Beignets! It’s been awhile since a capital-P Project has landed on this blog. Since the advent of our little guy, I’ve been more tempted to fill my Saturday mornings with alphabet books and trips to the playground and the occasional quick and easy food experiment than making extended messes in the kitchen. But then a few weeks ago, while daydreaming about the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival and all the mooncakes that it heralds, the idea of these salted yolk and lotus paste beignets popped fully-formed into my head. My very favorite flavor of mooncake, silky, fragrant lotus paste and punchy orange yolk, but dispersed throughout an airy, tender beignet instead of in a dense mooncake? They were, at that moment, as good as made.
Ever since I found their story a few years ago, I’ve been awed by Sonja and Alex’s journey to parenthood. Sonja’s poignant, thoughtful words and their constant light throughout their experience have been humbling and inspiring; it gives a whole new perspective to this stage of life that B2 and I have been figuring out our way around lately, and reminds me that every parent has a different, incalculable strength. The best news is that, as of a few months ago, they now have the most beautiful baby boy! The joy and happiness that surrounds Larson is palpable in every photo they’ve shared (not to mention he has the sweetest blue eyes I’ve ever seen), and I’m so glad that a few wonderful bloggers have put together a celebration to honor their perfect new addition. The theme of the fête, inspired by Sonja and Alex’s fresh and vibrant blog A Couple Cooks, was “healthy snacks.” Given that the title of this post starts with “butter,” I think I’ve shown my ability to follow directions is dubious. But I do find this dish perfect in every regard for the adventure that is new parenthood — easy, pantry-friendly, distraction-friendly. And most importantly, delicious.
I blinked and it’s been five months of this adventure called “writing a cookbook.” How! Before all this began I wasn’t sure how shooting and writing a book with a new babe would go. The answer is, as it turns out, a lot of running around during morning naptime, a lot of truly spectacular messes, and a lot of trudging around during afternoon naptime, cleaning up those spectacular messes. I would not recommend it if you are looking for something relaxing, exactly — but maybe if, you know, you’re looking for an at-home HIIT workout that involves bites of food and a constant mental refrain of I’ll clean that up later.
I had it built up in my head that taking B3 out to an actual, sit-down, non-Jack-in-the-Box-drive-through meal was going to be an endeavor that involved at least one meltdown and/or leaving before the food actually came. But while our friends were here we ended up going out to eat not one, not two, but three nice, awesome, meltdown-free times. Three! And sight-seeing! Luke either slept or stared at everything. In retrospect, I’m not sure if he was being a good baby or just freaked out by all the hubbub (and we had a very tired bub on our hands later that evening) but it was a revelation anyway.
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.
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!
Too often I feel like scones get the short end of the stick in the coffee shop scene. Maybe it’s because they sit out behind the glass for a little bit too long by the time that they make it into a wax paper bag, ending up just a little too dry and flavorless, unsatisfyingly crumbly, and thus under-appreciated. I’ll admit that before I tried making them at home, I succumbed to that belief, too, thinking that the way I wanted scones to taste was something that existed only in my mind: little puffy triangles that were craggy on the outside, but tender and moist within, with just the slightest springiness to them to distinguish them from cakes or cookies. But in actuality, I think a homemade scone, fresh and warm from the oven, is just that. Slight crunch on the outside, soft inside, with a subtle resilience to the crumb. And they’re, surprisingly, so very easy to make! We should all have homemade scones in our kitchens. (At least on the weekends.)
I’ve been mostly working from home in these last couple of weeks before the home stretch, but went in to the office last week to wrap up loose ends, take home all the heels that I totally forgot about for the last six months, and to do fun things like meet with my pro bono clients, who got all the adoptive funding we requested! It did mean that that hearing didn’t end up happening, but when it’s because we got everything we asked for, that’s okay with me. To be clear, I think our happy outcome had everything to do with (1) my clients being wonderful parents with the sweetest daughter who really deserved it, (2) the other side really wanting to postpone the hearing, and (3) me really not wanting to postpone the hearing because hey guys, I have a biological baby deadline, and nothing to do with any lawyering I did. But in a job where most of the time I represent (or, help people senior to me help partners senior to them represent) clients in long, drawn-out matters with things at stake that sometimes feel more abstract than real, helping parents get funding for their sunny, sweet nine-year-old, and getting this thank-you card, was about the best cap on starting maternity leave that I could ask for.
Evidently, or so I’m told, it’s less than a month until a third little bowl is headed our way. What! It doesn’t feel like it. From time to time I catch myself assuming that this is just how life is going to be from now on, having a watermelon for a belly, the mysterious inability to ever feel cold, and a maximum waddling velocity of a couple yards per hour. I assumed for so long that pregnancy would be difficult that it’s disorienting — and, I’m sure, obnoxious — to end up one of those women who actually loved most of it. (Predictably, I’m now just scared about whether the next one will be the one that’s bad.)