Well here we are: what will presumably be the last post of 2018. Any second we’ll start seeing all the “Top 9” posts on Instagram along with friend’s musings as they look back on 2018 and look forward to what they hope to accomplish next year. As with all social media, I can’t help but think that a tiny bit of this is performance or posturing for others, no? We have a few clear goals or intentions for the year ahead and then maybe we throw in a few that just sound good — even to ourselves — although we may know deep down we’re not going to run a triathlon or take up watercolor painting. It could happen though, right? I did something radical last year and was brutally honest with myself and what I really wanted for the year ahead. Sam and I always sit down and make lists of our goals and intentions on New Years Day (typically over biscuits and collard greens at The Wandering Goose), and this year my list was incredibly small: I mentioned nothing about my career (although I was very fortunate to stumble upon the perfect job), new hobbies, or travels. Instead, I asked myself, if no one else mattered and I wasn’t trying to round out some list that felt balanced and creative and entrepreneurial, what did I honestly want deep down for myself in 2018? And for me the answer was to get pregnant again with a second baby.
We’d already been trying for a number of months at that point, but in looking at the arch of the upcoming year, that was my biggest hope. My friend Julie encouraged me to work at it like you would anything else: I made dietary changes, tried to meditate, took supplements. It wasn’t something that came immediately or magically for us by any means, but it felt good to put some real intention behind it.
So maybe during this time, as you think about the past year and the one ahead, you can take a cue from my friend Julie and be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t feel like you have to apologize for your goal or intention or even explain it if you don’t want to. Don’t feel like you have to make an entire, exhaustive list. Just get it out there. Write it down and tuck it away somewhere safe. Eat some fudge. Talk about it if you want. Envision it. Carry on.
A note on yearly intentions: I was hesitant in a way to publish this post as I know many of you struggle with fertility issues, or, simply the idea of starting or growing a family is loaded for a number of reasons. I didn’t want the post to feel like a neat, tidy ending — as though if you put your mind to something and just wait it’ll come true! That’s, sadly, just not how life works out all of the time. But rather, I hoped to communicate that sometimes it’s really, really nice to clear away all the noise (I’m looking at you, triathlons) and others’ expectations and hopes for yourself, and get really honest about just one thing you want and hope for in the coming year.
A note on this fudge: So I decided to make vegan fudge. None of us are vegan in this house, but I really love coconut milk and was just curious if I could make a less stressful fudge (i.e. no candy thermometer) that would work using a non-dairy milk. It worked! It’s velvetty and thanks to the two kinds of chocolate, has a really nice balanced flavor. The one thing I’d like to say is that it’s soft; this isn’t the fudge you want to put in your gifting cookie tins (unless you tell the recipient to refrigerate it). It really belongs in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve, takes a touch of patience getting it off the parchment paper, and takes an overnight chill to firm up. But man is it worth it.
This dairy-free fudge doesn’t require a candy thermometer or much fuss and rivals its more traditional counterpart in the flavor department. It’s super adaptable, so feel free to mix in your favorite nuts, dried fruits or seeds. The one thing to know before starting out is that the fudge needs to chill for at least 8 hours, so it’s a good recipe to make the day before you actually plan on serving it. Obviously if you’d like this fudge to be completely vegan, be sure you’re using a vegan chocolate and choose an alternate sweetener like agave.
Toast the coconut: In a large, dry, hot saucepan, add the coconut and toast over low heat, stirring occasionally to encourage even toasting, for about 3 minutes or until fragrant and golden brown. Remove coconut from pan immediately and spread onto a clean plate.
Make the fudge: Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
Place coconut milk, honey and coconut oil in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the chocolate until just melted and combined. Stir in the vanilla extract and remove from heat.
Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Fold in the walnuts and 1/2 of the toasted coconut.
Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining toasted coconut. Refrigerate until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight. Slice into small squares, and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Store the fudge, tightly wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for 3 months.
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?)