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.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.