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  • Writer's pictureImagine a Bird

Happy Bellies '24

Updated: Apr 27


Photo: in the alley behind my apartment. Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10/15/22


Last night, on New Year’s Eve, I pulled from the freezer a nearly empty bag of pitted cherries. They’d been opened since last summer – smoothie season – so they looked a bit down n’ the dumps, as frozen fruit goes. Covered with thick dollops of ice, they smelled of freezer burn.

 

Still, I poured the few remaining cherries into a cup, added local honey, and heated them up. They were delicious alongside squares of dark chocolate that I was also nibbling on.

 

There was so much contentedness in that moment, not only from the flavors but also from the taking in of a last bit of something on the last day of the year. They did not go to waste and in fact, they made a comforting and warm dessert.

 

Today, I vow to comfort myself in all ways possible through the coming year. I hope that your own aims for 2024 also include times set aside to rejuvenate. The words “self-care,” I’m afraid, have become so overused and even demanding (“Don’t forget your self-care!” “Self-care is vital!”), that we may lose sight of what our one-of-a-kind body and mind require in order to feel replenished and fulfilled.

 

As a singleton, especially, it seems I'm always tweaking self-care strategies to keep my household running, my body up and out the door for my career, and my heart and soul lit with personal interests.

 

Cooking is one of those loves. It’s often how I relax, let my mind go blank, play around, and also save money from not eating out. Yet, there’s certainly a thing as singleton burn-out. When my energy plummets and I lose the motivation to cook for myself, I simply try to chop down my expectations. I make quick meals or snacks with limited ingredients so I don’t get overwhelmed.

 

Here are two of my favorite sweet and easy comfort foods, particularly in the winter. They can be eaten for breakfast, dessert, or whenever you damned well please! They’re passed down from my mom, Jackie, who grew up in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, and who learned from my grandmother Helen how to fill bellies while also transforming leftovers for zero food waste.

 

Fried Oatmeal

 

1. Use leftover oatmeal or make some now and let it cool down.

2. My mom melted butter or margarine in a non-stick pan.

3. Mold oatmeal “pancakes” with your hands and smash them down into the pan. It gets messy!

4. Cook and flip until each side is crispy.

5. Mom served them with more butter/margarine on top and drenched the fried oats in maple syrup. They were sticky on the inside, wonderfully crispy on the outside, and I remember the flavors of toasted oats and sugary syrup.

 

My version of fried oatmeal:  These days, I heat up old fashioned oats in oil in a cast iron skillet. They get crumbly and don’t hold their pancake shape, but that's alright. Add local honey and hearty dustings of spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Serve the fried oatmeal with anything else that provides comfort: yogurt, raw or toasted nuts, eggs, meat, tempeh, tofu scramble, fresh/thawed or dried fruit, etc.

 

Maple Rice

 

1. Use leftover rice or make some now.

2. My memory is a little fuzzy regarding the details, but Mom may have reheated white rice in a saucepan by adding some dairy milk and butter/margarine. (She was in no hurry to buy a microwave when they first hit the market, so all reheating was on the stovetop or in the oven through to my college years.)

3. She served the steaming rice in a bowl with more butter/margarine on top and an awesome amount of syrup poured over the rice. Delicious!

 

My version of maple rice: I reheat brown rice with non-dairy milk. Add honey, maple or agave syrup, raisins/dried fruit, pumpkin pie spices, nuts, etc. It’s like quick rice pudding, or rather, sweet rice “soup.”

 

Take care and keep your bellies happy this year and always,

Kim

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