picnic, and pronounce his answer. It was almost always the same:
The implied message was very clear: if something was too easy, it wasn’t worth very much. (I guess someone really should have told that to my friend LM, who managed to parlay “easy” into three very lucrative marriages–and divorces–within 10 years.).
Well, the same principles apply to food, I reckon. Do y’all know the story of how cake mixes came to be so popular in the late 1950s? Trying to save all those newly-liberated women time in the kitchen, an industrious male entrepreneur created a powdered mix that was all-inclusive: it contained all the necessary ingredients, including dehydrated milk and whole egg powder, for a complete cake. All the overworked housewife had to do was add water, pour, and bake. So easy! So convenient! Such a timesaver!
And–a total flop.
Turns out that even though the mix removed 95% of the work and hassle, housewives didn’t embrace the new cakes. You see, despite going out and working alongside their male counterparts (for 55% of the male’s paycheck, mind you), and despite being in charge of the kiddoes and pets, and despite bearing responsibility for the housework and the laundry–well, these devoted women’s libbers couldn’t relinquish supremacy in the kitchen. They felt too guilty, as if they hadn’t “really” baked anything when the only ingredient they had to add was water!
So Betty and Duncan did what any smart businessperson would do–they made the mixes less convenient and harder to prepare: after a new formula was introduced that required women to add their own fresh eggs to the powder, the boxed mixes flew off the shelves. It was no longer “too easy.”
With my own crazy-making schedule these days (okay, fine, I was that way before the new schedule), I think I’d leap over the moon if I found a mix that could re-create one of my own (whole-foods) cakes by just adding water. For now, though, I’ll have to make do with a slew of “flash in the pan” recipes that are quick and easy, albeit not extravagant.
This porridge provides a creamy, warming and filling base (courtesy squash), with the textural nubbiness of coconut, hemp seeds and nut butter, ideal for these chilly autumn mornings. The classic flavor melding of squash and cinnamon tickles the tastebuds, too.
But hey, feel free to make this more complicated if you wish. You could add a cooked grain, I suppose, or grind some of your own flour, or grow your own hemp seeds if it makes you feel better. But really, in this case, “easy” is perfect just as it is.
*Yes, I know, my father was a butcher. I talk about this irony more on my About page.
** Don’t feel too sorry for me. It’s true that my dad’s most frequent response to requests was “no,” but invariably, our mother would later sneak us downtown and buy us something fun and frivolous instead, like blue suede shoes (how I loved those), or a buffet lunch at House of Chan, or a winter coat with white faux fur collar and cuffs. It would be brought home and blend into the daily routine as if it had always been there. If he noticed, Dad never said a word.
I’m linking this recipe to Whole Food Fridays.
Grain-Free Squash-Based Porridge
This “porridge” is a fabulous way to use up leftover baked squash or pumpkin to mimic the thick, grainy texture of oat-based porridge perfectly. Warming, thick, creamy and very filling, it’s a perfect way to start the morning, whether you normally eat grains or not.
1/2 cup (120 ml) squash purée (or for a chunkier texture, just mash with a fork)–Kabocha is my favorite, but Butternut and even Sugar Pumpkin work nicely
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened So Delicious Coconut Beverage
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 Tbsp (15 ml) natural smooth nut or seed butter of choice (I love this with Walco-Nut butter)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1 Tbsp (15 ml) chia seeds
1 Tbsp (15 ml) hemp seeds
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon, to your taste
stevia, to taste
Mix all ingredients in a small, heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-low heat until thick and warmed through. Serve. Makes one large or two small servings.
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Three Years Ago: Roasted Plum and Baby Spinach Salad with Tempeh Bacon (gluten free; ACD Stage 3 and beyond )
© Ricki Heller, RickiHeller.com