I received The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon cookbook in the mail not long before we moved to our new house, and I remember lying in bed and bookmarking pages I was excited to try but also feeling overwhelmed with where to start: the truth is that this summer has been a relatively low-inspiration / low energy time in the kitchen for me. I’d been chalking it up to pregnancy but when I think back and if I’m honest with myself, my cooking style tends to be very easy and produce-driven during these warmer months. I rarely break out complicated recipes, instead relying on fresh tomatoes and corn or zucchini and homemade pesto to guide me. But last night I cracked open Sara’s book and pulled out a few peaches I’ve had sitting on the counter, fearing their season may be nearing its end. This morning as I was making coffee, I sliced up the peaches, toasted the pecans and churned away — having a bite (or maybe two) before getting it into the freezer to firm up.
If you haven’t yet peeked at The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon, it is all “bowl food” which is really, instinctually, my kind of eating and cooking. In other words, it’s filled with salads and grain bowls, noodles, oatmeal and fruit crisps. It’s food that is meant to be eaten simply, out of a bowl — you won’t find constructed courses here or fancy staggered meals. I’d go out on a limb to guess that this is the way many of us eat anyway if left to our own whims, and Sara’s recipes are always fresh, healthy and inspired. I have a few pages bookmarked to make and freeze for us to have after Sprout is born: Smoky Black Bean Chili and Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce. But first, this ice cream.
This summer has been a special one for peaches in Seattle. Collins Farm is a local farm that sells pears and apples in the fall and stone fruits in the summer (among other things). This year in particular, their peaches have been outstanding and I’ll often make a special trip out to one of the markets now just to pick up a bag. I find myself hoarding them and hiding them from Sam; they’re that good. I’m slowly starting to sense the season coming to a close and because we have a few busy weekends coming up I have a feeling this may be our last batch of homemade summery ice cream. That being said, with this one in the freezer, I think we’ve really gone out with a bang.
Sara mentions in her notes that she wavers between having the peaches in the ice cream or serving them on top, so ultimately she opts to do both. The peach flavor is much more subtle when the fruit is frozen, so serving a handful on top is a really nice touch. Peaches aside though, the ice cream base itself is worth making all on its own: it has a quiet tanginess from the buttermilk, the perfect amount of sweetness, and a subtle warmth from the cinnamon. In fact, it occurred to me that this is the perfect “bridge dessert” as we slowly look towards fall: the fragrant cinnamon in the custard is a slow tease as to what’s to come yet the juicy, bold peaches remind us of where we stand right now.
Megan’s Note: I made a few tweaks to this recipe based on what we had in our cupboard which I’ll mention here so you can make some choices based on what you have at home. Sara calls for brown rice syrup which is nice because it has a really mild, subtle sweetness; we were out so I used honey instead. I opted not to use the 2 tablespoons bourbon Sara calls for and it was delicious as is; I imagine it’s even more so with a splash so do as you like. Last, I used cream cheese instead of the mascarpone because we had some leftover from another recipe. If you’d prefer the slightly more decadent flavor of mascarpone, just substitute it in for the same amount of cream cheese. My small changes are reflected in the recipe below.
The only thing I’ll do differently next time is dice the peaches smaller than I did. Big hunks of fruit can feel kind of hard and icy in ice cream whereas little bites are bright and add flavor and texture, so do take the time to do a nice fine dice. If your cream cheese is very firm, you may want to whisk in a quick splash of milk to loosen it up a bit — I ended up doing this just to help it incorporate more easily.
Lightly adapted from: The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon
Mix the 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
Combine the remaining milk, the cream, honey, sugar and salt in a large saucepan or pot (at least 4 quarts). Bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture.
Bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, another minute.
Gradually whisk in the cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon and bourbon (if using). Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for two hours or until cold. If it chills too long, a fat layer will separate to the top. Remove this piece before churning* (see note below).
Churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s directions. In the last minutes, add the toasted pecans and half the peaches. Spoon the mixture into the storage container and freeze until firm.
*Just a note on chilling: I chilled my mixture overnight and it was absolutely fine. Mascarpone has a higher fat content than cream cheese, so if you go the mascarpone route, Sara’s suggestion on not chilling too long will likely apply. But the recipe as written here can be chilled 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?)