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A few posts ago, I mentioned that my goal has been to try at least one recipe from each cookbook that I get from the library. I have the habit of seeing a shiny new cookbook and putting it on hold, flipping through the recipes picking out ones that look tempting, and then never managing to try any of them before I have to return it to the library. Here’s my current batch:

So far I’ve made recipes from three (all except The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook), although I’ve checked out The Sprouted Kitchen twice, so I suppose I should make a second recipe. And, confession, I had to return The Science of Good Cooking because it had holds, and I barely even looked through it first.

Here’s what I’ve made.

Vintage Cakes: This is one that I requested my library buy, because it looked gorgeous and because I own and like Richardson’s other cookbook, Rustic Fruit Desserts (plus, she’s local). I had it out in the fall and made Pearl’s Chocolate Macaroon Cake (a yummy coconut layer inside a chocolate bundt cake – what’s not to like?) This time I made the Kentucky Bourbon Cake, since someone in my house is a big bourbon fan (and it’s not the baby). If you like the flavor of bourbon, this is a must-try. There’s some in the batter, and the cake itself is a nice moist, buttery bundt. Then you make a bourbon-sugar-butter glaze, poke holes in the flat side of the bundt, and pour half the glaze in. This gives you nice gooey, extra-boozy streaks in the cake. Then you flip the cake out of the pan and pour the rest over the top. Mine was unattractive (it stuck) but delicious.

The Sprouted KitchenI can’t remember where I saw this recommended, but I thought I needed something to balance out all the baking books. Lots of things look tasty, and so far I’ve made the Ranchero Breakfast Tostadas. It felt like a lot of steps and ingredients for a relatively humble meal, but it was worth it. You toast a corn tortilla and top it with a black bean mash, a fried egg, cheddar, avocado, cilantro and lime juice. We had them for dinner instead of breakfast, and the runny egg yolk really pulls it all together. I’d make this again – or at least use the basic concept once I have to return the cookbook.

The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: It turns out that I saw this on a list of 2012’s best cookbooks on NPR – along with The Sprouted Kitchen and The Science of Good Cooking. I haven’t made anything yet, but I’ve been eyeing some of the pies, like the Triple Coconut Cream Pie, although realistically I might manage some muffins or scones.

Super Natural Every Day: Some of these recipes have me drooling and some are less appealing, especially in my extremely carnivorous state. However, I made the Baked Oatmeal yesterday, reheated leftovers today, and think I’ve found a new breakfast standby. Not as quick and easy as our current favorite, a Dutch baby with a layer of sliced apples on the bottom (which I can make without referring to a recipe), but nice and hearty. And a worthy use of the last of the summer blueberries. I’d also like to try the White Beans and Cabbage, the Bran Muffins, or the Frittata.

Please excuse the silence on this end – all my reading has been one-handed for the last few weeks, and typing one-handed isn’t my favorite thing. Here’s my excuse:

baby

 

We seem to be getting into a bit of a routine, 5 weeks into it, and I’m in the curious position of feeling like my time isn’t my own and like I have all the time in the world (at least until I go back to work). I do have nice chunks of time to myself during the day, while he naps, and I’m just starting to figure out how to put them to my advantage. Depending on the previous night, there are naps to take myself, there are chores to be done, meals to be eaten, and projects to undertake.

So many projects!

Run errands while he won’t cause a fuss.

Take a walk if the weather’s nice.

Write a letter. A few friends and I, mourning the coming loss of Saturday mail service, decided to write 30 letters in 30 days – any type of mail counts, from postcards to packages – and I’m loving it, even when I’m a few letters behind. Right now I have three letters to reply to, which makes the whole project feel real.

Bake – I have a pile of newish cookbooks out of the library and I want to try at least one recipe from each before I have to return them. Right now I have The Sprouted Kitchen, The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, and The Science of Good Cooking. Meals are always iffy around here – the baby seems to sense that I’m hungry and work up an appetite himself – but I’ve managed some baking during his afternoon nap, and I might as well try some new things.

Read all those books that I kept thinking would be perfect for maternity leave. At the moment, I’m rereading the Elizabeth Peters books that I happen to own. Leila at Bookshelves of Doom is doing an Elizabeth Peters week, which I think is ending today, but it inspired me to pull out a tattered copy of Naked Once More and now Crocodile on the Sandbank – I haven’t read any of the Amelia Peabody books in years (I went on a reread through the Vicky Bliss books a few years ago) and I’m remembering why I loved them so much (even though they do get a bit repetitive as the series goes on…and on). I’m discovering that mass market paperbacks, which I usually dislike because they don’t lay flat – an important quality if you read while eating – are perfect for reading one-handed while nursing.

More soon, I hope. The creature is stirring.

We are getting to crunch time. I woke up last night and couldn’t get back to sleep, thinking about all the things that need doing. And now instead of doing any of them (except laundry), I’m having a lazy Thursday morning (I work 12-9pm on Thursdays). This is quite possibly my last lazy Thursday morning EVER. For the next month or so, Thursday mornings will involve either a midwife appointment or a trip to pick up milk from the farm. At some point a baby will appear, and my Thursday mornings will still involve time spent in pajamas and puttering around the house, but I somehow doubt that the word “lazy” will apply to maternity leave.

This Thursday realization is as startling as that car seat sitting in the corner. Or the idea that my protruding midsection will lead to a real, live, human baby.

Speaking of real, live, human babies, I had my first weird pregnant encounter with a library patron yesterday. So far I’ve been impressed with how polite and kind people are – I get plenty of questions (when are you due, is it a boy or girl, what’s his name) but they’ve all felt well-intentioned. But yesterday, there was a woman browsing the kids’ DVDs who turned to me as I walked past and said something like “Is it a girl?” All I actually heard was “A girl?” Her attitude felt…weird…so all I said was, “no,” knowing what her next question would be. I REALLY wanted to say, “No, it’s an elephant.” Instead, I just said “yes” to “A boy?” and kept walking. After a minute, I wished I’d said, “What are you talking about? I’m not pregnant.” Even though I look like this now:

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Oh well, maybe I’ll get another weird comment and be able to use that line (although it would have to be really weird/rude for me to actually have the nerve to say that).

In other news, Merry Christmas! I had a relaxing day, made a chocolate tart, ate well, and (along with the rest of my extended family) spent a lot of time thinking about next Christmas with a baby. The youngest person in my extended family (here on the west coast, at least) is eleven, so it’s about time we had a youngster for holidays again.

And now, before I get too lazy, I’ll dig up some book ramblings I’ve been meaning to post. I update Goodreads regularly, even when I’m quiet here. I don’t always write reviews these days, but I do keep track of what I’m reading.

We’re getting settled into our new place, and can I just say how good it is to live in a house again? It’s not just having more living space (although that is wonderful). It’s be able to be silly and loud and not have anyone overhear you. It’s having a little space around yourself – a view of sky and trees outside the windows instead of just the neighboring house and the complex’s parking lot. Our neighboring houses are both a little ways away, and are vacant at the moment. From our living room windows we can see the lit up Christmas tree in front of City Hall. Our old apartment had 4 windows. Our new kitchen has 3 windows all by itself, plus 8 more in the rest of the house. This feels like such a luxury!

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The red couch returns

One of these days we’ll get around to clearing out the last of the boxes and setting up things for the baby. Our need for dressers and bookshelves and whatnot feels never-ending. Have we really already been here a month? Will the baby really be here in two months (give or take a few weeks)?

In the meantime, there are piles (and piles) of Cybils nominees to read, and our household has developed an urgent need for chocolate chip cookies (I swear, my husband is experiencing more food cravings than I am). There are letters to write and chickens to roast and babies to fatten up (the other day I heard words I never expected to hear in my life – my midwife told me to eat more! I guess my instinct to add more butter to everything is on target).

Back with more bookish things soon, hopefully, maybe.

We’re having a lazy Labor Day around here. I always have aspirations of doing something exciting on three-day weekends, but I usually end up just taking the extra day to sleep in, maybe make something delicious to eat, and catch up on stuff around the house.

I’m hoping to go for a nice walk this afternoon, but at the moment I’m recovering from vacuuming and having glass after glass of sparkling water (it’s an addiction this summer). Why is it that vacuuming a tiny apartment is more exhausting than vacuuming a larger space? Answer: you have to move every single piece of furniture to reach even half the carpet. It’s like disassembling and reassembling a room-sized puzzle. I ignore the corners behind chairs for a while, but I just had to toss a vase of flowers and there were petals everywhere. Plus a nice layer of dust, I’m sure.

I made this blueberry tart over the weekend – the kind with crust, pastry cream, and berries on top. I never manage to get around to making the glaze, but I like the not-too-sweet result. Makes me feel better when I have a piece at breakfast.

I haven’t been baking much this summer – a combination of laziness and a few weeks of heat than made turning on the oven unbearable. But the temperatures have been back in the 70s and 80s and I’m finding my baking mojo again. I made the tart on Saturday, a Dutch baby pancake for brunch on Sunday, buttermilk biscuits to go with leftover soup on Sunday night, and another Dutch baby for breakfast this morning, this time with a nectarine sliced up in the skillet. YUM.

I got a deal on ten pounds of fruit at the farmer’s market on Sunday, so now we’re awash in apples, peaches, and nectarines. I have a recipe for a caramelized peach cobbler that I want to try, and maybe an apple pie after that. I can dream!

In the meantime, I’m not ready to let summer go yet. We’ve got a beach trip planned with my family, and then in the fall I have a girls’ weekend at another beach, and we’re still deciding what to do for our first anniversary.

I always know it’s really summer in Oregon when I can go blueberry picking.

blueberries

 

(Okay, so this picture is from 2007, but do blueberries really change? No.)

I went on Friday – I had the day off for working the weekend – and there’s nothing like a not-too-hot hour spent wandering between overgrown bushes, picking and eating and picking.

Now, to turn them into a blueberry tart! I’m thinking one of those ones with a sweet crust, pastry cream filling, and blueberries mounded on top. With leftovers for munching or freezing or turning into muffins.

First there was this:

wedding

And then there was this:

hawaii

And this:

And of course lots of time actually at the beach and in the water, but no photos of that.

And now there’s an apartment with gifts piled in the corners, waiting for homes (I either need a few apartment or some very creative storage solutions).  And thank yous to write.  And all kinds of things that have been neglected over the last few weeks and months.  And an incredible number of books that I put on hold “to read on vacation” and never got around to opening.  And a husband.

Somehow I got it into my head that I should go berry picking today.  It was the perfect opportunity – I have the day off since I worked the weekend, the weather is warm but not too hot, and here in Oregon it’s the tail end of the strawberry season and the beginning of raspberry and blueberry season.  I almost went for the strawberries, but couldn’t resist the allure of raspberries – my parents have a few bushes, and raspberries have always been one of those fruits that I eat in small quantities straight from the bush.  I almost never buy them, but I adore them.  Blueberries I can get from the church property, and those might be getting close – they were still green last weekend when we went to check on them.

So, I went to Sauvie Island and picked 6 pounds of raspberries.  It’s definitely the beginning of the season – there were hordes of red berries that weren’t quite ripe, which makes me want to go back in a week or two and load up again – as long as my freezer can take it.  I was single-minded, and trying not to carry extra stuff through the fields, so no photos from the farm.  Although, while I was waiting in line to pay for my loot, a girl from a group of arriving u-pickers snapped a picture of my box of berries, which kind of cracked me up.  They were all wearing cute sundresses, and I would’ve liked to see what they looked like after an hour or two in the sun, crawling halfway into bushes to get at the ripe ones.


So then I came home with my haul and went into a recipe-hunting frenzy.  I threw a bunch in the freezer on a cookie sheet, shifting them into ziploc bags once they hardened up, and right now I’ve got another sheet-full in the freezer – about 10 cups so far.  Some I’ll leave for eating by the handful.  But I also wanted to find a few recipes – those recipes that I always bypass because they call for fresh raspberries and are thusly prohibitively expensive when you haven’t just paid $10.50 for six pounds of raspberries.


I started with a batch of the super-simple raspberry jam from How to Be a Domestic Goddess – you just heat raspberries and sugar separately in the oven, then mix them together and let cool.  Still cooling, so the verdict is out on consistency.  I don’t have canning equipment, and I’ve never really made jam before, so this was a gentle start.


Then I made a chocolate cake.  Yeah, I know, chocolate cake does not feature fresh raspberries.  But I had two goals: I’ve been wanting to try this recipe from Orangette with the perhaps insane thought of maybe baking (and freezing, then defrosting) several for our wedding reception.  I wanted to see how easy it was to execute and how it tasted.  Plus, I love chocolate cake, especially dense fudgy ones.  The second goal was to serve the cake with whipped cream and raspberries – either fresh or in the form of the aforementioned raspberry jam, especially if it ends up slightly runny.  The cake is no thing of beauty, but that’s not the point.


Finally, I made a batch of raspberry sherbet from A Perfect Scoop – raspberries, milk, sugar, and lemon juice.  Sweet, a little tart, and a little creamy.  It’s also super easy (once you’ve picked the raspberries, of course) – you throw everything in the blender and puree it, then strain out the seeds and throw the rest in your ice cream maker (it’s a space-hog, but I do love mine).

And there you have it!  A day completely taken up with raspberries.  Now I just have to clean out the sink and remember what I was going to make for dinner…

This is another long-ago Long Distance Kitchen recipe (from last August, cough cough), but so scrumptious that it shouldn’t be forgotten – Figgy Buckwheat Scones from Good to the Grain.  In fact I’ve made them twice, and I’ve been considering playing around with the dough recipe to see what else I can do with it.  It turns out that I love the flavor of buckwheat – there’s another Good to the Grain recipe from October to share soon.

This is a two part recipe – first, you make a batch of Fig Butter – figs cooked with red wine and port and spiced with cloves, anise and cinnamon, then pureed with butter.  The fig butter recipe makes more than you need for a single batch of scones, and the extra is delicious on toast.  It disappears around here.

The second part of the recipe is a fairly classic scone recipe made with about half buckwheat flour and half all-purpose.  The buckwheat flavor is fantastically nutty and a nice complement to the rich fig butter, which might overwhelm a lesser scone.

You roll the dough out, spread fig butter on it, then roll it up into a log and cut it into fat slices, which get turned on their sides and baked into spirals of goodness.

The middle is a little gooey with the fig and the outside is crisp and crunchy.

A month ago I spent at weekend at the Washington coast with the girls I lived with senior year of college – we get together at least once or twice a year, and a beach weekend is our new tradition.  I finally uploaded my photos and I’m feeling nostalgic.

The weather was surprisingly gorgeous for February – or really any time of year in the northwest.  We had a sunny day that made us squint in the picture.  We went barefoot until our toes got numb.

It was wonderful.  I can’t wait to go back.

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