Wednesday, September 16, 2015

5 Foody Tips for a Successful Writer's Retreat (Recipes!)

By Lisa Alber

Oh hey, before I get down to the topic, this week I've got blog posts up in a few spots. If you're curious about how my novel is coming along, read here. If you're curious about general news regarding award nominations (you can vote!) and such, read here. Also, I'll be hosting a cover reveal giveaway (YAY!) soon. You can check in on that on my website.

My morning spot.
There's nothing like a writer's retreat to rejuvenate my writing process. No overstuffed laundry hampers and dog-pooped-upon lawns begging me to do something about them. No pesky social obligations, or family obligations, or anything obligations -- except to the writing. Other than posting pretty pictures, I ignore Facebook and Twitter. I check email once a day and that's it.

I spent last week on retreat at Rockaway Beach, Oregon, a wee village with nothing much to it except railroad tracks running along a not-so-highway-ish Highway 101. Two writer buddies and I stayed at Colonyhouse, a retreat house sponsored by the Oregon Writers Colony.

We all know that location and compatible retreat mates (if any) are crucial to a successful retreat. Location-wise: I need the coast, that's about it. But any beautiful setting with a view and walking opportunities will do. Mates-wise: Please, be the quiet sort and the pick-up-after-yourself sort. Double please, don't be the person who is so addicted to social media that you can't stop yourself from commenting all day long to no one in particular about what your friends (or worse still, celebrities!) are wearing or buying or whatevering.

OK. Enough said. Let's talk about food. My thing is that I don't want to think about it once I'm in super-duper writing mode. I don't want to run to the grocery store. I want meals that are easy to fix. All this assumes that you're driving to your retreat, of course.

1. Coffee, big yes! I bring my own ceramic one-cup dripper that I set on top of my coffee cup. My coffee, my filters, my milk/creamer. It just makes me happy first thing in morning, which is better for my writing. Besides, then I can make my coffee on my schedule and fresh.

2. Breakfast: Oatmeal, but not just any oatmeal. I consider myself quite the genius for thinking this up even though it might be common: double-boiled (so to speak) crock pot oatmeal that's ready for me, warm and gooey and lovely, when I wake up! (Recipes below, by the way.)

3. Lunch: Before leaving for the retreat, I made a big batch of zingy beans, in, yes, my crock pot. (Do you see a theme here?) Tortillas, cheese, anything else you want to bring, and -- ta-da! -- quickie, healthy lunch burritos! Yum!

4. Snack: There comes a point in the afternoon when I get restless and/or start eyeing the bed for a snooze. Snacks help. I like mine to be more decadent than I allow myself to eat at home, just cuz making all aspects of the retreat feel special helps keep me motivated and writing. I brought those peanut-butter-stuffed pretzel thingies that Trade Joe's sells. A tad addictive, but I'm happy to report that I didn't eat the whole bag!

5. Dinner: Crock pot again! I threw everything into the pot in the morning and that was it except for roasting broccoli for extra veg. I made an enchilada casserole. Soo easy. And it made for great lunch leftovers that we shared. Soups are great too. One of my mates made a lentil soup to die for, and I had that for lunch on one of the days.

See how that works? It was utterly perfect. BUT, I forgot something:

6. Wine! I love wine, but I don't drink on a daily basis. It felt special to celebrate my productivity with wine before/during/after (eh hem, yeah, don't sue me for overindulging a bit) dinner. The three of us hung out together at day's end, watching the sunsets, talking writing, and helping each other brainstorm plot problems. We all looked forward to dinner; it was the come together social time.

When I was a kid, my Irish-Catholic aunties from Chicago visited now and then, and the only topic the adults seemed to talk about was the next meal. Boooring. I didn't get it. At all. Now, obviously I do. :-)

Do you have any crock pot recipes or particular food rituals that you perform when on vacation? Any tips and tricks welcome!

Crock Pot Delish Oatmeal
In a bowl that fits inside your crock pot, place the following ingredients in the following order. Do not stir.
1. Sliced apple.
2. Brown sugar and cinnamon to taste.
3. Pinch salt.
4. 1/4-cup steel cut oats
5. 1/2 cup each of water and your milk of choice, plus about 1/8 cup of water to account for evaporation.

Fill the crock pot 1/4-1/3 full with water, set the oatmeal bowl in the water (if it floats, pour out some of the water), and cook on low overnight. Genius, right? No crock pot cleaning!

Crock Pot Delish "Refried" Beans
One onion, peeled and quartered (no need to chop)
1 1/2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
1 jalapeƱo or 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and chopped
3 Tbsn (or more! to taste) minced garlic
2 tspn salt (or to taste)
1 tspn black pepper (or to taste)
1/8 tspn cumin
4 1/2 cups water

Put everything in the crock pot and cook on low overnight, approximately 10 hours. With a submersible blender, blend until smooth.

Crock Pot Delish Yam and Chorizo Enchilada Casserole
I made this vegan style, but you can layer in shredded cheese too:
1 large yam, thinly sliced
2 12-oz jars of enchilada sauce
bag corn tortilla chips
1 12-oz package of soy chorizo (or use regular chorizo)
2 15-oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

Oil the crock pot and coat the bottom of it with enchilada sauce. Then layer the ingredients in the following order, three times: layer of chips, chorizo, yam, beans, enchilada sauce. End with one more layer of corn tortilla chips and the remaining enchilada sauce. Cook on low for 4 or 5 hours.

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