Lately I’ve been waking up like clockwork at 7:30, rolling out of bed and getting right to work. I’m up a good hour before Sam on most days, so I start the coffee and sit down at our breakfast nook and begin prioritizing emails. Some days I don’t get up again until it’s time for lunch (it’s been a big month: more on that very soon), and work can really cloak the whole day in a way that can make it tough to differentiate a Tuesday from a Saturday. And then a book and a conversation can change that quite suddenly, too, and introduce a new morning routine. Even if just for a day or two. Such was the case with these whole-grain pancakes.
In the newish memoir, Blue Plate Special, Kate Christensen details family life and relationships through the lens of food. While there’s a great bit to say about the book, there was one line that grabbed me in particular. To set the scene, Kate decides to set off on a 13-mile round trip hike up the Continental Divide alone (her husband John pulled his ankle muscle on a hike the previous day). As the weather turns and she finishes her water and starts to grow more and more tired, she begins to hurry just to get home before exhaustion sets in. A hike becomes more of a frantic, harried run. Finally back at the motel room after a hearty dinner and a few glasses of wine she thinks to herself, “I looked out at the lake and surrounding mountains, replaying in my memory all the views I’d missed that day.” While I can assure you I haven’t been doing many 13-mile runs lately, I have had that same feeling doing short errands around our neighborhood: when did the leaves become this vibrant? How did I miss this? No, really: there’s so much to see here, and clearly I haven’t been paying attention.
My friend Keena lives less than a mile from us but is currently doing some work for her company in India. The other day we were texting and she asked how the leaves were at Greenlake, one of our favorite walking spots. She insisted that they must be wonderful and lamented the fact that she couldn’t see them in person. I felt pretty sheepish that I hadn’t yet seen them in person myself despite the fact that, unlike Keena, I can walk right on down anytime.
This recipe is fitting because while it’s simple at heart, it is one step beyond oatmeal in terms of time and preparation. So it forces you to slow down for just a moment. And because pears are in season and pancakes are good fuel for leafy walks, I thought it was a good time to share it with you today. It’s in a series I’ve been doing for Attune Foods, and this recipe in particular uses their delicious Uncle Sam Rye and Hemp Cereal. I often fold rolled oats into my pancake batter to add a little more heft and personality, but lately I’ve been grabbing the Rye Hemp Cereal instead. It’s crunchy (and maintains that crunch even once baked) and has a really subtle earthiness that works so well with these simple whole-grain pancakes. I hope you enjoy them, slowly, with a good view of the trees.
For the Pancakes:
For the Cinnamony Pears:
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, buttermilk and butter.
In another small bowl, whisk together the flours, cereal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
Let the batter rest for 10 minutes to allow the whole-grain flours to soak up some of the liquid.
Prepare the pears: In a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the pear slices and cook until lightly browned in spots, about 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle in the sugar and cinnamon, stir well, and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until pears are completely soft and fragrant.
Cook the pancakes: Melt a bit of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Scoop ¼-cup of batter into the pan. Repeat, cooking each pancake until the tops begin to bubble and the bottoms are golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side an additional 1-2 minutes.
Serve warm with cinnamon pears spooned on top. Maple syrup is nice, 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?)