We are now solidly into the magical stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that no-holds-barred span of weeks that I typically use to indulge all of my wildest cookie and hot cocoa and cinnamon roll whims, and yet, much to my dismay, I’ve spent most of it so far thinking about, not chocolate or candy canes or marshmallows, but vegetables. In particular, these leafy greens. I am as surprised as you are.
Judging from the calendar, we are in the thick of picnic season, or for me, toss-everything-with-mayonnaise-and-maybe-eat-it-at-a-picnic-but-probably-just-straight-from-the-fridge season. My last post notwithstanding, I almost didn’t realize it; after years in New York, where I spent the first third-to-half of each year in an intense and unceasing scrutiny of the weather for any sign of warmth, California has lulled me into a kind of constant seasonal befuddlement, where I never know what season it is but I just know that it is giddily, euphorically not cold.
Last weekend we took our first big trip with B3 in tow, up to Berkeley for my brother’s graduation. It wasn’t until we were on our way back, winding our way through the mountains on the last stretch of the I-5, that I realized how much Los Angeles has started to feel like home. This little ham can probably take most of the credit for that (isn’t that how the saying goes? “Home is where the diaper pail is”?) but whatever the reason, sometime over the past year this sprawling city has stopped feeling foreign and unusual, with its bleached asphalt and vast robin’s-egg skies, and started feeling familiar. That said, after
5 ½ 7 hours of driving on the two lanes of the I-5 amidst weaving cars and semi-trucks that I swear are bigger here than elsewhere (and, by turn, feeding a 6-month-old in Jack-in-the-Box parking lots along the way), I suspect conquering that real-life edition of Toad’s Turnpike will make any destination feel a little more like home.
As of a couple of weeks ago, I’m officially back at work. Unlike his mama, B3 thought the transition was a total breeze — he sees me off to work every morning with such blasé cheerfulness that I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t be at least a teensy offended. (He is, however, in a war of attrition with his Public Enemy No. 1, The Bottle, so there is at least one part of me that he misses. Or, more accurately, two parts.)
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.
Granted, my threshold for feeling accomplished has always been, shall we say, modest (“I added the perfect amount of sugar to my matcha latte today I can do anything!“) but ever since I was introduced to these supremely distracting pudgy cheeks, I’m finding smaller and smaller accomplishments count as victories in this household. Dinner made during naptime, victory. Clean laundry, not folded, but at least in the basket, victory! (Actually, laundry where I actually remember to put in the detergent? And didn’t forget, twice, until everything had gone through the washer and the dryer? Victory.) Clean kitchen counters before bed? Clean kitchen floors, too? Huge victory.
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.”
Two days after we moved to LA, we promptly left again on what would previously have been practically impossible (or at least, incredibly not enjoyable) from our former home, the quickest weekend trip back to B2’s home in Hawaii. We went for a wedding and for Halmunee-to-be’s first encounter with her grandbaby (whom she likes to call “her baby”). In 48 hours there, we ate our weight in homemade Korean food, I was shut down on every attempt to help around the house (okay, so I didn’t try that hard), and we did a lot of marveling at how gleeful it is to fly to Hawaii from the West Coast and to say goodbye to red-eye flights of East Coasts past. And we saw boars at the wedding! (They were not part of the procession.)
In the week or so since then, most of my time in LA so far has been something like this: learning about this thing called June gloom, adjusting euphorically to having an office with an actual window and actual sunlight in the afternoons after said June gloom, trying to buy out every single supermarket’s abundance of produce even though our Airbnb has very little in the way of kitchens, spending much more time on Google looking at traffic, and, most of all, gaping at the open, open spaces, and the endless expanse of blue sky overhead, which is as bright and all-encompassing and wrapped around you like a sunny blanket as the one in New York felt narrow and distant and shielded from you by high buildings. Of course, there’s plenty to miss about the home we left behind in New York, but I think it’s safe to say we really like it here so far. I get the sense we’ll like it even more when we move into our actual apartment (we found one! yippee!) this Saturday. It’s a happy relief.
Bowl #2 and I first discovered cold brew coffee a little over a year ago. In the midst of an epic New York heat wave (in the midst of an un-air-conditioned apartment), we thought it was nothing short of magic. Just coffee grounds, water, and time, and not only do you get to skip boiling water, waiting for coffee to cool, fiddling with coffee ice cubes — but you get a sweetly aromatic brew, full of previously unsung flavor notes, and completely different from the bitter, toasty coffee from drip machines. (If you couldn’t guess, I’m a fan.)
So when the lovely ladies at Verily Magazine asked me what I thought of a doing a cold brew affogato, I was all on board. Traditionally, affogato is served with hot espresso, but I get a little freaked every time that everything’s going to melt and end up eating the entire dessert with a mild sense of panic (casual). So I love the idea of serving it with coffee that’s already cold, and even more with cold brew, since I find it to be noticeably sweeter than regular coffee, with a hint of chocolate depending on the grounds you use. If that’s not asking to be combined with ice cream, I don’t know what is.
You can find my take on how to make cold brew concentrate and cold brew affogato here. Happy Friday! Wishing you all the loveliest weekend ahead.
Spicy ahi poke is perhaps my greatest love in the food world. First introduced to me when I visited Bowl #2’s family in Hawaii, poke is pretty much just fresh chunks of tuna marinated in soy sauce and other ingredients. Some describe it as a Hawaiian ceviche, which I find apt but not all-encompassing of its utter perfection (I just describe it as bliss). The standard version is one marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, and a few other ingredients, whereas our personal favorite is a slightly unhealthier, spicy mayo-based kind that we usually get from Foodland, a Hawaii supermarket chain. This particular kind was part 2 of the Hawaiian birthday feast (part 1 is here), and here is the stunningly simple recipe for how to make it!