We’re back! After a restful few days in Lake George, I ended up flying home while Sam spent a little time with his family in New Jersey and a few days in New York City by himself before taking the train all the way back to Seattle (a solid four day journey). If you know Sam, this isn’t surprising; he loves trains. When he’s gone, I quickly revert back to my single gal days of eating veggie quesadillas for dinner (over and over) and staying up working later than I’d like. We would talk on the phone often as Sam would narrate his very full days in New York City and the stops and layovers he had while on the train. After a few days of me lamenting the fact that I wasn’t there to experience it all with him, he encouraged me to ditch the quesadillas and do something special for dinner. See a movie. Go to the museum for just an hour. In short: I needed to get better at dating myself.
I love seeing new things, trying new restaurants and traveling just as much as Sam. But I’m not as good at going it alone; I like to experience things with other people. I always romanticize traveling alone and then when I’m in the thick of it, I realize I’m not the biggest fan. Sam’s the complete opposite, and I both envy and adore the way he approaches solo days alone. As an example, his first day in the city looked like this: a visit to the Brooklyn Farmacy for egg creams (it was terribly hot in New York that week), checking out Book Court for a few new books, and visiting both the City Reliquary Museum and the Museum of Arts and Design. He had a veal meatball pizza at Co. for dinner, a nice long walk through Chelsea, and got some reading done back at the hotel. During a layover in Chicago a few days later, Sam told me all about his pork belly and kimchi biscuit breakfast at The Little Goat and, later, his stopover at the Palmer House Hilton for coffee, a Manhattan and postcard-writing. The man is good at dating himself. I have a lot to learn.
I’m not going to lie and tell you I began cooking more elaborate meals after his nudge — that simply didn’t happen. I also didn’t get to the museum. Or take myself to a movie. But the weather in Seattle has been absolutely summer-perfect (sunny mornings and long, long days) that a milkshake seemed in order. It needed to be a really special milkshake with farmers market berries and an afternoon catching up with the paper. I picked up some vanilla bean ice cream and we had already had a bit of leftover buttermilk, so late in the afternoon last Sunday, the time had come: it was time for a solo date.
I turned on the oven to roast the berries (while it may seem initially fussy, this is the only way I do strawberry milkshakes these days — it draws out their natural sweetness and elevates an everyday milkshake to something quite special), fetched last week’s newspaper and the pile of mail I was still sorting through and sat down at our kitchen nook. There was a postcard from Sam that he’d written while sitting at the counter at the Brooklyn Farmacy. There was an interesting piece on mermaids and a 36 Hours in Munich that made me itch for travel. And that milkshake: sweet roasted strawberries, speckled vanilla ice cream, and slightly tart buttermilk all coming together in one thick, delicious summer milkshake. For that one afternoon at the very least, I feel like I started getting the hang of this dating yourself thing.
I first started roasting strawberries with a little balsamic vinegar after reading about the method from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, and I haven’t done it any other way since. The vinegar draws out the dark sweetness of the berries and the honey balances it beautifully. It’s a good idea to select strawberries that are roughly the same size — this way they will roast evenly. If your berries are quite large, feel free to quarter them.
For the Roasted Berries:
For the Milkshakes:
Roast the berries: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment (you don’t want the juices to run off and muck up your oven).
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey and vinegar. Add the halved strawberries and toss to combine.
Turn the berries out onto the baking sheet and roast until they’re soft with the juices just beginning to thicken –but not burn—about 25-40 minutes (really depends on the size of your berry halves). Scoop the roasted strawberries and juices onto a large plate to cool.
Prepare the milkshakes: Using a milkshake maker or a blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until combined. If you like a thicker shake, this is a good time to add an additional scoop of ice cream. Serve in your favorite glasses. Enjoy immediately.
(Note: Remember this breakfast recipe using roasted strawberries? I think you’d like that, too)
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?)