One of the toughest parts about turning 30 is knowing you have reached an age where many of the things that you thought you eventually would do, you probably, actually, will not. Taking singing lessons, getting a black belt in Karate, becoming a great painter and re-learning calculus are some things I will most likely not have time to do until retirement.
Not being shy anymore is something else I thought I would have accomplished by this time in my life. I have definitely made serious progress compared to the mute and socially terrified human being I once was. There was a time where the idea of presenting at conferences, defending my thesis, teaching classes and passing job interviews seemed impossible and unimaginable Although these events tend to keep me up at night in anticipation, I somehow managed to trudge through them all, ending up a stronger and braver person on the other side.
But I still find myself in many situations where I am reminded that the timid girl I once was is still a part of me, and for some reason, she is usually the first person on the scene in a stressful situation. Having recently started a new job, I am constantly being thrown into situations where I have to converse, plan and present to people who I am not only not familiar with but also intimidated by. Trying to relax and hide my nerves is something I have to continually work at, but I am determined to keep pushing myself and hope that some day I can enter any unfamiliar setting with confidence and ease.
Something else that I am finding more mentally taxing than expected is a creative writing class, which I attend on Tuesday evenings. I did not picture myself feeling shy in this class when I signed up for it. Everyone is just there to learn and develop their creativity; there are no grades, no co-workers, no job prospects and no competition. I love the class and the opportunity it gives me to practice my writing in a completely creative context. I am expected to write everyday and am given a multitude of writing assignments that inspire me to write freely and explore my unconscious.
The hard part comes when I have to read my work out loud in class and also give verbal feedback to other's stories and poems. Being socially anxious seems to be a deep rooted personality trait, an innate reaction to uncomfortable situations, that I cannot completely shake. At the end of a class I find myself somewhat drained and deflated; discouraged by my fear of being outspoken.
On the flip side, I also feel slightly thrilled knowing that I am pushing myself. Every time I speak out loud - as embarrassed as I feel afterwards - I know I have taken one more step towards my goal of someday completely overcoming my shyness.
Changing eating habits is another thing that just seems to get more difficult with age. One of the hardest parts might be having to get those who surround us to support and get on board with our desired changes. This is the challenge I am facing with trying to convince Mike that my switching to a vegan lifestyle wont affect him very much. I am determined to show him that we can enjoy our food just as much now as we did before, by cooking as many delicious vegan foods as I can.
Biscuits are actually the first thing that came to mind when I thought about cutting dairy out of my cooking. I make biscuits a lot. And every time I make them I wonder - how am I going to make these taste good if I omit yogurt, milk, butter and a whole cup of grated cheese from the recipe? Well, I tried. And so far this is what I have come up with.
All of those dairy products listed above have been replaced by coconut oil and coconut milk. A flavorful fresh herb is a critical ingredient for adding flavour. The squash is also an important flavour component and just the right amount of salt and a touch of sweetness is needed. One really handy thing about going vegan is that you can taste literally anything you are making, before you actually cook it. This helps big time in making sure you dont mess up the seasoning of a dish before you cook it, which is especially handy with baking. As you are mixing up the ingredients, give the dough a little taste. If you are not satisfied, try drizzling in a little more sweetener or stirring in some more herbs or even finish the biscuits with a little sprinkling of fleur de sel.
Vegan Roasted Squash and Tarragon Biscuits
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1.5 tsp fine ground sea salt
- 1/3 cup coconut oil (solid)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
- 2/3 cups roasted squash*
- 2/3 cups of light coconut milk
- 1.5 tbsp agave syrup
- Preheat oven to 400F (preferably with a baking stone on the middle oven rack).
- Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt in a large bowl with a fork.
- Add the coconut oil to the flour in pieces. Use your fingers to break apart the coconut oil into the flour and mix it around in the flour until the flour takes on a grainy appearance.
- Mix the chopped tarragon into the flour.
- Roughly mash the roasted squash with a fork and mix into the flour.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut milk and the agave.
- Next, add the wet mixture into the flour mixture and mix it in. The dough may seem very crumbly at first.
- Turn the mixture out onto a counter surface and work the dough until everything just begins to hold together and is well mixed.
- Lightly flour the counter and then flatten out the dough with your hands into a 1/4 inch thick round.
- Cut the round in half, pick up one half of the dough and put it on top of the other half of dough.
- Flatten the dough out again, pressing gently with your fingertips and sprinkling with flour as needed.
- Repeat steps 10 and 11 two more times, cutting the dough, layering it on top and flattening it again. This does not have to be neat and tidy, the squash in the dough will likely stick to your fingers as you try to flatten out the dough.
- Once you have the dough flattened out for the third time, use a small round cookie cutter or cup to cut out 1.5 - 2 inch diameter rounds from the dough.
- Place the biscuits onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The parchment paper is important for ensuring the bottom of your biscuits do not burn - especially if you are using a dark baking pan.
- With the leftover dough, gather it back together and cut out more biscuits. Then with the final scraps, just form rough round biscuits by shaping the dough with your hands.
- Bake the biscuits about 6 - 10 minutes - depending on the heat of your oven and the size of the biscuits the time will vary. I suggest looking at them after 6 - 7 minutes. Once they start to brown you can remove them from the oven.
- Allow the biscuits to rest 10 minutes before serving.
*To roast the squash: toss peeled and cubed squash pieces with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, and a crushed/ minced garlic clove. Lay out slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast about 20 minutes, until soft, at 400F, flipping the slices once after about 10 minutes. Let cool.