We went out for Ethiopian food over the weekend with some friends. Eating out is not something we do very often, thanks to the fact that I’m always cooking something, and when we do go out it is usually to a favorite place that serves something our picky toddler will eat. But this time, there would be no toddlers. No bowls of macaroni and cheese, plates of pizza, or crayons being dropped on the floor every 3 seconds. No. This time, we were having an adult night out at a brand new, interesting restaurant. And it was awesome. I’m now completely obsessed with Ethiopian food and with the woman who owned the restaurant we went to. She was beautiful in every way, from her silvering hair to her twinkling eyes and genuine, child-like smile, she captured my attention from the start. We ate with our hands by scooping up bites of lamb, lentils, and chicken with a piece of injera. Injera is basically Ethiopia’s answer to tortillas, crepes, bread, and utensils. It has a flavor similar to sourdough bread and is light and airy yet quite filling. I started thinking about how much fun it is to eat this way and how we don’t have nearly enough of that in American cuisine. Then I realized that we do: dip! Chips and dip may be far less romantic, but it’s a similar concept, yes? With that in mind, I bring you a delicious, football-worthy dip: Pumpkin-White Bean Skillet Dip.
Apple Cheddar Scones? Yes. They are amazing. The sweet, tart green apple and gooey, warm pockets of sharp cheddar are a match made in heaven. My husband always asks me where I get the inspiration for my recipes. For this particular recipe, the inspiration came from a brief visit to Oregon when I was lucky enough to attend an event hosted by Tillamook with a group of fellow food bloggers. We spent a lot of time eating cheese and ice cream together and this pregnant lady was very happy about all of that. I think I filled my calcium quota for the next 3 months. Aside from eating all of the things, we also learned a lot about how their company works. We met some of their key employees who work to make sure the products they put out on the shelves are of the highest quality. We were able to soak in the beauty that is the Oregon coast. And perhaps most importantly, we were able to make a personal connection with a company that has truly proven itself over and over again throughout the years. I didn’t really have one specific company I looked to for cheese, ice cream, or yogurt, but now I do.
Seriously. So. Much. Cheeeeeeeese.
This morning I went to one of the few truly local, quality coffee shops in our neighborhood. They serve coffee that has been roasted in Boulder, all the employees are volunteers, their food is almost all made in-house, and the money they make goes to providing clean water to those in need in Africa. To make the whole thing even more wonderful, they have a killer Pumpkin Pie Latte made with ACTUAL PUMPKIN. It is my new fall obsession and I don’t know that I can ever go back to the run-of-the-mill “pumpkin” stuff. And just to be clear, I have been obsessed with the pumpkin latte concept since it began. I mean, completely and utterly obsessed to the point that I felt a palpable sadness when we lived in Tokyo and couldn’t get anything similar.
Aside from my obsession with their current seasonal latte flavor, this little coffee shop made me smile this morning thanks to the kindness of three people. The first was a fellow mom, sans-children, picking up some coffee before she started her day. She glanced at my growing belly and asked if I was expecting and the conversation continued from there. She told me about her two kids, we shared sympathies for rough mornings of tantrums and trips to the grocery store that leave us wondering why we do these things. Then we moved to those sweet moments that make it all worth it: there are the impossibly wonderful little kisses, the hugs that never last long enough, and the countless other ways kids remind us why we get into this whole parenting thing. It was a brief conversation, but it was comforting to me. As this fellow mom grabbed her coffee and prepared to carry on with her day, she wished me the best of luck and she meant it.
The next encounter was another customer who had just walked in to order his coffee with a friend. I was leaning against the door frame near the coffee-pick-up counter, absent-mindedly rubbing my belly, and he said, “That is the sweetest thing ever.” I smiled quietly to myself and realized that, yes, it is the sweetest thing ever. It was a little sad for me when I was no longer pregnant with my son because I missed that quiet connection. Of course, I developed a connection that is much stronger with him in the weeks and months that followed his birth, but there is nothing like the feeling when they are still inside.
As I grabbed my pumpkin pie latte from the counter, the barista, who I’d seen the day before, said the usual “have a great day”, but he followed it up with something I wasn’t expecting. He said, “It was really nice to see you two days in a row”.
Being pregnant for a second time has me thinking a lot about the different stages I’ve gone through with my son. The first weeks and months were so difficult that I actually didn’t think I could do it. He cried from 3pm to 3am every day for a month. His naps didn’t last any more than 15 minutes at a time and happened once or twice during the day. I honestly felt like there was nothing I would ever be able to do to make him happy. Some call it colic, some say it’s indigestion, and I still don’t know exactly why that phase was so hard. In hindsight, I know there were things I needed to do to take care of myself. Eating enough was number one. Yes, the baby was crying and I wanted to crawl in a hole just to get some sound sleep, but taking 20 minutes to make a decent meal for myself was not going to change any of that. What those 20 precious minutes would do is help me have muster the strength to make it, with at least an ounce of grace, through a very trying time.
Yes, that was a hard time. But we have a healthy little boy who makes those first months totally worth it each and every day. He sleeps like a dream (worth more than gold if you ask me), gives the best hugs and kisses, loves bugs and “creatures” he finds in the backyard, and talks without stopping during every waking moment, leaving me with memories at the end of the day of the hilarious, and sometimes quite insightful things, I was blessed to have him share with me.
Yep. I’m just gonna put that juicy peach photo right in your face this morning. Because who doesn’t want to see a Peach and Burrata Salad up close and personal?
My 18 lb box of peaches has dwindled to less than half of what I started with. It’s a sad state of affairs, knowing this sweetness will be gone soon. Fortunately, I learned from last year’s mistake and we have avoided being bombarded with fruit flies (is there anything more annoying?) by making sure we had plenty of room for the peaches in the fridge. Once they hit their perfect stage of ripeness, I piled them all in the fruit drawer and have been taking 1 (make that 2) our each and every day to enjoy. My final task is to make a couple jars of my peach and hatch chile salsa and my Grandma Della’s Peach Cobbler. If I’m lucky, I may make one more batch of these Peach & Oat Muffins from last week.
I spend a lot of time comparing my transition to life in Colorado to the first couple of years we spent in Japan. I LOVED living in Japan but not until the last 2, maybe 2 1/2 years. It was so strange and different and I didn’t know what I was doing for those first couple of years that I just couldn’t come around to it. However, once I figured out the rhythms of each season and had an idea what to expect, I was able to fall in love. I feel like I may be turning that corner here in Colorado, at long last. The current weather pattern, cool, crisp mornings, warm afternoons, and chilly nights, has won me over after weeks of weather that is too hot for my taste. Understanding that this refreshing time of year comes just after peach season is the kind of stuff I like to know about where I live. It’s a strange quirk, perhaps, but at least I am aware of it. That makes change a little easier to deal with.
Peach season has arrived and I am SO EXCITED. I bought an 18 pound box of peaches from our church (all the proceeds go to our youth group which is so awesome) and they are absolutely perfect. I’ve been eating 2 of them pretty much every day- one with breakfast and one after dinner. As for the rest of the bunch, I’m finding new ways to showcase their perfect peach flavor without overcooking/over-sugaring them. Just the other day I was telling my mom how I find it a little sad to make something like jam out of such lovely tasting fruit. (Am I strange for feeling that way? Yes? Well OK then.) These healthy peach and oat muffins are just about the best thing ever. Healthy and with just a hint of what’s around the corner (spoiler alert: it’s FALL) thanks to a cinnamon-sugar coating on top.
When we lived in Japan, there was something we called a “vegetable vending machine” just down the street from our apartment. It was made up of little cubbies that were always filled with vegetables that had been grown on the very same block. You had to take you yen- usually 50¥ or 100¥- and place it in the money slot on the door holding the produce you wanted. Once you paid, the door would unlock and you could take your reusable bag, plop the freshly picked vegetables in, and be on your merry way. I used to go see what was there, enjoying the short walk in our peaceful neighborhood, pondering what I would make for dinner that night. We don’t have “veggie vending machines” here in Denver, but we are lucky enough to live just down the street from a couple markets that source local, Colorado-grown produce. The other day, I went to my favorite market with my mom to pick up some Hatch chiles and came across some beautiful ears of corn. The kernels were bright yellow, plump, and just begging to be added to a chowder recipe. So, slow-cooker corn chowder with hatch chiles was born! We may not have been able to experience the Japanese vending machine, but at least it conjures the memory.
Maybe I should start my own vegetable vending machine.
Being pregnant makes me want to eat all the carbs. Just keep ‘em coming because I can’t get enough. I don’t indulge myself as often as I’d like but sometimes there is just no denying the need for something noodle-y, potato-y, bread-y…you get the idea. This sweet corn carbonara fulfilled my craving the other day and had me falling in love with sweet corn all over again. There is something so wonderful about twirling long, creamy noodles around the tongs of a fork and seeing bright yellow corn kernels and vibrant green arugula joining the fray. Each bite is a beautiful combination of flavors and textures: crisp, sweet corn…peppery, delicate arugula…crunchy, salty bacon…and smooth, creamy pasta. You really cannot go wrong. Continue Reading →
I’m having a little love affair with breakfast. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and I always want something hearty, sweet, and involving cinnamon in some way. These healthy baked apples with muesli crisp are the perfect solution. I’m going to eat them every day once apples are in season for real. It’s gonna have to happen. With a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt sweetened with honey pleaseandthankyou.
It’s good that I’m obsessed with something so wonderfully healthy because I seem to be putting on a little weight. Can you tell?
Yep! Baby #2 is growing in that there bump and it wants all the comfort food in the universe (seriously, all of it. send mashed potatoes and gravy). Continue Reading →