We all blasted through the front door a few hours ago, feet dirty and a bit exhausted from a full day of blueberry picking — something that’s become a bit of a family tradition in late July ever since Oliver was born. We have photos out in the field with O in the baby carrier, chubby legs swaying in the breeze while I obsessively applied sunscreen every ten minutes. Last year found Oliver and his friend Lewis traipsing through the rows of berries together in the late morning hours, eating more than we ended up taking home. This year’s photos tell a different story: Oliver and I in a big open field used for overflow parking, he sitting on his little potty, me singing songs and chatting away, the sun beating down on the two of us. We’re deep in the thick of potty training, so as it turned out, Sam and Oliver’s Aunt Christa did the brunt of the picking today. But Oliver and I had some good talks while staying hydrated, people watching, and eating Sour Cream and Onion Kettle chips. Not a bad way to spend a morning. And really, it’s never about how many berries we bring home because neither of these years have proven to be particularly bountiful, but it just never feels like high summer until we get out there and start filling our buckets, however slowly.
I’d promised you a savory baking recipe today but I’m still testing it, so instead I bring you mixed berry scones! And no, I didn’t just whip these up using the berries we picked this afternoon because, well, I’m just not that much of a sorceress. But I love this scone recipe for a few reasons, most importantly: their simplicity. I flirted with the idea of calling them Vacation Scones — you know those recipes you kind of keep memorized or you kind of roughly pull together when you’re traveling and they manage to somehow always taste great? For me, I can make an impromptu fruit crisp wherever I may be without a recipe and can make pretty respectable pancakes. These scones are simple enough to start to add to that list: they don’t have any fussy ingredients (I’m looking at you, lemon zest), they don’t require any rolling or turning or cutting butter into the dough (I use a food processor for ease and speed), and they’re easily adaptable. I dig them.
And I did promise I’d share a few other things I’ve been into lately as the summer ticks on. I have a pretty decent commute now with my new job, so I’ve been listening to more podcasts, have been forcing myself to read more in the evenings, and have bookmarked some new recipes. So here’s a quick and loose list of a few of those things:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: I’m ashamed to say I have a few pages left of this novel and there’s no good reason (other than I can’t keep my eyes open at night) because it’s such a rich, beautifully-written story and I can’t recommend it enough. On the surface it’s about a marriage, but it speaks so much to the different kinds of love, how time changes people, and the different versions of ourselves that we discover along the way.
Like a Mother by Angela Garbes: I haven’t read this book! So why recommend it? I have MANY friends who have and it’s on my ‘next to read’ list. I love the recent handful of books coming out that speak to a bit of a different experience of pregnancy, labor and motherhood than is portrayed in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. From the description, “With the curiosity of a journalist, the perspective of a feminist, and the intimacy and urgency of a mother, she explores the emerging science behind the pressing questions women have about everything from miscarriage to complicated labors to postpartum changes.” Let’s read this, shall we?!
Momrage Podcast: My online homie Amelia Morris has come out with a really interesting podcast along with her friend Edan Lepucki. They delve into questions about motherhood that are often unpopular or skirted around. And I love that they’re doing it; it’s about time.
Tully: Ok, so at first I didn’t like this movie. I even texted my friend Julie and commiserated with her about our mutual dislike for it. The day after though, after thinking about it in the shower for quite some time, I decided it actually resonated more than I gave it credit for. I love Charlize Theron and, without giving too much away, this film offers a unique and important glimpse into postpartum mental health.
Girls Night In: While I think I’m not necessarily the target age here (I’m guessing it’s more like early 30’s), I’ve been surprised with how much I enjoy this newsletter. It’s really well done, smartly written and always has a few links that interest me.
Green Chile Chicken Verde (in the Instant Pot!): As I mentioned, I (very) reluctantly gave into the craze: I’m the (reluctant) owner of a new Instant Pot and this recipe is calling my name. What else should I make?!
Instant Pot Tomato White Beans: It’s been really too hot to do major cooking this week, so when I stumbled across this recipe, it was immediately bookmarked. I’ve heard that making beans in the Instant Pot is a real game changer, and I’m looking forward to keying up this recipe to find out what all the hype’s about.
Our Favorite Vegan Ice Cream: More often than not we have a pint of Frankie and Jo’s in the freezer. It’s not cheap, but it’s hands down the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever had and just so happens to be a few blocks from our house (but they also ship!). I love the Berries and Cultured Cream flavor this month. So good.
These whole grain scones aren’t too sweet and are a great way to use up a glut of summer berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or blueberries all work great here (I used a mixture of raspberries and blackberries). As you’re making the dough, remember that flour is your friend: if your dough feels too wet or you’re sticking to your work surface, just add a bit more! These are best the day you bake them, but are still great the second day if stored in an airtight container. Beyond that, freeze them for future weekday breakfasts.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add the butter and pulse until it’s incorporated into tiny pebble-size pieces. Slowly add the buttermilk through the feed tube, stopping right when the dough starts to come together.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Place your berries on top and fold the dough over a few times until the berries have been incorporated (they’ll likely be kind of hiding in the center layer there, which is great; you can’t mess this step up … just get those berries in there as messy as it may seem). Add a little more flour to the dough if it’s sticking to the surface.
Form the dough into a rectangle shape (do the best you can here; it’s totally acceptable to have different shaped scones, so it really doesn’t matter). Slice into 9 large scones or 16 small scones.
Quickly transfer to prepared baking sheet. Brush the scones with a little buttermilk and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Best if enjoyed within two days of baking.
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?)