Last weekend I noticed snow had collected in the dried remains of the fruit on this Tulipwood Tree. I was struck by how much they looked like tiny snow cones and attempted to capture their adorableness with my old-but-new-to-me 75-300mm zoom lens.
Liriodendron tulipifera aka Tulip Tree, Tulipwood Tree or Yellow Poplar produces a cone shaped fruit comprised of many samaras – dry, single cell fruit which are dispersed by the wind.
My beloved, albeit painfully needy rescue pup woke me up at 3 o’clock Sunday morning to investigate a mysterious sound, again. I’m an all-or-nothing sleeper so once I’m up–that’s it for me. I try to be sympathetic in these moments. How do I teach her which sounds are inconsequential – the clicking of the ice maker in the kitchen – and which sounds might be raccoons rummaging through the kitchen, or aliens beaming up the whole damn house?
I got dressed, washed my face, and brewed myself a hot mug of spiced apple cider. I wrapped up in a blanket and plopped down on the couch in the dark. My mind wandered to the quart of buttermilk idling in the fridge. “Why yes, Stevie,” I said to the dog now contentedly snoring beside me, “buttermilk pancakes do sound good.”
I googled “buttermilk pancakes” and the first recipe to pop up was Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes. I had all the ingredients on hand so I went with it. NYT Cooking recipes tend to be consistently O.K. with a couple of modifications – in this case I added a tablespoon of vanilla and a 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, incorporated the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls before combining everything together in one large bowl, I let the batter rest at room temperature for nearly an hour, and I opted for avocado oil in a cast iron skillet for perfectly golden pancakes.
While watching the sunrise over frozen hills from my kitchen window, I ate a single perfect pancake, complete with a cartoon quality pat of melting butter and a hefty glug of real maple syrup. I cleaned up while the leftover pancakes cooled, used a cookie cutter to cut them into several small circles, and dusted them with powdered sugar before tossing them into a travel container. I then brewed two thermoses of coffee and patiently waited for K to wake up.
We try to get out for a hike or at least a long walk every weekend.
Sunday was crisp and gray, and I layered up in fluorescent knits against the chill.
I’m a creature of the PNW and the smell of wet, rotting leaves soothes me. If I look at this picture, then close my eyes, I can smell them now.
Once we reached the peak of our outing, we stopped to sit and enjoy some tiny buttermilk pancakes and hot coffee.
I added hot cocoa powder to the coffees; a poor man’s mocha. We quietly ate more pancakes and I audaciously wiped my sticky fingers on the cuff of my pants. Stevie sat inches from my face attempting to showcase her self-mastery and obedience in exchange for a tiny pancake of her very own.
Of course I obliged, I’m not a monster.
I’m an equal opportunity hiking guide – everyone gets a pancake at the summit, no questions asked.
I felt so grounded here by this gushing stream, I took a selfie to commemorate the moment.
Escaping to nature is the best antidote against the “too muchness” of contemporary life.
I eat instant ramen and I won’t hesitate to admit it. In high school I dabbled briefly in the snack food fad that was: uncooked Top Ramen noodles crunched up in the package and sprinkled with the provided seasoning dust. I don’t have a defense for my juvenile lapse in good sense besides it honestly tastes pretty good.
Through the lean times and the abundant, I have always eaten ramen. I’ve had the pleasure of eating legitimate ramen many times and as a result, I’ve refined my home ramen making techniques to meet my heightened expectations. In a pinch, instant ramen noodles can be quickly finessed and improved with the addition of a few seasonings–in this case substituting the provided seasonings completely–and various prepared toppings.
Last night I thawed two locally sourced salmon steaks, massaged them with sesame oil, and sprinkled them with black pepper. Then I poached the salmon steaks skin side down atop a layer of green onions in a mixture of water, mirin, and tamari, and seasoned the liquid with sliced white onion, sliced shallots, more green onion, black peppercorns, garlic, lemongrass, ginger root, raw jalapeño and some seaweed.
I poached the salmon over low heat in a large pan covered with a glass lid–occasionally lifting the lid to spoon the liquid over the salmon. This allowed the salmon to cook slowly, gently releasing fat and flavor into the poaching liquid. Next I set the cooked salmon aside to keep warm on a plate, covered, and set the pan of poaching liquid aside while I boiled the noodles in a medium-sized pot.
Once cooked, I drained the boiled noodles and set them aside in a large bowl of cool water while finishing the broth.
I strained the poaching liquid into the pot I used to boil the noodles and added more water, then seasoned it further with more tamari, mirin, sesame oil, red miso paste, fish sauce, and fermented red chili paste. I brought the broth up to a boil before immediately turning the heat down to low and simmering 5 minutes.
I drained and placed a serving of noodles in the bottom of a soup bowl, ladled the hot broth generously over the cooked noodles, then topped it with large flakes of warm poached salmon, half-boiled ajitama egg made earlier in the day, fresh scallions, a couple of roasted garlic cloves, and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.
While it might not be entirely traditional, this bowl of ramen was complex and satisfying; a damn fine interpretation using things I had on hand.
There is a cake recipe at the end of this post as your reward for continuing to indulge me in my steadfast effort to convert my modest wardrobe into a curated collection of slow craft, folk art heirlooms. I’m only half kidding when I say “curated” and “folk art heirlooms” and I’m not kidding at all about the cake recipe… scroll down to the bottom if you need hard proof.
Years from now I’m sure I will look down at these finished knee patches and remember fondly all of the delicious loaf cakes I baked and ate while stitching my way through the cold, dark winter of 2020.
A meditative stitch (or 100 stitches) here and there, day and night, always quietly accompanied by a hot mug of coffee, tea, or cocoa…
Now, about that Sour Cream Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake Recipe.
As a “mature for my age” child and an inevitable coffee lover, to me, coffee cake was the pinnacle of grown-up baked goods. I could argue the Seinfeld episode titled “The Suicide”–during which the main characters discuss at length the merits of Drake’s Coffee Cakes–had a strong impact on my young, impressionable mind.
The success of this cake depends on only two things, really: 1. starting with room temperature ingredients and 2. incorporating them together as thoroughly and slowly as time and reason will allow. It’s best not to just slap this one together; take your time and your prize will be an easy, delicious cake.
Sour Cream Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake Recipe
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
2/3 c brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350ºF
Butter and flour a 9″ rectangular loaf pan and set aside.
To prepare the cinnamon swirl: in a small bowl combine 2/3 cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and set aside.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and salt, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, beat room temperature butter on medium speed for approximately 2 minutes until creamed. Scrape the sides down into the bowl and add sugars. Cream together again on medium speed for an additional minute.
Scrape sides down into the bowl again, then add vanilla and molasses and incorporate on medium speed for 2-3 more minutes.
Scrape sides down into bowl again and add eggs, one at a time on the lowest speed, stopping to scrape the sides down into the bowl between each egg. Batter should be fully combined and smooth in consistency at this point.
Pour approximately half of the batter into your prepared loaf pan and even out the top using a spatula. Using a spoon, sprinkle approximately 75% of your cinnamon swirl mixture evenly across the top of this first layer of cake batter.
Proceed to pour the rest of the batter overtop the cinnamon sprinkle layer and even the surface with a spatula again. Finish the top with the remaining 25% cinnamon mixture evenly sprinkled with a spoon.
To swirl the center cinnamon layer, insert a butter knife down from above into the batter until the tip of the knife reaches the pan. Slowly drag the knife through the batter in an easy S-shape swirling motion from one end to the other. Repeat a second time.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 60-75 minutes until a butter knife, cake tester or wooden skewer inserted carefully down into the center of the cake from above pulls out clean (crumb is fully formed/no wet batter clinging to it) and the top is puffed and browned. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before carefully lifting or turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Good for 3 days at room temperature.
Despite a brief period of cold, creeping self-doubt around the third touch and go, dicey repeat of “roll dough out into a 8″x12″ rectangle and fold into thirds like a business letter” I feel this bake went extremely well.
I started the dough on Friday afternoon which required overnight refrigeration. I worked the dough throughout the morning Saturday, alternating between rolling, folding, and chilling again and again. Next came cutting rolling, forming, then leaving to rise until doubled in size. Lastly this recipe called for brushing the top of each croissant with a wash of whole milk and egg yolk just before baking, resulting in the distinctively shiny, golden exterior classic croissants are known for.
I baked the croissants late Saturday afternoon and woke up this morning, Sunday, excited to make myself a small breakfast and tuck into a new book for a couple of hours.
I’ve just started reading the book Real Life, a novel by Brandon Taylor which was a finalist for the 2020 Booker Prize and is so far bright, relatable, and poetically descriptive.
This is my ideal Sunday morning: bundled against the chill in a warm blanket, feet decked in colorful hand-knit wool socks, good candles burning, jazz records playing softly in the background, pecking at a tasty spread while reading a good book–unaffected by the snow falling gently outside.
I hope you are currently spending your Sunday nestled someplace equally cozy xx Bette
I silently cast a white
with the new moon
A starless revolution
I waited, visiting in
hanging in the air
Fat Moon –
I rose to melt the frost,
blinked blood and
knew it didn't take.
This untitled poem is an original piece that attempts to express the particularly crisp, acutely bitter ache one can feel after struggling to start or successfully maintain a pregnancy.
Do you enjoy reading and/or writing poetry? I do, and I think I’ll continue to share more of my own to this space.
This skillet cookie is an adaptation of the Bon Appetit Giant Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie recipe and combines a few of my favorite dessert elements: luxurious brown butter, sea salt, toasted almond and chocolate – with toffee-like crunchy cookie edges, and a delectably chewy cookie center. Think: chocolate chip cookies and your favorite fudgey brownies linked up to make a tasty, golden, nutty cookie baby…
My modifications on the original recipe linked above are as follows:
I gently browned the butter in a 9-10″ cast iron skillet, removed the skillet from the heat when butter golden brown and fragrant (approx. 5 mins over medium heat) and let the browned butter cool 10 minutes before combining with brown and white sugar in a large mixing bowl
Swapped 1.5 teaspoons vanilla for 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Swapped 50% of the all purpose flour for lightly toasted almond flour
Brown Butter, Toasted Almond and Chocolate Chip Skillet CookieRecipe
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 stick + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour, toasted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pre-heat oven to 375º
In a clean frying pan or skillet lightly dry-toast almond flour over low heat until fragrant. Set aside in a small bowl and allow to cool.
In a medium-sized bowl sift together flour, baking soda and sea salt. Stir in toasted almond flour and set aside.
In a separate large bowl, combine brown and white sugars. In a 9-10″ cast iron skillet, brown the butter until golden and fragrant, then promptly remove skillet from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes before adding to sugar mixture in large bowl and stirring until combined.
Add the room temperature egg, and vanilla and almond extracts to the large bowl and stir to combine.
Add dry ingredients to the large bowl and stir thoroughly until combined. Throughly fold in 2/3 cup of chocolate chips.
Spoon cookie dough into buttery, still-warm skillet. Press dough gently into an even layer that fills the bottom of the skillet, then sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of chocolate chips on top.
Bake for 18-20 mins until puffy and golden.
Remove skillet from the oven and allow cookie to cool completely in skillet for an hour.
Continuing our household effort to dine more healthfully, ethically, and sustainably while attempting to reduce the number of trips we make into town to shop during the Covid-19 pandemic, I have been researching and exploring the big wide world of grocery delivery services.
The most notable delivery last week was our inaugural order from The Honest Bison.
The Honest Bison was founded on one very simple truth: we believe everyone deserves access to food they can trust. When we realized just how hard it was to find unprocessed, humanely raised, quality meats in today’s markets, The Honest Bison was born.
We started out with just 100% grassfed bison but have since branched out to include a curated selection of other high-quality meats as well. As we continue to expand, our mission still remains the same – to bring trust back into today’s food system.
From The Honest Bison’s “about” page
I picked out a variety of cuts of grassfed bison, elk and venison, in addition to bison snack sticks, jerky, oxtails, ground meat and soup bones.
Bison meat is leaner and significantly lower in calories than a comparable serving of beef, and is a good source of protein, B vitamins, selenium, zinc and iron.
*** Please note: this order was purchase entirely out of pocket and this post is not an ad, I’m just a pleasantly surprised first time customer ***
Bison and Butternut Squash Stew– truncated recipe at the bottom of this post
I started this stew as I would any other, steeping some herbs in fat…
In this case I opted for rendered bacon fat and rosemary.
For a lean meat like bison, adding a rich fat to the pot helps keep things supple and moist during browning.
Warming woody herbs gently in fat first releases the aromatic oils for maximum flavor.
I removed the rosemary and added a one pound package of bison stew meat (thawed, patted dry and seasoned with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper) to the pot and cooked it for a few minutes over medium-low heat until gently browned.
I then removed the meat from the pot and added a diced medium-sized yellow onion and two finely sliced cloves of garlic to the fat, plus a tablespoon of good quality extra virgin olive oil and two tablespoons of water.
I simmered this all together while stirring occasionally over medium-low heat until softened and golden.
I returned the meat to the pot and added 14oz of crushed tomatoes, a bay leaf, cumin, red pepper flakes, and a tablespoon of good quality balsamic vinegar to mimic the red wine traditionally used in hearty red meat stews.
When stewing meats I like to add acidic elements like tomatoes and balsamic which can help tenderize meat and break down connective tissue.
I also added a tablespoon of red miso paste for maximum umami and enhanced complexity.
I then added approximately 16oz gelatinous, homemade, collagen-rich chicken bone broth concentrate made earlier in the week, in addition to enough water to allow everything to float around freely within the pot.
Next, I peeled and cubed half of a large butternut squash, roughly 2 cups total, and simmered everything together over medium-low heat for two hours, stirring occasionally until the liquid was significantly reduced and the contents of the pot were moderately homogeneous, seasoned to taste with more sea salt and more pepper once finished.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite ingredients to add to winter stews because it is inexpensive, abundant, nutritious, and when cooked slowly, surrenders beautifully to create a full-flavored, impossibly sumptuous gravy.
Served humbly over steamed rice, this bison stew was wonderfully rich and satisfying. The bison meat itself was so hearty and deeply comforting; we went to bed with full bellies and woke up with an urgent hankering to eat leftover stew for breakfast.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 2 tablespoons water
Bone broth, stock, and/or water as needed
14 ounces (half of the 28oz can pictured above) crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (in place of red wine)
1 bay leaf
1 scant teaspoon cumin
1 heaped teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon red miso paste
sea salt to taste
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
approx. 2 cups cubed butternut squash
In a large pot, combine bacon fat and rosemary and warm together over medium heat until fragrant. Remove the rosemary and add one pound of 1″ cubed bison stew meat. Cook 8 minutes or until gently browned. Remove meat from the pot and set aside on a spare plate. Add diced onion, finely sliced garlic, EVOO and water to the pot and simmer until golden and soft. Add meat back into the pot as well as any juices that collected on the plate.
Add crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, cumin, red pepper flakes, and balsamic vinegar, and stir. Add red miso paste and stir well to dissolve. Add bone broth and water to the pot to suit your own taste, or until there is enough liquid in the pot for things to move around freely. Add cubed squash and stir. Bring the contents of the pot up to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally until the liquid is significantly reduced, meat is fork-tender, and contents of the pot are moderately homogeneous.
Serve over steamed rice, potatoes or boiled noodles.
One pot makes 4-6 servings depending on appetites and once cooled, the leftovers refrigerate, freeze and reheat well.
Sashiko is the traditional Japanese method of decoratively mending or reinforcing textiles with cotton fabric and white or indigo-dyed thread. Sashiko is an expression of the traditional Japanese aesthetic Wabi-sabi, which is characterized by the appreciation of “imperfect beauty” and impermanence.
I plan to sew each patch down by hand in a grid pattern of small stitches using linen thread in a few different natural tones that remind me of wildflowers… the resulting mend should reinforce the knees and lower legs for at least another year of abruptly kneeling in dirt to spot cool bugs, and scooting across the living room rug while “playing dogs” with… the dog. Don’t ask, I’m an adult and this is just how I live my life.
I’ve had this same pair of dungarees since the early days of Lucy and Yak, and I have worn them more times than I could possibly count. I envision them 10 years from now, held together entirely by clever little hand-stitches and assorted patches cut from long-since-retired-yester-clothes.
In current food news ‘round these parts: I baked a lemon loaf cake today using this recipe and it turned out great, really great. My only deviation from Maria’s recipe was that I opted for a quick vanilla bean icing to douse the top instead of the suggested lemon glaze. Smash hit. Well done on the recipe, Maria. 🙂
I’ll continue to share the process of mending the knees of my dungarees as I go.
What was the last piece of clothing you brought back to life with a thoughtful mend? I’d love to continue the discussion in the comments below.
I recently experimented with curing egg yolks following the directions provided in the recipe for Asparagus with Cured Egg Yolk in the Le Creuset cookbook.
The Le Creuset directions for cured egg yolks call for 6 egg yolks, a mixture of sugar and kosher salt, and time.
Yolks were deposited carefully by hand into round indentations made with the back of a wooden spoon, sprinkled with salt mixture until just covered, then covered completely with a tightly fitting lid and refrigerated for 5 days until firm.
Resulting yolks were indescribable but I will try my best: salty complex umami flavor when grated over bitter salad greens with a simple balsamic vinaigrette, luxuriously silk and rich when grated over warm buttered toast with avocado – some delicious sort of witchcraft takes place when grated over hot buttered noodles… forgive me, I’m drooling now.
Good for 30 days in the fridge which was the perfect amount of time for me to use the whole batch testing out various applications. I think for the right foodie recipient, a nicely labeled jar of cured egg yolks would make a fantastic holiday gift. Maybe with a microplane (aka a rasp grater, and FYI every kitchen needs one), a loaf fresh bread, and a wedge of good cheese?
You can tell what my priorities are (eating good food)!