Lenten Confessions : WWRD? (What Would Rita Do?)

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Cinnamon-Sugar Loaf, aka Easter Weekend Breakfast

I guess it’s time for confession, which is a rather Catholic thing to do, is it not? I’m not Catholic, but as you know, I decided to give up baking during the Lenten Holiday to honor the memory of my grandmother (a practicing Catholic). I was a very good girl during those long weeks of Lent, and I’m feeling rather proud of myself, too (which somehow negates the good behaviour, right?). Random urges for baking powder biscuits to go with homemade soup? Denied! Cookie cravings from Guppy and Monsieur Fish? Ignored. Thankfully I live in the country of the baguette, so at least fresh, cheap and tasty bread made up for the yeast-ban chez nous.

Besides being a positive way to honor her memory, this little break from baking was a wonderful reminder for me to ignore my “inner three-year-old”. Though I’ve only been baking (or cooking, or preparing food requiring more complex food preparation than slicing bread and boiling water) for a hair under two years, I’ve really taken to it. I relish in the DIY aspect of home food preparation, feeling like an artist, a craftsman and a renegade against the machine of forced consumerism. And it’s tasty. And so much healthier.

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Check out that cinnamon-sugar layer!

However, even those of you who like me have but a rudimentary understanding of physics know : energy doesn’t just disappear. Equal and opposite reactions and all that – sound familiar? When I broke my foot/ankle last November, something rather strange began to happen. The time and energy that I so carefully poured into my training had to go somewhere, and it seemed to find its way into the oven. I wasn’t actively aware of this happening initially : for me it was about recipe testing, holiday baking for gift-giving and get-togethers, etc. but as the holidays came to a close I still found myself wanting to bake. Needing to bake.

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You can see the cinnamon-sugar layering magic here, too

In retrospect, I believe that baking helped me reclaim a feeling of control I felt I’d lost. I couldn’t control my leg being in a cast or incompetent physical therapists, but I could control proportions of flour to sugar to yeast. Healing times eluded me, but baking times became as natural as my running rhythm.

I’m thankful that I didn’t chose a more self-destructive outlet for that pent-up energy (says the former smoker), but I felt like it was time to gently step away from the oven mitts and remember what brought me to wanting to bake in the first place : a desire to create healthful deliciousness for my family and friends.

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Oh delicious Molasses Bar, just unwrapped and ready to be eaten!

Lent technically ended on Easter Sunday, but I admit to ending my Lenten baking fast nearly 5 days prior. That being said, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed about breaking out the cupcake tins. Guppy was having a party at school, and I was having Spring parties for two of my children’s English classes. The idea of purchasing pre-made baked goods for these events briefly flashed before my mind – and then I just laughed out loud as I often do when I think about my Grandmother, known as Rita Pita. I found myself asking the question : WWRD*?

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Whole Wheat “Quickish” Bread with a slab of Chocolate-Agave Frosting.

Just typing the words makes me smile, because I knew Rita Pita, and I know how ridiculous she would think my not baking would be. Don’t get me wrong, she’s looking at me from somewhere and is touched that I honored Lent for her (and secretly feeling puffed-up for all this blog attention), but she was the last person on earth who would condone calorie restriction, or not eating sweets, in her name. She would have scolded me for not baking, probably asked to “just lick the spoon” (a no-no as she was a long-time diabetic and fought against weight problems her entire life) and a cupcake making we would have gone.

So I made. I left the camera in the other room, and decided to only make enough for the parties, meaning for Guppy’s school and for my students. If you’re still deciding if I “sinned”, do weigh in the fact that I made them, and taught/hosted the parties, with a 38.5c fever, so it’s like it was a big punishment anyway (ha!).

As the drugs began taking effect, I decided that it was the long weekend, and I wanted to make something fun and tasty for us so on Good Friday I made the Cinnamon-Sugar Loaf. And it was Good. I also made some Molasses bars that I wrapped up and froze to use as quick breakfasts for me. The last of the holy trinity of baking was the “Quickish” Whole Wheat bread that was so easy to throw together and bake it felt sinful. Just be be sure I made up a batch of Chocolate Agave Frosting, using hazelnut flavouring and we slathered this “faux-Nutella” all over that wholesome Whole Wheat loaf. So good to be bad.

In case you haven’t guessed, the Cinnamon-Sugar Loaf, Molasses Bars, Whole Wheat “Quickish” Bread and the Chocolate Agave Frosting are indeed all recipes which you’ll find in the up-coming 500 Vegan Recipes, to be released in less than a year! Testing is almost done, and now I shall find myself also asking WWSE? What will Shellyfish eat?

Oh the extetentialist ponderings of the universe…

(What would Rita do for those of you lucky enough to have dodged this little phrase which to me was the epitome of the hypocrite’s guide to religious marketing “What would Jesus do?”)*

I’ll test your recipe, baby… Peanut Butter Crackers & Peanut Butter and Jam Granola

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We had a lovely time making, and then eating, these Peanut Butter Crackers. Oh yes, that is indeed jam sandwiched between two crackers. I’ve said it before : I’m punk rock like that. These are the most amazing PB Crackers I’ve ever had. Ever. So easy to make, and even easier to eat. Do you recognize Celine’s genius here, kids? You should, because this is indeed a test recipe for 500 Vegan Recipes. Yup.

The only difficult thing about this adventure? Deciding if these were pigs or bears. We went with pigs, but I did explain to Guppy that they are genetic cousins. It’s true. I don’t suggest you eat either, unless they are crackers in disguise. Obviously.

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This is Peanut Butter and Jam Granola. Can granola be a food group? I think it was the easiest granola I’ve ever made. Ever. Oh good grief, it was amazing. Just can’t get enough of it. You will want to marry Celine after you make this. Just warning you. There is much more delicious-looking food p*rn at the 500 Vegan Recipes Flickr Group if you just can’t get enough of the goodness here!

What you’re seeing here are some previously-prepared yummies. While I’m not Catholic, I actually gave up baking for Lent. Yep, no cupcakes here kids. I’ve also celebrated Ramadan and other such religious observances. I’m an equal-opportunity tester-outer. I think it’s important to remember what it’s like to say no to our inner three year olds from time to time, and to live mindfully of those who want for food and other necessities. Helps to keep it real. I’ll grant you it sounds a bit bourgeoise to say giving up baked goods will help me connect with those in need, but I’d like to think that it’s an important symbol : letting of of the unnecessary. For me anyway.

I was thinking about the yummies my Grams used to make for us when we were little, and how difficult it probably was for her because she wasn’t allowed to have any of the goodies, much to the chagrin of her well-developed sweet-tooth. She was diabetic, and had other health problems, but she didn’t ever complain about anything. Ever. I admire her so much, because despite going through some seriously tough times, she was one of the most cheerful, most hopeful people I’ve ever known.

She’s gone now, and I really miss her. She was indeed Catholic, and I wanted to dedicate this Lenten celebration to her memory. She was funny, too. She actually died of a massive stroke – on stage, telling a joke while introducing her band members – what a classy way to go, dressed to the nines and with an audience. She used to joke that she hoped she would know when she was “going” because she wanted to eat one pound of fudge. I hope she got her wish, though I’m not sure it was the case.

So, there you go. There will still be some baked goodies showing up here because I’ve got some yummies stocked up for just such an occasion. Don’t worry. :)