The more time I spend at home with Oliver, juggling a quesadilla and baby sunscreen on our way out the door, the more I think about the way we all really eat throughout the day — and what it is we actually want to be eating. With all of the beautifully photographed food blogs and glossy monthly publications, you’d think we were all waking up in the morning and eating black sesame waffles with tahini yogurt and macha dust. Now I don’t know about you, but that is decidedly not what we’re waking up to around here. I’m not sure if it’s because time is stretched thin now that we have a baby or perhaps it’s that warmer weather is on its way — the ultimate encouragement in fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-cooking — but preparing a full meal in the kitchen feels like a luxury more than it ever has, and I find myself craving simplicity. Good, honest recipes.
Sam recently sent me a Slate article about the huge gap between the food we see in magazines (and, perhaps, even love to talk about) and the food we’re actually cooking at home. It seems you can’t turn a corner without hearing about cauliflower fried rice or poke bowls (for the record I’ve not tried either but am most curious about the former). On a similar note, Tim recently wrote a post about lemon zest, questioning why the heck we all feel the impetus to add it to virtually everything. We claim that it “brightens” up every baked good and salad dressing that comes our way, when really, the result is that the baked good or salad just … tastes more like lemon zest. I have to admit I might be a little guilty of this. But the point is that there’s this constant search for the new trend, the new thing, the next Big way to make a waffle. When really, the old way to make a waffle worked pretty great.
This whole wheat waffle I’m sharing with you today began with a cut-out of a 2012 recipe from Whole Living (RIP!) that used a bit of wheat germ in the mix, giving them a warm, almost nutty flavor. The waffles were great but I don’t particularly love using canola oil and I had a few other tweaks in mind so I started using warmed coconut oil instead, but when the oil joined with the cold milk, it seized into clumps. Onward: warm the milk first before you add the coconut oil and now we’re in business! So I’ve made many waffles using this formula but then I started to become curious about making them even more accessible for people, selfishly thinking about our trip to my mom’s cabin in upstate New York this summer and wondering how we could make a batch in the country where there’s a definite lack of coconut oil. So I regrouped. If you follow The Faux Martha on Instagram (or read her lovely blog), you know she’s quite a waffle guru, and she uses butter in most of her waffle recipes so I opted for that instead of the coconut oil and the results are, to me, spot on.
This is a great basic waffle that doesn’t feel basic. A reliable traveling companion if you’ve got trips coming up this summer where you’ll be cooking breakfast for a crowd, and special enough for Mother’s Day this Sunday. The Blueberry Sauce recipe is from my cookbook and is an added bonus — an easy way to dress up a perfectly simple waffle if you’re so inclined. If you’re not, a bit of butter and good maple syrup is all you really need. I realize fresh blueberries aren’t in season yet, so I dipped into last year’s frozen farmers market haul. The sauce stained the back of one of my favorite wooden spoons — now a constant reminder about the warm season ahead, everyday waffles, more and more baby sunscreen, and a most probable lack of macha dust.
This is my go-to whole grain waffle recipe and I’d wager that anyone you make these for wouldn’t guess they’re 100% whole wheat. The batter is light; the edges are crisp; and they have an ever-so-slight fragrance from the vanilla. I love topping them with this fresh blueberry sauce and a big dollop of Greek yogurt, but of course any seasonal fruit is a great stand-in as is whipped cream. See my instructions below for freezing the waffles, if you’d like, for a quick weekday morning solution.
For the Waffles:
For the Blueberry Sauce:
For the Waffles: Preheat your waffle iron. Spray with cooking spray if need be.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir well until thoroughly combined.
When waffle iron is ready, add batter. The amount varies depending on your machine – for our round model, 1/2 cup of batter makes a perfect waffle, but always err on the side of too little to begin with to avoid a big mess. Cook until golden brown. Avoid stacking waffles on top of each other as they’ll become soggy; instead place in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.
For the Blueberry Sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to slowly bubble and boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Serve warm or at room temperature, or let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
To freeze waffles: If you’d like to bake off a big batch of waffles and freeze them for later, prepare according to instructions above. Then lay waffles out on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Next place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and lay a single row of waffles down. Lay a sheet of parchment on top of that layer and repeat, until you’ve stacked all your waffles on the sheet tray. Freeze completely, at least 3 hours. Remove from freezer and wrap individually in plastic wrap or small freezer bags. Store up to 3 months. To reheat / serve: we just use our toaster oven, but if making for a crowd, you could easily place on a baking sheet at 350 F and warm, about 8 minutes.
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.
We recently had our favorite day of married life yet. When I tell you what it consisted of, you may worry or chuckle. Sundays used to be sacred in our house in the sense that it was our one day off together. We'd often read the paper, get a slice of quiche at Cafe Besalu, or take walks around Greenlake or Discovery Park. But now Sundays are generally when I work the farmers market for Marge Granola, and Sam helps me set up and take down each week, so they've taken on a very different feel, one more of work than leisure. So a few months ago, after mildly panicking that we no longer had any routines or days off, we reclaimed Saturdays as 'the new Sunday' and last weekend set the bar pretty high. The day began really cold: in the high 20's and graduated, eventually, to the 30's. We decided it'd be nice to just stay inside; Sam had a little work to do and some letters to write. He had a few articles he'd been wanting to read. And I'd been thinking about this lasagna recipe, so I puttered around the kitchen roasting squash and slicing garlic. The afternoon ticked on slowly. Sam made us baked eggs for a late lunch and I tried unsuccessfully to nap. I think it was the calmest we'd both felt in a long time. I'm lucky to have found a man who loves spending time at home as much as I do. While we both love going out to see friends, traveling, and having people over to our place, we also gain the most, I'd say, by doing simple things around the house -- straightening up, making a meal. organizing records or books or photos. Especially in this season of cold temperatures and early-darkening skies, it's what I crave the most. And last Saturday closed in the best of ways: we opened a bottle of "wedding wine" (thanks to my neurosis and fear we'd run out, we over-ordered wine when planning for our wedding) and dug into generous slices of this very special vegetarian lasagna, a hearty layered affair with caramelized onions, a sage-flecked tofu ricotta and a simple, savory butternut squash purée.