Good morning, friends. It’s been awhile. Like many of you, I feel like I’m finally exhaling after many months (years?) and it seemed like a good time to celebrate with a very simple fall dessert for all you pie lovers out there who are too tired to make homemade pie crust this year. You’re forgiven: 2020 has been a beast.
We won’t be home for Thanksgiving this year. The day before the holiday, we start our month-long no-home journey, bouncing around between Airbnb’s, my Dad’s cabin in Lake Tahoe and my mom’s house in Vermont for Christmas. As many of you know, we sold our home in Seattle and were searching for a new house here in the PNW or out East to be closer to family, sort of letting the house determine where we’d move as crazy as that sounds (and yes, it became crazier and crazier as late nights found us searching in odd locales we’d never heard of or been to).
Ultimately, we stumbled across a 1900 Victorian home in coastal Maine that we fell in love with, so we’re taking a really big plunge and moving basically as far across the country as humanly possible (as all the moving company people like to remind me when I complain about the price of a moving truck).
My sisters both live in Maine, and our kids will actually get to know each other now, which feels monumentally important these days. The house has a really big yard for Oliver and Frances to play and for us to garden – it’s super light and bright for a Victorian, and reminds me a little of the house I grew up in in Northern California. We can walk to the ocean, the neighborhood looks incredibly sweet on Google Maps (YES, you read that right: BOUGHT A HOUSE WITHOUT EVER SEEING IT IN PERSON, which I never ever thought we’d do in a million years but … 2020), Oliver’s pumped about the snow (check back in with him in three months), and we’re asking Santa for a sled.
I’m hoping once we get settled in Maine and aren’t doing house projects and cleaning and packing at all hours of the day, I’ll have a bit more time to cook and bake for fun, and share with you here. For now: pumpkin crisp!
So this recipe is made for all of you pumpkin pie lovers out there who just can’t be bothered this year. For us, since we’ll be in an Airbnb and I didn’t know if they’d have a rolling pin or what their kitchen would be like, I futzed around to develop something similar-ish that would make us all happy. The filling tastes much like pumpkin pie, but it’s a little airier and less dense. The crisp topping is made with oat flour, brown sugar and pecans so it’s technically gluten-free if that’s a concern. Top with a little whipped cream and dessert is done – no rolling or crimping or blind baking. Ease this year: let’s take a break where we can.
I hope you all have a really restful Thanksgiving for those celebrating. I’m hoping to follow up with a road trip snack I’ll be making for the boys as they head out to Maine next month (Frances and I will fly and meet up with them), and I’ll share photos with you here and over on Instagram, too, if you’re curious to see more about our new home there. xox
For the Filling:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 2.5 to 3 quart baking dish.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the evaporated milk, pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla, spices and salt. Whisk to combine, and pour into your prepared baking dish.
Make the topping: In a small bowl using your hands, work the butter into the flour until it forms large, chunky crumbs (some larger bits of butter are ok!). Add the brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon and continue working the mixture until there aren’t any dry bits remaining at the bottom of the bowl. Fold in the pecans.
Sprinkle the topping gently over the pumpkin filling – it’s ok if some sinks to the bottom. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until filling is firm. Set on a wire rack to cool for at least one hour before serving.
Serve warm or room temperature with whipped cream, if you’d like. Refrigerate leftovers 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?)