I read an article the other day about the popularity and effectiveness of the 7-minute workout. I had time to read this blurb because I only had to spend 5 minutes meditating, thanks to another quite compact article. Normally, I spend so much time feeling frustrated about not meditating, planning when the 30 minutes will be and expounding to my husband (he of the long-suffering ears) on how we ARE GONG TO DO THIS and we NEED TO START DOING THIS that it eats up my day (let me be transparent: I never actually meditate).
Now, I can work out and meditate in 12 minutes flat. Until now, I have been perfectly willing to devote 40 minutes daily to exercising since the alternatives to being fit seem so grim. Plus, if I don’t work out, I start to gnaw on furniture and pull out my fur. But no more of that. Thankfully, I have long been adept at the 3 minute shower/lotion application so the entire sweat/om/splash/moisturize process takes less time than…anything, really. I am addicted to this express version of life! Show me other places in my day where I can save time so I can more effectively squander these precious, salvaged moments elsewhere! Short is the new long, Eaters, and brief is the new lengthy.
My children took this to heart in early December after we came home with our tree. We picked a Blue Spruce this year which is lovely, but so prickly that you can’t even sneak a gift under it without screaming. I am also mightily allergic to it but still, it’s pleasant to look at. After we laid out the ornaments, my daughters and their two friends timed themselves to see how long it would take to get our conifer from blasé to bedazzled.
They knew they were speedy last year but this Christmas, they wanted to record an actual time. And that time was…6 minutes. And here’s the kicker: upon completion, every ornament was equidistant from its neighbors. I believe I adjusted one little needle-felted critter slightly to the left, and that’s it. An archangel made out of a paper plate and gold glitter (not to be confused with a lesser member of the heavenly host my MacGyver-like nephew made out of a coffee filter and a clothes pin) was resting serenely on top, and the children had moved on to the traditional post yuletide decoration activity: playing dreidel.
But as much as I often love to (need to) get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, some dishes, and some activities (cuddling, reading, listening) deserve extra time and attention. At dinner, this means chopping and dicing and stirring and testing. It’s the 5-mile run versus the 7-minute workout; they each have their place.
The five mile run of dinner is this soup from Bon Appetit. Lord have mercy, but it took forever. Feel free to make the recipe as it is, and I am sure it will be delicious. However, I wanted to make it without the ham hock (in spite of what my mother insists is a necessary ingredient in soup). And I wanted yams, as opposed to squash, but that is of lesser import.
In the absence of ham, the soup needed a smoky flavor. I used tofu bacon, something I learned about from the latest cookbook by a founding mother of American vegetarian cooking, Mollie Katzen. These savory little strips are easily accomplished by baking slices of tofu (roughly 1″ wide, 2″ long and 1/4″ thick) that have been oiled and lightly sprinkled with salt and liquid smoke. Katzen uses smoked paprika but I don’t have any and I have an entire bottle of liquid smoke. Plus, I love the concept of liquid smoke. It’s like solid cloud, dry water or vapor fire – how, oh how, do they harness that ephemeral substance into a bottle? In any case, bake the tofu strips in a 300 degree oven until they are firm and you will get savory flavor bits that you can use in soup.
And other than that, I followed the recipe. I even used dried beans and made them in the slow cooker according to these instructions. But you can always add a couple cans of navy beans when it’s close to serving time.
Thank me later, you’ll have plenty of time since I just saved you another three minutes.