"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NaNO (emphasis on the NO) WriMo, and Rolf and Roll #2

November, where are you going? This month is seriously zipping by, and I can't believe how close we are already to the end of the year 2010. Overall it's been a very good year for me, but I can get into an introspective, year-in-review type of post when it's actually nearly the end of the year. For now, Novembery things.

First off, NaNoWriMo. I tried it. I really did. And even though I wrote about 1800 words, I decided that it just wasn't for me. I thought up an idea for my novel and started typing away, trying not to give myself any big expectations and telling myself that anything goes. I didn't have big expectations and I let anything go. The problem was that I wasn't having any fun. I just wasn't enjoying myself at all. I'd think if you're going to do something as completely insane as trying to write a novel in 30 days, you should at least enjoy the ride. But I wasn't enjoying it. At all. I disliked my plot, I disliked my character, I couldn't think up an alternate idea or character to write about, and the pressure of trying to come up with something or someone new to write about just wasn't appealing. So I scrapped the effort and gave myself permission to say, "To hell with this." I'm pleased with that decision for sure. It's been a busy month with work and things, so much so that I've barely had time to think about the fact that I turn 30 (!!) this Sunday, so I figured why add unnecessary anxiety to my life? To sum up, NaNoWriMo is a supposedly fun thing I'll never do again.

Second, my second Rolfing appointment! I realize that I have my third appointment in two days and yet I haven't even written anything about the appointment I had two weeks ago! Ooops. During my second session, Daphne focused on my feet and lower legs as well as my back. Let me tell you much fun it is to have your feet Rolfed. It's not. Feet (at least my feet) are skinny, bony, uncushioned things, so you can really feel every poke, prod, and squinch that's going on down there. My right foot, which is the one with the old ankle injury, was especially unpleasant, and at one point Daphne even said, as she worked on the bottom of my foot, that she could feel that things were "bunched up" in my plantar. I feel like that was a good way of putting it. For the past few months, my right ankle has really bothered me any time I've walked more than a couple of blocks, and I felt like I just wasn't walking right. Everything felt tight and out of wack. So I hoped that the unpleasant foot work she was doing would help.

She also worked on my back. Let me tell you: having my lower back work on was the most painful thing yet. At one point, while she was working on my lower back on the right, I actually gasped and said "Oh my God!" out loud. It was very, very tender. I've often felt like I hold a lot of stress in my lower back. It often feels tense, and whenever I have backaches, this is where the pain tends to be. Even when I've gotten back massages, which are supposed to be a pleasant and lovely thing, I find it painful to have my lower back rubbed in more than a superficial way. Deep tissue massage down there would probably make me cry. Any time it's pressed hard there, I feel tears in my eyes because it feels like ice picks being stabbed into my muscles. Pleasant!

But I know that all of this unpleasantness is for the greater good, so I deep-breathed and gritted my teeth through the pain. She ended by doing a bit of work on my head and jaw, which felt good because my jaw tends to pop and shift around (I wear one heck of a sexy night guard to prevent clenching and grinding). Later that night, Jeremy noticed that I had bruises on my lower back, precisely where it had been most painful to get Rolfed. Oh my! The area wasn't really hurting much anymore, it just looked sort of disturbing.

For a day or two afterward, my feet felt tender and a bit odd, and I kept making Jeremy examine the progress of my bruises until they faded. However, I have noticed a real difference in my ankle. It definitely does not hurt as much, or even in the same place, when I walk now. Most times it doesn't hurt at all, or if it does, it just feels sort of sore right in the joint. Before it used to hurt all over my foot: the joint, the bottom of my foot, the sides of my foot, my arch, my calf. Now it's a lot more subtle, if it happens at all, and a lot more concentrated. In fact, here's how much I believe in Rolfing: I wore a pair of very cute plum-colored pumps last Thursday night to an outing with some lady friends. The heel on these pumps is nice and wide (I can't handle wobbly thin heels) and probably isn't higher than 2 or 2 1/2 inches so it's not like I'm up on shoe stilts or anything. But still. I remember when I'd tried them on the day I bought them in September, it made my ankle ache just to walk in them.

Well, last Thursday I walked all over Harvard Square: to a reading in the bookstore, over the cobblestone sidewalks into the bank, over to a local restaurant. And not once did my ankle complain. It did not hurt AT ALL. Even though I was wearing heels! Even though before my last Rolfing appointment, even walking around in sneakers made my ankle hurt! The only thing I experienced was that the next day, my calves were slightly sore because I'm not used to walking around with my weight shifted in that way, but my feet weren't bothering me at all. Amazing! I am looking forward to telling Daphne about this.

My posture, which was improved after my first visit, has only gotten better after this second visit. I can't wait to go home for Thanksgiving next week and surprise my mother with my improved posture, because she was constantly telling me to stand up straight, telling me that I was going to end up a hunch back in my old age because of my terrible slouch. I'm really so grateful for this. Not only do I look better, but I feel better, breathe a bit better, and even walk and hold myself better. I spent several hours standing around in a bar the day after my last Rolfing session, and it wasn't that uncomfortable. At no point did I feel like I absolutely had to sit down, which is how I used to feel before when I had crappier posture.

This Friday, as I mentioned earlier, is my third visit, so I'll be going into my 30th year of life freshly Rolfed and standing even straighter. I've booked my next three appointments. Don't know how many I will end up needing overall, but it really does make me feel better, the way going to a chiropractor or masseuse helps some people--even though sometimes it is painful. I can tolerate a session of discomfort if it means feeling better about myself every day thereafter as a result.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Adventures in Apple Picking: Apple Cake

Oh my! November is just flying by, and I have lots to write about but I've been so busy with work and things that I've not had the time. Naughty, naughty blogger.

I've got lots to write about, like my second Rolf session, books I've been reading, NaNoWriMo, and food, obviously.

One of the things I made recently was an apple cake. I had some more leftover apples left after my apple picking adventure, so I decided to find a good apple cake recipe. I found one that looked decent in one of my baking books, but it called for half butter and half shortening. I didn't have shortening on hand (also, I try to avoid using it if I can, because the consistency weirds me out) and was antsy to get underway with the cake, so I turned to the good old internet to find an alternative.

I found a fabulous recipe on Smitten Kitchen for the blogger's mom's apple cake. It looks like an old-fashioned German or Jewish apple cake recipe, and it's very easy to do. Not to mention it's amaaaaazing! Click on the link above to get the recipe and the adorable story about the blogger and her mom making the cake, as well as an awesome photo of her mom's original handwritten recipe card.

A few things that I did differently. First off, I know it can be a real pain in the ass to fill a large bowl with so many cut-up apples and then try to get them all evenly coated in cinnamony goodness. So instead, I put the apples into a gallon zip-top bag with the sugar and cinnamon and gave them a vigorous heave-ho. This got them all nice and coated and since I could keep the bag sealed, it helped prevent any possible browning.

I didn't have any nuts in the house, but I imagine that this cake would be only more awesome with some nice toasted walnuts or pecans. Some dried cranberries would probably also be very nice.

Also, I don't yet own a tube pan (though I fully intend to get one), so instead I used a 9 x 13 sheet pan. Since the batter was more spread out in that pan, I baked it for just a few minutes over one hour. You can't really get the beautiful layers the blogger did with her tube pan if you use a sheet pan, so I just sort of alternated pouring in batter and adding apples and squooshed everything together with a spatula.

The cake was so, so good. It is not overly sweet, and you can't taste the orange juice much, but it is very moist, and the spiced apples really are the star. The Ginger Golds that I used baked up super soft and tasty, so that they were nearly melting into the cake. Awesome!

This cake gets better by the day, becoming more and more moist and appley, and Jeremy and my taste-tester friends all agreed that it was delicious. I'd definitely recommend you try this. I'll be making it again with my next big batch of apples.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Adventures in Apple Picking: Apple Crumble

I can't believe November is upon us! October passed way too quickly for my liking, but I was fortunate to squeeze in an October day of apple picking at Boston Hill Farm with my friends Nicole and Justina. It was a glorious fall afternoon, perfect temperature, bright and sunny, and meant for apples.

Neither Nicole nor Justina had ever gone apple picking when they were growing up, an egregious misfortune that I wanted to remedy. I grew up going apple picking, sometimes several times in one season. My father has an apple obsession that's almost incomprehensible. He takes his apple picking very seriously, overfilling the house with many, many pounds of apples. I too felt the pull to pick this fall. I guess some things are genetic!

So what does one do when she comes home with 12 pounds of apples? Bake! :) I picked a few Macoun apples, but the majority of my bag was lovely ginger gold apples. They're a yellow-green with a pink blush on them and have a wonderful, creamy texture. They are a nice balance of tart and sweet. They're fantastic to just munch on, but everyone knows the addition of butter and sugar makes everything better.

I decided to use a few ginger gold apples in a nice apple crumble (interesting factoid: an apple crisp is basically the same thing as an apple crumble except that the topping on a crisp is a finer, breadcrumb texture and a crumble's topping is chunkier). These apples brown very slowly after you cut them, so even though it was a couple of minutes between the time I finished chopping them and the time I finished combining my ingredients, they hadn't changed color. This recipe would work well with any baking apple. I highly recommend it! It's a simple, unfussy dessert that is extremely hearty and delicious. We ate our warm out of the oven with a dollop of yummy vanilla Greek yogurt. After the leftovers cooled in the pan, we wrapped it in foil and stashed it in the fridge. Just portion out a serving and reheat in the microwave. Yum!

Super Simple Apple Crumble

  • 6 ginger gold (or other baking) apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a square baking pan (8x8 or 9x9, whatever you've got).

Combine all the ingredients except for the apples and the butter in a large zip-top plastic bag, seal, and shake to combine. Cut the butter into small bits and add to the bag. Reseal the bag and knead the butter bits into the dry ingredients until the mixture holds together.

Heap the apples into the prepared pan. Crumble the topping all over the apples.

Bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and the juices are bubbly. Or, if you're like me and you made enough topping to completely cover your dessert so you can't see the apples, you'll know it's ready when your house starts to smell amaaaaaazing. Carefully scoop out and enjoy the bliss.

Stay tuned. My next adventure in apple use is going to be an apple cake!