It’s nippy out there.

The air temp was up to a balmy -15 °F when I took my walk today. That’s before wind chill. The wind chill has been at “OH HELL NO” since last night. -15 marked the high point between -24 last night, and -23 projected for tonight. -50 wind chill anyone?

Yes, I went outside in that kind of cold. Yes, on purpose. Yes, without a job location I had to travel to reach, or a pet who needs walking, or any other external justification.

Why? Why not? Being able to do things like stroll around in the killing cold by choice remind me how lucky and rich I am, relatively speaking, and how grateful I am for so much in my life.

Also, if I don’t get my body moving and keep moving at a steady pace for at least 30 min a day, I hurt, but I could do enough walking indoors to cope. Not easily, and going around and around inside the house is boring as hell, but hey. I have done it.

But given the choice between boring laps and going out into the deep freeze? No contest.

It was a fantastic hike and meditative too. I spent the time focusing on my breathing rhythm, maintaining awareness of my body’s position, location, and surroundings (the whole world changes in incredible, beautiful ways when it’s super-cold)

..at least, that’s what I was doing when I wasn’t concentrating on ways to keep my glasses from frosting over.

I’d been out about a half-mile when I realized why I was enjoying myself so much. Dealing with weather like this is a lot like swimming. You’re deliberately exposing your body to a medium that will kill you if you’re immersed in it too long, but with the right gear, training, and effort, the experience can bring you a satisfying thrill.

When it comes to gear, I have tons. Decades worth. I ruthlessly toss or donate clothes that wear out/don’t get worn, but cold weather kit keeps well. And scarves? Well. Textiles are my dragon hoard.

My winter coat is literally designed for Antarctica– it came from someone who went on a cruise trip with a company that uses old Russian icebreakers. It has a patch on it and everything.

My closet is packed with thick, plushy hoodies & warm socks and so on. I am spoiled for choice.  I not only have sleek, soft long underwear comfort-rated to sub-zero, I have fleecy versions I can layer over it and under my outerwear.

Hats? Ear protection? insulated gloves with mitten covers? Scarves and ear bands to keep everything but the eyes safe from wind chill? YUP.

And boots with thick soles to keep my toesies in a dry, temperature-controlled environment are my year-round standard.

Basically, I was all set for today.  Note, please, none of my stuff is new. A purple wool scarf my friend Jody found for me and the sparkly red scarf gifted to me by my other friend Tess are the  youngest pieces in the ensemble. Some of the long underwear is old enough to drive, and I think the coat is old enough to vote.

But it’s all good gear, so when I wrap up to go out in the killing cold, I am covered top to toe in cuddlesome coziness and feel super-rich and thankful for every protective piece.

I’ve had training too. Nothing rigorous, just enough to make me comfortable navigating a populated neighborhood.  There were many lessons in cold weather survival in my youth, plus I’ve done a lot of independent study since then. (hello, I’m a writer)  Knowing when to stop is a key skill, and listening to my body saying “enough!” is a thing I have learned well.

Once I find some goggles (frosty eyeglasses are a real PITA) I will be able to easily handle hikes on days far colder than this one. Goggles have been on a vague quest list for years now. Since Polar Vortexes are likely to be a recurring issue, I think I will make a point of hunting some down before next winter.

Because it really was a lovely walk today, and I want to do more.

By the way, if anyone is wondering, no,  I wasn’t the only one out there. I wasn’t even the only person out here without a dog on a leash. I spotted one hardy soul out running, and no one was even chasing them.

Was there a point to this post? I don’t know. But we’ve reached the end of it.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

Warm Winter Comforts

This post is all about the delicious excuses I use to keep my oven working hard when it’s super-cold outside. To be precise, it’s about oatcakes & “oven omelets.” First, the oats.

Over the years an uncounted number of people have asked for my oatcake recipe. (Uncounted not meaning it was a large number necessarily, just that I never counted them.) Despite all the requests, I never shared a recipe…because I didn’t have a recipe.

The first batch was a total experiment, plopping plain cooked oatmeal onto cookie sheets. It did not work well, but I added a bit of this & that until I came up with something like a cross between muffin & pancake batter that produced tasty but unpredictable results.

The ultimate goal was oatmeal goodness in a crunchy cracker form. The reality never came out the same way twice. Always tasty, never predictable. The sheer number of uncontrollable variables, from the temperature of the cooked oatmeal to the ambient humidity, all factored in. I don’t commit recipe unless I can reproduce the results. I couldn’t do that with oatcakes.

<cue dramatic music> Until now! Success is mine at last. Fringe benefit of the perfected oatcake recipe is that it skips the one real PITA step in the process. (making the oatmeal first.)  But before I get to that recipe, let me rhapsodize a bit about the second oven-worker I’ve recently come across: baked omelets.

They’re not true omelets because they aren’t folded, they don’t qualify as frittatas because there’s no stovetop step, and they lack crusts, so aren’t quiches. They are without doubt delicious, easy, and only improve with reheating like a casserole. And as I’m married to someone who is pre-diabetic and needs more high-protein/low carb foods on the menus, I am beyond pleased to have discovered them.

And how did that discovery happen? Well. Let me tell you. It started with the big ol’ batch of eggs I bought for Christmas baking. Two dozen, because I needed 14. A little finger counting  gets us to the 10 extra eggs I had on hand when I began seeking “oven-on” possibilities.

I immediately thought of quiche & frittatas, but they’re a lot of work (multiple steps, lots of prep bowls & pans to wash)  and I’m lazy when it comes to food. Oven omelets are the best of all lazy worlds. Below you’ll find the recipe I use.

Quantities are based on the baking dishes I use (two mini loaf bakers) but eggs are very forgiving. The original recipes I immediately changed to suit myself came from AllRecipes & Genius Kitchen. The differences between them illustrated how flexible you can be with ingredient quantities. You can successfully bump the amount up or down by several eggs as long as you approximately boost or trim down the other ingredients. So if you want to make a big batch, or a thicker result, use more. Want a batch sized for one? That’s doable too.

Oven Eggs:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • anoint baking dish(es) with non-stick spray
  • In a bowl, whisk together until slightly frothy:
    6 eggs
    1/2 c milk
    salt & pepper
    other herbs & spices of choice
  • Stir in: 1/2 to 1c cheeses
  • Add 1/2-1c of whatever other additions you want.
  • Pour mixture into baking dish(es)
  • Bake for…well, it depends.
    45 min for an 8×8 pan
    35 min for my two small loaf pans
    20-30 min for muffin tin snack-sized servings
    –or “until a knife inserted at the center comes out clean”

Side note: I like my eggs cooked to death (on the dry side) so I cook them even longer, until the edges brown.

I’ve made these with ham & shredded cheddar, Mexican style (shredded colby-jack cheese, garlic & onion powder & salsa as additions) and Mediterranean (feta, basil, thyme, paprika & arrabbiata spaghetti sauce) and both versions came out great.

And now, back to the oatcakes. Important caveat: I make mine with old-fashioned steel-cut oats. The old-fashioned or quick rolled oats work fine too, but the texture will be different.

4-12 hours before starting, put 1c dry oats & 2 c milk in a container to soak. Those’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week as long as the milk is fresh. With traditional steel-cut oats, the mixture will remain very milky. That’s okay.

When it’s time to make the oatcakes:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
line baking sheets with parchment paper (or use non-stick sheets)

  • In a mixing bowl, sift together:
    1 c flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
  • add in
    the oats
    a splash of vegetable oil — up to 1/4 c.
  • Stir until very well mixed
  • Drop dollops of batter onto baking sheets. (Isn’t dollop a wonderful word?) ANYway. Leave 1/2″ or more between dollops. The batter is thin, which makes spooning it difficult. A 1/4 cup measure works well for me as a scoop.
  • Bake for ~45 minutes, or until tops are dry & edges are starting to brown.

So that’s it. A couple of batches of oatcakes & eggs will keep the oven busy for half a day.  If you start a batch of fruit bread rising or peel some apples while the other things are cooking, then you can add another hour of delicious-smelling heat to the house by baking apples or breakfast rolls.

The bestest of all best things about these foods is that making them is also writing-friendly. Unlike cookies with 10 minute bake times or stovetop foods that demand constant attention, these are all about quick preps, simple cleanup, and long baking times. All that means less distraction from putting words to page.

And that’s an important thing for me.

 


I write books. Some people say they’re good. (I’m one of those people.)  You can find the books here and there, and paperbacks are available to order from any bookseller. 

 

Let It Rain

When did weather become news? I think the change happened around the time people started expecting news to be entertaining. And I hate it.

Weather makes great neutral conversation. It’s always there. That aspect of its nature is both its greatest strength and its worst flaw.

A weather forecast is a useful thing, even a life-saving one, yes. Weather is astonishing. The changing seasons and the eternal dance between air, earth and water can be brutal and beautiful by turns, sometimes even at once. I’m a skywatcher and the day my parents got cable and I got 24-hour access to a radar image– oh, that is a happy childhood memory. Weather is Da Best.

That’s exactly why I hate weather as news. When weather is treated as an event rather than the norm, when its never-ending changeability is  weighted down with all the hype and breathless excitement that accompanies news stories these days, it loses its ability to awe.

In giving weather shock value, we’re ignoring its true power, and that makes me sad.

Time: 3:10 PM
Tea: Glass o’ milk
Steep: One does not steep milk.