Hello from our guest bedroom where I have officially taken up refuge as our upstairs bedroom is stifling hot and my inexpensive drug store fan doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. We’re having a bit of a heat wave in Seattle, and Sam has been out of town all week so dinner has been a mellow affair, usually consisting of quesadillas or, on occasion, a big bowl of berries + whipped cream or popsicles. I finally just bought a popsicle mold and am not quite sure what took me so long, but I’m hooked and these coconut numbers were the first recipe I tried. The ingredient list seemed deceivingly simple, and I thought there’s no way they could be as velvetty and luxurious as the ones I buy from our local co-op. But they are, and you can tailor them to fit your own taste in terms of sweetness and amount of toasted coconut. I’m not quite ready to share how many of these I’ve eaten this week, but I thought it was time I shared them with you.
There are a lot of popsicle molds on the market today, and choosing one can be a bit daunting. I bought this one thanks to a recommendation from Molly and am loving it so far. It’s a pretty basic design, but the popsicles are easy to unmold after running a bit of warm water around the edges and I can’t help but feel like the options are endless here: mango lime (my sister Zoe’s idea), fresh raspberry, watermelon. It’s going to be a good summer. I started with coconut as it’s my favorite flavor and after some research I realized how most coconut pops are really just coconut milk with a little sugar and possibly some vanilla. I saw a great recipe from Leite’s Culinaria that I based my pops on, and then I was intrigued by Joy the Baker‘s use of toasted coconut in her pops. So this recipe is a bit of a mash up of the two married with my desire to use as little sugar as I could get away with. I think you’re going to like them.
If you’re not a big fan of toasted coconut, you could leave it out altogether and make very simple coconut pops. I like the texture but realize not everyone does. And please do yourself a favor and use full-fat coconut milk; the light version is more watery and will result in a much less delicious popsicle. Last, the amount of sugar is really personal preference so I indicated a small range in the recipe. I used 2 1/2 tablespoons in mine and was very happy with them, but I will say that for whatever reason (someone out there must know the science behind this?!) the mixture will taste sweeter warm or at room temperature than when you freeze it. So if it’s tasting not quite sweet enough while you’re warming it, you’re going to want to add a little sugar. If you fear you may have bumped up the sweetness just a bit too much for your taste, it’s likely perfect.
Now as if homemade coconut popsicles aren’t exciting enough, I’ve been waiting to share some big news with you: I’m pregnant and Sam and I are expecting a new addition to our family in early November! I’ve been excited to share the news with you here, but also hesitant and nervous — continuing to wonder if everything was o.k. and if it was an appropriate time to tell a wider audience than just family and close friends. Apparently for some people that feeling of never being quite sure if everything is o.k. never really goes away, and I’m afraid this will likely plague me for the next few months. But! So far it looks like we’re giving birth to a real live human and not a lizard (good news!) We’re going to try to not find out the baby’s sex, and to let it be a surprise; I’ve started to want to know, to be honest, but Sam really wants to be surprised and I’d like him to have that. And in the big picture of things, there aren’t that many great, great surprises in life are there? So I’m trying to hold out … although I have suggested we stop calling the baby by the girl’s name we’ve chosen as there’s a strong change it could be a boy and it’s just going to start to get weird. So now we have lots of neutral names, mostly after vegetables for some reason. My dad calls the baby Foxy. I like that.
I’ve been lucky so far in that I haven’t gotten very sick and besides general tiredness, have felt pretty strong. The first trimester I was fascinated by foods that I typically love that I no longer wanted anything to do with — I’m always a little skeptical of certain medical rumors and figured all of those pregnant women who talked about cravings and aversions were just … looking for an excuse to eat more hot fudge. But it really is true: I was repulsed by coffee (which I usually love), salads, and most hearty vegetables. I could do butter lettuce but that was about it. Instead, I was a fiend for potato salad (which I usually make maybe once a year and never buy), pineapple and pretty mediocre cheese. I was actually making trips to the market to buy quarts of the pre-made potato salad at the deli, barely recognizing myself but kind of delighting in the strangeness of it all. Morning would come and I’d find myself standing by the sink eating pineapple out of the can. Lately, I’ve rediscovered the simple potato chip and BOY are they delicious! Yesterday when I picked up a poster we were having framed, the woman at the frame shop looked me up and down and said in all earnestness: “anyday now, eh?”; hopefully that is not a result of the potato chips (sour cream and onion! barbecue!) and instead a sign she doesn’t know what a 20-week pregnant lady looks like. Let’s all just assume it’s the latter because I think the chips may be here to stay.
This photo was taken as part of a weekly series I’ve been doing just for my own records so I don’t forget what I look like. Some weeks it’s actually amazing to see how much my belly has grown in a mere seven days. This was week 19 after a snack of almonds and a chocolate milkshake (highly recommended). I hope you’re staying cool in your neck of the woods, and I’m excited to be able to speak more freely about what I’ve really been cooking and eating lately — especially now that vegetables and salads are back in the pro column. See you back here soon.
Feel free to double this recipe depending on how much space you have in your popsicle mold; I certainly will next time. And I noticed some recipes call for a pinch of salt, so you could experiment with that as well. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, you could use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead, but you won’t have those pretty little flecks which, if you’re anything like me, will likely make you happy.
Adapted from: Leite’s Culinaria
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread coconut onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. It can burn quickly, so keep an eye on it. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the coconut milk, vanilla bean and seeds, and sugar. Stirring occasionally, cook until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture just barely begins to bubble (although don’t let it boil). Remove from the heat, cover, and let it steep for 1 hour.
After steeping, remove the vanilla pod and discard. Whisk the coconut milk mixture well and stir in the toasted coconut. Pour it into a bowl with a spout or a large measuring cup for easier pouring. Fill 6 ice-pop molds evenly with the mixture. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.