Blueberry Drop Scones

Sometimes I sit down to write here and I have so much to say that there's nothing to say.

If I were only to talk about these scones, I would advise you to incorporate them into your repertoire and start making them your signature contribution to the world. They're like the softest, just-the-right-sweetness blueberry muffins, but with crispy edges and without the fuss of muffin liners. Loretta and I enjoyed them in silence this slow Saturday morning while Wyatt grew 3 more inches in his sleep.

If I were to talk about other things, I would say that my world is widening at the same time I feel very little need to establish my place in it. There is beginning to be a settled-ness in me that makes being 42 (and growing older) very sweet. Good old Richard (Rohr, of course) in his astounding book Falling Upward, says this:

We all tend to move toward a happy and needed introversion as we get older. Such introversion is necessary to unpack all that life has given us and taken from us...Silence and poetry start being our more natural voice...Much of life starts becoming highly symbolic and “connecting” and little things become significant metaphors for everything else. Silence is the only language spacious enough to include everything and to keep us from slipping back into dualistic judgements and divisive words.

Now don't get me wrong. I'll always love a stage. I'll always be making new friends or looking for the opportune moment to crack a joke. But I'm finding the territory of the soul so deep, so fascinating, so enough for me. There's more there than I'll ever need or discover, and that truth frees me from striving, from all the ways I I try to resist reality.

The Sufi mystics say that the body is the shore that the soul--the waves--crash onto. Isn't that lovely? So the territory of the soul necessarily includes this mystery of our bodies, and the whole of us--body, soul, heart, mind--gets to go along for the ride.

Hang Ten

Let me stop sorting all these scraps
into toppling piles--
receipts, bills, lists, books,
momentos,
and even my idea of myself,

and let me go jump
into the limitless, living depth
that is You,
and You in me,
and the way we leave
every shoreline behind.
Amen.

Blueberry Drop Scones
I suppose you could fit these all onto one baking sheet, but that will eliminate some of those crispy edges. I advise fitting them onto two and rotating them in the oven halfway through baking. And if you don't have frozen blueberries around? Use almost any other kind of fresh or frozen fruit. Or dried fruit and coconut. Or mini chocolate chips. Or whatever your holy heart desires! Makes 12-14.

2 c. flour
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 Tb. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cube (4 oz.) cold unsalted butter
1/2 c. cream (plus a little more)
1 egg
1 c. frozen blueberries
sugar for sprinkling.

Preheat oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or fingertips until mixture has pea-sized lumps.

In a small bowl, combine cream and egg. Pour cream mixture into flour mixture, stirring just until combined and adding more cream if mixture is too dry. It should be the consistency of a stiff muffin batter. Add blueberries, taking care to stir gently.

Drop 1/4 c batter onto prepared pans to make 12-14 scones. Sprinkle the top of each with a little sugar. Bake until just golden on top, 15-20 minutes. Watch carefully.

 

Mothers Day (and A+ Zucchini Bread)

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When I think about it, I suppose I have a tradition of posting on Mothers Day. And I say the same thing every year--motherhood is amazing, but mothering is more so.

Joan Halifax is a hero of mine who started the Project on Being with Dying. She's a zen priest and anthropolgist, and when she's not training folks on the contemplative care of dying people, she's training the healthy on how not to be scared of death. She says,

Tibetan Buddhists say that we have all been one another's mother in a previous lifetime. Imagining every being as your mother, practice offering love equally to all whom you encounter, including strangers, creatures, and even those who have hurt you...Thinking of all beings with motherly love is a good reference point when I have fallen into automatic behavior, am feeling alienated, or am having trouble opening my heart.

I think most of us, much of the time, have "fallen into automatic behavior." Stress and obligations push us into that place so easily. We forget we have a choice, moment to moment, about what kind of people we want to be. We forget to be nurturing. And, for myself and lots of women in my world, we really forget how to let ourselves be nurtured.

I tear up when I think of all the beings throughout my life who have offered their motherly love to me. My own mother, who determined she was never going to repeat her own childhood experience of not having enough love. Emily, who makes me Easter baskets, remembers when I have stressful meetings coming up, asks me the best questions, and can handle all my emotions and opinions. Breeze, who took my kids for the night this week and made them bacon on a weekday. (They didn't want to come home.) Jackie, who modeled to me, so many years ago, how to be a feisty mother with dreams. Cristina, who pours out her motherly love on my children. Padre, my dog, who loves me with an undying love even though I yell at him to get out of the kitchen. 

Though I'll never master it, I'm into tenderness lately. This life is far too short to withhold from one another. I especially ache for all the women in my life and in the world who want to be mothers and it hasn't happened yet. Or will never happen. I can't say anything to make that better, but I do know that love isn't scarce. As my pastor said this morning, there is good news everywhere. We're just telling the wrong stories.

So Happy Mothering Day. May you experience someone being tender toward you today.

A+ Zucchini Bread
I haven't made zucchini bread in a long time, and boy was this good. We snacked off it all weekend. It's a combo of several different recipes, and would work well with a gluten-free flour blend if that's your thing. Makes two loaves.

1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. soda
3 Tb. poppy seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. water
2 c. grated zucchini
1 c. shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
1 c. toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. candied ginger, coarsely chopped
1 Tb. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two bread pans.

Combine flour, salt, nutmeg, soda, poppy seeds, and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, and zucchini. Mix wet ingredients into dry, then add coconut, walnuts, ginger, and zest. Bake in 2 pans until tester comes out clean, 45-60 minutes. 

Putting on an Apron in the New Year

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I guess I'm an auditory learner. When I'm walking and listening, things really sink in, become part of me.

Yesterday I listened to this fabulous podcast--Evan Kleiman talking about fat shaming and interviewing some experts on myths about health and weight. I started it halfway through my walk, but kept my headphones in after I came home, finding little tasks to do around the house while I finished listening. I love getting hooked like that.

One of my pet peeves, though the landscape is definitely changing, is that food bloggers and foodie types either completely ignore the issue of weight and health or or it's all they talk about. And I'm just as guilty half the time! When I post a recipe for biscuits or cookies, I neglect to talk about how those things fit into an overall strategy. Or how my kids will just eat the biscuits and ignore the lentil soup and what's a parent to do? So I have to get a few questions and opinions out of my system every once in awhile.

Jamie Oliver, Mark Bittman, and others are starting and having fabulous conversations about this. At this moment in my 40 year old life, I'd chime in with a few things:

There's a reason (besides lack of willpower or wealth) that fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to eat. And it's because there's a giant food industry whose survival depends on getting Americans to purchase packaged, processed food that are cheap, available everywhere, and full of false health claims. Even those "healthy" snack boxes that I see advertised everywhere--why not eat an apple instead? If you're really trying to eat real food and you travel or work a lot, you know how hard it is to find anything besides carrot sticks. And dry, stubby ones at that!

Exercise is a totally separate issue from food. I get outside to stay sane, to keep my muscles, bones, and joints strong. I don't do it to lose weight. In fact, I eat a lot more when I'm exercising! Exercise is a dynamic way I care for my body, but I don't have any expectations that it will decrease my dress size. I used to, but I don't anymore. That took all the fun out of it. And it didn't work.

I'm categorically against letting kids choose their own diets. Sure, if all you have around the house are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, go for it! Otherwise, I don't let my kids choose their own bedtimes. I'm not going to (knowingly) let them smoke or drink. So why would I let them choose their own diets? Of course they will choose sugar and white flour. They're kids! The biggest step is in just NOT STOCKING anything I don't want them to be tempted with. I'm getting closer to that, but I'm just like you--I want my kids to like me. And their meals. 

A lot of people think sugar is a kill-us-slowly toxin. And we should be taking them seriously. I'm not a nutritionist or researcher. But I believe the folks who are, and who are telling us that it's not full-fat yogurt or lack of exercise that's killing us. It's the insane amount of sugar that many Americans consume, often hidden in things like spaghetti sauce and "healthy" juices or not-so-hidden in soda and sweets. Avoiding sweets is a good start (though I'll still make a batch of cookies every Sunday), but the more sure-fire antidote is to cook more often. Which leads me to:

Making simple, mostly-vegetarian food in our own kitchens will save us. The incredibly sobering statistic flying around these days is that the generation being raised now has a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Wow. So there's reason to cook up a pot of beans or cut up some celery. Or learn how to make a couple soups, cook brown rice, and roast vegetables. It doesn't have to be about being super creative, buying specialty foods, or becoming an excellent cook. It's about getting comfortable with a few things that will keep our bodies alive, healthy, and ready for all the work in the world that's calling us. (Mark Bittman's article, The Truth about Home Cooking, is a favorite polemic from 2014.)

If you can't get out of it, get into it. Like I've opined a million times before, get an apron you really like. Find a good way to play music in your kitchen, and organize your things in a way that makes sense. Settle into it and see what happens. It's worth it.

P.S. Kumquats. That's what I'm into right now. This morning, I mixed a Greek yogurt with a little honey, then I looked around for what I might top it with. Muesli, kumquats, pomegranates, dates, and hazelnuts. 

New Year's Muesli

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If you were to bushwhack into my New Year's brain, you'd find two major themes:

1) No more dip. For the rest of my life.
2) New Years makes me sad.

As for theme #1, see my "recipe" for muesli below. Granola, much as I love it, has a lot more fat and sugar, and January calls for something more restrained. I like to mix a couple big spoonfuls of muesli with yogurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, and some winter citrus.

As for theme #2, I suppose I'm one of the strange people that actually likes Christmas. I feel Advent Time slipping away, and I'm not sure I can mount the energy and enthusiasm the "Fresh Starts!" require. I'm taking my Vitamin D and making some lists. I'm cleaning out drawers and packing up the Christmas decorations. All of that is good, but I'm also resenting coming out of hibernation. Mary is still my guide in these short days, and I've found myself thinking about what happened after the birth when reality set in. Here's what I imagine. (And Happy New Year. Despite my melancholy, it's a gift to ring it in.)

After Birth

When adrenaline of angel choirs
and birth has worn off,

when the bright star
is shrouded in fog,

when frankincense and myrrh
get lost in the luggage,

when I stand in the doorway,
burping the baby, saying goodbye to Joseph,

there is just this:
my sheer humanness,

diapers to wash,
sleep to find, water to carry,

knowledge of all the God-births
still waiting to happen,

and unstoppable mother-love
that's draining me already. 

New Year's Muesli
Quickly pulse 1 c. old fashioned oats in a food processor or blended. Just a few seconds. Combine the pulsed oats with 2 or 3 cups of whole oats, some toasted nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts), a few Tablespoons of chia, flax, sesame, or pumpkin seeds (or all of the above!), a few Tablespoons of brown sugar, unsweetened dried coconut flakes, pinch of salt, teaspoon of cinnamon, and any dried fruit of your choice, chopped to bite-sized pieces. Store in a canister and eat it with milk, yogurt, or cook it like you would oatmeal. It will keep for a few months in your pantry or on the counter. 

Little Miracles (and Pumpkin Scones)

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At the end of this post is yet ANOTHER recipe for pumpkin scones. I don't think the world needs another one, but Saturday morning begged for them--I had a tub of roasted squash (a mix of acorn, butternut, and pumpkin) in the fridge that needed to be used up. So really, squash scones. I brought some over to our neighbors Jim and Marjia who were working in their yard. My favorite thing about Jim is that he doesn't act disinterested. Not one little bit. He grabbed a scone with his gardening hands and ate it right there in the yard. Nothing could make me happier. And Marjia scolded him for taking the biggest one.

We've had a bout of sickness around here this week--Loretta's the worst, but I'm sick, too, Wyatt's fighting something, and we've been blasting through the tissue, iburprofen, cough syrup, and honey lemon tea. But there have been so many moments of connection in the midst of it--more proof that what I really want and need is mutual dependence--there's no such thing as relationship without it. 

A few weeks ago, I admitted to some friends and acquaintances that I was feeling lonely. I didn't enjoy that admission. In the age of Facebook and Instagram, the whole point is to at least appear completely booked and preoccupied . I did this, I did that, so-and-so and I really connected over some amazing meal or moment. To come out and say you're lonely? Not really in vogue. 

But here's what happens when you do: poeple respond! And the discipline is just to take it in, to say "thank you," to let yourself soak up the love that you didn't know you needed so badly. As Rumi says, the need brings in what's needed.

Some of the little miracles lately:

  • Walking on the trail with Margie, my friend from church, who's 20 years older than me and has lived beyond this stage of life, and her putting her arm around me and not saying anything. Holy moment.
  • Having bouts of insomnia and knowing, in the middle of the night, with the Northwest winds raging, that God is alive and doing her thing.
  • Podcasts! So much amazing storytelling that lifts me beyond myself. This American Life, OnBeing, Serial, Radio Diaries. The world is full of people who have survived incredible things.
  • Tracy bringing over chicken noodle soup and Loretta eating 4 bowls of it when nothing has sounded good to her all week.
  • Breeze bringing over cough syrup, elderberry syrup, banana bread, flowers. Some people are born with an extra dose of Thoughtfulness, and she is one of them.
  • Elizabeth doing double duty on carpooling so I can stay home and nurse Loretta.
  • My meditation corner. It's really filling up with talismans now. Finger labyrinth, candles, Mary Oliver's and Christian Wiman's new poems, my favorite box of matches. God is everywhere, of course, but I posiiton myself to catch those beams of love in that 5 square feet.
  • Every healthcare worker who has put him or herself in danger to help Ebola victims. They put me to shame, inspire me, and expose the love that pulses behind everything.

What are your little miracles lately? As always, being here with you takes the edge off the loneliness. We are all on this road together.

Pumpkin Scones

Yep, I googled it. Knowing which recipes are good and which aren't so good is a skill, and I wish I could explain it better. It's saved me a lot of heartache. Where scones or lots of baked goods are concerned, be wary if there's not enough fat in the recipe. Or if lots of waiting and steps are involved. Scones shouldn't be that way. And I LIKED that there was corn syrup in this glaze, which meant that it would harden up and be shiny just like I wanted it to be. 2 Tablespoons of corn syrup isn't going to hurt you any more than sugar will--it acts the same way in your body. And if you buy a bottle, you can make caramel corn at Christmas! The only change I made to this recipe was using fresh roasted squash instead of canned pumpkin, and I used more like 3/4 c. because I wanted more moisture and pumpkin flavor. And I used toasted pecans instead of walnuts. You could leave the nuts out alltogether if you want.

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Ginger Cranberry Scones

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Having less choice is a good thing.

When we have friends or family spend the night, I don't deliberate about what to make for breakfast. If we don't send someone on a donut run (if you lived near Lafeen's, you would too), I am predictable. Broiled eggs and some kind of scone, biscuit, or muffin. And more predictably than that, some version of these scones.

Isn't there so much pressure to be novel all the time? Pinterest, Rachel Ray's infinite hamburger combinations, piles and piles of new cookbooks being published every day. Do you want to know my little secret? I don't buy cookbooks! I love to browse at the bookstore and ones with beautiful photos certainly inspire me. And I will happily receive them as gifts. But I only own about 30 cookbooks. More than being frugal or trying to save space, the main reason I don't add to my collection is because all those possibilities overwhelm me. When it comes to making family dinners or something tried and true when we have company, those beautiful cookbooks don't seem to help me much.

I love to quote Christopher Kimball who says that most of us don't need more recipes. We just need to perfect a handful of things that we're good at. After that, it's easier to get inspired by novel things. For me, this repertoire is a few soups I can make in my sleep (minestrone, potato leek, lentil, mulligatawny), anything that can be baked all together on a big sheet pan (sausages with peppers, salmon with bok choy, chicken thighs with practically anything), a few pasta basics (puttanesca, tomato cream sauce with lots of sauteed veggies melting into the sauce), frittatas, and some sweets--galettes, pies, scones, biscuits. Sometimes (or most the time?), much as I love food, I don't really have the energy to THINK about being novel, let alone actually doing it. 

I love these scones, based on a recipe from Nick Malgieri's How to Bake, for many reasons. They can be made in the food processor. They're full of oats. The dough is soft but still easy to work with, and they emerge moist and sturdy at the same time. Three cheers for predictability!

Ginger Cranberry Scones
So many things can be subbed out for the ginger and dried cranberry. Add raisins. Or no dried fruit. Or take the sugar out and add shredded cheddar and dried dill instead. I often serve them that way with soup. Or make your own chai spice mixture and use dried apricots and figs.

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. oats
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cube unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. candied ginger, finely chopped 

For topping:
1/4 c. buttermilk
cinnamon sugar mixture 

Preheat oven to 400.

In a food processor, combine first 8 dry ingredients and pulse a couple times to mix.

Add butter and pulse about 10 times until butter is in pea-sized lumps. Add buttermilk, cranberries, and ginger and pulse just until dough holds together, about 5 or 6 times.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead a couple times, then divide the dough into two equal balls. Using your hands, flatten each round until it's about 1" thick and cut each round into 6 equal wedges for a total of 12 triangular scones. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush each scone with buttermilk and spinkle a generous amount of cinnamon sugar over each. Bake for 12-15 minutes, watching carefully after 10 minutes so they don't get too crunchy on the outside. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving plain or with butter.

Hatch Chile and Corn Frittata

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Wow. I've been gone awhile! Logging in to post here again, I breathed a happy sigh. Hello!

I'm going to get on (one of my many) soap-boxes and put a plug in for going off the grid. We've been unreachable for about 10 days and it was HEAVEN! Out-of-office message on the email, totally checked out of Facebook and Instagram, news, and anything anyone else was doing. Period. Cell reception wasn't even possible. (I know. Nutso. Or in Wyatt's lingo for crazy, "CRA.") I got to a totally different place--settled, in tune to the little things around me, and I read 6 books. Thank you, Universe, for time like that. I'm aware there are millions of Americans working several minimum wage jobs at once. For them, "no work" means no money. That doesn't mean I shouldn't take vacation, but I'm grateful all over again when I think of it that way.

Something is opening up around me, under me. And it doesn't threaten to swallow me up. Rather, it's something boundless, loving, infinite. Jane Fonda described it this way--"I feel a presence, a reverence humming within me that was, and is, difficult to articulate." Beautiful. Here's to the humming.

(And one more soapbox.) I talked to two people yesterday who've been having a hard time hearing the humming. Grief, loss, anxiety, plus the everyday difficulties of paying bills, meeting responsibilities. And all with the added summer burden of "getting out and enjoying life." They both shared that Facebook has made that harder for them. We don't post photos or updates that say, "I'm in a dark hole right now, or "My family vacation was a total disaster." So I guess my soapbox isn't that we shouldn't enjoy FB or post photos (I did and I'm going to again. These Ross Lake photos make me happy.), but that we should be mindful of how complicated life really is. Facebook is about the image we craft and present to the world. It's not the truth. The Truth is that we are enfolded by Divine Love no matter what, that money, status, friends, or vacations has absolutely nothing to do with that, and that our carefully curated images actually KEEP us from dwelling in love. Going off the grid reminded me of all that.

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Okay. Hatch Chiles. My mom orders a case of these from New Mexico every year, but they have shown up in my neighborhood supermarket. Wonder of wonders! For $1/pound. So I've been loading up and roasting them like they are going out of style. (Put them all on a sheet pan, broil them, turning until all sides are blackened. Put them into a paper bag and steam them for 20 minutes until skins are loosened from flesh and they are cool enough to handle. Peel and seed them with gloves on! And eat them on everything.)

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I brought this frittata to Jen and Jason's house for brunch on Sunday. Frittatas are good vehicles for so many things, and chiles and eggs are natural partners. You could certainly leave them out, substitute finely chopped jalapeno (less than what's called for here!), or use roasted anaheims from a can. It's still summer, after all, and you might not want to follow my example of broiling peppers all day. That's kind of CRA.

Hatch Chile and Corn Frittata

1 Tb. olive oil
1 c. frozen or fresh corn kernels (I like the frozen roasted corn from TJs)
1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions
1 small zucchini, very thinly sliced (mandolins are perfect for this if you have one)
1/2-1 c. roasted hatch chiles, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
8 eggs
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. coarsely crushed tortilla chips
1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 c. crumbled feta
handful of fresh herbs--basil, parsley, cilantro, or a mixture

Turn oven to 425.

Heat oil up over medium heat in a 10" cast iron skillet. Add corn, green onions, and zucchini and saute until soft, about 7 or 8 minutes. Add hatch chiles, salt and pepper,  and turn the heat to low.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream, and crushed tortilla chips together. Pour over sauteed veggies and let cook slowly for about 15 minutes, until it's starting to set up but not yet totally cooked. Top with cheese and herbs, and put into your preheated oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, until frittata is puffed and golden on top. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before you slice into wedges.

Yogurt Lemon Loaf with Rosemary and Walnuts

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It's Teacher Appreciation Week at Roosevelt Elementary, which means I'm doing some baking. Happily.

Sending my children off each morning to spend their day absorbing other people's values, playing with other people's children, and learning someone else's curriculum could be terrifying. Except it's not.

The public school down the hill from us is an amazing place on the planet. The teachers and staff really like another another, emotional intelligence is highlighted just as much as any other skill, and I usually hear staff and students laughing when I'm there. Things are serious and structured when they need to be, and playful and silly as often as possible. There's artwork everywhere, and little groups doing work around every corner--tutorials, gentle disciplinary conversations, peacemaking.

I always say we wake up in the morning with a certain amount of energy. We can waste it being touchy, annoyed, or feeling like outsiders, or we can make a choice to be engaged and present. Teaching is hard. And it doesn't pay very much. And you're ON for hours at a time in front of an audience that doesn't say thank you or even do you the courtesy of sitting still! But these Roosevelt folks? They spend their energy being present. And it shows in how my children are developing. That's pretty powerful.

This recipe is for you, Shelly. You light up that front office like fireworks, and I don't think you can imagine how much light and goodness you spread. Thank you.

Yogurt Lemon Loaf with Rosemary and Walnuts
Adapted from Melissa Clark's recipe for Chocolate Chip Pecan Loaf Cake, which I've adapted a million times. I adore her, her food sensibilities, her great writing, and the fact that this recipe just requires a spoon and a mixing bowl!

For cake:
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
10 Tb. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1-2 Tb. chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tb. lemon zest 

For glaze:
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 c. powedered sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 Tb. soft butter 

Butter and flour a 9x5 loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350.

Using a whisk, comgine the sugar and yogurt. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until completely combined.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture, then fold in the melted butter a little at a time. Fold in walnuts, rosemary, and zest.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cake is golden and tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

While cake is cooling, make glaze. Combine lemon juice and powdered sugar in a bowl, and microwave for 20 seconds. Take out of the microwave and add butter and lemon zest, whisking until mixture is glossy. Pour over the cake while it's still in the pan. Let cool for another 10-15 minutes before turning it out to cool to room temperature before slicing. 

Feta and Green Onion Biscuits

These biscuits were definitely on the "pro" side of the list.

But along with the pros, there were some cons this week. My spiritual director loaned me a rock to meditate with. On the outside, it's gray, bumpy, and rather unattractive. On the inside, it's a brilliant blue stone. She said life is like that, and we have to remember that it's a package deal--the ugly with the beautiful.

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The principal of my kids' school, one of the best leaders I've ever known, is getting promoted to the district level and won't be there next year. I cried a few times.

My dad lost his job of 30 years. It's a long and personal story, and obviously, a sad one.

I keep thinking of the bombing victims in Boston and those two lost brothers. The Catholic sister I was with last weekend would say the "blessing seed" deep inside them, the one that everyone is born with, was mangled somehow. 

But underneath the bumpy grayness, there's been some brilliant blue. Some of the things that made me smile this week:

  • Walking into the bathroom and seeing 4 years worth of Guinness Book of World Records on the floor. 
  • Seeing my clients find some sparks of light in some previously dark corners.
  • Getting a call from my nephew Ezra asking how my dog Padre was doing. I could bottle that little voice and sell it.
  • Taking photos with my new camera. Yancey said he didn't know it would make me this happy.
  • Bringing home an outfit for Loretta and her wearing it 3 days in a row. Home run. (She's getting picky these days.)
  • Sitting with my spiritual director on her deck in the sun, listening to the birds and knowing, in that deepest place, that I'm not in control of anything.

Some weeks, the cons outweigh the pros. Or they barely even out. Whatever kind of week you've had, I hope you can see the polished brilliance, still inside no matter what.

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good dog

P.S. Oh yeah. The food. These are a riff on my classic biscuits, and will elevate any soup to divine heights. The feta adds some moisture that makes them even fluffier, if that's possible, and the green onions add beautiful little flakes of color.

Feta and Green Onion Biscuits
Makes 6-8, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter. I doubled the batch for 6 people, and we had none left over.

2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 c. (1 cube) cold unsalted butter
1/2 c. coarsely crumbled feta
1/3 c. finely chopped green onions
3/4 c. cold milk
flaked salt and milk for tops

Preheat oven to 450.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until butter is in pea-sized lumps. Add feta and green onions and gently mix with your hands.

Add milk, and mix with a wooden spoon until mixture just holds together. Knead a couple times in the bowl, then let dough rest for a minute or two.

Flour a work surface. With a rolling pin, roll dough out into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Fold short ends toward one another, then roll out again until dough is about 3/4" thick. With a biscuit cutter, cut out rounds and place them close together in a pie plate on a cookie sheet. Roll out remaining dough the same way and cut out the rest.

Brush tops with milk, then sprinkle lightly with flaked or coarse salt. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until tops are golden brown and biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot with butter.

Broiled Eggs with Kale and Roasted Kabocha

kabocha and eggs

The Pacific Northwest just finished up over 80 days without rain. Until last week, people were sitting on their decks with cocktails. At Wyatt's soccer game 2 Saturdays ago, I took my shoes and socks off and pretended I was on the beach. 

Now, rivers of rain out my window, there's no mistaking the arrival of Fall. I think Puget Sounders are a little relieved. So much sun was too good to be true. Now we can go back to taking our Vitamin D, feeling sorry for ourselves, and coming up with every conceivable use for pumpkins.

I got the most beautiful Kabocha (or Japanese Pumpkin)  squash at Joe's Garden before it closed for the season. I peeled and thinly sliced it, drizzled it with olive oil and salt, and roasted the slices at 425 until they were tender, about 12 minutes. I then used it for a million things, including a galette and these eggs. 

And that's what I recommend for those inhospitable squash, sitting in your pantry or on your porch and staring you down. If you roast it up (there's a good method here) and put it in the fridge, all of the sudden it will be in your eggs, squished between bread with cheese and grilled, or tossed into pasta. 

Broiled Eggs with Kale and Roasted Kabocha
Serves 2. Turn broiler on. Saute several handfuls of washed and chopped kale in an ovenproof skillet with olive oil and a little garlic and salt. Cook until halfway wilted. Add a handful of your roasted squash and a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of grated lemon zest. Stir. Crack 4 eggs over the top of the kale and squash mixture, and top with feta, sharp cheddar, or other cheese. Add some chopped fresh herbs if you want (parlsey, rosemary, thyme, cilantro.) Cook until eggs are set a bit, then transfer to to the broiler. Broil until everything is bubbling and eggs are cooked to your liking.  Cut around eggs with a small spatula and serve, or just eat right out of the pan by yourself or with your friend or sweetie.  

Mile-High Biscuits

mile-high biscuits

Wyatt wandered upstairs this morning and, noticing my distraction, said, "I guess I'll make myself a piece of peanut butter toast." "No, don't! I'm making biscuits"! He slapped his thigh--"yes!-- and ran downstairs to tell Loretta. Ah. Sunday mornings.

I have a list of 14 daily habits that I aspire to. (Those of you who are my friends in the offline world are NOT surprised. And you might even be rolling your eyes right now.) One of them is, "Do one kind thing for a friend or stranger." This morning I decided that my one kind thing would be to make biscuits for my children.

In my perfectionistic past, this would not have counted. No way. It would have to be delivering a handmade gift, buying lunch for a homeless person, or letting someone cry on my shoulder. Those are all worthy things, of course, but so is being in the moment with my children. I'm their mother, yes, but they're also my friends. I listened to this podcast recently and was blown away. Especially by this idea of parenting, first and foremost, as a relationship. Relationships mean time spent. It means both parties get their feelings hurt sometimes or let each other down. And it means doing kind things for one another, which is so often forgotten in relationships that mean the most to us.

Wyatt plus biscuits equals love

Of course I would have made my children breakfast. I do every day. But I don't always do it in the spirit of relationship. I've been mediating on this quote lately from Thich Nhat Hanh:

If you are peaceful, if you are happy, whatever you do will be an offering for the people around you.

Making the bed in the morning (that's another of the daily habits I aspire to), sweeping under the table for the umpteenth time, listening without judgement to my clients, friends, or strangers. All of that can be an offering if it's coming from my own peace and happiness. 

I've given my biscuit recipe before, but it was a slightly different technique. I've moved onto this because it's less handling of the dough so therefore even lighter and higher! Impossible! I have made these so many times that, not counting the cooking time, they're almost as easy as making eggs and toast. Once you've made them a few times, you'll say the same. And you will become famous in your own household.

Mile-High Biscuits

2 c. flour
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tb. (one cube) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3/4 c. cold milk

Preheat oven to 450.

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Drop butter in and cut in with your fingertips until mixture has pea-sized lumps of cold butter all through it. Pour the cold milk evenly over and mix quickly with a wooden spoon, forming a ball. Let dough rest for one minute. It should come together quite easily in a ball. Add a dab more flour if it's too sticky or a tiny splash more milk if it's too dry.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Quickly pat into a disc, then fold the disc over on itself once. Pat again into a disc about 3/4" thick and 8" in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut disc into 8 equal wedges. Place wedges in a pie plate or small cookie sheet about 1/2" apart and bake until golden on top but not burned on the bottom, 10-14 minutes, checking frequently after 10 minutes.

Pecan Sour Cream Coffeecake

sour cream coffee cake

Rich, Mary, and family came up last weekend. It's the first time we've been together in Bellingham since we moved. At our 800 square foot house in Seattle, all 9 of us in one place would have been physically impossible without a tent in the yard. It's hard to describe how wonderful it felt to host THEM, for once. The kids ran around willy nilly and we very loosely kept an eye on them while we drank coffee all day and caught up on months of news and musings.

Rich and Mary are one of my most appreciative cooking audiences. They swoon over everything and don't complain about the carnage I leave in my wake. I'm really, really speedy in the kitchen. As Yancey will tell you, that's partly because "Clean as you go!" is not a mantra of mine. (But I'm getting better. We've had the serious conversation where I say, "If it's important to you, it's important to me." That's marriage in a nutshell.) So Mary (cheerfully) did a lot of dishes. But with the walls we knocked down, it doesn't matter! We are still all together. Thank you, Universe, for this house and all the people it's hosted already. The fact that it's only half done hasn't stopped us at all.

I always joke that I'm not a brunch fan. Who would ever want to combine two meals into one?! Let's eat all three, at LEAST. But a weekend with friends is why brunch was invented--no one is paying attention to the clock, there's no pressure or plans, and it meant we could go out for "dinner" at 4:30 with all the kids. (Fiamma Burger, of course.)

I'll bet your mother or your aunt used to make a coffee cake like this--tons of sour cream, a layer of nut struesel in the middle. Nigella Lawson has a cake she calls, "Cut and Come Again." Cut some big wedges for brunch, leave the rest on the counter, and find a plate of crumbs at the end of the day.

Pecan Sour Cream Coffeecake
Adapted from Ina Garten. I used one cup of sour cream and one cup of nonfat Greek yogurt because that's what I had in the fridge. If you used all Greek yogurt, I'd recommend that at least half of it be the whole milk kind. And you could sub walnuts or almonds for the pecans.

For cake:
12 Tb. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. sour cream (or 1 c. sour cream and 1 c. Greek plain yogurt)
3 extra large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt 

For struesel:
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. pecans, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

For icing:
3/4 c. powdered sugar
3 Tb. real maple syrup 

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add eggs one at at a time, then add vanilla and sour cream. 

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to make sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the struesel, combine nuts, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle the struesel topping over and top with the rest of the batter. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes, then turn out on a plate. Stir powdered sugar and maple syrup together. Mixture will be quite thick. Spread it on, and a bit will start to run down the sides. Cut and come again.

Cornmeal Biscuits with Ham and Cheddar

ham and cheddar biscuits

I've got an easy, crowd-pleasing little savory bite here, and  not much else to say except that I am, still and again, so grateful for my life.

If you're a mom, you've probably seen this post going around--about how our kids need us and not expertly executed birthday parties, cute Easter crafts, or the stress of living up to the curated perfection of Pinterest. And if you're not a Mom, the same is true--the people in your life need YOU, your presence, the way you show up, more than anything you produce or any ideal you uphold. 

And I want to show up--with children, husband, strangers, clients, friends--in a way that's open to outcome, drawing from energy deeper than mine, and ready to give and receive. I do that better some days than others. Some moments that have helped me out lately:

  • A family outing to Vancouver, where we played on the beach, ate lots of sushi, went on long bike rides, and enjoyed the miracle of being a foursome in the world
  • Sun!! Not oodles, but enough to remind me that orb is still in the solar system
  • Loretta practicing her letters all the time, on every scrap of paper in the house
  • Wyatt winning a ribbon at the science fair and constantly thinking in fractions
  • Starting to work on the house again
  • Wyatt coming home from soccer, covered head-to-toe in mud
  • Walking the labyrinth at my church and feeling renewed my calling as a peacemaker
  • Spring cleaning and tossing things I don't love or need
  • Aerobics with Liz, bopping to the '80's with some really fit 70 year-olds

kitchen still life

with kids in Vanouver

spring is springing

IMG_2632

And these biscuits. It's not warm here yet despite the fact that it's technically spring. So we're still having soup and biscuits for dinner. It could be worse.

Cornmeal Biscuits with Ham and Cheddar
Adapted from Gourmet. I usually have some proscuitto around, which is the "ham" in these biscuits. I buy the German brand of proscuitto at Trader Joe's, which is very reasonably priced and has a good balance of saltiness and fat. If you want, you can add chopped chives, fresh thyme, or green onions. These couldn't be easier--one bowl, a wooden spoon.

2 c. flour
1/4 c. cornmeal
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp. salt
6 Tb. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar
1/2 c. coarsely chopped proscuitto or cooked ham
1 c. well-shaken buttermilk 

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 450. Butter a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheddar and ham. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.

Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2" apart onto baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes.

Banana Lemon Scones

Banana Lemon Scones

Give me carbs.

Yancey and I were watching late-night TV the other night. (I'm the last one to join the party, but I'm finally smitten with Jimmy Fallon.) I was full from dinner and drowsy. And yet, unbelievably, I was thinking about breakfast the next morning. About how I didn't want a kale smoothie or rewarmed Irish oats. How I wanted to smell something in the oven and the kids to come running up the stairs asking what it was.

I had a foggy memory of this scone recipe from an edition of Fine Cooking that's long since disappeared. I'm an insatiable magazine reader, but I don't keep them. It might threaten our marriage. So I sometimes clip or scan recipes, but mostly I just enjoy them in the moment and move on. Thank God for the internet and for YMCA members who will read any old donated crap in order not to focus on their workouts. 

I was skeptical that one diced banana would do the trick, but these were so stunning. They had a delicate banana aroma and flavor, but totally different than banana bread or banana cake. And, if you really pay attention, bananas are actually a little acidic, and the lemon paired perfectly. I have hardly been known to peel a banana and eat it out of hand, but I can't resist banana desserts and baked goods.

We've had some sweet family time this weekend--cooking, a little road trip with lots of singing, naps, New York Times. And, despite my skepticism, Spring has got to come. It can't help but get closer.

Banana Lemon Scones
Adapted from Fine Cooking. I added 1/4 c. brown sugar for two reasons--to make them sweeter and to make them more tender. It had the effect of the scones spreading ever so slightly, but it was worth it. If you want sturdier guys, leave it out. Most scones aren't good the next day, but these are delicious as the banana keeps them moist.

For the scones:
2 c. flour
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tb. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 Tb. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 medium ripe (but not mushy) banana, cut into 1/4"dice
3/4 c. + 2 Tb. heavy cream(and more for brushing)
coarse white sanding sugar (optional) 

For the glaze:
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tb. lemon juice
1 Tb. butter, softened
pinch kosher salt

Heat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, lemon zest, and salt. With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until a few pea-sized lumps remain. Stir in the banana. Add the cream, and with a fork, gradually stir until the mixture just comes together.

Turn the dough onto a lighly floured surface and pat into a 7" circle about 1" high. Using a chef's knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the wedges 1-2" apart. Brush the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle liberally with sanding sugar (if using).

Bake until tops are golden, about 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through baking for even browning. Transfer scones to a wire rack and cook slightly, 3 or 4 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir the powdered sugar, lemon juice, butter, and salt until smooth. Drizzle the warm scones with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Hazelnut Sesame Granola Clusters

Hazelnut Sesame Granola Clusters

Happy New Year! Predictably, I've started out with a lot of health resolutions. Even I am not divulgent enough to display my little chart here, but some are easy, some are harder. And by "health," I mean it all--body, mind, spirit. Go overboard with fruits and veggies, send mail, get outside, sit up straight, meditate and read poetry more often. I've learned the hard way that it's not about conquering all those resolutions. It's about putting them out there. 

I've read a lot of poetry this week, remembering how its economy of words gives me something to hold onto when the day's anxieties hit. Coleman Barks, the preeminent translator of Rumi, relates this story:

Meditation, or any solitary practice (a walk before dawn, a poem every morning, sitting the roof at sunset), gives depth and expands the soul's action.

A man in prison is sent a prayer rug by his friend. What he had wanted, of course, was a file or a crowbar or a key! But he began using the rug, doing five-times prayer before dawn, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before sleep. Bowing, sitting up, bowing again, he notices an odd pattern in the weave of the rug, just at the quibla, the point where his head touches. He studies and meditates on that pattern, gradually discovering that it is a diagram of the lock that confines him in his cell and how it works. He's able to escape. Anything you do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place, which is freedom.

I just love that--anything we do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place. And you know me--I put cooking into this category. Increasingly, cooking is something it's possible to get away from. You can do "food preparation" instead, removing things from boxes and warming them up. You can buy all your carrots already cut up or eat most of your meals out. But when we do that, I think we're missing out, not just on the health benefits, but on the meditative ritual cooking can be.

I paid $4.00 yesterday for a bunch of rainbow carrots grown in this county. Splitting the red one down the middle, I saw two more layers inside--orange, then yellow. A whole riot of color! Standing there with my knife on New Year's Eve, arranging those beautiful carrots on a platter, was another chance to be mindful, to think of the farmers that tended those carrots, to be grateful for this region we live in, and to enjoy the small movements of running the carrots under the sink, twisting off the tops. Of course I don't always slip into this state while cutting vegetables! But these moments aren't as accessible to me when I'm not in the kitchen. It's one of the places I feel most free.

And my kitchen always has a jar of granola in it. The kind I'm into lately is made with brown rice syrup, which makes it unbelievably clustered and shiny. Almost shellacked. This is the olive oil granola recipe I've been into for the last 18 months, just a bit different. Another health goal of mine is "Automate my breakfast." A jar of this makes that easy to do.

Hazelnut Sesame Granola Clusters
You can find brown rice syrup at good grocery stores, at a natural foods store, or even bulk at some places. This is the same olive oil granola recipe I've been wild about for the last 18 months, courtesy of Melissa Clark. As you're cooking this, it might look like you've done something wrong. The syrup will be bubbling up around the oats and it will look much more viscous than your regular granola might. Don't worry! Stir it every ten minutes, and let it cool all the way when it comes out of the oven. It will dry up nicely.

3 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. slivered almonds
1.5 c. hazelnuts
3/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/4 c. sesame seeds 
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 c. brown rice syrup
1 c. whole dried cranberries 

Preheat oven to 300 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (I wouldn't recommend doing it without parchment paper, a silpat, or something that will make your sheet non-stick, as the syrup acts like glue!)

Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl, then add olive oil and brown rice syrup, mixing until everything is coated.

Spread mixture out evenly on baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes and removing when mixture is an even golden brown. Granola will be wet when you remove it from the oven, and will stick together quite a bit as it cools. Once it's totally cool, break it up into chunks. You can, of course, break it up so it's quite loose. Whatever is to your liking. Add cranberries and store in an airtight container.

Best Blueberry Muffins

blueberry muffins

I love to watch people love things. I'm famous for cooking something, offering it to someone, getting settled, and creeping them out by intensely watching them eat it.  Yancey has learned he has about 5 seconds before he has to say, "Wow, babe. This is good." Then I'll leave him alone and let him enjoy his food.

Maybe more than anything I can think of, I love to watch my kids enjoy things. I'm sure I'm not alone in this, and this instinct is probably the reason some kids end up spoiled. If blueberry muffins for breakfast is spoiling, I'm all over it. Wyatt sat across the table from me, his little sunburned shoulders and uneven teeth, still sleepy, and bit into a muffin. He rolled his eyes in pleasure and said, "These are sooo good, Mom. And they're still warm. Oh. Oh. Yum. Thanks, Mom." Then he had 2 or 3 more. Honestly. What is better than that?

Best Blueberry Muffins
From my yellow Gourmet cookbook. I guess if you own it, you might not be a reader here. So don't go buy it. Stick around the Leftoverist long enough and I'll drag you through the whole thing. These aren't revolutionary, full of whole grains, or attempting anything creative. They are blessedly plain and tender and don't require getting out a mixer. 

For batter:
6 Tb. unsalted butter
1/3 c. whole milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 c. blueberries

For topping:
3 Tb. cold unsalted butter, cut into little cubes
1/2 c. flour
3 1/2 Tb. sugar

Preheat oven to 375 and butter a 12-cup muffin pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over moderately low heat; remove from heat. Whisk in milk, egg, yolk, and vanilla until well combined.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Gently but thoroughly fold in blueberries. Divide batter among muffin cups and spread evenly.

Combine all ingredients for topping in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over batter in each cup.

Bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Cool in pan for at least 5 minutes (10 would be better), then run a knife around edges of muffin tops and carefully remove from cups. Serve warme or at room temperature. 

Baby Birthday Buns

tender buns
Loretta turns four today. I will spare you the story of her birth that she's been asking me to tell all week. We've been having fun reliving her first moments and weeks, and she looks so damn OLD to me today, in her new Hello Kitty boots and big girl haircut.

She requested these cinnamon pull-aparts for her birthday breakfast. Sometimes, I post a recipe on here, pontificate about how amazing it is and how you should go into your kitchen and start cooking, then I never make it again. I get distracted, just plain forget about it, or put pressure on myself to try new things. Not so with these. They have become my default breakfast treat for birthdays, holidays, or brunch potlucks. Tender, fragrant, EASY, beautiful little rolls. The dieter can have one and the kids three apiece, everyone will be pawing you for the recipe, and you can direct them here, where they will see this little breakfast treat:

Baby Retta

I couldn't help myself. After Wyatt, I wasn't sure if it was possible to fall in love like that all over again. It happened, it's still happening. I was a reluctant mother, married for 8 years before Wyatt was born, and pretty sure it would mostly be a lot of work. I was right about the work part, but nothing could have prepared me for how the sleepless nights, budget cuts, and constant demands wouldn't matter. I get sad when I think how close I came to missing out on this. There are lots of routes to enlightenment, but motherhood has been mine, saving me from myself over and over again. Happy Birthday, Retta.

Portuguese Honey Loaves

Portugese honey loaf
Agh!! I am drowning in lists over here. They look something like this:

  1. Pray.
  2. Exercise.
  3. Take vitamin.
  4. Make honey loaves for Wyatt and Loretta's teachers.
  5. Go to Costco for baking supplies and try not to hate Christmas while I'm there. (Send Yancey instead?)
  6. Finish workshop design for client.
  7. Copy, cut, stamp, and stuff Christmas cards.
  8. Keep deliberating about which cookies to make on Saturday. Throw old lists out, make new ones.
  9. Stay off Facebook.
  10. Finish workshop design for client.
  11. Make a truckload of granola.
  12. FINISH WORKSHOP DESIGN FOR CLIENT!

Clearly, I shouldn't be here, writing about honey loaves. But there they were this morning, all forlorn, needing some attention from the camera.

I wanted to make something for the kids' teachers that was still a treat, but not Sugar Overload. Seems like I usually settle on bread. This one, from my trusty (green) Gourmet cookbook, is particularly Christmasy. Molasses, honey, dried fruit, walnuts, port. It's slightly dry, slices beautifully, and is divine for toast. And makes six small loves!

Wherever you are in your list-making, I hope the lauded peace, joy, and goodwill are sneaking in through the cracks.

Portuguese Honey Loaves
I'm not a big candied fruit fan (unless I make it myself, which I don't have time for due to all my time-wasting on Facebook), so I just subbed more dried fruit for the candied and added the zest from a big orange. The original recipe called for mild molasses, but I like the full-flavored kind better. Use whatever you prefer or have on hand. The recipe calls for both yeast and baking soda--that's because honey and molasses are very acidic, when can affect the leavening. The soda neutralizes the acid.


1 1/2 c. mixed dried fruit (I used apricots, cherries, and cranberries)
finely grated zest of one large orange
1/4 c. port
1 Tb. active dry yeast
1/4 c warm water
1 1/4 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
4 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 c. molasses
1/2 c. honey

Preheat oven to 325 and butter six mini loaf pans (6 x 3 1/4 x 2 inch).

Combine dried fruit and port in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.

Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Combine flour, salt, soda, spices, and walnuts and set aside.

Beat together butter and sugar in an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 4-6 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add one third of the flour mixture and mix at low speed until combined. Add molasses and mix until incorporated. Add half of remaining flour mixture and mix until combined, then add honey and mix until incorporated. Add yeast mixture and remaining flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in dried fruit mixture.

Divide batter among pans, smoothing tops. Bake until a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted in center of loaves comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove loaves from pans and cool completely on rack.

Cranberry Pistachio Granola

Pistachio Granola
The last time I posted about breakfast cereal, I was dissing granola in favor of muesli. I'm back in the granola camp these days.

Sometimes, on a rainy weekend like this one, things just don't seem right without a batch of granola in the oven. The kids walk by the cooling pan all afternoon and sneak bits. I act like I don't see. Things are made particularly cozy by the fact that I am officially listening to Christmas music. I make myself wait until November 1st. I am the World's Biggest Toasted-Oat-Eating Sap.

Cranberry Pistachio Granola
This recipe uses butter--you can sub vegetable oil if you want, and you can use as little as 3 or 4 Tb. of it. The less fat you put, the more closely you should watch to make sure it doesn't burn. I put the pistachios in after it's toasted to preserve their bright green color.


6 cups old-fashioned oats
1 c. raw sunflower seeds
1 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1 c. whole raw almonds
1 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 cube) unsalted butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1/2 c. shelled unsalted pistachios
1 c. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix oats, seeds, coconut, and almonds and salt together in a large bowl.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with brown sugar and maple syrup. Stir to combine, pour over oat mixture, and mix thoroughly. Divide evenly between two pans and toast for 20-30 minutes, switching pans halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool. Add cranberries and pistachios and store in an airtight container.