I’ve been meaning to make some form of sticky toffee pudding for at least a few years, ever since a friend of mine first waxed lyrical about one she’d had at a pub near our offices called the Shakespeare. At that point, I’d never had sticky toffee pudding or, possibly, even heard of it, but her description alone had me sold–of a sticky, soft, eat-it-with-a-spoon cake, gooey with dates and draped in an abundance of caramel sauce, served warm and ideally with ice cream on top (which, in and of itself, is enough to get me on board with anything).
If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d enjoy anything about fall other than, say, eating pumpkin-y things and, nominally, wearing fluffy slippers, there’s not a chance I would have believed you. (This is how deep my fear of the cold runs.) But then we moved to a quixotic land where my Michelin Man puffer jackets are happily useless, so I no longer had the cold to dread; and shortly thereafter a very important fall birthday was added to our calendars that B2 and I are way more excited about celebrating than we’ve ever been about our own. A year later, here I am: recovering SAD-sufferer and cautious fall enthusiast.
Do you ever, once you’ve made it through a pile of scary deadlines and come out the other side, just kind of melt into a blob for a week or two, one that can sit semi-upright in an office chair and guzzle coffee and maybe make ill-advised purchases of overpriced throw blankets but otherwise accomplish none of the tasks that are still remaining but that are simply not yet due? No, just me? Well, it is definitely me right now. I cannot promise that any of this will make any comprehensible sense. You have been warned.
My commute here in LA is almost the same as it was in New York, 40 minutes give or take. The only difference is that I sit my butt in a little Corolla instead of the blue-benched 4/5, and so I can no longer do either of the two things I used to do on my commutes in New York — sleep, or read, but mostly sleep — because I would die. For exactly 3 days I filled this void in my travels to-and-fro with music from my own playlists, before I got tired of my apparently very limited musical taste, and then for a few more weeks it was music on the radio, before I got tired of their slightly less limited ones. So now I’m at a happy medium of NPR (I have officially become my dad) and the wonderful world of podcasts.
Last weekend we had a couple of exceptionally wonderful friends come all the way from snowy Cambridge to visit us and meet Luke for the first time. Their visit was especially well-timed, not least because B3 was at his chattiest and chubbiest, now that he has 4 1/2 months under his belt (although he was also at his sleep-training saddest come nighttime — sorry, guys), but also because we had a beautiful, sunny weekend here in California, with the kind of weather that I hear is in short supply in Cambridge right about now.
Even with the advent of a waffle-maker to capture my interest (and my kitchen real estate), I can never go too long without coming back to pancakes. They’re happy food — from my dad and boxed pancake mix on the weekends, flicking the skillet to flip them in mid-air, to a beach retreat in college where a classmate showed me that, forget blueberries, you could sprinkle Reese’s Pieces across the pancakes before flipping them and be a breakfast hero, to rainy weekends in the working world where pancakes meant a lazy morning with time to spare for messy counters and sticky plates. Now that B3’s around, I can’t stop telling B2 like a broken record how excited I am to make piles of pancakes on Saturday mornings for an army of bubs clamoring for them. (I recognize that this may not match up with reality, when all I really will want to do then is sleep.)
Happy 2017! This is the year that my brother graduates from college (!) and when he first started as a freshman I kept telling everyone that 2017 didn’t seem like a real year that would actually happen. But somehow, it’s here. (Despite 2016’s best efforts.) Our waning weeks of the year were spent eating (of course), avidly watching B2 make a dent in his Christmas present, staying up late with B3 — who is now somehow 2 months old but also evidently has the sleep schedule of a teenager — and seeing how often we could make our chubawub break out into his newfound, mouth-open-wide grin. As much flack as 2016 rightfully got, I’m still a bit wistful to see it go, and our little holiday season, if not quite as quiet as usual, epitomized why I loved it so much — making our new house a new home with our first Christmas, learning our way around a life as a family of three.
Our Christmas tree is up! It’s the first real, live, non-plastic tree to make an appearance in our household. We chose it in about five seconds flat last Saturday with babe in tow, in the signature haste of panicky new parents who are still not very good at this “taking the baby out into the world” thing. (Luke, meanwhile, was just passed out the whole time and didn’t wake up until thirty minutes after we got home. But he could have.) So it’s a fat little four-foot munchkin of a tree that is cheerfully lopsided and very strategically placed in the corner of our living room to display the side with the least lop. But I think that’s what you call “character.”
A few years ago I came across an Alton Brown diatribe against one-use kitchen gadgets (or “unitaskers,” I think he calls them) and thought it would be a good rule not to buy them for our New York kitchen. This more or less worked (mostly thanks to B2 putting his foot down on random Amazon purchases and the fact that we just had no room, lest we start storing kitchen appliances in our bathroom) but I also pretty much immediately found ways to bend the rule, i.e. the SPAM slicer is okay because it can also slice tofu, and the potato ricer can also make excellent pumpkin puree — clearly bi-taskers!
And then, in a fit of indulgence a few months ago, I bought our very first waffle iron. This is arguably the largest unitasker to grace our kitchen. But I calculate that a waffle iron is actually at least a penta-tasker (quintup … tasker?): (1) waffle pizza! (2) waffle grilled cheese! (3) waffle-ninis! (4) all kinds of actual waffles! And, now, (5) stuffing waffles!
The thing is, if I used the waffle iron to make only stuffing waffles, I’m pretty sure it would still be worth it. After seeing them crop up in all sorts of places online, I’ve been waiting to make these for all the years that our kitchen was too cramped to fit a waffle iron, and they lived up to every expectation: All the intensely savory, buttery, carb-tastic goodness of my very favorite Thanksgiving side dish is stuffed into a sizzling iron and made delightfully crispy on the outside, but fluffy and almost creamy inside, ready to tuck all the other Thanksgiving leftovers, from mashed potatoes to turkey to cranberry sauce, into its perfectly square divots. (And I added maple syrup, because why not.) I can think of no better way to reheat stuffing the next day — and in fact, it’s good enough that I’d be happy to make stuffing just to waffle.
After a tumultuous couple of weeks, wishing you all a safe, happy Thanksgiving. Thank you so much for being here, and for reading!
What a strange, hard week this has been. It feels like it has been hard in every sense of the word — difficult, unyielding. I hope everyone is okay. This is the first of a number of recipes I’ve had saved up for these first few baby-filled months, and, thankfully, it is so very easy. I think “easy” was going to be my mantra in the kitchen for the foreseeable future no matter what, now that we have a little person to cuddle and feed and care for, but right now it feels particularly apt to share something that comes together without much effort, without any stress, to be a treat that soothes and indulges.