We’ve taken the tree out to the curb and I’ve been slowly putting away decorations, leaving the wintry snowflakes and bristle brush trees out for awhile. Oliver has been reluctant to let go of the holiday (who can blame him?!), so we’ve been continuing to talk about the Christmas lights in the neighborhood and reading our favorite holiday stories. His reindeer and yeti pajamas are still in heavy rotation. As is, sadly, the habit of having dessert after dinner each night which we never used to do but which somehow crept in during all of the treat frenzy this season.
We’ve been having a lot of pears and bananas in the morning lately, and a few days ago Oliver asked when we can eat a plum again. I told him plums were a summertime fruit, and he continued asking about apricots and peaches. I forget what a peach looks like on the inside, he told me. What color is it?! As we watched the fog slowly burn off the neighbor’s porch and talked about how many layers he wanted to wear that day, I started longing for those warmer days strolling the farmers market with him, too. Eating apricots and mini donuts instead of a proper lunch. Bringing home pints and pints of berries and often more peaches than we knew what we’d do with.
The coming and going of seasons and holidays is a tough one for small people to get their minds around — so much excitement and chatter around Christmas and then, just like that, it’s over. Much like a summer plum or peach — one day, you just simply can’t get one anymore. Of course as adults we know that’s what makes the short holidays and fleeting summer months so beloved, but that perspective takes some time. So we’ve just been letting some things linger, warming up with cups of cocoa (and marshmallows which Oliver strangely and most unfortunately insists on eating with his hands) and keeping the holiday cookie tin on the counter. Except now I’ve replaced the cookies with these healthy-ish treats for snacking and dessert. So far no one’s complaining the cookies are gone.
I like these little squares because they’re soft and chewy. You can add anything you like to these. Oliver’s allergic to cashews and pistachios, so we stay away from those but any nuts, seeds or dried fruit you like is fair game. I like to cut these small to nestle easily into lunch boxes and, because they’re on the soft/chewy side, they stay together much more easily this way.
Happy New Year, friends! Thank you so much for continuing to read, comment, reach out and show up. What a fortunate thing to have such a gracious, smart, loyal community. xox
These bars are soft and chewy and super adaptable. If you’ve got nut allergies in your house, use sunflower seed butter here and swap in seeds for the nuts. Allergies or not, keep the proportions the same and use any nuts, seeds or dried fruit you like! I love the chocolate chunks, but you could certainly omit them to make these a bit more virtuous.
Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper.
Toss oats, almonds, puffed cereal, cherries, and pepitas together in a bowl (hold off on the chocolate chips for now).
In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the almond butter and honey until combined. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon.
Drizzle mixture over the dry ingredient and stir with a rubber spatula until everything is even coated (you can even get your bare hands in there at this point – it’s messy but quicker).
If mixture is relatively cool to the touch, fold in chocolate chips. Scrape mixture into the prepared pan and, using the back of a spatula, press evenly into a nice compact layer.
Refrigerate for at least one hour before slicing. Slice into 20 small squares (or larger squares or bars). Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week.
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?)