Deep fried goodbye

I’ve been on a bit of a minimalism kick recently. It’s the new thing, don’t you know? Get rid of all your junk and find eternal happiness. So far, all I’ve found is more junk.

According to Instagram, I’m not the only one diving into my cupboards head first. I just checked and there are more than six million photos with a minimalism hashtag. I guess one thing minimalists don’t do minimally is post photos. Although, having just looked at some of them, very few seem to be snapshots of people’s pristine and empty living rooms. There’s even a photo of the eleven pastries a guy bought to share with his girlfriend. Perhaps, in their case, minimalism refers to the number of food groups.

I first got started on this when I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I never got to the point of personally thanking my underwear before I threw it out, but I made decent progress. I gave away close to 30 bags of clothing and household goods. Somehow, that was just the beginning. Two years later, I’m still digging through excess stuff in the hopes of reaching an epiphany or, failing that, the back of the closet.

The room that has fascinated me the most through all of this is the kitchen. I don’t know how many times I’ve been waist deep in the corner cupboard only to find yet another questionable inhabitant. The latest exploration unearthed five slow cookers. Yes, FIVE. I use a slow cooker maybe once every three months. Even that’s being generous. I’m just not a slow cooker kind of gal. I had a few go-tos back in the day—and maybe I should go back to them—but I have never been such a prolific slow cooker to warrant owning five of them. Well, four and a half, really. One of them was for dips since we all know dips need six to eight hours on low.

Throughout all this, there was one cupboard I completely overlooked: the one above the fridge. Out of reach, out of mind. I only decided to pay it some attention because I needed a new home for the booze that was living on the top shelf of the pantry. I’m not as confident in the structural integrity of wire shelving as Luke appears to be. I had visions of single malt crashing down on the heads of my innocent children, who have a tendency to either hide or imprison each other in this tiny food closet.

I was curious to know what we had been hiding up there for all this time. There were a few guarantees: the bigger Vitamix container, in case I ever need to make a smoothie for 16 people; the two pint beer glass I stole from a pub 17 years ago; and all the weird liquor we never use. Chambord, anyone?

What I was not expecting to find was a deep fryer. A deep fryer that hasn’t been used in maybe eight years. A deep fryer that still has the oil in it from the last time it was turned on, likely because I had (and still have) no idea how to get rid of a two litres of vegetable oil.

I have likely faced this scenario before and just blocked it out of my mind. I’m sure I’ve rummaged around up there, looking for a random kitchen thing, noticed the deep fryer and made a quick-penned mental note. “Deep fryer sighting. M’eh.”

I find it amusing that a deep fryer was something I ever thought reasonable to own, especially now that I pray to the Holy Trinity of wholesome foods: Ella Woodward, Angela Liddon, and, in more localized religion, Brett McDermott. Honourable mention goes to Aviv Fried (not pronounced like the food that would have come out of the afore mentioned fryer), who bakes some of the only bread I can eat without causing everyone to assume I’m incubating our third child.

I remember buying this thing back when I had oodles of time to cook, loved experimenting in the kitchen, and had the ability to digest everything the world had to offer. I was also scared shitless of boiling oil and perhaps found it prudent to own a machine that would reduce the chances of the house burning down over my desire for a french fry. Even still, I think it was only used twice, both times to make Vij’s potato and cauliflower pakoras. They were delicious but also really messy and finicky. I see now, looking at the recipe, they are gluten-free. Damn it. Oh wait. I’m over 40. I don’t have the metabolism for easily accessible fried food.

According to Marie Kondo, one is supposed to assess the level of joy certain items spark before tossing them to the curb. You hold it in your hands, close your eyes and ask yourself, what’s my joy meter reading? The moment I reached in to remove this gremlin from its fridge-top cave, I knew its fate. But I still didn’t know what to do with the oil, so the machine sat on the counter for three weeks while I waited for divine intervention.

In the end, I put the oil a container and threw it out. I felt decidedly unjoyful about this part, due to the environmentally unfriendly act of pitching a recyclable container. The fryer then joined a couple of its slow cooker cousins on a drive to Goodwill and went onto be someone else’s problem. I hope it helps an adventurous home cook with a more forgiving waistline whip up something finicky and fabulous, without having to worry about the house burning down.

Drink your greens but make them purple

Until recently, I had never really seen food as a means to an end. The world has so many delicious food combinations to enjoy. I couldn't imagine throwing away the chance for a fabulous meal from this cornucopia just for the purpose of sustenance (says the woman who used to eat popcorn for dinner). Enter motherhood and the tune changes. All of a sudden, meals become more of prerequisite for basic function rather than an enjoyable taste experience.

Take breakfast, for example. They say people are inclined to eat the same thing for breakfast every day, in part because it means reserving brain power for things like walking upright and being civil to your partner. For me, it also used to be incentive to get out of bed. What better reason to shower and get dressed than for the reward of peanut butter oozing all over a toasted english muffin?

Surprisingly, the promise of liquid salad has never offered the level of motivation. But time, reality, and countless elimination diets have a funny way of shifting your perspective. As I was weighing the desire for fitness, convenience, and the ability to survive a day with children, the green smoothie weaselled its way into my routine.

According to my research, there are at least a million recipes for green smoothies. About 999,992 of them start with an entire banana. In my mind, there’s a 20 second window during which a banana is suitably edible and by the time you’re done peeling it, those 20 seconds are up. Other options included tofu (don't get me started) or recipes that aim to include an army of powders, seeds and potions. I don’t have the patience to open that many containers before 7am. Grass-fed collagen be damned.

So I made up my own. It remains quite simple and remarkably tasty. The almond milk adds some creaminess to the mix. The beet crystals give it a hint of sweetness and a beautiful colour. My three-year-old asked to taste it—the guy who picks vegetables out of vegetable soup—and he actually liked it. He is my litmus test for palatability. If he will eat it, it has to be good. Mind you, he also likes mustard on macaroni and cheese, so maybe I'm off on my assessment of his sophisticated palate. 

I've been drinking this for a few weeks, and now find myself waking up favourably to the idea of a liquid breakfast. The other bonus is that it forces me to drink at least some water, something I have been known to eschew.

The Not-Green Green Smoothie 2 cups of kale (off the stem - no one’s body needs to fight that demon) 1/3 cup frozen sliced strawberries 1/4 cup frozen raspberries 1 tbsp chia seeds 1 tbsp beet crystals 1.5 tbsp pumpkin seed protein powder* Splash of vanilla Shake of cinnamon Almond milk** Water, depending on desired thickness and the willingness of your blender

Do I need to tell you to put all this stuff in a a Vitamix? I tried putting it in the Magic Bullet and all I got was a watery mess of chopped kale. I didn’t think I had issues with texture until that vile concoction landed on my tongue.

*This is the simplest of protein powders. It doesn’t have much of an imposing flavour and it delivers 9.5 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat in a 55 calorie serving.

**I like Califia and I just noticed they have a Toasted Coconut Almond Milk flavour that I might just have to go crazy over. I just have to find a store that stocks it since they don’t ship to Canada. Sad face.