Last week we got hit with the Blizzard of 2010. Before I get started, why do all storms have to be the storm of the year? It’s only February. What if there’s a blizzard in March or December? Will that be the Blizzard of 2010A? The Blizzard of 2010-The Sequel? Anyway, during the storm I was assuming that everyone was holing up with a good book and some cocoa or making cookies with their snow-day kids or, at the most, working from home on their laptops but still in their pajamas. Then I made the mistake of calling my supposedly retired parents. I was imagining my mother thumbing through her stack of shelter porn and drinking some French pressed coffee and my father doing the Times crossword puzzle. Instead, when Dad answered the phone with a rushed “we’re busy here” snap to his voice, he told me he was about to walk ten blocks in the snow to a board meeting and reported that my mother had left for her book club early in the morning and wouldn’t return until late afternoon since she had a lunch plan, a board meeting of her own and a doctor’s appointment all on the other side of town. And then of course they had theater tickets that night. I felt like a lazy bum. Who knew I was supposed to be acting like business as usual despite the howling wind, frigid temps and rapidly accumulating precipitation?
So, I made up errands I didn’t really need to run and went outside to rush around with all the other people rushing around and apparently having a day. What a mistake. The only part of my street that had been cleared was the area right in front of my apartment building. I was forced to trudge to the corner through the inches of snow that were quickly turning into a black, icy slush and hiked across the street, using the paths worn by other boot-shod urban climbers. It took me 15 minutes to walk to the Love drugstore, a trip that usually takes me five, all so I could save $.59 on a roll of Bounty. My paper products re-stocked, I headed to the before mentioned depression-inducing rip-off Pioneer Supermarket. I thought I could justify not slip-sliding the several avenues required for the best price on soy milk by using the $.75 coupon I had just printed off of Silk’s website. “We don’t take those! They could be counterfeit!” the manager yelled at me after I had pleaded with the blank-eyed cashier. “Counterfeit? What are you talking about? It says right here ‘manufacturer’s coupon!’” I yelled back. “Listen, we’re not taking it so you can forget it!” I couldn’t believe this man was getting so heated and I was giving it right back to him, “Fine! Then you just lost a sale!” And I stormed out of the store vowing never to return.
But that wasn’t where it ended. I marched home, went online to Silk’s website and called customer service. The very nice lady from Minnesota who talked me down explained that some retailers had trust issues with internet coupons and promised to send me a real one for $1.00 off (yay). Her warm, Midwestern accent made me feel so much better but I couldn’t believe I’d turned into this person. Who calls customer service over $.75? Who prints coupons off of websites? Who goes to the trouble of stalking the market’s aisles in search of the manager? Had I turned into Jack Nicholson in The Shining? Stuck in a snowy wilderness and slowly losing my mind? Maybe there’s a fine line between cozily hunkering down and “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
I had no choice but to start to play with my food in order to feel productive, and to get over the trauma inflicted by my journey to the outside world. What is more comforting than hot cereal? Nothing. I’d recently met a friend at Le Pain Quotidien where I had what I thought was a barley porridge made with almond milk and dried fruit. (Actually, it turned out to be made with farro but I’d already bought the barley for my re-creation project. Oops.) So, I went a little crazy with grains (even though it was past lunch time) and made up a few combos that are variations on methods and themes and all really tasty. I felt a little like Goldilocks as I tried to find the porridge that was “just right,” but each one has its merits. The barley gets even better the next day. The cous cous provides the nicest contrast with the sweet and sour of orange and yogurt. And the quinoa has a little spicy heat. Most importantly, the next time there’s a storm, I’m not picking up the phone. Ignorance is bliss.
Blizzard 2010 Playing with Grains
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Bought by Mistake Barley Almond Milk Porridge
¼ cup pearled barley
¾ cup almond milk
2 Tablespoons chopped dried apricots
2 Tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½-1 cup additional almond milk
Combine barley and ¾ cup almond milk in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium high heat.
When mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cover until barley absorbs all of the liquid, stirring once in awhile if you get antsy. This could take up to 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour additional almond milk into microwave-proof pitcher and nuke for 30 seconds to take off any chill.
Spoon barley into your favorite bowl and top with apricots, almonds, brown sugar.
Pour additional almond milk until the texture looks appealing to you. Enjoy.
Let’s Try Something Gluten-Free Chai Soy Latte Quinoa
½ cup brewed chai tea
¼ cup quinoa
2 Tablespoons shelled pistachios
¼ of a pear, chopped
½-1 cup vanilla soy milk
Honey to taste
Combine brewed tea and quinoa in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered over medium high heat.
When mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cover until quinoa absorbs liquid. This will take 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour vanilla soy milk in microwaveable pitcher and nuke for 30 seconds.
Spoon quinoa into bowl and top with pistachios and pear and drizzle with honey. (You will want the honey—the tea makes the quinoa a bit bitter without it.)
Pour soy milk to taste.
1/3 cup cous cous
½ cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons dried cranberries
2 Tablespoons dried currants or raisins
1 Tablespoon toasted, chopped, hazelnuts
1 clementine, sectioned
½ cup plain yogurt, fat-free, low-fat or full-fat (depending on your cholesterol level)
Place orange juice, cranberries and currants in small saucepan and bring to a boil.
Stir in cous cous, cover and remove from heat.
Let sit until cous cous has absorbed all of the juice, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place yogurt in small bowl, add cous cous and top with clementine and nuts. Yum.