The more time I spend at home with Oliver, juggling a quesadilla and baby sunscreen on our way out the door, the more I think about the way we all really eat throughout the day — and what it is we actually want to be eating. With all of the beautifully photographed food blogs and glossy monthly publications, you’d think we were all waking up in the morning and eating black sesame waffles with tahini yogurt and macha dust. Now I don’t know about you, but that is decidedly not what we’re waking up to around here. I’m not sure if it’s because time is stretched thin now that we have a baby or perhaps it’s that warmer weather is on its way — the ultimate encouragement in fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-cooking — but preparing a full meal in the kitchen feels like a luxury more than it ever has, and I find myself craving simplicity. Good, honest recipes.
Sam recently sent me a Slate article about the huge gap between the food we see in magazines (and, perhaps, even love to talk about) and the food we’re actually cooking at home. It seems you can’t turn a corner without hearing about cauliflower fried rice or poke bowls (for the record I’ve not tried either but am most curious about the former). On a similar note, Tim recently wrote a post about lemon zest, questioning why the heck we all feel the impetus to add it to virtually everything. We claim that it “brightens” up every baked good and salad dressing that comes our way, when really, the result is that the baked good or salad just … tastes more like lemon zest. I have to admit I might be a little guilty of this. But the point is that there’s this constant search for the new trend, the new thing, the next Big way to make a waffle. When really, the old way to make a waffle worked pretty great.
This whole wheat waffle I’m sharing with you today began with a cut-out of a 2012 recipe from Whole Living (RIP!) that used a bit of wheat germ in the mix, giving them a warm, almost nutty flavor. The waffles were great but I don’t particularly love using canola oil and I had a few other tweaks in mind so I started using warmed coconut oil instead, but when the oil joined with the cold milk, it seized into clumps. Onward: warm the milk first before you add the coconut oil and now we’re in business! So I’ve made many waffles using this formula but then I started to become curious about making them even more accessible for people, selfishly thinking about our trip to my mom’s cabin in upstate New York this summer and wondering how we could make a batch in the country where there’s a definite lack of coconut oil. So I regrouped. If you follow The Faux Martha on Instagram (or read her lovely blog), you know she’s quite a waffle guru, and she uses butter in most of her waffle recipes so I opted for that instead of the coconut oil and the results are, to me, spot on.
This is a great basic waffle that doesn’t feel basic. A reliable traveling companion if you’ve got trips coming up this summer where you’ll be cooking breakfast for a crowd, and special enough for Mother’s Day this Sunday. The Blueberry Sauce recipe is from my cookbook and is an added bonus — an easy way to dress up a perfectly simple waffle if you’re so inclined. If you’re not, a bit of butter and good maple syrup is all you really need. I realize fresh blueberries aren’t in season yet, so I dipped into last year’s frozen farmers market haul. The sauce stained the back of one of my favorite wooden spoons — now a constant reminder about the warm season ahead, everyday waffles, more and more baby sunscreen, and a most probable lack of macha dust.
This is my go-to whole grain waffle recipe and I’d wager that anyone you make these for wouldn’t guess they’re 100% whole wheat. The batter is light; the edges are crisp; and they have an ever-so-slight fragrance from the vanilla. I love topping them with this fresh blueberry sauce and a big dollop of Greek yogurt, but of course any seasonal fruit is a great stand-in as is whipped cream. See my instructions below for freezing the waffles, if you’d like, for a quick weekday morning solution.
For the Waffles:
For the Blueberry Sauce:
For the Waffles: Preheat your waffle iron. Spray with cooking spray if need be.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir well until thoroughly combined.
When waffle iron is ready, add batter. The amount varies depending on your machine – for our round model, 1/2 cup of batter makes a perfect waffle, but always err on the side of too little to begin with to avoid a big mess. Cook until golden brown. Avoid stacking waffles on top of each other as they’ll become soggy; instead place in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.
For the Blueberry Sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to slowly bubble and boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Serve warm or at room temperature, or let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
To freeze waffles: If you’d like to bake off a big batch of waffles and freeze them for later, prepare according to instructions above. Then lay waffles out on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Next place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and lay a single row of waffles down. Lay a sheet of parchment on top of that layer and repeat, until you’ve stacked all your waffles on the sheet tray. Freeze completely, at least 3 hours. Remove from freezer and wrap individually in plastic wrap or small freezer bags. Store up to 3 months. To reheat / serve: we just use our toaster oven, but if making for a crowd, you could easily place on a baking sheet at 350 F and warm, about 8 minutes.
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?)