Breakfast, Bread, Personal


Sissy girl,

Years ago, I posted a letter to your brother here, as this place is my memory book of sorts. It was just a few weeks before he came and I had no idea what I, as a mother, would think and feel and love and be challenged by. I keep journals for you both but don't write in them nearly as often as I had hoped and when I do, I feel at a loss for words.

Do I make note of the things you do?

That when you smile on purpose, your gorgeous blue eyes squint shut. That the only word we can coax out of you is "uh oh!" and you exclusively scream and squawk with a glass-breaking pitch when you "talk" to your brother, and come to think of it, he is pretty loud himself so perhaps you perceive that as his language. That when Dad or I can stroke your bare belly you literally freeze and completely zone out, you don't even blink or breathe you are soaking it in so hard. Like a loyal Labrador. That you love berries and take your eggs scrambled, absolutely never hard boiled, will inhale roasted butternut squash but not touch a delicata, and have a strange discernment for water being in your cup too long. It must be fresh. You are not even one yet and you have so many opinions, oi. You are unbelievably cuddly, maybe even more so than your Dad and that's really saying something. You two together just melt me. 

Or is the journal a place for my feelings and emotions - something you may flip back to when you are a young mother yourself? There won't be enough people telling you that it's hard and that that is alright because hard things are also good. That you'll start to look tired, quicker, because you are, but how rich in love you feel sometimes couldn't make you care less. But then other times that exhaustion will make you wish bedtime would just come sooner so you could sit and not be needed. Being a mom is the hardest best thing. I hope you get to experience it - if you want to, of course. 

Surely I'm supposed to make note of your milestones but they start to blend into our everyday life. I can't remember when those teeth came through, but I have scars on my nipple from when you decided to test out their function while breastfeeding like I was a piece of jerky. You're lucky I allowed you back, missy. 

Your brother may have made us parents, but you came and made us feel like a family. You have the lightest spirit of the four of us. I mean, you're 11 months old so hopefully you don't have a lot weighing on your heart but I can just tell. We're born with those sorts of constitutions. Curran is a thinker. He figures things out, needs to be engaged, is a bit of a perfectionist and runs on the moodier/emotional side but you, you are generally just a happy little girl. A complete mess, clingy, you can rage when you want to, but you are so full of joy. I took you to Costco last weekend and you just stood in the cart on top of the apple squeezers box, hanging onto the side and lit up for anyone who would look at you in your adorable romper and big white headband. I want to be as happy as you! People tell me how beautiful you are but it is nothing compared to what I can tell is inside you, my girl.

I made these muffins because I saw how you couldn't palm one into your face fast enough at the coffee shop last weekend. I will disappoint you and make mistakes and yell when I wish I wouldn't but feeding my family, that act of service, is something I hope you see as an extension of my affection for you guys. I already have the cutest little kids apron on standby for when you're ready to mix and stir with me, my girl. I am, we all are, crazy about you. 

Adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer

Sarah's book is remarkably tested and full of classic and delicious baking recipes. I wouldn't qualify it in the health sphere per se but her brownies and muffins are perfect and I can't wait to try more when I am looking for classic baked goods. I made a few tweaks here due to only having exactly one cup of whole wheat flour on hand, so I substituted oat flour. Mine look a little flat because of this. C'est la vie. I also added cinnamon because I couldn't help myself but I made the notes to offer you her original in the recipe. Sarah suggests toasted pecans if you like crunch and says that these muffins freeze well if 18 muffins is a lot for you. Sidenote: I've damaged by old muffin tins but have been loving these (pictured) if you're in need of new ones. 

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (my addition, optional)
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup coconut milk with 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice)
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 small)
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1 diced banana
1 cup chocolate chips
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position. Preheat the oven to 375'. Place liners or grease your muffin tins. 
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Make a well in the center.
In a large bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the oil, buttermilk, mashed banana, egg, vanilla, maple and sugar until completely combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the dry and stir until almost combined. Fold in the diced banana and chocolate until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix (there will be lumps and the batter will be thin). 
Scoop the batter into the prepared tins, filling the cups about 2/3 full. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake 15-18 minutes until the edges are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Snack, Breakfast, Fall


Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins
Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins

The holiday week came and went and after one more party to ring in the New Year, I think we're just about toasted. A week full of good things, albeit it busy and expensive and generally full. We're so lucky that both families are close and we have friends here we've had for decades, but it makes for a very social season. There is a Rainer Maria Rilke quote that continues to pop into my head when I think about loving Hugh well. “I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.” He is an introvert, one who recharges by being alone, depleted by too many parties and get-togethers and I want to nurture this need while it may not be one that functions the same way in me. Our home, because we work here often as well, doesn't exactly feel the sanctuary it may for most people who return there after a day away at work. So we've gone to the sea the past few early evenings, just the two of us, to take a breath and get out. I can see Hugh's spirit lighten there, something I will try my entire life to give to him, by way of trips to the sea or otherwise. What a huge responsibility we have to love people - to not just show up, but to be present and aware of someone else. I'm not just speaking of marriage, but the truth of it welled up in me as I thought back on the whirlwind of a week. As my sister beyond spoiled our family for Christmas with her phenomenal taste and generous gift giving skills, or how we all drove 4 hours round trip on Christmas day, ate lunch a la gas station mini mart, to spend one hour with my grandma who wasn't feeling well, that a few people gave gifts to our baby boy in my tum who is merely the size of a large heirloom tomato (so I'm told, though he seems to be taking up a lot more real estate), and that his dad was able to feel him kick (or high five as he's claiming it to be) for the first time on Christmas morning and told every person he saw that day about it. We give gifts and time and words and hugs and infrequently stop to feel how truly huge it is, really. What you give, how you give it and to whom. I hope to be more thoughtful about this in 2014.

These feelings of the giganticness of life are on par for the year's end. This evening we'll go to our ritual new years spot and talk goals, likely shed tears relating to how we fit into said giganticness and admit how in even looking forward to a new year, I may be seized with impotent fear. The small things within the big things are what this beautiful life is built out of and I hope to see and experience the minutia of the day to day when the big things feel like too much.

My friend Megan of A Sweet Spoonful has a charming cookbook that came out today and these muffins are from it's pages. It's a breakfast cookbook but so much more than that as you'll see when you get drawn into her storytelling and impeccable granola recipe that truly extends beyond breakfast to one of my favorite ice cream toppings. I chose these muffins due to the pears I had in perfect condition to be grated, but the book is filled with a variety of breakfast ideas. I appreciate how these recipes seem to have come so naturally from her life onto the printed pages of a cookbook. Congrats, Megan, I'm excited to try more recipes!

Anything can happen, anything can be. - Shel Silverstein

The loveliest new year to you all.

Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins
Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins
Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins
Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins

PEAR AND HAZELNUT MUFFINS // Makes 12 standard muffins

Recipe barely adapted from Megan Gordons Whole Grain Mornings

I halved the recipe with success, hence why you see six muffins in the photos. I do believe these could be made gluten free with a quick swap of the flours, you just won't get as much of a dome. I'd go equal parts almond, oat flour, brown rice flour to equal the 1 1/2 cups and just expect they'll be more crumbly, but this doesn't bother me. Maybe throw a splash of flax meal in there too for binding support and make up for the fact that these flours aren't quite as absorbent as wheat. Can you tell I'm big on precise baking? I also think the whole thing could work great in a loaf pan with a longer baking time.

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2-3 firm pears
  • 2/3 cup natural cane sugar or muscavado
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 heaping cup toasted and chopped hazelnuts
Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins
Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins

Preheat the oven to 425'. Butter a standard 12-cup miffin tin (or line with papers. I wish I'd done the former).

In a bowl, combine the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Core the pears and grate them into a bowl using the large holes of a box grater. You should have a heaping cup of shredded pear.

Put the sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter and stir it into the sugar until well combined. Whisk in the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and shredded pear until you have what resembles a loose batter. Add the flour mixture and fold it in gently, being careful not to overmix. Reserve 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts but stir the other half into the batter.

Fill the muffin cups nearly to the top and sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts. Put the muffins in the oven and immediately decrease the heat to 375'. Bake until the tops are golden brown and feel firm to the touch, 25-27 minutes.

Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the tin. Serve warm or room temperature. They will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container.

Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins
Pear & Hazelnut Oat Muffins
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Dessert, Breakfast, Snack



While on a phone interview yesterday morning, a woman asked me if my cooking style has changed since I started the site 3+ years ago. First off, I am not a quick draw on those types of questions. I fill silence with a few "ums" and "well..." but it doesn't buy me the time I need to give an adequate answer. I said that I've taken into account what readers seem to respond to, where they comment the most (which I really appreciate), and I try to keep simplicity in mind as that always seems to be the overall theme of popular posts. People like simple - I get that. I like simple too.

I later thought about her questions and the passage of time in this space, and I realize that my cooking here has only changed as my life has changed first. A response to the different chapters of our story - my food somehow emotionally connected to other things going on. In posts of years past, I had mentioned a number of times how I did not like baking. I don't care much for precision or seeing the amount of butter in my cookies (I like to eat it, but maybe I don't want to see it). I would bake because I was building variety here and I wanted to learn, but it was motivated by an obligation of sorts. Those were days where I lived alone in a studio apartment and I mostly cooked for myself. Hugh and I worked on blog posts in my parents' kitchen on days off from work and the last thing my devil of a sweet tooth needed was a bunch of baked goods around. But after a wedding, a full apartment kitchen, and a stand mixer of my own, I now bake pretty frequently. My will power isn't any stronger, but I show love with food. It's a communication tool for me, and if you know anything about love languages this may make more sense and seem a little less eccentric. I bake because it's a way of care taking, it isn't for me, and I didn't really notice it until that lady asked me that question.

Hugh is a sweet-in-the-morning-with-his-coffee guy so I experiment with breakfast goodies (we don't even eat bananas, I just keep them around to go bad so I can make tasty banana bread. I really have gone to the dark side huh?). I tried these muffins for a little something different, as coffee seems to be the way to my husbands heart. The crumb is pretty light, the sweetness is subtle and we've already gone through half of them before a breakfast has passed so I will assume that means they're alright.



Inspiration from Cannelle et Vanille and La Tartine Gourmand

These could easily be made gluten free with one quick change - just substitute GF all purpose flour or rice flour for the spelt. Spelt is wheat free, but not gluten free. I would suppose this would also come out well in a smaller sized loaf pan, but I can't attest to this from experience. Let me know if you try it.

  • 1/2 cup/ 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt or applesauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup packed muscavado sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 3/4 cup, spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup oat flour (just grind up some rolled oats)
  • 1 cup almond flour/meal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. espresso or finely ground coffee
  • 3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
  • // streusel //
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350'. Grease a standard muffin tin or fill with paper liners.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the solids turn a light brown color, it's a nice shade of amber and it starts to smell nutty. About 10 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool. If using coconut oil, skip this step.

Whisk the eggs, yogurt or applesauce and vanilla together. Once the brown butter is slightly cooled, whisk that in as well. Go ahead, put your nose in there, that smell is all sorts of amazing. In another large mixing bowl, stir the muscavado, spelt flour, oat flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, espresso together to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to mix. Stir in the chopped chocolate but do not overmix.

In another small bowl, for streusel, combine the oats, butter, turbinado and pinch of salt. Press it together with your fingers to mash everything together.

Scoop the batter into the tins about 3/4 full. You will get somewhere between 8 to 10 depending on how you fill them. Sprinkle a bit of streusel on top of each muffin. Bake on the middle rack for 20 minutes or until centers are just cooked through. Remove to cool.

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