Cooking with Pinterest

Kelly has convinced me that Pinterest is an MMO. No, really, think about it. It is online, accessed by millions worldwide (10 million users in 2011), based in fantasy, and even gives you quests in the form of recipes and projects. It has fully replaced my pre-sleep gaming hour and this baffled me until I, with the help of Kelly, looked at why it feels so game-y.

Very little on Pinterest simulates everyday life but rather an idealised world full of gorgeously styled homes (decorated by you), pristine antique furniture (reupholstered by you), adorable animals (raised and groomed by you), and calorie-free cakes made from fanciful ingredients (baked by you). Or at least that’s what my slice of Pinterest looks like.

More than just presenting catalog-quality homes and gardens and families for the pleasure of the Pinner, Pinterest suggests that you too can have it all. Most images are accompanied by a brief description of how it was achieved or where to buy. Even artwork is accompanied by a DeviantArt, Etsy or blog link which offers opportunities to purchase or re-create. Even if these opportunities are not followed, Pins invite the Pinner to imagine a fantasy world where they own a sea-side home, have the time to make gluten-free, honey-glazed lemon bars, or design avant-garde fashions.

There is an assumption on the part of the Pinner, and academic research which hints at this by Gilbert et al (2013), that a Pin does not a project make. To Pin something is to mark it for later. “Oh, I might get around to making this. Maybe on a rainy Sunday when there’s nothing on TV…” I’m not sure firm stats exist concerning how many Pins translate to actual projects, but I’d imagine it is less than 10%.

In an ever-growing quest to indulge my epicuriousness, I decided to try to take some of these ephemeral recipes and make them a reality. As you can see from the picture above, it went well. Rather than going for the mundane, I decided to tackle the wonderful and weird world of paleo, raw, and gluten-free baking. This is of particular interest because these recipes target those trying to lose weight in addition to those who have a restrictive diet due to medical issues. The key, fantastic message encrusted within each is that you too can have it all! Dieters, don’t worry, there’s a way to make cookie dough healthy! Yes, you read it right. If you just put the effort in, you can eat the most sinful things all the time without guilt or weight gain! Don’t even get me started on what a load of rubbish this is. It isn’t healthy. Even if you use bananas, coconut oil and palm sugar, cookie dough is a sometimes-treat, not a twice-daily snack.

Anyway, before I get to my recipes and pictures, the most immediate issue I need to raise is the near-impossibility of gathering ingredients in terms of availability and cost. Honestly, the Pins might as well have suggested I substitute fairy dust for sugar and snow from the eaves of Santa’s workshop for flour. The ‘healthy’ replacements typically recommended include the aforementioned coconut oil and palm sugar in addition to almond flour, unflavoured whey protein powder, medjool dates, tapioca flour, and almond milk. Most of these aren’t impossible to find- larger groceries stores will have most ingredients- but depending on where you live, you might need a trip to the health food shop. Also, these are EXPENSIVE. 500g of coconut flour is £3.99 compared to 1.5kg of wheat flour for only £0.80. These recipes are simply not sustainable for the average person, further emphasising the ‘sometimes-treat’ reality of cooking with this section of Pinterest.

The rest of this blog post contains the results of a weekend trying out the fantastic. Pictures included. I’ve rated each recipe according to ease and taste.

Overnight Oats

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This recipe is the epitome of Pinterest. A load of health food mixed and served in a mason jar. I’ll just leave it at that. Recipe here.

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Ease: It is literally pouring raw ingredients into a mason jar and then shaking it. Fairly fool-proof. I used raspberries instead of bananas because I’m a free-thinker.

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Taste: It tastes like mushy oatmeal in yoghurt. I honestly don’t know why I expected any different.

Paleo Carrot Cake

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I love carrot cake and I’m quite good at making it… normally. Instead of making the frosting, I opted for fatfree yoghurt the first time (pictures) and low-fat soft cheese the second time because it was easier and just as tasty. Probs means it is no longer paleo, but I don’t really understand paleo anyway. All you want is some tang to cut through the sweet. Oh, look at me talking like I’m Amanda Freitag on Chopped. Recipe here.

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Ease: This was no more difficult to make than a ‘normal’ carrot cake. Except for the coconut oil. Coconut oil is a solid below 24 degrees C. And I don’t mean solid like how butter is a solid when you keep it in a fridge. I mean solid as in candle wax. You have to chip it out of the glass jar it comes in with a spoon or soak the jar in warm water to soften it. It is messy and time consuming. The little flakes of solid oil get everywhere, including your hands. Guess what that means? Butter-er-coconut-oil-fingers! Coconut oil belongs in Lush products, not food.

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Taste: The texture was nice, which according to my gluten-free friends is a real issue with baking. It wasn’t grainy or sandy but bouncy, light and spongy. The problem was, as you can see from my face, the taste. I doubled the recommended cinnamon, added nutmeg and allspice and still found it bland. Perplexing as the coconut flour and oil smells so good when it is baking and the batter tasted awesome. Yeah, that’s right, I live on the edge, I eat raw batter. #yolo. Anyway, defo-recommended for trad-flourless friends.

Coconut Protein Balls

This was the recipe I wanted to succeed the most, so naturally it didn’t. I’ve been hunting for a low-cost protein bar alternative which is low-carb, low-sugar. After a workout, I need something to stabilise my sugar levels because I’m prone to hypoglycemic spells and passing out. Most commercial bars are far too sugary which gives me a spike and then a dangerous crash. The bars which don’t mess with my sugars cost around £3 each. You see the problem. These seemed like a fab compromise.

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The protein mix chillin’ with juice, soft cheese and butter in my fridge.

Ease: Oh, I messed this one up. Oh boy, I messed this one up. Something went wrong early on which meant I couldn’t form balls. The mixture was too dry and kept crumbling apart. This is probably because instead of using coconut cream (which I didn’t have), I tried to make my own. It works with butter and milk, so why wouldn’t making cream work with coconut milk and coconut oil? I don’t know, but it didn’t. So, I decided that instead of balls, I’d flatten the crumbly mixture out into a cake pan and fridge it to make bars. As you can see below, I used a round cake pan so I actually ended up making triangles. I added chocolate chips because at this point it was going to be a dessert instead of something I’d put in my bag and take to the gym.

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Taste: It tastes like if you were drowning and the only rescue was mouth-to-mouth from an ancient Egyptian mummy who had recently eaten a Bounty Bar. Dry and uncomfortable. I binned it.

Frozen Banana Protein Shake

I’ve seen lots of posts about banana-based fro-yo and decided to give it a go. This two-ingredient recipe seemed like a good choice, but instead of making ice-cream bites, I modified it to make a creamy milkshake.

Ease: I followed the recipe up until blending. I used fewer chocolate chips, added coconut milk and 1 scoop of soy protein powder. I know I talked about whey protein powder above, but it was whey too expensive for me so I went with soy. In retrospect to prevent clumping, I would have added the protein powder gradually as the other ingredients blended.

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Taste: Nom. This is by far the tastiest recipe. It doesn’t taste like a milkshake, but it does taste like a frozen chocolate banana. 10/10 would blend again.

Coconut Flour Pancakes

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For me, pancakes are a twice-a-year food. I’m not keen on sweet things for breakfast, and if I am, I’ll opt to pour some maple syrup on some burnt strips of fatty belly-bacon rashers. Part of this has to do with how rubbish the spike in sugar makes me feel and part of it is down to preference. This low-carb, no-added sugar, grain-free recipe seemed like it might be a go-to for family breakfasts when my siblings want something sweet.

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Ease: Everything started great. Baking soda make the coconut flour bubble just like its wheat equivalent. Then I went to flip it. The image which started the post says it all really. Second one went better. Less batter is more for these.

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Taste: Not grainy, which is a plus. Tastes like bananas. And pancakes. /shrug.

Take-Aways

Writing this blog post required a back-and-forth between my website and Pinterest. My low-quality photos appeared side-by-side with the glossy ones at the top of the recipes. The images serve as a stark contrast between the fantasy world of Pinterest and the real-world of at-home baking for the average working adult. At the very least, it highlights the fact I don’t have a professional-grade camera or lighting rig. Nor do I have pretty glass ramekins, fancy cooking gadgets, or the time or money to invest in them. Whilst I can see myself repeating one or two of the recipes in future, I have to say that I am more than happy to let Pinterest remain a fantasy world of perfection I visit every night before bed. Just like I used to visit Azeroth.

Until next time, happy baking!

Ashley

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