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).
A few weeks back we went blueberry picking with our friends John and Emily and their son, Lewis (Oliver’s best friend). While we love Bow Hill Blueberries, it was a bit of a trek this year with the little guys, so we checked out Bybee Farms instead, right at the base of Mount Si. We loaded up the car early, got a strong latte on the way out of town and pulled up just as the hot (hot, hot) sun was starting to peek out from behind the mountain.
The boys spent much of their time picking and almost immediately eating their blueberries, so we didn’t win any awards for Most Blueberries Picked, 2017. No medals, no crowns, but we did leave with almost 3 pounds and spent the weekend snacking on handfuls and sprinkling them on morning cereal. I ended up freezing a few cups, thinking I’d make a crisp or cobbler. Maybe some muffins.
But then, the ‘hurry, make all the summery things!’ feeling moved into the house and I was lying in bed drinking coconut Le Croix and reading A Year Between Friends by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes, and stumbled across their Raspberry Ripple pops. It was a sign: 10:30 pm popsicles were in order.
If you’re not familiar with A Year Between Friends, it’s by the women who started 3191 Miles Apart, a website devoted to chronicling a friendship, mostly in photographs, from two homes across the country (Portland, OR and Portland, ME). A few times a week they each post a photo and a few words, encapsulating their day. It’s often something domestic and, perhaps, some would say insignificant but the simple moments all add up to tell the story of their lives, family, and their own friendship with one another. I’ve kept the book on my nightstand for a few months now, and dip into it as an escape and for a little inspiration surge: there are craft projects (naturally dyed baby clothes!), recipes, letters and stories — tales of family passing away, sugar cookies baked, babies born. Lives getting lived.
Maria and Stephanie wrote this recipe for raspberry pops, but I was specifically looking for something to do with our blueberries – so there you have it. But feel free to use any summer berry you like. I ended up straying from instructions a bit and cooking down the berries with sugar and lemon juice to make the mixture a bit jammier before throwing it into the food processor; this is nice, too, because it allows you to use frozen berries instead (or along with) fresh, so these can be a season-less affair.
Adapted from: A Year Between Friends
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook down the blueberries, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until berries soften and become a little jammy bit and sugar is dissolved (if using frozen berries, this will take longer). Let cool, off the heat, for 10 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, blend the berry mixture until liquified.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, remaining 3 tablespoons (40g) sugar, and vanilla extract.
Dividing evenly, layer the blueberry puree and vanilla yogurt in the pop molds until they’re nearly filled (leave 1/4-1/2 inch at the top for expansion). To create the swirls, gently poke each pop with the end of a chopstick before placing the lid on the mold and adding the popsicle sticks.
Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. To remove the pops, run warm water over the outside of the molds and slide them out. Store in the freezer in an airtight container between layers of parchment or wax paper.
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.