I haven’t baked much of anything for the past few years unless a birthday or special occasion required it. It isn’t that I no longer enjoy baking; I consider it a relaxing activity — especially when I can take my time and get involved in the process. Redirected habits are primarily to blame for why I no longer fire up my oven as much as I used to, but I miss it and enough time has passed that I’ve managed to try a few new recipes. A Dorset Apple Cake, for starters. Of course this was inspired by our last trip.
I think the first time I tried to make an apple dumpling I was about 26, give or take a year. I don’t remember cooking much during that particular time in my life, but what I did cook has stayed with me — for better or worse. A successful pot of chili verde qualifies as one of my better accomplishments, and apple dumplings one of my worst.
I have a page torn from the October 2010 issue of Cooking Light that has been in and around various rooms in our house. I see it most when I’m not interested in it, wedged between food magazines stacked at the end of the sofa, sticking out from between the pages of one of the cookbooks I’ve been leafing through, or inserted next to the telephone with take-out menus and reminders of dentist appointments. The now wrinkled page is from The Hungry Traveler section and sports a recipe on each of its sides, but I have paid little attention to one of them because the salad is what originally caught my eye. It had all the right flavors in it for what I thought was a special occasion salad — one served on a holiday. I suppose it caught my eye because I’d been making a salad somewhat like it for years, but there was a bit of a different spin on this one, and so I tore it out before tossing the magazine in one of my manic magazine thinning moments.
I’ve never been able to completely understand how this happens. So many bits and pieces of our lives are tucked here and there — or not — and are so much more important, yet are lost. We took the time to put them in a special pile of special things so we could put a finger on them in a second when needed, priding ourselves for our organizational skills. But when we need them, we can’t find them. Clearly, a file folder isn’t our idea of being organized. Perhaps I should rethink the entire thing, allowing the important things to also slip between magazines or beneath the sofa, trusting that when needed, they’d miraculously appear.
So why this salad?
I think it was the dressing. I’m always ready to try something light and flavorful, but different than our usual citrus vinaigrette — if you can call it that. We squeeze citrus over our salads before drizzling extra virgin olive oil and call it dressing. But once in a while, I do enjoy actually making dressing and this one included dried apricots. When I first read it, I thought the apricots were mixed into the salad because that’s what I’ve done over the years — their bit of sweetness mixed with the other ingredients is wonderful. I was wrong, and when I finally looked carefully realized the apricots are blended in.
What a delicious difference.
I suppose I should be thankful the torn page has not been lost or I’d have never realized my mistake. And I’d throw it in the trash at this point, but the recipe on the other side has finally gotten my attention, so I know I’ll have to make that soon to relieve the poor page from its duty.
You’ve promised your body that you will adopt a healthier lifestyle — something just shy of a “diet” because you know yourself too well. If what you’ve taken on is reduced to that, it’s probably not going to last because you don’t believe in diets — and for good reason. You’ve seen too many people begin with all the motivation they can muster, then when they realize the pounds aren’t falling off as quickly as they’d like, or that after what is considered a good effort, they’ve plateaued, motivation dwindles and the “diet” is quietly ignored. I can’t risk that because my knees will never forgive me for having to carry around 50 pounds they hadn’t counted on at their age.
Last September when I began to think about more obsessively about my weight and lack of routine exercise (no coincidence since I’d just turned 55) I began to find reasons to avoid the kitchen. Meals became food I could easily pick up and eat with little or no thought. I stopped looking at new recipes and rarely used one to try something new for dinner. And baking? I stopped that almost completely because it seemed pointless to bake something, taste it, then try to find a home for it outside of mine. I’ve never been a big sweets eater, but I thoroughly enjoy spending a morning in the kitchen baking something — especially if it involves a little thought or teaches me something new. I miss that and know baking needs to be a part of my life — as does dessert.
Dessert is a food group, isn’t it?
I’m kidding, of course, but the point is I want to bake and enjoy dessert occasionally so have to find a balance with desserts that showcase a simple fruit without a lot of added sugar or an excessive amount of fat, for example.
Something classic, satisfying. Elegant, but not fussy.
Just a small slice?