Hello from our guest bedroom where I have officially taken up refuge as our upstairs bedroom is stifling hot and my inexpensive drug store fan doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. We’re having a bit of a heat wave in Seattle, and Sam has been out of town all week so dinner has been a mellow affair, usually consisting of quesadillas or, on occasion, a big bowl of berries + whipped cream or popsicles. I finally just bought a popsicle mold and am not quite sure what took me so long, but I’m hooked and these coconut numbers were the first recipe I tried. The ingredient list seemed deceivingly simple, and I thought there’s no way they could be as velvetty and luxurious as the ones I buy from our local co-op. But they are, and you can tailor them to fit your own taste in terms of sweetness and amount of toasted coconut. I’m not quite ready to share how many of these I’ve eaten this week, but I thought it was time I shared them with you.
There are a lot of popsicle molds on the market today, and choosing one can be a bit daunting. I bought this one thanks to a recommendation from Molly and am loving it so far. It’s a pretty basic design, but the popsicles are easy to unmold after running a bit of warm water around the edges and I can’t help but feel like the options are endless here: mango lime (my sister Zoe’s idea), fresh raspberry, watermelon. It’s going to be a good summer. I started with coconut as it’s my favorite flavor and after some research I realized how most coconut pops are really just coconut milk with a little sugar and possibly some vanilla. I saw a great recipe from Leite’s Culinaria that I based my pops on, and then I was intrigued by Joy the Baker‘s use of toasted coconut in her pops. So this recipe is a bit of a mash up of the two married with my desire to use as little sugar as I could get away with. I think you’re going to like them.
If you’re not a big fan of toasted coconut, you could leave it out altogether and make very simple coconut pops. I like the texture but realize not everyone does. And please do yourself a favor and use full-fat coconut milk; the light version is more watery and will result in a much less delicious popsicle. Last, the amount of sugar is really personal preference so I indicated a small range in the recipe. I used 2 1/2 tablespoons in mine and was very happy with them, but I will say that for whatever reason (someone out there must know the science behind this?!) the mixture will taste sweeter warm or at room temperature than when you freeze it. So if it’s tasting not quite sweet enough while you’re warming it, you’re going to want to add a little sugar. If you fear you may have bumped up the sweetness just a bit too much for your taste, it’s likely perfect.
Now as if homemade coconut popsicles aren’t exciting enough, I’ve been waiting to share some big news with you: I’m pregnant and Sam and I are expecting a new addition to our family in early November! I’ve been excited to share the news with you here, but also hesitant and nervous — continuing to wonder if everything was o.k. and if it was an appropriate time to tell a wider audience than just family and close friends. Apparently for some people that feeling of never being quite sure if everything is o.k. never really goes away, and I’m afraid this will likely plague me for the next few months. But! So far it looks like we’re giving birth to a real live human and not a lizard (good news!) We’re going to try to not find out the baby’s sex, and to let it be a surprise; I’ve started to want to know, to be honest, but Sam really wants to be surprised and I’d like him to have that. And in the big picture of things, there aren’t that many great, great surprises in life are there? So I’m trying to hold out … although I have suggested we stop calling the baby by the girl’s name we’ve chosen as there’s a strong change it could be a boy and it’s just going to start to get weird. So now we have lots of neutral names, mostly after vegetables for some reason. My dad calls the baby Foxy. I like that.
I’ve been lucky so far in that I haven’t gotten very sick and besides general tiredness, have felt pretty strong. The first trimester I was fascinated by foods that I typically love that I no longer wanted anything to do with — I’m always a little skeptical of certain medical rumors and figured all of those pregnant women who talked about cravings and aversions were just … looking for an excuse to eat more hot fudge. But it really is true: I was repulsed by coffee (which I usually love), salads, and most hearty vegetables. I could do butter lettuce but that was about it. Instead, I was a fiend for potato salad (which I usually make maybe once a year and never buy), pineapple and pretty mediocre cheese. I was actually making trips to the market to buy quarts of the pre-made potato salad at the deli, barely recognizing myself but kind of delighting in the strangeness of it all. Morning would come and I’d find myself standing by the sink eating pineapple out of the can. Lately, I’ve rediscovered the simple potato chip and BOY are they delicious! Yesterday when I picked up a poster we were having framed, the woman at the frame shop looked me up and down and said in all earnestness: “anyday now, eh?”; hopefully that is not a result of the potato chips (sour cream and onion! barbecue!) and instead a sign she doesn’t know what a 20-week pregnant lady looks like. Let’s all just assume it’s the latter because I think the chips may be here to stay.
This photo was taken as part of a weekly series I’ve been doing just for my own records so I don’t forget what I look like. Some weeks it’s actually amazing to see how much my belly has grown in a mere seven days. This was week 19 after a snack of almonds and a chocolate milkshake (highly recommended). I hope you’re staying cool in your neck of the woods, and I’m excited to be able to speak more freely about what I’ve really been cooking and eating lately — especially now that vegetables and salads are back in the pro column. See you back here soon.
Feel free to double this recipe depending on how much space you have in your popsicle mold; I certainly will next time. And I noticed some recipes call for a pinch of salt, so you could experiment with that as well. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, you could use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead, but you won’t have those pretty little flecks which, if you’re anything like me, will likely make you happy.
Adapted from: Leite’s Culinaria
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread coconut onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. It can burn quickly, so keep an eye on it. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the coconut milk, vanilla bean and seeds, and sugar. Stirring occasionally, cook until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture just barely begins to bubble (although don’t let it boil). Remove from the heat, cover, and let it steep for 1 hour.
After steeping, remove the vanilla pod and discard. Whisk the coconut milk mixture well and stir in the toasted coconut. Pour it into a bowl with a spout or a large measuring cup for easier pouring. Fill 6 ice-pop molds evenly with the mixture. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
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?)