We turned on the light in the baby’s room last night and left it on until we went to bed. I’d initially turned it on to hang a watercolor before dinner and had forgotten all about it. An hour or so later, I yelled up the stairs to Sam that the light was still on but he already knew. He didn’t want to turn it off. When you’re almost a week past your due date, it’s nice to sense a little light in there.
Everyone says to enjoy it. To relish this time between the two of you. To catch up on books and movies and make foods you love. And we did this for awhile. But there is this inbetween-ness that won’t vacate the premises, a sense that we’re still firmly in one familiar world (answering work emails and raking leaves) while staring at the hospital bag that’s been packed for weeks and the empty carseat that lays waiting — signs of the next, not-so-familiar world. And yet, we are trying to enjoy it all. I go on long walks and sometimes Sam will join or I’ll meet up with a girlfriend. We’ve been preparing food for each other, seeing a few movies out, making fires, eating donuts and reading. We are ready, now more than ever. But Sprout seems to be letting us know that it’s not yet quite time yet.
The funny thing about this inbetween time (written about so well in this article forwarded by my friend, Lane) is that virtually everything feels like it’s on hold, like there’s this giant pause button that you carefully maneuver around with each passing day. Our dishwasher is broken but I haven’t called the repairman yet because, ‘what if I go into labor on the day he’s to arrive?’ I keep hemming and hawing when making follow-up doctor or acupuncture appointments, assuring each secretary that there’s no way I’ll be back so it’s really not necessary. And then, sure enough, the following week, wearing the same trusty pair of maternity jeans, I’m sheepishly strolling back in.
The more days that pass, the less comfortable I’m feeling in my body. Because I was lucky to have such an easy pregnancy, this part is certainly new and unexpected. For me, the difference between 39 weeks pregnant and almost 41 weeks is notable. My sister says this is what I get for proclaiming how much I loved being pregnant for all those months. That this is the universe’s way of saying ‘you did, did you?’ And she may be right. But I guess in the big picture of things these long, slow days will eventually become blips tumbling into one tangle of memories: lake walks, fallen leaves, coffee, baby manuals, movies, couch naps, ice cream, and doctor’s visits. Lentil stews, black leggings, squats in the shower, acupuncture needles, cod liver oil, and having Sam help hoist me out of bed in the morning. And what will replace those cloudy, tangled blips will be a tiny human that we’re very much hoping to meet this week. Until then, I have a feeling the nursery light will be on.
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I baked these scones late last night in a small bout of sleeplessness. I looked at a bunch of scone recipes I’ve developed in the past and sort of joined them all together, and the result is a new favorite. They’re humble, light and fragrant — not too sweet, very lightly spiced, and really good with butter and jam. Or just warm on their own. The fact that they’re drop scones and don’t require any rolling or shaping make them a great ‘I want to bake something quick and I don’t have a ton of energy treat. And it turns out they’re a most worthwhile time filler for all of the inbetween-ness. I hope you like them as much as we do.
If you’re not familiar with sultanas, they’re really just a fancy name for golden raisins. The kind I use here look a little darker than the ones you may be used to seeing in stores because they’re unsulphered (sulpher dioxide is a preservative that makes them so pretty and golden) but certainly use whichever is easy for you to find. You could also use currents, regular raisins or dried cranberries instead.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper (or spray with non-stick spray).
In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, ground spices, salt and orange zest. Add the cubed butter and, using your hands or a pastry cutter, rub or cut it into the flour mixture until it resembles small, course peas. It’s o.k. to have a few larger chunks of butter.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, heavy cream, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and, with a large wooden spoon or flat spatula, stir until the dough gathers together in an uneven ball. Fold in the sultana raisins. Make sure all the flour is incorporated, but be careful not to overmix. Refrigerate the dough for 10 minutes.
Using a large spoon, drop 10 even mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 16-17 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Let the scones cool on a wire rack before serving.
Winter Comfort Food
I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype.
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
It's been a uniformly gray and rainy week in Seattle, and I'd planned on making a big pot of salmon chowder to have for the weekend, but then the new issue of Bon Appetit landed on my doorstep with that inviting "Pies for Dinner" cover, and I started to think about how long it's been since I made my very favorite recipe from my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I'm often asked at book events which recipe I love most, and it's a tough one to answer because I have favorites for different moods or occasions, but I'd say that this savory tart is right up there. The cornmeal millet crust is one of my party tricks; when we need a quick brunch recipe, this is what I pull out of my back pocket because it's so simple and delicious. This is a no-roll, no fuss crust with a slightly sandy, crumbly texture thanks to the cornmeal, and a delightful crunch from the millet. In the past, I've used the crust and custard recipe as the base for any number of fillings: on The Kitchn last year, I did a version with greens and gruyere, and I teach cooking classes that often include a version heavy on local mushrooms and shallot. So if you are not keen on salmon or have some vegetables you're looking to use up this week, feel free to fold in whatever is inspiring you right now. Sometimes at this point in winter that can be hard, so hopefully this recipe may help a little.