Monday, November 28, 2011

Cravings, Reflections, and Thanksgiving

Hurricane Busy made landfall, stayed, and swept up everything in its path.

At least, that's what my entire month-plus has felt like - busy, stressed, busy, stressed, in a never-ending cycle.

I've been ill too, and that's probably a result of all that craziness back to back for weeks on end. I've been cooking, but on a much smaller scale than before - not had time for it, and I can't cook when I come home too late, by agreement with the Housemates.

So it's with relief that I'm finally able to breathe out a HUGE sigh and rest for a day before getting into the week full-stride. Even a day is good - I'll take all I can get because I won't be getting another chance till after mid-December.

A week ago, when I was performing with the Young KL Singers in Penang, I ran into bakeries and baked goods everywhere. This likely accounts for why I had a sudden, inexplicable craving for bread the minute I got home. Thanks to over-exhaustion, I also didn't wake up in time the next morning to do a full-bore gluten-free crusty boule like I wanted, so I had to search for alternatives.

See that herb-flecked, olive-studded gloriousness? That's Karina's amazing gluten-free whole-grain olive bread. I followed everything in the recipe, except I didn't have rice bran, so I added more quinoa flakes. Now, in the past, I've had trouble with some of Karina's recipes - the liquid content mostly, and I wasn't experienced enough to judge consistency at the time, so I was a bit worried to see how this one would turn out.

As it is, I needn't have worried. It was wonderful. It came together quickly, baked up beautifully, and it was delicious. Satisfied all my bread cravings, and now I want to make more - except that quinoa flakes are out of stock in the two organic stores I frequent!

My eating patterns haven't been particularly healthy for a while, due to production rehearsals, upcoming exams, and a crazy schedule - which is why I found myself also craving Simple, Healthy Food. Nothing fancy, or overly fussy.

Heidi Swanson's Shichimi Mushroom Rice Bowl is what I ended up with in the end, and it was exactly what I craved. Easy to put together, simple and healthy - mushrooms, tofu cubes, brown rice and lots of shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-flavour chili pepper). I had no kale, so I used baby kailan instead, and it came out just fine. I also used eryngii mushrooms because they had nice large stems that would work much better than the usual oyster mushrooms we get here. The green of the kale was such a beautiful colour, probably my favourite part of the whole dish. One note: you -must- brown the mushrooms on both sides as the recipe specifies. It gives them a definite, delicious flavour.

Today...well, today I wanted to prepare for the rest of the week, and that got me to wanting to make bento staples, and that led to this:

That's Maki's Kinpira Gobo (minus the sesame seeds as I didn't have any) and her basic meat soboro (minus the green onions because I didn't have any on hand). I added a bit of kimchi, because I just happened to have some in the fridge and I thought it'd be a nice bit of colour. I was inspired and cookery-deprived enough to make the potato dough for potato oyaki as well, just so I could have food to take to work tomorrow and the day after.

I am thankful for food bloggers like Shauna, Karina, Maki and Heidi who give such inspiration to their readers, and who work so hard to bring us recipes and posts. I know we don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Malaysia, but I think sometimes we ought to just step back and count the many, many things we need to be thankful for. It's the best antidote to post-illness blues.

Because it worked for me. I'm thankful for my friends, family, and the many chances I've had to do what I love. I'm thankful for a kitchen to cook in, and people who make sure I can eat safely when I meet with them. I'm thankful that I'm well enough to sing again. And I'm thankful for my choir students, some of whom graduated this weekend at their year-end concert.

When I look at it like that, there's really no reason to complain.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, one and all.