Waffles. I don’t make them often enough and I’m not sure why. Oh, wait: I am sure why. Because they always seem like kind of a slow, slumbery, Sunday thing to make and I rarely have those kind of mornings–even on Sundays. But I found a recipe I’ve fallen pretty hard for. It’s an old-fashioned waffle recipe and you make the yeasted batter in advance, put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours, and it’s ready to go in the morning. I’ve actually kept the batter in my fridge for a few days and just pull it out, put a scoop on the waffle iron, and have a warm waffle to take in the car on the way to work. Beats a granola bar or banana any day.
Or, I actually sit down and have a waffle. With warm, homemade pomegranate syrup. I’ve been trying to actually pull up a chair and have a seat at the table more often rather than just eating at my desk or standing up while chatting on the phone. This is something that, for some reason, I find hard to do by myself. It’s kind of weird sitting at the table alone–kind of quiet and ho-hum. I find myself eating quicker than I’d like to so I can get back to whatever I was previously doing. But I just finished this really beautiful memoir entitled Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee. It’s a book that deals with the importance of place and home and the search for both. Kim was adopted from Korea and spends her young adult life cooking and enjoying the finer side of life with Olivier, a lovely French man. She eventually realizes that in becoming immersed in the wealthy countryside that’s so pleasant yet so staid, she’s completely lost her sense of self. She doesn’t know where home is. She doesn’t know where she belongs. I don’t want to ruin the ending for you because I’d love for you to read it, but here’s a quote that resonated with me:
“All the times I’ve changed cities and countries, I’ve left a trail of things behind—clothes and worn shoes, crumbled maps with highlighted borders to tell me concretely where I am. I keep books and music, postcards. Over the years, I’ve also kept tasting notes, menus, jotted-down recipes, clues as as to what I crave that may help me know who I am, better understand how food has the power to ground and comfort in times of disarray” (61).
While Kim was talking about how food comforts in times of confusion and uncertainty, it also grounds us in times of relative stability–it lends us that. Routine, order, ritual. Even meditation perhaps. And that, my friends, is reason enough to pull up a seat at the table and take a moment to eat in peace and quiet and to give thanks. Give thanks for all of the above and give thanks for easy warm waffles with tart berries and sweet, fragrant syrup. Oh, and hot coffee helps. Pretty plates are nice, too. And I’ve been loving the Wailin Jennies in the mornings. Have you heard them? They’re good morning waffle music. And finally, the darn recipe.
If you’ve never had yeasted waffles, they’re lighter and fluffier than any waffles you’ve ever tasted. And not nearly as sweet. I’m not a scientist so I can’t tell you why, but they hold syrup better than other waffles and don’t get nearly as soggy. They make your kitchen smell like warm baking bread. They’ll make you happy. The lovely folks at POM Wonderful sent me some samples of their pomegranate juice a few weeks ago. I drank most of them straight (o.k., I mixed a few with vodka, too), but I thought I’d try cooking with them as well. So I made a simple syrup by adding sugar to the juice and cooking it down on the stove. It’s awesome. I have a little jar of it in the fridge and continually find good excuses to use it on other things (it’s great on ice cream). So there you have it. Enjoy. Many happy mornings to you (and check out that book!)
Please note that the waffle batter chills in the refrigerator overnight (not accounted for in the timing above), so plan accordingly. I used orange zest in this recipe, but lemon zest would be great, too. I think it’d also be interesting to experiment with the vanilla extract and use almond instead. You could also omit the extract altogether if you’d prefer.
Slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
For the pomegranate syrup:
For the waffles:
Make the pomegranate syrup: Combine juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until mixture is reduce to one cup. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and cool. Store in a tightly closed car. This will last in your refrigerator for up to two months!
Make the waffles: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, yeast, vanilla and salt. Add in the milk, eggs, and oil and beat with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Cover the batter loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and chill overnight or up to 24 hours.
Stir the batter before using. Preheat and lightly grease your waffle maker. Pour about 3/4 cup batter onto waffle iron and close lid quickly; do not open until done. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular waffle iron. When done, use a fork to lift waffle off the grid. Repeat with remaining batter.
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?)