Tuesday, January 28

The Bleak Mid-Winter

There are several small ponds that connect with the river that runs behind our house.  In the winter, they're a haven for thousands of geese which fly down from Canada.  In the summertime, we like to walk there late in the afternoon when it's cool and the sun is low. The kids splash in the water at the edge of one pond and chase huge bullfrogs into its murky depths.  The fishy smell of algae and vegetation envelope us and, though it's strong, it's not a bad smell.  In flashes of turquoise, sapphire and topaz, dragonflies dart between the cattails growing tall along the shore.  Turtles sun themselves on a rotting branch caught among some stones and ducks paddle leisurely through the still water, occasionally dunking their emerald heads beneath the surface for a tasty bite of something floating by.  The whole place buzzes with energy, vitality, and life.  

In winter, when cabin fever sets in, we bundle up in our heaviest jackets, scarves, and rain boots and drive to our favourite pond; it's much too cold to walk.  Just a quick visit.  How different she looks in the winter!  The muddy ground is hard as iron, the water is still as stone.  It's as if our pond is sleeping, peaceful under her pearly blanket of snow.  I get the eerie feeling that we are eavesdropping on a friend.  She doesn't know we're there, and we feel we must tip-toe so as not to wake her.  The stillness is overwhelming, the only sound we hear is the rustle of wind through the bare tree branches and, from somewhere unseen, the haunting call of geese.  The bitter wind stings our noses as we say goodbye to our sleeping friend and trudge back through the snow to the car.  On the way home I hear the words of this song deep in the back of my mind:
In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.
-Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894)

Bleak is a very good word to describe this winter.  I think most of us would agree, all this snow and cold has us longing for spring.  It's a long way off, I know.  In Colorado the heaviest snow falls in March and April.  Thick, wet blankets of spring snow that break tree limbs and paralyze the city.  So I must devise ways to bring the happy, sunny flavors of spring inside.  As I write this, our boots sit in a puddle by the back door, the icicles on our coats are melting, and the bright smell of lemon and thyme permeate every corner of my kitchen.  It smells like spring!

Once again, the snow is softly falling outside (snow, on snow, on snow) and, with a cup of rose scented green tea and a gluten-free lemon-cornmeal cookie, still warm from the oven, I'm dreaming of the day our sleeping pond finally wakes, .

These days I've been craving more and more gluten-free food, and have been feeling so much better.  These cookies are one of my favourite gluten-free treats.  They're delicate, airy and crunchy (from the cornmeal) but still soft inside.  Puffy, like little pillows.  No one would ever know they're gluten free.  The thyme adds an herbal freshness that reminds me of walking through the garden when the herbs are in bloom.  For this recipe I used Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend.  It's free of gluten, wheat, soy, corn, potato, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, and casein (though you'd never know it!).  But what really impresses me about Namaste is that they're so concerned with cross-contamination their employees cannot even eat lunch in the facility.  They take allergies very seriously!  How cool is that?!

As I take the last bite of my cookie, for a minute I close my eyes and, though I know it's just the sound of the wind on the eaves, I can almost imagine that the pond is buzzing with life once again.

Gluten-Free Lemon Cornmeal Cookies with Thyme

8 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup fine sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves, crushed between your fingers
the zest of half a lemon
1 egg
3/4 cup gluten free cornmeal
3/4 cup gluten free flour blend (I used Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend)

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the salt, baking powder, thyme and lemon zest.  Beat in the egg and finally the cornmeal and gf flour.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C), and line two baking sheets with parchment.  When ready to bake scoop out the dough and roll into a ball between your palms.  I usually use approx. 2 tsp of dough for each cookie, but make them as large as you like.  Place the balls on the baking sheets and gently flatten them just a bit with your finger tips.  Bake for 9 - 10 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden.  Makes approx. 3 dozen.

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