Happy new year!
We’re almost a week into 2014, but it’s still the time of year when everyone thinks about improvement, bettering, growth, change.
Gyms are filled to capacity, juicers are pulled out and dusted off, and Christmas cookies and New Year’s Eve fried appetizers are set aside in preference of salads and lentils. My inboxes and newsfeeds are filled with articles and posts about resolutions, tips for getting healthy, and articles about reducing busyness.
I love the collective push toward better, but even after watching this video, I tend to resist the idea of resolutions. I much prefer small, sustained changes (more like Sarah Britton’s advice). I hardly recognize the person I was in 2002, living on foods ordered from Wendy’s Value Menu and eaten while driving between the 3 different cities in which I lived, worked and played. And the person I was in 2009, starting each morning with a couple of pieces of toast hurriedly assembled on the way out the door, late for work. But the changes came not from resolving to “get healthy,” or “eat better,” but by slowly and systematically changing aspects of my diet, lifestyle, and thought process.
One year ago, I decided 2013 would be the year I conquered my fear of the word ferment, and I started a grand experiment culturing food. The result was surprisingly easy and – even more surprisingly – tasty. By the spring, I had developed a full routine of managing my kitchen pets (kefir, yogurt, chutneys, salsa), so it didn’t actually take the whole year. In fact, I stopped fermenting all together for a few months while we went through our move this summer/fall.
One of my sisters and her husband like to name each year. For example, this past year for them was the year of settling down/settling in. I could try to label the years I’ve lived, but the problem is that seasons of life don’t always match up with the calendar. Especially for teachers – Big Handsome and I have become accustomed to counting years starting in September. But even if we use the academic calendar, like the “year” of fermenting, it’s hard to find a common theme for 12 consecutive months.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, our season of adventure lasted from August 2008 to October 2009. Our season of adjusting to parenthood started early in 2010 and lasted at least until November of that year (although it may not be over yet). October 2011-April 2012 was a season of focus on physical healing. Winter 2013 was a season of investigation and decision-making. Right now we’re smack dab in the middle of a season of reconnection.
And so for me, this year, there will be no major new year’s resolution. I will not set goals beyond those that I’ve been working on lately (and shared on my birthday), which in essence boil down to becoming aware – of what is around me, of how I am blessed, of what I have learned, of opportunities, of joys (yes, mainly of joys). I look truly forward to labeling a time in our lives the season of joy, and I hope it lasts a long, long time.
But right now I am content to be reconnecting. I’ve reconnected with many things of late, including my beloved ferments from 2013. It has taken a bit of experimentation and adjustment to get my pets happy in this northern climate (I started this project in the Middle Eastern desert), but it has been fun to get back at it. As I don’t eat much dairy, I’ve been using my viili yogurt to soak grains in for muffins. The result is a more digestible, ever so slightly sour-tasting snack. I do want to get into full-flown sourdough, but that’s a venture for another season.
1 cup flour (I grind rolled oats in blender to make oat flour)
3/4 cup yogurt (kefir or buttermilk)
1 ripe banana
1/8 cup sugar (I used sucanat)
1/4 c. butter (or another fat – coconut oil is delicious!)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Makes about 6 regular sized muffins.
Instructions: Combine flour and yogurt in a bowl. Cover with a towel to keep out dirt and set on counter 8-24 hours. (The longer it sits, the more sour it will become. I leave mine overnight only, so the taste is hardly sour at all.)
Cream together banana, egg, sugar and butter. Mix in soaked flour. Add dry ingredients. Fill muffin tins and bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
- Due to the soaking, these are not light and fluffy muffins. They’re denser, which is why I make them small.
- There are so many possible variations. Add pumpkin, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and walnuts. Or dried coconut and pineapple. Or carrots, apples and raisins. Or orange rind and cranberries. Oh, the possibilities!
- These are so good topped with nut or seed butter and spiced apricot/fig compote – I like to think of them as a sophisticated (gluten and yeast-free) PB&J sandwich .