I am so often late to join the so-called party, and this is a perfect example of that. A couple of nights ago I was reeling from a week of being sick, inactive, and eating too many of those Lake Champlain "5 star bars" (which, although mini, are dense logs of heaven).
All the flavours are ridiculously good but I have a particular hankering after the peanut, hazelnut and caramel ones almost daily...
Anyway, I digress. I was feeling pretty rotten-a mixture of too much echinacea and guilt from being lazy for an entire week-and couldn't sleep. At 4am I found myself watching clips of the NY Voices (since I'd been to see them the friday prior singing with the Manhattan Transfer) and being turned onto artists I'd never studied in depth. I saw a video of the Voices singing with the Metropole Orchestra and, five minutes later, was purchasing three albums of Vince Mendoza's music off iTunes. Vince is the music director and chief conductor of the orchestra and a phenomenal composer. I was aware of his compositional prowess (can you use that adjective for a man?) but had no idea how moved I would be by the albums featuring solely his music. His latest offering is gorgeous-and "Otono" in particular is just devastatingly beautiful. But I also urge you to get your hands on "Epiphany", which features the London Symphony Orchestra and the original version of "Esperanca" featuring Michael Brecker, John Taylor and Peter Erskine. It's (almost) as delectable as Lake Champlain's chocolate nuggets!
Another thing I didn't realise is that Vince is responsible for the breathtaking orchestrations on Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" album. I first heard this album in Cape Town, while sitting in my friend and mentor, Silly Lilley's, car. As a test, he played me "You're My Thrill" and asked me to guess the singer. I think I guessed someone of African descent. The voice I heard was so rich, the phrasing so beautifully jazzified and tasteful, and the song was a jazz standard. Nope. It was Joni-an older version, which explained the deeper voice, but the same singer who's light, soprano of a voice sang "All I Want". It was remarkable. And as remarkable as her singing, were the arrangements. Lush string orchestrations that made me think of Nelson Riddle's work with Ella Fitzgerald. I am crushing completely and utterly on Vince. Viva Vince.
This is Joni singing "Both Sides Now" with the Metropole Orchestra, conducted by Vince.
Jumping from tunes to oats-as one does. The instant oats flavor that always appeals to me the most is the "apples & cinnamon" flavour (did you see what I did there?? Hey? Hey? Yup. I REFUSE to choose a spelling side). Anyhow, I went on a bit of an instant oats bender in my first year at graduate school and, since then, I just can't do the instant thing anymore. That, and I conveniently don't own a microwave. So I've been a long-time oat-ingester. I've experimented with rolled oats, whole oats, quinoa flakes, rice porridge, mielie pap (made from corn), and more. I love whole oats but maintain they're more delicious when someone else has made them for you. They're in the same category as poached eggs, creme brulee and malt milkshakes. Oats need attention-so for someone with the attention span of a jazz musician, that's too high maintenance. They need to be watched. Stirred. Scraped off the bottom of the saucepan. Fed with water. Babysat. And even if you manage to be as stupidly attentive as they require you to be, they don't taste as nice because you're eating them, depleted of energy, smelling like an oat-bath, your arms aching from stirring and your belly throbbing from being denied food because oats ALWAYS take an extra 20 minutes than is stated on the box. Fact.
So what's a girl to do when she craves not just plain oatmeal, but apple and cinnamon oatmeal? Whole Foods' mixed grain oatmeal and my mothers' apple-poaching ways solved the problem. The mixed grain cereal has oats, barley groats, cracked wheat and flaxseeds in it and is no different to other oats-it takes just as long plus the extra 20 minutes. But because I had a week of lousy eating to make up for, and it was monday, I decided there was no time like the present and hid away my impatience. As for the apples, my mum used to make me a container of poached apples that would last me a week of before-school oat breakfasts, so I could remember bits and pieces of the process. I poached the apples in cinnamon-drenched water, then cooked the oats in the same apple-infused water once I'd removed said apples, topped with chia seeds (they're trending y'all), flaked coconut, pecans and maple syrup.
I can't really give you a recipe for the yumminess pictured above but here are a list of toppings in case you're in an oat rut and need to break out:
Nuts-pecans, almonds, pistachios, macadamias, pine nuts, walnuts (they're not shaped like brains for nothing-eat them!!) [It's also worth noting you can and should dry roast your nuts-it makes them even more delish]
Seeds-sunflower, pumpkin (pepitas), flax (also known as linseeds), chia
Nut butters, microwaved to soften them, are a super cool addition.
Macerated berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries-all can be mixed with sweet balsamic for a kick)
Poached apples/pears with cinnamon/vanilla/sugar
Coconut flakes, pomegranate seeds, nut brittle
Yogurt, soy milk, almond milk rice milk, hemp milk, cows' milk
Crumbled muffins/strudel topping (anything with crunch makes a nice textural change)
The skies the limit really-or your stirring stamina is. I'll leave you with a video from the NY Voices. They're classy personified. And some of the nicest people ever. True lurve I tell ya'.