Monday, May 4, 2015

ICYMI: BROWN BUTTER BANANA BREAD WITH PEANUT STREUSEL

(I'm working on some new recipes and stories for May. Meanwhile, here is last month's post from Cooking What I Want, my Food52 column. I'm about a month behind with everything so spring break and the Easter Bunny make an appearance! I tested this recipe so intensely that I have many half-eaten loaves hiding in my freezer. A few days ago, I took one out at midnight, left it on the counter, and the next morning had myself a kick ass breakfast of toasted gooey banana bread with butter AND cream cheese. You need both. Trust me.)
YOU ONLY HAVE TWO HOURS until your son rushes back into the house from school and begins eleven days of spring break.
Two hours to organize eleven years' worth of your kids’ art.
Two hours to try on and reject all of your bathing suits.
Two hours to figure out the book you want to write.
Instead, you move the food processor to the right side of the kitchen and plug it in.
Two hours to master the mandoline.
Two hours to track down the electrician to figure out why none of the outlets work on the left side of your kitchen.
You brown the butter until it smells just right.
Two hours to make skin cancer screening, mammogram, oil change appointments.
Two hours to clean up the mess the Easter bunny made when she dumped the contents of the toy bin outside to make room for the baskets, thinking it would never ever rain again in California.
You gather roasted peanuts and two very sad bananas.
Two hours to dissect the ins and outs of the Iran Nuclear Deal and Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
You think about the drought and the melting polar ice caps and how much waste there is in your kitchen: half-eaten apples, salami and cheese sandwiches smushed in bottoms of lunch boxes, a back porch strewn with Ziploc bags and vinegar and baking soda from a weekend of baggie bomb wars.
Two hours to sharpen your knives.
You pour your son's leftover breakfast into the food processor: one bowl of plain yogurt, half a glass of orange juice.
Two hours to find the popover recipe you developed over the course of three months and then lost somewhere in the kids’ paper trail.
You smack an egg on the counter. Again. And again. It’s hard-boiled. The Easter bunny needs to organize her fridge.
Two hours to meditate.
You sift the dries and pulse the wets. As you mix them together, you look for pockets of flour, remembering how your mom taught you to fold: cut down the middle, flip the spatula, quarter turn the bowl. 
Two hours to clean up the kitchen mess before you need to start cooking the next meal.
You press in the peanut streusel.
Two hours to crawl into bed and give up.
Your son dashes in. Ready for 264 hours of spring break. Ready for a piece of banana bread with butter. Ready for you. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

(My nomination for Best Writing in the Saveur Food Blog Awards has brought so many people my way. So for those of you who are new to my blog, here is one final story from the archives. Voting ends April 30th. Back in a week or so with new content. Doritos might be involved. Just warning you now! xoxo)

STAY
You whisk the eggs and then slowly pour in the milk. A squeeze of fresh orange juice, vanilla extract, some salt. You whisk so vigorously you create an inch of foam. You're sweating but your left bicep feels strong.

You pour the batter over the three-day-old bread. You crank some music.

You ask the kids to take the dog to the backyard. They pound down the stairs with the reluctant dog and leave the front door open. You throw a chunk of butter onto the griddle and let it go too long because you love the smell of brown butter.

You close your right eye so that you can't see the pile of dishes from yesterday's oatmeal, last night's chicken, the food photography experiments, the wins, the losses.

You want to run away.

You turn up the song. You move your hips, your rib cage, your arms, twirling your hands like they contain castanets, spatula corkscrewing up to the ceiling.

You lift up the custard-soaked bread pieces and deliver them to the griddle, dripping the egg mixture across the counter. You think, what's a little more mess? The sizzling makes you think you would make a really good short order cook and that it would be much easier than managing this house.

You remember that last night you slammed the bedroom door so fucking hard it cracked like one of those earthquake faults. San Andreas? Hayward? You can't remember which big one lies beneath the house. You sip your coffee and everything goes away. You put your mug down and it all comes back.

The pieces of French toast are lined up in two straight lines like Madeline's friends, steaming on the interior, craggy lines forming on the exterior.

The house is quiet.

You flip each piece. Splat. Splat. Splat. Butter flies onto your apron. You recently started buying aprons, because all your black clothes were stained with grease, but you swear you will never walk out of the house wearing one. No one will see this costume. You empty a bottle of maple syrup into a pot and turn on the heat.

You place the cooked slices onto a warm plate. Powdered sugar, lemon, jam, napkins, plates, and forks all to the table.

You step out of your clogs and bust out a pirouette. You can still do four in a row on the left side but you know better than to try the right side. You slide your shoes back on and you are almost 6 feet tall again. You like feeling tall.

You rise up on your toes, as if you're wearing toe shoes, and lengthen your spine up over the dirty dishes. You peek out of the kitchen window. The kids are not in the garden.

You run down the stairs, out the open door, and call out. Dash! Bella! Dash!

Your hands fly to your face. You feel your chest turn red and your heart start to race. You yell out to no one in particular. Oh my god! Where are they?

You are wearing red plaid pajamas, no bra, silver clogs, and a black and white striped apron. You are the crazy lady.

You continue screaming your kids' names as you run down the block. Around the corner. And then around another. And then there they are.

Mama, I thought you'd be proud. We decided to walk Wylie around the block.

You grab Bella too hard around her upper arms and repeat over and over again that Dash is four. Four. Bella. Don't you know that he is four.

Yeah, Bella. I'm four.

You sit down on the ground and pull them both into your lap, the dog manages to tangle you all up in the leash like you're tied to the railroad tracks in one of those old movies with a fast-paced plinking piano soundtrack.

Bella caresses Dash's check. And then your cheek. I'm sorry, mama. But you know, I really can take care of him.

But you don't want her to have that much responsibility yet.

Dash was almost run over by a car. Twice. And then there were the hospital stays. The mushroom he ate. The Staphylococcus scare. And the spinal tap at seven weeks. And every second of every day for the first few years of his life when you couldn't turn your back on him for more than five seconds. The days when your heart was in your throat and your chest ached from too many shallow breaths.

It's okay, mama. Dash is fine. Don't worry so much. How's the french toast?

Shit.

The maple syrup.

You run as fast as you can all the way home, followed by Dash in his Crocs, Bella in her Uggs, tugging on the dog's leash. All those impractical shoes and no one trips.

Up the stairs, down the hall, into the kitchen. The thick maple foam is hovering right at the pot's edge. You pour the syrup into a pitcher. Dash reaches for it. You grab his wrist. Hardcore scary hot, you say. Don't touch. Please.

You pick him up and squeeze and spin and spin and squeeze.

You sit down and eat French toast with extra thick maple syrup. It turns to candy as it hits the cold plates.

Mama. It's even better than regular maple syrup. We should do things like this every time from now on.

Okay. Bella. I will try. I will try. I will try.


FRENCH TOAST WITH MAPLE SYRUP GLAZE
printable recipe
serves 4
You can add fewer eggs. Or more eggs. You can add Grand Marnier, nutmeg, cinnamon, heavy cream, or half and half. It's pretty much impossible to mess up French toast. You can even replace the milk with eggnog. Some kinds of bread soak up more of the custard than other kinds. You can just whisk up a bit more of the custard if needed.

Alternatively, you can soak the bread overnight in the custard. The next morning, sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake at 350°F until cooked through, 25 minutes or so. Broil the top until golden brown. Or try my recipe for baked baguette French toast.

ingredients:
10-12 slices stale white bread (challah or sourdough boules are particularly good)
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
pinch kosher salt
butter for grilling and serving
1 cup maple syrup

directions:
Place bread one layer thick on a sheet pan or in a large baking dish. Set aside.

Whisk eggs. Whisk in milk. Add orange juice/zest, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, and salt. Whisk the heck out of it. Or just put it all in the blender. Pour over the bread. Let the bread soak up the custard. Flip the slices after a few minutes.

While the bread is soaking up the custard, pour maple syrup into a big pot. Bring it to a boil on the back of the stove. Turn down to medium and boil for at least 5 minutes. Pour into a pitcher to cool a little.

Crank up your griddle or pan to medium heat. Add some butter. Once melted, place custard-soaked bread on the griddle. Don't turn to high heat or they will burn on the outside before cooking on the inside. Flip when golden brown. Eat right away with butter and piping hot maple syrup. Or with powdered sugar and lemon juice. Or cook lots of it. Cool. Then freeze in Ziploc bags. When you want a piece, thaw it in the toaster.

P.S. I make a variation of this French toast recipe almost once a week. And a few days ago, I added a crunchy cornflake crust. Recipe for that crunchy goodness coming soon.

Monday, April 20, 2015

GOOD MORNING

My daughter slowly scoops out her vanilla yogurt, crowning the surface with raspberries, scattering it all with granola, stepping back, enjoying her stellar plating. With his own breakfast bowl, my son follows her every decorative move. They are moving so slowly I could scream. 
It is 7:45 A.M. We need to leave the house by 8 A.M. Do the toothbrushing, library-book-finding, math. It’s an impossible situation.
Add this to the fifteen minute mix: 
One towering pile of dishes from the previous night’s garlicky pasta dinner.
One missing lunch box.
One broken toilet.
Two rotten cucumbers.
One questionable red pepper.
One daughter helplessly cramming the definitions of avuncular, taut, and assailant into her brain.
One son yelling you never stop micromanaging, mom, and it stresses me out.
One broken water glass.
One chunk of glass in now crying (still yelling) son’s foot, requiring tweezers, vodka (we’re out of rubbing alcohol), Band-Aid.
One bounce bounce splash of the milk carton.
One epic freezer adventure—searching for anything resembling breakfast, lunch, coffee—yielding every kind of gluten you can imagine: whole wheat bread, gooey cinnamon swirl challah, chocolate croissants, cheese-packed danishes, sticky buns, orange cranberry scones, bread sticks, bagels, tortillas.
But no coffee.
I don’t know how to do any of this without coffee.
I perform the open-the-fridge-and-stare move. The thing that elicits from me, on a daily basis, the Are you kidding me, Dash? Close the fridge door. You’re wasting electricity. What is wrong with you?
In my under-caffeinated state, I start to understand the little dude who lives with me. Maybe the cool air helps him wake up. Sometimes it takes a minute to find your center. You see everything. And you see nothing. It’s meditative. And then I know why I’m here. The blueberry sauce. I made it over the weekend when we had nowhere to go, nothing to do, only the potential for hours of Stratego and Laura Ingalls Wilder and sock sorting.
We were running low on maple syrup, so I covered the berries in a snowpile of sugar. I added a pinch of salt, a splash of water, some lemon zest. It all simmered for half an hour, popping, thickening, intensifying in color and flavor. We poured the steaming hot neon reduction over our buttery buttermilk waffles.
By Monday morning, the cold purple compote has thickened into a spreadable jam.
The kids add it to their bowls of yogurt. I use it for PB&Js. I dream about blueberry cheesecake. Then, I sit down and take a big sticky bite of the summery blueberry mess, bringing some Saturday morning bliss to our Monday morning shitstorm.Recipe for my Quick Blueberry Jam can be found in my Food52 column.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

(I'm loving all of the new readers heading my way thanks to the Saveur Food Blog Awards. Since I'm nominated for Best Writing, I am reposting some of my favorite stories from the past few years. 

Strawberries are in season. Taylor is still on the radio. My sacrum is still cranky. So nothing has changed over the past two years. Except I'm now 45. Have a great weekend!)

THIS MORNING I YELLED
at my son for refusing to put on his shoes, at my clean unfolded laundry for covering the couch, at the rats for reproducing and forcing me to kill their babies, at my daughter for taking 30 minutes to choose a pair of earrings, at the black mold in my bathroom, at my kids in the carpool drop-off line to hurry up and don't forget your lunch please say thank you to the woman opening the door Bella don't hit Dash even though he's annoying. I thought I was done yelling. And then that new Taylor Swift song came on. So I yelled at Taylor as I drove to the grocery store.

No, Taylor, I really don't feel 22. I have a cranky sacrum because something shifted down there during my second pregnancy. If I jump up too quickly to prevent my son from stepping out in front of a moving car, my right knee snaps like a rubber band, but I run through the pain because trust me, that's just what you do. My brain is a bit shaky lately as in I never stop saying where are my glasses, where are my fucking keys, where's that camp form, who stole my sunglasses. But here's the good news, Taylor. I've started reading entire books again for the first time in 10 years, slurping up hundreds of pages just like I used to inhale the Esprit Catalog. Let's talk about my breasts, Taylor. I think they would scare you. Last week my husband stared at them lovingly in the light of day and started singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot. I didn't punch him, Taylor. I kissed him. Hard. Because he's funny. And as he taught me, comedy ain't pretty. I used to cry over episodes of ER. Now I cry while spying out the attic window on the all-grown-up tuxedoed neighbor boy, piling with his buddies into daddy's minivan, smoothing down his hair, gearing up for the big prom night. Without missing a beat, I can answer questions like do people eat cow brains, what is a MILF, when is our dog dying, can we go to Disneyland this weekend. I actually say things like do as I say not as I do, don't run with scissors, use your inside voice, if you have nothing nice to say then don't say anything at all. I have this uncontrollable urge to watch my children sleep. I kiss kiss kiss them until they're awake enough to say I love you back. On a daily basis I hear how much I'm hated, how I never say yes, how I'm the meanest person on the planet. I haven't breastfed in almost five years but an expression of love, via a kid's hand on my heart, or a word uttered at just the right moment, or a glance smile sigh, will make my milk let down. My weekends are no longer mine. I will never ever sleep through the night again. But if people are telling me the truth, this phase will be over in a flash and I will be left with that quiet house I currently crave so much and an obsessive lifelong desire for my kids to come home please come home as often as you want please come home. So when I need a break or a breath or a boost or a shift, I make some ice cream. The great neutralizer. I think you might like my strawberry ice cream, Taylor. I would love to serve you some on my back porch. And then we can listen to The Cure and dance around the kitchen with hairbrushes as microphones and be hella carefree. Much to my kids' horror, I do this on a regular basis. I don't know about you, Taylor, but I feel 43.

STRAWBERRY VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM

printable recipe
This recipe works very well with early season strawberries, ones that aren't very sweet and might not be red all the way through. Macerating them all day results in a beautiful red juice. The strawberry slices stay quite firm which adds a nice texture to the ice cream. The leftover strawberry sauce is delicious over greek yoghurt or on buttered toast. The strawberry sauce and ice cream base should be made ahead of time and chilled overnight. This recipe makes a pretty big batch. Depending on the size of your machine, you might need to churn it in 2 batches.

ingredients:
1 pint of strawberries (a bit more than a cup once sliced)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise. seeds scraped out
1  1/2  cups half and half
2/3 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1  1/2  cups heavy cream

directions (strawberry sauce):
Stem and thinly slice strawberries. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Add vanilla bean pod and seeds. Stir. Set aside for most of the day. Stir every hour or so. Once the berries have spewed out their vibrant red juice, refrigerate  for a few days (careful, it will mold fast due to minimal sugar) or freeze it for a few months.

directions (ice cream custard):
Set up an ice bath for the ice cream base. Add a few cups of ice to a large bowl. Put a smaller bowl in the larger bowl. Place a fine strainer on top of the small bowl. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together half and half, sugar, yolks, and salt. Set aside.

Place heavy cream in a medium-sized saucepan. Turn to medium heat. Bring to just under the boil. Turn off heat. Slowly whisk hot cream into half and half/yolk/sugar mixture. Pour  mixture back in pot and place on low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon. Do not leave the custard even for a moment. Stir the whole time or you will have some scrambled eggs on the bottom. It will slowly thicken. It's done when you drag a finger across the back of the spoon and it leaves a lingering trail that doesn't close in on itself.

Pour custard through the strainer and into the smaller bowl. Add water to the ice until it rises to the level of the custard. When custard is cool, cover and place in the fridge overnight. 

Place a serving container for the ice cream in the freezer. Mix together cold custard with one cup of cold strawberry sauce (juice and chunks; vanilla pod removed). Churn in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Freeze for a few hours before serving. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

(Thanks to the Saveur Food Blog Awards, I have a lot of new people checking out my blog. I'm nominated for Best Writing so I thought I'd flash back to some of my favorite stories. Here's a post from 3 years ago. I will be revisiting older posts over the next few weeks. So come back if you want to read more from the archives. Thanks so much!)

FIVE DAYS INTO ONE

3 a.m.

Dash is horizontal in my bed, dreaming, his feet walking up my face.

And I am brain-churning, teeth-grinding, eyes-wide-open awake.

I press Dash's toes to my lips and imagine, one by one, losing everyone that I love. A car crash, a murder, several kidnappings.

I shake my head from side to side to expel the tragedy fantasies and slide into a more typical middle-of-the-night worry list.

Did I place the battery back into the smoke detector? What's causing the dead animal smell in the attic? Warm cabbage salad with almonds, anchovy vinaigrette, and navel orange? Or bacon and pine nuts? Why did I have that third glass of wine? Did I lock the front door? Who the fuck am I?

6:45 a.m.

Bella hovers. Sighs. Stomps. Shakes my shoulders. Pulls back the comforter. She shrieks, "We're going to be late for school and I hate being late."

"Bella. Please. CHILL. Just five more minutes."

Dash yells from the kitchen, "Mama, don't be mean to Bella. I love her."

Crash. Breaking glass.

Now I'm up.

Bella watches as I pull on yesterday's jeggings, white t-shirt, grey cardigan, and boots.

"Mama. You wore that yesterday. And your pants are so tight."

Dash enters the bedroom. "Mama. Why are you wearing your bathrobe?"

"Dash. This is a sweater. Can't you see that?"

"You need your coffee. It makes you stronger and nicer."

Bella yanks my t-shirt down to cover my belly and then takes a brush to my hair. "You would look so pretty with your hair in a high ponytail."

"I don't like to feel like a cheerleader."

Two sips of coffee.

And I fly.

Zit covered. Dog walked. Sharing toy found. Pork thrown into slow cooker. Field trip waiver signed. Six and seven "times tables" practiced.

8 a.m.

No time to sweep up the broken glass. Milk is left out. Compost never makes it to the curb. Teeth aren't brushed.

We speed to school, avoiding small children and dogs, blasting music, chewing mint gum.

"Daddy comes home Saturday."

Smiles.

"Dash. Bella. I'm so sick of Adele."

"Me too," says Dash. "I prefer Mozart. And Handel is nice too."

Bella looks disgusted and pushes her face further into her book.

"What? Dash? HANDEL? Where did you come from?

"From you, mama. I came out from behind your legs."

Bella would jump out of the car if we weren't moving so fast.

"Okay, lovelies. What's for dinner tonight?"

We decide on spaghetti carbonara with bacon (for Bella), Marcona almonds (for Dash), parsley, garlic, thick balsamic (for me), and three different cheeses.

6:45 p.m.

Broken glass swept up. Maya Angelou poem recited. French dictation practiced. Anchovies pestled. Nuts bashed. Garlic and shallots softened. Wine poured. Pitcher of pasta water reserved. Parsley chopped. Dog tranquilized. Another glass broken.

Pasta tossed, topped, drizzled.

Eat. Clean. Read. Snuggle. One kid down. Threaten to take away all playdates and sleepovers for the next year. Another kid down. 

10 p.m. 

Pour third glass of wine. Write. Fall asleep in bath. Drag ass to bed. Wish for my husband's hand, to encompass the crown of my head, to gently press me into sleep. 

Repeat.

MARCONA ALMOND CARBONARA
printable recipe
Serves 3
This is a very forgiving recipe. Play. Cream or no cream. Or half and half. Or chicken stock. Skip the egg. Replace parsley with chives. Skip bacon. Use any hard cheese. Whatever.

ingredients:
6 slices bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped or microplaned
1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
4 anchovy fillets
1/2 cup Marcona almonds
1 egg
juice/zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chopped flat parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream
1.5 cups grated cheese (any combination of parmesan, pecorino, romano, piave)
salt
pepper
salt for pasta water
1 pound dry pasta
for toppings: olive oil, balsamic (thick if you have it), salt, pepper, chopped parsley

directions:
Put on a big pot of water to boil pasta.

In a medium-sized cast iron or nonstick pan, fry up the bacon to your liking. Remove cooked bacon and place on paper towel. Pour out most of the bacon fat and reserve for other uses. Turn pan to medium heat. Add olive oil. Add shallots and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add vinegar and cook for 30 seconds. Turn off heat and set aside.

Bash anchovies with a mortar and pestle. Add almonds and bash until almost a paste but not quite.

In a large bowl (in which you will serve the pasta) add almond/anchovy mixture, egg. lemon juice/zest, parsley, cream, 1 cup of the cheese, salt, pepper, and cooked shallots/garlic. Whisk together.

Once the pasta water is boiling. add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add pasta. Before pouring pasta into a colander, scoop out and reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water. Cook pasta until al dente.

Add cooked and drained pasta to almond, anchovy, lemon juice/zest, parsley, cream, shallots, garlic mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup pasta water. Use tongs to combine. Taste. Add more pasta water, cheese, salt, and pepper as needed. Taste again.

Serve with toppings on the table: crumbled bacon, pasta water, parsley, parmesan, salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

SCHOOL

My son hands me a pile of cheesecake recipes.
Where did you get these? 
From the internet thingy, mom.
How did you print them?
I hit the print button. 
A year ago he couldn’t even turn on the device.
Mom, I think we should combine the recipes. Just mix them all up into one. It will be easy.
I’m listening.
What about lemonade cheesecake with Oreo crust? Frozen into squares? Topped with Cool Whip?
I try to remain at least externally open-minded. I propose a scooter ride.
You’ve never scooted in your life, mom.
I just need some time to clear my head, to talk myself back into recipe testing with a seven-year-old, to remember what it feels like to be a beginner.
We go around the block three times, inhaling the early jasmine, taking the corners dangerously. I fall twice. My right hip flexor cramps. My inner thighs start shaking.
We’re ready to make a cheesecake.
Take one has brown butter graham cracker crust. Equal parts cream cheese and goat cheese. Eggs. Minimal sugar. Hella lemon zest. Crème fraîche. A pinch of salt.
He dips his entire hand into the batter, letting the excess drip off like he’s making a five-fingered candle, slowly licking off the creamy, lemony glove.
What’s missing, Dash?
Did you add a packet of lemonade powder?
I pretend I don’t hear his question.
We set all devices in the house for 40 minutes. We wait. We taste.
Mom, it’s a bit like a wet sponge smeared with goat cheese. Have you ever done this before?

Take two gives us hope: Smooth surface. No leaky water bath issues. But as it cools, a cake-wide lightning-shaped crack emerges.

Mom. Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay. We can just push it back together. Maybe we can glue it?
I release the pan’s latch and watch his face fall.

Mom! Why did all of the crust stick to the pan? Why is it caving in? I forgot to butter the pan. I didn’t use parchment paper. I didn’t let it cool properly.

We scoop up mangled scraps of cake with our fingers.
I was in a hurry to make a perfect cake.
Mom, we’re going to have to make like 27 of these to get it right!
We agree on the next steps: ditch the bland graham cracker crust and tone down the lemon goat flavor. We head to the market for reinforcements.
As I pull into a parking place, I find myself staring at a woman with blindingly white teeth and an expertly sculpted ass. The whole package glows like a painted, primped, pimped, pumped, shaved, lacquered North Star. I look down at my stained sweatshirt and linty leggings. I can smell my armpits.
I don’t want to fight that hard. I just want to make cheesecake.
Take three involves lemon cookies and a rocky beginning. I can’t remember how much sugar we used for our first two rounds.
Mom. You have to write things down. You can’t keep it all in your head.  
If he only knew. 
Mom, why wouldn't you just throw all the ingredients in together. Why do you scrape down the sides. What is cheese? You can do whatever you want so why don't you eat dessert all day long? Are you going to keep getting more and more wrinkles or will they just stop?
I answer every single question in full. Until his eyes glaze over. Until he wishes he never asked.
We effortlessly free our creation from the springform pan, slide it onto a cake stand, encircle it with lemon cookies.
Dash. What’s your verdict? Do we have a recipe? 
Yes. But no. I don’t know.

Exactly.

Recipe can be found in my Cooking What I Want column over at FOOD52.

Monday, February 23, 2015

I KNOW A MAMA WHO

knows a mama who had sex last night.

Is feeling the estrogen drop and the testosterone rise. Would give up alcohol and sugar if her son would stay small forever. Wonders if her exhaustion is life threatening. Still doesn’t floss.

I know a mama who stares at the asses of young women and thinks why didn't I love my young body when I had one?

Judges herself by her kids’ daily intake of decent food. Likes things tidy down there. Loves watching her husband sleep. Is trying not to turn into her mother.

I know a mama who wonders why she is staying home instead of flexing her brain in the world.

Falls asleep during sex. Hopes her son is gay so she doesn't have to battle a daughter-in-law. Cannot get over her envy of mamas who don't have to work. Can breathe through anything.

I know a mama who loves her work so much that she sometimes feels like she shouldn’t be a mama.

Had an affair in order to remember that she likes sex. Wonders just how much iPad use will cause her kids’ brains to melt. Can’t stop eating granola when it's in her house. Is getting divorced. Finally feels free.

I know a mama who doesn't believe her husband when he says she is hot.

Still gets zits. Can’t believe she still gets zits. Loves her son so much it makes her skin tingle. Said to the bully next door if you touch my kid again, I'll cut your fingers off.

Spends work meetings assessing the fuckability of all men in the room. Braises meat for comfort. Pees a little every time she coughs, sneezes, or laughs. Drinks her second glass of wine in a mug.

Feels high when she doesn't eat lunch. Is one snippy comment away from throwing anything in reach at her husband. Does handstands in the shower. Swears in front of her children. Wants another baby.

I know a mama who doesn’t know how to help her daughter feel smart, beautiful, feminine, strong, brave.

I know a mama who hugged her son close when his father walked out the door without saying goodbye.

Backed out of the driveway with the car door open. Almost drove away from the gas pump with the nozzle in the car. Gives her 12-year-old daughter coffee to help make hard mornings smoother. Cannot get her kids to school on time. Looks like she has it all together.

I know a mama who feels nothing down there.

Is afraid she will hit one of her children. Is hoping menopause will come soon because the monthly cramps are unbearable. Feels wrinkly and gray, but when she talks at work, people fucking listen. Tries not to look in the mirror.

Likes things bushy down there. Loves giving blow jobs. Fakes orgasms. Has an ulcer. Helps everyone breathe.

I know a mama who knows that sometime in the next 15 years her husband is going to fall in love with another woman and she will have to decide whether or not to forgive him.

I know a mama who feels so dark on her dark days she can’t fathom that she’s only halfway through this slog.

Sleeps underneath an ever-growing pile of clean laundry. Fantasizes about women. Wonders why no one told her when she was young that sex was so complicated. Wishes she had experimented when she had the chance. Is fooling everyone.

I know a mama who woke up with cream cheese icing in her hair, cupcake crumbs between her breasts, red wine staining her lips and teeth and sheets.

Gets Brazilians for her husband. Just discovered a whole new crop of spider veins. Has a lover who lives across the country. Likes her ass for the first time in her life. Has never felt stronger.

I know a mama who feels duped.
Feels lost.
Feels fat.
Feels loved.

Tried to sext with her husband and was rejected. Gets deeply depressed when she masturbates. Sexts with strangers. Needs gin. Has never felt braver.

I know a mama who loves her kids more than her husband.

Needs to feed people. Used to turn heads when she walked into a room. Called her son a little shit to his face. Is still truly madly deeply in love with her husband.

I know a mama who learned how to be a good mama from her own mama.

I know a mama who is stunned by the capacity of her heart.

______________________________


Ten women (myself included) contributed to this post. We wrote back and forth for several weeks. The thread included over 100 emails. I've streamlined our words a bit for overall cohesiveness within the post. I've removed some specifics so that our stories are less recognizable and more universal. But most of what you read above is what came flying into my inbox.

A few days into this very moving exchange, one woman wrote that she couldn't make granola anymore because she would eat it all in one sitting. Granola recipes were exchanged. And then the magic happened. Bags and Mason jars of granola were delivered all over Berkeley and Oakland: placed on front stoops, shoved into mailboxes, tucked behind pots of herbs. Granola was sent to Los Angeles and Long Island. We handed it off at parties and play dates. We called it crack. We called it dinner. We ate so much we got tummy aches.


I had  a little contest over on Instagram and Facebook in which I asked people to help me name my granola (winner receives a big  batch of granola in the mail). Here's how I described it: Sweet and salty clumps of oats, hemp, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and sliced almonds are held together by brown butter, olive oil, coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, and brown sugarOut of over 150 entries, here are some of my favorites:

Seedy Underbelly
Nama-Stay Away From My Granola
#MotherfuckingOm Granola
Salted Seedy Granola Crunch
Crack-ola
Crack Granola
Not Your Mama's Granola
Fairy Crisps
Clumpy Monkey
Seedy Brown Butter Crunch
Dash and Bella Crunch
It's Berkeley, Bitches Granola
Don't-Hate-It-Cuz-It's-Hemp Crunch
Hemp Hemp Hurray
Hemp and Awe
Nutty Maple Brown Butter Crunch
Girasole Granola
Cluster's Last Stand

The winner is Jen Bilik from Venice, California. She came up with Grantola. My last name. My granola. Merged into one. Simple. Kick ass. Perfect. 

Grantola (or Brown Butter Hemp Maple Honey Brown Sugar Oat Sesame Sunflower Seed Nut Crunch)
printable recipe
makes enough to fill two 17 x 20-inch baking sheets.
serves 1 to 20

Thank you to my friend, Samin Nosrat, who told me about using an egg white for clumpier granola. Works brilliantly! It you like looser granola, add 1/2 cup flour to your dry mixture and skip the egg white.

Use this as a template. Make it your own. Delete the nuts. Add less brown sugar. Skip the fucking hemp. Please play. There are no rules.

If you choose to add dried fruit, do so after the granola has baked or your teeth will be hella bummed.

ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark or light brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cup long-cooking oats 
1 cup sesame seeds (black or white or a combination)
2 cup nuts (any combination of chopped walnuts, chopped pecans,  slivered almonds)
1 cup hemp seeds 
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 egg white

directions:
Preheat oven to 300°F. Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once it's melted, don't walk away. Swirl it around a few times. It will foam and spatter. After 3 of 4 minutes, it will start to smell nutty. Then is will quiet down and brown bits will drop to the bottom of the pan. At this point, remove it from the heat. Add brown sugar, coconut oil, olive oil, honey, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine and set aside. It won't come together. That's okay.

Place the following in the largest bowl (or pot) you have: oats, sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, salt. Toss together with your hands.

Pour the sweet buttery mixture over the dry contents in the big bowl. Toss together with your hands or a large spoon. Whisk the egg white until frothy and then mix it into the sweet and buttery granola mixture (again, with your hands if you wish).

Divide mixture in half and spread out to about 1/2-inch thickness on the two prepared baking sheets. Press down with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula. Nestle in any stray chunks so they don't overcook.

You will want to cook it between 30 and 40 minutes. Start by baking for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss well. Press back down. Again, tuck in any stray chunks. Bake another 10 minutes. Repeat tossing. Press down. Bake another 10 minutes. At this point, you're at 30 minutes which results in a nicely baked granola. If you like your granola darker, cook up to 10 more minutes more, 40 minutes total.

Remove from the oven. Cool completely on the baking sheets. It should be like a sheet pan-sized fragile granola bar. Break it apart into bite-sized chunks (or bigger if you like). To prevent sogginess, store at room temperature in an airtight container or bag for up to three weeks. Or freeze for up to six months.