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.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.