The Slow Lane

I don’t believe in running.

I would sooner take a hammer to my knees and hips.

I believe in walking and slowing down enough to absorb my surroundings.

I don’t believe in racing past the all of the nuances that nature has to offer. I like when the only sounds are the crunch of gravel, the beating of a heart, the sigh of breath. I don’t put headphones in my ears because there is no music better suited to walking in the woods than bird calls and the whoosh of a chipmunk scurrying through the underbrush.

I don’t believe in being fast. Running seems to be about getting it over with, making it from point A to point B without taking any time to notice what is in between. Everyone is running these days. Entering a marathon is de rigueur for anyone wanting to prove they aren’t a couch potato. In social circles, people mention that they’re a “runner” as if it will afford them some sort of clout in a world obsessed with waist sizes.

I don’t believe in going farther faster. I like walking with a dog. Dogs enjoy life and nature and a good walk with such abandon. Everything is cause for celebration, a reason to stop and sniff. There are few things as wonderful as reaching the peak of the trail to look out between the trees to see a view you’ve never contemplated before. In the midst of the dense green, with no one around but me and my yellow lab, I spotted a bird I’d never seen before – a tiny scarlet body, scarlet like the color of blood from an artery, with black wings. A creature you can only notice in the quiet of a forest when you’re walking slowly.

Easy Bake Oven

It has become really important to me to feed myself with good, natural, wholesome foods that contain ingredients you could readily find in nature. I am a happier, healthier person when I do my own cooking and baking. I’m not one to cut out entire food groups and I find that I feel better about eating sugar or carbohydrates or meat if I know where the product came from and that I prepared the meal in which it is featured.

Today I gave my new bread cookbook a test drive. I love bread – good, crusty-on-the-outside but soft inside bread. I’ve tried a few recipes this year, but nothing came out of the oven as I intended. Not to mention the time spent waiting for the recipe to ferment, rise, bake, etc. Baking bread was becoming a two-day project. Who has time for that!? Luckily, I got a little help from the proprietress of LuSa Organics who recommended Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. Ok, so it takes a bit more than 5 minutes, but much much less than two days. I made my dough last night before dinner and had a freshly baked loaf by 1pm this afternoon (had I not slept until 11am, I might have had it earlier). The crust was crisp and concealed the most lovely dough beneath – chewy and rich in flavor. This recipe is the best thing since…well, sliced bread! The best part? You can make enough dough for 6 or more loaves, store it in a big tub in the fridge and just pull out a small batch to bake when you need it. This book is perfect for anyone who wants to bake their own bread regularly, but in a timely fashion.

Resting before going into the oven.

The finished product!

I followed the bread baking with some miniature rhubarb pies. Rhubarb is my favorite pie filling of all time. Personally, I prefer it without the addition of strawberries. Rhubarb is in season usually from April through May. It is very much a spring crop and often featured in pies made for Mother’s Day. Hothouse rhubarb, grown in greenhouses year round, can be purchased out of season, but rarely has the same tart taste as its naturally growing cousin. Naturally growing rhubarb will usually have dark pink stalks as opposed to the light pink/green stalks of the hothouse variety. And remember, rhubarb leaves are mildly poisonous, so keep those out of the kitchen. I like to peel my rhubarb stalks with a vegetable peeler to remove the strings which are not pleasant to pull out of a freshly baked piece of pie. For my mini pies I made a crust from the recipe my mother and I use for everything – your basic combination of flour, cold water, cold butter, a bit of salt. Use whatever you are familiar with, even if it’s the Pillsbury pre-made crusts.

For the rhubarb mixture:

Peel and cut rhubarb into 1/4 – 1/2 in sections (yield should be 5 cups)

Add 1 1/4 cup sugar

Add 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Add 5 Tbsp flour

For a regular pie, 1/2 inch sections are great, but I found that mini pies require smaller chunks, so dicing the stalks works best. At first try, I used the mini apple pie press from Williams Sonoma but found it to be a bit of a pain. I’m going to experiment a bit tomorrow with my empanada press or simply using circles of dough that I’ll pinch together to get a better pocket-pie. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes and you’ve got a portable treat!

Readying the rhubarb.

Tiny treats.