our messy table

Category: Comfort Food

buckwheat granola

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My toddler son has taken to exclusively playing with clothes hangers. The child-sized ones meant for his 4T stature.

This  began a few weeks ago when my mother was visiting. For whatever reason, we were sitting on the floor in my son’s room while he played with whatever he pulled out of the toy box, just chatting about this and that. And as her eyes scanned the room, she noticed that there were only a few clothes hangers swaying quietly in my son’s closet. “You need more of those”, she said curtly, which made me feel like a bad adult. So much so that the next time we were in Target I made it a point to purchase a pack of 15 child-sized clothes hangers.

When my mother came over again a week later, she also had bought a brand new bundle of 15 child-sized clothes hangers to suit my lack of adult responsibility. I dutifully hung them in the closet next to my previously purchased ones.

A few days later my mother came over coffee. And with her came another handful of used, child-sized clothes hangers that she had found somewhere in her basement. And then on Sunday, when we graciously received a large bag of hand-me-downs (yessssss) from a friend, we learned that the gift also included at least another 15 colorful child-sized clothes hangers.

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That very afternoon, my son, perhaps for the first time noticing the colorful assortment of fixtures, crawled into his closet and removed as many as he could from the wood beam meant for hanging clothes. He scattered them around the living room and began utilizing their hooks on every ledge or surface possible. He began using the hooks as a modified hand to open the fridge, pick up books and drag random things about. Yesterday, he insisted on walking our dog with the hanger hooked to the end of the leash, which proved to be more difficult than it sounds. Later, he took a nap with a clothes hanger gripped in each hand.

My son climbed into bed with me this morning, nestled deep in my pillow with his cold little feet pressed against my knees, and then, in a flash of concern declared, “Oh no! My hooks!”

Quickly, my 2-year-old wriggled from my bed, scurried across the hall into his room and returned with two child-sized clothes hangers.  He crawled back into my bed and handing me the green one. “This is yours”, he said.

“What if I don’t want the hook?”

“Sshh, just close your eyes”, he said.

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Later in the day, after my son had hung a pink and blue clothes hanger from each arm and declared himself a butterfly, and after I told him several times to stop picking up the live farm kittens with his modified hook hands, he tried to hook the loops of my jeans with his hook hands and succeeded more times that I will admit. And then I hid the clothes hangers in the tall grass hoping he would forget about them.

And after a while of breathless searching, he did.

Until we went back inside where there were many more clothes hangers scattered everywhere. Then, while I made dinner, he watched PBS with a clothes hanger in each hand, ready if any more fun should arise.

. . .

The summer is coming to a close, my friends. Which means back to school for me and back to full-time day care for my son. And I honestly don’t know what makes me want to sob uncontrollably more: the fact that I will no longer have the time every morning to close my eyes as my son brushes my hair with the end of his clothes hanger hook… or the fact that someone else will be tucking him and his clothes hangers in for his afternoon nap… or the fact that summer is over. It was a GREAT summer. Full of so little weed-pulling (just look away from my garden) and so much reading and swimming and making countless batches of granola for the most amazing two-year-old in the world.

My son has always liked granola, but this summer he took a special liking to the buckwheat granola recipe posted on the back of Bob’s Red Mill’s buckwheat groats package. I cannot blame him. For one, this recipe recommends that you boil the honey, maple syrup, coconut oil and spices together before folding them into the dry ingredients. I believe this brings out a deep, nutty flavor in each giant, crunchy cluster. For road trips, we like to toss this granola in plastic container with a bit of dried fruit. But at home, it is perfect with a simple knob of yogurt, splash of milk, or on its own in a little dish while watching your favorite episode of Go Diego Go.

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Buckwheat Granola

Adapted from Bob’s Red Mill

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine oats, buckwheat, coconut, nuts and seeds.

In a small saucepan combine honey, maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil and hold at a steady boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and almond extract.

Pour syrup mixture over the oat mixture and mix well to evenly coat. Spread the granola on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.

Bake granola until browned and crispy, about 30 – 35 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 10 minutes.

Let cool thoroughly before breaking into clumps.

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10 things

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I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t a painfully self-conscious person. I remember as an elementary student that something in my body physically hurt whenever I was made to answer a question in front of the class. I remember the white streak of panic when I didn’t know answer. I remember feeling hot shame when the next person to be called on did know because it was apparently an easy question.

I am learning more and more that I am hardly alone in being painfully self-conscious as a kid. And it has been interesting to see how insecurity plays out in the adult world.

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. . .

I remember during a developmental psychology class in college when we were asked to make a list. On the list, we had to write 10 things that came to mind when we thought about ourselves. The room went quiet as we all got to work. I struggled a bit. Finally, I think I wrote something along the lines of:

  1. Insecure
  2. Confused
  3. Impatient
  4. Sinful
  5. Yada… yada…

You get it. I wrote down things that were bad.

When the class was asked to share what we wrote, I kept my hand glued to my side. Our professor called on the other eager students, and I was surprised by their answers.

A lot of the guys said:

  1. Funny
  2. Athletic
  3. Friendly

…. Things like that.

A lot of the women said things like:

  1. Nice
  2. Smart
  3. Christian

…. Obviously, our lists were quite different.

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That class period was a turning-point for my way of thinking about identity. As I listened to the students in the room sharing their very positive lists, I realized I didn’t have a healthy view of myself – that I was dragging around my insecurities like ball and chain.

. . .

It has been about 6 years since taking Developmental Psychology and learning that most people don’t and shouldn’t hate themselves. And during the 6 years, my personal identity has undergone a few shifts.

I have been influenced by strong and gracious people. I have had to overcome challenges and loss. I have had to eat dirt, be humbled, and let people help me when I needed it. For all of that I am a different person.

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Today, there are situations in which I feel quite confident. And there are also days when I am so self-conscious that I feel like a second grader all over again.

At any rate, the words on my list are different. They are no longer quite as ego-centric. But rather, my list is constructed of words given to me by the people in my life – the people who shape me – who depend on me – who give me a lot to feel confident about.

  1. Spouse
  2. Mother
  3. Sister
  4. Daughter
  5. Friend
  6. Teacher
  7. Artist
  8. Fearful
  9. Understanding
  10. Strong

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Maple, Peanut Butter and Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF)

From: Cookie and Kate

Yield: about 30 cookies

  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup, preferably grade B
  • 4 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats ground for 30 seconds in a food processor
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with two racks in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper, lightly grease the baking sheets).

Pour the peanut butter and maple syrup mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the melted oil and whisk until the mixture is well blended. Use your whisk to beat in the egg, scraping down the side of the bowl once it’s incorporated, then whisk in the vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Switch to a big spoon and stir in the ground oats, rolled oats and chocolate chips until they are evenly combined. Drop the dough by the tablespoon onto your prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies, reversing the pans midway through (swap the cookies on the top rack with the cookies on the lower rack) until they’re barely set and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on the pans.

morning glories

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Our son is recovering from a spell of influenza, an ear infection, and with our luck, probably a few other things. However, the little guy seems to be in the home stretch. His night-coughing has eased. He has regained the energy to do more than doze off at any given moment. And I am no expert. but you would think that the flu shot should count for something?

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Anywaay… I was scheduled to start my first week of work on Monday, the morning after my son started showing symptoms of being sick.

Time, this week, seemed to be on our side. Due to early-outs and late-starts and school cancellations, I was able to guiltlessly spend time at home with my sick baby. On the days school was not canceled, my sister, in her last week of Christmas vacation before returning to college, was able to play nanny in my house. It was wonderfully lucky. My husband and I were spared the misery of hulling an un-well child outside in the negative 60 degree wind-chill. And after work, I was able to come home to healing child in a mismatched outfit with watercolor running out of his nose.

Thanks, little sister.

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You would think with all the unanticipated time-off, I would have been a picture of productivity. I had a to-do list the length of my freezer mounted in plain sight along with additional preparations for school. And yet, there is something about a snow-day, something about unanticipated time off that depletes my sense of urgency. For instance, on Thursday (a full snow-day), after I put sick baby down for nap, I took a bath while nibbling bittersweet chocolate. I took a second bath the following morning (a late start and baby still asleep) while drinking two cups of very hot coffee and finishing a book. From where I now sit, the thought of this is shocking. This is something I can never bring myself to do on a Saturday… mind you… anticipated time-off. Halfway through these bath-taking processes I wondered, “…. Who am I ?!”

Now that my son is on the mend, and the winter weather is supposed to regulate, I am both excited for and leery of a promised routine.

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I mean, I really enjoyed those baths. There was even one night where my husband and I got lost in Netflix like we used to. It felt like summer in January… in negative 60 degree wind-chill…

I want to wish my Midwest readers well as we all re-enter the time of routine. I hope you all are warm and safe and healthy. And since the weekend is upon us, I though a recipe for a hearty breakfast cookie would be a great way to start.

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. . .

I picked up on this recipe after a friend served them to us while we stayed with them for a weekend. This friend also introduced me to Sarah’s blog, My New Roots, from where the recipe originated.  I put my own spin on things when I make these cookies, omitting the anise and grating in orange zest, sometimes adding a splash of vanilla, sometimes not. At first I was puzzled by the ingredient list. Why pureed beans and an egg? Can we swap the brown sugar for honey or maple syrup? How about gluten-free flour? I have tried all of these options, all yielding very different results. I would trust Sarah on the original. The listed recipe is a reliably good one. But feel free to tinker around.

Like Sarah, we affectionately call these breakfast cookies “Morning Glories”. They go very well with a cup of coffee or earl gray tea. If you are a toddler, yogurt-dunking is mandatory. Yogurt dunking, and also your new favorite fox cup filled to the brim with water.

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Morning Glories

Adapted from: My New Roots

Yield 1 to 1 ½ dozen breakfast cookies

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole grain flour (we use spelt)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. taking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 15-oz. can white kidney beans, great northern beans or navy beans, rinsed and darined
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar*
  • 1 large egg**
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 2/3 cups sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place a rack in the top third. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the oats in a food processor (or blender) until they resemble a very rough flour. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest and salt.

Pulse the beans and olive oil in the food processor until they are creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and pulse until smooth. Add dates and pulse a few times until chopped and incorporated. Scrap down the sides of the bowl once or twice along the way.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until the ingredients start to come together. Stir until everything just comes together.

Place the sesames seeds in a bowl. With a tablespoon, scoop out some dough about the size of a golf ball, then roll it into a rough log shape. (Yes, the dough at this point is very wet, but it becomes very easy to handle once coated in sesame seeds.)

Roll the log of dough into the sesame seeds, remembering to dip the ends too. Set each log on the prepared baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten the dough just a bit, into a bar shape. You want the bar to be the same thickness all the way through – do not make the ends flatter than the middle. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least an inch or so between each bar – they’ll spread a bit, but not much. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the sesame seeds around the bottom start to get golden.

Store in an airtight container for a week, if they keep that long!

Notes:

*Swapping brown sugar for a natural sweetener, such as maple syrup or honey has yielded, for me, a very messy and wet batter I didn’t like working with. Give it a try if you want!

** I have swapped out the egg for a vegetarian binder such as pumpkin or apple sauce with success.

risotto with radishes

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Tonight, I swept the dust off my old, decrepit-looking watercolor cakes. I dug out a few crappy brushes and printer paper. As my husband made chicken noodle soup, my son and I painted. I painted a heart and a funky-looking castle and a shark. My son painted blue and green and a little bit of every leftover color from the meager assortment. He said he was painting a “scary monster”.

He dipped his brush thoughtfully into each cake and watched as the colors slowly blended and ran into a dark, feathery mass over the cheap paper. It was charming to see how careful he was being. How engrossed he was.

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Our son has been sick the last few days and is being treated for influenza. I took him back to the doctor today to learn he also has an ear infection. We have a date with 13 milliliters of medicine and a nebulizer machine later tonight. You can imagine our exhaustion excitement.

It felt good to turn off the TV (aka Dinosaur Train) and paint tonight. It felt good to walk away from the same toys and puzzles and make something new. To hear the chicken broth bubbling. To smell the fresh parsley. To be entranced by the movement of water and color pigment. To let go.

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No, no… this is not another soup recipe. Though it just occurred to me how much soup we have been making and eating lately. Instead, I am sending you a recipe for a most delicious and simple way to serve risotto… which always sounds so good to me on cold days like this. My sister and I made it for lunch on a recent cold and snowy afternoon and it was perfect.

The risotto is very creamy and rich while the radishes offer a refreshing, earthy snap. We ate this with nothing but a sprinkle of salt and black paper, but you could also serve it with additional Parmesan or fresh herbs.

Risotto with Radishes

From Bon Appetempt

Yield about 4 servings

For risotto:
7 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup hot water
3/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
1 large shallot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound Arborio rice (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)

For radishes:
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar (or possibly a bit more)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound trimmed radishes julienned

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a 3-to-4 quart saucepan. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons butter in a 4-to-5 quart heavy pot over medium heat, then cook onion, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add boiling water and cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Stir 1 cup simmering broth into rice and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, about 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 18 to 22 minutes. Thin with some of remaining broth if necessary (you will have some left over.) Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 3 tablespoon butter.

Prepare radishes:
Whisk together vinegar and oil with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Toss radishes with the dressing.  Serve risotto topped with radishes.

red lentil soup and “normal”

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Here I am… thinking of all the ways I can get out of “real life” stuff this afternoon. There is something about the holidays – something about time spent away from work and instead spent traveling and being with family and friends. And there is something about my daily intake of sweet, caramelized food that makes me want to drift off to the sparkly land that inhabits all of my happy memories. It makes me want to pretend that the holidays will last forever.

But there are bills to pay, gosh darn it! And do I even care about my waist? It is time to deep freeze my toffee and chocolate-dipped-whatevers for upcoming bad days. It is time to starting thinking of ways to make kale taste good again. Time to look at my bank accounts and make grocery lists and lesson plans and actually fold that massive heap of laundry making itself quite comfortable on the bed. Oh, yes, and my toddler. Shouldn’t I have taught him to count to 10 by now? Shouldn’t my basement be organized and my closet color-coordinated and my next few months of meal plans freshly written out?

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Here is something you should know about me. I am a total loser when it comes to functioning outside of my routine. Some would refer to the horrid term, “control freak”, which always make me cringe. It’s the word “control’ that holds such negative connotation.

I only want control over myself and my son’s nap routine. And that is that, I swear. I have no desire to control other people or the choices they make. They can paint their own picture. Make their own story without me feeling remotely responsible for their success and failure. But my routine is very sacred to me. And here is why:

As lovely as they may be, the holidays do funky things to me (and my digestive system).Once you bring me back to reality, once you remind me of the cost of relaxation, I completely freak out. I floss my teeth excessively. I run 4 miles. I dig into the deep freezer for that sworn-off chocolate. Then I shut down. I think of ways to get out of “real life” stuff. Because life outside of the routine was easier.

So here I am.

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However. I had a very nice day with my son today. A day that felt almost “normal”… whatever that means for us anymore. As for now, I am choosing to believe normal is a day when my son plays with his toys and sings songs and gets mad at me for not turning on his new favorite movie… again. When he naps when he was supposed to and eats dinner and takes a bath and reads books and goes to bed when he us supposed to.

But know there is a human element to my need for control. Know that, as contrary as it sounds, I am grateful for this crazy life that I have no control over. I am so grateful for the crazy people who love me. And though I always freak out a little over the holidays, I am grateful for them as well.

I am grateful and humbled by the people who gave us so much when we do so little to deserve it. I am thankful for “normal”… and the lack thereof, so normal can be something to aspire for.

I am grateful for the roller coasters. For deep freezers. For naps. For family. Friends. And ,once again, for soup.

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We have made the soup quite a bit in the last year, and with several variations. We have used tomato paste instead of canned tomatoes, diced fresh garden tomatoes, thrown in cilantro, omitted the coconut all-together, added fresh ginger, golden raisins, substituted green slip peas for the rice, sauteed in diced carrots, I could go on! This recipe serves as a nice template for the creative soul, but tastes wonderful is it is typed below. We recommend good bread with each serving.

Coconut Red Lentil Soup

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 1/3 cup split red lentils
  • ½ cup brown rice
  • 6 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, olive of coconut oil (we use butter)
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

Give lentils and rice a good rinse – until they no longer put off murky water. Place them in an extra-large soup pot, cover with the broth or water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add salt. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.

In the meantime, in a small dry skillet or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it is quite fragrant. Be careful though, you don’t want to burn the curry powder. Set aside. Place the butter in a pan over medium heat, add half of the green onions. Saute for two minutes stirring constantly.

Add the toasted curry powder to the mixture, mix well, and then add this to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so. The texture should thicken up, but you can play around with the consistency if you like by adding more water, a bit at a time, if you like. Or simmer longer for a thicker consistency.

We’ve been enjoying big ladles of this soup over 1/2 cup of warm farro or brown rice. Quinoa would be an interested alternative. Sprinkle each bowl with the remaining green onions.

maple popcorn

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It seems impossible to even think… but after all that comes with school and life, I might be creeping toward some sort of finish line.

I am a person who finds validation in finish lines. I love the feeling that comes with finishing a long and tedious race. But as I said… to even think about it seems a little delusional. I don’t want to get too comfortable in the triumph. Because if there is anything I have learned, it is that the triumph of finishing is fleeting. And finishing one long and tedious race often promises another. And another. And another…

. . .

My husband and I had to make an out-of-town trip on my son’s second birthday. We packed him a little over-night bag and left him with my parents. And while we were gone for just a 24 hour period, it seemed like he grew up a little. When we came to pick up his wired little body from my parent’s house, and he didn’t seem to have missed us in the least, the stunning realization hit: he turned 2 without us.

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. . .

There is this illustrated bedtime book we often read about a baby girl with tussley black hair whose parents are going about the bedtime routine. The little girl is putty in their hands… through clean-up time and bath-time and snuggle-time and book-time and finally, sleep-time. And the whole dang time the parents are smiling at their toddler. They seem totally engaged – as if nothing more is on their minds than giving her tender loving care. And, I know it’s dumb, but I often feel very envious of those illustrated people. I want so badly to align with the idealistic image of a contented and controlled parent. I want so badly to arrive at the end of each day and have nothing more on my mind than enjoying the company of my family.

And I can’t stop feeling in awe of my 2 year old son. That he didn’t need me there to hold his warm little hand for the transition.

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. . .

To celebrate our son’s birthday, the three of us went out last night for cheap spring rolls. To follow, we went to see the downtown lights display.

Today, after his nap, my son and I are making a little birthday cake. There will be finely ground graham crackers, cinnamon and lots of brown sugar. There will probably also be some confusion and spilt buttermilk and broken eggs. Either way, I am going to try and breathe easily about it. Because whether or not I am exhausting an old race or beginning a new one, whether I am thinking about a million things at once or able to zero-in, I am going to breathe. Because my son is healthy, and loving, and 2. And there is a lot to be thankful for in that.

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. . .

I thought you could all use a recipe for a little something for a holiday party. I love this recipe because there is a) no butter, b) no corn syrup, c) no refined sugar and d) is still perfectly addicting and delicious. Also, I often detect a funny artificial flavor with many homemade caramel corn recipes, and I really don’t know why that is. But let it be known, this recipe is perfect. It is quite sweet given the amount of maple syrup. Yet, with its hint of natural peanut butter and sea salt it tastes like real food – not just candy. You could easily play-up this recipe by adding ¾ a cup of peanuts, toasted almonds, coconut or a combination of all three.  Due to the lack of corn syrup as a preservative, I would recommend keeping this popcorn refrigerated until serving-time. This keeps it fresh and crisp.

Maple Popcorn

Once again, from Cookie and Kate

Popped popcorn, yields about 6 cups

  • ⅓ cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil

Maple caramel corn

  • 6 cups popped popcorn
  • ½ cup real maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter or nut butter of choice
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

To pop the popcorn, place a large mixing bowl near the stove. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pan with a lid. Turn the heat up to medium, add 2 kernels of corn, and cover. Once the kernels pop, remove the lid and pour in the remaining popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and give the pot a little shimmy to distribute the kernels evenly.

Cook over medium heat, shaking the pot occasionally. Crack the lid just a bit so the popcorn stays crisp, and cook until the popping sound slows to about one pop per every few seconds. Remove the pan from heat and dump the popcorn your bowl, taking care not to pour in any unpopped kernels at the bottom of the pot. If necessary, pick out any unpopped kernels that made it into the bowl with a spoon.

To make the caramel sauce, in a small, heavy bottomed pot, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium heat. Keep a watchful eye on the syrup and continue boiling for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, reducing heat only if necessary to prevent overflow. Remove the pot from heat.

Add the nut butter, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon to the pot of maple syrup. Whisk until well blended. Drizzle the mixture over the popcorn and toss with a rubber spatula or big spoon until well mixed. Pour the popcorn on the parchment-covered baking sheet and arrange it in a single layer.

Bake the popcorn for 6 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and salt, to taste. The popcorn will continue to crisp up as it cools. Once it’s cool, break the popcorn into pieces and serve.

 

real cookies

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It’s such a dreary scene out there. The grass in the grove outside our living room window is long and yellow and brown, which I would usually consider beautiful. But there is something about wet, winter grass after the ground has warmed enough to melt the snow around it. It looks so heavy. Two tire swings sway lullingly through it, back and forth, back and forth.  Nearly colliding once in a while. All the lights are off, and our house seems very dark in the cold, gray, afternoon light.

My husband sleeps on the couch and my son in his crib. And I have a very pressing list of things I have been re-writing obsessively over and over for some odd reason. But I feel the need to give this space a little love. So the list will wait.

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Last week, after returning from a Thanksgiving weekend trip, my husband brought the stomach flu home with him. He gave it to our son later that week. And then to me on my last scheduled day of student teaching. Needless to say, the timing was quite bad.

Last night, when we were all nearly healthy and had somewhat regained our appetites, my son proclaimed that he needed “coo-coos” (his term of endearment for cookies). So I unwrapped his BelVita golden oat biscuit and plopped it in his yogurt like I usually do, to which he replied by running to the corner of the kitchen to squat and cover his face. I was very confused by his reaction until it dawned on me how long it had actually been since we had made real cookies.

So we made plans to stay in last night for “The Rescuers Down Under” and make cookies. And since we had no chocolate (and due to the opinion of one member of this household, all cookie recipe’s require chocolate), I turned to Molly Wizenburg for her salted peanut butter cookie recipe.

Now, my husband lamented for the duration of bake-time that cookies without chocolate are dumb… or whatever. But once he tasted one of these fresh from the oven, his weary eyes seemed comforted. My son happily ate three, no kitchen-corner squatting included. These cookies were perfect.

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These cookies are quite soft so long as you don’t over-step the bake-time. The saltiness is not at all overpowering and compliments the flavor of natural peanut butter very nicely. The only thing we changed from Molly’s recipe was that we melted our butter. There is something so nice about just having to melt the butter to make a cookie. And I am happy to say that this method works perfectly in this recipe.

Stay warm and cozy. Make cookies and hold the ones you love very closely. And happy holidays from “Our Messy Table”!

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Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

Yield: about 20 largish (4-inch) cookies

2 cups plus 1 tsp. pastry or all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp.kosher salt
2 sticks plus 3.5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup, packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup plus 2.5 Tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ cup natural salted creamy peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the pastry flour, baking soda, and salt, and whisk well.

In a medium, microwavable bowl, melt the butter in 30 second increments, swirling between. Once melted, mix in the sugars until well combined, scraping the sides when necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Add the peanut butter and vanilla, and beat with whisk or on medium-low speed to with electric mixer. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, folding slowly by hand or mixing on low speed until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Using an ice cream scoop – mine has a capacity of about ¼ cup… the batter will be a bit goopy – scoop the batter onto the prepared sheet pan, taking care to leave plenty of space between cookies. (I limit it to six cookies per pan; if you add more, they run together.) Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and pale golden around the edges, but their tops have no color. (The cookies will not look fully baked, and this is important! The chewy texture of these cookies depends on it. They’re not nearly as good when baked until golden and crisp.) Transfer the pan to a rack, and cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan. They will firm up as they cool.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Note: This dough freezes beautifully. Scoop the dough onto a sheet pan and freeze until hard, then transfer the dough mounds to a freezer bag or other airtight container. Do not defrost before baking, and plan to add four or five minutes to the baking time.