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.
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.