Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Death and Community

The last few years have been pretty difficult here. Our family has lost quite a few members. Most recently, my husband's uncle passed away completely unexpectedly. Not long before this, I lost an uncle as well. Again, completely unexpectedly.
I'm not certain what the norm is here in the US, but where I grew up in Canada, when someone passes away, the family usually holds a memorial tea after the funeral. It's a time for friends, family and the entire community to get together, sharing food and memories of the loved one. I somehow don't believe that's the tradition here in the US, point being that I'm not even aware of a single church or community which owns a "hall" for such events, although I suppose church basements are also fairly commonly used.
Anyway, there are such tiny things that come with these community events commemorating life and living. Things like: who makes the best squares? Who makes the best buns? Who do we know that owns one of these things?
Usually these questions don't come until after the fact. No, usually the squares, buns, lunch meats and other snacks for the tea come pouring in a day or two prior to the actual tea from friends and family alike and are a topic of conversation during the tea. "Mmm. This is a really great matrimonial bar. Who made this?" This reinforces the sense of community, the unity of the whole, even as one member is going to places we cannot presently follow. The maker of the great matrimonial bar or the wonderful buns is sought out and asked for their recipe and, of course, they have to tell you "It's not my recipe. I got it from (insert deceased community members name here)."
I can't do that. None of my recipes are from deceased members of my community. No member of my family has ventured into the realm of baking and cooking I'm in. I have lost some small part of myself to these changes in our diet and much to moving countries. But my husband understands when I go into the kitchen when someone has passed and start making matrimonial bars even if no one else does.
I know this is an incredibly somber post for the week of Thanksgiving. Most everyone else is posting about pumpkin pies, turkey, stuffing and how grateful they are for things in their life. I was thinking about doing that, coming up with some fantastic Thanksgiving Day recipe to post, but that's just not where I am right now. We've just lost two family members. It's time for some matrimonial bar. Time to remember and be grateful for the most basic of things: living.

Jacqueline's Matrimonial Bar
2 cups dates, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups water

1 1/2 cups gluten free rolled oats
3/4 cup Jacqueline's gluten free flour mix
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan, place the ingredients for the filling. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes. You want the dates to lose all sense of being dates and become more like a jam. Once this consistency has been reached, remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool.
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour mix, brown sugar and salt. In a small pot, melt the shortening then pour this over the contents of the bowl, mixing well. Pat about half of this mixture into a 9" square cake pan then spoon the date mixture over top of this, smoothing out nicely. Sprinkle the date mixture with the remaining oat mixture and place into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool and cut into squares. Makes 36.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Corn-free Visitors!

I had a spectacular weekend! Two of my girls and their families came to visit me. (On a side note, I didn't even get pictures of them!) It's been a very busy weekend and all of my plans fell to nothing when the car broke down the day they were to arrive. I was supposed to finish my grocery shopping that afternoon, and it just didn't happen. So, the weekend was spent with very little food in the house. (How embarrassing. :o)
On Saturday, trying to figure out what I was going to feed those I could feed, I threw this tomato sauce together:

Italian Panic Pork Sausage Tomato Sauce
3 pounds ground pork
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fennel
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 onion, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
6 cloves garlic, pressed
7 Roma tomatoes, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1-6oz can tomato paste
6 oz water
1.5 lbs rice pasta

First, panic, realizing there's nothing in your house that doesn't contain corn. Calm down and take stock of what you have in the house that's real food and therefore not likely to contain corn. Then put a pot of water on to boil.
Measure herbs and spices into a small bowl. Remove 2-1.5 pound packages of ground pork from the freezer. Apologize for it being frozen (much less conventional feed-lot pork). Throw it in the pot, along with the spices. Dice an onion and throw it in the pot. Scrape thawed pork off the frozen stuff and mix as best you can. Look in the fridge to see what else you can throw in the pot and find a yellow pepper. Dice it and throw it in the pot. Read the ingredients on the back of a can of tomatoes. Realize citric acid is corn and panic again. Scrape thawed pork off the frozen stuff and mix again. Remember that you have tomatoes in the fridge. Take them out, wash and cut them. Take 6 cloves garlic from your container of pre-cleaned garlic (omg :o) and put them in the garlic press, pressing them directly into the pot. Take some time to make sure the meat is browned and the onion and garlic are sufficiently softened then add the tomatoes and mushrooms. At this point, your water should be boiling, so throw in the pasta to cook. Let the tomatoes cook up/boil down a little and realize there isn't enough of them to make this a good sauce. Panic (again) for a second and run downstairs to get a can of tomato paste, praying that it doesn't contain citric acid. Breathe a sigh of relief when it doesn't and run back upstairs to open it and throw it in the pot followed by a can full of water. Mix well and taste. Wonder what is missing and throw in 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Taste again then allow to simmer to blend flavours for about 15 minutes, draining and rinsing pasta as it's ready. Serve sauce over pasta and breathe a sigh of relief that you somehow managed to pull it off and make a note to decrease the amount of red pepper flakes so that children might actually eat it without burning their faces off*. Write a blog post about it, hoping your guests will find it humourous.

*I have already adjusted the recipe for this. ;)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dairy-free "creamsicles"

I haven't had a creamsicle in a LONG time. Even before going dairy free, they were off-limits because they contained food colouring. Now, thanks to the recipe I found here (seriously cool site, check it out), we can enjoy creamsicles again.
I didn't find the recipe thick enough for my preferences, so I poured the mixture into popsicle moulds and froze it for a couple of hours. Lovely!