I’ve been spending some time organizing photos lately, trying to actually print a few to frame for the house, and purge others from my phone. We took so many while in Hawaii: great ones of epic beaches and outdoor picnics, moments that you’d expect would feel important and memorable. But in thinking back, it’s neither of these things that stand out for me. Instead, the night I’ll remember most is when we pulled up to a beachside restaurant we’d been excited to try for dinner and were told that the wait was 60-80 minutes. With a toddler that’s basically a lifetime, so my immediate reaction was a firm No. But Sam pointed to this big grassy field right next to the beach with lawn games and string lights, and in his never-failing positivity, promised the time would fly by.
We waited for a bit down by the beach where dozens of other families and couples were taking photos of the sunset and kicking off their shoes to walk in the sand; Oliver got in the large shored kayaks and pretended to paddle or beep the imaginary horn, humoring us just once with a family selfie. He was wearing the Hawaiian shirt that Sam had bought him earlier that day, and his curls were particularly wild given the humidity. I stayed on the beach for a bit while Oliver and Sam walked up to the grassy field, playing chase, searching for treasure (a dime Sam had found that they continued hurling and then patiently hunting down) and climbing on top of corn hole.
We were still waiting to head into dinner, but the dinner is something none of us will remember. And not because it was bad (it wasn’t!) but just because it wasn’t that important: in a given year, there may be many dinners out and they fall in the realm of the ordinary in many ways — or at the very least, expected. But that evening itself was anything but expected or ordinary. There was a feeling. Just a genuine, grounded sense of happiness running around the grass with Oliver, falling down a few times, laughing so hard we almost didn’t hear our dinner buzzer in my jacket pocket.
I just started a book called The Power of Moments, and it’s gotten me thinking about the defining moments in our lives, why in particular these moments make the cut, and how we can actively create more of them (versus passively waiting for them to arrive at the stoop, so to speak).
The authors of the book, Chip and Dan Heath, note that, “A defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful … there may be a dozen moments in your life that capture who you are — those are big defining moments. But there are smaller experiences … that are defining moments in the context of a vacation or a semester abroad.” And these smaller moments are what I’m most curious about. How snorkeling with manta rays may not win out over playing at dusk with your son and husband under the palm trees — what the Heath’s would call a “moment of elevation” in which you “transcend the normal course of events” into the extraordinary.
So what defines these moments? Do they share any traits or characteristics? The book discusses how there are four elements; some moments have all four while others may only have one or two. The first is Elevation, or the feeling of rising above the everyday. The second is Insight, or a rewiring of our understanding of ourselves or the world (they give the example of a moment when you knew you should leave your job or marry your partner). The third element is Pride — the way in which a defining moment captures us at our best (a graduation, for instance). Last: Connection or the social aspect of defining moments, where we’re strengthened because we’re sharing a moment with others.
Back home, much of the day is spent parceling out time to get our work done, keep on top of emails and just run a sort of functional household. In this sometimes frenetic-feeling scheduling and segmenting of the week, it’s easy to get immersed and simply bogged down in the day to day. The ins and outs of it all. The ‘what do you want to do with this sausage tonight?” of it all. But moments like our night in Hawaii become so memorable, I think, not just because they transcend the everyday (because many things we did there did just that), but because we were all deeply connected with each other and the space we were in. How often does that really happen if you’re honest with yourself? The sunset had left fiery streaks in the sky, the fellow diners milling about created an ambient buzz, the lights came on as dusk neared and we raced and laughed, barefoot, hungry, and collectively not thinking about the fact that it was already past Oliver’s bedtime. In that moment, it truly didn’t matter.
Note #1: I’m only at the beginning of this book and haven’t yet gotten to the second half where they discuss how to be more of an active player in creating more of these moments, but I’m really enjoying it so far and though instead of waiting until I finish it (real talk: could be awhile), I’d share it now in case some of you are looking for a new, interesting read.
Note #2: What do these donuts have to do with Hawaii? You know, not much! Although Sam would make the argument that they have a lot to do with defining moments as he’s deemed them the best donuts he’s ever had. I generally don’t like to blog about recipes where you need special equipment but you do need a donut pan to make these — and in my mind, it’s worth the investment as it doesn’t take up a ton of space and baked donuts are so easy and feel far more special than the time it takes to pull them off. I’d recently made baked donuts for Simply Recipes and wanted to try making a version with one of my favorite flavors, using coconut milk, coconut sugar and shredded coconut. They’re super tender and light thanks to the almond meal, and not too sweet. We are pretty big fans of them, and I think you will be, too.
While I love the triple whammy of coconut here, you can make some substitutions and your donuts will turn out just fine. Feel free to swap in melted butter instead of coconut oil if you’d like and use a turbinado or unrefined sugar instead of coconut sugar if you have a tough time finding the latter. If you’re not a fan of spelt flour, you could use a whole wheat pastry flour or even an all-purpose flour. Do know that when you open your can of coconut milk, spoon off the coconut cream at the top and just use the liquid milk for this recipe; the cream is wonderful in smoothies or folded into soups to add a little thickness. Like most baked donuts, these are best eaten the day they’re made. That said, they’re just fine the next day if stored at room temperature and covered.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a donut pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, almond flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, and salt.
In a small bowl whisk together the egg, coconut oil, coconut milk, and vanilla extract.
Fold the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir to combine. Let dough sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Use a kitchen spoon to scoop the dough into the wells of the donut pan, stopping when each is almost full (these donuts don’t rise a ton, so I fill the indents almost to the top). The dough will be thick and sticky, so use your fingers or the back of a spoon to gently press it into the indentation.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan before inverting onto a wire rack to cool down until you can handle them.
Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, coconut milk and salt. You’re looking for a smooth, pourable glaze. If your glaze is too thick, add additional non-dairy milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Similarly, if your glaze becomes too thin, simply add a little more sugar.
Glaze the donuts: Cut a piece of parchment paper the same size (or slightly larger) as your wire cooling rack and place under your cooling rack to catch drips. Dip one side of each doughnut in the glaze and place glaze-side up on the cooling rack. Allow any excess to drip off. Allow the glaze to set and firm up before enjoying a donut, about 20 minutes (if you can wait!)
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?)