There are some things you don’t question or plan for. They’re the things that just happen, that unfold throughout the day or week or month. The things we don’t always document or discuss because they don’t really seem important enough, but that — all the same — so often bring us together in one way or another. Patterns or obsessions or phases. Late-night online shoe shopping. Permission to nap at odd hours. Spontaneous cell-phone photo exchanges. Maybe you can relate. Maybe lately you’ve been doing something similar. As you do. As we do.Maybe you’ve spent into the double-digits (ouch) for 4 heirloom tomatoes because they’re beautiful and it’s summer and they taste like August and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Maybe you make friends with the mailman. Learn his name. Admit that you stalk him and then sheepishly take it back when he looks at you funny. You didn’t mean it that way. You just like mail. Regardless, he will, undoubtedly, take very good care of your outgoing letters. This is always a good thing.
Maybe you find creative ways to feel close to loved ones who live far away. This could involve exchanging frequent foot photos. Somehow, this makes you both feel much closer.
Maybe you brave sunburns and play hooky for a dear friend’s mid-week birthday.
Or try to pretend you don’t have an addiction to a certain brand of shoes (I love you, Tom’s).
You admit to yourself that you’re getting old and can no longer drink four glasses of wine and feel like a perky cheerleader the next morning. Heck, perhaps you admit to yourself that you never really felt much like a perky cheerleader in the first place.
Sometimes you may sit and admire the early evening light inside your apartment. Then before you know it, you’ll begin taking early evening naps in said apartment.
Maybe you write lists of restaurants you want to try. Like this one in San Francisco for brunch. Or this one in Oakland. Or this one, too. Also remind yourself to go see this museum exhibit before it leaves.
And if you’re anything like me, you make zucchini bread when you simply have too much zucchini to stare at. Maybe you like adding chocolate to a recipe whenever you can. Maybe you like to have a guarantee that there is something special waiting in the kitchen to accompany your morning coffee. Because as the week goes on, things can get harried. Good breakfast intentions are replaced, in my case, with no breakfast at all or handfuls of granola on the way out the door. But this week is different. I got into the kitchen. As you do. And for this recipe you’re going to want to as well. Let’s.
This bread is a mish-mash of inspiration from a family recipe I often make along with a smidge of Lottie + Doof’s Zucchini Cake and Seven Spoons’ Chocolate Zucchini Bread. There are bits I like from each of these recipes, so I ultimately joined them to make a rather perfect, not-too-sweet zucchini bread with a very likeable, craggy top. It’s lightly scented with good cocoa, studded with toasty walnuts and cocoa nibs, and strewn throughout are bits of summer zucchini. With your favorite icing or a light glaze, this could even tread lightly into cake territory. For now though, I’m keeping mine for the mornings.
This recipe’s perfect for summer baking because you don’t need a mixer or electric beaters; you can do everything with a good, old-fashioned wooden spoon. Do use a nice dark cocoa powder–it’ll make a difference in flavor here. And if you’d rather use chunks of chocolate or chocolate chips instead of cocoa nibs, go right ahead. Or just leave them out altogether.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Generously grease two loaf pans (9 inches by 5 inches) with butter (or cooking spray, if you’d prefer).
Toast the walnuts: on a baking sheet, spread them out and bake until golden brown and fragrant, 10-12 minutes. Cool and then chop finely.
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium bowl. Add the cocoa nibs and chopped walnuts at the end and set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, olive oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add the grated zucchini at the end and stir until just combined with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients, divide the batter into two prepared bread pans and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick or tester comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes. Slice and serve.
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?)