For the past few days and for the remainder of the weekend, I’m house-sitting at my mom’s house. Hallelujah. I’m amazed at what a little change of scenery can do for a girl. And before I get into that and the magic I’ve created with a few blood oranges, I want to thank you all for your comments on the last post. I feel so lucky to have such amazing readers, friends, and family. Thank you one hundred times over.
Onward: Remember how I used to live at my mom’s place before moving into the city? She lives about thirty minutes north of San Francisco in San Rafael, a beautiful but sleepy sort-of suburb. It’s great to be back hanging out in the blooming backyard, snuggling with her dogs, catching up with bad gossip magazines, watching cable (such a luxury now!), feasting on homemade lasagna and brownies, and getting a good night’s sleep. I’m actually really nervous to go back to my place on Monday, but I know I need to face my life there, too. There are changes to be made and conversations to be had. Oy. You know what makes facing life just a little bit easier? The bottle.
Now of course, I jest. Sort of. Now that I think about it, I’m actually not sure if we’ve discussed my penchant for very strong cocktails. There’s nothing I hate more than eating out and ordering a weak drink. I like to really taste my liquor. My friends and family are used to me ordering an extra shot of tequila to throw into my margarita or ordering doubles just in case. And fairly recently, I’ve discovered the wonderful world of Manhattans. Those always seem to hit the spot. So that should give you a little insight into this cocktail. These babies are strong.
I’m sure you’ve been seeing blood oranges in your local market lately. When I lived in Boston, February was always the hardest month to get through in the winter–and ironically, it’s the shortest. The holidays are over, it’s damn cold and gray and slushy…and cold. So I remember always giddily scooping up these beauties when they’d start arriving in the stores with tangerines, glistening lemons, and big meaty grapefruits. Even though I live in California now, I still find myself grabbing for color wherever I can find it.
The recipe for this cocktail can certainly be adapted. Feel free to use Triple Sec instead of Cointreau if you like–and play with the proportions as you go. If you want it a little juicer with less kick, squeeze another half a blood orange in and see how you like it. People take cocktails so seriously these days, but I tend to kind of throw a little of this and a little more of that in until I’m happy. So have fun with this. Heck, if we can’t have fun with our cocktails, there’s a lot more than February that’s looking bleak, right?
What are you up to this weekend? Hibernating? I’m working a catering job tomorrow, visiting and photographing a new burger place with a friend for a review I’m writing, and lounging with Netflix (Paper Heart-seen it?), the new Vanity Fair, and Tara Austen Weaver’s new book on welcoming meat into her life. As a once-vegetarian for almost fifteen years, I relate to her struggles with learning how to eat, prepare, and think about meat again. Check it out. See you back here early next week with a great breakfast recipe. Hint: break out the good butter and the marmalade. Until then: Cheers.
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, and pour into a glass that makes you happy to look at. Enjoy.
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?)