Gosh. How is it that this will be the last post of December? The last post of the year? And what better way to celebrate than to raise a glass to the amazing gals at The Kitchn for hosting me as a guest writer today. I’ve been a big fan of the site for some time, but even cooler is the fact that some of my favorite bloggers like her and her and him were featured as guest writers this holiday and I’m honored to be in their company. So head on over to check out the post there. And I thought I’d re-post it for you here. Cheers to a full, dynamic, and inspiring 2010 with many new recipes, friends, stories, and travels. And in other A Sweet Spoonful news, the site redesign is almost done and should be up soon, soon, soon. I’m so excited to share it with you. Happy, happy New Year! See you in 2010.
Well folks, it’s over. The hustle is no longer hustling and the stockings are waiting to be packed up for the next go ‘around. An ungodly amount of See’s Candy has been consumed, and we’re slowly making our way through leftovers and the last dregs of eggnog. Now if you’re anything like me (read: efficient first child), you’ve broken down boxes, recycled wrapping paper, and put your new gifts away. Heck, maybe you’ve even got your thank you notes ready to roll.
Yes, it’s true: I’ve put Christmas behind me and I’m looking ahead to the next big thing. So I’ve started to think about the New Year with mixed emotions of excitement and hesitation. During the weeks following New Years Day, people are resolution-happy, vowing to finally lose those pesky five pounds and get organized. It becomes very hard to park at the gym, and families race to the mall to return gifts that weren’t quite right. The bustle starts up again. However, with it comes a few good things, too. It’s a symbolic fresh start, a do-over, a ‘if this year didn’t go quite as planned, you’ve got another shot.’ While I’m not one for resolutions, I am one for taking stock, being thankful for what I have, and thinking about where I’d like to see myself in the coming year ahead.
When I was in college, I worked at a sweet little paper store in Boulder, CO and the owner would always ride her bike up Left Hand Canyon and just sit with herself on New Years Day. At the time, I found it equally puzzling and intriguing. A part of me thought it was a good idea to force yourself into some quiet time and another part of me felt the antsiness ensue. While you won’t find me climbing any steep grades this year, I am making a list of things I’m thankful for that happened this year, and goals or wishes I have for the year ahead. So far it looks a little something like this: get to really know my new San Francisco neighborhood by foot; get in touch with Sara and Alice, my two childhood friends; learn to poach a perfect egg; plan a big trip that involves lots of eating, flip-flops and very little luggage; try and figure out what I want to be when I grow up; not stress about the fact that I’m 30 and have no idea about the aforementioned; start rock climbing at the gym in the Marina; learn more about vintage cocktails. What’s on your list this year? Resolutions or wishes?
While you ponder that, I want to leave you with a simple New Years Day recipe for black-eyed peas. There are a number of foods that are traditionally thought to bring luck and good fortune and are, thus, eaten at the start of a new year. Black-eyed peas are really more of a Southern tradition; friends I have that hail from the South wouldn’t dream of having a New Years Day without them—with a little okra and pink rice on the side, of course.
Someone once told me that black-eyed peas symbolize good fortune because they grow and swell when you cook them. Who couldn’t use a little good fortune and luck this year? So here’s hoping the start of your New Year is more humble than harried, and that luck and good fortune find their way over to your place.
This recipe is originally from famed Southern cook, Eula Mae Dore’s cookbook, Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen. Saveur republished it on their website. One quick note: although the recipe dictates a cooking time of two hours, my peas cooked in a little over an hour and were delicious.
Combine the peas, onion, garlic, water, salt, black pepper, Tabasco, and sausage in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the peas are tender and creamy, 45 minutes for fresh peas and about 2 hours for dried peas.
Stir in the parsley and green onions and cook for about 2 minutes longer. Serve either over hot cooked rice or mixed together with it.
Healthy Comfort Food
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.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)