I’ve been spending some time organizing photos lately, trying to actually print a few to frame for the house, and purge others from my phone. We took so many while in Hawaii: great ones of epic beaches and outdoor picnics, moments that you’d expect would feel important and memorable. But in thinking back, it’s neither of these things that stand out for me. Instead, the night I’ll remember most is when we pulled up to a beachside restaurant we’d been excited to try for dinner and were told that the wait was 60-80 minutes. With a toddler that’s basically a lifetime, so my immediate reaction was a firm No. But Sam pointed to this big grassy field right next to the beach with lawn games and string lights, and in his never-failing positivity, promised the time would fly by.
We waited for a bit down by the beach where dozens of other families and couples were taking photos of the sunset and kicking off their shoes to walk in the sand; Oliver got in the large shored kayaks and pretended to paddle or beep the imaginary horn, humoring us just once with a family selfie. He was wearing the Hawaiian shirt that Sam had bought him earlier that day, and his curls were particularly wild given the humidity. I stayed on the beach for a bit while Oliver and Sam walked up to the grassy field, playing chase, searching for treasure (a dime Sam had found that they continued hurling and then patiently hunting down) and climbing on top of corn hole.
We were still waiting to head into dinner, but the dinner is something none of us will remember. And not because it was bad (it wasn’t!) but just because it wasn’t that important: in a given year, there may be many dinners out and they fall in the realm of the ordinary in many ways — or at the very least, expected. But that evening itself was anything but expected or ordinary. There was a feeling. Just a genuine, grounded sense of happiness running around the grass with Oliver, falling down a few times, laughing so hard we almost didn’t hear our dinner buzzer in my jacket pocket.
I just started a book called The Power of Moments, and it’s gotten me thinking about the defining moments in our lives, why in particular these moments make the cut, and how we can actively create more of them (versus passively waiting for them to arrive at the stoop, so to speak).
The authors of the book, Chip and Dan Heath, note that, “A defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful … there may be a dozen moments in your life that capture who you are — those are big defining moments. But there are smaller experiences … that are defining moments in the context of a vacation or a semester abroad.” And these smaller moments are what I’m most curious about. How snorkeling with manta rays may not win out over playing at dusk with your son and husband under the palm trees — what the Heath’s would call a “moment of elevation” in which you “transcend the normal course of events” into the extraordinary.
So what defines these moments? Do they share any traits or characteristics? The book discusses how there are four elements; some moments have all four while others may only have one or two. The first is Elevation, or the feeling of rising above the everyday. The second is Insight, or a rewiring of our understanding of ourselves or the world (they give the example of a moment when you knew you should leave your job or marry your partner). The third element is Pride — the way in which a defining moment captures us at our best (a graduation, for instance). Last: Connection or the social aspect of defining moments, where we’re strengthened because we’re sharing a moment with others.
Back home, much of the day is spent parceling out time to get our work done, keep on top of emails and just run a sort of functional household. In this sometimes frenetic-feeling scheduling and segmenting of the week, it’s easy to get immersed and simply bogged down in the day to day. The ins and outs of it all. The ‘what do you want to do with this sausage tonight?” of it all. But moments like our night in Hawaii become so memorable, I think, not just because they transcend the everyday (because many things we did there did just that), but because we were all deeply connected with each other and the space we were in. How often does that really happen if you’re honest with yourself? The sunset had left fiery streaks in the sky, the fellow diners milling about created an ambient buzz, the lights came on as dusk neared and we raced and laughed, barefoot, hungry, and collectively not thinking about the fact that it was already past Oliver’s bedtime. In that moment, it truly didn’t matter.
Note #1: I’m only at the beginning of this book and haven’t yet gotten to the second half where they discuss how to be more of an active player in creating more of these moments, but I’m really enjoying it so far and though instead of waiting until I finish it (real talk: could be awhile), I’d share it now in case some of you are looking for a new, interesting read.
Note #2: What do these donuts have to do with Hawaii? You know, not much! Although Sam would make the argument that they have a lot to do with defining moments as he’s deemed them the best donuts he’s ever had. I generally don’t like to blog about recipes where you need special equipment but you do need a donut pan to make these — and in my mind, it’s worth the investment as it doesn’t take up a ton of space and baked donuts are so easy and feel far more special than the time it takes to pull them off. I’d recently made baked donuts for Simply Recipes and wanted to try making a version with one of my favorite flavors, using coconut milk, coconut sugar and shredded coconut. They’re super tender and light thanks to the almond meal, and not too sweet. We are pretty big fans of them, and I think you will be, too.
While I love the triple whammy of coconut here, you can make some substitutions and your donuts will turn out just fine. Feel free to swap in melted butter instead of coconut oil if you’d like and use a turbinado or unrefined sugar instead of coconut sugar if you have a tough time finding the latter. If you’re not a fan of spelt flour, you could use a whole wheat pastry flour or even an all-purpose flour. Do know that when you open your can of coconut milk, spoon off the coconut cream at the top and just use the liquid milk for this recipe; the cream is wonderful in smoothies or folded into soups to add a little thickness. Like most baked donuts, these are best eaten the day they’re made. That said, they’re just fine the next day if stored at room temperature and covered.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a donut pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, almond flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, and salt.
In a small bowl whisk together the egg, coconut oil, coconut milk, and vanilla extract.
Fold the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir to combine. Let dough sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Use a kitchen spoon to scoop the dough into the wells of the donut pan, stopping when each is almost full (these donuts don’t rise a ton, so I fill the indents almost to the top). The dough will be thick and sticky, so use your fingers or the back of a spoon to gently press it into the indentation.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan before inverting onto a wire rack to cool down until you can handle them.
Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, coconut milk and salt. You’re looking for a smooth, pourable glaze. If your glaze is too thick, add additional non-dairy milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Similarly, if your glaze becomes too thin, simply add a little more sugar.
Glaze the donuts: Cut a piece of parchment paper the same size (or slightly larger) as your wire cooling rack and place under your cooling rack to catch drips. Dip one side of each doughnut in the glaze and place glaze-side up on the cooling rack. Allow any excess to drip off. Allow the glaze to set and firm up before enjoying a donut, about 20 minutes (if you can wait!)
Glimpses of Spring
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).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
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.