Almost two months into maternity leave and Frances and I are finding a groove. I feed her in the morning before anyone else is up and we head downstairs where she sits in her funny little seat on the kitchen floor while I make tea and figure out what to lay out for Oliver’s breakfast. The rest of the day fluctuates between me wearing her in a carrier while she naps, taking walks around the neighborhood or playing during the brief window she’s awake. After dinner when I think back on what we did during the day, it’s hard to name specifics — yet somehow time ticks on all the same. Knowing that Frances is our last baby has helped me accept this dramatic slow down in pace more readily than I ever could with Oliver. That and the perspective that the pace picks up quickly enough and these slower days will be gone in a blink.
I think if we’re honest though, between the sweet chest naps and burgeoning morning smiles, days with a newborn can feel monotonous and even downright difficult at times. While everyone will always tell you to nap when the baby naps, that can be hard for some of us. I know in my heart that’s good advice and I even hypocritically give that advice to others, but I tend to look around the house and notice what needs tackling before Oliver gets home from school. The first time around I wasn’t as good about this, but now I know how important it is to give yourself permission to consider all the (often really great) advice on parenting a newborn … and then consciously choose to ignore what doesn’t work for you or your baby.
One tactic that’s helped me lately is devoting each week to just one task. So I’ll take something that would typically take me a few hours to complete and give myself a whole week. Last week, my goal was writing a blog post; the week before that was devoted to filling in Frances’ baby book. This way, I feel that sense of accomplishment that I thrive on, but in a really realistic and doable way that allows me to just relax and enjoy getting to know the small person Frances is becoming, too.
In addition to devoting each week to one task or theme, I’ve been getting in the kitchen a bit more as well. It took us awhile to figure it out, but it seems Frances has developed a sensitivity to dairy, so sadly I’ve had to cut that out of my diet (WHY, FRANCES, WHY?!) and the one thing I’ve missed the most is a great chocolate chip cookie. I did some casual polling on Instagram recently to see what everyone’s favorite dairy-free cookie recipes are and I was inundated with suggestions. WHERE TO BEGIN?!
I made the Ovenly cookies people seems to love and they tasted great but the dough was really crumbly and finicky to work with. I made the recipe on the back of an almond meal package and found them kind of spongy but I loved the slightly nutty flavor and added protein. So I set out to create a dairy-free cookie made with almond meal that would have all the things I loved (and obviously none of the traits I didn’t).
The result? A chewy cookie with a killer nutty flavor packed with as much chocolate as I could reasonably fit, a handful of oats and a generous bit of brown sugar. They just so happen to be gluten-free as well. The dough is super simple to work with and they only require ONE BOWL, making them a great candidate to squeeze into the weekly schedule — whether yours is spacious with lots of free time to yourself or whether you’re working in tiny spurts around a sleeping baby’s schedule.
Gluten free or not, dairy free or not, baby or not, this recipe goes to bat for all of us. I hope you love them as much as we do and if there are little thing you don’t love, tweak away! Because much like all the baby advice, you take what works for you and move forward, leaving the rest behind. Simple as that.
I like to use bar chocolate in this recipe and chop it roughly (and not too small) so there are all different sizes of chunks throughout. If you need these cookies to be totally dairy-free, Trader Joe’s makes great “pound plus” bars that just so happen to be vegan. Be careful not to let the cookies get too brown around the edges — they’re really best just a little soft when pulled from the oven as they’ll continue to firm up as they cool.
In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and oil, and mix until combined. The mixture will look like wet sand.
Add the vanilla, egg, almond flour, and oats and stir well to combine. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to overnight.
After the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Using a 1 tablespoon-size scoop (or a rough estimate of as much), scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet leaving 2 inches in between each cookie.
Using the palm of your hand, gently flatten each cookies to about 1/2-inch thick and sprinkle with flake salt.
Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or until barely golden brown around the edges (the cookies will continue to firm up as they cool).
Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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?)