Looks like we’re going for quality, not quantity when it comes to ye ol’ blog this summer. Of course I know you all understand: to say this has been an unusual season is certainly an understatement. And ironically, while our summer plans have largely been focused around our backyard, it still feels like the season has whizzed right on by somehow.
Frances has learned to say “no,” and celebrates this by singing it, loudly, whenever possible: “noooooooooooooooooooo.” She prefers watermelon or summer tomatoes to actual meals – I don’t entirely blame her, really. And Oliver has all of a sudden started to read (to be clear, he’s not yet reading but he doesn’t seem to know this??) to himself and put himself to sleep at night which feels like a real win – although also a bit sad.
We’re selling our house next week. I think it hasn’t hit me until this morning. We’ve long wanted more space for the kids and to not live on such a busy street, but now that we’re gathering our things to move out for a week so the broker can show it, it’s feeling a bit sad, exhausting … or overwhelming. Probably all of those things.
Where are we headed? This, my friends, is a great question and one that I strangely can’t answer. Which is a very un-Megan answer and each day I’m actually shocked that I feel so easy going about it. We’re asking the buyers for a “rent back,” meaning they’ll rent the house back to us for a few months. In that time we’ll either find a dream house or find an adequate rental somewhere close enough. Whether we end up in the country, on one of the islands or maybe even another state: who can say?! The pandemic has just shattered open all the options, hasn’t it? I like the sound of an adventure.
In the spirit of quality over quantity, I texted my sister when I tried these bars letting her know they’re almost transcendent. If you like key lime pie, these are a good one to put on your “to bake” list. I tried my hardest to make these with coconut milk but I just couldn’t get the filling to set, so I defaulted to good ol’ sweetened condensed milk and NO REGRETS.
The crust here is a sturdy press-in crust packed with coconut and oats. It’s a hard- to-mess-up situation, which is what we all need right now: I know baking was big at the beginning of this pandemic, but man I can’t be bothered with anything complex at the moment, so these are just my speed. I topped them with whipped cream for the kids but honestly, they’re wonderful without, too. So don’t let a lack of heavy cream in the house stop you from a future of key lime bars.
And before I let you go, I’d be remiss in not mentioning that the first time I had key lime pie was with my Grandma Marge in Marco Island, Florida. I’m quite certain she’d pick the pie up from the grocery store judging by those even little puffs of whipped cream decorating the perimeter. She made it seem like an immensely special treat, something one only enjoys in Florida, and we always ate it on the porch of her condo watching the sunset. I smiled and thought of her as I tested these all last week, which was an unexpected treat in itself.
For the Crust:
For the Topping:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line the bottom of a 9×9 square pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides.
Make the crust: In a food processor, combine the oats, coconut, flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times until the coconut and oats are broken down into a thick flour. Add the coconut oil and pulse to combine. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture starts clumping together.
Press the crust mixture into the pan evenly, and bake for 13-15 minutes or until fragrant and light golden brown. Set aside to cool while you make the filling.
Make the filling: Put egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until thick, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add the condensed milk in a steady stream, mix for an additional one minute. Add lime juice, and mix until just combined.
Pour the filling over the crust, and bake until the filling is set, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, whip cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form.
Lift bars out of pan using parchment overhang and top bars with whipped cream. Garnish with lime zest, slice into 16 small squares and serve. Store leftovers in the refrigerator to enjoy the next day.
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?)