I am by no means ready to get back to the grind though-- hell, I've only had the chance to read four novels since my new found freedom and I have shelves more books to plow through before I feel as though I can bear to have someone tell me what to read again.
Now that the unpacking, setting up, settling in, shopping for necessary odds and ends, and errands like the DMV are finished I have had some time not only to relax into reading books I've been patiently waiting to devour (everything from pop culture's Malcolm Gladwell to The Help, to arbitrary modern fantasy fiction like The Hunger Games, all the while plodding steadily through War and Peace), but to cook again.
My new oven is ever so much smaller than the ones I am used to, and while it fits inside our cute retro kitchen perfectly, I knew when I saw it that we would need some time to get to know each other. My closest friend had a similar such oven once and she warned me that it would heat up quite fast, but I still had no idea just how much faster it would cook food than the specified recipe times. I'll tell you the truth but I doubt you'll believe me: I baked an entire peach pie crispy in just twenty-five minutes yesterday.
It has been a fun week for cooking, both solo and with my boyfriend, who is also my new and most wonderful roommate in this new place. His sister stayed with us for about a week last week and we enjoyed waking up and making her vegan pancakes fried up in coconut oil with blueberries and peaches on top. We finally figured out that they taste strange unless you use unrefined sugar though-- I guess that bleached out refined stuff doesn't mask the taste of baking powder the way it should. Just goes to show you, natural ingredients really do matter to the taste.
I bought my very first cast iron pan (giving the strictest instructions to my dutiful dish-washing partner about the care and keeping of this special pan), a donut baking pan that I am dying to try out, and a new cookbook called, Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton. It's not a vegan book, but the entire book of over 90 recipes is only about cooking vegetables which is even more useful at this point than many of the vegan books I've read.
Vegan cookbooks are great for breads, pastries, fake meat meals, imitations of dishes I miss from my pre-vegan days, elaborate casseroles and even dips and soups and stews (and brunch ideas), but rarely do those books dumb it down as simply as to how to shop for your vegetables at the farmers market and what specifically you can do with all of them when you get home.
Vegan is certainly a lifestyle, but eating vegetables more than I eat pasta and bread is the kind of lifestyle I want. I don't think it gets much better than fresh vegetables, but I've been dying to know what I can do with them besides stir fry them, toss them in a casserole or pot pie that's mostly crust or biscuits, and chop them up for raw salad. I'm even at the point where I mostly just eat one type of salad!
This book has opened my eyes to the world of roasting, braising, sauteing and grilling! I have already tried roasting my fresh mushrooms just by tossing them in olive oil and salt and spreading them out on some parchment paper for about 15 minutes in the oven with wonderfully tasty results. Susie Middleton also makes helpful recommendations about spicing the vegetables, offers sauces and flavored butters (in my case, earth balance) and while many of her actual recipes contain dairy products, her main source of fat is extra virgin olive oil and all of her recipes are built off of simple instruction she lays out first so that you can fancy it up or leave it be once you've mastered the actual cooking technique.
Myself I love the actual taste of vegetables so while I might try her sauces for company, I am mostly just interested in the vegetables themselves and how she suggests matching and cooking each one. A little salt and olive oil with a touch of garlic and maybe a few other choice spices for the blander carrots and potatoes plus the right technique and the vegetables in my pans will be good to go! So far roasting has gone quite well, so next week-- on to braising!
I managed to cover the crispy under-layer with a perfectly baked golden top crust and the peaches were perfect, but that crunchy under layer is the fault of my first meeting with the oven. I'm just glad it didn't completely ruin the pie... although with a layer of fresh, local, ripe peach slices followed by a layer of sugary buttery filling, more peaches, and more filling plus that perfect top crust I really have no idea how the pie could have failed.
Tomorrow I will try roasting a pan of tubers and try out a new vegan mac n cheese recipe to go alongside it, an of course dive into the next literary work I've been saving up. As for jobs, I hope I get one, but not yet. I need a little more time with my books and my kitchen before I show the world my studious face once again. Oh August, if only you were a lifetime long.