We're going to take a little detour today. This blog is normally cruising down sweet street toward glistening pink frosting, melting chocolate chips and happy rainbow sprinkles. Today we're taking the road less travelled, today we're speeding down savoury street toward crisp green onions, melting cheddar cheese and tangy ranch dressing.
Today's detour is brought to you by the kind folks at Hidden Valley Ranch. You may recall last year around this time I shared with you a delicious Vegetarian Ranch Pizza that remains one of my all-time favourite pizzas. This year for the Ranchify Recipe Challenge we are once again tasked with creating a recipe with ranch dressing that makes eating your vegetables not only yummy but fun!
At our house, we're a huge fan of mashed potatoes. As a picky kid, I used to hide my distasteful vegetables under my mashed potatoes, so I thought why not do the same thing as an adult? Mashed cauliflower is far better for you than a mound of starchy potatoes and, honestly, I think it tastes way better! I like to think of myself as a reformed picky eater. I try to sneak as many vegetables into our meals as I can and this challenge was the best excuse to go one step further.
With loads of fragrant garlic, punches of powerful parmesan, potatoes for texture and, of course, a little help from tangy Hidden Valley Cheese Ranch dressing this is an entree to fool any picky kid or stubborn adult. Cauliflower is the same colour as potatoes so it's the perfect crime. Feed it to your unsuspecting family and dare them to list the secret ingredient!
Do you ever get stuck in a rut? All your favourite shows are on hiatus, you're eating the same boring meatloaf every monday, all your socks are white, you order the same entree at the same restaurant every date night, the Tim Horton's barista finishes your sentences and even your shampoo is boring you.
You need to mix it up! Routine is efficient, but, without any relief, it becomes stale and uninteresting. Be spontaneous, take chances, experiment and try new things. I'm not saying you need to go out and buy a motorcycle, dye your hair blue or go skydiving.
There are safer ways to be adventurous, ways that don't result in road rash or parachute failure. Try out that new Indian restaurant around the corner, give meatloaf night a rest, give that new latte a taste test and buy some polka dots socks for crying out loud!
Or maybe try putting some grapes in your pie. Never heard of it? Now you have! Sound weird? It's delicious!
I'm a huge fan of the written word. I love reading it, I love writing it and, above all, I love learning more about it. I'm one of those people that, when encountering a new word in a book, I immediately look up the definition. I can't read on without it. It's like stepping out your door with only one shoe on. You feel incomplete, imbalanced and unsure. You can stumble upon misconception just like a rusty nail.
I use my dictionary app more than my angry birds app. I probably google the origin of words and phrases at least five times a day. I just hunger for words, for knowledge, for understanding. I'm the sort of person that can't be content in knowing a thing, I have to know why and how and sometimes when and where too.
It fascinates me that, in the grand scheme of things, English is a relatively new language and therefore borrows from other European languages. There are few English words that you can bring to mind today that aren't influenced by another language either loosely or literally. Decimation comes from the Latin word decimatio, a punishment practice implemented by Roman generals whereby a legion would be separated into groups of ten and made to draw lots to determine the tenth to be executed. We even use words on a daily basis that are completely in another language like entrepreneur, kindergarten and chocolate.
English is this inconstant creature forever in a state of flux. It's constantly absorbing information, always influenced by culture and changing to meet our needs. We've gone from Beowulf to Romeo and Juliet to Great Expectations to Harry Potter. Fedex, dance-off and muggle are in the dictionary for crying out loud!
While it's easy to take the low road and subscribe to the opinion that popular acronyms like OMG, YOLO and LOL are somehow the architects of the English language's demise, I prefer another theory. We're just entering a different stage of evolution. Do you think Shakespeare and Dickens could carry on a coherent conversation without cliff's notes? We might resist at first, but eventually the transition will come naturally.
Words are magical. Words can frighten you, delight you, thrill you and definitely inspire you. With words I can't paint beautiful pictures before your mind's eye. With just a few words you can be saddened, overjoyed or enraged.
For example, I could tell you that this cake is the perfect balance of chocolate and orange, bitter and sweet, rich and light, dark and bright. I could tell you that beneath waves of velvety Dark Chocolate Frosting lies a cake striped with ribbons of deep chocolate and fruity orange surrounding and thick layer of aromatic Orange Curd. Each bite is so tantalizing to all five senses we may need to define a sixth or seventh. Immediately you should begin to feel the physiological effects of these few choice words. Your pupils start to dilate, your eyes widen, your mouth waters, your stomach growls and suddenly that cookie you're about to stuff in your face doesn't seem good enough.
I've always been fascinated by the things our mind chooses to remember and the things it chooses to forget.
I can't remember learning to whistle, but I can vividly remember that time in fifth grade when Justin Kennedy flashed one of his perfect smiles at me. That terrible haircut I got to impress him thankfully didn't last for long and my whistling skills have only improved.
I can't remember the moment I met my best friend, but I can clearly recall my recurring childhood nightmares about ET. He hid in my closet mostly and creeped up on me with his weird glowing finger. I'm still terrified of ET, but at least my best friend understands me.
I can't recollect the details of that amazing Radiohead concert, but I can remember every excruciating hour that my cat was lost by the airline. My cat is subsequently terrible at travelling, but my souvenir Radiohead t-shirt is still my favourite despite the holes and faded patches.
Sometimes it even feels like the space between our ears is finite. You learn a new friend's name and suddenly you forget your PIN number. You finally memorize your favourite pizza dough recipe and you forget who your eighth grade math teacher was. You cram for your written driving test and instantly forget which key fits in the back door deadbolt.
Here to illustrate my point is Thomas Bailey Aldrich with one of my favourite poems, both beautiful and aptly named, Memory.
My mind lets go a thousand things,
Like dates of wars and deaths of kings,
And yet recalls the very hour -
'Twas noon by yonder village tower,
And on the last blue moon in May -
The wind came briskly up this way,
Crisping the brook beside the road;
Then pausing here, set down its load
Of pine scents, and shook listlessly
Two petals from that wild-rose tree.
I remember seeing my sweetie for the first time. He was framed in my basement apartment peephole nervously shifting his weight to one foot while clutching a bouquet of flowers. I remember hearing his voice for the first time and being startled by how deep and warm it was. I remember how much his whiskers tickled when I kissed him. I look forward to capturing little mental snapshots like these in the years to come.
Happy Valentine's Day! I hope it's one to remember!
Three years. I can't believe it's really been three years. Three years ago today I timidly introduced myself and stepped into the blogosphere. I baked cookies, snapped some photos, met you fine folks, wrote about life and wrote about love, laughed, learned, grew.
I want to say thank you for being so patient with me. I've been pretty absent pretty often and I appreciate your understanding. Life's been a little nuts recently and I haven't had the time to bake elaborate cakes and roll out flaky pie crust.
So I thought you deserved a little something special to celebrate. Hot Polka Dot is as much about you as it is about me.
What could be more decadent that chocolate? How about three different kinds of chocolate? White chocolate cheesecake sandwiched between dark chocolate cake riddled with milk chocolate chips, enrobed in whipped dark chocolate ganache frosting and topped with a trinity of chocolate curls.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Cheers to Hot Polka Dot, cheers to you, cheers to cake and cheers to three more years!