I’ve learned something about myself this week: I’m a neurotic packer. I don’t think this is a new trait, I think I’ve just now come to realize it. I’ve been putting off the huge task of packing up this apartment but the time has come to get down to business. I started by packing things that I wouldn’t really notice were gone: ski stuff, summer clothes, cookbooks I know I won’t use over the next two weeks. Then I take those boxes and put them in the back of the closet so I don’t have to look at them–this way, everything continues to look in perfect order. Just so.
Well guess what? You can only put so many boxes in the closet and things can only look in relative order for so long. Eventually you have to actually pack all of your books and the contents of the kitchen cupboards. You have to pack your favorite coffee mugs, rain boots, desk files and linens. So I’ve officially taken the dive into disorderly-chaotic-packing mode. Now I’m tripping over boxes and newspapers. Two boxes have become a brand new coffee table, one a handy foot rest under the kitchen table. I’m embracing it. It’s all in motion now.
And as part of that, I’m trying to clean out my pantry so we’re not loading jars of grains and beans and dried fruit into the U-Haul next weekend. And that’s how this hearty, warm cereal came to be. It’s only slightly sweet and combines farro, coconut milk, and a little honey–all topped with almonds, dried cherries and coconut flakes.
With all of the packing and goodbyes, I can’t imagine that this next week will be filled with much notable cooking or baking but I’ll be sure to check in with, at the very least, a photo or two. In the meantime, if you have any packing advice or recipes you love that will use up pantry goods in a flash, I’m all ears. Happy almost weekend to you.
The nice thing about this recipe is its versatility: you can use any fruits and nuts you like or have on hand, really. I also prefer my morning cereals without much sweetness, so feel free to add a bit more honey if you prefer. As breakfasts go, this cereal is on the richer side as the farro is actually cooked in coconut milk. If you’d prefer a lighter version, you can use all water–you’ll still have some of the coconut flavor from the toasted flakes on top.
Soak cherries in warm water for five minutes to soften them. Drain and discard water.
Bring the water, coconut milk and salt to a simmer and whisk in the farro. Return to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, or until farro has absorbed most of the moisture.
While hot cereal is cooking, preheat oven to 325 F. Toast almond slices and coconut chips for 5 minutes or until fragrant and golden.
Once the farro is cooked, add honey. Portion into two small bowls and top with toasted coconut, almonds and dried cherries. If you’d like top with a drizzle of honey. Serve immediately.
Early Fall Baking
Last weekend we went apple picking up near Yakima, a good three hours east of Seattle. We drove over to Harmony Orchards with our friends Brandi and John and met up with many other groups and families to amble about the rows and rows of apples in the unusually warm sun. We missed the annual picking last year as we were on our honeymoon, but the previous year was the one in which we made the colossal mistake of picking over 70 pounds of apples. I've never made so much applesauce in my life. This year we practiced restraint in bringing home a cool 38 pounds and after getting them all situated in the basement, I started to leaf through a few cookbooks looking for a great apple recipe -- something, preferably, that used quite a few apples, wasn't too sweet and could double as breakfast or dessert (really, the best kind of recipe). And that's exactly what we have in these Custardy Apple Squares.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.
I rarely make muffins at home and never order one when I'm out and about as I find they're often far too sweet and never truly that satisfying. I realize, too, in looking back at my cookbook that there's only one muffin recipe throughout. Case in point: I'm tentative on muffins. But not these. We've been pretty thrilled to have this healthier version of Morning Glory muffins on the counter this week; they have little bits of apple, raisins, walnuts, and grated carrot and are cloaked in a buttery oat crumble topping -- quite the opposite of your boring coffeeshop fare. I thought long and hard about doing a Valentine's post, some festive cookie or confection that would be share-worthy this weekend, but the more we talked about what our weekend would really look like, it involved something special for breakfast instead. I don't remember the last time a Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday, so we have big plans to have breakfast in bed and if your plans are even remotely similar, these muffins would be a fine inclusion.
I generally work on weekends. It's something I've come to terms with only because I know it won't last forever. I write. I bake. But those two things don't always pay the bills, so I work retail on the weekends and dream of the day when I'll have a Sunday like this one: